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affairs, enormous opportunities of independent action, under the cloak of exercising one or other of the prerogatives of the Crown. When it is said that a sufficient constitutional check is provided against abuse by the responsibility of Ministers to Parliament, it must be borne in mind that Ministers are for the moment only responsible to the Parliament as it is composed at the time, and that, as was said above, a servile majority might succeed in giving substantial reality to practices and doctrines condemned by the undoubted genius and traditions of the Constitution. The remedial action available in such a case is threefold. In the first place, there is the hopeful possibility that the next Parliament will abandon the wayward courses, unpatriotic subserviency, or flickering indifference of purpose, which gave a temporary lustre to what were in truth the miasmatic products of decay and not the natural signs of healthy life. In the second place, there is the persistent appeal, within the Houses themselves, on the part of the minority, however small, to the bestestablished constitutional principles, even in moments when those principles are being most signally set at nought. It is much, that at least the truth should be heard; and it is the usual result of uttering truth that it is re-echoed again and again in unexpected quarters, finding a response among, it may be, only a few here or a few there, but nevertheless by its inherent value and by its consistency finally supplanting everywhere the weakness, the selfishness, and the essential worthlessness of error. Even a generation is not too long a time to hope and wait for the resurrection of great constitutional truths, buried for a time beneath the load of political selfishness or apathy. But principles
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cannot rise again unless they are really sown, although it be in weakness. It is, then, the paramount duty of every statesman and every party, however insignificant, who suspect the minutest infringement of the Constitution by the Government, and who see that infringement in the way to be erected into a principle by the acclamations of an intolerant and tyrannical majority, to cry aloud in the streets, and in distinct tones to alarm the country. The country may not listen to the alarm then and there, but it must listen, hear, and obey sooner or later, if it is to live. In the third place, there is the process of formulating with ever-increasing precision the exact duties which the Government owes to the House in respect of making it acquainted, at the earliest possible moment, with all executive measures to which the Royal prerogative properly extends, and affording it the fullest opportunity of acting freely, deliberately, and decisively in all those matters for which the concert of the House with the Crown, at some stage or other of the proceedings, will be imperatively required. The leading topics on which such punctilious precision seems, by recent experience, to be most urgently demanded are, (1), Foreign Affairs; (2), Financial Affairs ; (3), the management of the Army and Navy; and (4), Colonial administration.
(1.) Foreign Affairs. There are several causes which have concurred to bring about the fact that it is only within a very few years that the House of Commons has roused itself from the apathy in respect of foreign affairs into which it had sunk since the conclusion of the wars with the French Empire in 1815. For the first fifteen years or so after the date of the Treaty of Vienna, a pause, partly of exhaustion, and partly of natural repose from labours accomplished, ensued, and all foreign policy was gathered up in the general desire of the leading European States to sustain the complicated and fragile settlement brought about by the Treaty, in the stability of which so many States, great and small, had a direct and private concern. From about the year 1829 to 1846, English attention was distracted and absorbed by the unprecedentedly active legislation in which, under such leaders as Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, the country was engaged. To this period belong the Emancipation of the Roman Cathob'cs, the Reform of Parliament, the re-adjustment of publio Corporations and Endowments, the establishment of Railways, the Bank Charter Act, and the culmination of the successful struggle for the abolition of protective duties on corn. Between 1846 and 1848, the invasion of the newly-constituted Republic of Cracow by Russia, and the apprehensions of an increase of French influence in Spain by the possible marriage of a French Prince to the Queen,1 were events which seemed to arouse the House of Commons, and, through the discussion of them, to prepare the way for a new era of foreign policy, which dates from the European revolutions in 1848. It became now quite impossible for England, or for the House of Commons, to be indifferent to what was going on abroad, or to forbear from adopting some distinct line of policy. A number of circumstances,—among which the peculiar temperament of Lord Palmerston at
1 An interesting account of the Spanish marriage question from the point of view of M. Guizot, who was personally concerned in the negotiations, together with a defence of his conduct and the French policy, will be found in the sixteenth chapter of his Memoir* of Sir Robert Peel.
this period, and the enormous development of trade consequent on the abolition of protection of corn are prominent,—combined to give currency to a doctrine which was hitherto unknown in English political phraseology,—that of non-intervention. The doctrine, indeed, did not suffice to prevent the Crimean War in 1853; but at the close of that war the doctrine, reinforced rather than otherwise by the vicissitudes of the war and by its uncertain results, assumed fresh sway, and in fact had a dominant effect on English politics during the whole period of nearly twenty years which covered events of the utmost magnitude and lasting importance on the Continent of Europe and in the United States. From 1856 to the accession of Mr. Disraeli's Ministry in 1874, it is not saying too much to assert that the one desire of England and the House of Commons was to vindicate its neutrality. At the time, indeed, of the war for the liberation and unification of Italy in 1859, there was many an Englishman whose heart burned within him because his country seemed only to look on and pass by on the other side. In the Sleswig-Holstein war of 1864 there were those, in and out of the House of Commons, who charged the country and the Government with culpable laxity in the observance of treaties for not coming to the active aid of Denmark. During the Franco-German war of 18701871 there were influential and articulate-speaking parties in favour of coming to the help either of Germany, from a supposed spirit of hereditary alliance, or of France, because of the alleged destiny of England to be the champion of the weak, if not because of obligations to her most recent allies. It was, however, during the civil strife in the United States that the doctrine of English neutrality was most severely tried;— during the earlier part of the struggle the general right of revolution, anywhere and by anyone, seeming to claim recognition at the hands of England, and in the latter part of the struggle the prospect of emancipating four millions of slaves seeming to command English sympathy irresistibly in favour of the Federal armies.
It is a remarkable fact, however, that, in spite of all these occasional sympathies and antipathies, there was hardly, at any moment, a thought of England's doing more than keeping free from entanglements with the wars and tumults of other States. This is usually attributed to the influence of Lord Palmerston, and sometimes also to an ignoble and unpatriotic spirit of indifference, supposed to belong to a rather fictitious assemblage of persons ignominiously styled either 'the Peace-at-any-Price Party,' or 'the Manchester School.' Whatever were the real cause, there is no doubt that down to the time at which the great legislative efforts for the disestablishment of the English Church in Ireland, the provisional settlement of the Land Question in that country, and the institution of a system of national education in England, were finally completed, and Mr. Gladstone retired from office at the commencement of 1874, only the coldest and most superficial interest in foreign affairs could ever be excited in the House of Commons. In 1857, indeed, the iniquitous war with China arising out of the ' Arrow' controversy, and in the same year the resentment of the country against the proposal to amend the Law of Conspiracy for the purpose, presumedly, of better protecting the Emperor of the French, stirred the House of Commons from its lethargy, and for the moment made foreign