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13 Crown and Cabinet

monarch, act, agent, law, parliament and liable

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13. CROWN AND CABINET. The crown is a chattel, and is kept in the Tower of London. But the genius of the •British race, striving un consciously toward the expression of national unity and permanence, has come to personify it as a power, which, though necessarily wielded by or in the name of an individual ruler, exists independently of the lives of kings and queens. The materials of which the crown is composed will outlast the lives of many rulers. Whilst they are mortal, is it not, in the strictest sense, immortal? The late Dr. Hearn pointed out, in his ad mirable work entitled The Government of Eng land,' that, in spite of the progress toward democracy of the 19th century, the British Con stitution remained, in a very real sense, a mon archy. Not only is it still true that, as regards all foreign communities, the empire is repre sented by the monarch alone, and that it would be a gross breach of political etiquette for any person or body to attempt to open up any other channel of official communication with a foreign community, but it is equally true, that every in ternal act of State — legislative, executive, or judicial —both in the United Kingdom and In the dominions beyond the narrow seas, is done in the name of the monarch, and that no such act can be ultra wires. It is of the essence of the British conception of State sovereignty that the monarch is incapable of committing legal wrong.

This apparently Oriental dogma is, however, balanced by the equally fundamental doctrine, that for every political act of the monarch there is an appropriate agent, and that such agent acts at his peril. In some cases, the peril is remote and uncertain; in others it is prompt and defi nite. The Parliament which advises bad legis lation is amenable only to the judgment of the electors expressed at the polls. The judge who abuses his office, though he may be dismissed by the monarch for actual illegality, is amen able, so far as the citizen is concerned, only to the vote of Parliament. But the executive official who breaks the law is liable to an action in the ordinary courts by the humblest citizen whom he has injured; and his plea of °superior orders," though it may involve the superior also in liability, will not absolve the actual delin quent. And thus, inasmuch as, in the enormous

complexity of State action, it is hardly possible for the personal act of the monarch to reach the individual except through the hands of some intermediary, the subject is rarely without re dress. Even the House of Lords, the greatest anomaly in the constitution, can be made to feel the pressure of public opinion.

The Independence of Ministers.— The nat ural consequence of this fundamental principle of the responsibility of the Crown agent is the in dependence of the agent toward the Crown. Historically speaking, the claim of independence was first put forward by the judiciary, whose members, though for centuries both in law and in fact the servants of the monarch, liable to dismissal at pleasure, succeeded, before the end of the Middle Ages, in banishing the King from his own law courts, and in acting as an inde pendent department of state. Down to the end of the 17th century, their success varied with the political balance of power; but it was as sured, soon after the Revolution, by the Act of Settlement, which, in fact, made the judges in dependent of the Crown, though still, techni cally, liable to dismissal for actual misconduct.

Meanwhile, Parliament, a later institution than the courts of law, had, by a series of strug gles which have made it famous in the world's history, succeeded, not merely in emancipating itself from the control of the monarch, but in establishing itself as an essential part of the national government. The history of these struggles is told elsewhere.

Here it is sufficient to remember that, on his restoration to the throne, Charles II realized that Parliament could be cajoled, but could no longer be bullied. Even the enthusi astic loyalty of the Restoration Parliaments would not tolerate violence, though it fell a somewhat easy prey to the more sinister in fluence of corruption.

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