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i. That of the division of labour, in respect of popular government, between the people and the House of Commons;
ii. That of what may be called novel mechanical contrivances for simplifying, concentrating, and extending the area of Government;
iii. That of novel relations between the Executive Government and the Houses of Parliament.
i. There is no doubt that a number of social and political circumstances, to which it is needless particularly to allude, have combined to impart to the general public habits of keen attention to politics, and even of acute political discrimination in matters involving a very comprehensive survey of the whole political field,—foreign and colonial as well as domestic,- which is wholly unprecedented in former times. Side by side with this new development, the operation of the Reform Bill of 1832 has been on the whole, as is generally admitted, to introduce into the House of Commons a larger number of members whose sole qualification is their wealth, and to exclude the small class of persons who under the older system were, in spite of all its gross shortcomings in other respects, frequently admitted on the sole ground of their purely political qualifications. The removal of the Paper Duty, and the extraordinary growth and improvement of the newspaper press, as well as the lately invented facilities for locomotion and rapid communication of news, have all conspired to render the public nerves susceptible in the highest degree to the slightest indication of any unexpected political movement in the Houses of Parliament or in the counsels of the Executive Government. The result is, that the aggregate popular force, will, and intelligence, outside the Houses of Parliament, has become,
Powers outside Parliament. 465 as it were, incorporated into a potent political organ, which not only competes with the recognised Legislature, but threatens at times,-even when there is no immediate prospect of an appeal to the Constituencies,--. to overpower and drown its voice. The more normal operation of this popular factor is to give increased weight to the mere fact of debate and discussion in the Houses of Parliament, as compared with the weight due to a preponderance of voting power. It has been noticed of late that, though a debate in either House of Parliament seldom alters a vote,—the vote of every member having been accurately discounted beforehand,—yet the discussion, when happily raised on a true issue, and kept free from intruding personalities or accidental distractions, has such an effect on the public mind that a policy formally approved by the vote of a large majority is often condemned to practical nullity. This nullity is sometimes expressed by a counter vote in the other House of Parliament; and in this way the bifurcation of the Legislature into two Houses rather has the effect of fortifying the popular will than of checking an inconsiderate acquiescence in the claims of an uninformed popular enthusiasm. In a recent paper on Modern Parliaments,' Professor Pearson, of Melbourne, has drawn attention to other consequences of the same general tendency. He has shown that not only,—as above indicated,—is the aggregate popular force outside Parliament being increased at the expense of the Legislature properly so called, but that in democratically constituted communities, to the type of which all progressive communities must approach, some of the most influential
politicians, and the most skilled specialists in different departments of political science, must, by the nature of the case, be outside the walls of Parliament, and yet none the less exercise the strongest direct influence on its counsels and resolutions. The conclusion from these remarks is one which has been already anticipated in the practice of the United States of America. Dr. Joseph P. Thompson, of Berlin,' says, “I have alluded
to the provision for popular education made by the • State Governments, in part by general funds, in part • by yearly taxes levied upon school districts. This the • State does of right and of necessity, since the safety • of political society in a free State binges upon the • intelligence and virtue of its citizens. As a rule, • knowledge favours virtue and order. As Rousseau said, « « To open the schools is to shut the prisons ;" hence • the State must require and provide that every citizen • shall have knowledge of his duties as a member of • civil society. The lesson in fact is, that the defence of the Constitution must be increasingly sought in the spirit and the informed intelligence of the people ; and that no vaunted legal securities or historical facts in the past will be of the slightest service to keep at a distance either despotism or anarchy, if the people as a whole are not awake to the value of what they have, and morally determined, on behalf of themselves and their posterity, to preserve it.
ii. A large portion of the history passed in review in the preceding pages has been concerned with what may be called the artificial mechanism of government. To this head belongs all the manipulation of work con
| Lectures on the Centennial of American Independence, Boston, 1877.
ducted by Parliamentary committees; the peculiar arraugements for reconciling local government with central control,—especially as affecting the municipalities of the country; the government of dependencies ; and the supervision of large State departments, such as those of the Civil Service, the Post Office, the Revenue, the Police, and the Army and Navy, It has been seen that, whereas deep constitutional principles are really involved in each one of the appropriate arrangements which have been resorted to, yet, besides the issues which are political or ethical in their character, the mere practical contrivances which have been necessitated have called for no small amount of organising skill. There is indeed a danger, such as has been experienced in France, and to some extent in Germany, that the very elaborateness of the mechanism may become itself an avenue for encroachment on the principles of the Constitution. Every great public department,- by its special knowledge, by the mutual and reciprocal confidence which pervades its members, by tried habits of co-operation and even mutual courtesy, --becomes a centre of force and influence which may rival all the more desultory forces of public opinion, and even the casually recollected maxims of public policy and morality, which may be ranged against it hy way of check, if not of resistance. Even municipalities and charitable institutions have innate powers of action in a way counter to the public interest as largely understood, which no central control can effectually keep pace with. It is sufficient here to point out the general character of these dangers. The last fifty years have been rather occupied with inventing the complicated mechanism which has been called for, than with providing against its contingent dangers. It may be that the next generation will be concerned with discovering in the essential principles of the English Constitution the appropriate checks and remedies against either an imperious officialism or an unscrupulous and selfish abuse of local trusts.
iii. It is scarcely worth while saying more than has been already intimated of the advance which recent times have witnessed in the strengthening and organisation of the Executive Government. Some of the dangers concealed in this development have made themselves specially apparent of very late years; and it has therefore been thought worth while to give in almost redundant detail an account of the movements of Lord Beaconsfield's Government which have recently excited the solicitude of those who have most admired and best understood the established principles of the English Constitution. The doctrine has been almost openly advocated that the Ministry of the day, with a large Parliamentary majority, are, for all purposes for which they can succeed in obtaining the ex post facto ratification of their supporters, omnipotent. The doctrine of the 'omnipotence of Parliament' has always been held to imply constitutional suicide ; and surely a like implication is conveyed by the notion of the omnipotence of the Cabinet. It would rather seem that the very purpose of a Constitution was to impose limits and barriers to the accidental excesses both of Parliaments and Governments.
The study of a modern Constitution according to the historical method here pursued suffers in interest