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because they had pleased the men of the existing age, who will never be much disposed to new conceptions or profound thoughts. A sagacious and original constitutional monarch might go to his grave in peace if any man could. He would know that his best laws were in harmony with his age; that they suited the people who were to work them, the people who were to be benefited by them. And he would have passed a happy life. He would have passed a life in which he could always get his arguments heard, in which he could always make those who had the responsibility of action think of them before they acted—in which he could know that the schemes which he had set at work in the world were not the casual accidents of an individual idiosyncrasy, which are mostly much wrong, but the likeliest of all things to be right—the ideas of one very intelligent man at last accepted and acted on by the ordinary intelligent many.
But can we expect such a king, or, for that is the material point, can we expect a lineal series of such kings ? Every one has heard the reply of the Emperor Alexander to Madame de Stael, who favoured him with a declamation in praise of beneficent despotism. “Yes, Madame, but it is only a happy accident.” He well knew that the great abilities and the good intentions necessary to make an efficient and good despot never were continuously combined in any line of rulers. He knew that they were far out of reach of hereditary human nature. Can it be said that the characteristic qualities of a constitutional monarch are more within its reach ? I am
afraid it cannot. We found just now that the charac teristic use of an hereditary constitutional monarch, at the outset of an administration, greatly surpassed the ordinary competence of hereditary faculties. I fear that an impartial investigation will establish the same conclusion as to his uses during the continuance of an ad-: ministration.
If we look at history, we shall find that it is only during the period of the present reign that in England the duties of a constitutional sovereign have ever been well performed. The first two Georges were ignorant of English affairs, and wholly unable to guide them, whether well or ill ; for many years in their time the Prime Minister had, over and above the labour of managing parliament, to manage the woman-sometimesthe queen, sometimes the mistress--who managed the sovereign ; George III. interfered unceasingly, but he did harm unceasingly; George IV. and William IV. gave no steady continuing guidance, and were unfit to give it. On the Continent, in first-class countries, constitutional royalty has never lasted out of one generation. Louis Philippe, Victor Emmanuel, and Leopold are the founders of their dynasties; we must not reckon in constitutional monarchy any more than in despotic monarchy on the permanence in the descendants of the peculiar genius which founded the race. As far as experience goes, there is no reason to expect an hereditary series of useful limited monarchs.
If we look to theory, there is even less reason to expect it. A monarch is useful when he gives an effectual and
beneficial guidance to his ministers. But these ministers are sure to be among the ablest men of their time. They will have had to conduct the business of parliament so as to satisfy it: they will have to speak so as to satisfy it. The two together cannot be done save by a man of very great and varied ability. The exercise of the two gifts is sure to teach a man much of the world; and if it did not, a parliamentary leader has to pass through a magnificent training before he becomes a leader. He has to gain a seat in parliament; to gain the ear of parliament; to gain the confidence of parliament; to gain the confidence of his colleagues. No one can achieve these—no one, still more, can both achieve them and retain them, without a singular ability, nicely trained in the varied detail of life. What chance has an hereditary monarch such as nature forces him to be, such as history shows he is, against men so educated and so born ? He can but be an average man to begin with ; sometimes he will be clever, but sometimes he will be stupid ; in the long run he will be neither clever nor stupid : he will be the simple, common man who plods the plain routine of life from the cradle to the grave. His education will be that of one who has never had to struggle; who has always felt that he has nothing to gain; who has had the first dignity given him; who has never seen common life as in truth it is. It is idle to expect an ordinary man born in the purple to have greater genius than an extraordinary man born out of the purple; to expect a man whose place has always been fixed to have a better judgment than one who has lived by his judgment; to expect a
man whose career will be the same whether he is discreet or whether he is indiscreet to have the nice discretion of one who has risen by his wisdom, who will fall if he ceases to be wise.
The characteristic advantage of a constitutional king is the permanence of his place. This gives him the opportunity of acquiring a consecutive knowledge of complex transactions, but it gives only an opportunity. The king must use it. There is no royal road to political affairs : their detail is vast, disagreeable, complicated, and miscellaneous. A king, to be the equal of his ministers in discussion, must work as they work; he must be a man of business as they are men of business. Yet a constitutional prince is the man who is most tempted to pleasure, and the least forced to business. A despot must feel that he is the pivot of the State. The stress of his kingdom is upon him. As he is, so are his affairs. He may be seduced into pleasure ; he may neglect all else ; but the risk is evident. He will hurt himself; he may cause a revolution. If he becomes unfit to govern, some one else who is fit may conspire against him. But a constitutional king need fear nothing. He may neglect his duties, but he will not be injured. His place will be as fixed, his income as permanent, his opportunities of selfish enjoyment as full as ever. Why should he work ? It is true he will lose the quiet and secret influence which in the course of years industry would gain for him ; but an eager young man, on whom the world is squandering its luxuries and its temptations, will not be much attracted by the distant prospect of a moderate
influence over dull matters. He may form good intentions ; he may say, “ Next year I will read these papers; I will try and ask more questions; I will not let these women talk to me so." But they will talk to him. The most hopeless idleness is that most smoothed with excellent plans. 66 The Lord Treasurer,” says Swift, “ promised he will settle it to-night, and so he will say a hundred nights.” We may depend upon it the ministry whose power will be lessened by the prince's attention will not be too eager to get him to attend.
So it is if the prince come young to the throne; but the case is worse when he comes to it old or middle-aged. He is then unfit to work. He will then have spent the whole of youth and the first part of manhood in idleness, and it is unnatural to expect him to labour. A pleasureloving lounger in middle life will not begin to work as George III. worked, or as Prince Albert worked. The only fit material for a constitutional king is a prince who begins early to reign—who in his youth is superior to pleasure—who in his youth is willing to labour—who has by nature a genius for discretion. Such kings are among God's greatest gifts, but they are also among His rarest.
- An ordinary idle king on a constitutional throne will leave no mark on his time; he will do little good and as little harm; the royal form of cabinet government will work in his time pretty much as the unroyal. The addition of a cypher will not matter though it take precedence of the significant figures. But corruptio optima pessima. The most evil case of the royal form is far worse than the most evil case of the unroyal. It is easy to imagine,