« ForrigeFortsett »
are part of the executive power. They are the channels through which corruption must flow, if it has a tendency to flow, from the Fons Potestatis, the Supreme Magistrate : they may be responsible, but with their influence responsibility will be but a name ; and it seems not to comport with the spirit of a clause in Magna Charta, which provides that certain officers should hold no pleas of the Crown ;--evidently because they are supposed to be necessarily under influence.
The supreme magistracy of the Saxons, like that of the ancient "Germans *, rested, ultimately, on elective principles, though suffered often to be hereditary in practice. Thus it continued till the Conquest. Without dwelling on any particular period, suffice it to say, that the supreme magistracy in this country is now hereditary in a particular family, but still subject to stipulations, and conducted on elective principles. The old doctrine of divine indefeasible right is gone by, to the bats and moles; and an here. ditary government, thus circumstanced, is understood to be the strength and stay of the English Government.
But it has been doubted by some, whether what may be the strength and stay of the supreme magistracy, may be required in any other part of the state, either for the purpose of offi ce or dignity, or in the interest and stay of particular families. Sufficient provision seems to be made for all these in office itself,--in the means of distinction and favour, always in the hands of a vast exes cutive power, in the means of amassing property by men in offices, and the influence which high office always affords for promoting the interests of particular families throughout the country. Great evils may perhaps be conceived by some in this hereditary part of our system. It is said, however, by others, amidst some acknowledged evils, to be the Corinthian capital of our political system ; and admired as this provision seems to be by the practice of all Europe, I shall, with due submission and respect, pass it; just observing, that among our Saxon ancestors, the Ealdorman and Earl (if indeed they were not the same) that is, the first officers in the kingdom, were liable to lose their dignity, both civil and military, and a Ceorl might arrive at it. The Thegns indeed were born so, and the title attached to landed property ; but the rank was not exclusive, the most humble person might attain it, and the highest dignitary might lose it. The Adelings or thelings t were nobles of royal race (but liable to be set aside), and in a more ex. tended sense, the magnates regni. It has been already observed, in reference to some definitions of
* Principes ex nobilitate sumunt; Tacitus de Mor. Germ.
+ See Turner's Hist, of the Anglo-Saxons, Vol. II., p. 232, and Spel. man, Glossar, sub Voce Adelingus.
the English Constitution, that the Church also is a part. The Church is interwoven with it in all our Saxon laws; the Councils of the Church and the Sovereign's power go hand in hand * ; and, as Sir Robert Cotton has observed, “ there is a successive record of Councils or Convocations less interrupted than of Parliaments;" and its civil rights, though not its doctrines, were provided for by Magna Charta.
The same theory also occurs in Hoel Dha's Laws; the King and Laics and Scholastics, who, as appears from another place, were Clergy, met in one place to frame Laws or Constitutions; the late ter, the Scholastics, for the express purpose, " that nothing should be established that was contrary to the Sacred Scriptures +.” The same theory also occurs in the.“ Lawes and Actes of Parliament Maid by King James I. and his Successours Kinges of Scotland :" according to which, not only were the Prelates to appear personally in Parliament I, but the “ aulde privileges and freedome of Halie Kirk was preserved $, and the Civil power and Halie Kirk united anent (aguinst) Hereticques, and to support and help Halie Kirk.”
At the Reformation, through our separation from the Church of Rome, the union of Church and State became more close, under the Roman Pontiff, as Nathaniel Bacon or Selden expresses it, 6 the foundation was neither on the rock nor on good ground, but by a gin screwed to the Roman Consistory 1.” By our se. paration from the Roman Church this gin was actually screwed more close. The King became, in regard to the Church, the Seigneur Souveraigne; and if we consider the origin and progress of our National Church, it would be found to rest partly on the authority of Princes, and partly on our Parliamcats; and that the whole Constitution of the Church may in fact be considered as so many Acts of Parliaments, or rather perhaps as one great Act of Parliament.
There are those who consider this union of Church and State as a most excellent part of our Constitution. Others consider it as one of our greatest defects. You cannot form this union, say they, without disuniting all parties : you cannot form it, without something of a spirit of persecution : and the history of all Nonconformists, whether Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists,
Quakers, Quakers, Methodists, or Jews, they say, affords proof of it. It does not, say they, depend on the present Clergy; they may be able, generous, mild, and enlightened men the defect lies in the Constitution,--and they trace all the evils of Test-laws, exclusive privileges, and such like dividing matters, to this de. fect.
* See an Auswer to certain Arguments, raised from supposed antiquity, and urged by some Members of the Lower House of Parliament, to prove that Ecclesiastical Laws ought to be enacted by Temporal men.-Cottoni Posthuma. + Leges Wallicæ, p. 7.
|| Second Parliameni, p. 28. I Third Parliament, p. 52.
I Hist. and Political Discourse of First Parl. p. l.
the Laws and Governinent of England, Part I. cb. xv.
But though this is certainly a part of our Constitution, it may be doubted whether it is the best part of it; nor does it seem to be an essential in it:-if the Church is a fundamental part of our Constitution, we had no right to disunite it from Rome : for the union with Rome made part of our Constitution before: and a system of exclusive privileges cannot be made to harmonize with the amiable spirit of our Civil Constitution, with any thing great in Magna Charta, or that is free and generous and manly and enlightened in the mind of a true Englishman.
