Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/39

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35
Mr. Gladstone and the House of LordsThe Present Crisis.

is one of the most democratic of French politicians. On August 13th, 1884, in the debate on the French Revision Bill, he said that—

"A few months ago he had paid a visit to England, and had been in communication with the leaders of the working men's party. He asked them—'Have you any grievance, have you any cause for complaint against the Government, against the House of Lords, against the Tory Party?' The answer he received was unanimous; it was this:—'We have no reason to complain; the laws we want passed are passed, and we have no fault to find with the House of Lords or with the Tory Party; they have behaved perfectly fairly to the working man, and the House of Lords and the Tories are always anxious to deal fairly with the working man, improve his lot, and grant him what he is legitimately entitled to expect."

Mr. Gladstone and the House of Lords.The proceedings with reference to the Ballot Bill gave rise to no constitutional question. Unfortunately the same thing cannot be said respecting the three other occasions on which Mr. Gladstone has come into conflict with the Lords. In 1871, when they rejected his Bill for the abolition of purchase in the Army, he resorted to the high-hand proceeding of using the Royal Prerogative to frustrate their opposition. By a Royal Warrant he imposed upon the country a measure which, whether or not it has given us a better army, has undeniably cost us something like £18,000,000. Again, in 1882, when they had committed what was in his eyes the heinous offence of appointing a committee of their own to inquire into the working of the Irish Land Act of the previous year, Mr. Gladstone wasted four precious nights of the early part of the Session in carrying through the House of Commons a resolution declaring "That Parliamentary inquiry at the present time into the working of the Irish Land Act tends to defeat the operation of that Act, and must be injurious to the interests of good government in Ireland." The resolution was passed, but it was, of course, powerless to prevent the committee of the Lords from prosecuting their labours. What was the result? The committee reported, and their report contained some valuable suggestions, which the Ministry themselves subsequently adopted.

The present crisis.The third conflict between Mr. Gladstone and the Upper House is that into which the whole nation has been drawn, upon the merits of which both sides are now endeavouring to obtain its informal opinion, and upon which it will no doubt be called upon to record a solemn verdict in the polling booths before many months have