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who like him all the better for his prejudices; and with no such safety-valve for his zeal as is provided by a seat in Parliament?

We have then to conceive of such a man as this set at liberty to use all his vast wealth and infuence in the furtherance of his own views, relieved from all those restrictions which fetter him at the present day, and with the same right to take a part in the election of a member of Parliament as any other man in the kingdom-for it is not to be supposed that he could be deprived of the privileges of a Peer without acquiring those of a Commoper. It might and probably would become necessary to allow noblemen to sit in the House of Commons. But it would be impossible at all events to prevent them from having a voice in the composition of that assembly at least as powerful as any which they exercised before 1832, and what would follow ? With the whole weight of the Conservative aristocracy poured into one channel, and brought to bear on one House of Parliament, the result must inevitably be a vast accession of strength to the Conservative party in the House of Commons. At present the Lords are weak just because they are the Lords, supposed to represent exclusively the anti-popular tendencies of society, frequently in opposition to the Commons, who in turn represent the people,' and to whom, however long they may resist, it is known that they must ultimately yield. But if, instead of being separated from the Commons, they spoke throngh the mouth of the Commons; if, instead of being brought to a head, as it were, and allotted a separate position, exposed to the full glare of publicity, and affording a conspicuous mark to all assailants, the aristocratic element were dispersed through, and amalgamated with, the popular chamber, clothed with the popular livery, and with as good a claim to represent the popular will as any other element in the House, is it not certain that it could exercise a far more effective control over the conduct of affairs than it can possibly exercise at present; that it would become more powerful in proportion as it grew less palpable, and would double its present substance by throwing off its present form?

For my part, I cannot conceive the possibility of this question being answered in the negative; and there is more than this to be considered. It is to be considered that many a man who shrinks from rising in his place in the House of Lords and making open recantation of his Liberalism, who is too much under the influence of old associations to set them at naught in the face of his assembled party, and who is restrained by a sense of honour from assisting in private the political interest with which he cannot ally himself in public, would find half his fetters struck off by the abolition of the House of Lords. Released from the party obligations which bind him in Parliament, he would be much less troubled by their pressure in the provinces. Having got one hand free, he would soon set free the other; nor is it unreasonable to believe that there are a good many members of the present House of Lords who, if this opportunity were presented to them, would be only too glad to embrace it. And this consideration leads immediately to another. What, it may be asked, is the key to the existence of any Liberal party' at all in the higher aristocracy? The answer is plain-our Parliamentary system. When the House of Lords assembles at Westminster, it is inevitable that its members should fall into two divisions. The love of place and power, the more honourable ambition of finding a field for the exercise of great talents in the public service, a sincere conviction that for the purpose of averting revolution more is to be done by shaping reforms in office than by resisting them in Opposition--these and other motives will, as long as the Peers possess a Parliament, insure the existence among them of a party in alliance with Liberalism. But let that Parliament be abolished, let the natural tendencies of an aristocracy be no longer counteracted by the attractions of official life, and they will speedily overflow the party line which now bisects them, and the whole weight of the Estate be flung into a single scale. But another question, and perhaps the most pertinent of all, has to be

asked yet.

What is it which restrains the House of Lords from fighting out their differences with the Commons as often as any question of principle is at stake between them? What is it which makes them afraid of coming to extremities, letting 'I dare not wait upon I would' as often as the representative assembly sounds the note of battle? What is it which makes it so difficult for the Conservative minority in the House of Commons to rely on being supported by the Lords in any long political struggle? What but that the Peers are afraid of what we are here assuming to have happened—the abolition of their own House of Parliament? When the blow had once fallen, that particular inducement to moderate counsels and a conciliatory attitude would have ceased to exist, while a new and powerful inducement to the exact contrary would at once have been created in the thirst for vengeance which the injury sustained would have engendered.

We may be told of course that the country, alias the Liberal party, can protect itself against anything the Peers can do; and we might be reminded of Caleb Balderston and the Feuars of Wolf's Hope, when that faithful servant threatened them with the displeasure of his lord. It is, of course, perfectly true that there are means by which the aristocracy could be rendered impotent, and this brings us at once to the central point of our inquiry. The question is, whether, the consequences of abolishing the House of Lords without the adoption of any further measures to weaken the power of the nobility being so obvious and so serious, those who contemplate the one must not be held to have contemplated the other. To use language now familiar to us all, though not perhaps rigidly exact, is it possible to disestablish the English peerage without also disendowing it? Can we relieve it from the restraints and responsibilities, both moral and constitutional, which balance its Parliamentary privileges, yet leave it in possession of the property which without these restrictions would be doubly and trebly influential ? When I say 'can we;' I mean, is it credible that the Radical party can contemplate anything so injurious to themselves? Is it conceivable that they have not so far thought out this question as to understand what would happen if the entire English aristocracy, no longer divided against itself, as it, more or less must be under existing arrangements, and no longer subject to those checks which its Parliamentary functions impose on it, were free to use its whole strength and wealth on the Conservative side, and concentrate its whole energies on securing a Conservative majority in the House of Commons? If a Conservative majority is not even now an impossibility, would it not then become a certainty? Is it not absurd to suppose that this inevitable consummation can have been overlooked by the acute and thoughtful politicians who say that the House of Lords must perish ?

