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to the spirit of the Bill and its landed aristocracy; and it is cereffect upon the landed interest, we tainly not for the advantage of will merely quote the opinion of the community that they should the gentleman who is the leader now see all hope of maintaining of the Radical Party in the their position cut away from them. House of Commons. Both Sir Many generous traditions, much William Harcourt himself and liberal refinement, many kindly Lord Farrer and Lord Herschell relations and humanising inin the House of Lords denied that fluences, will perish with them. it would inflict any injury on the But they have one fault. Sir W. landed proprietor.
So far from Harcourt has passed the age of this, the Government contended indiscretion, and did not imitate that the additional burden of that thoughtless youth, Lord Rosetaxation had been laid upon the bery, by revealing the real motive shoulders best able to bear it. of his Budget.
But it seems to This was for the public. What have been closely akin to what passed in private between the the Prime Minister assigned as Government and the Radicals- his sole reason for disestablishing what the bribe was which induced the Scotch Kirk. The squires are them, not only to support the Conservative! Budget, but to condone all the To destroy the power of the other delinquencies of which the landed aristocracy has been the Government had been guilty-we aim, either secret or avowed, of the may learn from their somewhat Radical party ever since the days of over-candid friend, Mr Labouchere, Mr Cobden, who did not scruple to
, who let out the truth in the peri- confess that this was one of the odical of that name, which in principal objects which he prothis particular instance undoubt- posed to himself in the repeal of edly deserves it.
6. There are,”
the Corn Laws. It is idle to says he, “a vast number of squires argue the question at this time whose estates so heavily of day. Habemus confitentem charged with mortgages and
But an interesting consettlements that they have hardly stitutional question arose during been able to make two ends meet the debate on the Budget relating since the fall in the economic
to the powers of the House of value of land. The death dues Lords in the matter of money will be the last straw that will bills. The Duke of Rutland was break their backs." And he the first to call attention to the thinks this will be for the advan- popular error on this subject. tage of the community, because The House of Lords, he said, had such men could not do justice to never surrendered their legal right their estates. But these men,
and when and many
others not in quite the question came to be considered such desperate plight, were strug- by the Peers, it was admitted that gling on in hopes of better times, the Duke's contention was correct. and undergoing many privations Lord Salisbury stated that though rather than tear themselves from he had no intention of moving their ancestral acres
any amendment to the Budget, he their long hereditary connection thought it highly desirable that with the tenants who farmed the rights of the House of Lords in them. These men, with estates this respect should be kept alive, varying from £5000 to £8000 and gave an excellent reason for a-year, were the backbone of the thinking so, which we shall notice
in a few minutes when we come to fiable to amend a bill relating to the third reading of the Finance finance." Bill. But on its introduction he pointed out that the right actually And these last words bring us to pointed out that the right actually the important practical question had been exercised on two occasions during the present century, and mooted by Lord Salisbury on the once within his own experience.
third reading, and the pregnant The two precedents here referred to
answer to it given by Lord Herwere the amendment to Mr Glad- schel. We see that Lord Salisstone's Budget in 1860 rejecting bury and Mr Gladstone are in that part of it which provided for
exact accordance on this point :a repeal of the Paper Duties, and “I do not, therefore, in the least the Duke of Wellington's amend- degree dispute the wisdom of the ment to Mr Canning's Corn Bill, accepted practice that this House not in 1826 but in 1827. In a should not interfere with the finletter written by the first Lord
ances of the year. At the same Colchester to the Duke of Welling- time, I think it very important, ton, May 31, 1827, will be found in view of the changes that have a very full and clear account of proceeding and the authority of the
come over the Constitution, and the the position of the House of Lords House of Commons, that we should on financial questions. He quotes rigidly adhere to our legal powers, the resolution of the House of whatever they may be. It is necesCommons in 1678 which had, sary to call attention to the fact he said, governed all subsequent that the difference between the legal cases, and he had no doubt that rights of the House of Commons and the Duke's amendment to the possible character. The legal rights
its moral authority is of the widest Corn Bill came within the scope of the House of Commons are equally of that resolution. Yet the Duke strong, if they are exercised by a of Wellington persevered with his majority or å single vote. They amendment, and carried it by a
are in all circumstances the same, majority of eleven. The sky did but the moral authority of the House not fall. A resolution of the House
of Commons varies infinitely, with
the circumstances of the case.” of Commons has not by itself the force of law; and if that House He proceeded to say has never departed from the resolution of 1678, as Lord Colchester
“I deal with this matter because declared, the House of Lords in
there is a constant tendency in the their turn have never acknow. popular mind to confuse the moral
authority and the legal authority ledged it. In 1861 Mr Gladstone, of the House of Commons. I repeat as quoted by the Duke of Rutland, that the legal authority is as great declared that
if represented by a single vote, while
the moral authority varies with the “By no proceeding has that House circumstances. On this ground I ever surrendered, as far as I know, attach very great importance to the the right of altering a bill, even preservation intact of the legal prethough it touch a matter of finance. rogatives and rights of the House of If I might say for my own part, Lords, because we do not know when though anxious to vindicate thé it may be expedient to insist on them privileges of this House against and to exercise them. I quite underthe House of Lords where need stand the necessity of exercising any may arise, yet I think that the such powers with great reserve and House of Lords is right and wise circumspection ; but we know not in avoiding any formal surrender of when they may be wanted, and I the power even of amendment in earnestly protest against any attempt cases where it might think it justi- to diminish them.”
