صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

detrimental than the inconvenience of the present system. But it is idle to pretend that there cannot exist a pure tribunal in a country where local government prevails to the extent that it does in its burghs. Then over and above all this there is the incalculable, though none the less grave, loss to every interest that arises through bills, really necessary, being indefinitely postponed.

But in the case of Scotland the grievance is peculiarly hard. The business when done is not done well. It is too often either neglected, postponed, or run through in a very unsatisfactory manner in the small hours of the morning when the grey dawn is struggling through the stained glass windows of the Commons' Hall, or on a Saturday sitting towards the end of the session when members are not disposed seriously to work. It is almost useless discussing any matter of vital importance in a bill, unless the point raised be in accordance with the Government mandate; for, let the people of Scotland desire it ever so much, the advocacy of their representatives is ignored, and their votes are outnumbered. The Government

has always at command a sufficient number of English members who scarcely ever hear the debate but lounge about the smoking-room or the library, to defeat the action of the Scottish members. If any one doubts what we say, let him look into the reports of the discussions on the Crofters Bill, and the Fettes Endowment, during the current session, or any other Scottish measure at any time.

It is no wonder then that there is a strong spirit of dissatisfaction abroad, against the present system. It is no wonder that we in Scotland are determined to seize the present opportunity, and demand the right and power to legislate and administer in all matters relating to ourselves. Local Government in the counties will not suffice. There is no good in tinkering with the disease. Either we must have a Parliament at Edinburgh, or nothing at all. Nothing short of a Parliament, will remove the grievance. A Parliament at Edinburgh is the logical outcome of the extension of the Franchise. It is a recognition of the fundamental principle of democratic Government in giving the people their desires in everything, trusting to

their inherent sense of justice in the proper execution thereof.

To speak of a Parliament at Edinburgh, at once recalls to our minds the Parliament that existed there two hundred years ago. But we have no desire to return to the condition of affairs that existed at that period. Nor do we agree with those that opposed the Union. To join England was irksome in the extreme to the nationalist or patriotic party headed by Lord Belhaven and Fletcher of Saltoun, that opposed the Union. Their ideal Government would never be realized. Scottish nationality, a separate and an independent national life, moral, social, and political, would be lost. It seemed as if a kingdom of no obscure history and literature, full of high memories, not decayed or barbarised were about to lose its identity, its national existence, and be degraded into a province; and relying on the respectable authority of Buchanan, they supposed that it had existed from the beginning of time. The national party knew nothing of half measures. Either Scotland was to cease, and there were to be Scotsmen no longer, or they were both to exist as they had existed since the war of independence. The idea of political identity with a larger, richer and more powerful nation—of a system of centralization which should embrace all the springs of internal Government and external defence, whilst it left untouched not only the private rights of the citizen and his religious convictions which for a time at least might be protected by positive stipulation, but his modes of thinking and speaking, his habits of living and acting, everything, in short, which in our sense, constitutes a Scot-was to them utterly unintelligible. To reason otherwise was equivalent to saying that the same thing was at once to be and not to be.

Notwithstanding these Cassandra wailings, however, the Union was carried, and the worst fears of the patriotic party were to a certain extent realized. A kind of social collapse actually occurred, and during the forty years between the Union and the final suppression of the rebellion, the capital of Scotland particularly laboured under a depression of spirit unknown at any other period of its history. Everything became Anglicised. The Church, the universities, the higher schools, even the legal institutions, came under the English influence. We do not

question or condone the justification of the power thus exercised; we simply remark it to show that the predictions of Belhaven and Fletcher were not altogether erroneous.

Happily, however, Scotland revived from this apathy, and yearned after civil liberty. But these yearnings were boldly met by the judicial butcheries of Braxfield, Eskgrove and Hermand, and it was not until the Reform Bill was passed that Scotland was allowed to express her wants in a constitutional manner. From that epoch complaints have been raised from time to time as to the neglect of Scottish business, and the recent attempts to remedy the defect by the establishment of new offices, first of the appointment of an Under Secretary at the Home Office, and then of a Scottish Secretary, and reducing the work of the Lord Advocate, have been nothing more than a recognition of the evil; they have done little to effect an improvement.

