In defence of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal – guest article by Alfred Smith

In defence of the Lords –

Reinstating heredity and continuity to Britain’s constitution

Guest article by Alfred Smith

“Though true Nobility (always founded in virtue and real piety) needs no… Apologie, but itself, amongst those ingenious Spirits, who are able to estimate its worth; yet the iniquity of our degenerated Age, and the frenzie of the intoxicated ignorant vulgar is such, that it now requires the assistance of the ablest Advocates to plead its cause, and vindicate the just Rights [and] Privileges of the House of Peers, against the licentious Quills [and] Tongues of lawlesse sordid Sectaries, and Mechanick Levellers.”[1]

So wrote William Prynne in the Epistle Dedicatory of A Plea for the Lords, and House of Peers, the first edition of which he published in 1647 in response to Leveller pamphlets calling for the revocation of the ancient right of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal to sit, vote and judge in all the Parliaments of England. The 17th century was not, as it happened, so degenerated an age as Prynne feared. The Levellers themselves were never more than a coterie of scribblers and agitators. The House of Lords, though put in abeyance for a time, was restored to its former place after a succession of failed attempts by the Rump and the Protectorate parliaments to new-model England’s ancient constitution. The ignominious failure of these innovations on the one side, and on the other, the exhaustive recitation of precedents by antiquaries in the law such as Prynne, were enough to convince Englishmen of that era, who still held their ancestors in great reverence and piety, of the necessity of preserving the aristocratic part of their constitution.

William Prynne

Today, however, the factions of ‘sordid sectaries’ and ‘mechanic levellers’ are much larger and more powerful: I refer, of course, to David Cameron and the ‘modernising’ wing of the Conservative party, on the one hand, and the Labour and Lib-Dem parties in toto, on the other. Add to them the university professors and media gurus, who insist that no government can be just, unless it be based, exclusively it would seem, on the principles of democracy and universal human rights. The challenge for us is therefore much greater.

I should say at the outset that I agree with everything that Lord Sudeley said in his Quarterly Review article of Autumn 2011. But, given the depth of the problem, as I shall describe it below, I think he does not go far enough (I suspect out of modesty). The arguments he offers are mainly prescriptive and historical. Those of us who respect custom and the memory of our ancestors are persuaded by such appeals. But we know that to our 21st century levellers, and to the bulk of the nation who are under their spell, arguments from prescription and history are of no weight. “What have the Lords done for us lately? What can they do for us now?” one imagines them to ask. We must be able to answer them on those points. In such an age as this, when the levelling principle in all things (race, class, gender, national origin &c. &c.) has replaced Christianity as the established religion, the House of Lords, and the hereditary principle in general, need aggressive advocates who are prepared to declare forthrightly why democracy is not the only principle of legitimate government and why the democratic element of the British constitution ought to be kept in its proper place, and, furthermore, at every opportunity, to give the proponents of all forms of egalitarianism the thrashing that they, shameless canters and liars that they are, so richly deserve. The advocate must demonstrate precisely what is wrong with the ‘democratic’ rule of the Commons, and why not just ‘another house’ or an ‘upper house,’ but a house composed of bishops and hereditary barons is needed to check the exorbitances of the Commons.  To do this, one must be willing to speak of class, in particular of the different dispositions that characterize different orders of society. Such arguments inevitably give offence, but there is nothing for it. As Prynne insisted

“The Sun must not cease from shining because weak and sore Eyes will be offended with its splendor, nor seasonable truths of most publike concernment be concealed, smothered in time of general need, because ignorant, erroneous, sottish, hair-braind Levellers or Innovators will be displeased with, and storm against them.[2]

In the space allotted me here, I can hope to do no more than make a bare beginning of this task. Let us start by asking what democratic rule means? This, I hasten to add, is not intended as a question for philosophy. A better way to put it, perhaps, is ‘What does the thing political theorists call ‘democracy’ give us in practice?’

