Thank you. I desire to refer to another statement that the President made on the Second Reading of the Bill in the Dáil. I would ask him, if he does not consider it too presumptuous on my part, to deal with this in his concluding speech here to-day. The President, when speaking in the Dáil, said:—
"The more modern thinkers who are dealing with present day affairs and conditions are gradually coming to the conclusion that, when all is said and done, Single Chamber government is the wisest"
With all respect, I would ask the President to set out in his concluding speech before this House who are the present day political thinkers who are coming, or have come, to the conclusion that Single Chamber government is the wisest. I have been looking up this matter and I cannot find any reputable persons who are of that opinion. Take the greatest writers on political science in Europe—Esmein, Duguit and Barthélemy. Every one of these was in favour of two-Chamber government and have so expressed themselves. I merely want to ask the President to support, by some data, his contention that most of the political thinkers in Europe, men of any repute, are coming more and more to favour Single Chamber government. As regards the advocates of Single Chamber government in England there is only one, Professor Harold Laki, the mouthpiece of the extreme wing of a Socialist group led by Sir Stafford Cripps whose recent references in certain respects did not meet with the approval of most of those in the Labour Party in England. In England, he is the one man of any repute who, in his writings, has favoured Single Chamber government. If there are any others then I am simply asking that we should have their names put before us.
There does not exist a single democratic constitution in the world which gives to a bare majority in a Single Legislature the powers which will be enjoyed by a bare majority in the Dáil if this House is abolished. This country will then be unique in that respect. I do not think it is a thing of which we should feel particularly proud: that we have thrown aside the experience of other countries and are going to give to a bare majority in a Single Chamber greater powers than are enjoyed by a Single Chamber in any other country on the face of the globe. Under the constitutions of other countries, where the principle of Single Chamber government has been introduced, safeguards have been provided against the abuse of power by the majority. You have cases where the law can be challenged by the method of the initiative and the referendum. You have cases where, through an independent President or a minority in the House, measures are submitted to a referendum, or you have the case referred to by Senator MacLoughlin—the case of Finland—where a minority can hold up a Bill until it has been passed by a newly elected Assembly after a dissolution. In practically all these countries there are safeguards of some value; safeguards much greater than those which will be provided here if the Second Chamber is abolished. In Spain you have a new Constitution. It is the work of Socialists and is ultra-democratic in its form. But the Legislature there is bound by the Constitution. A strong Constitutional Court has been set up which exercises a big controlling power on the Cortes in many respects. This Constitutional Court can reject any measures affecting the Constitution passed by the Cortes. Proposals to amend the Constitution are only effective if they are carried in the House by a two-thirds majority in the first four years, and an absolute majority thereafter. The assembly is then automatically dissolved and the Constitutional change comes into force only if it is carried in the new Assembly.
In regard to the question of policy of the present Government, based upon certain acceptances and certain principles arising largely out of inquiries and investigations made by spokesmen in favour of the Bill, may I refer to the statement made by the President in the Dáil? Speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, he said:
"It was suggested by some speakers on the other side that all the theorists and practical people who have been engaged in the task of moulding constitutions have been in favour of the Two Chamber Parliament. That is not so. America has reminded me of it. Franklin was no mean political thinker. He stood for the Single Chamber. Adams was no mean political thinker. He stood for the Single Chamber."
The President says that as regards America, the two names which came at once to his mind were those of Franklin and Adams. They were the first names he mentioned in his opening and concluding speeches on the Second Reading in the Dáil. Members of this House who are opposed to this measure have dealt with certain persons mentioned by the President in his speeches on this Bill in the Dáil. Let me deal with the first two that he cited. He says that Benjamin Franklin was in favour of a Single Chamber. He was, but all Franklin's views on government were doctrinaire and academic and all his practical efforts in constitution-making were singularly unsuccessful. The Constitution of Pennsylvania, one of the States of the United States of America, was drafted by Franklin in the year 1776. He carried his views into operation in respect of the Constitution of that Assembly. He embodied there his two favourite ideas of a unicameral Legislature and a plural Executive. With what result? The Constitution of Pennsylvania was the least successful of the Constitutions set up in the United States in that period. It was established about the time of the American War of Independence. The Single Chamber system of government was established in 1776. It was abolished, if I may use the word, in 1790. It lasted 14 years. The great effort of Franklin, whom the President quoted, resulted in this, that the Constitution of Pennsylvania lasted only 14 years and was replaced by a bi-cameral legislature. So much for Franklin. It is interesting in that connection to note that when they were framing the Federal Constitution of the United States there was only one serious proposal in favour of One Chamber Government contained in what was called the New Jersey Plan. It was brought forward by some of the delegates from the smaller States. Its object was to prevent the establishment of a new Federal Constitution, to make permanent a system by which the States would be practically independent of any kind of central control. It would have continued the system then known in the United States as the "Continental Congress," which was little more than a meeting of delegates from the various allied States. During the discussion of the plan there was a lot of criticism of the system of Single Chamber Government. John Wilson, a well-known writer of the American Revolutionary periods, said:
"Is there no danger of legislative despotism? Theory and practice both proclaim it. If the legislative authority be not restrained there can be neither liberty nor stability; it can only be restrained by dividing it within itself, into distinct and separate branches. In a Single House there is no check but the inadequate one of the virtue and good sense of those who compose it."
