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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 froni 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,
too, is for the most part a sound, careful, and practical body of men. Principle shows that the power of dismissing a Government with which Parliament is satisfied, and of dissolving that Parliament upon an appeal to the people, is not a power which a common hereditary monarch will in the long run be able beneficially to exercise.
Accordingly this power has almost, if not quite, dropped out of the reality of our constitution. Nothing, perhaps, would more surprise the English people than if the Queen by a coup d'état and on a sudden destroyed a ministry firm in the allegiance and secure of a majority in Parliament. That power, indisputably, in theory, belongs to her; but it has passed so far away from the minds of men that it would terrify them, if she used it, like a volcanic eruption from Primrose Hill. The last analogy to it is not one to be coveted as a precedent. In 1835 William IV. dismissed an administration which, though disorganised by the loss of its leader in the Commons, was an existing Government, had a premier in the Lords ready to go on, and a leader in the Commons willing to begin. The King fancied that public opinion was leaving the Whigs and going over to the Tories, and he thought he should accelerate the transition by ejecting the former. But the event showed that he misjudged. His perception indeed was right; the English people were wavering in their allegiance to the Whigs, who had no leader that touched the popular heart, none in whom Liberalism could personify itself and become a passion-who besides were a body long used to opposition, and therefore making blunders in office—who were borne to power by a popular impulse which they only half comprehended, and perhaps less than half shared. But the King's policy was wrong; he impeded the reaction instead of aiding it. He forced on a premature Tory Government, which was as unsuccessful as all wise people perceived that it must be. The popular distaste to the Whigs was as yet but incipient, inefficient; and the intervention of the Crown was advantageous to them, because it looked inconsistent with the liberties of the people. And in so far as William IV. was' right in detecting an incipient change of opinion, he did but detect an erroneous change. What was desirable was the prolongation of Liberal rule. The commencing dissatisfaction did but relate to the personal demerits of the Whig leaders, and other temporary adjuncts of free principles, and not to those principles intrinsically. So that the last precedent for a royal onslaught on a ministry ended thus :—in opposing the right principles, in aiding the wrong principles, in hurting the party it was meant to help. After such a warning, it is likely that our monarchs will pursue the policy which a long course of quiet precedent at present directs—they will leave a Ministry trusted by Parliament to the judgment of Parliament.
Indeed, the dangers arising from a party spirit in Parliament exceeding that of the nation, and of a selfishness in Parliament contradicting the true interest of the nation, are not great dangers in a country where the mind of the nation is steadily political, and where its control over its representatives is constant. A steady opposition to a formed public opinion is hardly possible in our House
of Commons, so incessant is the national attention to politics, and so keen the fear in the mind of each member that he may lose his valued seat. These dangers belong to early and scattered communities, where there are no interesting political questions, where the distances are great, where no vigilant opinion passes judgment on parliamentary excesses, where few care to have seats in the chamber, and where many of those few are from their characters and their antecedents better not there than there. The one great vice of parliamentary government in an adult political nation, is the caprice of Parliament in the choice of a ministry. A nation can hardly control it here; and it is not good that, except within wide limits, it should control it. The Parliamentary judgment of the merits or demerits of an administration very generally depends on matters which the Parliament, being close at hand, distinctly sees, and which the distant nation does not see.
But where personality enters, capriciousness begins. It is easy to imagine a House of Commons which is discontented with all statesmen, which is contented with none, which is made up of little parties, which votes in small knots, which will adhere steadily to no leader, which gives every leader a chance and a hope. Such Parliaments require the imminent check of possible dissolution ; but that check is (as has been shown) better in the premier than in the sovereign; and by the late practice of our constitution, its use is yearly ebbing from the sovereign, and yearly centering in the premier. The Queen can hardly now refuse a defeated minister the chance of a dissolution, any more than she can dissolve