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What still further aggravates the evils of “Cabinet" government, is the circumstance that in actual practice, the whole Cabinet does not, as a rule, confer upon the course of action to be adopted in the name of the crown; each particular Minister being left very generally to manage the details of his own department. From the evidence of the Duke of Newcastle, before the Sebastopol Committee, it would appear that in the momentous business of our Foreign policy, everything is pretty well left to the Foreign Secretary, who puts himself occasionally in communication with the Prime Minister. “It is the ordinary practice," he further states, “not to hold any council from the prorogation of Parliament till some time in October,”-and it appears that in the critical period, more particularly referred to by the Committee, no Cabinet Council had been held between August and the middle of December, and that during all the interval no steps were taken to inform the members of the Cabinet who happened to be out of town, of important despatches received. Another evil in the practice under the present system, is the mode of communication which it appears
very generally adopted between the Foreign Secretary and the representatives of Foreign Courts. The voluminous correspondence recently published in reference to the Alabama misunderstanding, represents Lord Granville and General Schenck, continually exchanging calls, and discussing and agreeing to all sorts of “understandings” and points of detail verbally, and writing to one another notes marked "private,” the contents of
which, though relating to public business, the recipient considers himself bound not to reveal. A remarkable instance of the objectionable practice last-mentioned, occurred in the course of a recent debate, when Lord Granville refused some informations which the House of Lords were most desirous to have as to the nature and progress of certain arrangements, because they were contained in “private” letters from General Schenck. Lord Clarendon, also, in his evidence before the Committee on the Diplomatic Service, acknowledged to the same objectionable practice.
It was by Lord Palmerston, that the absolute extinction of the exercise of the functions of Parliament in matters of peace, war, and alliances, by the assertion of the assumed prerogative of the crown, was finally accomplished; and it is worthy of remark that this very same Minister whilst thus putting forward the prerogative of the crown as against tbe authority of Parliament, himself paid very little or no regard to the will or opinion of the crown.
Whilst protesting against the existence of any prerogative or right in the crown of such a nature as to warrant the making of war conclusion of peace, without the consent of Parliament, we must not be understood to deny that the crown is the proper organ of the community in its relations with other communities.
It is only through the crown that the nation can act in these relations, but the crown is bound to act according to the Law and the Constitution, and according to
the Law and Constitution the Crown can act only through the Privy Council. We do not admit that the crown even acting according to law through the Privy Council, is competent to bind the nation in these matters without the consent of Parliament; --neither can we admit any right on the part of Parliament to divest itself of its functions. The all-controlling function of supply belongs to Parliament, and the practice we are now so familiar with of Parliament continuing to vote supplies at the same time that it is denied all authority on matters of peace, war, and alliance, can only be spoken of as a shameful abandonment by Parliament of its duty. But whilst thus maintaining that Parliament is of necessity, the co-equal of the crown in these matters, we would pay all respect to the legitimate action of the crown.
The well-known letter of the Queen which was laid before Parliament by Lord John (now Earl) Russell, at the time of Lord Palmerston's dismissal from office by the Queen, establishes the historical fact that the very same Minister who, more than any other, was in the habit of pleading the prerogative of the crown as bar to the exercise of its functions by Parliament, was also in the habit of disregarding the prerogative of the crown himself to the extent, in Lord John Russell's words, of "passing by the crown and putting himself in the place of the crown." Moreover, the action taken by Lord John Russell in this affair, shows that he, as Prime Minister, had been obliged to fly to the Queen to prevent himself from being equally with herself
deceived and left in the dark. And when it is remembered that no long time after these revelations, the House of Commons forced Lord Palmerston back upon the Queen, and Lord John Russell became his colleague, are we wrong in saying that in the final ascendancy of Lord Palmerston was reached the lowest depth in the constitutional history of England, and that the evil spirit of Secret Diplomacy achieved its greatest triumph ?
INEFFICIENCY OF MODERN BRITISH DIPLOMACY. We have now to suggest that, independently of all considerations of the subjecton constitutional grounds, the ill-success and discredit which have attended our efforts in diplomacy, for many years past, would point to the necessity of a change by which a larger consultative authority should be brought to apply than that of the crown's "responsible Ministers” for the time being. To account completely for the undeniably unsatisfactory working of our present system would demand a more extensive inquiry than would be suitable to the present occasion; including amongst other points a complete scrutiny of the constitution and regulations of the Foreign Office, and its staff at home and abroad; a subject which has been several years
under the notice of Parliament, though as yet without leading to any results. A few general observations, however, may be not inappropriate, as indicating some fundamental distinctions between the art of diplomacy as practised by foreign nations, and ourselves respectively; distinctions in which,
in many essential respects, we are at a comparative disadvantage. In the first place it should be borne in mind that diplomacy in England is a comparative novelty-an exotic for which the soil is by nature and habits ill-disposed. Owing to our island position we are shut out from all those questions of boundary, frontier lines, and nationalities, connected with territorial aggrandizement, which form the chief subject of jealousy and intrigue with Continental powers. The only acquisitions of territory capable to us, are in distant parts beyond the seas, those acquisitions being made more questionable by peculiar and dubious tenure; the problem of the relations between colony and mother country being as yet unsolved. For war on the Continent of Europe we have, by nature, no occasion, and for many ages had neither inclination nor aptitude. The wars of the Edwards aud Henrys in France, were for a disputed claim of inheritance proper to the Sovereign, in which the nation had no concern, and took little or no interest. In the course of the preceding pages we have cited a few, amongst many passages from the Parliamentary history of the country, which exemplify the guarded relations which subsisted between the crown and its English subjects in regard to those wars.
In the good old days of the Plantagenets and Tudors, this country, having little or no pretence for troubling itself with the theory of an “European Balance,” (though Henry VIII., for a brief period, indulged a whim in that direction) took no part in the great European struggles which raged with such