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THE WOOD FIRE.
The firelight flickers on the walls.
The shadows mop and mow. Without, the winter twilight falls
And the first winter snow.
My fir-cones fire the beechen twigs Where still some frail leaves cling.
Stray leaves that quiver on their sprigs, As long ago in spring.
The fir-cones flare—they burn so bright
They cannot bring to me to-night
I toss an acorn now and then
Among the oak-tree strays. 1 watch the spoils of heath and glen
Together blink and blaze.
On the low hearth a dead leaf lies.
One leaf the flames have left, Untinged of autumn's sunset dyes.
Of summer's grace bereft.
My heart is like this dry dead leaf
Rosamund Marriott Watson.
TO FLAVIA PUBLICIA. ^47 A.L).
I" Flaviae Luci flliae Publicise reliffiosse saDctlttttls virginl Vestall Maxlmae."]
Among your bays and roses here you stand, While tattered time slips by you. half afraid To snatch the eternal moment from your hand,
O sculptured maid.
Through mart and street and grove you passed along, Or watched the games upon a festa! day: You took the noisy worship of the throng,
Then went your way.
You went your way with gracious willing feet, You watched your shrine with eyes that would not tire, You kept the heart of a great people sweet,
And fed the lire.
Ah, not for you the common human part; No man might take your hands ana lead you home. But on your breast there beat a mightier heart—
The heart of Home.
And yet perchance you yearned for human bliss. And wearied as you watched your crystal spring, For infant lips upheld to meet your kiss,
And hands that cling.
Before the holy hearth you burned the dream And drowned it in your fountain sparkling bright; Then on your gooldeu face shone out that gleam
Of deathless light.
And all Rome's sons were yours, O
mother brave; You held the source of all men's vain
desire, Guardian of life itself—the leaping wave,
The scathing fire.
Now on your brow retold the secret lies, The secret that a later age made plainTo have is not to have—to lose the prize
The only gain.
Take. Flavia. then, our homage of today; And you, In countless years, fresh from the past, The Christian traversing your Sacred Way
May meet at last.
REFORM OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
Agitation for the purpose of ending or mending the House of Lords is no new thing; it bas been sporadic for many generations, yet the House of Lords still exists as a branch of the Legislature, sometimes violently condemned for thwarting the will of the people as represented in the elected Chamber, and sometimes enthusiastically applauded for furthering the will of the people misrepresented in the elected Chamber. The outcry against the House of Lords is always raised when the party in office is composed of legislators in a desperate hurry, and the matter might be left with that illuminating explanation, but, for many reasons, it may be well to examine into the nature and validity of the alleged grievance, and also to point out that, owing to exceptional circumstances, it is desirable that steps should be taken to strengthen the Upper House by reasonable reform.
it may be premised that the present agitation is really directed against the double Chamber system, and cannot be appeased by mending or reforming the House of Lords; and, to still further clear the ground. it should be noted that the terms Upper and Lower House, or First Chamber and Second Chamber, are merely expressions in common use, and have no political or constitutional validity. The two branches of the one Legislature are co-equal. Their powers and functions are, with one exception, identical. The House of Commons can do what it pleases with all Bills coming from the House of Lords; it can accept, amend, or reject them. The House of Lords can do what it pleases with all Bills coming to it from the House of Commons, with the exception of money Bills. it can accept, amend, or reject all other Bills, and
it can accept or reject money Bills, but it cannot, or, to be perhaps more strictly accurate, it does not, amend them. Therefore, except in the matter of amending Bills affecting taxation, the two Houses are in their powers and functions co-equal and co-extensive, and the terms applied to them in common parlance are misleading. Tbe expression Upper House conveys no superiority over Lower House, nor does First Chamber imply any superiority over Second Chamber.
Judging by platform speeches, the exuberant utterances of popular orators, and the more measured complaints of statesmen and politicians capable of exercising some self-control, the charge against the House of Lords resolves itself into the expression of the two following opinions. First, that it is outrageous that the will of the people as expressed in the branch of the Legislature elected by the people should be overruled by the branch of the Legislature that is composed of hereditary scions of "an effete aristocracy." Second, that, owing to the predominance of one of the great political parties in the House of Lords, legislation is easy when that party has a majority in the House of Commons, and difficult when it has not. There are three distinct counts in this indictment—namely, lirst that the body overruling the will of the people is an incompetent body; second, that the will of the people is overruled by any body: and third, that the political complexion of the existing Imxiy is overpoweringly Conservative. Let us examine into these points.
