Изображения страниц

their own and other nations, as well as partial views from constant intercourse freedom from any strong interest in the with any one confined social circle, points on which they are required to while the decorum of their rank early legislate ; and such knowledge of the instils a habit of command over thengeneral circumstances of the nation and selves, and over the expression, at least, of the former state of the law, as may of temper and feeling. render them competent to judge with In these countries the peerage is parsufficient acruracy, of the effects likely ticularls fitted for this othce, as while to ensue from the law they are about raised by rank above the rest of their to enact. Above all things, it is riqui- fellow subjects, they are yet possessed site that they should not consider their of none of those privileges which tend rank and power, as a body or as indi: to draw an absolute line of demarcation viduals, to depend on the number of between thein and others, and to prelaws wbich they make, in a given tiine, vent them from being interested in and or on the adventitious circumstance of acquainted with the welfare of the those laws pleasing or displeasing any other classes. Their interest must particular district or party of the people. always be the interest of the nation at

Now we challenge the effrontery larye ; and while the circumstances of the most barefaced Radical, or we have before mentioned render them the plansibility of the most sophis. more competent to judge of the genetical 'Whig, to confute the assertion ral good, and less liable to be biassed that in every one of these respects in forming that judgment, yet these the House of Lords is, of all bodies di-tinctions do not operate to such an of whom the nation is composed, the extent as to render them unacquainted best qualified to make judicious laws with the affairs on which that juigment for the benefit of the community. By is to be exercised. Lastly, let us consitheir rank, wealth, and habits, they der the source from whence this body are, at least as far as theory can lead is suplied. Generally speaking, every us to suppose, (and let it be remem member of it has eitber himself been, bered that in this part of our article it or is descended from a family who have is with theory we are dealing,) acous- been, eminent for talents, virtues, or tomed to a wide range of elegant lite- heroic qualities. rature and philosophy ; they are obliged by the society in which they Thus far we have dwelt on the theory intermix, to be acquainted to a consic of the constitution, and endeavoured derable extent with the works and opi- to show, by a short sketch, that as far nions of the wisest of all ages. They as this goes the House of Lords are of are alınost always sent when young to the whole kingdom the pirtion best travel in other countries, to learn the qualified to legislate beneficially for the habits, institutious, and sentiments of commwity. Much more inight be said their inhabitants. Their society be- to this effect; but we shall pass on to yond their own rank is chiefly composed the more practical part of the subject, of those most eminent for talents, and and the rather because we do not think for the use made by them of those ta- that this point, even if fully established, lents. They have less interest in the would sati-fy the design we have in common objects of law's than most vivw, or answer the question to which classes, as their property and rank is we have undertaken to reply. in general fixed, and not liable to the The next branch of our subject leads sudden fluctuations of that of the mer us to inquire what were the opinions cantile or professional departments of of those who originated the


and society, and they are consequently less authority of parliament; what they conliable to be influenced in their views by ceived to be its design, and how they considerations of private advantare supposed that design would be most and profit, and inore likely to view effectually answered. questions according to the principles of Certainly no people, from the Athenright and wrong, and public benefit ian to the Arabi, ever were more truly and injury. Their connexions, ac- free, were more tenacious of their liquaintances, and even their residences, berty, or took wiser measures to secure being more extensively spread, they it, than our Sixon ancestors: yet there are less tempted to derive limited and

never existed a body of men in whom


the classes of society were more steadily the subject of our inquiry, their views distinguished, or who paid more uni- and sentiments were precisely similar furen r speet to the distinctions of rank. to those of their Saxon predecessors. We affeet to trace to them our love of It is an unquestioned fact of bistory freed-n. We glory in attributing to that, for centuries afier the Conquest, them several of our wisest laws and the until the reign of Henry the Third, poblest principles of our constitution; there is not the least trace of anywe ascribe, and justly ascribe, to their thing like a representative legislapuenagemotes some of those insti- ture. For the whole of this long tutions to which En and at this hour period the entire legislative power was owes ber glory. Whom did these, vested in the House of Lords and the our free, wise, and high-spirited an- sovereign, or perhaps we should more cestors, consider the best qualified to correctly say, in the aristocracy of the make laws for the welfare of the va- nation, as the lesser barons had much tion? Did they select the boxer, whose the rank of our present baronets and gambling adventures had gained him esquires of large fortune. The principle an equal portion of wealth and intamy? was, however, the same; and during the manufacturing adventurer, whose the whole rise of the pation to power sole eminence consisted in his success- and eminence, during the formation ful attempts to make blacking for shoes? and establishment of most of our wisest or the needy and reckless demagogue, systems of jurisprudence, and during who went about proclaiming to the the many gallant and successful struga rabble that all the existing order of gles in the field and in the councilthings was one monstrous abuse? Were chamber, by which our inost important these the characters or rank of the men liberties were ascertained and rendered to whom our ancestors confided the the birthright of the subject; the whole great duty of legislatiou? They placed legislative and deliberative, as well that power in the hands of their '" wise as the supreme judicative power, was men;" and those whom they desig- entrusted by our

