Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/763

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743
THE DECLINE OF PARTY GOVERNMENT.

to his secession did not alter the fact. In the case of his defense of party, as in many other cases, his fervid and unbridled imagination has erected a particular expedient, the necessity of a special occasion, into a universal and everlasting law. Before him, another man had shaken off party trammels apparently from the conviction of their radical inconsistency with the public interest. The life of Lord Shelburne is in this special respect a most important, as well as in all respects a most interesting, addition to political biography, and we shall see as it proceeds whether Shelburne is entitled to the credit of having tried to be a national statesman.

Our proposition, however, is this: that, let party, as a system of government, be good or evil, the materials for parties are nearly exhausted in the British colonies, and probably in the United States; that they are temporarily exhausted, and may one day be entirely exhausted, in England; while in other countries (in France and Germany, for instance) the sections and subsections of opinion are too numerous and the lines between them are too wavering to admit of the clear division into two parties absolutely essential to the working of the system, which, when there are three or four parties instead of two, becomes a quicksand of intrigue on which no government can be founded. Under these circumstances it is necessary, whether we will or not, to look out for some other foundation for constitutional government. The penalty of not doing so will be either confusion or the domination of some selfish and, because it is selfish, compact and all powerful interest.

To determine what that foundation is to be, is probably a task reserved for better heads than ours. But perhaps the Swiss Constitution, in its general principles, may point the way. It suggests the regular election of the executive council by the legislature in place of a struggle of parties to determine which side of the House shall have the privilege of distributing the prizes among its leaders. The proper relations between the legislature and the executive might be preserved by a proper rotation of elections, with any such provisions as seemed expedient in the way of cumulative voting. The tenure of office would of course be limited; whether to the duration of the Parliament (which is the Swiss system) or to a term of years would be a question of detail, but the advantage of a continuous executive would be in favor of the latter plan. It does not seem that with this limitation the power of the members of the executive council would be too great, or that their responsibility would be unduly diminished; excess of authority, provided it be constituted in the interest of the whole nation and accountable to the nation in case of an abuse of power, is not the political danger which at present we have most reason to dread. Nor does it seem that, with, say, three elections occurring each year, the executive council could get much out of harmony with the legislature, or fail pretty adequately to represent the prevailing