§ Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendments, read.
§ Moved, "That the said Report be now received."—(The Earl Russell.)
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, did not trouble your Lordships with any observations on this Bill, either on the second reading or in Committee, hut there are reasons why I wish to notice the principle involved in it, and the arguments that have been used in support of it. I should, however, have been glad to defer my remarks till the Bill had reached its last stage, had it not occurred to me that possibly events might in the meantime arise in this House which may complicate the question, and may embitter a controversy which, up to the present time, has been conducted without any reference to party politics. I cannot help thinking that the aspect of the House the other night when this Bill was under discussion was one which could not have been altogether satisfactory to either side. It seemed to me that the attitude of the great majority of noble Lords on both sides was an attitude of uneasiness and suspicion; and that though the Bill was to be allowed to pass through Committee by a compromise between the Leaders of opposite sides, the large majority of the House did, and do now, view it with uneasiness and suspicion. Nor can I be surprised at this feeling, especially when I look at the immense gulf—for I can use no milder term—between the arguments used in support of the Bill and the provisions to which those arguments referred. My own impression is that the measure may be useful or may be highly mischievous according to the arguments used in its support. Now, in 1371 the first place, I cannot help observing that it submits the constitution of this House to the discussion of the other House; and, though this may be necessary and advisable for grave reasons, no man can deny that it is in itself an evil, and that to raise a discussion upon the abstract principles of the Constitution, and of the constitution of this House before the other House, is a proceeding which always involves a certain amount of danger. That danger, I must say will be greatly aggravated unless we j base and defend this measure upon arguments very different from those which have been employed by some of the most distinguished speakers. I am bound to say that I except my noble Friend: (Earl Russell), for he used none of the arguments to which I have referred, and based the measure almost entirely on the ground of mere convenience; his opinion being that it might be the means of adding to the House, from time to time, men distinguished in literature, in science, art, and politics, who would adorn the House with their presence and give lustre to its deliberations by their counsels or their eloquence. The force of that argument I fully admit, and I accept it. as far as it goes, in support of the Bill. But the arguments used by other noble Lords are of a very different character. The noble Karl (the Karl of Carnarvon) who held the Office of Secretary of Stale for the Colonies, in one of our most recent Administrations, referring to the relations which subsist between the two Houses, said—As matters now stand that unity [the unity between the two Houses] can only be secured by One of two ways—either we must yield upon every point to the Lower House of Parliament, which would he mere weakness; and I for one say that political existence upon such terms would not be worth having, that it would not be creditable to us or useful to the nation, or we muse increase our strength, and so maintain a complete equality in argument and in debate with the Lower House of Parliament; and that can only be obtained by calling to this House those who will bring with them ample knowledge of the various subjects which may have to be debated."—[3 Hansard, excvi. 1184–5.Again, the noble Marquess who sits near him (the Marquess of Salisbury), in a speech which has often been referred to, made some remarks to the same effect—which, it is true, formed part of the peroration of his speech, and I am never quite sure how far 1372 it is fair to bind men to passages occurring in their perorations, for I think we are all apt to talk rather wildly in. what are called perorations. The noble Marquess, however, spoke with great deliberation, and he distinctly recommended this measure for the adoption of the House on the ground that it was necessary to increase our strength as a political body. That was the whole gist of his argument—that unless we adopted some such measure we must consent to find ourselves entirely subject to the control of the House of Commons. The argument, therefore, of these two distinguished Members of the House is that, the Bill will add political strength to this House, and in. such a degree as materially to alter the present relative position of the two Houses, and to place your Lordships on a footing, not merely of legal equality, but of influence and authority equal to the House of Commons. Now, the main object for which I have risen on this occasion is to declare my firm conviction that for such a purpose the Bill is not worth the paper on which it is printed. My conviction, moreover, is that it is not desirable in any Constitution to have two Houses of Parliament which are co-ordinate and co-equal in point of actual power and authority. In any Constitution in which you have two Chambers of this character you are liable at any moment to come to a dead-lock. To avoid such an evil, one must, more or less, be supreme over the other as an expression of the will of the nation. But even if such a state of things were desirable, I believe it to be wholly unattainable in this country. You cannot have a second House of Parliament—as it is vulgarly but inaccurately called—co-equal with the House of Commons in power and authority, unless you have it similarly based on popular election. It is true that in the United States the Senate is in a position which enables it to hold its own against the House of Representatives: but that is because it represents separate States, and being also elective it has co-ordinate and co-equal authority. I believe the object to be one which we ought not to seek, and which, were we to seek it, is wholly unattainable. In that view of the matter I consider this Bill to be wholly worthless, and if we send it down to the House of Com- 1373 mons avowing that this is our object, we shall only cover ourselves with ridicule.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