As to the personnel of the House of Lords and the qualifications which its members may claim to possess as legislators, the case against them bas been thus stated by ii Cabinet Minister with remarkable force. Speaking with all the weight and authority attaching to his exalted position, and presumably with a full sense of his consequent responsibility, the President of the Board of Trade said at Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 23rd of January last:
What was the use of Liberal enterprise if the work of Liberalism was to be frustrated by a House chosen by nobody, which was representative of nobody, and which was accountable to nobody? He hoped that, now they had begun to ask that question, they would insist upon an answer. . . . The House of Lords was the refuge and hope of all the forces that stood between the people and the harvest Legalized greed and social selfishness in every shape and form had their bodyguard in the Peers.
It is quite unnecessary to question the accuracy or good taste of Mr. Lloyd George's opinion that "legalized greed and social selfishness" are the actuating principles of the House of Lords; but, though admitting, of course, that the Peers are "chosen by nobody" in the sense that they are not elected by the people, I directly traverse the statement that they are "representative of nobody" and are "accountable to nobody." Of what elements is the House of Lords composed? There are about six hundred Peers eligible to take their seats. This body contains 172 members who have held office under the State exclusive of Household appointments, 100 who have sat in the House of Commons, 140 who are. or have been, mayors or county councillors, about forty who are members of the legal profession, and about the same number of men eminent in art, science, letters, invention, manufacture, and trade; 207 have served, or are serving, in the Army or Navy. Furthermore, it must be added that, in addition to those who have acquired merit and knowl
edge as chairmen of railway companies, and in other positions of an analogous character, the great majority have developed business habits, and have derived valuable experience of men and matters In the management of large estates and complicated affairs.
But it may be said that an analysis of the whole body of the peerage does not give an accurate indication of the capacity of the House as a legislative body. That is to some extent true. Of the Peers some must be excluded, such as princes of the blood royal, minors, and those who through age or infirmity cannot attend the sittings of the House; and there are others who. for one reason or another, are not interested in politics, and do not take part in the business of the House. A fairer estimate of the character of the House of Lords as a legislative Chamber can perhaps be obtained by an investigation of the working members of the House—of those attending and voting on occasions deemed to be of great national importance. The record division took place on the second reading of the Home Kule Bill of 1803. but an examination into the qualifications of the Peers voting on a division that took place fourteen years ago would not afford a sound criterion as to the merits or demerits of the House as it exists to-day. It would be better, therefore, to inquire into the composition of the House during the late discussion on the Education Bill. The largest division took place on the 29th of October, when 312 Peers voted. Three days were devoted to the second reading debate at the end of July, and the House was occupied with the committee and subsequent stages of the Bill from the 25th of October till the 19th of December. Altogether twentysix working days were devoted to the Bill. During the whole of that time the attendance was very large. Tncidentally It may be mentioned that tbe full attendance and great interest shown afford cogent argument in favor of autumn sessions. Perfectly accurate figures cannot be arrived at, but I think in estimating the number of Peers who attended the sittings of the House during the autumn session at about 380 I shall about hit the mark; and I take that number as fairly indicative of the full working strength of the House for all practical purposes. Let us look into the composition of that body in Its salient features. It contained the Lord Chancellor and an ex-Lord Chancellor, an ex-Lord Chancellor of Ireland, four Lords of Appeal, and twenty-seven other Peers associated with the legal profession, including a number who have held high judicial office; seven ex-Viceroys of India and Ireland; sixteen ex-Governors of the gerat colonies, or provinces of India; fifteen other Peers who have held high positions in the diplomatic and civil services, sixtytwo ministers and ex-ministers, thirtyseven Peers who are, or have been, intimately connected with manufacture or trade, science or invention, 123 who have sat In the House of Commons, about eighty who occupy, or have occupied, the position of mayors or members of county councils, and twentyone archbishops and bishops concerning whom it must be remembered that, whatever may be thought of the principle of spiritual Peers, they do not represent the hereditary principle, and haTe all served a long apprenticeship in humble positions, from that of a curate upwards, which have brought them in close contact with all classes of the people.