The answer, in brief, is government of the nation by and for persons who are animated chiefly by one of two main ideas: “leftist leveling” and “rightist reductionism”.[3] Whilst the leftist leveller wails about exclusion, class-based aesthetics, biased cultural and metaphysical assumptions, the classical liberal reductionist screams at any restrictions on the economic liberty of individuals. As Mr. Turner noted in his editorial, these are the two tendencies we observe in democratic politics. It is owing to the dominance of these very similar worldviews that our country is being filled with ugly “low-rise sprawl, where mean suburbs shade into retail parks, industrial sites, flyovers, motorways and back into suburbs”.[4] Indeed, blame for all of the other manifestations of ugliness we face at present may also be laid at the feet of the proponents of these twin ideologies of destruction and death, from the spectacle of homosexuals parading in the streets to the manifold horrors of mass immigration. We must not be surprised that those who rule in democracies have no taste, no culture, neither a sense of duty to their ancestors nor concern about their posterity, for they emerge precisely from those descriptions of citizens in whom these sensibilities and habits of mind are least developed, or utterly nonexistent. Unless we permit ourselves to speak of men as members of classes we cannot even grasp the problem.

Historically, both leftist levelling and rightist reductionism are ideologies of the third estate, or, if you prefer, the middle class.  The first demand for free trade came from that class of traders and merchants in the 17th century and later, who grew to resent the traditional restrictions on their methods of capital accumulation, and their powerlessness to break these fetters. This obsession with unfettered commerce, “free racing with unlimited velocity in the career of Cheap and Nasty” as Thomas Carlyle called it, has been with us a very long while. Leftist levelling is, if one discounts the 17th century Levellers who were no more than a flash in the pan, a more recent phenomenon. It did not spring from the mind of any worker or peasant. The proletarian speaks rarely, and then, almost never in his own words. Leftist levelling arose in the minds of members of the middle class, who were justly moved by the plight of the labouring poor in the age of industrialisation, but instead of asking the poor what they wanted, projected onto them their own middle class hatreds, disgruntlements and chimerical aspirations. Marx and Proudhon exemplify this sort of projection. Such are, in brief, the origins of the modern left and right. Capitalism and socialism, one must always remember, are two sides of the same coin, or, better yet, two heads of the same dragon.

The content of these ideologies is a product of the material conditions in which members of the middle class have lived. Tocqueville, I conceive, was right to identify mobility as the most important component of the social condition of members of the third estate. The bourgeois, or “democratic man” as Tocqueville called him, is rootless. The act of going off in search of his fortune severs his ties to his native soil, and even his family. Among this highly mobile class, said Tocqueville

“The woof of time is ever being broken and the track of past generations is lost. Those who have gone before are easily forgotten, and no one gives a thought to those who will follow.”[5]

The bourgeois fortune-seeker is not tied to any place; he has no memory of an earlier time. Day after day, he expends all his energy merely reacting to the exigencies of the present. Deeper cares eluding him, his life, by and large, becomes a restless quest to acquire as many of the ‘good things of this world’ as he can. In a life ruled by an “excessive and exclusive taste for well-being”, despaired Tocqueville, how are the “sublime faculties” of man, “a taste for the infinite, an appreciation of greatness, and a love of spiritual pleasures” to develop at all?[6] Such a condition of life is not conducive to the formation of taste, discernment, knowledge of and reverence for one’s ancestors, or care about one’s descendants. It is precisely that condition of life that gives rise to and reinforces the ideas of classical liberal reductionism and leftist levelling. Depending on the rootless fortune-seeker’s relative success or failure in materialistic accumulation, one or other of the middle class ideologies will appear to be the epitome of justice to him, a complete theory of political and economic life –  which of course it is not! All of this, I hasten to add, is not to say that all members of the third estate are necessarily narrow-minded, rootless, tasteless, grasping cretins. Your Humble Servant, himself of middle class extraction, hopes he is not such. But as their social conditions push them ever so strongly in that direction, it is only a minority of them who, by dint of intellect or experience, come to see things in a fundamentally different light.

It is not unreasonable, I think, to claim that the decline of European civilisation began from that moment when the third estate, itself only a part of the nation – and the most purblind and sickly part when left to its own devices and its own narrow views – subscribed to the fatal conceit that it alone constituted the whole body of the nation, and that its own peculiarly petty ambitions were the aspirations of all mankind. This truly pestilential conceit first announced itself directly in an essay of the famous apologist of the French Revolution Emmanuel Sieyes: What is the Third Estate? Sieyes summed up the plan of his essay as follows:

“What is the third estate?—Everything! What, until now, has it been in the existing political order?—Nothing! What does it want to be?—Something!”[7]