NO; my noble Friend has avoided all those arguments, and has introduced the measure on the only safe grounds on which it can be argued—that it will give an opportunity for introducing a few distinguished Members into this House. Now, I wish to say a few words on the grave accusation brought against this House by these two distinguished Members of the Conservative party—namely, that we have lost our place in the Constitution, and have not kept pace with the advances of the community. If I can interpret such, language at all, it means that this House is far too predominantly Tory, and, of course, I should agree in that opinion. [A laugh.] That, however, is not the question—the question is whether our constitutional position has, up to this moment, been so managed with reference to the general opinion of the country and our relations with other bodies in the State, that we have maintained a largo share of influence in the legislation of the country. Now, I entirely deny that our position has been so much endangered and altered by changes which have recently occurred. How has our relationship with the House of Commons been hitherto managed and eon-trolled so as to keep our hereditary House fairly in line with the general progress of opinion? Why, in the first place, we live in the same political atmosphere, read the same newspapers, attend the same public meetings; we are, in fact, part and parcel of the general society of the country; and we must be very stupid indeed, and must have lost that power of reflecting the opinions of the country which our ancestors unquestionably possessed, if we are not able to march fairly abreast in the great advances of public opinion. Another way in which this House has kept its place abreast with the opinions of the day and in harmony with the Constitution is not so much in the occasional recruiting of the House-by the raising of Commoners to the Peerage—though that is an important element in the matter—as it is in the fact that the sons and heirs of Peers in a largo proportion of cases serve their apprenticeship in the House of Commons, and there is thus a continual recruitment going on far more important 1374 than the recruitment by new peerages— namely, by men coming up to this House who have sat fifteen, twenty, or thirty years in the House of Commons, and who therefore are thoroughly imbued with its spirit, and know its power and the place it ought to have in the Constitution, and who take their places here, bringing with them the knowledge and sympathies they have acquired in the other House. Then, again, another reason is to be found in the exercise of common sense and forbearance on the part of the Leaders of the great political parties; but I will not dwell upon that lest I should be thought—which I do not in the least intend—to refer to existing difficulties which are before us. It is enough for me to say that this fair exercise of discretion on the part of the political Leaders has notoriously been one of the great means by which this House has been kept in harmony with the other branch of the Legislature. Another important means is the prospect which various parties have of coming into Office. During the twenty-two years in which I have sat in this House I have often noticed, on the part of noble Lords opposite, what appeared to me very unreasonable resistance to measures of a popular kind, especially measures affecting the privileges of the Church or the liberties claimed by Dissenters. I have seen them resisted year after year by the same arguments; but I have always observed that just about the time when the Conservative party had some prospect of coming into Office, the decks were cleared of all these inconvenient measures. The Jews were admitted, and various other measures were adopted by the Leaders of the party opposite when it became apparent that, clothed with the responsibility of Office, they would have to deal with those measures themselves. Now all these are means and methods by which, under the ordinary action of the Constitution of this country, the result has been secured that the House of Lords should in the main march in harmony with the other branch of the Legislature and with the general progress of the State. I do not, of course, deny that this House has a tendency to look upon great political questions in a somewhat different point of view from that taken by the other House: but the truth is that if the majority of this House and its esprit de corps did not lead them 1375 to take a somewhat different view of public questions we should be of no use whatever as a separate branch of the Legislature. That cannot fairly be complained of; but the question is whether this House has been accustomed obstinately, without reference to the state of public opinion, to adhere to the opinion which the majority may have; and I maintain that hitherto we have been able to keep ourselves abreast of the opinion of the day, and to exercise a powerful and effective influence upon the legislation of the country. Whether our position has been rendered very much weaker by the recent great changes in the suffrage remains to be seen. At all events it must be remembered that those of our Members, and they are a very large proportion, who first serve in the House of Commons will have to go through the same school, and must be elected along with others by household suffrage; and