Page:The English Constitution (1894).djvu/239

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
159
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

of parliamentary government. But besides these necessary qualities which are needful before a parliamentary government can work at all, there are some additional pre-requisites before it can work well. That a House of Commons may work well it must perform, as we saw, five functions well: it must elect a ministry well, legislate well, teach the nation well, express the nation’s will well, bring matters to the nation’s attention well.

The discussion has a difficulty of its own. What is meant by “well?” Who is to judge? Is it to be some panel of philosophers, some fancied posterity, or some other outside authority? I answer, no philosophy, no posterity, no external authority, but the English nation here and now.

Free government is self-government—a government of the people by the people. The best government of this sort is that which the people think best. An imposed government, a government like that of the English in India, may very possibly be better; it may represent the views of a higher race than the governed race; but it is not therefore a free government. A free government is that which the people subject to it voluntarily choose. In a casual collection of loose people the only possible free government is a democratic government. Where no one knows, or cares for, or respects any one else all must rank equal; no one’s opinion can be more potent than that of another. But, as has been explained, a deferential nation has a structure of its own. Certain persons are by common consent agreed to be wiser than others, and their opinion is, by consent, to rank for much more