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nents, on which they had uniformly thrown the most deserved odium; and after having, for above a century, concurred with the voice of his tory, in condemning the creation of twelve Peers in the close of the reign of Queen Anne, to endeavour to signalize the commencement of that of William by the creation of Thirty! This measure has always been stigmatized as the most arbitrary stretch of power since the Revolution. On 24th June, 1717, it formed an article of impeachment against Robert, Earl of Oxford, the leader of Queen Anne's Tory Ministry, by the Whig party; and the following is the charge in the impeachment :-" In order to obtain such farther resolutions of that House of Parliament, on the important subject of the negotiations of peace, as might shelter and promote his secret and unwarrantable proceedings, together with other false and evil counsellors, did advise her Majesty to make and create twelve Peers of this realm and Lords of Parliament; and, pursuant to his destructive counsels, letters patent did forthwith pass and writs issued, whereby twelve Peers were made and created; and did likewise advise her Majesty immediately to call and summon them to Parliament, which being done accordingly, they took their seats in the House of Lords, on or about the 2d of January, 1711, to which day the House then stood adjourned; whereby the said Robert Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer did most highly abuse the influence he then had with her Majesty, and prevailed on her to exercise, in the most unprecedented and dangerous manner, that valuable and undoubted prerogative, which the wisdom of the laws and constitution of this kingdom hath intrusted with the Crown, for the rewarding of signal virtue and distinguished merit. By which desperate advice, he did not only, as far as in him lay, deprive her Majesty of the continuance of those seasonable and wholesome counsels in that critical juncture, but wickedly perverted the true and only end of that great and useful prerogative, to the dishonour of the Crown, and the irreparable mischief to the constitution of Parliament."
The Whigs, in 1717, deemed a Tory Minister worthy of impeach
ment, and actually brought him to trial in the House of Lords, for creating twelve Peers to carry a particular measure-of what would they deem those worthy who should, for a similar purpose, create Thirty?
It is said that they had no alternative; that the Reform Question could not be permitted to remain longer in dependence; that all the interests of the country were suffering under the effects of the agitation which it produced; that the Peers could not be allowed to remain permanently at variance with the nation; and that it is better that their independence should be destroyed by the sword of the prerogative, than overturned by the violence of the people. If this reasoning were well founded, it would afford no vindication whatever of their conduct, but merely shift the censure upon another part of it. For who occasioned the violence, or roused the passions, which they now represent as irresistible? Who placed this Question upon a different footing from any other that ever was agitated in English history, and created the necessity of yielding to the mob, by appealing to their passions? Who, when the country was agitated by democratic passions, joined the populace for the sake of preserving their power, instead of uniting with their opponents for the sake of saving their country? Who forgot the noble saying of Sheridan, when the nation was on the verge of destruction from the mutiny at the Nore, and he left Mr Fox to save his country-" Concede to the mutineers? Never-for that would destroy in a moment three centuries of glory!" Who dissolved Parliament at a moment of the highest excitement, and roused the people to madness by the goading of a furious press, and forced on the elections under such circumstances as rendered the House of Commons the mirror of fleeting passion, instead of permanent opinion? Who brought forward a measure of Reform so violent, so sweeping, that it far exceeded the hopes of the Radicals themselves, and excited a ferment in the democratic party, great in proportion to the unexpected and unhoped for gift of power which was tendered to their grasp? Who brought a measure into the Legislature, which they had no hope, on
