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SUCCESSION TO THE THRONE.
of the executive and legislative government from mutual encroachment. And if the supreme rights of legislature were lodged in the two Houses of Parliament only, they might be tempted to abolish the kingly office altogether, or to greatly weaken the executive power. Thus you see how perfectly our constitutional government is united, so that nothing can endanger its welfare save the destruction of those balances of power which maintain the different parts of our complex political system in equipoise. Hence you will, I have no doubt, readily perceive that when we talk about the British Constitution we mean a form of government in which the supreme power is virtually in the laws, though the majesty of government and the administration are vested in a single person. And now, having made these remarks, let us examine the power and office of the Queen.
Succession to the throne of England is hereditary, but with certain limitations, for the right of inheritance may from time to time be changed by Act of Parliament—a power which, you well know, Parliament has exercised in various reigns. Then, again, the title to the throne, since the passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701, is conditional upon the heirapparent being a member of the Church of England, and of the issue of the Princess Sophia of Hanover, who was a granddaughter of James I. No one professing the Popish religion, or being married to a Papist, can, by the Bill of Rights, rule over these realms; so that when you hear people talking about the government of Great Britain and Ireland being an hereditary monarchy, you will remember that it is not absolutely hereditary, because it may be subject to limitations by Parliament if necessary, and is conditional upon the heir to the throne being a Protestant, and of a certain family.
I suppose you all are well aware that there is a great Council assembled at Rome to decide whether the Pope is infallible or not; and all of you being stanch Protestants, of course look upon infallibility in man as utter nonsense. But what will you think of me when I tell you that her Majesty is infallible ?
Yes, that the King or Queen of England can do no wrong is one of the great principles of the British Constitution. But this statement need not shock your religious principles, as her Majesty's infallibility is only political; for whatever is exceptionable in the conduct of public affairs is not to be imputed to her, nor is she answerable for it personally to her people. The maxim that the Queen “can do no wrong," though it sounds like a moral paradox,
HER POLITICAL INFALLIBILITY.
simply means, that if any mismanagement of Government arises, the Queen is not to be blamed, because all acts of the Crown are presumed to have been done by some minister responsible to Parliament. Supposing—indeed it is a supposition ! that her Majesty were to command some unlawful act to be performed, that command would be no excuse to the minister for a wrong administration of power. Lord Danby was impeached by Parliament for a letter which contained a postscript in the King's own handwriting, declaring that that very letter had been written by his command. In order that the Queen may do no wrong, there is not a moment in her life, from her accession to her demise, during which there is not some one responsible to Parliament for her public conduct. The personal actions of her Majesty, not being acts of Government, are not under the cognisance of the law.
But here you must remember that though the Queen is not personally responsible to any human tribunal for the exercise of the functions of royalty, yet these functions are regulated by law, and must be discharged for the public welfare, and not merely to gratify her personal inclinations. In fact, it is an express part of the common law of England that the Sovereign of these realms must
“ The country has a deep-rooted affection for kingly govern. ment, and would highly resent any attempt to change or destroy this key-stone of the Constitution : nor, as far as I can observe, is this sentiment confined to particular orders of men; it pervades the whole country, from one end to the other.”—EARL RUSSELL, English Government and Constitution.
“ A land of just and old renown,
GENTLEMEN,—I intend to lecture to you to-night upon the office and prerogatives of her Majesty the Queen. I shall endeavour to show you what