Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/274

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the Lords. On either supposition the country would be in a most critical state, in a state which, if long continued, must end in a revolution. But in the earlier part of the reign of William there was no ministry. The heads of the executive departments had not been appointed exclusively from either party. Some were zealous Whigs, others zealous Tories. The most enlightened statesmen did not hold it to be unconstitutional that the King should exercise his highest prerogatives on the most important occasions without any other guidance than that of his own judgment. His refusal, therefore, to assent to a bill which had passed both Houses indicated, not, as a similar refusal would now indicate, that the whole machinery of government was in a state of fearful disorder, but merely that there was a difference of opinion between him and the two other branches of the legislature as to the expediency of a particular law. Such a difference of opinion might exist, and, as we shall hereafter see, actually did exist, at a time when he was, not merely on friendly, but on most affectionate terms with the Estates of the Realm.

The circumstances under which he used his Veto for the first time have never yet been correctly stated. A well meant but unskilful attempt had been made to complete a reform which the Bill of Rights had left imperfect. That great law had deprived the Crown of the power of arbitrarily removing the judges, but had not made them entirely independent. They were remunerated partly by fees and partly by salaries. Over the fees the King had no control; but the salaries he had full power to reduce or to withhold. That William had ever abused this power was not pretended; but it was undoubtedly a power which no prince ought to possess; and this was the sense of both Houses. A bill was therefore brought in by which a salary of a thousand a year was strictly secured to each of the twelve judges. Thus far all was well. But unfortunately the salaries were made a charge on the hereditary revenue. No such proposition would now be entertained by the House of Commons, without the royal consent previously signified by a Privy Councillor. But this wholesome rule had not then been