§ MR. DILLWYN
, in rising to move—That, to prevent the growing abuse by Her Majesty's Ministers of the Prerogative and influence of the Crown, and consequent augmentation of the power of the Government in enabling them, under cover of the supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign, to withdraw from the cognizance and control of this House matters relating to policy and expenditure properly within the scope of its powers and privileges, it is necessary that the mode and limits of the action of the Prerogative should be more strictly observed,said, he desired, before entering upon the question which it raised, to disclaim any intention whatsoever of reflecting upon the action of Her Majesty the Queen, who thoroughly understood her duty as a Constitutional Sovereign, and who never interfered improperly in public affairs. He understood that her Majesty always took care to be fully informed of all the proceedings of her Ministers, which she required should not be carried on without her full knowledge and concurrence. In 1852, Lord Palmerston, having altered some despatches, Her Majesty sent a Memorandum to Lord John Russell, who was then Prime Minister. That Memorandum was 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 a measure, that it he not arbitarily 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 the Minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the Foreign Minister before important decisions are taken based upon that intercourse; to receive the foreign despatches 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. The Queen thinks it best that Lord John Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston.243 That Memorandum served to show that Her Majesty identified herself with the acts of her Ministers; but she, at the same time, knew it was right and proper not to take action without her Ministers. It would be seen, from the last volume of the Life of the late Prince Consort, that a letter of his to the French Emperor, which had been characterized by the writer as "a long and friendly chat," had been submitted in the usual way to the Prime Minister and to Lord Clarendon. The Prerogative of the Crown was very large and undefined, and the very uncertainty which existed on the point made it all the more necessary that they should distinctly watch and observe the action of that Prerogative. It was so great that, unless checked, and kept within its proper limits, it would be inconsistent with the privileges, the rights, and the liberties of the people. It was, therefore, the duty of Parliament, whenever a doubt arose, to consider and debate the whole subject. Lord Erskine, speaking in the year 1807, said, with regard to Prerogative—The maxim that the King can do no wrong does not seek to alter the nature and constitution of things, but to preserve the Government, not only against the irreverence and loss of dignity arising from the very imputation of it. No act of State or Government can, therefore, he the King's; he cannot act hut by advice, and he who holds office sanctions what is done, from whatever source it may proceed. This, my Lords, is not the legal fiction of the Constitution, hut for the practical benefit and blessing of it. I am pleading the cause of the King and the people together in enforcing it, and I never will remain silent when this principle is disturbed.Blackstone asserted that—There cannot he a stronger proof of that genuine freedom which is the boast of this age and country than the power of discussing with decency and respect the limits of the King's prerogative.For his own part, he knew that in discussing Prerogative he should do so, not only with decency and respect, but as loyally as the most loyal of Her Majesty's subjects. The uncertainty that pervaded the subject was indicated in the opinions of Mr. Allen, Earl Russell, and the present Lord Chancellor. The former of these, in his Inquiry into the Rise and Progress of Prerogative, said—The King, it is true, can do no wrong, and is not amenable to any earthly tribunal; hut, on the other hand, he can perform no one poli- 244 tical act without an adviser responsible for the same.A Prerogative founded on usage, which cannot he enforced because it has fallen into desuetude, is a contradiction in terms. No one will pretend that any Prerogative of the King of England is founded either on military force or on the express consent of the people; every Prerogative of the Crown must, therefore, be derived from Statute or from prescription, and, in either case, there must be a legal and established mode of exercising it. Where no such mode can be pointed out, we may be assured that the Prerogative, so boldly claimed, is derived neither from law nor usage, but founded on a theory of Monarchy imported from abroad, subversive of law and liberty, and alien to the spirit as well as the practice of our Constitution.Lord Russell, in his book on the English Government and Constitution, wrote—The King has, by his Prerogative, the command of the Army; but that Army is only maintained by virtue of a law to punish mutiny and desertion passed from year to year. The King has a right to declare war, but if the House deny supplies he cannot carry it on for a week. The King may make a treaty of peace, but if it is dishonourable to the country the Ministers who sign it may be impeached. Nor is the King's command any excuse for a wrong administration of power. The Earl of Danby was impeached for a letter which contained a postscript in the King's own hand, declaring it was written by his order. The maxim of the Constitution is that the King cannot act without advisers responsible by law; and so far is this maxim carried that a commitment by the King, although he is the fountain of justice, was held to be void because there was no Minister responsible for it.Lord Cairns, too, gave it as his opinion that—Prerogative is a power not conferred by Statute—that is what makes Prerogative differ from every other power in this country. … Now, there is one thing very clear in our Constitution—the Crown can do no wrong; and another thing is, that it is to the advice given by Ministers that we are to look for responsibility. … If the Sovereign were to place her veto by the advice of Her Majesty's Ministers upon a Bill that had passed through the two Houses, that veto would be operative; but no one would deny that it would be unconstitutional.It was to be noticed that the Constitution had imposed limits to the exercise of the Prerogative; and of these the first and foremost was the check possessed by the House in being able to control the public purse, a power which, though it ought to be most jealously guarded, seemed to have been to a certain extent impaired and diminished of late years. Next to that check came the principle of Ministerial responsibility, according to 245 which the Prerogative could not be constitutionally exercised, save by the advice of the Ministers of the Crown. With respect to this latter safeguard, he desired to point out that neither the advice nor the responsibility of a single Minister, however distinguished and able he might be, was intended by those who had originally obtained the concession and recognition of the principle. That was the gist of his whole argument, and lay at the root of the Resolution he was about to propose. The country desired that the responsibility should rest, not on any individual Minister, but on a number of Noblemen and Gentlemen in whom they had confidence, and who would meet together as a Cabinet Council, and, after full discussion, initiate the policy to be recommended to the Sovereign. It was obvious that, if individual responsibility were to take the place of collective responsibility, the country would be landed in great difficulty. If they permitted government by Departments, or government by individual Ministers, the connecting link between the Executive and the Legislature would be severed, and the whole power would be in the hands of the Minister who might happen to be in the ascendant at the Council of the Sovereign. All Constitutional lawyers had admitted the necessity of collective responsibility, and Macaulay specially stated that while each Minister separately ruled his own Department, his more important acts and decisions were brought under the consideration of his Colleagues. Again, Hallam, in his Constitutional History, quoted a paper from Somers's Tracts, to the following effect:—The Constitutional doctrine is thus laid down:—According to the spirit of the recent Act of Settlement, as to the setting of the Great Seal of England to foreign alliances, the Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper for the time being has a plain rule to follow—that is, humbly to inform the King that he cannot legally set the Great Seal of England to a matter of that consequence unless the same be first debated and resolved in Council, which method being observed the Chancellor is safe and the Council answerable.It was, no doubt, the Privy Council, and not the Cabinet, that was here referred to; but this did not affect the principle he relied on. The principle of Government by Cabinets was much older than many people supposed, and was to be mot with over and over again at a period 246 antecedent to the Act of Settlement. For instance, in the Rolls of Parliament, 7 & 8 Henry IV. s. 31, occurred the following passage:—Likewise, on Saturday, the 22nd of May, the Commons came before the King and the Lords in Parliament, and there represented that they prayed the King at the beginning of the Parliament and since, and represented besides that the Archbishop of Canterbury had made report to them that the King wished to he counselled by the wisest Lords of the Realm: To all which the King agreed, and repeated with his own mouth that it was his entire will; and upon this a Bill was read containing the names of all the Lords who should be of the Council.A more recent illustration of the same principle occurred in 12 & 13 Will. III. c. 2, which provided that—All matters and things relating to the well governing of this Kingdom which are properly cognizable in the Privy Council by the laws and customs of this Realm shall be transacted there, and all resolutions taken thereupon shall be signed by such of the Privy Council as shall advise and consent to the same.But the Privy Council was found to be too large and cumbrous a body to work satisfactorily in this way; and by degrees, therefore, it was found convenient that the Cabinet and Departmental Government should take its place. Lord North, no very revolutionary character, in a conversation with Mr. Fox, in 1807, said—If you mean there should not be a Government by Departments, I agree with you. I think it a very bad system. … Government by Departments was not brought in by me. I found it so, and had not the vigour and resolution to put an end to it.The latest case to which he would refer was one that occurred under the Liverpool Administration, in the reign of George IV. That Sovereign desired, in 1825, to fix the responsibility of certain advice which had been given him respecting the recognition of the independence of the Spanish Colonies in South America upon Mr. Canning, the individual Minister to whom he believed that advice was due. With this object, he endeavoured to obtain separate memoranda upon the subject from individual Members of the Cabinet. But the Cabinet, in reply, requested permission to give their answer generally and collectively. The power of Parliament and Ministerial responsibility were the two great restraints upon the undue exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown, and 247 both these restraints had, he believed, been relaxed in recent years. Did they not know that the present House of Commons had been left in ignorance of very grave matters which seriously concerned the honour and welfare of the country until it was too late to take any steps with regard to them? In the first place, there was the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares. The amount of money involved was, perhaps, not large; but the entanglements and responsibilities to which it had led us were very considerable. Had the House been consulted before that scheme was embarked upon, he did not think it would have been carried out in the way it was. The whole matter had been a failure, and at this moment we were left out in the cold, and saw France in a stronger position than ourselves. Then, again, no opportunity had been afforded them of expressing an opinion with regard to the bringing of the Indian troops to Malta, which Lord Selborne had declared to be a violation of the law. The Anglo-Turkish Treaty was another case in point. If the House had been consulted, he did not believe they would have sanctioned it. They had been hurried into the Afghan War in a similar manner; and with regard to the annexation of the Transvaal, which had resulted in the Zulu War, no option had been allowed them. They had been merely called upon to register the decrees of the Cabinet Council. In all these cases Parliament ought, in the first instance, to have been consulted; and, for his own part, he believed that all these enterprises might with advantage have been stopped. He had further to complain that misleading information was frequently given by Her Majesty's Government in reply to Questions put in that House. For instance, on February 8, 1878, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to a Question by the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington), described the position of affairs in Turkey, and said the GovernmentFeel that the state of affairs disclosed by the terms of the Armistice which I have just read has given rise to the danger which they then apprehended, and they have, in the circumstances, thought it right to order a portion of the Fleet to proceed at once to Constantinople for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of British subjects."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxvii. 1329.]248 On the question of the £6,000,000 Vote, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the close of his speech, said—We go (to the Congress). We should propose to go with no desire whatever of using force; it is not for that we ask it at all; but we desire to go armed with this, which would be, not only a Vote of Credit, but a Vote of Confidence, entitling us to speak as we would wish to speak in the Councils of Europe," &c.—[Ibid. 561.]The answers given by the Government to Questions respecting the Berlin Congress were altogether at variance with the Salisbury-Schouvaloff secret agreement. Personally, he had the highest respect for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he was satisfied that he would not intentionally mislead the House; but the truth was that the right hon. Gentleman himself had been misinformed on those subjects, and that there had not been that concert in the Cabinet with respect to foreign affairs that had been so loudly asserted. Again, it was a familiar form of speech for the Government, when questioned with regard to any particular matter, to reply that they had received no official communication in reference to it, although the whole of the facts of the case might have been conveyed to them by private correspondence. Thus, on the 31st of March last, he had asked a Question as to the statement of Mr. A. Forbes, relating to a direct correspondence between the Queen and Colonels Mansfield and Wellesley during the Russo-Turkish War, and between Her Majesty and the Viceroy of India at an eventful crisis of the Afghan difficulty, to which he had received the following reply from the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—I can give no information to the hon. Gentleman or the House on this subject, further than to say there is no kind of official communication between Her Majesty the Queen and the Viceroy of India. Letters have occasionally been writen by the Viceroy, and by successive Viceroys, to the Queen, and, no doubt, letters have been written from the Queen to the Viceroy. Of those we know nothing, any more than we do of any private correspondence of Her Majesty.Again, on the 21st of January, 1878, he asked whether a statement which had appeared in The Times relative to the Queen having interceded with the Emperor of Russia on behalf of Turkey was true, and the Chancellor of the Exche- 249 quer answered that it was; that a communication which the right hon. Gentleman read had been made; but that it had been made by the advice of the Ministers, though it was a private and personal communication. He did not understand private and personal communications in reference to public matters passing between high official persons. Recent events in India showed that instructions must have been given to our officials which were not known to all the Members of the Cabinet. Our Generals appeared to have a roving commission to annex territory wherever they pleased; but even with this, he did not think General Roberts would have ventured upon making the speech he did to the tribes in the Khurum Valley without some direct authority from home. The next case to which he wished to refer was that of Sir Bartle Frere, who had established in South Africa a scheme of dominion which was likely to land this country as well as the Colony in disaster and defence. The conduct of Sir Bartle Frere was censured by the Secretary of State for the Colonies; but in a debate in that House recently the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) stated that the same mail which took out the censure also carried communications addressed to Sir Bartle Frere telling him that he need take no notice of the official censure. He did not know nor pretend to say by whom those communications or that communication had been sent, if sent at all; but if anything of the kind suggested by the right hon. Baronet occurred, he could only say that it was not a course likely to support Ministers of the Crown at home or the rule of England in her Colonies, especially in cases where the Crown was represented by a wrong-headed Minister like Sir Bartle Frere. What was the effect of one thing being said publicly with reference to Sir Bartle Frere, and another privately? In the first place, it encouraged him in a course which had been condemned, and in the next it encouraged the Colonies to pursue a course which was anything but desirable. Was it surprising that the Colonists, who could sell their produce at a high profit, which we should have to pay for at a very high price indeed, should express their confidence in Sir Bartle Frere and desire the war to continue? They all knew that he was supported by the 250 highest authority at homo against the Colonial Secretary. He would quote from The Daily News Correspondent—because it seemed to him that the only reliable information the House could got was from the newspapers. Only the other day the Correspondent of The Daily News at the Cape, in a very interesting letter, said that the strongly-sustained agitation throughout that Colony had resulted in meetings supporting the policy of Sir Bartle Frere and expressing confidence in him.The autograph letter of Her Majesty expressing confidence in Sir Bartle Frere has been an important factor in stirring up popular feeling.An unofficial—he would not say private—letter had been used to stir up an agitation in contravention of the censure which had been sent out by one of the responsible Ministers. He thought he had stated sufficient to prove his case. He admitted that the case had been one very difficult of proof. [Ministerial cheers.] He understood that cheer; but he would remind the House that his difficulty lay mainly in the fact that many official transactions had been studiously kept from the knowledge of the House and of Parliament—transactions which, if they had seen the light of day, would have materially diminished the difficulty of the task he had undertaken. The House had always been jealous of private communications addressed by the Sovereign to the authorities, particularly abroad. For instance, Lord Chatham, on his expedition to the Scheldt, addressed a private narrative to the King, which for some time was kept quiet; but when it came out he was called to account by Parliament, although he refused to answer questions, on the pleas of being a Peer, and also that while in command of this expedition he was a Cabinet Minister of the Crown, and had a private right to communicate with the Crown. A formal Resolution was passed, and Lord Chatham was censured by the House. In 1780, Mr. Dunning moved a Resolution that "The influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished." In support of that Motion, Mr. Dunning said it would be idle to require proof; they must look for support to their consciences. Again, Mr. Fox in the same year, said that the undue influence of the Crown could not be proved, because it showed itself in 251 the dark, and could only be proved by notoriety of the fact. In the present case there was certain ground for believing, as he (Mr. Dillwyn) had shown, that the control of Parliament had been evaded. The country had been involved in troubles which he thought might have been avoided had Parliament been consulted; but Parliament had not been consulted, and the consequence was additional wars and increased expenditure. He would appeal to the House to say whether either the information obtained had not been misleading, or had been withheld from Parliament, since their information had been procured from other sources? He did not wish to reopen old sores; but he did desire to do what he could to stop the progress of the system of Departmental Government. He wished to see the advice of the Cabinet given to the Crown, and not the advice of a single Minister, so that we might have the responsibility of the whole Cabinet, and not that of any individual. In bringing this question before the House, he was only anxious to assert the Privileges of Parliament, which were being invaded, and, in doing so, he believed most conscientiously that he was doing his duty as a loyal Member of the House, and in the interests of the country as well as of the Crown itself. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That, to prevent the growing abuse by Her Majesty's Ministers of the Prerogative and influence of the Crown, and consequent augmentation of the power of the Government in enabling them, under cover of the supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign, to withdraw from the cognizance and control of this House matters relating to policy and expenditure properly within the scope of its powers and privileges, it is necessary that the mode and limits of the action of the Prerogative should be more strictly observed.
