Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/10

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6
Preface.

in debate and for business power, comparison with the House of Commons. Thirdly, it remains a firm bulwark of the Crown; and, whilst a bulwark—thanks to its hereditary character—it has maintained its independence of the Crown. Fourthly, and lastly, taking all circumstances into account, there has been a remarkable and extraordinary harmony between the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Let me only add that all this can be proved, not from the pages of Conservative writers, but from the careful conclusions of Liberal historians. I might pursue this reasoning further, and point out how untrue it is to represent the House of Lords as a mere Conservative assembly. Up to the reign of George III. the House of Lords was Whig; but with the French Revolution it changed—and why? Because it reflected the character and temper of the whole nation. At that time the whole nation was Tory. It was alarmed by the atrocities of the French Revolution, and the House of Lords reflected faithfully the temper of the nation. But after the Reform Bill of 1832, parties in the House of Lords gradually became more evenly balanced—so evenly balanced, indeed, that during the time Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister it was hard to say that the Conservative Opposition was stronger than the Liberal Government. When a vote of censure was moved by the late Lord Derby, on the occasion of the Chinese war, the Conservative Opposition were beaten by 37 votes. But, if the House of Lords is Conservative now, the reason is plain. It is the present Government that has alarmed the House, and has driven over from the Liberal to the Conservative side men who, from father to son, have been Liberal. It is that the House of Lords is reflecting now, as it did at the French Revolution, the education, the sense, the respectability, the good feeling, the intelligence of the country.

But it is objected that the House of Lords is founded on the principle of hereditary descent, and that that principle is inconsistent with the ideas of our day. Inconsistent with the ideas