their own admission, of carrying in Parliament, but which they trusted to force upon a reluctant Legislature, by the vehemence of popular passion? Who have adopted measures which, however intended, have converted a prosperous and happy realm into a scene of discord, and the theatre of fury; have stained its cities with blood, and lighted its plains with conflagration? If the persons who have done these things now find themselves overborne by necessity; if they feel they cannot check the current they have urged into a torrent, on whom does the responsibility of such a tremendous state of things rest, but on those who embarked on the stream of innovation? In truth, this alleged necessity which is put forth by the Reformers as the excuse for so unprecedented a stretch of power, if it really does exist, and is not a necessity merely for keeping themselves in power, is but another instance of the truth which we have frequently impressed upon our readers, and which the slightest acquaintance with the history of revolution must have render ed familiar to every scholar, that it is only the first movements and early stages of the democratic torrent which are under the control of those who put it in motion; and that after it is set agoing, they are speedily impelled onwards by a force which they feel to be irresistible. This it is which renders the rousing of democratic passion so tremendously dangerous, and affixes such deserved execration upon the names of all those in former ages, who have, for their own selfish purposes, made use of that terrific engine. The agita tion, distress, and anxiety, which it produces, is so terrible, that society cannot endure it, and, to put an end to suspense, the Executive is impelled to measures which, at the commencement of the movement, all men would have recoiled from with horror. Quod prius fit voluntatis, postea fit necessitatis. The plea of necessity is never wanting in such cases; the desperate step which is utterly subversive of freedom, is represented as a measure, deplorable, indeed, but unavoidable; and, to extinguish the
effects of former popular concessions, still stronger and more vehement, revolutionary measures are felt to be necessary. It was thus that Louis XVI., after he had adopted the fatal measure of convoking the States-General, and doubling the representatives of the Tiers Etat, found himself compelled to enjoin his faithful nobles to yield to the torrent, and join with the deputies of the Commons in one assembly; a measure which, by giving anumerical superiority to the popular party, directly led to all the horrors of the Revolution. All the most violent revolutionary measures, the confiscation of the property of the Church, the execution of the King, the issuing of assignats bearing a forced circulation, the Reign of Terror, the fixing a maximum on the price of provisions, the forced requisitions from the farmers, the confiscation of twothirds of the national debt, were justified on the plea of necessity; it was uniformly said that matters had come to that pass, that they could not go on unless the new measure was adopted. Cromwell was not without a similar excuse when he dissolved the Long Parliament. first addressed himself," says Hume, "to his friend St John, and told him that he had come with the intention of doing what grieved him to the very soul, and what he had earnestly besought the Lord, with tears, not to impose upon him; but there was a necessity, in order to the glory of God, and the good of the nation. It is you," added he, addressing himself to the House, "that have forced me upon this; I have besought the Lord night and day, that he would slay me rather than put me upon this work."*
If, therefore, there was a necessity for this despotic act, it is a necessity of the Ministers' own creation. They have voluntarily embarked on this St Lawrence, and they must answer to God and man if they send the vessel of the state to its Niagara.
But before the plea of necessity is admitted for destroying the constitution, let it be considered whether Ministers have done every thing which they could to avert so direful a catastrophe ? Have they united with the Conservative Party, as Mr
* Hume, VII. 216, 217.
Sheridan so nobly did with Mr Pitt at the mutiny at the Nore? Have they called forth the strength of the country to resist the danger? Have they exerted the might of the Executive to restrain the turbulence of the people? Have they done all that men could do, charged with so sacred a trust as the preservation of the noblest monument of social wisdom and prosperity which the world has ever seen ?-Have they not, on the contrary, done the very reverse of these things? Have they not done every thing in their power to beat down and ruin the Conservative Party? Has not the press, which they honour with their communications and their confidence, stimulated the ruffian mobs to plaster the friends of the constitution with mud; to strike at their faces; to strike them down with brickbats; to duck them in horseponds ? Has not under their rule the reign of terror been so general, that the expression of opinion, in opposition to the multitude, required every where more than ordinary courage? Have they not roused and got up petitions in every part of the country, calling upon the King to swamp the Upper House by a great creation of Peers? And how, after having not done any thing whatever to avert the calamity, but on the contrary done every thing to produce it, can they now be permitted to shelter themselves under the plea of that necessity which originated in their measures, and has been strengthened by such indefatigable efforts of their emissaries ?
