Page:The House of Lords and the nation.djvu/35

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Conduct of the Peers in Modern Times.

revolution, which is suggested by some so-called reformers, were to be effected, and our Second Chamber were to be elected by the same constituencies as the House of Commons. In either case the measures which were passed in a Radical direction would be the measures of one party alone; and when the time came for the swing of the political pendulum, and for the return of the Conservative party to power, their first proceeding would be to reverse all the acts of the previous Parliament. That this is no imaginary danger is evident from what we see actually take place in Belgium. In that country the Second Chamber is unfortunately elected by the same constituencies as the First Chamber. The consequence is that there being complete accord between the two Chambers, the party in power can carry their measures through the Legislature without check or restraint; and when there comes a change of public opinion, and a dissolution occurs, the new Chambers immediately begin with repealing the results of the labours of their predecessors.

Conduct of the Peers in modern times.We are now in a position to consult history, and ascertain whether the Peers have properly discharged their duties, and benefited the country on critical occasions in modern times. We have already seen how, in the seventeenth century, the downfall of the House was the precursor of the military tyranny which dominated over the country during the so-called Commonwealth, and contributed not a little to render that tyranny possible. We have seen how the revival of the House coincided with the restoration of constitutional government in 1660. To both Houses alike belongs the credit of steering the vessel of the State safely through the Revolution of 1688; but it was the body of the Peers who effected the peaceable succession of George I. on the death of Queen Anne, in 1714. Had it not been for their action, a return of the Stuart dynasty might not improbably have taken place. At any rate, the country could hardly have escaped a civil war, far exceeding in magnitude the comparatively insignificant outbreak of the following year. The next crisis in our history in which the House of Lords played an important part was nearly seventy years later. In 1783, Mr. Fox carried through a servile House of Commons by a large majority his outrageous India Bill, which, if passed into law, would have placed the whole official patronage of India, both civil and military, in the hands of the Cabinet of the day. The Lords rejected the measure, and, on