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Mechanism of Government. 467

ducted by Parliamentary committees; the peculiar arrangements for reconciling local government with central control,—especially as affecting the municipalities of the country; the government of dependencies; and the supervision of large State departments, such as those of the Civil Service, the Post Office, the Revenue, the Police, and the Army and Navy. It has been seen that, whereas deep constitutional principles are really involved in each one of the appropriate arrangements which have been resorted to, yet, besides the issues which are political or ethical in their character, the mere practical contrivances which have been necessitated have called for no small amount of organising skill. There is indeed a danger, such as has been experienced in France, and to some extent in Germany, that the very elaborateness of the mechanism may become itself an avenue for encroachment on the principles of the Constitution. Every great public department,—by its special knowledge, by the mutual and reciprocal confidence which pervades its members, by tried habits of co-operation and even mutual courtesy, - -becomes a centre of force and influence which may rival all the more desultory forces of public opinion, and even the casually recollected maxims of public policy and morality, which may be ranged against it by way of check, if not of resistance. Even municipalities and charitable institutions have innate powers of action in a way counter to the public interest as largely understood, which no central control can effectually keep pace with. It is sufficient here to point out the general character of these dangers. The last fifty years have been rather occupied with inventing the complicated mechanism which has been called for, than with providing against its contingent dangers. It may be that the next generation will be concerned with discovering in the essential principles of the English Constitution the appropriate checks and remedies against either an imperious officialism or an unscrupulous and selfish abuse of local trusts.

iii. It is scarcely worth while saying more than has been already intimated of the advance which recent times have witnessed in the strengthening and organisation of the Executive Government. Some of the dangers concealed in this development have made themselves specially apparent of very late years; and it has therefore been thought worth while to give in almost redundant detail an account of the movements of Lord Beaconsfield's Government which have recently excited the solicitude of those who have most admired and best understood the established principles of the English Constitution. The doctrine has been almost openly advocated that the Ministry of the day, with a large Parliamentary majority, are, for all purposes for which they can succeed in obtaining the ex post facto ratification of their supporters, omnipotent. The doctrine of the 'omnipotence of Parliament' has always been held to imply constitutional suicide; and surely a like implication is conveyed by the notion of the omnipotence of the Cabinet. It would rather seem that the very purpose of a Constitution was to impose limits and barriers to the accidental excesses both of Parliaments and Governments.

The study of a modern Constitution according to the historical method here pursued suffers in interest Modern Constitutional Conditions, 469

from a want of the element of antiquity, which lends much of its charm to what is usually known as historical research, and of the dramatic element, which rouses zeal and curiosity in the observer of the incidents of mere political change. Constitutional life is longer than political life, but shorter than historical life. There are many readers who can stand the strain of a lengthened antiquarian investigation, and there are many who can eagerly devour the recent anecdotes of political vicissitude. But it is only a limited class of students who can find mental sustenance and moral stimulus in tracking out the slow, patient, oscillating story of constitutional change. The story is perhaps rather less than more attractive when it is the story of modern life, and therefore implicated in the often repulsive annals of party discord, and in the biographies of persons only too familiarly known in their private capacities. Nevertheless, this detailed and modern history of the Government in relation to the people and the people in relation to the Government, when deeply studied and accurately scrutinised, presents the truest of all aspects of the national life and character. It is not in the individual life, or even in the family or social life, that the last and most precious products of character are elicited or can be exhibited. Nor, again, is it either in the mere sufferance of political wrong, or the noble reaction against such wrong, that the whole temperament and real proclivities of a people can be manifested. The people can be best studied in their attitude towards what may be called the chronic and necessary conditions of national existence. These conditions,—which are, in fact, the essential or juridical elements of the Constitution,—are not in themselves

of a kind to attract attention by their singularity, their majesty, or their scenic portentousness. They are, indeed, often commonplace in their nature; and, as civilisation improves, they tend to identity in all nations. But the conduct of the people in view of constitutional requirements, or anticipated constitutional change, may present the utmost diversity from country to country, and from age to age. It is here that supreme and unselfish conscientiousness, in the absence of all mere excitement, is truly tested. It is here that the value placed by a people on liberty, and on the opportunity of a free moral life for all, is put to the proof. It is here, and here alone, that a people can show whether they know what is the worth of that which they have inherited, what are its shortcomings, what is the cost of handing on to their successors the good things they have, and whether they are willing to endure the silent but stern sacrifices which may be required to defray it.

INDEX.

A

Aberdeen, Lord, opinion of, on
the Prince Consort's title, 241

— suggestions of the Prince Con-
sort to, as Prime Minister, du-
ring the Crimean War, 253, 254

— letter of the Prince Consort
to, as leader of the Opposition,
256-259

— letter of the Queen to, pre-
vious to a Russian debate in
the House of Lords, 317, 318

— Toyal pressure on, in the Cabi-
net, 372

Admiralty, the High Court of, a
permanent Court of Prize, 208

Afghanistan, correspondence of
the Queen during the war in,
330-334

— English mission to, 378, 379

— war with, 379, 380; 398; 400
Alabama Case, 207

Albert, Prince. See Prince

Consort.
Althorpe, Lord (tee alto Lord

Spencer)

— Bank Act of, 123

— elevation of, to the House of
Lords, vacating the leadership
of the Commons, 303

Anderson, Mr., amendment
moved by, to the Crown Private
Estates Amending Act, 220

Aji/irllate Jurisdiction Act, 1876,

Appropriation Act, the, 97, 98

Arbitration, International, motion
on, carried against the Govern-
ment in 1873, 180, 181

Army and Navy Administration,
necessity of Parliamentary
vigilance as to, 391, 392

Articles of War, Act enabling the
Crown to publish, 267

Ashburton Treaty, the, 183

Ashley, Lord .(earl Op
Shaftesbury), motions of, for
educational and factory re-
form, 132, 133

Asia Minor, obligations under-
taken by England with regard
to, 377 ; 382, 383; 388

Associations, political, 64, 65

Austin, Mr. John, paper of, on
Centralisation, 138, note

Australia. See Colonies, Depen-
dencies, Victoria, &c.

Australian Colonies Government
Act, 1850, 160

Authority, the supreme, where
situated and how limited, the
main inquiry with regard to a
Constitution, 2, 3

— Mr. Lowe on the supreme, in
England, 26-28

B

Baden Powell, Mr. G., on the
bi-cameral system in Victoria,

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