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The vast importance of this law can be appreciated only by those who have experienced or studied the history of despotism. Whether the ruling authority of the nation (be it in the hands of one or many) shall be absolute or subordinated to law, must depend, in the last result, upon its power over the persons of those who are subject to it. Whatever be the law, if there be a sovereign, whether emperor or president, who may disregard it, and put in strict im. prisonment those who resist him; if he may substitute his own commands for law, and take away from society and from all power of resort to law those who do not obey him, it is obvious that there can be no disobedience and no resistance which is not rebellion if it be put down, or revolution if it succeed. The histories of France and of England offer the most perfect illustration of this.
Beginning from the feudal ages, those countries stood about upon an equality in respect to the power of the sovereign and the personal rights of the subject. Under some of her monarchs, of the Plantagenet and Tudor families, England seemed to be yielding herself up to a more absolute tyranny than was known to her neighbors. But as the ages went on, it became apparent in France that the subjection of the citizen to the sovereign became with every generation more complete. By insidious rather than open increases, the power of the king, or rather the power of ministers who acted in the name of the king, to imprison at their pleasure whom they would, for political or personal, public or private reasons, became so entirely established that every minister of the crown had, it is said, a large number of blank lettres de cachet (or letters under the privy seal of the king), which he could fill with names at his pleasure, and by which the police were authorized and commanded to imprison the party named, and hold him in prison at the pleasure of the minister. The Bastile became a recognized instrument of state; and in its cells lay those who were placed there only at the suspicion or the caprice of some minister, and who remained there only because they were forgotten. Of course this state of things could not last, for no one acquainted with human nature could doubt that such irresponsible and enormous power would be prodigiously abused. Therefore the French revolution came to do the work which must be done, and only revolution could do; and therefore the reign of terror almost necessarily replaced the gilded and graceful despotism which had been its parent. But this could not endure, and perhaps the changes which have since given to that country almost every possible form of government, agree only in proving that in France there is not that training for personal liberty, that inwrought determination to be personally free at all hazards, which can become a part of the life-blood of a nation only after many generations have enjoyed the blessings of freedom, and can alone effectually secure and permanently preserve that liberty which is the fruitful spring of every other good. principles of government, but upon what, in legal phrase, may be called James's overt acts of treason to the nation.
If we now turn to England, we have seen that in the AngloSaxon times, despotism was rarely attempted and never successful; that the laws and institutions of those days are all founded on the presumption of personal liberty and rights; that this element of character might for a time be suppressed or enfeebled, but that it could never be annihilated ; that it rose from time to time into prominence and activity, and, as opportunity could be offered or could be made, gradually asserted itself, first in the fact of a common law, which the courts regarded as binding upon them; then, in the recognition of personal liberty and right as an unquestionable principle of the common law; then by such timely assertious as in Magna Charta, in the Petition of Right, and finally in that Act of Habeas Corpus which we may well hope has settled the question for all time. That the habeas corpus was once sufficiently valued in the United States may be inferred from the fact that the Federal Constitution provides that “ the provisions of the act shall not be suspended, unless when in case of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it;" and there is a provision to the same effect in some of the State constitutions. Everywhere the statute itself is enacted, and, so far as words can have the effect, made stringent and effectual. The time, however, has now passed when laws and constitutions may be trusted as complete securities and guarantees of rights. It is not certain, it is very doubtful, whether in these States the value of the right of personal liberty is sufficiently apprehended. Adhuc sub judice lis est. It is a question that will verily speedily be set at rest.
There had been in the reign of Charles II., so much dislike and even dread of James's succession to the throne-a dread increased by the panic spread by the so-called Popish plot--that a large party in the nation endeavored to exclude him from the succession, on the ground of his being a Papist. The House of Commons passed a bill for that purpose, and for banishing him from the king. dom; from which fate he was only saved by a majority in the House of Lords. The Exclusion Bill long and deeply agitated the nation and the Government; and when James had ascended the throne the people had become divided into two parties, under the then new but now familiar names of Whigs and Tories. Those who were inimical to Popery—as well on religious grounds as from the encouragement it gave to the doctrines of divine right and passive obedience, but who were at the same time favorable to religious toleration among Protestant sects were called Whigs; while those who, holding those doctrines as of irremovable obligation, and although they supported the exclusive authority of the Protestant established Church, would not concur in depriving even a professed Papist of his right of succession to the throne-were called Tories.
At the accession of James, the laws for the exclusive establishment of the Church of England were clear, and defined by laws not only explicit, but extremely rigorous in their provisions. Charles II. bad on several occasions endeavored to produce some alleviation of these, but he was told by Parliament that he had no power of interference, and that no alteration could be made but by an act of Parliament. Those laws, therefore, the king of England was bound to conform to, both in his own person and in his government. James felt the force of these obligations. In his first address to his privy council he said he had been reported to be a man for arbitrary power; but that was not the only story that had been made of him, and he should make it his endeavor to preserve the government in church and state as it was then established. But he made it known after his brother's funeral, that he had died a Roman Catholic; and he himself soon afterwards appeared publicly at mass.
Parliament assembled on the 10th of May, 1685, by virtue of proclamations issued, as well for the meeting of Parliament as for laying, on James's sole authority, the customs and duties which constituted the revenue of the late king, but which expired at his decease. The House of Commons contained a large majority of adherents of James—the effect of changes made in the last reign in the charters of the corporations of the parliamentary boroughs, for the purpose of bringing them under the influence of the crown. The king opened the session on the 22d of May, and renewed the declaration he had made to the privy council. The House of Commons without delay unanimously voted to him for his life the whole revenue settled on the late king. The same Parliament also granted to James for his life---as a supply for the navy-an imposition on wines and vinegar which had been received by Charles II., and a further sum of £400,000 towards the extraordinary expenses incurred by the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth. Thus in regard of one of the first constitutional principles, James was rendered independent of Parliament for supplies, unless in case of war. The consequences might have been foretold. The king, thus provided and unrestrained, proceeded to carry out the ardent objects of his life, the restoration of the ascendency of the Roman Catholic religion and the absolute and unshackled power of the monarch. The history of his reign shows that James, in the prosecution of his designs, was restrained by no law-by no compassion for those whom he opposed or oppressed-and by no consideration of his duties as king under a constitutional government. To assist him in these objects he entered into secret arrangements with the king of France, and, notwithstanding the liberality of Parliament, accepted from him large sums of money-that monarch receiving his recompense in the betrayal of the interests of the English nation.
The first open design of James was to obtain the sanction of Parliament for the maintenance of a standing army, and their approval of his having appointed popish officers to serve in the army during Monmouth's rebellion, without having taken the tests against popery. The Parliament met in a new session on the 9th of November, after the supression of the rebellion James in his speech reflected on the insufficiency of the militia. He hoped "every body would be convinced it is not sufficient for such occasions; and that