Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/8

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4
Preface.

think, be admitted that the reasoning of this pamphlet is amply and abundantly confirmed.

Errors of judgment, intemperate conduct, perhaps even selfish action may occasionally be traced in the parliamentary history of the House of Lords; but what body of men has there ever been, or will there be, of which this cannot be said? Unworthy members, rotten limbs which I wish we could cut off, there have been and must be, but what body of men has there ever been, or will there be, of which this cannot be said? Let him or they who are immaculate cast the first stone. If, indeed, individual cases are to be cited, it would be easy to name by the score those in the House of Lords who have with pre-eminent ability guided legislation and upheld public affairs, or, on the other hand, who have simply and conscientiously made their wealth and abilities the source of comfort and happiness to thousands who depended upon them. I believe that if, like reasonable men, and not like children, carried away by every breath of rhetoric, we look dispassionately at the whole course and conduct of the House of Lords for many generations back, the verdict will be that that House has shown often more liberality, very often more wisdom than, and always as much patriotism as the House of Commons.

The revolution of 1668 was as much due to the English aristocracy and the House of Lords as to any man or men in the country. In the early part of the 18th century it was the House of Lords which threw its shield of protection over Lord Somers, Sir Robert Walpole, and, on more than one occasion, over the Dissenters too, though it may now suit Radical politicians to ignore this. It was the House of Lords that maintained the House of Hanover, and upheld the Protestant succession. These were great events; and compared with them the events and legislation of our day will seem in the eyes of a future historian to be insignificant and petty. Again, as we consider the parliamentary history of the close of the 18th century, it is neither demagogues nor members of the House