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judge matters from a detached standpoint and can coolly estimate how far the nation as a whole really desires any proposed change.

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§ 6. The Sovereignty of Parliament.-According to Professor Dicey the two main characteristics of the British Constitution are the "legislative sovereignty of Parliament and the "universal rule or supremacy throughout the constitution of ordinary law."

Parliament has the power to pass or repeal any law whatever. Thus it can alter the succession to the Crown or the established religion of the land; it can change the Constitution and extend its own duration; it may provide for the compulsory purchase of private property, and may validate a marriage previously illegal. Indeed it has done all these things at various times. Perhaps the most striking instance of its power is to be found in the passing of the Septennial Act in 1716. Originally elected for three years only, the Parliament of 1715 passed this Act by which it not only fixed the duration of future Parliaments at seven years but even extended its own duration by four years.

On several occasions Parliament has endeavoured to limit the power of its successors by passing laws declared to be unchangeable. Thus in the Acts of Union with Scotland and Ireland certain provisions were intended to be immutable and to form an essential and fundamental part of the Union. One of such provisions declared the permanence of the Established Church of Ireland. Nevertheless that Church was disestablished in 1869, which fact is a clear witness to the impossibility of limiting the absolute sovereignty of Parliament. If it were limited in any way it would be no longer sovereign.

It is an essential feature of the sovereignty of Parliament that no other body in the state has any power of legislation

independent of it. At one time, as will be seen later, such a jurisdiction was claimed and exercised by the King in Council, but these days are long since past. At the present time every body within the British Empire which exercises any legislative function is subordinate to the British Parliament. This is so whether that body is the legislature of a colony or a district council. The application of this principle will be seen more clearly when the exact relations of the colonies to the mother-country come to be considered.

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§ 7. The Rule of Law.-Every person in the United Kingdom is subject to and must obey the laws of the land. It is true, indeed, that the Monarch is an exception to this rule and that he "can do no wrong." But as nearly every official act of the Monarch must be done through some agent, and these agents are themselves personally responsible for the legality of the acts they do, this exception is more apparent than real.

No person is in a privileged position in this respect. The persons who compose the government of the day cannot do just as they please, but must exercise their powers strictly in accordance with the rules which Parliament has laid down. In some cases, such as extradition, where it is necessary for the well-being of the State, Parliament has given the ministers of the Crown a discretion, but it must be noticed that this discretion is itself the gift of the law and is no exception to the general rule. If any executive officer exceeds his powers, a complaint may be at once made by the person aggrieved in the courts of law, and if it is proved that the act in question is not strictly in accordance with the law the offender will be condemned. However wide the powers of the executive may be, therefore, one can never say that they are unlimited. Again, it is to be noted that every man is subject to the same tribunals. There is not one court for the official and

another for the citizen, as is the case in certain continental countries. But the same courts have to determine the disputes of a citizen with the executive as those which determine disputes between citizens. It is therefore obviously desirable that the courts should be free from the control of the executive. As will be seen later, this freedom was attained in 1701.

Again, there is no right which a citizen possesses which he cannot maintain in the courts of law. Wherever there is a right there is a means of obtaining redress for its infringement. Thus it has been laid down by the courts that every person has a right of action against anyone who unlawfully interferes with his personal liberty. That is to say, unless the arrest of any person can be shown to be justified by the law, he is entitled to damages from the person who arrested him, and is further entitled to be set at liberty.

This latter right is enforced, if necessary, by a writ of habeas corpus. By this writ the court can compel any person who is imprisoned to be brought before it, and thus find out the cause of his imprisonment and, if necessary, release him. As the courts are independent of the executive, this writ provides an absolute bar to any proceeding on the part of the executive in the nature of imprisoning its political opponents. If for the good of the State it is desirable at any time in periods of political excitement that political partisans should be imprisoned, it is necessary for the executive to obtain power beforehand from Parliament for this purpose. Power is given by passing an Act of Parliament suspending the operation of the habeas corpus Acts in cases where a Secretary of State, or other minister named in the Act, shall declare that a person is arrested on suspicion of treason. Such an Act

was passed in 1881 with regard to Ireland.

The right of freedom of speech, again, is nothing more than this: that no man can be prevented from saying anything anywhere unless he infringes some rule of the law either in what he says or in the way he says it. Anyone, whether he be policeman or private citizen, who wishes to interfere with the utterance of another must be prepared to show that that utterance has in some way been forbidden by the law.

§ 8. The Conventions of the Constitution.-The Constitution consists of the various rules which govern the relations of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary and determine their composition, powers, and methods) of working. These rules are of two kinds. Some are definitely laid down by the law. Thus the Act of Settlement declares that the judges hold office for life on good conduct. Rules of this kind are termed laws of the Constitution, and will be enforced by the courts of law. On the other hand, there are some rules observed habitually, which are not laid down by any law, and which could be broken without any penalty being incurred for the actual breach. To this class belong the maxims that "Ministers resign office or dissolve Parliament when they have ceased to command the confidence of the House of Commons," and that "Parliament ought to meet at least once a year."

Such rules are termed "Conventions of the Constitution," and generally refer to the exercise of the King's prerogative on the advice of the Cabinet, or of the privileges of the Houses of Parliament. In reality they are understandings observed in the conduct of the government of the country by which the will of the nation is carried out. There is, for example, no method legally to compel a ministry to resign or dissolve when they are defeated on some vital question in the House of Commons,

but unless they do the one or the other they will continue in office without the support of the nation as a whole.

Why, then, are these conventions observed? Do they rest on nothing more than the good faith of those who conduct the various institutions of government? The answer to this question is found in the fact that although the breach of these conventions is not of itself contrary to the law, yet the inevitable consequence of any breach must be to compel the convention breaker to go further and break the actual law of the land and thus come into conflict with the courts. An example of this is to be found in the rule that Parliament must meet at least once a year. If it did not, those taxes that are voted yearly would cease to be due and it would become difficult to carry on the administration without raising money unlawfully. Again, the annual Army Act which legalises for a year the existence of a standing army would cease to operate and the maintenance of that portion of the country's defensive forces would become impossible without contravening the law of the land as expressed in the Bill of Rights.

If Ministers refused to resign or advise a dissolution after having lost the confidence of the House of Commons, their opponents in that House could refuse to pass any measure they introduced. This would have an effect similar to that produced by the non-meeting of Parliament for a year and would impel the Ministry to illegal practices if they determined to remain in power. As a matter of fact such a crisis would not arise, because the King would dissolve Parliament in such a case whether his ministers so advised or not.

§ 9. The Growth of the Constitution.-As has been already stated, the British Constitution is not embodied in one single document, but is the outcome of gradual growth and development. Some of its features at the present day

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