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a permanent councillor; influential indeed, but without vote, responsibility, or place in its sessions. Whenever a decisive change of party or of policy becomes apparent in the votes of the House of Commons, the old Cabinet resigns, and a new one is formed to put the new policy into operation. Theoretically the Queen is free to choose whom she will to become Prime Minister and form the new Cabinet; but practically the choice is limited to a single person, the acknowledged leader of the party which has become uppermost in the Commons. The Prime Minister selects his colleagues from among the ablest men of his party and its allies in both Houses, a significant feature of the scheme being the fact that the Ministers are actually members of Parliament, are present at its sessions, and play a most important part in its deliberations. The Cabinet so constituted is, therefore, a committee of the majority. But it is more than this. It is a committee “with power,” charged with the duty of acting in momentous affairs, and often without previous consultation with Parliament. Upon it devolves, furthermore, nearly the whole initiative in legislation, — the duty of planning, introducing, and bringing to decision almost all measures discussed in Parliament. The promptness and completeness with which this body of men is vested with imperial power, in every realm save that of the Judiciary, is startling indeed to American ideas. The Ministry becomes at once both heart and brain of the government, and during its tenure of office wields a power far transcending that of our Presidential Administration. A sufficient safeguard against abuse of this power is found in the immediate responsibility of the Ministry to the Commons; that is, in the swiftness and certainty of its downfall if it fails to carry the majority with it. Out of the feeling that the Ministry is the vital centre of government, Englishmen have come to call it " Her Majesty's Government,” “the Government,” or simply “ Government.” In these expressions there is often an implied reference to that other equally important and equally recognized part of the system, “the Opposition ;” that is, the organized minority, in its character of critic and advocate for the other side, charged with the duty of allowing nothing to pass without challenge and efficient scrutiny.
The Parliament of England consists of two bodies, or “ Houses,' the Lords and the Commons. The House of Lords stands for the conservatism of ancient privilege; the Commons, for the final sovereignty of the people. The one is for the most part hereditary, and often continues without radical change during long periods of time; the other is the direct representative of the people, and is kept such by frequent general elections. Parliament assembles at the summons of the Crown; that is, of the Ministry in the name of the Queen. It is opened by a Speech from the Throne read in the House of Lords. Its annual session is usually from February to August, at the close of which it is “prorogued” by the Crown; and in the end it is dissolved by the same authority. The term of a Parliament is really the term of the Lower House, since that alone is affected by elections. Its utmost possible term is fixed by statute at seven years; but no Parliament of modern times has survived so long. Dissolution of Parliament comes about at no stated time, but rather as an exigency of government. When the Ministers find themselves confronted by an adverse majority in the Commons, if issue is clearly joined and the majority decisive, they are expected to resign their power at once into the hands of the majority. But if there is doubt as to whether this majority really represents the will of the people, the Ministry may dissolve Parliament and “go to the country" that is, appeal to the people upon the issue raised.
THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
The House of Lords has a membership of over five hundred, consisting of the following groups: (1) The Lords Temporal; i.e., the hereditary peerage of England with a small representation chosen from the peerage of Scotland and of Ireland. (2) The Lords Spiritual; i.e., the higher clergy of the Established Church, in the persons of the archbishops and bishops. (3) The higher judiciary, in the persons of the Lord Chancellor and three distinguished lawyers or judges designated by the Crown, and called Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, or, more popularly, “ Law Lords.”
These three groups are separately addressed in Chatham's speech,
The Lord Chancellor presides, and is a member of the regnant ministry; the Law Lords are advisers of the Lords upon legal matters. These persons, however, are not by virtue of their offices “ lords of Parliament ” — members entitled to speak and to vote in the ordinary business of the Upper House. Even the Chancellor's seat, the famous “woolsack,” is theoretically outside the precincts of the Lords, although it is, in fact, almost in the centre of their chamber. But in recent practice the Chancellor is regularly made an hereditary peer, if he is not one already, and the Law Lords are made peers for life. Only a mere fraction of the membership is ordinarily found in attendance upon business. Three members, it is said, constitute a quorum; and, until recently, members might vote by proxy without being present or hearing discussion. In legislation, the House of Lords is theoretically of equal weight with the House of Commons, since the consent of both is requisite to the passage of any Act. But, in reality, the power of the former has greatly dwindled, partly because of what is felt to be the narrowness of its sympathy and interest outside of its own class; still more because of its exclusion from the great field of finance and taxation; and, most of all, because in the end it can always be forced to assent to the will of the Commons by the simple expedient of having new peers created by the Ministry in the name of the Crown, and thus overwhelming the adverse majority. The fear that such action would be taken was sufficient to secure the assent of the Lords to the Reform Bill of 1832; — a sufficient number of the majority, though bitterly opposed to the bill, deliberately absented themselves to avoid precipitating the crisis. The influence of the peerage upon legislation is still great in many ways; but the actual power of their House in a contested case is limited to a power of cautious revision and a veto to stay proceedings until the people shall have spoken again, and with decisive emphasis, upon the point in question.
