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CHAPTER XV.

THE MONARCHICAL POWER.

Strength of Constitutional Authority. — Genuine Loyalty. Opinion of Frederick the Great on the Sovereigns of his Day. - Uncertain Tenure of Despotism. Succession of Females to the English Crown. Necessity of upholding the Monarchical Power. Effects of the Reform Bill. - Increase of Influence in the House of Commons. Proper Functions of a Sovereign.

In the early part of this volume it has been observed, that when in all the nations of Europe, during a state of semi-barbarism, the feudal or baronial influence was suppressed, and superseded by the absolute power of the monarch, a very important step was gained in the progress of civilisation. In such times, the dominion of one person must have been preferable to that of a hundred petty tyrants, or to anarchy.

As civilisation becomes extended through the community, the sovereign is possessed of great influence from the very power of public opinion. Take the monarch's name, for example, in this country; it is indeed "a tower of strength," and has vast command over the minds of the people. What a difference between the regal office ruling

over a free people in a civilised community,. and that of a despotic monarch controlling a semibarbarous population!

There are in these days but few instances in Europe of the latter description, so much has information increased, and the exercise of arbitrary power diminished. In Great Britain we can scarcely find a single dwelling where the effigy of the sovereign is not placed, or a single heart in which affectionate anxiety is not felt for her happiness. In every town, mansion, hamlet, and cottage, the royal arms, and royal name, are exhibited. They are depicted in every species of manufacture. The sovereign's health and welfare and family are matters of constant solicitude; and the Queen's prosperity seems but a transcript of private happiness. Without entering into invidious comparisons, are any of these indications of affection and loyalty discernible in a despotic monarchy?

If we look at the monarchs in by-gone days of turmoil and barbarous exertion of power, we find them governing, not by law, but by absolute force. We see emperors and kings keeping down a slavish population by an ostentatious array of armed forces.

There is no necessity here to dilate on the uncertain tenure either of life or of power, remarkable in all despotism. The violent deaths of the Roman emperors, of the Russian autocrats, of the sultans in Turkey, and elsewhere, are melancholy evidences of this fact.

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How different the situation of the sovereign of a free and civilised people, where public opinion is exercised by the community!

The following sentiments of Frederick the Great of Prussia, will show his opinion of the state of government on the Continent of Europe in his day:— "It seems to be the error of most sovereigns to imagine that the multitude of human beings, who live under their sway, have been expressly created by the Almighty from a particular attention to the greatness, the happiness, or the pride of their monarchs, who are satisfied that their subjects are intended merely as the instruments and organs of their inordinate passions.

"Whenever the principle on which we found our thoughts or actions are fallacious, the consequences must be equally so; hence arises that inordinate desire in princes of bringing all they can under their dominion, and the imposts they lay on their people; hence the sloth, the pride, the injustice, and want of feeling or humanity, and all those vices that degrade human nature, that have been apparent in the monarchs that have ruled over nations.

"If sovereigns have in future the good sense to dispossess themselves of such erroneous ideas, and if they will go back to the first principles of monarchy, they would remain convinced that their high station is the work of the people. This principle once established, they ought to feel fully

convinced that the real glory of kings consists— not in oppressing and harassing their neighbours, not in adding thousands to their slaves, but in exercising the duties of their high station, and in fulfilling the intentions of those by whom they have been invested with their power, and to whom they are indebted for their exalted station."*

In giving this quotation from the sovereign of Prussia, there is no intention whatever to cast any blame on the monarchs of Europe at this time. Quite the reverse: it shows the state of things and the conduct of sovereigns in days gone by, when civilisation was far from being expanded in any state. There are very few exceptions at this day

* "Voici l'erreur de la plupart des princes; ils croient que Dieu a créé exprès et par une attention toute particulière à leur grandeur, leur félicité, et leur orgueil cette multitude d'hommes, dont le salut leur est commis, et que leurs sujets ne sont destinés qu'à être les instrumens et les ministres de leurs passions déréglées. Dès que le principe dont on part est faux, les conséquences ne peuvent être que vicieuses à l'infini, et de là ce desir ardent de tout envahir, de là la dureté des impôts dont le peuple est chargé, de là la paresse des princes, leur orgueil, leur injustice, leur inhumanité, leur tyrannie, et tous ces vices qui degradent la nature humaine. Si les princes se defaisaient de ces idées erronées, et qu'ils voulussent remonter jusqu'au but de leur institution, ils verraient que ce rang dont ils sont si jaloux, que leur elevation, n'est que l'ouvrage des peuples. Ce principe ainsi établi, il faudrait qu'ils sentissent que la vraie gloire des princes ne consiste point à opprimer leurs voisins, point à augmenter le nombre de leurs esclaves, mais à remplir le devoir de leurs charges, et à repondre en tout à l'intention de ceux qui les ont revêtus de leur pouvoir, et de qui ils tiennent la grandeur suprème." Euvres de Frederic III., Roi de Prusse, vol. iv.

From no other cause

in Europe, where sovereigns are not in a greater or less degree influenced by public opinion, and deem it their interest to promote the welfare and happiness of their subjects. Whence does this extraordinary change arise? but the increase of information, and the enlargement of civilisation. Human nature is probably much the same in the nineteenth century as in the fifteenth or sixteenth; yet what a marked difference in the conduct of those who are at the head of each nation. Well might the monarchs of the present day, on the Continent of Europe, repeat the trite proverb, "Tempora mutantur, nosque mutamur in illis."

The uncertainty of the tenure of the crown of England in the early days of our history is apparent, as well as the security of its possession since the Revolution of 1688; for no one can imagine that the attempts of the Pretender in 1715 and 1745 could for a moment endanger a dynasty called to the throne by the unanimous wish of the

nation.

In Europe many sovereigns have been deprived of hereditary monarchy by the march of civilisation and the voice of public opinion. "In England, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Russia, and Sweden, the princes who occupy the throne do not sit thereon by hereditary descent. This fact is incontestable, and worthy of remark. The royal family of England rests on the Revolution of 1688,

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