§ MR. COURTNEY
, in rising to second the Motion, said, he thought it must, at all events, be plain to the House that the desire of his hon. Friend (Mr. Dillwyn) was not in any way to move a Vote of Censure against the Crown. The Motion was directed solely against Her Majesty's Government. Those who approved the course taken by the hon. Member for Swansea would be false to the object which they had in view, if they were to direct their censure in any other quarter. He held that the language of the hon. Member's original Motion, which had been thought by 252 some to suggest that the Sovereign protruded herself into affairs of State, was identical in meaning with the Motion before the House, which was a Motion of condemnation of Her Majesty's Ministers, and nothing more. They wished to bring home to Her Majesty's Government the responsibility for what had happened—for the weakening which Constitutional guarantees had suffered from their policy. The maxim, "The Queen can do no wrong," had been sometimes spoken of as a mere fiction; but he regarded it as a Constitutional principle of the highest importance; for if once it came to be admitted that wrong could be brought home to the Crown, they would have to divert their action from a quarter in which it might be useful, and waste their powers in attacking that which by its very nature was invulnerable. Precedents existed, showing what were the views of high authorities with regard to the responsibility of Ministers. In 1807, after the death of Mr. Fox, in consequence of a pledge supposed to have been given by the new Ministry to the King not to raise the Catholic question, a Motion was proposed in the House by a Gentleman bearing a name that had always been honoured—Mr. Brand—assorting that it was contrary to the first duties of the confidential Servants of the Crown to restrain themselves by any pledge, expressed or implied, from offering to the King such advice as circumstances might render necessary for the welfare and security of the Empire. That Resolution was supported by Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Whitbread, Lord Howick, and other Gentlemen equally eminent in the House of Commons, and a similar Motion in the House of Lords received the support of Lord Erskine. The objection was made, then, that the Resolution was an attack upon the Sovereign; and in the course of the debate a speech was made by a distinguished person—Mr. Plunket, the Attorney General for Ireland—who warmly defended himself and those who were in favour of the Motion against the imputation that it was wished to attach blame to the King, for whom he had the highest respect. The precedent was further important, because it was argued by Mr. Percival, the then Prime Minister, that although it was quite true that every act of the Crown must be vouched for by a responsible 253 Minister, yet in the interim between successive Ministries the action of the Crown was necessarily independent, and whatever was done then was beyond Parliamentary criticism, and could not be made the subject of a Vote of Censure on the Ministers. If that argument had been allowed, it would have done away altogether with the responsibility of Ministers; but although the House of Commons, by a small majority, rejected Mr. Brand's Motion, that argument was distinctly repudiated in 1835, when Sir Robert Peel came into Office. He was summoned from Rome, and a considerable interval intervened between the dismissal of Lord Melbourne and the acceptance by Sir Robert Peel of the Seals of Office; but his first act was to accept the responsibility of what had been done in the interregnum, including the dismissal of Lord Melbourne. No interval could at all be allowed, even in imagination, to interpose between the responsibility of one Ministry and another. These instances proved that, under no circumstances, could the Crown itself commit an act which could be the subject of censure or blame. It might be said that he had been referring to what were elementary truths; but it was necessary to remind hon. Members of the elementary truths of Constitutional principles in these days, when they were not altogether "understanded of the people." He ventured to say that the opinion which was held in some quarters, that the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Dillwyn) was a Vote of Censure on the Crown, could only be entertained by those who had lost sight of elementary truths. A writer, to whose merits the Chancellor of the Exchequer had paid a just tribute (Mr. Bagehot), had said that if a gentleman attempted to explain to his servants the phrase "The Queen reigns, but does not govern," he would find they did not understand his language. It would seem as if the ignorance of the kitchen had invaded the House of Commons. A Vote of Censure on the Crown was an absurdity, because such a Vote would contradict the principle that the Crown was above responsibility. His hon. Friend attacked the Ministry because he held that they had protruded the name and authority of the Queen, so as to obtain undue power through the respect due to her name; and because they had initiated and pursued great 254 lines of policy in comparative independence of one another, thus minimizing the collective judgment, the collective authority, and the collective responsibility of the Cabinet, and also minimizing the control of the House. As to the first question, of the undue use of the name and authority of the Crown, no one, he supposed, would follow the example of Wolsey and say, "Ego et Rex meus," in order to push himself forward; but Ministers might change the form of the phrase and say, "Regina mea et ego" in order to shield themselves from criticism. The true function of the Crown was thus laid down by the high authority to whom he had already referred (Mr. Bagehot)—The Sovereign has, under a Constitutional Monarchy such as ours, three rights—the right to he consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.Not one of these rights suggested the power of initiation. The first two had reference to the action of the Ministers, the third to warning given against action taken by the Ministry. The writer added—"and a King of good sense and sagacity would want no other." Another high authority said—A Constitutional Government insures to the King a wide authority in all the councils of the State, He chooses and dismisses his Ministers. Their resolutions upon every important measure of foreign and domestic policy are submitted to his approval; and when that approval is withheld, his Ministers must either abandon their policy or resign their office. They are responsible to the King on the one hand, and to Parliament on the other; and while they retain the confidence of the King by administering affairs to his satisfaction, they must act upon principles and propose measures which they can justify to Parliament. And hero is the proper limit to the King's influence.Such were the words of the learned gentleman (Sir Erskine May) who sat at that Table. Then, again, as the Crown had no power of initiation, the Crown must not be put forward as having used it. It must not be suggested that the Crown had a policy of its own which had been adopted by the Ministry instead of being put forward by the Ministry and sanctioned by the Crown. If the Ministry accept suggestions from the Crown, they must do so on condition of making them their own, and merging their origin in themselves. All this sprung from the principle that the Crown could never take responsibility upon itself. They saw that in 255 the Royal pledge with respect to the Catholic claims, the reponsibility of which rested upon the Ministry. There was another illustration of great interest in this matter, and that was the action taken at the close of the Great War by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. At the close of the Great War the then Czar proposed a "holy alliance" between the victor Kings—himself, the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, and the Prince Regent, and he wrote an autograph letter to the Prince, inviting him to sign the necessary Treaty. In what way did the then Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister deal with that matter? Lord Castlereagh wrote thus to Lord Liverpool—Upon the whole this is what may be called a scrape. … I am desired by the Emperor of Austria, through Metternich, to express his earnest hope that the Prince will not refuse himself to this overture. … My own opinion very much concurs with that of His Imperial Majesty, and in weighing difficulties on both sides I think no person will blame the Prince for not refusing assent himself to a proposition so made to him. But I think the Prince must take it upon himself, and sign it, without the intervention of his Ministers, as an autographic avowal of sentiment between him and the Sovereigns his allies, tending to preserve the tranquillity of Europe. To decline doing so might produce very unpleasant consequences.Lord Liverpool, in his reply, said—It is quite impossible to advise the Prince to sign the act of accession which has been transmitted to him. Such a step would be inconsistent with all the forms and principles of our government, and would subject those who advised it to a very serious responsibility. … Nothing is more clear than that the King or Regent of Great Britain can be a party to no act of State personally; he can only be a party to it through the instrumentality of others who are responsible for it.Well, these were illustrations of the principles he wished to lay down in confirmation of what he had said as to the necessity of action originating with the Ministry and not with the Crown. He would next touch upon the necessity of collective action on the part of Ministers. The action of an individual Minister was not sufficient to substantiate every nominal action of the Crown. The advice given to the Crown must be that of the Ministry collectively. Upon that point, he would quote the opinion of an eminent authority on Constitutional Law—All correspondence between the Sovereign and a subordinate Minister should he submitted 256 to the Premier; if not beforehand, at any rate immediately after it has taken place. … Until Ministers have come to an understanding as to the advice they will tender to their Sovereign upon any given occasion it would be premature for them to communicate with the Crown thereon. The Premier himself is under no obligation, either of duty or of courtesy, to confer with the Sovereign upon any matter which is still under the consideration of the Cabinet.The House would remember what took place when the present Government were last in Office. In the year 1867 the present Prime Minister threw upon the Crown, instead of taking upon himself, the responsibility of deciding whether or not there should be a Dissolution after a hostile vote of that House. But as to the necessity of collectivity of action, he would refer to the action taken by Lord Chatham in 1810. Lord Chatham, who was a Member of the Cabinet as well as a Peer, came back from his expedition to the Scheldt, drew up a Memorandum of his proceedings, and, going to a Levee, gave it to the King. It remained in the hands of His Majesty some time. Lord Chatham desired to make an alteration in it, received it back, made the alteration, and again handed it to the King, who, after a time, handed it to the Secretary of State. What was the result of Lord Chatham's proceeding? A Motion was made in the House of Commons by Mr. Whitbread, censuring the transaction, and the House approved the Motion by a large majority, after a discussion, which lasted, the record stated, till half-past 6 in the morning. Mr. Canning, who was not then in Office, spoke, and supported the Motion of Censure, although it was urged that Chatham, as a Peer, might demand an audience of the King, and that, as a responsible Minister of the Crown, he was entitled to act upon his responsibility. The House of Commons, however, held that the document should have reached the King through the collective Cabinet, and not as the result of individual dealing between the Crown and an individual Minister. The case which occurred under Lord Liverpool's Administration in 1825 was, perhaps, even more remarkable. The Cabinet having drawn up a Memorandum on the subject of the action to be taken in reference to the Spanish Colonies, which had revolted, the King endeavoured to 257 obtain from the Members of the Cabinet separately their opinions on the question. But the Cabinet, in reply, humbly requested the King's permission to give their answer generally and collectively, although they admitted that among themselves differences of opinion existed. The manner in which Lord Palmerston's expression of his individual opinion on the coup d'etat of 1851 was regarded might also be taken as a case in point. Throughout the whole range of English politics, in fact, one principle prevailed—namely, that there should be no sheltering of the action of Ministers under the name of the Crown, and that the action of Ministers should be collective and not individual. That the authority of this principle had been infringed of recent years his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had produced abundant evidence to show. His case might, perhaps, be lacking in the precision which was insisted upon in a Court of Law; but that was inevitable from the nature of the case, for they were dealing with action which was impalpable, half concealed, and half revealed. The very manner in which Ministers had treated Questions which had been addressed to them on this subject—the apparent assumption on their part that the principles of the Constitution were only to be regarded as musty, fusty phrases—was in itself a sufficient justification for the Motion now before the House. There were several instances in which similar Motions had been brought forward, and he would ask the House to consider how this question of evidence had been considered. When Mr. Fox's Indian Bill was before the House of Lords, a Memorandum, to the effect that the King would regard as his friends those who voted against the Bill, was taken about and shown to different Peers. Thereupon a rumour arose, and a Motion was made in the House of Commons by Mr. Baker in the following terms:—That it is now necessary to declare that to report any opinion, or pretended opinion, of His Majesty upon any Bill or other proceeding" (and, of course, any line of policy, Indian or Colonial) "depending in either House of Parliament, with a view to influence the votes of its Members, is a high crime and misdemeanour, derogatory to the Crown, a breach of the fundamental privileges of Parliament, and subversive of the Constitution of the country.And how did Mr. Pitt meet that Motion? He asked— 258Was it founded on any positive facts, either proved or stated? No. … Upon what was the mighty grievance complained of supposed to depend? Not on any misdemeanour substantiated to the satisfaction of the House by any sort of evidence whatever, but on the vague surmises or lie of the day.MR. Pitt allowed himself to use that language, although he knew it was perfectly true that the Memorandum had been circulated; but such a line of defence Mr. Fox treated with scorn, as one unbecoming a Minister, and disrespectful to the House. In all such cases, in fact, the supporters of the Motion held that it was not necessary to substantiate their case with the same minuteness as a prosecutor in a Court of Law. Had no breaches of the principles of the Constitution been committed? He was afraid that, in perfect innocence, a great many had been committed from time to time. He saw before him at that moment a noble Lord who was very busily engaged in what was an undoubted breach of the Constitution. They would all be sorry if anything serious should happen to that noble Lord; but, without knowing it, he was exposing himself to the very gravest censure. [Laughter.] Somebody laughed. But he would read an extract from Sir Erskine May's work, which would perhaps explain what he had said—The privileges of Parliament," said Sir Erskine, 'were systematically violated by the King (George III). In order to guard against the arbitrary interference of the Crown in its proceedings, Parliament had established, for centuries, the Constitutional doctrine that the King should not hear or give credit to reports of its debates. … yet during the proceedings of the Commons against Wilkes, the King obtained from Mr. Grenville the most minute and circumstantial reports.It was a true and sound Constitutional principle that the Crown should know only of the collective action of Parliament—that it should know nothing of the action of individual Members of that House to guide it in the distribution of its favours. Of course, it might not be true that the noble Lord he referred to took notes of the proceedings of that House for transmission elsewhere; but such was the rumour. Now, about the breaches of Constitutional principles. Was not the conclusion of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, without any previous communication being made to Parliament, a stretching of the Prerogative and a derogation of the power and 259 authority of that House? In fact, Parliament was committed to a certain course before it could say aye or no. And could not the same be said of the bringing of the Indian troops to Malta? When asked a Question in reference to alleged lengthy communications between the Crown and the Viceroy of India, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said there might have been private communications—such things had happened before, and might happen again; but he showed no anxiety whatever as to whether the Constitution had been trenched upon; he treated it as a matter of no importance, and in doing so he was supported by the cheers of Members about him. If Lord Chatham, being a Cabinet Minister, was not permitted to have individual correspondence with the Crown, would it have been permitted at that time for the Viceroy of Ireland to have had particular and confidential communications with the Crown upon the progress of affairs in that country? Would not such conduct à fortiori have been open to the censure passed upon that of Lord Chatham? Ought not a similar censure to attach to the conduct of the Viceroy of India now? At least, it was surely the duty of the Ministers of the Crown, if they were jealous for the maintenance of the Constitution, to have ascertained from the Viceroy something more as to the nature of the correspondence with the Sovereign. It was admitted that a communication was made to Lord Chelmsford upon the authority of a single Member of the Cabinet, and it was confessed that in that instance the collective action and responsibility of the Cabinet were abandoned. The annexation of the Transvaal was made by a stretch of the Prerogative absolutely unprecedented. A Commission was given to Sir Theophilus Shepstone from the Sovereign, who was then in the Highlands; it was countersigned by Lord Carnarvon; and under that Commission the Transvaal was annexed, without any warning, or even suggestion, to Parliament that such a thing would be done. But it was done, and this country had been saddled with a weight to an extent of which they now did not know. Contrast that with the annexation of Fiji, which was pressed upon that House by the worthy Member for Lambeth (Mr. Alderman M'Arthur), was discussed, and almost approved be- 260 fore it was effected. It had been pleaded that there was a parallelism between the conduct of our agents abroad and that of the agents of the Czar in Central Asia, by whom the Czar himself was overreached; but there were no Constitutional relations between the Czar and his people, and such a parallelism was a confession that in our case the Constitution had been abandoned. When a question was raised as to the bringing over of the Indian troops, the noble Lord, now the President of the Board of Trade, and also the Under Secretary of State for India, argued that if there had been any suggestion of what was intended there would have been interminable debates, and every difficulty would have been thrown in the way of the Ministry; and that argument simply meant that the checks of the Constitution and the control of that House must be got rid of in order that the Government might be free to work their own will. These facts were sufficient of themselves to justify the alarm that was felt, especially when they were accentuated by the conduct of the Prime Minister in 1867. Instead of submitting to the Crown a distinct resolution of the Cabinet, he put two courses before the Crown, offering to adopt that which was preferred, and thus threw upon the Crown the responsibility of an important decision. The Prime Minister did not understand Constitutional principles as they had been understood by a series of statesmen. There was published in 1835, in a letter to a noble and learned Lord, a Vindication of the English Constitution, by Disraeli the younger, which was well worthy of being reprinted and carefully studied, for it had disappeared from public notice, and he had been able to obtain it only from the library of the Cambridge University. It showed the opinions then entertained by the present Prime Minister on the relations between the Crown, the Ministry, and Parliament. Speaking of the advent of William III. to the Throne, the author said—Here, then (under William III.), commences the age when the influence of the Court rapidly declined, when Ministers were virtually appointed by the Parliament instead of the Sovereign, and when, by the institution of the Cabinet, the scheme and policy of the Administration devolved upon a Parliamentary Committee, and the King was, in fact, excluded from his own Council.261 ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord (Lord Robert Montagu) apparently regretted that change; but the whole question was whether it was to be regretted or approved, and it was generally approved; but, in 1835, the Prime Minister evidently thought it was a change to be regretted. In the pamphlet he further said that George I., unsupported by the mass of the people, and ignorant of our language, was entirely dependent upon the Whig Peers, who resolved to compensate themselves by establishing the Cabinet on its present basis. It was added—It is curious to trace the Kingly office from the æra of the Plantagenets, when the characters of a Royal Council and a Legislative Chamber were so blended together in the House of Lords that the Monarch always presided over his Parliament, to the moment when the Sovereign under the Brunswicks was virtually excluded from his own Council."—[P. 170.]Again, an opinion was hinted, though, perhaps, it was not completely stated. Coming down to George III., the author said—It was the clear sense and the strong spirit of his able grandson—George III.—that emancipated this country from the government of 'the great families.' The King put himself at the head of the nation, and, encouraged by the example of a popular Monarch in George III., and a democratic Minister in Mr. Pitt, the nation elevated to power the Tory or National Party of England, under whose comprehensive and consistent, vigorous and strictly democratic system, this island has become—"—[P. 173.][Cheera.] If he was to understand that cheer as an approval given to George III., in emancipating himself from the control of his Cabinet, he recognized in it another ground for the Motion of his lion. Friend. There was another extract, which, with the permission of the House, he would read, which was conclusive as to the view of the Prime Minister of the present situation. This was written after Lord Melbourne was dismissed by William IV., and, of course, the question arose what was the view of the Prime Minister with reference to it. The quotation was this—Let us hope that our Gracious Sovereign may take warning from the first of his house that ruled these realms, and follow the example of George III. rather than George I.The present Prime Minister was then young and only entering into public life, but he had formed his opinion deliberately; he had consistently maintained it, and to a large extent had endeavoured to carry it out in the go- 262 vernment of the country—namely, the destruction of the collective authority of the Cabinet and the elevation of the authority of a particular Minister and the augmentation of the power of the Crown. That was the idea of the present Prime Minister. If these were called "musty phrases," he might quote later writings to show that what he then said had been consistently manifested since. When the question came to be considered by the historian, the anomaly must surely present itself how, in the Reign of the Queen who had ruled for 40 years with universal satisfaction to her subjects, regarding most carefully and attentively every Constitutional principle, an alarm was suddenly raised that the guarantees of the Constitution were being sapped, and the authority of the Cabinet overthrown, a single Minister using the name and authority of the Sovereign, that Minister having throughout his career held Constitutional principles which led up to that change. His fear was not a fear of any real resuscitation of the power of the Crown. He believed the controversy on the part of the Crown for the supremacy of the will of the individual wearer of the Crown had long since been closed. What he feared was a democratic power being raised under the forms of an autocratic authority. What he feared was lest the power of the First Minister should be aggrandized by transmutation. He believed no Minister of the Crown could possibly hold Office now who did not command the support of a majority of the House. The experiment made by William IV., in dismissing Lord Melbourne, could not be successfully imitated. But what were the checks on the Minister of the Crown supported by a majority? Was there any check against the abuse of the Prerogative when the Minister had a majority at his back? He might neglect and override all these checks. He came to the discussion of this question from no motive of Party; and, therefore, he had no hesitation in referring to the instance of a Prime Minister who, having a majority, had used the Prerogative to bring about a great change, overriding the authority of the other House of Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] But did those who disapproved of that use of the Prerogative do so because they disliked unconstitutional action, or because they disliked the end effected? Was there 263 no danger the same authority might again be used in a way they did not like? That was a precedent to which he freely referred, in order to show the real danger with which they were now threatened—the danger of a Minister, disregarding Constitutional checks, misusing the name and authority of the Crown to carry out his individual policy. It had been said by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that he was an old Whig. Well, he also was an old Whig; and it was on the ground of affection for the principle of the Constitution, as settled from the beginning of the present century, of maintaining the authority of a collective Cabinet, and a collective Cabinet only, and restricting the action of the Crown in the direction at which he had pointed, that he should support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea. He did so, because he was anxious to guard against the realization in the future of what the present Prime Minister had described as the policy of the Tory Party, but what he should rather describe as the triumph of unchecked Democracy, reflecting the prejudices and the passions as well as the moderation and reason of the nation, and brought into power with a majority which would assuredly not always belong to the Conservative Party. He begged to second the Resolution of his hon. Friend.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That to prevent the growing abuse by Her Majesty's Ministers of the prerogative and influence of the Crown, and consequent augmentation of the power of the Government in enabling them, under cover of the supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign, to withdraw from the cognizance and control of this House matters relating to policy and expenditure properly within the scope of its powers and privileges, it is necessary that the mode and limits of the action of the prerogative should be more strictly observed."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)
The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. GLADSTONE
, and Lord ROBERT MONTAGU rose together; but the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER resumed his seat.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I rise to Order. [Mr. GLADSTONE resumed his seat.] About six weeks ago, I gave 264 Notice of an Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea. By giving Notice of an Amendment a Member is supposed to secure the opportunity of immediately following the Seconder of the Motion. I have to ask you, Sir, whether it is in accordance with the Rules and Orders of the House, as it certainly is not in accordance with the custom and usages of it, for any Member to interpose between the Mover of a Motion and the Mover of an Amendment of which Notice has been given? If it is the Rule and Order of the House, all our balloting and all our giving Notices will be simply a farce, because if that priority is gone once it is gone for over.