It should be noted in passing, that the House of Lords has judicial functions in which its action is quite independent of the Commons. It sits as a Court of Impeachment in cases like that of Warren Hastings, and as a court for the trial of members of its own order charged with treason or felony. Furthermore, it sits, — or, as we should say, a committee consisting only of its legal members sits, - as a Supreme Court of Appeals for the kingdom.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
As the result of successive changes in the representation of the realm, the House of Commons now numbers six hundred and seventy members. The constituencies which 66 return” these members are either rural — counties and subdivisions of counties; urban – boroughs and wards; or universities. On receipt of the writ, or order for an election, the “ returning officer” of each constituency arranges the preliminaries and fixes a date before which all candidates must announce themselves. When that date is reached, if no more candidates appear than there are seats to be filled, the candidates are “ returned” by the officer are reported as duly elected — without further formality of balloting. If, however, a seat is “contested” by two or more candidates, the officer appoints a day for “taking the poll.” In general elections, therefore, it comes about that the polls are not taken in all the constituencies on the same day, but are scattered over a considerable interval of time. Thus, in a hotly contested campaign it not infrequently happens that some distinguished party champion attempts in the first instance to carry some stronghold of the enemy, is defeated there, and yet saves his place in Parliament by offering himself at the eleventh hour as a candidate in one of these later elections. Any fully qualified citizen not a member of the House of Lords, an officer of government, nor a clergyman either of the Established or Roman Church, may “stand ; ” i.e., is eligible to Parliament. Residence outside of the district is no bar, as we have seen above. The candidate not only pays all the expenses of his canvass, but must render a sworn statement of
If successful, he is free thereafter to serve the public in Parliament at his own expense, for the government allows him no compensation whatever. Only in very rare cases does a constituency volunteer to maintain in Parliament a member too poor to maintain himself. If the member becomes distinguished enough to be sought for high political office, such as a
every item of it.
place in the Cabinet, he must, by submitting to a second election, obtain from his constituency permission to serve them in the double capacity of member and minister.
The old Houses of Parliament, in which Burke, Chatham, and Macaulay spoke, were destroyed by fire in 1834. Their essential features, arrangements, and usages, however, have all been repeated in the new Houses; and these will require some brief notice in view of the frequent reference made to them in the speeches. The “House” in which the Commons sit, and in which is transacted the business of the British Empire, is an oblong chamber surrounded by lobbies. At one end, on an elevated platform, is the Speaker's Chair. At a table below and in front of him sit the Clerks ; beyond them lies the Mace, emblem of the Speaker's authority. Parallel with the sides and with the further end of the room are arranged the members' seats, tier above tier, filling the whole space with the exception of a narrow, oblong portion of open floor in the centre. From this open space the main aisle runs down the centre of the chamber; while an aisle at right angles to this, and known as the “gangway,” intersects the side benches. There are three well-known groups of sittings : The front row of seats on the Speaker's right is called the Treasury Bench, and is occupied by the Ministers. Behind these are ranged the supporters of the Government — the members of the dominant party. The seats on the Speaker's left, and directly facing these last, are the Opposition Benches, occupied by the leaders and body of “ Her Majesty's Opposition.” The “ cross-benches” at the end of the room, directly facing the Speaker, are the place for members who do not affiliate with either of the great parties. One's location in the House is thus an indication of his political relationships. No member, however, can claim exclusive right to any particular seat, since the sittings are far fewer than the membership. There are regularly five sessions a week; four of these run from 4 o'clock p.M. till late at night — sometimes till after day-break — and one, on Wednesday, from midday till 6 o'clock P.M. Members sit with their hats on, but remove them when they rise to speak.
The « House” of the Lords is in the same building with that