"The proper use and design of the House of Lords," says Paley, are these-first, to enable the King, by his right of bestowing the peerage, to reward the servants of the public in a manner most grateful to them, and at a small expense to the nation; secondly, to fortify the and to secure the power, stability, of regal government, by an order of men naturally allied to its interests; and, thirdly, to answer a purpose, which, though of superior importance to the other two, does not occur so readily to our observation; namely, to stem the progress of popular fury. Large bodies of men are subject to sudden frenzies. Opinions are sometimes circulated amongst a multitude without proof
or examination, acquiring confidence and reputation merely by being repeated from one to another; and passions founded upon these opinions, diffusing themselves with a rapidity that can neither be accounted for nor resisted, may agitate a country with the most violent commotions. Now, the only way to stop the fermentation, is to divide the mass; that is, to erect different orders in the community, with separate prejudices and interests. And this may occasionally become the use of an hereditary nobility invested with a share of legislation. Averse to the prejudices which actuate the minds of the vulgar; accustomed to contemu the clamour of the populace; disdaining to receive laws and opinions from their inferiors in rank, they will oppose resolutions which are founded in the folly and violence of the lower part of the community. Was the voice of the people always dictated by reflection; did every man, or even one man in a hundred, think for himself, or actually consi der the measure he was about to approve or censure; or even were the common people tolerably stead fast in the judgment which they formed, I should hold the interfe rence of a superior order not only superfluous, but wrong; for when every thing is allowed to difference of rank and education, which the ac tual state of these advantages de serves, that, after all, is most likely to be right and expedient, which appears to be so to the separate judg ment and decision of a great majority of the nation; at least, that, in general, is right for them, which is agreeable to their fixed opinions and desires. But when we observe what is urged as the public opinion, to be, in truth, the opinion only, or perhaps the feigned professions, of a few crafty leaders; that the numbers who join in the cry serve only to swell and multiply the sound, without any ac cession of judgment, or exercise of understanding; and that oftentimes the wisest counsels have been thus overborne by tumult and uproar ;→ we may conceive occasions to arise, in which the commonwealth may be saved by the reluctance of the nobility to adopt the caprices, or to yield to the vehemence of the common people. In expecting this advantage
from an order of nobles, we do not suppose the nobility to be more unprejudiced than others; we only suppose that their prejudices will be different from, and may occasionally counteract, those of others.”*
"By the balance of interest which accompanies and gives efficacy to the balance of power, is meant this; -that the respective interests of the three estates of the empire are so disposed and adjusted, that which ever of the three shall attempt any encroachment, the other two will unite in resisting it. If the King should endeavour to extend his authority, by contracting the power and privileges of the Commons, the House of Lords would see their own dignity endangered by every advance which the crown made to independency upon the resolutions of Parliament. The admission of arbitrary power is no less formidable to the grandeur of the aristocracy, than it is fatal to the liberty of the republic; that is, it would reduce the nobility from the hereditary share they possess in the national councils, in which their real greatness consists, to the being made a part of the empty pageantry of a despotic court. On the other hand, if the House of Commons should intrench upon the distinct province, or usurp the established prerogative of the Crown, the House of Lords would receive an instant alarm from every new stretch of popular power."t
It is needless, and it would be painful, to dwell on the unparalleled combination of circumstances which has at this time inverted the order here described, and brought the Crown, instead of being united with the Lords against the Commons, into the condition of being united with the Commons against the Lords. But these observations of this eminent sage demonstrate the importance of the Peers as a separate and independent estate in the realm, and enable us to appreciate the tendency of those measures, which, by destroying their power of effectual deliberation, prepare the way, at no distant period, for their formal abolition.
The House of Peers, in every age,
have been the foremost and truest friends of rational freedom. It is to them we owe Magna Charta, the emancipation of England from Papal usurpation in the time of Henry II., and the Revolution against Catholic tyranny in 1688. They took the lead in the national movement which precipitated James from the throne; and their firmness saved the liberties of England from being sacrificed at the shrine of Eastern ambition in 1784. They have never been insulted, humiliated, or weakened, but what the most grinding oppression on the throne, and the most abject submission in the nation, immediately followed. The ancient nobility of England were almost annihilated by mutual slaughter during the wars of the Roses, and the tyranny of Henry VIII. was the consequence; a reign, says Hume, in which 72,000 persons suffered by the hands of the public executioner, and a greater degree of tyranny was exercised both over the consciences, the persons, and the properties of men, than in any similar era since the reign of Nero. The Lords were abolished by the Long Parliament, and that energetic assembly soon shared the fate it had inflicted on its rival; but the liberties of the people did not long survive the shock: they were first crushed beneath the sword of Cromwell, and then lost amidst the corruptions of the Restoration.
