The English Constitution eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 346 pages of information about The English Constitution.

Probably, if it were considered to be desirable to give to Parliament a more direct control over questions of foreign policy than it possesses now, the better way would be not to require a formal vote to the treaty clause by clause.  This would entail too much time, and would lead to unnecessary changes in minor details.  It would be enough to let the treaty be laid upon the table of both Houses, say for fourteen days, and to acquire validity unless objected to by one House or other before that interval had expired.


This is all which I think I need say on the domestic events which have changed, or suggested changes, in the English Constitution since this book was written.  But there are also some foreign events which have illustrated it, and of these I should like to say a few words.

Naturally, the most striking of these illustrative changes comes from France.  Since 1789 France has always been trying political experiments, from which others may profit much, though as yet she herself has profited little.  She is now trying one singularly illustrative of the English Constitution.  When the first edition of this book was published I had great difficulty in persuading many people that it was possible in a non-monarchical State, for the real chief of the practical executive—­the Premier as we should call him--to be nominated and to be removable by the vote of the National Assembly.  The United States and its copies were the only present and familiar Republics, and in these the system was exactly opposite.  The executive was there appointed by the people as the legislature was too.  No conspicuous example of any other sort of Republic then existed.  But now France has given an example—­M.  Thiers is (with one exception) just the chef du pouvoir executif that I endeavoured more than once in this book to describe.  He is appointed by and is removable by the Assembly.  He comes down and speaks in it just as our Premier does; he is responsible for managing it just as our Premier is.  No one can any longer doubt the possibility of a republic in which the executive and the legislative authorities were united and fixed; no one can assert such union to be the incommunicable attribute of a Constitutional Monarchy.  But, unfortunately, we can as yet only infer from this experiment that such a Constitution is possible; we cannot as yet say whether it will be bad or good.  The circumstances are very peculiar, and that in three ways.  First, the trial of a specially Parliamentary Republic, of a Republic where Parliament appoints the Minister, is made in a nation which has, to say the least of it, no peculiar aptitude for Parliamentary Government; which has possibly a peculiar inaptitude for it.  In the last but one of these essays I have tried to describe one of the mental conditions of Parliamentary Government, which I call “rationality,” by which I do not mean reasoning power, but rather

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The English Constitution from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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