With this brief review before us, it must, I think, be admitted that the House of Lords Includes a very large number of members who, through long and distinguished service rendered in various walks of life, have
acquired that deep knowledge of human nature, that wide experience of human affairs, and that intimate acquaintance with administrative detail which are so desirable in any legislative body. The House has no directly representative character gained at the polls, but it cannot be denied that it is. in fact, though not in theory, very fully representative of the great activities which in their various phases constitute our national life. The thesis that the House of Lords is representative of nobody cannot be maintained: nor is its position accurately described in the statement that it is accountable to nobody. The House of Lords makes no claim to enforce its views upon the people. It fully realizes the limitations of its powers; it freely acknowledges that the will of the people must prevail, and that its function is to see that the real will of the people does prevail. Far from being accountable to nobody, it is accountable to everybody, and it is acutely sensible of the fact
The second count in the indictment is that the will of the people as expressed in the elected Chamber is overruled. That opens up two questions— the desirability of a Second Chamber, and the extent to which public opinion is reflected in the Commons' House of Parliament and in the legislative proposals of the Cabinet.
On the first point, argument Is perhaps superfluous. Unquestionably the whole consensus of educated opinion in the United Kingdom is in favor of a Second Chamber; the principle has been approved and adopted in our great self-governing colonies, in the United States, and, in fact, throughout the world wherever democratle systems obtain; the belief in the necessity of a revising Chamber in order to ensure that the permanent opinion of the people may receive adequate expression is practically universal. Nevertheless, the opinions of two or three high authorities may be quoted. The whole controversy as to the advisability of retaining the Second Chamber was admirably stated by ix>rd Beaconsfield over thirty years ago:
For a century, ever since the establishment of the Government of the United States, all great authorities— American, German, French, italian— have agreed in this, that a representative Government is impossible without a second Chamber. . . . However anxious foreign countries have been to enjoy this advantage, that anxiety has only been equalled by the difficulty which they have found in fulfilling their object. How is this second Chamber to be constituted? By nominees of the sovereign power? What influence can be exercised by a chamber of nominees? it is a proverb of general disrespect. Are they to be supplied by popular election? in what manner are they to be elected? if by the same constituency as the popular body, what claims have they, under such circumstances, to criticise or to control the decisions of that body? if they are to be elected by a more select body, qualified by a higher franchise, there immediately occurs the objection, why should the elected majority be governed by the elected minority? The United States of America were fortunate in finding a solution of this difficulty; but the United States of America has elements to deal with which never occurred before, and never probably will occur again, because they formed their illustrious Senate from the materials that were offered them by the thirty-seven Sovereign States. We, gentlemen, have the House of Lords, an Assembly which has historically developed itself in an ancient nation, and periodically adapted itself to the wants nnd necessities of the time.
Later, Mr. Gladstone, when introducing his second Home Rule Bill, enunciated once more a universal opinion when in advocating the institution of
a Second Chamber for his new irish constitution, he stated that "The first effect of a Second Chamber was to present an undoubted and unquestionable security against hasty legislation," because "it interposed a certain period of time, and gave opportunity for reflection and for full consideration." in the following year Lord Rosebery, speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, affirmed that he was a "Second Chamber man" and he added:
i am not for the uncontrolled Government of a single Chamber, any more than i am for the uncontrolled government of a single man. The temptation of absolute power is too great for any man or any body of men, and i believe, though i am speaking from recollection, that so keen and ardent a Radical as John Stuart Mill held this opinion too, i am also strongly of opinion that all experience points to having a second chamber of some sort.
The necessity of a Second Chamber is recognized by all democratic communities, whether under a monarchical or republican form of rule, and the functions, duties, and powers appertaining to it are determined by the mere fact of its existence. A Second Chamber exactly reflecting the opinion and expressing the voice of the First Chamber would be a gross absurdity. To justify its existence, it must exercise the function of revision; it must ensure that the sober, well-considered wishes of the people prevail; it must act as the fly-wheel or governor of the legislative machine. This is the function which Second Chambers discharge throughout the world, in Republics such as France and the United States, and throughout the British Empire, under a monarchical regime. A Second Chamber always saying ditto to the First Chamber would exercise . no check on ill-considered proposals, and would be merely a ridiculous fly upon the legislative wheel. Mr. Bryce