The last speaker has accused me of attempting a parade of scholarship on one occasion. I am wondering whether I would be correct in saying that the Deputy has exhibited an astounding parade of ignorance. On a previous occasion I did not think it worth while, when concluding, to justify the statements that I had made in the Dáil on that occasion. The suggestion is that what I had said was "torn to shreds" in the Seanad. I think that subsequent events have proved that some of the ex cathedra statements of the chairman of that body have been proved to be absolutely absurd, and that a number of the other statements that were made in that debate was equally absurd. The Deputy who has just sat down referred to the fact that I said that Adams was “no mean political thinker,” that Franklin was “no mean political thinker,” and that these men were in favour of a Single Chamber. I repeat that statement. I will admit that, as there are two famous Adams, it would have been better had I mentioned Sam Adams at the time. But, of course, Deputy Dillon did not even read the whole of Senator O'Hanlon's speech, and he suggested this evening that if Sam Adams existed at all he was a nonentity, and that to quote him in a debate like this was simply deceiving the people by suggesting that the Adams that would immediately occur to anybody was the only Adams that could be mentioned in that regard.
That is not true. I will admit that Sam Adams was not quite as famous as John Adams, but he was Chairman of the Senate of Massachusetts. He was one of the Committee of Three which was appointed to draw up a constitution for that State. John Adams, his cousin, had a very high opinion of him, and he was at least important enough to have a "Life" written of him. In speaking of him, the author of that "Life" said that "Samuel Adams gave a tone to the politics of America for many years." It is true that in the committee's report there was a recommendation for three branches: a governor, a Senate, and a Primary House. John Adams, writing of that at the time in his memoirs, said that his constituents in Boston compelled him to vote for three branches. John Adams, who was the chairman, said that Samuel Adams concurred because of the fact that his constituents wished it. Now, I say that if I mention a man like that as "no mean political thinker" those who make a study of it will naturally think of such a man, and in referring to him I did not want to make any parade of scholarship. I have been so busy during many years of my life that I have not had time to devote myself to purely academic pursuits, but I do say that I have for 20 years at least been interested, one way or another, in this question, not from an academic point of view but from the practical point of view, thinking out whether for this country a Two Chamber Legislature would be useful and, if so, what type the Second Chamber should be.
Again, Franklin was a good political thinker. He had a good deal of experience. He was entrusted at that time with important missions. He was a man of the world—not a mere theorist—and he was in favour of a Single Chamber. It is said, of course, that the Legislature of Pennsylvania did not last very long, but I question whether the Single Chamber in the State of Pennsylvania was changed because it was a Single Chamber Legislature. So far as I have been able to see it, there were, I think, other defects more fundamental even than that, and that it was because of these and the fact that the Constitution of the United States, on account of its federal character, being a Two Chamber system, that Pennsylvania, after some 14 years or so, adopted the Two Chamber system.
I have not denied at any time that a very good argument can be put forward for a Second Chamber wherever there is a Federal Constitution. A very obvious purpose can be served by such a Constitution by trying to get States unequal in numbers and influence to agree to be governed as a single entity.
We also had Deputy McGilligan calling the Attorney-General to task for suggesting that the Norwegian legislature is, in fact, a Single Chamber. Well, the people of Norway and Norwegian writers are, I think, more likely to form a proper estimate on that point than are we here, because we may be inclined to turn to one side or the other for debating purposes. Professor Aschehoug in his work on the Constitution of Norway —I am quoting from Lees-Smith— (Second Chambers in Theory and Practice, pp.201-202)—gives his opinion:
"That from the hands of the electors the Storthing issues as a Single Chamber. The fact that it is divided by itself into the Odelsthing and the Lagthing cannot create any great antagonism. Generally, the fundamental political opinion entertained by the majority of the Storthing will have the mastery in each of the sections."
I do not want to spend time quoting from other Norwegian writers, but, obviously, if they are elected at the same time, if the electors do not distinguish between the members who are up for election, if they wait until they come into their first meeting and then divide themselves into two parts that is essentially a Single Chamber. We here to-morrow could divide ourselves similarly into two sections for the partition of the work, and could come to an agreement to follow the Norwegian model and provide in that way for the revision, and so on, that is said to be necessary for legislation. But that is not what those who are pleading for a Second Chamber here have in mind at all.
We all know that, in fact, this idea of a Second Chamber is most popular where there is a fear not of interference with the people's rights by the Parliament but a fear of the people themselves. It was a fear of democracy in the broad sense, a fear of the people, that was, in the past, the main inspiration for this idea of a Second Chamber, where it was inspiration and where it was not merely a question of following out tradition, as in the case of England, or following out, more or less, an imposed system, as was the case in some of the British Colonies.