The first proposition, though objectively false, accurately depicts the self-image of the third estate. The second proposition is also objectively false, but accurately reflects the third estate’s ressentiment. The class of traders, artisans, shopkeepers, and various capitalists was never nothing. They always had, and now have, an important role to play in any nation, subject to guidance and restraint. The third proposition, supposing one has not forgotten the first, is an obvious lie. If the third estate imagines itself to be ‘everything’, then it will aspire to become ‘everything.’ And this, in short, is what has happened.[8]

French Revolutionary playing cards, with royal crowns replaced by headdresses

The fanciful egalitarian promises of the bourgeois revolution, sold to the masses as a ‘democratic’ revolution, have, of course, never been fulfilled. Edmund Burke warned the French revolutionaries what would happen if they got their wish, if they succeeded in eradicating the hereditary nobility and the church from France. The result would not be democracy, understood as rule by the people. The revolution would establish not equality and plenty for all, but rather a new hierarchy with a new class of rulers at the top. Said Burke:

“The next generation of the nobility will resemble the artificers and clowns, and money-jobbers, usurers, and Jews, who will always be their fellows, sometimes their masters. Believe me, sir, those who attempt to level, never equalise. In all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost. The levellers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of things; they load the edifice of society, by setting up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.”[9]

There is much wisdom in these words. First, Burke was convinced that hierarchy was part of the natural order. Levelling is a fantasy that can never be realised. In any society, there is always some description of citizens who will be uppermost. The important question then becomes, not ‘What mechanisms will empower free and equal citizens to rule themselves democratically’, for that is a chimerical dream, but ‘What description of men, for the good of the whole, ought to be uppermost, and what descriptions ought to be on the ground?’ The new elite, he predicted, would be composed of precisely those descriptions of citizens who belonged in a subordinate position. The first four professional designations in Burke’s list need to be updated: craftsmen, peasants, money-dealers, and bankers – the fifth term, obviously, has not changed. One wonders about the first two descriptions. In the 21st century hierarchy, one does not see farmers or craftsmen at the top, and indeed, one hardly finds recent governments to be very solicitous of their interests. Perhaps Burke included these two in his list only to emphasise that a more natural order would place them at the bottom. Later in the Reflections, Burke said that the revolution in France would produce an “ignoble oligarchy” composed of “attornies, agents, money-jobbers, speculators, and adventurers”.[10] Indeed, the description that is now uppermost is the class of lawyers, speculators, investment bankers and other creatures of their kidney. On the whole (I say on the whole, for there are always exceptions – I know a few personally) this is the most mobile, and the most rootless description of citizens, the portion of the third estate most unfit to rule, because it is the most licentious and the most committed in principle to culture- and nation-killing reductionism. It is they who rule in the so called ‘democratic’ age.

We must, in the end, come to terms with the reality that all the propositions of ‘democratic theory’ are no less than a perfect fraud. The ‘will of the people’ which democratic institutions are supposed to represent is and always has been a phantom.  Nations do not have wills; they have interests. And it is always minorities who decide what those interests are to be. ‘Democratic’ elections today represent the interests of rootless moneyed and intellectual elites. If one desires confirmation, one need only examine the one instance in which Cameron has ostensibly stood up for British national sovereignty. Yes, if the profits of London banks are threatened by new EU taxes on financial transactions, then, and only then, does Cameron become a nationalist. The leftist intelligentsia, in spite of all the egalitarian rhetoric that its members spout from their perches in the media, the academy and the Labour party, has also proven itself entirely comfortable with the rule of financial wizards, perfectly happy to collaborate with them, for the global levelling that is facilitated by the rule of international bankers and speculators is very dear to their sentimental hearts.

Burke did not foresee our present condition in every detail. But it is a credit to his wisdom and prescience that he foresaw as much as he did. Fundamentally, he understood that if the third estate were to arrogate to itself all the political power of the nation and define its own narrow aspirations as the only legitimate interests of the nation, then it would destroy the nation. He was right. For that reason, he defended the monarchical and aristocratic parts of the ancient constitutions of Europe. Monarchy and aristocracy, he argued, must retain their power in order to restrain the destructive impulses and elevate the low aspirations of the third estate. It is true one does not find very much in Burke’s corpus that deals explicitly with the House of Lords. But he wrote a great deal of the special contributions of the Church and Nobility to the nation, and defended the ancient constitution which granted the members of both the right to sit, vote and judge in all parliaments. For, he said, one of the “excellencies” of the British constitution was that it consisted of “three members, of three very different natures”. He considered it “his duty to preserve each of those members in its proper place, and with its proper proportion of power”. Since the nature of each was different, it was necessary to “vindicate the three several parts on the several principles peculiarly belonging to them”.[11] It would be absurd to defend the aristocratic part of the constitution according to the principles of democracy, for the function of an aristocratic body of bishops and barons is to supply the knowledge, sensibilities and habits of mind which a democratic assembly lacks, and to be a brake on the deleterious tendencies to which a democratic assembly is prone. What, then, do Lords Spiritual and Temporal provide, that a democratic assembly lacks?