Many proposals have been made from time to time to remedy the grievances which we have indicated. A leader writer in one of the Edinburgh newspapers, works out an ingenious plan in which it would seem he takes his model from the Presbyterian form of Church Government. The seventy-two members for Scotland are to meet at Edinburgh some time during the prorogued periods of the Imperial Parliament, to discuss all Scottish bills and to take a vote upon first the principle and then the details of the measure. The bill, if it passed safely through these stages, would go to Parliament at Westminster at the stage of report. The details would then be open to reconsideration.' The scheme is similar in many respects to one which the late Lord Clancarty used to advocate for Ireland. The principle upon which it is based recognises the right of the Scottish people to legislate for themselves. The scheme recommends itself by its simplicity and moderation. Indeed we think it is too moderate: it does not go to the root of the grievance. The writer complains in the same leader that the needs of Scotland are unattended to because of the press of work, but his scheme would do little to alleviate the press of work, at least little compared to the present needs of Scotland. He complains further that Mr. Chaplin and

his friends unjustly delay all useful Scottish reforms, instancing the case of the Crofters Bill, but his scheme would still give them the opportunity to interfere in matters with which they as Englishmen have no concern. No, it will not do; there is no half-way house between the present system and the system of Home Rule. The demand of the Scottish farmers for Home Rule or a local Parliament, is a much bolder one, and is we think more in accordance with the requirements of Scotland.

There is nothing very extraordinary in this demand for Home Rule. A system under which, while great territories and populations are united under one political system and common government, union is not carried down to every detail, but there is left to each province a certain power of dealing with provincial matters through its own representatives, is not a very alarming system to say the least. A principle which has guided countries to be so united by circumstances and position as to make it their common interest to be joined in one common state, yet so separate as to make it necessary for the domestic affairs of each of them to be managed by an administration of its own, is no new doctrine in political philosophy. Home Rule is the only kind of Government which history proves to be qualified to regulate truly free states. The business of any

free state cannot be well carried on if it is too much centralized on too large a scale. If we look back into history we find that really free states have been either small, or consisted of a federation under which much provincial self-government or Home Rule is left to the component parts. Accustomed as we are in England to a system of large consolidated states we are apt to look upon a federal system as a system of disunion, and therefore of weakness. In reality, however, federalism is a form of closer union. In countries, such as France, in which there has been too much consolidation and too much centralization, great difficulties have arisen. Self-government has been reconciled with Imperial unity under the British Crown in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The Imperial Parliament has adopted this as a fixed principle in dealing with all its Colonies of European race. Indeed, some of the shrewdest thinkers of all countries concur with Mr. Laing in holding that

the federal system is that towards which civilized society is naturally tending all over the world. Nature forbids, says Mr. Laing, by unalterable moral differences between people and people that one government can equally serve all. Federalism is a principle more akin to natural, free and beneficial legislation than this forced centralization. It is indeed only an application of the great principle of freedom which maintains local privileges against the despotism of central power. From the formation of the Achaian League to the incorporation of the German Provinces into one united Empire the principle has forced itself upon nations. The German Confederation established at the Congress of Vienna recognised it. For centuries each of the Swiss Cantons has preserved its perfect independence; they differ in religion, in language, and in race, yet they have found unity and security in one general confederation, and one general diet of them all. The great confederation of the States of America is only another example of the universality of the instinct which teaches that nations as well as individuals may combine, and that there is no inconsistency between the existence of a legislature regulating the internal affairs of each portion of the confederation and a central legislature directing with efficiency and unity the combined power of all.

But perhaps the most remarkable tribute to the principle of Federalism is to be found in the course taken by the British Parliament in 1867, when it was thought wise to incorporate into one dominion all the North American provinces of the British Crown. Each of these provinces has its separate legislature and separate administration. When the British Parliament combined them into one dominion each of them was left with a separate administration and a separate legislature, for its own domestic affairs. A common Parliament and a common administration were provided for the concerns of the Dominion.

It was a relation of this sort, but of course much more loose and ill-defined, that existed between the kingdoms of England and Scotland from 1603 to 1707, that has existed between the kingdoms of Sweden and Norway since 1815, and between the

« السابقةمتابعة »