Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LXIV: second chambers - Modern Democracies, vol. 2.
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CHAPTER LXIV: second chambers - Viscount James Bryce, Modern Democracies, vol. 2. 
Modern Democracies, (New York: Macmillan, 1921). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
Part of: Modern Democracies, 2 vols.
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Those modern thinkers and statesmen, who have held that every well-framed constitution should contain some check upon the power of the popular assembly have usually found it in the creation of a second assembly capable of criticizing, amending, and, if need be, rejecting measures passed by the other Chamber. It was, however, to no such doctrine that the national assemblies of the European Middle Ages owe their division into several Estates: three in France, four in Sweden, two in Hungary and England. Neither had the idea of this restriction on democratic haste emerged in the ancient world, though the Councils of Greek republics and the Senate at Rome, however different their functions, may be cited as showing some benefits which the existence of two bodies exercising constitutional powers may provide. This duality may be found as far back as the early ages of Greece, in which the Homeric poems show us a primary assembly of the whole people, with a council of the wise elders1 which holds its preliminary deliberations. With this one may compare what Tacitus tells of the primitive Germans, among whom the chiefs met in a small council to consider matters of minor importance, and held a preliminary debate on those graver questions which were to be brought before the Assembly.2 When the first constitutions of the American States were drafted, a Second Chamber was deliberately introduced in imitation of the British Parliament with its two Houses. The example has been followed in most of the countries that have given themselves frames of more or less popular government in modern times, including not only those which in the Old World have been influenced by the British model of Cabinet and Parliamentary government, but those also which in the Western hemisphere have taken the United States as their pattern. France, both in 1830 and 1875, created two, not regarding the dictum of Sièyés, who is said to have asked: “Of what use will a Second Chamber be? If it agrees with the Representative House, it will be superfluous, if it disagrees, mischievous,” a dilemma which recalls that attributed to the Khalif Omar when he permitted the destruction of the library at Alexandria, “ If the books agree with the Koran, they are not needed; if they differ, they ought to perish.”1
In European States (as also in Iceland) except Greece, Bulgaria, Finland, Esthonia2 and Jugo-Slavia the legislature consists of two Chambers.
The aim pursued in all these countries was substantially the same, viz. that of creating a legislative authority whose function it should be to review measures passed by the popular House in such a way as:
To prevent undue haste in the passing of important laws by securing a period during which the opinion of the people regarding a law may be duly formed and expressed.
To subject every project of law to a revision which might introduce improvements in form or substance.
While in some countries there were statesmen who desired for the Second Chamber powers practically equal to those of the “popular” House, it was, as a rule, intended that the latter should predominate.
Methods of Creating a Second Chamber
Many are the ways in which nations have constructed their Second Chambers. To classify these let us begin by dividing Governments into the Federal and the Unitary or non-Federal.
In Federal States the need for providing a representation of the several communities which make up the federation suggested the creation of a Chamber to which each component entity should return members, and this naturally became a Second Chamber for the whole nation. The United States led the way in creating its Federal Senate, and its example has been followed by Switzerland, Australia, the Union of South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and some other American republics. This plan is simple, and has the great advantage of securing for the Second Chamber that weight which the representation of important communities such as the Swiss Cantons or the American and Australian States carries with it.1
Unitary countries have adopted one or other of the following methods: Some have assigned to the head of the Executive the right of nominating to sit in the Second Chamber any persons he thinks fit. Others, while giving nominations to the Executive, have restricted its choice to persons above a certain age or belonging to specified categories, e.g. men who have filled certain high offices, or who possess a certain amount of property, or who come from a titled aristocracy, or who occupy positions which qualify them to express the wishes of important professions. Thus the Italian Senators are nominated for life by the Crown, i.e. by the Ministry. Spain, and Hungary before the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, had Chambers with some hereditary peers and other persons chosen by electorates composed of persons holding property of a prescribed value. The Legislative Councils in four of the Australian States are elected by voters possessing a (low) property qualification.2 Another method is to vest the election in the members of various local bodies, or persons selected from them, such as are the “ Electoral Colleges,” created from the Councils of the Departments and of the Arrondissements, and from the Communes in France (see Vol. I. p. 259). This plan, adopted also in Sweden and Portugal, has been termed “indirect election,” or “popular election in the second degree,” because the electors have been themselves elected by bodies chosen by the citizens.
