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elective. And if the individuals who compose that state could always continue true to first principles, uninfluenced by passion or prejudice, unassailed by corruption, and unawed by violence, elective succession would be most desirable. The best, the wisest, and bravest man would receive the crown, which his endowments merited.
Evils of an Elective System. History and observation inform us, that elections of every kind are frequently brought about by influence, partiality and artifice, or at least such charge is proclaimed by a disappointed minority. All societies are liable to this evil, both those of a private and domestic kind, as also the great community of the public. Time suppresses false suspicions in the former, and appeals to tribunals, remedy them by legal means, if they be true, but in the great society of the nation, there is no superior to resort to, but the law of nature, no mode of redress, but the actual exertion of force. The quarrel between two nations, complaining of mutual injustice, is only decided by an appeal to arms, as is the case in an internecine strife, where the violation of principles leads to civil war.
2. Mode of Inheriting. Descent. This generally corresponds with the feudal line of descent, marked out by the common law, in the succession to landed estates, with a few material exceptions. Like estates, the crown will descend lineally to the issue of the reigning monarch, and as in common descents, the preference of males to females, and the right of primogeniture among the males are strictly adhered to. Like lands, the crown, on failure of the male line, descends to the issue female. But among the females, the crown descends, by right of primogeniture, to the eldest daughter only, and her issue, and not, as in common inheritances, to all the daughters at once.
By Representation. Again, the doctrine of representation prevails in the descent of the crown, as it does in other inheritances, whereby the lineal descendants of any person deceased, stand in the same place, as their ancestor, if living, would have done. Thus, Richard II succeeded his grandfather, Edward III, in right of his father, the Black Prince, to the exclusion of all his uncles, his grandfather's younger children. Lastly, on failure of lineal descendants, the crown goes to the next collateral relations of the late king, provided they are lineally descended from the blood royal, that is, from royal stock, which originally acquired the crown.
Half Blood. But there is no objection, as in the case of common descents, to the succession of one of the half blood, that is, where the relationship proceeds not from the same couple of ancestors, which constitutes a kinsman of the whole blood, but from a single ancestor only; as when two persons are derived from the same father, but not from the same mother, and vice versa, provided only, that the one ancestor, from whom both are descended, be one, from whose veins the blood royal is communicated to each. Thus Mary inherited from her half brother, Edward VI., and Elizabeth inherited from Mary, all children of the same father, Henry VIII., but all by different mothers.
3. Not an Indefeasible Right. The doctrine of hereditary right by no means implies an indefeasible right to the throne. The king, and the houses of parliament, may defeat this hereditary right, and by entails, limitations and provisions, exclude the immediate heir, and vest the inheritance in another. Hence the word "successors" is used, in addition to the word "heirs," in our statutes: "the king's majesty, his heirs and successors." If the heir apparant were an idiot, or a lunatic, or otherwise incapable of reigning, parliament could set him aside for another.
4. The Crown's Descendible Quality. However, the crown may be limited or transferred, it still retains its descendible quality, and becomes hereditary in its wearer. Hence the king is said never to die in his political capacity, for he survives in his successor. For the right of the crown vests, eo instanti, upon the heir, so there can be no inter-regnum. However acquired, it becomes in him absolutely hereditary, unless by the rules of some limitation, it is otherwise determined. Even in those cases, where the succession has been violated, the crown has ever been looked upon as hereditary in the wearer of it.
Egbert. About the year 800, Egbert found himself king of the West Saxons. How his ancestors acquired their title, whether by force, fraud, contract, or by election, it matters not to inquire. He acquired the other kingdoms of the heptarchy, some by consent, but most of them by a voluntary submission. It is a maxim of civil polity, that the acquired state assimilate with the stronger one, and must adopt its laws and customs. Hence all the kingdoms of England acquiesced under the hereditary monarchy of the West Saxons.
Before Edmund Ironside. From Egbert to Edmund's death, a period of over two hundred years, the crown descended regularly, through a succession of fifteen princes, without deviation, save only that the sons of Ethelwolf succeeded each other in the kingdom, without regard to the children of the elder branches, according to the rule of succession prescribed by their father, and confirmed by the wittena-gemote, in the heat of the Danish invasions. Also Edred, the uncle of Edwy, retained the throne for about nine years, in the right of his nephew, the times being dangerous. But this was to preserve, not destroy, the succession, and Edwy succeeded him.1
Canute. Edmund Ironside was obliged, by the hostile irruption of the Danes, at first to divide his kingdom with Canute, king of Denmark, and on Edmund's death, Canute seized the whole of it, and drove Edmund's sons into enforced exile. Here the succession was suspended by actual force, and a new family introduced upon the throne, in whom it continued hereditary for three reigns, when upon the death of Hardicanute, the ancient Saxon line was restored, in the person of Edward the Confessor.
