Upon the Cabinet rests the responsibility of initiating all legislation necessary for the successful administration of government. Authority and responsibility are thus centered in one and the same party; this excellent principle is unfortunately lacking (except by rare chance) in our system. When the Cabinet fails to carry through the House of Commons any important measure, one of two courses is open to them : 1. They may resign at once, and hand over the responsibility of administration to the party that has beaten them by obtaining a majority vote in the House of Commons. 2. If the Cabinet feel that the vote in the House does not represent the will of the nation, they will advise (i.e., authoritatively request) the Crown to dissolve Parliament and issue writs for a new election. If the new election results in leaving the ministerial party still in minority, they will at once resign and hand over their administrative duties to the Opposition.

Every member of the Cabinet must be a member of the House of Lords or of the House of Commons, as he is expected to be present at the sessions of the Houses in order to answer questions which may be asked him by any member on matters of public policy. Yet no member of the House of Commons may accept an office from the Crown without thereby losing his seat as member of the House. Hence we behold the curious spectacle of

" a man being elected to the House of Commons, accepting a Cabinet office, and immediately going back to his constituency for re-election. Should he fail of this 1 Compare the Constitution of the United States, Article I., Section vi., $ 2. re-election, he is, of course, ineligible for the Cabinet.

Such, in very meager outline, is the working of the English system to-day. The Crown has little power, and the Lords have sunk into comparative insignificance. No ministry would think of resigning on account of an adverse vote in that House. In Burke's time the Crown exercised an active and almost invariably mischievous influence. If the policy of the ministers was displeasing to the King, he considered himself justified in dismissing them whenever he could obtain a vote adverse to them in either House. For an instance of this, see the account of the fall of the Coalition Ministry in 1783 (p. xiv. in the biographical sketch of Burke).








I HOPE, Sir, that, notwithstanding the austerity of the Chair, your good-nature will incline you to some degree of indulgence towards human frailty. You will not think it unnatural that those who have an object depending, which strongly engages their hopes and fears, 5 should be somewhat inclined to superstition. As I came into the House full of anxiety about the event of my motion, I found, to my infinite surprise, that the grand penal Bill, by which we had passed sentence on the trade and sustenance of America, is to be returned 10 to us from the other House. I do confess I could not help looking on this event as a fortunate omen. I look upon it as a sort of providential favor, by which we are put once more in possession of our deliberative capacity, upon a business so very questionable in its 15 nature, so very uncertain in its issue. By the return of this Bill, which seemed to have taken its flight forever, we are at this very instant nearly as free to choose a plan for our American Government as we were on the


first day of the session. If, Sir, we incline to the side of conciliation, we are not at all embarrassed (unless we please to make ourselves so) by any incongruous mix

ture of coercion and restraint. We are therefore called 5 upon, as it were by a superior warning voice, again to

attend to America; to attend to the whole of it together, and to review the subject with an unusual-degree of care and calmness.

Surely it is an awful subject; or there is none so on 10 this side of the grave. When I first had the honor of a

seat in this House, the affairs of that continent pressed themselves upon us, as the most important and most delicate object of Parliamentary attention. My little

share in this great deliberation oppressed me. I found 15 myself a partaker in a very high trust; and having no

sort of reason to rely on the strength of my natural abilities for the proper execution of that trust, I was obliged to take more than common pains to instruct my

self in everything which relates to our Colonies. I was 20 not less under the necessity of forming some fixed ideas

concerning the general policy of the British Empire. Something of this sort seemed to be indispensable, in order, amidst so vast a fluctuation of passions and opin

ions, to concenter my thoughts, to ballast my conduct, 25 to preserve me from being blown about by every wind

of fashionable doctrine. I really did not think it safe or manly to have fresh principles to seek upon every fresh mail which should arrive from America.

At that period I had the fortune to find myself in perfect concurrence with a large majority in this House.

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