NATURE OF CONVENTIONS OF
Questions remaining to be answeredIn an earlier part of this work stress was laid upon the essential distinction between the “law of the constitution,” which, consisting (as it does) of rules enforced or recognised by the Courts, makes up a body of “laws” in the proper sense of that term, and the “conventions of the constitution,” which consisting (as they do) of customs, practices, maxims, or precepts which are not enforced or recognised by the Courts, make up a body not of laws, but of constitutional or political ethics; and it was further urged that the law, not the morality of the constitution, forms the proper subject of legal study. In accordance with this view, the reader's attention has been hitherto exclusively directed to the meaning and applications of two principles which pervade the law of the constitution, namely, the Sovereignty of Parliament and the Rule of Law.
But a lawyer cannot master even the legal side of the English constitution without paying some attention to the nature of those constitutional understandings which necessarily engross the attention of historians or of statesmen. He ought to ascertain, at any rate, how, if at all, the law of the constitution is connected with the conventions of the constitution; and a lawyer who undertakes this task will soon find that in so doing he is only following one stage farther the path on which we have already entered, and is on the road to discover the last and most striking instance of that supremacy of the law which gives to the English polity the whole of its peculiar colour.
My aim therefore throughout the remainder of this book is to define, or ascertain, the relation or connection between the legal and the conventional elements in the constitution, and to point out the way in which a just appreciation of this connection throws light upon several subordinate questions or problems of constitutional law.
This end will be attained if an answer is found to each of two questions: What is the nature of the conventions or understandings of the constitution? What is the force or (in the language of jurisprudence) the “sanction” by which is enforced obedience to the conventions of the constitution? These answers will themselves throw light on the subordinate matters to which I have made reference.
Nature of constitutional understanding. The salient characteristics, the outward aspects so to speak, of the understandings which make up the constitutional morality of modern England, can hardly be better described than in the words of Mr. Freeman:
We now have a whole system of political morality, a whole code of precepts for the guidance of public men, which will not be found in any page of either the statute or the common law, but which are in practice held hardly less sacred than any principle embodied in the Great Charter or in the Petition of Right. In short, by the side of our written Law, there has grown up an unwritten or conventional Constitution. When an Englishman speaks of the conduct of a public man being constitutional or unconstitutional, he means something wholly different from what he means by conduct being legal or illegal. A famous vote of the House of Commons, passed on the motion of a great statesman, once declared that the then Ministers of the Crown did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons, and that their continuance in office was therefore at variance with the spirit of the constitution. The truth of such a position, according to the traditional principles on which public men have acted for some generations, cannot be disputed; but it would be in vain to seek for any trace of such doctrines in any page of our written Law. The proposer of that motion did not mean to charge the existing Ministry with any illegal act, with any act which could be made the subject either of a prosecution in a lower court or of impeachment in the High Court of Parliament itself. He did not mean that they, Ministers of the Crown, appointed during the pleasure of the Crown, committed any breach of the Law of which the Law could take cognisance, by retaining possession of their offices till such time as the Crown should think good to dismiss them from those offices. What he meant was that the general course of their policy was one which to a majority of the House of Commons did not seem to be wise or beneficial to the nation, and that therefore, according to a conventional code as well understood and as effectual as the written Law itself, they were bound to resign offices of which the House of Commons no longer held them to be worthy.
The one exception which can be taken to this picture of our conventional constitution is the contrast drawn in it between the “written law” and the “unwritten constitution”; the true opposition, as already pointed out, is between laws properly so called, whether written or unwritten, and understandings, or practices, which, though commonly observed, are not laws in any true sense of that word at all. But this inaccuracy is hardly more than verbal, and we may gladly accept Mr. Freeman's words as a starting-point whence to inquire into the nature or common quality of the maxims which make up our body of constitutional morality.
