Imágenes de páginas

they are sure not to participate in the selfish desires of any colonial class or body, for long before those desires can have attained fruition they will have passed to the other side of the world, be busy with other faces and other minds, be almost out of hearing what happens in a region they have half forgotten. A colonial governor is a super-parliamentary authority, animated by a wisdom which is probably in quantity considerable, and is different from that of the local Parliament, even if not above it. But even in this case the advantage of this extrinsic authority is purchased at a heavy price-a price which must not be made light of, because it is often worth paying. A colonial governor is a ruler who has no permanent interest in the colony he governs; who perhaps had to look for it in the map when he was sent thither; who takes years before he really understands its parties and its controversies; who, though without prejudice himself, is apt to be a slave to the prejudices of local people near him; who inevitably, and almost laudably, governs not in the interest of the colony, which he may mistake, but in his own interest, which he sees and is sure of. The first desire of a colonial governor is not to get into a "scrape," not to do anything which may give trouble to his superiors-the Colonial Office-at home, which may cause an untimely and dubious recall, which may hurt his after career. He is sure to leave upon the colony the feeling that they have a ruler who only half knows them, and does not so much as half care for them. We hardly appreciate this common feeling in our colonies, because we appoint their sovereign; but we should

understand it in an instant if, by a political metamorphosis, the choice were turned the other way—if they appointed our sovereign. We should then say at once, "How is it possible a man from New Zealand can understand England? how is it possible that a man longing to get back to the antipodes can care for England? how can we trust one who lives by the fluctuating favour of a distant authority? how can we heartily obey one who is but a foreigner with the accident of an identical language?"

I dwell on the evils which impair the advantage of colonial governorship because that is the most favoured case of super-parliamentary royalty, and because from looking at it we can bring freshly home to our minds what the real difficulties of that institution are. We are so familiar with it that we do not understand it. We are like people who have known a man all their lives, and yet are quite surprised when he displays some obvious characteristic which casual observers have detected at a glance. I have known a man who did not know what colour his sister's eyes were, though he had seen her every day for twenty years; or rather, he did not know because he had so seen her: so true is the philosophical maxim that we neglect the constant element in our thoughts, though it is probably the most important, and attended almost only to the varying elements-the differentiating elements (as men now speak)-though they are apt to be less potent. But when we perceive by the roundabout example of a colonial governor how difficult the task of a constitutional king is in the exercise of the function of

dissolving parliament, we at once see how unlikely it is that an hereditary monarch will be possessed of the requisite faculties.

An hereditary king is but an ordinary person, upon an average, at best; he is nearly sure to be badly educated for business; he is very little likely to have a taste for business; he is solicited from youth by every temptation to pleasure; he probably passed the whole of his youth in the vicious situation of the heir-apparent, who can do nothing because he has no appointed work, and who will be considered almost to outstep his function if he undertake optional work. For the most part, a constitutional king is a damaged common man; not forced to business by necessity as a despot often is, but yet spoiled for business by most of the temptations which spoil a despot. History, too, seems to show that hereditary royal families gather from the repeated influence of their corrupting situation some dark taint in the blood, some transmitted and growing poison which hurts their judgments, darkens all their sorrow, and is a cloud on half their pleasure. It has been said, not truly, but with a possible approximation to truth, "That in 1802 every hereditary monarch was insane." Is it likely that this sort of monarchs will be able to catch the exact moment when, in opposition to the wishes of a triumphant ministry, they ought to dissolve Parliament? To do so with efficiency they must be able to perceive that the Parliament is wrong, and that the nation knows it is wrong. Now to know that Parliament is wrong, a man must be, if not a great statesman, yet a considerable statesman-a statesman of some sort

He must have great natural vigour, for no less will comprehend the hard principles of national policy. He must have incessant industry, for no less will keep him abreast with the involved detail to which those principles relate, and the miscellaneous occasions to which they must be applied. A man made common by nature, and made worse by life, is not likely to have either; he is nearly sure not to be both clever and industrious. And a monarch in the recesses of a palace, listening to a charmed flattery unbiased by the miscellaneous world, who has always been hedged in by rank, is likely to be but a poor judge of public opinion. He may have an inborn tact for finding it out; but his life will never teach it him, and will probably enfeeble it in him.

But there is a still worse case, a case which the life of George III-which is a sort of museum of the defects of a constitutional king-suggests at once. The Parliament may be wiser than the people, and yet the king may be of the same mind with the people. During the last years of the American war, the Premier, Lord North, upon whom the first responsibility rested, was averse to continuing it, and knew it could not succeed. Parliament was much of the same mind; if Lord North had been able to come down to Parliament with a peace in his hand, Parliament would probably have rejoiced, and the nation under the guidance of Parliament, though saddened by its losses, probably would have been satisfied. The opinion of that day was more like the American opinion of the present day than like our present opinion. It was much slower in its formation than our opinion

now, and obeyed much more easily sudden impulses from the central administration. If Lord North had been able to throw the undivided energy and the undistracted authority of the Executive Government into the excellent work of making a peace and carrying a peace, years of bloodshed might have been spared, and an entail of enmity cut off that has not yet run out. But there was a power behind the Prime Minister; George III. was madly eager to continue the war, and the nation-not seeing how hopeless the strife was, not comprehending the lasting antipathy which their obstinacy was creating-ignorant, dull, and helpless-was ready to go on too. Even if Lord North had wished to make peace, and had persuaded Parliament accordingly, all his work would have been useless; a superior power could and would have appealed from a wise and pacific Parliament to a sullen and warlike nation. The check which our constitution finds for the special vices of our Parliament was misused to curb its wisdom.

The more we study the nature of Cabinet Government, the more we shall shrink from exposing at a vital instant its delicate machinery to a blow from a casual, incompetent, and perhaps semi-insane outsider. The preponderant probability is that on a great occasion the Premier and Parliament will really be wiser than the king. The Premier is sure to be able, and is sure to be most anxious to decide well; if he fail to decide, he loses his place, though through all blunders the king keeps his; the judgment of the man, naturally very discerning, is sharpened by a heavy penalty, from which the judgment of the man, by nature much less intelligent, is exempt. Parliament,

« AnteriorContinuar »