§ MR. SPEAKER
There is no Order of the House on the subject. When several hon. Members rise to address the Chair, the first who catches the eye of the Speaker is called upon; and as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich caught my eye first, I call upon him to proceed.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I rise, Sir, to Order. You told me, Sir, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to address the House after the Mover and Seconder had concluded. ["Chair, Chair!" "Order, order!"] I am going to ask a Question as to Order. I arranged with you, Sir—[" Order, order!"]—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Is the noble Lord speaking to a point of Order? If so, the noble Lord is entitled to be heard.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
Yes, Sir, I am. I arranged with you, Sir, that I should rise at the same time with the Chancellor of the Exchequer——
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord is now referring to communications between himself and myself before this debate came on. It is not usual to take that course. At the same time, if the noble Lord, acting on his own discretion, thinks right to do so, I have no objection.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
I am much obliged to you, Sir. I agreed with you that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer should rise to speak, I would sit down. I did not wish to stand in the way of his reply, although I understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to squelch the debate. The 265 Chancellor of the Exchequer did not rise when the Seconder of the Motion sat down; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich leaned across the Table and said to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "Will you rise?" and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "No; do you;" and then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich rose, and was called upon to speak; and I think it is quite unfair—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord is not now addressing himself to a point of Order. If he wishes to raise the point, he can do so now.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
Very well, Sir. The only Question I wished to ask is, whether it is competent that any Member who has given Notice of an Amendment to a Motion should be preceded by a Member who has not given any such Notice?
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is quite competent for him to be so preceded, if he was not the first to catch my eye. There is no Rule that gives precedence to an hon. Member who has given Notice of an Amendment.
Sir, I can assure the noble Lord that on a question of Order I have not the slightest disposition to object to his mode of vindicating it, or to do anything that can possibly impair it. My anxiety to say a few words to the House without delay is an anxiety that I can very easily explain. In fact, my object is obvious, and it will explain itself in the course of the few observations I have to make. Of course, if, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, who are attacked and arraigned by the present Motion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought fit to rise just now, his was a claim with which I could not have thought for a moment of standing in competition. But I am one of those who desire now to say the little they have to say, because I am not, like the noble Lord, prepared to enter upon the discussion of this question upon its merits; and I am one of those who heartily concur in the spirit and contention of the appeal made before the debate began by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). It did, undoubtedly, appear to mo that, under the almost unparallelled circumstances attending the history and production of this Motion, it was hardly desirable that a matter involving considerations 266 of so high and serious an order should be pressed, and the question brought before the House for discussion, with only a few hours of Notice. What I would observe is this—We have had, as the noble Lord has truly stated, on the Paper for many weeks a Notice of a Motion to be proposed by my lion. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), not involving a direct Censure, though probably carrying an indirect Censure, upon Her Majesty's Government, but presenting to us as the primary and proper subject for our consideration the very important and delicate question how far the direct and personal interposition, of the Sovereign in affairs of policy is admissible or desirable, or otherwise. Sir, upon that question, it would have been my duty to place at the service and command of the House any knowledge which the means of observation in my former experience and a long Parliamentary life might have afforded. Of course, I would have been prepared to state to the House the reasons which induced me to believe—though perfectly conscious of the loyalty and public spirit of the hon. Member for Swansea—that the terms of his Motion could not be justified or sustained. That was undoubtedly the opinion that I should have endeavoured to support, and to support by reference to many matters of fact of such a nature that I think that even my hon. Friend himself would not be disposed to withstand the force of the arguments which would have been used against his proposition. But now, Sir, upon the Notice Paper this morning—for I had not the good fortune to hear what took place yesterday afternoon, not being very well—we have presented to us a proposition which alters, as it appears to me, for every practical purpose, the entire front of the case. The question of the direct interposition of the Crown is, indeed, referred to in the Motion that is now before us, because there is, it appears, or there has been, a supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign; but it is only introduced parenthetically, and apparently is a part of the Motion which is only considered secondary by the Mover, whereas the Motion is changed substantially into a direct and sweeping Vote of Censure upon Her Majesty's Government, involving the retracing of all the ground that we have trodden during the discussions of the present and the last Sessions, and call- 267 ing on the House for a verdict of condemnation. Now, I must say I think I have not been backward in making complaints, whether they wore right or whether they were wrong, of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in respect to the Privileges of Parliament; but really, in censuring the Administration, I do feel that some considerations of external propriety of Parliamentary usage should be regarded, and I am not ready, upon the production on Tuesday morning of a Vote of Censure upon the Government, to appear in my place on Tuesday evening and support that Vote of Censure. But that is not the only tiling which makes mo believe that this proposal is out of place on the present occasion. I have heard the interesting historical disquisition of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney); and I am sorry that that obliges me, parenthetically, to refer to his assault upon myself. In order to attain his paramount purpose of proving his own superiority to Party considerations, he has found it necessary to refer to what occurred in the last Parliament. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: Hear, hear!] My hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea approves of the same thing, and what I shall say will apply to the one as well as to the other. Both these hon. Gentlemen, in their desire for lofty impartiality, have severely condemned the exercise of the Prerogative by which Purchase was abolished in the Army. I have not the smallest objection to that condemnation, if their minds lead them to that judgment upon an important action taken at an important crisis. But I did not detect, from the speeches of either or both hon. Gentlemen, that they were in the slightest degree aware of the ground of that exercise of the Prerogative. Now, the ground of that exercise of the Prerogative was this—and it is necessary that there should now be said what was said at the time, but apparently it has not found a place in the recollection of either of them. The ground for the exercise of that Prerogative was this—It had been brought to the knowledge, not only of the Government, but of Parliament and of the entire community, that there was bound up with the working of the system of Purchase a system of grave and flagrant illegality—an illegality, in many instances, mixed up with personal complications, but, at any rate, an illegality of 268 the nature and character of which there was not the slightest doubt—an illegality which was imbedded in the system of extra-regimental prices for commissions; and that system was inseparable from the system of Purchase. It was to put a stop to an illegality, and for no other purpose, that the Prerogative of the Crown was exercised. I will not now go into the question whether that was a sufficient reason or not. It did not appear to be a reason in the slightest degree within the cognizance of either of these hon. Gentlemen. I am sorry that neither the hon. Member for Chelsea, nor any other hon. Gentleman, made that exercise of the Prerogative the ground of a question in this House at the time when they might have been fairly discussed, and the arguments on both sides fairly urged. It would not be desirable for me to detain the House by entering at length into the subject; but after what fell from the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), it was impossible for me to pass it over altogether. What I would say to the Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) is this. I do not know whether any Amendment will be moved; but I assume that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to meet the Motion with a direct negative. I must say, for myself, that it is entirely impossible for me to enter into any discussion of the Motion; but I think that the making of such a Motion, under such circumstances, is so entirely contrary to all the Rules of Parliamentary procedure, that I entirely decline—I am compelled to decline, with the utmost respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, than whom there is not a more upright man in the House—all participation in this debate. The Motion is not, indeed, one on the construction and meaning of the terms of which I should be disposed dogmatically to pronounce. I find that there is aGrowing abuse by Her Majesty's Ministers of the Prerogative and influence of the Crown, and consequent augmentation of the power of the Government in enablingHer Majesty's Government to do something; but what that "enabling" is, or what it is that "enables" them, I do not know. Whether it is the abuse of the Prerogative, or whether it is the augmentation of the power of the Government, or whether it is the personal intervention of the Sovereign, I am not 269 perfectly clear about on reading the sentence, and, consequently, I speak on that point with submission and with reserve. Bat one thing I say is, that while this Motion asserts—and assorts as I believe truly—that there has been an undue use of the Prerogative by the Government, I do not see why it connects that use of the Prerogative with the supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign. Now, there is no connection whatever, so far as I know, between them. But this business of the undue use of the Prerogative is a proposition which we have sifted and bolted down to the bran on former occasions. As far as I know, we frankly assailed the Government on this subject with reference to the subject of the Indian troops. We asserted it with respect to the Anglo-Turkish Convention; we asserted it with respect to the suppression or withholding of the history of the Afghan negotiations before the Afghan War; and we asserted it, in some degree, with respect to what is called the Salisbury-Schouvaloff Convention. We made our case; but not in any one of those instances was it attempted to establish the slightest connection between abuses, real or supposed, of which we complained and the intervention of the Sovereign. Therefore, to assert that the practices which we complained of have been carried on under cover of the supposed interposition of the Crown—which we never alleged, or attempted to allege—entirely prevents me from giving my support to the Motion, or entering into any of those wide general principles which I entirely admit to be involved. I must, likewise, say this—that I think it is hard, under the circumstances, to propose a Vote such as this against Her Majesty's Government, when I consider what has taken place. We complained of the policy of the Government in the case of the Afghan War; we complained of it in the case of the Anglo-Turkish Convention; we complained of it in the case of the Indian troops; but the policy of Her Majesty's Government in every one of these eases was sustained by large majorities in this House. After it has been so sustained, if I am to ask the majority of this House to pass a Vote of Censure, I will ask it to pass a Vote of Censure, not upon Her Majesty's Government, but upon itself. I will frame my Motion, and it would be a fair Parlia- 270 mentary proceeding, in such a way as to I make it a Vote of Censure by the majority of this House upon its own proceedings. Undoubtedly, the majority of this House have lifted off the shoulders of Her Majesty's Government the main responsibility for what we consider to be invasions of the Prerogative of the Crown. We have a right, a perfectly justifiable right, to complain to our constituents and to the country. We shall take an opportunity, when the Constitution gives it, of appealing to the nation with regard to that method of proceeding. But I must say it would be rather hard to stigmatize, by a Vote of Censure, the growing abuse by Her Majesty's Ministers of the Prerogative and influence of the Crown, when every part and portion of this abuse, as we allege it to be, is an abuse which has received the sanction, the warm sanction, of the majority of this House, including, in some cases, the partial approval of those who belong to the Liberal Party in this House. Under these circumstances, I must say I think it is quite impossible for me to enter upon a discussion of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea. I am extremely sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) did not succeed in the appeal which he made, as I thought most reasonably, to my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea. Even after the two or three hours' debate which we have had, I hardly know whether we are or whether we are not engaged in a serious discussion. It may be that there is a great deal of very interesting Constitutional lore in the speech of the Seconder of the Motion; but I am bound to say I find it extremely difficult to connect that lore with the terms of the Motion which is before us. There is no more interesting passage of history than the period of the discussions on the India Bill of Mr. Pitt, and of the marvellous conflict which he sustained in this House; but how in the world that is to be connected with the Resolution which we are invited to vote to-night, I must confess myself entirely at a loss to conceive. The doctrine and the lore of the Constitution have been searched, even including resources which, though they are not those of a Member of this House, yet, we rejoice to think, are in one and a very important sense the resources of this House. The doctrine of the time of Mr. Grenville in regard to the communica- 271 tion of the debates of this House to the Sovereign has been gravely and seriously adduced in a great debate on a Vote of Censure on the Government as a doctrine applicable to the present time, and some notes of my noble Friend opposite (Viscount Barrington), which, it is presumed, he was making for the purpose of a very effective reply, were referred to. I can conceive that this House might object to the communication of the details of its procedure to the Crown at a period when it objected to the communication of the details of its procedure to the nation. That was the doctrine of those times, and the practice was consistent. It would have been a false position for this House to have the details of its debates made known in private to the Sovereign while the nation was kept in ignorance; but can the lion. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) really think that it should now be made an offence to communicate to the Sovereign the details of debates in the House of Commons which are made known to all persons throughout the country, from the Sovereign to her subjects, not only with the knowledge, but with the virtual approval of this House, by every newspaper in the Kingdom? I therefore must really decline to enter upon these high Constitutional matters on the present occasion—not because they are not serious, for they are of a most serious character—and it is because they are so serious that I grieve over the unhappy circumstances in which they are now brought into discussion. For my own part, even with the attractions which an opportunity of assailing Her Majesty's Government may be supposed to supply me with, I must respectfully demur to being called upon to assume any responsibility whatever in that matter. I assume at once that Her Majesty's Government will put a negative on this Motion. I cannot in the slightest degree complain of their taking such a course, when I find that from the matter contained in the Motion, and the mixture of allegations which are untimely with those which are absolutely incapable of being maintained, it is even impossible for me to give it my support.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (who rose at the same time as Lord ROBERT MONTAGU) said
I can assure the noble Lord that I will not stand between him and the House for many minutes; but I think I owe some explanation to the House, after the obser- 272 vations of the noble Lord in regard to my not having risen immediately after the Motion was put. Undoubtedly it is true that I had communicated to some of my Friends my original intention to speak immediately after the Seconder; but the Motion was changed in so extraordinary a way that I thought it necessary to listen to the speeches in order to understand what was the meaning of the Motion submitted to the House. I confess that, difficult as I found it to construe that Motion as it stood on the Paper, I find it still more difficult to attach a meaning to it after hearing it explained by the hon. Gentleman. Considering, therefore, the great importance of the subject, which raised two fundamental Constitutional questions of this country—namely, the Prerogative of the Crown and the Privileges of Parliament—I thought it was only respectful that I should wait to see what the general feeling of the House on the subject might be. I agree with my right hon. Friend who spoke just now that we are placed in a position of considerable embarrassment and of great difficulty. The Motion has been turned into a Motion of Censure on the Government. To such a Motion we should wish, if possible, to move a direct negative. But we are in a difficulty in that respect. I do not desire to interfere with the freedom of any hon. Member, and I reserve any observations I may have to make till the close of the debate, if the debate is still to go on; but I may say now that we are prepared, on the ground that was originally taken in the Motion of the supposed interposition of the Sovereign in affairs of State, and upon that now taken, to challenge and deny any statement that has been made in any way, directly or indirectly, casting, or seeming to cast, any censure on the action of Her Majesty's Government. We are only embarrassed by the extreme feebleness and the shadowy character of the suggestions made of that kind. If more definite charges should be made hereafter, we shall be prepared most definitely and distinctly to meet them. With regard to a Vote of Censure upon ourselves, we shall be prepared, at the proper time, to meet that Vote of Censure by a direct negative.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
, in rising to move the following Amendment:—That, by the Constitution and Laws of this Realm, it is the right and duty of the Sovereign, 273 with the advice of the Council, and only by that advice, or by the advice of Parliament, to direc-the foreign policy of the Country, to negotiate and enter into Treaties, and to declare war, or conclude a peace;paid, the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had told them that he had proved his case; but what case had he proved? For six weeks there stood on the Paper a Motion which had a black and ugly look; and so it was left until last night. During the night it had been transformed in a most wonderful manner. For six weeks it had howled discordantly and acted grotesquely with the blackened face and spotted garb of a Christy Minstrel. That morning it had washed its face, and appeared like an ordinary person. The Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) was as disrespectful to the Sovereign as the original Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea. They would both put the Sovereign on her trial; the only difference was that the hon. Member for Hackney would bring in the Scotch verdict of Not Proven, for he simply said "there was no evidence to show" that the offence had been committed. Both the original Motion and the Amendment called in question the personal conduct of the Sovereign. The Amendment he (Lord Robert Montagu) proposed to move had the advantage of not alluding to the person of the Sovereign. Again, the present—not the original, but the substituted—Motion, and that of the hon. Member for Hackney, implied a censure on the Government. He (Lord Robert Montagu) was not going to bring a charge against the Government; but as certain shadowy notions had been put forward, he wished to explain what had really been the Constitution of the country from its very commencement up to the present day. All the arguments and authorities adduced by the hon. Member for Swansea had been taken from later years alone, with the exception of two, and those two told directly against the hon. Member. The first of those authorities was taken from the time of Henry IV., when, as the hon. Gentleman said, the Commons appeared before the King and Peers in Parliament, and requested the King to act only with the advice of his Council. That was perfectly true. It was an assertion of the Law and Constitution. They had no Cabinet in those days; but the King was bound to 274 act with the advice of his Council. The second authority which the hon. Gentleman adduced, and which was against him, was a letter written by Harley, Lord Oxford, and to be found in Semers' Tracts. That authority said not one word about Cabinets, but that the Sovereign's Prerogative must be exercised solely by the advice of the Council. He now came to what the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) called the elementary truths of the Constitution. He did not think that that hon. Member had looked at one of those elementary truths. He had read a book written a few years ago by Mr. Bagehot; but he (Lord Robert Montagu) denied that it was of any authority whatever in regard to the Constitution of the country. The authorities of the Mover and Seconder belonged to a time when the Constitution had been in abeyance. Both that hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Swansea, in their treatment of this question, reminded him of a young doctor who would go to the hospital in order to learn the human constitution by the side of a fever-stricken patient. They had, apparently, studied the Constitution of the country only during the time of its disease, and not of its health, and no wonder they should have gone wrong. What was the meaning of the Constitution? It was the system of fundamental law, by which good government could be secured. And what were the requisites of good government? The requisites of good government were—firstly, a knowledge of public affairs on the part of those who were called on to direct the State and guide its destinies; secondly, calm, unbiassed, unswerving, and unagitated judgment; thirdly, secrecy in some affairs; and, fourthly, proper checks on private ambition and Party intrigues. He would show that every one of those safeguards was secured by the Constitution of England, and that not one of them was secured by the present system of Cabinet government. The hon. Member for Swansea said the Prerogatives of the Crown were large and undefined. With that the hon. Member for Liskeard did not agree, because he reduced all the Prerogatives of the Crown to the simple nullity that they might only ask the Crown its opinion on any measure which the Ministry proposed, and that the Crown had no initiative and no opinion in political affairs 275 until it was asked. That was a very different account of the Prerogatives of the Crown from, that given by the right hon. Member for Greenwich in a little book which was well worthy of their study.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
, resuming, asked whether it would be fitting that the Government should allow a Count-out to be effected on a grave occasion like that, when two speeches had been made attacking Her Majesty, and no reply had been offered in defence of the Constitution.
