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Gen. Benjamin Harrison . . 1889

Grover Cleveland 1898

William McKinley 1897

•T. Rooserelt 1901


The Merovingians 418 to 752

The Carlovingians 752 to 987

The Capets 987 to 1328

The House of Valois 1328 to 1589

The House of Bourbon-
Henry IV 1589

Louis XIII 1610

Louis XIV 1643

Louis XV 1716

Louis XVI 1774

Louis XVII. (did nbt reign).
The First Republic-
National Convention 1792

The Directory 1795

The Consulate 1799

The First Empire-
Napoleon I., Emperor 1804

Napoleon II. (did not reign).

The Bourbon Restoration-
Louis XVIII 1814

Charles X 1824

The House of Orleans-
Louis Philippe 1880

The Second Republic-
Louis Napoleon, President I84f

The Second Empire-
Napoleon III 1852

The Third Republic-
Committee of National Defence 1870

L. A. Thiers, d., President 1871

Marshal MacMahon, d., President . . 1878

Jules Gr6vy, d., President 1879

M. F. Sadi Carnot, d., President .... 1887

J. Caslmir- Purler, President 1894

F. F61ix Faure, d., President 1896

J. Loubet, President 1899


Frederick 1 1701

Frederick William 1 1713

Frederick II. (the Great). . 1740

Frederick William II 1786

Frederick WilUam III 1797

Frederick William IV. . . 1840
William 1 1861

William I. (the preceding) 1871

Frederick III 1888

William II 1888


Peter the (Jreat 1689

Catherine 1 1725

Peter II 1727

Anne 1730

Ivan VI 1740

Elizabeth 1741

Peter III 1762

Catherine II 1762

Paul 1796

Alexander 1 1801

Nicholas 1825 ,

Alexander II 1855

Alexander III 1881

Nicholas II 1894 ,

AUSTRIA.-(*'rom 1705.) |

*Jo8eph 1 1705

•Charles II. (VI. of Ger-
many) 1711

Maria Theresa 1740

Charles VII. (Elector of

Bavaria) 1742

*Francis I. (husband of M.

Theresa) 1746

•Joseph ir 1765

•Leopold II 1790

•Francis II 1792

• Also Emperors of Germany.

Francis I. (the preceding). . 1804

Ferdinand 1835

Francis Joseph 1 1848


Victor Emanuel II 1861

Humbert 1 1878

Victor Emanuel III 1900

(Fr07» 1808.)

Ferdinand VII 1808

Joseph Buonaparte 1808

Ferdinand VII. (Restored) 1813

Isabella II 1833

Amadeo 1 1870

The Republic 1873

Alfonso XII 1874

Alfonso XIII 6. 1886

(Christina, Queen-Regent, 1885)


{From 1807.)

Mustapha IV 1807

Mahmoud II 1808

Abdul Medjid 1839

Abdul Aziz 1861

Murad 1876

Abdul Hamid 1876

{From 1699.)

Frederick IV 1699

Christian VI 1730

Frederick V 1746

Christian VII 1766

Frederick VI 1808

Christian VIII 1839

Frederick VII 1848

Christian IX 1863


William 1 1815

William II 1840

William III 1849

Wilhelmina (crowned 1898). 1890


Otto 1881

George 1 1868


Leopold 1 1831

Leopold II igei

(Froni 1816.)

Joan VI i8ie

Pedro IV 182«*

Maria II 1826

Miguel 1 1828

Maria II. (restored) 1884

Pedro V 1868

Luis 1 1861

Carlos I 1889

(From 1818.)

Carl XIV 1818

Oscar 1 1844

Carl XV 1869

Oscar II 1872

(From 1700.)

