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ART. I.-The Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort. By Theodore Martin. The Fourth Volume. London, 1879.

HE recently published volume of the Prince Consort's Life


is in our opinion even more valuable than its predecessors. Not only does Mr. Martin exhibit with his accustomed tact and delicacy the constant expansion of a noble character in its domestic and social relations, but he has been enabled to reveal to the public the part which the Queen and her husband took in the conduct of affairs, and thus to illustrate in the strongest light yet thrown upon the subject the place which the Sovereign personally occupies in the English Constitution.

When we remember the vast changes that have been effected in the Constitution since Her Majesty succeeded to the throne -changes which have of course materially affected the position of the Sovereign,—and at the same time reflect on the entire absence of collision between the Monarch and the People, either in the abolition of the Corn Laws, the passing of the Reform Bill, or the Disestablishment of the Irish Church-it will be allowed by all candid persons that the reign of Queen Victoria has been the most constitutional in our annals. A testimony to the same truth, not less forcible because it has not been intended, is afforded by those who have been the loudest in swelling the recent absurd outcry about the growth of Personal Rule. So entire has been the self-subordination of the Sovereign to the public interest, that the idea of any interference on her part in the affairs of the nation which she governs has produced in the minds of certain individuals a shock of surprise, and we may add vexation. In the eyes of many, the Government of England is practically a Republic. They cannot of course avoid recognizing the existence of a Monarch, whom they even allow to be useful in signing Acts of Parliament, in dissolving Parliaments, in issuing writs of summons at the bidding of Ministers, and in calling on new Ministers-whom they term 'sub-kings'-to take the place of those who have lost the support of the people. But that the Sovereign, as a person possessing character, influVol. 148.-No. 295.



ence, and power, should venture on any initiative of his own, is to them a thing utterly incomprehensible. We have given our reasons on a recent occasion for dissenting from this theory of the English Constitution. Mr. Martin's latest volume will provide us with ample materials for confirming the opinions which we then expressed. But before we renew our consideration of the subject which his book suggests, we wish to point out once more the error lying at the root of the arguments advanced by those who think that a King of England is debarred by his position from exercising any personal influence on the government of his country.

Their error lies in this, that they conceive of the Constitution of England as a machine, and not as what it really is, an organic growth. Written Constitutions, such as those of France and America, which are strictly defined, are of course largely mechanical in their operations, but even in them contingencies must occur not contemplated by the foresight of the framers, and which can only be dealt with as the occasion requires, and the good sense of the community dictates. The English Constitution, though unwritten, has also its mechanism, which, working with the smoothness and regularity of oldestablished order, is often, by superficial observers, confounded with the life itself. A school of constitutional writers, starting from this belief, have, during the last generation, discussed the nature of our political system with an air of something like scientific precision. They regard it, in its existing form, as a structure, inflexible to the growing life of society, and, concluding it to be the mere creation of political prudence, they suppose that the functions of its different parts can be fixed as accurately as if it were clockwork. But such a theory is contrary to the historical spirit of our laws and the genius of our Government, which has ever reflected the growth of the national character. It was not thus that the older and more profound historians of the Whig party viewed the Constitution.

"Of all the notions that have been advanced as to the theories of this Constitution,'-writes Hallam of the old régime, and it must be remembered that the English Constitution has never undergone a fundamental change the least consonant to law and history is that which represents the King as merely an hereditary executive magistrate, the first officer of the state. What advantages might result from such a form of government, this is not the place to discuss. But it certainly was not the ancient constitution of England. There was nothing in this, absolutely nothing, of a republican appearance. All seemed to grow out of the monarchy, and was referred to its advantage and honour.'

History has impressed a monarchical character on our insti

tutions :

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