Examples of constitutional understanding. The following are examples of the precepts to which Mr. Freeman refers, and belong to the code by which public life in England is (or is supposed to be) governed. “A Ministry which is outvoted in the House of Commons is in many cases bound to retire from office.” “A Cabinet, when outvoted on any vital question, may appeal once to the country by means of a dissolution.” “If an appeal to the electors goes against the Ministry they are bound to retire from office, and have no right to dissolve Parliament a second time.” “The Cabinet are responsible to Parliament as a body, for the general conduct of affairs.” “They are further responsible to an extent, not however very definitely fixed, for the appointments made by any of their number, or to speak in more accurate language, made by the Crown under the advice of any member of the Cabinet.” “The party who for the time being command a majority in the House of Commons, have (in general) a right to have their leaders placed in office.” “The most influential of these leaders ought (generally speaking) to be the Premier, or head of the Cabinet.” “There are precepts referring to the position and formation of the Cabinet. It is, however, easy to find constitutional maxims dealing with other topics. treaties can be made without the necessity for any Act of Parliament; but the Crown, or in reality the Ministry representing the Crown, ought not to make any treaty which will not command the approbation of Parliament.” “The foreign policy of the country, the proclamation of war, and the making of peace ought to be left in the hands of the Crown, or in truth of the Crown's servants. But in foreign as in domestic affairs, the wish of the two Houses of Parliament or (when they differ) of the House of Commons ought to be followed.” “The action of any Ministry would be highly unconstitutional if it should involve the proclamation of war, or the making of peace, in defiance of the wishes of the House.” “If there is a difference of opinion between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the House of Lords ought, at some point, not definitely fixed, to give way, and should the Peers not yield, and the House of Commons continue to enjoy the confidence of the country, it becomes the duty of the Crown, or of its responsible advisers, to create or to threaten to create enough new Peers to override the opposition of the House of Lords, and thus restore harmony between the two branches of the legislature.” “Parliament ought to be summoned for the despatch of business at least once in every year.” “If a sudden emergency arise, e.g. through the outbreak of an insurrection, or an invasion by a foreign power, the Ministry ought, if they require additional authority, at once to have Parliament convened and obtain any powers which they may need for the protection of the country. Meanwhile Ministers ought to take every step, even at the peril of breaking the law, which is necessary either for restoring order or for repelling attack, and (if the law of the land is violated) must rely for protection on Parliament passing an Act of Indemnity.”
Common characteristic of constitutional understanding These rules (which I have purposely expressed in a lax and popular and manner), and a lot more of the same kind, make up the constitutional morality of the day. They are all constantly acted upon, and, since they cannot be enforced by any Court of law, have no claim to be considered laws. They are multifarious, differing, as it might at first sight appear, from each other not only in importance but in general character and scope. They will be found however, on careful examination, to possess one common quality or property; they are all, or at any rate most of them, rules for determining the mode in which the discretionary powers of the Crown (or of the Ministers as servants of the Crown) ought to be exercised; and this characteristic will be found on examination to be the trait common not only to all the rules already enumerated, but to by far the greater part (though not quite to the whole) of the conventions of the constitution. This matter, however, requires for its proper understanding some further explanation.
Constitutional conventions are mainly rules for governing exercise of prerogative The discretionary powers of the government mean every kind of action which can legally be taken by the Crown, or by its servants, Without the necessity for applying to Parliament for new statutory authority. Thus no statute is required to enable the Crown to dissolve or to convoke Parliament, to make peace or war, to create new Peers, to dismiss a Minister from office or to appoint his successor. The doing of all these things lies legally at any rate Within the discretion of the Crown; they belong therefore to the discretionary authority of the government. This authority may no doubt originate in Parliamentary enactments, and, in a limited number of cases, actually does so originate. Thus the Naturalization Act, 1870, gives to a Secretary of State the right under certain circumstances to convert an alien into a naturalized British subject; and the Extradition Act, 1870, enables a Secretary of State (under conditions provided by the Act) to override the ordinary law of the land and hand over a foreigner to his own government for trial. With the exercise, however, of such discretion as is conferred on the Crown or its servants by Parliamentary enactments we need hardly concern ourselves. The mode in which such discretion is to be exercised is, or may be, more or less dearly defined by the Act itself, and is often so closely limited as in reality to become the subject of legal decision, and thus pass from the domain of constitutional morality into that of law properly so called. The discretionary authority of the Crown originates generally, not in Act of Parliament, but in the “prerogative”—a term which has caused more perplexity to students than any other expression referring to the constitution. The “prerogative” appears to be both historically and as a matter of actual fact nothing else than the residue of discretionary or arbitrary authority, which at any given time is legally left in the hands of the Crown. The King was originally in truth what he still is in name, “the sovereign,” or, if not strictly the “sovereign” in the sense in which jurists use that word, at any rate by far the most powerful part of the sovereign power. In 1791 the House of Commons compelled the government of the day, a good deal against the will of Ministers, to put on trial Mr. Reeves, the learned author of the History of English Law, for the expression of opinions meant to exalt the prerogative of the Crown at the expense of the authority of the House of Commons. Among other statements for the publication of which he was indicted, was a lengthy comparison of the Crown to the trunk, and the other parts of the constitution to the branches and leaves of a great tree. This comparison was made with the object of drawing from it the conclusion that the Crown was the source of all legal power, and that while to destroy the authority of the Crown was to cut down the noble oak under the cover of which Englishmen sought refuge from the storms of Jacobinism, the House of Commons and other institutions were but branches and leaves which might be lopped off without serious damage to the tree. The publication of Mr. Reeves's theories during a period of popular excitement may have been injudicious. But a jury, one is happy to know, found that it was not seditious; for his views undoubtedly rested on a sound basis of historical fact.
