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dependence of the Ministry of the day on the will and favour of Parliament for its continued existence, hut also by the fact that the House of Commons at all times, and the House of Lords, by possibility, in critical times, are themselves in a large measure dependent, in certain important respects, on the will of the Ministry. The right of the Ministry, through the exercise of an undoubted act of the Royal prerogative, to dissolve the House of Commons at any moment, on the hypothesis that, from a change of opinion either in the country or within the House, the House has ceased to represent the constituent body, affords the Government the opportunity of checking the development of a spirit of mere anarchy, insubordination, or reckless vacillation, to which large promiscuous bodies free from direct responsibility are at certain seasons prone. The lesser right of prorogation at any moment convenient to the policy of the Government, and the right of selecting the moment at which Parliament shall re-assemble, are also advantages in the hands of the Government which have the effect not only of largely increasing their moral influence in the House, but of enabling them to make the most economic physical use of all the political and material resources at their disposal. In the debate which took place on the Royal Titles Bill, at the opening of the year 1876, Lord Beaconsfield, then Mr. Disraeli, said: ' The prerogatives of the Crown are 'of great value and importance. The fact is, that 'Parliament exists by the prerogative of the Crown. 'It is the Royal Warrant which allows this House to be 'elected, and to assemble, and without it we could not 'meet in this place. We could not go to our con* stituents without the writ of the Sovereign.' There Dependence of Parliament on the Crown. 355
is a sufficient amount of formal truth in this statement to justify, or at any rate to excuse, its use in a rhetorical address; but, except for the purposes of such an address, or for the ornamentation of a work of political fiction, Lord Beaconsfield himself would hardly consider this passage an adequate or accurate description of the mutual dependence on each other of Parliament and the Crown. It may be true that the time (within certain legal limits), and even the place of meeting of Parliament, depend on the will of the Crown as represented by its responsible advisers, and as legally signified by technical writs and warrants. In no other sense is it true that Parliament exists by the prerogative of the Crown; and the testimony of history rather is, that the English Constitution has attained its most characteristic development in rendering every act of the Royal prerogative dependent for its validity on the acquiescence of Parliament. In fact, the Crown and Parliament can only be looked upon as two entirely independent factors in the Constitution. But they are so intimately connected in such countless ways that it is only too easy for a debater, in the hurry or frenzy of argument, to speak of the one as existing by the will of the other. Lord Beaconsfield himself, when, as Mr. Disraeli, he succeeded Lord Derby in the leadership of the Conservative Government in 1868, and his party proved to be in a minority in the House of Commons on the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and when he was understood to have intimated,1
1 The true interpretation of what had passed between Mr. Disraeli and Her Majesty must be left to the reader of Mr. Disraeli's original statement in the House, his subsequent explanations, and the debate thereupon as they are given in Hantard. The original much to the surprise of the House, that he had left to the Queen personally the question as to whether he should dissolve the House or not, had an opportunity of illustrating one theory at least of the place the Sovereign might be conceived to hold in reference to the House of Commons. The following language, used in the course of his speech in the House of Commons by
statement of Mr. Disraeli is reported by Hansard as follows:—' I 'told Her Majesty that under the circumstances the advice which 'Her Majesty's Ministers would, in the full spirit of the Constitn'tion, offer to Her Majesty, would be that Her Majesty should dis* solve this Parliament, and take the opinion of the country as to the 'conduct of her Ministers and the question of the Irish Church. 'But at the same time, with the full concurrence of my colleagues, 'I represented to Her Majesty that thero were important occasions 'on which it was wise that the Sovereign should not be embar'rassed by personal claims, however constitutional, valid, or raeri'torious, and that if Her Majesty were of opinion that the question 'at issue could be more satisfactorily settled, or the just interests 'of the country more studied, by the immediate retirement of the 'present Government from office, we were prepared to quit Her 'Majesty's service immediately. ... In fact, sir, I tendered my 'resignation to the Queen. Her Majesty commanded me to attend 'her in audience on the next day, when Her Majesty was pleased to 'express her pleasure not to accept the resignation of her Ministry, 'and her readiness to dissolve this Parliament as soon as the state 'of public business would permit. Under these circumstances, I 'advised Her Majesty that although the present constituency was 'no doubt as morally competent to decide upon the question of the 'disestablishment of the Church as the representatives of the con'stituency in this House, still it was the opinion of Her Majesty's 'Ministers that every effort should be made with a view that the 'appeal, if possible, should be directed to tho new constituency 'which the wisdom of Parliament created last year; and I expressed 'to Her Majesty that, if we had the cordial co-operation of Parlia'ment, I was advised by those who are experienced and skilful in 'these matters that it would be possible to make arrangements by 'which the dissolution would take place in the autumn of this year.' (Hantard, vol. cxci. 1693. May i, 1868.)
Contests between Parliament and Crown. 357
Mr. Bouverie, who has usually been regarded as one of those members of the House of Commons who were best acquainted with its rights and with the rights of Parliament, places in a true light the consequences of interposing the authority or choice of the Sovereign between the Government and the House. 'The policy of 'these counsels appears to be to try to set the two Houses 'at loggerheads with one another, and to put the House 'of Commons at variance with the Crown. In ancient 'times we had perpetual quarrels and differences with 'the Crown, and for more than one hundred years these 'quarrels continued. They were of a most portentous 'character, for there were two rebellions, three revolu'tions, and one change of dynasty before we got the sys'tern of government in the right groove, and established 'that mode of government which brought the Crown into 'constant harmony with the House of Commons. That 'mode of government was that the House of Commons 'gave its support to the Government, and the Govern'ment represented the Crown. But if the views now 'put forward by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Dis'raeli) were to be carried out, no long time would 'elapse before there was a renewal of those differences 'between the Crown and the House of Commons which 'all who take an interest in good government must 'have hoped had ceased for ever.'1
There are two other modes, besides those of dissolution and prorogation, in which the Government have availed themselves of their position to bring pressure to bear on recalcitrant Houses; but both these methods may be treated as if they were obsolete, though it would be impossible to allege that they could never be revived. 1 Hansard, vol. cxoi. May 4, 1868.
It is not so very long ago that it was the custom for the first trial of strength between opposed parties on the reassembling of Parliament after a dissolution to take place in respect to the election to the Speakership. The eager controversy to which such elections could give rise when treated from a party point of view is well illustrated in a passage of the Memoirs of Lord Melbourne, which relates the circumstances of the candidature of Mr. Spring Rice for the office of Speaker.1 The vastly superior practice would now seem to have taken firm root of treating the Speakership as no longer a political office;—a change which was illustrated by the retention in office, or rather the fresh proposal for office, of Mr. Brand, previously the 'whip' of the Liberal party, who, having been first appointed by a Liberal Government, was reinstated in office by the Conservative Government on its accession to power in 1874. The other right, of creating fresh Peers, has already been alluded to, in the chapter on Parliament, and is not likely to be recurred to again, except on the occurrence of a crisis which cannot now be anticipated.
When it is remembered that these apparently extensive rights on the part of the Government, of dissolving one House and largely affecting the composition of the other, are at last subject to the judgment and control of the House of Commons, either as existing, or as newly elected, it is found that the reciprocal dependence of the Houses and of the Government is as complete as it can well be made; and that if a Ministry goes politically astray, or attempts the slightest
1 See McCullagh Torrens' Life of Lord Melbourne, vol. ii. chap. 3.