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serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and CHAP. the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable because more natural, and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded on the consideration of her sex. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her great qualities and extensive capacity; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit is to lay aside all these considerations, and consider her merely as a rational being placed in authority, and entrusted with the government of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her as a wife or a mistress; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the object of undisputed applause and approbation.
GOVERNMENT OF ENGLAND.-REVENUES.-COMMERCE.-MILITARY FORCE.—
III. Government of
Appendix THE party among us who have distinguished themselves by their adhering to liberty and a popular government have long indulged their prejudices against the succeedEngland. ing race of princes, by bestowing unbounded panegyrics on the virtue and wisdom of Elizabeth. They have even been so extremely ignorant of the transactions of this reign, as to extol her for a quality, which, of all others, she was the least possessed of; a tender regard for the constitution, and a concern for the liberties and privileges of her people. But as it is scarcely possible for the prepossessions of party to throw a veil much longer over facts so palpable and undeniable, there is danger lest the public should run into the opposite extreme, and should entertain an aversion to the memory of a princess who exercised the royal authority in a manner so contrary to all the ideas which we at present entertain of a legal constitution. But Elizabeth only supported the prerogatives transmitted to her by her predecessors: she believed that her subjects were entitled to no more liberty than their ancestors had enjoyed; she found that they entirely acquiesced in her arbitrary administration; and it was not natural for her to find fault with a form of government by which she herself was invested with such unlimited authority. In the particular exertions of power, the question ought never to be forgotten, What is best? But in the general distribution of power among the several members of a constitution there can seldom be admitted any other question than, What is established? Few examples occur of princes who have willingly resigned their power; none of those who have, without struggle and reluctance, allowed it to be extorted from them. If any other rule
than established practice be followed, factions and dis- Appendix sensions must multiply without end: and though many constitutions, and none more than the British, have been improved even by violent innovations, the praise bestowed on those patriots to whom the nation has been indebted for its privileges ought to be given with some reserve, and surely without the least rancour against those who adhered to the ancient constitution".
In order to understand the ancient constitution of England, there is not a period which deserves more to be studied than the reign of Elizabeth. The prerogatives of this princess were scarcely ever disputed, and she therefore employed them without scruple: her imperious temper, a circumstance in which she went far beyond her successors, rendered her exertions of power violent and frequent, and discovered the full extent of her authority: the great popularity which she enjoyed proves that she did not infringe any established liberties of the people: there remains evidence sufficient to ascertain the most noted acts of her administration; and though that evidence must be drawn from a source wide of the ordinary historians, it becomes only the more authentic on that account, and serves as a stronger proof that her particular exertions of power were conceived to be nothing but the ordinary course of administration, since they were not thought remarkable enough to be recorded even by contemporary writers. If there was any difference in this particular, the people in former reigns seem rather to have been more submissive than even during the age of Elizabeth. It may not here be improper to recount some of the ancient prerogatives of
a By the ancient constitution is here meant that which prevailed before the settlement of our present plan of liberty. There was a more ancient constitution, where, though the people had perhaps less liberty than under the Tudors, yet the king had also less authority; the power of the barons was a great check upon him, and exercised with great tyranny over them. But there was a still more ancient constitution, viz. that before the signing of the charters, when neither the people nor the barons had any regular privileges; and the power of the government, during the reign of an able prince, was almost wholly in the king. The English constitution, like all others, has been in a state of continual fluctuation.
b In a memorial of the state of the realm, drawn by secretary Cecil, in 1569, there is this passage: "Then followeth the decay of obedience in civil policy, which being compared with the fearfulness and reverence of all inferior estates to their superiors in times past, will astonish any wise and considerate person, to behold the desperation of reformation." Haynes, p. 586. Again, p. 588.
Appendix the crown, and lay open the sources of that great power which the English monarchs formerly enjoyed.
One of the most ancient and most established instruments of power was the court of star-chamber, which possessed an unlimited discretionary authority of fining, imprisoning, and inflicting corporal punishment, and whose jurisdiction extended to all sorts of offences, contempts, and disorders that lay not within reach of the common law. The members of this court consisted of the privy council and the judges, men who all of them enjoyed their offices during pleasure; and when the prince himself was present, he was the sole judge, and all the others could only interpose with their advice. There needed but this one court in any government to put an end to all regular, legal, and exact plans of liberty; for who durst set himself in opposition to the crown and ministry, or aspire to the character of being a patron of freedom, while exposed to so arbitrary a jurisdiction? I much question whether any of the absolute monarchies in Europe contain at present so illegal and despotic a tribunal.
The court of high commission was another jurisdiction still more terrible; both because the crime of heresy, of which it took cognizance, was more undefinable than any civil offence, and because its methods of inquisition, and of administering oaths, were more contrary to all the most simple ideas of justice and equity. The fines and imprisonments imposed by this court were frequent: the deprivations and suspensions of the clergy for nonconformity were also numerous, and comprehended at one time the third of all the ecclesiastics of England *. The queen, in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, said expressly, that she was resolved, "that no man should be suffered to decline, either on the left, or on the right hand, from the drawn line limited by authority, and by her laws and injunctions "."
But martial law went beyond even these two courts in a prompt, and arbitrary, and violent method of decision. Whenever there was any insurrection or public disorder, the crown employed martial law; and it was, d Murden, p. 183.
c Neal, vol. i. p. 479.
during that time, exercised not only over the soldiers, Appendix but over the whole people: any one might be punished as a rebel, or an aider and abettor of rebellion, whom the provost-martial, or lieutenant of a county, or their deputies, pleased to suspect. Lord Bacon says, that the trial at common law, granted to the Earl of Essex and his fellow-conspirators, was a favour; for that the case would have borne and required the severity of martial law. We have seen instances of its being employed by Queen Mary in defence of orthodoxy. There remains a letter of Queen Elizabeth's to the Earl of Sussex, after the suppression of the northern rebellion, in which she sharply reproves him because she had not heard of his having executed any criminals by martial law; though it is probable that near eight hundred persons suffered, one way or other, on account of that slight insurrection. But the Kings of England did not always limit the exercise of this law to times of civil war and disorder. In 1552, when there was no rebellion or insurrection, King Edward granted a commission of martial law, and empowered the commissioners to execute it, as should be thought by their discretions most necessary. Queen Elizabeth too was not sparing in the use of this law. In 1573, one Peter Burchet, a puritan, being persuaded that it was meritorious to kill such as opposed the truth of the gospel, ran into the streets, and wounded Hawkins, the famous sea captain, whom he took for Hatton, the queen's favourite. The queen was so incensed, that she ordered him to be punished instantly by martial law; but upon the remonstrance of some prudent counsellors, who told her that this law was usually confined to turbulent times, she recalled her order, and delivered over Burchet to the common law". But she continued not always so reserved in exerting this authority. There remains a proclamation of hers, in which she orders martial law to be used against all such as import bulls, or even forbidden books and pamphlets, from abroad'; and prohibits the questioning of the lieutenants, or their deputies, for their arbitrary punishment
e Vol. iv. p. 510.
f MS. of Lord Royston's, from the Paper Office.
i Strype, vol. iii. p. 570.