Edward the Confessor. This Saxon king was not the true heir to the throne, being the younger brother of Edmund Ironside, who had a son still living, surnamed Edward, the outlaw or exile. This banished son was, at that time, in Hungary, and the English, having just shaken off the Danish yoke, required a ruler at the moment, and the Confessor was the next of the royal line then in England. On his decease, without issue, Harold II usurped the throne, and almost simultaneously came the Norman. invasion, the right to the crown being all the time in Edgar, surnamed Atheling, or illustrious, who was the son of Edward, the outlaw, and grandson of Edmund Ironside.
William I. William the Norman claimed the crown by virtue of a pretended grant from Edward, the Confessor, a grant, which, if real, was utterly invalid, because it was made without the consent generali senatus et populi conventu et edicto, which shows that at that date, the king, with the consent of the general council, might dispose of the crown, and change the line of suc
1But Edmund, the son of Edward, the Elder, was put aside to make way for Athelstan, his bastard brother, and Edmund, his brother succeeded the latter.
2Edmund Ironside was illegitimate, while Edward the Confessor, was the legitimate son of Ethelred, the Unready.
cession. Edgar Atheling's undoubted right was overwhelmed by the violence of the times, though frequently asserted by the English nobility after the conquest, till the time of his death, without issue, but all their attempts in his favor proved futile.
What he Acquired. This conquest, by William of Normandy, was like that of Canute, a forcible transfer of the crown of England, into a new family, and all the inherent properties of the crown passed with it. The victory obtained at Hastings was not a victory over the nation collectively, but only over the person of Harold, hence the sole right the Conqueror could pretend to acquire thereby, was the right to possess the crown of England, not to alter the nature of the government. The English laws remained in force, and he took the crown, subject to those laws, and with all its inherent properties, the first and principal of which was its descendibility. After this, we must drop our race of Saxon kings, and derive our descents from a new stock, who acquired by right of war, a strong and undisputed title.
Sons of William I. Accordingly it descended from him to his sons, William II and Henry I. Robert, his eldest son, was kept out of possession by the arts and violence of his brothers, on the pretense, that he was already provided for, having been constituted duke of Normandy, under his father's will. But on his death, without issue, Henry I acquired a good title to the throne.
Stephen of Blois. This king was the grandson of William I, by his daughter, Adelicia, and claimed the throne by a feeble, hereditary right, not as being the nearest of the male line, but the nearest of the blood royal, excepting his elder brother, Theobald, who was earl of Blois, and apparently had waived his claim to the succession. The real right was in the empress Matilda, or Maud, the daughter of Henry I, the rule of succession being, that the daughter of a son shall be preferred to the son of a daughter. So that Stephen was little better than a mere usurper, and therefore he chose to rely on a title by election, while the empress Maud, so called, asserted her hereditary right by the sword, which dispute finally resulted in the compromise, that Stephen should keep his crown, but that Henry, the son of Maud, should succeed him.
Henry II. On the death of Stephen, Henry the son of Maud or Matilda succeeded to the throne. He was the undoubted heir to the throne, as descended from William I, and
was further dear to the English people, because he was lineally descended from Edmund Ironside, the last of the Saxon race of hereditary kings. For Edward, the outlaw, son of Edmund Ironside, had a daughter Margaret, who married Malcolm, king of Scotland, and in her the Saxon hereditary right resided. Matilda, wife of Henry I, was one of his children, and Maud, the mother of Henry II, was her daughter. The sons of Malcolm were the real heirs to the English throne however, hence Henry's best title was as heir to the Conqueror.
John. Richard I succeeded his father, Henry II, and dying childless, the right vested in his nephew Arthur, the son of Geoffrey, his next brother. But John, the youngest son of Henry II, seized the throne, claiming the crown by hereditary right, that he was next of kin to the deceased king, being his surviving brother, whereas Arthur was removed one degree further, being his brother's son, though by right of representation, he stood in the place of his father Geoffrey. This claim puzzled the understandings of our brave but unlettered ancestors, and drew numerous well intentioned partisans to espouse the cause of John, for it was a point as then undetermined in common inheritances, whether the child of an elder brother should succeed to the land in right of representation, or the younger surviving brother in right of proximity of blood. However, on the death of Arthur and his sister Eleanor without issue, a clear and indisputable title vested in Henry III, the son of John; and from him to Richard II, a succession of six generations, the crown descended in the true hereditary line.
Children of Edward III. Upon Richard II resigning the crown and leaving no issue, the right thereof resulted to the issue of his grandfather, Edward III. His eldest son was Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, the father of Richard II. Three others are mentioned among the sons of Edward III: William, who died without issue; Lionel, duke of Clarence, his third son, and John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, his fourth. By the rules of succession, the descendants of Lionel, duke of Clarence, were entitled to the throne, on the resignation of Richard II, and had been declared by the king, years before, as the presumptive heirs to the throne, which declaration was confirmed in parliament.
Henry IV. But Henry, duke of Lancaster, the son of John