Page images
PDF
EPUB

HER RIGHT OF DECLARING WAR.

ity resort should be had under any circumstances to martial law), are responsible to Parliament for their conduct, and must be able to justify their acts under penalty of impeachment or removal from office. Thus in 1865, as you well know, Governor Eyre was removed from office, owing to his having been censured by a Royal Commission for permitting unjustifiable severity whilst suppressing an insurrection in the island of Jamaica, when under martial law.

I now come to the power of the Sovereign with regard to the right of declaring war and making peace. This power is vested exclusively in the Crown, but, like all other prerogatives, must be exercised by the advice and under the responsibility of ministers who are accountable to Parliament, and are liable to impeachment for the improper conduct of a war. The consent of Parliament is not formally required by the constitution, either to the commencement of a war or the conclusion of a peace; but as Parliament furnishes all supplies, and controls the numbers of our army and navy, it becomes difficult for this prerogative to be improperly used. If hostilities about to be entered into are likely to involve serious consequences, it is the duty of ministers to ask for the advice and co-operation of Parliament in carrying on the war. Parliament is, however, at perfect liberty to offer advice unfavourable to the Ministry, and to refuse its assistance, Thus, in 1782, the American war was brought to a close, contrary to the wishes and intentions of George III., by the interposition of the House of Commons. In 1791, Mr Pitt had to abandon an intended war with Russia, owing to the adverse opinions of the House of Commons; and in 1857, the House of Commons condemned the policy of the war with China, which occasioned a dissolution of Parliament, though the result of such condemnation was in favour of the Ministry. However, with regard to this liberty of Parliament, it appears that if the Government enter upon a foreign war in defence of the honour or interests of the State, it is the duty of Parliament to afford the Crown an adequate support; for in 1854, upon the declaration of the war with Russia, Mr Disraeli said—“ If her Majesty informs us that she has found it necessary to engage in war, I hold that it is not an occasion when we are to enter into the policy or impolicy of the advice by which her Majesty has been guided. It is our duty to rally round the throne, and on a subsequent occasion to question the policy of the Ministry." ;

And now, Gentlemen, I come to the last act of

[merged small][ocr errors]

the royal prerogative which I intend discussing in my lecture to-night—the power of the Crown with regard to foreign affairs. And, firstly, her Majesty is the constitutional representative of the nation in its intercourse with foreign powers. The medium of communication between the Queen and the representatives of foreign nations is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whose duty it is to convey the opinions and conclusions of the Government upon matters arising out of the relations of the British Crown with other countries. Parliament has to be informed from time to time of everything which is necessary to explain the policy of the Government, in order that it may interpose with advice or remonstrance. Of course, a certain amount of discretion is always allowed to the Government in communicating or withholding documents asked for by Parliament. Occasionally the Government have laid before Parliament papers in regard to disputes still pending, but this is only in especial cases; Parliament has, however, no right to dictate the answers to such disputes. Private and confidential correspondence, and autograph letters from sovereign princes to her Majesty, are not communicated to Parliament. The Queen, as representative of her people, has, as I have already said, the exclusive right of sending ambassadors to foreign States, and of receiving ambassadors at home. This prerogative is unquestionable, and should not be interfered with by either House of Parliament, except in cases of manifest corruption or abuse. It would be a breach of this prerogative for either House of Parliament to communicate directly with any foreign power: all such communications must be made officially through the Government, and by a responsible minister of the Crown.

Secondly, it is the peculiar function of her Majesty to make treaties and alliances with foreign states, acting under the advice of her responsible ministers. The sanction or ratification by Parliament of any treaty is not necessary to constitute its validity. Parliament has, however, the right of withholding its sanction to those parts of a treaty requiring a legislative enactment to give it force, or to impeach the ministers of the Crown, who are responsible for the treaty if it disapproves of the measure. Our history contains numerous instances of the censure by Parliament of ininisters of the Crown for misconduct of public affairs. Thus, in 1451 the Earl of Suffolk was impeached for making a peace without the assent of the Privy Council;

HER POWER OF INTERVENTION.

45

in 1529, among the articles against Wolsey were charges of carrying on diplomatic correspondence without the King's knowledge; in 1701 the Earl of Oxford was impeached by the Commons for advising treaties for dividing the dominions of Spain, &c. Parliament has, however, no power to change or modify in any way a treaty itself. With regard to pending negotiations, if Parliament be satisfied with the general principles upon which such negotiations are being conducted, and approve of the general policy of the Government, it should abstain from all interference. Papers regarding pending negotiations with foreign powers are only communicated to Parliament at the discretion of the Crown. When the result of the negotiations conducted by ministers has been communicated to Parliament, it is the duty of both Houses to support or condemn those negotiations as they may deem the interests of the nation require.

And now, lastly, let us look at the Crown's power of interfering with the internal concerns of foreign nations. This power, whenever occasion requires it, is always exercised by her Majesty, acting through the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Great delicacy, however, is always necessary in all acts of intervention lest they should

« PreviousContinue »