I trust that those influences will continue to keep us in the position we have hitherto maintained. It has been said that on great questions we are apt to take a class and a landlords' point of view. Now, it is true that Free Trade made very slow progress here; but I think the public are bound to remember that, even upon such questions as these, affecting the early associations much more than the personal interests of Members of this House, there have been distinguished Peers who were foremost in the movement in favour of Free Trade. I remember the first debates which took place after I became a Member of this House, and I well remember that a Peer representing one of the oldest families in this House and one of the greatest landed proprietors in the kingdom, the late Earl Fitzwilliam, night after night used to urge the necessity of a repeal of the Corn Laws; and so, even among the most ancient hereditary families of the country, there always have been men who have taken a foremost part in the Liberal movements of their time. It may be asked why, if I regard this Bill, with its proposed creation of two life peerages a year and a maximum number of twenty-eight, as unnecessary and worthless with regard to the political weight of this House. I should vote for it at all, well, I support it entirely on the comparatively narrow ground stated by my noble Friend (Earl Russell). I have known several instances in which men expressed a reluctance to accept an 1376 hereditary peerage except on conditions with reference to pensions and other things which it was not always convenient to meet. And I do not agree with the opinion of those who are adverse to the measure that no persons will be found who will accept life peerages. I believe there are distinguished men— both politicians and members of the general public—whom it may be very advantageous to have increased facilities for introducing occasionally as Members of this House, and it is possible that on special subjects they may be of great use in conveying to us the knowledge they may possess. As to the great commercial class, I agree with Lord Harrow by—whom I do not see present—that while the largest proportion of merchant princes will naturally be [Members of the House of Commons, there is no reason why they should not be introduced here as hereditary Peers. In the great majority of cases they would be willing to accept hereditary peerages, and they would be a most important element of strength to the House; but certainly as regards them I see no necessity for introducing the principle of life peerages. I am disposed to concur in the opinion, rather implied than expressed on a former occasion, that the ordinary Prerogative of the Crown ought to be exercised to a greater extent than hitherto in introducing representatives of the commercial classes into this House. But I now refer solely to the question whether life peerages or hereditary peerages would be most properly offered to them. This Bill involves very serious constitutional questions, and if we send it to the House of Commons—which I do not say that I am against—let us put it upon reasonable grounds, and not on the ground that we anticipate that it will add materially to the political strength or weight of the House. Above all, lot us not commit the folly of supposing that it will enable us to withstand the ultimate decision of the country as expressed by the House of Commons; but lot us explain to them that there are a certain limited number of cases of men distinguished in a literary, political, or judicial capacity, who might with great convenience be introduced as life Peers, and who would adorn our Benches and add to the interest and reality of our debates. Those are the only grounds on which I think this Bill ought 1377 to be sent down to the House of Commons, and we shall be damaging our position and exposing ourselves to deserved ridicule if we send it down as based on any arguments such as those that have been put forward by the noble Earl and the noble Marquess opposite.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have listened to the speech of my noble Friend with ever-increasing perplexity. I know the readiness of his answer in debate and the powerful stream of eloquence which spontaneously gushes from his lips, and I cannot understand why a speech of mine delivered a month ago, on the first reading of the Bill, should not have been answered at the time, should not have been answered on the second reading, should not have been answered on going into Committee, but that now, after this long period of meditation, and I hope of seclusion, the noble Duke should have produced an answer. What inspiration has suddenly passed over him and prompted him to do what he never thought of doing before— namely, exposing my heresies? I fear it is hardly paying him the compliment he has paid to me to answer him on the spot. What I ought to do would be to move that the debate be adjourned for a month, by which time I might, perhaps, be able to produce an answer. Perhaps, however, I was only the peg on which other doctrines were intended to be expressed. Perhaps it was the shadow which coming events cast before them, and the rumours which are circulating about, which drove him to this unwonted course—so that by the exigency of political events he was compelled by an irresistible desire to profess the absolute subordination of this House to the House of Commons, and could not repress the sentiment for a single night. Well, I am not prepared to follow him. I am not prepared to have any part in an assembly which should make such an unrestricted profession of subserviency to the other branch of the Legislature as that which he desires; and, if his constitutional doctrine is true, I think he will soon have possession of those Benches to himself. I do not intend to follow the noble Duke into a lecture on constitutional law or the relations of the two Houses. That