Page images

laws, and having withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, has abdicated the Government, and that the Throne is thereby vacant.' On the following day it was voted, 'That it hath been found by experience inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a Popish prince.' And on the 13th of February, That William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be, and be declared, King and Queen of England, France, and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging, to hold the Crown and dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to them the said Prince and Princess, during their lives, and the life of the survivor of them; and that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in, and executed by, the said Prince of Orange, in the names of the said Prince and Princess, during their joint lives; and after their decease, the said Crown and Royal Dignity of the said kingdom and dominions to be to the heirs of the body of the said Princess; for default of such issue, to the Princess Anne of Denmark, and the heirs of her body; and for default of such issue, to the heirs of the body of the said Prince of Orange.'


William accordingly summoned a regular Parliament, and the rights and liberties of British subjects were declared on the 16th of December, 1689, by the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights, 1 W. & M., st. 2, c. 2, enacts:1. That the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws by regal authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal. 2. That the pretended power of dispensing with laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, as hath been assumed and exercised of late, is il

1 Commons' Journals, Parl. Hist.

2 Founded upon the Declaration of Rights, presented by both Houses to William and Mary, on the 18th of February, 1689.

legal. 3. That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious. 4. That levying money for or to the use of the Crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal. 5. That it is the right of the subject to petition the King; and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal. 6. That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is illegal. 7. That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence, suitable to their condition, and as allowed by law. 8. That election of Members of Parliament ought to be free. 9. That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament. 10. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. 11. That jurors ought to be duly empanelled and returned; and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders. 12. That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void. 13. That for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the laws, Parliament ought to be held frequently.1

The Mutiny Act, 1 W. and M., c. 5.-This Act was originally enacted for six months, but it has since been renewed yearly, as it endures only for a single year. It is by the provisions of this Bill that the army is held together, and subjected to military discipline. No pay 1 See Creasy, Eng. Constitution, p. 317 et seq.

can be issued to the troops without a previous authorization by the Commons in a Committee of Supply; and by both Houses in an Act of Appropriation. No officer nor soldier can be punished for disobedience, nor any court-martial held, without the annual re-enactment of this Bill. Thus it is strictly true that, if the King were not to summon Parliament every year, his army would cease to have a legal existence; and the refusal of either House to concur in the Mutiny Bill would at once wrest the sword out of his


The Toleration Act, 1 W. and M., st. 1, c. 18.2-This Act exempts from the penalties of existing statutes against separate conventicles, or absence from the established worship, all such as should take the oath of allegiance, and subscribe the declaration against Popery, and such ministers of separate congregations as should subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, except the thirty-fourth, thirty-fifth, thirty-sixth, and a part of the twentieth. It gives also an indulgence to Quakers without this condition. Meeting-houses are required to be registered, and are protected from insults by a penalty. No part of this toleration is, however, extended to Papists, or to such as deny the Trinity.

Guizot indicates as the direct results of the Revolution-First, that the King could never again separate himself from the Parliament; Second, the House of Commons became, in effect, the preponderant branch of the Parliament; and, Third, the complete and definitive ascendancy of Protestantism.3

The Press. Soon after printing was introduced into England, the liberty of the press was regulated by the King's proclamations, prohibitions, charters of license, 2 Confirmed by 10 Anne, c. 2. The English Revolution.

1 Hallam, vol. iii. p. 148.


Its control subsequently passed to the Star Chamber; and when that institution was abolished by the Long Parliament, that body assumed the censorship. The government of Charles II., in its turn, imitated their ordinances; and though the Licensing Act expired in 1679, it was held to be illegal to publish political news without the sanction of the Crown. That sanction, at the close of the reign of Charles II., was exclusively granted to the London Gazette, a small paper published on Monday and Thursday. It was not till 1694 that the censorship of the press was abolished, since which date it has remained free.1 Hallam says, 'It appears to have been the received doctrine in Westminster Hall before the Revolution that no man might publish a writing reflecting on the government, nor upon the character, or even capacity and fitness, of any one employed in it.'2 No change in this respect took place during the remainder of this century.

1 'The earliest authentic news-pamphlet known to exist is dated 1619, and similar papers of news were issued in the next three years, but the beginning of journalism must be dated from the time of the Long Parliament. The first English newspaper that has been discovered is a quarto pamphlet of a few leaves, containing a summary of Parliamentary proceedings for an entire year: it is entitled, "The Diurnal Occurrences, or Daily Proceedings of Both Houses, in this great and happy Parliament, from the 3rd of November, 1640, to the 3rd of November, 1641." It is said that more than a hundred papers with different titles appear to have been published between this date and the death of the King, and more than eighty others between that event and the Restoration. The papers were, at first, issued weekly; but as the anxiety of the people increased they were published twice or thrice a week; and Spalding, the Aberdeen annalist, mentions that in December, 1642, "printed papers daily came from London, called Diurnal Occurrences, declaring what was done in Parliament." In addition to newspapers, the important questions that agitated the public mind were discussed in an immense number of pamphlets, of which no less than thirty thousand are stated to have been printed in the twenty years from the Long Parliament to the Restoration, being at the rate of four or five new ones daily.'-(Curtis, p. 321.)

Constitutional History, vol. iii. p. 165.

The Cabinet.-During the reign of William III., a very remarkable alteration in the Executive Government, which had silently crept in since the Restoration, became a recognized institution. This was the Cabinet. From the Accession of William I., the King had always had his Privy Council, composed of the great officers of State, and of such other persons as he thought fit to summon to it. With these Privy Councillors who were sworn to fidelity and secrecy, he discussed matters of State policy, and in most instances adopted the course approved by the majority. In this body, always more or less numerous, it was natural that the King should find certain members in whom he reposed special confidence, and with whom he privately discussed matters before submitting them to the General Council. We find the term Cabinet Council applied to these special confidants as early as the reign of Charles I. It was not, however, till the Restoration, till the fall of Clarendon indeed, that the King, with this Cabinet Council, finally determined matters without discussing them with the Privy Council, simply submitting their decisions to that body for formal ratification; and it was not till the reign of William III. that this course of proceeding became the settled practice. In that reign, the two bodies became distinct, the Privy Council being practically excluded from all business of State. The office of Privy Councillor, as distinct from that of Cabinet Minister, became reduced to a mere titular distinction, conferring the title of Right Honorable. Royal proclamations and orders still emanate, as the law requires, from the Privy Council; but by long-established usage, no Privy Councillor, though he has the unquestionable

« PreviousContinue »