The power of the Crown was in truth anterior to that of the House of Commons. From the time of the Norman Conquest down to the Revolution of 1688, the Crown possessed in reality many of the attributes of sovereignty. The prerogative is the name for the remaining portion of the Crown's original authority, and is therefore, as already pointed out, the name for the residue of discretionary power left at any moment in the hands of the Crown, whether such power be in fact exercised by the King himself or by his Ministers. Every act which the executive government can lawfully do without the authority of the Act of Parliament is done in virtue of this prerogative. If therefore we omit from view (as we conveniently may do) powers conferred on the Crown or its servants by Parliamentary enactments, as for example under an Alien Act, we may use the term “prerogative” as equivalent to the discretionary authority of the executive, and then lay down that the conventions of the constitution are in the main precepts for determining the mode and spirit in which the prerogative is to be exercised, or (what is really the same thing) for fixing the manner in which any transaction which can legally be done in virtue of the Royal prerogative (such as the making of war or the declaration of peace) ought to be carried out. This statement holds good, it should be noted, of all the discretionary powers exercised by the executive, otherwise than under statutory authority; it applies to acts really done by the King himself in accordance with his personal wishes, to transactions (which are of more frequent occurrence than modern constitutionalists are disposed to admit) in which both the King and his Ministers take a real part, and also to that large and constantly increasing number of proceedings which, though carried out in the King's name, are in truth wholly the acts of the Ministry. The conventions of the constitution are in short rules intended to regulate the exercise of the whole of the remaining discretionary powers of the Crown, whether these powers are exercised by the King himself or by the Ministry. That this is so may be seen by the ease and the technical correctness with which such conventions may be expressed in the form of regulations in reference to the exercise of the prerogative. Thus, to say that a Cabinet when outvoted on any vital question are bound in general to retire from office, is equivalent to the assertion, that the prerogative of the Crown to dismiss its servants at the will of the King must be exercised in accordance with the wish of the Houses of Parliament; the statement that Ministers ought not to make any treaty which will not command the approbation of the Houses of Parliament, means that the prerogative of the Crown in regard to the making of treaties—what the Americans call the “treaty-making power”—ought not to be exercised in opposition to the will of Parliament. So, again, the rule that Parliament must meet at least once a year, is in fact the rule that the Crown's legal right or prerogative to call Parliament together at the King's pleasure must be so exercised that Parliament meet once a year.