may be very proper next week, or the week after, but it is hardly opportune now. I quite believe that this House is subordinate to the nation; 1378 I do not believe it is subordinate to the House of Commons. I quite believe, with the noble Duke, that no Bill, however large or however small—that no legislation of any kind will make cither House of Parliament, or any Minister, or any autocrat, or any governing power that has ever been conceived, superior to the will of the nation. There is one of his criticisms which, on behalf of my noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) as well as my own, I wish to answer, as the noble Duke's misapprehension has been shared by others. It has been supposed that because we pointed to great objects as desirable, and on that ground based our support of the Bill, therefore this Bill would do a great deal to attain these objects. Now, that does not at all follow. There are great objects in reference to this House which it is desirable to attain; but it does not follow that we are never to be actuated by the wish to attain them except when we have some great and violent measure to support or to oppose. I believe, for instance, that the effects of this Bill will be small, and I like it all the better for that. I do not like a policy which produces a transformation scene once every few years. The evil which I believe exists, which this Bill will tend in a very small degree to remedy, and which other measures may also tend to remedy, is simply this —I hope I shall offend no one by saying so—but no one can have looked abroad —not at the present moment in particular, but at the past history of the world—without seeing that what we call the hereditary principle is not so strong in its influence over mankind as it was in former times, and that the process by which that change of feeling has been produced is still in operation, and that we do not know what will be its limits. This House was formerly strong through the hereditary principle. The character, the abilities, the opportunities of its Members might be what they might; but the fact that they sat by hereditary right gave it an enormous claim on the consideration of the country. That power has not been lost, but I believe it has been lessened; and believing that a legislative assembly, whether first or second, should be thoroughly powerful and efficient for its object, it seems to me desirable, as far as we can, to seek new sources of power from which to make up to this House that source of 1379 power which to some extent has declined. Now, the source of power I should seek would be to gain the general respect of the country by adding to this House distinguished men of all kinds who can lend lustre to our debates and weight to our councils. Do not talk of there being an addition of only two Peers a year, and twenty-eight in all. You do not count influence by noses. It is the weight of the men we hope to get, not their numbers, which we expect to give strength to the House; and as furnishing this source of influence I hoped this Bill would be passed. Another source which I ventured to touch upon was the removal of the disadvantage arising from powerful and wealthy classes being able to say, "The House of Lords has little claim to my consideration, for there is not one man of my kind in it." I agree with the noble Duke that this disadvantage would be easily removed by the exercise of the ordinary Prerogative of the Crown; but this Bill may further the object, and I therefore think it a good one. I have said this much too often, and I did not dream of being called upon to speak of it again; but the extraordinary ruminating power of the noble Duke, which causes him after such a long process of digestion to chew the cud, has obliged me to intrude once more on the attention of the House.
My Lords, I listened with great interest to the speech or lecture of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), and waited for that part upon, which he threw an undeserved contempt—namely, his peroration, for I hoped it would announce that he was going to oppose the further progress of the Bill. This is the first great measure I have seen treated with undue levity in this House—indeed, I do not think your Lordships have fully comprehended, or fully expressed, the enormous gravity of this question. No doubt the noble Karl below me (Earl Russell) has had the simple object which the noble Duke 1ms stated; but the very fact that this question has suggested to any of your Lordships such different processes of reasoning and such different conclusions from the noble Earl is sufficient to show that when it goes down to the House of Commons it will not be treated as the introduction into this House of a casual statesman, man of letters, philosopher, artist, or doctor, but as the first time when the constitu- 1380 tion of this House has become a serious subject of debate in the House of Commons. Such a subject may, no doubt, come before the other House legitimately; but it ought not to come before it in an accidental or fortuitous manner. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) appears to approve this Bill because it introduces the thin end of the wedge. Now, I have always been in favour of gradual reform, believing that large dramatic reforms are not the most useful to the country, nor the most congenial to the political disposition of our people; but the other extreme ought to be avoided, and great and delicate questions ought not to be started without profound and practical reasons. The object of this Bill is to introduce a few additional eminent men into this House; but have successive Governments done all they might have done to introduce those very persons by the ordinary means of hereditary peerages? The greater part of the persons whom it is desirable to introduce by this Bill would be quite willing to receive hereditary peerages, and there could be no possible objection to their receiving them. Until, then, you find men obstinately refusing to accept hereditary peerages, you ought not to resort to other methods. I am not sure there is not a danger in the alleged necessity of getting more eminent men in this House. I do not see the necessity—I do not see any advantage in making the House richer in property or intellect than it now is. I believe it is already sufficiently rich in them for all purposes of political action. The desire to concentrate in this House, if you could do it, all the wealth and intellect of the country would not make the position of the House safer, but infinitely more dangerous. Its real security depends on its commixture and infusion with the rest of the community, not on its consisting exclusively of rich men or clover men. It mixes itself up even by its occasional poverty with the interests of other classes. I should have been glad had some Peer of sufficient position been ready to arrest the further progress of the Bill. I am sure there is a floating opinion in the House as to the danger and insecurity of the Bill, as to the very small object which you wish to attain, and as to the uncertainty of the object itself, which would induce the majority of the House, even on the third 1381 reading, to express to the noble Earl their gratitude for having brought the subject under their consideration, but their conviction that after the manipulation it has undergone it would not be for the advantage of the House to proceed with it.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I was not in England when this measure was introduced, but I read the report of the debate on the first reading, and it certainly struck me that all the consequences of the introduction of the Bill would be exactly what they have proved to be. The Bill in itself is perfectly worthless for the improvement of this House, if that is its intention; but I felt that if the question was discussed the debates would take a turn which might be highly derogatory to the House, and certainly not to its advantage. I was convinced, too, that what the noble Duke has foreshadowed would occur, and that in the House of Commons this House would be exposed to jibes and reflections from those who are enemies of the institution, and to discussions of its constitution which would not be very agreeable to your Lordships generally. There has been a doleful tone—a tone, as it were, of self condemnation—an admission, or half admission, that this House was not in its proper position, and not in accord with the other institutions of the country: that it has not kept pace with the other institutions and feelings of the country; and that it was gradually losing its influence and power. Indeed, had a foreigner been present on a recent occasion he would have formed the impression that the House was actually on its last legs, and that unless we introduced a considerable number of mercantile men we could not be in accord with the country generally. Now, I desire as much as anybody the presence of what are called—but, as I shall presently show, wrongly — mercantile men; but it is from no pride on our part, from no fault in the law, and from no want of power in the Crown, that this is not the case. If any persons have been to blame it has been those eminent Lords and Commoners who, as Prime Ministers, have had the selection of such men in their hands—and no one more than the noble Earl himself has had the power during his distinguished career of adding to the ranks of the 1382 peerage. We are certainly not in favour with the public Press at this moment; and the newspapers, particularly those of the Liberal party, are constantly accusing us—for they make it an accusation—of being entirely landed proprietors. Well, why should we be incapable, as landed proprietors, of legislating? If, however, they bring a charge against the House they should be correct in their indictment. We are not only landed proprietors—we are a great deal more than that. But if we were all landed proprietors we should be in that very character the greatest merchants in the world, because it would rest with us greatly and chiefly to provide this country with food. Surely that is not a position which is at all a slur upon our capabilities. But we are not all landed proprietors. We find a number of other industrial interests represented by Members of this House. Who possess more mines of various kinds than Members of this House? There is a Member of this House who is a merchant in gold. What, then, do these jeers mean? They do not mean that we are incapable, because we are partly landowners, of understanding the various interests of the State; but it is the fashion or whim of the public Press, into which I am sorry to see noble Lords have also fallen, to find fault with this House for shortcomings which really do not exist. Not long ago we were told that if we met daily an hour earlier it would save us for that we were in bad odour with the country for not meeting till five. Then we were told we did not speak enough, our speeches not being long enough. Now, I maintain that all that the country has a right to expect is that its business should be done, and well done; and is that the case or not? That is what we should ascertain, and not launch into theories as to what this House ought to be under such and such circumstances, and with such and such men within its walls. I have had communications with lawyers who have been in our Committee-rooms, and have watched what we have done, and I am not afraid to defend this House against any accusers as having honestly and fairly done the business of the country. There can be no greater proof of our honesty than the fact that real property is far more heavily taxed than personal property. 