The Constitutional Structure of the Commonwealth

By K. C. Wheare | Go to book overview

IV. AUTOCHTHONY

I

AUTONOMY is one fundamental principle in the constitutional structure of the Commonwealth. But for some Members of the Commonwealth it is not enough to be able to say that they enjoy a system of government which is in no way subordinate to the government of the United Kingdom. They wish to be able to say that their constitution has force of law and, if necessary, of supreme law within their territory through its own native authority and not because it was enacted or authorized by the parliament of the United Kingdom; that it is, so to speak, 'home grown', sprung from their own soil, and not imported from the United Kingdom. They assert not the principle of autonomy only: they assert also a principle of something stronger, of self-sufficiency, of constitutional autarky or, to use a less familiar but accurate word, a principle of constitutional autochthony,1 of being constitutionally rooted in their own native soil.

The working out of these ideas has produced some radical changes in the constitutional structure of the Commonwealth. They were of great importance in the making of the constitutions of India and Pakistan, and it is for this reason that those constitutions were not discussed in the previous chapter in relation to the principle of autonomy. And there is good reason to believe that in other Members of the Commonwealth autochthony will become a characteristic of their constitutional arrangements.2

The issues involved were very clearly and forcefully pre-

____________________
1
From the Greek αὐτόχθων--'sprung from that land itself' (O.E.D.).
2
This could be expressed in Kelsen's language by saying that each Member of the Commonwealth will be seeking a separate Grundnorm, and that the days of the common Grundnorm are numbered. I do not discuss the subject in these terms, partly through incompetence but chiefly because the late R. T. E. Latham pursued this interesting little animal as profitably as it can be done in his brilliant supplement entitled "'The Law and the Commonwealth'" to W. K. Hancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs, 1918-36, vol. i, and published separately in 1949.

-89-

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