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what can be easier than to reply, that it can be accounted for only by the credulity of mankind. So if any inquisitive person should desire to be informed of the cause of the opposite impressions, which seem indelibly fixed on the minds of the public, respecting the characters and conduct of these successive Sovereigns, the answer is equally ready,--it is whim, caprice, and fashion. As I have, from my earliest recollection, been accustomed to hold the name and memory of Elizabeth in the utmost esteem and veneration, I cannot now adopt other sentiments, without feeling a reluctance, which, that it may not appear altogether the effect of prejudice, I shall attempt in some degree to account for, and justify, by a general review of the leading features of her political character and administration, contrafted with thofe of her fucceffors of the house of Stuart.
During the civil contests which so long prevailed between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, the regal authority, irregular as the exertions of it fome. times appear, was subjected to a variety of important and falutary restraints. As the one or the other party prevailed, popular laws were enacted, in order to acquire and preserve the good will of the nation, which the opposite faction, when in power, could not venture to repeal, and in the reign of Edward IV Lord Fortescue was able to demonstrate, in striking colours, the superiority of the English constitution and government, compared
with those of the surrounding nations *; which indeed was fufficiently manifest from the reign of our English Justinian, Edward I. In the short period that Richard III. held the sceptre, many excellent political regulations were made. And when the battle of Bosworth placed Henry VII. upon the throne, he endeavoured, at least for some years, to recommend himself to the nation, who, were in general much attached to the house of York, by similar means ; though it must be confessed that, upon the whole, the authority of the monarch was during this reign considerably augmented, the discretionary jurisdiction of the Court of Star Chamber being much enlarged, and the power of the aristocracy in a great measure broken ; and towards the latter end of the reign of his successor, by a remarkable concurrence of causes, the royal prerogative had established itself, to appearance, above all control; but in proportion as those adventitious circumstances
* “ Non poteft rex Angliæ ad libitum suum leges mutare regni sui. Principatu namque nodum regali, sed et politico ipse suo populo dominatur. Si regali tantum præesset eis, leges regni sui mutare ille poffet; tallagia quoque et cætera onera eis imponere, ipfis inconsultis ; quale dominium denotant leges civiles cum dicant, “ Quod principi placuit legis habet vigoxem. Sed longè aliter poteft lex politicè imperans genti fuæ, quia nec leges ipfe fine subditorum affenfu mutare poterit, nec subjectum populum retinentem onerare impofitionibus peregrinis: quare populus ejus liberè fruetur bonis suis: legibus quas cupit regulatus, nec per regem aut quemvis alium depilatur."
FORTESCUE, DE LEG. ANG.
which had occasioned this extraordinary exaltation disappeared, new limits were set to the power of the crown; and during the minority of Edward VI. the constitution was, in a great measure, restored; and, notwithstanding the violence of religious perfecution in the succeeding reign, the parliament gave signal proofs of its attention to the security and preservation of the civil privileges of the nation ; and Queen Elizabeth, at her accession, found herself in possession of a crown, invested indeed with ample and splendid, and in some measure indefinite, powers; but these powers were to be exercised over subjects poffesling privileges of the most important nature : some of them of high antiquity, of the value of which they were perfectly sensible, and which nothing short of the most outrageous violence could deprive them of. It may even be affirmed, that the condition of the lower classes of people was at that time, in many respects, preferable to what it now is.
In the middle of the fixteenth century the feudal system was expiring, villanage was virtually abolished, and all orders of men enjoyed the protection and benefit of the same general system of laws. In those days justices of the peace were not,as at present, a fort of cadies, the objects of dread and terror to the surrounding villages; nor were there game laws,or poor laws,or revenuelaws at that time existing, to be made the instruments of tyranny, oppression, or revenge. The liberty and property of the higher ranks were effectually secured by the equitable and simple maxims of the common law, aided by the estaD3
blished forms of judlcial proceedings, and by many wise and falutary statutes ; and though it was not at that period supposed possible to support the authority of government, without exercising, upon certain occasions, a degree of discretionary power, which in the present advanced state of society would justly excite the highest alarm; yet, as this interference, comparatively speaking, did not often occur, and only in cases which were supposed more immediately to affect the safety of government, it did not in fact give any great shock to the general fystem of liberty; and the arbitrary acts of the council, or the Star Chamber, while a firm confidence in the wisdom and justice of the government prevailed,did not more disturbthe publictranquillity, than the eccentric motions of comets interrupt the general order and harmony of the solar system. The itinerant judges, and the courts in Westminster Hall, were the usual and regular channels through which justice and judgment were distributed to the whole kingdom ; and every true and loyal subject, to use the words of the great dramatic bard, could“ in her days eat in safety,"
“ Under his own vine, what he planted, and fing
“ The merry songs of peace to all his neighbours.” This princess succeeded her fifter, the detestable Mary, at a very critical period. The nation was divided between two powerful and implacable religious factions, and moreover involved in a war with France, equally unpopular and unsuccessful; her title was by many thought questionable. She was destitute of foreign alliances, and even of the
support of any persons eminently distinguished for authority or influence at home. In this precarious situation, her great dependence was on the fidelity and affection of her people; these she resolved by every means in her power to cultivates and her success was equal to the highest expectations she could form. - The English nation, with lished forms of judicial proceedings, and by many all that ardour and generosity which constitute a distinguished part of their character, repaid her attention and folicitude for their welfare, with an affection and gratitude which knew no bounds; and, in the warmth of mutual confidence, and mutual attachment, it was scarcely perceived that the extensive and undefined powers of the crown were incompatible with the liberty of the subject, or that the necessary security of that liberty loudly called for a diminution or circumscription of that prerogative which they saw exercised so much to the advantage of the public. As the limits of this essay do not allow me to enter into a chronological review of this remarkable reign, in order to preferve fome degree of method, I shall mention feveral particulars, in which the political character and conduct of Elizabeth differ very essentially from those of her immediate fucceffors.
And, ift, Nothing can be more evident, throughout the whole course of her reign, than her constant and anxious solicitude that all her political transactions should have the stamp and sanction of national approbation. Her great popularity is fometimes represented as the D4