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delayed, their only remedy was to refuse proceeding upon the king's business. So little conception had our ancestors of the monstrous doctrines now maintained concerning privilege, that, in the reign of Elizabeth, even liberty of speech, the vital principle of a deliberate assembly, was restrained by the Queen's authority to a simple aye or no; and this restriction, though imposed upon three successive parliaments*, was never once disputed by the House of Commons.

I know there are many precedents of arbitrary commitment for contempt; but, besides that they are of too modern a date to warrant a presumption, that such a power was originally vested in the House of Commons, fact alone does not constitute right. If it does, general warrants were lawful. An ordinance of the two Houses has a force equal to law; and the criminal jurisdiction assumed by the Commons in 1621, in the case of Edward Lloyd, is a good precedent, to warrant the like proceedings against any man, who shall unadvisedly mention the folly of a king, or the ambition of a prin

The truth is, sir, that the greatest and most exceptionable part of the privileges now contended for, were introduced and asserted by a House of Commons which abolished both monarchy and peerage, and whose proceedings, although they ended in one glorious act of substantial justice, could no way be reconciled to the forms of the constitution. Their successors profited by the example, and confirmed their power by a moderate, or a popular, use of it. Thus, it grew by degrees, from a notorious innovation at one period, to be tacitly admitted as the privilege of parliament at another.

If, however, it could be proved, from considerations

cess.

* In the years 1593, 1597, and 1601.

of necessity, or convenience, that an unlimited power of commitment ought to be entrusted to the House of Commons, and that, in fact, they have exercised it without opposition, still, in contemplation of law, the presumption is strongly against them. It is a leading maxim of the laws of England, (and without it all laws are nugatory,) that there is no right without a remedy, nor any legal power without a legal course to carry it into effect. Let the power now in question be tried by this rule. The speaker issues his warrant of attachment. The party attached either resists force with force, or appeals to a magistrate, who declares the warrant illegal, and discharges the prisoner. Does the law provide no legal means for enforcing a legal warrant? Is there no regular proceeding pointed out in our law books, to assert and vindicate the authority of so a high a court as the House of Commons ? The question is answered directly by the fact. Their unlawful commands are resisted, and they have no remedy. The imprisonment of their own members is revenge indeed, but it is no assertion of the privilege they contend for*. Their whole proceeding stops; and there they stand, ashamed to retreat, and unable to advance. Sir, these ignorant men should be informed, that the execution of the laws of England is not left in this uncertain defenceless condition. If the process of the courts of Westminster-ball be resisted, they have a direct course sufficient to enforce submission. The court of King's Bench commands the sheriff to raise the posse comitatus. The courts of Chancery and Exchequer issue a writ of rebellion, which must also be supported, if necessary, by the power of the county. To whom will our honest representatives direct their writ of rebellion? The guards, I doubt not, are willing enough to be employed; But they know nothing of the doctrine of writs, and may think it necessary to wait for a letter from Lord Barrington.

* Upon their own principles, they should have committed Mr. Wilkes, who had been guilty of a greater offence than even the Lors Mayor, or Alderman Oliver. But, after repeatedly ordering him to attend, they at last adjourned beyond the day appointed for his attendance; and, by this mean, pitiful evasion, gave up the point.

It may now be objected to me, that my arguments prove too much; for that certainly there may be instances of contempt and insult to the House of Commons, which do not fall within my own exceptions, yet, in regard to the dignity of the House, ought not to pass unpunished. Be it so. The courts of criminal jurisdiction are open to prosecutions, which the attorney-general may commence by information, or indictment. A libel, tending to asperse, or vilify, the House of Commons, or any of their members, may be as severely punished in the court of King's Bench as a libel upon the king. Mr. de Grey thought so, when he drew up the information upon my letter to his majesty, or he had no meaning in charging it to be a scandalous libel upon the House of Commons. In my opinion, they would consult their real dignity much better, by appealing to the laws, when they are offended, than by violating the first principle of natural justice, which forbids us to be judges, when we are parties to the cause *

* “ If it be demanded, in case a subject should be committed by either House, for a matter manifestly out of their jurisdiction, what remedy can he have? I answer, That it cannot well be imagined, that the law, which favours nothing more than the liberty of the subject, should give us a remedy against commitments by the king himself, appearing to be illegal, and yet give us no manner of redress against a commitment by our fellow-subjects, equally appearing to be unwarranted. But, as this is a case, which, I am persuaded, will never happen, it seems needless overe nicely to examine it.” HAWKINS, ii. 110. N. B. He was a good lawyer, but no prophet.

I do not mean to pursue them through the remainder of their proceedings. In their first resolutions, it is possible they might have been deceived by ill. considered precedents. For the rest, there is no colour of palliation, or excuse. They have advised the king to resume a power of dispensing with the laws by royal proclamation*; and kings, we see, are ready enough to follow such advice. By mere violence, and without the shadow of right, they have expunged the record of a judicial proceeding t. Nothing remained but to attribute to their own vote a power of stopping the whole distribution of criminal and civil justice.

The public virtues of the chief magistrate have long since ceased to be in question. But it is said, that he has private good qualities; and I myself have been ready to acknowledge them. They are now brought to the test. If he loves his people, he will dissolve a parliament, which they can never confide in, or respect. If he has any regard for his own honour, he will disdain to be any longer connected with such abandoned prostitution. But, if it were conceivable, that a king of this country had lost all sense of personal honour, and all concern for the welfare of his subjects, I confess, sir, I should be contented to renounce the forms of the con

* That their practice might be every way conformable to their principles, the House proceeded to advise the crown to publish a proclamation, universally acknowledged to be illegal. Mr. Moreton publicly protested against it, before it was issued; and Lord Mansfield, though not scrupulous to an extreme, speaks of it with horror. It is remarkable enough, that the very men who advised the proclamation, and who hear it arraigned every day, both within doors and without, are not daring enough to utter one word in its defence; nor have they ventured to take the least notice of Mr. Wilkes for discharging the persons apprehended under it.

+ Lord Chatham very properly called this the act of a mob, not of a senate.

stitution once more, if there were no other way to oba tain substantial justice for the people*.

JUNIUS.

LETTER XLV.

TO

THE PRINTER OF THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER.

May 1, 1771. They, who object to detached parts of Junius's last letter, either do not mean bim fairly, or have not considered the general scope and course of his argu

SIR,

* When Mr. Wilkes was to be punished, they made no scruple about the privileges of parliament: and although it was as well known as any matter of public record and uninterrupted custom could be, that the members of either House are privileged, except in case of treason, felony, or breach of peace, they declared without hesitation, that privilege of parliament did not extend to the case of a seditious libel; and undoubtedly they would have done the same, if Mr. Wilkes had been prosecuted for any other misdemeanour whatsoever. The ministry are, of a sudden, grown wonderfully careful of privileges, which their predecessors were as ready to invade. The known laws of the land, the rights of the subject, the sanctity of charters, and the reverence due to our magistrates, must all give way, without question, or resistance, to a privilege of which no man knows either the origin or the extent. The House of Commons judge of their own privileges without appeal; they may take offence at the most innocent action, and imprison the person who offends them, during their arbitrary will and pleasure. The party has no remedy; he cannot appeal from the jurisdiction; and if he questions the privilege which he is supposed to have violated, it becomes an aggravation of his offence. Surely this doctrine is not to be found in Magna Charta. If it be admitted without limitation, I affirın, that there is neither law nor liberty in this kingdom. We are slaves of the House of Commons; and, through them, we are the slaves of the king and his minister. ANONYMOUS.

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