The Governments of Europe
by Frederic Austin Ogg
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[Footnote 174: In point of fact, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman retire when the ministry by which they have been nominated goes out of office.]

[Footnote 175: On this account he is referred to ordinarily as the Chairman of Committees.]

*125. The Speakership.*—The speakership arose from the need of the House when it was merely a petitioning body for a recognized spokesman, and although the known succession of Speakers begins with Sir Thomas Hungerford, who held the office in the last parliament of Edward III. (1377), there is every reason to suppose that at even an earlier date there were men whose functions were substantially equivalent. The Speaker is elected at the beginning of a parliament by and from the members of the House, and his tenure of office, unless terminated by resignation or death, continues through the term of that parliament. The choice of the House is subject to the approval of the crown; but, whereas in earlier days the king's will was at this point very influential, the last occasion upon which a Speaker-elect was rejected by the crown was in 1679. Though nominally elected, the Speaker is in fact chosen by the ministry, and he is pretty certain to be taken, in the first instance, from the party in power. During the nineteenth century, however, it became customary to re-elect a Speaker as long as he should be willing to serve, regardless of party affiliation.

*126. The Speaker's Functions and Powers.*—The functions of the Speaker are regulated in part by custom, in part by rules of the House, and in part by general legislation. They are numerous and, in the (p. 122) aggregate, highly important. The Speaker is, first of all, the presiding officer of the House. In this capacity he is a strictly non-partisan moderator whose business it is to maintain decorum in deliberations, decide points of order, put questions, and announce the result of divisions. The non-partisan aspect of the English speakership sets the office off in sharp contrast with its American counterpart. "It makes little difference to any English party in Parliament," says Mr. Bryce, "whether the occupant of the chair has come from their own or from hostile ranks.... A custom as strong as law forbids him to render help to his own side even by private advice. Whatever information as to parliamentary law he may feel free to give must be equally at the disposal of every member."[176] Except in the event of a tie, the Speaker does not vote, even when, the House being in committee, he is not occupying the chair. In the second place, the Speaker is the spokesman and representative of the House, whether in demanding privileges, communicating resolutions, or issuing warrants. There was a time when he was hardly less the spokesman of the king than the spokesman of the Commons, but the growth of independence of the popular chamber enabled him long ago to cast off this dual and extremely difficult role. The Speaker, furthermore, declares and interprets, though he in no case makes, the law of the House. "Where," says Ilbert, "precedents, rulings, and the orders of the House are insufficient or uncertain guides, he has to consider what course would be most consistent with the usages, traditions, and dignity of the House, and the rights and interests of its members, and on these points his advice is usually followed, and his decisions are very rarely questioned.... For many generations the deference habitually paid to the occupant of the chair has been the theme of admiring comment by foreign observers."[177] Finally, the fact should be noted that by the Parliament Act of 1911 the Speaker is given sole power, when question arises, to determine whether a given measure is or is not to be considered a money bill.[178] Upon his decision may hinge the entire policy of the Government respecting a measure, and even the fate of the measure itself. The Speaker's symbol of authority is the mace, which is carried before him when he formally enters or leaves the House and lies on the table before him when he is in the chair. He has an official residence in Westminster, and he receives a salary of L5,000 a year which is paid from the Consolidated Fund, being on that account not subject to change when the annual appropriation bills (p. 123) are under consideration. At retirement from office a Speaker is likely to be pensioned and to be elevated to the peerage.[179]

[Footnote 176: American Commonwealth, I., 135.]

[Footnote 177: Parliament, 140-141.]

[Footnote 178: See p. 112.]

[Footnote 179: On the officers of the House of Commons see Lowell, Government of England, I., Chap. 12; on the speakership, Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, II., 131-171; Graham, The Mother of Parliaments, 119-134; MacDonaugh, The Book of Parliament, 115-132; Porritt, Unreformed House of Commons, I., Chaps. 21-22; A. I. Dasent, The Speakers of the House of Commons from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York, 1911); and G. Mer, Les speakers: etude de la fonction presidentielle en Angleterre et aux Etats-Unis (Paris, 1910).]

*127. Quorum.*—As fixed by a resolution of 1640, a quorum for the transaction of business in the Commons is forty. If at any time during a sitting the attention of the Speaker is directed to the fact that there are not forty members present, the two-minute sand-glass which stands upon the Clerk's table is inverted and the members are summoned from all portions of the building as for a division. At the close of the allotted two minutes the Speaker counts the members present, and if there be not forty the House adjourns until the time fixed for the next regular sitting. Except upon occasions of special interest, the number of members actually occupying the benches is likely to be less than two hundred, although most of the remaining members are within the building or, in any case, not far distant.

*128. Kinds of Committees.*—Like all important and numerous legislative bodies, the House of Commons expedites the transaction of the business which devolves upon it through the employment of committees. As early as the period of Elizabeth the reference of a bill, after its second reading, to a select committee was an established practice, and in the reign of Charles I. it became not uncommon to refer measures to committees of the whole house. The committees of the House to-day may be grouped in five categories: (1) the Committee of the Whole; (2) select committees on public bills; (3) sessional committees; (4) standing committees on public bills; and (5) committees on private bills. Until 1907 a public bill, after its second reading, went normally to the Committee of the Whole; since the date mentioned, it goes there only if the House so determines. The Committee of the Whole is simply the House of Commons, presided over by the Chairman of Committees in the place of the Speaker, and acting under rules of procedure which permit virtually unrestricted discussion and in other ways lend themselves to the free consideration of the details of a measure. When the subject in hand relates to the providing of revenue the body is known, technically, as the Committee of Ways and Means; when to appropriations, it is styled the Committee of the Whole on Supply, or simply the Committee of Supply.

*129. Select and Sessional Committees.*—Select committees (p. 124) consist, as a rule, of fifteen members and are constituted to investigate and report upon specific subjects or measures. It is through them that the House collects evidence, examines witnesses, and otherwise obtains the information required for intelligent legislation. After a select committee has fulfilled the immediate purpose for which it was constituted it passes out of existence. Each such committee chooses its chairman, and each keeps detailed records of its proceedings, which are included, along with its formal report, in the published parliamentary papers of the session. The members may be elected by the House, but in practice the appointment of some or all is left to the Committee of Selection, which itself consists of eleven members chosen by the House at the beginning of each session. This Committee of Selection, which appoints members not only of select committees but also of standing committees and of committees on private and local bills, is made up after conference between the leaders of the Government and of the Opposition; and the committees whose members it designates are always so constituted that they contain a majority favorable to the Government. The number of select committees is, of course, variable, but it is never small. A few are constituted for an entire year and are known as sessional committees. Of these, the Committee of Selection is itself an example; others are the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Public Petitions.

*130. Standing Committees.*—Beginning in 1882, certain great standing committees have been created, to the general end that the time of the House may be further economized. Through a change of the standing orders of the chamber effected in 1907 the number of such committees was raised from two to four, and all bills except money bills, private bills, and bills for confirming provisional orders—that is to say, all public non-fiscal proposals—are required to be referred to one of these committees (the Speaker to determine which one) unless the House otherwise directs. It is expected that measures so referred will be so fully considered in committee that they will consume but little of the time of the House. Each of the four committees consists of from sixty to eighty members, who are named by the Committee of Selection in such a manner that in personnel they will represent faithfully the composition of the House as a whole. One of them, consisting of all the representatives of Scotch constituencies and fifteen other members, is constituted with a special view to the transaction of business relating to Scotland. The chairmen of the four are selected (from its own ranks) by a "chairman's panel" of not more than eight members designated by the Committee of Selection. The procedure (p. 125) of the standing committees is closely assimilated to that of the Committee of the Whole, and, in truth, they serve essentially as substitutes for the larger body.[180]

[Footnote 180: On committees on private bills see p. 137. The committees of the House of Commons are described in Lowell, Government of England, I., Chap. 13; Marriott, English Political Institutions, Chap. 11; Ilbert, Parliament, Chap. 6; Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, II., 180-214; and May, Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, Chaps. 13-14.]


*131. Sittings and Attendance.*—It is required that the two houses of Parliament shall be convened invariably together, and one may not be prorogued without the other. The actual sittings of the Lords are, however, very much briefer and more leisurely than are those of the Commons. Normally the upper chamber meets but four times a week—on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 4.30 o'clock and on Tuesdays at 5.30. By reason of lack of business or indisposition to consume time in the consideration of measures whose eventual enactment is assured, sittings not infrequently are concluded within an hour, although, of course, there are occasions upon which the chamber deliberates seriously and at much length. A quorum for the transaction of business is fixed at the number three; although it is but fair to observe that if a division occurs upon a bill and it is found that there are not thirty members present the question is declared not to be decided. Save upon formal occasions and at times when there is under consideration a measure in whose fate the members are immediately interested, attendance is always meager. There are members who after complying with the formalities incident to the assumption of a seat, rarely, and in some instances never, reappear among their colleagues. It thus comes about that despite the fact that nominally the House of Lords is one of the largest of the world's law-making assemblies, the chamber exhibits in reality little of the unwieldiness ordinarily characteristic of deliberative bodies of such magnitude. The efficiency of the chamber is more likely to be impaired by paucity of attendance than otherwise.

*132. Officers.*—The officers of the House of Lords are largely appointive, though in part elective. Except during the trial of a peer,[181] the presiding official is the Lord Chancellor, appointed by the crown on the advice of the premier. The duty of presiding in the Lords, as has been explained, is but one of many that fall to this remarkable dignitary.[182] If at the time of his appointment an (p. 126) incumbent is not a peer he is reasonably certain to be created one, although there is no legal requirement to this effect. The theory is that the woolsack which comprises the presiding official's seat is not within the chamber proper[183] and that the official himself, as such, is not a member of the body. The powers allowed him are not even those commonly possessed by a moderator. In the event that two or more peers request the privilege of addressing the chamber, the peers themselves decide which shall have the floor. Order in debate is enforced, not by the Chancellor, but by the members, and when they speak they address, not the chair, but "My Lords." Although, if a peer, the Chancellor may speak and vote as any other member, he possesses as presiding officer no power of the casting vote. In short, the position which the Chancellor occupies in the chamber is all but purely formal. In addition to "deputy speakers," designated to preside in the Chancellor's absence, the remaining officials of the Lords who owe their positions to governmental appointment are the Clerk of Parliament, who keeps the records; the Sergeant-at-Arms, who attends personally the presiding officer and acts as custodian of the mace; and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, a pompous dignitary whose function it is to summon the Commons when their attendance is required and to play a more or less useful part upon other ceremonial occasions. The one important official whom the House itself elects is the Lord Chairman of Committees, whose duty it is to preside in Committee of the Whole.

[Footnote 181: See p. 127.]

[Footnote 182: See p. 63.]

[Footnote 183: In the days of Elizabeth the presiding official sat upon a sack actually filled with wool. He sits now, as a matter of fact, upon an ottoman, upholstered in red. But the ancient designation of the seat survives.]


*133. Nature and Extent of Privileges.*—On the basis in part of custom and in part of statute there exists a body of definitely established privileges, some of which appertain to the Commons as a chamber, some similarly to the Lords, and some to the individual members of both houses. The privileges which at the opening of a parliament the newly-elected Speaker requests and, as a matter of course, obtains for the chamber over which he presides include principally those of freedom from arrest, freedom of speech, access to the sovereign, and a "favorable construction" upon the proceedings of the House. Freedom from arrest is enjoyed by members during a session and a period of forty days before and after it, but it does not protect a member (p. 127) from the consequences of any indictable offense nor, in civil actions, from any process save arrest. Freedom of speech, finally guaranteed effectually in the Bill of Rights, means simply that a member may not be held to account by legal process outside Parliament for anything he may have said in the course of the debates or proceedings of the chamber to which he belongs. The right of access to the sovereign belongs to the Commons collectively through the Speaker, but to the Lords individually. With the growth of parliamentary government both it and the privilege of "favorable construction" have ceased to possess practical importance. Another privilege which survives is that of exemption from jury duty, though no longer of refusing to attend court in the capacity of a witness. Each house enjoys the privilege—for all practical purposes now the right—of regulating its own proceedings, of committing persons for contempt, and of deciding contested elections. The last-mentioned function the House of Commons, however, has delegated to the courts. A privilege jealously retained by the Lords is that of trial in all cases of treason or felony by the upper chamber itself, under the presidency of a Lord High Steward appointed by the crown. The Lords are exempt from arrest in civil causes, not merely during and immediately preceding and succeeding sessions, but at all times, and they enjoy all the rights, privileges, and distinctions which, through law or custom, have become inherent in their several dignities.

*134. Payment of Members of the Commons.*—Until recently the fact that there was no salary attached to service in Parliament operated to debar from election to the Commons men who were not of independent means. Through some years the Labor Party was accustomed to provide funds wherewith its representatives were enabled to maintain themselves at the capital,[184] but this arrangement affected only a small group of members and was of an entirely private and casual nature. Public and systematic payment of members, to the end that poor but capable men might not be kept out of the Commons, was demanded by the Chartists three-quarters of a century ago, and from time to time after 1870 there was agitation in behalf of such a policy. In 1893, and again in 1895, a resolution in favor of the payment of members was adopted in the Commons, and March 7, 1906, a resolution was carried to the effect that every member should be paid a salary of L300 annually. But it was not until 1911 that a measure of the kind could be got through the upper chamber. Fresh impetus was afforded by the Osborne Judgment, in which, on an appeal from the lower courts, the House of Lords ruled in December, 1909, that the payment of parliamentary (p. 128) members as such from the dues collected by labor organizations was contrary to law. The announcement of the Judgment was followed by persistent agitation for legislation to reverse the ruling. In connection with the budget presented to the Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer May 16, 1911, the proposition was made, not to take action one way or the other upon the Lords' decision, but to provide for the payment to all non-official members of the House of Commons of a yearly salary of L400; and with little delay and no great amount of opposition the proposal was enacted into law. The amount of the salary provided is not large, but it is ample to render candidacy for seats possible for numbers of men who formerly could not under any circumstances have contemplated a public career.[185]

[Footnote 184: The sum provided from the party funds was ordinarily L200 a year.]

[Footnote 185: On the privileges of the Commons see Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 153-189; Lowell, Government of England, I., Chap. 11; Walpole, Electorate and Legislature, Chap. 5; Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, III., 42-50. A standard work in which the subject is dealt with at length is May, Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, Chaps. 3-6.]


When the king summons the two chambers he does so, "being desirous and resolved as soon as may be to meet his people, and to have their advice in Parliament." No mention is made of legislative or financial business, and, technically, Parliament is still essentially what originally it was exclusively, i.e., a purely deliberative assemblage. Practically, however, the mere discussion of public questions and the giving of advice to the crown has become but one of several distinctive parliamentary functions. The newer functions which, with the passing of time, have acquired ever increasing importance are, in effect, three. The first is that of criticism, involving the habitual scrutiny and control of the measures of the executive and administrative organs. The second is the exercise, under limitations to be described, of the power of judicature. The third, and much the most important, is the function of public and private legislation and of fiscal control.

*135. Criticism: Ministerial Responsibility.*—Parliament does not govern and is not intended to govern. Never save when the Long Parliament undertook the administration of public affairs through committees of its members has Parliament asserted a disposition to gather immediately into its own hands those powers of state which are executive in character. At the same time, the growth of parliamentary government has meant the establishment of a connection between the executive and the parliamentary chambers (principally the Commons) (p. 129) as close as may be so long as separateness of organization is still maintained. The officials who comprise the working executive are invariably members of Parliament. They initiate public measures, introduce them, advocate and defend them, and, in general, guide and control the conduct of public business both inside and outside the chambers. But for every act they are responsible directly to the House of Commons. They may continue in power only so long as they are supported by a majority in that chamber. And their conduct is subject continually to review and criticism, through the instrumentality of questions, formal inquiries, and, if need be, judicial procedure.

It is within the competence of any member to address a question to any minister of the crown who is also a member, to obtain information. Except in special cases, notice of questions must be given at least one day in advance, and a period of approximately three-quarters of an hour is set apart at four sittings every week for the asking and answering of such questions. A minister may answer or decline to answer, but unless a declination can be shown to arise from legitimate considerations of public interest its effect politically may be embarrassing. In any event, there is no debate, and in this respect the English practice differs from the French "interpellation."[186] The asking of questions is liable to abuse but, as is pointed out by Ilbert, "there is no more valuable safeguard against maladministration, no more effective method of bringing the searchlight of criticism to bear on the action or inaction of the executive government and its subordinates. A minister has to be constantly asking himself, not merely whether his proceedings and the proceedings of those for whom he is responsible are legally or technically defensible, but what kind of answer he can give if questioned about them in the House, and how that answer will be received."[187] Any member is privileged to bring forward a motion censuring the Government or any member or department thereof, and a motion of this sort, when emanating from the leader of the Opposition, constitutes a vote of confidence upon whose result may depend the continued tenure of the ministry. By a call upon the Government or a given department for information, by the constitution of parliamentary committees, departmental committees, or royal commissions, and, in particular by taking advantage of the numberless opportunities afforded by the enactment of appropriation bills, the House of Commons may further impose upon the executive the most thoroughgoing responsibility and control. "A strong executive (p. 130) government, tempered and controlled by constant, vigilant, and representative criticism," is the ideal at which the parliamentary institutions of Great Britain are aimed.[188]

[Footnote 186: See p. 314.]

[Footnote 187: Parliament, 113-114.]