These words are very applicable in the present position. I think Senator Brown very largely voiced them in another way. The New Jersey plan was dropped. As soon as it was decided that there should be a Federal Government it was taken for granted by all the delegates that the Legislature should be bicameral. The question discussed was not whether there should be a Senate, but the method of election to the Senate; how it should be constituted. When speaking in the Dáil the President said: "Adams was no mean political thinker. He stood for a Single Chamber." I do not know exactly to which Adams the President referred. There were only two Adamses to whom he could make reference as constitution moulders. One was Samuel Adams, and the other John Adams. Both of them were in favour of the Two Chamber system of government. Let us take Samuel Adams, who was relatively an unimportant person. He may have in the early days of the struggle with Britain made some references in favour of a Single Chamber administration, when he was leading the Radical Opposition in the Assembly of Massachusetts against the Conservative majority in the Council. There is no proof of that whatever, but there is positive proof that when the Constitution of Massachusetts was being drafted it was submitted to a committee of which Samuel Adams was one. They were referred to as "the brace of Adamses." The second was John Adams. The Constitution they drafted embodied a bicameral system of legislation. Therefore it cannot have been Samuel, but John, the President referred to. John Adams was a great constitution moulder. He was the first Vice-President and the second President of the United States. He was one of the draftsmen of the Federal Constitution of the United States, and was the first Minister at the Court of St. James in Great Britain. He was the first Minister-Plenipotentiary to come to Europe after the revolutionary period, when he came to seek a treaty of peace and commerce with Great Britain. That was the history of John Adams. What did he say?
The President said of John Adams— I am sorry I have to mention it again—"Adams was no mean political thinker. He stood for a Single Chamber." I want the House to note this in that context. There were friends of John Adams living in the State of Virginia, and these friends requested his views on constitution-making and moulding. John Adams embodied his views in a booklet entitled Thoughts on Government. It was an outstanding book, in this respect, of that revolutionary period. What did John Adams say in that booklet? Here is what he said:
"I cannot think that a people can be long free, nor ever happy whose Government is in one Assembly."
I think if a case were to be put forward for the continuance and maintenance of this House, it is embodied in these cogent, simple but telling words of John Adams. I take it that is the John Adams to which the President referred, because he was incomparably the most distinguished of the Adamses, and must be regarded as the constitution moulder referred to by the President, and one of the most prominent persons in the United States. John Adams proceeded to cite authoritative arguments against a Single Chamber, showing how a majority could alter the constitution, could co-opt additional members, could prolong its own existence and could continue to rule against the good sense of the people. Another quotation:—
"A Single Assembly possessing all powers of government would make arbitrary laws for their own interest and adjudge all controversies in their own favour."
He wanted a Second Chamber as "a distinct and independent branch of the legislature and to have a negative on all laws." His ideas were reflected in the Constitutions of Virginia and Massachusetts. Both these Constitutions stood out particularly strongly for Second Chambers. The system of government in these two States was, of course, bicameral and these Constitutions were the strongest and the most successful in the United States. As the Constitution of Massachusetts endures to this day, John Adams's handiwork is there to be seen. I will give a little more evidence in that respect. Before the Federal Constitution of the United States was set up, there was already in existence the Constitutions of the various States, that afterwards went to form the Federal Constitution. John Adams was sent as the first line of Ministers to the Court of St. James. While there he engaged himself in certain controversies and amongst other things wrote A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States in favour of the bicameral system of government in his own country against Turgot and other writers of the French Revolutionary period. In this John Adams suggested that “the rich, the well-born and the able” should be set apart from other legislators in a Senate. Senator Sir John Keane would like that.