Clement XI 1700

Innocent XIII 1721

Benedict XIII 1724

Clement XII 1739

Benedict XIV 1740

Clement XIII 1758

Clement XIV 1769

Pius VI 1776

Pius VII 1800

Leo XII 1823

Pius VIII 1829

Gregory XVI 1881

Plus IX 1846

Leo XIII. 18T3

Pius X „ 1908

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The term, " The English Constitution," is
oommonly so used as to include both the
form of public Government under which we
live, and the constitutional rights and privi-
leges of private citizens. Considering the
yarious forms of Government as either
"absolute," or "pure," or "mixed," the
English Constitution belongs to the latter
category. By this is meant, that the voice
of the ultimate sovereign power, which is
the constituent body of the nation, is so ob-
tained as to give expression to the various
classes and interests of the collective com-
munity. Again, constitutions being either
"written" or "unwritten," the English
Constitution is *' unwritten," i.e., although
it results, in some measure, from the deci-
sions of judges, and the provisions of sta-
tutes, such as Magna Charta, the Petition
of Bight, or the Bill of Bights, such deci-
sions and statutes are avowedly declaratory
merely of the pre-existing law. Whereas,
then, in the case of written Constitutions,
such as that of the United States, the ques-
tion of the bearing of proposed changes
upon the Constitution of the State is one of
mere interpretation, and to be decided by
the ordinary tribunals; in England, on the
contrary, " unconstitutional " conduct on
the part of a Minister can only mean a
violation of the spirit of the Constitution,
and can only be reached by the extraordi-
nary proceeding of impeachment, which is
defined as " a judicial trial by the House of
Lords of a person accused by the House of
Commons of grave offences, which the or-
dinary law cannot reach, through its in-
sufficiency or uncertainty." This proceeding
has, in modem times, become rare, but in
extraordinary cases might still be resorted
to. The Constitution of England is a

the supreme political authority being vested
in a ]£ngor Queen, and two Houses of Par-
liament. It being conceded that in every
constitution which is the growth of ages,
and which exercises sway over mixed popu-
lations, "there must be two parts, first,
that wnich excites and preserves the rever-
ence of the population— the dignified parts
—and next, the efficient parts, those by
which it in fact works and rules," the dis-
tinctive merit of the English Constitution
is, that while its "efficient part" works
more easily and simply and better than any
instrument of government which has yet
been tried, its " dignified parts " are still as
capable of exoitingand sustaining enthusi-
asm as when the King was his own Prime
Minister. The secret of the efficiency of
the English Constitution lies in the close
union of the executive and legislative
power. The connecting link is
By that word, which is technically unknown
to any Act of Parliament or in official pro-
ceedings, is meant a committee of the legis-
lative body, selected to be the executive
body ; a committee, however, which has the
power of advising the dissolution of the
assembly which indirectly appointed it.
Though appointed under one Parliament, it
can, with tne permission of the Sovereign

appeal to the next. It is nominated by I he
Crown, but being also responsible to Par-
liament, it consists exclusively of statesmen
whose opinions agree in the main with the
majority of the House of Commons.
Among the members of this oomknittee are
distributed tlie great departments of the
Administration. Each Minister conducts
the ordinary business of his own office
without reference to his colleagues; but
the most impcit^nt affairs of every depart-
ment, and especially such matteis as are
likely to be the subject of disc s ion in
Parliament, are brought under the conn -
deration of tbe whole Ministry. "When Loi d
Salisbury's third Ministry came into office
in 1896, a Cabinet Committee for Natioual
Defence was constituted, composed of
the Prime Minister (Chairman), the Lord
President of the Council, the First Lord of
the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State
for War. The functions of this body aow
called the Committee of Defence, were re-
modelled in 1903 by the addition to its
numbers of the Commander-in-Chief, the
first naval Lord, and the Director of Mili-
tary Intelligence. Perennial records are
k^pt of its conclusions and of the reasons
on which they are based. While the Com-
mittee in no way limits the responsibility
of the Cabinet as a whole, it provides a
machinery by which the military policy of
the country shall be, as far as possible,
continuous, and shall be based upon the
authority of the most competent experts.
The establishment of the Committee was
formally approved by the House of Com-
mons on March 5th, 1903. In Parliament,
the Ministers are bound to act as one man
in all questions relating to the Executive
Government. If one of them dissents from
the rest on a question too important to ad-
mit of compromise, it is his duty to retire.
While the Ministry retains the confidence
of the Parliamentary majority, that major-
ity supports them against opposition, and
rejects every motion which reflects on them
or is likely to embarrass them. If they for-
feit that confidence, or if the Parliamentary
majority are dissatisfied with the way in
which affairs are conducted, they have
merely to declare that they have ceased to
trust the Ministry, and to ask for a Ministry
which they can trust. By the system of
Party, an organised body of men will be
always found ready to succeed them ; " Hia
Majesty's Oppositien " being as much a
part of the polity as the Administration
itself. The Cabinet holds its deliberations
in secret, and the King's permission is ne-
cessary if any Minister desires to mako
public what has passed thereat. Mr. Glad-
stone, whose experience was unrivalled,
held that the Privy Councillor's oath ap-
plied to its proceedings, and that no one waa
entitled even to make a note of them except
the Prime Minister, who reports to the Sove-
reign. No official record or minute of any
kind is ke pt. The chief of the Cabinet ig

or Premier. Besides being a Privy Coun-
cillor, he usually, though not necessarily,.

