Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/226

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especially in the capital, in the seaports and in the manufacturing towns, the minds of men were greatly excited on the subject of the trade with the East Indies; a fierce paper war had during some time been raging; and several grave questions, both constitutional and commercial, had been raised, which the legislature only could decide.

It has often been repeated, and ought never to be forgotten, that our polity differs widely from those polities which have, during the last eighty years, been methodically constructed, digested into articles, and ratified by constituent assemblies. It grew up in a rude age. It is not to be found entire in any formal instrument. All along the line which separates the functions of the prince from those of the legislator there was long a disputed territory. Encroachments were perpetually committed, and, if not very outrageous, were often tolerated. Trespass, merely as trespass, was commonly suffered to pass unresented. It was only when the trespass produced some positive damage that the aggrieved party stood on his right, and demanded that the frontier should be set out by metes and bounds, and that the landmarks should thenceforward be punctiliously respected.

Many of those points which had occasioned the most violent disputes between our Sovereigns and their Parliaments had been finally decided by the Bill of Rights. But one question, scarcely less important than any of the questions which had been set at rest for ever, was still undetermined. Indeed, that question was never, as far as can now be ascertained, even mentioned in the Convention. The King had undoubtedly, by the ancient laws of the realm, large powers for the regulation of trade; but the ablest judge would have found it difficult to say what was the precise extent of those powers. It was universally acknowledged that it belonged to the King to prescribe weights and measures, and to coin money; that no fair or market could be held without authority from him; that no ship could unload in any bay or estuary which he had not declared to be a port. In addition to his undoubted right to grant special commercial privileges to particular places, he long claimed