Common Sense, British Edition
Of the Origin and Design of Government in General. With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution.
COMMON SENSE. 5
powering him to to reject their other bills; it again supposes
that the king is wiser than those whom it has already supposed
to be wiser than him. A mere absurdity!
There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the compo-
sition of monarchy ; it first excludes a man from the means of
information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the high-
est judgment is required. The state of a king shuts him from
the world, yet the business of a king requires him to know
it thoroughly ; wherefore the different parts, by unnaturally
opposing and destroying each other, prove the whole character
to be absurd and useless.
Some writers have explained the English constitution thus;
The king, say they, is one, the people another; the peers
are an house in behalf of the king, the commons in behalf
of the people ; but this hath all the distinctions of an house
divided against itself ; and though the expressions be plea-
santly arranged, yet when examined, they appear idle and
ambiguous ; and it will always happen, that the nicest con-
struction that words are capable of when applied to the de-
scription of something which either cannot exist, or is too
incomprehensible to be within the compass of description, will
be words of sound only, and tho’ they may amuse the ear,
they cannot inform the mind, for this explanation includes
a previous question, viz. How came the king by a power which
the people are afraid to trust, and always obliged to check ?
Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people, neither
can any power, which needs checking, be from God ; yet the
provision, which the constitution makes, supposes such a
power to exist.
But the provision is unequal to the task ; the means either
cannot or will not accomplish the end, and the whole affair
is a felo de se ; for as the greater weight will always carry up
the less, and as all the wheels of a machine are put in motion
by one, it only remains to know which power in the consti-
tution has the most weight, for that will govern ; and tho’
the others, or a part of them, may clog, or, as the phrase is,
check the rapidity of its motion, yet so long as they cannot
stop it, their endeavours will be inneffectual ; the first moving
power will at last have its way, and what it wants in speed,
is supplied by time.
That the crown is this overbearing part in the English con-
constitution, needs not be mentioned, and that it derives its