[Footnote 188: Ilbert, Parliament, 119. On the Commons' control of the Government see Lowell, Government of England, I., Chap. 17; Moran, English Government, Chap. 8; Low, The Governance of England, Chap. 5; Todd, Parliamentary Government, II., 164-185.]

*136. Judicial Powers: Impeachment and Attainder.*—The functions of a judicial character which, in the capacity of the High Court of Parliament, the two chambers fulfill are of secondary importance and do not call for extended discussion. So far as the law of the subject goes, they comprise (1) the powers possessed by each of the houses to deal with the constitution and conduct of its own membership; (2) the power of the Lords to try their own members when charged with treason or felony; (3) the jurisdiction of the Lords in the capacity of a final court of appeal for the United Kingdom; (4) the power of the two houses, acting jointly, to carry through impeachments of public officers and to enact bills of attainder; and (5) the effecting of the removal of certain kinds of public officers through the agency of an address from both houses to the crown. In days when the king and the ministers were disposed to defy the law and to evade responsibility the power of impeachment by the Commons at the bar of the Lords, originated as early as the reign of Edward III., was of the utmost importance. When, however, the House of Commons progressed in competence to the point where it was able to review and control the conduct of ministers with such thoroughness and continuity as to make it impossible for them to conduct business without a parliamentary majority, impeachment lost its value and fell into disuse. The last occasion upon which impeachment proceedings were instituted was in 1805.[189] Procedure by bill of attainder, arising from the legislative omnipotence of Parliament and following the ordinary course of legislation, is also obsolete.

[Footnote 189: Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 362-366; Moran, English Government, 327-332.]

*137. The House of Lords as a Court.*—Most important among surviving parliamentary functions of a judicial character is the exercise of appellate jurisdiction by the House of Lords. The judicial authority of the Lords is an anomaly, although as it is actually exercised it does not seriously contravene the principle which forbids the bringing together of judicial and legislative powers in the same hands. Historically, it arose from a confusion of the functions of two groups of men which were long largely identical in personnel, i.e., the Great Council, on the one hand, and the Lords of Parliament, on (p. 131) the other. In the reign of Henry IV. the Commons asked specifically to be relieved from judicial business, and the parliamentary jurisdiction which survived was recognized thereafter to be vested in the House of Lords alone. From an early date this jurisdiction was, as it is to-day, both original and appellate. As a court of first instance the chamber acquired the right to try peers charged with treason and felony and, on the accusation of the House of Commons, to bring to justice, through the process of impeachment, offenders who were not of the peerage. Nowadays these powers are of no practical consequence.

The position of the Lords as an appellate tribunal, however, is still a fundamental fact in the judicial system. Starting with control, by way of appeal, over the courts of common law in England, the chamber acquired in time a similar control over the English courts of chancery, and eventually over the courts of both Scotland and Ireland. Its jurisdiction has stopped short only of the ecclesiastical courts, and of the courts of the outlying portions of the Empire, appeals from which are heard in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. By the Supreme Court of Judicature Act of 1873, whereby the higher tribunals of the realm were remodelled, the appellate jurisdiction of the Lords was abolished outright; but in 1876, before the measure had been put in operation the plan was modified and there was passed the Appellate Jurisdiction Act whereby the appellate functions of the Lords were restored and provision was made for the creation at first of two, later of three, and eventually of four, salaried life peers, to be selected from men of eminence in the law, and to be known as Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. In so far as it is controlled by statute at all, the appellate jurisdiction of the chamber is regulated to-day by this measure. Nominally, judicial business is transacted by the House as a whole, and every member has a right not only to be present but to participate in the rendering of decisions. Actually, such business is transacted by a little group of law lords (the attendance of but three being necessary) under the presidency of the Lord Chancellor, and the unwritten rule which prohibits the presence at judicial sessions of any persons save the law lords is quite as strictly observed as is any one of a score of other important conventions of the constitution.[190] Under the act of 1876 it is within the competence of the law lords to sit and to pronounce judgments in the name of the House at any time, regardless of whether Parliament is in session.[191] A sitting of the Court is, technically, a sitting of the Lords, and all actions (p. 132) taken are entered in the Journal of the House as a part of its proceedings.[192]

[Footnote 190: Lowell, Government of England, II., 465.]

[Footnote 191: When Parliament is in session the sittings of the law lords are held, as a rule, prior to the beginning of the regular sitting at 4.30 p.m.]

[Footnote 192: The judicial functions of Parliament are described at some length in Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., Chap. 9. The principal work on the subject is C. H. McIlwain, The High Court of Parliament and its Supremacy (New Haven, 1910). On the House of Lords as a court see MacDonaugh, The Book of Parliament, 300-309; A. T. Carter, History of English Legal Institutions (London, 1902), 96-109; and W. S. Holdsworth, History of English Law, I., 170-193.]

*138. Control of Legislation and Finance.*—The principal and altogether most indispensable ends which Parliament to-day subserves are those of legislation and of financial control. Many of the measures, important and unimportant, under which the affairs of the realm are regulated are but temporary and require annual re-enactment, and the volume of fresh legislation which is unceasingly demanded is all but limitless. Similarly, to employ the words of Anson, the revenues which accrue to the crown and can be dealt with independently of Parliament would hardly carry on the business of government for a day,[193] and not only does Parliament (in effect, the House of Commons) by its appropriation acts make possible the legal expenditure of virtually all public moneys; it provides, by its measures of taxation, the funds from which appropriations are made.

[Footnote 193: Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 52.]


By reason of the supreme importance which attaches to the legislative and fiscal activities of the two chambers it is necessary that attention be directed at this point to the character of the procedure which these activities involve. For the purpose in hand it will be sufficient to speak of only the more important principles of procedure in relation to the three fundamental phases of legislative work: (1) the enactment of non-financial public bills, (2) the adoption of money bills, and (3) the passage of private bills. And within at least the first two of these domains the preponderance of the Commons is such that the procedure of that chamber alone need be described. The procedure of the two chambers upon bills is substantially the same, although, as is illustrated by the fact that amendments to bills may be introduced in the Lords at any stage but in the Commons at only stipulated stages, the methods of conducting business in the upper house are more elastic than those prevailing in the lower.

*139. Fundamental Principles.*—The legislative omnipotence of Parliament has been emphasized sufficiently.[194] Any sort of measure upon any conceivable subject may be introduced and, if a sufficient number of the members are so minded, enacted into law. No measure (p. 133) may become law until it has been submitted for the consideration of both houses, but under the terms of the Parliament Act of 1911 it has been rendered easy for money bills, and not impossible for bills of other sorts, to be made law without the assent of the House of Lords. In the ordinary course of things, a measure is introduced in one house, put through three readings, sent to the other house, put there through the same routine, deposited with the House of Lords to await the royal assent,[195] and, after having been assented to as a matter of course, proclaimed as law. Bills, as a rule, may be introduced in either house, by the Government or by a private member. It is important to observe, however, in the first place, that certain classes of measures must originate in one or the other of the houses, e.g., money bills in the Commons and bills of attainder and other judicial bills in the Lords, and, in the second place, that with the growth of the leadership of the Government in legislation the importance, if not the number, of privately introduced bills has tended steadily to be decreased, and likewise the chances of their enactment.

[Footnote 194: See p. 45.]

[Footnote 195: Except that money bills remain in the custody of the Commons.]

*140. Public Bills: First and Second Readings.*—The steps through which a public bill, whether introduced by the Government or by a private member, must pass in the Commons are still numerous, but by the reduction of some of them to sheer formalities which involve neither debate nor vote the actual legislative process has been made much more expeditious than once it was. The necessary stages in the enactment of a bill in either house are, as a rule, five: first reading, second reading, consideration by committee, report from committee, and third reading. Formerly the introduction of a measure involved almost invariably a speech explaining at length the nature of the proposal, followed by a debate and a vote, sometimes consuming, in all, several sittings. Nowadays only very important Government bills are introduced in this manner. In the case of all other bills the first reading has become a mere formality, involving nothing more than a motion on the part of a member, official or private, for permission to bring in a measure and the giving of leave by the House, almost invariably without discussion. Upon all measures save the most important Government projects, opportunity for debate is first afforded at the second reading, although the discussion at this stage must relate to general principles rather than to details. By the adoption of a motion that the bill be read a second time "this day six months" (or at some other date falling beyond the anticipated limits of the session) a measure may at this point be killed.

