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& mere figure-head. He must accept recent reforms have transferred, or are the ministers tendered him by Parlia- transferring, the military administration ment, that is, the leaders of the Parlia- almost entirely from the office of the mentary majority, and he must dismiss Commander-in-chief to that of a Parliathem and receive others in their placementary Minister of War. whenever Parliament may summon him The prerogative of war and peace reto do so. He must be entirely guided mains in the Crown, the assent of Parliaby these advisers, or rather he must al- ment not being necessary to a treaty on low them to act for themselves, in all a declaration of war; but the Foreign matters legislative and executive. When Minister who exercises the prerogative a ministry resigns, its chief names to the is, like his colleagues, responsible to Parking the person for whom he is to send liament. This is, however, perhaps the to form a new administration; and, by most substantial relic of the monarchithe rule of public life, the person cal system. It is the source of some named must be the leader of the party awkwardness in diplomacy, the power by which the government was turned of making treaties being in the Crown out. The prerogative of calling and dis- alone, while Parliament alone can pracsolving Parliament, like all other pre- tically give them effect, as appeared in rogatives, is in the hands of the minister, the case of the Luxembourg guarantee, by whom it is exercised under the estab- when the Foreign Minister was obliged lished limitation that a minister must to own that the engagement into which, not more than once appeal to the coun- in exercise of his constitutional authority, try by a dissolution of Parliament, but he had entered on behalf of the nation, must resign, as Sir Robert Peel did in would be practically of no value unless 1834, if he is defeated in a Parliament Parliament chose to vote the forces for of his owo calling. The Prime Minister the maintenance of the guarantee. makes all the appointments, subject only Socially, the sovereign, as the head of to the opinion of Parliament, or rather English society, may still exercise great to that of his own party. Sir Robert influence for good or evil. George IV, Peel, the most loyal of ministers, wliose exercised great influence for evil; the great boast it was that he had served present Queen has exercised great influfour sovereigos, would not allow the ence for good ; and it 18 pleasant to think Queen to appoint her own ladies of the how her domestic virtue has continued bedchamber. The king is not present, to shine, a quiet but unextinguished light nor would the ministers allow him to be of peace and good-will amidst all the present, at the meetings of the cabinet. storms which have disturbed the friendly It has been said that his exclusion origi- relations between the two branches of nated in George the First's ignorance of her race. But, politically, the monarchy the English language, but it was obvious- is now nothing but a figure-head. The ly connected with the general alteration kings do not know this; the people hardly in the character of the government. know it. The kings read papers, can
The Commander-in-chief of the army vass appointments, and fancy that measis still appointed by the sovereign, and ures emanate from themselves; so comis un.parliamentary, not going out of plete is the veil of constitutional illusion office with the Parliamentary ministers; which conceals from them their real poa rempant of monarchical power which sition. The people pray to God every has at times caused some uneasiness. Sunday, when they recite the state liturBut in the first place not a soldier can gy, that their kings may have grace to be paid without a vote of money by the rule them well, talk about the character House of Commons; in the second place of the heir to the throne as though the the Mutiny Act, upon which the existence salvation of the country depended on it, of the army depends, is passed only for a and really feel a warm sentiment of loyyear at a time, so that it requires an- alty towards a governor whom they would nual renewal; and in the third place not permit to do any act of government. But in fact public documents might al- Parliament. Foreign observers might most as well be signed by a stamp, which well be pardoned for not seeing what the would cost nothing, and would never cause English themselves did not see, and what the nation anxiety by falling into the ex- a good many of them do not see now. But cesses of youth. Uninterrupted experi- questions are hereby suggested as to ence in the forms of business may give the the soundness of political theories based king, if he is a man of any ability, some on the assumption of a real division of slight influence over his ministers, who power among the different members of a are always changing; but in great affairs constitution. Will not one member or the there can be no doubt that the policy of other ultimately draw supreme power to the nation both at home and abroad, du- itself ? Does not the legislative authority, ring the last half century, has been the wherever it resides, virtually comprehend opposite of that which would have been the rest? We are led to inquire also how far dictated by the personal wishes of the the framers of the American Constitution kings.
