By Walter Bagehot
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I much wish that I were able to recast them, for such a series must have many defects when presented as a continuous book; but many occupations forbid me to hope that I could accomplish this within any moderate limits of time, and as the opinions here set forth (whatever may be their value) have at least cost me much time and thought, I venture to publish them in the only form I can. The arguments of the ﬁrst essay, if it had been re-written, might have been exceedingly illustrated by the present contest between the President and the Congress of the United States: but I leave it to stand as it was published a few days after Lincoln’s death, when Mr Johnson was said to be a violent anti-Southerner, and no such quarrel was thought of.
The executive is crippled by not getting the laws it needs, and the legislature is spoiled by having to act without responsibility; the executive becomes unﬁt for its name since it cannot execute what it decides on: the legislature is demoralised by liberty, by taking decisions of which others (and not itself) will suﬀer the eﬀects. In America so much has this diﬃculty been felt that a semi-connection has grown up between the legislature and the executive. When the Secretary of the Treasury of the Federal Government wants a tax he consults upon it with the Chairman of the Financial Committee of Congress.
It has a hundred ramiﬁcations; it runs through society; it gives hope to many, and it takes away hope from many. It is one of those marked events which, by its magnitude and its melodrama, impresses men even too much. And debates, * I leave this passage to stand as it was written, just after the assassination of Mr Lincoln, and when every one said Mr Johnson would be very hostile to the South. The Cabinet which have this catastrophe at the end of them – or may so have it – are sure to be listened to and sure to sink deep into the national mind.
Bagehot: The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot