HC Deb 17 May 1889 vol 336 cc430-84
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Mr. Speaker, the best proof that any proposal made by a Member of this House is a sound one is, that it meets with increasing favour among the constituencies. In 1883 when I put down a somewhat similar Motion, an hon. Member asked your predecessor in the Chair whether I was not guilty of high treason, or something of that sort. Your predecessor, of course, said I was not. But when the Motion came on there were not 40 Members ready to make a House. Again, in 1885, when I obtained a day and found a considerable number of Members ready to support me, the Gentlemen of official light and leading on the Front Bench on my own side spoke and voted against the Motion. In 1888 I again obtained a day, and then the official Leaders of the Liberal Party spoke and voted for the Motion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) said:— The first step we have to take is to affirm that the accident of birth confers no longer the right of legislating for a free and self-governing country. Now, my proposal has never passed in this House, but it has done more than pass; it has been adopted as part and parcel of the political creed of the Liberal Party. Our hereditary legislators may still meet in another part of this building, but they read their fate in the writing on the wall. They know that they have been weighed in the Liberal balance and found wanting. They know that the Liberal decree has gone forth that their days are numbered. I suppose there is no gentleman, even the most ardent Conservative, who will deny that one day or other the Liberals will be in the ascendancy in the country and in this House; and Liberals know that their Leaders never vote in favour of any reform which they are not resolved to give legislative effect to. It is therefore certain that as soon as the Liberal Party come into power a Bill will be brought in by our Leaders, putting an end to the hereditary principle. Hereditary legislators and their friends in this House know perfectly well that they are doomed. They show that by their action. We have had a considerable number of Bills and projects to reform the other House introduced in this House during the century. Never was any proposal made in the other House to reform it—they were satisfied to remain as they were—until quite recently. No sooner had my proposal obtained the approval of the Liberals of the country than we had numberless projects of reform introduced in the House of Lords itself. We have had articles written by Peers and those who are going to be Peers, with what effect? To attempt to avert their doom by palliatives, compromises, and reforms. I am one of those who would always prefer to reform an ancient institution rather than to destroy it. I am one of those who hold to the alliance between tradition and progress so far as it is possible, but in this case reform is absolutely impossible. The hereditary principle is the very essence of the House of Lords, and holding as we do that that principle ought to be swept away, we cannot consent to any palliative or amendment or reform that leaves any part of that principle in existence. What are these proposals of reform that have been made? I think it was this year that a Bill was introduced into the House of Lords, in which it was proposed that the House should exercise a disciplinary power over its Members. It was urged that even in that excellent flock there are occasionally black sheep, and that these black sheep should be turned out by their colleagues. The proposal appears to me utterly absurd. The basis of the hereditary principle is that each Peer is an individual legislative unit. If you assert the right to deprive a Peer of his legislative functions because he happens to be a black sheep, you will find very soon that the country will go further and say "you want something more in legislators than the mere absence of demerits: you want something more than the fact that a legislator has neither been in the Divorce Court, nor in the Bankruptcy Court." Another proposal was to select in some sort of way some particular Peers, in order to maintain the hereditary principle, and to add elected Members. Why, this is still more absurd than the first proposal. I can understand an hereditary chamber or an elected chamber, but it is like mixing oil and vinegar to unite the two in the same chamber. The hereditary legislators would at once be swept away if they came into collision with the elected Peers. There is another plan—namely, that the country should elect a certain number of Peers. But if you have an elected House, why make it a qualification of a Member that he shall be a Peer? There is only one reason for it, and that is that some people have an idea that Peers have a property in legislating. I need hardly say that we do not accept that view. Now, the hon. Member for Southport, (Mr. Curzon), has put an Amendment on the Paper. He cannot move it, but, no doubt he will speak upon it. I do not exactly know what the plan of the hon. Gentleman is, but if it is at all like what he suggested last year, it seems to me to come to this, that the hon. Gentleman feels it is unfair to deprive us of the light of his countenance, and that as he will in all probability one of these days be a Peer, it would be unfair to deprive the House of Lords of the light of his countenance. His plan, therefore, is that he should sit in either House of Parliament, or in both. In all these reforms the House will see that the hereditary principle is mitigated, but still maintained, and that the hereditary principle being maintained, the object of the reform is rather to strengthen the legislative powers of the House of Lords. I agree with Lord Salisbury, either leave the hereditary principle alone, or make a clean sweep of the whole thing. I am aware that on my own side the feeling is not unanimous in favour of the principle of one Chamber. I do not commit myself as to that. There is a great deal to be said in favour of two Chambers, provided they are not co-ordinate and co-legislative. There ought to be one popular Representative Assembly, and another Assembly to exercise some sort of control, and to hinder, if possible, hasty or impulsive legislation, and also to prevent the popular Assembly converting itself into a Convention. This doctrine may be fairly held by any Radical without impeachment of his Radicalism. The two most Democratic Constitutions in Europe are those of Switzerland and Norway. In both countries there are two Chambers. In the United States, the Senate very frequently throws out a Bill that is passed by the House of Representatives, and the President very often vetoes a Bill that has been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives. Still, neither President, Senate, nor House of Representatives can pass a Bill which is regarded as contrary to the written Constitution; in that case the question is to be submitted to popular vote. In this country we have no written Constitution; the veto of the Crown has fallen into desuetude; but nevertheless I do not believe in the risks of hasty, impulsive legislation, because this House will have to give an account of what it does to the nation, and for that reason I have no fear that the House of Commons will ever be converted into a Convention. But there is the possible danger that the House might exceed its mandate, and I am strongly confirmed in that view by what goes on in the present Parliament, which, in my opinion, has grossly exceeded its mandate. If the House of Lords really fulfilled those modest functions which I think ought to be above all those of an Upper House, if it represented fairly the collective opinion of the country, if it were free from class influences, and Party bias, then in all probability the country would accept the fact of it being there, and would not insist on its abolition. My contention, however, is that the House of Lords never has been free from party and class bias, never has fairly represented the whole of the nation, and never has fulfilled the proper functions of an Upper House, while on many occasions its action has been positively pernicious. Mainly composed as it is of a territorial aristocracy, it is notoriously tenacious of the rights and privileges of its class. So it would be if if we had an Upper House composed, exclusively of railway directors, or partizans, or if you like, of brewers. I know perfectly well that in theory the House of Lords is recruited not only from all classes, but from the wisest and best of all classes. But what is the fact? Statesmen whom it is desired to shelve are sent up to the House of Lords. Whenever a Party has been out of power for some time, you have a number of statesmen who have been very eminent, but for whom there may not be room in the Cabinet. Something must be done for them. Some kindness must be given them; they must receive some recognition. What is the recognition these extinct volcanoes receive? They are sent up to the House of Lords. The Upper House is also recruited from the ranks of country gentlemen, and you select those men who have spent most at elections, or given the largest sums to the general funds of their Party. Besides these you have the very rich men. It so happens that at the present time men seem to get rich by brewing beer and issuing loans; therefore, you have loanmongers and brewers whom you select from. I quite admit that occasionally able and clever men are sent up to the House of Lords, but that, I suppose, is because there is some idea of leavening this indigestible legislative dough. But the curious thing is that although you may send plebeians up to the House of Lords, no sooner do they get there than they become more aristocratic than the descendants of the Crusaders; as a matter of fact, they do become descendants of the Crusaders. We seem to be able, like the Chinese, to ennoble the ancestors of these noblemen. I will give two instances. There was a very respectable gentleman, a very eminent gentleman, who brewed very excellent stout in Dublin—a Mr. Guinness. Mr. Guinness is sent up to the House of Lords. I do not know that he had done much for the country beyond brewing stout, but, I suppose it was felt something must be done for the middle class. No doubt it was said, "Here is a self made man; let us plebeianize that Assembly." What do I find in the pages of "Burke"? I find that a great mistake has been made in regard to this brewer. Mr. Guinness was not Guinness; his name in prehistoric ages was Magenniss, and this Magenniss who lived in these prehistoric ages was the Viscount Iveagh. Literally, this nobleman has been restored to his native nobility. Then, again, there is Sir Hardinge Giffard, an eminent and successful lawyer, who went to the House of Lords to sit on the Woolsack as Lord Halsbury. Turning once more to "Burke" I find that Baron Halsbury is descended from a union in the reign of Edward I. between an eminent gentleman named Giffard, which meant in that time "the Liberal," and the daughter of an eminent knight called Peter do Halsbury. I put it to the House, whether an Assembly thus composed and recruited is likely to be in touch with the country? Remember that one of the main objects of an Upper House is that it shall be able to decide whether we are going beyond the views of the electors. How on earth is the House of Lords to decide that? We have before us the fact that we have to be re-elected; surely, therefore, we must be more in touch with the country than these gentlemen. History has shown that whenever the House of Lords has thrown out a Bill on the ground that the country will go with them, they have been invariably in error. There was only one instance in the last 150 years of their having thrown out a Bill and the country having supported them in that action. I allude to Mr. Fox's East India Bill. The hereditary legislators are not only interested in maintaining their class rights and privileges, but they are also always legislating in order to secure a tactical advantage for the Party to which they belong. While it is considered necessary to have a House of Lords to keep a Radical Government in order, it is not considered necessary to keep the Tories in order, because, whenever there is a Conservative majority in the House of Commons, the House of Lords becomes a mere echo of the opinion of that majority in this House. I will exemplify what occurs by the course taken in Ireland during the last few years. I will show, in regard to Ireland, in the past, in the present, and in the avowed future, the House of Lords have acted, act, and intend to act, as Tory partizans. In 1881, as the House is well aware, there was a very large Liberal majority in this House. It was just after the elections that the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was brought in and carried through this House. I am not going to say whether the Bill was good or bad—that is not to the purpose for my illustration, but as a matter of fact, the Executive chosen by the majority felt that the Bill was necessary to quiet and pacify Ireland, and it was their view of their duty to call upon Parliament to pass that measure. It was thrown out in the House of Lords. What was the result of this? The Government had the responsibility of governing without the power of governing as they desired. Surely this is a most improper position. Now I take the present position. As the House knows, three years ago there was a General Election, and the elections to a great extent turned upon the question of Home Rule. Now hon. Gentlemen opposite need not cry "Oh, oh" at what I am going to say, for I am only saying what we think. The country had not had time to digest that excellent measure, the country was assured that there was some third course between coercion and Home Rule, and that if a Tory majority came into power that third course would be pursued. Again I am speaking of what we think. We hold that the pledges given at the late General Election, and which led to the return of a Conservative majority, have been entirely violated; we hold that the majority were elected under false pretences; we also hold that the country has altered its opinion; that the country has had time to think over the matter; and the by-elections prove that if the country were consulted again there would be found—I will not say unanimous—but such an almost unanimous opinion and such a majority against the Government that they and their Liberal Unionist allies would almost disappear. We therefore think that three years is long enough to exercise coercion, and that the right to exercise it has been obtained under false pretences. We may be right or we may be wrong in that view, but I ask, is Lord Salisbury a fitting judge in his own case? For it must be remembered it is his own case. I assume for a moment that we are right. You see we have absolutely no sort of appeal to the House of Lords, and so far as we ourselves are concerned, the House of Lords does not exist. Lord Salisbury again and again says, "We have got a majority, and we do not care what the country thinks; we have got powers for six years; no matter what the by-elections may be, and no matter what may be the change of opinion in the country, we intend to