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mistress would not plot against an invulnerable administration; but very many will intrigue when parliament is perplexed, when parties are divided, when alternatives are many, when many evil things are possible, when cabinet government must be difficult.
It is very important to see that a good administration can be started without a sovereign, because some colonial statesmen have doubted it: “I can conceive," it has been said, “that a ministry would go on well enough without a governor when it was launched, but I do not see how to launch it." It has even been suggested that a colony which broke away from England, and had to form its own government, might not unwisely choose a governor for life and solely trusted with selecting ministers, something like the Abbé Sièyes's Grand Elector. But the introduction of such an officer into such a colony would in fact be the voluntary erection of an artificial incumbrance to it. He would inevitably be a party man.
The most dignified post in the state must be an object of contest to the great sections into which every active political community is divided : these parties mix in everything and meddle in everything, and they neither would nor could permit the most honored and conspicuous of all stations to be filled except at their pleasure. They know, too, that the grand elector, the great chooser of ministries, might be, at a sharp crisis, either a good friend or a bad enemy. The strongest party would select some one who would be on their side when he had to take a side, who would incline to them when he did incline, who should be a constant auxiliary to them and a constant impediment to their adversaries. It is absurd to choose by contested party election an impartial chooser of ministers.
But it is during the continuance of a ministry, rather than at its creation, that the functions of the sovereign will mainly interest most persons, and that most people will think them to be of the gravest
importance. I own I am myself of that opinion. I think it may be shown that the post of sovereign over an intelligent and political people under a constitutional monarchy is the post which a wise man would choose above any other, - where he would find the intellectual impulses best stimulated and the worst intellectual impulses best controlled.
On the duties of the Queen during an administration we have an invaluable fragment from her own hand. In 1851 Louis Napoleon had his coup d'état ; in 1852 Lord John Russell had his, – he expelled Lord Palmerston. By a most instructive breach of etiquette, he read in the House a royal memorandum on the duties of his rival: it is as follows:– “The Queen requires, first, that Lord Palmerston will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case, in order that the Queen may know as distinctly to what she is giving her royal sanction. Secondly, having once given her sanction to such a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified by the minister; such an act she must consider as failing in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to be visited by the exercise of her constitutional right of dismissing that minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and foreign ministers before important decisions are taken based upon that intercourse; to receive the foreign dispatches in good time; and to have the drafts for her approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off.”
In addition to the control over particular ministers, and especially over the foreign minister, the Queen has a certain control over the Cabinet. The first minister, it is understood, transmits to her authentic information of all the most important decisions, together with — what the newspapers would do equally well — the more important votes in Parliament. He is bound to take care that she knows everything which there is to know as to the passing politics of the nation. She has by rigid usage a right to complain if she does not know of every great act of her ministry, not only before it is done, but while there is yet time to consider it, - while it is still possible that it may not be done.
To state the matter shortly, the sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights: the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn; and a king of great sense and sagacity would want no others, – he would find that his having no others would enable him to use these with singular effect. He would say to his minister, “The responsibility of these measures is upon you: whatever you think best must be done, whatever you think best shall have my full and effectual support. But you will observe that for this reason and that reason, what you propose to do is bad; for this reason and that reason, what
do not propose is better. I do not oppose - it is my duty not to op
pose; but observe that I warn.” Supposing the king to be right, and to have — what kings often have – the gift of effectual expression, he could not help moving his minister. He might not always turn his course, but he would always trouble his mind.
In the course of a long reign, a sagacious king would acquire an experience with which few ministers could contend. The king could say, “Have you referred to the transactions which happened during such and such an administration, I think about fourteen years ago ? They afford an instructive example of the bad results which are sure to attend the policy which you propose. You did not at that time take so prominent a part in public life as you now do, and it is possible you do not fully remember all the events. I should recommend you to recur to them, and to discuss them with your older colleagues who took part in them. It is unwise to recommence a policy which so lately worked so ill."
The king would indeed have the advantage which a permanent under-secretary has over his superior the parliamentary secretary,- that of having shared in the proceedings of the previous parliamentary secretaries. These proceedings were part of his own life: occupied the best of his thoughts, gave him perhaps anxiety, perhaps pleasure, were commenced in spite of his dissuasion or were sanctioned by his approval. The parliamentary secretary vaguely remembers that something was done in the time of some of his predecessors, when he very likely did not know the least or care the least about that sort of public business; he has to begin by learning painfully and imperfectly what the permanent secretary knows by clear and instant memory. No doubt a parliamentary secretary always can, and sometimes does, silence his subordinate by the tacit might of his superior dignity; he says, “I do not think there is much in all that. Many errors were committed at the time you refer to which we need not now discuss." A pompous man easily sweeps away the suggestions of those beneath him. But though a minister may so deal with his subordinate, he cannot so deal with his king. The social force of admitted superiority, by which he overturned his under-secretary, is now not with him but against him ; he has no longer to regard the deferential hints of an acknowledged inferior, but to answer the arguments of a superior to whom he has himself to be respectful. George III. in fact knew the forms of public business as well [as] or better than any statesman of his time: if in addition to his capacity as a man of business and to his industry he had possessed the higher faculties of a discerning statesman, his influence would have been despotic. The old Constitution of England undoubtedly gave a sort of power to the Crown which our present Constitution does not give: while a majority in Parliament was principally purchased by royal patronage, the king was a party to the bargain either with his minister or without his minister. But even under
our present Constitution a monarch like George III., with high abilities, would possess the greatest influence. It is known to all Europe that in Belgium, King Leopold has exercised immense power by the use of such means as I have described.
It is known, too, to every one conversant with the real course of the recent history of England, that Prince Albert really did gain great power in precisely the same way.
He had the rare gifts of a constitutional monarch; if his life had been prolonged twenty years, his name would have been known to Europe as that of King Leopold is known. While he lived he was at a disadvantage: the statesmen who had most power in England were men of far greater experience than himself. He might, and no doubt did, exercise a great if not a commanding influence over Lord Malmesbury; but he could not rule Lord Palmerston. The old statesman who governed England at an age when most men are unfit to govern their own families remembered a whole generation of statesmen who were dead before Prince Albert was born. The two were of different ages and different natures : the elaborateness of the German prince - an elaborateness which has been justly and happily compared with that of Goethe - was wholly alien to the halfIrish, half-English statesman; the somewhat boisterous courage in minor dangers, and the obtrusive use of an always effectual but not always refined commonplace, which are Lord Palmerston's defects, doubtless grated on Prince Albert, who had a scholar's caution and a scholar's courage. The facts will be known to our children's children, though not to us. Prince Albert did much, but he died ere he could have made his influence felt on a generation of statesmen less experienced than he was, and anxious to learn from him.
It would be childish to suppose that a conference between a minister and his sovereign can ever be a conference of pure argument. “The divinity which doth hedge a king” may have less sanctity than it