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holds the ofEice of First Lord of the
Treasnry. He has no legal primacy over
the other members of the Cabinet; this
is, indeed, necessarily the case in a
body whioh has itself no legal status.
In official precedence the First Lord
of the Treasury ranks below many of the
other Ministers. The Prime Minister
is selected by the Sovereign, whose choice,
among natural-bom subjects, is nominally
unrestrained, but is, in fact, limited to the
leaders of the party which can command a
majority in the House of Commons. When
charged by the Soverei^ with the task of
forming an Administration, he proceeds to
the selection of occupants for the various
offices, and submits tiieir names for the
approval of the Crown. The old Consti-
tutional maxim, that " the King can do no
wrong, " is now ^terally true, for his acts
are really the acte of his Ministers; and
his Ministers are responsible to the House
of Commons, not merely as of old for any
breach of the law, but for the general
course of their policy, which must accord
with the opinions of the majority of that
House, or else, in conformity with Con-
stitutional usage, practically as binding as
a legal enactment, the Ministers are bound
to resign office.


The Succession to the Crown is regu-
lated by an Act of Parliament passed in
A.D. 1701, and usually called the "Act of
Settlement." This Act limited the right
of succession to the Princess Sophia
of Hanover, grand-daughter of James I.,
and to her heirs, being Protestants.

All the property which once formed the
main revenue of the Crown is now treated
as furnishing part of the general State
revenues, and the management of it is
directly controlled by Parliament. At the
commencement of every reign. Parliament
fixes the yearly sum which shall be payable
to the Crown for all expenses not directly
of a public kind. (See under " The Civil
Lists and Eoyal Grants ;" post.)

The fang (acting by the advice of his
Ministers) can prorogue Parliament when-
ever he pleases, and no Parliament can be
assembled, prorogued, or dissolved without
his express command. He can also dis-
solve Parliament at his pleasure; but,
since the passing of the Septennial Act in
1716, no Parliament can last longer than
seven years. Its annual meeting is secured
by the necessity of obtaining from it a
grant for the yearly supplies. The assent
of the Sovereign is indispensable for any
Bill (or proposed law) to become actual
law. The legislative power is vested
primarily in the two Houses of Parliament.

The House of Lords consists of the first
and second Estates of the Realm, viz. : the
Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal.
It comprises a varying number of English
peers (princes of the blood, dukes, mar-
quises, earls, viscounts, and barons), two

archbishops, 24 bishops, 16 representative
peers for Scotland chosen for each Parlia-
ment, and 28 representative peers for
Ireland, elected for life. The Sovereign
can make as many new peers as he
chooses. His Ministers usually recommend
(especially at the time of their giving up
office) the grant of peerages to some of
their most active and distinguished sup-
porters. When once a person has been
summoned to Parliament to sit in the
House of Lords, or has actually taken hii
seat, or when a person has been created
a peer by the King's-" letters patent," his
succeeding heirs inherit the right to sit,
except in the case of certain law Lords,
created peers for life under the provisions
of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, 1876.
Women cannot sit in the House of Lords,
though women may be peeresses by Royal
grant, or in a few cases even by descent.
The Lord Chancellor, who is always,
though not necessarily, a peer, presides
over the debates in the House of Lords.
Any bills can be proposed in the House
of Lords except such as effect taxation.
Such bills, on coming up from the
Commons, are never altered m the Lords,
though they may be thrown out. (See
under " House of Lords," post.)


The House of Commons (the third
Estate of the Realm) consists, since the
Redistribution Act of 1885, of 670 mem-
bers, elected by *' constituencies " of coun-
ties, boroughs, or universities. The places
represented have varied a great deal from
time to time, according to their changing
size and importance; but through all
changes the principle has been maintained
that every member represents the interests
of some definite locality or place. The
main qualification entitling a person to be
registered and to vote — both in counties
and boroughs — is the inhabitant occu-
pancy of a dwelling-house, on which rates
are paid, for twelve monthis preceding July
15. In counties, the possession of freehold
property is an ancient alternative qualifica-
tion. Full particulars of the qualifications
for voting will be found under the article,
"Parliamentary Franchise."