have every day of our six years." This shows that Lord Salisbury considers that the House of Lords is merely a Committee of the Carlton Club. Now, I take the future. It is possible—I do not say it will occur—but it is possible we may win the next General Election; it is possible that Home Rule may be successfully put forward by us at the next General Election; well, in anticipation of that, what do the Members of the Government, the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) and others say? They say, "You need not think that if you carry the country, no matter what your your majority may be, you will pass a Home Rule Bill, you have to deal with the House of Lords. The House of Lords will throw it out; they will throw it out once, and they will throw it out twice." In this argument they show the permanent nature of the majority in the House of Lords, and the way in which the Conservatives use that majority for their own purposes. This argument has been brought forward as an electioneering argument to urge the country not to vote in favour of Home Rule under any impression that the question will be settled by their vote. No; they say, "You cannot do more than disturb political matters again, because no matter what the House of Commons does the House of Lords will throw back the Bill and force another General Election." So I say the House of Lords is a partizan Assembly, and does not act judicially in its position as arbiter between this House and the country; cannot be said to hold the balance evenly between the two Parties in the country, but, on the contrary, it acts as a partizan body. As I have shown, their Lordships boast and glory in the fact that they intend to act as partizans in the future. Now I take another instance from what occurred today. At our morning sitting the Naval Defence Bill was discussed. The object of that Bill is to increase the Navy and to throw the expenditure upon a series of years. Now I take this from a leading article in the Times, which I suppose we may take to be the Tory organ, and this is how the Times referred to the Bill on Tuesday:— The merit of the Bill is that it proposes to subject Parliament to a certain amount of compulsion in regard both to the shipbuilding programme and to the financial provision for carrying it into effect. Now, note the words "a certain amount of compulsion," and remember that compulsion is to be exercised not only upon this House, but upon the future House of Commons. Lord Salisbury is absolutely certain that he always will have and must have a majority in the other House, so that when he has passed this Bill through this House he not only deprives this House in future Sessions of exercising its free opinion in the voting of money, but he deprives the future House of Commons, with, it may be, a Liberal majority, and it may be opposed to this expenditure, of any possibility of exercising what I have always thought the particular function of this House, the control of national expenditure, and he does this by his control of the majority in the other House. But it is not only in political Bills, not only in class Bills, that the House of Lords flies in the face of the country. I will again refer to what occurred last week. The Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, having passed this House, went up to the House of Lords. Now it cannot be said for a moment that this Bill was rejected because the legislation was hurried or impulsive. For 40 long years—with the exception of one Parliament—the representatives of the people have demanded that these restrictions upon marriage should be done away with. Why then did the House of Lords throw out the Bill? Not because they acted as guardians or representatives of the opinion of the country, they acted according to their own foolish opinions. Some of the Members of the House of Lords were, I suppose, influenced by the thought that they were not prepared to face the contingency of their sisters wishing to marry them, but what is remarkable is that the Constitution of this country absolutely gives the right to Lord Dudley, Lord Lurgan and other hereditary Biblical scholars of the same opinion to decide the theological point whether, if Moses for bad the Israelites on Mount Sinai to marry a deceased wife's sister, that commandment is obligatory upon Englishmen in the present century. One more objection against the system of hereditary legislators. Whenever a new Ministry is formed, from the fact of there being two Houses of Legislature, a considerable number of Ministers have to be solicited from the other House, and resulting from that fact we have not only hereditary legislators, we have also hereditary Ministers. Now, I am not finding fault with Ministers, but unquestionably this House is the centre of power, and all Ministers ought to be here, otherwise we cannot bring our arguments and influence to bear upon them. But we have to-day the Prime Minister, three Secretaries of State, and the Scotch Secretary of State in the other House. Let it be remembered we dare not allude to what is said by these Ministers when speaking in their official capacity in the other House. Is it possible then for us to debate general matters and the views of the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs with these restrictions? No, I say the Ministers ought to be here, and it is one reason why we should put an end to that House, that so long as it exists we must have a considerable number of Ministers there, and whenever there is a change of Ministry, there is a general scramble and grabbing on the part of noble Lords for places great and small. The Civil List is pledged. I have always thought it unfair to throw upon Her Majesty the onus of spending the whole of the amount, and a considerable part is spent on the House of Lords when a Party comes into power. There is one man gets £2,000 a year for walking about backwards with a staff, and several others get £700 for being Lords of the Chamber. Why, a little while ago an hon. Friend of mine proposed that we should receive some miserable and inadequate payment for our valuable services to the country here, and we were told the proposition was a monstrous one, not to be entertained, and that it would create a class of professional politicians. But what happens in the other House? There is a species of general lottery or a scramble, when there is a change of Party, for places big and small. Burke speaks of an aristocracy being a cheap defence of the country—defence it may be, though I doubt it; cheap it certainly is not. I only wish Lord Salisbury would be good enough to publish all the letters he gets from noble Lords when he comes into office and during the time he is in office—such abject demands for places of monetary value, that the country would rise in indignation to sweep away these Gentlemen. I have addressed most of the arguments I have used to Gentlemen on this side of the House, but if hon. Members opposite will try to rise above Party prejudice, I will explain to them why, if they are wise, they will vote in favour of my Resolution. I ask myself what I should do if were a Conservative and had to consider this Resolution, and I unhesitatingly reply, I should vote in favour of it. For some reason or other, the cleverest men of the Conservative Party are generally Members of the House of Lords. Why deprive yourselves of this debating power? Lord Salisbury and others, differ from them though we may, are certainly able statesmen and most able debaters, but you deprive yourselves entirely of this power. You have very often very good men in this House, Gentlemen who command the attention of the House and exercise influence here in the position to which they are accustomed, but then they are suddenly swept away to the other House. Who is your most influential man here, and whom you humbly obey? The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (Lord Hartington). I hope he will long remain amongst us, but it is possible at any time, seeing that the noble Lord must at some time succeed to a ducal title, he will disappear from this House. Now I say the Conservative Party do themselves great harm by depriving themselves of the influence and power of eminent noblemen by letting them go into the other House, for not only is their influence lost to this House, but it is lost to the country. Noble Lords are generally local magnates, and have a certain amount of prestige. Although prestige in favour of the House of Lords collectively has disappeared, I have no doubt that in country districts a good deal of prestige attaches to the position of noblemen. I am sorry that it should be so, but I have no doubt of the fact. They are generally possessors of a large amount of land, and are men of great fortunes, which, I quite admit, they usually spend generously. These gentlemen generally have great interest in their country, and as a fact—and I am speaking as a Conservative—they would be the very best candidates you could have. An. hon. Friend of mine remarked to me that he was doubtful about the expediency of my Motion, because he said the Conservative Peers in the other House would make such good candidates for the Party. But I do not take that view, and certainly, if you deprive the Lords of their position in the other House, you ought to give them the opportunity of being elected like anybody else. I only call attention to this to show you how you lose influence in this House, and most certainly you lose influence in the country by maintaining the House of Lords, and not giving the Lords the right of election to this House, where their influence would be felt. Is it because of mere prejudice? Is it because you are the "silly Party," as John Stuart Mill once said you were, and you wish to qualify for that definition? Political battles are fought here, and upon the results of the elections the destinies of the country are decided. You seem to me to be like the "commander of an army, who, when the country is invaded, moves off his troops from the field to a garrison behind him, depriving himself of the force with which he might win the battle. You may say, "All this is perfectly true, and we really do recognize the fact that the Lords are not angels, but we do not see how we are to replace them." Now, I will briefly show how you might do so. I am not putting this forward as a reply to the argument frequently used, that we must have a House of Lords, or some sort of Upper House. I say, abolish the hereditary nature of the House. Divide the country into 50 districts, and let each district each year, or rather the County Council in each county every year, elect one Member for three years. You would thus have a permanent Assembly, and it would be a popular Assembly. It would be permanent, for it would only be renewed every three years, and yet it would be altered each year by the current of public opinion to a very considerable extent. I would not have these gentlemen Ministers; they would not exercise any office of profit or trust; they would be what I may term passive citizens, and that would make them, if possible, independent. And what should be their functions? They would be very simple. They would have no legislative functions at all; they would not be allowed to originate legislative measures; they would be a controlling House. Suppose a Bill passes this House, they would deal with the Bill in one of two ways; they might pass it, or they might throw it out on a Second Reading. Let me suppose they throw it out. The Bill would then, without debate, go up to the House again in the next Session, and they might throw it out again; but remember, a third of the House would have been renewed, and public opinion would have the opportunity of acting on the views of the Upper House. If they persisted in throwing out the Bill during the whole period of one House of Lords, and still the Commons persisted, then the Bill would become law, without the assent of the other House. Or they might pass the Bill or a Second Reading, and go into Committee upon it, and move Amendments to it; but these would be only suggestive Amendments for us to consider, assent to, or refuse. But if a House of Lords, a popularly elected House, and renewed by a third each year, were unanimous, or nearly so, in throwing out the Bill, that would lead Members of the House of Commons to doubt and hesitate and reconsider whether, after all, the Bill was desirable. The House of Commons would in the same way consider the Amendments, which, after fair debate, might have been moved in the other House, and in all probability some of those Amendments would recommend themselves to the wisdom of this House for adoption. I do not say that I have any great belief myself in an Upper House. I merely throw this out as a suggestion, to show that in many ways an Upper House might be constituted harmless for evil at least, and not so pernicious as the present House. You would get good men to serve, but you would not find men cajoling, intriguing, seeking in every possible way to become Members, as in the present House of Lords. You would find plenty of men ready to be elected; they would have an opportunity to air their eloquence, and to exercise indirect influence upon public affairs. But as I said, I am making a Conservative speech here. I wish hon. Members to realize that we, on this side of the House, we Radicals, are not in favour of change merely for the sake of change. We really have no sinister designs on law and order, or the rights of property. We are just as anxious as hon. Gentlemen opposite to preserve all that is worth preserving. We regard law and order and the rights of property as the necessary basis of national prosperity; but the difference between us and hon. Gentlemen opposite is, that we do not mistake the means for the end. We do not put the good democratic wine of the nineteenth century into the bottles of the Crusaders. Whether we should have, or should not have, an Upper House is not the question you are asked to decide to-night. What I assert is that the system of hereditary legislation is in direct antagonism to the spirit of the age, and every day it will get more and more into antagonism with the spirit of the age, for the people are becoming more intelligent; they think and read more, and more clearly perceive the utter absurdity of a great nation sending representatives to this House and allowing their decisions to be overruled by the hereditary legislators in the other House. I am not asking any Gentlemen to vote in favour of any suggestion for another House, or in favour of one House or two Houses. All I ask the House to declare is,that in their opinion the accident of birth, as was very well said last year by the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), ought not to give any one the right to legislate in a free and, self-governing country.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words in the opinion of this House, it is contrary to the true principles of Representative Government, and injurious to their efficiency, that any person should sit and vote in Parliament by right of birth, and it is therefore desirable to put an end to any such existing rights.'"— (Mr. Labouchere.) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the-Question."

* MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)

My excuse for asking the indulgence of the House while I make a few observations. in support of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton must be that I have had a Motion on the Notice Paper since the beginning of the Session attacking the hereditary principle from a different point of the compass, and that I was successful in obtaining a first place for it, which I lost by the alteration made in the Easter Recess, and this was specially brought about by the activity of the hon. Member for Northampton himself. I might be successful. in a future ballot, but I am very unwilling to take up the time of the House with another discussion of this principle. Now, it seems to me we cannot properly understand the direction of the Resolution that has been proposed without looking at it in the light of the Amendment that has been set down in connection with it, an Amendment of a very remarkable character, if I rightly understand. it. That Amendment, while it seems to admit there is a certain element of evil in the hereditary principle, makes proposals which, unless I misunderstand them, would tend to intensify that evil. We are offered what is called a "Representative Peerage," which, as I understand it, means that, instead of being lorded over by 500 hereditary legislators, we are to be subjected to, say, 250 elected by the others. Now, I say that is worse than ever. Five hundred is two times nearer to democracy than 250. The complaint we make is, that we are lorded over by a small. narrow, privileged body, and we are told that the matter is to be mended by handing us over to a still smaller body of the same privileged description. We complain that there is a certain poison in the political body, and we are told that the best antidote is a quintessence of the poison itself; but I do not understand, and I do not believe in such a system of political therapeutics. Then we are further told we shall have the system of Hereditary Peerages diluted by a large infusion of Life Peerages. But are you going to dilute it? To my mind, you are rather going to thicken it, because the appointment of new Life Peers is not to be by the representatives of the people as I understand it, but by the representatives and friends of the ascendant and privileged class. On what principle would they be appointed? On the principle that they will be thought the most fit persons to be in the company of that very hereditary class of which we complain. It is not only retaining the original evil, but adding an imitation of the original evil. I would rather, for my part, have the original evil than the imitation. Selected as I believe these Life Peers would be. I think these new Life Peers would simply be the old Hereditary Peers "writ large." If my rights and my independence are to be sold over my head, I would rather they were sold for the old gold coins than for the new gilt brass counters. The Amendment seems to me to indicate a more uncompromising contention for the hereditary legislative principle than a simple Motion for the rejection of the Resolution; so that I think we are bound to look somewhat carefully into the question what amount of soundness and validity there is in this so-called hereditary principle which is so stoutly stickled for by the Party whom I may safely call hereditarians. If our hereditary friends mean simply that it is a great recommendation and an advantage for a man to have bad a distinguished father, then I am disposed to agree with them, though I think it would be still more advantageous to him to have had a distinguished mother. But apart from that, I admit that your well-born man, given self-control, has every chance to dominate and shine in life contrasted with your base-born man. I am willing to admit that that is so, but, I ask, is that any reason for giving to him, in addition to the advantages which Nature and Fortune have bestowed upon him, the power of fashioning the laws of the country in favour of himself, and to the exclusion and disadvantage of the other competitor? If one man happens to be born in the purple and another in the hodden grey, why should the law step in to give the purple man its assistance, with the accompanying result of further handicapping the hodden grey man? If there is to be any interference of the law with the course of Nature, is it not a reasonable thing that the advantage should be given to the hodden grey man to redress the unfortunate turn of the balance which Nature has made against him? But perhaps our hereditarian friends may say that this is scarcely a fair way of putting the matter. What they say is, that the law of heredity being a great and unassailable fact of Nature and principle of science, given a distinguished ancestry, that law of heredity guarantees a distinguished line of succession. On that I wish to remark that that is too vague a way of stating the matter to suit the present case. The version of the law of heredity which our hereditarian friends are bound to defend on this occasion is, that it is a law of Nature, as well as a principle of the British Constitution, that, given legislative capacity in an ancestor, that legislative capacity infallibly descends in tail male general. That is the proposition which they require to make good. Now, I have paid some little attention to this matter. I have endeavoured to understand the works of Darwin and others, but I have found nothing in the experiments and conclusions of these distinguished men of science to justify the assertion that the law of heredity guarantees the transmission of any specialized acquirements, faculties, or functions. Bees, possibly, may have hexagons in the bloods, though certain apiologists give a simpler explanation, and the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) may, perhaps, be able to tell us whether among the ant tribes the faculty of grain gathering and munching is infallibly bequeathed from feeding sire to son; but however that may be, in the higher creatures, given ordinary favourable conditions, you may fairly enough reckon upon the transmission of general energy and general characteristics, but that you cannot reckon upon the regular transmission of specialized aptitudes, fitnesses, and faculties. I am perfectly prepared to admit that this law thus stated is well illustrated in the existing condition of the membership of the Hereditary Peerage. I suppose that no man ever made his way originally as a legislator into the House of Lords who had not some force and strength of character—a force and strength ranging between the leonine and the vulpine type. I admit that you will still find the general energy of the ancestors to be exemplified in their descendants. Let hon. Members go to Ascot or Henley, to the hunting-field, or to the autumnal moor, to local business or agriculture, to charitable meetings, or even sometimes to literature and science, go to the battlefield, and to their scenes of pleasure, whether of the conventional or Corinthian order, and they will find abundance of energy displayed by the descendants of Peers; but it is not the special kind of energy which is required in Select Committees and on the floor of the House. It is the transmission of that special kind of special energy, and of that kind alone which you are required to make good, if you are to maintain the proposition which the necessity of your logical position imposes upon you. Why, it would be impossible, I presume, and it might not be very improper, to secure and ennoble and endow the greatest fiddler of the century, but the process would not entail a succession of greatest fiddlers. If Queen Elizabeth had created a Baron Shakespeare of Stratford, I suppose we should have had a succession of lively and versatile gentlemen, but I do not think we should have secured even a second repetition of Hamlet or Macbeth. If the principle contended for is sound, why should it be limited to the feudal magnates of the Hereditary Chamber? Why are the Bishops to be deserted by the principle of heredity? Is this, too, part of the revenge which science is taking upon theology? Why should not the son of a Bishop be born, say, an Archdeacon, and perform Archidiaconal functions in his cradle? I am prepared. to go further. Here are we, the Members of the House of Commons, in this advanced year of grace, stamped by the nation with the seal of the highest attainable legislative competency, whatever foolish outside criticism may say, and I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should seize the occasion in the name of the great law of heredity to secure once and forever for the advantage of the nation an infallible succession of the best possible legislators by settling our seats upon us not merely until the end of the septennate, but in fee simple; thus among other gains providing for their children and childrens' children—such amusement as playing political blind man's buff among sugar barrels or blowing soap bubble navies to be exploded by the first breath of new invention, or trying to conciliate unhappy and unsatisfied nationalities by perennial courses of bayonets and battering rams. Sir, I should not appear for a moment to trifle with this subject were I not convinced that the idea we are discussing is itself trifling-and absurd. I do not believe that the principle of heredity, the scientific principle of heredity, car be properly invoked in this cause, and I never will believe it until it has been certified to me by say, the Royal Society or by a Select Committee of this House. But this is not merely a question of Academic interest. It is fraught with and followed by disastrous practical consequences and concomitants. The false relations which have been produced by a misapplication of this natural law in our social connections are of very grave significance. The relations between plebeian and patrician throughout the English-speaking communities are directly traceable to this institution of the hereditary power of legislation. The calm assumption of lordly superiority on the one hand, and the cringing servility and fawning obsequiousness expected, and too often conceded on the other, are, to my mind, a class of most distressing phenomena. That a cipher should be able to stand up in this country and say to multitudes of his fellow-beings, "Oh ye multitudes, I am my father's son, there- fore revere me, oh ye multitudes!" and that the multitudes, instead of treating the proposition with indignant derision, should go down on their knees and lift up their hands and say, "Oh, cipher, thou art thy father's son, and therefore we revere thee, oh cipher!" is a saddening spectacle to a serious mind; and yet this is the direct consequence of your having instituted an order of men who are supposed by the mere fact of birth to be possessed of what is probably the highest faculty human or divine, the faculty of making wise and righteous laws for the regulation of human life. Then, Sir, another argument that is advanced for retaining the institution of hereditary legislators, is that in that way the ascendancy of birth can be used for the purpose of correcting what is supposed to be the degrading and vulgarizing ascendancy of wealth. In other words, the Lords are supposed to be our salvation from the millionaires. But in practice, so far from birth acting as a corrective to wealth, there is nothing that birth is so active about as seeking to ally itself with wealth, so as to give us the two evils combined. Worse still than that is the temptation which hereditary power and birth, with their privileges, are continually offering to wealth to withdraw it from its true duty to labour, and to fix a vain and selfish ambition on the attainment of hereditary honours and powers. Ever since the days when Mr. Pitt declared that wealth was in itself a proper passport to nobility, and, if I recollect right, that every man with £10,000 a year had a right to be made a Peer in due time, the ambition of the average-minded plutocrat has been fixed upon a coronet. I do not say that there have not been among this class men of a true nobility of nature that placed them above such ambition. I believe, indeed, that there have been capitalists, who are worthily represented in this House now, who have refused Peerages, and were content to remain as beneficent captains of industry, and all honour to them for their wisdom and self-abnegation. But such men are the exception, and not the rule. For usually no sooner has your colossal stock manipulator, or Titanic iron master, or mammoth manufacturer of soap, or of mustard, or of blacking, or of pills, or of any other eatable or drinkable, or usable abomi- nation succeeded in gathering together the necessary number of hundreds of thousands of pounds than he casts about for the ways and means of becoming a Baron. Not unfrequently he pays his way, or paves it to his object. Straightway, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has so picturesquely described, the Herald's College discovers for him an illustrious pedigree going back to Henry VIII., or the Conqueror, according to the fee; and in an incredibly short space of time the new and noble Lord is prancing about surrounded by a cockaded and plush-clad legion, and. ordering humbler mortals about, with an awe-inspiring mien that Nebuchadnezzar or Louis XIV. would have emulated in vain. Birth, as a corrective of wealth, is a very doubtful matter. I have less respect for birth than for wealth, if respect is due to either, where at least it can be said of it that it is the legitimate outcome of a man's own energy. If it is foolish and mean to respect a man. merely on account of his wealth, I say it is not by any means the height of wisdom and magnanimity to respect a man merely because he happens to be the son of his father. Things are not improved or to be made better by substituting one form of nonsense for another. Beelzebub in blue is not a bit less objectionable than Beelzebub in black, and we all know that it has been settled long ago that we cannot cast out Beelzebub by Beelzebub. No, Sir; if there is any danger of falling into a demoralizing worship of wealth, the only corrective is to be found in poor men having the bravery to worship virtue, truth, and manliness instead. A poet whom I am not ashamed to quote in this House said:— Is there for honest poverty, That hangs his head, and a' that? The coward slave, we pass him by, And dare be free, for a' that! That is the spirit in which to meet any demoralizing tendency there may be in the threatened worship of wealth, but not by trying to keep alive the exploded folly of hereditary honour and hereditary legislative power. And now, as one concluding word, it is urged that we ought to keep up hereditary legislative institutions to be a counterpoise to democracy; but I take upon myself to say in the name of democracy that it is exceedingly obliged to its friends, but it does not need any counterpoise of that kind. If democracy discovers that it requires any counterpoise in the legislative machinery by which it works out its aims and secures its progress, it will construct a counterpoise for itself, but it will not be one that is made against itself and in the interest of a specially privileged class, but one that will be under its own control and fashioned in its own interests, which I need not say are the interests of all. I have much pleasure in seconding the Resolution.

* MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)

I understand that the forms of the House will prevent the Amendment of which I have given notice from being put, but I have placed it on the Paper in order to express the opinions of, I believe, a good many Members who desire to meet with something more than a mere negative the confiscatory proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton, and who wish to express their opinion that a judicious reform of the House of Lords is possible, and that the hour for that reform has struck. The House has just listened to two ingenious and amusing speeches, and I am sure it will desire to congratulate the hon. Member for Northampton on the fertility of imagination which enables him year after year to present in a new dress the same old facts, or perhaps I ought rather to say fictions, and the same old arguments or fallacies which we have so often heard before. Of the arguments that have been submitted by the hon. Member, some were, I think, irrelevant, others worthless, and some were both irrelevant and worthless. I take as a sample of the hon. Member's irrelevant arguments the personal reference which he made to two noble Lords, one of them a very capable man of business, Lord Ardilaun, and the other a most distinguished lawyer, Lord Halsbury. The only objection which the hon. Gentleman found to them was that they had an unsuspected pedigree; but the hon. Member for Northampton himself may be the unconscious possessor of a similar distinction, because, although it may not be possible for him to trace his ancestry as far back as the Crusaders, it ought not to be difficult for him to establish a lineal connection with Jack Cade. I take as a sample of the worthless arguments used, the assertion that there is a permanent Conservative majority in the House of Lords. Why, such a character is the necessary and differentiating attribute of every Second Chamber in the world. You will not find any Second Chamber constituted on the basis of property or ability, or wealth, where there is not a decided Conservative predominance. And these are the factors on which they are invariably based. The Senate of the United States, the most competent Second Chamber in the world, consists, almost without exception, of wealthy men with a great stake in the country. But if this charge be advanced on whom does the responsibility rest for the constitution of the present House of Peers? Three hundred Peers have been created during the reign of the Queen, over 200 of them by Liberal Leaders, and nearly 80 by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. In the invigorating atmosphere of the House of Lords, most of these Peers have shaken off the bonds of servility which they contracted in this House, and it is they who constitute the permanent Conservative majority of which the hon. Member complains. It is an irrelevant and worthless argument to refer to the payment received by Peers as Members of the Government or of the Royal Household. Liberal Peers do not refuse such salaries, and I have even heard of some who do their best to pocket pensions in addition. Lately, indeed, it has been argued on the same grounds that all Members of this House should be paid; and now precisely the same reasons which were adduced to justify the payment of all Members in the House of Commons are used to justify the extinction of the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Northampton spoke of his proposal having received the endorsement of the Leaders of his Party, but let him not push his elation too far, for there is a memorable phrase defining Liberal responsibility in Opposition as "a position of greater freedom and less responsibility," and, indeed, the hon. Member for Derby last year pointed out that, in supporting the equivalent of this Motion, he voted for nothing more than that the Speaker should not leave the Chair. It is said that the hereditary system is contrary to the true principles of Representative Government; but the latter have not been defined, and I protest against the assumption that they are only, or necessarily, to be vindicated by the elective method. Representation describes an end without laying down any laws as to the means of attaining it. And the hereditary principle has furnished the method by which interests not otherwise represented have secured representation in the Parliament of this country. I deny altogether that the operation of this principle has been found injurious. It would be foolish to contend that if we were forming a House of Lords now, we should frame it wholly or mainly on the hereditary principle. Of course, we should do nothing of the kind. But we are not now starting with a clean slate, and we must take things more or less as we find them. The hereditary principle was never enacted by Parliament; it has not sprung from the brain of any statesman; for centuries it was in abeyance in the House of Lords, but slowly and imperceptibly it became a feature in the constitution of that House, establishing itself as a rough-and-ready method of selection, and concentrating in the House of Lords a great deal of ability and influence representative of the property of the country. The hereditary principle has given England what no other country in Europe enjoys—a nobility worthy of the name, and a social order admired at home and abroad. It has saved this country from the corroding influence of unstinted riches; it has supplied a succession of statesmen who have transmitted from generation to generation the tastes and talents of public life and a House of Lords which has played no small part in the building up of the fabric of the British Empire. That it has rendered these services to the country not even the most bigoted disciple of democracy can deny. The democratic tendency of this age does not make the House of Lords a greater anomaly. Constitutional uniformity is not a political desideratum, and the excellence of our Constitution lies in the happy Concordia discors by which it is characterized. The wider the extension of the franchise, and the more numerous the grants of Local Government the greater the need for a balancing power differ- ently constituted and owning a different sanction, to save our Parliament from falling to the low level of impotent uniformity in which the Parliamentary institutions of other countries are sunk. Look at the Constitutional offspring to which the mind of the hon. Member for Northampton has given birth. It is to contain 150 Members elected by County Councils. That is a respectable, but certainly not a dignified or an ancient origin. As to its functions, its powers of amendment are to be absolutely nil, but its powers of rejection unlimited, so that Bills about which there is a serious difference between the two Houses would infallibly be rejected. There would soon be a wave of popular indignation against the Laboucherean Second Chamber, and the first General Election would bring it to the ground. The scheme starts in revolution and ends in chaos. It is assumed that the present House of Lords is to be got rid of, but its Members are not such fools as to sign their own death warrant. If they can only be got rid of by revolution, where is the Leader—the Caius Gracchus, or the Oliver Cromwell? The hon. Member for Northampton will hardly play the part of the former, although he may ultimately share the same fate; nor is he precisely a nineteenth century counterpart of Oliver Cromwell, who began by sweeping away the House of Lords.

* MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

I beg pardon, but it certainly is not true that Oliver Cromwell swept away the House of Lords. It was done by a Vote of the House of Commons.


