planning how to narrow practical liberty, by substi-
tuting the letter of the constitution for its vital principle.
It was the custom of parliament to listen with deference to the representations of the opulent industrial classes, and the House of Commons was sympathetic with the people.
Hence the inconsistency involved in the English
electoral system, which was altogether a domestic question and not likely to be reformed by any influence from within, was less considered than the fact, that the country, alone among monarchies, really possessed a legislative constitution.
In the pride of comparison with France
, it was a part of the Englishman
's nationality to maintain the perfection of British institutions, and to look down with scorn on all the kingdoms of the Continent, as lands of slaves.
Every Englishman, in the comparison, esteemed himself as his own master and lord, having no fear of oppression, obeying no laws but such as he seemed to have assisted in making, and reasoning on politics with that free inquiry which, in a despotism, leads to revolution.
The idea of the perfection of representative government veiled the inconsistencies of practice.
It was received as yet without much question, that every independent man had, or might have, a vote; that every man was governed by himself; and that the people of England
, as a corporate body, exercised legislative power.
Men considered, too, the functions of parliament, and especially of the House of Commons.
It protected the property of every man by taking from the executive the power of taxation, and establishing the ideal principle, that taxes could be levied only with the consent of the people.
It maintained the supremacy