Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831
The most esteemed authors who have written upon the English Constitution agree with each other in establishing the omnipotence of Parliament.
Delolme says (Chap. X, p. 77): “It is a fundamental principle with the English lawyers, that Parliament can do everything except make a woman a man, or a man a woman.”
Blackstone expresses himself more in detail, if not more energetically, than Delolme, in the following terms:
“The power and jurisdiction of Parliament, says Sir Edward Coke (4 Inst., 36), is so transcendent and absolute, that it cannot be confined, either for causes or persons, within any bounds. And of this high Court, he adds, may truly be said, ‘Si antiquitatem spectes, est vetustissima; si dignitatem, est honoratissima; si jurisdictionem, est capacissima.’ It hath sovereign and uncontrollable authority in the making, confirming, enlarging, restraining, abrogating, repealing, reviving, and expounding of laws, concerning matters of all possible denominations; ecclesiastical or temporal; civil, military, maritime, or criminal; this being the place where that absolute despotic power which must, in all governments, reside somewhere, is intrusted by the Constitution of these kingdoms. All mischiefs and grievances, operations and remedies, that transcend the ordinary course of the laws, are within the reach of this extraordinary tribunal. It can regulate or new-model the succession to the Crown; as was done in the reign of Henry VIII and William III. It can alter the established religion of the land; as was done in a variety of instances in the reigns of King Henry VIII and his three children. It can change and create afresh even the Constitution of the kingdom, and of parliaments themselves, as was done by the Act of Union and the several statutes for triennial and septennial elections. It can, in short, do everything that is not naturally impossible to be done; and, therefore, some have not scrupled to call its power, by a figure rather too bold, the omnipotence of Parliament.”
1 See M‚moires pour servir a l’histoire de la France en matiŠre d’impots, Brussels, 1779, p. 654.
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