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definite language. Possibly it might mean parliamentary precedents, referring to such contingencies as the present. If that were its meaning, the words "parliamentary precedents" ought to have been expressed in it. He should not oppose the motion, but he thought it his duty to say, that it was incumbent on the House to lose no time in restoring the third estate. His Royal Highness, he was convinced, must exercise the royal prerogative during, and only during, his Majesty's illness. . .
Mr. Pitt. If a claim of right was intimated (even though not formally) on the part of the Prince of Wales, to assume the government, it became of the utmost consequence, to ascertain, from precedent and history, whether this claim was founded; which, if it was, precluded the House from the possibility of all deliberation on the subject. In the meantime, he maintained, that it would appear, from every precedent and from every page of our history, that to assert such a right in the Prince of Wales, or anyone else, independent of the decision of the two Houses of Parliament, was little less than treason to the constitution of the country. He did not mean then to enter into the discussion of that great and important point; because a fit occasion of discussing it would soon afford both the right hon. gentleman and himself an ample opportunity of stating their sentiments upon it. In the meantime, he pledged himself to this assertion, that in the case of the interruption of the personal exercise of the royal authority, without any previous lawful provision having been made for carrying on the government, it belonged to the other branches of the legislature, on the part of the nation at large, the body they represented, to provide, according to their discretion, for the temporary exercise of the royal authority, in the name, and on the behalf of the sovereign, in such manner as they should think requisite; and that, unless by their decision, the Prince of Wales had no more right (speaking of strict right) to assume the government, than any other individual subject of the country. What Parliament ought to determine on that subject, was a question of discretion. However strong the arguments might be on that ground, in favour of the Prince of Wales, which he would not enter into at present, it did not affect the question of right; because, neither the whole, nor any part, of the royal authority could belong to him in the present circumstances, unless conferred by the Houses of Parliament. As to the right hon. gentleman's repeated enforcement of the Prince of Wales's claim, he admitted that it was a claim entitled to most serious consideration; and thence, argued, that it was the more necessary to learn how the House had acted in cases of similar
exigency, and what had been the opinion of Parliament on such occasions. He would not allow that no precedent analogous to an interruption of the personal exercise of the royal authority, could be found, although there might possibly not exist a precedent of an heir apparent in a state of majority, during such an occurrence, and in that case, he contended, that it devolved on the remaining branches of the legislature, on the part of the people of England, to exercise their discretion in providing a substitute. From the mode in which the right hon. gentleman had treated the subject, a new question presented itself, and that of greater magnitude even than the question which was originally before them, as matter of necessary deliberation. The question now was, the question of their own rights, and it was become a doubt, according to the right hon. gentleman's opinion, whether that House had, on this important occasion, a deliberative power. He wished, for the present, to wave the discussion of that momentous consideration; but, he declared that he would, at a fit opportunity, state his reasons for advising what step Parliament ought to take in the present critical situation of the country, contenting himself with giving his contradiction of the right hon. gentleman's bold assertion, and pledging himself to maintain the opposite ground against a doctrine so irreconcileable to the spirit and genius of the Constitution.
(Parlt. Hist. xxvii. pp. 706-710.)
THE PROTEST OF THE LORDS
(This protest tersely sums up the objections of the Dissentients both in 1788 and 1811.)
1st, Because we adhere to the ancient principle recognized and declared by the Act of the 13th of Charles II., that no act or ordinance, with the force and virtue of a law, can be made by either or both Houses of Parliament, without the King's assent, a principle standing as a bulwark to the people against the two Houses, as the two Houses are their security against the Crown.
2ndly, Because this principle is tacitly admitted by the third resolution, while it overthrows the practice by a simulated appearance of the Royal assent under a commission to pass Bills, a commission which would be inconsistent with the provisions of an Act of 33 Henry VIII., requiring that every commission shall be signed by his Majesty's hand.
In our present unhappy situation, that essential requisite being unattainable, we cannot condescend to give a sanction to a counterfeit representation of the Royal signature, and we dare not assume a power to dispense with the law which makes that signature essential to the validity of a commission to pass Bills.
3rdly, Because we conceive that the unquestionable rights of the people, so fallaciously represented as being upheld by these resolutions, are violently infringed by an unnecessary assumption on the part of the two Houses of powers beyond those which the nation has assigned them. Invariable practice, in all good times, and positive laws established by complete Parliaments, truly and constitutionally representing the nation, have defined these powers. And we cannot but regard with the utmost apprehension any proposal to overstep those boundaries, when the consequences of such usurpation is so fatally marked in the history of our country.