To my knowledge, Burke never specifically mentioned the Lords Spiritual. But he wrote extensively of the role of the church establishment. Apart from its essential duties of teaching the gospel, administering communion, and caring for the poor, the established Church had high political functions.  The Church was that institution which both reminded men of all descriptions, and especially the ministers of government, of their duties according to God’s eternal law, and protected and preserved a great portion of the nation’s spiritual and cultural treasures. As the earthly representative of Christ’s kingdom, the church ‘consecrated’ the state. Said Burke,

“This consecration is made, that all who administer in the government of men, in which they stand in the person of God himself, should have high and worthy notions of their function and destination; that their hope should be full of immortality; that they should not look to the paltry pelf of the moment, nor to the transient praise of the vulgar, but to a solid permanent existence, in the permanent part of their nature, and to a permanent fame and glory, in the example they leave as a rich inheritance to the world.”[12]

One of the political functions of a national church, then, is to elevate minds of men, especially of those who administer the government, from low concerns to high ones, from transient objects to permanent interests and eternal goals. The Church sets the eternal rewards of virtue against transient pleasures of earthly success, the permanent glory of those whose deeds echo through the ages against short-lived fame of those who have learnt the trick of tickling the mob’s fancy. With its presence in courts and parliaments, the representatives of the Church are to remind all of their sacred duties, to turn the glances of all toward the heavenly lodestar, far above the calculations of parties to gain transitory electoral victories, to satisfy low appetites of constituents and special interests.

The Church, as an institution, is also a protector of the nation’s spiritual and cultural treasures, the artifacts and monuments that are the concrete manifestations of its historical memory. In a long passage in the Reflections, Burke defended the Church’s vast property holdings on this basis against the confiscatory policy of the Jacobins:

“Why should the expenditure of a great landed property, which is a dispersion of the surplus product of the soil, appear intolerable to you or to me, when it takes its course through the accumulation of vast libraries, which are the history of the force and weakness of the human mind; through great collections of antient records, medals, and coins, which attest and explain laws and customs; through paintings and statues, that, by imitating nature, seem to extend the limits of creation; through grand monuments of the dead, which continue the regards and connexions of life beyond the grave; through collections of the specimens of nature, which become a representative assembly of all the classes and families of the world, that by disposition facilitate, and, by exciting curiosity, open the avenues to science? If, by great permanent establishments, all these objects of expence are better secured from the inconstant sport of personal caprice and personal extravagance, are they worse than if the same tastes prevailed in scattered individuals? Does not the sweat of the mason and carpenter, who toil in order to partake the sweat of the peasant, flow as pleasantly and as salubriously, in the construction and repair of the majestic edifices of religion, as in the painted booths and sordid sties of vice and luxury; as honourably and as profitably in repairing those sacred works, which grow hoary with innumerable years, as on the momentary receptacles of transient voluptuousness; in opera-houses, and brothels; and gaming-houses, and club-houses… [?]”[13]

As Burke suggested in this passage, there must be spaces in every nation that are free from commerce, whose general tendency is to build cheap, ugly and transitory structures for maximum short-term profit. The Church in particular builds according to a different plan. It uses wealth to preserve objects of beauty that elevate the soul and remind men of their connection to many generations of their ancestors. Together with its primary religious function, as a national institution charged with elevating the minds of the governors and the governed, and preserving spaces for national treasures, it is fitting that the Church should have permanent representatives in Parliament.

