« PreviousContinue »
In the second place, the general principles enunc- CHAP.
X. iated in the Mise of Lewes were confirmed, with
1264 more special regulations as to the free entry of foreign merchants, if they came unarmed and in not excessive
governnumbers. But the most important point was the
drawn up: formation of a scheme of the constitution. It is question of
its permamost desirable to know if this constitution was in- nence. tended to be permanent or not; but from the obscurity of the preamble it is impossible to speak on this point with certainty. It appears most probable that it was to last during the rest of Henrys reign, and for so long a period of that of Edward as the latter should decide; whether his decision was to be made now or when he came to the throne does not appear. That is to say, it was intended to be as permanent as any constitution could be expected to be under the
after death, and his failure in government.' But they do not go very far to explain these facts.
The preamble runs thus, .Hæc est forma pacis a domino rege &c. ... communiter et concorditer approbata : videlicet quod quædam ordinatio facta in parliamento Londoniis habito ... pro pace regni consery. anda quousque pax inter dictum dominum regem et barones apud Lewes per formam cujusdam misæ prælocuta compleretur duratura omnibus diebus prædicti domini regis et etiam temporibus domini Edwardi postquam in regem fuerit assumptus usque ad terminum quem ex nunc duxerit moderandum firma maneat stabilis et inconcussa ;' then follows the dicta ordinatio.' It is uncertain whether the word "duratura’ agrees with 'ordinatio' or with 'pax; if with the latter, then it is merely said that the ordinatio’ is to remain firm and stable for an indefinite period. At the end we read, 'omnia prædicta faciat dominus rex . . . in forma prædicta (sc. forma regiminis). præsenti ordinatione duratura donec misa apud Lewes facta . fuerit concorditer consummata vel alia provisa quam partes concorditer duxerint approbandam.' It seeins therefore that the constitution, at the time that it was made, was announced to last until the terms of the Mise should be executed ; that when that result took place, the constitution was confirmed and declared to continue for at least the rest of Henrys reign, as stated in the preamble, which was drawn up in 1265. It is probable that Simon from the first meant it to be permanent, but thought it premature positively to announce so important a change in June 1264.
circumstances. The Ordinance, as this form of gov
ernment was called, was confirmed the next spring; 1264
and in consequence of this the hostages were released. The Ordi
Now the hostages had been given in order that the London : arbitration might take its course, and that the peace it was
of the kingdom might be placed on a firm basis. be perman
That this was considered to have been done in March 1265 is shown by the release of the hostages; and it was done by the acceptance of this constitution of June 1264 and certain other subsequent arrangements. Thus it was on the existence of this constitution that the peace of the country was held to depend; and the constitution was not meant to last, as might perhaps be inferred from the preamble, only till the permanent arrangements for the preservation of peace were complete. It was itself the most important of these arrangements. That however it did not complete them, but was in reality only the first step, is shown by the fact that the hostages were not released till after many additional arrangements had been made and collectively confirmed in March 1265.
According to this scheme of government there are
to be chosen and nominated' three persons, called ment: electors. These electors are to receive authority the electors and coun- from the king to elect or nominate, on his behalf, cillors.
nine councillors. By counsel of these nine, three of whom by turn are to be always at Court, the king is to transact all business of State. If any State official, great or small, transgress, the king is at once, by counsel of the nine, to depose him, and substitute another in his place. If any councillor perform his duty ill, or if there be any other reason for his removal, the king shall, by counsel of the electors,
remove him and substitute another. If the councillors CHAP. cannot agree on any question, the electors or two of them shall decide. If the electors disagree, that
1264 which two of them decide shall hold good, provided that in ecclesiastical questions one of the two shall be a prelate of the Church. Finally, if it shall seem good to the whole body of prelates and barons that any one of the electors should be removed, the king shall, by counsel of the aforesaid body, appoint another in his place.
This scheme of government may fairly be regarded The conas the creation which more than any other marks the 1264 : genius of Simon de Montfort. Other matters-his its general
character; courage, constancy, sympathy with the oppressedmay call forth more general admiration. His adaptation of the existing county machinery to parliamentary representation marks his ingenuity and insight into contemporary politics. But that which bears the most unmistakeable stamp of political genius is this constitution of 1264. So far as it goes it is perfect; elaborate, yet simple; a constitution, in the true sense of the word ; that is, a form of government which will stand by itself, a building so composed as to exist without any external assistance. It shows an advance upon the crude ideas of six years before, which would be inexplicable were we obliged to believe that Simon had any but the smallest share in the planning of the earlier scheme. The principles on which it rests are almost precisely the same as those of the constitution under which England has been governed for the last century and a half. First of all, it is a purely electoral system. The and princi
ples. electors are to be chosen, though it is not stated by
whom they were to be chosen in the first instance.
They were in fact at first self-elected, though nomin1264
ally chosen by the king ; but the theory was that The constitution of they were chosen by some one; and, once appointed, 1264 : its principles :
their position depended on the will of the community,' who, in conjunction with the king, could
depose any or all of them if they saw fit. The basis the holders then of government, the ultimate holder of power, is of power ;
the community of prelates and barons, including not only the greater barons but the smaller too, who were now enabled to attend through their representatives from town and county; that is therefore, at any rate, the
whole class of which the old Great Council was theorthe king; etically composed. The king is the exponent and
executor of the will of all three bodies—the electors, the council, the community; the centre in which they all meet, the representative by whom they act, the embodiment of the State, through whom it touches and becomes visible to the nation. The king has no absolute will of his own, any more than any other single officer or collection of officers; he is but the highest officer of the State ; the only absolute and independent will is that of the community. The only occasion in which it appears that the king is to have the initiative is in the appointment of the councillors, for here he, being the centre of the executive, may be supposed to know best who is fitted for the post.
But even here he is not absolute; he is to act by tors; their position
counsel of the electors, the representatives of the that of a
community. The electors stand in the position of a prime
prime-minister, who is in fact chosen by the force of public opinion, finding expression in the kings uttered choice. The means of deposing the electors, as of
deposing the prime-minister, may vary ; it may be the adverse vote of the community, or some other way, but
1264 the electors and the prime-minister are in fact equally in the hands of the community. Again, the primeminister receives authority from the king to appoint his fellow-ministers, and he submits the list for the kings approval : similarly the electors are authorised by the king to appoint the councillors. In neither case is the king the absolute granter of the authority; that he shares that authority with the community is shown by the fact that the latter have the power of determining with him the person to whom he shall transmit it.
There are, it is hardly necessary to say, differences Contrast between our system and that of de Montfort : the power the modern of the community to appoint their own chief ministers system and is not yet even in our day fully recognised, the theory Earl
Simon. being that the authority is conferred absolutely by the monarch, however little it may be so in reality. The fact however is there, though it is not formally recognised ; in this respect Simons constitution is more advanced than ours, for he insisted on the cooperation of the king and the community in the actual choice of the ministers, while we have only the practical right of a veto on an appointment disagreeable to the nation. Simon recognised the impracticability of any other system than that which we have gradually adopted, holding that, in any constitution that is to stand, the real rulers must be those who, from whatever cause or in whatever way, have most power. The inevitable result of any other system is an outbreak of the confined forces; in other words, a revolution. Other differences, such as that between the