Front Page Titles (by Subject) III - Selected Discourses and Speeches
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
III - Andrew Fletcher, Selected Discourses and Speeches 
Selected Discourses and Speeches: A Discourse of Government with Relation to Militias (Edinburgh, 1698); Two Discourses concerning the Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1698); Speeches by a Member of the Parlaiment (Edinburgh, 1703); A Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Government (Edinburgh, 1704).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
My Lord Chancellor
Prejudice and opinion govern the world to the great distress and ruin of mankind; and though we daily find men so rational as to charm by the disinterested rectitude of their sentiments in all other things, yet when we touch upon any wrong opinion with which they have been early prepossessed, we find them more irrational than anything in nature; and not only not to be convinced, but obstinately resolved not to hear any reason against it. These prejudices are yet stronger when they are taken up by great numbers of men, who confirm each other through the course of several generations, and seem to have their blood tainted, or, to speak more properly, their animal spirits influenced by them. Of these delusions, one of the strongest and most pernicious has been a violent inclination in many men to extend the prerogative of the prince to an absolute and unlimited power. And though in limited monarchies all good men profess and declare themselves enemies to all tyrannical practices, yet many, even of these, are found ready to oppose such necessary limitations as might secure them from the tyrannical exercise of power in a prince, not only subject to all the infirmities of other men, but by the temptations arising from his power, to far greater. This humour has greatly increased in our nation since the union of the crowns; and the slavish submissions, which have been made necessary to procure the favours of the court, have cherished and fomented a slavish principle. But I must take leave to put the representatives of this nation in mind, that no such principles were in this kingdom before the union of the crowns; and that no monarchy in Europe was more limited, nor any people more jealous of liberty than the Scots. These principles were first introduced among us after the union of the crowns, and the prerogative extended to the overthrow of our ancient constitution, chiefly by the prelatical party; though the peevish, imprudent, and detestable conduct of the presbyterians, who opposed these principles only in others, drove many into them, gave them greater force, and rooted them more deeply in this nation. Should we not be ashamed to embrace opinions contrary to reason, and contrary to the sentiments of our ancestors, merely upon account of the uncharitable and insupportable humour and ridiculous conduct of bigots of any sort? If then no such principles were in this nation, and the constitution of our government had greatly limited the prince’s power before the union of the crowns; dare any man say he is a Scotsman, and refuse his consent to reduce the government of this nation, after the expiration of the entail, within the same limits as before that union? And if since the union of the crowns everyone sees that we stand in need of more limitations, will any man act in so direct an opposition to his own reason, and the undoubted interest of his country, as not to concur in limiting the government yet more than before the union, particularly by the addition of this so necessary limitation for which I am now speaking? My Lord, these are such clear demonstrations of what we ought to do in such conjunctures, that all men of common ingenuity must be ashamed of entering into any other measures. Let us not then tread in the steps of mean and fawning priests of any sort, who are always disposed to place an absolute power in the prince, if he on his part will gratify their ambition, and by all means support their form of church-government, to the persecution of all other men who will not comply with their impositions. Let us begin where our ancestors left before the union of the crowns, and be for the future more jealous of our liberties, because there is more need. But I must take upon me to say, that he who is not for setting great limitations upon the power of the prince, particularly that for which I am speaking, in case we have the same king with England, can act by no principle, whether he be a presbyterian, prelatical, or prerogative-man, for the court of St. Germains, or that of Hanover; I say, he can act by no principle unless that of being a slave to the court of England for his own advantage. And therefore let not those who go under the name of prerogative-men cover themselves with the pretext of principles in this case; for such men are plainly for the prerogative of the English court over this nation, because this limitation is demanded only in case we come to have the same king with England.
Act for the security of the kingdom, brought in by the same member
The estates of parliament considering, that when it shall please God to afflict this nation with the death of our Sovereign Lady the Queen (whom God of his infinite mercy long preserve) if the same shall happen to be without heirs of her body, this kingdom may fall into great confusion and disorder before a successor can be declared. For preventing thereof, our Sovereign Lady, with advice and consent of the estates of parliament, statutes and ordains, that if at the foresaid time, any parliament or convention of estates shall be assembled, then the members of that parliament or convention of estates shall take the administration of the government upon them: excepting those barons and burghs, who at the foresaid time shall have any place or pension, mediately or immediately of the crown: whose commissions are hereby declared to be void; and that new members shall be chosen in their place: but if there be no parliament or convention of estates actually assembled, then the members of the current parliament shall assemble with all possible diligence: and if there be no current parliament, then the members of the last dissolved parliament, or convention of estates, shall assemble in like manner: and in those two last cases, so soon as there shall be one hundred members met, in which number the barons and burghs before-mentioned are not to be reckoned, they shall take the administration of the government upon them: but neither they, nor the members of parliament, or convention of estates, if at the time foresaid assembled, shall proceed to the weighty affair of naming and declaring a successor, until twenty days after they have assumed the administration of the government: both that there may be time for all the other members to come to Edinburgh, which is hereby declared the place of their meeting, and for the elections of new barons and burghs in place above-mentioned. But so soon as the twenty days are elapsed then they shall proceed to the publishing by proclamation the conditions of government, on which they will receive the successor to the imperial crown of this realm; which in the case only of our being under the same king with England, are as follows.
Which proclamation made, they are to go on to the naming and declaring a successor: and when it is declared, if present, are to read to him the claim of right and conditions of government above-mentioned, and to desire of him,that he may accept the crown accordingly; and he accepting, they are to administer to him the oath of coronation: but if the successor be not present, they are to delegate such of their own number as they shall think fit, to see the same performed, as said is: and are to continue in the administration of the government, until the successor his accepting of the crown, upon the foresaid terms be known to them: whereupon having then a king at their head, they shall by his authority declare themselves a parliament, and proceed to the doing of whatever shall be thought expedient for the welfare of the realm. And it is likewise by the authority aforesaid declared, that if her present majesty shall think fit, during her own time, with advice and consent of the estates of parliament, failing heirs of her body, to declare a successor, yet nevertheless, after her Majesty’s decease, the members of parliament or convention shall in the several cases, and after the manner above-specified, meet and admit the successor to the government, in the terms and after the manner as said is. And it is hereby further declared, that after the decease of her Majesty, and failing heirs of her body, the fore-mentioned manner and method shall in the several cases be that of declaring and admitting to the government all those who shall hereafter succeed to the imperial crown of this realm; and that it shall be high treason for any man to own or acknowledge any person as king or queen of this realm, till they are declared and admitted in the above-mentioned manner. And lastly, it is hereby declared, that by the death of her Majesty, or any of her successors, all commissions, both civil and military, fall and are void. And that this act shall come in place of the seventeenth act of the sixth session of King William’s parliament: And all acts and laws, that anyway derogate from this present act, are hereby in so far declared void and abrogated.