may have been influenced by the current As the king has become a figure-head notions respecting the British Constituin England, the governors of colonies tion, when they took such pains to sepawho represent the king there have be- rate the executive from the legislative come figure-heads also. Being generally that the two cannot be brought into harmen of ability and political experience, mody, in case of a divergence of policy, they exercise some personal influence; and except by the extreme remedy of improbably their intervention frequently peachment ? In the case of the British mitigates the somewhat rough conflicts Constitution, the harmony between the of colonial politicians. But they are executive and the legislative cannot be inbound to be guided entirely by their con. terrupted, because the moment they disastitutional advisers, the ministers im- gree, the ministry falls. The introduction posed on them by the Colonial Parlia- of the members of the American Cabinet ment. One of them was recalled the other into Congress obviously would not mend day for declaring that he would not ac- the matter; it would only breed fresh con. cept as his ministers a particular set of fusion, unless the President were reduced, statesmen, it being his constitutional duty like the British king, to a figure-head to accept the leaders of the majority, At present he has personal power, and whoever they might be. So that if any America is an elective and terminable body is disposed to risk his life in invad- monarchy, wbile Great Britain is a ing Canada because it is British, he will crowned republic. do well to reflect, before he leaves home, Constitutional fiction has played, in the that Canada is politically British only political development of England, a part in having a British figure-head.
analogous to that played by legal fiction Through the transfer of power from the in the development of Ronian law. It king to parliamentary ministers the exe- has reconciled consecrated tradition with cutive has evidently been absorbed by rational innovation, and covered the the legislature. By Montesquiou and the march of progress. But by mistaking political philosophers of his age, it was our constitutional fictions for realities, held that the separation of these two and adopting them as actual modes of powers was essential to the existence of government, some of our continental free government, and that the immediate neighbors have been led into strange paths. consequence of their union in the same “ To reign without governing" is a tickhands would be the ruin of the constitu- lish operation, requiring peculiar aptitudes tion. Yet at that very time the fatal and much practice both on the part of the event had really taken place; for the first kings and of the people. The constitutiontwo Hanoverian kings were completely al king for whose instruction M. Thiers in the hands of the Whig ministers who made the aphorism, found it so; and, in bad set them on the throne, and who spite of his personal ability, or rather in themselves depended on & majority in consequence of his personal ability, had at
last to get into his fiacre. English constitutional monarchy, however, seems on the whole to have been useful to Europe as a model of a transition polity, combining the royal name and personality to which the multitudes still cling, without which the multitudes in the Old World have scarcely learnt to reverence government, with the popular assemblies whose action is to mould the democracy of the future.
The instrument by which Parliament drew to itself the power once vested in the king, was the power of the purse. This instrument, of course, became more powerful when a national debt had been contracted, and the annual vote of Parliament had become necessary to save the government from bankruptcy. Yet it would scarcely have sufficed to effect a radical change in the government had it not been working in accordance with the general tendency of the nation, and of humanity at large, to pass gradually from hereditary to elective institutions.
The second of the two changes which form the substance of British constitutional history is the transfer of power from the House of Lords to the House of Commons. In theory, and in the pages of writers on constitutional law, the House of Lords is a branch of the legislature, collateral and perfectly equal in authority to the House of Commons, saving that all grants of money must originate with the lower House. In the feudal age, it is needless to say, the House of Lords was by far the more powerful of the two. After the ruin of the old nobility in the Wars of the Roses, the importance of the Commons increased, though both Houses were reduced to a state of extreme servility under the imperial sway of the Tudors. In the time of Charles I. the House of Lords was coerced by the Revolutionary party which ruled in the House of Commons, and it was at last abolished, together with the monarchy, for a brief period; but at the Restoration it fully recovered its former position, and showed that its power was at least equal to that of the Commons by throwing out the bill excluding the Roman Catholic Duke of York, afterwards James II., from the throne, when the bill
had passed the Commons by a large majority on the wings of a great electoral victory gained by the Whig party. Through the revolution of 1688, the reign of William, and the earlier part of the reign of Anne, the House of Lords retained the same important position, and during this period it was the organ of the Whig, or what we should now call the Liberal party, which put William III. on the throne, and exercised through him the power of nominating peers, while the prospect of a Catholic reign was still alarming to the great houses which held the Church property distributed among the courtiers by Henry VIII, The House of Commons at this time was rather the organ of the Tory party, to which all the country squires and country parsons belonged. It was at the hands of the Tories, now the great defenders of the House of Peers, that the power and dignity of that House first received a deadly blow.
