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"INDEPENDENCE" AND PARTY GOVERNMENT.
HE protrusion of independent candidates at the Canadian general elections of last year was an important event. That so few of them were elected is not of much consequence. In the fact that a considerable number of champions fought the fight and were supported by many thousands of voters lies the significance. The circumstance indicates a leaven that may leaven the whole lump. Independence is an attack on the whole system of government by party. Unless it means this, it means nothing. Its avowed object is to obtain such strength that it can turn the party balance which way it chooses. In other words, Independence seeks to paralyse party government. So far as a system of government is concerned, there is very little difference between paralysis and death. Independence, then, raises the question: Is party government a good or an evil? I believe it to be an evil. Is it defensible or indefensible? I believe the system to be indefensible, and herein are the significance and the importance of the Independent movement.
sent day. It was in consequence of this independence that the Earl of Sunderland, "a man whose political character was of the lowest type " (Green) came secretly forward and, for a corrupt motive, persuaded the King to choose his ministers, not as heretofore from the most capable men, or those most fitted for the respective offices, but exclusively from the party that was strongest in the House of Commons. This was the thin edge of the wedge, the beginning of party government. Conceived in iniquity and born in sin, the serpent crawled forth, wrapped its coils around the State, and left the slime of its trail to indicate a path for future politicians.
It is easy to see what followed, and which in rerum natura must have followed. Ministers have patronage; the patronage hitherto distributed amongst all parties became concentrated in one party. It was but one step further to exact party allegiance as the price of ministerial favours. This was ultimately followed by the extension of patronage; because the greater the exigencies of party the greater the necessity of extending the sphere of patronage. Thus it came to pass that in time every man had his price, and the boodling Parties have always existed, but it and the bribery were quite open. At was not until the reign of William III. length the strain became too severe, that Cabinets were constituted on party the corruption too flagrant, and from lines. Up to that time a king selected the struggle between political tradition for his advisers the best men he could and political progress there came a sort find, and we had Cabinets of capables. of retracing of steps, until the system As a consequence, they had far more became what it is now, not so bad as independence than they have at the pre- it was, but bad enough in all conscience
The first thing to be realized in that party government is not by any means a divine institution. On the other hand, it has a disgraceful origin.
with its jobbery, dishonesty, corruption considerations can only mean that the and dishonour. considerations of his party are something of which he ought to be ashamed. We never hear of a man being above his political convictions. When a man holds certain principles we praise him for sticking to those principles, for fighting for them, for suffering for them. We do not laud him to the skies because he is superior to what he believes to be right, and just and propWe do that only when he throws to the winds the party that is supposed to be working out his principles. So, too, in regard to great crises and important measures of State. If party government be a good thing, why should it be necessary to thrust it aside at every emergency? If a party be based on sound principles-as its supporters hold it to be-why, in times of difficulty, should the party be forsaken, its principles thrown overboard, and its members go over for the occasion to the party they oppose and with whose avowed principles they disagree? If this state of things signifies anything at all, it is that political parties are hollow shams, mere playground for prattlers, to be cast aside when serious business begins. Here, then, we are landed in this dilemma :-in a country ruled by party government a man is expected to belong to a party, and yet he is praised for disagreeing with his party. Important measures framed by one party against the wishes, the principles and the convictions of the opposite party are expected to have the support of the opponents should any great emergency threaten to delay the consideration of the question to which they are opposed.
This is the position, it seems to me, that should be realized by all "Independents." This is the state of affairs which is their raison d'etre. To destroy such a system is their mission; to accomplish this the Independents should have no dealings with either of the great political parties. They ought to say, "A plague on both your houses." To be successful, Independence must stand squarely on its platform and not yield in any circumstances whatever, or for
One of the strangest phenomena of the nineteenth century is this system of party government. A peculiarity is that its votaries are ashamed of it and proud of it at one and the same time. This may seem paradoxical, but it is true. What is the highest praise one can bestow upon a statesman? It is that he is "above party," does not allow party influences to interfere with his political convictions. On the other hand, the excesses of weaker men are excused on the ground of "over-zeal for party." Statesmen, we are told, should be "above the Shibboleths of party." We hear of persons being called upon to vote "from a sense of duty and not for a mere party advantage." We read that men sometimes, indeed often, "stretch their consciences to give party votes." Phrases like these could be piled to a heap "huge as high Olympus." The great questions that agitate a nation discover a similar sentiment. In the face of a great crisis, party government not only breaks down, but it is expected to break down. "In a crisis like this," it is often said, "we must sink party differences and support the Government;" or, "in face of a common danger we must unite-we must rise above party and act as one nation."
