Front Page Titles (by Subject) XI - Selected Discourses and Speeches
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XI - 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).
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My Lord Chancellor
Being under some apprehensions that her Majesty may receive ill advice in this affair, from ministers who frequently mistake former bad practices for good precedents, I desire that the third act of the first session of the first parliament of King Charles the second may be read.
Act the third of the first session, parl. I. Car. II.
Act asserting his Majesty’s royal prerogative, in calling and dissolving of parliaments, and making of laws.
The estates of parliament now convened by his Majesty’s special authority, considering that the quietness, stability, and happiness of the people, do depend upon the safety of the King’s Majesty’s sacred person, and the maintenance of his sovereign authority, princely power, and prerogative royal; and conceiving themselves obliged in conscience, and in discharge of their duties of almighty God, to the King’s Majesty, and to their native country, to make a due acknowledgment thereof at this time, do therefore unanimously declare, that they will with their lives and fortunes maintain and defend the same. And they do hereby acknowledge, that the power of calling, holding, proroguing, and dissolving of parliaments, and all conventions and meetings of the estates, does solely reside in the King’s Majesty, his heirs, and successors. And that as no parliament can be lawfully kept, without the special warrant and presence of the King’s Majesty, or his Commissioner; so no acts, sentences, or statutes, to be passed in parliament, can be binding upon the people, or have the authority and force of laws, without the special authority and approbation of the King’s Majesty, or his Commissioner interponed thereto, at the making thereof. And therefore the King’s Majesty, with advice and consent of his estates of parliament, doth hereby rescind and annul all laws, acts, statutes, or practices that have been, or upon any pretext whatsoever may be, or seem contrary to, or inconsistent with, his Majesty’s just power and prerogative above-mentioned; and declares the same to have been unlawful, and to be void and null in all time coming. And to the end that this act and acknowledgement, which the estates of parliament, from the sense of their humble dutyand certain knowledge, have hereby made, may receive the more exact obedience in time coming; it is by his Majesty, with advice foresaid, statute and ordained, that the punctual observance thereof be specially regarded by all his Majesty’s subjects, and that none of them, upon any pretext whatsoever, offer to call in question, impugn, or do any deed to the contrary hereof, under pain of treason.
My Lord Chancellor
The questions concerning the King’s prerogative and the people’s privileges are nice and difficult. Mr. William Colvin, who was one of the wisest men this nation ever had, used to say concerning defensive arms, that he wished all princes thought them lawful, and the people unlawful. And indeed I heartily wish that something like these moderate sentiments might always determine all matters in question between both. By the constitution of this kingdom, no act of the estates had the force of a law, unless touched by the King’s sceptre, which was his undoubted prerogative. The touch of his sceptre gave authority to our laws, as his stamp did a currency to our coin: but he had no right to refuse or withhold either. It is pretended by some men, that in virtue of this act, the King may refuse the royal assent to acts passed by the estates of the kingdom. But it ought to be considered, that this law is only an acknowledgment and declaration of the King’s prerogative, and consequently gives nothing new to the prince. The act acknowledges this to be the prerogative of the King, that whatever is passed in this house, cannot have the force of a law without the royal assent, and makes it high treason to question this prerogative; because the parliament, during the civil war, had usurped a power of imposing their own votes upon the people for law, though neither the King, nor any person commissionated by him were present: and this new law was wholly and simply directed to abolish and rescind that usurpation, as appears by the tenor and express words of the act; which does neither acknowledge nor declare, that the prince has a power to refuse the royal assent to any act presented by the parliament. If any one should say that the lawgivers designed no less, and that the principal contrivers and promoters of the act frequently boasted they had obtained the negative, as they call it, for the crown, I desire to know how they will make that appear, since no words are to be found in the act, that show any such design: especially if we consider, that this law was made by a parliament that spoke the most plainly, least equivocally, and most fully of all others concerning the prerogative. And if those who promoted the passing of this act were under so strong a delusion, to think they had obtained a new and great prerogative to the crown by a declaratory law, in which there is not one word to that purpose, it was the hand of heaven that defeated their design of destroying the liberty of their country. I know our princes have refused their assent to some acts since the making of this law: but a practice introduced in arbitrary times can deserve no consideration. For my own part, I am far from pushing things to extremity on either hand: I heartily enter into the sentiments of the wise man I mentioned before, and think the people of this nation might have been happy in mistaking the meaning of this law, if such men as have had the greatest credit with our princes would have let them into the true sense of it. And therefore those who have the honour to advise her Majesty should beware of inducing her to a refusal of the royal assent to the act for the security of the kingdom, because the unwarrantable custom of rejecting acts was introduced in arbitrary times.