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which would have prohibited the exportation of Irish goods either to England or France or Canada would have been beyond the power of the English Parliament to pass; but it was perfectly competent to that Parliament to prohibit the importation of those goods into England or Canada just in the same manner as the French Government might have prohibited their importation into France. The English Parliament was the supreme legislature for England and the Colonies, and had just the same power of legislating against the importation of Irish products as they would have had against those of Holland or of France.
Thus stood the Irish Parliament in constitutional position from 1782 until its dissolution. It had full and entire control over everything Irish, where it belonged to Parliament to control. The Irish House of Commons were absolute masters of Irish taxation. Not a penny could be raised from Ireland without their consent; but, on the other hand, in all the external affairs of the Empire, Ireland had no voice. The King of England declared war and made peace by proclamations framed in his English Privy Council, and by its advice. Treaties with foreign powers were made by English ministers, and could only require the sanction of the Irish Parliament if they contained stipulations which might affect Irish trade. Over India and the Colonies, the English Parliament exercised supreme and exclusive control. All those which we now term Imperial affairs were entirely under the direction of the English Ministry and Parliament. When the King of England declared war Ireland also was at war. Any Irishman aiding the enemy was guilty of high treason. English fleets and armies could occupy the havens and the towns of Ireland. The only control, if it can be called control, which Ireland could exercise would have been by refusing to contribute any share of the expenses of the armaments of the war—armaments that might be, that most probably would be, necessary for her own defence against the foe.
There were other restrictions upon the independent action of the Irish Parliament to which it is necessary to refer. So long ago as the reign of Henry VII., an Act was passed, not by the English, but by the Irish Parliament, prohibiting the passing of any Bills in Ireland unless their heads had been previously approved of by the English Privy Council, and certified under the Great Seal of England. Strange as it may appear, it seems certain that this statute was passed as a measure of protection to the inhabitants of the Pale against hasty and violent legislation at the instance of the deputies. In process of time it obviously became the instrument of transferring the real power of Irish Legislation to the English Privy Council, reducing the Irish Parliament to be little more than the registering chamber of its decrees.
In 1782 this restriction was removed, so far as it prevented the origination and passing Bills in either House of the Irish Parliament, but the provision was left untouched which required all Irish Bills to be submitted to the English Privy Council, and to be returned under the Great Seal of England before they finally became law.* The power of the English Privy Council was not regarded as a mere speculative or theoretical one. It was looked to as a practical check upon Irish legislation. It is said—it is to be hoped not trulythat in 1792 the unanimity of the Irish House of Commons in favour of the Catholic Relief Bill was produced by the belief universally entertained that the English Privy Council would refuse their assent, and that the English ministry returned it in spite to punish the Irish Parliament for attempting to acquire a character for liberality at their expense. The story has probably as much foundation as most stories of the kind, but its currency is sufficient to prove the opinions entertained of the reality of the veto.
* In 1782, when Mr. Yelverton introduced the Bill for the modifications of Poyning's law, Mr. Flood moved an amendment for its total repeal. This was opposed by Mr. Yelverton and others, on the ground that the English Government and nation would regard the power of veto in the English Privy Council as a provision essential to the connexion between The countries.
In the debates on the Regency Bill it was urged by the AttorneyGeneral that under this arrangement the assent to Acts in the Irish Parliament was given not by the Irish but by the English Crown. Mr. Grattan corrected this by pointing out that although an assent under the Great Seal of England was made by an Irish Act of Parliament an indispensable requisite to Irish legislation, the Act only became law when after
This sketch of the position of the Irish Parliament in the days of independence would be incomplete without adverting to the matters in which they had succeeded in asserting their constitutional control. They had established, very nearly in its perfect form, their right to control the appropriation of the Irish supplies, and they had extorted from the Crown the admission that in time of peace a standing army could not be legally maintained in Ireland without the consent of the Irish Parliament. After 1782 the declaration of this principle was each year inserted in the annual Mutiny Bills, which had taken the place of the perpetual Mutiny Bill, in which, in 1779, the Irish Parliament first ventured to assert its right to meddle with the army at all.
The true position of Ireland in the old Imperial Constitution must never be forgotten when we come to estimate the advantages or disadvantages of a Federal Union with the Imperial Crown its return so approved of, the Lord Lieutenant communicated the assent of the Crown of Ireland in the Irish House of Lords.
The answer was right in constitutional principle upon the point for which Mr. Grattan was contending, but the fact was that during the years of the independence an assent of the English Sovereign, with the advice of the English Privy Council, under the Great Seal of England, was required before any Act of the Irish Parliament became law.
No one except Mr. Flood proposed to abrogate this controlling power exercised by the English Privy Council over Irish legislation
CONSTITUTION AND POWERS OF THE IMPERIAL
THOSE who propose a Federal Constitution for the two countries ought to avoid the suggestion of any change in the order of things which is not necessary for the purpose they desire to effect.
There seems to be no necessity for any change in the Constitution of the Imperial Parliament. It may be that changes in the mode in which that Parliament is elected might be advantageous or desirable. Many persons contend with truth and justice that Ireland is not adequately represented. There is a very large class of persons who are anxious to see the colonies represented in the great council of the empire, and who regard with favour the proposal of a Federal arrangement between the portions of the United Kingdom, because it seems to offer an opportunity for providing for such representation. But if we have a hope of carrying a proposal of self-government for Ireland, common sense suggests that we ought not to embarrass that proposal with any suggestions of unnecessary and questionable change. I propose to leave the Imperial Parliament exactly as it is. If any changes are to be made in its constitution they ought to be made not as any part of a Federal arrangement, but in the ordinary course of the exercise of the powers of the Imperial Parliament itself.
I propose, then, that the Imperial Parliament, composed as it is now of English, Scotch, and Irish representatives, should have the full control over all legislation affecting the Crown of the United Kingdom or the administration of the Royal power. It ought also to have the same power which it has now of legislation over India and the colonies, and over British subjects in foreign countries. In all these matters the powers which it now exercises would be untouched.
In all matters of this nature a Federal arrangement would be a clear gain to Ireland. Before the Union they were disposed of by an English Parliament, in which Ireland was unrepresented. The reservation of such matters to an Imperial Parliament would, in fact, be a concession to Ireland.
In matters of peace and war Parliament has, by the Constitution, no direct control. The Sovereign makes war and peace by the advice, theoretically, of the Privy Council, really by the advice of a Select Committee of Privy Councillors called the Cabinet, a body unrecognized by the Constitution and the law, and who, in advising the Sovereign, act, so far as responsibility is concerned, not as members of the Cabinet but as Privy Councillors.
But at all times of the English Constitution the principle was recognized that the Sovereign, in the great matters affecting the well-being of the realm, was bound to seek the advice of the Parliament or great Council of the nation. This duty of the Sovereign was wholly independent of the control which in modern times is exercised by the power which Parliament has over the supplies. It came down from the traditions of Saxon, and was sanctioned by the usages of feudal times. The advice of Parliament was tendered more freely in the days of the Plantagenets than it is now.
As the prerogative of the Sovereign in choosing his own ministers has been curtailed, and Cabinets have become the creatures of