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has deposed one or two kings, has declared another to have
abdicated and left the throne vacant, has changed the succes-
sion so as to exclude a Catholic who might be the next heir
to the crown ; it has, in the form of a convention, restored the
monarchy and a dynastyŚnot to speak of such acts as were
done by the long parliament in subversion of the existing
framework of government. The omnipotence of the legis-
lature in Great Britain is not feared, because any essential
change of policy or violence done to public opinion would
arouse such a storm of public feeling that a dissolution would
follow, and a new election, perhaps a new cabinet, be the re-
sult. This is the great excellence of the English constitution,
that it rests on precedent, that it bends slowly and against
opposition to the introduction of new measures, and thus has
for its foundation the will of the community which is mani-
fested directly and violently only at great crises. It admits
of the rule that the nation is sovereign and not the govern-
ment, but only applies it once or twice in a century. No
other people could do the same, for no other people has had
such a political training. Nor can we believe that Great
Britain can always retain the same good habits, and have the
same happy balance of powers and moderation in its gov-
erning classes. The maxim hitherto has been :
" So let the change which comes be free
To ingroove itself in that which flies,
And work, a joint of state that plies
Its office, moved with sympathy."
But this is, as the poet continues,
t; A saying hard to shape in act;
For all the past of time reveals
A bridal dawn of thunder-peals
Whenever thought hath wedded fact."
Hitherto the prevailing practical character of the nation has
prevented " thought " from taking an abstract and a revolu-
tionary turn. Can this be so in time to come ? Can gradual
encroachments of democracy, connected with changes in