Page images
PDF
EPUB

could be no curse to his people; and he

treason to contravene; whether it were an offence to say according to the said act. Richard Rich replied, yea: but said withal, I will propose a middle case, because yours is too high. The king, you know, is constituted supream head of the church on earth : why should not you, Master More, accept him so, as you would me if I were made king by the supposition aforesaid ? Sir Thomas More answered, The case was not the same; because, said he, a parliament can make a king, and depose him: and that every parliament-man may give bis consent thereunto; but that a subject cannot be bound so in the case of supremacy, 'Quia consensum ab eo ad parlamentum præbere non potest; et quanquam rex sic acceptus sit in Anglia, plurimæ tamen partes exteræ idem non affirmant. Because the parliament-man cannot carry the subjects consent to parliament in this case (that is to say, nobody but Christ could make his own vicar, and the head in heaven make the head on earth); and although the king be held to be head of the church here in England, yet the greatest part of the world abroad are of another mind. Here Sir Thomas More stuck; for, I believe, stick he did, because he laid down his life for it: but, you see, that the undoubted unquestioned law of the land was this, that a parliament can make and depose a king, for it is the foundation of their arguing : and it cannot be thought that a learned lord chancellor and sollicitor general should be both ignorant in the first principles of the law. Neither would Richard Rich have been made a lord, and the head of a noble family of earls, if it had not been current law in those days : for such a principle upon record would have been as bad, and hurt his preferment as much, as if he had

might be unwilling to punish his brother for that of which he knew himself equally

been stigmatized. And, therefore, my lord of Essex's argument was more than measure; that if a parliament could make and depose a king, and make Richard Rich king, much more they might foreclose the duke of York, who was no king, and more unqualified than Richard Rich; and might make the prince of Orange king, anotherghess man than Richard Rich. Thus that great man argued: but care was taken that he should argue for the good of his country no more.-Indeed my lord of Esses told me, that his adversaries in that debate waved the.jargon of divine right, and the line of succession ;-and at that time they betook themselves chiefly to reasons of state. They were got at the old scarecrow, venient Romani, the foreign catholics would espouse the duke of York's quarrel; the antient kingdom of Scotland would admit him for their king, in opposition to our act of parliament; and this would entail a dangerous war upon the nation (that is, I suppose, the navy royal of Scotland would have given law to the English fleet). They were, likewise, doubtful of Ireland : and if these two kingdoms were dismembered from us, the solitary kingdoin of England would not make that figure in the world as it used to do. And therefore, according to the method of all hired politics, they must make sure of sinking three kingdoms for fear of losing two, and deliver up the castle for fear the suburbs should revolt. With such fitting arguments was that cause supported : and if I have broken any rules in repeating that great man's private discourse, now it is done, I cannot help ita." The pressing this exclusion bill by the

'.

* Works of Mr. Sam. Johnson, p. 313. fol. Lond. 1710. VOL. V.

N

guilty. An excellent prince, truly !His conduct, indeed, in other respects, was

commons, in the two last parliaments, was one reason. given by his majesty for their dissolution.-“Contrary to our offers and expectation, we saw that no expedient would be entertained but that of a total exclusion ; which we had so often declared was a point, that, in our own royal judgment, so nearly concerned us, both in honor, justice, and conscience, that we could never consent to it. In short, we cannot, after the sad experience we have had of the late civil wars, that mur. dered our father of blessed memory, and ruined the monarchy, consent to a law, that shall establish another most unnatural war, or at least make it necessary to maintain a standing force for preserving the government and peace of the kingdom. And we have reason to believe, by what passed in the last parliament at Westminster, that if we could have been brought to give our consent to a bill of exclusion, the intent was not to rest there, but to pass further, and to attempt some other great and important changes even in presenta.” This and other things, most reproachful to the majority of the house of commons, in two parliainents, was ordered to be read in all churches and chapels throughout the kingdom. But they wanted not their advocates; who observed, on this declaration, " that his majesty does not seem to doubt of his power, in conjunction with his parliament, to exclude his brother. He very well knows this power hath been often exerted in the time of his predecessors : but the reason given for his refusal to comply with the interests and

a Declaration touching the causes that moved him to dissolve the two last Parliaments, p. 6. fol. Lond. 1681.

greatly detrimental to the nation ; as it tended to increase the power of France,

desires of his subjects, is, because it was a point which concerned him so near in honor, justice, and conscience. Is it not honorable for a prince to be true and' faithful to his word and oath ? to keep and maintain the religion and laws established ? Nay; can it be thought dishonorable to him to love the safety and welfare of his people, and the true religion established among them, above the temporal glory and greatness of his personal relations? Is it not just, in conjunction with his parliament, for his people's safety, to make use of a power warranted by our English laws, and the example of former ages ? Or is it just for the father of his country to expose all his children to ruin, out of - fondness unto a brother? May it not rather be thought unjust to abandon the religion, laws, and liberties of his people, which he is sworn to maintain and defend, and expose them to the ambition and rage of one that thinks himself bound in conscience to subvert then? If his majesty is pleased to remember what religion the duke professeth, can he think himself obliged in conscience to suffer hiin to ascend the throne who will certainly endeavour to overthrow it, and set up the worst of superstitions and idolatry in the room of it? Or if it be true, that all obligations of honor, justice, and conscience, are comprehended in a grateful return of such benefits as have been received ; can his majesty believe thạt he doth duly repay, unto his protestant subjects, the kindness they shewed him, when they recalled him from a miserable helpless banishe ment, and with so much dutiful affection placed him in the throne, enlarged his revenue above what any of

the natural rival and foe of Britain. On his restoration, he began to league him

his predecessors bad enjoyed, and gave him vaster sums of money in twenty years than had been bestowed upon all the kings since William the First; should he, after all this, deliver them up to be ruined by his brother? It cannot be said that he had therein more regard unto the government than to the person, seeing it is evident the bill of exclusion had no ways prejudiced the legal monarchy, which his majesty does now enjoy with all the rights and powers which his wise and brave ancestors did ever claim, because many acts of the like nature have passed heretofore upon less necessary occasions. The preservation of every government depends upon an exact adherence unto its principles; and the essential principle of the English monarchy being that well-proportioned distribution of powers, whereby the law doth at once provide for the greatness of the king, and the safety of the people; the government can subsist no longer than whilst the monarch, enjoying the power which the law doth give him, is enabled to perform the part it allows unto him, and the people are duly protected in their rights and liberties. For this reason our ancestors have been always more cares ful to preserve the government inviolable, than to favour any personal pretences; and have therein conformed themselves to the practice of all other nations, whose examples deserve to be followed. Nay, we know of none so slavishly addicted unto any person or fainily, as, for any reason whatsoever, to admit of a prince who openly professed a religion contrary to that which was established amongst them. It were easy to alledge multitude of examples of those who

« PreviousContinue »