The hon. Member has only to refer to the most elementary school manual of history, if it can be found in the library of his house, in order to see his mistake. Within a week of the execution of Charles I., Cromwell swept away the House of Lords, but no sooner had he done so than he was compelled to set up a successor in order to balance the too powerful influence of the House of Commons. He was thus driven to the creation of a new House of Lords, and in order to ensure its political subserviency, he had to associate with it his own sons and sons-in-law and brothers-in-law, and in that way made it, in reality, quite a family party. The fact is, that this phantom Cromwellian House of Lords was, after a miserable existence of a few years, swept away to give place to a restoration of its legitimate predecessor. I only quote this, in order to illustrate the absolute fatuity of attempting by a stroke either of the sword or the pen to destroy an integral part of the Constitution, and replace it with some mushroom chamber such as that which the hon. Member for Northampton suggests. Nothing can be more certain than this, that whatever shape the House of Lords may take in the future, it will be inseparably connected with the past. There will be no great gap or division between the two systems. It will be by adaptation, modification, and purification, but not by cynical destruction, that you will get a new House of Lords such as will better correspond with the needs of the times and the wants of the people. And yet, Sir, I would desire to welcome the suggestion which has fallen from the hon. Member to-night as marking a distinct stage of advance in the history of this controversy. It shows not merely that the hon Member, in the maturity of his years, has repented some of the hot-headed indiscretions of his youth, not merely that he has recanted the unicameral heresy, but that he has passed from the destructive to the constructive phase of political existence. There are other omens which point in the same direction. An eminent and accomplished nobleman, Lord Rosebery, has addressed himself to the reform of the House of Lords with that serious statesmanship which we have learned to associate with his name. Another distinguished nobleman, Lord Dunraven, introduced a Bill last year against which no one can bring the reproach that it erred on the side of Conservatism. I see sitting on one of the opposite Benches, the hon. member for Aberdeen, who, some years ago, wrote a most instructive and interesting article in one of the magazines on the reform of the House of Lords, and, again, a right hon. Gentleman, a Member of the present Cabinet, the Member for Bristol (Sir M. Hicks Beach), has spoken out on this question in most clear and unambiguous tones. Moreover, the Lords themselves have abandoned the attitude of non possumus which they took up in 1856, 1869 and 1885; and last year we had the Prime Minister himself introducing a Bill which, whatever its demerits, was a step in the right direction. This movement exists not only amongst Conservatives and Peers, but indications of it are visible elsewhere. I suppose there was in this House no more bitter opponent of the House of Lords than the late Mr. John Bright. There are on record many hard sayings of Mr. Bright in reference to that Chamber. I remember meeting Mr. Bright last year, just after I had contributed to a magazine some suggestions for the reform of the House of Lords, and Mr. Bright, taking up the question, astonished me by saying that he also was in favour of the ref arm of that House. He spoke with great disrespect of all the schemes, including my own, which had been advanced for its reform. The amazing thing, however, about Mr. Bright's own proposal was that the House of Lords should be a territorial and property-representing House, elected by a high property franchise, among the county voters of England—in other words, the class of men elected to that House should be drawn from the land-owning class, or the class whose wealth and position give them a very large stake in the country. Whatever the intrinsic merits or demerits of that proposal I regard it as most significant in marking the drift of public opinion, even among the Radical Party. But, Sir, I may be called upon to state the reforms which we desire to present. In my Amendment I have asked the House to say that hereditary rights might with advantage be modified, by extending the principle both of Life and Representative Peerages in the House of Lords. I will endeavour to explain what I mean. By Life Peerages I mean something much more advanced than the petty and tinkering schemes which. have so far been introduced or carried into law. Three times during the last twenty years proposals have been made to add Life Peers to the House of Lords. The first occasion was in 1869 when a Bill was introduced by Lord Russell, which, however, was defeated in its later stages in that House; the second was in 1876, when, on the initiative of Lord Cairns, a measure was carried, by which four Life Peers were added as Lords of Appeal in Ordinary to the House of Lords; and the third occasion was last year, when a Bill was introduced by the Prime Minister, but subsequently withdrawn. The proposals both of Lord Russell and Lord Salisbury are very much on the same lines; both of them are paltry and peddling measures of reform, and scarcely worthy of the name. Both of them involved the introduction into the House of Lords of a limited number of Peers, drawn from the ranks of eminent men. Lord Salisbury proposed that 30 Life Peers should be added to the House of Lords from the class of distinguished Generals, Admirals, Civil Servants, Governors, and Ambassadors, and that 20 Life Peers should be sent to that Assembly from other classes. There are plenty of Generals and Admirals in the House of Lords already, and I do not think you would strengthen that House by adding to their number, nor do I see that the rejection of a Bill by the House of Lords would be made one whit more palatable, because so many Generals, Admirals, Ambassadors, and Governors had voted against it. Moreover, I do not see why you should take steps to increase the average age of the House of Lords. We do not want a House of Lords which is to be a museum of magnificent ruins. Still less do I approve of proposals to increase the number of Life Peers by the addition of distinguished representatives of literature, science and art—professors, painters, actors and poets. You would not strengthen, but would be much more likely to weaken, that legislative Chamber by attempting to graft upon it a kind of spurious French Academy. What we want to do is to make the House of Lords more representative of all classes and all interests. It ought to be much more than a mere assembly of notables, or club of landlords, or even a kind of dignified siding on to which are shunted the worn out or superfluous trucks of the Parliamentary train. Why should we not, by means of Life Peerages, make the House of Lords representative of the middle classes of this country, and even of the labouring classes too, and of the dissenting denominations, and, more that that, of every branch of industry and business? There are many men who are now debarred from accepting a Hereditary Peerage by the want of means, or from entering this House by the want of opportunity or inclina- tion. You might admit such men by means of Life Peerages, and I do not see why young men should be excluded. You might by means of Life Peerages answer the purpose which many years ago was fulfilled by the system of private boroughs—a system which, with all its defects, was an excellent one for introducing into public life young men who were without any other opportunity of entering that arena. And it might possibly be well to extend the Life Peerage system to Representatives of the Colonies, because by that means you would not only quicken their loyalty, but you would afford opportunities for the expression of Colonial opinion on Imperial matters. Next as regards the extension of Representative Peerages. May I point out to the House that there are already Representative Peers in the House of Lords. The Bishops sit there as Representatives of their Dioceses. Sixteen Scotch and 28 Irish Peers sit there as the elected representatives of the larger constituency of Peers, who inherit their titles and the right to elect representatives, but who do not inherit the right to sit and vote themselves. I do not say that I approve of the system by which the Irish and Scotch Peers are elected, but I think the principle itself is a sound one which might be extended. One of the commonest charges made against the House of Lords is that it contains a number of men, unfitted by taste, occupation, or character from acting as members of a Legislative Assembly. I think the charge as to moral character has been very much exaggerated. The number of black sheep is of minute and almost microscopical dimensions. Such Peers can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and they take no part in the Debates and Divisions of the House of Lords. But if the number of black sheep is insignificant, it may justly be said that the number of what I may perhaps call piebald sheep, sheep which are neither black nor white, is larger than it ought to be. I speak of the idler, the spendthrift, and the habitual absentee. These men are not a credit to the House of Lords, although they are seldom seen within the walls of that House. I should like to see the number of these men reduced. There need be no confiscation—all the existing Peers might retain their titles. But the right to sit and vote should be confined to Peers who have done some work or have been elected as representatives of their own order or of some constituency not yet determined. Thus a double advantage would be secured. There would be a house of working bees, not drones, and the House would be reduced to manageable dimensions. It is not for me to stand here and discuss proposals for the reduction of the hereditary element. Various schemes have been suggested. The principle of delegation is favoured by some, but of that I am not much enamoured. The spectacle of an Inner House elected by an Outer House—a close corporation co-opting a still closer corporation—is not likely to disarm popular criticism. The system which I should favour myself, and which I have expounded elsewhere, is one under which, by an automatic test, those Peers alone should be entitled to sit in the House of Lords who had qualified, either as Members of this House, or by previous employment in the Public or Civil Service of this country. In this way we should retain the best and exclude the inferior men. The hereditary principle would be based not upon privilege, as now, but upon worth, and men would feel that they sit in the House of Lords not simply as the sons of their fathers, but because they have done something or are somebody themselves. Well, Sir, I apologise for having detained the House with this suggestion. I remember that last year we were taunted—I believe by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle —with not having a definite scheme. I have therefore shadowed forth one by which we can, I think, effect a substantial reduction of the hereditary element in the House of Lords, and by an increase of Life Peers, and an extension of representative Peerages may so shape the House of Lords as to respond to the needs of the time and of the country. I confess I cannot look to the future of the House of Lords as it at present stands without apprehension. Matters are very quiet now—under the best possible of Governments we are having a quiet time. But it is possible that in the future a thoroughly bad Government may be seated on that Bench. It is possible that the hon. Member for Northampton may himself be sitting there. [Cries of "Which"?] Both. If we can for a moment contemplate such a contingency—extremely remote, no doubt—I can imagine that an unreformed House of Lords might be swept away by a wave of great popular excitement before we knew where we were. I cannot imagine any greater danger than that any country should be brought face to face with the irresponsible and frivolous tyranny of a single democratic Chamber. That is what we may have to face, and what I cannot contemplate with equanimity. It is for these reasons that I desire a House of Lords representative, not merely of land, or blue blood, or the Church, but of all classes and interests in the country. We want a House not solely hereditary, but one in which men shall feel that they have won their promotion, and strong enough —I do not say to wrestle with or combat this House, but to balance the overweening power of an unrestrained House of Commons. I am aware my proposal may not receive the co-operation of hon. Members below the gangway opposite. But I do hope that there are in other parts of this House hon. Members to whom the idea of reform in some such shape will prove acceptable. Whether that be so or not, I am convinced of one thing, and that is that the reform of the House of Lords should be initiated and undertaken by the Conservative Party.

MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

I think there is something rather appropriate in my following the hon. Member, for we represent different classes of society. I have been exceedingly amused with the speech of the hon. Member, which has presented what may be called dissolving views of the hereditary principle of the House of Lords. But the question before the House is not whether there ought to be a Second Chamber—that is a distinct question well worthy of consideration in a separate debate. The hon. Member wants to qualify the hereditary principle by representation. I cannot imagine where the hon. Member will get his representatives of labour. These representatives would not be popular with the class from which they have been selected. Now I object strongly to the principle of hereditary legislature, and I say that no reform short of the abolition of this kind of class distinction will satisfy those of us who spring from the people. The hon. Member in the early part of his speech showed that fear and trembling which is exhibited on that side of the House when we talk of popular legislation. He said— "I do not believe in the confiscatory proposals of the hon. Member for Northampton." We have so often heard the word confiscation used in this House. We are told we are going in for confiscation whenever we talk of land reform, but it is decidedly original to hear the hon. Member talk about confiscation in case the Legislature in its wisdom sees fit to abolish the principle of hereditary legislators. He pointed out that he is afraid of the wave of democracy. I believe he is quite right in being afraid of it, and I think the programme advanced by some of us on this side of the House constitutes the reason why many of our weak-kneed brethren have fallen away from us. It is the wave of democracy with regard to land reform, and with regard to the policy of privilege and of class distinction, and not the simple question of giving Ireland control of its own affairs, that is responsible for the Government being supported on this side of the House by persons who have hitherto followed our own honoured Leader into the Lobby. It is because we believe that the wave of democracy should have its legitimate sway in the Councils of the nation, and because we hold that its voice should be heard in the Legislative Chambers of this country, that we object to an institution which blocks up the pash of progress. The hereditary principle must go. It is the outcome of an old feudal system which has disappeared. What has been the single argument urged by the hon. Member opposite in favour of that principle? He said, you have had statesmen and warriors, you have had men of great ability in that House, thanks to the hereditary principle. I traverse the whole argument. I say that you have gained nothing by the hereditary principle; you have not secured to the country any ability which would not otherwise have been placed at its service. Whatever ability there is in the country will find its way into the House, if it so desires, and you will have the benefit of it, irrespective of the hereditary principle. But under the present system you get into public life a number of persons who are neither beneficial to themselves nor to the country at large. How will the hon. Gentleman weed them out? He has no policy which will do that, yet his Amendment puts you upon an inclined plane, and you will necessarily be landed at the bottom. Again, the hon. Member has argued that it enables poor young men of ability to find their way into public life. But have "poor young men of ability" failed to find their way into this House? I venture to say that there are more poor young men of ability inside the walls of this House than ever before, and if you want to introduce these men into public life, it is not to be done by maintaining the privileges of the wealthy classes; you can do it better by putting the Returning Officer's charges on the Consolidated Fund. The hon. Gentleman may even go a step further in that direction and vote for the payment of Members, so that the brains of "poor young men of ability" may be given to this country, and a man who desires to enter public life may not have to sacrifice his means of earning a livelihood. Leading men in the present Cabinet have passed through this House with great advantage to themselves. Now, the hon. Member told us that we must have a Second Chamber on purpose to stop the Democratic wave. I have tried so far as is in my power to read all that has been written on the subject of a Second Chamber, and among the authorities I have read is John Stuart Mill, who, in his chapter on Second Chambers in his work on Representative Government, distinctly points out that the House of Lords entirely fails to meet the requirements indicated by the hon. Member opposite. But Stuart Mill went further, and said the House of Lords would have to be re-constituted and the hereditary principle left out. The time is rapidly approaching when we must come to conclusions with the hereditary legislators. The House of Lords is an insult to the manhood of the nation. If we are to have a Second Chamber, the hereditary principle must be altogether left out of it. Is there any simple reason why a man because he is the son of his father should have the right to be a born legislator, and legislate for us and our children without our having a word to say as to his election? Hon. Members opposite may think that I am expressing strong sentiments, but these are the opinions of many of us. You may tinker and peddle with the question, but the principle will have to go; the manhood of the nation will not tolerate legislation by men simply by reason of their birth. The people have not forgotten the history of the House of Lords. They neither forget nor forgive. They remember '32, and '66, and '84; and what are we threatened with now? The Prime Minister declares that if a Liberal Parliament is returned at the next General Election and decides on a question of public policy in accordance with the views of those who elect it, if it passes a certain great measure, the House of Lords will throw it out. Let them try it. It will be so much the worse for the House of Lords. The country will not tolerate the throwing out of a great popular measure. If the House of Lords could not succeed in stopping the Reform Bill of 1832, there is little doubt that they will be unsuccessful in stopping a Home Rule measure a year or two hence. It is because we have had such bitter experience in the past of the House of Lords that we are determined to agitate and get rid of it as soon as we can. We do not only think of the measures which it has attempted to reject, we do not think merely of the measures which it desires to stop passing into law, but we have also in our recollection measures which it has mutilated. The Upper Chamber is not in touch and in sympathy with the people, and that is the reason of the slow progress we have made in the past. The hon. Member for Southport told us the House of Lords enabled a class to be represented who otherwise would have no representation. But my experience teaches me that those who have been represented in the House of Lords have always been over-represented in the House of Commons. We have no objection to any class having its fair share of representation in this House, but I say that we who are in the lowest scale of society are handicapped by the privileges of those who have wealth and social distinction. I assert that there is no class represented in the House of Lords who has not already a very large amount of representation in this House. For instance, that is the case with the landed classes. I am glad to see that their power is breaking up. I can understand they are not so happy as when they had the whole Chamber to themselves. Now, the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton distinctly challenges the hereditary principle of legislation. If we are to have a Second Chamber it must be representative, and we shall he prepared to discuss that on another occasion. We now ask, are you prepared to give up the hereditary principle? This is a question we intend to fight to the death, and we are resolved that the hereditary principle shall no longer exist in this country.

