The British Constitution

The British Constitution

The British Constitution

The British Constitution

Excerpt

There were many writers upon the British Constitution before Walter Bagehot, but they were mostly lawyers and detached observers of structure, whereas he, with his daily contacts with Ministers and Government Departments, saw motive and method from within. He was sensitive to the differences between theory and practice, and the regularity with which outmoded practice became newly accepted theory. He gave the subject at once the actuality of the finest journalism and yet brought it for the first time under the scientific discipline of analysis and established causation. He fitted it too to be an item in an academic curriculum. Fortunately for us, he did not wait, like Courtney, to reach his seventies before garnering the fruit of a long experience of government from within, but his forty years of age were ripe with accumulated impressions. Books on this subject then came out at long intervals and each in turn was absorbed as the authority for its decade. To-day they pour from the press, mostly by professional and professorial observers of government from more or less detached angles, most of them excellent in their own field, and each contriving, owing to the greater width and richness of the subject-matter, to present novel aspects and original comment. Bagehot spoke of the main difficulty of his task as involved in the fact that the object "is in constant change, a 'living' thing", which must be seized for a static picture at some point of time. Courtney, also, said the unique characteristic of our constitution is that it is subject to constant and continuous growth and change. "It is a living organism, absorbing new facts and transforming itself." But modern writers do not dwell much on this difficulty . . .

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