At the time of the adjournment last night I was concluding the examination of the argument which was put forward from the Opposition Benches that history had shown that a Second Chamber was an effective safeguard of the liberties of the people. That argument was put forward in answer to my challenge to show why this complication of a Second Chamber was necessary. I said that it did not arise out of the idea of representative Government at all; that in my view the existence of a Second House as part of the legislature of several countries was very much an accident, and that the fact that it existed was no proof at all that it had a right to exist, or that its existence was really a benefit. My conclusion, at any rate, is that a fair reading of history proves not that a Second Chamber is an effective safeguard either of constitutions or of the people's liberties which are supposed to be enshrined in those constitutions, but that, at a time of revolution when a military leader, backed by force, snapped his fingers at all constitutions, he did not care very much whether it was a Single Chamber or a Double Chamber Legislature he was putting aside.
In opposition to the argument which was put forward by Professor O'Sullivan about the experience of the French in their first constitution, I instanced that Napoleon was not prevented from changing the régime by the fact that there was a triple kind of legislature in existence at his time; and that later, his nephew, Louis Napoleon, was not prevented by a Senate from bringing off a coup d'état and changing the republic into an empire. Cromwell's name was mentioned from the opposite benches to prove, I suppose, the dangers of a unicameral system, and the possibility of going from a unicameral system to a dictatorship. What was the position with regard to Cromwell? I think most of us, from our history at any rate, understood that Cromwell was a great military leader, leading the people and the Commons in an attack against the loyalists, against the King and the supporters of the King; so that Cromwell came into existence as a dictator not via the unicameral system, but in opposition to the existing system, and that in so far as Parliament was attempted to be used by him that was a later thing altogether, and was not the cause of his power. I do not think then that anybody, fairly reading history, could conclude from it that there is in a Second Chamber any really effective safeguard in times of crises.
We are apt to think of a Second Chamber and base our conclusions upon it on two very false assumptions. One is that it is a check or a brake which will operate at the time that we think brakes and checks ought to act; and secondly, that we can compose a Seanad of persons who will take a detached view, and will not be affected by political passions at a moment of crisis. Those are two absolutely false assumptions. That they are false appears at once the moment you examine them closely. The very idea of a brake is that there is somebody who will put it into operation just when it is wanted. When the motor is speeding downhill the person at the wheel has got this particular device at his command, by which he is able to check the mad career of the car which may take him over a precipice. There is there the controlling power, but what is a Second Chamber when we think of it as a brake? Does it act in that way? Will it act just as we want it to act, supposing at a time when democracy is heading for ruin? We cannot provide that it will act. It is much more likely to act like a badly adjusted brake, which will act when it is a cause of friction; when it is preventing the car from getting up the speed which is necessary in order to travel properly. It operates in times of ordinary activity. It operates to prevent the speed which is necessary, and which otherwise could be attained. It is a cause of friction. It operates then because it is easy for it to operate then. It certainly does not operate at the time when we want it most—at the time of crisis—because, as I have said before, in times of revolution it is swept aside, with all the other contrivances that exist for giving the people ultimate power, if I may put it that way. It is a false assumption, then, to think of a Seanad as a brake that will apply itself or be applied just as we want it. I say it is applied when we do not want it. It is never capable of being applied when a brake is really necessary because it is brushed aside and of no use at times of crises. That is one false assumption which I think it is easy to discard.
The other false assumption is that we can get a type of Senate that would be effective and valuable. I referred last night and previously to this idea of a Seanad where the best citizens of the country are somehow selected, people who have done honour to the country or have rendered signal services to the nation, but nobody has yet shown how they are to be got. Deputy Kelly I think last night, when he projected his astral body, as he said, to the other side, gave us some suggestions. I do not think his suggestions were designed to get the greybeards exactly, or those wise people we have in mind when we think of this ideal Seanad. If you examine any suggestions that have been made you see how impossible it is on the basis of those suggestions to get that type of Seanad. I think Deputy MacDermot on a former occasion suggested that we should get it by lot. I do not think that people are satisfied to get things in that way, but I do believe with Deputy MacDermot that a system of lot is much more likely to secure the type of Seanad we have in mind, when we are thinking of this ideal Seanad, than any of the ordinary systems of election or selection.
I challenge Deputies opposite to go in detail and examine one by one the various methods which from time to time have been proposed for the constitution of a Second Chamber. Remember, we are not dealing with something that is before the minds of men for the first time. We are dealing with a subject which, whenever a question of constitutional government has been under consideration, has received, as I think John Stuart Mill said, far more attention than it deserves. If we spent a little time in examining the various propositions that from time to time have been put forward for the election of a Seanad we would see how vain it is to hope for, and how impossible it is to attain anything like an approximation to this ideal Seanad.
