IN the play of practical politics there is little scope for that precision which is claimed for jurisprudence or political science. It is possible that studies in politics, however scrupulously historical, may be thought to share the same infirmity. A preface which is the last page of a book to be written and the first to be read may be a convenient place to forecast the nature of these studies without seeming to anticipate the evidence.
The development from the first Empire in America to the modern Commonwealth falls into three clearly marked cycles. The first closed in revolution for all but four or five of the American provinces. Without the concession of 'responsible government' at the middle of the next century, the second Empire, in the opinion of both Elgin and Grey, would have invited the same disaster. Responsible government has since been conceded to a score of British provinces and Dominions, with results that have transformed the second Empire into the Commonwealth.
At each crisis of this trilogy certain decisive factors have been political. For the first, the economic and social background was so complex, on both sides of the Atlantic, that much of it came only subconsciously into the political issues of that day. At the second crisis, however, the lines are more clearly drawn. Responsible government was a political achievement, and it was won by the most distinctive and dynamic agency known to politics after the British model--the agency of dominant political parties. At their best, these parties in Nova Scotia and the old province of Canada conformed to the spirit of Burke's classic definition. They were bodies of men 'united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.' Let it be added that this applies, at the climax of the contest, to Johnston and the Nova Scotia Tories as well as to the followers of Howe, Uniacke, and Huntington. The economic and social background is still as widely varied as the scattered provinces of the second Empire. The evidence here, in each case, must tell