In A Letter to a Noble Lord, Burke argued that the Lords Temporal were the most important party to the social contract which he had defined in his Reflections as “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”.[14] Reminiscing about his late friend Lord Keppel, Burke described the opinions of this peer of the realm, which he clearly shared, on the role of the hereditary nobility:

“[Lord Keppel] valued ancient nobility; and he was not disinclined to augment it with new honours. He valued the old nobility and the new, not as an excuse for inglorious sloth, but as an incitement to virtuous activity. He considered it as a sort of cure for selfishness and a narrow mind; conceiving that a man born in an elevated place, in himself was nothing, but everything in what went before, and what was to come after him. Without much speculation, but by the sure instinct of ingenuous feelings, and by the dictates of plain unsophisticated natural understanding, he felt, that no great Commonwealth could by any possibility long subsist, without a body of some kind or other of nobility, decorated with honour, and fortified by privilege. This nobility forms the chain that connects the ages of a nation, which otherwise (with Mr. Paine) would soon be taught that no one generation can bind another. He felt that no political fabrick could be well made without some such order of things as might, through a series of time afford a rational hope of securing unity, coherence, consistency, and stability to the state. He felt that nothing else can protect it against the levity of courts, and the greater levity of the multitude.”[15]

An hereditary nobility, Burke conceived, is no less than the chain that connects the ages of a nation. This is so on account of the sensibilities and habits peculiar to the members of this class.  The hereditary peer not only can trace his ancestry back many generations, but living as he does on the estate of his fathers, walking the same grounds, occupying the same rooms, surrounded by their portraits, in possession of their papers and other personal things, he is constantly reminded of them. The hereditary noble lives as much in the past, and in the future, as he does in the present.  For those who do think frequently and fondly of their ancestors are impressed with an awful sense of responsibility for future generations. What he has he owes to them. It is not his to do with what he pleases. The estate belongs to the family, and must be passed on to the next generation intact, else one’s ancestors are betrayed.

The hereditary noble understands instinctively, not only the duty of good stewardship, but the necessity of good breeding.  If the family is to be held in the respect that a high station affords, its manners must be worthy of the distinction.  But manners and dispositions are not the products of habituation only.  The hereditary noble knows, or ought to know, the importance of good blood, good stock in the production of worthy human beings.  Is each human, regardless of its parentage, born equal, a tabula rasa upon which one may scribble anything one pleases? Such a proposition is very hard for him to believe.

At his best, the hereditary noble is a man of taste.  Freed from the drudgery of the field, the factory and counting house, he has time for study and reflection, for the appreciation of beauty, for the refinement of his character. The deliberate cultivation in oneself of taste, judgment, and virtue is an extraordinary challenge for any man, and is near impossible for him who is occupied most of the time by the bare struggle for existence. In an hereditary aristocracy, supposing there is sufficient self-discipline among its ranks, standards of taste, judgment and virtue, cultivated over a long space of time are transmitted from generation to generation.

The hereditary peer’s habits of stewardship, his care for past and future generations, his taste for quality in all things, are precisely those sensibilities of which members of the third estate are, by and large, destitute.  When hereditary peers consider the affairs of the nation as a whole, they are bound to think precisely as they do in their private affairs. They know better than any member of the third estate what a nation is, and what it is not. As Burke said,

“The nation is not an idea only of local extent, and individual momentary aggregation; but it is an idea of continuity, which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space.  And this is a choice not of one day or one set of people, not a tumultuary and giddy choice; it is a deliberate election of ages and of generations; it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, and moral, civil and social habitudes of the people, which disclose themselves only in a long space of time.” [16]

It is far too easy for the multitude, or rather, for those in the Commons who claim to represent it, to think of themselves, mere life-renters that they are, one generation of many hundreds, as the ‘sovereign people.’ Such levity, such superficiality, such presumption are natural to uprooted men who perceive themselves to be armed with an electoral mandate. Such tempers are alien to hereditary lords who hold the idea of continuity, the choice of ages and generations to be of more weight. Therefore it is essential to the long-term survival of the nation, that such men be decorated with honour and fortified by privilege. If the men be held in honour, so will the principles which they publicly profess and live by, at least by some portion of the other classes. But since this disposition will never be dominant in the third estate, it is essential that hereditary peers have real political power to impose these principles on the rest of the nation for the common good.

