country from that which was anticipated in the forms used in the royal grants of land. Apart from such vague suggestions as these the result of inquiry into the meaning and significance of the familiar expression of the charters is negative rather than positive. East Greenwich was no different from any other manor; its customs were not peculiar, its tenure was not especially significant, its mention. in the colonial charters did not bring the colonies into any relationship with it. So far as the colonial charters are concerned, East Greenwich was merely an empty name.



BURKE was a great political teacher. He has had a great and good influence on public character in England. But he is not, like Hobbes, Montesquieu, Hume or Bentham, a calm inquirer meditating in his closet. He is always in the political arena. His works are pamphlets and speeches, called forth by the controversy of the hour, and require to be read with full allowance for the occasion. which gave them birth. It is as an authority on finance and trade that he is least subject to qualification on this account. adventurer, and being one in the literal sense of the term, he had, unlike the ordinary adventurer, taken the utmost pains to qualify himself for the public service by a profound study of all the subjects with which as a statesman he would have to deal. His knowledge of economical and commercial questions is wonderful considering that such knowledge was far less accessible to him in those days than it would be now; that he had never been practically engaged in commerce; and that he was thirty-seven years old when the Wealth of Nations appeared. In Burke's works and in the speeches of Daniel Webster before his change of line free traders will find some of the keenest shafts for their controversial quiver.

It is in a pamphlet eminently polemical that we read the wellknown vindication of political party, so often cited by upholders of the party system of government.

"Party is a body of men united, for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed. For my part, I find it impossible to conceive that any one believes in his own politicks, or thinks them to be of any weight, who refuses to adopt the means of having them reduced into practice. It is the business of the speculative philosopher to mark the proper ends of government. It is the business of the politician, who is the philosopher in action, to find out proper means towards those ends, and to employ them with effect. Therefore, every honourable connexion will avow it is their first purpose to pursue every just method to put the men who hold their opinions into such a condition as may enable them to carry their common plans into execution, with all the power and authority of the state. As this power is attached to certain situations, it is their duty to contend for these situations. Without a proscription of others, they

are bound to give to their own party the preference in all things; and by no means, for private considerations, to accept any offers of power in which the whole body is not included; nor to suffer themselves to be led, or to be controuled, or to be overbalanced, in office or in council, by those who contradict the very fundamental principles on which their party is formed, and even those upon which every fair connexion must stand. Such a generous contention for power, on such manly and honourable maxims, will easily be distinguished from the mean and interested struggle for place and emolument. The very style of such persons will serve to discriminate them from those numberless impostors, who have deluded the ignorant with professions incompatible with human practice, and have afterwards incensed them by practices below the level of vulgar rectitude."

Montesquieu or Bentham would not fail to tell us exactly what he means by "principle". Is it a general principle of political morality or expediency? About these we are all agreed; they are subjects of debate but can furnish no foundation for a party. Is it agreement on a particular question? A particular question, however momentous, even though it may be important enough to warrant a good citizen in temporary devotion to a party flag, will in time be settled. When it has been settled, what will then be left to warrant the continuance of the party tie? What will there be to bar the conversion of the party into a faction the leaders of which will fight for place with intrigue, calumny and corruption, while the followers will be held together by a shibboleth? This passage, which has been a frontlet between the eyes of devotees of the party system, requires, to be construed aright, the historical key.

Those who contend that party is a universal necessity of constitutional government are like the British footman who, seeing a French soldier in blue uniform, said that everybody knew that blue for a uniform was absurd except in the Artillery and the Horse Guards, Blue. Though there were forestallings of the party system under Charles II., the system really dates from the time when William III. found it necessary, as in his situation it certainly was, to compose his council entirely of men of the party who had set him on his throne. The Cabal in the time of Charles II. had been something like a Cabinet; but it was in reality what the name now imports; and it did not rest like the cabinet on the support of an organized party in Parliament. The constitutional executive of England was, and in the contemplation of law still is, the Privy Council, composed of men chosen as being highly qualified for the service of the crown and the state without reference to their gen

eral opinions, in which they sometimes differed widely from each other. Under the monarchy, the members of the Privy Council were nominated by the king. The members of the Council of State, which under the Commonwealth took the place and assumed the functions of the Privy Council, were appointed by a process combining nomination with election. Should democracy with the party system ever break down, the Instrument of Government, in which the constitution of the Commonwealth was embodied, may deserve the attention of those to whose lot it may fall to conduct the necessary revolution.

