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grateful to our ancestors, that they have provided a remedy for the evil, to which we have just now alluded.
The Crown descends lineally to the issue of the reigning Monarch, as it did from King Jolin, to Richard II., through a regular succession of six generations. The right of primogeniture amongst the males, and of the males in preference to the females, is also a constitutional rule in the descent of the Crown. Thus Edward took the Crown in preference to Richard, his younger brother, and to Elizabeth his elder sister. Upon failure of the male line, the Crown descends to the eldest of the female issue, and the heirs of her body, lawfully begotten, and not jointly to the female issue of the same degree, as in common inheritances.
The descent of the Crown to the female line, in failure of the male issue, is an ancient British custom. For our forefathers were often led to battle by women, and they paid no regard to sex with respect to the individual, who administered the executive Government.
The doctrine of representation, likewise, prevails in the descent of the Crown, as in other inheritances. Thus Richard II., succeeded his grandfather ; Edward III., in right of his father, the Black Prince; and George III., took the crown on the demise of his grandfather, George II., in right of his father Frederick, Prince of Wales, and each to the exclusion of all their uncles.
· In the event of lineal descendants, the Crown devolves to the next collateral relations of the late King, provided they are lineally descended from the royal stock, which originally acquired the Crown. Thus Ilenry I., succeeded to William II. ; John, to Richard I. ; and James I., to Elizabeth; being all derived from William the Conqueror. And if there be no kinsman of the whole blood, a relation of the half blood, will undoubtedly succeed to the throne; as was the case with Mary I., who succeeded Edward VI.; and of Elizabeth, who ascended the throne on the death of Mary; all being the children of Henry VIII., and each by differert mothers.
The doctrine, however, of hereditary right, by no means
implies an indefeasible right to the crown, and fortunate it is for the country that it is so. The Duke of Cumberland is at present, the heir presumptive to the Crown, but the Parliament, (thanks to the wisdom, and foresight of our ancestors) consisting of King, Lords, and Commons, has the power to defeat this hereditary right, and exclude the next heir, by enacting the inheritance, to descend to any one else, whenever it thinks fit. The Constitution has lodged this power in the supreme Legislature, in order to avoid the inconvenience and distress, that the whole nation must experience, were an idiot or a lunatic, or a
like the Duke of Cumberland, necessarily to inherit the throne, and on the other hand, to avert the miseries that must accrue to the reigning monarch at all times, were any such authority, expressly confided to the people, who are so liable to be influenced by caprice, and hurried on by the most ungovernable passions. Hence it is plain, that the English Constitution, disclaims all such political theories, as a right inherent in the people, either to choose, or to set aside their king. This is clear from the Bill, called the “ Declaration of Rights,” in which the Lords and Commons consider it, “as a marvellous Providence, and merciful goodness of God, to this nation to preserve” King William, and Queen Mary, “most happily to reign over us on the throne of their ancestors, for which from the bottom of their hearts, they return their humblest thanks and praises.” King James II. had broken the legal conditions of the compact of Sovereignty, and by abdicating, had vacated the throne. But the two Houses, in the Bill of Rights, did not thank God, that they had found a fair opportunity, to assert a right to chvose their own Governors, much less to make an election, the only lawful title to the Crown, but on the contrary, in order to exclude for ever, the doctrine of a right, to choose our own Governors, a subsequent clause of that immortal law just mentioned, declares, that the Lords, spiritual, and temporal, and Commons, do in the name of all the people aforesaid, most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs, and posterity for ever and do faithfully promise, that they will
maintain, and defend their said Majesties, and also, the limitation of the Crown, herein specified and contained to the utmost of their powers." Is it not then very surprising, that any sensible man, can infer the doctrine of a right to choose our own Governors, from the Revolution of 1688, since, if we had possessed it before, it is clear that the English nation, did at that time, most solemnly renounce, and abdicate it, for themselves, and for all their posterity for ever. Our ancestors, wisely considered, that however, speciously the abstract principle of such a right, might appear in theory, it could never in the nature of things, be reduced to practice.
The true spirit of our Constitution, not only in its settled course, but in all its Revolutions, is, hereditary succession to the reigning Monarch, whether he obtained the Crown, by law or by force. Hence in our laws, the King in his political capacity, is said, never to die, because he lives in his successor, although like other men, he is naturally mortal.