France, amidst the many bad lessons she has taught Europe, has taught them one that is wise,--how to unite an Established Church with a complete (not Toleration—in her Concordat she reprobates the word) liberty, at least with an admission of all the citizens to the enjoyment of the common rights of citizens, yet with all due regard to the true interest of an Established Church.
Thus have I, amidst great admiration of what is excellent in our Constitution (and there is certainly much that is truly excel. lent--our fundamentals are excellent, our Parliaments and our Ju. ries ought to be most excellent) pointed out, I hope with all due humility, what appear to me some of its defects. I have not gone half so far as one of our ancient writers, Andrew Horn, the author of the “ Mirrour of Justices," one of the oldest writers on law in this country, and often quoted by Blackstone. Horn has not entered on the topics that are the subject of this essay. In his chapter 6 De Abusion,” he enumerates one hundred and fiftyfive abuses of the Common Law, and subjoins, “ et autres Abusions, &c." His next chapter invades even our GREAT CHAR. TER,-“ Les defautes de la grand Charter;" to which he de. votes eight or nine pages. These defaults relate to what more particularly concerned those times. But two defects in it (if we are to consider that as a Constitution) I shall beg leave to men. tion, as unnoticed by him. It makes no provision for Political Liberty, in the sense laid down in this
says nothing on Parliaments. The question relative to the best means of promoting the great fundamental principles of our Constitution, I may perhaps attempt to discuss in a future essay, and, I hope, in a respectful, constitutional manner. In the mean time, I close with Andrew Horne's Summary of his Chapters on Abuses, as a sort of literary curiosity, for I believe it was intended for verse, written
in Norman French, as the whole book is (Chapter V. Section the first).
Les defauts de la grand Charter
Westminster le 2d. & Gloucester.
ART. VI. - A Comparison between Thomson and Cowper as
No descriptive poem in any language has obtained equal popu. larity with the Seasons of Thomson, a work of which the description of rural nature was the proper subject, while moral and phi. losophical sentiment was its appendage and decoration. It was happily calculated to please as well those whose imaginations were readily impressed with the sublime and beautiful, as those whose hearts were alive to feelings of tenderness and humanity. It found so many readers, that probably no single circumstance has contributed so much to that love of the country, and taste for the charms of nature, which peculiarly characterise the inhabitants of this island, as the early associations formed by the perusal of this poem. It also, like all popular compositions, drew after it a current of imitation; and it was the model of that exact style of painting which is discernible in the performances of most of our later descriptive and didactic poets.
This style is a distinguishing feature of that very singular and original poem, the Task, a work, the numberless beauties of which have acquired it a popularity scarcely inferior to that of the Seasons; and have secured it a permanent place among the select productions of English poetry. Whether it is more properly to be arranged in the descriptive or the didactic class, is a question of little moment; but considering it as possessing peculiar ex. cellence in the first of these characters, it may be an interesting topic of critical discussion to compare the different manners of the Task and the Scasons in the description of natural objects, and to estimate their several merits.
To select a variety of circumstances which shall identify the object, and at the same time present it to the imagination in strong and lively colouring, is the essence of poetical description. The
qualities qualities enumerated must not be so lax and general as to apply equally to several species of things (which is the ordinary fault of the oriental manner of delineating); nor yet so methodically precise as the descriptions in natural history, which are addressed more to the intellect than to the imagination. Grand and sublime objects are best described by a few bold touches; for greatness is lost by being parcelled into minute portions ; but objects of beauty and curiosity will bear to be viewed microscopically; and if the particulars are skilfully chosen, the effect is enhanced by distinctness. It is also desirable that the circumstances should be suggested by personal observation, else, the picture will probably be defective in accuracy, or at least will be marked with the faintness of a copy from another's conceptions.
No poetical artist can well venture to draw with minuter strokes than Thomson has done in the delineations of rural sce. nery and occupations which constitute the proper matter or staple of his poem, and which are generally both pleasing to contemplate and happily selected for the purpose of characterising the season. It would be difficult to determine whether the grand or the agree. able objects presented by nature were most congenial to his dispo. sition. If his imagination was captivated by the former, his heart inclined him to the latter, especially to such as called forthi kind and benevolent emotions; and as those offered themselves most copiously to his observation, they occur most frequently in his
poem. His scenes of sublimity are chiefly taken from the polar and tropical regions, in depicting which, he only transcribes (with a poetical pen and fancy, indeed) the descriptions of travel lers. His home scenery seems to have been almost entirely suggested by his own remarks, first made when he was a youth on the banks of the Tweed, and afterwards enlarged when he was a guest or an inhabitant in some of the finest parts of England. As he rejected no objects, however trivial, which could serve to mark the 'season he was describing, he appears to have thought it in. cumbent upon him, in order to support the dignity of verse, to intermix the figures and phraseology of the higher kinds of poetry; and to this he was particularly induced by the character of blank verse, in which he composed; for this species, being so little distinguished from prose by its measure, had acquired, in the practice of several eminent writers, an artificial stateliness of diction, more remote from common speech than the usual heroic rhyme couplet. This mixture of high-wrought language with a humble topic is one of the peculiar features of Thomson's style in descriptive poetry. A few examples will illustrate the manner of this combination. In Summer a picture is given of hay-making, in which, the va