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irrevocably given; it was the clavis Regni, the mouth of CHAP, royal authority, the organ by which the Sovereign spoke his CXLViIwill. Such was its efficacy, that even if the Lord Chancellor, by caprice, put the Great Seal to any commission, it could not afterwards be questioned. In so doing he would be guilty of a misdemeanour, but the Judges must give effect to it.* If an act of parliament receive the royal assent by a commission under the Great Seal, "Le Roy le voet" being so pronounced, it is added to the statute-book, and becomes the law of the land, which no one may question. Thus the 'phantom' would prove a substantial benefit, and the 'fiction' would end in the reality, which all good men desired." His Lordship then went on to explain, and to rely upon, the precedent at the commencement of the reign of Henry VI., when the Sovereign, being an infant of nine months old, the Great Seal was placed in his hand, or his hand was placed on the Great Seal, and it was supposed to be given by him to the Master of the Rolls; whereupon many commissions were sealed by it, and the government was carried on underwits authority. He concluded by moving, "That it is expedient and necessary that letters patent for opening the Parliament should pass under the Great Seal." t
At the request of the Duke of York, Lord Camden agreed Feb. s. that the names of the Prince of Wales and of the other L78?:
Princes of the blood, should be omitted from the commission, opened as they all condemned this mode of proceeding, and the fictitious motion was carried without a division. Accordingly, on the following day, a commission, under the Great Seal, was produced in the name of his most gracious Majesty George III., by which his Majesty was made to declare, that " it not being convenient for him to be personally present, he authorised certain Commissioners to open the Parliament in his name, and to declare the causes of Parliament being summoned by him." The Commons, attending at the bar of the House of Lords to hear the commission read, the Commissioners de
Chap, clared the causes of the summons to be, "to provide for the CXLVII • i ...
care of his Majesty's royal person, and for the administration
of the royal authority." The two Houses did not go through the form of agreeing upon an humble address to his Majesty, in answer to his gracious speech by his Commissioners; but the Regency Bill was immediately brought in. "The Phantom" did not a second time appear to make the bill a law; for, after it had passed the Commons, and while it was in Committee in the Lords, it was stopped by the King's convalescence; and George III. remained above twenty years on the throne before there was such a recurrence of his malady as to render it necessary to resort to similar proceedings.* May 5. From the course then adopted, and carried through, I
Considera- presume, it is now to be considered part of our constitution, non of the that if ever, during the natural life of the Sovereign, he is how the unable, by mental disease, personally to exercise the royal thorityls to functions, the deficiency is to be supplied by the two Houses be exercised of Parliament, who, in their discretion, will probably elect capacityof *ne neir apparent Regent, under such restrictions as they the Sove- may please to propose, — but who may prefer the head of "the ruling faction, and at once vest in him all the pre
rogatives of the Crown. On the two occasions referred to in the reign of George III., the next heir being at enmity with the King and his ministers, this was considered the loyal and courtly doctrine, and from its apparent advancement of the rights of Parliament, there was no difficulty in casting odium upon those who opposed it: but I must avow that my deliberate opinion coincides with that of Burke, Fox, and Erskine, who pronounced it to be unsupported by any precedent, and to be in accordance with the principles of the Polish, not the English, monarchy. The two Houses of Parliament would be the proper tribunal to pronounce that the Sovereign is unable to act; but then, as if he were naturally, as well as civilly, dead, the next heir ought, as of right, to assume the government as Regent, ever ready to lay it down on the Sovereign's restoration to reason, — in the same way as our Lady Victoria would have returned to a private
* 27 Pari. Hist. 1297. See Pari. Deb. xviii. 830. 1102.; ante, Vol. I. 22.
station if, after her accession, there had appeared posthumous CHAP.
issue of William IV. by his Queen. It is easy to point out'
possible abuses by the next heir as Regent, to the prejudice of the living Sovereign,—but there may be greater abuses of the power of election imputed to the two Houses,—whereby a change of dynasty might be effected. I conceive, therefore, that the Irish Parliament, in 1789, acted more constitutionally in acknowledging the right of the next heir, — in scouting the fiction of a commission, or royal assent, from the insane Sovereign, — and in addressing the Prince of Wales to take upon himself the government as Regent.