The distinction between the fence of established institutions, legal and the moral authority of but in defence of those very liberthe House of Commons is, as Lord ties of which the House of ComSalisbury says, too often over- mons, once proud to be the guarlooked. The legal authority of dian, now threatens to be the hangboth Houses is the same. The House of Lords has the same legal When the point is reached at right to reject a bill as the House which the voice of the House of of Commons has to pass it. Ex- Commons ceases to possess any actly the same, neither more nor moral authority either equal to or less. But when we quit this well- greater than that of the Upper defined ground for one less capable House, is a question which, as of definition, the claims of the two Lord Herschel says, it may not Houses become different. The be very easy to determine, But moral authority of the House of every one knows there is such a Lords depends on the character point. According to a well-worn of its members : the statesman- metaphor, we cannot say exactly ship, the experience, the know- where the Thames ceases to be a ledge, the sagacity, the patriotism, fresh - water river and begins to by which it has usually been dis- taste of the sea. But we know tinguished. The moral authority very well that it is fresh at Richof the House of Commons depends mond and salt at Gravesend ; and upon a sanction which may be in- we know very well that a majority finitely weightier than the above, of eighty does represent public or not more than equal to it, or opinion in sufficient strength, and perhaps at times even inferior: that a majority of one does not. that is public opinion. When At what intermediate point the there is a great and manifest pre- same conclusion may be safely ponderance of public opinion at drawn will depend upon circumthe back of the House of Com- stances. But Lord Herschel mons, the House of Lords has allows that the right of the House nothing to set against it, and of Lords to disregard the action of must of course give way. But the House of Commons is in proas this preponderance grows less portion to the weakness of the and less till it dwindles almost to majority by which that action nothing, in the same proportion is taken. If the House of Lords does the authority of the House of makes a mistake about this inLords revive, and its right and its termediate point, the error duty to exercise a vigilant super- only be detected by an appeal to vision over the proceedings of the the people, who in that case will House of Commons become more take care that no such mistake and more pronounced and binding.
a second time. “If the And this right and this duty have noble Marquis says that a small both, as Lord Salisbury says, ac- majority [in the Commons) gives quired fresh value and significance the House [of Lords] a greater from recent changes in the Con- right to interfere, that is a matter stitution, and also and especially which must be settled according in the procedure of the repre- as the country is or is not at the sentative Chamber. The present back of the House of Commons.” is no time for allowing any of the Precisely : that is what Lord Salislegal powers of the House of Lords bury says too. to lapse by default. They may be Lord Salisbury's speech is addirequired any day, not only in de- tionally valuable for his reference
to the changes which have taken years.
And for the sake of any place in the character and pro- such brief inglorious interval, it ceedings of the House of Com- is surely not worth while to abanmons, clearly indicating that the don their post, or descend to any abuse of the closure which enables course of action unworthy of their Government to trample all opposi- high station and their splendid tion under foot, and the presence history. in the House of Commons of men After the conclusion of the so careless of its traditions, its Budget came the “Ministerial dignity, and the final cause of its statement” with regard to the existence, as to applaud this out- future course of public business. rage, may call upon the House of It was received with a burst of Lords at no distant date to play laughter. On the 18th of July a very different part in the work- Sir William Harcourt gravely ining of the Constitution from that formed Parliament that fifteen with which for many years past bills still remained to be discussed it has been satisfied.