As I cannot suppose anything of the kind, I am constrained to believe that behind the cry for the abolition of the House of Lords lurks a deliberate design for the spoliation of the English aristocracy. This indeed would be an equally necessary step in the interests of Radicalism, whether the Peers were admitted to seats in the House of Commons or not. The difficulty with regard to the House of Lords is much the same as the difficulty with regard to the Church of England.

We are constantly reminded, and with perfect truth, that the country would never be willing to see the Church of England emancipated from State control, and yet secured in the possession of her property. A Church of England with complete independence and undiminished wealth would, they say, be too powerful a body for the State to tolerate. Disestablishment and disendowment must go hand in hand. Now, mutatis mutandis, this seems to me to be the truth about the House of Lords.

I have dealt in the above pages only with that scheme of simple abolition with which the House of Lords is regularly threatened as often as it does anything unpleasing to the Radical party. It is time, I think, that this threat should be looked in the face, and that the conditions on which alone it can ever take a practical form should be clearly understood. If I am asked why I, who am a Conservative, should object to a change which would so greatly strengthen Conservatism, I must have written to very little purpose if the answer is not to be found in the foregoing pages. I do not believe for a moment that the English aristocracy would be allowed to occupy the ground which the abolition of the House of Lords would open to them without a violent struggle, of which the issue would be doubtful, and might be disastrous. And I say this with the more confidence that no longer ago than last summer Mr. Chamberlain, speaking of the minority in the House of Commons, the Conservative country gentlemen, declared that even these must be swept away if ever good government was to flourish. What then would be the feelings of the party which he represents towards a much more powerful infusion of the same element, and one which was too strong to be defeated by the ordinary constitutional machinery of Parliamentary government? It is because I see that the abolition of the House of Lords must be only the first step to a political agitation in this country more fierce in its character, more sweeping in its objects, more deplorable in its consequences, if successful, than anything which has ever been witnessed in Great Britain, that I heartily deprecate a change which might for a time have just the opposite effect.

Of this or that change, be it reform or revolution, we are often told that we are not within measurable distance. The phrase is a convenient one, and touches the imagination by seeming to interpose between ourselves and the dreaded evil some infinite extension of space. Yet all that it practically means is that the event has not yet happened from which our calculation is to start. But who can tell when this will happen, or what will be deemed such an event by those who have the power to decide? When we speak of measurable distance, who is to be the measurer—the general public, or a particular party, or individual statesmen ? Long-sustained abuse and invective, which those who are assailed by it treat only with silent contempt, make their way by degrees, and, as they sap the popularity, so they undermine the strength, of institutions which, to all outward appearance, are as vigorous as ever. Then it is that some unforeseen event, some sudden crisis or emergency, may prove their death-knell. The saying that threatened men live long has, like most other proverbs, its use and its abuse. Between foolish panics and false security there is not, if we look to consequences, so very much to choose. There are men who, confident in their personal resources, or fearful of the ridicule of their neighbours, have neglected warnings which, if followed, might have saved their lives.

I hardly think that in an age like the present either the English Church or the English aristocracy can afford to indulge in the theory of immeasurable distances. There is a political fatalism, I know, as well as personal, according to which no institution perishes till its hour has come, which can neither be accelerated nor retarded by human exertions or precautions. When I say there is such a thing, I rather mean that a great deal of what is written at the present day has either that meaning or none at all-more probably, perhaps, the latter. But no man who is placed in a great public position, or to whom any number of his countrymen look up for the preservation of established order, will allow himself to yield to such weakness. Lord Salisbury reminds us that before the House of Lords can be abolished its own consent must be obtained, and that therefore it is exceedingly improbable that such a change will ever be effected by the ordinary constitutional means. This of course is quite true. Nobody supposes that Mr. Chamberlain has only to signify the wish and that it will forthwith rip itself up like a Japanese grandee to avoid destruction from without. We shall have, as Lord Salisbury himself says, to wait for a period of revolution before we see any such attempt. But that is presupposed in the terms of our argument. The unpopularity of the House of Lords, based on such charges as I have here endeavoured to refute, would be one of the elements and causes of this revolution.

It is for this reason that I think the fallacy which runs through the whole Radical charge against the House of Lords cannot be exposed too often, or the real nature of the change, with both its immediate and ulterior consequences, too often insisted on. Does anybody suppose that the revolution which destroys the House of Lords will spare the nobility, or that the revolution which attacks the nobility will spare the rest of the aristocracy? I wish, therefore, to prove to the satisfaction of those moderate Liberals with whom the Conservative party must soon come to an understanding, that the House of Lords as now existing can be defended on rational and practical grounds, and that it is much less likely to provoke a collision between classes than either a second chamber composed of select geniuses or a House of Commons more largely reinforced from the aristocracy. All that the House of Lords can now do is to gain time for consideration and reflection; and what harm can arise from the temporary postponement of a good measure compared with what must necessarily follow from the hasty adoption of a bad one ? What is the evil of delay in the one case compared with the danger of precipitancy in the other? The balance of practical advantage is immensely in favour of retaining the House of Lords as it is. The good which it effects is out of all proportion to the evil, and it is the best guarantee we are ever likely to possess against the schemes of interested factions being adopted by mistake for the deliberate policy of the people.


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