*141. Public Bills: Later Stages.*—A bill which survives the (p. 134) second reading is "committed." Prior to 1907 it would go normally to the Committee of the Whole. Nowadays it goes there if it is a money bill or a bill for confirming a provisional order,[196] or if, on other grounds, the House so directs; otherwise it goes to one of the four standing committees, assignment being made by the Speaker. This is the stage at which the provisions of the measure are considered in detail and amendments are introduced. After the second reading, however, a bill may be referred to a select committee, and in the event that this is done a step is added to the process, for after being returned by the select committee the measure goes to the Committee of the Whole or to one of the standing committees. Eventually the bill is reported back to the House. If reported by a standing committee or, in amended form by the Committee of the Whole, it is considered by the House afresh and in some detail; otherwise, the "report stage" is omitted. Finally comes the third reading, the question now being whether the House approves the measure as a whole. At this stage any amendment beyond verbal changes necessitates recommitment. The carrying of a measure through these successive stages is spread over, as a rule, several days, and sometimes several weeks, but it is not impossible that the entire process be completed during the period of a sitting. Having been adopted by the originating house, a bill is taken by a clerk to the other house, there to be subjected to substantially the same procedure. If amendments are introduced, it is sent back in order that the suggested changes may be considered by the first house. If they are agreed to, the measure is sent up for the royal approval. If they are rejected and an agreement between the two houses cannot be reached, the measure falls.[197]

[Footnote 196: See p. 138.]

[Footnote 197: The legislative process is summed up aptly by Lowell as follows: "Leaving out of account the first reading, which rarely involves a real debate, the ordinary course of a public bill through the House of Commons gives, therefore, an opportunity for two debates upon its general merits, and between them two discussions of its details, or one debate upon the details if that one results in no changes, or if the bill has been referred to a standing committee. When the House desires to collect evidence it does so after approving of the general principle, and before taking up the details. Stated in this way the whole matter is plain and rational enough. It is, in fact, one of the many striking examples of adaptation in the English political system. A collection of rules that appear cumbrous and antiquated, and that even now are well-nigh incomprehensible when described in all their involved technicality, have been pruned away until they furnish a procedure almost as simple, direct, and appropriate as any one could devise." Government of England, I., 277-278. The procedure of the House of Commons on public bills is described in Lowell, Government of England, I., Chaps. 13, 17, 19; Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 240-267; Low, Governance of England, Chap. 4; Moran, English Government, Chap. 14; Marriott, English Political Institutions, Chap. 113; Todd, Parliamentary Government, II., 138-163; Ilbert, Parliament, Chap. 3; Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, III., 85-112; and May, Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, Chap. 18. See also G. Walpole, House of Commons Procedure, with Notes on American Practice (London, 1902), and C. P. Ilbert, Legislative Methods and Forms (Oxford, 1901), 77-121.]

*142. Money Bills: Appropriation and Finance Acts.*—The (p. 135) procedure followed in the handling of money bills differs materially from that which has been described. Underlying it are two fundamental principles, incorporated in the standing orders of the House of Commons during the first quarter of the eighteenth century. One of them prescribes that no petition or motion for the granting of money shall be proceeded upon save in Committee of the Whole. The other forbids the receiving of any petition, or the proceeding upon any motion, for a charge upon the public revenue unless recommended from the crown. Although these principles apply technically only to appropriations, they have long been observed with equal fidelity in respect to the raising of revenue. All specific measures for the expending of money and all proposals for the imposing of fresh taxation or the increase of existing taxation must emanate from the crown, i.e., in practice from the cabinet. A private member may go no further in this direction than to introduce resolutions of a wholly general character favoring some particular kind of expenditure, except that it is within his right to move to repeal or to reduce taxes which the Government has not proposed to modify.

Two great fiscal measures are introduced and carried through annually: the Appropriation Act, in which are brought together all the grants for the public services for the year, and the Finance Act in which are comprised all regulations relating to the revenue and the national debt. Before the close of the fiscal year (March 31) the ministry submits to the Commons a body of estimates for the "supply services," drawn up originally by the government departments, scrutinized by the Treasury, and approved by the cabinet. Early in the session the House resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole on Supply, by which resolutions of supply are discussed, adopted, and reported. These resolutions are embodied in bills which, for purposes of convenience, are passed at intervals during the session. But at the close all of them are consolidated in one grand Appropriation Act.[198] Upwards of half of the public expenditures, it is to be observed, e.g., the Civil List, the salaries of judges, pensions, and interest on the national debt, are provided for by permanent acts imposing charges (p. 136) upon the Consolidated Fund and do not come annually under parliamentary review.

[Footnote 198: Before the lapse of a twelvemonth unforeseen contingencies require invariably the voting of "supplementary grants."]

*143. The Budget.*—As soon as practicable after the close of the fiscal year the House, resolved for the purpose into Committee of Ways and Means, receives from the Chancellor of the Exchequer his Budget, or annual statement of accounts. The statement comprises regularly three parts: a review of revenue and expenditure during the year just closed, a provisional balance-sheet for the year to come, and a series of proposals for the remission, modification, or fresh imposition of taxes. Revenues, as expenditures, are in large part "permanent," yet a very considerable proportion are provided for through the medium of yearly votes. In Committee of Ways and Means the House considers the Chancellor's proposals, and after they have been reported back and embodied in a bill they are carried with the assent of the crown, though no longer necessarily of the Lords, into law. Prior to 1861 it was customary to include in the fiscal resolutions and in the bill in which they were embodied only the annual and temporary taxes, but in consequence of the Lords' rejection, in 1860, of a separate finance bill repealing the duties on paper it was made the practice to incorporate in a single bill—the so-called Finance Bill—provision for all taxes, whether temporary or permanent. In practice the House of Commons rarely refuses to approve the financial measures recommended by the Government. The chamber has no power to propose either expenditure or taxation, and the right which it possesses to refuse or to reduce the levies and the appropriations asked for is seldom used. "Financially," says Lowell, "its work is rather supervision than direction; and its real usefulness consists in securing publicity and criticism rather than in controlling expenditure."[199] The theory underlying fiscal procedure has been summed up lucidly as follows: "The Crown demands money, the Commons grant it, and the Lords assent to the grant;[200] but the Commons do not vote money unless it be required by the Crown; nor impose or augment taxes unless they be necessary for meeting the supplies which they have voted or are about to vote, and for supplying general deficiencies in the revenue. The Crown has no concern in the nature or distribution of the taxes; but the foundation of all Parliamentary taxation is its necessity for the public service as declared by the Crown through its constitutional advisers."[201]

[Footnote 199: Government of England, I., 288.]

[Footnote 200: Since the enactment of the Parliament Bill of 1911, as has been observed, the assent of the Lords is not necessary. See p. 112.]

[Footnote 201: The procedure involved in the handling of money bills is described in Lowell, Government of England, I., Chap. 14; Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 268-281; Walpole, Electorate and Legislature, Chap. 7; Todd, Parliamentary Government, II., 186-271; Ilbert, Parliament, Chap. 4; Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, III., 113-174; May, Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, Chap. 21. See also E. Porritt, Amendments in the House of Commons Procedure since 1881, in American Political Science Review, Nov., 1908. Among numerous works on taxation in England the standard authority is S. Dowell, History of Taxation and Taxes in England from the Earliest Times to the Year 1885, 4 vols. (2d ed., London, 1888).]

*144. Private Bills: Nature and Procedure.*—In the matter of (p. 137) procedure there is no distinction between a Government bill and a private member's bill. Both are public bills. But a private bill is handled in a manner largely peculiar to itself. A public bill is one which affects the general interests of the state, and which has for its object presumably the promotion of the common good. A private bill is one which has in view the interest of some particular locality, person, or collection of persons. The commonest object of private bills is to enable private individuals to enter into combination to undertake works of public utility—the building of railways or tramways, the construction of harbors or piers, the draining of swamps, the supplying of water, gas, or electricity, and the embarking upon a wide variety of other enterprises which in the United States would be regulated chiefly by state legislatures and city councils—at their own risk and, in part at least, for their own profit. All private bills originate in petitions, which must be submitted in advance of the opening of the session during which they are to be considered. Their presentation and the various stages of their progress are governed by very detailed and stringent regulations, and fees are required from both promoters and opponents, so that the enactment of a private bill of importance becomes for the parties directly concerned an expensive process, and for the Exchequer a source of no inconsiderable amount of revenue.

After having been scrutinized and approved by parliamentary officials known as Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, a private bill is introduced in one of the two houses.[202] Its introduction is equivalent to its first reading. At its second reading debate may take place upon the principle of the measure, after which the bill, if opposed, is referred to a Private Bill Committee consisting of four members and a disinterested referee. If the bill be not opposed, i.e., if no adverse petition has been filed by property owners, corporations, or other interests, the committee of reference, under a standing order of 1903, consists of the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, two other members of the House, appointed by (p. 138) the Committee of Selection, and the Counsel to Mr. Speaker. The committee stage of a contested bill assumes an essentially judicial aspect. Promoters and opponents are represented by counsel, witnesses are examined, and expert testimony is taken. After being reported by committee, the measure goes its way under the same regulations as those controlling the progress of public bills.

[Footnote 202: To facilitate their consideration, such measures are distributed approximately equally between the two houses. This is done through conference of the Chairmen of Committees of the two houses, or their counsel, prior to the assembling of Parliament.]