Twelve peers were created at once by the Tory ministers at the end of the reign of Anne, to swamp the Whig majority in the House of Lords, and carry the disgraceful treaty of Utrecht. This expedient, to wbich Toryism lighted the way, is now recognized as the ratio ultimato which the opponents of Toryism may resort in case the Tory majority in the House of Lords should persist in obstructing on any vital question the progress of the nation. Formerly the inportance of the House of Lords was indicated by the presence there of the heads of the government. Harley and Bolingbroke both raised themselves to the peerage, though Bolingbroke was the most popular orator of the day; and the management of the House of Commons was left to subordinate bands. But Sir Robert Walpole, the great minister of George I. and George II. remained on system in the Commons. His example was followed by tho elder Pitt during the period of his real power; though his popular name, "The Great Commoner," marks that it was still a rarity to see the first man in the kingdom not a peer. It was followed by the younger Pitt, by Capning, Peel, Palmerston, and Lord John Russell. Since Pitt's
time, there have been several prime min. ed by a bias of the most noxious kind; isters in the House of Lords, but it is felt while nothing can be less conservative, in to be a great disadvantage to a govern. the true sense of the term, than an instiment. No statesman of mark wonld now tution which renders it necessary for the leave the House of Commons if he could nation, whenever vital reforms are to be help it, and Lord Salisbury manifostly carried, to lash itself up to the point of fumes in the exalted limbo to which the threatening with violence a branch of its inisfortune of his birth has consigned him. legislature. Still the House of Lords retained a good The other constitutional monarchies deal of power, so long as the House of of Europe, in imitation of England, have Commons remained a glaringly inade adopted a second chamber, which is now quate representation of the people, which regarded as indispensable ; though exit did down to the Parliamentary Re- perience seems to suggest a doubt whethform of 1832. But since that measure the er the weakening of the sense of responcoequality of the two Houses has visibly sibility in the popular house of the ceased. In the passage of the Reform legislature does not more than counterBill of 1832 the House of Peers received vail the controlling influence of the a heavy blow. After throwing out the senate; while if a safeguard against bill, it was coerced into passing it by the hasty legislation is the only object, this threat of a swamping creation of poers, the might be attained, without the complex royal consent to which had been extort machinery of two chambers, by giving ed by the Whig ministers. It was again minorities a power of suspensive veto. virtually coerced by the Commons the In the senates of Europe, however, but other day, in the case of the Irish Church a slight tincture remains of the hereditBill, which it passed under intimidation ary element, and this only in one or two after having distinctly taken up an atti- cases, the bulk of the senates being tude of resistance. No legislation of im- purely nominative or elective. The portance is now originated in the House hereditary upper house of England is the of Lords. The attendance is scandalously last leaf on the tree; and its lingering thin, and no exhortations will avail to existence is a curious instance of the improve it while the discussions are de- tendency of nations, which have for a void of interest. When Lord John Rus- time outstripped their fellows, to rest sell was made a peer, Punch represented satisfied with their own progress, and Lord Brougham as a Scottish door-keeper, ultimately to fall behind in the race. greeting the new-comer with “Ye'll find Aristocracy is dead. Like monarchy, it it unco dull here, Johnny.” Long since had its place in history, but its place divested of the semi-liberal character knows it no more. Its moral energy in which it wore in 1688, the lIouse of the feudal age was sustained by military Lords has completely yielded to the nat. and political duty, enforced by the stern ural bias of a privileged class, and its ex- exigencies of an iron time. Nothing is istence during the last century may be now left to it but privilege, which indescribed as a perpetual struggle to arrest variably saps the vigor, moral and even progress of every kind. The abolition physical, of the privileged class. Even of the slave-trade, and the reform of the
its manners are gone. These scandals criminal code, were obstructed by the of aristocratic rowdyism at the universiLords, as well as the Parliamentary Re- ties, like the scandals of aristocratic form and the Disestablishment of the profligacy in social life, are the marks of Irish Church. The House is totally un- an incurable decay. The age of chivalry suited for the impartial revision of legis- has not departed, and never will depart; lation, being, as it is, not a fair represent- but the age of aristocratic chivalry deation of all interests, much less of the parted long ago. In no intelligent commature wisdom of the community, but munity can such a shadow of the past merely a representation of the narrow long be allowed to retain a veto on the class of great landowners, who are gway- progress of a nation.