* MR. E. W. BECKETT (York, N.R., Whitby)

I regret that I have to differ from both the Motion and the Amendment. The path of true Conservatism lies in a different direction. I do not think that political attacks on the House of Lords serve any useful purpose whatsoever; they only stir up ill-will against an integral part of the Constitution which, by common consent, does its work well. The contrast between the object of the Motion and the means by which it is to be accomplished is almost startling. For an irresponsible Member of a divided —I might almost say a discredited—Opposition to rise below the Gangway and attempt in the brief hours of a summer's night to abolish an Assembly which has now existed for 700 years, is an enterprise that hovers so near the borderland that divides the sublime from the ridiculous that we should be in doubt to which domain it belonged were it not for the character and speech of him by whom it is undertaken. If hon. Gentlemen opposite have made up their minds to abolish the House of Lords, I think they might have conducted its obsequies with more pomp and circumstance, and with a keener eye to dramatice effect, such as they know so well how to produce elsewhere. I myself do not think the House of Lords will be abolished just yet, and I cannot help thinking that there is an air of unreality about this Motion. The Amendment rejects the principle that underlies the Motion, but in the substance of the Amendment and in the speech of my hon. Friend I certainly find an objection to the hereditary principle. That principle has been accepted and adopted by mankind in all ages and all countries. No one who reads history can doubt that the country which is governed by an hereditary Monarchy is better governed than by an elective Monarchy, and the more despotic the powers of the Monarch the greater the advantages of the hereditary system appear to be. Now, if the experience of mankind has taught us that it is better and safer for a country to be governed by a man possessing a power that has been handed down to him from his father than by a man elected by the free choice of the people, there must be something good in the hereditary principle. What is it, then, that is good in that principle? It is this, that the application of the mind to a particular pursuit, if carried on through several generations undoubtedly generates an aptitude for that pursuit. I remember asking a well-known Master of Foxhounds how it was he always managed to have such good foxhounds and such good whips, and his reply was, "Because I always have those who are bred to hunting." I have also heard of a highly successful manufacturer in the North who attributed his success in business to the fact that he selected his spinners and weavers from those who were bred to the trade. The House of Lords is composed of men taken arbitrarily from about 500 families, while the House of Commons is selected from about 7,000,000 families. Yet, deducting from the House of Lords those who sit there by virtue of their own talents, and deducting from the House of Commons those Members who belong to families represented in the House of Lords, he would be a bold man who would confidently assert that in all the qualities that make an ideal British legislator the Members of the House of Lords were inferior to the Members of the House of Commons. With regard to the action of the House of Lords in the past, reference has been made to its having thrown out the Compensation for Disturbance Bill; and this, it is said, led to a great increase of outrages in Ireland. Such outrages were, in my opinion, far more due to the action of the Liberal Party in refusing to continue the Peace Preservation Act. Hon. Members talk as if the Members of the House of Lords belonged not to a different House, but to a different century. But the Members of the House of Lords are as much open to the influence of modern ideas as we are, and are as fully capable of holding wise and statesmanlike views. The hon. Member opposite referred to the ancestry of two noble Lords, but I cannot see how the extraordinary fact of a man having ancestors should render him incapable of sympathizing with the feelings of the day. The hon. Gentleman remarked that Burke had said the aristocracy was the cheap defence of nations. He, however, misquoted Burke. The true quotation is that "Chivalry is the cheap defence of nations," and I am glad the hon. Member unwittingly paid the House of Lords the compliment of confounding aristocracy with chivalry. It seems to me that the composition of the Second Chamber should not rest on the same basis as that of the First Chamber. It should be, if possible. the expression of a different principle. The real use of a Second Chamber is that it represents, or should represent, the opinions of those who are not acted upon by the same influences as act upon the First Chamber. There are only two successful Second Chambers in the world. One is the House of Lords and the other is the American Senate. Each of them represents a principle. In the case of the House of Lords it is the hereditary principle, and in the case of the American Senate the Federal principle that is represented. I think myself that the Federal principle is the better of the two, and that if we could introduce it into the composition of the House of Lords, it would be an advantage, but that we cannot have until the Federation of the Empire is an accomplished fact. In the meantime, let us go on as we are. In Australia there is hardly room as yet for a Second Chamber; society is too small and too undeveloped. In France we see that the Senate is as yet a new and untried body, and neither years nor services have crowned it with honour in the mind of the country. Our Second Chamber is not only a guarantee against rash and impulsive legislation; it is also the protector of religion and law and order, and all the things which help to keep the State train upon the rails. Above all, it has always been a bulwark against one man power. A popular Leader of the present day, who has possessed himself of the hearts of the people, obtain almost incredible power. It is an unfortunate thing for a country when one man obtains a large measure of irresponsible power, and it is undoubtedly the fact that a Second Chamber, call it what you will, has always set itself against the undue exercise of power by one man. whether he be king, soldier, or demagogue. I consider that both the hereditary principle and a Second Chamber are good things, and that, under the circumstances, our Second Chamber is about the best thing we can have. The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. G. Curzon) spoke in favour of a very strong and considerable modification of the hereditary principle, and suggested what would amount to a total transformation of the House of Lords. Before the House of Commons consents to such a suggestion as that, I think will be as well to settle the question of what work you are going to give the House of Lords to do. Is the House of Commons to part with its prerogatives—for, if not, the House of Lords may just as well remain as it is, for unquestionably it does the work it is expected to do remarkably well. As to the selection of Peers, we have not been told how they are to be selected, and I cannot conceive on what principle you can hit on an expedient that will enable those in power to select the proper men. Reference has been made to bad conduct on the part of some Peers. It would be just as well, I agree, if you could exclude direputable characters from all legislative bodies, but somehow or other they will creep in and you cannot keep them out. But I cannot agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. G. Curzon) in thinking that it would be possible to devise machinery by which to expel the black, or even the "piebald" sheep from the House of Lords. The remedies proposed in the shape of the creation of Life Peers and the extension of the system of representative Peerages are of a homoeopathic character, and, as far as they are of a reasonable character, the House of Lords has shown itself ready to adopt them. Further, I cannot help thinking that it would be an indecorous and improper act on our part to attempt to force the hand of the House of Lords. In trying to compel the House of Lords to do what it has declared itself ready to do, we are going out of our way to inflict an indignity on the House, and are likely to stir up a resentment which certainly will not smooth the way for the reforms proposed by my hon. Friend. Therefore, Sir, I am unable to see that it is consistent with Conservative principles to support either the Motion or the Amendment.

* EARL COMPTON York, W.R., Barnsley)

As I occupy rather a unique position on this side of the House, I think perhaps hon. Members may be ready to listen to my views upon the question before it. It seems very odd to me, Sir, that on the two occasions— 1886 and 1889 —that I have had the honour of being in this House when this question has been brought forward an Amendment has been moved, or intended to be moved, by the eldest son of a Peer. On the last occasion it was moved by the present Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick) in a very eloquent speech, and to-night it has been brought forward by another eldest son, and, as far as I am aware, both of them are distinctly in favour of the reform of the House of Lords. I can quite understand that the last speaker is not quite in agreement with the eldest sons of Peers. He does not understand the wail that proceeded from the hon. Member for the Southport Division (Mr. Curzon) last year, that the eldest son of an. hereditary Peer was bound on the death of his father to take the title whether willing or not, and that with the title came the necessity of moving from this House into the House of Lords. It is never an agreeable thing to speak on any subject in which one has to take into consideration the death of the father. In the course of time—I hope at a dis- tant time—most of those in this House who are eldest sons will he, against their will, removed from this Assembly in order to take part in the deliberations of another Assembly, to which they do not wish to go. There have been several schemes of reform before the country, and those schemes have been also introduced into the Upper House not only by a Liberal Peer, but also by the present Prime Minister. There seems to be, therefore, on all sides a general feeling, if we perhaps except a small minority of hon. Members opposite, that some reform is required, and there is, I think, a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the present constitution of the House of Lords. The Liberal Party has decided objections to the constitution of the House of Lords. They object to it, I suppose, firstly because of the permanent Tory majority in that House. Whenever we say that, we are told that the Liberal Leaders, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), have created many Peerages in their time, and therefore it is not for us to say anything about the permanent Tory majority. But, unfortunately, there appears to be a certain atmosphere in the other House, and I do not think it is too much to say that the way in which certain noblemen who have striven hard for the honour of a Peerage for a long time have turned their coats as soon as they secured it, has been almost indecent. One of the great objections, in my opinion, to the present constitution of the House of Lords is that wealth is absolutely necessary to any man who accepts a Peerage unless he happens to have no family. In all other cases wealth is the principal reason for the elevation of men to the House of Lords. We also object to the non-representative character of the House of Lords and to its hereditary principle. What are more to the point are the objections of Conservatives to the House of Lords. Their first objection, naturally, is to the black sheep, and I perfectly agree that it is impossible to devise a scheme for separating the black sheep from the white in any assembly. To my mind the proposal of the Prime Minister on that point was absurd in the extreme. Most important of all are the objections of the country to the House of Lords. As far as I can judge, the Members of the House of Lords are utterly out of sympathy with the people of this country, and, I believe, it is the object of a large number of Conservative Members to remove that objection by bringing the House of Lords more into sympathy with the masses of the people. The people are being taught not to be content with the constitution of the House of Lords. Almost every biography one reads of statesmen who have been in the House of Lords speaks in terms of blame of that House. A nobleman who could not be considered a Party man who wielded, and still wields, a great influence over his fellow men (Lord Shaftesbury) spoke of the House of Lords on one occasion as having strong feelings of personal and political interest, but little generosity and no sentiment. On another occasion he said of it, "There is a coldness, an insensibility, which are perfectly benumbing." In 1882, after the debate on the Registration Bill, he wrote, "I consider the extinction of the House of Lords, in fact if not in terms, a foregone conclusion now." It was living he said on sufferance, and it was the sufferance "of the boa-constrictor in the Zoological Gardens, who has his rabbit in the cage, and is not quite ready for it." The people are reading the views of this good man, and they are being permeated with the idea that the House of Lords is out of sympathy with them, and if hon. Members are anxious to preserve the House of Lords, it is their duty to reform it in such a way as to bring it into direct sympathy with the people, instead of prolonging and intensifying the antipathy which at present exists. I believe it would be a mistake not to have two Chambers. We have the alternative of a representative Second Chamber, or the extinction of this Chamber, and of seeing only one Chamber in England. Unless something is done, and done quickly, it will be too late to reform the House of Lords. When the time comes, the extreme Conservative Party will raise the old cry, "The Constitution in danger." The people of England have heard that cry too often—they will pay no attention to it. Then we shall have the Tory democrat coining forward with certain reforms, but they will be too late unless something is done quickly. If the reforms do not come before the real attack is made, we shall find the real democratic boa-constrictor swallowing his rabbit, and the House of Lords would not be mended but ended. As I am not in favour of it being ended, as I am anxious for some great reform in its constitution, I give the Resolution my support to-night. I believe the only practical reform is not by slight tinkering modifications, but by sweeping away altogether the hereditary principle.

* VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)

I have the great misfortune not to agree with much that has been said on both sides in the course of this debate, and perhaps the House will allow me to say a word or two—they shall be few—in definition of the position I occupy. I am not opposed in any way to a reform of the House of Lords, reform, that is to say, that would make that House better than it is. But I observe that what is considered reform has a very different signification on that side of the House and on this. A reform of the House of Lords that would make that House stronger, make it even more independent than it is, more capable of representing the permanent convictions of the people of this country, I would heartily welcome; but the reform the hon. Member for Northampton and his friends desire is not a reform which would make the House of Lords stronger, not a reform that would make it more able to resist the transient wishes of a Radical Party in this House, but a reform that would make the House of Lords utterly subservient to one night's debate in the House of Commons, and make it utterly useless and unworthy of the name of a Second Chamber. I know that my noble Friend who has just set down did not in his speech hold that view, but he will not persuade us that his friends are really in favour of strengthening the House of Lords. As I said, I find myself in disagreement with what has been said on either side. In the first place, I do not admit what was said by my noble Friend (Earl Compton), that to vote against the Resolution will necessarily be to support the Amendment of which my hon. Friend on this side (Mr. Curzon) has given notice. I admit—most willingly admit—that the Amendment of my hon. Friend differs from the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton as light differs from darkness, but I should be sorry to vote for it. The vote I intend to give will be simply a vote against the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton. That proposition as put from the Chair will be that the hereditary principle in the House of Lords should be abolished; and as I humbly think it ought to be maintained, I shall vote accordingly. Nor can I agree with my noble Friend in objecting to the House of Lords because that House contains a Tory majority—that might be expected, perhaps. But as a matter of fact, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Curzon) pointed out, all Second Chambers, more or less, whatever their constitution may be, do contain a Tory majority. You may not call it Tory, but a majority more moderate than the majority of the First or Representative Chamber. What charge can be brought against the House of Lords for containing a Tory majority? I understand the gravamen of the charge is that in maintaining a Tory majority they are not in sympathy with the people of this country. But surely the people of this country have sent into this House, if not a Tory, a Unionist majority. In doing this they amply justify the House of Lords in maintaining their majority. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Rowlands) says that if we depart from the hereditary principle we shall be on an inclined plane, which must of necessity lead to the most Ultra-Radical reform. Now, I do not understand the force of that objection; I do not believe it, but if it were true at all, it would also follow that any body composed of Members returned on two different principles is doomed to immediate change. Now I find the French Senate has contained for a long time Members returned on different principles — it may be altered at this moment, for changes in France are frequent and rapid — but for a long time the French Senate continued with life Members and elected Members. But I need not go so far a-field for an illustration. I can go to the House of Lords itself, which has existed for I do not know how many centuries with Members, some hereditary and some representative, and there has been no difficulty found in the work of the House of Lords through the system by which Bishops and Scotch and Irish Peers become Members. Therefore I do not believe that the representative principle would at once doom the House of Lords to complete alteration. But when I turn from the speeches on the other side, to that delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Southport, I must honestly say, that I cannot follow him in all he says. If I thought that the reform of the House of Lords advocated by my hon. Friend in his eloquent speech to-night and by still more eloquent articles written last year, was a reform calculated to make the House of Lords stronger, if it were a feasible reform, I should be among my hon. Friend's most ardent supporters, but I do not think his proposal a practical one. Life Peerages are very good things in their way, and a certain number of life Peerages already exist in the House of Lords. Under certain defined circumstances it is a system that will always be useful, but I do not think that a large system of life Peerages side by side with the hereditary system would work well. You cannot say to a man, "You are not good enough for a hereditary Peerage, you must be put among the life Peers." However Radical a man might be he would not take it. If the hon. Member for Finsbury were offered a life Peerage tomorrow he would not take it; he would refuse it, because it was not hereditary. If I turn to the principle of representation, I am met with this difficulty at the outset, that the two systems that do exist are rejected by my hon. Friend. He would not have the representation of the Scotch and Irish Peers, but what other form of representation is there? The elective form of representation would, it appears to me, destroy the main feature of the House of Lords—a feature in which, in my humble judgment, in some respects it excels the House in which I have the honour now to speak. The elective principle implies that a man has to give pledges and promises on subjects he does not understand. [Laughter.] Well, if hon. Gentlemen above and below the Gangway opposite think they thoroughly understand the pledges they gave in support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian at the last election, I congratulate them. I am glad to say that for my own part I did my very best, and I may venture to say that to a large extent I succeeded in persuading those who did me the honour to send me to Parliament to elect me with as few pledges as possible. Not only do men give pledges they do not understand, but when in Parliament even without pledges they are obliged to give votes against their convictions for fear of not being returned at the next election. [Laughter.] It is all very well for the hypocrisy of hon. Members—no, I withdraw that word, it is not Parliamentary—but hon. Members are well aware that it is a common-place theory and a conventional idea that all Members vote on every proposal according to their belief, but nobody really believes that to be the case. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may jeer, but the only difference between us is, that I have the honesty and courage to declare it, and they have not. Therefore, I think that whatever may be said of the elective principle—and of course, though I venture to offer these few criticisms, I do not mean to say that it is not a valuable system upon which Government is based, we have it efficiently embodied in the constitution of this House—and it would be a great mistake to introduce it into the House of Lords, that House whose useful function it is by its action to mitigate the evils to which I have called attention, and which necessarily attend the principle of election to this House. Of course, I may be brought up with the obvious remark, "If you are in favour of the reform of the House of Lords, what reform do you favour?" Well, I am in favour of a reform of the House of Lords if it can be found; but the reform I can favour must be precisely in the sense of the reform I adverted to in the beginning of my remarks, a reform which would make the House of Lords stronger and more independent. I do not share the view that the matter is so important that it is necessary to come to a decision at the moment, as some hon. Members seem to think. It seems to me there are many things that might be said in favour of the present House of Lords. I have often heard it said the House of Lords consists of a large number of Members who very seldom attend, but who come up from the country on occasions of importance and vote without having heard the preceding debate, or having paid little regard to the speeches made in debate. I do not know they are very wrong. To begin with, judging from my very short experience in this House, I am not sure that very much can be gained by listening to debate. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may object to that, but let me say that my imaginary Peer—no, he is not imaginary, he is very real —my typical Peer, who comes up from the country and does not live in London and does not take an active part in party politics, is not therefore incompetent to form a judgment on a great question presented for decision. He is probably a leading personage in his county; probably chairman of Quarter Sessions; probably he is on the County Council, and takes an active share in the local life, the feelings and opinions in his county; he is intimately acquainted with many questions upon which Parliament is called upon to legislate, and is probably as good a judge on any political question as the Gentleman who regularly divides his time between Parliament and Pall Mall, who when not a legislator is a member of the fashionable society of London. He is as capable of judgment as hon. Gentlemen who occupy their industry in commercial pursuits, and who, though I do not mean to underrate the importance of their functions, are only able to devote the fag ends of their time to legislation, who come from counting-house, or law courts, to utilise the few stray ends of their busy lives in legislating for the needs of this great country. If the House of Lords has its faults—and I admit it has very grave faults, for you cannot create any institution that shall be perfect—I do not think the House of Lords suffers in comparison with the Second Chambers of foreign nations. We cannot all treat the subject with that ability and constitutional knowledge the hon. Member for Aberdeen possesses, and have to fall back upon our comparatively smaller ability, and compare the House of Lords with what we have before us, and I think a comparison with the House of Commons is not wholly unfavourable to the House of Lords. Is it not matter for the deepest regret that the House of Commons is every day losing credit in the country? The country may be wrong. I am very far from using that flattering language to my countrymen that some hon Members affect, declaring the people are always right, but I say, among the people the House of Commons has less dignity, less influence than of yore. There is more talk and less work; very little eloquence, and less legislation. Now, when I am asked, "Why this difference? why it is that the House of Lords continues to maintain that position which it does?" I admit it is not so high as I could wish. I admit it has fallen below the position I would wish it to occupy, but, at any rate, it is not falling back in the least degree. While we observe the House of Commons constituted upon the purely elective principle is losing credit every day, I cannot find an explanation that should lead us to condemn the House of Lords in any way. We should rather be content that though imperfect, it is as good as any Second Chamber with which we can compare it, that we should be content with its faults and glad that it is no worse than it is. When I say worse than it is I have in mind something worse that it would not be respectful to the House for me more to specify. I shall not attempt to investigate why the House of Lords does maintain its position. I am sufficiently old-fashioned to believe to a certain extent in the hereditary principle; it is the principle upon which all property is held, and I cannot accept what is urged by Radical orators that every Member of the House of Lords is the son of his father, as a convincing proof of the iniquity of the House of Lords. That men are the sons of their fathers is an elementary fact upon which the whole of modern society is constituted. The House has been exceedingly kind to me, and I will not trespass on their indulgence. In all seriousness I would urge that the House of Lords, at any rate, with all its imperfections, inseparable from any human institution, does its work with businesslike capacity, and debates great questions with much ability and eloquence, and we should be impractical to quarrel with the House of Lords merely because it presents one political complexion rather than another. It has been the growth and work of many generations, and together with the House in which I have the honour to speak has contributed largely to the success of this wonderful Constitution under which we live. We should be foolish, indeed, if we, in conformity with the views of the hon. Member for Northampton, resolved that the principle upon which it has worked, and, as I think successfully, is thoroughly wrong and ought to be radically changed.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I think we have some reason to complain that the Government have allowed the debate to proceed so far without giving us some indication of their views, and I say so the more because it will be within the distinct recollection of the House that upon a similar occasion last year the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury did not deny the necessity for reform, but said that reform ought to come from the House of Lords itself. We have waited until now for the fulfilment of the hope, but no reform has come from the House of Lords. The proposal which was embodied in the Bill brought in by the Prime Minister was, as was ludicrously obvious, a mere pretence and a sham that rather aggravated existing evils, and we are left more in doubt as to the view the Government take of the situation. I do not know whether we are to suppose that the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down is to be taken as expressing the view of the Government, but if it is I am able to congratulate the Government, more than I have been in a position to do lately, on the candour with which their view has been stated, because the noble Lord has given us his candid opinion, not only of the House of Lords, but also of the House of Commons. He tells us that this House does little work and no legislation, and he tells us to what the degradation of the House is to be ascribed. I listened with some interest to the views of the noble Lord, thinking that probably they represent the views of some other persons. I listened in vain to hear whether or not he thinks any reform of the House of Lords is necessary. For myself, I think that any reform of the House of Lords ought to be such as will make it stronger and more efficient. I conceive that the House of Lords as at present organized is perfectly useless and hopelessly weak. Can any case be pointed out in which, during the last 60 years, the House of Lords has rendered any substantial service to legislation, either by defeating a bad proposal or by putting a good proposal into a better shape? The two points to be considered are— first, do we want a Second Chamber? and, next, what ought that Second Chamber to be? I think that the experience of every free country in the world is practically conclusive as to the necessity of a Second Chamber. I know of no great free country that has prospered under one Chamber alone, and I do not know of any that has lived without a Second Chamber, except France in certain revolutionary periods. The existence of a Second Chamber is confirmed by reason itself, because tyranny may proceed from a body as well as from one man; and it is a protection that the ruling body should be divided into two branches, the emulation, and even rivalry of which may prevent dangerous measures from being hurried through. That opinion is gaining ground in this country. During the agitation in the autumn of 1885, there were probably many who thought we ought only to have one Chamber, and that the House of Lords should be extinguished; but I believe that that feeling has declined, and has declined even in the stern breast of the hon. Member for Northampton; and I believe that, generally, there is a strong feeling in the country that the House of Commons ought not to have the sole charge of the interests of the nation. This House, now, is different from what it was in 1884. It is not only a more democratic body and more responsive to gusts of outside feeling, but is much changed in its inner working and construction The introduction of the Closure, the way the Closure is worked, and, above all, its application to the passing of the Crimes Act in 1887, and the Commission Bill of last year, rendering the recurrence of similar expedients more likely, makes this House a totally different body from what it was before, and renders it necessary to provide safeguards against the danger of precipitate action which did not exist in 1884. I come now to the next point— what the Second Chamber ought to be. I hold that it ought to be a reality, and that there is no use in continuing it unless we give it some working functions in the Constitution. It should be a Chamber capable of making itself felt in the country, whose debates will be listened to, and whose decisions will carry weight. I am far from saying that it ought to be co-ordinate with the House of Commons; but there are valuable functions which it might discharge; whether, as Mr. Bright suggested, by interposing a delay, or by having the general vote of both Houses together, as Lord Rosebery suggested, or by some other mode, it is not for me now to inquire. But I think it is not beyond the wit of man to discover the functions that could be usefully assigned to a Second Chamber in regard to legislation which, whilst not rendering it coordinate with this House, would enable it to act as a check upon this House. My view is that a Second Chamber to be useful must be strong, and to be strong should be representative. The reason why the House of Lords is an object of popular distrust instead of enjoying the confidence of the country is because it does not represent the people. We think that any hereditary House must be a weak one, and we would rather have no Second Chamber at all than a weak one. We say that to have a stick which breaks in your hand when you lean on it is worse than having no stick at all, and if I had to select between the present House of Lords and one Chamber, I should prefer one Chamber. I venture to believe that the sooner the House of Lords and the Government realize the facts the better. The present state of things is just that which the revolutionist would desire. The House of Lords is not reforming itself; things are going from bad to worse; every year its hold over the country becomes less and less; and I believe that the tree has become so rotten that it would fall at the first blast of popular displeasure. As soon as a Radical House of Commons comes we shall find it impossible to go on with the House of Lords occupying its present position. Then either the House of Lords will resist, in which case it will fall, or it will yield where it is known to dislike and disapprove, in which case it will fall still further in the estimation of the country. It is because I should profoundly regret such results that I venture to appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite and to the Government to consider the time and period at which we have arrived, and not to persist in forcing the abolition of the House of Lords on a Radical House of Commons—which we shall assuredly have one of these days, whether or not it comes at the next General Election, as a great many people seem to think it will. This is really not so much a Party question as some hon. Members opposite seem to regard it; it is one affecting the whole of the country, and the constitution with which we have grown great. There is a much higher and better function for a Second Chamber than merely interposing captious and vexatious delays in the way of useful reforms, delays which drive people to make larger demands. I do not regard a Second Chamber as merely designed to check the wave of democracy. That wave has come, and is flowing over us. We are as completely democratic as any country in the world. What is exceptional in our case is that we have not surrounded the Constitution with those safeguards which other democratic countries have adopted. What we want the Government to realize is that they should help us—that they should endeavour to bring forward a practical scheme to change the character of the House of Lords so as to give it more strength and moral force. I am afraid that what I say falls on those who are not willing to listen; but we on this side feel compelled to put these considerations before you. It is not in the interest of a political Party that change is desired; it is desired to give stability to the whole structure of Government, to save the country from sudden impulses, and in the happy words of Mr. Lowell, to let the Government carry out the people's will and not the people's whim. On these grounds I feel bound to support the hon. Member for Northampton. It is only by getting rid of the hereditary principle and basing a Second Chamber upon election that you can maintain a Second Chamber. This is a comparatively quiet time. There is a Government in power which has great influence in the House of Lords, and nothing would more contribute to the peace of the country and the stability of the Government than the reconstruction of the House of Lords on a truly popular and representative basis.