to the nated by this honourable title were the aristocracy and sovereign. then existing peers, spiritual and tem But," it may be answered, "the poral, of the realm. True it is that result proved that they were mistaken, many of that class whom we now de as they found themselves at length numinate commoners were included in obliged to resort to the creation of a that asseinbly; but was it as an elected representative legislature.” That a reor representative class ? Far from it: presentative body did at length obtain each man beld bis place there in his a great, and has every hour from that own right: he was not indebied to a to the present period obtained a greater, faction for his rank, and compelled to share in the legislative power; and that consult the whim of that faction to re that body, not content with its adtain that rank. Such men as this our vances in that branch of authority, is ancestors deemed the objects of laws, at pri sent, by interfering with the not the makers of them.

Kiliy's choice of bis ministers, preBut it will be said that new princi- tending to a share even in the exeples were introduced at the Conquest. cutive department, is certain. But Perhaps so : if they were, they were what was the origin of that body, and certainly not more favourable to liberty; what were the tirst effects of its creabut we are not here called on to show tion? Did the people, groaning under what is the nature of our constitution the tyrannical or absurd legislativn of with regard to this great body, for that the aristocracy, make a grand effort, is sufficiently obvious; but to demon- and compel them to share their power strate that, in conferring on one portion with the representatives of the nation ? of the community the powers and du- Or did the peers themselves, conscious ties of the House of Lords, that con- of their own inability to make wise stitution has acted wisely. But, in fact, laws, seek the aid of this delegated the Conquest, as it is called, although wisdom? Or, rather, did not the moit did ultimately, by the influx of Nor-narch, smarting under successful mans, bringing with them their national efforts of that great body in favour of habits and institutions, materially alter liberty-murtified by their steady oppoour constitution, yet, with respect to sition to the senseless schemes of a



wild and sanguinary ambition— bent The aristocracy of England was upon gaining the means of carrying on that portion of her inhabitants who that ruinous war with the neighbouring alone stood forward to brave and check continent, the success of which would the growing despotism of the papal have been fatal, and the failure of which see; who formed the constitutions of was most disastrous to the empire; Clarendon; who wrung from the unand hopeless of ever attaining, with willing cowardice of the caitiff Jobu their consent, that arbitrary sway which the great charter of our liberties; who the other sovereigns of Europe had again and again vindicated and already, in a great degree, become stored that charter when violated by possessed of-did not the monarch, him and his successors, and finally under the influence of all these motives, established it beyond the reach of danger fix upon this very representative body, as the great beacon of the rights of and call them into being, for the pur- Englishmen. That illustrious body it pose of gaining a party in the legisla- was who repelled the attempt to subture, from their rank, more easily in- stitute for the free and rational princifluenced and corrupted ; from their ples of the ancient common law of education, more incapable to judge England the elegant despotism of the with wisdom and impartiality; from code of Justinian; and when that system their habits and information less com was pressed upon them with all the petent to foresee the result of measures; attractions attending its recent discoand, from all these united, better fitted very, with all the artifices and ingenuity to be the servile instruments by which of the clergy, aided by the influence of the despotism of the houses of Tudor the papal see and the favour of the and of Stuart was to be raised upon the sovereigns of Europe, whom it would ruins of Saxon and Norman liberty. have rendered masters of despotie