Finally, in many countries the members of the Second Chamber are directly elected by the people on the same suffrage as members of the other or “more popular” House, but in and by larger constituencies, so as to provide a Second Chamber less numerous than the First. This is the method used in all the States of the North American Union, in each of which the State Senate, a body much smaller than the State Assembly or House of Representatives, is elected on manhood (or universal) suffrage, but in larger electoral districts. Federal Senators also are now (since 1914) elected by the people on a general vote taken over each State, and so are the members of the Senate in the Australian Federation (see Vol. II. p. 190, ante). Direct popular election has also been adopted by the Czecho-Slovak Republic for its Senate, the electors being over twenty-six and the candidates required to be over forty-five years of age, and the term of office eight years.
In the functions and powers allotted to Second Chambers there is also a diversity so great that I must be content with indicating the three classes into which these assemblies fall, viz.:
The difference in functions between the two Houses turns chiefly on finance. An assembly not directly chosen by the tax-payers does not seem entitled to equal power with one directly elected as respects the raising of taxes and the appropriation of their proceeds to particular purposes, and since the control of revenue is the means of controlling the Executive, it follows that in countries where Ministers hold office at the pleasure of Parliament, such as France, Britain, and the British self-governing Dominions, it is the Popular House whose vote practically instals and displaces them.
Broadly speaking, the powers of the Second Chamber vary with the mode of its formation. They are widest where it is directly elected, narrowest where it is nominated or hereditary. The more it is Popular the more authority, the less it is Popular the less authority will it possess. Where not directly elected, it is always under the disadvantage of fearing to displease the popular House, lest the latter should seek to get rid of its resistance by rousing clamour among the people against it. The test of effective power is this: What happens when the two Houses disagree and each seeks to persist in its own view?
Now let us return to the methods of composing the Second House, and see which works best in practice.
None of the systems enumerated has altogether approved itself. Direct election by universal suffrage has doubtless the merit of securing for the Second Chamber a representative quality equal to that of the other Chamber. But in doing so it inevitably creates a competitive claim to equal authority. Springing directly from the people, and giving to each of its members this advantage over members of the larger House, that inasmuch as he is chosen by a larger electoral district he may claim to represent a greater volume of opinion, it is sure to become a rival of the First Chamber. The plan has, moreover, another fault. If the Second House has been elected at the same time as the larger House, it is likely to be controlled by the same political party, in which case its value as a moderating influence disappears. If, on the other hand, one of the two has been elected either earlier or later, whichever House has last come from the people will claim to be the true exponent of the people's mind. Moreover, the men who compose the two Houses will — an age limit makes no practical difference — have been drawn from the same class, so no new element of knowledge or wisdom is brought in to serve the nation. In the States of the American Union the Senates are no better than the Houses of Assembly; indeed, where corruption prevails the Senates may be worse, because as their members are fewer in number each member's vote is better worth buying and fetches a higher price. In Australia the Federal Senate, though smaller, is inferior to the House in the quality of its membership, because the abler and more ambitious men seek to enter the latter, from which Ministers are more frequently drawn. Nevertheless it asserts its equality. Little has been gained for that country except indeed that second consideration of Bills which their passage through another House implies, for the so-called “ mental outfit “ of the two Chambers is the same, or differs to the disadvantage of the Senate.