I would not occupy the quarter of an hour which will elapse before the compulsory termination of our proceedings to-night, but I think it necessary, perhaps, that some Member should rise from this Bench in order to express our congratulations at the extremely Tory speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Aberdeen. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in the House when the hon. Member for East Finsbury, who represented himself as the exponent of coming ideas, made his speech. It was a glorification of the wave of democracy which has filled so large a space in the debate, and which the hon. Member for Aberdeen seems to be more afraid of than I am myself. The whole speech of the hon. Member was full of dark forebodings as to the results of gusts of popular passion acting upon a representative Chamber. He admitted that he and his friends had learnt great lessons since 1884, and apparently they have not been able to withstand the conclusion that they flow from the advent of the Conservative Government to power. They object to the proceedings of that Conservative Government, and would like a Second Chamber to resist its proceedings, and they have straight way become convinced that a Second Chamber is absolutely necessary. That necessity is not agreed to by the other exponent of democracy, the hon. Member for East Finsbury, though it is a cardinal principle and part of the faith of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. It is also a part of our faith. We think it is absolutely necessary for the smooth working of our institutions that there should be a Second Chamber to protect us from the gusts of passion that the hon. Gentleman has so feelingly alluded to, and it is because we think that the House of Lords as it is now constituted, does fulfil the purpose in an adequate manner, and because no better method of attaining that purpose has been suggested, that we shall oppose the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that the House of Lords is so unpopular in the country as he represents? At the present moment that Assembly is more solidly founded on the popular feeling of the country than any Second Chamber in existence, except the American Second Chamber. To abolish the Second Chamber that we have, founded as it is in the affections of the people, at the instigation of speculative politicians, who think that it is within the compass of human understanding to construct another Chamber which would more efficiently perform its functions, seems to me absolute madness. I am in truth a better democrat than the hon. Gentleman, for I should regret to see a Second Chamber set up which would have it in its power to enter into conflicts carried over long years with this House. When hon. Members say the House of Lords is an antiquated Assembly, I would point out that that Assembly, like many other institutions in this country, has, without making any definite or formal change in its constitution, gradually assimilated itself to the wants and ideas of the country. At one time the House of Lords was more powerful than the House of Commons; at another it was co-equal with this House; but by the gradual process which has so usefully modified many of our institutions, the House of Lords has also undergone a change, and now no man will for a moment pretend that it is co-equal in power with the House of Commons, and I for one do not desire that it should be. If the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down thinks that his study of foreign constitutions has enabled him to devise and construct a new Second Chamber which will have none of the vices, if vices there be, of the present House of Lords, and which would be a counterfoil to a majority in the House of Commons, I congratulate him on his courage, though. not on his wisdom. This country possesses an Assembly embodied in the historic traditions of the country, and I do not believe that the English people, who have received this inestimable treasure from their ancestors, would be guilty of the mid- summer madness of destroying that Assembly and be content to rely on a Second Chamber, of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen was not able to give us the roughest sketch. Her Majesty's Government will vote against this Amendment, not merely on its merits because they object to the abolition of the hereditary principle, but also because the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton and those who have supported him have made no material contribution to the solution of the difficulty which will have to be met when the existing Second Chamber is abolished.


I beg to enter the strongest possible protest against some of the doctrines which have been promulgated from the Liberal side of the House. I would recommend the hon. Member who has promulgated them to stand on a platform in Aberdeen and repeat them and see what the verdict of his constituents would be. I wish to state my conviction that there is only one practical way of reforming the House of Lords, and that is to abolish a Second Chamber altogether. The praise that has been lavished by both sides of the House on the American Senate I have heard with some alarm. It is, no doubt, due to the fact that hon. Gentlemen realise that in a capitalist Republic people have no more freedom than under a monarchy.

The House divided; Ayes 201; Noes 160.—(Div. List, No. 118.)

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

SUPPLY—Committee upon Monday next.

It being after one of the clock Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.

House adjourned at ten minutes after One o'clock, till Monday next.