The introduction of a representative power, they repressed the first atbody into the legislature was so far, tempt to introduce it by the brief then, from being the result of and' memorable reply, “We will not feeling, on the part of the nation, that that the laws of England should be the confidence of their ancestors had changed.” been misplaced, and that the wise men, The limits to which we are at preas they were emphatically called, were sent confined will not admit a detailed not the fittest persons to be entrusted history of all the important occasions with legislative power, that it was, in fact, on which the House of Lords, subisethe strongest proofthat that body had not quently to the establishment of the only executed their office with ability House of Commons as a separate and success, but that they were such branch of the legislature, exercised its powerful and vigilant guardians of the power to check the encroachments of constitution, that the inonarch was com the royal prerogative at one time, and pelled to create a house of commons to restrain the democratic spirit of the to enable him to subvert the liberties of Commons at another, to defeat the the nation.

attempts of that body to destroy the The truth of this position was exem- rights of the sovereign, or to turn plified in the manner in which this new on the very class for whose special body was looked on by the people. protection they professed to have been So conscious were they of the object of founded, and to reduce the hereditary its formation, and so well aware that rights and liberties of the people to a their liberties were in safer hands be- submissive dependence on their haughty fore its establishment, that it was a will. Numerous instances of the active, matter of


difficulty to persuade or decided, and salutary interference of the force them to return representatives. upper house on all these occasions of

For a length of time after its crea- public emergency, might be adduced, tion, the lower house was merely a to which, as far as we can venture committee of supply, and its admission to point out the consequences likely to to legislative power was merely a con- have resulted from a state of things sequence of the influence it derived where experience affords no direct from the direction of the resources and light, the national rights and liberties of its greater subserviency to the de- owed their preservation from ruin. signs of the crown.

The importance of the House of

Lords, as the guardian of the people obey it, and enforced a sulky submisagainst the tyrannical ambition of the sion on the lower house. Commons, was remarkably exemplified But the peers have not confined their in the case of the Aylesbury burgesses, interposition to the defence of the subin the reign of William II1. The Lord ject, although that is either passively or Chief Justiee Holt had decided that the actively the constant etfect of their ausubject, when refused his right of voting thority. They have as frequently exertby a returning officer at an election, ed it in restraining the unconstitutional had right of action against that officer attempts of the lower house against in a court of common law. The Com- the rights of the crown: for example-mons, incensed at this, asserted that in the reign of Charles the Second, no one had power to decide in any the Commons had contrived a mode such cases but themselves. This was of assuming to themselves the whole an affair of obvious importance, in- legislative power, by tacking whatever volving the question whether the sub- bills they wished to pass to the end of ject had a right, by the law, to the ex- the money bills ; so that the one could ercise of his franchise, or whether a nut be passed without the other. Here majority in the lower house should be the Lords interposed, and remonstrated able to perpetuate their power by against the practice, and finally made authorising the returning officer to ad- it a standing order of the house not to mit only sneh votes as they approved. entertain any biils annexed to money The importance of the question was bills. Soon after, in the same reign, duly estimated by the nation, as well the Commons attempted to render the as by the courts of law and both houses. crown elective, and to exclude the right The Commons, enraged that any one heir from it. This would have been should altempt to limit their authority, effected with the approbation of the or propose any other mode of decision people, who merely looked to the parthan their will, seized all the electors ticular instance. The Lords, howwho had brought the actions, resolved ever, though feeling the urgency of them guilty of contempt and breach of that instance as strongly as either, yet privilege, and committed them to New saw the consequences of such a usurpagate. The latter sued out writs of tion of power, and positively rejected Habeas Corpus, and Holt fearlessly said the measure. The result was, that that they were entitled to their dis- instead of a complete destruction of charge. The house, incensed at such the whole system and principles of audacity, issued warrants to seize even our social constitution, by a proceedthe counsel who had been concerned. ing which would have subverted the Throughout the whole affair Holt had monarchy, the nation was relieved stood alone. The terrors of the house from all the evils apprehended, by the had intimidated the other judges. He subsequent abdication of the individual bravely said, " If the House of Com- in question, and the consequent settlemons declare themselves to have privi- ment of the crown on the very prinleges which they have no legal claim ciples advocated by the Commons to to, the people of England will not be justify their proposal, but in a manner stopped by that declaration.” Here, which left the whole structure of the however, he was mistaken. The people constitution precisely as before that of England would, because they could event, or rather, if anything, confirmed not help it, have submitted; for their and secured thereby. The Lords only remedy would have been by a could not, it is true, have foreseen rebellion. Holt would have fallen a this result, and were therefore actuated victim to his courage, and the usurpa- merely by a steady and patient contion so gained would have been but viction of duty in disregard to the the stepping-stone to more. But the shallow wavering and Will-o'-thecountry was saved even from a strug, wisp-like doctrine of expediency; the gle. The House of Lords interposed adoption of which was certainly never their power; decreed, in a most solemn more plausibly urged, or its fearless decision, that Holt was right; pub- rejection more gloriously rewarded. lished an able and full statement of It has also been a favourite at. their judgment; sent it to all the re- tempt of the lower house to pass turning officers, with their inandate to what are called place bills, restraining

