Imágenes de páginas

to property, to liberty, to legislation, to life, in all. Kings were originally but the leaders of their military expeditions ; and barons, subordinate chieftains under them, instituted to serve the purposes of the state, dependent for their very existence and authority upon the will of the state, controllable by and accountable to the state, and which the necessities of the state, in it's lengthened struggle for dominion with the natives of the Roman provinces, rendered permanent establishments. The state consisted originally in the assembly of the whole community, in whom resided the supreme power, and in which were combined the military, the legislative, and often the judicial and execui tive character*. But when the resistance of


* Under this judicial and executive power of the general assemblies of the nation, Orgetorix, the ambitious chieftain of the Helvetii, suffered death; nor could all the merit of Arininius, the deliverer of Germany, rescue him from the same fate, when he had incurred the jealousy of a free people. Tacitus in his treatise on the manners of our German ancestors, as also Montesquieu, Hienault,


the natives was utterly subdued, and they were reduced to the condition of villanage or slavery, the necessity of convening the whole community in their military character no longer existed; and the inconvenience of general assemblies rendered it expedient, to provide some other mode of discharging the legislative duties of the state. To the greater chieftains, or barons, a personal attendance was rather an honour than an inconvenience; while the less barons, who with the greater were all originally pares, peers or equals, were permitted to appear in the great assemblies of the nation by their and all the writers on the maxims and usages of those governments, which they erected out of the ruins of the Roman empire, constantly speak of the legislative, judicial, and even executive power, which was annexed tax the general assemblies of the nation, whether appearing in the field, in the camp, or at the palace of the monarch. The regular legislative conventions or parliaments of England, for a series of years, were mixed assemblies of barons and commons without distinction, on the great festivals of Christinas and Easter; and our old statutes join the consent of the whole people with the voice of the lords and the sanction of the monarch.


representatives or proxies. In the collective assemblies of the whole community is seen the origin of parliament itself; in the latter institution, the first distinction of two orders in parliament, viz. 'the greater barons or lords, who sate in person, and the representatives of the less barons, who are now the knights or the representatives of counties. In this character parliament continued for many years, till the contests between the greater barons and the monarch, and the advantages of commerce to both, introduced a farther change, a new species of representatives in the great parliament of the nation. The frequent necessities of the monarch invited him to 'emancipate the villains or slaves on his own royal domain, by incorporating them with certain privileges, to erect them into the character of freemen; from this institution the monarch derived their personal service in his wars, and pecupiary aids from that wealth, which their privileges and the exercise of commerce soon acquired to them. This example, so

advantageous to the monarch, was followed by the barons, and corporations increased through the whole kingdom. The convenience of receiving from them grants of money procured their summons to parliament by their representatives ; the increasing number, wealth, and power of this new order of freemen, taught them their own consequence; and the necessities of the state gained them a full admission to all the rights of legislation in parliament, and set them upon a level with the representatives of the counties. Thus was perfected the form of the English parliament, when to the representatives of the counties were added those of the boroughs or incorporated towns, at present styled the citizens and burgesses. The liberal spirit of Christianity cooperated with the utility of the state, and silently did away


idea of a villain or slave. Thus, whatever entered into the first idea of a freeman, whatever was of the essence of his rights in the first constitution of the invading nation, was extended to every freeman; and of these


rights, that of legislation, either in person or by their representative, was a primary and fundamental one. The neighbouring nations had originally the same constitution, the same principles from which the form of English government had it's source; but not availing themselves of the same circumstances, they acquired not the same enlargement, the same security in the representation of the commons at large against the encroachments of

power; and they have fallen, as we behold them, from a state of the highest freedom, into an abject dependence on despotic monarchs: an awful example to these kingdoms, and to our nobles, with all their fancied dignity and power, as it is not in human nature to provide a solid bulwark against the continually operating advantages of a crown, unless in the spirit, the freedom, the equal rights of the people*.. But


* In the disuse of the general assemblies, which was unavoidable, these neighbouring and kindred nations provided no sufficient substitute for the authority, which


« AnteriorContinuar »