Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/22

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Alternatives Possible—Objections to Election.

unlimited power of the Crown, or, in other words, of the Minister of the day, to create new Peers. The first principle ensures the independence of the House, the second provides for the continual influx into it of new blood and new ideas, and gives the opportunity of retaining for the country the benefit of the counsels of distinguished men who have served their time in the more exhausting scenes of contested elections and the House of Commons, or may be for various reasons unable to enter into those scenes. Either principle without the other would produce a baleful result, but the two together work with benefit to the nation, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to devise a scheme which could be substituted with advantage for their combined operation.

Alternatives possible.For if the present constitution of the House is to be abolished, what are the alternatives before us? The tenure of seats for life, or some shorter period, either by nomination or election. Few persons, if any, would advocate a Second Chamber entirely composed of nominees of the Crown, that is, of successive Governments. It is certain that if this had been the composition of the House of Lords in old times, when the Power of the Crown was more or less completely in the hands of the individual Sovereign, the British Constitution would not have been what it is. It was the Peers who originally won the liberties of England, and it was their territorial and hereditary status which gave them independence and enabled them to do so. Our freedom and rights are no longer in danger from the personal encroachments of the monarch, but history contains not a few instances of an individual who has been raised to power by the suffrages of the people having ended by destroying their liberties. The whole current of modern practice has been against the principle of nomination, and to entrust the composition of the Second Chamber to a succession of Prime Ministers, enjoying for the time the confidence of a majority of the nation, is a plan which no sane politician would seriously propose.

Objections to election.There remains, then, the method of election. This is the scheme which is being strenuously advocated by Radical speakers and writers at the present time. There is no accord, however, between them as to the details of the scheme, and no wonder. For it is impossible to frame details which would be otherwise than unsatisfactory. Shall the members of the Upper House be