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PART I.

INTRODUCTORY.

CHAPTER I.

THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION.

§ 1. The Nature of a State.-An independent civilised state at the present day must possess certain marks or characteristics. Thus it must be permanently established and organised for the purposes of government. It must be in possession of a definite area of territory, and it must have attained a certain standard of civilisation. It must also be free from all external control. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland satisfies these conditions and therefore forms a state. It contains within itself several separate nations, and its organisation is complicated by the fact that various colonies and dependencies are subject to it. These are considered to form part of the territory of the parent state, and, as will be seen later, are subject in the last resort to the authorities which control the government of the United Kingdom.

§ 2. The Functions of a State.-Every modern state has a complex organisation for the purposes of government. In this organisation it is possible to distinguish three separate functions of the state. These are the legislative, the executive, and the judicial functions.

G.U.K.

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Every state has to secure the maintenance of order in the area which it controls. For this purpose it lays down rules which must be observed by its inhabitants. These rules determine what may and may not be done by the latter and regulate the methods in which certain transactions between them are to be conducted. They also impose, in some cases, positive duties which must be performed by those on whom they fall under pain of punishment. These rules which a state lays down for the guidance of its subjects are called laws. The process by which they are formulated is termed legislation, and the persons who determine of what they shall consist are collectively called the Legislature.

Legislation, however, is not the sole function of a state. After rules have been laid down for its subjects to follow, the state must see that they are obeyed and that any questions which arise concerning their meaning are determined. It must, therefore, appoint persons to decide these questions. Such persons are called judges or, collectively, the "Judiciary," and the function they exercise is called the judicial function.

Again, it is necessary that there shall be some person or persons in a state who shall appoint these judges, shall carry on its dealings with other states, and generally shall organise its affairs. Such a person or body of persons is termed the "Executive."

§3. The Government of a State. It is possible for all these various functions to reside in one person or body of persons, but as a general rule they are more or less separated. It is obvious that they are intimately connected with each other and that the smooth working of the government of the state will depend on the proper adjustment of the relations of the various bodies which exercise them. The manner in which this adjustment is

made differs in various states. In an autocratic state, i.e. one in which the arbitrary will of the monarch is the determining factor in government, little adjustment is or should be necessary. But in a democratic state, i.e. one in which the inhabitants as a whole decide through their representatives the manner in which they shall be governed, the adjustment frequently becomes a matter of the utmost nicety. The rules which determine the formation, powers and mutual relations of the various bodies which exercise the functions of government are known collectively as the "Constitution" of the state.

§ 4. Forms of Constitutions.-A constitution may be the result of a continuous growth, as in the case of that of Great Britain, or it may have been adopted as a whole at one particular time, as in the case of Belgium and the United States. In the former case it must be gathered from various sources-custom, statutes and decided cases; but in the latter it is contained in a single document like an ordinary law.

Another distinction between constitutions can be found in the methods by which they are altered. In some countries every alteration of the constitution must be made in a particular way different from that in which laws are usually made. Such a constitution is called "rigid." Most foreign constitutions are of this type. In the British constitution alterations can be made in exactly the same way that ordinary laws are passed. It is therefore termed "flexible."

A third classification of constitutions might be made according to the relations of the executive and the legislature. In some the legislature itself appoints and dismisses the executive; in others it does not do so. To the former type belong the constitutions of Great Britain, Belgium and France, to the latter those of Germany and the United States.

§ 5. The Flexibility of the British Constitution.-As has been pointed out, the British Constitution is " 'flexible." This fact has had an important influence on later English history. Since every part of the Constitution is capable of alteration by the ordinary methods of legislation, it follows that those who have desired to make any change in the Constitution have endeavoured to do so in the same way that they would attempt to alter any other law. They have had no need of revolutionary methods, because the machinery for a change was ready to their hand. The only force which could prevent the accomplishment of their aims was the force of public opinion as represented in Parliament. Once they had obtained the majority of the electors of the country permanently on their side they were bound to achieve their object within a few years in the ordinary course of parliamentary legislation. If they failed to convince their countrymen of the desirability of the change they would also fail with revolutionary methods. The consequence is that Great Britain has been free from the revolutions which the rigid constitutions of other countries have provoked, while at the same time its constitution has undergone considerably greater change.

On the other hand, it is true that the maintenance of the Constitution depends on the good sense of the electors. It is from a fear that this will not be always in evidence that the safeguards of a rigid constitution have been introduced in other countries. But it should be remembered that ultimately every government depends on the favourable opinion of its subjects, and that if these permanently desire any particular thing they have the power to obtain it. All that these safeguards can be, therefore, is a check on hasty and ill-considered measures. In the British Constitution this function is discharged by the House of Lords, which, being independent of the electorate, can

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