Front Page Titles (by Subject) 281.: THE HOUSE OF LORDS  GLOBE AND TRAVELLER, 16 OCT., 1835, P. 2 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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281.: THE HOUSE OF LORDS  GLOBE AND TRAVELLER, 16 OCT., 1835, P. 2 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE HOUSE OF LORDS 
For the context and the heading, see No. 280. the letter is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A second letter signed A. on the Reform of the House of Lords, in the Globe of 16th Oct. 1835”
(MacMinn, p. 46).
In a former communication I have attempted to explain the objections to which it occurred to me that the particular scheme which you had suggested for the reform of the House of Lords was justly liable. I will now propound that which seems to me at once the most effectual, and the least exceptionable which could be suggested, for effecting such a change in the composition of that house as shall render it at once efficient for the ends which are commonly regarded as requiring the existence of a Second Chamber, and unlikely to set itself in opposition to what is good in the acts and purposes of the First.
I must begin by observing, that in proposing a scheme for present adoption I regard myself as precluded from recommending any which should interfere with existing names, or radically alter the associations at present connected with those names; the House of Lords, reformed, must still be a House of Lords—not another House of Commons; its members must be drawn from the Peerage only, and the Peerage must, as heretofore, be recruited solely by the crown. I say this not from any superstitious reverence for ancient usages, nor from a belief that an Upper Chamber composed of a titled and privileged class is in itself the best which could be constituted. I say it because, in a government which is to be (as it is necessary that all governments should now be) essentially popular—and in which, therefore, even the barriers which we erect to restrain the unenlightened or incautious exercise of the people’s will must be such barriers as the people themselves will voluntarily forbear to overstep—in such a state of things we cannot afford to lose any hold over the people’s minds which existing names, historical recollections, traditional attachment, custom, and imagination already give to the institutions which are designed to serve that purpose. Give us a good Upper House, and if you can call it a House of Lords the people will tolerate in that house a greater degree of independence in the exercise of its constitutional authority, than they will bear from a body created but of yesterday, with a new name and composed in a completely new manner. Now, no one will doubt that it is desirable that the Upper House, being just so constituted as to have no interest in abusing its powers, should then be allowed as much latitude for the conscientious exercise of them as the people can be induced to permit. It should therefore remain a House of Lords.
But although the question for our consideration is not what would be the best Upper House if we were making a new constitution for a new people, but how we can best remodel the present House of Lords without taking away its character as such—yet, in considering this we ought to have before us an idea of the kind of Upper Chamber which is best in the abstract, in order that we may render the House of Lords as similar to that ideal Upper House as is consistent with the limits within which we must confine our innovations.
The object of an Upper House, when the Lower House is chosen by the people, is to ensure a revision of the enactments passed by the Lower. Now a revision is of no use, if made by a body no wiser than that whose acts it is to revise. The Upper Chamber, therefore, must not be elected by the same constituency as the House of Commons, otherwise it would be merely another, and probably a worse, House of Commons; and, at the best, every able man whom the people might elect to it would be an able man subtracted from the Lower House.
On the other hand, the revising body must not be so chosen, nor hold their office on such a tenure, that they shall have no motive to consult the public good; much less should they, like the present House of Lords, have the strongest motive to the pursuit of ends irreconcilable with the public good. They must not constitute a caste—they must not hold their power from themselves only, without the possibility of discharging them from their office if they misconduct themselves. There must be security, and effectual security, for their doing their duty. That security the public mind is now too much enlightened by experience, to expect from any other principle than responsibility; in other words, removability. The members of the Upper House must be chosen, and the choice must be revocable—not indeed by the people, the objections to that I have already stated, but by some party identified in interest with the people; some party, therefore, responsible to the people, and deriving its origin from popular choice.
No such body can be thought of for this purpose, except the House of Commons.
I conceive that the best Upper House would be an Upper House chosen by the Lower; with the necessary proviso that they should not choose any of their own members.
An Upper House so chosen would be completely identified in interest with the Lower House, and with the people. They could pursue the same ends, and act on the same general principles. But they would be a wiser, a more instructed and discreet body. It may very reasonably be assumed that a select body, like the House of Commons, would be more careful and more enlightened judges of the merits of philosophers and statesmen than a numerous constituency, provided they really desired to choose the fittest men. And that they would desire this cannot be doubted, when we consider not only that they would be responsible to the people for the conduct of those whom they chose, but that they would be choosing persons to whom to entrust a veto on their own acts. This would ensure their making choice of men who they believed would aim at the same ends with themselves, and whom they believed the most fitted in point of talents and acquirements to pursue these ends skilfully. Men do not voluntarily bestow the power of controlling their own measures upon any but upon persons in whose intentions and in whose judgment they have full confidence.
One great recommendation of this measure is, that, alone among all plans that I have ever known proposed for the constitution of a popular government, it would ensure to the people (under efficient securities for good conduct) the services of those able and instructed men who are not known to the people, in addition to those who are so. The men of active habits and popular talents, or of personal influence in the constituencies, who would in general be elected to serve in the House of Commons, would look out for a different class of persons to serve in the Upper House: they would look out for men who had qualified themselves, by hard study and superior mental cultivation, to put the wishes or resolves of the people, or of the people’s direct representatives, into a practicable shape; to chuse their legislative expedients, and to draw up their enactments in a circumspect and cautious manner, so as to avoid those collateral inconveniences, not sufficiently considered in the pursuit of the main object, which are apt to arise from the legislatorial attempts of purely popular assemblies. A nation which should adopt such a constitution for its Upper Chamber would do much to free itself from the greatest inconvenience of representative governments—crude and unskilled legislation.
If you, Sir, or any of your correspondents, can suggest any plan which would so completely attain the ends of an Upper House, and at the same time afford any thing like the same security against the errors to which a badly constituted Upper House is liable, I shall be happy to re-consider my opinion, and to discuss the matter further in your columns.1
In the meantime I have one inference still to draw. If, as I think, an Upper House chosen by the Lower, with a restriction against choosing any of themselves, be the best Upper House conceivable, it follows that when our Upper House must be constituted within the conditions of a House of Lords, the best House of Lords conceivable would be a House of Lords selected (at the beginning of every parliament) from the entire Peerage by the House of Commons. It might be advisable as a part of this scheme that either branch of the legislature should have the power of addressing the King to create any particular person a Peer; but whether this would be essential admits of doubt, as the King’s minister, who would generally share the sentiments of the majority of both houses, would have a strong interest in keeping the Peerage properly recruited with eligible persons.
I throw out this plan, Sir (as you said of that which you yourself suggested), for general consideration.2 I do not believe that any so simple, so easy in its working, or so efficient for all its purposes, can be found; but if it can, I trust some of your correspondents, or, what would be still better, yourself, will suggest that better plan, or point out the objections, unforeseen by me, to which it is possible that my proposition may be liable.
[1 ]In a leader on the same page as Mill’s letter, the Globe and Traveller mentions the “second letter from our respected correspondent ‘A,’ ” but implies merely that it is continuing in its views, without attempting to controvert Mill’s.
[2 ]That the Globe and Traveller’s plan was intended for general consideration is implied in its leader of 29 Sept., and emphasized in those of 8 and 9 Oct.