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ESSAY XIV.

Of the COALITION of PARTIES.

10 abolish all diftin&tions of party may not be

practicable, perhaps not desirable, in a free government. The only dangerous parties are such as entertain oppofite views with regard to the effentials of government, the succession of the crown, or the more confiderable privileges belonging to the several members of the conftitution; where there is no room for any compromize or accommodation, and where the controversy may appear so momentous as to justify even an opposition by arms to the pretensions of antagonists. Of this nature was the animosity, continued for above a century past, between the parties in ENGLAND; an animosity which broke out sometimes into civil war, which occasioned violent revolutions, and which continually endangered the peace and tranquillity of the nation. But as there have appeared of late the strongest symptoms of an universal desire to abolith these party distinctions; this tendency to a coalition affords the most agreeable prospect of future happiness, and ought to be carefully cherished and promoted by every lover of his country.

There is not a more effectual method of promoting so good an end, than to prevent all unreasonable insult and triumph of the one party over the other, to encourage

moderate

moderate opinions, to find the proper medium in all disputes, to persuade each that its antagonist may poffibly be sometimes in the right, and to keep a balance in the praise and blame, which we bestow on either side. The two former Essays, concerning the original contract and paljive obedience, are calculated for this purpose with regard to the philosophical and practical controversies between the parties, and tend to show that neither fide are in these respects so fully supported by reason as they endeavour to Aatter themselves. We shall proceed to exercise the same moderation with regard to the historical disputes between the parties, by proving that each of them was justified by plausible topics ; that there were on both fides wise men, who meant well to their country; and that the past animosity between the fadions had no better foundation than narrow prejudice or interested passion.

The popular party, who afterwards acquired the name of whigs, might justify, by very specious arguments, that opposition to the crown, from which our present free constitution is derived. Though obliged to acknowledge, that precedents in favour of prerogative had uni. formly taken place during many reigns before CHARLES the First, they thought, that there was no reason for submitting any longer to so dangerous an authority. Such might have been their reasoning : As the rights of mankind are for ever to be deemed sacred, no prescription of tyranny or arbitrary power can have authority fufficient to abolish them. Liberty is a blessing so inefti. mable, that, wherever there appears any probability of recovering it, a nation may willingly run many hazards, and ought not even to repine at the greatest effufion of blood or dissipation of treasure. All human institutions, and none more than government, are in continual fluctuation. Kings are sure to embrace every opportunity of

extending

extending their prerogatives: And if favourable incidents Bé not allo laid hold of for extending and securing the privileges of the people, an universal despotism must for ever prevail amongst mankind. The example of all the neighbouring nations prove, that it is no longer safe to entrust with the crown the same high prerogatives, which had formerly been exercised during rude and simple ages. And though the example of many late reigns may be pleaded in favour of a power in the prince somewhat arbitrary, more remote reigns afford instances of stricter limitations imposed on the crown; and those pretensions of the parliament, now branded with the title of innovations, are only a recovery of the just rights of the people.

These views, far from being odious, are surely large, and generous, and noble: To their prevalence and fuccess the kingdom owes its liberty ; perhaps its learning, its industry, commerce, and naval power : By them chiefly the ENGLISH name is distinguished among the society of nations, and aspires to a rivalship with that of the freest and most illustrious commonwealths of antiquity. But as all these mighty consequences could not reasonably be foreseen at the time when the contest began, the royalists of that age wanted not specious arguments on their side, by which they could justify their defence of the then established prerogatives of the prince. We shall state the question, as it might have appeared to them at the assembling of that parliament, which, by its violent encroachments on the crown, began the civil wars.

The only rule of government, they might have said, known and acknowledged among men, is use and practice : Reason is so uncertain a guide that it will always be exposed to doubt and controversy: Could it ever render itself prevalent over the people, men had always jetained it as their sole rule of conduct : They had still

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continued in the primitive, unconnected state of nature, without submitting to political government, whose fole bafis is, not pure reason, but authority and precedent. Diffolve these ties, you break all the bonds of civil society, and leave every man at liberty to consult his private intereft, by those expedients, which his appetite, disguifed under the appearance of reason, thall dictate to him. The spirit of innovation is in itself pernicious, however favourable its particular object may sometimes appear : A truth so obvious, that the popular party themselves are sensible of it, and therefore cover their encroachments on the crown by the plausible pretence of their recovering the ancient liberties of the people.

But the present prerogatives of the crown, allowing all the suppositions of that party, have been incontestably established ever since the accession of the House of TUDOR ; a period, which, as it now comprehends an hundred and fixty years, may be allowed sufficient to give ftability to any constitution. Would it not have appeared ridiculous, in the reign of the Emperor ADRIAN, to have talked of the republican constitution as the rule of government; or to have supposed, that the former rights of the fenate, and consuls, and tribunes were still subfifting?

But the present claims of the ENGLISH monarchs are much more favourable than those of the Roman emperors during that age. The authority of AUGUSTUS was a plain usurpation, grounded only on military vio. lence, and forms such an epoch in the ROMAN history, as is obvious to every reader. But if HENRY VII. really, as some preterd, enlarged the power of the crown, it was only by insensible acquisitions, which escaped the apprehension of the people, and have scarcely been remarked even by historians and politicians. The new government, if it deserve the epithet, is an imperceptible

transition

transition from the former ; is entirely engrafted on it; derives its title fully from that root; and is to be considered only as one of those gradual revolutions, to which human affairs, in every tiation, will be for ever subject.

The House of TUDOR, and after them that of STUART, exercised no prerogatives, but what had been claimed and exercised by the PLANTAGENETS. Not a single branch of their authority can be said to be an innovation. The only difference is, that, perhaps, former kings exerted these powers only by intervals, and were not able, by reason of the opposition of their barons, to render them so steady a rule of administration. But the sole inference from this fact is, that those ancient times were more turbulent and feditious; and that royal authority, the constitution, and the laws have happily of late gained the ascendant.

Under what pretence can the popular party now speak of recovering the ancient constitution? The former controul over the kings was not placed in the commons, but in the barons: The people had rio authority, and even little or no liberty; till the crown, by suppressing these factious tyrants, enforced the execution of the laws; and obliged all the subjects equally to respect each others rights, privileges, and properties. If we must return to the ancient barbarous and feudal conftitution ; let those gentlemen, who now behave themselves with so much insolence to their sovereign, set the first example. Let them make court to be admitted as retainers to a neighbouring baron ; and by submitting to slavery under him, acquire some protection to themselves; together with the power of exercising rapine and oppresiion over their ina ferior slaves and villains. This was the condition of the commons ainong their remote ancestors. VOL.I. Kk

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