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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Fourth Epoch (1832—1884)

Fourth Epoch (1832—1884).

The fourth epoch of aristocracy extends from the Reform Bill to the present day. "Since the Reform Act," says the discriminating Bagehot, "the House of Lords has ceased to be one of latent directors, and has become one of temporary rejectors and palpable alterers." Of this truth the following imperfect epitome of their recent achievements is sufficiently convincing evidence:—
  • 1832—Refuse to open Universities to Dissenters.
  • 1834—Refuse to allow more than 20 persons to meet for worship in a private house.
  • 1834—Refuse to allow Nonconformist Ministers access to Workhouses.
  • 1835—Population of Ireland 8 millions—voters 60,000! Lords refuse reform. Prevented for 40 years after.page 100
  • 1836—Lords try to defeat Municipal Reform Act. Choice of Magistrates denied to Town Councils. So ever since.
  • 1836—Order Dissenters' Marriage Banns to be read before Board of Guardians.
  • 1839—Continue death penalty for sheep stealing against the will of the Commons.
  • 1842—Mines' Regulation. Lords refuse to give women and children working in mines the full relief of Commons' Bill. Protection of miners against preventive accidents not obtained for 30 years through Lords.
  • 1845—Compensation for Tenants' Improvements (Ireland) refused, and so for 25 years.
  • 1858—Church Rates Abolition refused. Put off 11 years.
  • 1860—Mr. Gladstone takes Taxes (£660,000) off Paper. This meant a Cheap Press. Lords throw out the Bill.
  • 1860—Refuse Education to Miners' Children. 12 years of darkness follow.
  • 1867—Lords rob electors of city of London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, &c., of the third vote.
  • 1868—Throw out the Irish Church Disestablishment Resolutions.
  • 1868—Emasculate Artisans' Dwellings Bill.
  • 1867-70—University Tests Abolition thrice refused.
  • 1870—Irish Land Act. Lords refuse Compensation, and insist on their right to evict distressed tenants.
  • 1871—Ballot Bill thrown out.
  • 1873-6—Refuse to amend Burial Laws.
  • 1880—Reject Compensation for Disturbance Bill (Ireland). Ireland given up to anarchy and crime in consequence. Civil war at a "measurable distance."
  • 1883—Throw out Marriage Law Amendment Bill.
  • 1883—Lord Salisbury spoils English Agricultural Holdings Bill—but retreats.
  • 1884—Refuse the Franchise to 2,000,000 County Householders!

What then, in brief, is the case against the Peers? In the first epoch of their career they robbed the People; in the page 101 second they robbed the Church; in the third they robbed the Crown; in the fourth, as always, they have been the steady foes of suffrage reform, of Nonconformists, of Roman Catholics, of Ireland, of Agriculture, of Trade, of Education. "The Peers," says Lord Rosebery," have no friends." This news is too good to be true; but it is strange indeed that they should have any. All good legislation they retard, all bad legislation they expedite. Whatever progress we have made has been made in spite of them. They represent political privilege and social injustice. The Peers alone possess nearly a fifth of the whole soil of the country, for the restricted use of which they levy on the cultivators a private tax called rent of nearly twelve millions per annum. Not content with this, our Dukes, Marquises, Earls, and their relatives have within the last thirty-three years looted the Exchequer of more than sixty-six million sterling in salaries and pensions. Noble lords divide among them annually in the shape of annuities, pensions, salaries, &c., £639,865! They are a House of Landlords, and until they are abolished root and branch no solution of the great Land Question is to be dreamed of. They are the veriest octopuses of civilisation. Every State that has tolerated an aristocracy has eventually been ruined by it—witness Greece, Rome, Carthage, Venice, Spain, Austria. Latifundio, perdidére Italiam immo et provincias.

And when the Hereditary House is abolished, the demand which will be made by reactionaries for a Representative Second Chamber must be sternly resisted. True, most nations have Second Chambers in imitation of our pernicious example; but there is not one of them, however constituted, whose history is not a conclusive argument against such institutions. The Second Chambers of Europe and America are nothing more than standing monuments of the gregarious folly of mankind. Nations can no more have two wills than individuals. A Second Chamber at one with the First is superfluous; in opposition it is noxious. Lord Salisbury wishes to import here the American Senate (the last stronghold of the slaveholders) at a moment when that body stands condemned by the ablest political thinkers in the Republic as a filthy rag of aristocracy. No, no, my Lord of Hatfield, you cannot be permitted thus recklessly to "Americanise our page 102 our institutions." The fiat has gone forth—Delenda est Carthago.

Clear the way, my lords and lackeys! You have had your day
Here you have your answer—England's yea against your nay.
Long enough your House has held you; out, and clear the way!

[Reprinted from the Weekly Echo.]

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