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E S S AY XV.

Of the PROTESTANT SUCCESSION,

I

SUppose, that a member of parliament, in the reign

of King WILLIAM or Queen Anne, while the establishment of the Protestant Succeffion was yet uncertain were deliberating concerning the party he would chuse in that important question, and weighing, with impartiality, the advantages and disadvantages on each side. I believe the following particulars would have entered into his consideration.

He would easily perceive the great advantage resulting from the restoration of the STUART family ; by which we should preserve the succession clear and undisputed, free from a pretender, with such a specious title as that of blood, which, with the multitude, is always the claim, the strongest and most easily comprehended. It is in vain to say, as many have done, that the question with regard to governors, independent of government, is frivolous, and little worth disputing, much less fighting about. The generality of mankind never will enter into these sentiments; and it is much happier, I believe, for society, that they do not, but rather continue in their natural prepossessions. How could ftability be preserved in any monarchical government, (which, though, perhaps, not the best, is, and always has been, the most common of any) unless men had so passionate a regard for the true

heir

KK 4

heir of their royal family, and even though he be weak in understanding, or infirm in years, gave him so sensible a preference above persons the most accomplished in shining talents, or celebrated for great atchievements ? Would not every popular leader put in his claim at every vacancy, or even without any vacancy; and the kingdom become the theatre of perpetual wars and convulsions ? The condition of the Roman empire, surely, was not, in this respect, much to be envied; nor is that of the Eastern nations, who pay little regard to the titles of their fovereign, but facrifice them, every day, to the Caprice or momentary humour of the populace or soldiery, . It is but a foolish wisdom, which is so carefully displayed, in undervaluing princes, and placing them on a level with the meanest of mankind. To be sure, an anatomit finds no more in the greatest monarch than in the lowest peasant or day-labourer; and a moralist may, perhaos, frequently find Jess. But what do all these rejections tend to ? We, all of us, still retain these pre. judices in favour of birth and family; and neither in our ferious occupations, nor most careless amusements, can we ever get entirely rid of them. A tragedy, that should represent the adventures of failors, or porters, or even of private gentlemen, would presently disgust us ; but one that introduces kings and princes, acquires in our eyes an air of importance and dignity. Or should a man be able, by his superior wisdom, to get entirely above such prepoflctons, he would soon, by means of the fame wisdor, again bring himself down to them, for the sake of society, whore welfare he would perceive to be intimately conne@ed with them. Far from endeavouring to undeceive the people in this particular, he would cherish such sentiments of reverence to their princes ; as requisite to preserve a due subordination in society. And though the

lives of twenty thousand men be often sacrificed to maintain aking in pofleffion of his throne, or preserve the right of {ucceffion undisturbed, he entertains no indignation at the loss, on pretence that every individual of these was, perhaps, in himself, as valuable as the prince he served. He considers the consequences of violating the hereditary right of kings: Consequences, which may be felt for many centuries; while the loss of several thousand men brings so little prejudice to a large kingdom, that it may not be perceived a few years after.

The advantages of the Hanover succession are of an opposite nature, and arise from this very circumstance, that it violates hereditary right; and places on the throne a prince, to whom birth gave no title to that dignity. It is evident, from the history of this island, that the privileges of the people have, during the two last centuries, been continually upon the encrease, by the division of the church-lands, by the alienations of the barons' estates, by the progress of trade, and above all, by the happiness of our situation, which, for a long time, gave us sufficient security, without any standing army or military establishment. On the contrary, public liberty has, almost in every other nation of EUROPE, been, during the same period, ex. tremely upon the decline ; while the people were disgusted at the hard thips of the old feudal militia, and rather chose to entrust their prince with mercenary armies, which he easily turned againlt themselves. It was nothing extraordinary, therefore, that some of our British sovereigns mistook the nature of the constitution, at least, the genius of the people; and as they embraced all the favourable precedents left them by their ancestors, they overlooked all those which were contrary, and which supposed a limitation in our government. They were encouraged in this mistake, by the example of all the neighbouring

princes,

any

vernment.

princes, who bearing the same title or appellation, and being adorned with the same enfigns of authority, naturally led them to claim the same powers and prerogatives. It appears from the speeches, and proclamations of JAMES 1. and the whole train of that prince's actions, as well as his son's, that he regarded the ENGLISH government as a simple monarchy, and never imagined that considerable part of his subjects entertained a contrary idea. This opinion made those monarchs discover their pretensions, without preparing any

force to fupport them; and even without reserve or disguise, which are always employed by those, who enter upon any new project, or endeavour to innovate in any go

The fiattery of courtiers farther confirmed their prejudices; and above all, that of the clergy, who from several passages of scripture, and these wrested too, had erected a regular and avowed system of arbitrary power. The only method of destroying, at once, all these high claims and pretensions, was to depart from the true heredi:ary line, and choose a prince, who, being plainly a creature of the public, and receiving the crown on conditions, expressed and avowed, found his authority established on the fame bottom with the privileges of the people. By electing him in the royal line, we cut off all hopes of ambitious fubje&s, who might, in future emergencies, disturb the government by their cabals and pretensions: By rendering the crown hereditary in his family, we avoided all the inconveniencies of elective monarchy: And by excluding the lineal heir, we secured all our conftitutional limitations, and rendered our government uniform and of a piece. The people cherish monarchy, because protected by it: The monarch favours liberty, because created by it. And thus every

advantage

advantage is obtained by the new establishment, as far as human skill and wisdom can extend itself.

These are the separate advantages of fixing the suce cession, either in the house of STUART, or in that of HANOVER. There are also disadvantages in each establishment, which an impartial patriot would ponder and examine, in order to form a just judgment upon the whole.

The disadvantages of the protestant succession consist in the foreign dominions, which are possessed by the princes of the HANOVER line, and which, it might be fupposed, would engage us in the intrigues and wars of the continent, and lose us, in some measure, the inestimable advantage we possess, of being surrounded and guarded by the sea, which we command. The disadvantages of recalling the abdicated family consist chiefly in their religion, which is more prejudicial to society than that established amongst us, is contrary to it, and affords no toleration, or peace, or security to any other communion.

It appears to me, that these advantages and disadvantages are allowed on both sides ; at least, by every one who is at all susceptible of argument or reasoning. No subject, however loyal, pretends to deny, that the difputed title and foreign dominions of the present royal family are a loss. Nor is there any partizan of the Stuarts, but will confess, that the claiin of hereditary, indefeasible right, and the Roman Catholic religion, are also disadvantages in that family. It belongs, there, fore, to a philosopher alone, who is of neither party, to put all these circuinstances in the scale, and aflign to cach of them its proper poise and influence. Such a one will readily, at firft, acknowledge, that all political queftions are infinitely complicated, and that there

scarcely

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