1383 To go no further back than 1688, this "assembly of selfish landowners," as we are represented, have for 200 years acted so honestly that it has allowed its own interests to suffer, and has allowed real properly to pay more towards the burdens of the State than any other, These complaints of this House remind me of the occasion when the Emperor of Russia said Turkey was a sick man, and, inasmuch as he could not live much longer, he was to be taken in hand at once and made to feel his weakness, and of how little use he was in Europe. That is exactly like the language of the public Press towards this House. They speak, indeed, pretty plainly, and intimate that it must be an elective body, and that the hereditary principle must cease. Now, the noble Earl (Earl Russell) says he can get every year two very useful men as life Peers. Even, however, if he does so, it certainly will not save this House front the perdition to which many people have devoted it, and which they have prophesied. But I am convinced that he will not find eligible men to accept the conditions which he offers. He rests his argument on the principle that the hereditary peerage is a very costly honour. Does he think, however, knowing what human nature is, that men value cheap honours? I do not believe they do. I believe that the moment it is looked upon as a cheap honour it will be despised. Your Lordships will recollect that when there was a question whether the Guelph or the Order of the Bath should be conferred on some person, and when William IV, announced his intention of conferring the Guelph on him. somebody's remark was, "Serve him right." Now, that is the view which would be taken of the first life peerage, and the recipient of it would be in a nondescript position—in the position of a man elected, if we can conceive such a thing, at a club without the privileges and status of other members. Many inconveniences will be attached to it. The noble Earl does not propose to debar the Crown from creating life Peers of different ranks — Earls. Marquesses, or Dukes, as well as Barons. Suppose a life Peer was first made a Baron and afterwards an Earl, his wife Mould, of course, take the title of Countess. Well, she would go into society with hex daughters, like other Countesses; but her daughters, though they would sit 1384 by the daughters of other Countesses, would have no rank or title—and do those who know society and the world believe that that would be pleasant to the parents? That is an illustration of the false position in which persons will be placed if you leave the old trodden path with regard to honours and position. If I could see that any real strength would accrue to this House, I should be the first to support the Bill; but, seeing that it is a great innovation in the Constitution, breaking as it does into the hereditary principle — seeing that those who accepted the position would probably soon deplore such acceptance—seeing that it would do us no good whatever, and would expose its to anything but agreeable remarks in the House of Commons, I must make up my mind, though with great regret, to move that the Report of this Bill be received this day three months.
§ An Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day three months.")—(The Earl of Malmesbury.)
§ VISCOUNT STRATFORD DE REDCLIFFE
My Lords, it appears to me that this Bill is fraught with a very dangerous innovation. It is small in its dimensions, and therefore calculated to creep in upon our acceptance against our better judgment. Not that I would impugn the motives of my noble and illustrious Friend (Earl Russell); but I must be allowed to say that, in my opinion, a more unfortunate moment could hardly have been selected for the introduction of such a Bill. My objection to the Bill goes far beyond its details; it goes to the very principle of the measure, and applies to it so strongly that I cannot conceive any Amendment which could reconcile me to its adoption. It appear, my Lords, to me that the introduction of life peerages would seriously affect the character and stability of this House. It has been observed—and I think most correctly—that your Lordships' House must rest for its support on a very different foundation from that on which the other House of Parliament depends. This branch of the Legislature has no part of the strength derivable from popular representation, but must look elsewhere for the sources of its authority. They are to be found in the sense of its usefulness as a safeguard for the encroachments of the Crown on 1385 the one side, and from the dangers of popular excitement on the other. They are to be found in the independence of its Members and their weight in the social scale—in the prescriptive charcter of the institution—in the charm of its historical traditions—in its hereditary rights, and in the recollection of its early struggles in the cause of freedom. Even were it, otherwise, I would submit that the present moment is most unfavourable to the discussion of the proposed innovation, and that if the Bill were to pass your Lordships' House it would afford matter for serious embarrassment in the other House of Parliament. Such, in few words, are the impressions which I entertain upon this ill-timed and hazardous question, and I venture to remind your Lordships that my position in this House is one which renders it very unlikely that I should have contracted any prejudice; against the noble Mover's proposal. On the contrary, I might be supposed with more probability to have a bias in favour of the Bill. But the truth is that I see an innovation capable of sapping the foundations of our institution without any prospect of advantage at all equal to the danger, and I also perceive in the very smallness of the measure a certainty of its being expanded into far different proportions at no distant period. On these and other grounds, which need not now be stated, I am prepared, with all respect for my noble Friend the Mover of the Bill, to give my vote against its third reading, should the Motion of the noble Earl behind me be pushed to ii division.
