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Chapter 1 - The Eighteenth-Century House of Commons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2019

William Selinger
Affiliation:
University College London
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Summary

This chapter distinguishes two eighteenth-century accounts of the English constitution. The first, Montesquieu’s, advocated a balanced constitution. The second, which would become the classical theory of parliamentarism, accepted constitutional imbalance. Authors subscribing to this second approach believed that England was a free state because the House of Commons was the most powerful actor. They thought representative assemblies were best equipped to secure political liberty. And while they recognized that representative assemblies could threaten liberty, they were convinced that two practices had emerged to prevent this from happening, which did not require the Crown and Lords to exercise prerogatives equal to the Commons: first, the involvement of ministers in Parliament, and, second, the sheer presence of a constitutional monarch. Through these two practices, England could enjoy all the benefits of a powerful legislature without any risk of legislative usurpation. While this chapter ranges widely, especial attention will be paid to Jean Louis de Lolme and to the debates over parliamentary corruption and parliamentary opposition that occurred during the ministry of Robert Walpole.

Type
Chapter
Information
Parliamentarism
From Burke to Weber
, pp. 18 - 58
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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