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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Political Parties

Political Parties.

Hitherto I have been treating things as I view them, irrespective of their connection with or bearing upon what is known as political parties. I have been seeking to state from an unbiased point of view what I conceive to be are important matters requiring prompt dealing with in the interests of our people, and I have, suggested modes for such dealing. But you will say, and right so, "The Government of this country is carried on under party system, and we ask where you stand in this respect?" I will leave no doubt as to my position, we took our party system, as we did our Constitution, from England, and in its origin and development there is an interesting study. It may be traced back to George I., who owing his position entirely to the Whigs, and, Looking on the Tories as his natural enemies, appointed his Ministers for the first time from one side of the House only. But the mistake made was in allowing the ancient powers of the Crown (such as the appointment of Ministers), as they full away from the royal hands, to develop upon the Prime Minister, and not upon the people. It is the House of Commons, as the people's representatives, which should have been heir to royalty.

As it was, the Prime Minister appointed his own colleagues—men who would be loyal to him—Cabinet was developed; the brilliant brain of Pulteney devised "his Majesty's Opposition," and the party system was complete. Its development since those days has been all in the direction of placing more and more power in the hands of the Prime Minister, reducing the "private member" to the status of a mere voter, ordered about by Party Whips.

In short, government by Parliament has degenerated into government by party, this again into government by Cabinet, to be further resolved into government by a single person—an alternative despotism, tempered by abuse and vilification from the other side of the House.

Is this in any degree a truthful summary of the standing and operation of our Parliament and Ministry? 1 think it is, and yet, we are so circumstanced as to have to make the best of it, and evolve, if we can, good legislation from amid such unfavourable conditions and seek to make parties form and circle around principles worth contending for.

Drawn into Parliament in 1870 as a member of the great Greyite Party, which stood for what I then believed, as I do now, the rights of the whole people as against the domination of a privileged class, which held place, power and patronage to their own aggrandisement, I have never ceased to associate myself with the term—Liberalism, nor to deem myself anything but a Liberal. At the feet of Grey, from his lips and actions I drew in that inspiration which has ever since led me to champion the cause of the weak and the oppressed, and page 10 to resist wrong however highly placed the wrong-doer. During my association with him, as an humble member of his party, I, as far as in me lay, assisted to usher in the dawn of that new dispensation of justice and of hope which he heralded into the hearts of the people of this young land, and which, spreading its beneficent influence beyond, has moulded the thoughts, legislation and aspirations of the people of old. Grey, with all his faults and frailties, wrought a work for humanity which is not even yet fully understood. When I say I am a Liberal I desire to be such a one as he was, an apostle of equal opportunities as far as possible, for all, no spoiliator of a class, a lover of his fellow men, of unimpeachable probity, a scorner of jobs and jobbers, he has left a splendid example for, us to follow and an imperishable memory for us to cherish.

Liberal parties since then have, beyond all doubt, been guilty of mistakes in judgment and hi administration; they have at times departed from principle and committed errors which have brought shame to the faces of many Liberals throughout the country. High-handed proceedings, not far removed from autocracy, threatening the existence of real Parliamentary Government, have amazed us, but should or did all this cause us, who were of the Old Guard, to cease to be Liberals? In spite of the faults of such Ministries, the trend of their legislation has been in the right direction, and they have placed upon our Statute Books laws, which for beneficent character, will compare favourably with those of any legislature in the world. The Liberal Ministry and party of to-day is far from being immaculate, from being perfect, and I think 1 do good service by stating the opinion largely prevailing in" the country, that Ministers have not made the best use of their opportunities. With an Opposition, feeble in point of numbers and industry, the present Administration should have given to the country more real reforms than they have ventured upon. Some of the proposals I have been dealing with might, with the majority the Liberals possess in the House, have been given effect to long since. At times one is disposed to think that there is some terrible attractive force in the Treasury Bench, which does much to spoil statesmen, and often enervates a Ministry, even as it makes an Opposition, anxious to gain that bench, [unclear: faction] "Give us a loan, and let us alone," [unclear: sec] at times to be the dominant [unclear: desire] men in power. In the formation of [unclear: Man] istries also, the most use is not [unclear: made] the capable men who are embraced [unclear: with] in the Liberal Party, and I incline to [unclear: the] opinion that unless the present [unclear: Mini] is much improved by a [unclear: re-construct] and the introduction into it of [unclear: more] of capacity and progressive [unclear: leanings,] Liberal Party will soon have to [unclear: go in] I he wilderness or he led by [unclear: other] It is a love for the success of [unclear: Liberal] leads me to these reflections, and [unclear: the] sire to see the party stiffened [unclear: upon] gressive lines in part, induces me to [unclear: agee] desire to enter Parliament.