"To bereave a man of life," (says he,) "or by violence to confiscate his estate without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary Government." And as a remedy for this fatal evil, he is everywhere peculiarly emphatical in his encomiums on the habeas corpus Act, which in one place he calls "the bulwark of the British Constitution."
Nothing need be said to illustrate the importance of the prohibition of titles of nobility. This may truly be denominated the corner-stone of Republican Government; for so long as they are excluded, there can never be serious danger that the Government will be any other than that of the People.
To the second, that is, to the pretended establishment of the common and state law by the Constitution, I answer, that they are expressly made subject "to such alterations and provisions as the Legislature shall from time to time make concerning the same." They are therefore at any moment liable to repeal by the ordinary Legislative power, and of course have no constitutional sanction. The only use of the declaration was to recognize the ancient law, and to remove doubts which might have been occasioned by the Revolution. This consequently can be considered as no part of a declaration of rights; which under our Constitutions must be intended as limitations of the power of the Government itself.
It has been several times truly remarked, that Bills of Rights are, in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of
- Vide Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. 4, page 438.—Publius.