Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/24

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Greater power of an elected Second Chamber.

Greater power of an elected Second Chamber.Besides the considerations which have been already adduced, there is one further point about an elected Second Chamber which must not be left unnoticed. Those who at present advocate it do so with a view to put a stop to that undue interference with the measures proposed by the Commons, of which they allege the House of Lords to be guilty. But a little reflection will convince us that the proposed alteration in the constitution of the Upper Chamber would have an exactly opposite effect. At present, however much any of the Peers may in fact represent the opinions and sentiments of their fellow-countrymen, they can make no claim that they do so, and though responsible to public opinion in general, they are not so to any constituencies in particular. Recognising, therefore, that the will of the commons of England must ultimately decide all public questions, they invariably defer sooner or later to that will when expressed through the representatives of the commons in the Lower House. Content, moreover, with their assumed position as Peers of the Realm, the majority of them do not seek for political distinction within the walls of the House of Lords, but allow the course of legislation to flow smoothly and rapidly through their Chamber without that delay which would inevitably take place, if a larger number of the members, however benevolent their intentions, were to take part in it. But make the members of the Upper House elective, and all this would be changed. They would represent, and would feel themselves responsible to, distinct constituencies; and in duty to those constituencies they would feel bound to assert themselves, in the first place by continually taking an active and prominent part in all the legislation of the country, and, in the second place, by occasionally performing that function which they had been specially elected to discharge, namely, thwarting the proposals of the Lower House.

Now, even supposing this second course to be rarely or never adopted, has the consequence of the first course ever occurred to the Radical mind? We are all aware of the laments over the difficulty of getting through business in the House of Commons at the present day; but are we aware of one of the chief causes of that difficulty? In former days, when five-sixths of the members were silent, and their constituencies were content that they should be so, no such difficulty existed. But now that the constituencies, one and