some constitutional convention refer to exercise of Parhamentary privilege This analysis of constitutional understandings is open to the one valid criticism, that, though true as far as it goes, it is obviously incomplete; for there are some few constitutional customs or habits which have no reference to the exercise of the royal power. Such, for example, is the understanding—a very vague one at best—that in case of a permanent conflict between the will of the House of Commons and the will of the House of Lords the Peers must at some point give way to the Lower House. Such, again, is, or at any rate was, the practice by which the judicial functions of the House of Lords are discharged solely by the Law Lords, or the understanding under which Divorce Acts were treated as judicial and not as legislative proceedings. Habits such as these are at bottom customs or rules meant to determine the mode in which one or other or both of the Houses of Parliament shall exercise their discretionary powers, or, to use the historical term, their “privileges.” The very use of the word “privilege” is almost enough to show us how to embrace all the conventions of the constitution under one general head. Between “prerogative” and “privilege” there exists a close analogy: the one is the historical name for the discretionary authority of the Crown; the other is the historical name for the discretionary authority of each House of Parliament. Understandings then which regulate the exercise of the prerogative determine, or are meant to determine, the way in which one member of the sovereign body, namely the Crown, should exercise its discretionary authority; understandings which regulate the exercise of privilege determine, or are meant to determine, the way in which the other members of the sovereign body should each exercise their discretionary authority. The result follows, that the conventions of the constitution, looked at as a whole, are customs, or understandings, as to the mode in which the several members of the sovereign legislative body, which, as it will be remembered, is the “King in Parliament,” should each exercise their discretionary authority, whether it be termed the prerogative of the Crown or the privileges of Parliament. Since, however, by far the most numerous and important of our constitutional understandings refer at bottom to the exercise of the prerogative, it will conduce to brevity and clearness if we treat the conventions of the constitution, as rules or customs determining the mode in which the discretionary power of the executive, or in technical language the prerogative, ought (i.e. is expected by the nation) to be employed.
Aim of constitutional understandings Having ascertained that the conventions of the constitution are (in the main) rules for determining the exercise of the prerogative, we may carry our analysis of their character a step farther. They have all one ultimate object. Their end is to secure that Parliament, or the Cabinet which is indirectly appointed by Parliament, shall in the long run give effect to the will of that power which in modern England is the true political sovereign of the State—the majority of the electors or (to use popular though not quite accurate language) the nation.
At this point comes into view the full importance of the distinction already insisted upon between “legal” sovereignty and “political” sovereignty. Parliament is, from a merely legal point of view, the absolute sovereign of the British Empire, since every Act of Parliament is binding on every Court throughout the British dominions, and no rule, whether of morality or of law, which contravenes an Act of Parliament binds any Court throughout the realm. But if Parliament be in the eye of the law a supreme legislature, the essence of representative government is, that the legislature should represent or give effect to the will of the political sovereign, i.e. of the electoral body, or of the nation. That the conduct of the different parts of the legislature should be determined by rules meant to secure harmony between the action of the legislative sovereign and the wishes of the political sovereign, must appear probable from general considerations. If the true ruler or political sovereign of England were, as was once the case, the King, legislation might be carded out in accordance with the King's will by one of two methods. The Crown might itself legislate, by royal proclamations, or decrees; or some other body, such as a Council of State or Parliament itself, might be allowed to legislate as long as this body conformed to the will of the Crown. If the first plan were adopted, there would be no room or need for constitutional conventions. If the second plan were adopted, the proceedings of the legislative body must inevitably be governed by some rules meant to make certain that the Acts of the legislature should not contravene the will of the Crown. The electorate is in fact the sovereign of England. It is a body which does not, and from its nature hardly can, itself legislate, and which, owing chiefly to historical causes, has left in existence a theoretically supreme legislature. The result of this state of things would naturally be that the conduct of the legislature, which (ex hypothesi) cannot be governed by laws, should be regulated by understandings of which the object is to secure the conformity of Parliament to the will of the nation. And this is what has actually occurred. The conventions of the constitution now consist of customs which (whatever their historical origin) are at the present day maintained for the sake of ensuring the supremacy of the House of Commons, and ultimately, through the elective House of Commons, of the nation. Our modern code of constitutional morality secures, though in a roundabout way, what is called abroad the “sovereignty of the people.”
That this is so becomes apparent if we examine into the effect of one or two among the leading articles of this code. The rule that the powers of the Crown must be exercised through Ministers who are members of one or other House of Parliament and who “command the confidence of the House of Commons,” really means, that the elective portion of the legislature in effect, though by an indirect process, appoints the executive government; and, further, that the Crown, or the Ministry, must ultimately carry out, or at any rate not contravene, the wishes of the House of Commons. But as the process of representation is nothing else than a mode by which the will of the representative body or House of Commons is made to coincide with the will of the nation, it follows that a rule which gives the appointment and control of the government mainly to the House of Commons is at bottom a rule which gives the election and ultimate control of the executive to the nation. The same thing holds good of the understanding, or habit, in accordance with which the House of Lords are expected in every serious political controversy to give way at some point or other to the will of the House of Commons as expressing the deliberate resolve of the nation, or of that further custom which, though of comparatively recent growth, forms an essential article of modem constitutional ethics, by which, in case the Peers should finally refuse to acquiesce in the decision of the Lower House, the Crown is expected to nullify the resistance of the Lords by the creation of new Peerages. How, it may be said, is the “point” to be fixed at which, in case of a conflict between the two Houses, the Lords must give way, or the Crown ought to use its prerogative in the creation of new Peers? The question is worth raising, because the answer throws great light upon the nature and aim of the articles which make up our conventional code. This reply is, that the point at which the Lords must yield or the Crown intervene is properly determined by anything which conclusively shows that the House of Commons represents on the matter in dispute the deliberate decision of the nation. The truth of this reply will hardly be questioned, but to admit that the deliberate decision of the electorate is decisive, is in fact to concede that the understandings as to the action of the House of Lords and of the Crown are, what we have found them to be, rules meant to ensure the ultimate supremacy of the true political sovereign, or, in other words, of the electoral body.
