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obstruction in the one case, and with every obstruction in the other. And we shall take not only wheat but watches, or lard, or any other specialty of American production for which Canadian soil or people may develope special aptitudes. And so with Australia, or India, or the Cape, we shall go to them naturally for our wool and our tea and our wine, if outward cargoes of manufactures can be sent in the ships that fetch home these goods.
With low tariffs so established over the British Empire we shall win the vast advantage of being less affected by the actions of foreign and independent countries. These actions, by the reason of their uncertainty, have been our bane in the past, and bid fair to be our bane in the future. We made treaties to obtain for ourselves wider markets and wider areas of supplies in the days when we had only foreign countries open to us. But now our own kith and kin, we ourselves, have become possessed of countries offering in the future more than the equivalent of these markets and these areas; and by the simple expedient of preventing the rise of restrictions on commercial intercourse we are likely to secure these markets and these areas, and to win for ourselves exemption from the only compelling power that of old forced us to seek to conciliate foreign powers. if we will, take our stand on our own self-sufficing independence. On this secure ground we can tell foreign nations we have no need of treaties. We are our own market and our own source of supply; and if foreign nations bar themselves by high tariffs from the great benefits of free intercourse, it concerns them indeed, but it concerns us no longer. The new British Empire affords us other avenues and other openings.
The malign influences of differential duties, elaborate treaties, bounties, reciprocity, retaliation, and even protection itself, together with all the evils incident to the interference of policies having no political, national, or economic connection with countries they deleteriously affect, will all be banished from within the frontiers of the British Empire. Their evil results will recoil on the foreigners alone, and leave the reproductive energy of our vast empire to work out its own great prosperity untrammelled and unimpeded; with that true freedom of action which consists in the power of acting independently of foreign determining causes, and which is the condition most essential to the success of that human co-operation or · band-work' which has been shown to be the one main lever of human prosperity.
We can now,
The action taken by the House of Lords, in throwing out every important Irish measure sent up to them during the last session, has brought into strong prominence the peculiar and exceptional constitution of that illustrious assembly. The British House of Peers stands alone in the civilised world as a Legislative Chamber composed of members sitting by hereditary right. The Bishops and a few Law Lords are indeed exceptions to the rule, being only life peers, but the so-called “representative peers’ from Scotland and Ireland represent the political majority of two bodies of hereditary nobility. Nearly all the remaining constitutional countries of Europe possess a senate, or second chamber, but beyond the United Kingdom the hereditary principle has been either entirely abandoned, or so greatly modified as to be of little importance, except perhaps in Austria-Hungary.
In Austria the Herrenhaus contains, besides princes of the Imperial family, more than fifty nobles in whose families the legislative dignity is hereditary, altogether about one-third of the total number of members. In Hungary the House of Magnates numbers about 800 members, and resembles more closely in its constitution the British House of Peers than does any other existing legislative body.
In Prussia the Herrenhaus, like that of Austria, contains a certain number of princes, and some fifty chiefs of the territorial nobility, but the number of nominated members is unlimited.
The same may be said of Bavaria, where the Chamber of Reichsräthe closely resembles the Prussian Herrenhaus.
In Würtemberg, Saxony, and Baden the hereditary principle is. fully recognised; but the right of sitting in the upper chamber depends rather upon the ownership of certain hereditary estates, or baronial domains, than upon nobility of rank or blood.
Spanish grandees in their own right, who can prove themselves to be in possession of a certain annual rent, are entitled to seats in the senate of Spain, along with nominated, elective, and ex officio senators. In Portugal the hereditary peerage has been made dependent upon the possession of a certain annual income, together with an academical degree, and the individuals who actually sit in the chamber of peers are nominated by the sovereign for life.
In the other constitutional monarchies of Europe no hereditary qualification to legislate or govern is recognised, except in the royal families. Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark possess elective senates or upper chambers chosen by special constituencies for various periods, all being directly or indirectly representative of the people. In Italy princes of the royal house have seats in the senate, but all the other senators, unlimited in number, are nominated by the king for life. The French senate is elected by an indirect process, one quarter of the senators being chosen for life by the senate itself. The Swiss federal constitution resembles that of the United States, and the Ständerath, or state council, like the American senate, represents upon equal terms the cantons or states, composing the confederation, each canton, great or small, choosing two representatives. In Norway the Lagthing, or second chamber, is merely a sort of standing committee of the Storthing, or popular assembly, which divides itself into two houses, the Lagthing containing onefourth, and the Odelsthing the remaining three-fourths of the members.
In Greece the single legislative assembly is elected by manhood suffrage, and in warlike Montenegro the sole qualification of electors for the legislature, elected annually, is to bear, or to have borne,
In all the New World of America there is but a solitary instance of any hereditary qualification for political power being recognised, and that is in the case of the Brazilian sovereign.
The gift of self-government conferred by Great Britain on so many of her colonies has been specially modified in almost each individual case, but a second chamber or upper house forms an element of every constitution, although the hereditary principle has in no case been adopted.
