Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/23

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
19
Foreign Practice no Precedent.

elected by the Peers? This, if the political power of the Peerage is an evil, would only be to focus and intensify the evil. It would add to rather than detract from the strength of the Lords, while it would destroy that breadth and comprehensiveness in the House which, as will be pointed out later on, is one of the best of its present features. Shall they then be elected by the same constituencies as elect the members of the Lower House? If they are, what claim can one House more than the other make to be the chief representative assembly? The origin of the two being identical, their functions will become confounded, their relations to each other will be unreal and productive of constant misunderstandings. The remaining alternative that they should be elected by a select class among the commoners is one which need only be mentioned to be at once condemned.

Foreign practice no precedent.It may, however, be urged that an elected Senate has worked admirably in America. Granted that this is so; but the American constitution, by its peculiarities, admits of a mode of electing a Senate which would be impracticable in our own country. The Senate of the United States is not elected by the citizens at large, but by the State legislatures, two senators being returned by every State. It is obvious' that the working of a Senate so elected furnishes no criterion as to the probable working of an elected Upper House among ourselves, when the mode of election, whatever it might be, would certainly be completely different from that which exists in America. The more influential nations of Europe have not adopted an elective Upper Chamber. In the German States, including Austria, some of the members are hereditary, and the rest are nominated for life, or become life members by tenure of office. In Italy, all the members, except the Royal Princes, are nominated for life. Even in Republican France the Senate does not consist entirely of elected members. Of the 300 members, 75 hold their seats for life, and vacancies in these seats are filled up by the Senate itself. The remaining 225 are chosen at intervals by the Senatorial electors, some of whom are elected by the communes and municipalities, and the rest are local officials.[1] The case of Belgium, where the members of the two Houses are elected by the same constituencies, is, as will be noticed later on, one to be held up as a warning, and not as a pattern.
  1. Alterations as to the Senate are, however, under consideration.