The common welfare," we are assured"should be above the interests of
any political party." There are questions that are "too great for party," and so on. And that these are sincere expressions is shown by the fact that when a man is above party the truehearted ones of all parties sympathize with him; whereas, "fidelity to party at the cost of principle" is never regarded as a virtue, though often as a quality which should be rewarded with a worldly reward. From this it follows "as the night the day" that the common welfare and party interests are not held to be identical, but distinct and opposite.
All this is pitiable; because what does it imply? For a man to be praised because he is superior to party
Independents should say, "A plague on both your houses." If the Liberal party cannot stand the strain of Patronism without splitting, let it split. If the Conservative party cannot stand the strain of Independence without splitting, let it split.
The question arises: How should the Independents begin to accomplish what has been above stated to be their mission? It is not sufficient to merely take advantage of occasion, to "seize the opportunity," as the phrase goes. If the Independents simply intend to show their strength by thwarting a government when it suits them to do so, they will accomplish very little. If a policy of petulance be all their programme, then the game is not worth the candle. A true policy always goes to the root of the matter, and as an essential point in government by party is the selection of the Cabinet (from which, indeed, it sprang, as already shown), the first great effort of the Independents should be to change the existing state of things in this respect. That is to say, the tradition that the Sovereign, through the Governor-General, selects the Cabinet on the advice of the Prime Minister should be set at nought. The Cabinet ought not to be selected by one man, it ought to be elected by the Commons House of Parliament until the time arrives when it can be elected by the people, viz., when the electorate has learnt how to mark a ballot paper without blundering. This may seem a startling proposal. All radical changes are startling when first proposed. Familiarity with the idea, however, will soon show that there is nothing startling about the matter. Actual appointment by the Sovereign was bad enough, but at any rate it was appointment by the acknowledged head of the nation. Appointment by the Premier is worse, because it is not by the head of the nation but by the chief of a party. In no other institution in the civilized world is the Executive appointed by one man. The President of a railway does not select its directors. The Chairman of a bank does not choose his colleagues. The
any consideration whatever. Hence it is matter for regret that at the recent elections some of the Patrons made arrangements with Liberals in order to secure the return of anti-Government candidates. In so far as Independents retired rather than jeopardize a Liberal seat they were false to their principles. They ought to have braved everything as did the Patron candidates in East and West Assiniboia, and with such good results. With a true Independent, Liberals and Conservatives are alike opponents, and when such a one is in the field he should stay there, regardless of all consequences. I recognize that when Liberals and Patrons are alike antagonistic to the Government, there is a strong temptation to do nothing that will tend to return a supporter of the disfavoured Government. This only shows that true independence is not firmly rooted in men who yield to the temptation. They have not realized the essence of the principle. Because, forsooth, they and the Liberals are in exact accord in their determination to oust the Government, and more than half with each other as regards their platforms, it is imagined one or the other should retire sooner than let in a Conservative, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread. This is consistent reasoning for a party Liberal; in an Independent it is dereliction of principle. Half a loaf is not always better than no bread. There may be another choice. If going without half a loaf to-day and having no bread to-morrow will ensure a full feast for ever hereafter, then half a loaf is not better than no bread. It should be remembered that the winning of a seat is not of the first importance with Independents. Setting aside the educative influence of an election contest there is the assertion of a good principle, and if there is to be a backing down for ulterior objects, then rest assured the triumph of independence is a long way off. A vote cast for principle is never lost, though the election may be. The two great political parties should be made to realize that this is so. I repeat that
directorate of public companies are all elective. Even the committee of a youths' debating society is elected by its members, and so on all through. Wherever there are common interests at stake, great or small, the directorate is by election. It remains for the executive of the greatest interest of all, the management of the nation, to be appointed by one man, and that the leader, not of the nation, but by only a part of it. Such a system is antidemocratic. It is against the sentiment of a free people. It is antagonistic to the genius of a great nation; and it ought not to be more difficult for the people of Canada to elect a Cabinet than it is for the American people to elect a President. At any rate, election by the House of Commons ought not to be difficult. It may be admitted that just now such a procedure would be on party lines with all its attendant sins and follies. But that would only be temporary, until such time as the nation thoroughly realised the true principle. In Canada such a system is demanded more strongly than anywhere else; because here the men to form a Cabinet are not selected for their paramount abilities, but on account of the locality that sends them to parliament-Ontario, or Quebec, or British Columbia, or the Northwest. It is difficult to imagine a plan more fitted to crowd out of a Government the most capable men in the nation, just the men who should be there. Square pegs are thrust into round holes; the inexperienced and incompetent entrusted with the highest functions. We have thus a government not of capables, but of incapables. Cabinets are formed not with a view to the good government of the country, but for the satisfaction of party exigencies. We do not want such a government. want a Cabinet of all the talents. reform, such as above indicated, were accomplished, there would be no more boodling, corruption would die a natural death, and patronage would be wisely distributed.