Rules as to dissolution of Parliament By far the most striking example of the real sense attaching to a whole mass of constitutional conventions is found in a particular instance, which appears at first sight to present a marked exception to the general principles of constitutional morality. A Ministry placed in a minority by a vote of the Commons have, in accordance with received doctrines, a right to demand a dissolution of Parliament. On the other hand, there are certainly combinations of circumstances under which the Crown has a right to dismiss a Ministry who command a Parliamentary majority, and to dissolve the Parliament by which the Ministry are supported. The prerogative, in short, of dissolution may constitutionally be so employed as to override the will of the representative body, or, as it is popularly called, “The People's House of Parliament.” This looks at first sight like saying that in certain cases the prerogative can be so used as to set at nought the will of the nation. But in reality it is far otherwise. The discretionary power of the Crown occasionally may be, and according to constitutional precedents sometimes ought to be, used to strip an existing House of Commons of its authority. But the reason why the House can in accordance with the constitution be deprived of power and of existence is that an occasion has arisen on which there is fair reason to suppose that the opinion of the House is not the opinion of the electors. A dissolution is in its essence an appeal from the legal to the political sovereign. A dissolution is allowable, or necessary, whenever the wishes of the legislature are, or may fairly be presumed to be, different from the wishes of the nation.
The dissolutions of 1784 and 1834. This is the doctrine established by the celebrated contests of 1784 and of 1834. In each instance the King dismissed a Ministry which commanded the confidence of the House of Commons. In each case there was an appeal to the country by means of a dissolution. In 1784 the appeal resulted in a decisive verdict in favour of Pitt and his colleagues, who had been brought into office by the King against the will of the House of Commons. In 1834 the appeal led to a verdict equally decisive against Peel and Wellington, who also had been called to office by the Crown against the wishes of the House. The essential point to notice is that these contests each in effect admit the principle that it is the verdict of the political sovereign which ultimately determines the right or (what in politics is much the same thing) the power of a Cabinet to retain office, namely, the nation.
Much discussion, oratorical and literary, has been expended on the question whether the dissolution of 1784 or the dissolution of 1834 was constitutional. To a certain extent the dispute is verbal, and depends upon the meaning of the word “constitutional.” If we mean by it “legal,” no human being can dispute that George the Third and his son could without any breach of law dissolve Parliament. If we mean “usual,” no one can deny that each monarch took a very unusual step in dismissing a Ministry which commanded a majority in the House of Commons. If by “constitutional” we mean “in conformity with the fundamental principles of the constitution,” we must without hesitation pronounce the conduct of George the Third constitutional, i.e. in conformity with the principles of the constitution as they are now understood. He believed that the nation did not approve of the policy pursued by the House of Commons. He was right in this belief. No modem constitutionalist will dispute that the authority of the House of Commons is derived from its representing the will of the nation, and that the chief object of a dissolution is to ascertain that the will of Parliament coincides with the will of the nation. George the Third then made use of the prerogative of dissolution for the very purpose for which it exists. His conduct, therefore, on the modem theory of the constitution, was, as far as the dissolution went, in the strictest sense constitutional. But it is doubtful whether in 1784 the King's conduct was not in reality an innovation, though a salutary one, on the then prevailing doctrine. Any one who studies the questions connected with the name of John Wilkes, or the disputes between England and the American colonies, will see that George the Third and the great majority of George the Third's statesmen maintained up to 1784 a view of Parliamentary sovereignty which made Parliament in the strictest sense the sovereign power. To this theory Fox clung, both in his youth as a Tory and in his later life as a Whig. The greatness of Chatham and of his son lay in their perceiving that behind the Crown, behind the Revolution Families, behind Parliament itself, lay what Chatham calls the “great public,” and what we should call the nation, and that on the will of the nation depended the authority of Parliament. In 1784 George the Third was led by the exigencies of the moment to adopt the attitude of Chatham and Pitt. He appealed (oddly enough) from the sovereignty of Parliament, of which he had always been the ardent champion, to that sovereignty of the people which he never ceased to hold in abhorrence. Whether this appeal be termed constitutional or revolutionary is now of little moment; it affirmed decisively the fundamental principle of our existing constitution that not Parliament but the nation is, politically speaking, the supreme power in the State. On this very ground the so-called “penal” dissolution was consistently enough denounced by Burke, who at all periods of his career was opposed to democratic innovation, and far less consistently by Fox, who blended in his political creed doctrines of absolute Parliamentary sovereignty with the essentially inconsistent dogma of the sovereignty of the people.
