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THE

CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY

OP

ENGLAND

SIXCE

THE ACCESSION OF GEORGE THE THIRD.

CHAPTER VIII.

Influence of Party on Parliamentary Government:– Principles and Origin

of English Parties:- Whigs and Tories:- Sketch of Parties from the Accession of George III. until the Close of the American War:- The Coalition :- Tory Party under Mr. Pitt:- Effect of French Revolution upon Parties: - State of Parties from 1801 to 1830; and thence to 1860:- Changes in the Character and Organization of Parties.

Influence of

We have surveyed the great political institutions by which the state is governed ; and examined the influence which each has exercised, and their combined party in Par

liamentary operation. That a form of government so com- government. posite, and combining so many conflicting forces, has generally been maintained in harmonious action, is mainly due to the organization of parties, — an agency hardly recognized by the Constitution, yet inseparable from Parliamentary government, and exercising the greatest influence, for good or evil, upon the political destinies of the country. Party has guided and controlled, and often dominated over the more ostensible authorities of the state: it has supported the Crown and aristocracy against the people : it has trampled upon public liberty; it has dethroned and coerced kings, overthrown ministers and Parliaments, humbled the nobles, and established popular rights. But it has protected

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VOL. II.

the fabric of the government from shocks which threatened its very foundations. Parties have risen and fallen : but institutions have remained unshaken. The annals of party embrace a large portion of the history of England: 1 but passing lightly over its meaner incidents, the ambition, intrigues, and jealousies of statesmen, the greed of placehunters, and the sinister aims of faction, we will endeavor to trace its influence in advancing or retarding the progress of constitutional liberty and enlightened legislation.

The parties in which Englishmen have associated, have Principles represented cardinal principles of government,2. E English authority on the one side, popular rights and privparties. ileges on the other. The former principle, pressed to extremes, would tend to absolutism, — the latter, to a republic: but, controlled within proper limits, they are both necessary for the safe working of a balanced constitution. When parties have lost sight of these principles, in pursuit of objects less worthy, they have degenerated into factions.

The divisions, conspiracies, and civil wars, by which EngOrigin of

par

land was convulsed until late in the sixteenth cen

tury, must not be confounded with the development of parties. Rarely founded on distinctive principles, their ends were sought by arns, or deeds of violence and treason. Neither can we trace the origin of parties in those earlier contentions, sometimes of nobles, sometimes of Commons, with the Crown, to which we owe many of our most valued

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ties.

1 Mr. Wingrove Cooke, in his spirited “ History of Party," to which I desire to acknowledge many obligations, relates the most instructive inci. dents of general history.

2 “Party is a body of men united, for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed." Burke's Present Discontents, Works, ii. 335.

3 " National interests" * would be sometimes sacrificed, and always made subordinate to, personal interests; and that, I think, is the true characteristic of faction." Bolingbroke's Dissert. upon Parties, Works, iii. 15.

“Of such a nature are counections in politics; essentially necessary to the full performance of our public duty: accidentally liable to degenerate into faction.” Ibid., Works, ii. 332.

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