*145. Provisional Orders.*—Two things are, however, to be noted. The first one is that while in theory the distinction between a public and a private bill is clear, in point of fact there is no little difficulty in drawing a line of demarcation, and the result has been the recognition of an indefinite class of "hybrid" bills, partly public and partly private in content and handled under some circumstances as the one and under others as the other, or even under a procedure combining features of both. The second fact to be observed is that, in part to reduce expense and in part to procure the good-will of the executive department concerned, it has become common for the promoters of enterprises requiring parliamentary sanction to make use of the device known as provisional orders. A provisional order is an order issued, after minute investigation, by a government department authorizing provisionally the undertaking of a project in behalf of which application has been made. It requires eventually the sanction of Parliament, but such orders are laid before the houses in groups by the several departments and their ratification is virtually assured in advance. It is pointed out by Lowell that during the years 1898-1901 not one-tenth of the provisional orders laid before Parliament were opposed, and but one failed of adoption.[203]

[Footnote 203: Government of England, I., 385. On private bill legislation see Lowell, I., Chap. 20; Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I, 291-300; May, Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, Chaps. 24-29; Courtney, Working Constitution of the United Kingdom, Chap. 18; MacDonaugh, The Book of Parliament, 398-420. The standard treatise upon the subject is F. Clifford, History of Private Bill Legislation, 2 vols. (London, 1885-1887). A recent book of value is F. H. Spencer, Municipal Origins; an Account of English Private Bill Legislation relating to Local Government, 1740-1835, with a Chapter on Private Bill Procedure (London, 1911).]


"How can I learn the rules of the Commons?" was a question once put by an Irish member to Mr. Parnell. "By breaking them," was the philosophic reply. Representing, as it does, an accumulation through centuries of deliberately adopted regulations, interwoven and overlaid with unwritten custom, the code of procedure by which the conduct of business in the House of Commons is governed is indeed intricate (p. 139) and forbidding. Lord Palmerston admitted that he never fully mastered it, and Gladstone was not infrequently an inadvertent offender against the "rules of the House." Prior to the nineteenth century the rules were devised, as is pointed out by Anson, with two objects in view: to protect the House from hasty and ill-considered action pressed forward by the king's ministers, and to secure fair play between the parties in the chamber and a hearing for all. It was not until 1811 that business of the Government was permitted to obtain recognized precedence on certain days; but the history of the procedure of the Commons since that date is a record of (1) the general reduction of the time during which private members may indulge in the discussion of subjects or measures lying outside the Government's legislative programme, (2) increasing limitation of the opportunity for raising general questions at the various stages of Government business, and (3) the cutting down of the time allowed for discussing at all the projects to which the Government asks the chambers' assent.[204]

[Footnote 204: Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 253.]

*146. Rules.*—The rules governing debate and decorum are not only elaborate but, in some instances, of great antiquity. In so far as they have been reduced to writing they may be said to comprise (1) "standing orders" of a permanent character, (2) "sessional orders," operative during a session only, and (3) "general orders," indeterminate in respect to period of application. In the course of debate all remarks are addressed to the Speaker and in the event that the floor is desired by more than one member it rests with the Speaker to designate, with scrupulous impartiality, who shall have it. When a "division" is in progress and the doors are closed members speak seated and covered, but at all other times they speak standing and uncovered. A speech may not be read from manuscript, and it is within the competence of the Speaker not only to warn a member against irrelevance or repetition but to compel him to terminate his remarks.[205] A member whose conduct is reprehensible may be ordered to withdraw and, upon vote of the House, may be suspended from service. Except in committee, a member may not speak twice upon the same question, although he may be allowed the floor a second time to explain a portion of his speech which has been misunderstood. Undue obstruction is not tolerated, and the Speaker may decline to put a motion which he considers dilatory.

[Footnote 205: On parliamentary oratory see Graham, The Mother of Parliaments, 203-224.]

*147. Closure and the Guillotine.*—For the further limitation of debate two important and drastic devices are at all times available. One is ordinary closure and the other is "the guillotine." Closure dates originally from 1881. It was introduced in the standing orders of (p. 140) the House in 1882, and it assumed its present form in 1888.[206] It sprang from the efforts of the House to curb the intolerably obstructionist tactics employed a generation ago by the Irish Nationalists, but by reason of the increasing mass of business to be disposed of and the tendency of large deliberative bodies to waste time, it has been found too useful to be given up. "After a question has been proposed," reads Standing Order 26, "a member rising in his place may claim to move 'that the Question be now put,' and unless it shall appear to the Chair that such motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority, the Question 'that the Question be now put' shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate." Discussion may thus be cut off instantly and a vote precipitated. Closure is inoperative, however, unless the number of members voting in the majority for its adoption is at least one hundred, or, in a standing committee, twenty.

A more generally effective device by which discussion is limited and the transaction of business is facilitated is that known as "closure by compartments," or "the guillotine." When this is employed the House in advance of the consideration of a bill agrees upon an allotment of time to the various parts or stages of the measure, and at the expiration of each period debate, whether concluded or not, is closed, a vote is taken, and a majority adopts that portion of the bill upon which the guillotine has fallen. In recent years this device has been employed almost invariably when an important Government bill is reserved for consideration in Committee of the Whole. Its advantage is the saving of time and the ensuring that by a given date final action upon a measure shall have been taken. Prior to the middle of the nineteenth century liberty of discussion in the Commons was all but unrestrained, save by what an able authority on English parliamentary practice has termed "the self-imposed parliamentary discipline of the parties."[206] The enormous change which has come about is attributable to two principal causes, congestion of business and the rise of obstructionism. The effect has been, among other things, to accentuate party differences and to involve occasional disregard of the rights of minorities.[207]

[Footnote 206: The name was first employed in 1887.]

[Footnote 207: Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, I., 133-212; Graham, The Mother of Parliaments, 158-172. An excellent illustration of the use of the guillotine is afforded by the history of the passage of the National Insurance Bill of 1911. See Annual Register (1911), 232-236.]

*148. Votes and Divisions.*—When debate upon the whole or a portion of a measure is terminated there takes place a vote, which may or may not involve, technically, a "division." The Speaker or Chairman (p. 141) states the question to be voted upon and calls for the ayes and noes. He announces the apparent result and, if his decision is not challenged, the vote is so recorded. If, however, any member objects, strangers are asked to withdraw (save from the places reserved for them), electric bells are rung throughout the building, the two-minute sand-glass is turned, and at the expiration of the time the doors are locked. The question is then repeated and another oral vote is taken. If there is still lack of acquiescence in the announced result, the Speaker orders a division. The ayes pass into the lobby at the Speaker's right and the noes into that at his left, and all are counted by four tellers designated by the Speaker, two from each side, as the members return to their places in the chamber. This method of taking a division has undergone but little change since 1836. Under a standing order of 1888 the Speaker is empowered, in the event that he considers a demand for a division dilatory or irresponsible, to call upon the ayes and noes to rise in their places and be counted; but there is seldom occasion for resort to this variation from the established practice. The device of "pairing" is not unknown, and when the question is one of political moment the fact is made obvious by the activity of the party "whips" in behalf of the interests which they represent.[208]

[Footnote 208: On the conduct of business in the Commons see Lowell, Government of England, I, Chaps. 15-16; Moran, English Government, Chap. 15; Walpole, Electorate and Legislature, Chap. 8; Ilbert, Parliament, Chap. 5; Redlich, Procedure of the House of Commons, II., 215-264, III., 1-41; May, Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament, Chaps, 8-12; Medley, Manual of English Constitutional History, 231-284; Graham, The Mother of Parliaments, 225-258; and MacDonaugh, The Book of Parliament, 217-247.]

*149. Procedure in the Lords.*—The rules of procedure of the House of Lords are in theory simple, and in practice yet more so. Nominally, all measures of importance, after being read twice, are considered in Committee of the Whole, referred to a standing committee for textual revision, reported, and accorded final adoption or rejection. In practice the process is likely to be abbreviated. Few bills, for example, are actually referred to the revision committee. For the examination of such measures as seem to require it committees are constituted for the session, and others are created from time to time as need of them appears, but the comparative leisure of the chamber permits debate within the Committee of the Whole upon any measure which the members really care to discuss. Willful obstruction is all but unknown, so that there has never been occasion for the adoption of any form of closure. Important questions are decided, as a rule, by a division. When the question is put those members who desire to register an affirmative vote repair to the lobby at the right of (p. 142) the woolsack, those who are opposed to the proposal take their places in the corresponding lobby at the left, and both groups are counted by tellers appointed by the presiding officer. A member may abstain from voting by taking his station on "the steps of the throne," technically accounted outside the chamber. Prior to 1868 absent members were allowed to vote by proxy, but this indefensible privilege, abolished by standing order in the year mentioned, is likely never to be revived.[209]

[Footnote 209: On the conduct of business in the Lords see Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, I., 281-291.]

CHAPTER VII (p. 143)



*150. Government by Party.*—Intimately connected with the parliamentary scheme of government which has been described is the characteristic British system of government by party. Indeed, not merely is there between the two an intimate connection; they are but different aspects of the same working arrangement. The public affairs of the kingdom at any given time, as has appeared, are managed by the body of ministers, acting with and through a supporting majority in the House of Commons. These ministers belong to one or the other of the two great political parties, with only occasional and incidental representation of minor affiliated political groups. Their supporters in the Commons are, in the main, their fellow-partisans, and their tenure of power is dependent upon the fortunes of their party in Parliament and throughout the country. They are at once the working executive, the guiding agency in legislation, and the leaders and spokesmen of this party. Confronting them constantly is the Opposition, consisting of influential exponents of the contrary political faith who, in turn, lead the rank and file of their party organization; and if at any time the ministers in power lose their supporting majority in the Commons, whether through adverse results of a national election or otherwise, they retire and the Opposition assumes office. The parliamentary system and the party system are thus inextricably related, the one being, indeed, historically the product of the other. It was principally through the agency of party spirit, party contest, and party unity that there was established by degrees that single and collective responsibility of ministers which lies at the root of parliamentary government; and, but for the coherence and stability with which political activity is invested by party organization, the operation of the parliamentary system would be an impossibility. The law of the British constitution does not demand the existence of parties; on the contrary, it affords them no recognition or place. The conventions, however, both assume and require them.

*151. Two-Party Organization.*—The relationship which subsists (p. 144) between parliamentarism and party government is to be accounted for in no small measure by the fact that the number of great parties in the United Kingdom is but two. Certain continental nations, notably France and Italy, possess the forms of parliamentary government, adopted within times comparatively recent and taken over largely from Great Britain. In these countries, however, the multiplicity of parties effectually prevents the operation of the parliamentary system in the fashion in which that system operates across the Channel. Ministries must be made up invariably of representatives of a number of essentially independent groups. They are apt to be in-harmonious, to be able to execute but indifferently the composite will of the Government coalition in the popular chamber, and, accordingly, to be short-lived. Despite the rise in recent decades of the Irish Nationalist and Labor groups, it is still true in Great Britain, as it has been since political parties first made their appearance there, that two leading party affiliations divide between themselves the allegiance of the mass of the nation. The defeat of one means the triumph of the other, and either alone is competent normally to govern independently if elevated to power. This means, on the one hand, a much more thoroughgoing predominance of the governing party than can be acquired by a single party in France or Italy and, on the other hand, a unique concentration of responsibility and, in turn, an increased responsiveness to the public will. The leaders of the one party for the time in the ascendancy govern the nation, by reason of the fact that, being the leaders of this party, they are selected without doubt or equivocation to fill the principal offices of state.[210]

[Footnote 210: For a fuller exposition of the relations of party and the parliamentary system see Lowell, Government of England, I., Chap. 24. The best description of English parties and party machinery is that contained in Chaps. 24-37 of President Lowell's volumes. The growth of parties and of party organization is discussed with fullness and with admirable temper in M. Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties, trans. by F. Clarke, 2 vols. (London, 1902). A valuable monograph is A. L. Lowell, The Influence of Party upon Legislation in England and America, in Annual Report of American Historical Association for 1901 (Washington, 1902), I., 319-542. An informing study is E. Porritt, The Break-up of the English Party System, in Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science, V., No. 4 (Jan., 1895), and an incisive criticism is H. Belloc and H. Chesterton, The Party System (London, 1911). There is no adequate history of English political parties from their origins to the present day. G. W. Cooke, The History of Party from the Rise of the Whig and Tory factions in the Reign of Charles II. to the Passing of the Reform Bill, 3 vols. (London, 1836-1837) covers the subject satisfactorily to the end of the last unreformed parliament. Other party histories—as T. E. Kebbel, History of Toryism (London, 1886); C. B. R. Kent, The English Radicals (London, 1899); W. Harris, History of the Radical Party in Parliament (London, 1885); and J. B. Daly, The Dawn of Radicalism (London, 1892)—cover important but restricted fields. An admirable work which deals with party organization as well as with party principles is R. S. Watson, The National Liberal Federation from its Commencement to the General Election of 1906 (London, 1907). For further party histories see p. 160, 166.]


*152. Whigs and Tories.*—The seventeenth-century origins of political parties in England, the development of Whigs and Tories following the Revolution of 1688-1689, and the prolonged Whig supremacy during the reigns of George I. and George II., have been alluded to in another place.[211] During the eighteenth century the parliamentary system was but slowly coming into its own, and again and again party lines all but disappeared. The recurring rivalry of Whig and Tory elements, however, brought about gradually a habitual recognition of the responsibility of ministers, and this responsibility, in turn, reacted to accentuate party demarcation. The efforts of George III. to revive the royal prerogative had the effect of calling into existence a body of new Tories, not Jacobite, but Hanoverian, who supported the king in his purpose, and at the same time, of driving the forces of opposition to a closer union and more constant vigilance. Throughout the century the tone of party politics was continuously low. Bribery and other forms of corruption were rife, and the powers of government, both national and local, were in the hands regularly of an aristocratic minority which ruled in its own interest. The high-water mark of intrigue was reached in 1783 when the old Tories, led by Lord North, allied themselves with the old Whigs, led by Charles James Fox, to retain power and to curtail the influence of the king. The coalition was unsuccessful, and the defeat of Fox's India Bill, in December, 1783, became the occasion of the younger Pitt's elevation to the premiership, followed within three months by a national election which precipitated an end of the seventy years of Whig ascendancy.

[Footnote 211: See p. 39.]

*153. The Tory Ascendancy, 1783-1830.*—Throughout the ensuing forty-six years, or until 1830, the new Tory party continued almost uninterruptedly in power, although it is to be observed that after 1790 the composition and character of this party underwent important modification. The first decade of the period covered by the Pitt ministry (1784-1801) was a time of incipient but active propaganda in behalf of constitutional, financial, and social reform, and the government was not disinclined to favor a number of the changes which were projected. The outbreak and progress of the Revolution in (p. 146) France, however, completely altered the situation. The great landowners, who constituted the dominating element in the Whig party, detested the principles of the Revolution and were insistent in season and out upon war with France. They secured the support of the parliamentary classes generally, and Pitt and his colleagues were forced to surrender to the apprehensions and demands of these elements. The war was declared by France, but it was provoked mainly by the hostile attitude of the English people and government. At home all reform propaganda was stamped out, and Tories and Whigs alike throughout the quarter-century of international conflict pointed habitually to the abuses by which the upheaval in France was accompanied as indicative of what might be expected in England, or anywhere, when once the way was thrown open for unrestrained innovation.

The Tories were in power during most of the war period and in 1815 their position was seemingly impregnable. During the years covered by the ministry of Lord Liverpool (1812-1827), however, their hold was gradually relaxed. They sought to secure for themselves the support of the masses and talked much of the aristocratic exclusiveness of the Whigs, yet they made it their first concern to maintain absolutely intact the constitution of the kingdom and the political and social order by which it was buttressed. As long as England was engaged in a life and death contest with Napoleon the staying of innovation was easy, but after 1815 the task became one of rapidly increasing difficulty. In the reign of George IV. (1820-1830) the more progressive of the Tory leaders, notably Canning, Huskisson, and Peel, recognized that the demands of the nation would have to be met at some points, and a number of liberalizing measures were suffered to be carried through Parliament, though none which touched directly the most serious problems of the day. In 1830 the resignation of the ministry of the Duke of Wellington marked the end of the prolonged Tory ascendancy, and with a ministry presided over by Earl Grey the Whigs returned to power. With the exception of a few brief intervals they and their successors, the Liberals, held office thereafter until 1874.[212]

[Footnote 212: The party history of the period 1700-1792 is related admirably and in much detail in W. E. H. Lecky, History of England in the Eighteenth Century, 7 vols. (new ed., New York, 1903). Beginning with 1815, the best work on English political history in the earlier nineteenth century is S. Walpole, History of England from the Conclusion of the Great War in 1815, 6 vols. (new ed., London, 1902). A good general account is contained in I. S. Leadam, The History of England from the Accession of Anne to the Death of George II. (London, 1909), and W. Hunt, The History of England from the Accession of George III. to the Close of Pitt's First Administration (London, 1905). Briefer accounts of the period 1783-1830 will be found in May and Holland, Constitutional History of England, I., 409-440, and in Cambridge Modern History, IX., Chap. 22 and X., Chaps. 18-20 (see bibliography, pp. 856-870). Important biographies of political leaders include A. von Ruville, William Pitt, Graf von Chatham, 3 vols. (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1905); W. D. Green, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (London, 1901); E. Fitzmaurice, Life of William, Earl of Shelburne, 3 vols. (London, 1875-1876); Lord P. H. Stanhope, Life of Pitt, 4 vols. (London, 1861-1862); Lord Rosebery, Pitt (London, 1891); and Lord J. Russell, Life of Charles James Fox, 3 vols. (1859-1867).]


*154. The Liberals and Reform.*—The political history of this second great era of Whig ascendancy falls into some four or five stages. The first, extending from the accession of the Grey ministry in 1830 to the parliamentary elections of 1841, was an epoch of notable reforms, undertaken and carried through mainly by the Whigs, with the co-operation of various radical elements and of discontented Tories. This was the period of the first Reform Act (1832), the emancipation of slaves in the British colonies (1833), the beginning of parliamentary appropriations for public education (1833), the Factory Act of 1833, the New Poor Law (1834), the Municipal Corporations Act (1835), and a number of other measures designed to meet urgent demands of humanity and of public interest. This was the time, furthermore, at which the party nomenclature of later days was brought into use. The name Whig was superseded altogether by that of Liberal, while the name Tory, though not wholly discontinued in everyday usage, was replaced largely by the term Conservative.[213] The Liberals were in these years peculiarly the party of reform, but it must not be inferred that the Conservatives resisted all change or withheld support from all measures of amelioration.

[Footnote 213: The name Conservative was employed by Canning as early as 1824. Its use was already becoming common when, in January, 1835, Peel, in his manifesto to the electors of Tamworth, undertook an exposition of the principles of what he declared should be known henceforth as the Conservative—not the Tory—party.]

*155. From Peel to Palmerston.*—The second stage of the period under survey was that comprised by the Conservative ministry of Sir Robert Peel, 1841-1846, established in consequence of the decisive defeat of the Whigs at the elections of 1841. The memorable achievement of the Peel government was the repeal of the Corn Laws and the casting off of substantially the whole of the protective system; but the tariff policy of the premier divided the Conservative party into the protectionists or old Conservatives, led by Disraeli and Lord Derby, and the free trade or liberal Conservatives, led by Aberdeen and (p. 148) Gladstone, and the breach enabled the Liberals, under Lord John Russell, to recover office in 1847. A third stage of the period, i.e., 1847 to 1859, was one of ministerial instability. Disputes between Russell and Palmerston, the foreign minister, undermined the Liberal position, and in 1852 the Conservatives, under the leadership of Derby, returned to power. In 1853, however, the free trade Conservatives joined the Liberals, overthrew Derby, and placed in office a coalition ministry under Aberdeen. This government maintained itself until 1855, when, by reason of discontent aroused by his management of England's part in the Crimean War, Aberdeen resigned and was succeeded by Palmerston, at the head of another Liberal ministry. Foreign difficulties drove Palmerston from office early in 1858, and the establishment of a second Derby ministry marked a brief return of the Conservatives to control. Defeated, however, on a resolution censuring the Government for the inadequacy of the reform bill introduced by it in 1859, and also for the failure of Lord Derby to prevent the war between France and Austria, the ministry resigned, in April, 1859, and Lord Palmerston returned to power, with Gladstone and Lord John Russell as colleagues. Gladstone's acceptance of office under Palmerston marked the final severance of the Peelites from the Conservative party and the abandonment of all hope of the reconstruction for which both Gladstone and Derby had labored.

*156. Party Regeneration.*—A fourth, and final, stage of the Liberal period covered the years 1859 to 1874. Its importance arises not merely from the fact that the culmination of the power of the Liberals during the nineteenth century was attained at this point, but from the further fact that it was during these years that the Liberal party was transformed and popularized so as to be made for the first time really worthy of the name which it bears. As long as Palmerston lived the Liberals of the old school, men who disliked radicalism and were content with the reform of 1832, were in the ascendancy, but after the premier's death, October 18, 1865, new ideas and influences asserted themselves and a new Liberal party came rapidly to the fore. This regenerated party, whose leader was Gladstone, rejected definitely the ideal of laissez-faire, took over numerous principles of the Radicals, and, with the watchwords of "peace, retrenchment, and reform," began to insist upon a broader parliamentary franchise and upon fresh legislation for the protection and general betterment of the masses. The new liberalism was paralleled, however, by a new conservatism, whose principal exponent was Disraeli. The new Conservatives likewise advocated franchise reform and legislation for the people, although they put more emphasis upon the latter than upon the former; and they especially favored a firm foreign policy, (p. 149) an extension of British interests in all parts of the world, and the adoption of a scheme of colonial federation. They appeared, at least, to have less regard for peace and for economy than had the Liberals.

The temper and tendencies of the parties as they gradually assumed shape during the third quarter of the nineteenth century have been characterized effectively by a recent writer as follows: "The parties of which Gladstone and Disraeli were the chiefs were linked by continuous historical succession with the two great sections or factions of the aristocracy, or hereditary oligarchy, which ruled Great Britain in the eighteenth century. But each had been transformed by national changes since the Reform Bill. The Whigs had become Liberals, the Tories had become Conservatives. The Liberal party had absorbed part of the principles of the French Revolution. They stood now for individual liberty, laying especial stress on freedom of trade, freedom of contract, and freedom of competition. They had set themselves to break down the rule of the landowner and the Church, to shake off the fetters of Protection, and to establish equality before the law. Their acceptance of egalitarian principles led them to adopt democratic ideals, to advocate extension of the suffrage, and the emancipation of the working classes. Such principles, though not revolutionary, are to some extent disruptive in their tendency; and their adoption by the Liberals had forced the Tory party to range themselves in defense of the existing order of things. They professed to stand for the Crown, the Church, and the Constitution. They were compelled by the irresistible trend of events to accept democratic principles and to carry out democratic reforms. They preferred, in fact, to carry out such reforms themselves, in order that the safeguards which they considered necessary might be respected. Democratic principles having been adopted, both parties made it their object to redress grievances; but the Conservatives showed a natural predisposition to redress those grievances which arose from excessive freedom of competition, the Liberals were the more anxious to redress those which were the result of hereditary or customary privilege. The harmony of the State consists in the equilibrium between the two opposing forces of liberty and order. The Liberals laid more stress upon liberty, the Conservatives attached more importance to order and established authority."[214]

[Footnote 214: S. Leathes, in Cambridge Modern History, XII., 30-31.]

*157. The First Gladstone Ministry.*—Upon the death of Palmerston in 1865 Lord John Russell became premier a second time, but in the course of the following year a franchise reform bill brought forward by the Government was defeated in the Commons, through the instrumentality chiefly of a group of old Liberals (the "Adullamites") who (p. 150) opposed modification of the electoral system, and by curious circumstance it fell to the purely Conservative Derby-Disraeli ministry of 1866-1868 not only to carry the first electoral reform since 1832 but to impart to that reform a degree of thoroughness upon which none save the most advanced radicals had cared to insist. The results of the doubling of the electorate were manifest in the substantial majority which the new Liberals acquired at the elections of 1868, and the Disraeli ministry (Derby had retired early in the year) gave place to a government presided over by the indubitable leader of the new Liberal forces, Gladstone. The years 1868-1874, covered by the first Gladstone ministry, were given distinction by a remarkable series of reforms, including the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland (1869), the enactment of an Irish land bill (1870), the institution of national control of elementary education (1870), and the adoption of the Australian ballot in parliamentary elections (1872). Defeated at last, however, on an Irish university bill, the ministry resigned, and when, at the elections of 1874, the country was appealed to, the Conservatives obtained a clear parliamentary majority of fifty seats. This was the first really dependable majority, indeed, which the party had possessed since 1842. Disraeli became prime minister and Derby minister for foreign affairs.[215]

[Footnote 215: The political history of the period 1830-1874 is covered very satisfactorily in W. N, Molesworth, History of England from the Year 1830-1874, 3 vols. (London, 1874). Other general works include: Walpole, History of England, vols. 3-6, extending to 1856; H. Paul, History of Modern England, 5 vols. (London, 1904-1906), vols. 1-3, beginning with 1845; J. McCarthy, History of Our Own Times from the Accession of Queen Victoria, 7 vols. (1877-1905), vols. 1-3, beginning with the events of 1837; J. F. Bright, History of England, 5 vols. (London, 1875-1894), vol. 4; and S. Low and L. C. Sanders, History of England during the Reign of Victoria (London, 1907). Briefer treatment will be found in May and Holland, Constitutional History of England, I., 440-468, III., 67-88, and in Cambridge Modern History, XI., chaps. 1, 11, 12 (see bibliography, pp. 867-873). Biographies of importance include S. Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell, 2 vols. (London, 1889); H. Maxwell, Life of the Duke of Wellington, 2 vols. (London, 1899); J. Morley, Life of William E. Gladstone, 3 vols. (London, 1903); J. R. Thursfield, Peel (London, 1907); W. F. Monypenny, Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (London, 1910-1912), vols. 1-2, covering the years 1804-1846; and S. Lee, Queen Victoria, a Biography (rev. ed., London, 1904).]


*158. The Question of Irish Home Rule.*—During the five years covered by the life of the second Disraeli ministry British imperialism reached flood tide. The reforms of the Gladstone government were (p. 151) not undone, but the Conservative leaders interested themselves principally in foreign and colonial questions, and home affairs received but scant attention. The result was public discontent, and at the elections of 1880 the Liberals obtained a parliamentary majority of more than one hundred seats. It remained for the second Gladstone government, established at this point, to adjust a number of difficulties on the frontiers of the Empire; but the heart of the ministry was not in this sort of work and the way was cleared as speedily as possible for a return to the consideration of problems of a domestic nature. In 1884 the Representation of the People Act was carried, and in 1885 the Redistribution of Seats Act. But now, and throughout a decade and a half following, the question which overshadowed all others was that of Home Rule for Ireland. Upon this issue, in its variety of aspects, governments henceforth rose and fell, parties were disrupted and re-aligned. In 1885 the Parnellites, or Irish Nationalists, incensed because of Gladstone's indifference to Home Rule, and taking advantage of the ministry's unpopularity arising from the failure of its Egyptian policy, compassed the defeat of the Government on a measure relating to the taxing of beer and spirits. The Marquis of Salisbury, who after the death of Lord Beaconsfield, in 1881, had become leader of the Conservatives, made up a government; but, absolutely dependent upon the Irish Nationalist alliance and yet irrevocably committed against Home Rule, the Salisbury ministry found itself from the outset in an impossible position.

*159. The Liberal Unionists.*—The elections at the end of 1885 yielded the Conservatives 249 seats, the Irish Nationalists 86, and the Liberals 335, and January 28, 1880, the Salisbury ministry retired. Gladstone returned to power and Home Rule took its place in the formal programme of the Liberal party. Then followed, April 8, 1886, the introduction of the first of Gladstone's memorable Home Rule bills. The measure accorded the Irish a separate parliament at Dublin, cut them off from representation at Westminster, and required them to bear a proportionate share of the expenses of the Imperial Government. It was thrown out by the Commons on the second reading. The Conservatives opposed it solidly, many of the Irish Nationalists were dissatisfied with it, and upwards of a hundred Liberal members, led by Joseph Chamberlain, flatly refused to follow the majority of their fellow-partisans in voting for it. Under the name of Liberal Unionists these dissenters eventually broke entirely from their earlier affiliation; and, inclining more and more toward the position occupied by the Conservatives, they ended by losing their identity in the ranks of that party. Their accession, however, brought the Conservatives new vigor, new issues, and even a new name, for in more recent (p. 152) days the term Conservative has been supplanted very generally by that of Unionist.

*160. Second Salisbury and Fourth Gladstone Ministries.*—The defeat of Home Rule was followed by a national election, the result of which was the return of 316 Conservatives, 78 Liberal Unionists, 191 Gladstonian Liberals, and 85 Irish Nationalists. The combined unionists had a majority of 118, and July 26, 1886, the short-lived third Gladstone government was succeeded by a second ministry presided over by the Marquis of Salisbury. Home Rule, however, was not dead. During the years of the Salisbury ministry (1886-1892) the authorities were obliged to devote much attention to Irish affairs, and in 1892 the Liberals were returned to office on a platform which stipulated expressly Home Rule for Ireland.[216] The Conservative appeal to the country at this time was made on the ground, first, that Home Rule should be resisted, and, second, that the Government's achievements in reform and constructive legislation entitled the party to continuance in power; but in the new parliament there was an adverse majority of forty, and August 18 Gladstone, for the fourth time, was requested to form a ministry.[217] The elections of 1892 are of interest by reason of the fact that they marked the first appearance of independent labor representatives in Parliament. Miners' delegates and an agricultural laborer had been elected before, but they had identified themselves in all instances with the radical wing of the Liberals. There were now returned, however, four members, including John Burns and Keir Hardie, who chose to hold aloof and, as they expressed it, "to sit in opposition until they should cross the house to form a labor government." The Home Rule bill which Gladstone introduced February 13, 1893, differed from its predecessor of 1886 principally in not excluding the Irish from representation at Westminster. It was passed in the House of Commons, although by an ultimate majority of but thirty-four, but in the Lords it was rejected by a vote of 419 to 41. In the face of an obstacle so formidable as that imposed by the adverse majority in the upper chamber it appeared useless to press the issue. The Lords, whose power in legislation became at this point greater than at any time since 1832, systematically balked the Government at every turn, and March 3, 1894, Gladstone, aged and (p. 153) weary of parliamentary strife, retired from office. His last speech in the Commons comprised a sharp arraignment of the House of Lords, with a forecast of the clash which eventually would lead (and, in point of fact, has led) to the reconstitution of that chamber.

[Footnote 216: This was the "Newcastle Programme," drawn up at a convention of the National Liberal Federation at Newcastle in October, 1891. Items in the programme, in addition to Home Rule, included the disestablishment of the Church in Wales and Scotland, a local veto on the sale of intoxicating liquors, the abolition of the plural franchise, and articles defining employers' liability and limiting the hours of labor.]

[Footnote 217: C. A. Whitmore, Six Years of Unionist Government, 1886-1892 (London, 1892).]

*161. Third and Fourth Salisbury Ministries.*—For the time the Earl of Rosebery, who had been foreign secretary, assumed the premiership and there was no break in the Government's policy. In June, 1895, however, the ministry suffered a defeat on the floor of the Commons, and the Marquis of Salisbury was a third time invited to form a government. The retirement of Gladstone brought to light numerous rifts within the Liberal party, and when the new ministry, in July, appealed to the country, with Home Rule as a preponderating issue, its supporters secured in the Commons a majority of 152 seats over the Liberals and Nationalists combined. The Liberal Unionists returned 71 members, and to cement yet more closely the Conservative-Unionist alliance Lord Salisbury made up a ministry in which the Unionist elements were ably represented by Joseph Chamberlain as Colonial Secretary, Viscount Goschen as First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Duke of Devonshire as President of the Council. The premier himself returned to the post of Foreign Secretary, and his nephew, Arthur J. Balfour, now become again Government leader in the Commons, to that of First Lord of the Treasury. The accession of the third Salisbury ministry marked the beginning of a Unionist ascendancy which lasted uninterruptedly a full decade. In 1902 Lord Salisbury, whose fourth ministry, dating from the elections of 1900, was continuous with his third, retired from public life, but he was succeeded in the premiership by Mr. Balfour, and the personnel and policies of the Government continued otherwise unchanged.[218]

[Footnote 218: The most useful works on the party history of the period 1874-1895 are Paul, History of Modern England, vols. 4-5, and Morley, Life of W. E. Gladstone, vol. 3. J. McCarthy's History of Our Own Times, vols. 4-6, covers the ground in a popular way. Useful brief accounts are May and Holland, Constitutional History of England, III., 88-127, and Cambridge Modern History, XII., Chap. 3 (bibliography, pp. 853-855). An excellent book is H. Whates, The Third Salisbury Administration, 1895-1900 (London, 1901).]

*162. Unionist Imperialism: the Elections of 1900.*—During the larger part of this Unionist decade the Liberal party, rent by factional disputes and personal rivalries, afforded but ineffective opposition.[219] The Home Rule question fell into the background; and although (p. 154) the Unionists carried through a considerable amount of social and industrial legislation, the interests of the period center largely in the Government's policies and achievements within the domain of foreign and colonial affairs. The most hotly contested issue of the decade was imperialism; the most commanding public figure was Joseph Chamberlain; the most notable enterprise undertaken was the war in South Africa. In 1900 it was resolved by the ministerial leaders to take advantage of the public spirit engendered by the war to procure for the Unionists a fresh lease of power. Parliament was dissolved and, on the eve of the announcement of the annexation of the Transvaal, a general election was held. The Liberals, led since early in 1899 by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, charged the Unionists with neglect of social and industrial matters, pledged themselves to educational, housing, and temperance reform, and sought especially to convince the electorate that they might be intrusted with safety to defend the legitimate interests of the Empire. The Government forced the fight upon the issue of South African policy almost exclusively, and, representing the opposition as "Little-Englanders," went before the people with the argument that from the course that had been entered upon in South Africa there could be no turning back, and that the present ministry was entitled to an opportunity to carry to completion the work that it had begun. The appeal was altogether successful. The Conservatives obtained 334 seats and the Liberal Unionists 68—a total of 402; while the Liberals and Laborites carried but 186 and the Nationalists 82—a total of 268. The Government majority in the new parliament was thus 134, almost precisely that of 1895.[220]

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