« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
judgments, or who have the modesty and discretion to rely on those authorities who are gifted with a capacity they do not share.
The object of this somewhat detailed investigation is to show that if there are real and natural differences of a strongly marked kind between the mental habits of one class of political thinkers and those of another, these differences cannot be found in a mere opposition of political method, inasmuch as for all political students the only available political method is one and uniform. Nevertheless, very familiar experience teaches that there are to be found, even among the ablest and most conscientious political students, certain obvious diversities, be it of temperament, taste, long-inherited prejudices, or, it may be, mere rate of intellectual action. Whether these diversities are permanent as the nature of man, or national and transitory, it is not now necessary to inquire. Suffice it to notice as a fact, that after all political inquiries have been exhausted, and all the best-accredited methods applied, there is exhibited in the two classes of investigators severally a residuum of feeling, on the one hand in favour of supporting, and perhaps normally developing, that which exists, and on the other hand in favour of passing as rapidly as possible to some new and untried state of society, in which, at the risk of any loss of existing advantages, the mass of current evils may disappear. This distribution of fears and hopes must be taken as a natural foundation of party division in the English Parliament.
3. Again, even if the natural sources of party opposition and strife were absent, and the historical antecedents were different from what they are, there would still be found potent reasons, in the interests of Its Value as a Political Expedient. 71 orderly and consistent government, for devising artificial methods by which all the inevitable differences of opinion characterising the various members of a large representative assembly could be so marshalled and arranged that, for purposes of executive action, some considerable amount of unanimity should be attained. This can be effected (1) by selecting for points of union only those broad principles and distinctly understood measures which, after long discussion in and out of Parliament, every member of the House, as he is elected to it, may be presumed thoroughly to understand, and promptly to support or oppose. Side by side with this method it would be expedient (2) to encourage, with respect to all other questions, not selected as the badge of party union, the utmost freedom of independent action and expression. A vast number of questions including, for instance, the whole of criminal law reform, and the bulk of the measures for the social or moral improvement of particular classes in the communitybelong to this list. A complementary method (3) is, to facilitate in particular cases the process by which a member may be held entitled to consult his independent convictions, or certain obligations of an equally cogent kind, in the place of the immediate interest of the party to which he belongs. As a matter of fact, very little encouragement is shown at present to defections of this sort, and whenever they occur the member who is guilty of them is invariably put to the utmost pains to defend his action, and in the opinion of his own party never does succeed in freeing himself from the imputation of disloyalty, not to say treachery. Nevertheless, if the grounds on which an individual departure from the ranks of party may be justified were clearly
ascertained and publicly announced, it is probable that not only would the institution of party government be rid of much of the moral suspicion with which it is in some quarters regarded, but its true nature and objects would be better appreciated throughout the country; adhesion to his party would be held more consistent with the most scrupulous susceptibility of a man of honour; and, on the whole, in the absence of a slavish terrorism, the obligation of party ties would be more undeviatingly deferred to.
The last fifty years of English political life have been signalised by nothing more conspicuous than the breaches of party ties committed by the most eminent statesmen, in the presence of emergencies in which the forces of each party were strained to the uttermost in opposing the other. As a specimen of the sort of defence which the practice, if not the theory, of the Constitution seems to admit in a case like this, the following words of Sir Robert Peel, in his speech on the Catholic Emancipation Bill, delivered in March, 1829, may be adduced :-'I cannot,' he said, purchase the ' support of my honourable friends, by promising to
adhere at all times, and at all hazards, as minister of • the Crown, to arguments and opinions which I may
have heretofore propounded in this House. I reserve "to myself distinctly and unequivocally the right of (adapting my conduct to the exigency of the moment,
and to the wants of the country. . . . This has been • the conduct of all former statesmen, at all times and in
all countries. My defence is the same with that of all • others under similar circumstances, and I shall con
clude by expressing it in words more beautiful than any which I myself could use-I mean, the words of
Peel on the Limits of Party Loyalty. 73 • Cicero-Hæc didici, hæc vidi, hæc scripta legi, hæc
de sapientissimis et clarissimis viris, et in hac ' republicâ et in aliis civitatibus monumenta nobis ' litterce prodiderunt, non semper easdem sententias ab iisdem sed quascunque reipublicæ status, temporum inclinatio, ratio concordiæ postularent, esse defendendas.'1
The modern effects of government by party in facilitating the construction of an executive Government, and in ascertaining the constitutional relations between the Cabinet and Parliament, will be discussed in a later chapter. The inconvenience of separating the topics by interposing a review of the modern situation of the Crown is an instance of the difficulty or impossibility of keeping in view all the elements of the Constitution at the same moment, and yet of the absolute necessity of doing so.
i Guizot's Memoirs of Sir Robert Peel, p. 40.
SECTION II.-PRIVILEGES AND ORDER OF PROCEEDINGS.
The composition of the two Houses of Parliament, as settled during the present reign, the current idea and actual mechanism of the representative system, and the general modes in which, both in and out of Parliament, the task of government is carried on with a certain degree of consistency and uniformity, have thus been investigated from a purely constitutional point of view. Not less relevant, however, to a true account of the structure of the Constitution is an inquiry into the more detailed processes by which the Houses of Parliament, and especially the House of Commons, have, by the united operation of long custom and recent artificial contrivances, acquired the capacity of securing order in the conduct of business, and of reconciling to the utmost the independence of individual members with the claims of the assembly in its corporate capacity on the one hand, and of the public outside the House on the other. To this subject belongs the consideration of what are called the privileges' of members or of the House, and the standing orders' and resolutions made by the House for the regulation of its proceedings.
The later history of the House of Commons has exhibited a steady progress in the direction of maintaining, not only publicity in its proceedings, but the freest possible avenues for communication with the public outside the House. Prominent among these avenues are the facilities opened out during the last hundred years, and largely developed during the pre