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Dependence of Parliament on the Crown. 355
is a sufficient amount of formal truth in this statement to justify, or at any rate to excuse, its use in a rhetorical address; but, except for the purposes of such an address, or for the ornamentation of a work of political fiction, Lord Beaconsfield himself would hardly consider this passage an adequate or accurate description of the mutual dependence on each other of Parliament and the Crown. It may be true that the time (within certain legal limits), and even the place of meeting of Parliament, depend on the will of the Crown as represented by its responsible advisers, and as legally signified by technical writs and warrants. In no other sense is it true that Parliament exists by the prerogative of the Crown; and the testimony of history rather is, that the English Constitution has attained its most characteristic development in rendering every act of the Royal prerogative dependent for its validity on the acquiescence of Parliament. In fact, the Crown and Parliament can only be looked upon as two entirely independent factors in the Constitution. But they are so intimately connected in such countless ways that it is only too easy for a debater, in the hurry or frenzy of argument, to speak of the one as existing by the will of the other. Lord Beaconsfield himself, when, as Mr. Disraeli, he succeeded Lord Derby in the leadership of the Conservative Government in 1868, and his party proved to be in a minority in the House of Commons on the question of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church, and when he was understood to have intimated,1
1 The true interpretation of what had passed between Mr. Disraeli and Her Majesty must be left to the reader of Mr. Disraeli's original statement in the House, his subsequent explanations, aDd the debate thereupon as they are given in Haruard. The original much to the surprise of the House, that he had left to the Queen personally the question as to whether he should dissolve the House or not, had an opportunity of illustrating one theory at least of the place the Sovereign might be conceived to hold in reference to the House of Commons. The following language, used in the course of his speech in the House of Commons by
statement of Mr. Disraeli is reported by Hansard as follows:—' I 'told Her Majesty that under the circumstances the advice which 'Her Majesty's Ministers would, in the full spirit of the Constit-u'tion, offer to Her Majesty, would be that Her Majesty should dis'solve this Parliament, and take the opinion of the country as to the 'conduct of her Ministers and the question ef the Irish Church. 'But at the same time, with the full concurrence of my colleagues, 'I represented to Her Majesty that there were important occasions 'on which it was wise that the Sovereign should not be embar'rassed by personal claims, however constitutional, valid, or meri'torious, and that if Her Majesty were of opinion that the question 'at issue could be more satisfactorily settled, or the just interests 'of the country more studied, by the immediate retirement of the 'present Government from office, we were prepared to quit Her 'Majesty's service immediately. ... In fact, sir, I tendered my 'resignation to the Queen. Her Majesty commanded me to attend 'her in audience on the next day, when Her Majesty was pleased to 'express her pleasure not to accept the resignation of her Ministry, 'and her readiness to dissolve this Parliament as soon as the state 'of public business would permit. Under these circumstances, I 'advised Her Majesty that although the present constituency was 'no doubt as morally competent to decide upon the question of the 'disestablishment of the Church as the representatives of the con'stituency in this House, still it was the opinion of Her Majesty's 'Ministers that every eifort should be made with a view that the 'appeal, if possible, should be directed to the new constituency 'which the wisdom of Parliament created last year; and I expressed 'to Her Majesty that, if we had the cordial co-operation of Parlia'ment, I was advised by those who are experienced and skilful in 'these matters that it would be possible to make arrangements by 'which the dissolution would take place in the autumn of this year.' (Ifoniard, vol. exci. 1693. May 4, 1868.)
Contests between Parliament and Crown. 357
Mr. Bouverie, who has usually been regarded as one of those members of the House of Commons who were best acquainted with its rights and with the rights of Parliament, places in a true light the consequences of interposing the authority or choice of the Sovereign between the Government and the House. • The policy of 'these counsels appears to be to try to set the two Houses 'at loggerheads with one another, and to put the House 'of Commons at variance with the Crown. In ancient 'times we had perpetual quarrels and differences with
* the Crown, and for more than one hundred years these 'quarrels continued. They were of a most portentous 'character, for there were two rebellions, three revolu'tions, and one change of dynasty before we got the sys'tern of government in the right groove, and established 'that mode of government which brought the Crown into 'constant harmony with the House of Commons. That 'mode of government was that the House of Commons 'gave its support to the Government, and the Govern'ment represented the Crown. But if the views now 'put forward by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Dis
* raeli) were to be carried out, no long time would 'elapse before there was a renewal of those differences 'between the Crown and the House of Commons which 'all who take an interest in good government must 'have hoped had ceased for ever.'1
There are two other modes, besides those of dissolution and prorogation, in which the Government have availed themselves of their position to bring pressure to bear on recalcitrant Houses; but both these methods may be treated as if they were obsolete, though it would be impossible to allege that they could never be revived. 1 Barnard, vol. cxoi. May 4, 1868.
It is not so very long ago that it was the custom for the first trial of strength between opposed parties on the reassembling of Parliament after a dissolution to take place in respect to the election to the Speakership. The eager controversy to which such elections could give rise when treated from a party point of view is well illustrated in a passage of the Memoirs of Lord Melbourne, which relates the circumstances of the candidature of Mr. Spring Rice for the office of Speaker.1 The vastly superior practice would now seem to have taken firm root of treating the Speakership as no longer a political office;—a change which was illustrated by the retention in office, or rather the fresh proposal for office, of Mr. Brand, previously the 'whip' of the Liberal party, who, haviDg been first appointed by a Liberal Government, was reinstated in office by the Conservative Government on its accession to power in 1874. The other right, of creating fresh Peers, has already been alluded to, in the chapter on Parliament, and is not likely to be recurred to again, except on the occurrence of a crisis which cannot now be anticipated.
When it is remembered that these apparently extensive rights on the part of the Government, of dissolving one House and largely affecting the composition of the other, are at last subject to the judgment and control of the House of Commons, either as existing, or as newly elected, it is found that the reciprocal dependence of the Houses and of the Government is as complete as it can well be made; and that if a Ministry goes politically astray, or attempts the slightest
1 See MoCullagh Torrens' Life of Lord Melbourne, vol. ii. chap. 3. Surrender of Parliamentary Control. 359
violence to the Constitution, it can only be with the deliberate assent, express or implied, of the House of Commons.
2. The checks on the Government supplied by the mere fact of general responsibility to Parliament, and by the relations of confidence and courtesy which it has been seen now of necessity prevail as between the Government and the two Houses, especially the House of Commons, may not prove wholly adequate to prevent an extreme or unauthorised use of the Royal prerogative, or a gradual practice of trespassing on the claims of Parliament as asserted against the Royal prerogative, in case it happens that the Ministry are supported by a strong, united, and faithful majority in the House, and this majority happens, from some accidental reasons, or perhaps from mere temporary apathy, to prefer to show allegiance to the Government instead of conforming to the constitutional requirements of the House in the aggregate and of the country at large. Where a Government is thus supported, there is no legal limit, and it is difficult to find a moral or political limit, to the lengths they may go in asserting the most extreme, far-fetched, and even obsolete claims of the Royal prerogative; and it is always open to them and their legal adherents in both Houses to affix what interpretation they please on all doubtful points of law or practice. It is well known that the English Constitution, by its theory as legally expressed, confers almost exorbitant rights of initiative at least, and in large branches of business of direct executive action, on the Crown, as represented by its responsible Ministers. The following passage from the introduction prefixed to the edition of 1878 of Mr. Walter Bagehot's work on the English