This dual arrangement has not been altogether successful, and in some colonies, notably in Victoria, a chronic struggle is carried on between the two branches of the legislature, resulting more than once in an absolute deadlock. The second chamber is elective in some colonies, and nominated in others, but everywhere the number of members is fixed, unlike that of the peers. As to details of constitution, these so-called councils' vary not a little.
In the Cape Colony the members of the Legislative Council are elected by the same voters as those of the Assembly, half of them for a period of five years, and the remainder for a period of ten years. All members of Council must be qualified by the possession of property. In Victoria members of the Legislative Council must themselves possess a considerable property qualification, and are elected by owners of property; the Council itself is permanent, but the individual'members retire by rotation, one-fifth every two years.
In South Australia a member of Council requires no property qualification, but is elected by persons possessing a qualification, and voting as in one district for the whole colony. One-third of the Council retires every four years, the executive having no power to dissolve it. In Tasmania the Legislative Council is chosen by electors who must possess a certain qualification. Thus, in four out of nine constitutional British Colonies, the Second Chamber is of an elective character.
Members of the Legislative Council are nominated by the Crown for life in New Zealand, Queensland, New South Wales, the Dominion of Canada, and Newfoundland. In all the nine colonies the members of the Lower House are elected by large and popular constituencies, the property qualification for electors being in some cases nil, in others very small; and it may be said that nearly all male adult citizens are electors in Australia, while a moderate qualification is required in most of the other colonies. The defects of the dual system are less manifest in the other colonies than in Victoria, where an Assembly of eighty-six members, chosen by 176,000 electors, finds itself confronted by a Council of thirty members, chosen by a constituency of some 30,000. At the last election sixty-two per cent. of the electors in contested districts voted for the Assembly, and forty-five per cent. for the Council. Thus it appears that the Council was elected by the votes of only twelve per cent. of those who took part in the election. It is clear that there is a constant risk of collision between two co-ordinate branches of the legislature absolutely independent of each other, and elected by constituencies so different from each other in character. The electorate for the Council is numerous enough to be powerful, but not numerous enough to be popular, and the Council represents an influential class only, while the Assembly represents the whole body of the people. No constitutional method exists for bringing these two bodies into harmony, nor for deciding between them, and the result has been the natural one-recurrent deadlocks of the political machine. Where the members of Council are nominated the same difficulties do not arise. The number of members is indeed limited, so that the responsible ministers of the Crown, who must possess the confidence of the popular Assembly, cannot strengthen their party in the Upper House, at any important crisis, by the nomination of additional members prepared to support their views. But as vacancies occur from time to time in the Council, they are filled with supporters of the existing ministry, and thus to a considerable extent the two chambers are kept in sympathy, and the risk of conflict is diminished. If ever constitutions fall to be framed for new colonies, and it is still deemed necessary to establish what Norway and Greece successfully dispense with a second chamber of the legislature entirely independent of the first—the experience of Victoria must not be forgotten. Only a very prosperous and law-abiding community could have passed without serious disaster through one political crisis after another, resulting from the impracticable constitution with which Victoria has been saddled. Various schemes of reform have been from time to time proposed, notably the so-called “Norwegian’ scheme of Mr. Francis, which provided that in cases of irreconcilable difference the two chambers should vote as a single house, and the majority by this joint vote should finally decide. At present the idea of a plébiscite is popular, giving a direct appeal to the electors, and referring to them the decision, ay or no, upon any question as to which the two houses have come into collision.
1 In Newfoundland a Bill for the abolition of the Legislative Council has recently passed the Legislative Assembly, and in New Brunswick a similar Bill, introduced by Hon. W. Wedderburn, Provincial Secretary, has also been accepted by the Provincial Assembly.
In the United States and in Switzerland appeals of this nature are made to the people upon constitutional questions of the highest importance, such as lie beyond the competence of the legislature to decide, and the system works successfully, although its results are somewhat conservative. The plébiscite' is merely a republican equivalent for the royal prerogative' of monarchical countries, as has been correctly pointed out by Mr. A. L. Windsor in the
of the Victorian Review. When the Sovereign, acting under the advice of responsible ministers, supported by a majority in the House of Commons, proceeds to swamp opposition in the House of Peers by creating new peerages, or by the issue of a royal warrant, a deadlock of the constitutional machinery is of course prevented, but such a course can only be adopted when it is clear (on account of a recent general election or otherwise) that the ministry possesses the confidence of the people, as well as that of the House of Commons.
The mere knowledge that there exists a constitutional method, whereby the popular will can be made to prevail over the resistance of a privileged class, has been usually sufficient of late years in this country to obviate serious collisions between the two branches of the legislature. In Victoria it is otherwise, and there constitutional reform has become absolutely essential to the peace and prosperity of the colony.
The anomalous character and position of the House of Lords would perhaps escape observation if Great Britain alone were concerned, so rarely does that House venture to reject, or even seriously to mutilate, any measure upon which British public opinion has been distinctly expressed, either by parliamentary elections or through the columns of the press, which almost wields the authority of a plébiscite. When Ireland is concerned it is altogether a different matter; the public opinion of that country exercises no influence over the House of Lords, and upon Irish questions the conduct of the Peers has more than once well-nigh rendered the peaceable government of Ireland an impossibility, and the reform of