Изображения страниц


On the foundation of University College, London, my Father, the first Professor of English Law, had a class of law students the formation of which, on many grounds, constitutes one of the most memorable incidents in the history of the College. The class numbered from one hundred to two hundred students, and included the most promising among the aspirants in both branches of the legal profession, and many whose later career in the political world, as well as at the Bar and on the Bench, has fully confirmed their early promise. The experiment of giving Law Lectures to a promiscuous class of students not necessarily intending to pursue a professional life was unprecedented ; and I have no hesitation in recalling the fact, that my Father's qualifications and success were almost equally unprecedented in the history of public teaching in this country. The Lectures were delivered continuously from the session of 1828–1829 to that of 1835-1836. Among the Lectures was a course on the English Constitution and Constitutional Law. These Lectures, which were published at the time, but have not yet been republished, brought the record of the Constitution, as it mirrored itself to my Father, whose incomparable eminence as a constitutional lawyer has never been disputed,—down to the period just preceding that of the present reign. I have been happy enough to feel that I could comply with the suggestions of a filial loyalty, while discharging a useful public duty, in continuing the record of the movements of the Constitution down to the present day.

In the body of this work I have shown that the apparently fragmentary or partial character of my method of selecting a period is inherent in what I believe to be the only sound mode of treating of the Constitution at all. My Father's Lectures were delivered at the moment when the structure of Blackstone was still quivering under the assaults of Bentham. Later experience has shown that neither Blackstone, nor Bentham, nor even Austin and Mill, could, by any of their compact theories or legally circumscribed logic, compass the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of the Constitution they criticised or

[blocks in formation]

affected to describe. The experience of the last fifty years has shown, perhaps more than that of any other period since Henry III. and Edward I., that the Constitution is no stiff and formal mechanism, but a natural and necessary product of all the latent forces of the national life and character. In no period has political action been more restless and energetic, and legislation progressed more rapidly and courageously. Nevertheless, the great and deeply-graven lineaments which mark out the English Constitution from every other are as distinct as they were at the accession of William IV. If they have altered or widened, they have done so only by keeping pace with the steady and widening impulses of the advancing national temperament, in obedience to the call of a civilisation which may properly be termed new.

It is thus no longer to lawyers and law-books alone that reference must be had for ascertaining what is the mode of government under which the English people live. Far rather is it to the utterances of statesmen, to critical acts of public policy, to the conduct of Parliamentary majorities, and to the assumptions of the Executive Government. The review is thus becoming far more political than legal, and still more ethical than either. Thus this treatise

is dedicated as much to establishing a new method, as to bringing to light a train of special facts to which the method is applied.


9 King's BENCH WALK,


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »