Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/37

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33
The Ballot Bill.

powers and in the first blush of its legislative zeal. The General Election of 1841 returned a strong Conservative majority to the House of Commons. The experience of 1783-4 was, in fact, repeated; for it was proved that the Upper House had divined the true temper of the nation with more accuracy than the Lower. A further repetition of this experience occurred in 1857, which is instructive as showing that the Lords are no Tory Caucus, as Mr. Bright has called them, but that they are ready to support a Whig Minister if he appears to them to be acting in a manner conducive to the welfare of the country. In that year the policy of Lord Palmerston with regard to the China war was arraigned in both Houses. He obtained a victory in the Lords, who refused to pass the vote of censure upon him, which was moved by the Tory leader, the late Lord Derby; but he was defeated in the Commons, and dissolved Parliament. The country, however, agreed with the Lords in approving of his policy, and returned a new House of Commons, which retained him in power until his subsequent defeat on a wholly different question.

The Ballot Bill.But must pass on to our own immediate times. We have already alluded to the rejection of the Ballot Bill by the Upper House in 1871 and their passing of it in 1872. The majority of the House had in the interval satisfied themselves that the opinion of the country preponderated in favour of the measure. But their opposition, in the first instance, cannot be considered unjustifiable when we remember the terrible increase of corruption, which, according to the testimony of more than one of our election judges, resulted from the introduction of voting by ballot, and which led to the passing of that very stringent measure, the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883. Nor can it be considered illiberal, when we remember that one of the foremost opponents of the Bill was Lord Shaftesbury, than whom no living man has done more for the welfare of the people of England. It is true that the beneficial provisions of the early Factory Acts were passed by him when he was a member of the House of Commons. But the fact remains, that the working classes received this boon from the heir to a peerage, who probably owed his presence in the House of Commons to the fact of his being so, and who has since become one of the hereditary members of the Upper House. It should also be remembered that those provisions were passed in the face of the most strenuous