§ LORD CAIRNS
I do not rise in any way to taunt the noble Duke opposite (the Puke of Argyll), when I say that your Lordships and yourselves in a somewhat singular and perplexing position, in consequence of the observations made at the beginning of this conversation. I do not rise to taunt the noble Duke with, this; but I cannot help remarking that on every occasion when this Bill comes to be discussed in this House, your Lordships obtain more and more an insight into considerations closely affecting the principle and closely connected with the working of the measure. It is, therefore, by no means strange that opinion ripens on the subject, and that many Members of your Lordships' House who paid but little 1386 attention to the Bill in the first instance now come to have more decided views, and are opposed to it. I think it is doubtful whether, without notice, your Lordships ought to go to a division at this stage in order to put an end to the progress of the Bill; but, at the same time. I must say that I think it would be within the competence of my noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) on the third reading—now that your Lordships see the form the Bill has assumed, and the arguments that are put forward in support of it—to take the opinion of the House as to whether the measure is one which ought to pass. I hope the noble Earl who introduced the Bill will fix the third reading for such a time—and that time cannot, I think, be within the present week—as will give your Lordships an opportunity of considering all the circumstances, so that we may then be prepared to come to a vote. I hope, also, that before the Motion for the third reading we may have an advantage which, up to this, it would appear we have not enjoyed. I was under the impression that the Government were prepared to recommend this Bill, and ask your Lordships' assent to it, on the ground that they thought it would be a convenient arrangement if the Government had power to a limited extent to confer life peerages on persons who, either from their official experience or peculiar qualifications, might render important assistance to your Lordships' deliberations. But I confess I have come to have very great doubts as to whether they will now be able to recommend it on that ground; because the noble Duke has this evening supported it entirely on different grounds from those taken by my two noble Friends below the Gangway; and when, on a former occasion, I took exception to some remarks of my noble Friend the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary endorsed these remarks, and said they were a proof of my noble Friend's largeness of mind. I want to know, therefore, whether the Government are prepared to recommend this Bill for adoption by your Lordships' House, and, if so, on what grounds? I say again, I do not like the Bill. The object of my efforts, in respect to it, was to make it as harmless as it could be made. I thought, on its first introduction, that 1387 there was, to a certain extent, a desire on both sides to have sonic such Bill, and I endeavoured to make it as innocuous as it could be made. I should be better pleased that it was rendered entirely innocuous by its rejection.
§ EARL, RUSSELL
I shall name such a time for the third reading as will give all your Lordships an opportunity of taking part in the discussion. I cannot rise without taking some notice of arguments that have been used in the course of this discussion. With regard to my noble Friend behind me (Lord Houghton), I do not think he was always of the same opinion as he appears to be now with respect to the wants of this House—he did not always object to the addition of men of talent to your Lordships' House. Among the men whose experience? in public affairs made it desirable that they should have seats in this House I may mention Sir James Harris. He was not made a Peer on account of his large estate. he was eminent for his diplomatic ability and his dexterity in raking advantage of an emergency. Ultimately he was possessed of means that enabled him to accept a peerage: but there have been others who distinguished themselves in diplomacy, and who felt themselves unable to accept an hereditary peerage. I believe there are distinguished men who would rather shrink from such a dignity, but who would be glad in the evening of their life to have a seat in your Lordships' House, where they might deliver their opinions on the affairs of Europe. The only object I have in view—and I believe the only object my Friend the noble Duke has in view—is to increase the strength of your Lordships' House by the introduction of men of great; ability and eminent character. I fully believe that the IV feeling in favour of the hereditary principle, to which mankind has so long been attached, is as strong now as at any time. We all know that when the present Emperor of the Trench started as a candidate for the Presidency of the French Republic, he was not able to refer to any great civil or military achievements, but trusted principally to his connection with a great Sovereign — and it was the name of Napoleon that carried his election. What was the name of Napoleon but an hereditary claim? Even Savage, when he wrote the scoffing line— 1388No tenth transmitter of a foolish face,prefaced it with the line—He lives to build, not boast, a generous race:thus showing that although he scorned to be the descendant, he wished to be the progenitor of a race of great men. I think there is a great misapprehension of the place of this House in the Constitution, when it is stated that we should endeavour to strengthen this House in order to enable it to act as a balance to the House of Commons. We must not forget that the real umpire—the ultimate court of appeal—in this country, on all questions of importance, consists of the great body of the people of England. We may learn something on this point from history. Thus we read in Lord Macaulay's History, that the party which carried the Revolution in 1688, were completely overthrown in 1690 when the Tory party obtained an immense majority in the elections. Again, when the Duke of Marlborough wished to continue the war, the House of Commons, who were opposed to that policy, gained the superiority, because the people of England were in favour of the war being discontinued. In 1784, however, when this House threw out the India Bill, which had received the support of a great majority in the House of Commons, an appeal was made to the people upon the subject, and they decided in favour of the House of Lords and against the House of Commons. On the other hand, this House was obliged to yield in 1832 to the decision of the House of Commons, because that decision was supported by the people. I have referred to these instances to show that, even as it is at present constituted, the House of Lords is not obliged to yield in every case to the decision of the House of Commons. When, however, the decision of the great body of the people of the United Kingdom has been ascertained it must prevail, whether it be in favour of the House of Commons or of the House of Lords. Under these circumstances, I think that the Bill must stand upon its own merits, and should not be looked upon as calculated to effect any change in the balance of power between the two branches of the Legislature.
