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A NOBILITY OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

For more than a hundred years Great Britain has been tending gradually towards a democratic form of government, and, with the passage of a bill in 1911, the House of Lords was stripped of much of its past power. But British conservatism and love of tradition has not allowed the movement to carry away the form of society under which the nation has thrived for nine centuries. The English people have clung with jealous determination to their king, and have always resented any implications that their system of aristocracy might be behind the times.

It is, therefore, with surprise that Americans read a recent dispatch from London stating that a bill has been introduced in Parliament which "would enable present peers to renounce their titles and would bar heirs and heiresses born after the passage of the bill from . The measure comes from a Laborite member of the House of Commons himself of aristocratic lineage and whether it is passed or defeated, it is at least a significant mark in the trend of British history.

In the early years of its existence, peerage was regarded as a burden, for individuals were summoned to sit in the House of Lords more or less at random, the tenure continuing for no definite space of time, and bringing with it no dignity. But soon it was recognized that the office carried with it a certain honor and opportunity for advancement. Gradually the titles became permanent, and finally hereditary, until the right to a seal in the House of Lords by right of ancestry has been sanctioned by constitutional usage.

There always exists the possibility that a family may fall back on the deeds of its ancestors and live for generations on the dignity of a title. But in England, fortunately, there is no limit to the number of peerages that can be created by the crown, and consequently new blood is being brought in to strengthen the institution. The Scottish peerage, where no increase is permitted, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

For two centuries the standard of the peerage has been admirably maintained and patents have been granted for the most part in recompense for political services. And ostensibly the present bill aims at a continuation of this policy. The peerage would be made one of accomplishment and worth, existing on the grounds of present achievement, rather than on deeds of past centuries. The House of Lords would become the seat of the foremost statesmen in the country. All the dead-wood of the centuries would be cleared away within the span of a single generation. But this result will be accomplished only provided that the measure is considered in absolute good faith by both parties. In the present disturbed situation, it might become, all too easily an instrument for political abuse.

In the early years of its existence, peerage was regarded as a burden, for individuals were summoned to sit in the House of Lords more or less at random, the tenure continuing for no definite space of time, and bringing with it no dignity. But soon it was recognized that the office carried with it a certain honor and opportunity for advancement. Gradually the titles became permanent, and finally hereditary, until the right to a seal in the House of Lords by right of ancestry has been sanctioned by constitutional usage.

There always exists the possibility that a family may fall back on the deeds of its ancestors and live for generations on the dignity of a title. But in England, fortunately, there is no limit to the number of peerages that can be created by the crown, and consequently new blood is being brought in to strengthen the institution. The Scottish peerage, where no increase is permitted, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

For two centuries the standard of the peerage has been admirably maintained and patents have been granted for the most part in recompense for political services. And ostensibly the present bill aims at a continuation of this policy. The peerage would be made one of accomplishment and worth, existing on the grounds of present achievement, rather than on deeds of past centuries. The House of Lords would become the seat of the foremost statesmen in the country. All the dead-wood of the centuries would be cleared away within the span of a single generation. But this result will be accomplished only provided that the measure is considered in absolute good faith by both parties. In the present disturbed situation, it might become, all too easily an instrument for political abuse.

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