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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Appendix I. — Address of the People's League to Abolish the Peers

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Appendix I.

Address of the People's League to Abolish the Peers.

Recently the question of the hour was the enfranchisement of "Two Millions of Capable Citizens." Now it is the disfranchisement of Five Hundred Irresponsible Hereditary Legislators.

To effect this object, it has been determined to form a National League, which all patriotic citizens are earnestly invited to join.

The reasons for this step hardly require enumeration. They are obvious to every reflecting mind—known to every student of history.

In ante-Norman times, the Witan or National Council was essentially democratic. In the years following the Conquest it was rendered first oligarchic and then hereditary. The means used were force and fraud. Our House of Lords, the survival of a barbarous feudalism, is the offspring of that force and that fraud.

We owe the absurd principle of heredity in legislation—as might have been expected—not to statute, but to the lawyers. In the fourteenth century they made the astonishing discovery that, if the Crown once summoned a man to the National Councils, it must go on summoning his representatives, be they fools or knaves, down to the latest generation!

The results have been such as might readily have been expected. By substituting the idea of birth for that of merit, the whole stream of social life has been poisoned at its source. Instead of producing freemen and public-spirited citizens, the tendency has been to breed flunkeys.

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And the political evils flowing from the hereditary principle are not less serious. When there is a Tory majority in the Commons, the Lords simply register the decrees of that majority. When there is a Liberal majority in the Commons, the Lords habitually veto whatever useful measures they dare, and mangle beyond identification such as they dare not wholly reject. Oftener than once within the century has Obstruction by Privilege brought the country to the Brink of a Bloody Revolution.

In no Free State can a Hereditary Legislative Chamber be a permanent institution. We do not now raise the wider question of the utility of Second Chambers in general, though the gravest doubts have been started on that head. But we do emphatically affirm—and we trust we shall have many intelligent adherents—what the Long Parliament expressed with such decisive brevity—viz., "That a House of Peers in Parliament is useless and Dangerous, and Ought to be Abolished."

(Drawn up by the Author.)

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