But when John Adams came back to America, his treatises on methods of Government were there before him and the Americans noted his attitude in that respect, and when he offered himself for the first Presidency of the United States against George Washington, as a direct result —and this is set out by contemporary writers—of his attitude rather bearing an aristocratic flavour, which, I am sure, he imbibed during his sojourn in England and on the Continent, he was beaten for the first Presidency of the United States by George Washington by 69 votes to 34. I admit he made a fairly good show. He was there and then elected Vice-President, and later he succeeded George Washington as second President of the United States.
May I say one word in regard to Franklin, the other person quoted, to whom I have already referred? An overwhelming body of opinion in America was in favour of the Two Chamber system, and when the Federal Convention was summoned to draw up the Federal Constitution, a motion "that the national Legislature ought to consist of two parts" was carried unanimously. There was not a single dissentient. It is on record that the delegates from Pennsylvania, where Benjamin Franklin was the biggest man, abstained from voting, so when the motion was put that the system be a bi-cameral system, it was perfectly obvious they were in favour of the motion. They stated afterwards that they did not vote, "out of consideration to Dr. Franklin, who was known to be partial to Single Chamber government." Benjamin Franklin, that important man in the affairs of the United States, is cited by the President as having in a way given him a line on this question, and he is quoting him as a person who had convictions that a Single Chamber Government is best for the people, but the delegates of his own State did not follow him at the Convention. Out of consideration for Franklin, they refused to vote. Senators, who are members of the Fianna Fáil Party, may also refrain from voting out of consideration for the attitude of the Government towards this House. They may, or may not. But I hope that when history comes to record this event, and when certain statesmen in other countries are making a case for the abolition of the Second Chamber in their countries, they will not cite the action of Senators in the Free State Seanad as being of any importance when these Senators vote in favour of this Bill. I do not want to impugn the motives of any man, but somehow I have the gravest doubts in regard to the sincerity of many of the Senators who will give their votes in favour of a Bill to abolish a House to which they belong, when no case has been made for the abolition of that House and when every possible conceivable argument has been put up as to why it should not be abolished.
It was the President himself who referred to the dictum that it is probably better to obey the law even if you do believe that the law is wrong. What did the Government expect this Seanad to do when those all-important measures came before the House, when the Bill to extend the franchise in the local elections was before the House, and when many of us believed that the franchise should not be extended to allow the younger and, perhaps, more foolish people in this country to vote, that they should not be asked to immerse themselves unduly in the management of local affairs? What could we have done? Voted against our consciences, beliefs or opinions? What should we have done when the Blueshirt Bill came before the House? What could Senators have done? Were they expected to depart from everything which they had held, in a political way, as always sacred in the formation of their convictions, and just simply vote for the Government? Was that what was expected? I do not know. My opinion is that it would be better for the Seanad to go out in credit rather than remain here discredited. I look to Senators, while they are here, to speak out their convictions, to express them fairly and honestly, and vote accordingly. This Seanad has not been so dominated at all by one particular type of politics. I know I have been pulled over the coals on some occasions for having voted with the Fianna Fáil Party on certain proposals, and I know that Senator Wilson has also been pulled over the coals for a like reason. I think that it should be possible for level-headed, reasonable-minded men to come here and to vote according to their lights and their judgment without having one result—the result which the present administration is endeavouring to bring about here—the abolition of the House itself, and all because Senators choose to record their votes honestly and fairly.
There are in this House some eminent men and if the House is abolished the nation will be all the poorer for losing their assistance in its public affairs. There are others, like myself, who play a very insignificant and inconspicuous part in the deliberations. We shall not be missed but the country will be all the poorer for losing a House that has provided, and is likely to provide, a safeguard for the liberties of the people. The President, I think, should have some regard for the opinions of responsible people who have given this subject close thought and consideration. I think the penalty which he is endeavouring to inflict upon very honest men is entirely unworthy of him. The country, as I said, will be all the poorer, but I hope the country will not wake up when it is too late. I cannot do better than close in the words of John Adams, who said:
"I cannot think a people can be long free nor ever happy whose Government is in one Assembly."