Let us be clear on this matter. I thought I could have said here to-night: "`There is one thing on which we are all agreed and that is that the sovereign power lies with the people—ultimately, at any rate." When I was listening to Deputy Fitzgerald, I began to realise that there was quite a different mentality in this House, that there were members who would hold that the people had the right to exercise their power only in so far as that right was given to them by this Constitution as if the authority —I think the Deputy even used the word "authority"—which the people had in this regard was derived from, and given to them by, this Constitution. That may be the historical fact in certain States but we, I thought, had discounted that. No matter what side we took in this matter or in other matters, I thought we were agreed upon one thing—that the people of this State are sovereign and that their will, in the last resort, must win. That is no new doctrine. Those who have suggested to-night that there is some departure from that doctrine speak far removed from the whole of the circumstances and events and from the arguments. The funny thing is that those people who speak about that, as they speak vaguely of the experiences of the world, appear to hold, as Deputy Fitzgerald did very definitely to-night, not merely that the people had power delegated to them only by this Constitution but that there were very fundamental restrictions—more fundamental than could be imposed by Constitutions—as to what the people could or could not do.
As regards the last matter, we know that there are immoral things which it is not right for the people to do, that there are certain rights possessed by individuals the removal of which would not be proper or binding in the moral sense.
I would suggest that that is a very dangerous doctrine. I would suggest that, if there is any talk of fundamentals like those, we should clearly realise in what domain they lie, so that they may not be used by everybody who wishes to justify resistance of any kind by the suggestion that the State or the Parliament is not entitled to pass such and such a law. These are very dangerous matters, and I simply repeat that our attitude, as proved by public document after public document, has never at any time been a denial that, ultimately, the sovereign authority in this country lay with the people.
As I said, I thought we could start on that basis here to-night, and that the arguments proper to people who fear democracy would not be advanced here, that if we were to find reasons for the existence of a Second Chamber these reasons would be sought, not on the basis that the people themselves have to be checked, but that the representatives of the people have to be limited in their power. I am quite prepared to accept that proposition. I am quite prepared to say that it is possible that elected representatives will abuse their power, and, during their period of office, so far depart from the will of the people who elected them as to misrepresent the people at a particular stage. Our problem is as to how we can remedy that. How can we see that government will go on during the period between elections so that at no time will it be possible for the representatives of the people to impose upon them something which the people object to as being to their detriment? That, in my opinion, is the problem which has to be solved. I have sought for solutions of that problem. Dealing with problems of that kind, you have always the difficulty of finding who will "guard the guardians." The only way out I can see would be direct reference to the people. How are you to get that when necessary, and only when necessary, and how are you to see that direct reference to the people will not be abused for political purposes? How are you to get some body which will decide that the representatives of the people, elected three or four years ago, have, during their period of office, ceased in a particular instance to represent the people's will, and have sought to impose upon the people something which, in fact, the people do not want?
If that difficulty could be met, then, so far as I am concerned, the problem would be solved—if I could find just this body which could be depended upon not to abuse the power of reference to the people, but use it only in the way in which it ought to be used: not to use it simply in the sense in which the Opposition attitude was stated, that "it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose." Would the body that we would set up to guard the guardians have judgement so good and be so completely and absolutely free from Party instincts and Party desires as not to hamper the Government and not use the device of reference to the people tactically for the sole purpose of hampering the Government? I am quite willing to admit that I see a solution easily enough in regard to constitutional amendments, but I do not see a remedy in the case of measures of a different character.
In 1928, when the question of certain changes in the Seanad was being discussed, I supported the referendum. At the same time I saw the difficulties of the referendum. Remember, these new guardians of the people's rights were the people who prevented reference to the people at that time. This Seanad, which is supposed to be a protector of the people's interests, concurred. At that time, when we believed we represented the people's will in wishing the abolition of the Oath, they actually changed the Constitution, when the petition was lodged, to prevent the people's will being determined on that issue. When we sent up the Oath Bill, the same Seanad refused to pass it. They refused to pass it even after the will of the electorate had been determined. Are we to have a body of that sort in a position in which it can compel a Government to have a referendum every day or else have its measures held up? I say that that could not be tolerated. That body is being got rid of mainly because that was its attitude. Its whole attitude was one of registering on all the larger measures the will of the previous majority, even when that majority had become a minority in this House.
