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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 the humblest thanks and praises.” The two houses in the bill of rights, did not thank God that they had found a fair opportunity to assert their right to choose their own governors, much less to make an election the only lawful title to the crown, after king James II. had made the throne vacant by his abdication ; 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 stand to, maintain, and defend their said majesties, and also the limitation of the crown, herein specified and contained, to the utmost of
It is very surprising that any sensible person can infer the doctrine of a right to choose our own governors from the conduct of our ancestors at the Revolution in 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.
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. The regular inberitance 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 the kings of England. But the beautiful feature of hereditary succession marked the infancy of our government, bloomed in its manhood, and is indelibly engraven in the venerable wrinkles of its increasing age.
Egbert, who was the first king of England, and the last of the Saxon heptarchy, was king of the West Saxons, by a long and uninterrupted descent from his ancestors of above 300 years, and united the heptarchy in one monarchy under himself in the year 828. How his ancestors obtained their titles, it is in vain for us to inquire, since there are no documents in existence that will satisfy such political curiosity. However, Egbert became sole monarch of England, partly by the consent of, and partly by the conquest over, the other six kingdoms of the heptarchy.
From Egbert the crown descended regularly for two hundred years, through a succession of fifteen princes, to the death of Edmund Ironside, without deviation or interruption ; 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 himself. At the death of Edmund Ironside, Canute, king of Denmark, obtained the kingdom by violence, by which means a new family were in possession of 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 Edward's decease, Harold II. usurped the government, for Edgar Atheling, the grandson of Ironside, was the lawful heir. Harold being defeated at the battle of Hastings, was dispossessed of the throne by William the Conqueror. Edgar Atheling, the true heir, retired to Scotland, and Malcom the Scottish king married his sister Margaret, who for her piety is commonly called Saint Margaret, whose descendant James I. restored to England her ancient Saxon line. Robert, the Conqueror's eldest son, being duke of Normandy by his father's will, was kept out of the possession of the crown of England by the arts and violence of his brothers, William II. and Henry I., who succeeded their father.
Henry I.'s real heiress was his daughter, the empress Maud or Matilda ; but Stephen usurped the throne, having only the feeble title of being the Conqueror's grandson by his mother's side ; Henry II. succeeded Stephen ; he was the Conqueror’s undoubted heir after his mother Matilda, and was also lineally descended from Edmund Ironside, the last of the Saxon hereditary kings. Henry was succeeded by Richard I., who dying childless, the right of succession rested in his nephew Arthur, his next brother Geoffrey's son. But John, the late king's surviving brother, seized the crown, and afterwards murdered 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.
Henry IV. was the son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, fourth son of Edward III. ; he rebelled against Richard II. and compelled him to resign the crown. And history has hitherto accused that prince of adding murder to usurpation ; but Mr Tytler in his excellent history of Scotland, has demonstrated that Richard took refuge in Scotland, and died a natural death in Stirling castle, in the chapel of which fortress the remains of that unhappy prince now lie.- Requiescat in pace. Henry's title, however, was not a just one ; for Lionel, duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III. and John of Gaunt's elder brother, left a daughter Philippa, from whom descended the illustrious house of York, who were the true heirs of the crown. But Henry having at that time a large army at his command, asserted his defective title with effect. And it was enacted by statute 7 Henry IV. “ that the inheritance of the crown and realms of England and France, and all other of 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." It is obvious, from the terms of the statute, that Henry's title appeared even at that time doubtful; and it is equally clear, that the king de facto, and parliament, in this instance exercised the right of changing and limiting the succession of the crown.
But “the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out waters.” No man can tell, when a river breaks through its banks and rushes from its accustomed channel, what devastation it will occasion. Henry's usurpation gave rise to the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster. The latter in maintaining their possession, and the former in asserting their just right, spread desolation and misery, fire and sword, through a peaceful land for several subsequent generations. Henry was succeeded by his son and grandson Henry V. and Henry VI. In the reign of the latter pious but weak prince, the house of York asserted its dormant title ; and after watering England with native blood for seven years, at length established its legitimate rights in the person of Edward IV.
In all the acts of parliament of Edward IV. wherein the Henries of the house of Lancaster were named, they are called “lately in deed not of right kings of England ;" from hence first 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 their uncle Richard duke of Gloucester's order; after he had insinuated into the people a suspicion of the bastardy of the two young princes, and of their sister Elizabeth, to whom the crown of right devolved, on the death of her brothers. And the wicked and unnatural uncle usurped the government, under the name of Richard III. He enjoyed, however, the fruits of his villany little more than two years, when his tyranny excited Henry, earl of Richmond, to assert his title to the crown. Richard being slain in the battle of Bosworth, Richmond took possession of the crown by the style of Henry VII., although nothing could be more preposterous than his claim ; for he was descended from a natural son of John of Gaunt, whose own title bad been exploded. Henry, however, was recognised as king by an act of parliament in the first year of his reign. But the right of the crown was undoubtedly in Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV. This princess, the heiress of the royal house of York, Henry married in the year 1486, and thus happily settled the fierce and bloody contest, of the two rival families, commonly called the wars of the roses, from each having a rose for their cognizance, the white for Lancaster and the red for York.
