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dom in confidering their most sacred rights and franchises as an inheritance.




In the famous law of the 3d of Charles I. called the Petition of Right, the parliament fays to the king, "Your "fubjects have inherited this freedom," claiming their franchifes 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 difcourfers 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 wifdom which fuperfeded their theoretic fcience, they preferred this pofitive, recorded, bereditary title to all which can be dear to the man and the citizen, to that vague fpeculative right, which expofed their fure inheritance to be fcrambled for and torn to pieces by every wild litigious fpirit.

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The fame policy pervades all the laws which have fince been made for the prefervation of our liberties. In the Ift of William and Mary, in the famous ftatute, called the Declaration of Right, the two houfes utter 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 "moft ferious confideration the best means for making "fuch an establishment, that their religion, laws, and "liberties, might not be in danger of being again sub"verted," they aufpicate all their proceedings, by stating as fome of thofe beft means," in the first place" to do


as their ancestors in like cafes bave ufually done for vin"dicating their ancient rights and libertics, to declare;" --and then they pray the king and queen," that it "may be declared and enacted, that all and fingular the


rights and liberties afferted and declared are the true "ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people "of this kingdom."

You will obferve, that from Magna Charta to the Declaration,

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claration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our conftitution to claim and affert our liberties, as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be tranfmitted to our pofterity; as an eftate fpecially belonging to the people of this kingdom without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means our conftitution preferves an unity in fo great a diverfity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and an houfe of commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the refult of profound reflection; or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection; and above it. A fpirit of innovation is generally the refult of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to pofterity, who never look backward to their ancestors. Befides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a fure principle of conservation, and a fure principle of tranfmiffion; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquifition free; but it fecures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a ftate proceeding on thefe maxims, are locked fast as in a fort of family fettlement; grasped as in a kind of mortmain for ever. By a conftitutional policy, working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we tranfmit our government and our privileges, in the fame manner in which we enjoy and tranfmit 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 fame course and order. Our political fyftem is placed in a juft correspondence and fymmetry with the order of the world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body compofed of tranfitory parts; wherein, by the difpofition of a ftupendous wisdom, moulding together the great myfterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but in a condition of unchangeable conftancy, moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progreffion. Thus, by preferving the method of nature in


the conduct of the ftate, in what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obfolete. By adhering in this manner and on thofe principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the fuperftition of antiquarians, but by the fpirit of philofophic analogy, In this choice of inheritance we have given to our frame. of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the conftitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties ; adopting our fundamental laws into the bofom of our family affections; keeping infeparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our ftate, our hearths, our fepulchres, and our altars.

Through the fame plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial inftitutions, and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful inftincts, to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived feveral other, and thofe no fmall benefits, from confidering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the prefence of canonized forefathers, the fpirit of freedom, leading in itself to mifrule and excefs, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal defcent inspires us with a sense of habitual native dignity, which prevents that upstart infolence, almost inevitably adhering to and difgracing thofe who are the firft acquirers of any diftinction. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an impofing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree, and illuftrating ancestors. It has its bearings, and its enfigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental infcriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. We procure reverence to our civil inftitutions on the principle upon which nature teaches us to revere individual men; on account of their age; and on account of those from whom they are defcended. All your fophifters cannot produce any thing better adapted to preserve a rational and manly freedom than the courfe that we have purfued, who have chosen our nature rather than our fpeculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great confervatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

You might, if you pleased, have profited of our


example, and have given to your recovered freedom a correfpondent dignity. Your privileges, though difcontinued, were not loft to memory. Your conftitution, it is true, whilst you were out of poffeffion, fuffered waste and dilapidation; but you poffeffed in fome parts the walls, and in all the foundations of a noble and venerable caftle. You might have repaired thofe walls; you might have built on thofe old foundations. Your conftitution was fufpended before it was perfected; but you had the elements of a constitution very nearly as good as could be wifhed. In your old ftates you poffeffed that variety of parts correfponding with the various defcriptions of which your community was happily compofed; you had all that combination, and all that oppofition of interefts, you had that action and counteraction which, in the natural and in the political world, from the reciprocal ftruggle of difcordant powers, draws out the harmony of the universe. Thefe oppofed and conflicting interefts, which you confidered as fo great a blemish in your old and in our prefent conftitution, interpofe a falutary check to all precipitate refolutions; they render deliberation a matter not of choice, but of neceffity; they make all change a subject of compromife; which naturally begets moderation; they produce temperaments, preventing the fore evil of harfh, crude, unqualified reformations; and rendering all the headlong exertions of arbitrary power, in the few or in the many, for ever impracticable. Through that diverfity of members and interefts, general liberty had as many fecurities as there were separate views in the feveral orders; whilft by preffing down the whole by the weight of a real monarchy, the feparate parts would have been prevented from warping and ftarting from their allotted places.

You had all these advantages in your ancient states; but you chose to act as if you had never been moulded into civil fociety, and had every thing to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by defpifing every thing that belonged to you. You fet up your trade without a capital. If the laft generations of your country appeared without much luftre in your eyes, you might have paffed them by, and derived your claims from a more early race



of ancestors. Under a pious predilection of those ancestors, your imaginations would have realized in them a standard of virtue and wisdom, beyond the vulgar practice of the hour and you would have rifen with the example to whofe imitation you afpired. Refpecting your forefathers, you would have been taught to refpect yourfelves. You would not have chofen to confider the French as a people of yesterday, as a nation of low-born fervile wretches until the emancipating year of 1789. In order to furnish at the expence of your honour, an excufe to your apologifts here for feveral enormities of yours, you would not have been content to be reprefented as a gang of Maroon flaves, fuddenly broke loofe from the house of bondage, and therefore to be pardoned for your abuse of the liberty to which you were not accuftomed and ill fitted. Would it not, my worthy friend, have been wiser to have you thought, what I, for one, always thought you, a generous and gallant nation, long mifled to your difadvantage by your high and romantic fentiments of fidelity, honour, and loyalty; that events had been unfavourable to you, but that you were not enflaved through an illiberal or fervile difpofition; that in your most devoted fubmiffion, you were actuated by a principle of public fpirit, and that it was your country you worshipped, in the perfon of your king? Had you made it to be understood, that in the delufion of this amiable error you had gone further than your wife ancestors; that you were resolved to resume your ancient privileges, whilft you preferved the fpirit of your ancient and your recent loyalty and honour; or, if diffident of yourselves, and not clearly difcerning the almoft obliterated conftitution of your ancestors, you had looked to your neighbours in this land, who had kept alive the ancient principles and models of the old common law of Europe meliorated and adapted to its prefent state-by following wife examples you would have given new examples of wifdom to the world. You would have rendered the cause of liberty venerable in the eyes of every worthy mind in every nation. You would have shamed defpotism from the earth, by fhewing that freedom was not only reconcileable, but as, when well disciplined -it

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