I have been accused of basing my political philosophy upon Sieyes, or, rather, with quoting Sieyès, as if I were speaking of his own person and asking you to take it because he was this or that. I did nothing of the kind. I quoted a phrase which has become historical and which is found in practically every book you take up dealing with the difficulties of forming a satisfactory Second Chamber. That dilemma which he propounded is there. It is there if you approach the question logically, at any rate, and, as in human life very often absolute logic is not the best guide in practice, so here in a case like this you are not looking for perfection. I did not suggest in my speech at any time that we were looking for absolute perfection. Deputy Rowlette has quoted, I think correctly, what I said. I said that if a suggestion for a Second House which was reasonably worth while setting up were submitted, I would consider it. That is not looking for perfection; it is looking for something which is worth while. His idea of what is worth while and mine do not correspond. For instance, his view is that any Second Chamber is better than none. I do not share that view. I think that if you are going to put any body into a responsible position as part of the Legislature, that body ought to function in the general interests of the State. It ought to command respect, and it ought to be looked to by the people as something which is worth while, and I think that if you have any form taken at random you are not going to have that. The existing Seanad is an example.
I do not like referring to these purely personal things as we have more important things to talk about, but it has been suggested again that in regard to the Seanad there was some question of pique. There was no question of pique when the election manifesto was written, and the time at which we chose to do it was chosen, as I said, because it was essential that the people should recognise that there was a Government which had the power to maintain order and keep the peace, and that it was not going to be prevented from using that power by political tactics such as were, in my opinion, at any rate, being adopted by the other Chamber.
Now, the important thing is what is the future to be? I believe that this whole question will be approached much more calmly and with much greater profit the moment the existing Seanad is gone. I have indicated that we propose in the autumn to bring in a Constitution. I have been asked very properly whether it was our intention to pass this new Constitution and to act upon it without reference to the people. I do not think we would be justified in doing that. I think the time has come when we can crystallise that part of the Constitution which relates to our internal affairs into something like a form that can hope to be permanent, and, in doing that, I certainly want the co-operation of all Parties and all individuals in this House. I think that if we can get that, we shall have arrived at a time when amendments of the Constitution like the 24 amendments or whatever the number is which we have at present— 17 of them by our predecessors—will not be necessary.
I think we can now, with the experience we have before us and the position we have arrived at, so far as the internal machinery of this State is concerned, crystallise the position into something which will have a chance of permanence. I do not believe in cast-iron constitutions, and I have said so many a time. There must be some way by which the Constitution will develop in accordance with the people's needs and the people's ideas, and it is necessary that there should be in any new Constitution some such provision. I believe that provision can be made, either by way of referendum, or, in certain circumstances, by way of a further constituent Assembly, but I think the time has come when we ought not change our Constitution simply by an Act of the Legislature. As I view it, the Constitution indicates the limits within which the people's representatives can legislate and can carry on government. It indicates that there are rules within which all parties going up for election are bound to work, and, consequently, I think that when the people have decided upon these rules, these rules should be changed by nobody but the people themselves, or at least with the consent of the people themselves.
Can we during the remaining period forget Party tactics and Party considerations and can we work together, so that, whatever our combined experience and wisdom may be, it will give us that type of Constitution which I have indicated, a Constitution which will accord in so far as it is put in written form with the aspirations and wishes of our people generally, a Constitution which will for that reason get respect from all the citizens, a Constitution within which all Parties will be content to work and a Constitution which would only be changed by express reference to the people themselves? That is what I hope we will do, and, as a practical suggestion, it has been put forward that we should take this opportunity to consult with some commission or committee which might advise and give its views on this matter, on the understanding that when these views were communicated to the Executive Council, the Executive Council could determine its own policy, as it could after any commission's report, and take responsibility for that policy before the Dáil and ultimately before the people. I hope it will be possible to get agreement amongst the members of the Executive Council on such a course. I believe it will. I am glad that the suggestion has come from the Opposition rather than from the Government Benches, for the reason that if I had made such a proposition, I should probably have been met with the accusation that I wanted somehow to shirk a responsibility which is primarily a responsibility of the Government. In following such a suggestion, in my opinion, at any rate, I or the Government would not be shirking any responsibility because ultimately the Government would have to choose its own course.
I think the time has come when it would be in the general interest to associate all Parties in working out our fundamental law. I hope, then, that it will be possible to meet that suggestion by coming here to the Dáil with a proposal. I did not accept the suggestion of the Seanad because I considered it would be inadvisable to have members from that House, in the present circumstances, involved in any such proposal. What I mean is members selected by that House. I considered that it would be inadvisable to involve that House or to get that House, as such, involved in any proposal. There are individuals in that House who would deserve to be considered for any committee such as that which was proposed during the debate. All I promise at this Stage is that I will consult my colleagues in the Executive Council on that proposal. I want to say that I am glad it has come from the Benches opposite. I hope we will get responsible members—at least that the members who will be asked to serve will serve on this committee.