Page:The English Constitution (1894).djvu/338
THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION.
anything like a steady conception of him. You fancy that the object of your loyalty is as much elevated above you by intrinsic nature as he is by extrinsic position; you deify him in sentiment, as once men deified him in doctrine. This illusion has been and still is of incalculable benefit to the human race. It prevents, indeed, men from choosing their rulers; you cannot invest with that loyal illusion a man who was yesterday what you are, who to-morrow may be so again, whom you chose to be what he is. But though this superstition prevents the election of rulers, it renders possible the existence of unelected rulers. Untaught people fancy that their king, crowned with the holy crown, anointed with the oil of Rheims, descended of the House of Plantagenet, is a different sort of being from any one not descended of the Royal House—not crowned—not anointed. They believe that there is one man whom by mystic right they should obey; and therefore they do obey him. It is only in later times, when the world is wider, its experience larger, and its thought colder, that the plain rule of a palpably chosen ruler is even possible.
These conditions narrowly restrict elective government. But the pre-requisites of a cabinet government are rarer still; it demands not only the conditions I have mentioned, but the possibility likewise of a good legislature—a legislature competent to elect a sufficient administration.
Now a competent legislature is very rare. Any permanent legislature at all, any constantly acting mechanism for enacting and repealing laws, is, though it seems to us