After the King's recovery Lord Camden adhered (with one Defence of memorable exception) to the resolution he had announced, that, den for conon account of his advanced age, he would no longer take part tinuingto in the debates of the House of Lords; but he remained in his Mr. Pitt, office, and steadily supported the administration by his councils. It has been suggested that, in his extended connection with Mr. Pitt, he abandoned the liberal principles for which he had so long struggled. But this charge is, I think, entirely without foundation. He had been called away to a better state of existence before the commencement of the trials for high treason, which disgraced the country in the end of the year 1794, — and I am not aware of any measure adopted with his sanction which might not have been brought forward under Lord Chatham or Lord Rockingham. Bishop Watson accuses him of an entire subserviency at this time to the supposed illiberal policy of the government. "I asked A.d. 1790. him," says the Bishop, "if he foresaw any danger likely to result to the Church establishment from the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts; he answered at once, ' none whatever; Pitt was wrong in refusing the application of the Dissenters, but he must now be supported.'"— I never attach much importance to what is supposed to have fallen from any man in the laxity of private talk; but supposing this reminiscence to be quite correct, and that no qualification or circumstance to vary the effect is forgotten, might not the President of the Council, without sacrificing the Dissenters or his own consistency, hesitate about breaking up the government on their account, and wait for a more favourable
Chap, opportunity to do them justice? The Bishop might have cxi.vil. jjeen softened by another aneedote which he relates of Lord Camden about the same time: "I remember his saying to me one night when Lord Chancellor Thurlow was speaking, contrary, as I thought, to his conviction, ' There now, I could not do that; he is supporting what he does not believe a word of: n*
Lord Cam- Lord Camden, like many very sincere and steady friends ments on of liberty, was much appalled by the excesses of the French R" F1rynch Revolution, and was alarmed lest our free institutions, the tion. growth of ages, and the result of reason and experience, might
be endangered by reckless Jacobin innovation. Any expressions which he might use while labouring under such impressions are not to be nicely weighed for the purpose of making out a charge of inconsistency against him. Burke having sent him a copy of his "Appeal from the new to the old Whigs," received from him the following answer:
"Brighton, August 5. 1791.
His letter "I have received with great pleasure your last publication Burke which, as it professed to be sent by the author, I determined to read through with the utmost attention, that I might afterwards proportion my thanks to the value of the present. f I have done so, and am ready to declare my perfect concurrence in every part of the argument from the beginning to the end, and return you my warmest thanks for presenting me with so valuable a performance, though perhaps my acknowledgment of its merit may lose some part of its grace by my being an interested party, as I am in the success of the doctrine. The commendation of one convert (and I have no doubt there will be many) would be a stronger testimony of its value than the applause of hundreds that needed no conviction. I, for instance, like many others, have always thought myself an old Whig, and hold the same principles with yourself; but I suppose none, or very few of us, ever
• Bishop Watson's Memoirs, p. 162.
•(• I must confess that, for conscience sake, I follow just the opposite rule — always returning thanks when I have read the title-page.
thought upon the subject with so much correctness, and Chap.
. . CXLVIi
hardly any would be able to express their thoughts with such
clearness, justness, and force of argument. I am therefore,
as well as them, better instructed how to instruct others than
I was before.
"There is only one passage in your book that gives me the least concern, and that is where you talk of retiring from public business. For though, as a member of the administration, I might be well enough pleased at the Opposition's losing one of its ablest assistants, yet I shall be sorry to see the Parliament deprived of so strenuous an advocate for the constitution.
"As an old Whig therefore, and not as a minister, give me leave to subscribe myself,
"Your most obliged and obedient Servant,