Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

to take and to value responsible counsel emanating from ability and suggested by experience. That this principle brings good fruit is certain. We have, hy unequivocal admission, the best budget in the world. Why should not the rest of our administration be as good if we did but apply the same method to it?

I leave this to stand as it was originally written since it does not profess to rest on my own knowledge, and only offers a suggestion on good authority. Recent experience seems, however, to show that in all great administrative departments there ought to be some one permanent responsible head through whom the changing Parliamentary chief always acts, from whom he learns everything, and to whom he communicates everything. The daily work of the Exchequer is a trifle compared with that of the Admiralty or the Home Office, and therefore a single principal head is not there so necessary. But the preponderance of evidence at present is that in all offices of very great work some one such head is essential.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

In a former essay I devoted an elaborate discussion to the comparison of the royal and unroyal form of Parliamentary Government. I showed that at the formation of a ministry, and during the continuance of a ministry, a really sagacious monarch might be of rare use. I ascertained that it was a mistake to fancy that at such times a constitutional monarch had no rôle and no duties. But I proved likewise that the temper, the disposition, and the faculties then needful to fit a constitutional monarch for usefulness were very rare, at least as rare as the faculties of a great absolute monarch, and that a common man in that place is apt to do at least as much harm as good-perhaps more harm. But in that essay I could not discuss fully the functions of a king at the conclusion of an administration, for then the most peculiar parts of the English government--the power to dissolve the House of Commons, and the power to create new peers—come into play, and until the nature of the House of Lords and the nature of the House of Commons had been explained, 'I had no premises for an argument as to the characteristic action of the king upon them. We

have since considered the functions of the two houses, and also the effects of changes of ministry on our administrative system; we are now, therefore, in a position to discuss the functions of a king at the end of an administration.

I may seem over formal in this matter, but I am very formal on purpose. It appears to me that the functions of our executive in dissolving the Commons and augmenting the Peers are among the most important, and the least appreciated, parts of our whole government, and that hundreds of errors have been made in copying the English Constitution from not comprehending them.

Hobbes told us long ago, and everybody now understands, that there must be a supreme authority, a conclusive power, in every state on every point somewhere. The idea of government involves it—when that idea is properly understood. But there are two classes of governments. In one the supreme determining power is upon all points the same: in the other, that ultimate power is different upon different points—now resides in one part of the Constitution and now in another. The Americans thought that they were imitating the English in making their Constitution upon the last principlein having one ultimate authority for one sort of matter, and another for another sort. But in truth the English Constitution is the type of the opposite species; it has only one authority for all sorts of matters. To gain a living conception of the difference let us see what the Americans did.

First, they altogether retained what, in part, they could not help, the sovereignty of the separate states. A fundamental article of the Federal Constitution says that the powers not "delegated ” to the central government are “reserved to the States respectively.” And the whole recent history of the Union--perhaps all its history-has been more determined by that enactment than by any other single cause. The sovereignty of the principal matters of state has rested not with the highest government, but with the subordinate government. The Federal government could not touch slavery—the “ domestic institution” which divided the Union into two halves, unlike one another in morals, politics, and social condition, and at last set them to fight. This determining political fact was not in the jurisdiction of the highest government in the country, where you might expect its highest wisdom, nor in the central government, where you might look for impartiality, but in local governments, where petty interests were sure to be considered, and where only inferior abilities were likely to be employed. The capital fact was reserved for the minor jurisdictions. Again, there has been only one matter comparable to slavery in the United States, and that has been vitally affected by the State governments also. Their ultrademocracy is not a result of Federal legislation, but of State legislation. The Federal Constitution deputed one of the main items of its structure to the subordinate governments. One of its clauses provides that the suffrages for the Federal House of Representatives shall be, in each Stato, the same as for the most numerous branch

of the legislature of that State; and as each State fixes the suffrage for its own legislatures, the States altogether fix the suffrage for the Federal Lower Chamber. By another clause of the Federal Constitution the States fix the electoral qualification for voting at a Presidential election. The primary element in a free governmentthe determination how many people shall have a share in it—in America depends not on the government but on certain subordinate local, and sometimes, as in the South now, hostile bodies.

Doubtless the framers of the Constitution had not much choice in the matter. The wisest of them were anxious to get as much power for the central government, and to leave as little to the local governments as they could. But a cry was got up that this wisdom would create a tyranny and impair freedom, and with that help, local jealousy triumphed easily. All Federal government is, in truth, a case in which what I have called the dignified elements of government do not coincide with the serviceable elements. At the beginning of every league the separate States are the old governments which attract and keep the love and loyalty of the people; the Federal government is a useful thing, but new and unattractive. It must concede much to the State governments, for it is indebted to them for motive power: they are the governments which the people voluntarily obey. When the State governments are not thus loved, they vanish as the little Italian and the little German potentates vanished; no federation is needed; a single central gorernment rules all

« AnteriorContinuar »