We have in existence Second Chambers in various countries. The fact that they are in existence is used as an argument that they should be in existence. Before I take some of these methods of selection, it might be worth while again to ask ourselves how did these come into existence. We have the hereditary system. We have, for instance, the one that occurs to most people when talking about a Second Chamber—the British House of Lords. I indicated in a previous statement, I think, that that arose from certain historical reasons peculiar to Britain. At any rate, they exist as the remnant more or less of a feudal power—the power of a certain class. They enshrine ancient privilege. A Hungarian political thinker, in examining this question, said that one of the reasons for the existence of a Second Chamber in a country might very well be the protection of ancient historical rights. Certain feudal and other rights exist which a class of nobles had. The Second House, where there are hereditary Houses of that sort, have been a continuation to our day of a recognition of those ancient rights and privileges. But the mass of the people, as time goes on, are not satisfied that such privileges should continue in this day.
There is the position that you had in Britain, where the people definitely stated that they were not going to tolerate any longer that assertion of power which the British House of Lords was capable of before the Parliament Act was passed which deprived them of the equal power which they had up to that time. That hereditary House had operated almost uniformly to prevent the House that represented the plain people of the country from giving expression in law to the desires and the needs of the people. They felt that it was intolerable that that should continue. Mr. Asquith at the time, speaking of the position, said that it was a system of false balances and loaded dice. The dice were always loaded against the Liberal Party when they got into power. The House of Lords went to sleep when the Conservative Party were in power. It was an ally, therefore, of the Conservative Party, and it played its part as an ally. It obstructed the opponents of its ally, and did everything in its power to advance the interests of its ally.
Very few people of any party in Great Britain, or political thinkers of any complexion, would hold that the old authority of the British House of Lords should be maintained. They have tried to reform it. The moment they try to reform it, and that they come up against the practical problem, they find the difficulties are so great that they leave it as it is. Sheer inertia keeps it there. Nobody thinks it ought to be there. It is a sort of historic monument, at any rate, and so long as it does not make itself really obnoxious it may be permitted to exist. The right to sit in the House of Lords is an appendage, one of the privilleges of the peerage. It is retained and, possibly, will be retained. The reason it is retained at the moment is because it is not possible get a satisfactory Second House that will be representative of the people.
I have asked how we could get a Second Chamber. What are the various proposals put forward for the constitution or composition of a Second Chamber? You have the hereditary principle. I have just spoken about that in the case of Britain, and you can see that, in these days, at any rate, it would not be tolerated if it really came in conflict with advancing democracy. As far as we are concerned, anyhow, anything like a hereditary system is out of the question. It does not come in in our case; at any rate, we can put it aside. What other methods are there? There is the method of nomination. I spoke of that last night. Again I say that a nominated Second House, any more than a hereditary Second House, would not be tolerated if it came seriously in conflict with the views of an elected Chamber directly representative of the people. If you are to have a nominated Second House you will have to see how it is to be nominated. If it is to be nominated by the leaders of political Parties the nominations will be of the complexion of those Parties. If you are to try to get, by nomination, this venerable Seanad, this wise Seanad, that we have in our dreams, then I think we will wait a long time before we see our dreams realised.
The system of lot then comes along. I have given, perhaps, as much thought to this matter as any member of the House. Thinking over all the various alternatives I have seen put up, or that would suggest themselves to me, I honestly believe that if you did want a Second House, the system of lot would be the best you could get. If you could, for instance, have some sort of modern equivalent of the ancient censor, where you would have certain people who had achieved certain offices, certain positions, entered on a panel and agreement as to the type of office that would qualify for admission to the panel, and if periodically you put the names on the panel into a hat and picked them out, you would probably get a better Seanad than you would get by any system of nomination. If we do believe that a Second Chamber is necessary, or that it is advisable to have these wise people to apply a check when a democracy is running riot, some such system as that would be the most likely to achieve the results we have in mind. But, again, is it worth all the fuss? When it is there, what will happen? Is it not obvious that these, being in the community, and of the community, they will share for the most part the political views of one Party or another? When you have chosen them by lot, you will find there is a majority one way or another. Do you think that these people are going to be less affected by political prejudice than the ordinary person who is elected as a representative of the people in elections such as ours? I do not think that you do.
Then you come to the question: is it wise to have this sort of power or control resting altogether in the hands of people who are spent? They are spent people, people whose energies are gone. We ought to ask ourselves this question: what is the best type of Legislature? What is the best type of Government? Is it government by spent powers or is it government by active minds and active people who want to achieve something, who want to make this world somewhat better, to leave the world behind them, at any rate, a somewhat better world than the world into which they came?
Looking through history, again we find that it is not nations who have rested on their oars or people who have rested on their oars who have achieved much. I have as much desire for mental ease as was suggested last night by Deputy MacDermot, but when we look around in history, what are the nations that have made progress? How is progress brought about? Is it by those who, in philosophic ease, sit down content with things as they are, or has progress been achieved rather by people who have been up and doing, striving? This world is a world of conflicts. So it seems to me at any rate, and those who are successful are the energetic and the active-minded and not those people who are, in fact, spent forces. Therefore, if we are looking to the general good of the nation as a whole, we ask ourselves this question: assuming that we could get such a Seanad as we have in our minds, would it, in fact, be good for the country as a whole? I say I doubt it. I very much doubt it. I doubt very much whether, if government is in such hands, in the stress of modern times our country would be likely to fare as well as when we have government by people who are active, and when the controlling forces are in the hands other than those of the old. It comes strange——