§ MR. DILLWYN
I rise to disclaim the imputation of making an attack on Her Majesty. I distinctly disclaimed such an intention at the beginning of my speech.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
said, perhaps in his speech he did not do so; but in the Motion which the hon. Gentleman first put on the Paper he used the words, "the direct interference of the Sovereign in the political affairs of the Country." He did not impute disloyalty to the hon. Member. Far from it. But what would be the effect on the country if they allowed two speeches on one side to go forth, and no reply on the other? Would it not be thought that the whole House of Commons adopted the opinion of those two hon. Gentlemen. A Count-out would be most disastrous. The country knew that a Count-out was usually brought about to avoid an inconvenient question. He did not believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer would adopt such a course in the present instance. When he was interrupted, he was about to call the right hon. Member for Greenwich into court. He regretted that that right hon. Member, instead of making the short speech which he had made that night—not elucidating the question, but rather confusing it—not aiding the debate, but squelching it—not assisting the House to a just conclusion, but rather leading it astray—had not rather given them more fully the views set forth in the little work called Gladstone's Gleanings, what the right hon. Gentleman had written on the subject of the Prerogatives of the Crown. The right hon. Member for Greenwich used these words— 276The Sovereign in England is the symbol of the nation's unity, and the apex of the social structure; the maker "—let the House mark the words—"the maker, with advice, of the laws; the supreme governor of the Church; the fountain of justice; the solo source of honour; the person to whom all military, all naval, all civil service is rendered. The Sovereign owns very large properties, receives and holds in law, the entire Revenues of the State; appoints and dismisses Ministers, makes treaties, pardons crime, or abates its punishment; wages war or concludes peace; summons and dissolves the Parliament; exercises these vast powers, for the most part, without any specified restraint of law; and yet enjoys, in regard to these and every other function, an absolute immunity from consequences." (P. 245.) "The Crown is entitled to make a thousand Peers to-day, and as many to-morrow; it may dissolve all and every Parliament before it (the Parliament) proceeds to business; may pardon the most atrocious crimes; may declare war against all the world; may conclude treaties involving unlimited responsibilities, and even vast expenditure, without the consent"—again lot the House mark the words—"without the consent, nay, without the knowledge of Parliament; and this, not merely in support or in development, but in reversal of policy already known to and sanctioned by the nation.The hon. Member for Swansea had devised his own checks and limits on the Prerogative; but in the same breath he had shown that those checks were nugatory. The first of his checks was the responsibility of Ministers, and then he told them that this responsibility was not to be individual but collective in the whole Cabinet. Practically, this was denying the responsibility—for how were they to be responsible if not individually accountable? Where was the responsibility of Ministers if, as the hon. Member alleged, the House of Commons had nothing to do but to register the decrees of the Cabinet? The right hon. Member for Greenwich went further, for he said that the majority of the House had lifted off the shoulders of the Government all responsibility for its acts. It was clear, therefore, that the first check was entirely nugatory. The other check was the power of the purse. The same arguments applied here. In the Afghan War, for instance, where was the power of the purse as a check? Take the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares, and the other instances cited by the hon. Member—once the thing was done, did Parliament ever refuse to pay? He had said that four requisites of good government were secured by the Constitution. What, then, was the Constitution? It was simply this—it was a rule of law—both of Common and 277 Statute Law—that the Sovereign could exert the Prerogative only with the advice of the Council. The Privy Councillor swore—he quoted from Selden's Discourse on the Laics and Government of England—that he would give advice fearlessly and honestly, unswayed by passion; abstain from corruption; refuse to be bound by any other oath—evidently referring to secret societies; to receive no gifts from anyone, only from the King. He was to keep the King's counsel secret, and—To help the execution of whatever may be determined in Council and to withstand all persona who would attempt the contrary.This was directed against private ambition and Party government. Another provision of the oath was that the Councillor was to reveal to the Crown in Council "whatever may be intended concerning things pertaining to the Crown." This gave them a clear insight into what the objects of the Council were. These enactments were repeated, not once or twice only, but times innumerable. [The noble Lord then quoted at length from a very valuable book—The Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council—which, probably the hon. Member for Liskeard had never looked at—published by the Record Commissioners, in seven volumes.] In this book were to be found some remarkable examples of the action of the Privy Council. For instance, in 1395, the King, being in Ireland, wrote to the Council asking them to sanction a general pardon. In this case, the Council had urged harsh measures against MacMurough, O'Neale, and others; but the King, finding on the spot that not the Irish but the English of the Pale were the offenders, suggested that the Irish should be dealt with in a just spirit, and obtained the approval of the Council. Again, the Act of 7 & 8 Henry IV. ordained that everything the King did "should be made and endorsed by the advice of the King's Council." [The noble Lord then read at great length, from various authorities, the duties, privileges, and regulations of the Privy Council, all their proceedings being finally recorded by the sworn clerk in the "Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council:" and said that the business of the Council being to advise the Crown in the exertion of the Prerogative, and that being the very essence 278 and life of the Council, it was spoken of as "the instrument of the Prerogative."] In support of his position the noble Lord read a passage from Trenchard, who, in his short History of Standing Armies, said—Formerly all matters of state and discretion were debated and resolved in the Privy Council, where every man subscribed his opinion and was answerable for it. The late King Charles was the first who broke this most excellent part of our Constitution by setting a Cabal or Cabinet Council, whore all matters of consequence were debated and resolved and then brought to the Privy Council to be confirmed.Hallam, in his Constitutional History, thus cites a passage from Harley, in his Vindication of the Rights of the Commons of England—The Constitutional doctrine is thus laid down—As to the setting of the Great Seal of England to foreign alliances, the Lord Chancellor, or Lord Keeper for the time being, has a plain rule to follow—that is, humbly to inform the King that he cannot legally set the Great Seal of England to a matter of that consequence unless the same be first debated and resolved in Council; which method being observed, the Chancellor is safe and the Council answerable. … Former Princes did sometimes advise with particular persons, before they offered a matter to the Council, to be debated and determined; but it is an innovation by evil Ministers, that war and peace, and matters of the highest consequence, should be finally concluded in a secret Cabal and only pass through the Privy Council for form's sake, as a conduit-pipe to convey those Resolutions with authority to the people. All proclamations for declaring war, &c., are constantly set forth in the name of the King, with advice of his Council (which shows that it ought to be so), when perhaps the war was resolved in a private Cabal, and only declared in a Privy Council, and published with that authority to the people; which is an abuse of the Constitution.When the Council was discontinued disasters happened. For instance, when Henry VI. came to the Throne in 1422, his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, was appointed Lord Protector. After a long struggle, the Lord Protector discontinued consulting his Council, and the result was the loss of Anjou, Maine, and Normandy abroad—factions and rebellions at home. The Cabinet was introduced in 1640 for the first time, and it consisted of personal friends of the King, not the leaders of the people and the wisest in the land. They met together, and what happened? The old result. England was divided into factions—Cavaliers and Roundheads—a rebellion broke out, and the King was beheaded in 1649. In 1660, Charles II. 279 came to the Throne. For a few years the King always acted by the advice of his Council, and the result was he found himself secure on the Throne. And then came temptation. He would like to be absolute and reign like a Cæsar, and with this end he discontinued his Council. Clarendon fell, and the disgraceful annals of our country began. Then came Lord Danby's Administration. At that time the Cabinet system became the established practice, and the Constitutional rule of the King in Council was left in abeyance. The Cabinet of that day was called the "Cabal," perhaps from the initial letters of the names of the statesmen who composed it. It lasted five years, and then came Danby's impeachment. At the command of the King Danby had written a letter to Mr. Montagu, British Ambassador in Paris, instructing him to offer the neutrality of England in the impending war with Spain for the sum of £300,000 a-year for three years. This letter was ordered and was signed by the King; but not on the advice of the Council. Lord Danby was tried for having written this letter. He pleaded the King's command, which he thought sufficient, "as the King is the sole judge at all times of peace and war." The Commons would not hear of this excuse, and the Resolution for his impeachment was carried by 179 votes to 116; and he would ask the attention of the House, and particularly that of the hon. Member for Liskeard—who, if he had road the record of the impeachment, would have known something of the "elements of our Constitution"—to the first article in the impeachment. It was in the following words:—(1.) That he hath traitorously encroached to himself regal power by treating, in matters of peace and war, with foreign Ministers and Ambassadors, and by giving instructions to His Majesty's Ministers abroad without communicating the same to the Secretaries of State and the rest of His Majesty's Council, against the express declaration of His Majesty.Now, this Dan by was the Principal Secretary of the State; and yet he was impeached for having communicated with foreign Ambassadors and foreign Powers, even at the command of the King. Then came the unfortunate reign of James II. He discontinued the Council, and the same result followed. A revolution occurred, and the King was hurled from the Throne. William 280 III. entirely set aside the Council, and Cabinet meetings became the practice. The Cabinet soon followed the fate of the Council; the King was becoming absolute, the country became divided into parties, and the factions of Whigs and Tories arose. Then came standing Armies, the National Debt, the Excise, and "the Dutch." It was not until the passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701 that the House of Commons returned to the true remedy for the evils of the state of things which prevailed. By the 3rd clause of that Act it was declared that—All matters and things relating to the well governing of this Kingdom which are properly cognizable in the Privy Council by the laws and customs of this Realm shall be transacted there, and all Resolutions taken thereupon shall be signed by such of the Privy Council as shall advise and consent to the same.Now, he was going to prove that that clause of the Act of Settlement remained still unrepealed, and that, according not only to the Common Law, but to the Statute Law of the land, the Crown could not act except by the advice of the Privy Council, and that every one of the Privy Councillors was be und to sign his name to his advice. The 3rd clause of the Act of Settlement, in fact, was a distinct declaration that government by the Cabinet without the Privy Council was illegal and contrary to the Constitution. There was a General Election in 1705, and soon after there was passed by the House of Lords a Bill commonly called the Regency Bill, though its proper title was a Bill for the Security of the Queen's Person. It was very hotly contested in the Commons, who inserted a clause respecting the 3rd section of the Act of Settlement, and the Amendment was not accepted by the Lords until after three Divisions and three Protests. It was said that that clause had been repealed by the 4 & 5 Anne, c. 20; but there was no provision of the kind in the original Act itself, although it was to be found in some of the common editions. The clause in the Schedule of the Act of Anne was not regarded at the time as a repeal of the 3rd Clause of the Act of Settlement. In the same year the Treaty of Union with Scotland was signed; and the second Resolution of the Commons agreeing to the Articles of that Treaty expressly referred to the 3rd section of the Act of Settlement as being then in 281 force. Having referred to other proceedings in Parliament in support of his position, the noble Lord said that, at all events, the matter had since that time been put beyond doubt; for that Act of Anne was repealed in 1867 by the Statute Law Revision Act passed by Mr. Disraeli. Therefore, the 3rd clause of the Act of Settlement had from that time, if not from the time of William III. been in force, and every Cabinet which had been held since that time had been illegal, every Member of every Cabinet had been guilty of a violation of the Constitution and of the Statute Law.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
, resuming, traced the continuous history of the Privy Council, mentioning that its powers had been recognized in their full validity by Walpole, Bolingbroke, and Chatham. On January 28, 1740, there was a remarkable Protest, which was entered by certain Lords, on a Motion for "the Representations made by Admiral Vernon to the Admiralty." This Motion was lost on division. Then a Motion—That a Secret Committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of the War, consisting of all the Lords of this House who are of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council,was negatived. This was the protest—The so-often-urged argument of secrecy proves too much, and may as often without, as with reason, he used in bar of all inquiries, that any Administration conscious either of their guilt or their ignorance, may desire to defeat. It may not only prove the security, hut the cause of a sole minister—secrecy being undoubtedly best observed by one; and such a pole minister may, by the same reasoning, as well refuse the communication of measures to the rest of His Majesty's Council, and thereby engross a power inconsistent with and fatal to this Constitution.Lord Chatham, speaking in 1742 on the Motion for inquiring into Sir Robert Walpole's Administration, had said—There are several suspicions abroad relating to his (Sir Robert Walpole's) conduct as a Privy Councillor, which, if true, would be of the last importance to the nation to have discovered. It has been strongly asserted that he was not only a Privy Councillor, but had usurped the whole and sole direction of Her Majesty's Privy Council.With regard to the excessive power of a single Minister, or of a section of the 282 Ministers, the noble Lord said that the evil principle of the supremacy of the Prime Minister had grown into a vast system, and adduced in support of his argument the statement of the Duke of Wellington on coming into Office in 1834, that he could understand no question, because all had been carried on by private letters, so as to keep the incoming Cabinet in the dark. There was also the remarkable letter of the Prince Consort, addressed on Her Majesty's behalf, to Lord John Russell, complaining of the independent action of Lord Palmerston, who was then Foreign Minister—As a Minister, the Sovereign has a right to demand from Lord Palmerston that she be made thoroughly acquainted with the whole object and tendency of the policy to which her consent is required; and, having given that consent, that the policy be not arbitrarily altered from the original line; that important steps be not concealed from her, nor her name used without her sanction. In all these respects Lord Palmerston has failed towards her, and not from oversight or negligence, but upon principle, and with astonishing pertinacity against every effort of the Queen,On the 20th of August, the Queen wrote a Memorandum, in which these words occur—The Queen requires—first, that Lord Palmerston will distinctly state what he proposes to do, 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 a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered, or modified by the Minister. … She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and the Foreign Ministers, before important decisions are taken.It appeared from this that there was a common practice for the Prime Minister to take action without telling the Sovereign; and another bad practice of arbitrarily and wantonly altering measures which the Sovereign had sanctioned; and a third nefarious custom of carrying on secret negotiations between the Prime Minister and Foreign Ambassadors, without informing the Sovereign. On August 17, the Prince Consort, on the part of the Queen, had an interview with Lord Palmerston, of which he wrote a memorandum—To give him an example of what the Queen wanted, I would ask him a question point-blank. He was aware the Queen had objected to the Protocol about Schleswig (July 4th 1850), and of the grounds on which she has done it. Her opinion had been overruled: the Protocol, stating the desire of the Great Powers to see the inte- 283 grity of the Danish Monarchy preserved, had been signed, and upon this the King had invaded Schleswig, where the war was raging. If Holstein were attacked also, which was likely, the Germans would not be restrained from flying to her assistance. Russia had menaced to interfere with arms if the Schleswigers were successful. What would Lord Palmerston do when this emergency arose (provoking most likely a European war), and which would arise very probably when we should be at Balmoral and Lord John in another part of Scotland? The Queen expected from his foresight that he had contemplated this possibility, and required a categorical answer as to what he would do in the event supposed. Lord Palmerston entered into a long-controversy about the Protocol and the conplicated state of the Danish question, called the contingency a very unlikely one, &c, &c. After a full hour's conversation on the subject we were, however, interrupted, without my being able to get a positive answer.Again, Mr. Disraeli, in his address to the electors in 1857, had complained of Lord Palmerston that he had led the country into secret negotiations, and had by that means subjugated Parliament to himself. Now-a-days, matters were concealed even from Members of the Cabinet themselves. The Duke of Newcastle, when examined before the Sebastopol Committee, in 1855, said there was no quorum to make a Cabinet, and those Ministers who were not in town had no knowledge of what was going on except from the public prints. A curious illustration occurred last year of the way colleagues in the Cabinet were kept in the dark. On the 13th of June the Secretary of State for the Colonies, addressing an audience in Gloucestershire, assured themThat the main points, the principal lines which had been distinctly laid down in Lord Salisbury's despatch (of April 1) would be adhered to at the Congress of Berlin;and yet the very next day the publication of the Salisbury-Schouvaloff surrender in The Globe newspaper showed that these main points had been given up three weeks before. The thing had been erected into a vast system by this time. Lord Wodehouse, in the evidence before the Committee on Diplomatic Service, in 1861, said it was indispensable that there should be a private correspondence between the Foreign Secretary and the heads of the Missions abroad, and that in publishing despatches the Foreign Secretary might, if he pleased, omit any part. Lord Clarendon said that in his correspondence with Foreign Ministers he invariably wrote private letters, and not despatches, in 284 order that they might not be laid before Parliament. Sir Andrew Buchanan and Lord John Russell gave corroborative evidence. The noble Lord then referred to cases in which Lord Palmerston had acted independently of the sanction of the Crown and the approval of his Colleagues, and particularly to his isolated and independent action with regard to the coup d'état of 1851, when he seemed to have regarded himself as an absolute Dictator. In recent times this system appeared to have been carried still further, for it had been said that along with the despatch which censured Sir Bartle Frere a private letter had been sent out telling him not to mind the censure. If this were not true, it behoved the Ministry to deny it. The noble Lord proceeded to cite the judgment of Lord Chief Justice Camden, delivered in the case of "Entick v. Carrington," which was reported in Volume 19 of the State Trials, to show that the practice of the issuing of warrants for the seizure of papers by the Secretary of State was illegal. The learned Judge said—The practice since the Revolution has been strongly urged with this emphatic addition—that an usage tolerated from the 'Era of Liberty,' and continued downwards to this time through the best ages of the Constitution, must necessarily have had a legal commencement. If the practice began then, it began too late to be law now; if such a right should have existed from the time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary and never yet have found a place in any book of law is incredible."