and carried, besides a hundred
a In the debate on the second votes in supply, and that he reading of the Evicted Tenants hoped Parliament might be proBill, Lord Salisbury recurred to rogued before the end of August. this topic in language so well The shouts of derision with which worthy of a great statesman that this statement, delivered with we quote it entire. “Surely it intrepid gravity, was received by does not make any difference in those who heard it, were natural our duty whether we are likely to enough. But it was no laughing lengthen or to abbreviate the exis- matter. Even with the help of tence of this House. The institu- the closure it was evidently imtions of this country and the possible to get through half the traditions of centuries have left work which the Chancellor of the a great power in our hands. Exchequer had so glibly sketched Whether it is abstractedly the out: all the rest was moonshine. best or not is no matter or ques- Part of the scheme was to be tion for us in the exercise of our carried by a coup de main; the duty to judge. It is our business other half was sheer impertinence. to perform a duty that has been Sir William scored right and left, placed in our hands according to combining a gross outrage with a our conscience.” England expects gratuitous insult.
For it was every man to do his duty. And nothing less than this to solemnly she expects the House of Lords to ask the House of Commons to do the same. When the country listen to an elaborate calculation desires to change its institutions, every syllable of which the Minit will doubtless do so. Till then ister who delivered it knew to be those who are called on to admin- absolute humbug. ister them, must be faithful to Two days after the statement their trust, and allow none of the made Sir Michael Hicksrights transmitted to them to Beach moved the adjournment of lapse through carelessness or cow- the House to call attention to this ardice. If the nation is really extraordinary proceeding on the unwilling to acquiesce in the part of the Government, and the power now exercised by the Peers, Opposition were forced to discuss nothing which the House of Lords it as if it had been meant seriouscan either do or refrain from doing ly. On this occasion three speeches could prolong their existence many
-one by Sir M.
Hicks-Beach, the other by Mr A. it differed from other parliamen
, J. Balfour, and the third by Mr tary incidents of the same kind, Chamberlain—which shattered the which are not in the best odour defence to atoms. Sir William with political historians. Harcourt was convicted of garbled The secession of the Tory opposistatistics, and of trifling with the tion in 1740 and the secession of House of Commons in a manner the Whig opposition in 1797, to which, twenty or thirty years ago,
which Mr Balfour referred, were would have elicited groans and based on the allegation that the hisses.
Answering Sir Michael Parliament of the day was so comHicks - Beach in regard to the pletely subservient to the Prime average number of days devoted Minister that it was useless for to Supply during the last seven his opponents to resist him, or to years, he picked the two years attempt to defeat what they bewhich suited himself and left out lieved to be a mischievous policy. the others altogether. The absurd- They were still at liberty to conity of such a dodge is no less re- vert the House of Commons if markable than its dishonesty, for they could, and to criticise the it was certain to be exposed by the measures of Government as vigorvery first speaker who should get ously and exhaustively as they up from the Opposition benches. chose. The question was It was exposed, in fact, even sooner raised in Johnson's hearing, than that. Mr Jesse Collings whether it was worth while to couldn't contain himself. “What take pains in speaking to the nonsense is this?” he cried out, as House of Commons when you were he listened to the Minister's arith- certain to produce no effect. It metic. As Chancellor of the Ex- was Burke, we think, who said, chequer, we are to presume that Though not one vote is gained, a Sir W. Harcourt can do sums in good speech has its effect; though simple addition and division. On a bill which has been ably opposed that hypothesis, the contempt for passes into law, yet in its progress his audience which he scarcely it is modelled, it is softened in such attempted to disguise on the 20th
a manner, that we see plainly of July last must be something un- the Minister has been told that the fathomable.
members attached to him are so Parliament had not long to sensible of its injustice or abwait for the disclosure of the surdity from what they have Government's intentions regard- heard, that it must be altered. ing the Evicted Tenants Bill. Johnson added, “ Though we canMartial law was proclaimed in the not out-vote them, we will out-argue House of Commons on the 31st of them. They shall not do wrong July; and it was immediately without its being shown, both to announced by the Unionist leaders themselves and to the world." that they must decline on those This is the special and legitimate conditions to take any part in the function of an Opposition, and it debate, and that while the Com- is clearly they, and not the Governmittee lasted they should with- ment, who must determine in any draw from their places in the particular case how much time will House. As, however, the action be required to discharge it properly. . of the Opposition in proclaiming It is not for the accused to dictate what is called "a secession ” has to the accuser how long it ought to been somewhat misunderstood, it take him to complete his case. As may be well to point out in what long as these rules are observed,