The regular inheritance of the British throne, has indeed, been often changed, and usurped by fraud and violence, as will be seen by a short historical view of our Kings. But the beautiful feature of hereditary succession, marked the infancy of our Government, bloomed in its manhood, and is indelibly graven in the wrinkles of increasing age.
We will now take, historically, a constitutional view of the royal title, to the Crown of England. Egbert, who was the first King of England, and last of the Saxon Heptarchy, was King of the West Saxons, by a long and uninterrupted descent from his ancestors, of above 800 years, and united the Heptarchy in one Monarchy under him, in the year 828. How his ancestors obtained their titles, it is in vain for us to inquire, since there are no documents that will satisfy such political curiosity. So it was, that Egbert became sole Monarch of England, partly by the consent of the other six kingdoms of the Heptarchy, and partly by conquest over them.
From Egbert, the Crown descended regularly, for two hundred years, through a succession of fifteen Princes, to the death of Edmund Ironside, without any deviation or inter
ruption, except that the sons of King Ethelwolf, succeeded to each other, without regard to the children of the elder branches, and also that King Edred, the uncle of Edwy, reigned about nine years, during the minority of Edwy, on account of the troubles of the times. But when of age, Edwy assumed the reins of Government.
At the death of Edmund Ironside, Canute, King of Denmark, obtained the kingdom by violence, and a new family possessed the throne : three of his heirs succeeded to the throne, and on the death of Hardicanute, the ancient Saxon line was restored in Edward the Confessor, who was the next of kin, then in England. On the decease of Edward, Harold II. usurped the Government, for Edgar Atheling, the grand son of Ironside, was the lawful heir. Harold being defeated at the Battle ef Hastings, was dispossessed of the throne, by William the Conqueror. Robert the eldest son of the Conqueror, being Duke of Normandy by his father's will, was kept out of the possession of the Crown of England, by the acts and violence of his brothers, William II., and Henry I., who succeeded their father.
The real heiress to Henry, was his daughter, the Empress Matilda, but Stephen usurped the throne, having only the feeble title of being grandson to the Conqueror, by his inother's side.
Henry II., the undoubted heir of the Conqueror, after his mother Matilda, and also lineally descended from Edmund Ironside, the last of the Saxon hereditary Kings, succeeded Stephen.
Henry was succeeded by Richard I., who dying childless, the right vested in his nephew Arthur, the son of Geoffry, his next brother, but John, the surviving brother of the King, seized the Crown, to the exclusion of his nephew, the doctrine of representation, not being then clearly understood.
Henry III., who succeeded his father, King John, had an indisputable title, for Arthur and his sister Eleanor both died without issue, and the Crown descended from Henry, to Richard II., in a regular succession of five generations.
Richard II. resigned the Crown, which was taken possession of by Henry IV., who was the son of the celebrated John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III. His title, however, was not a just one; for, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III., left a daughter Philippa, from whom descended the house of York. But, King Henry having at that time a large army at his command, asserted his title with effect; and by the Statute of 7, Henry IV. ch. 2, it was enacted, that the inheritance of the Crown and Realms of England and France, and all other the King's dominions, shall be set and remain in the person of our Sovereign Lord the King, and in the heirs of his body issuing. By which Statute, it is obvious that the title of Henry appeared at that time very doubtful, and it is equally clear that the King and Parliament had the right of changing and limiting the occupation of the Crown.
But the “ beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water." No one can tell, when a river breaks through its banks, and rushes from its accustomed channel, what devastation it will occasion. The usurpation of Henry gave rise to the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster, the Princes of which, like Sampson's foxes, spread by their jarring interests, desolation and misery through the land for several subsequent generations.
Henry was succeeded by his son, and grandson, Henry V., and Henry VI. In the reign of this weak Prince, the house of York asserted its dormant title; and, after intestine war and bloodshed for seven years, at length established it in the person of Edward IV.
In all acts wherein Edward had occasion to speak of the Henries of the house of Lancaster, he calls them, “ lately in deed, not of right, Kings of England; and hence arose the distinction of a king de jure, and a king de facto.
On the death of Edward, the Crown descended to his eldest son, Edward V., who with his brother the Duke of York, are generally believed to have been murdered in the Tower, by order of their uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester; after