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2-281 (Text)

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author,male,Select Committee on General Grievances,un addressee
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Clark, 1977
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The next constitutional grievance, to which the attention of your committee has been directed, is the total absence of all responsible government.
Nothing can more clearly evince the evil tendencies of that entire separation of the Legislative and Executive powers - which exists here at present, than the perfect indifference, if not contempt, with which the most important decisions and resolutions of your Honorable House have been treated by the head of the government during the course of this Session. Notwithstanding the insignificant minorities - in which the confidential servants and advisers (if any such there be) of the government have been left on every important subject - which has engaged the attention of the House during the present Session, the condemned policy and measures of the executive are still persevered in, as if they met the fullest concurrence and support of overwhelming majorities. Night after night the decisions of the representatives of the people - decisions, in many of the most important of which, some of the most experienced, and influential of the unofficial nominees of the Crown have concurred, have been utterly disregarded, and every possible expedient resorted to - in order to deprive the Council of that control over the public purse, which the Imperial Legislature on the one hand, and successive Secretaries of State, with the sanction of the Lords of the Treasury - on the other, have over and over again placed at its disposal.
It appears to your Committee that there is but one way of preventing the collisions which have thus unhappily commenced, from becoming permanent - to give the Legislative Council the necessary privileges of a representative body, which imply that control over the ministers, and administration of the Colony which belongs to responsible Government, properly so called, and which can only exist, where the decision of the majority can occasion the choice - as well as the removal of the functionaries - who are entrusted with the chief executive departments.
But to responsible Government there must belong responsible ministers, and since it is clear from the evidence of the Colonial Secretary and Colonial Treasurer, that, in their opinion, no legal responsibility whatever attaches to them for any advice they may give the Executive on any measures, however mischievous and destructive, which may be consequent on that advice; it follows that to ensure such due responsibility, the creation of some colonial tribunal for impeachments is an indispensable adjunct. 
And when - to the utter irresponsibility necessarily resulting from this unconstitutional unaccountability, is superadded the still further irresponsibility, which results from an enormous Civil List, assumed without the consent of the representatives of the people, and without the surrender of those hereditary Revenues which are its usual and constitutional accompaniment, and the retention of which, in conjunction with such Civil List, is sufficient, with moderate economy, to render the government altogether independent of any grants from the people, it cannot be denied that a purer system of despotism, under the semblance of popular representation, could hardly have been devised.
The utter state of pupilage, in which the Governors of our Colonies generally are now held, by that necessity for constant reference to Downing-street, which is imposed on them by their instructions, and the public inconveniences and mischiefs that accrue to the Colonies in general, from the distrust thus evinced on the part of the Home authorities of the ability or inclination of Governors to use that local knowledge which they possess, or acquire with due judgment and discretion, if attended with practical and serious evils in Colonies at the other side of the Atlantic, cannot but operate with aggravated injury in a community situated as we are, at the distance of half the circumference of the globe from this seat of Imperial reference and power.
Nor is it the least evil of this system, that it renders the term "Governor" a practical misnomer, and constitutes him who ought, in fact, as well as in name, to be the Queen's representative, fully armed with all the powers delegated to him by the Royal Commission, a mere subordinate officer; and what is worse, as far as the moral influence of his station goes, a mere Imperial officer, possessing on the one hand, in reality, little or no discretion in the wide range of administrative powers apparently confided to bins, but still held by the community over which he presides, from their inability to separate those measures, which are of his origination, from those which are not, accountable, on the other hand, for the whole of the mischievous policy of which he is the apparent author.
Possessed thus of a sufficient ostensibility of power to draw down upon him the just obloquy of bad measures, with but small means and generally still smaller inclination to risk by any disobedience to the mandates of superior authority, that chance of ultimate and higher appointments to which, the governments of Colonies are now generally considered by the occupants as mere stepping stones, - the practical operation of this system has been, to draw down upon the head of this mere automaton ruler, the denunciations and attacks of all parties - whose interests or privileges he assails, whether in obedience to instructions or otherwise. 
The constant irritations and vexations incident to such attacks, evidently tend to destroy all those sympathies between Governors and the Colonies, which used to exist under the old system of colonial administration, when the hands of those functionaries were comparatively unfettered, and when the Home Government, with juster views, as it appears to your committee, than prevail at present, acted on the belief, that there are in reality but few questions of a purely Imperial character, connected with the internal economy of Colonies, to need their control; and still fewer, where the amplest discretions may not safely be confided to the Queen's delegate on the spot.
The want of all sympathy between the head of the Executive and the Colony, which this state of things superinduces, is in itself a great evil - the want of the necessary information in Downing-street, to decide correctly on questions most generally of a purely local nature, thus habitually referred to the Home Government, and the wrong decisions and imperfect legislation, which are the necessary consequences, is a yet greater evil; but a greater evil still of this system, is, that it essentially impairs the real vigour of the Executive, by suspending its decisions, until distance and delay have weakened their force, and thus rendered them comparatively valueless, even when right, and utterly unsatisfactory, or odious, when wrong.
There is but one remedy for these evils responsible government, in the sense in which it is understood in England, and an absence of all interference on the part of the home authorities, except on questions purely Imperial, or on matters referred to them by way of appeal, where the Executive and Legislative bodies happen to differ.