Lapas attēli

Article 8,” (which invited the king of France to accede to it), to the effect that "it was not to be understood as binding His Britannic Majesty to prosecute the war with a view of imposing upon France any particular government." This declaration was obviously the result of, and in deference to, the strongly expressed opinions of the House and of the public, adverse to the war about to be undertaken. But it did not satisfy the opposition, and on the 28th April Mr. Wilberforce again took up the question. He moved an address to the Prince Regent, "intreating him to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent this country being involved in war on the ground of the executive power in France being vested in any particular person.” In the course of a powerful address he animadverted particularly upon the gross delusion which had been practised on the public by ministers in taking no notice of this Treaty, of which they had received an account on the 5th April, in the Regent's message, which was brought down to the evening of the 6th, and the consideration of which in Parliament took place on the 7th, by which suppression they held forth the possibility of an alternative between peace and war, whilst in fact they had already engaged themselves in the latter.” This motion was lost by 273 against 72 votes.

It would be a curious, but extremely grave matter, to consider what might have been the consequences if it had been carried in the affirmative. The natural and only logical course would have been to have


followed up the motion by a refusal of supplies to carry on the war; a war, be it observed, already entered upon. But any party in the House might well have hesitated to adopt the responsibility attendant upon so grave a step ; and, as we affirm, the executive ought to have paused before putting them to the anxious and perilous alternative of doing so. At any rate, so gross an anomaly as that of the existence of two co-ordinate authorities, capable at any time of coming into direct antagonism, ought not to be suffered to continue.


OPERATIVE WITHOUT PARLIAMENT, The grand European settlements of 1815 fell to the ground, as we all know, just as every pretence at interference with the order of succession, and internal government of independent states made before and since that period, have likewise failed. Indeed, these treaty arrangements for European settlements have become only a subject of ridicule, and we might therefore be disposed to leave them to the amateur diplomacy of the Sovereign head of the State, and his responsible “Cabinet," without

" any interference on the part of Parliament, except from the consideration that it is not creditable to a nation to have things done in its name which come to nothing, and the moral responsibility of which survives the men who had performed them.

But it is not only in the matters of peace, war, and alliances, that the will of the nation expressed through its representatives should have force before being permitted to take effect; all treaties and conventions, the execution of which may directly or indirectly involve the payment of money, or the regulation of taxation, must depend for their complete performance upon the consent of Parliament. Of this class are commercial treaties, the very spirit and purpose of which depend upon a re-adjustment of custom dues, in conformity with stipulations of reciprocity agreed upon, and which can only be done by the authority of Parliament. But even in these cases, the authority of Parliament has been most unwill, ingly and ungraciously referred to by the wielders of prerogative; the policy of the treaty requiring such modifications of taxation being generally studiously withheld from its notice. Take, for instance, the famous Commercial Treaty with France of 1860, which the latter country by vote of the Chambers has recently denounced. The 20th Article of this treaty stipulated that it should “not be valid unless Her Britannic Majesty be authorized by her Parliament to execute the engagements contracted for by her in the several Articles of the Treaty." To effect the necessary changes, a Bill to amend the Customs Act was introduced, the order for going into committee on which was fixed for the 20th February. On that occasion Mr. Disraeli objected to Parliament being called upon to sanction so large a change in the fiscal arrangements of the country, without an opportunity of considering and approving of the grounds upon which it was sought to justify its adoption, and moved an amendment that the House should not go further in the matter, « until it shall have considered and assented to the engagements in the Treaty." This amendment was lost by only 293 against 230 votes. On the same evening in the Upper House the Earl of Derby denounced the conduct of the Government in withholding the provisions of the Treaty, more especially as regarded the equivalents which were to be accorded to this country, and contrasted it with that of Mr. Pitt in reference to the commercial treaty with France of 1787, when that Minister laid upon the table, together with the Treaty, a memorandum of the scale of duties stipulated to be imposed by the French Government upon imports from England. The policy of the celebrated Cobden Treaty has always been more

or less a matter of question, and it appears anomalous and unbecoming in the highest degree, that an act so deeply affecting the commercial interests of the country should have been capable of adoption without the sanction of Parliament to its principle and details.

The convention between Great Britain and France for guaranteeing the interest on the Turkish loan, the ratifications of which were exchanged at Constantinople on the 12th July, 1855, affords a still stronger illustration of the ridiculous dilemmas which inevitably attend the half-recognition, ea post facto, of the jurisdiction of Parliament in the appropriation of the public funds. The preamble of this convention recites that the Sultan of Turkey had applied to the Sovereigns of France and England in order to obtain facilities for raising a loan, to which request they had acceded; and the terms conditioned that Her Britannic Majesty "undertook to recommend to her Parliament to enable her to guarantee conjointly with His Majesty the Emperor of the French," and that the Emperor of the French" engaged subject to ratification of the convention by the legislative body of France, to guarantee conjointly with Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain," interest at the rate of eight per cent. on a loan of five millions sterling to be made to the Sultan. The Legislative Body of France made no difficulty of ratifying this convention; which was thereupon, quasi convention between the two contracting sovereigns, complete. All that remained to be done was to induce the British Parliament “ to enable” Her Majesty to carry out her guarantee. On the 20th July, accordingly, Lord Palmerston moved a vote to that purport in the House of Commons, and in answer to strong observations of dissent implored them for the honour of the faith of the country, which had been pledged, to consent to it. In the end his lordship’s eloquence prevailed so far as to save the honour of the country by a narrow majority of three, 135 voting for and 132 against the resolution. Is it, we ask, seemly, is it safe, that the country should be pledged behind its back to pecuniary engagements by the “responsible Ministers of the Crown,” which it cannot afterwards repudiate or disengage itself from, without incurring, however vaguely and unreasonably, the odium of breach of faith, or shabbi. ness, or both ?

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »