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DEDICATION to the English Nation
I DEDICATE to you a Collection of Letters, written by one of yourselves, for the coinmon benefit of us all. They would never have grown to this size, without your continued encouragement and applause. To me they originally owe nothing but a healthy sanguine constitution. Under your care they have thriven. To you they are indebted for whatever strength or beauty they possess. When Kings and Ministers are forgotten, when the force and direction of personal satire is no longer understood, and when measures are only felt in their remotest consequences, this book will, I believe, be found to contain principles worthy to be transmitted to posterity. When you leave the unim. paired hereditary freehold to your children, you do but half your duty. Both liberty and property are precarious, unless the possessors have sense and spirit enough to defend them. This is not the language of vanity. If I am a vain man, my gratification lies within a narrow circle. I am the sole depository of my own secret, and it shall perish with me.
If an honest, and, I may truly affirm, a laborious zeal for the public service, has given me any weight in your esteem, let me exhort and conjure you, never to suffer an invasion of
your political constitution, however minute the instance may appear, to pass by, without a deter. mined, persevering resistance. One precedent creates another. They soon accumulate, and constitute law. What yesterday was fact, today is doctrine. Examples are supposed to justify the most dangerous measures ; and, where they do not suit exactly, the defect is supplied by analogy. Be assured, that the laws which protect us in our civil rights, grow out of the constitution, and they must fall or flourish with it. This is not the cause of faction, or of party, or of any individual, but the common interest of every man in Britain. Although the King should continue to support his present
system of government, the period is not very distant, at which you will have means of redress in your own power. It may be nearer, perhaps, than any of us expect; and I would warn you to be prepared for it. The King may possibly be advised to dissolve the present Par. siament a year or two before it-expires of course, and precipitate a new election, in hopes of taking the nation by surprise. If such a measure be in agitation, this very caution may defeat or prevent it.
I cannot doubt that you will unanimously assert the freedom of election, and vindicate your exclusive right to choose your representatives. But other questions have been started, on which your determination should be equally clear and unanimous. Let it be impressed upon your minds, let it be instilled into your chil. dren, that the liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights of an Englishman: and that the right of juries to return a general verdict, in all cases whatsoever, is an essential part of our constitution, not to be controlled or limited by the judges, nor, in any shape, questionable by the Legislature. The power of King, Lords, and Commons, is not an arbitrary power*. They
* This positive denial of an arbitrary power being vested in the legislature, is not, in fact, new doctrine. When the Earl of Lindsey,
in the year 1675, brought a bill into the House of Lords,
To prevent the dangers which might arise from persons disaffected to government, by which an oath and penalty was to be imposed upon the members of both Houses, it was affirmed in a protest, signed by twenty-three lay Peers, (my Lords the Bishops were not accustomed to pro test,) “ That the privilege of sitting and voting “ in Parliament, was an honour they had by “ birth, and a right so inherent in them, and “ inseparable from them, that nothing could “ take it away, but what by the law of the land “ must withal take away their lives, and cor “ rupt their blood.” These noble Peers (whose names are a reproach to their posterity) have, in this instance, solemnly denied the power of Parliament to alter the constitution.