The plan of nomination by the Executive is even less to be commended, because members seem to be usually selected for party reasons; sometimes, as in Canada, not merely for the sake of securing for the Ministry a majority in the Second Chamber but also in order to reward its elderly supporters, who, weary of courting constituencies, gladly subside into a dignified armchair. There are countries in which secretly rendered political services or liberal contributions to party funds are believed to open the door of the Chamber to those whose merits the public had failed to discover. Election on a restricted franchise exposes the Chamber to the charge of being a class body, habitually opposed to the popular will. Election by Colleges drawn from local authorities has given to France a capable Senate, but it has brought party politics into the popular elections of those authorities themselves. Candidates seeking to enter a Departmental Council announce themselves as party candidates, and party organizations work for them, so each local body comes to be divided on partisan lines prescribed by national issues which have little or nothing to do with its proper functions. As in the United States the choice of Federal Senators by State legislatures helped to stamp upon those bodies almost from the first a partisan character, so the Departmental Councils in France are now more affected by national party influences than they might have been if a share in electing the Senate had not been assigned to them. Thus every method of choice has proved to have its defects, and nowhere have the results attained given complete satisfaction, a conclusion which does not in the least condemn the bicameral system in principle, for if no Second Chamber is perfect, neither is any First Chamber perfect. For each country the question is not whether it has got the perfection it desires, but whether it would not fare worse without some such addition to, or check upon, its popular House as a Second Chamber provides.
The reason which has made it more difficult to construct a Second Chamber than a “First” or “popular” Chamber is that the latter can be, and now is almost everywhere, created by direct election on a very wide suffrage. The application of this method has become a part of modern democratic theory, because it is supposed to be required by the fundamental dogma of Popular Sovereignty, and it has therefore led in America and Australia to the election of their Senates by universal suffrage. The objections to its application are (as already observed) that it creates two rival Chambers, and that they will be composed of the same kind of men. Why then have two? Cannot the will of the people be fully expressed through one? Accordingly, the most “advanced” theorists of our time seek to destroy Second Chambers altogether, while those who, because they have less absolute faith in the wisdom of the multitude, desire to check its impulses, are driven to look for some plan, other than direct popular election, by which a restraining authority can be created. But whichever way they turn they are stopped by the democratic dogma. Nomination by a Ministry, indirect election by local authorities, election in constituencies limited by property qualification, even election by the more popular House itself, all offend against that dogma. The ultimate issue comes to be whether the principle of direct and absolute Popular Sovereignty is incompatible with, or can be so far departed from as to admit, the imposition upon the legislature of such checks as will ensure that the deliberate will of the people itself shall be fully ascertained, after opportunity for deliberation has been afforded, before the final determination of any momentous question. If it is desired to make that departure from the dogma aforesaid by establishing a Second Chamber qualified to impose the check, such a Chamber must have some basis for its authority. What is this basis to be?
Functions and Powers of a Second Chamber
Let me now turn from this survey of the plans that have been tried and the results they have yielded to consider the Second Chamber problem in the light not only of experience but of the changed conditions under which popular government has to be carried on in the twentieth century. It is a double problem. What was said in the last preceding chapter makes it superfluous to restate the arguments used to prove that a Second Chamber is needed, so we may go straight to the two questions: If there is to be a Second Chamber how ought it to be constructed, i.e. how should its members be chosen? and, What powers ought to be assigned toit?
It may be said that the structure of the Chamber will depend upon the powers which it is meant to exercise. This is true. The powers will affect the structure. But so will the structure affect the powers. In discussing either branch of the problem we have to think of the other. If the powers are to be wide, the Chamber must be so constructed as to be fit, i.e. strong enough, to exercise them. If it is built upon a foundation not solid enough to bear a heavy weight the powers must be slender, otherwise it will totter under a shock. Bearing this in mind, let us begin with the Structure.
If we try to generalize some conclusions from the experiments heretofore made in divers countries, there will appear to be three sources from which a Second Chamber has in the past derived, or can now derive, the authority without which it would not be worth having. The first of these grounds is traditional respect felt for it by the people. If it has a long and dignified history, if its members belong to a powerful class which still enjoys social distinction, it may hold its place by the deference accorded to the persons who compose it. This deference maintained the House of Magnates in Hungary and the House of Lords in England, until the latter, in which both the ancient parties had been strong down till the middle of last century, passed so entirely under the control of one political party that it incurred the constant hostility of the other, its social status being at the same time rapidly lowered by the very large additions made to its number. Respect for antiquity has everywhere declined in our time, whose ways of thinking do not favour the maintenance either of time-honoured traditions or of any form of social deference.
The second ground of authority an assembly may enjoy comes from its representative character. If it is chosen by the people, it is deemed to speak the mind of the people and to have the weight of the people behind it. Upon this foundation the Senates of the several American States, whose members receive scant respect as individuals, and the Councils of the Swiss Cantons have been made to rest. Similarly, though to a slighter extent, the Second Chambers formed by Indirect or Secondary election, such as those of France, Denmark and (partially) Belgium, feel themselves, though weaker than the First Chambers because not the direct choice of the people, yet able, especially if adorned by men of talent, to exert considerable influence. Where, as is usually the case, the term of office is longer than that prescribed for the First Chamber, the Second Chamber draws some strength from the ampler experience of its members, but is in so far weaker as its representative authority has suffered by the lapse of time, since it seems to reflect the past rather than the present mind of the people.
The third ground is the personal merit and intellectual eminence of the members of the Second Chamber. If it were possible to discover in the nation, outside their popular First House, one hundred of the ablest men in the nation, men of experience and distinction in their several callings and also possessed of political knowledge and sound judgment, and to stock a Second Chamber with these men, it may be thought that the influence of their tested characters and personal eminence would compensate for the absence of popular election and would make their debates and decisions carry weight with the country. This does in fact happen, but to no great extent, with the Senates of Italy, Belgium, and Spain. For the best example of what authority intellectual power coupled with the glamour of tradition may give to an assembly, we must go back two thousand years to the long and splendid career of a body which was not elected, was not (in strictness) a Legislature, and cannot be classed as a Second House, because there was no First House but only the whole body of citizen voters set over against it1 The Roman Senate may well claim to have been the most successful of all the councils that have ruled in any state. It consisted, during the later Republic, of persons nominated, virtually for life,2 by two magistrates of the highest rank and reputation called Censors, elected once in five years. Custom prescribed that every person who had held one of certain high elective offices, including of course the consulship and praetorship, should be nominated to a seat in it and left the choice of the rest to the discretion of the Censors. Thus the Senate had two sources of authority, the memory of centuries during which it had guided the fortunes of the State, and the high distinction and official service of a large proportion of its members. Sustained by this traditional reverence it survived the popular assembly and popular freedom itself to become a passive instrument of the Emperor's power, retaining a legal status which was sometimes usefully turned to account, and so lived on for more than fourteen centuries, till at the fall (in a. d. 1453) of the New Rome on the Bosphorus, all that remained of Roman greatness in the East was replaced by a brutal tyranny.
Three theories have been and are held of the functions of a Second Chamber.
By common consent one of the functions of any Second Chamber would be that of revising the Bills brought to it from the more popular House. It is a great convenience to any Ministry passing a Bill to have an opportunity of setting right in another House mistakes or omissions overlooked in the House where the Bill originated, and the criticism of fresh minds, dealing with the measure in a calmer atmosphere, may correct various mistakes committed or overlooked. Though it is difficult to fix the extent to which revision should go, we may take it that those who hold this last view think that the Second Chamber must not enter on a conflict with the First, but submit after having made its protest. Note, however, a probable result. Were this view of a Second Chamber's functions to prevail, and revision be taken in the narrower sense of the term, such a body would become little more than a group of legal experts, a seat in which would not attract persons of ability and distinction. It would not constitute an effective check, even for the purposes of delaying hasty legislation, and the country might almost as well be without a Second Chamber.
If, however, the second view be adopted, and the Second Chamber be set up for the purpose of resisting ill-considered or unwise action on the part of the First House, the question arises: How far may such resistance go? How far may the material provisions of a Bill be altered? Alteration easily passes into practical rejection. Rejection is permitted to the Senate not only in the United States and in Australia, but also in France and Italy and Canada, though in these last the power is sparingly and cautiously exercised. Can it be refused to a Chamber which is to justify its existence by delaying action until the people have had full time for considering vital issues? Can financial questions be entirely excluded from its competence? Almost any change may be included in a measure professing to have objects primarily financial, and measures virtually revolutionary may thus be carried through in connection with the raising and the appropriation of public funds.
If the Second Chamber receives the right of offering some resistance, be it greater or smaller, to the First House, by what means are the differences between them to be adjusted? Five modes for reaching a decision have been suggested:
Which of these methods of settlement should be adopted in any particular State would depend upon the population of the country, the respective numbers of the two Houses, and other local conditions. In France, Switzerland, the United States and some other countries no constitutional provision for terminating a dispute exists. One or other House gives way, in France usually the Senate, in the United States more frequently the House of Representatives.
