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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Representative Institutions

Representative Institutions.

Now, I promised to-night not only to speak about Democracy, but to say something about Representative Institutions. (A voice: "What about the gum diggers?") Now, our modern democracies have got many great advantages which the ancient democracies did not have, and one of these is the perfection of our representation and representative institutions. The older democracies were subject to very, very groat drawbacks in this respect. They did not have anything like the perfection of our representative system, nor even any approach to such a system. It is a device of a more advanced civilization to gather up the minds of the units of the nation and concentrate them in a single point, viz., the representative of the constituency. And, gentlemen, it is a grand device. I say then, that for a man to deserve to gather up that magnificent power into his own hands he can only do so properly by acting faithfully to the trust reposed in him. If our public men take over this glorious thing called "power" with a deep and true sense of its responsibilities, and instead of debasing their constituents by abominable bribery, act with honour and uprightness, we may have representative institutions such as the world has never seen. (Interruption.) Now, gentlemen, as we have these representative institutions at work amongst us, I want, to-night, to tell you one or two things about them. They are marked by great strength, but they are also subject to great weakness. At present democratic institutions in England are going through a period of considerable peril. Why? For this reason: because representative institutions and government necessarily involve the opposing of two great forces—the force that governs and the force that desires to govern. There is no room for any third, fourth, or fifth forces. We have to send a great mass of men to Parliament, and once there that mass has got to select from its own members men to be entrusted with the power of the Government of the country, and that House of Assembly page 8 must then fall into two great rank?. (Interruption.) I say it must fall into two great ranks—the ranks of those who uphold the existing Government of the country and the ranks of those who oppose that Government. As soon as the Government of the country has, by virtue of misconduct, or ill-doing, or by incapacity on its part, lost the confidence of the nation or the House, then the number opposing it grows larger and larger until it becomes the majority, in which event it casts that weak and incapable Government out of office and out of power. And then those who have gathered the concensus of opinion on the other side take their places as the Government.