Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI: The Boundaries which the Constitution has set to the Royal Prerogative. - The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government
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CHAPTER VI: The Boundaries which the Constitution has set to the Royal Prerogative. - Jean Louis De Lolme, The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government 
The Constitution of England; Or, an Account of the English Government, edited and with an Introduction by David Lieberman (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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The Boundaries which the Constitution has set to the Royal Prerogative.
In reading the foregoing enumeration of the powers with which the laws of England have intrusted the King, we are at a loss to reconcile them with the idea of a Monarchy, which, we are told, is limited. The King not only unites in himself all the branches of the Executive power,—he not only disposes, without controul, of the whole military power in the State,—but he is moreover, it seems, Master of the Law itself, since he calls up, and dismisses, at his will, the Legislative Bodies. We find him therefore, at first sight, invested with all the prerogatives that ever were claimed by the most absolute Monarchs; and we are at a loss to find that liberty which the English seem so confident they possess.
But the Representatives of the people still have, and that is saying enough, they still have in their hands, now that the Constitution is fully established, the same powerful weapon which has enabled their ancestors to establish it. It is still from their liberality alone that the King can obtain subsidies; and in these days, when every thing is rated by pecuniary estimation, when gold is become the great moving spring of affairs, it may be safely affirmed, that he who depends on the will of other men, with regard to so important an article, is, whatever his power may be in other respects, in a state of real dependence.
This is the case of the King of England. He has, in that capacity, and without the grant of his people, scarcely any revenue. A few hereditary duties on the exportation of wool, which (since the establishment of manufactures) are become tacitly extinguished; a branch of the excise, which, under Charles the Second, was annexed to the Crown as an indemnification for the military services it gave up, and which, under George the First, has been fixed to seven thousand pounds; a duty of two shillings on every ton of wine imported; the wrecks of ships of which the owners remain unknown; whales and sturgeons thrown on the coast; swans swimming on public rivers; and a few other feudal relics, now compose the whole appropriated revenue of the King, and are all that remains of the ancient inheritance of the Crown.
The King of England, therefore, has the prerogative of commanding armies, and equipping fleets—but without the concurrence of his Parliament he cannot maintain them. He can bestow places and employments—but without his Parliament he cannot pay the salaries attending on them. He can declare war,—but without his Parliament it is impossible for him to carry it on. In a word, the Royal Prerogative, destitute as it is of the power of imposing taxes, is like a vast body, which cannot of itself accomplish its motions; or, if you please, it is like a ship completely equipped, but from which the Parliament can at pleasure draw off the water, and leave it aground,—and also set it afloat again, by granting subsides.
And indeed we see, that, since the establishment of this right of the Representatives of the People, to grant, or refuse, subsidies to the Crown, their other privileges have been continually increasing. Though these Representatives were not, in the beginning, admitted into Parliament but upon the most disadvantageous terms, yet they soon found means, by joining petitions to their money-bills, to have a share in framing those laws by which they were in future to be governed; and this method of proceeding, which at first was only tolerated by the King, they afterwards converted into an express right, by declaring, under Henry the Fourth, that they would not, thenceforward, come to any resolutions with regard to subsidies, before the King had given a precise answer to their petitions.1
In subsequent times we see the Commons constantly successful, by their exertions of the same privilege, in their endeavours to lop off the despotic powers which still made a part of the regal prerogative. Whenever abuses of power had taken place, which they were seriously determined to correct, they made grievances and supplies, to use the expression of Sir Thomas Wentworth, go hand in hand together, which always produced the redress of them. And in general, when a bill, in consequence of its being judged by the Commons essential to the public welfare, has been joined by them to a money bill, it has seldom failed to pass in that agreeable company(a) .2
[1. ]De Lolme refers to an incident in 1400, when the House of Commons took advantage of Henry IV’s political weakness to insist that the king respond to their petitions before enacting any of the fiscal legislation sought by the crown.
[(a) ]In mentioning the forcible use which the Commons have at times made of their power of granting subsidies, by joining provisions of a different nature to bills that had grants for their object, I only mean to shew the great efficiency of that power, which was the subject of this Chapter, without pretending to say any thing as to the propriety of the measure. The House of Lords have even found it necessary (which confirms what is said here) to form, as it were, a confederacy among themselves, for the security of their Legislative authority, against the unbounded use which the Commons might make of their power of taxation; and it has been made a standing order of their House, to reject any bill whatsoever to which a money-bill has been tacked. [[The Lords resisted the House of Commons’ efforts to extend its control over fiscal legislation at several points during the reign of Charles II (1660–85). The main dispute over “tacking” bills occurred in 1678.]]
[2. ]De Lolme likely refers to comments made by Wentworth soon after his 1632 appointment as lord deputy of Ireland, when he linked “grievances and supplies” in his response to a petition of grievances received from leading Catholic peers and gentry in Ireland.