I do not think it necessary to address any observations to your Lordships after the speech of 1389 the noble Earl. I wish, however, to take this opportunity of observing that the statement of the noble and learned Lord opposite; (Lord Cairns) was inaccurate with reference to what I stated with regard to the tone of the speeches made by him and by the noble Marquess upon the first reading of this Bill. What I said was that there was a remarkable contrast between the speech of the noble Marquess on the first reading of the Bill, in which he stated that the Bill would promote the interests of this House, and the grudging tone in which the noble and learned Lord admitted that the merit of the Bill depended upon its details. I wish further to state that it is beyond doubt that the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) has a perfect right to express his dissent to the Bill at any of its stages; but, at the same time, I think this House would be placed in a rather ridiculous position if, after a compromise had taken place on this Bill, which passed through Committee without a single dissentient voice being-raised against it, any large number of your Lordships should feel called upon to vote for this rejection of the Bill on its third reading.
THE EARL OF MALMESBUEY
I entirely agree with what has fallen from the noble Earl, that it would be a most improper course for any Member of your Lordships' House to surprise the House by pressing for a sudden division without having previously announced his intention of doing so. Under these circumstances, I shall not call upon your Lordships to divide upon this Bill to-night—especially since the noble Earl has been good enough to state that he will name a convenient day for the third reading.
§ Amendment (by Leave of the House) withdrawn; Then the original Motion was agreed to; Report received accordingly.
proposed to insert a new Clause—If the number of Life Peerages authorized by this Act should be complete, or if Her Majesty should have already granted two such peerages during the current year, at the time when a person is appointed to an office under the Crown as one of Her Majesty's confidential servants, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty to grant a. special and extraordinary Life Peerage to the person so appointed to be a Cabinet Minister, Hit should be for the convenience of the public service that 1390 he should have a scat in the House of Lords, and he should be unwilling to accept an hereditary peerage. In calculating the number of Life Peerages which Her Majesty is authorized to create under this Act, special and extraordinary Life Peerages shall be counted.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, that when the Bill was in Committee he proposed certain qualifications which were embodied in an Amendment, prepared with great care, and which had the approbation of his noble and learned Friend the Leader upon that side of the House. Their Lordships, after some debate, arrived at the conclusion that the qualifications proposed in that Amendment were inexpedient, and that the Bill should be couched in the most simple terms. The principle of simplicity, however, would be departed from if the House were now to adopt the somewhat complicated provision which had just been proposed by his noble Friend. In the case put, of a change of Government occurring when the number of life peerages had been filled up, the worst inconvenience which could result would be that the Great Seal would pass into hands which would not be those of a Peer, but of a Lord Keeper—a term by no means novel in our history. Among many other instances that might be given, Lord Cowper had held the Seal for a long period before he was promoted to the Office of Chancellor and a peerage. With great respect, therefore, for his noble Friend, to whose opinion he was always anxious to show deference, he thought it would be unwise to complicate the measure by the introduction of this Amendment.
§ THE EARL or HARROWBY
pointed out that there had been repeated in- stances of a Lord Chancellor taking his seat upon the Woolsack before he became a Peer.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, that he himself had sat in the House as Lord Chancellor before he became a Peer.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ LORD LYVEDEN
remarked, that the wording of the Preamble, as it stood, might convey an impression unfavourable to their Lordships' House. The words ran:—"And whereas it is expedient to afford facilities for the introduction into the House of Lords of persons distinguished," and so on. This ' might imply either that such persons 1391 were not now to be found in the House of Lords, or that they could not gain admittance.
§ Preamble amended by inserting the word ("greater ") before (" facilities,") and agreed to.
§ Bill to be read 3a on Monday the 21st instant.