15 JUNE 1833, Page 11


PALEY said, that there was "not more paradox than truth in the much-decried apophthegm that an independent House of Com- mons is incompatible with the existence of the Monarchy." Had he lived in our days and changed " Monarchy " for " House cf Lords," the " apophthegm" would have appeared to be perfectly true and by no means paradoxical. For the writers and thinkers who were wont to maintain that the government of the country was carried on by a system of checks and balances-that King, Lords, and Commons, had each a concurrent, but neither of them a predominant power in the State-are fast disappearing. Ex- perience has demolished their theories-if theories they can pro- perly be termed, which will not bear reducing to practice. At one period of our history, as for instance under the TUDORS, the Kingly power was all but despotic; and both Houses of Parliament shivered under the frown of the Monarch. At short and brief in- tervals, the House of Commons, with the aid of some mighty po- pular delusion, as in the days of the Popish Plot, bullied the other two Estates. But since the Revolution,-since the country has made the greatest advances in civilization and wealth,-since, in fact, the ruling power has been most productive of good things to its possessors,-the Aristocracy have coerced the Monarch and the People, by means of a corrupt House of Commons. In the Bri- tish Constitution, then,as in that of every other country, there has always been one, though not the same, predominant power. At the present time, there can be no question as to the quarter in which that power is deposited : it is irresistible in the hands of the Representatives of the People ; and both King and Lords must submit to it, in like manner as the Commons have sub- mitted in their days of thraldom.

Fortunately, in regard to the Monarch, no question arises. The King of England goes with, and does not thwart the Nation ; and there is no disposition to curtail or interfere with the exercise of his executive authority. But the House of Lords is refractory, and must be reduced to obedience. Their late decision, and the Ministerial avowals which it occasioned, prove beyond all ques- tion, that, as at present constituted, it is a stumblingblock in the way of improvement, which it would be the merest imbecility not to remove. We attach no great importance to the Miguelite vote. The wellbeing of the country was little concerned in the ques- tion ; but its decision against the Ministers, and against the known feelings of the Nation and its Representatives, reminds those who had forgot, that the Peerage is determined to use the power which it must possess if suffered to remain in its present state, to render the Reform Act impotent for good. Lord JOHN


RUSSELL admitted that the fear of a collision with the majority in the Lords restrained the Ministers from doing what they knew

to be advantageous for the country. It may be said that this is a mere cloak for their own lukewarmness or incapacity, of which the Ministers are glad enough to avail themselves. Suppose it were so—the effect ikequally pernicious whether the excuse be real or feigned. It will serve the present, and not merely the pre- sent, but future Administrations also, as a reason or pretence for numberless sins of omission.

Unless, therefore, we are prepared to throw away the fruits of victory, and will lazily and infamously consent to see that Reform for which we have toiled so hard, converted into a mockery and abortion, means must speedily be taken to reform the House of

Lords. That matters would come to this at last, we have long ago and very often declared. It would seem that the time is come

when the conversion of the House of Lords, from being an ob- stacle in the way of improvement, to an instrument of good, must be effected. The question is, in what way this can best be done, and done quickly.

The readiest remedy is the usual one—a large creation of new members. The long reign of the Tories{ has crammed the House of Lords with Tory Peers : it might be of service to turn the scale by selecting a number of Whig gentlemen, who have become Reformers, and promoting them to the rank of hereditary legis- lators. But the objections which arise to the adoption of this mode of proceeding are numerous and important. A Ministerial majority might indeed be secured thereby for the present; but how long it would remain Ministerial, how soon a fresh creation would be required, no man can foretell. The King of the French created sixty new Peers for the purpose of procuring a vote for the abolition of their own hereditary privileges; but the majority

