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the general liberty. It was the excessive power of the crown that in England producedat length the liberty of the people, because it gave rise to a spirit of union among the people in all their efforts to resist it.

The forest laws were a grievance felt by the whole nation; both by the barons and by their vassals. William the Conqueror reserved to himself the exclusive privilege of killing game throughout all England, and enacted the severest penalties against all who should attempt it without his permission. The suppression, or rather mitigation of these penalties, was one of the articles of the Charta de Foresta, which the barons and their vassals afterwards obtained by force of arms. "Nullus de cætero amittat vitam vel membra pro venatione nostrá." (Charta de Forestâ, cap. 10.) In these struggles they began to scrutinise into the foundations of authority, and to open their eyes to the natural rights of mankind.

Henry I. was forced to give way a little to this rising spirit, and to mitigate those laws which lay heaviest on the general liberty. Under Henry II. liberty took a still greater stretch, and the people obtained the privilege of trial by juries, one of the most valuable parts of the English constitution. John, imprudently oppressed this spirit, and sought to check it in its infancy. We know the consequence-a general confederacy of all ranks and orders of men, which at length forced the sovereign into those valuable concessions, the Charta de Forestá and Magna Charta, which, had they been scrupulously observed, the English would have

been from that time a free people. The Magna Charta, however, observed or not observed, was always a code which certified the people of what were really their rights, and what they were entitled to vindicate.

The next memorable era in the growth of the English constitution was the reign of Henry III., when the deputies of the towns and boroughs were first admitted into parliament. It was always the chief object of his successor, Edward I., to ingratiate himself with his subjects; and requiring large subsidies for his great enterprises against Wales and Scotland, he took the new method of obtaining from the consent of the people, what his predecessors had endeavoured to exact by their own power. This, therefore, is the era of the origin of the House of Commons. Edward con

firmed the Great Charter no less than eleven times in the course of his reign,—a certain proof to what lengths the people had attained in the assertion of their liberties; he likewise enacted one statute, which, next to the Magna Charta, may be considered as the great foundation of the rights of the people: "That no tax should be raised, or impost levied, without the consent of Lords and Commons."

Thus matters continued gradually advancing; and the scale of the people was daily acquiring an increase of weight, during the reigns of Edward II., Edward III., and Henry IV.; but the subsequent reigns were not so favourable. The wars against France, and the contests between the Houses of York and Lancaster, so embroiled the nation, that the people had not leisure

to think of grievances from the power of the crown, while their lives and fortunes were otherwise at stake; and when Henry VII. mounted the throne, the people, wearied out by calamities and longing for repose, abhorred even the idea of resistance. The nobility, almost exterminated, had no strength; and the people, who in their struggles with the crown had had nobles for their leaders, were now afraid to form any opposition. During the government of the house of Tudor the royal prerogative was gradually enlarging itself, and the people became accustomed to all compliances; comforting themselves with the thought that if the sovereign had the right of demanding, they had the right of granting, and consequently, if they chose, might still refuse. But the crown, even had they refused, had opened to itself collateral channels of supplies, and was, in fact, very soon independent of parliament in every article, unless in the framing of new laws. authority of the Star Chamber and High Commission under the two last Henrys, and under Mary and Elizabeth, supplied, in most respects, to the sovereign the place of a parliament, and was always at his command. The talents of Elizabeth, and the respectable figure then made by the nation in all public measures against foreign powers, blinded the people to such exertions of authority as would in these days appear the height of tyranny. The nation then seemed drowned in the most supine indifference to domestic liberty; and the people, like the subjects of an absolute monarchy (which England, at that time, truly was in almost every sense), had con


fined all their ideas to the power, dignity, and splendour of the crown.

But the succeeding prince awakened them from that inglorious lethargy. The former monarchs had marched in silence from one step to another, till they arrived at the height of despotism. James I. imprudently proclaimed his title and right to that authority-he was at no pains to disguise it; and the people, who had been for some time accustomed to be ruled like slaves, could not bear to be told that they were so. A spirit of opposition, which confined itself to complaints under this reign, began in the next to break out into active efforts. To abase the power of the crown was resolutely determined. The commons felt their weight, they knew what were their legal privileges, and they followed, at first, the most constitutional methods to vindicate them. Charles I. was ignorant of the dangers which surrounded him, and, led away by a very natural motive to maintain the power of his predecessors, he was imprudent enough to exert with rigour an authority which he wanted ultimate resources to support. At length, sensible of his own weakness, and perhaps at length conscious that the claims of the people were founded in justice, he signed the petition of rights, a grant more favourable to the liberties of the subject than the Magna Charta. The constitution, freed from all those despotic restraints, with which it had been fettered by the house of Tudor, was now fixed on a basis more favourable to the people's liberties than had ever been known in the annals of the nation. Public discontent was now entirely re

moved-but selfish ambition remained unsatisfied. A few men who had all along made patriotism a cloak for their views of private interest, regretted the prospect of that harmonious coalition which promised now to take place between the king and people. Trifles were sufficient pretext for new discontent; the storm was blown up afresh, and continued with increasing violence till the regal authority was utterly extinguished.

"It was a curious spectacle," says Montesquieu, "to behold the vain efforts of the English to establish among themselves democracy." Subjected, at first, to the power of the principal leaders of the long parliament, they saw that power expire only to pass, without bounds, into the hands of a Protector: they saw it afterwards parcelled out among a set of officers of a standing army; and shifting on and on from one kind of subjection to another, they were at length convinced, that to endeavour to establish liberty in a great nation, by making the people interfere in the common business of government, is of all attempts the most chimerical; that the authority of all, with which men are amused, is in reality no more than the authority of a few powerful individuals, who divide the republic among them. They were obliged at last to return to the best of all constitutions, a limited monarchy.

New struggles, under the reign of Charles II., paved the way for new limitations. The Habeas Corpus Act was established, the great security of personal freedom. The constitution had begun again to take a form, when it was invaded by

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