It is probable that the English solutely repudiated the past, and called aristocracy will speedily be assailed in a the first year of their republic the Year vital part by the extension of the move- One. These dreams have vanished now. ment against the feudal land-laws from Since the American and French RevoluIreland to England. The retention of the tions a century has passed, more fruitland in a few hands, by means of primo- ful, perliaps, than all the centuries that geniture and entail, or rather settlement, went before it, of discovery in the hisis essential to the existence of a landed torical and political as well as in the aristocracy: but the social and econom- scientific sphere. We know that monical evils of the system, which are felt archy, and perhaps aristocracy, was with daily increasing force, have now natural and necessary to man in the clearly marked it for abolition.
early stages of his development; that Meantime, the House of Commons with the advance of intelligence and has itself become, what till recently it civilization, monarchy and aristocracy scarcely was, a popular assembly. Down wore out, and the day of elective to 1892 the franchise was so restricted, government arrived. The Jacobins could and the number of boroughs in the hands not have prevented the advent of electof great proprietors, close corporations, ive government, and they did very little or the government, was so large, that the to hasten it, though they were only too House could hardly be called elective. successful in connecting it with maligDown to 1867 the suffrage was still con- nant and hypocritical passions, and with fined to one seventh of the people. But a dogma of the divinity of the sovereign the Reform Act of 1867 has established people almost as false and as noxious as household suffrage in the cities and the old dogma of the divinity of kings. household suffrage for all above the We know, too, by sad experience, that peasantry in the counties. The era of elective government, so far from being the elective principle seems now, there- the magic care of all political ills, is itself fore, to have fairly arrived.
liable to distempers, which we have To the revolutionists of the last cen- hitherto done but little to cure. As the tury it seemed sufficient to enthrone the great distemper of monarchy was tyranelective principle and sweep away all ny, the great distempers of elective barriers against its full operation to government are faction, demagogism, and establish, in fact, a despotism of the corruption. So far from having solved popular will. Nothing else, in their for us all political problems, and left us opinion, was needed in order to inaugu- nothing to do but to preserve and adrate a reign of perfect wisdom and hap- mire a perfect work, the framers of piness. They had not studied history, constitutions in the last century did not the foundation of political science, ra- see, nor was it possible that they should tionally; history had not then been see, in what directions some of the chief rationally written. They were a good political problems lay.' Our political deal misled by the false analogy of the condition may be, and doubtless is, an ancient republics, which were in fact improvement on the condition of the slave-owning oligarchies, where slavery generations which went before us, but solved all the questions of the Proleta- it is no more perfect or final than theirs. riat. In the philosophy of the Jacobins, The inauguration of the elective history down to their time had been one principle in England in 1688 was at once vast scene of wrong: the people, always followed by a manifestation, on the one capable of self-government, had been hand, of the virtues of the principle, its always ousted from it by kings who energy, and its progressive character; were invariably tyrants, aided by priests and, on the other hand, of its distempers, who were invariably impostors, and you especially of faction and corruption. had only to “strangle the last king William the Third tries to combine in with the entrails of the last priest," that his government men of ability, without the millennium might begin. They ab- distinction of party, and to induce them