Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/9

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5
Preface.

of Commons, but great Peers that withstood the arbitrary power of the Crown, or opposed Lord Bute and the corruption of Henry Fox. The Dukes of Richmond and Devonshire, Lord Fitzwilliam, and others, were at one time the mainstay and representatives of public liberty, and the bulwark against an overweening court and a servile minister. Go on yet one step further, to that great war when a Liberal Opposition thwarted the military conduct of the Duke of Wellington, and did their best to starve the British army abroad; and it was the House of Lords that never flinched when the honour, credit, and safety of the country were at stake. And on the conclusion of that great struggle it will not be found that the aristocratic government of England were the friends of tyranny abroad. On the contrary, their support was given to the constitutional Governments that were growing up in Europe. Misrepresentation and abuse have been heaped upon Lord Castlereagh, but modern history has brought out the fact that he was no friend to tyranny. Nor must it be forgotten that, at the end of the great war, it was that same aristocratic government that restored Sicily to the Italians, Java to the Dutch, that defended Holland under critical circumstances, and did its best, though unsuccessfully, to save Poland. It was finally no demagogue who carried the famous Reform Bill of 1832. It was an aristocratic government, at the head of which was one, than whom no greater aristocrat breathed—Lord Grey.

There are, I think, four undeniable facts which may be asserted of the House of Lords during the last half century. First, a steady growth and adaptation of the House to the social and political changes of the time may be traced. It reflects, indeed, our essentially English practice in silently and unconstrainedly adapting itself to the requirements of the day. It has thus interwoven itself, as it were, with English sentiment, and had become an integral part of the English nation. Secondly, by the general opinion of the country, and on the authority of distinguished Liberals, it may challenge, for ability