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THE time was, we are told, when a knowledge of the laws of his country was a part of the liberal education of an English gentleman. gentleman.

The great mass and confusion of the Statutes at large have long made this impossible; and a commission in the Guards is often the modern substitute for attendance at one of the Inns of Court, in the case of a future country magistrate. But an exception to the rule that confines the knowledge of Acts of Parliament to the trained lawyer may well be made, when the Statutes are in question, which embody (to a great extent at least) the political Constitutions which have been evolved by the needs of the peoples of Canada, Australia and South Africa. At a time when our own unwritten Constitution is in the melting-pot, it is surely a matter of importance that we should know the exact significance of the precedents which, with a light heart, our selfconstituted political guides quote to us from their respective platforms.

'So, do I find example, rule of life;

So, square and set in order the new page.'

An apology is, then, perhaps scarcely needed for putting together in a handy form these 'fundamental Constitutions', together with some other documents which may assist in their elucidation, introduced by an historical account of the circumstances in which they rose. To the professed lawyer and historian

a book of this kind may appear a hybrid, possessing the weak points of either of its parent stocks; but, on the other hand, it may be hoped that the end justifies the means.

I have advisedly not included the Constitution of New Zealand. The shadowy kind of federation adumbrated by the establishment of the six Provinces can hardly take rank among federal Governments, even during the short period of the existence of these Provinces; and in other respects the Constitution of New Zealand was similar to the Constitutions of the other Australasian Colonies.

I have to express my warm thanks for corrections and advice to Professor W. L. Grant, of Queen's University, Kingston; to Mr. A. Berriedale Keith, of the Colonial office, author of Responsible Government in the Dominions, and to Mr. E. Barker, Fellow and Tutor of St. John's College, Oxford. Professor Grant found time before leaving England to read the book through in MS.; Mr. Keith has generously placed at my disposal his probably unrivalled knowledge, at least in this country, of these Statutes, and Mr. Barker read my Introduction, and made some valuable suggestions with regard to its concluding part.


January, 1911.


In the present Edition I have sought to bring down to the present time the references to the state of things and of law prevailing in the Dominions.

June, 1924.

H. E. E.


WHATEVER be the ultimate future of the British Empire as a whole, we may safely affirm that, with the accomplishment of South African union, the great oversea dominions have, so far as the main principles of their Constitutions are concerned, reached their final stage of development. It is possible, though past experience forbids us to prophesy, that Newfoundland may throw in its lot with the Dominion of Canada. It is possible, though extremely improbable, that at some future date New Zealand may become part of an Australasian Commonwealth. It is practically certain that before very long Rhodesia will be part and parcel of the South African Union. But such changes, important as they would be, would not greatly modify the general lines of Canadian, Australian, and South African constitutional development.

The moment then seems convenient to put together in a handy volume the three Statutes which explain the working of the federal and unifying principle within portions of the British Empire. A few other documents have been added containing attempts at federation made at an earlier date by Colonial and English statesmen, and some notes have been appended to illustrate the text. When is remembered, however, that Mr. Wheeler's elaborate commentary on the Confederation Law of Canada contains over eleven hundred pages, and that the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth by Quick and Garran contains over a thousand, the need for compression will become at once apparent.

Before approaching the Acts themselves, it is necessary

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