nevertheless soon afterwards became Anti-Ministerial ; and more Peers were necessarily created. You can place no reliance upon the conduct of any may who may do as he likes, and is responsible to no one but himself Earl GREY has found that some of his new-made Peers, the Marquis of WESTMEA.TH for example, are not to be depended upon. The evil, therefore, may be only reme- died for a very short and uncertain period by the creation of new Peers, who are expected to take the popular side in politics—were they made to serve aristocratic purposes, the case, we grant, would be materially changed. Another objection to the augmentation of the Peerage is, that it is a great deal too numerous already for any legislative purposes. The few well-informed and patriotic members which it contains, are outvoted, and their influence is nullified, by the mob of igno- rant, thoughtless, and dissipated Lords. This evil is glaring, and requires a remedy. Why, then, it may be said, would 3ou resort to the assured means to augment it ?—for it should be remembered, that although virtuous and able men may be selected in the first instance, the chances are greatly in favour of their successors being scamps. Then again, the Peerage is an irresponsible body. The King may be controlled through his Ministers; the members of the House of Commons must answer for their conduct to their consti- tuents; but neither King nor People can call the Lords to account. This irresponsibility in the exercise of extensive power is an ano- maly in the constitution of a country pretending to be free, It is an anomaly, moreover, productive of much practical mischief. To increase indefinitely the number of persons to whom the exercise of this irresponsible power is conceded, must therefore be a ques- tionable proceeding, however it may be recommended by the ne- cessity of the case.

Some of the readers of the Spectator may recollect, that, nearly two years ago, before the idea of "swamping" the Peers had become popular, we suggested a mode, which, though by no means free from objection, might still have the effect of rendering the House of Lords more useful than it now is. The use of a Second Chamber is to prevent legislation from being precipitate and slovenly—to revise and perfect the decrees of the First Chamber. Now the House of Lords is, and from its constitution necessarily must be, a very bad instrument for this end. But if, with a due reservation of existing rights, the hereditary privileges of the Peers as legislators were abolished, and in future, life peerages only were created, and regard had not so much to the wealth or birth, as to the virtue and acquirements of those upon whom they were bestowed, then, we should stand some chance of having a sound constituency, out of which some fifty or a hundred really useful and well-informed as well as independent Senators might be chosen. These Senators would be responsible to the great body of the Peerage. It is to be observed that this proposition goes only to limit the legislatorial power of the Lords : their rank, titles, orders, and other gewgaws of distinction, might re- main as before. But, in like manner as the Scotch Peers are elected by the members of their own body to represent them, so might the British Peerage also meet to elect their representa- tives. The anomaly of the absolute irresponsibility of the House of Lords would thus be got rid of. The Peers elected to Parlia- ment would be simply trustees for the body to which they belong, and responsible to that body for the execution of their trust. There is one objection to this scheme, the force of as we do not mean to dissemble. It is certainly possible that, as the Scotch Peers at the last election returned a compact phalanx of Conser- vatives, so the British Peers might return none but anti-popular and prejudiced men to represent them. But this part of the plan Must be taken in connexion with that which suggests the propriety of a large creation of Peers for life—liberal and enlightened men, of course. It would be also. an-indispensable part of the scheme that the twenty-six Bishops should cease to be legislators. The Times suggests a very simple mode of accomplishing this namely, by repealing the act of CHARLES the Second which reseated them

in the Lords as Temporal Peers, after their well-deserved expul- sion in the reign of his father. The same object could be accom- plished in connexion with the reform of the Church, by compelling them to tend their flocks—to constant residence in their own dio- ceses. Almost all these Bishops are bad senators in every sense. Their expulsion would benefit both Church and State, and do harm to no mortal breathing.

All these measures, it will be said, are merely palliatives : the grand and effectual remedy would be the total abolition of the House of Lords. The Examiner of last Sunday stated this broadly enough—" If the institution be useful and trustworthy, leave it free to work according to its discretion ; if it be antagonist to the public interest, depose it." As the Examiner thinks the House of Lords is neither useful nor trustworthy, the alternative which it would recommend is obvious.

It may one day come to this : ,but we imagine the public mind is not yet ripe for any such measure as the total abro- gation of the Peerage. That, in the event of the abolition of the present House of Peers, it would be advisable to provide sonic substitute in the shape of a Second Chamber or Senate, chosen by the People, after the fashion of the United States, will be generally admitted. Were such a Senate composed of men of superior ac- quirements, more gravity of character, and of a higher standing than those sent to the House of Commons, the advantages to be derived from it would soon be apparent. Into such an assembly several of the Peers would find admittance.

We are not partial to the discussion of changes of this descrip- tion in our form of government. We had rather make the Three Estates of the realm the instruments of practical good to the Na- tion, by judicious, and not violent reforms in their modes of work- ing. But the folly and obstinacy of the majority of the House of Peers render some momentous experiment upon the constitution of their body absolutely necessary ; and the way to render it prac- ticable and safe, is to prepare the public mind for it by discussions conducted with temper and gravity, and a total absence of mere party feeling and prejudice.