Thoughts on the Constitution

Thoughts on the Constitution

Thoughts on the Constitution

Thoughts on the Constitution

Excerpt

When my friend Warden Sumner of All Souls recently told me that I could not spend the enforced leisure resulting from a change of government more usefully than by giving a series of lectures on our present-day Constitution I naturally began by pleading the inadequacy of my historical and legal equipment for such a task. It was nearly fifty years since I had scraped through the Constitutional Law part of my Bar Examination on two days' reading of Dicey, and I had not looked at the subject since. His retort was that I had lived with it. He did not, indeed, quote at me Spinoza's dictum that political philosophy is better written by politicians than by philosophers. But he argued that with a Constitution, like ours, in a continuous state of evolution, one who had been in direct touch with its working over more than a generation might be in a better position to give an up-to-date, and possibly forward-looking, appreciation of its present shape, balance, and tendencies than even the best- informed writers dependent on published material. To that argument I could muster no sufficient answer.

My acquaintance with public affairs goes back, in fact, now just over fifty years to the time when I was private secretary to a senior member of Parliament, Mr. Leonard Courtney (afterwards Lord Courtney of Penwith), and owing to his blindness was allowed to attend debates regularly, sitting 'under the gallery', i.e. practically in the House itself. Some ten years on the . . .

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