—[State Trials, v. 19.]Therefore, he contended the mere fact of the Cabinet being the usage of the time did not take from the Privy Council the right to advise the Crown—a right which was in accordance with the Common and Statute Law of the land. In comparing the old Constitutional system with the present illegal system, he begged to remind the House that the latter had sprung up in the very worst and most corrupt period of our history, when certain unprincipled men, having banded themselves together for the purpose of furthering their private ends, took into their own hands the power of advising the Sovereign. The right hon. Member for the London University (Mr. Lowe), in speaking on this question in August, 1878, said—As long as the King administered the Constitution he had a great reason for exercising 285 moderation; because he had a great stake in the country. The Revolution came, and the change which I have mentioned followed; the Administrative Government of the country was placed in the hands of the gentlemen who for the time possessed the confidence of the House of Commons. This, so far from mending things, has made them a great deal worse; because those gentlemen have not the same stake in the country that the King had. They can produce the most enormous results; they can dare the most extremely audacious things without having to suffer anything very severe in consequence. Therefore, the use of arbitrary power has become much easier and stronger against the people than it was in the old times before Ministers governed the country. It is perfectly manifest that if this state of things may be supposed to be permanent the liberties of the country are not worth a day's purchase.He thought, then, he had shown that both by Common Law and by the Act of Settlement a Cabinet was an illegal advisor; and proceeded to cite the opinions of Charles James Fox, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and Mr. Gladstone, to the effect that the Cabinet was an illegal body. He further proceeded to cite the recent declarations of Lord Derby, to show the impossibility of fixing responsibility for any act of the Cabinet upon any individual Member of it. There was one act which must fall upon the Crown alone, for which no pretence of responsibility could be adduced on the part of the Cabinet, and for which, if there was no Privy Council to be responsible, then no one was—he meant the dismissal of a Ministry. King William IV., for instance, dismissed Lord Melbourne when there was a large majority in that Minister's favour. Who was responsible for that dismissal? If the Privy Council had advised it, there would be evidence of their advice; and they would be held responsible. But they could not say that the Cabinet was responsible, because the Cabinet was itself dismissed, and the Members of it were not responsible for their own dismissal. Yet the Crown was never responsible. Who, then, was responsible? "No," someone would say, "nobody was responsible for that act, except the King himself." Yet they told him he was never responsible. Was not that a reductio ad absurdum of Cabinet government? The Crown was not responsible; the Cabinet was not responsible; and nobody was responsible for the most grave and critical of all acts—the dismissal of a Ministry—unless they reestablished the Privy Council, and held them responsible.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ LORD ROBEET MONTAGU
, who, on rising to proceed, was received with cries of "Divide, divide!" said, if the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets and the hon. Baronet the Member for Wexford would behave themselves properly and keep themselves decently quiet, he would not continue much longer. ["Order!" and "Divide!"]
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
continued by saying that if the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets would be decently quiet he would conclude in two or three minutes; but if that hon. Member would not refrain from interrupting, he would have to occupy another hour or more. The noble Lord continued his address amid much interruption and total inattention, saying that what he had be on endeavouring to prove was this—that by the Statute Law and the Common Law, the Crown was be und to exercise its Prerogative on the advice of the Council, and on that advice alone—that in no other manner whatsoever could anyone be held responsible for the policy or for the acts of the Crown—that there could be no responsibility, except on the advice of the Council—that individual Members of the Cabinet were not responsible, and that by the Cabinet system responsibility was entirely evaded. The noble Lord continued to point out at great length his views of the evils of the Cabinet system, in assuring the omnipotence of a single individual (the Prime Minister) without individual responsibility; and finally moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "by the Constitution and Laws of this Realm, it is the right and duty of the Sovereign, with the advice of the Council, and only by that advice, or by the advice of Parliament, to direct the foreign policy of the Country, to negotiate and enter into Treaties, and to declare war or conclude a peace,"—(Lord Robert Montagu,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."287
§ MR. MARTEN
observed that, it was a little hard upon hon. Members on his side of the House to be taunted with not replying at once to Motions brought forward, by hon. Members opposite, because hon. Members opposite contrived by means of Amendments to deliver at least four speeches before their opponents could got in a word. The answer to the speech of the noble Lord was very simple. It was this—that the machinery of the Privy Council was already in full force, and was constantly exerted, as the noble Lord would see if he read The London Gazette, and that the Government of this country being conducted on Party principles, it was impossible that a body like the Privy Council could satisfactorily replace the Cabinet. The informal character of Cabinet Councils, so far from being an evil, appeared to him to be a great advantage, as tending to facilitate Business. The Resolution of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) was a direct, though very complicated, Vote of Censure upon the Government. It involved no less than 13 propositions, and the suddenness with which it had been placed upon the Paper in its present form was quite unprecedented in a Motion of so serious a character. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), in seconding the Resolution, quoted the well-known book, A. Vindication of the English Constitution, by Mr. Disraeli. He was surprised at the hon. Member's hardihood in so doing, for the book contained the best vindication of the Tory Party and the strongest condemnation of the Whigs and Radicals that ever was penned by a statesman; and he was quite sure that the hon. Member would not make many quotations from it that would serve his purpose from a political point of view. Neither the Proposer nor the Seconder offered any argument to show why the House should practically without notice entertain their proposal. But apart from the suddenness with which it was brought forward, he objected to the Motion because it was totally unjustified by any facts which hon. Members opposite had cited. The policy of the Government on all the subjects that had been mentioned had been formally challenged and debated in the House over and over again; and in every instance there had been a triumphant majority for the Government, fully confirmed by the opinion 288 of the country. The hon. Member for Swansea, in one of the 13 propositions, asked the House to affirm that the abuse of the Prerogative of the Crown was a growing abuse. What proof had he given that there had been any abuse whatever? The Seconder of the Motion spoke of the Abolition of Purchase in the Army as the greatest abuse of the Prerogative in modern times; but that had occurred during the Premiership of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and, therefore, it disposed of the allegation that there was a growing abuse. Nothing had been done by the present Government which at all approached the exercise of the Prerogative which was achieved by the right hon. Member when, by a stroke of the pen, he abolished Purchase, in spite of the decision of one of the co-ordinate Branches of the Legislature. Notwithstanding his desire to adapt his Resolution to the feelings of his Friends, the hon. Member for Swansea, like the madman in the novel who could not keep Charles I. out of his letters, had been unable to keep the "supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign" out of the Resolution. It was only "supposed," and what ground was there for saying even that? The only ground was that Her Majesty had written a letter to Lady Frere. Was Her Majesty to be the only lady in her Dominions who was not to write a private letter? The character of the assertion made was the more atrocious, because if ever there was a lady of the highest rank who had lived, as it were, fully before the people and taken them entirely into her confidence, it was Her Majesty. She had caused books to be published which had allowed the public to enter into her daily life, and which contained many interesting and touching accounts of the private life of the Royal Household. After all this, was Her Majesty to be condemned because she had written a private letter to Lady Frere? A more monstrous proposition was never brought forward. The hon. Member had not the courage of his former Resolution; but he asked the House to act on a supposition, and that a most improper one, entirely unsupported by facts. The last proposition which the House was asked to affirm was that the Government had withdrawn from the cognizance and control of the 289 House matters which ought to be within its scope. He contended that no proof had been given of this allegation. The purchase of the Suez Canal Shares was brought before Parliament immediately it met. As to the removal of the Indian troops to Malta, it was impossible that such a measure, any more than the plan of a campaign, could be previously discussed by the House. The theory of the Constitution was that Her Majesty acted by means of agents who were responsible for acting in a legal manner, and liable to impeachment if they did not; and the very instances of impeachment which had been named proved that the Constitution was strong enough to meet any cases that were likely to arise. It was, therefore, idle to maintain that under these circumstances there was any likelihood of the Prerogative of the Crown being strained or abused. He trusted that the House would reject both the Resolution and the Amendment, meeting the Resolution by a negative.
§ MR. HUTCHINSON
said, he was afraid that the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Marten) who had just sat down had not furnished an exception to the usual plan of leaving the arguments of the Opposition unanswered. He had, in his turn, made two complaints—first, that the Resolution of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had been altered; and, secondly, that that had been done too suddenly. It had, however, already been explained that the change had been made to obviate misconstruction; and as for the Vote of Censure said to have been sprung suddenly upon the House and the Government, the altered form of the Resolution was in that respect identical with the original. The Government had, therefore, received notice of Censure some six weeks ago, which he (Mr. Hutchinson) thought afforded ample time for preparation. The language of the hon. and learned Gentleman had been animated, but yet, upon the whole, characterized by a laudable degree of moderation, which he hoped would be maintained to the end. Though there would be much difference of opinion respecting the necessity of the Motion, or even of any Motion on the subject, there ought to be absolute unanimity respecting the tone and temper in which the question should be discussed, if raised at all. Our Constitutional system, being itself largely 290 the product of centuries of mutual conciliation and reciprocal adjustment, even when there was reason to believe that the lost balance between its various forces needed to be regulated anew and restored, the process should be marked by a careful avoidance of needless political friction. With the utmost courtesy, then, towards the Government, and with respectful loyalty to the Crown, he desired to express his opinion that the spirit of mutual forbearance he spoke of had latterly been a good deal less active than might be wished. Instead of it, there were indications of a desire to insist on wider limits of Prerogative, and even to stretch them, as the phrase was; to forget that a strictly technical right might be exercised so as to become a grievous practical wrong. That which might be even constitutionally lawful, according to the letter, was not by any means invariably politically expedient. Especially did it behove those in authority in this country, whether Monarchical or Ministerial, to remember that only when power was gentle could they expect obedience to be liberal. When Prerogative, for example, claimed that some unexpected extension of its jurisdiction was, after all, within the four corners of legality, the subjects of Prerogative in their turn began to inquire not how much service they could cheerfully render, but how little might suffice. It was the old story over again of Isaac of York, in Ivanhoe, who calculated how few coins might pass muster for a handful; and hesitation of that sort was but a sorry substitute for the ungrudging generosity that did not stay to reckon. One would hardly think, too, that repeated excavation, for the purpose of laying bare and measuring the foundations of an edifice, was an operation eminently conducive to its stability; and, in like manner, it appeared to him that institutions were not strengthened by acts necessarily suggesting Motions like that of his hon. Friend. He said "necessarily suggesting such Motions," for the House of Commons was nothing if it were not the embodiment of the national feeling and the national will in things political; and, at the present time, two well-defined characteristics of public opinion might be distinctly made out. There was, first, a wide-spread conviction that personal authority, Monarchical or Ministerial, or both—it being a hardship in 291 the case that the two had been purposely confused, so as to be made indistinguishable—was encroaching on representative function and privilege. Secondly, there was a decided opinion that this encroachment ought to be resisted and checked. If displacement of the Constitutional balance there was to be, that was not quite the direction in which they were likely to move willingly. The process of evolution and development, which had gradually transferred power from the few to the many, would hardly be arrested by a now revolutionary, or, if that phrase were thought offensive, a new re-actionary plan, whereby concentration was to be substituted for diffusion. Most certainly such a change would not be acquiesced in silently. Hence the Motion of his hon. Friend. Naturally enough, he had been expected to adduce the evidence on which he founded it, and both he and the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had shown that there was no lack of piéces justicatives. But they all knew there was such a thing as moral certitude, even in cases where demonstration or legal proof might be unattainable. The Scotch verdict of "not proven" implied a deficiency in the evidence, rather complete absolution of the culprit. There was even such a thing conceivable as a verdict of "not guilty," coupled with a warning not to do it any more. This latter was the disposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, who was willing to let bygones be bygones if the offence were not repeated. Now, the strength of this case did not lie altogether in the specific instances brought forward, as in a series of words and actions, each comparatively insignificant did it stand alone, but, taken together, constituting a rather formidable aggregate, all pointing in one and the same direction. What was the consequence? Why, a general belief that the influence of which the Motion spoke was improperly increasing. Such beliefs did not arise out of nothing. Carlyle's notion of a whole nation going mad together had not yet been realized among us. A famous politician once said that he knew not how to frame an indictment against an entire people; but to say there was no cause for the apprehension referred to in the Motion was to impugn the common sense of a large portion of this nation. Such a belief in itself justified the course taken by his hon. Friend; when- 292 ever they were widely entertained, they ought to find expression in that House. He knew it would be argued that what had been done was innocent or unimportant. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but Parliament had always been wisely tenacious of privilege and jealous of novelty. It had felt the necessity of resisting the beginnings of things, because our whole system was built up on precedents, the innovation of to-day tending to mature into the established custom of to-morrow. Besides, what might be perfectly safe at one time might be fraught with serious peril at another. National interests were far too precious to be left at the mercy of Monarchical or Ministerial caprice. They could not guarantee to posterity an unfailing succession of Premiers endowed with infallible wisdom, nor an uninterrupted series of Sovereigns blessed with perfect political discretion. Therefore must they hand down the safeguards they themselves had received. The authority of the Government and the interference of the Sovereign must be kept within the strict limits prescribed by usage, and by usage as modified during these latter days, when the bounds of freedom had been made broader yet. This was not now done. It was a new thing, so far as he knew, for the Sovereign to be in confidential correspondence with the Viceroy of India, and for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of that House, on being interrogated respecting the matter, to say that he and his Colleagues had nothing to do with it. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was courteous, as were all his replies; but was not on that account the less unsatisfactory. It was also something of a novelty for a Colonial Secretary to inform the House that he knew nothing about the point whether the Sovereign had expressed confidence in Sir Bartle Frere, whom the said Colonial Secretary had censured. The answer of this right hon. Gentleman was equally unsatisfactory, but was not marked by an excess of courtesy. The question naturally arose whether anybody else—the Prime Minister, for example—was better informed on these matters than were his associates. If he were, what could they think of such a new development of personal government and of the submission of his Colleagues to be thus officially disrated? and if the Premier were equally in the dark with them, what had become of Ministerial responsibility, which of 293 course implied Ministerial cognizance as its condition precedent and correlative? Look at the business as they might, it was an infringement of the rights of Representatives of the people in Parliament. This ought not to be, even in the interests of existing institutions. They were all thoroughly loyal; this ancient Monarchy, resting on the glorious tradition and historic splendour of 1,000 years, had no more attached subject than himself. But, in his judgment, it would be most effectually upheld by not becoming too obtrusive. Likewise, the control of a Ministerial Executive would be best maintained by their taking Parliament into their confidence, instead of snubbing it, keeping it at arm's length, and generally treating it disdainfully, as was now too much the supercilious mode. In this country any system which sought to extend the jurisdiction of Monarchs or Ministers at the expense of Parliament, increasing the authority of the one and eliminating the control of the other, would soon bring about consequences which he wished to avert. English politicians were sometimes accustomed to smile at the doctrinaire pedantry which thought that great nations could be ruled by written codes, or by cleverly constructed regulations, meant to map out Scientific Frontiers dividing the various forces composing the State. In this country, they preferred the applied experience of successive generations. But how, if, at the present moment, an attempt was being made to govern this Empire in accordance with the ideas contained in certain political novels? How, if to the realization of those new-fangled theories, the time-honoured privileges of Parliament were being sacrificed? Lord Beaconsfield recently declared, with all the magniloquence of a maxim maker, that the world was not governed by the harebrained chatter of irresponsible frivolity. He was afraid, however, that the harebrained chatter of certain frivolous, irresponsible, and fictitious personages in two or three very trashy novels, considering them from the literary point of view, did nevertheless actually set forth the principles on which the affairs of this Empire were now managed. His Lordship, in the very same sentence, went on to say that the world was governed by Sovereigns and statesmen. The House would notice that order of precedence, indicating, as it did, the 294 domination of personal influences, rather than the free play of representative forces. With the utmost loyalty and respect, he affirmed that, in the last resort, the world was governed neither by Sovereigns nor by statesmen, but by the common sense of the whole community. Among themselves, at any rate, public opinion was the supreme authority, the final court from which there was no appeal. Its force, when exerted for a great Constitutional purpose, was, and ought to be, irresistible, He believed it would be found supporting the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he believed that the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) was before the House, and that the House would have to vote upon this in the first instance. Unlike a good many hon. Members, he had had sufficient patience to listen to the speech of the noble Lord; and he thought that hon. Members were guilty of some neglect, when they treated with indifference utterances which, however perverted was the view of Constitutional history they presented, and however dangerous the doctrines they advanced under the pretence of extreme loyalty and a desire to strengthen the position of the Crown, were, nevertheless, those of a well-informed Member of the House. The noble Lord had given an able exposition of his opinions. He had declared that the existence of a Cabinet was a modern innovation and an abuse—he described what he said once were, and what he hoped would again be, the functions of the Privy Council. According to the noble Lord, the Privy Council was to be a body independent of, and, in many respects, superior to, Parliament, especially with respect to the control which it should exercise over the Prerogative of the Crown; in other respects the Privy Council was, according to the noble Lord, to be equal to Parliament. The views enunciated by the noble Lord reminded him (Mr. Newdegate) of the only work in which he J had seen such opinions fully advanced—the Memorial of the celebrated Jesuit, Father Parsons, which was discovered amongst the papers of James II. after his abdication. He did not think, however, that Parliament or the country would accept of the Privy Council as a body independent of, and, in some respects, superior to, itself. Such were 295 the views upon which James II. acted, and by so acting he lost the Throne. It was strange, in this 19th century, to hear such views advanced in the British House of Commons, and that those who advanced them should claim an almost exclusive loyalty. The danger was none the less when these opinions were presented in their Conservative phase rather than in their democratic aspect. This policy was advocated in letters and communications which appeared in The Tablet and other Ultramontane journals. Let the House remember that there were now a great number of establishments in this country which were under the direction of those who entertained these opinions, and who were likely to obtain a hold upon a considerable section of the population. On the present occasion, those views had been expounded to the House by a noble Lord who avowed himself to be a Home Ruler. This, it now appeared, was another form in which the Home Rule Party proposed to trench upon the duties, functions, and position of that House. This was not a matter, therefore, which the House should treat with neglect, for the House had already had some experience of the power of obstruction and of the interference with its functions which the Home Rule section of the House was capable of exercising; and if these views were to be promulgated without contradiction throughout the country, the House of Commons might find itself compelled actively to defend its highest duties and the retention of some of its most important functions. They had now among them that dangerous school of re-action, whose support and influence had proved fatal to so many Princes. It was through this influence that the Thrones of Naples and of France had disappeared. He (Mr. Newdegate) believed that Her Majesty was incapable of lending an ear to such advice, though it might reach Her Majesty, as it might reach Her Successor, as it was certainly reaching a considerable section of the population. He held it to be the duty of the House of Commons to protect the Privileges which it had inherited and the functions they had performed for so long a period. In this proposal of the noble Lord to recognize the Privy Council as a body totally independent of, and, in many respects, a substitute for, Parliament, they had 296 an embodiment of those re-actionary views which were sometimes associated with democratic movements, and which were not one whit less dangerous when entertained by nominal Conservatives. He should vote, then, without any hesitation, against the Amendment of the noble Lord. He regretted that he could not vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). He had voted for the maintenance of the legal restriction imposed upon the Prerogative by the Act for the Government of India, under which the authority of the Crown had superseded that of the East India Company—when the India Act had, in his opinion, been violated. He had voted against the extension of the Prerogative when the clause in that Bill which was intended to limit the Royal Prerogative, and of which the late Lord Derby was the author, was set at nought; but he could not vote with the hon. Member for Swansea in the present instance, for this reason—that the original form of the hon. Member's Notice had directly impugned the action of Her Most Gracious Majesty, whilst, in its altered shape, that of the Motion now before the House, the suspicion was revived that Her Majesty had exceeded the functions which, under the law and by the law, were confided in her. He had not heard one word, either from the hon. Member for Swansea, or in the able speech with which the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had seconded the Motion, by which even an attempt was made to prove the justice of this imputation upon Her Majesty; and he should deem himself unworthy of a seat in that House if he were to record his vote in condemnation of the conduct of Her Majesty, without the clearest proof, upon mere unsupported suspicion. He should be no less unworthy, in his own opinion, were he, when clear evidence of excess on the part of the Crown was adduced, to shrink from voting in restraint of that excess on the part of the Sovereign in the exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
thought it very likely that the opinion of the House on this debate might not turn out to be the opinion of the country; and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer supposed that the few words uttered by him, and the deprecatory observations of the right 297 hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), would satisfy the country that an answer had been made to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, he was much mistaken. He said this, because he was certain that, whatever the issue of the debate might be, he and his Friends were speaking the opinion of a vast number of people in this country, when they asserted that the Motion on the Paper demanded the serious attention of Parliament. He could not but remark on the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich upon those who had brought forward a Motion embracing a series of things, the responsibility for which had already been accepted by the House, that, as far as he understood it, the reflection of the right hon. Gentleman meant that whenever anyone found himself in a minority in that House he was not justified in making repeated endeavours to press forward a particular question. If, however, they looked back to the right hon. Gentleman's own history, they would see that on occasions when he was right, and when he was wrong, he had stood out amid miserable minorities. He had made 73 speeches in opposition to the Divorce Bill; and had he not, against the feeling of the House, led the Opposition to the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill?—in which, no doubt, he was right; and surely, therefore, he could not blame those who, feeling the Constitution in danger of invasion, entered a protest against the action of the Government. The best way of putting the grounds on which that protest was entered would be to quote from Sir Erskine May what were supposed to be the results of the Constitutional struggles of a century. Speaking of a time when the Constitution was supposed to have been settled, Sir Erskine May stated that from that time no question had arisen concerning the exercise of the Prerogative or influence of the Crown; that both had been exercised wisely, justly, and in the true spirit of the Constitution; that Ministers enjoying the confidence of Parliament had never claimed in vain the confidence of the Crown; that their measures had not been thwarted by secret influence and irresponsible advice; that their policy had been directed by Parliament and public opinion, and not by the will of the Sovereign or the intrigues of 298 the Court; and that vast as was the power of the Crown, it had been exercised throughout the present Reign with the advice of responsible Ministers in a Constitutional manner and for legitimate objects; that it had been held in trust, as it were, for the benefit of the people, and hence it had ceased to excite the jealousy of rival Parties or popular discontent; that the judicious exercise of the Royal authority, while it had conduced to the good government of the State, and sustained the moral influence of the Crown and the devoted loyalty of a free people which Her Majesty's personal virtues had merited, had never been disturbed. It was impossible to read this description without feeling that the country was now falling back on the system of secret influence, when the name of the Crown was misused for the purposes of Party government, and when, in consequence, as shown in the public organs of the day in Scotland and the Northern and Midland Counties, there was a widespread feeling of jealousy with regard to the manner in which the Crown was influenced. In consequence of the course which this debate had taken, it fell upon a few shoulders to maintain the proposition which had been put forward, and he hoped the House would permit him to add some observations to those which already had been made in support of the Motion. ["Oh, oh!"] He could assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Admiral Sir William Edmonstone) that it would not conduce to shorten his observations if he continued his interruptions. Let him for one moment refer, in the first place, to one or two facts which had been adduced by his hon. Friend (Mr. Dillwyn) to prove the grounds on which the feeling to which he had alluded existed in the country. He did not think it was unimportant to-night, when they were gathered together for the purpose of establishing their propositions, to take an historical view of the actions of Her Majesty's Government, although it had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich that it was irrelevant to go back to discussions which had taken place in this House. He did not intend to trouble the House with a discussion upon the moaning of the word Crown or Prerogative; but only wished to point out that the Crown, in the sense in which it was used in this 299 Resolution, meant the Sovereign as advised by Her Ministers—the repository of the Executive power, the repository of the Prerogative. Many hon. Members seemed to think that the Perogative was a sort of Divine institution, or something which originally belonged to the Monarchy or Sovereign whereas if they would look into the matter fully, they would find that even the most theoretical lawyers would admit that the Prerogative was nothing more nor less than that which was granted to the Sovereign to be used as a trust for the benefit of the people. The struggle between Prerogative on the one hand, and liberty on the other, had been constant, and this House had been the scene of the struggle; and it was only the following up of the traditions on the side of liberty in the past that justified his hon. Friend in making his present Motion. They need not recall the incidents connected with the commencement of the Afghan War, or of the removal of the troops to Malta, or the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares, or other matters of that sort; but he did ask the House to consider whether or not there did not seem to be on the part of both the front Benches a certain indifference to deal with the gradual infringement of the Crown by the advice of the Ministers on what he regarded as the Constitutional rights and privileges of this House? At this moment there were going on in Egypt negotiations of a delicate and important character to this country; but they had no Papers and no information respecting negotiations. Her Majesty's Government refused to give them any information later than the end of last year; but some day the Chancellor of the Exchequer would come over to the House, and they would suddenly learn that they had been committed to some new Guarantee, or that they had entered into some Treaty with France. He asked if it was possible long to maintain the right of the Crown to act in that way behind the back of this House and of the country, to commit the country to a large expenditure, and involve it in serious guarantees? How long was it likely that the country would stand a Prerogative so extensive? The effect of the proposition was that the mode and limits of the exercise of the Prerogative should be more strictly observed. That proposition was not disputed by the front 300 Bench, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was unable to say that he disputed the proposition that the Prerogative, as assumed by the Government at the present moment, ought to be allowed to remain in its present position. He did not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman was indisposed to make a long speech on this question. He remembered that when the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Rylands) called attention to the treaty-making power of the Crown, the right hon. Gentleman jumped up to defend the Crown, as if the Treasury Bench were not sufficiently capable of doing that. In a few weeks afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman had occasion to retract his words; for, in the meantime, the Turkish Convention had been concluded. It was then found that his doctrines had become inconvenient. If was found that this country had entered into serious guarantees, and that the broad propositions laid down from the front Opposition Bench were no longer to be maintained with their full force and authority. The country would consider the unwillingness of the front Benches to deal with this question as significant. They would see that there was a change in the influence of the Crown which not only affected Ministers in power, but Members who were looking forward to power, and they would learn with satisfaction the protest which came from Members below the Gangway against this unjust assumption of the Prerogative on the part of the Crown acting on the advice of its Ministers. He felt that this occasion had not been a sufficient one to hammer out the question; but he would say that it was the duty of the Government to take care that incidents such as had recently occurred should not occur again. If it was true that a large sum of money had been paid for telegrams from the Viceroy of India to the Queen, it could not be that those telegrams were on matters of private business. They must have conveyed information concerning the political condition of the country. But a more serious thing than that was the fact that the telegrams sent with reference to Lord Chelmsford—sent by the Crown on the responsibility of a single Cabinet Minister—had had the practical effect of withdrawing from the consideration of the House the competency of Lord Chelmsford. He admitted it was dic- 301 tated by a generous sentiment; but it exercised an unconstitutional influence, and in a former ago the Minister who sent it would have been impeached, and he certainly thought he would have deserved it. There could be no harm from this inoffensive discussion, and the opinions which had been expressed might have a good effect. The matter rested upon two grounds, the policy pursued by Ministers and the little evidences of personal influence. He believed that the time was not far distant when the Crown would be relieved of any suspicion of the exercise of this illegitimate influence, because public opinion would remove from the entourage of the Crown the present dubious Advisers of Her Majesty, and put in their places others who would possess the confidence of the country.