How mysterious are the ways of God! How often does He overrule the wickedness and ambition of man, for the accomplishment of the greatest benefits to mankind! Had Richard conducted the affairs of government with justice and moderation, instead of exhausting the people with tyranny
and oppression, so monstrous a title as that of the earl of Richmond would never have been asserted. But having succeeded in his pretensions as the heir of the house of Lancaster, Henry married Elizabeth, who by the cruel murder of her brothers, was the undoubted heiress, not only of the illustrious house of York, but also of the Conqueror, the common royal stock.
Henry VIII. the issue of this auspicious marriage, therefore became king by a clear and indisputable hereditary right, and to him his three children succeeded in regular order. Edward VI. following his father, dying young, was succeeded by his two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth. The parliament, ever obsequious at that time to the reigning monarch, passed various acts respecting the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the birth of Henry's two daughters.
On the death of queen Elizabeth, the line of Henry VIII. became extinct; and the crown of course devolved on James VI. of Scotland and I. of England, who was the lineal descendant of Henry VII. and Elizabeth of York, whose eldest daughter, the lady Margaret, married James IV. of Scotland, so that James their grandson united in his own person an undoubted title to both the Scottish and English crowns, and was the heir both of Egbert and William the Conqueror. In James, therefore, centered all the claims of the houses of York and Lancaster ; and what is more remarkable, in him, also, the ancient Saxon line was restored : he being lineally descended from Margaret Atheling, the sister of Edgar, the true heir of the throne at the conquest by William the Norman. The parliament of England, 1 James I. c. i., in recognising James' title, acknowledged his majesty, “ as being lineally, justly, and lawfully, next and sole heir of the blood-royal of this nation.”
James was succeeded by his only surviving son, the unfortunate Charles I., whose lawless judges had the effrontery and folly to tell that unhappy monarch, that he was an elective prince; and as such, accountable to his people, in his own proper person ; although nothing could be more absurd and false than such a doctrine, since Charles could deduce an undeniable hereditary title for more than eight hundred years, and was unquestionably the real heir of Egbert, the first king of England. To be sure, it was very natural that men who were about to strike off the king's head, not by the sentence of the law, but with the arm of violence, should deny the constitutional inviolability of his person. Nor is it surprising, that in the commission of such a traitorous act, as putting his majesty to death, they should tell him that he was an elective, and not an hereditary king. For, with all their folly, they had discernment enough to foresee that the murder of the king would only make way for his son, if they admitted the ancient doctrine of the hereditary succession to the crown. They probably kept in mind the certainty that an hereditary successor would call them to a severe account for the murder of his father. Their notions, therefore, were just as reasonable as the scepticism of those who deny the divine authority of the Bible, because they perceive that its holy doctrines condemn their ungodly practices.
The sacrilegious murder of king Charles, made way for Cromwell's usurpation, who assumed the title of Lord Protector.
After an usurpation of eleven years, a solemn parliamentary convention of the estates restored the crown to the right heir, king Charles II. In their proclamation to restore the king, the convention declared that “ immediately on the death of king Charles I. his majesty Charles II. was the lineal, just, and lawful next heir of the blood-royal of this realm ; and to him they most humbly and faithfully submit and oblige themselves, their heirs and posterity for ever.”
During this reign a bill passed the commons to exclude the king's brother, the duke of York, from the succession, on the ground of his being a papist, but was rejected by the lords, and the king himself declared that he would never consent to it ; so that on the death of Charles, the duke succeeded by the name of James II. It was on account of his religion alone that this attempt of the commons to set aside James just right was made ; it should be remembered, that there was no law in existence at that time, which limited the entail of the crown to the protestant succession. The confession of faith of the established church of Scotland says expressly, that “ infidelity or difference in religion doth not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him."-Con. of faith, ch. xxiii. 9 iv.
The infatuated king James, after various and notorious attempts to change the established religion, and to set up an arbitrary government, independent on the law, voluntarily vacated the throne by abdication.
But our ancestors very prudently voted in both houses of parliament, that king James' misconduct amounted only to an endeavour to subvert the constitution. Thus by simply declaring the throne vacant, it was filled by the nearest in proximity of blood to the late king, which was his eldest daughter Mary, with whom was associated her husband the prince of Orange, by the title of William III. and Mary II. Both houses of the convention parliament issued the following declaration, dated 12th Feb.
1688," that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, be, and be declared king and queen, to hold the crown and royal dignity during their lives, and the life of the survivor of them; and after their deceases, the said crown and royal dignity to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess, and 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."
Towards the end of the reign of William, the duke of Gloucester, the