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is universally regarded as a fundamental law of the monarchy: and, though it has been the accidental occasion of the greatest misfortunes which that kingdom has ever experienced, it appears founded on the best and foundest principles of legislative policy. The preposterous pretensions of Edward III. to the crown of France, evidently laid the foundation of that rancourous animosity which has so long subsisted, and which still subfists, between the two countries of England and France, and which has been the source of infinite misery to both. I do not scruple to stile them preposterous, because, whether the validity of the Salique law was or was not admitted, they were equally opposite to the most obvious dictates of justice and equity. There was indeed no colourable pretext to object to the validity of a law which had all the force human sanctions can give; but, on the supposition that the objections urged by Edward were well founded, it is plain that the right of succession devolved on Charles, King of Navarre, who was descended from a daughter of Lewis Hutin, whereas Edward was son of Isabella, fifter to that monarch. It has been observed, and I think not very superstitiously, that great national crimes have commonly been followed by great national punishments, and sometimes by such as have borne a signal analogy to the nature of the offence; and it may be remarked, that the bloody wars occasioned by the claims fo unwarrantably advanced by Edward III. to the crown of France,


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and which, contrary to every principle of policy as well as justice, was for a series of years countenanced and supported by the parliament and people of England, had scarcely subsided, when the flames of civil discord were kindled in this country, and spread with wonderful rapidity, in consequence of the absurd prejudices generally entertained with respect to this very point, I mean the right of succession ; which prejudices originated in, or at least were strongly confirmed by, the great stress which the nation had been accustomed to place on pretensions tranfmitted through a similar medium; and these flames were not finally extinguished till the last male descendant of the numerous family of Edward III. had fallen a victim to the contest, and the whole house, and the very name of Plantagenet, was for ever annihilated. In order to illustrate these observations, it must be remenibered, that the heroic Prince of Wales, so well known in history by the appellation of Edward the Black Prince, unfortunately for the nation, died fome years previous to his father, and left an only son, afterward Richard II. who inherited neither the virtues nor talents of his famous progenitors. By a series of odious and arbitrary acts he excited the indignation and resentment of the nation to such a degree, that when Henry Duke of Lancaster, afterwards King Henry IV, returned from exile to claim his paternal inheritance, which had been wrested from him by regal violence, Richard found himself suddenly deserted


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by all descriptions of persons, who crowded, as it were in emulation of each other, to the standard of his adversary. In consequence of which, he was foon reduced to the fatal necessity of consenting to his own deposition, and in a full and free parliament the crown was unanimously conferred upon the Duke of Lancaster, as a reward due to his patriotism and valour; and it was quietly transmitted to his son, the victorious Henry V.; at whose death it was placed, without opposition, upon the head of his infant heir, Henry VI. who peaceably enjoyed it for more than thirty years. Might it not then reasonably be imagined, that an uninterrupted possession of half a century would have sufficed to have given firmness and stability to a title originally founded on parliamentary authority, and confirmed by the universal and joyful acquiescence of the nation? on the contrary, however, the title of the reigning family was in fact supposed to be fo palpably defective, that a growing dissatisfaction seems to have pervaded the minds of all ranks of persons; and when Richard Duke of York openly avowed his resolution “ to pluck the crown from feeble Henry's head,” he found the nation very generally disposed to favour and support his pretensions; and, during the long civil contests which succeeded, the affections of the nation appeared invariably attached to the House of York, which gained, and in the person of Edward IV, maintained, firm possession of the crown for many years, and nothing less than the com

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plicated plicated guilt' of Richard III. could have paved the way

for the restoration of the House of Lan, caster; and it is even probable that Henry VII, though a prince of great abilities, could not long have retained poffeffion, had he not so far condescended to the prejudices of the nation as to unite the two families by a marriage with Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV. and, according to the maxims of fucceffion adopted by the nation in general, undoubted heiress of the House of York. These maxims, or prejudices, as I think they ought rather to be stiled, seem, I say, to have originated in the absurd predilection which the English nation entertained in favour of the title of the Kings of England to the Crown of France; and there was, indeed, a manifest inconsistency in claiming the Crown of France by virtue of a descent from the female line, whilst the Crown of England was held by the Princes of the House of Lancaster, to the exclusion of the female line, for parliamentary authority was in those ages thought by much too slight a foundation for a claim of such magnitude to rest upon, not to mention that the House of Valois could equally plead the authority of the General Assembly of Estates in France. There had been no example of a female reign in England since the dissolution of the heptarchy; and though Henry II. fucceeded in right of his mother, the Empress Maud, it must be remembered that the male branches of the Norman line were totally extinct: the attachment of the English nation therefore to this order of fucceffion, cannot, I think, be traced to any other source. The House of Lancaster indeed enjoyed an important advantage over the rival faniily, as being the undoubted elder male branch existing of the Royal House of Plantagenet, being descended from John of Gaunt, third fon of the common progenitor Edward III. The House of York founded their claims on a defcent from Lionel Duke of Clarence, second son of that monarch, whose only daughter, Philippa, intermarried with Edmund Mortimer Earl of March, and by the union of the heiress of the House of March with the heir of Edmund, fourth son of Edward III. created Duke of York, the right of fucceffion, which was supposed to inhere in the defcendants of the Duke of Clarence, was transmitted to the House of York, the youngest male branch of the House of Plantagenet. The title of the House of March had, in the reign of Richard, been expressly recognized in parliament; and it is rather extraordinary that Henry IV. never attempted to invalidate this popular claim, by procuring any formal act of repeal or renunciation; but that jealous and politic prince well knew how dangerous it might prove by such means to draw the attention of the public to a claim which, according to the ideas almost universally prevalent at that time, was founded on the most obvious and unalterable principles of justice. He adopted therefore another mode of proceeding, perfectly. confonant to that profound fagacity which distin:



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