Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 1914. THE KING AS DESPOT.
There was no confirmation or denial, yesterday, of the extraordinary statement cabled from London on Saturday that .His Majesty the \ King- had intervened in the Heme Eule crisis and had " insisted that a general election shall immediately follow the passage-'of Home Eule Bill." The report was so unexpected, and the possibilities resulting from such intervention by the King are so mpmentpps, that it is-not to be wondered at that considerable doubt has been expressed as to whether there js any basis for 'the rumour. What seems to lend force to the doubt as to its exact accuracy is the statement that the 'King's ultimatum provided for a general election after the passage of the Bill. It is not clear what object such a course would serve, exceptto re-open a controversy wjiich the enactment of the BiU'would,! I at least so "Par as Britain is con-! cerned, practically put an end to. Presuming:,that; the positioh is as stated by the cable; Mr Asquith is placed xfpoii the horns of as awkward a' dilemma as ever occurred to perplex a British Prime. aviinister, To call a halt 1 in the progress of the , Bill would mean the instant 'revolt of ; the Irish Party and the disappearance of the Liberal majority. A dissolu-, tion would mean a defeat, and all 1 the great • projects of the party would be involved' in the wrecks age that would, ensue. ; And to' ', consent to a referendum;,'■^^would be to: break every promise.•'.made to, the Natio_ialists v , A this heap of troubles His Majesty the King places his surprise packet of a 'general election. One's mind travels back over history in yam to find a parallel. John Hampden may have experienced a perplexity akin to that surrounding Mr Asquith's problem; but he had full warrant for his disregard of kingly instruc- ■ tions_ in . the knowledge of ! unanimous public approval. It , was known, of course, that the - King has been endeavouring to 1 mediate, between the leaders of } botji parties, and it has even beenij
urged that he could, in the last resort, refuse to sigh the Bill, and so compel an appeal to the electorates—and if George ¥..■.■ were Charles I. perhaps he might do this. Perhaps, also, he might find the present Parliament as little disposed to fall in with his views;. As the Long Parliament was to humour the whims of the erratic Charles. The King's acts are the acts of his Ministers. If a measure is passed through Parliament, and is presented to his Majesty for '.'.-. signature, !it is absurd to think that he is entitled to judge whether the measure is wise or! foolish, and to consent, or, not to consent, as, he might determine. This would make him a despot, and not a constitutional monarch; And if a< general elec- • tioh were secured by such a del vice, the .Issue would be, not Home Eule, but whether the British Constitution is .Parlia- ' or..despotic. And the position,',..would" be accentuated 1 , under the circumstances outlined in th,e cable. The" King '•-, would ; antagonise : not only "what '• the. cable terms! ,the ' f dominant' political party;" "but the vast numbers of British,-subjects, at Home and overseas who honestly believe that the Irish people are entitled to have precloihiriant control over their own aifairs.; | And to British people, standing apart for the moment from any, partici-pation'iff-the/ethics' of the Home' Eule question,, a'disquieting precedent would be -established by the least. semblance of intervention on the . part of the King; The modern constitutional doctrine is fatal to that suggestion.