Reasons Which in our Time Increase the need for a Second Chamber
Before setting out the conclusions to which an examination of the two interdependent question of the Structure and the Powers of a Second Chamber seems to point, there is a further ground, besides those already mentioned, for creating a Second Chamber, a further value which such a body may possess.
A previous chapter has described the dissatisfaction with its representative Legislature which nearly every free people has come to feel; and I have sought to explain the causes which have produced the alleged decline in the quality and the consequent decline in the authority of legislatures. A decline in quality is not likely to be remedied so long as the conditions of membership in the Popular House remain so toilsome and exacting as they have become within the last thirty years, even in those European countries where the post of a representative is more attractive than it has been in the United States or Canada, in Australia or New Zealand. A French deputy is required to render to his constituents services that are incessant, laborious, often even humiliating. An English member is now expected to be constantly occupied in delivering speeches outside Parliament, on non-political as well as political topics, and, if he be fairly rich, is also expected to subscribe considerable sums to many objects connected with his constituency: his independence has been reduced, for party discipline has grown stricter, while the fatigue of elections recurring at least once in five years, is far greater than formerly. Hence many men exceptionally qualified for public service but who are no longer young and strong, or who are deficient in fluency of speech or other popular arts, do flot offer themselves as Candidates. If their talents can be made useful to the nation, it must be by placing them in a different kind of assembly, such as a Second Chamber not popularly elected, or in which the pressure coming from constituents is less heavy.
We have already seen that the two defects most frequently charged upon legislative bodies in our time are the following:
Taken together, these defects are a danger to democratic government If a nation proceeds on the principle not only that the people are always right, but that their directly elected representatives are always competent to carry out in an efficient way the people's will, even when its action has been most hasty, then of course no check and little revising skill are needed. Or if, again, it be held that the harm caused by the errors of a representative body is less than the harm which would result from any attempt to delay its action, then again there need be no talk of a Second Chamber. But unless this view prevails, there must be some means for correcting the defects aforesaid, which tend to grow more dangerous because the functions thrust upon governments are becoming more numerous and complex, so that greater and greater special knowledge and skill are required to discharge them. More and more do they demand not only technical attainments, especially in the economic sphere, but also that power of steady and penetrating thinking not often present in the average legislator. The consequence is either that legislation and administration decline or that they fall into the hands of permanent officials constituting that sort of bureaucracy whose domination orthodox democracy denounces. Unless a nation is to lag behind its competitors it must rely upon a larger and stronger staff of officials to supply the defects of legislatures, or power will pass from it to those competing nations whose better-planned institutions are more practically efficient.
It has begun to be perceived that the existing legislative machinery of most countries does not sufficiently provide for the study of economic and social problems in a directly practical spirit by those on whom the duty falls of passing into law measures dealing with them, because legislatures incessantly occupied with party strife and with the supervision of the Executive in its daily work of administration have not the time, even if a sufficient number of their members have the capacity, for such investigation.
