Page images

table. For a ripe scholar such as Dr. Hearn, who had grown up with and personally influenced the developement of the Constitution of Victoria, it was easy to explain and illustrate the subject, using the statutes as occasional evidence. But to myself, and, I believe, also to my students, such a course was

not open.


In the circumstances, it seemed best for me to throw myself frankly on the confidence of my class, explaining to

them the situation in which I was placed, begging their for· bearance for imperfections, and promising them at the earliest possible moment something in the way of a text-book. I felt that this latter promise was especially due to those country students who, though obliged to pass the examinations, were unable to attend lectures. Upon them the circumstances bore especially hard.

I have now to thank the members of my class for the readiness with which they entered into my views, and the consideration which they extended to my shortcomings. During the lecture terms of the years 1889 and 1890, I was able, by dint of hard work, just to keep pace with their requirements.

In fulfilment of my promise, I bring out this little book, having been more intensely convinced, as I have written each page of it, that the subject of which it treats cannot be grasped by an ordinary student without some other guide than the statute-book.

It will be seen, then, that this work is primarily a textbook for university students. It is not, and does not pretend to be, a manual for practitioners. I have not attempted to go, for example, into the details of election law or the practice of Parliamentary Committees. I have, in all cases, subordinated the professional to the scientific side of the subject. It has, in fact, been my steady aim to show that the body of government is not a mere collection of casual mandates, the arbitrary result of the surrender of individual independence to the control of the aggregate, but the vital offspring of the working of the spirit of order upon the chaos of circumstance, a true organism with a verifiable past and a conjectural future, with a structure well worth careful study, and with limbs and members whose function it is to effect and apply the political ideals of the community. With this object, I have commenced by sketching

[blocks in formation]

the organism in its earlier stages of developement; when I have arrived at its present form, I have abandoned the historical method (except in a few details), and have subjected it to a process of dissection and analysis.

But although I have written primarily for university students, I have ventured to hope that my book will have an interest also for a wider class of students. Among the everincreasing number of those who study the course of political developement, and the nature of political phenomena, there may be a few who will be glad to have a report upon the growth of English principles in a new atmosphere. There is so much in that atmosphere which reproduces the conditions of their ancestral home, that these principles have taken root with amazing firmness. On the other hand, so much is different, or

. rather, so much is wanting, that the variations which have followed from the change of climate seem to me intensely interesting and instructive. Many tendencies, at present only latent in English politics, or kept in check by powerful counterinfluences, have in Victoria run their unhindered course, and can therefore be studied under the valuable condition of abstraction. Knowing and sympathising with the desire of students such as I have alluded to for simple, unalloyed facts, I have, so far as possible, avoided comment or expression of opinion in the body of the book. In the concluding chapter only, I have permitted myself to moralise. It is easy to skip a concluding chapter.

I should like also to think that a few of the more practically-minded persons who actually carry on the business of politics would make use of my work. I do not offer them views or opinions, but simply facts, and I have been amazed to find how many persons in important political positions (I do not allude specially to Victorian examples) are ignorant of the elementary facts of their subject. But, apart from these cases, in a country where every adult male has at least some influence on politics, there should be no lack of interest in political information. What, after all, is the good of democracy, unless it increases the intelligent interest taken by the members of the community in the problems of government ?

And the first condition of such interest is an adequate knowledge of the elementary facts of the case.

One word upon the title of my book. I have not (as I first intended) called it “The Public Law of Victoria," because I have thought that such a title might imply a more detailed statement of professional law than I intend to give. I have avoided the obvious name of “The Constitution of Victoria," because it seems to be the custom with English writers to confine the term Constitution ” to a very narrow sphere, limited, practically, by the direct action of Parliament and the central executive. I am strongly convinced that this practice has tended to obscure that most important side of the citizen's existence which is covered by the action of the local authorities, and I do not think that there is any sound warrant for it. But I am bound by precedent, and I have therefore used the expression “The Government of Victoria,” to cover what I hope will prove to be a fairly complete, though by no means detailed account of the organs of government in Victoria at the close of the year 1890. Of the merits of those organs, judged by their practical results, I have said very little. That is a topic which I hope to take up in a later and more comprehensive work. But though I have not put in the shading, I trust that I have not omitted any important features in my sketch.

It now only remains for me to perform the grateful task of thanking those who have so kindly come to my assistance with information and encouragement. For the plan and execution of the book I am alone responsible. Notwithstanding that I have verified every relation which seemed to me of any real importance by reference to the original authorities, I dare not hope that I have avoided errors, and for such errors as there may be, I alone am to blame. But my special gratitude is due to Sir Henry Parkes, G.C.M.G., Premier of New South Wales, to the Hon. H. J. Wrixon, Q.C., late Attorney-General of Victoria, and to my colleague, the Hon. F. S. Dobson, Q.C., Chairman of Committees in the Legislative Council of Victoria, for the valuable help which their official experience and position have enabled them, and their courtesy has prompted them to afford me in explaining the actual working of the traditional machinery of government; to Mr. Donald Mackinnon, M.A., of Lincoln's Inn and the Victorian Bar, who has brought his great knowledge of the modern

[blocks in formation]

statute law of Victoria to bear upon my proof-sheets; and to Messrs. Dowden and Armstrong, of the Public Library, Melbourne, for their constant endeavours to lighten my always severe, and sometimes irksome labours in that valuable institution. The help of other friends has been acknowledged in the footnotes, in connection with the special matters in which their assistance has been so valuable.

MELBOURNE, August 1891.

« PreviousContinue »