14 AUGUST 1830, Page 13


THE discussions in the French Chamber of Deputies on the ques- tion of the Peerage, and especially their strong resolution for the reduction of all the titles conferred by the late King, has turned the attention of thinking people here to the constitution of our own House of Lords. There are two points in that assembly that have usually attracted the notice of the speculative—the great and still increasing number of its members ; the poverty and depend- ance of a considerable portion of them. We are not aware that the mere number of the Peers, considered as a legislative body, affords serious ground for objection: at any rate, if is not an ob- jection _peculiar to the House of Lords, for the House of Com- mons is much more numerous. The case is different in respect of its judicial capacity. It is true that, in practice, the judicial power is, for the most part, exercised by the Chancellor and one or two Law Lords ; but there is nothing to prevent every member from tningling his voice and his vote in that as in the more public business of the House. Very strong doubts may be entertained of the value Of the House of Lords as a court of justice. We have in it at present one or two men who sit and determine with much boldness on appeals from a country of the laws of which they are profoundly ignorant. This is bad enough; but were these en- lightened Law Lords joined by sonic scores of enlightened Lay Lords, who, like that notable judge the Duke of NEWCASTLE, might deem it sufficient in a trial to hear the evidence on one side, the case would be too bad. We have no hesitation in saying, that, as a court of justice, the House of Lords must speedily be sub- jected to some revision,—that its appellate juiisdiction, above all things, must be assigned to men who know something of the laws they are called on to administer, or the jurisdiction must be abro- gated. The poverty, and the consequent dependance of many of the Peers, is a subject more difficult to handle. The mode in which the House of Lords is recruited is well known. A soldier or a Sailor, whom interest or gocd fortune has charged with an im- portant command, gains a victory, and he is made a Peer. It is of little consequence of what kind the victory be, or over whom, provided it be decisive and bloody. We may perhaps rate the purchase of a Barony at 5000, of an Earldom at 7500, of a Mar.- quisate at 10,00u men killed and wounded ; a Dukedom is so rarely given that its value is not easily ascertained. During the late war, there were so many killed, and the occasions of their falling were frequently so trifling, that the value of a thousand lives sank very considerably. There is but one other regular way in which men get into the House of Lords, and that is by being made Judges or Chancellors. Now, in all these cases it may happen, that the warrior, or the lawyer, has reaped a most abundant harvest of fame and a very scanty one of profit. The first creation is ordinarily provided for,—the General or Admiral gets a pension, perhaps for two, nay even three lives ; the Judge or Chancellor gets a pension also ; but the ultimate heirs have very often neither fortune nor pension. This is a serious evil. There can be no doubt that every Minister, it matters not what are his principles, has in the poor and needy of the Upper House a phalanx of sup- port which may on occasion be employed to uses highly injurious to the liberties of the country. And it is not only in this way that the existence of a body of pauper peers is hurtful. A man with a title tacked to his name is shut out from most of the paths of honourable ambition. He cannot be a lawyer; he can hardly be a churchman • he can engage in no business or manufacture; neither fame nor fortune lies open to him but through the Army and Navy, where fortune is so seldom attained, and where fame requires war, for it presupposes slaughter. What can a Lord without an estate do in the midst of profound peace ? Sinecures aregetting scarcer .every session, and Peers more plentiful; colonies do not increase in number like the. candidates for-misgoverning them, and they ares every year becoming more impatient of abuse ; ambassadorships require a little talent, and even if they did not, they are so few that they barely suffice for the, poor relations of the Minister that is— the poor relations of the Minister that was must not look that way. - We may be thought to .put these things lightly, but they are no light matters. We have no doubt there are at this moment many young.and some old men who heartily curse the title which entails on them the necessity of pompous poverty, and who would rejoice at any measure, which without dishonour permitted them to employ their talents in the acquisition of independence, instead of dangling after a Minister fur the means of protracting a useless existence in a tavern or club-rooin.

It has been proposed, in a pamphlet that has been circulated on this subject, to remedy the evils to which we have been adverting, by the creation of Life Peerages.. We have great doubts of the remedy. The only check that we at present possess on the intro- duction of improper persons, or of too great a number, into the House of Peers' is the consideration that once there, they are there for ever. A Minister would be under kstrong temptation to send up flinty or forty elderly gentlernenlo carry a favourite point were the creation for life only. He- might calculate on managing them for the three or four years that their mature honours were likely to continue; and at all events, in a few years both he and his master would get rid of their companionship. Besides, the creation of Life Peers would detericirate the character of the House Men would claim a seat there who had no pretensions to the Peerage as now conferred. The number of Peers would be vastly augmented ; and instead of having, as we now have, a host of paupers in the second and third generation from the original creations, we should have a host of them in the first.

The plan which we are inclined to propose, not for adoption— for there is no immediate urgency in the case-,but for considera- tion, is, not to alter the holding of the Peers, but to regulate the composition of the Peers House. These are two distinct things, though not always considered distinctly. The Peers House is made up of a number of very differently-constituted bodies—of English Spiritual Peers, who sit by virtue of their office of Irish Spiritual Peers, who sit by virtue of election ; of Irish arid Scotch Lay Peers, who sit by virtue of election ; and of English Peers, who sit by virine of their title. Now, we think, that it the Peers House is to be reformed, the plain method of reform has already been pointed out in the precedents of the Scotch and Irish Peers. We would extend the plan of election to English Peers and British Peers, as well as to those of Scotland and Ireland. Whether the election should be, as in the former country, for one Parliament only, or as in the latter, for life, is a question of detail. The principle of election has been admitted by the Peers ; and they cannot, if a proper case be made out, object to its more ex- tended application. The next thing, which has not yet been attended to, so much as it deserves, is a qualification for the Peers House. There is no reason why the honours of the Peerage should be refused to the poorest man of the community if he deserved them, but there is a very excellent reason why the honours of the Legislature should. A qualification has been in- variably exacted in the ease of the representatives of the people ; and why should it be dispensed within the one legislative assembly more than in the other?