Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/66

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

(who was originally the governor's secretary, as the Secretary for Ireland, till the other day, was only the Lord Lieutenant's secretary) differentiates into several ministries, as the department of Secretary of State had differentiated in England. An anomaly is worth noting. In the United States, where the whole people is the fountain of power, the ministers are the servants of the President, appointed and dismissed by him. In England, while they are still in theory her Majesty's ministers, and the Prime Minister is nominally selected by the sovereign, by a remarkable transformation they have become the servants of the legislature—that is, of the people. The two countries have exchanged institutions, as Hamlet and Laertes exchanged rapiers. The explanation is historical. The United States parted from the development of Britain at a time when the executive was, far more than now, independent of the legislature and dependent on the sovereign. The framers of the Constitution of the United States, looking at the British Constitution from without, and ignoring the subtle checks and balances that gave the lie to Montesquieu's too rigid trichotomy, petrified a still developing system, and dug a gulf between the executive and the legislature. But in England, with the growing weakness of the crown and the growing strength of the legislature, the ministers have gone over to the popular side. The younger British colonies were founded at a time when this development was already far advanced, and they have repeated the evolution. A curious consequence ensues. While in a monarchical country and its colonies a manifestation of public opinion can in a week bring the most powerful ministry to its knees, the President and ministers of a popularly governed country pursue their irresponsible course in apparent indifference to either pulpit or press.

A similar cleavage divides the legislative structure. The governor of crown colonies, like the sovereign, is at first the sole, and through his ministers to the last the chief, legislator; the legislature is created by concessions wrung from him, and its history is the record of successive limitations of his authority. In charter colonies the legislature is the creation of the people, and the laws are made by its deputies. A single tolerably perfect example of each type is chosen. The early history of New South Wales is one of the best preserved specimens in the museum of political paleontology. During its earliest years the governor was as absolute as the first Norman sovereigns. William Rufus might ask: "You Taillebois, what have you to propose in this arduous matter? . . . Potdevin, what is your opinion of the measure?" And Philip, hunter or king, might as unceremoniously solicit the advice of the chaplain or the commander of the forces, but they were under no obligation to take it; and the