The main function of the House of
Commons is one hardly recognised by
common speech, but may be sufficiently
described as the maintenance of the Exe-
cutive Government. Without a House of
Commons divided into organised parties,
the carrying on of Government by the
Cabinet system would be in a free country
impossible. The House of Commons has
also what has been called " an informing
function." Formerly it was accustomed
to inform the Crown of the grievances
and complaints of particular persons, and
the Sovereign took action at the petition
of Parliament. At the present time the
function of Parliament is rather to inform
public opinion of such grievances and com-
plaints. The practice of asking questions
in the House, though often carried to

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extreme limits, is, it cannot be doubted,
a valuable safeguard against abuses of
power by the &ecutiye. It is, further,
the office of the House of Commons to
give expression to the real opinion of the
nation on all matters which come before
it. The time spent in a debate on some
question of foreign policy, apparently
without result, may in reality have been
employed in the manner most profitable
to the general good. Lastly, the House of
Commons is the most important branch of
the Legislature. The principal measures
are generally brought forward by the
Ministers of the day, but private members
are equally entitled to introduce Bills, only
that it is more difficult for them to carry
such through. There is one important ex-
ception, however, to the rule just stated.
No private person can propose a Bill
having for its object an increase of taxa-
tion. Bv this rule is secured the responsi-
bility of the Cabinet for the national
finance; without it, the nation might be
continually enlarging its expenditure, the
blame for such increase attaching to
separate and irresponsible private mem-


The right of public meeting and the
right to petition Parliament are important
Constitutional privileges. The mainten-
ance of what is called " the liberty of the
subject" forms a valuable part of the
English Constitution. Its chief safeguards,
independently of the mode of making laws,
are (1), the administration of justice on
the trial of accused persons; (2), the
general prevention of illegal imprison-
ment; (3), the definition and limitation
of the duties of the police.

To the first category belong {a) the insti-
* trial by jury," which secures

random from the body of the people,
having nothing to hope or fear from the
Executive; (b) the protection accorded to
jurymen, by which they cannot be made
civilly or criminally responsible for their
verdicts; also, the protection of their
functions from possible encroachments
by judges; (e) the independence of the
judges, secured by the enactment which
makes their commission " during good be-
haviour," and renders them irremovable,
except upon a joint address from both
Houses of Parliament.

An example of the second class of safe-
guards is the rule which secures that
anyone whose liberty is restrained shall
have an opportunity, under the writ of
Habeas Corpus, of having the ground of
his restraint judicially investigated; of
being speedily brought to trial if accused,
and of suffering his imprisonment at fixed
places, not at the discretion of the Execu-
tive. The right to claim damages in a
civil action for illegal detention, and the
rule that " excessive bail must not be re-
quired," belong to this class of safeguards.

The last class is concerned with the
definition and regulation of the duties of
the police, especially in respect of subjeo-
ting suspected persons to a preliminary
judicial investigation. Depending, as
these safeguards do, on fine distinctions
as to when a "warrant" is necessary in
bringing an accused person before justices,
they cannot be here discussed : though, in
concluding, we may notice the Consti-
tutional principle under which "general
warrants, or warrants to apprehend all
persons suspected, without naming or
describing any specially, or to apprehend
all persons guilty of a crime therein speci-
fied, are illegal, and will not, like legal
warrnnts, protect the officer who executes
the IK.

tution of

a fair trial by twelve persons chosen at



The durability, the regularity, and the
popularity of the English Monarchy are
curiously illustrated by the statement
made by more than one writer on the Con-
stitution , th at from Egbert (802 a.d.) to
Edward VII., the blood of Cerdic, the first
King of Wessex (519 a.d.), has run in the
veins of every English Sovereign, with the
exception of Sweyn, Canute, Harold, and
William the Conqueror. (See p. 18.)

In Saxon times the Crown was essenti-
ally dependent upon the popular will. It
was not strictly hereditary. Preference
would be given eceteris parOms to the son
of a deceased king, but the chief object
was to obtain a leader capable of main-
taining the defence and the order of the
realm. It was held that the Witanagemdt,
or national council, had power to depose
an unworthy sovereign, and to revoke
grants of public land unwisely made by
him. The privileges and tne powers
of the King were nevertheless consider-
able. He was entitled to maintenance for
himself and his retinue on public journeys.

and to the produce of wrecks, tolls, mines,
fines, and forfeitures. He was tibe leader
of the national forces. He was the foun-
tain of justice, a court of appeal in the
last resort, with arbitrary powers both of
mercy and of punishment. The grounds
upon which William and Harold respec-
tively laid claim to the Crown of Saxon
England illustrate the position of the
Monarchy. Harold urged that his oath
of allegiance to William had been extorted
by force, that he could not promise a
Crown that was not his, that he had been
elected by the free will of the peopl e
William relied on the oath of Harold, who
had sworn fealty upon the sacred relics,
and on the choice of Edward the Con-

After the Norman Conquest, the power
of the Crown was greatly augmented.
This arose from the stem chai»cter of
William, from his authority as a military
conqueror, and from the change in the
tenure of land. At Salisbury, in 1085,
William received the fealty of all land-

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holders, both of those who held in chief
and of their tenants. All held from the
Crown. One of the peculiar attributes of
Uie feudal compact was thus infringed and
altered. The Crown became despotic for
150 years, and its exactions were tremen-
dous. At last, in 1215, Magna Charta laid
the foundations of English liberty. It
appears that this great statute was con-
firmed no less than thirty-two times, for
whenever money was required by the King
its renewal was demanded. It now stands
on the Statute Book as 25 Edward I.
(1297). Section 29 of this Act is the key-
stone of English history. "No freeman
shall be taken or imprisoned, or be dis-
seised of his freehold or liberties or free
customs, or be outlawed or exiled, or any
otherwise destroyed; nor will we pass
upon him nor condemn him but by lawful
judgment of his peers or by the law of
the land. We will sell to no man, we will
not deny or defer to any man either justice
or right." Personal freedom, security of
property, and liberty of movement, thus
became the essential rights of every

The Crown Was not strictly hereditary
until the time of Edward II. It was de-
clared to be hereditary by a Statute in
the 25th year of Edward in.

From the time of the confirmation of
the Great Charter (1297) to the accession
of the House of Tudor (1485), the preroga-
tive of the Crown was often exercised in
an arbitrary manner, though there was a
constant assertion of privilege on the part
of the Commons. Parliament met irregu-
larly, at the King's pleasure. The right
of purveyance, the sale of pardons, the
fines demanded on the accession or mar-
riage of an heir, gave occasion for exac-
tions that were heavy and uncertain.
Windsor Castle was built in the reign of
Edward HE., under the right of purvey-
ance, by which writs were issued to sheriffs
of counties to furnish such workmen as
might be required.

Under the House of Tudor, 1485—1603,
the Crown had great power. The country
was weary of civil war, and dreaded above
all things a disputed succession; the
nobles were exhausted, and had lost much
of their power, and the Commons had not
learned to use their strength. Henry Yll.,
by means of the Star Chamber, treated
with great rigour the nobles, the members
of Parliament, and the jurors who
offended him.

Henry VIII. was almost absolute, and
his proclamations had the force of law.
The reign of Edward VI. was inarked by a
milder rule, and by a repeal of the Statute
giving to the King s proclamation the force
of law.

Elizabeth, strong, despotic, and self-
willed, yet had the wisdom so essential to
a great ruler. She knew when and how to
yield, without loss of dignity or of power.
She was the first Sovereign under whom
the constitutional right of Parliament to
^rant supplies was recognised; and the

loans that were raised were punctually

The Stuarts were a very different race
(1605—1688). Through good and through
ill fortune, they clung to the idea of the
absolute power and privilece of the throne.
They forgot the great truth of the English
Constitution, that English law ought to
guide and to protect the highest and
the lowest in the realm alike. Yet great
Constitutional progress was made during
the reigns of the Stuart Kings, and the
power of the Commons was asserted and
established. The Petition of Bight presen-
ted to Charles I. in 1628 by the Commons,
prayed — (1) That no loan or tax be levied '
except by consent of Parliament. (2) That
no man might be imprisoned but by legal
process. (5) That soldiers and sailors should
not be billeted in private houses. To
these demands the King, after some delay,

Online LibraryNational Unionist Association of Conservative andThe Constitutional year book → online text (page 4 of 77)