Page:The English Constitution (1894).djvu/311
CHECKS AND BALANCES.
selected because of its speciality. Parliamentary government is, in its essence, a sectarian government, and is possible only when sects are cohesive.
Thirdly. A parliament, like every other sort of sovereign, has peculiar feelings, peculiar prejudices, peculiar interests; and it may pursue these in opposition to the desires, and even in opposition to the well-being of the nation. It has its selfishness as well as its caprice and its parties.
The mode in which the regulating wheel of our constitution produces its effect is plain. It does not impair the authority of Parliament as a species, but it impairs the power of the individual Parliament. It enables a particular person outside parliament to say, “You Members of Parliament are not doing your duty. You are gratifying caprice at the cost of the nation. You are indulging party spirit at the cost of the nation. You are helping yourself at the cost of the nation. I will see whether the nation approves what you are doing or not; I will appeal from Parliament No. 1 to Parliament No. 2.”
By far the best way to appreciate this peculiar provision of our constitution is to trace it in action,—to see, as we saw before of the other powers of English royalty, how far it is dependent on the existence of an hereditary king, and how far it can be exercised by a premier whom Parliament elects. When we examine the nature of the particular person required to exercise the power, a vivid idea of that power is itself brought home to us.
First. As to the caprice of parliament in the choice of a premier, who is the best person to check it? Clearly