Measured by the standards of duration, absence of violent commotions, maintenance of law and order, general prosperity and contentment of the people, and by the extent of its influence on the institutions and political thought of other lands, the English government has been one of the most remarkable the world has ever known. An attempt, therefore, to study it at any salient epoch cannot be valueless; and the present is a salient epoch, for the nation has now enjoyed something very near to manhood suffrage in the boroughs for forty years, and throughout the country more than twenty years, a period long enough for democracy to produce its primary if not its ultimate effects.
ch they owe their own election. In choosing the President they have become, by the force of custom, as much a mere piece of mechanism as the Crown in England when giving its assent to acts passed by the two Houses of Parliament. Their freedom of choice is as obsolete as the royal veto. So far, therefore, as this meaning of the term is concerned, the constitution of England differs from those of other countries rather in degree than in kind. It differs in the fact that the documents, being many statutes, are very numerous, and the part played by custom is unusually large.
[Sidenote: Not Changeable by Ordinary Legislation.]
[Sidenote: Rigid and Flexible Constitutions.]
De Tocqueville had more particularly in mind another meaning which is commonly attached to the term "constitution." It is that of an instrument of special sanctity, distinct in character from all other laws; and alterable only by a peculiar process, differing to a greater or less extent from the ordinary forms of legislation.