So long as the struggle between the Hanoverians and the Stuarts, with their respective political creeds, continued, there was manifest ground for a division of parties in Parliament and at the polls, as well as on the fields of Sheriffmuir and Culloden. When that struggle closed in the collapse of the Stuarts, party broke into " connections", formed round the great houses, Pelham, Bedford, Rockingham, Granville, strong in their nomination boroughs and their territorial influence. The connections struggled against each other for power and place, while the tendency of all of them alike was to transfer the real control from the king to the minister with his train. George III., on the other hand, had imbibed the counsel of his mother, who was always bidding him "be a King". He was by no means inclined to be the puppet of his Mayor of the Palace. Personal government by prerogative, bare-faced, was no longer possible. In place of it was set on foot personal government by influence, the instruments of which were a regiment of sycophants styling themselves King's Friends, who held their votes in Parliament entirely at the disposal of the king, and when he gave the word thwarted the policy of his constitutional advisers. To put an end to the ascendancy of faction and restore the authority of the head of the whole nation was the professed object of the King's Friends. Chatham, on the other hand, standing apart in his towering popularity, wanted a parliamentary autocracy of Chatham. He refused to combine with the Rockingham connection, to which Burke belonged, and formed under himself a departmental ministry of men unconnected with each other, his leadership being the only bond of union, while he kept all the power in his own hands. The chief portion of the Thoughts on the Present Discontents is directed against "Influence" and the King's Friends; the concluding part is a satirical attack on the autocratic administration of Chatham with his set of departmental subordinates, political strangers to each other. No personal government by influence, no autocracy of Chatham, but constitutional government with the Rockingham

connection in power, is the moral of the pamphlet and the key to its interpretation.

Not much support, therefore, can be found in the arguments of Burke's pamphlet for a system which cuts a nation perpetually in two, and sets the halves to wage everlasting war with each other for possession of the government with the familiar weapons of faction. Upholders of the system, at a loss for a permanent ground of division, have been fain to have recourse to the comic opera, and to maintain that each of us is born a little Conservative or a little Liberal. It is needless to say that there is no such bisection of human character. Its shades melt indistinguishably into each other. What would Burke himself have said to the constitution of a country perpetually divided into two party organizations recognized by law, always remaining on foot and fighting periodically with a fury approaching that of civil war, while not only the special issues but the vital character of each party underwent from time to time complete change? Would he not have said that such a commonwealth was in a perilous condition? Would he in so saying have been far wrong? Looking not to organization, but to character, who would recognize the identity of the Republican party in the United States, as it is now, with the Republican party before or even during the war?

Chatham's autocracy was killed by the gout, combined with waywardness on the part of the autocrat. That in its headless state it brought on the American Revolution by taxing the colonies may be said to have been partly chargeable to the philosophy of Burke. Contempt for political theory, indifference to constitutional forms, regard solely to the practical policy and conduct of government, were not only the tendencies but the constant professions of Burke, who was the very opposite of Sieyès. Burke, no doubt, drew for the Rockinghams the Declaratory Act affirming the power of Parliament to legislate on all subjects for the colonies, under the shelter of which the British Government sought to withdraw with dignity when it was compelled to repeal the stamp tax. Burke thought the form was of no practical importance inasmuch as it was certain that no dangerous use if any use at all would ever be made of the power. The sequel is too well known.

Burke carried his disregard of theoretic perfection compared with practical expediency to an excessive length. He fought against any reform of Parliament with its petty Cornish constituencies, its unenfranchised Manchester and Birmingham, its Gatton and its Old Sarum, its nomination boroughs and open sale of seats. He even wished to reduce the extent of the franchise on the ground of the

« ForrigeFortsett »