WILLIAM IV AND VICTORIA (TO 1880)
So many changes in English government have been made during the hundred-odd years since the accession of William IV that, for the purpose of this volume, the period has to be divided. And as the reign of Victoria can be broken without serious inconvenience to the student, the present section has been ended with the year 1880. The half-century thus arbitrarily set apart was dominated by the advance of parliamentary reform. The great act of 1832 entirely reconstructed the house of commons, abandoning a five-hundred-year-old scheme of representation (cf. nos. 49F, 60A), superseding the electoral law of 1429 for the counties (no. 69E), and establishing for the first time a uniform borough franchise. The result was to place the kingdom under control of the middle class a settlement which continued until Disraeli made his famous "leap" toward democratic suffrage in 1867 (no. 131H).
Meanwhile other articles of the liberals' programme had been carried out. Between 1832 and 1835 slavery was abolished throughout the empire, state supervision of factories was made effective, the administration of poor relief was modernized, and another innovation a single plan of municipal government was extended to all the boroughs. No equivalent reform was as yet devised for the counties, but two of Victoria's earlier statutes (no. 131 A, D) were preliminary efforts in that direction. The Ballot Act may be regarded as a necessary supplement to the parliamentary franchise law of 1867. By the Education Act, 1870, the state definitely undertook the responsibility of providing schools for the masses. And three years later the Judicature Act, sweeping aside a body of traditions that ran back to the age of Magna Carta, reconstituted the whole English court system.
Another prominent feature of legislation during the middle nineteenth century was the establishment of free trade. This new policy, however, was put into effect through such gradual revision that it cannot be well explained by quoting a few enactments. So the triumph of laissez faire principles has been illustrated by the repeal of the ancient statutes limiting commerce by sea (no. 131D). It is likewise impossible in the following pages to give examples of structural changes throughout the empire at large. Most of the British possessions the military posts, the naval stations, India, and the plantations in the tropics must here be passed over. But since the British constitution of to-day cannot be understood apart from arrangements made with the great dominions, it has seemed advisable to include the act that created the first of them, Canada (no. 131G). Besides, a number of documents have been added to show how the North American colonies, before their confederation, had come to enjoy responsible government (no. 133).
The reactions of various parliamentary leaders to the new colonial policy will be found in no. 132D. The other discussions under the same heading are mainly concerned with the advance of democracy and its effect upon certain old problems, such as the responsibility of ministers to public opinion and theories of representation. And in this connection it is worth noting that the questions debated in parliament were no longer such as might come before the courts for adjudication. Of the trials briefly reported under no. 134, only Stockdale v. Hansard, with its sequel of the following year, evokes memories of an age when parliamentary privilege was a matter of violent controversy.
In the study of the nineteenth-century constitution the following books, some of which have been cited earlier, are especially important: A. V. Dicey, The Law of the Constitution, and Law and Public Opinion in the Nineteenth Century; W. R. Anson, The Law and Custom of the Constitution; W. Bagehot, The English Constitution (edited with an introductory essay by Earl Balfour); T. E. May, Constitutional History of England (vol. III by F. Holland); C. S. Emden, Principles of British Constitutional Law, and The People and the Constitution; E .C. S. Wade and G. C. Phillips, Constitutional Law; D. L. Keir and F. H. Lawson, Cases in Constitutional Law; G. C. Robertson, Select Statutes, Cases, and Documents; D. O. Dykes, Source Book of Constitutional History from 1660; A. L. Lowell, The Government of England; H. D. Traill, Central Government; Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Local Government; I. Redlich and F. W. Hirst, Local Government in England; C. Seymour, Electoral Reform in England and Wales; F. Hardie, The Political Influence of Queen Victoria.
There are many excellent works dealing with responsible government and imperial federation: among them, A. B. Keith, Responsible Government in the Dominions; H. E. Egerton, Federations and Unions within the British Empire; C. Martin, Empire and Commonwealth; P. Knaplund, Gladstone and Britain's Imperial Policy; G. M. Wrong, Charles Buller and Responsible Government; K. N. Bell and W. P. Morrell, Select Documents on British Colonial Policy, 1830-1860; W. P. M. Kennedy, The Constitution of Canada.