By Walter Bagehot
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Additional info for Bagehot: The English Constitution
A very large constituency in quiet times is the necessary, almost the legitimate, subject of electioneering management: a man cannot know that he does not throw his vote away except he votes as part of some great organisation; and if he votes as a part, he abdicates his electoral function in favour of the managers of that association. The nation, even if it chose for itself, would, in some degree, be an unskilled body; but when it does not choose for itself, but only as latent agitators wish, it is like a large, lazy man, with a small, vicious mind – it moves slowly and heavily, but it moves at the bidding of a bad intention; it ‘means little, but it means that little ill’.
The brief description of the characteristic merit of the English Constitution is, that its digniﬁed parts are very complicated and somewhat imposing, very old and rather venerable; while its eﬃcient part, at least when in great and critical action, is decidedly simple and rather modern. We have made, or, rather, stumbled on, a constitution which, though full of every species of incidental defect, though of the worst workmanship in all out-of-the-way matters of any constitution in the world, yet has two capital merits: it contains a simple eﬃcient part which, on occasion, and when wanted, can work more simply and easily, and better than any instrument of government that has yet been tried; and it contains likewise historical, complex, august, theatrical parts, which it has inherited from a long past, which take the multitude, which guide by an insensible but an omnipotent inﬂuence the associations of its subjects.
The Postulates of English Political Economy’ published in the Fortnightly Review, ﬁrst part of projected study of political economy, some of the materials for which were later arranged by Hutton and Sir Robert Giﬀen as Economic Studies (); series of seventeen articles on depreciation of silver reprinted as pamphlet by The Economist. Having been consulted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Northcote, devised treasury bills; died March at Langport, following a chill. xxix Note on the text and annotation The text provided here is that of the ﬁrst () edition of The English Constitution, omitting the ‘Appendix on Reform’, which comprises pp.