The reason why public freedom in an old state cannot subsist for any time after the degradation of the hereditary nobility is, that the Crown and the democracy, having destroyed the power which overawed and separated them, are brought into immediate and fierce collision, and in that struggle liberty has no chance whatever of being ultimately preserved. If the monarch is victorious, either by the force of arms or the influence of corruption, a despotism is immediately established. If the people become omnipotent, the transition is equally certain, though by a more painful and agonizing passage, to absolute power. Democracy, unrestrained by aristocracy, never yet subsisted for any length of time in any old state upon earth; the evils
it induces are so excessive, the suf-, fering which flows from it is so dreadful, that mankind soon become weary of their contentions, and willingly submit to any usurper who promises, by concentrating power in a single hand, to save them from "the worst of tyrannies, the tyranny of a multitude of tyrants." *
But what is the stroke which is now levelled by the reforming party at the independence and the privileges of this estate, so vital to the breath of public freedom? If they had marched, like Napoleon, a company of grenadiers into the Hall of the Ancients; or, like Cromwell, with rude contumely, turned the Commons out of their seats, history would have known in what terms to designate their conduct. They do not propose to do so; they pursue a more peaceable and covert course; but in what respect does its result differ from an open destruction of their order? They have not marched in thirty grenadiers with fixed bayonets; but they are urged to march in thirty Peers with fixed votes, which must overwhelm the decision of that assembly just as effectually as the rougher hands of warlike assailants. It is quite evident that the third estate of the realm will by such a measure be completely prostrated by the two others, and the balance of the constitution irrevocably destroyed, by the union of the Crown with the power it was destined to repress.
It is in vain to say that the constitutional remedy for obstinacy in the Upper House is a new creation of Peers. If so, where are the precedents on which the consuetudinary practice is founded? With the exception of the solitary act of Queen Anne, no creation of Peers to carry a particular question ever took place since the union of the Heptarchy. That is the important point. The Reformers, with their usual historical inaccuracy, argue that a great number of Peers have been created since 1763 by the Tory party, and therefore that they are justified in this creation, to force through this particular measure. They might as well pretend, that, because there is
nothing wrong in troops exercising with fixed bayonets in Hyde Park, therefore there can be no objection to their marching with fixed bayonets into the chapel of St Stephen's: or, because it is lawful to discharge a loaded pistol in an open field, therefore it is noways blamable to fire it off at the breast of a human being. The error does not lie in the exercise of the power, but in its exercise for that particular purpose; not in discharging the gun, but in discharging it at a living creature.
Mr Pitt never created a single Peer to carry through a particular measure; his creations were merely general, to reward the merit of illustrious individuals, or elevate persons of great property to their proper rank in the state. If these individuals were numerous, it was because, under the administration of the Conservative party, great actions were common abroad, noble characters were frequent at home, and extensive wealth often rewarded the protected exertions of industry. What a contrast do these creations afford to those proposed in the present time, made, not to reward naval or military glory; not to illustrate civil distinction; not to ennoble commercial greatness; but to overwhelm free discussion, to extinguish independent thought, to reward democratic ambition! The old Barons of England won their coronets in the embattled field; their titles date from Cressy and Poictiers, from Falkirk and Azincour: the more modern Peers draw their descent from
equally glorious deeds, from the field of Blenheim, the fight of Camperdown, the glories of the Nile, the flag of Trafalgar, the rout of Vittoria, the conquest of Waterloo. In civil greatness, equally honourable have been the fountains of the Conservative nobility; the administration of Chatham, the wisdom of Loughborough, the eloquence of Mansfield, the vigour of Hardwicke, the learning of Eldon, the power of Thurlow, the energy of Grenville. Who envies the really illustrious of the Whig party a similar elevation ? Who would grudge Baron Brougham and Vaux his coronet; or any of the