§ MR. FAWCETT
, who had on the Paper the following Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea:—That this House, while at all times anxious to protect the privileges of Parliament against any encroachment on the part of the Crown, is of opinion that there is no evidence to show that in the Indian and foreign policy of the Country the Sovereign has acted without the advice of Her Ministers, who are directly responsible to Parliament,said, that early in the evening his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had misunderstood his motive in asking that the Motion might be postponed. He (Mr. Fawcett) now wished to explain to the House what he intended to do. This was not a question of Order, but of fairness in their Parliamentary conduct of proceedings. Six weeks ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer answered a Question put to him by his hon. Friend (Mr. Dillwyn) in reference to the telegram sent by Lord Lytton to the Queen; but what course had his hon. Friend taken? Why, he gave Notice of a Motion which remained on the Paper till last night. He felt that that Motion be re but one interpretation according to common sense—that it was a Vote of Censure upon the Sovereign; and, therefore, he put down his Amendment, as no evidence had been offered in proof of the charge. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) appeared to be under the impression that everyone who differed from him was under Court influence. As he might come within the 302 category alluded to by his hon. Friend, he wished it to be understood that he was actuated in this, as in other questions which came before the House, solely by a wish to see equal justice done by and between all persons, whether they belonged to the highest or the lowest classes in the Realm. That might be called Court influence; but that was his sole motive for bringing forward his Amendment. It seemed to him that a charge by inference was far worse than when made direct; and what could words convey more than in the Motion of his hon. Friend that the Sovereign had done something that ought not constitutionally to have been done? He withheld his Amendment as long as he could do so. It was not until late last night that the hon. Member for Swansea, at the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dundee, altered his Resolution; and it was contrary to the usage of the House that a Motion conveying Censure should be only given Notice of at a period so late that it was not possible for any hon. Member to frame an Amendment which could be placed on the Paper so that hon. Members could express an opinion upon it. He was not the one to shrink from expressing his disapproval of the conduct of the Government; but when a Censure on any Government was proposed, it was only fair that Notice should be given of it. As to his own Amendment, he felt that it was no longer relevant to the Motion now on the Paper, and he should withdraw the Amendment, taking no part in the Division. It seemed to him that it was the very essence of Liberalism to maintain the great principle of Ministerial responsibility. Some hon. Members spoke as if the English people were not a self-governed nation, and as if, at the present time, there were some influences which the House could not reach, and some power which it could not attack. He believed that with an extended suffrage England was as much a self-governed nation as she ever was, and that it was just as impossible now as it ever had been in the past for any Monarch or Minister to contravene the wishes of the people. It might be said, how did he account for the policy of the last four or five years? The Government had been pursuing a policy in every part of the world fraught with danger to the best interests of the Empire. Do not lot the Government, 303 now that the people were beginning to pay some of the penalties of that policy, shelter themselves behind "Court influence and personal government." The people who were responsible for this policy were the people of England themselves. If the Government had not been supported by the people, the policy which had been carried out could never have been persisted in. [Ministerial cheers.] That statement was cheered from the Conservative Benches, and he should repeat it again and again in the country, because up to the present time thousands of lives were sacrificed and millions of treasure were being wasted. Do not let the people of this country, like the people of France, attempt to shift the responsibility from themselves. If they had not been in favour of this so-called Imperial aggressive policy, that policy would never have been carried out. It was said that this Ministry was supported by the Court as against the wishes of the people. Nothing of the kind. When the Government found their policy resisted by the opinion of the country, the Government yielded at once. What did they see last autumn? The Government was then at the height of its power. The Government announced that they were going to give some English money to the people of Turkey; but within a few hours they withdrew that announcement. Why did they do so? Because they, like any other English Government, knew that they must submit to the popular view. Therefore, he thought there was a great deal of exaggeration about this Court influence. Let them, encourage in the people this belief, which was, he believed, a true belief, that in them was centred all political power; and if the Government acted wrongly, it was their fault if those wrong acts were committed. He should have been delighted to express his opinion on some of the questions raised in this debate. That he hoped to be able to do on some future occasion. His hon. Friends who sat around him must not suppose that he differed from them in principle; but, whether right or wrong, he could not come to any other conclusion than that, as the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea had been suddenly changed, it was better that he should not intrude upon the House the Amendment he had intended to move, or take any part in the Division.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I regret very much to stand between the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) and the House, and I regret it still more because I gather from some voices behind me that an impression prevails that there is something irregular in my addressing the House a second time to-night. In point of fact, I have only said a few words, and those not upon the present Motion, but upon the original Motion presented to the House by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and those few words were only used in order to explain why at that time I did not think it my duty or convenient to enter upon the question. I feel that it is now full late for a speech to be delivered from this Bench in answer to the charges which have been made, and as to which we are peculiarly responsible; and I think I should not be doing my duty if, after what has recently been said, I should any longer delay in addressing the House. I waited until I should hear the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins), because I felt, under the peculiar circumstances of the debate, that he was the real author of the Motion now before the House. The hon. Member for Swansea, as we have been reminded, gave Notice of his Resolution some weeks ago; and it was not until the hon. Member for Dundee gave Notice last night of an Amendment of an important character upon that Resolution that the hon. Member for Swansea changed the wording of his Motion. Well, Sir, it is not convenient that the wording of a Motion should be changed suddenly; but it is still less convenient if a change is made for the reason assigned by the hon. Member for Swansea. The reason put forward by him was that he found that the Motion of which he had given Notice was misconstrued, and that it was understood to bear a meaning which he never intended it should bear—namely, that he was intending to move a Resolution conveying a Censure upon Her Majesty the Queen, and that it was in order to get rid of that unfortunate misunderstanding that he agreed to change the wording of his Resolution. I fully accept, and everyone who knows the hon. Gentleman would be prepared to accept in the largest measure, his disclaimer of the intention to make any charge of a personal character upon Her 305 Majesty the Queen. But I think no one can have watched the course even of this debate, and that no one can have observed the language which has been held out-of-doors during the time that the Motion has been upon the Paper, without seeing that whatever was the intention of the Mover, at all events the impression conveyed to many minds and to the public was that the conduct of the Queen was charged as unconstitutional by the Motion; and I rejoice to find, and we all rejoice to find, that such was not the intention of the hon. Member for Swansea or the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). Still, we feel it is indispensably necessary that we should, in the most distinct and most emphatic manner, repudiate and rebut the charge which has been brought against Her Majesty. The Amendment of which the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had given Notice was an Amendment which seemed to me of the kind that we might have accepted; because, whether we were fully satisfied with it or not, it in substance appeared fairly to traverse the Motion originally intended to be made by the hon. Member for Swansea. His Motion was understood to raise the question as to whether Her Majesty had interfered in the foreign or in the Indian policy of the country without proper Constitutional resort to the advice of her Ministers, and the hon. Member for Hackney had proposed to say that there was no evidence of her having so acted. That Motion has been changed, and the Mover disclaims an intention to make a charge against the Sovereign; but still he does not, as it seems to me, withdraw the imputation, neither does the amended Motion lead at all to the satisfactory conclusion that there is no charge of interference on the part of the Crown in the State policy of the country; while it does import into the question another element, and one which it is impossible we should altogether pass over and ignore. It imports into this Resolution that which was hardly in the original Resolution—a distinct Vote of Censure upon the Government. That undoubtedly places us in a position of embarrassment, because, on the one hand, we desire to adopt such a course as may most distinctly mark the sense of the House of the inadequacy, nullity, and utter futility of the charges brought against 306 the Queen; and, on the other hand, we cannot accept any Resolution that gives the go-by to the charge now made against the Government of having made an improper use of the Prerogative of the Crown. Therefore, after thinking the matter over, we have come to the conclusion that there is no course open to us but to meet the Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea with a direct negative. The noble Lord the Member for Westmeath (Lord Robert Montagu) has moved an Amendment, which he supported in a speech of great research, learning, ingenuity, and of some length. But whatever may be the merits of that Amendment; it distinctly avoids the question, and we cannot accept it. The hon. Member for Hackney does not move his Amendment, and it is, therefore, clearly inappreciable. For that reason, I think we have no course open to us but to meet the Motion with a direct negative. But, Sir, in doing this, I wish to draw a distinction between the two parts of the censure which is, either directly or indirectly, conveyed. As regards the censure cast upon Her Majesty's Government, we are now, I think, become tolerably well hardened to attacks of this kind; and so far as the speeches of the Mover and Seconder traverse the old ground of the iniquities of the Government in respect of their conduct at the various stages of the critical events of last year, so far as they relate to the movement of the Indian troops, the Vote of Credit, or the various other subjects to which reference has been made, we are perfectly content to say that those questions have been brought forward in this House one by one, they have been debated one by one, and the judgment of the House has been passed upon them all singly. And if it is desired now to take them again in the lump, we are perfectly prepared to meet them in that form also. But, Sir, the case is totally different when the revered name of the Sovereign of this country is brought in question in any shape or form; and whether it be in the shape of a direct charge against Her Majesty, or of a charge against her Advisers, that they have made use of and sheltered themselves behind her name, we find it necessary to give it a distinct and emphatic contradiction. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Hutchinson) said just now that there was in the 307 country an impression that encroachments were being made by Monarchical or Ministerial authority, or both; and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) echoed very much the same sentiments. He said there was a feeling of jealousy with regard to the influence of the Crown, and that if we read the newspapers, we should see that such impression was abroad. I am upon this point happy to be able to confirm the opinion which he has expressed; for it has happened that, in reading a newspaper this evening, I found the following words—I am quoting from The Echo:—But occasionally we have significant indications that the Crown is acting as permanent head of the Cabinet, or rather of the small Cabinet inside the larger one. Her Majesty sent a despatch to Lord Lytton, so lengthy that the cost of telegraphing it was 1,400 rupees. Then we have the elaborate message to Lord Chelmsford, and the still more recent one to Lady Frere.Now, this is the sort of statement which goes forth in columns widely circulated for the instruction of the public. If hon. Members will consider it for a moment, they will see that, even assuming the correctness of the charges brought against us here, these charges thus made in the Press are totally unfounded. The charge made in the Question put by the hon. Member for Swansea some weeks ago, upon which this Motion was raised, did not relate to any telegraphic despatch sent by Her Majesty to Lord Lytton, but related to a telegraphic communication said to have been despatched from Lord Lytton to Her Majesty. That is a very different case, because it is quite possible and highly probable that there may have been communications as to matters of fact made by the Viceroy to the Queen; while, on the other hand, telegrams from the Queen to Lord Lytton might bear a different construction. But this is a matter upon which I shall trouble the House for a few moments, because it is the only serious one brought forward in this discussion. We have heard a good deal about the telegrams to Lord Chelmsford and to Lady Frere, and this is a matter as to which I think the answer commends itself to the common sense of the House. At a moment of great anxiety; at a moment when Her Majesty's troops had met with an un- 308 fortunate reverse; when there had been great loss of life, and great concern was naturally felt on the part of Her Majesty; at a time, too, when the Government were so far from expressing their censure or their want of confidence in their Agents or Ministers in South Africa, that they felt it to be their duty to defend them, and retain them in the responsible positions -which they filled; Her Majesty, always ready with a kind word, sent a message in the most general terms of sympathy, and at the same time conveyed an expression of confidence that her troops would redeem themselves from the difficulties in which they were placed, and that her Administrator and Governor would be able to bring them out of the difficulties of their situation. There is really nothing in that which can in any way whatever be found fault with, nor do I believe that anybody has made it the subject of a serious charge. But with regard to the case of the Indian telegram, I am bound to say that it is a matter which requires a moment's consideration. This charge originates in a very remarkable article contributed to one of the numerous periodicals of the day by a gentleman whose name is very well known to us all as a special correspondent of one of the newspapers, and an admirable writer, whose descriptions we all read with interest and pleasure—Mr. Archibald Forbes. Whether he is an equally great Constitutional authority is, of course, another question. He is a gentleman with whose name we all are familiar, but of whom I have no personal knowledge. The article is entitled "Some Plain Words about the Afghanistan Question," and gives an account of what he has gathered to be the history and origin of that war. He says that Lord Lytton was desirous of bringing about a quarrel with the Ameer Shere Ali, and, of course, of pressing his view upon the Home Government, who, according to Mr. Archibald Forbes, were unable to see the necessity for hostilities with Afghanistan. Mr. Forbes proceeds to say—While working in this fashion on his own account, Lord Lytton was pleading with Lord Cranbrook for his sanction to an immediate Declaration of War.And after a few more sentences he adds— 309Nor did he confine his communications to the Constitutional channel. It is not generally known, but it is nevertheless true, that the Viceroy of India has maintained direct communication in the Anglo-Afghan affair with Her Majesty the Queen. How copious this must have been may be judged from the fact that the telegram sent upon this great and difficult case was so long that the cost was 11,000 rupees.These words are in italics, and a great writer does not usually make use of italics unless he wishes to direct particular attention to that about which he is writing. It is obvious that the meaning of the paragraph is this—that Lord Lytton, desiring to bring about the acceptance of a certain policy with Her Majesty's Ministers at home, and finding himself unable to persuade them by his arguments, addressed himself directly to the Queen, that he might obtain Her Majesty's support in order to carry his object. Now, that, if true, is a serious charge, and one which undoubtedly trenches upon the Privileges of Parliament and the Constitution of the country. But, Sir, there is no foundation whatever for such a statement. It is perfectly true that a long telegram was sent by Lord Lytton to Her Majesty; but what was the date of that message, and to what circumstances did it refer? I have been favoured by Her Majesty with a sight of that telegram, and am perfectly acquainted with it, and it is at this moment in my possession. I will describe its nature and purport. In the first place, its date is the 26th of November; the advance of the Forces had begun five days previously—that is, on the 21st of November—and the telegram which Lord Lytton addressed to Her Majesty described in tolerably succinct phrases the advance of the various columns of Her Majesty's Forces. He begins by saying that they advanced on the morning of the 21st of November, under Generals Biddulph and Roberts, and the nature of their instructions is mentioned for the information of Her Majesty. There is not one word upon the causes of the war; there is not one word with regard to political matters; it is only a telegram sent by the Viceroy at the moment when the movement took place, in order that Her Majesty might receive early and authentic intelligence of that which had taken place. That is the whole explanation of this mysterious telegram, in reply to which Her Majesty simply expressed 310 her gratification at hearing of the success which had attended her troops. The telegram was not sent by Her Majesty without being first submitted to, and approved by her Minister. I ask what does the House consider to be the position—what does it consider to be the rights and duties of the Sovereign? Is the House of opinion that it is improper that Her Majesty should be in any way in the receipt of intelligence as to important and interesting events which are going on? Is the House of opinion that Her Majesty should not write a private letter, or express any opinion of her own upon any matter which seems to call for the expression, of sympathy with those who are in trouble? Is it possible to suppose that one who has held, and continues to hold, so important a position as the Queen of England; one who has had her experience; one who is called upon from time to time to admonish and to advise; whose right it is, as the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) has said, "to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn," are we to be told that she is to be deprived of all information as to the real state of affairs, or as to the real state of feeling in this country or anywhere else? Sir, I maintain this position to be utterly untenable. We have, in some of the language used to-night, heard to what absurd and ridiculous lengths this case has been carried. It would, appear that Her Majesty ought not to be informed as to the details of what passes in this House, or what passes in the Cabinet; and other like doctrines have been advanced in a way which makes us really wonder at the views which hon. Members opposite entertain. But I think we may say, in answer to all these charges, that the character and the history of the present Reign and of the present Sovereign are in themselves a sufficient refutation. We need not appeal to any evidence but that which we ourselves possess; but if it were necessary to do so, I would say—Go to what country you please, to France, Italy, America, or where you may, and listen to the language in which the Sovereign of Great Britain is spoken of. Everywhere you will hear the same uniform eulogium upon the private virtues and conduct of the Queen and upon her high Constitutional character. I venture to say there has never been in the annals 311 of this country a Sovereign who has more loyally justified the position which Her Majesty occupies as a Constitutional Sovereign. The hon. Member for Swansea, in his original Motion, told us that certain action was not in accordance with Constitutional usage "as now understood and settled." But how, and by whom, has the Constitutional usage of this country come to be so understood and settled? It has been so, at least as much by the perfect influence of our gracious Sovereign, as by the wisdom and firmness of Parliament, and by the expression of public opinion throughout the country. In all these matters the Queen has not only borne her part, but she has taken the lead in confirming and observing the Constitutional rules by which she should be guided; and it is owing to this that we are blessed with a Constitution in which the Sovereign is neither a mere dummy, nor, on the other hand, overshadows or takes an undue part in governing the affairs of the country. I do not know whether it may be the wish or the idea of some persons in this House, or out of it, that the Constitution of this country should be changed. It may be that in some places there are ideas abroad that a Constitutional Monarchy is not the best form of government, and that some form of Republic, or some powers given to a Parliamentary body or a Senate analogous to those in other countries, would be preferable. If such opinions are entertained, let them be discussed, and let us see what is the real feeling of the country. But, Sir, I act upon the assumption that we adhere to the Monarchical form of Government; and I maintain, with the utmost confidence, and with no qualification whatever, that Her Majesty fulfils in every particular the duties of a Constitutional Sovereign, such as we understand by that term. We have, as I have already pointed out, a safeguard in the character of the Sovereign; we have another safeguard, and it is one which ought not to be underrated—in the determination which, I am sure, will always animate the Parliaments of this country to maintain their just rights and Privileges. But it is not because we respect the Prerogatives and Privileges of the Queen, that we are, therefore, willing to tamper with the rights and Privileges of Parliament. It is not the way to show ourselves strong in defending our own 312 Privileges to be ready to catch at every word of gossip and at every insinuation of malice, from wheresoever it may come, and to put constructions of the worst character upon acts which in themselves are both innocent and Constitutional. I do not think that is the way in which the liberties of the country and the Privileges of Parliament are to be defended. I say we are to defend these Privileges by making ourselves respected in the country, by making ourselves strong, and the guardians of that Constitution of which we are no unimportant part. We were told just now that "there are no guardians of the public liberties; that the Cabinet is no guardian; that the Ministry is no guardian; that the House itself, overpowered as it is by a majority, is no guardian of them." I do not understand language of that sort. I do not understand why the minority of the House should be allowed to come forward to say that the majority cannot be regarded as the guardians of the public liberties, merely because they differ from the minority on particular questions. But I say that it is the duty of the minority, whenever they believe that the Prerogatives of the Crown are being unduly strained, or that the Privileges of Parliament are being encroached upon, it is their duty to come forward to state their views, and to press them publicly against the largest numerical majority, and trust to the progress of public opinion to enforce those views which they believe to be sound. That is what has been done, and what will continue to be done by the minority, if, upon any future occasion, they have specific grounds of complaint to go upon. But, Sir, I say that the sort of Motion which we have had submitted to-night—vague and uncertain—such a Motion as we are unable to grapple with—a very Proteus, changing its form as often as we come to close quarters with it—is neither likely to increase the respect in which this House is held by the country, nor to be of advantage to the Constitution under which we have the happiness to live.