Imágenes de páginas

system of the Americans. It is just conceivable, though very improbable, that the separate local governments in the various States into which the Dominion would then be divided, would be permitted to retain their present parliamentary system; but in all federal matters, we should have to accept the American system. And if it should occur to the mind of any one that the Americans might alter their system to suit us, it may be sufficient to observe that under their Constitution no measure to amend the same can come into effect unless it has in its favour the concurring vote of not less than fiftyeight separate legislative chambers in the various States, independently of the Federal legislature, in which a double two-thirds majority must be obtained ;* so that Mr. Woodrow Wilson, an American critic, to whom I shall very often have occasion to refer, in his lucid and interesting essay on congra. Slular yuvernment, says that no impul short of the impulse of self-preservation, no force less than the force of revolution, can nowadays be expected to move the cumbrous machinery of formal amendment of the Constitution of the United States.t

*Constitution of United States, Art. 5.
+Congressional Government (Boston, 1887), p. 242.

It follows, therefore, that if on a comparison of the two systems we find good reason to consider that the British system, which is at present our own, is far preferable to that of our neighbours, a valuable weapon for Canadian use is added to the armoury of the Federation league.

Fortunately there are many and famous writers to aid us in forming an opinion; and let me say at once that I do not aspire this evening to earn any reputation for originality. My aim is to lay before you some of the things which political thinkers of established reputation have to say about the two systems which we propose to contrast; and I warn you therefore that this paper will be as full of quotations as the illiterate theatre-goer found Shakespeare's play of Hamlet.

Foremost among recent writers on the subject stands, of course, Mr. Bryce, and I shall have so often to call him to my support in criticising the American system, that I feel almost bound to observe that an American advocate night very often cite with considerable effect one passage in Mr. Bryce's American Commonwealth to confute another. The fact is that, though Mr. Bryce finds fault with the institutions of the Americans in detail, he often praises them in the lump. It would be shocking to say that he hedges. I would rather shelter myself under the words of his reviewer in the London Times, and say

" that if he ever drops a word of severity, he hastens to knock the edge off his criticism by a timely admission. To all his verdicts is appended a rider of extenuating circumstances.”* For example, in one place he states that he who would desire to draw an indictment against the American scheme of government might make it a long one, and for every count in it cite high American authority, and adduce evidence from American history. But he immediately hastens to add that a European reader would greatly err if he were to conclude that their scheme of government was, for the purposes of the country, inferior to the political system of any of the great nations of the old world.t He scarcely notices the fact, however, that in Canada we have the British Cabinet and Parliamentary system applied to our Federal Government, and certainly he does not attempt to show that the many advantages which he declares that system to possess in England, are less applicable to it when

* Times, Dec. 26th, 1888. +American Commonwealth, Vol. 1, p. 300.

adopted in this country. In one place he does indeed observe, with something of a sneer, that the example of our Provincial legislatures, in each of which there is a responsible ministry sitting in the legislature, does not seem to recommend the adoption of that system for imitation by the American States.* But the fact is that neither Mr. Bryce nor his eminent contemporary, Professor Dicey, seem to have devoted much attention as yet to the political phenomena of this Dominion. It is to be hoped that Professor Ashley will be able to persuade them that, as he says, to the scientific student of politics, Canada is of interest in the experiment which it is making in the combination of Cabinet Government with a Federal system. As may

have been already conjectured, I do not purpose dwelling this evening upon any of the advantages which may be supposed to accrue to us from having at the apex of our political system the representative of our ancient and historic monarchy, rather than a mere passing politician elected for four years, whose very mediocrity often recommends him as a safe candidate to the party tacticians. Possibly to those who admit of no sentiment in this matter, and, also, take a very superficial view of it, it may be sufficient to say with Mr. Phelps, American Minister to England, that this is after all principally a difference in form. The Monarch reigns for life, but does not govern; the President governs for four or eight years, but does not reign."* Still less do I intend to take up your time with platitudes upon the evils of the constantly recurring Presidential elections.

*Ib., Vol. 1, p. 525. Constitutional History of Canada, p. 16.

So, too, we cannot do more than glance at the fact that the Senate and the House of Representatives, which, as everyone knows, are the two Houses constituting Congress, possess substantially equal and co-ordinate power, a state of things existing in no other great country in the world, whence arises, says Mr. Bryce, frequent collisions between the two Houses. “Congress was weakened," he says, “as compared with the British Parliament in which one House has become dominant, by its division into two co-equal houses, whose disagreement paralyses legislative action."

" +


* Nineteenth Century, March, 1888. +American Commonwealth, Vol. 1, p. 183. 16., p. 278.

« AnteriorContinuar »