4thly, Because it was confessed in the debate, that the powers of this commission were not to be confined solely to the act of appointing a Regent; to what other purposes they may extend were not explained. State necessity, the avowed ground of the measure, may serve as the pretext for any diminution of the just prerogative of the Crown, or of the liberties of the people, that best suits the designs of ambition. Fatal experience had shown to our ancestors the boundless mischiefs of powers thus usurped under plausible appearances; and it is particularly the duty of the House of Peers to check the renewal of a practice to assume the name, without the substance of the Royal authority, by which this House was once annihilated, the monarchy overthrown, and the liberties of the people subdued.
5thly, Because these dangerous and alarming consequences of the measure adopted would have been obviated by the amendment rejected. It proposed to substitute a measure conformable to the practice of our ancestors at the glorious era of the Revolution. They seized not upon public necessity as a convenience for the usurpation of new powers, but proceeded in a plain and explicit form to the revival of the Royal authority with full efficacy, before they entered upon the exercise of their legislative functions. Pursuing a similar course, the amendment proposed the immediate nomination of the natural representative of the King, the heir apparent of the Crown, to whom alone it was universally admitted the eyes and hearts of all men were turned during the present unhappy conjuncture; that with a perfect and efficient legislature, such future provisions might be
enacted, as the preservation of the full and undiminished authority of the Crown and the liberties of the people may require.
SELKIRK CHEDWORTH FITZWILLIAM CRAVEN NORTHUMBERLAND BREADALBANE LOUGHBOROUGH FOLEY
(L.J. xxxviii., December 29, 1788; Rogers, P.L. ii. 226.)
THE COMMISSION FOR GIVING THE ROYAL ASSENT TO THE REGENCY BILL
Resolved, "That it is expedient and necessary that Letters Patent should pass under the Great Seal of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, of the tenor and in the form following:
George the Third, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, to our right trusty and right well beloved the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and to our trusty and well beloved the knights, citizens and burgesses, and the commissioners for shires and burghs of the House of Commons, in this present parliament assembled, greeting: . . . and whereas, by our Letters Patent, bearing date at Westminster the 15th day of January last past, We did give and grant unto (the Commissioners named). . . and any three of them, full power in our name to hold our said Parliament, and to open and declare, and cause to be opened and declared, the causes of holding the same, and to proceed upon the said affairs in our said Parliament, and to do everything which, for us, and by us, for the government of our said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and other our dominions thereunto belonging, should there be done and whereas, in our said Parliament, an Act hath been agreed and accorded on by you our loving subjects . . . and endorsed by you, as hath been accustomed, the title and
name of which Act hereafter doth particularly ensue . . . and albeit the said Act . . . is not of force and effect in the law without our Royal Assent, given and put to the said Act: and for as much as, for divers causes and considerations, We cannot conveniently at this time be present in our Royal Person in the higher House of our said Parliament, being the place accustomed to give our Royal Assent to such Acts as have been agreed upon by our said subjects, the Lords and Commons, We have therefore caused these our Letters Patent to be made, and by the same do give and put our Royal Assent to the said Act, . . . and have fully agreed and assented to the said Act . . . from henceforth shall be of the same strength, force and effect, as if We had been personally present in the said higher House, and had openly and publicly, in the presence of you all, assented to the same: And we do by these presents declare and notify the same our Royal Assent, as well to you the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons aforesaid, as to all others whom it may concern: Commanding also by these presents (the Commissioners named) . . . to declare and notify this our Royal Assent . . . and the clerk of our Parliaments to endorse the said Act with such terms and words in Our name as is requisite and hath been accustomed for the same, and also to enroll these our Letters Patent and the said Act in the Parliament Roll, and these our Letters Patent shall be to every of them a sufficient warrant in that behalf: And finally, We do declare and will, that, after this our Royal Assent given and declared by these presents and notified as aforesaid, then and immediately the said Act shall be taken, accepted and admitted a good, sufficient, and perfect Act of Parliament and law, to all intents, constructions, and purposes, and to be put in due execution accordingly, the continuance or dissolution of this our Parliament, or any other use, custom, thing or things, to the contrary thereof notwithstanding: . . . In witness whereof, We have caused these our Letters to be made Patent: Witness ourself at Westminster, the Fifth day of February, in the fifty-first year of our reign.
By the King himself, by and with the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal . . . in Parliament assembled."
(Lords Journals, February 2, 1811.)