These considerations suggest that where such defects exist, with little prospect of curing them by improving the quality of directly elected legislatures,1 a remedy may be found in the creation of a Second Chamber into which men might be gathered who are eminent by their ability and the services they have rendered to the nation or to the district in which they reside, men who have gained experience in various forms of public work, such as local government and the permanent civil service at home or abroad, or who possess special knowledge of important branches of national life, as for instance agriculture, commerce, manufacturing industry, finance, education, or who have by travel and study acquired a grasp of foreign affairs and the general movements of the world. Such a Chamber might be made a kind of reservoir of special knowledge and ripened wisdom to be added to whatever knowledge and wisdom have already been gathered into the more popular House. Place might be found in it for persons representing the great professions, such as scientific research, medicine, law, engineering, though, of course, it ought not to be a mere aggregate of specialists, but predominantly composed of men familiar with public life and capable of dealing with political questions in a practical spirit, for the eminent man of science or man of letters is not always judicious, nor even cool and open-minded, when he approaches politics. No assembly can escape partisanship, but a calm and impartial spirit in a large proportion of its members would moderate that tendency in the whole body, and go far to secure popular confidence. The function of such a body in a country governed by Universal Suffrage would be not to aim at equal power with the Popular House but to approach all questions with as much as possible of a judicial mind and temper, recognizing its responsibility to the people, and resisting the Popular House only when there was good reason to believe that the matter in dispute had been hastily or rashly dealt with. It should not persist in opposition to whatever could be shown to be the people's will, but be content with trying to comprehend and give effect to that will when duly expressed, endeavouring to inform and influence the people through debates which would be conducted under freer conditions than is always possible in a large representative assembly. It would provide a forum in which foreign policy, seldom adequately handled in popular Chambers, might be dealt with at moments when the larger Assembly had no time to spare for them. Its Committees might study and report upon, either alone or in conjunction with Committees of the other House, questions of a non-partisan character upon which legislation seemed to be needed, and might prepare measures which would pass the more readily because proceeding from an authority not associated with one political party. In this way the labours of the Executive might be aided or relieved, and the longer term of service, say from six to nine years, assigned to its members would enable them to acquire an experience helpful in this branch of its work.1
If such a Second Chamber be desirable, how could it be created? Clearly not by direct popular election, which would tend to make it a mere replica of the First Chamber. Possibly by some one of the forms of Indirect Election previously referred to such as that used in Franca If this method were disapproved on the ground that it might create a Chamber scarcely less partisan than the Popular House, and not much more certain to represent the special qualities and attainments which a Second Chamber ought to possess, other expedients might be tried. One would be that of election by the First House divided for that purpose into local groups,1 and electing only a certain number of persons in each year, another that of Selection by a Commission appointed for that purpose, exercising by the appointment and in the name of the people a function resembling that of the Roman Censors.
The principle of making a Second Chamber strong and respected solely or mainly by the quality of its members and by the reputation their careers have gained for them, deserves to be considered by any nation which does not feel bound to press democratic principles to their full logical consequences. Let us imagine a small Selective Commission of men generally respected and trusted by the best opinion of their fellow-citizens to be specially appointed by the Legislature for the purpose of selecting persons fitted by ability, experience, knowledge of affairs — including of course high ex-officials — to sit in a Second Chamber for a term of not less than six or nine years. Such a Commission of Selection, created and renewed from time to time under the provisions of a permanent law, might choose, on principles and lines laid down in that law to guide their action, the persons who are to sit in the Chamber. The Commission ought to be a small (and as far as possible a non-partisan) body, both for the sake of fixing responsibility upon its members and in order to permit them to discuss freely and confidentially the qualifications of the persons to be chosen for the Chamber: and it might be desirable that most, though probably not all, of its members should be drawn from the existing Chambers, as they would have exceptional opportunities for knowing where the ablest and fairest minds among men engaged in public affairs were to be found. However conscientious and impartial the Commissioners might be they would be faced with one task of special difficulty. Capable and trusted men may be found if only experience, capacity, and character have to be regarded. But as the Chamber must be so composed as not to fall under the permanent control of one political party, for that would impair the moral influence on public opinion desired for it, some regard must be had not only to the eminence and wisdom of the persons to be selected, but also to the political opinions they hold, for if the Selectors should, however innocently, create a Chamber in which one party was evidently predominant, other parties would complain of unfair treatment, the prospects of success for the Chamber would be clouded and its influence be discredited at the outset. Probably, therefore, the safest method which a Selecting Commission could follow would be to assign to each political party, in fair proportion to its strength in the “more popular” House, a certain number of the persons possessing the merits which marked them out for selection, and then add to these a number of others who were not avowed adherents of any section of opinion, but, being also eminent in their several ways, were known as men of impartial and independent minds, fitted to hold the balance fairly between parties, and to exercise an unbiassed judgment on each issue as it arose. In some such way as this it might be possible to create a Chamber which, starting without anything like a large predetermined majority for any particular party, would be accepted by the people as entitled to speak with the authority which belongs to knowledge and experience.1 But so hard would it be to create a Selecting Commission not only capable of doing a work so delicate, but also sure to be generally recognized as having done it in an honest and impartial spirit, that one cannot be surprised to find that the experiment is still untried.
Were any plan of this nature proposed, the old question would recur, whether in a democratic country a Chamber so chosen would be allowed the powers necessary to attract to it men of distinction, and necessary also to render it an effective part of the constitutional machinery. It might be decried as unresponsive, because not by direct election responsible, to popular sentiment. Only at rare moments, such as was that in which the American Constitutional Convention of 1787 met, are the people disposed to forgo any part of their power for the sake of their security. Thus it happens that the very conditions which make a moderating Second Chamber desirable are those which prevent its creation. Though the dangers which used to be feared from oligarchies of rank and wealth have been passing away in free countries, though nobody now ventures to defy public opinion, though it is against new perils that precautions are needed to–day, it still seems unlikely that any people could be induced to feel so much self-distrust or exercise so much self-restraint as the delegating of part of its authority would involve. Yet further experience of the defects of existing legislatures and of the undue control exercised over them by party or class organizations, may some day enforce the call for the safeguards a Second Chamber could best provide. Unfortunately the time when safeguards are most required is the time when they are least likely to be provided.
Boυλην δ∊ πρωτoν μ∊γαθυμων ιζ∊ γ∊ρoντων (Iliad ii. 53).
De moribus Germanorum, chap. xi. “De maioribus rebus principes consultant: de minoribus omnes, ita tamen ut ea quoque quorum penes plebem arbitrium est apud principes praetractentur.” In the ancient world the functions of a “Second Chamber” seem to have generally been not to revise or further discuss the decisions of the popular Assembly, but to consider the topics that were to come before it, much as does a modern Cabinet. See as to the Athenian Council Vol. I. Chap. XVI.
As usually happens, these dilemmas owe their point to the omission of other possibilities. A Second Chamber may do work involving neither agreement nor disagreement with the Other House, and it may, where it agrees in aims, suggest other and better means of attaining them. The Khalif's remark would begin to have force only if the Koran were an encyclopaedia containing all a Muslim needs to know. Probably he thought it was.
Esthonia has, however, provided a check on its legislature by the adoption of the Referendum. I have been unable to ascertain how matters stand in Poland and Lithuania, and in the Georgian and Armenian Republics and that of Azerbaijan.
The Dominion of Canada, a Federal State, has a Senate filled by the nominees of the Dominion Government, selected in certain proportions from the nine Provinces which make up the Federation and in so far representing those component communities, though not chosen by them Only two of the Provinces (Quebec and Nova Scotia) have a Second Chamber, and members of these are nominated for life by the Provincial Ministries.
See Vol. II. p. 192, ante.
It is really a sort of Committee of the Stor Thing or popular assembly.
The Senate could pass resolutions of an executive character, which the Consuls were, in practice, obliged to regard as authoritative, but was not entitled to enact laws until custom invested it with that right when free government was expiring. One may say that whereas during the Republic a Senatus Consultum had not the force of a Lex, the doctrine expressed in the words Senatum ius facere posse non ambigitur (Dig. I. 3. 9) soon became recognized under the Empire.
Though liable, in very exceptional cases, to be removed from the roil.
See Vol. II. p. 389, ante.
See as to this, Vol. II. Chapter LVIII., ante, where reasons are stated which deter or prevent many men of political capacity from entering the Popular Chamber.
The method of renewing the Second Chamber from time to time by the retirement, at intervals of two years, of a part of the body gives satisfaction in the United States. In the Australian Commonwealth half retire every three years. It need hardly be said that the observations here made are all general, and that every scheme would need to be adjusted to the conditions of the country for which it wag being created.
It has been argued on behalf of this suggestion that it would tend to keep the two Houses in friendly touch with one another, while at the same time the members of the Second Chamber, sitting for a longer period, would not be a mere reflection of the First Chamber.
The confidence accorded to the Committees of Selection in the two Houses of the British Parliament, small bodies composed of members of all parties appointed to choose other members to sit on Committees with due regard to the representation thereon of all the chief parties or groups, encourages the hope that such a Selecting Commission as that mentioned in the text might be no less successful. The plan might be varied by allowing the Second Chamber, when once constituted, to fill up a certain number of the vacancies from time to time occurring in its own body.