Of William the Fourth's action it is hard to speak with decision. The dissolution of 1834M was, from a constitutional point of view, a mistake; it was justified (if at all) by the King's belief that the House of Commons did not represent the will of the nation. The belief itself turned out erroneous, but the large minority obtained by Peel, and the rapid decline in the influence of the Whigs, proved that, though the King had formed a wrong estimate of public sentiment, he was not without reasonable ground for believing that Parliament had ceased to represent the opinion of the nation. Now if it be constitutionally right for the Crown to appeal from Parliament to the electors when the House of Commons has in reality ceased to represent its constituents, there is great difficulty in maintaining that a dissolution is unconstitutional simply because the electors do, when appealed to, support the opinions of their representatives. Admit that the electors are the political sovereign of the State, and the result appears naturally to follow, that an appeal to them by means of a dissolution is constitutional, whenever there is valid and reasonable ground for supposing that their Parliamentary representatives have ceased to represent their wishes. The constitutionality therefore of the dissolution in 1834 turns at bottom upon the still disputable question of fact, whether the King and his advisers had reasonable ground for supposing that the reformed House of Commons had lost the confidence of the nation. Whatever may be the answer given by historians to this inquiry, the precedents of 1784 and 1834 are decisive; they determine the principle on which the prerogative of dissolution ought to be exercised, and show that in modem times the rules as to the dissolution of Parliament are, like other conventions of the constitution, intended to secure the ultimate supremacy of the electorate as the true political sovereign of the State; that, in short, the validity of constitutional maxims is subordinate and subservient to the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty.
Relation of night of dissolution to parliamentry sovereignty The necessity for dissolutions stands in dose connection with the existence of Parliamentary sovereignty. Where, as in the United States, no legislative assembly is a sovereign power, the right of dissolution may be dispensed with; the constitution provides security that no change of vital importance can be effected without an appeal to the people; and the change in the character of a legislative body by the re-election of the whole or of part thereof at stated periods makes it certain that in the long run the sentiment of the legislature will harmonise with the feeling of the public. Where Parliament is supreme, some further security for such harmony is necessary, and this security is given by the right of dissolution, which enables the Crown or the Ministry to appeal from the legislature to the nation. The security indeed is not absolutely complete. Crown, Cabinet, and Parliament may conceivably favour constitutional innovations which do not approve themselves to the electors. The Septennial Act could hardly have been passed in England, the Act of Union with Ireland would not, it is often asserted, have been passed by the Irish Parliament, if, in either instance, a legal revolution had been necessarily preceded by an appeal to the electorate. Here, as elsewhere, the constitutionalism of America proves of a more rigid type than the constitutionalism of England. Still, under the conditions of modern political life, the understandings which exist with us as to the right of dissolution afford nearly, if not quite, as much security for sympathy between the action of the legislature and the will of the people, as do the limitations placed on legislative power by the constitutions of American States. In this instance, as in others, the principles explicitly stated in the various constitutions of the States, and in the Federal Constitution itself, are impliedly involved in the working of English political institutions. The right of dissolution is the right of appeal to the people, and thus underlies all those constitutional conventions which, in one way or another, are intended to produce harmony between the legal and the political sovereign power.