Under a system such as above outlined it might be necessary to separate the governing functions of the State from its administrative functions. And this would be a good and not an evil A man may be a good Postmaster-General, but a poor statesman. Why, then, should he be in the Cabinet? Why, indeed, need he be even a Member of Parliament? and, above all, why should he be turned adrift simply because persons of his own political creed go out of office? It requires no statesmanship to superintend the collection and distribution of Her Majesty's mails. It requires an able administrator, and when such has been found he ought to be kept at the work for which he is fitted. If a person be an adept at managing the Indian Department why should he be set aside solely because there is a change of Ministry? And so on with all the other offices that are purely administrative. No question of policy is affected. Let the State have the best administration it can get for its money irrespective of party creed or political belief. Only those officials whose duties call upon them to direct the policy of the nation should have seats in the Cabinet, such as the Finance Minister, the Minister of the Interior, of Agriculture, of Education, and so forth.
Such, then, is the mission of Independence. That it is a noble mission is my persuasion. That is not difficult of accomplishment is my belief. The system above indicated would promote beneficial legislation and wise administration, instead of retarding, harrassing and disfiguring them, as at present. "Beware of party" should be the motto of Independents. In his farewell letter to the United States, George Washington wrote: "I have already intimated to you the danger of parties to the State. .. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you, in the most solemn manner, against the baneful effects of party generally."
IT was a bright, beautiful day in August that we our way to the Tower of London. No one in whose breast an interest in the history of his country has been awakened can approach with indifference this royal castle of our forefathers. As we descend Tower Hill the hoary walls of this ancient pile rise before us amid the surrounding mass of more recent buildings which crowd for many miles that most wonderful city in the world of to-day.
The old, solid walls of this venerable fortress remain like so many huge symbols of those far-off rugged times, when amid the fierce struggles resulting from ill-defined rights and wildest passions were laid the mighty foundations of England's present prosperity, peace and world-wide power.
The Tower of London has a history, which, like that of the kingdom itself, recedes into the dim distance of fable. There can be little doubt that for many centuries before the Conquest an important structure stood on this site. Shakespeare but repeats the old tradition that Julius Cæsar reared the pile. Heywood says:
It is doubtful if this hoary structure, for thrilling incident and chronicles of pathetic and dramatic story, can be equalled by any other building in the world. Through those very gateways which admit the curious and pleasureseeking multitudes of to-day have passed processions of kingly splendour which would bankrupt the most opulent phrase to describe. And almost (443)
That built the same, within it kept his court, And many Kings since he: the rooms are large,
The building stately, and for strength besides, It is the safest and the surest hold you have."
many most eminent persons were beheaded, including Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More; Cromwell, Earl of Essex; Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey; Thomas, Lord Seymour, of Sudely; the Protector Somerset; John Dudley, Earl of Northumberland; Lord G. Dudley; Sir Thomas Wyat; Wentworth, Earl of Strafford; Archbishop Laud; Algernon Sydney; Duke of Monmouth; Earl of Derwentwater, and Lord Kenmuir, Lords Kilmarnock and Balmerino, and, last of all, Simon, Lord Lovat, in 1747. Since that time there has been no beheading in England nor any execution on Tower Hill.
As we passed inside the grey walls of the Tower we could but think of the many marvellous changes which have taken place since this gloomy palace, pr.son and fortress lifted its massive and defiant form on the banks of the Thames eight hundred years ago. It
erected 1079-80 by Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester, by command of William the Conqueror, and is regarded as a fine specimen of the Norman architecture, which largely prevailed in those remote and troublesome times.
Tower Hill is a large open space of great historical interest. On the site of the present garden of Trinity Square stood the wooden scaffold whereon