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I must confess that I have never been more perplexed since I have been in this House than by the proceedings in this House which have preceded and accompanied the moving of this Resolu- 313 tion. When I first read the Resolution of the hon. Member for Swansea, it did not appear to me to be particularly well framed, or particularly clear in the proposition which it was designed to enunciate. But having, as I thought, mastered the meaning of that Resolution, I was yesterday certainly astonished when my hon. Friend declared that it had taken him entirely by surprise to find that the Resolution of which he had given Notice was in any way supposed to be a Vote of Censure upon Her Majesty. It is extremely possible, and it has been contended by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), that technically the Motion was not a Vote of Censure upon Her Majesty, because Hoi-Majesty cannot be held responsible for any action whatever; and that, if it was a Vote of Censure at all, it would have been a censure upon the Advisers of the Crown. But certainly the impression conveyed by the terms of the Resolution imported censure upon certain proceedings of Her Majesty in her personal capacity, which, by some evil advice, she had been induced to take; and, therefore, I cannot understand how it can have so much astonished my hon. Friend to learn that it was regarded as a direct Vote of Censure upon the Queen. My perplexity was still further increased when I heard him say that he was prepared to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins), and when I found the effect of that Amendment to be not a very considerable alteration from the terms of the original Resolution. Sir, that Resolution has now become a sort of vague Vote of Censure upon the Government in respect of several matters which have already been under the consideration of the House; and that which yesterday was the principal allegation of the Resolution—namely, that there had been personal interference on the part of the Sovereign—has now been remitted to a secondary and comparatively insignificant position. I cannot think that these proceedings are at all convenient to the House, because I think that when matters of this importance are dealt with by the House, they ought to be dealt with after due consideration, and after the bearings of the Resolution affecting them have been fully considered, and that time should be given to the House for fully considering the bearings 314 of the Resolution, as well as for making Amendments. No one can doubt for a moment the importance of the issue raised by the Motion of the hon. Member; but I am still in some perplexity as to what that issue is. But while there is no doubt as to the importance of the subject, there will be much difference of opinion as to the expediency of its being made at all, either in the form proposed yesterday or in that which it has assumed to-day. Our Constitution contains a great variety of forces, not necessarily opposing forces, but which may occasionally find themselves in opposition to each other, and which are kept in balance by a variety of checks, not the result of any preconceived theories, but of the practice and experience of generations, a great many of which are the outcome of prolonged, severe, and hazardous struggles. The relations of the two Houses of Parliament to each other, the relations of Parliament and the Executive Government to the Crown, all these points have been settled in a manner which it would be very easy to show is not theoretically perfect, but yet, after various adjustments, have been found in practice to work sufficiently well. In my opinion, it is not expedient, without adequate cause, that Parliament should be excited to examine the mechanism of the Constitution, and to raise, by calling attention to them, difficulties in the friction which would not otherwise be found out. Reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard, in his speech to-night, to that prolonged contest which took place between George III. and the political Parties in Parliament—a contest which was waged in support, on the one hand, of the claim of personal government, and, on the other, in support of the Privileges of Parliament. That was one of the most prolonged and one of the most severe struggles through which our Constitution has passed. It would be, perhaps, rash to say that no similar struggle can ever, under any circumstances, be waged again between the different powers of the Constitution; but I think it is safe to say that that contest can never be waged again under the same or under similar circumstances. That was at the time of nomination be roughs and of other constituencies which were extremely small, when the Crown was in possession of almost 315 unlimited patronage. It was possible for the Sovereign, as George III. did, to dictate his own policy to his Ministers, to dismiss his Ministry when he objected to their policy, and sometimes to defeat his own Ministers in Parliament by means of his own personal influence. But the circumstances under which that action of the Sovereign was exercised are entirely gone, the position is entirely changed; and no conflict between the Crown and Parliament can ever be waged at the present time in circumstances even remotely similar to those to which my hon. Friend referred. But even at the time when the conflicts between the Crown and the political Parties were constant, I think it will be found, upon examination, that no Parliamentary action was ever taken, except on grounds most distinctly stated, or except on grounds the existence of which was perfectly notorious. Now, Sir, have any such grounds for Parliamentary action been alleged in the present case, or is there any such notorious interposition of the Sovereign in matters of policy as would warrant the absence of specific statements in the Motion which has been made? In my opinion, my hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Resolution have confused two issues which are altogether and totally distinct. They have confused the charges which have been brought from this side of the House from time to time against Her Majesty's Government of an abuse of the powers of the Crown with charges of a different, of an altogether different description. We, on this side of the House, have thought it necessary, and I have myself been a party to it on every occasion, to challenge the exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown by Her Majesty's present Advisers in the case of the removal of the Indian troops; again, in the case of Anglo-Turkish Convention; and, again, in the proceedings, without the knowledge of Parliament, which led to the Afghan War. We have contended that in every one of these cases the Prerogative and the powers of the Crown have been abused by Her Majesty's Government. I think that we took a right course in raising every one of those issues in detail and separately. I think we should have failed in our duty to the House and the country if we had acted otherwise. But, as has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich 316 (Mr. Gladstone), these issues have been decided in every instance against us by this House. Although we are not content to consider that decision as a final one, there is but one tribunal to which it is possible for us to make an appeal. It is competent for us, and we shall, I hope, appeal from the judgment of the House to the judgment of the constituencies whenever we have the opportunity. But, on the other hand, I must agree with my right hon. Friend that there is no practical object to be attained in raising again collectively in this House charges which have been heard in detail, and which, so far as this House was competent to decide them, have been decided against us. But with these issues which we have raised, and which my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillwyn) and I have together been parties to raising, my hon. Friend has mixed up the question which has excited—I do not say unnecessarily excited—considerable attention in the mind of the country generally, the question which goes, for want of a better name, by the name of the revival of personal government. What instances have been brought forward by my hon. Friend in support of the allegation which was conveyed in the Resolution, as it stood on the Paper yesterday, that there has been a direct interposition on the part of the Crown in matters of Indian and foreign policy, or in support of the insinuation contained in the Resolution moved to-day, that there has been a supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign? I listened carefully to the speeches; but I must say that in the historical narrative of recent events which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and in the historical disquisition of my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), I was only able to detect two allegations brought forward in support of this supposed personal interposition. One of them has been very fully dealt with, and I think, on the whole, very satisfactorily dealt with, by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in the speech which he has just made. I am not here to defend the answer given in the first instance when the question was first put. I think, on further consideration, it should have occurred to the Government that it was not altogether right that they should say that they had no knowledge of correspondence 317 between the Sovereign and the Viceroy, and should appear to treat the question as a matter which could have no concern either for them or for Parliament. I think, if the full explanation given tonight had been given at the time, we might probably have avoided a great deal of misapprehension. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had entered as fully into an explanation of what has taken place in the matter of the alleged correspondence with Sir Bartle Frere and with Lady Frere. I cannot say, with the facts before us, that I see anything which need necessarily excite Constitutional jealousy in that correspondence. We have not seen the letter which, it is said, has been written to Lady Frere. If a letter has been written, I think it is extremely probable that it is due to those causes which have been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, and that it is a letter of sympathy, not at all expressing an opinion of Her Majesty, or of Her Majesty's Government, upon any of the difficult questions to be settled in the Colony. I must say I think if such a letter has been written that great blame is due, not to Her Majesty for having written it—for I have no doubt, if we knew its contents, that it would do her nothing but honour—but great blame is due to someone in Africa for the use to which that letter has been put; and that that letter, whatever its contents, should be allowed to be spoken of by the Colonial Press as a letter which had stimulated the opinions of political combatants in the Colony is, I think, a use of that letter extremely to be deprecated, and extremely wrong to have allowed. But, Sir, I cannot say, in either of these cases to which reference has been made, do I see the slightest ground for affirming that Her Majesty has departed from the Constitutional practice which she has almost throughout the whole of her Reign observed. While I entirely agree that no sufficient proof has been brought forward of the alleged personal exercise of Prerogative by Her Majesty, I cannot sit down without stating my conviction that if stronger proof had been forthcoming, and any exercise of Prerogative had been proved, it would have been matter calling for very grave and very serious notice. I do not think that 318 we can, either in the interests of our own Privileges or in the interests of the Crown itself, afford to abate one jot of our Constitutional jealousy, or one jot of the doctrine that for every act of the Sovereign some Adviser of the Crown must be held responsible. It is useless to deny that there does exist in the country some vague uneasiness as to impending changes in our Constitutional relations. The right hon. Gentleman asked us just now whether anybody desired that the Constitution should be changed, and I thought that he spoke with almost too great an alacrity of his willingness to enter into discussion of any propositions which might be brought forward. But, Sir, there is no doubt that there is some, though, I grant, a vague uneasiness as to the possibility of impending changes. I will not, at this hour, go into what I believe to be the causes of that uneasiness—the subject, if discussed here, should be fully discussed, and it is useless to go into it at this hour. But, Sir, there is no doubt that men of great ability, in periodicals of much political influence, have put forward doctrines respecting the relations of the Executive to Parliament and the Crown which are altogether contrary to the doctrines which have been generally held on both sides of this House. Those doctrines, so put forward, have been met as I think they ought to have been met. They have been very fully discussed in the Press and out-of-doors. I do not think it is incumbent upon this House to discuss abstract theories about our Constitution, or about changes in our Constitution, however influential may be the exponents of such theories, or however much ability may be shown in supporting them. This House is only called upon, in my opinion, to act, and can only act with effect, to put such theories into action. Some attempt has been made to-night to show that a commencement has already been made in the policy which I have indicated. In my opinion, my hon. Friend has been led away by false and unnecessary alarm. I think the House, by agreeing to the Resolution which he has moved, and by showing unnecessary anxiety and want of confidence in its own position and in its own powers, would rather impair than strengthen the Privileges which it is the duty of this House to guard, and would, at the 319 same time, imperil those relations with the Crown which, next to its own Privileges, it is its duty and its main object to maintain. As to the vote that I intend to give, I am sorry that, on account of the unexpected change in the Resolution, it is impossible for my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) to move his Amendment. That Amendment, in my opinion, very distinctly and very sufficiently met the allegations which were contained in the original Resolution. It is, I think, to be regretted, when a Constitutional question of this kind has been raised, that it should be met by a direct negative, and that nothing should be left upon the Records of the House to show the view the House takes upon the subject. I regret, for the same reason, that the Government have not thought it possible for them to meet it with a Resolution which would have expressed the opinion of the House on the point raised. I think, when a Constitutional question of this sort is raised, it is right to have some expression of the opinion of this House. But I entirely agree with all that was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) as to why it was impossible for him to support the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea. I will not repeat his arguments; but I must say that, although on the grounds of the inexpediency of the Motion, and of its being ill-timed, I might, under ordinary circumstances, have been disposed to take no part in the issue so raised, yet that there are still in this Resolution words which make it impossible for me to refrain from expressing by my vote the opinion I hold on the question at issue. The Resolution still contains, although in a secondary position, the words "the supposed personal interposition of the Sovereign." Now, as the Resolution cannot be amended, I cannot refrain from expressing by my vote the opinion which I hold, that no proof has been forthcoming to-night to justify the assent of this House, either directly or indirectly, to the assertion that there has been any such personal interposition on the part of the Sovereign; and as there is no Amendment which more clearly expresses the opinion I hold on the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), I have no alternative but to 320 vote with Her Majesty's Government against the Motion.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
Sir, I shall not intervene for more than two minutes between the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) and this House; but one remark fell from the noble Lord which, I think, I am be und to answer. The noble Lord has observed that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made no allusion to the letter which is supposed to have been written by Her Majesty to Lady Frere, nor to the message sent to Lady Frere. I have to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that the only reason why he did not allude to it was because he thought, after what had taken place, that there really was no serious suggestion made with regard to what was said in the message which went from the Crown to Lady Frere. Therefore, he did not allude to it, or make the statement which he had received authority to make. But as the noble Lord has pointed out that no allusion has been made to it, I think it only right that I should state at once to the House the information which I have received the authority of Her Majesty to-day to state. In that communication to Lady Frere—although, as I think Her Majesty was bound to do, she did express the deepest sympathy for Sir Bartle Frere in all the difficulties and dangers and troubles with which he had to contend, her letter of sympathy was couched in the most general terms; and there was nothing in it, either one way or the other, which should lead him to believe that Her Majesty wished to recommend any line of policy. I think it is only right to say that, and I think my noble Friend will agree with me that it is due alike to Her Majesty, and the House and the country, that that should be openly stated.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, at this late hour, after the apologies of the Home Secretary, and the perplexities of the noble Lord, and the statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is ready to consider any proposal for the amendment of the Constitution, it is impossible that this question should be properly discussed, and, therefore, I move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Robert Peel.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 347: Majority 301.—(Div. List, No. 91.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, that his hon. Friend the Member for County Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), who had seconded the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, represented a county which contained a very large number of inhabitants. As he (Major Nolan) represented a neighbouring county with a similar population, he ventured again to urge the necessity for adjourning the debate. In the first place, this was a most important question; and, secondly, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) wished to address the House upon it. The right hon. Baronet had only given way to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had insisted upon speaking when he rose. For these reasons, and as the right hon. Baronet had been precluded up to that time from taking any part in the debate, he thought it should be adjourned. The right hon. Baronet was one of those Members who were listened to by the House with the greatest attention, and the fact of his being precluded from speaking constituted a reasonable cause for the adjournment of the debate. He therefore begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Major Nolan.)
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, that the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) having referred to him, he felt be und to offer some observations upon this subject, which he considered to be one of absolute importance to the country. The House had heard apologies from the Secretary of State, and expressions of bewilderment from the noble Lord who led a section of the Liberal Party in that House, with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). Nothing definite had, however, been arrived at, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that Her Majesty's Govern- 322 ment were quite prepared to entertain any proposition which might be started concerning it. This being the case, he thought that it would become a very serious question if this matter of the Prerogative of the Crown were raised out-of-doors, for a feeling was growing up that something was going on which the people did not understand. It was all very well to lay stress upon what were called letters of condolence from Her Majesty to Lady Frere. No one in that House questioned the character or the qualities of the Sovereign, or her right to express her feelings of condolence to Lady Frere in the position in which she had been placed. But there was something behind—and it was a question of confidence in the policy which this country pursued. He had no hesitation in saying that the policy followed in South Africa at this moment was one which would meet with the reprobation of the country. The Government had admitted that the war was both unjust and unnecessary. The question which had been raised by the hon. Member for Swansea was one which had been more than once previously raised in this country, and had met its reprobation. It was not met with sneers when Mr. Dunning raised it in 1780, but it was carried by a majority; and, again, in 1820, when Mr. Brougham raised the question, it was not met in the way which it had now been. Mr. Fox, speaking early in the century of the Prerogatives of the Crown, said—You talk about bringing proof of that which is an intangible thing; but, nevertheless, is a thing which may work invisible, but incalculable, mischief to this country.That was precisely what many people in the country and in that House felt at the present moment. There was, undoubtedly, an uneasy feeling abroad—it was impossible to deny it—and he considered that, for the purpose of freely and fully discussing the matter, they ought more fully to debate the question raised by the hon. Member for Swansea. The speech that he had heard that night from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) had fairly astonished him. He would have given anything to have risen alter that right hon. Gentleman. When he recalled to his recollection what the right hon. Gentleman said in the coun- 323 try last autumn—how, over and over again, he reiterated that the Government had put the Sovereign above and beyond the Constitution—and then, when he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich get up and make that shabby, flabby speech tonight, pretending that he had not had time to consider the Motion, he was astonished. Time to consider the Motion by the right hon. Gentleman, who could speak by the yard, without notice or hesitation! It was idle to bring forward such a pretence as that. Then, as to the noble Lord, he might tell him that there was no chance of "squelching" that debate, for the subject only excited too much feeling in the country. If a meeting were got up in London, as it might be, in Exeter Hall, or in any of those places, and a half-dozen Members of Parliament were present, they could readily raise a feeling which would show that this debate was not to be squelched. He approved of the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway, and agreed with the necessity of postponing the discussion of a question which was regarded of the utmost importance out-of-doors.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
supported the Motion for adjournment. With regard to the explanation of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Colonies with reference to the letter to Lady Frere, he would point out that when the Question was originally asked about that letter it was scarcely noticed by the right hon. Baronet. If the Government had stated at an early day that this letter was not intended to endorse any line of policy, he ventured to say that the public feeling would not have been excited on the matter. In his answer to that Question, the right hon. Baronet only stated that the Government had no knowledge of the existence of such a letter. But he must remind him that it was his business, as a Member of the Cabinet, to have such knowledge. It was his business, when a Question was put upon the Paper of that House, to ascertain all the circumstances of the matter. From the Question being put down upon the Paper, the Government would know that they were likely to be challenged upon the subject, and it was the duty of the Secretary of State for the Colonies to have knowledge of the existence of the document. 324 Instead of that, the right hon. Gentleman had disposed of the matter in a very summary manner; but when the subject came to be debated in the House, the Home Secretary got up and made an apology, which he would venture to say would sway the votes of 40 or 50 hon. Members. He did not think that that was a business-like way of dealing with the question, nor that the public, who took a great interest in this subject, would consider it a right course. Under these circumstances, he trusted that the House would say that the Motion for the adjournment was one which only showed a proper desire for the discussion of this question, and that it was one that ought to be acceded to.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
observed, that at the the time right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth rose to move the adjournment of the House the clock stood at 5 minutes past 1, and there was ample time for him to express his views. The right hon. Baronet had used terms with reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich which he thought everyone must consider would be more properly applied to the speech of the right hon. Baronet himself. On this occasion, he had taken the opportunity of escaping from the embarrassment in which he found himself by moving the adjournment of the House. But the House was perfectly willing to hear the right hon. Baronet, if he had thought to address it, after the right hon. Member for Greenwich. He thought that the patience and consideration with which the speech of the right hon. Baronet had just been listened to showed that the House would have been willing to have heard him at any hour. It seemed to him that both the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan), and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, had discharged themselves of the utterances with which they were charged, and that, therefore, there was no occasion whatever for the adjournment of the debate. He trusted that the House would not accede to the Motion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 43; Noes 307: Majority 264.—(Div. List, No. 92.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."325
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
begged to move the adjournment of the debate. He said, that however willing the House was to listen to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, the country was also anxious to know what he said, and at that hour it would be impossible for anything that he uttered to go beyond the walls of that House. He hoped the House would see the futility of protracting this matter, because at 7 o'clock in the morning hon. Members would be found as fresh to move the adjournment of this debate as they were at the present time, and the matter would only result in the same way as the debate on the Sunday Closing Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. O'Sullivan.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
the House has now, by two Divisions, expressed its opinion that it is desirable to continue this debate. When the House, by such majorities, affirms its desire, it is to be taken for granted that the House will be patient enough to listen to any hon. Gentleman who wishes to address it on this Motion. But, seeing that the promoters of the Motion are most anxious for the adjournment of the debate, I do not know why we should not be justified in putting this construction upon their conduct—that they shrink from challenging the opinion of the House upon the question that they have submitted to it. Whether that be so or not, it is quite clear that it would be only a waste of time to divide the House upon repeated Motions for adjournment; and, therefore, I shall offer no opposition to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Tuesday next.