Obrazy na stronie

forefathers. Upon that body and stock of inheri. tance we have taken care not to inoculate any cyon alien to the nature of the original plant. All the reformations we have hitherto made, have proceeded upon the principle of reference to antiquity; and I hope, nay I am persuaded, that all those which possibly may be made hereafter, will be carefully formed upon analogical precedent, authority, and example.

Our oldeft reformation is that of Magna Charta. You will see that Sir Edward Coke, that great oracle of our law, and indeed all the great men who follow him, to Blackstone *, are industrious to prove the pedigree of our liberties. They endeavour to prove, that the antient chat ter, the Magna Charta of King John, was connected with another positive charter from Henry 1. and that both the one and the other were no. thing more than a re-afirmance of the still more antient standing law of the kingdom. In the matter of fact, for the greater part, these authors appear to be in the right; perhaps not always: but if the lawyers mistake in some particulars, it proves my position still the more strongly; because it demonstrates the powerful preposa feffion towards antiquity, with which the minds of all our lawyers and legislators, and of all the people whom they wish to influence, have been always filled; and the stationary policy of this kingdom in considering their most sacred rights and franchises as an inheritance.

• See Black&tone's Magna Charta, printed at Oxford, 1759.

In the famous law of the 3d of Charles I. called the Petition of Right, the parliament says to the king, “ Your subjects have inherited this « freedom," claiming their franchises not on abstract principles “as the rights of men,” but as the rights of Englishmen, and as a patrimony derived from their forefathers. Selden, and the other profoundly learned' men, who drew this petition of right, were as well acquainted, at least, with all the general theories concerning the

rights of men,” as any of the discoursers in our pulpits, or on your tribune; full as well as Dr. Price, or as the Abbé Seyes. But, for reafons worthy of that practical" wisdom which superseded their theoretic science, they preferred this positive, recorded, hereditary title to all which can be dear to the man and the citizen, to that vague speculative right, which exposed their süre inheritance to be scrambled for and torn to pieces by every wild litigious fpirit.

The same policy pervades all the laws which have since been made for the preservation of our liberties. In the ist of William and Mary, in the famous statute, called the Declaration of Right; the two houses 'utier not a fyllable of " a “ right to frame a government for themselves." You will fee, that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long poffeffed, and had been lately endangered. “ Taking * into their most serious confideration “ the best means for making such an establishment,

I W. and M.

so that

« that their religion, laws, and liberties, might « not be in danger of being again subverted,” they auspicate all their proceedings, by ftating as some of those best means, “in the first place" to do “ as their ancestors in like cases have usually « done for vindicating their antient rights and

liberties, to declare;-and then they pray the king and

queen, " that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and « liberties asserted and declared are the true an, tient and indubitable rights andi liberties of the “ people of this kingdom.”

You will observe, that from Magna Charta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and aflere our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means our constitution preferves an unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage ;

and an house of commons and a people inheriting privileges; franchises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection; or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity,



a fort

who never look backward to their ancestors. Befides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and sure principle of tranfmission ; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims, are locked fast as in of family settlement; grasped as in a kind of mortmain for ever. By a constitutional policy, working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges, in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The inftitutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of Providence, are handed down, to us and from us, in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a juít correspondence and symmetry with the order of the world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts ; wherein, by the disposition of a stupendous wifdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we arç

never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the fuperftition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. in this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties s adopting our fundamental laws into the bofom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually, reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchres, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts, to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart insolence almost inevitably adhering to and disgracing those who are the first acquirers of any distinction. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bear:ings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gal

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