Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

II.) contains a few observations on the attempts that may, in different circumstances, be made, to set new limits to the authority of the crown; and, in the 20th, a few general thoughts are introduced on the right of taxation, and on the claim of the American colonists in that respect. Any farther observations I may inake on the English government, such as comparing it with the other governments of Europe, and examining what difference in the manners of the inhabitants of this 'country may have resulted froin it; must come in a new work, if I ever undertake to treat these subjects. In regard to the Ameri. can disputes, what I'may hereafter write on that account will be introduced in a work, which I may at some future time publish, under the title of Histoire de George Trois, Roi d'Angleterre, or,perhaps, of Histoire d'Angleterre, depuis l'Année 1765 (that in which the American stamp-duty was laid) jusques à l'Année 178,- meaning that in which an end shall be put to the present contest.*

Nov. 1781.

POSTSCRIPT.

Notwithstanding the intention above expressed, of making no additions to the present work, I have found it necessary, in this new edition, to render somewhat more complete the xviith chapter,

A certain book, written in French, on the subject of the American disputes, was, I have been told, lately attributed to me, in which I had no share.

book II. On the peculiar foundations of the English monarchy, as a monarchy; as I found its, tendency not to be very well understood; and, in fact, that chapter contained little more than hints on the subject mentioned in it: the task in the course of writing, has increased beyond my expectation, and has swelled the chapter to about sixty pages above what it was in the former edition, so as almost to make it a kind of separate book by itself. The reader will now find, that in several remarkable new instances, it proves the fact of the peculiar stability of the executive power of the British crown, and exhibits a much more complete delineation of the advantages that result from that stability in favour of public liberty: ...........

These advantages may be enumerated in the following order : I. The numerous restraints the go. verning authority is able to bear, and the extensive freedom it can afford to allow the subject, at its own expense : II. The liberty of speaking and writing, carried to the great extent it is in England: III. The unbounded freedom of the debates in the legislatore: IV. The power to bear the constant union of all orders of subjects against its prerogatives :: V. The freedom allowed to all individuals to take an active part in government con, ceros: VI. The strict impartiality witb which justice is dealt to all subjects, without any respect whatever of persons : VII. The lenity of the criminal law, both in regard to the mildness of punishments, and the frequent remission of them : VIII. The strict compliance of the governing authority

with the letter of the law : IX. The needlessness of an armed force to support itself by, and, as a consequence, the singular subjection of the military to the civil power.

The above-mentioned advantages are peculiar to the English government. To attempt to imitate them, or transfer them to other countries, with that degree of extent to which they are carried in England, without at the same time transferring the whole order and conjunction of circumstances in the English government, would prove unsuccessful attempts. Several articles of English liberty already appear impracticable to be preserved in the new American commonwealths. The Irish nation have of late succeeded in imitating several very important regulations in the English government, and are very desirous to render the assimilation complete : yet, it is possible, they will find many inconveniences arise from their endeavours, which do not take place in England, notwithstanding the very great general similarity of circumstances in the two kingdoms in many respects; and even also, we might add, notwithstanding the respectable power and weight the crown derives from its British domipions, both for defending its prerogative in Ireland, and preventing anarchy : I say, the similarity in many respects between the two kingdoms; for this resemblance may perhaps fail in regard to some important points : however, this is a subject about which I shall not attempt to say any thing, not having the necessary information.

The last chapter in the work, concerning the

nature of the divisions that take place in this country, I have left in every English edition as I wrote it at first in French. With respect to the exact manner of the debates in parliament, mentioned in that chapter, I cannot well say more at present than I did at that time, as I never had an opportunity to hear the debates in either house. In regard to the divisions in general to which the spirit of party gives rise, I did perhaps the bulk of the people somewhat more honour than they really deserve, when I represented them as being free from any violent dispositions in that respect: I have since found, that, like the bulk of mankind in all countries, they suffer themselves to be influenced by vehement prepossessions for this or that side of public questions, commonly in proportion as their knowledge of the subject is imperfect. It is, however, a fact, that political prepossessions and party spirit are not productive, in this country, of those dangerous consequences which might be feared from the warmth with which they are sometimes manifested. But this subject, or in general the subject of the political quarrels and divisions in this country, is not an article one may venture to meddle with in a single chapter; I have therefore let this subsist without touching it.

I shall however observe, before I conclude, that an accidental circumstance in the English government prevents the party spirit, by which the public are usually influenced, from producing those lasting and rancorous divisions in the community which have pestered so many other free states,

b

making of the same nation, as it were, two distinct people, in a kind of constant warfare with each other. The circumstance I mean is, the frequent reconciliations (commonly to quarrel again afterward) that take place between the leaders of parties, by which the most violent and ignorant class of their partisans are bewildered and made to lose the scent. By the frequent coalitions between whig and tory leaders, even that party distinction, the most famous in the English history, has now become useless : the meaning of the words has thereby been rendered so perplexed that nobody can any longer give a tolerable definition of them; and those persons who now and then aim at gaining popularity by claiming the merit of belonging to either party, are scarcely understood. The late coalition between two certain leaders has done away, and prevented from settling, that violent party spirit to which the administration of lord Bute had given rise, and which the American disputes had carried still farther. Though this coalition has met with much obloquy, I take the liberty to rank myself in the number of its advocates, so far as the circumstance here mentioned.

May, 1784.

« AnteriorContinuar »