« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
'Dec. 27, 1845.
'Since the theory of the Constitution haa been
• brought more into harmony with the spirit and the 'wants of the age, its practical working has retrograded 'just as much as its theory has advanced. Whigs and 'Tories saw that from the moment the democratic 'element became so powerful there was only one thing 'which could keep this element within safe hounds, and 'prevent it from swallowing up first the aristocracy, 'and then itself. This one thing was the upholding 'and strengthening of the autonomy of the Monarchi'cal element, which the fundamental idea of the Eng'lish Constitution had from the first conceded to Royalty, 'and indeed concedes in theory up to the present hour. 'But, unfortunately, Peel has done nothing towards 'this upholding and strengthening; the most that can 'be said of him is, that he has not helped to make 'Royalty weaker than it was when handed over to him
• by Melbourne. In reference to the Crown the secret 'is simply this. Since 1830 the executive power has 'been entirely in the bands of the Ministry, and these 'being more the servants of Parliament—particularly 'of the House of Commons—than of the Crown, it is 'practically in the hands of that House. This is a 'distortion of the fundamental idea of the English 'Constitution, which could not fail to grow by degrees 'out of the incapacity of her Sovereigns rightly to 'understand and to deal with their position, and out of 'the encroachments on their privileges by the House 'of Commons. This perversion of the fundamental 'idea of the English Constitution is fraught with this 'great mischief for the State, that the head of the 'Ministry for a time can only be the head of a party, and Stockmar on the Crown and the Cabinet. 321
'consequently must only too often succumb to the 'temptation of advancing the imagined interests of his 'party to the prejudice of the public 'weal. To coun'teract on the part of the Crown this injurious tendency 'must at the present moment be a difficult task, inas'much as Ministers and Parliament will construe the 'legal powers of the Crown in accordance, not with 'the original spirit of the Constitution, but with the 'practice which has prevailed since 1830. Still, the 'right of the Crown to assert itself as permanent bead of 'the Council over the temporary leader of the Ministry, 'and to act as such, is not likely to be gainsaid even by 'those who regard it through the spectacles of party.'1
'Jan. 22, 1854.
'Even in England all that is generally known is 'the position of the Throne towards the Legislature. 'Its position in Government proper,—in the Cabinet 'towards the responsible Ministers, has (especially since '1830) fallen more and more into an obscurity, whieh 'leads to misconceptions, and from them to absurd 'mischievous assertions, which are incompatible with 'the subsistence of Constitutional Monarchy. As the 'rights of the Crown in England are assured more by 'the traditions of ancestry and usage than by written 'laws, their continuance in their integrity is continu'ally menaced, and Constitutional Monarchy has since '1830 been constantly in danger of becoming a pure 'Ministerial Government. In theory one of the first 'duties of Ministers is to protect and preserve intact 'the traditional usages of Royal prerogative. . . .
1 Life of the Prince Consort, vol. i. p. 314.
'Our Whigs, again, are nothing but partly conscious, 'partly unconscious Republicans, who stand in the same 'relation to the Throne as the wolf does to the lamb. 'And these Whigs must have a natural inclination to 'push to extremity the constitutional fiction—which,
* although undoubtedly of old standing, is fraught with 'danger—that it is unconstitutional to introduce and 'make use of the name and person of the irresponsible 'Sovereign in the public debates on matters bearing 'on the Constitution. But if the English Crown permit 'a Whig Ministry to follow this rule in practice, without 'exception, you must not wonder if in a little time 'you find the majority of the people impressed with 'the belief, that the King, in the view of the law, is 'nothing but a mandarin figure, which has to nod its 'head in assent, or shake it in denial, as his Minister 'pleases. Now, in our time, since Reform, the extinc'tion of the genuine Tories, and the growth of those
* politicians of the Aberdeen school, who treat the ex'isting Constitution merely as a bridge to a Republic, 'it is of extreme importance, that this fiction should 'be countenanced only provisionally, and that no oppor'tunity should be let slip of vindicating the legitimate 'position of the Crown. And this is not hard to do, 'and can never embarrass a Minister, where such 'straightforward loyal personages as the Queen and the 'Prince are concerned. For the most jealous and dis'trustful Liberalism, in any discussion about the definite 'interpretation of the law of Royal prerogative, must 'be satisfied, if this be placed no higher than a right 'on the part of the King to be the permanent Pre'sident of his Ministerial Council. . . . Ministerial
responsibility in these days, for such Ministers as are Royal Control of Ministerial Policy. 323
* incapable, and at any rate for such as are unscrupulous,
* is a mere bugbear. The responsible Minister may do 'the most stupid and mischievous things. If they are 'not found out, he may even continue to be popular; 'if they do come to light, it only costs him his place.
* He resigns or is removed,—that is all,—the whole
* punishment, the whole restitution made for the mis'chief done to the common weal. But who could have 'averted, whose duty was it to avert, the danger, either 'wholly or in part? Assuredly he, and he alone, who, 'being free from party passion, has listened to the voice 'of an independent judgment. To exercise this judg'ment is, both in a moral and constitutional point of 'view, a matter of right, nay, a positive duty./ The 'Sovereign may even take a part in the initiation and 'the maturing of the Government measures; for it 'would be unreasonable to expect that a King, himself 'as able, as accomplished, as patriotic as the best of 'his Ministers, should be prevented from making use 'of these qualities at the deliberations of his Council. 'In practice, of course, the use so made will be as 'various as the gifts and personal character of the 'occupants of the throne are various; and these are
* decided not merely by the different degrees of capa'bility, but also by their varieties of temperament and 'disposition. Although the right has, since the time 'of William III., been frequently perverted and exer'cised in the most pernicious way, since 1830, on the
* other hand, it has scarcely been exercised at all, which
* is fundamentally less injurious to the State than in the 'other case. At the same time it is obvious, that its 'judicious exercise, which certainly requires a master 'mind, would not only be the best guarantee for Con'stitutional Monarchy, but would raise it to a height 'of power, stability, and symmetry, which has never 'been attained. At the same time, in the face of the 'exercise of this merely moral right of the Crown, the 'responsible Ministers may, so far as the substantial 'import, the excellence, and fitness of their measures 'are concerned, act with entire freedom and indepen'dence. The relation between Sovereign and Ministers 'becomes quite different, whenever the former has to 'decide as to the carrying out of a measure which he 'has already sanctioned; for then he is primarily 'charged with a constitutional control of the honesty 'and loyalty of his Ministers, which is exercised most 'safely for the rest of them through the Premier. 'Thus, then, do I vindicate for the Sovereign the 'position of a permanent Premier, who takes rank 'above the temporary head of the Cabinet, and in 'matters of discipline exercises supreme authority; and 'in this way I bring into harmony with the Constitu'tion a well-known saying of Palmerston's in his reply 'to Lord John in the debate on his dismissal, " I con'"cede to the Minister not only the power to dismiss '"every member of the Cabinet, but also the right '"to dismiss them without any explanation of his '" reasons."'1
It would be a superfluous task to criticise word for word the language of these letters, or to compare closely the doctrine enunciated in them with the theory of the English Constitution as presented by all the best known and most authoritative expounders of it. The whole question between Baron Stockmar's views and the views
1 Life of the Prince Contort, vol. ii. pp. 645-550.