the distribution of preferments by the is better for a state to have its laws too few crown. During the whole of the last cen than too many. A legislative body should tury the Lords resisted this encroach- be as much on iis guard against activity ment, and uniforınly rejected all such as an executive against supiueness. bills. We are here far from wishing to imply that the lower house has not It will not be necessary to enter at much been repeatedly of the greatest ser- length into the question of the utility of vice in restraining the upper. We the House of Peers as a supreme court think, that in this respect, the obliga- of judicature. It is obvious that some tion, for such it really is, has been per. such court must exist—that it must be fectly mutual. But if our readers will endowed as well with a legal as equittake the trouble of tracing the circum- able jurisdiction--and that, since supestances in which these occasions of riors may materially suffer from a trial contest originated, they will probably by their inferiors, though the latter arrive at the same conclusion which can seldom suffer from being judged has impressed itself on our mind, that by the former, that court should consist in most instances the improper con of the bighest persons in the realm, duct of the House of Lords was who are competent for the office. But rather the result of individual or acci. let us consider what are the compodental motives, while, on the other nent parts of that supreme court. Its hand, the salutary interference of that acting members are chiefly of two body, and the usurpations of the Com- classes, peers by descent, and peers mons were part of a system originating elevated for legal learning and abilities. in, and produced by the essential con It derives, therefore, from the latter the stitution of the two bodies. To ascer greatest body perhaps of judicial infortain this, history must, in this respect, mation in the world, while the former be viewed as a connected whole; but act as a species of jury, selected from we think that this is the fairest way to the very finest panel, if we may so view it, and we are assured that the express it, that was over formed. result of the examination will justify As the court of ultimate resort, they the position we have laid down. must be, to a certain extent, judges

We have endeavoured to show that both of law and of fact, and for this the perfection of a legislative body office there exists no other body consists in its being qualified to equally qualified; while, as the auenact salutary laws for the benefit of thority which is to lay down what is the people, and that it is not of the the law in cases wholly new and withleast consequence whether such laws out precedent, they must be more or are agreeable to the people; that the less cognizant of, and able to declare House of Peers are in a high degree the intention of the legislature which qualifi-d for this purpose, not merely framed the law. The right of deciding on account of their extensive acquire without appeal, in all manner of cases, ments and high honor, but from must be lodged in some one body. To the fact of their not being, if we none can it be so sately entrusted as may so say, removeable from office to that class which is supplied by the at the pleasure of those whom the law's constant influx of all that is most emniare made especially to govern and nent for wisdom, learning and virtue. control, while they are also compara We cannot refrain from calling the tively free from the temptations of indi- attention of our readers to a powerful vidual interest, and that anxiety to make testimony which has lately appeared a name by introducing a measure, which in favor of the utility of the House of is the natural result of temporary dignity. Lords, and of the aristocracy in geneWe have also noticed some of ihe prac- ral. This evidence is drawn from the tical illustrations afforded by history. infuriated hatred and malice displayed We would briefly state our opinion thus. towards them in three little pamphlets

, As far as results from their essential attributed, though perhaps without constitution, the House of Peers must foundation, to the pen of a distin. be disposed to consider the introduc- guished patron of, and voncher for, the tion of a new law to be in itself, to a present ministry. Were that house certain extent, an injury; the House of useless they would not have been Commons to look upon it as a merit. It honored with such deep and bitter

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »