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Lord Lorne and the Dominion Parliament. 419
to a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and, by a Resolution of the House, the seat was declared to be vacated. The general importance of the case is mainly due to the character with which the decision seems to vest the Governor of a constitutionally governed Colony.
A still more perplexing case engaged the attention of the Colonial Secretary about the same time in Canada. The Lieutenant - Governor of Quebec, Mr. Letellier de St. Just, had dismissed his Ministers on the ground of an absence of cordial relations between himself and them, although they had a large majority in a small House. Thereupon the Government in the Dominion Parliament, led by Sir John Macdonald, advised the Governor-General, the Marquis of Lorne, to dismiss from his office the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, in pursuance of a vote of censure carried by a large majority in the Dominion Parliament. It had happened, indeed, that the general election for Quebec had made it appear that the verdict of the people was in favour of the Lieutenant-Governor's action. As a matter of law, it was clearly open to Lord Lorne to dismiss the Lieutenant-Governor in accordance with the advice of his Ministers. But this he refused to do without first consulting the Home authorities. This course has been severely denounced in the Colony, or at least in some parts of the Colony. It is alleged to be an infringement of the constitutional rights of the Dominion, and an opinion is said to prevail, though to be by no means universal, that the British Government had no more right to touch the question than to revise the Canadian tariff.
The proper sensitiveness of constitutionally-governed Colonies with respect to the functions of the Governor is further illustrated by a question simultaneously raised in Natal in respect of an apprebended intrusion upon that Colony of the authority of the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. In a Memorial addressed to the Queen, the colonists expressed themselves as follows!:
• The pride which the colonists of Natal feel in their 'independence-an independence which, we most confi
dently affirm, has been nobly used and never abused'is one of the interests to be reconciled in discussing
the possibility of union with the other States and • Colonies of South Africa, and it was no doubt in re
cognition of this fact that promises have been repeat• edly made, both by your Majesty's Secretary of State 6 and your Majesty's High Commissioner, that no steps should be taken towards confederation except with the
full consent of the Legislature of this colony, delibera• ting under the shelter of your Majesty's gracious
charter of political rights. It is, therefore, with sur• prise, regret, and apprehension, that we notice that,
in accordance with the terms of a despatch addressed o to the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal by your Majesty's • Secretary of State for the Colonies, and dated the 21st
September last, all questions, except those affecting the mere internal affairs of this colony, are to be • referred, not, as heretofore, to your Majesty's Secretary
of State, but to the Governor of the Cape of Good • Hope. We are anxious beyond all things to put the • best construction on the acts of your Majesty's Go"vernment, which has shown so much interest in South • African affairs. We cannot, however, when we com
See Daily News, May 7, 1879.
Memorial of the Colonists of Natal. 421
• pare this despatch with a despatch of similar tenor
and of the same date addressed to the administrator of • your Majesty's Government in the Transvaal, entertain 6 any doubt that by these directions it is intended to • bring about a Confederation of the South African • States already under the British flag, without consult"ing the independent Legislature of this colony. The • instructions in the despatches referred to virtually
constitute the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope Governor-General of South Africa, and as yet no law • has been passed by the Legislature of this colony
recognising the existence of any such authority, nor • has the charter so graciously granted to us by your * Majesty been either altered or revoked. We most
respectfully yet firmly protest against this course as • being not only a violation of the spirit and intention of your Majesty's gracious charter, and of promises
repeatedly made to us in your Majesty's name, but as • also being a measure calculated to defeat the very end • it has in view, and to create irritation and disunion
where, as we must presume, the object aimed at is 6 unity and tranquillity. And while we thus speak for • ourselves we must express our grave fears as to the effect which the publication of these despatches will
exercise upon the Dutch population in the Transvaal. • We therefore most respectfully and earnestly beg that • this decision on the part of your Majesty's Government
may be reconsidered, and your Majesty's loyal subjects • allowed the full benefit of the provision of your Ma• jesty's most gracious charter.'
THERE is no expression which is more familiar in the popular mouth, when adverting to the characteristics of the English Constitution, than that of the liberty of the subject. In fact, to a large class of persons who have little taste for the somewhat technical arrangements which determine the relations to each other of the Crown and the Houses of Parliament, the expression • liberty of the subject' carries with it most of what they understand by and value in the Constitution under which they live. It is less to the establishment of the supremacy of Parliament at the Revolution, or to the slow ascending steps by which in the reigns of the Edwards the House of Commons climbed to its ascendency in the State, than to recollections,—confused indeed, and generally most erroneous,—of certain clauses in Magna Charta, of the general bearing of the Habeas Corpus Act, and of portions of the Bill of Rights and of the Act of Settlement, to which the popular imagination turns, when vindicating the incomparable claims of the English Constitution. If any one would turn to the written Constitutions of every one of the American States, he would find the doctrines appertaining to the liberty of the subject, as they are scattered up and down such potable monuments as those above alluded to, clearly codified, and forming a subLiberty of the Subject.
stantial, if not a preponderant, portion of the rights guaranteed by the State to all its citizens.
The public instinct is not mistaken in thus discerning what is that mark of the English Constitution which most decisively separates it from all known Constitutions other than those to which itself has given birth. It is not necessary to recur to the obsolete and often misinterpreted language of documents now rather of an antiquarian than of a practical interest. The liberty of the subject, when properly understood, is an independent principle in the Constitution, and lies far deeper than any temporary expression of it, however determined and magniloquent. There is a limit pot only to the rights of the Executive, but even to the rights of the Legislature itself, when the exercise of either class of rights threatens to encroach on the independence guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen. Where these limits are placed, and how far they may be shifted, or have been shifted, without losing the distinctness of their character, are questions arduous indeed, but not more arduous than multitudes of other questions which are instantly originated when it is sought, in constitutional matters, to substitute a mathematical exactness for moral certainty.
· Not, indeed, that the Liberty of the Subject is simply an indefinite claim to resist legislative or executive encroachments; since the Courts of Law, in their interpretation of Statutes and their announcement of the principles of the Common Law, have, as respects the Executive at least, seldom had much hesitation in determining how far it can trespass on individual freedoin. In the case of the Legislature, the limits are incapable of being fixed by any legal standard ; and it