Изображения страниц


The constitutional history of British Dependencies may be compendiously described as that of a gradual transfer of the functions of government from the Crown, in the exercise of a well-recognised prerogative, to Parliament, either as exercising its governmental functions directly, or only as controlling those subordinate Legislatures in the Dependencies which have been created either directly by the Crown, or by competent local authorities, or by Parliament itself. In the case of Dependencies acquired by conquest or by cession in time of peace,—as well as in the anomalous case of British India, which owes its existence as a dependency to both these causes combined, in addition to the special circumstances of the trade settlements effected in accordance with Charters of Incorporation,—the claims of the Crown to institute a local Government, or to supervise the action of existing institutions, wholly apart from any immediate interference of Parliament, have been universally recognised and everywhere illustrated in practice. In the case of Dependencies which owe their existence to voluntary settlement,-or, as in the case of the plantations,' to voluntary settlement supported by Charters of Incorporation,-it would seem that the settlers have a claim either to have their local government expressed and limited by their charter, or else to share in the constitutional advantages of direct parliamentary government, to which, if they had continued at home, they would have retained their right. In the

Parliament and the Dependencies.


case of those small Dependencies,—such as Gibraltar, Malta, Ascension Island, Hong Kong, and perhaps Heligoland,--which seem to be rather occupied for military, naval, or diplomatic purposes than for purposes of strictly colonial extension, the paramount authority of the Crown seems likely to continue for some time unassailed. In the case, however, of all the other classes of Dependencies in the aggregate, the period of history now under consideration will be memorable for an aggression in all directions of the action of the British Parliament. This action is conspicuous in the following forms:

1. The framing of local and representative institutions, or the confederation of previously isolated colonies for the purpose of obtaining more effective local government:

2. The bringing of Dependencies (such as British India and the Hudson's Bay territories) previously subject to some anomalous management due to historical causes, under the direct or indirect control of Parliament:

3. The passing of special Statutes binding on the persons resident in certain Dependencies, or on Government officials in those Dependencies :

4. The passing of Statutes applicable to the British Dominions generally, including all the Dependencies, or certain of them specially named :

5. The control of the Executive Government at home in their dealings with the Governors of Dependencies, and in their policy as to assenting or not assenting to Acts of local Legislatures.

1. The history of direct parliamentary interference with the government of the Colonies dates from what is known as the Quebec Act of 1774, and was the direct consequence of the revolt of the North American Colonies, to the history of which struggle the modern constitutional relation of Parliament to the Dependencies is consequently affiliated. By the Quebec Act, the Canadian settlements on the banks of the St. Lawrence, which had hitherto been under military rule, were placed under the government of the Crown through the medium of a local Council, and a Colonial Secretary at home, then for the first time appointed. The existing French Land-Law and the Roman Catholic Church were permanently established. The statutory test which at that time excluded all Roman Catholics everywhere else in the British Dominions from all public offices was of course dispensed with. A third of the members of the Council were to be French Canadians. The next epoch is that of what is known as Mr. Pitt's Constitution Act of 1791, by which Canada was divided into two parts or provinces, with the Ottawa river for a boundary ; each province having a Governor and an Executive Council appointed by the Crown, and also a Legislative Body consisting of two Houses, one appointed by the Crown and the other by means of popular representation. The political history of the two Canadas, troubled and sinuous as it has been, is chiefly interesting as explaining the connection between the legislation of 1791 and that of the Canadian Confedera

ion Act of 1867, which marks the next important epoch of parliamentary intervention in colonial government. The Confederation Act recites that the Pro• vinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick

30 Vict. cap. 3.

The Canadian Confederation Act.


bave expressed their desire to be federally united into one Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom ;' that such a Union would conduce to the welfare of

the Provinces and promote the interests of the British • Empire ;' that on the establishment of the Union by authority of Parliament, it is expedient not only that the Constitution of the Legislative Authority in the Dominion be provided for, but also that the nature of the Executive Government therein be declared ;' and that it is expedient that provision be made for • the eventual admission into the Union of other parts

of British North America ;' and it goes on to enact that it should be lawful for the Queen in Council to

declare by proclamation that on and after a day there' in appointed, not being more than six months after 'the passing of the Act, the Provinces of Canada, Nova

Scotia, and New Brunswick should form and be one • Dominion under the name of Canada; and on and after that day those three Provinces should form and be one Dominion under that name accordingly. The Act creates an Executive Council, and a Parliament with two Houses, the Senate and the House of Commons, very much on the lines of the Constitution Act of 1791, but with the difference that both Houses of the Legislature were to be representative bodies ; and provides for the extension of the Confederation by a clause which enacts that “it shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with

the advice of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy • Council, on addresses from the Houses of the Parliament

of Canada, and from the Houses of the respective Legisa • latures of the Colonies or Provinces of Newfoundland, • Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia, to admit

those Colonies or Provinces, or any of them, into the *Union, and on address from the Houses of the Parlia ó ment of Canada to admit Rupert's Land and the North• Western Territory, or either of them, into the Union, on

such terms and conditions in each case as are in the ad• dresses expressed and as the Queen thinks fit to approve,

subject to the provisions of this Act; and that the • provisions of any Order in Council in that behalf shall • have effect as if they had been enacted by the Parlia'ment of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and • Ireland.' From the wording of the Act it would appear that the Act itself imposes no limitation whatever on the extent of the legislative power of the Canadian Parliament. The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Senate and by the House of Commons, and by the members there• of respectively, are to be such as are from time to time • defined by Act of the Parliament of Canada, but so • that the same are never to exceed those at the passing

of this Act held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the members there• of.' (Sec. 18.)

The precedents of parliamentary intervention of the sort above described in reference to the Canadian settlements have been followed, with little constitutional variation, in the foundation and amendment of the numerous important Dependencies in Australia and South Africa. The policy of confederation, indeed, has, from a variety of extrinsic causes, not ripened so rapidly in Australia as in South Africa ; but in the case of the South African Colonies Parliament has already provided,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »