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Parliamentary Control of Finance. 389 which the Government was bound to provide before it , had a chance of ascertaining the mind of Parliament, but were necessary steps in a uniform and integral policy which might have been communicated to Parliament months beforehand, and yet was sedulously, and on some occasions, it must be said, unscrupulously, veiled from it. Thus the constitutional conduct of the Government in this case must not be measured with reference to the habitual practice of submitting all important treaties to the judgment of the Houses before signature or ratification, because in the large majority of cases the Government has little to gain from privacy, and much to gain from casting a large share of its responsibility on Parliament. The conduct of the Government in such a case must rather be judged by reference to the question whether they have abused the prerogative by converting that right of secret diplomacy, which only exists and ought to be cherished on behalf of grave national crises when the last interests of the nation are at stake, into a means, fortunately bappening to be at their disposal, for evading the legitimate scrutiny of Parliament in respect of matters in which the country has the profoundest interest, and for the right conduct of which the House of Commons is responsible to its constituents, and both Houses of Parliament to the country at large and to posterity.
(2.) The importance of checking the exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown in respect of financial affairs is not at present in much danger of being overlooked, though it may be doubted whether on the whole the check is as yet adequately applied. A finan. cial policy is so closely connected with every other part of a general policy that if the latter is hasty, spasmodic, and secret, or if it is secret but deliberately calculated, in either case Parliament must experience a difficulty in obtaining from Ministers a plenary confidence as to the amount of supplies which will be needed tbroughout any particular session. Side by side with a policy of startling surprises in the region of foreign politics, there has grown up the practice of presenting supplementary Budgets almost up to the last day of the session. This practice has indeed been strongly denounced, and deservedly so, because Parliament is thereby forced to make grants under pressure partly of time and partly of necessity, and, in assenting to the scheme of taxation originally proposed, is likely to be led into financial mistakes through having only a part of the whole case before it. Another serious danger proceeding from a reckless use of the Prerogative in the matter of originating a financial scheme for the year is liable to accrue, and does in fact accrue, from a disposition on the part of Ministers to raise money for the year's expenses rather by loan than by taxation. In this way, the pecuniary expense of an adventurous policy is lightly borne or entirely kept out of sight; and, did the practice become common, one of the most salutary checks on the irresponsible action of Ministers in the conduct of foreign affairs would be removed, the blaze of national ascendency glittering in the eyes of the constituents of the dominant majority who support the Government, while the burdens and expenses which attend the winning of this ascendency have to be provided for by some Government of the future, and to be endured by the supporters of that Government in the country.
: Parliamentary Control of the Army. 391.
It is perhaps necessary to notice also that scarcely any Parliamentary check at present exists to prevent such wholesale commercial dealings on the part of the Government as are instanced in the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. It was just one of those cases in which the acquisition presented so many superficial attractions to the vulgar eye that, so soon as Parliamentary criticism was possible, the field was occupied by an unanalysed sense of universal approval. Yet the undoubted value of maintaining and securing the British rights over the use of the Canal could be wholly distinguished from the very questionable method actually pursued for this end. The policy of venturing the credit of the Government and the country in a commercial undertaking subjected to the commercial hazards and political chances incident to the foreign State which has a sovereign right over the whole undertaking and a proprietor's claim over the land and water to which it relates, might well be a matter for anxious Parliamentary discussion rather than for secret and autocratic decision.
(3.) Sufficient has almost been said in referring to the conduct of the British Government in summoning the Indian troops to Malta, in calling out the Reserve Forces, and in obtaining from Parliament a large vote of credit in view of possible military movements, during the progress of the negotiations leading up to the Congress of Berlin in 1878, to make it clear that Parliament has much to do to hold its own against the Ministers of the Crown in the matter of Army and Navy administration. It was at one time held that the management of the Army was the point of contest between the rival departments of the Constitution, Parliament and the Crown. A long-standing compromise has manifested itself in the passing of the Annual Mutiny Act (lately amended and to some extent transformed); and in the cautious enumeration of the number of soldiers to be embodied, and the sparse dealing out of the supplies needed for military operations. But it has already been seen that these defences are getting somewhat insecure, in the presence of the almost recognised right of evolving an army of almost any size from the Indian seedplot, of using reserve forces without communication to Parliament in advance, and of obtaining large votes of credit for prospective military operations of an indefinite character, the nature of which Parliament is allowed only dimly to surmise.
(4.) The rights of the Crown in respect of the foundation and government of Colonial Dependencies are of the oldest and most undisputed kind. So long as these Dependencies were difficult of access, and, through the recognised principles of trade and policy, capable of rather increasing the wealth of the parent State than of drawing upon its resources, there was little to excite the attention of Parliament and to induce encroachments on the Prerogative of the Crown, or even to enjoin a vigilant criticism of the mode of exercising the Prerogative. But the impeachment of Warren Hastings and the War of American Independence together had the result of making henceforth Indian and Colonial affairs a well recognised department of Parliamentary action. The practical adoption of the principles of Free Trade in 1846 by the repeal of the Corn Laws, and of free Navigation in 1849 by the repeal of the Navigation
Control of Colonial Government.
Laws, as well as the great extension of Colonial enterprise and of emigration during the present century, formed a group of causes which, in the aggregate, tended to make the government of the Dependencies of little less moment and difficulty than the government of the British Isles. As the Colonies increased in magnitude and in independence, the British Dominions approached more and more to the character of a great confederation, of which the several members were associated together by very various sorts of links, and with different degrees of tightness and of laxity. The system of political communities making up the British Dominions was henceforth an integral though composite unity, and must needs be governed by a system of policy which never neglected the relations of all the several parts to the whole and to each other. So far, again, from the Colonies being remunerative, they were frequently matters of expense, and, in time of war, might become matters of anxiety. The Indian Mutiny in 1857, the successive famines in India, and the financial embarrassments, have combined to render India a topic of the gravest political concern. The Dependencies in Canada, Australasia, and South Africa have given rise to a wholly unprecedented class of problems in respect of constitutional self-government, federation, and the abstract reciprocal duties of Colonies and their parent States. The question has also been raised of late, in something more than a purely speculative shape, as to what are the precise kind and amount of advantage which the Colony and the parent State severally draw from their connection.
It can, tben, be no matter of surprise that Parliament has of late years specially interfered to restrict