Thomas Paine’s doctrine, noted by Burke, that the present generation must not be bound by duties to ancestors or posterity reflects perfectly the commercial and levelling spirit that was emerging in his time, and has now become dominant. ‘If the present generation desires to abrogate its ancient constitution and institute some other form of government, it has every right to do so.’ ‘Men are born free, after all.’ ‘How dare anyone suggest that their freedom be limited in any way!’ ‘Indeed, if the following generation desires to sell its homeland wholesale to Brussels, or certain parts of it to Pakistanis or Turks, who dares say it may not do so?’  ‘All this of duty to ancestors I do not understand, but this I know: bargains are sacred, if the price be right, there is no counterargument.’ ‘What an outrage to say that a body of free individuals may be deprived of a scheme to enrich itself?’

Gustave Dore illustration for Gargantua and Pantagruel

Whenever I see a latter day Thomas Paine, some politician, businessman or media personality, carry on like this, my mind’s eye seems to see a noble lord step forward and declare ‘Sir, he who sells his patrimony, or counsels others to sell theirs, for a mess of pottage, is a swine. We shall not permit you and your pig philosophy to dominate here!’ What now can be seen only in a daydream must somehow become, as it once was, a constitutional reality. As Burke explained

“The whole scheme of our mixed constitution is to prevent any one of its principles from being carried as far, as taken by itself, and theoretically, it would go… To avoid the perfections of extreme, all its several parts are so constituted, as not alone to answer their own several ends, but also each to limit and control the others: insomuch, that take which of the principles you please – you will find its operation checked and stopped at a certain point.”[17]

As I said at the outset, the democratic principle, in practice, is a combination of leftist levelling and rightist reductionism. The majority of members who get elected to the democratic assembly are always one or other breed of the species homo economicus. Their operation, which has been proven so deadly to the nation, must be checked and stopped at a certain point. If this is to happen, the men who sit in the other house must be of an entirely different character. ‘Life-peers’ will not be so. The problem with the ‘life-peer’ alternative is not limited to the fact that the party-political mode of selection too often produces egregious results, for instance, Jeffrey Archer, Nazir Ahmed or Michael Levy. The main problem is that this system fills the Lords with a majority of persons, who, whatever their merits, whatever their expertise, are in any event of the wrong disposition, that is, of the same disposition with those in the Commons. Only as a body of Lords Spiritual and Temporal, representing the principles of eternity and antiquity, the voice of God and ancestors, can the upper house check and stop the ruinous tendencies of the lower. Against all the Commons bills written by our 21st century Thomas Paines, only true Lords and Bishops can be relied upon to thunder out their nays and anathemas.

Can Britain’s present hereditary barons and Lord Bishops become again what Burke tells us they once were, and exercise the power they once exercised? I do not know. If it is at all possible they can, then, without doubt, it is the duty of all members of the third estate who, owing to the effort of intellect, or some jarring experience, have broken free from the illusions of the ‘democratic’ age, to support and campaign for a restoration of all the rights and privileges of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal according to the ancient constitution.  The relevant consideration should not be some abstract, atomistic theory of justice, but the requirements of national life. A wise member of the third estate will dismiss all the beguiling rhetoric about ‘fairness’ daily spewed from the maws of journalists, academicians and party hacks – for he understands that egalitarian fairness, in practice, means rule, not by the best, but by the most pernicious members of the third estate. Without noble and priestly classes to guide them, nations commit suicide.

ALFRED SMITH ( is the pen name of a post-graduate student of political theory. By day he performs the only song and dance that is permitted at 21st century Western universities. Under cover of darkness, he writes essays for The Devil’s Review (, and serves as a contributing officer of the Ludovici Club, a group for the promotion of aristocratic virtues and culture. A list of his internet essays can be found here –


[1] William Prynne, A Plea for the Lords, and House of Peers: or, a Full, Necessary, Seasonable, Enlarged Vindication of the Just, Antient, Hereditary Right of the Lords, Peers, and Barons  of this Realm to Sit, Vote, Judge in all the Parliaments of England (London, 1675), preface (no page numbers)

[2] Prynne, A Plea for the Lords, preface

[3] I have borrowed these more descriptive terms from Derek Turner’s editorial in the same issue of QR, p 2. One could also say ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’

[4] Ibid.

[5] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. G. Lawrence, (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 507

[6] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, pp. 448, 543

[7] Emmanuel Sieyes, Political Writing, trans. M. Sonenscher, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2003), p94

[8] This process obviously happened more gradually in Britain. The first step down this path, however, was the elevation of large numbers of businessmen to the peerage

[9] Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke: A New Imprint of the Payne Edition, Vol. 2, Ed. E.J. Payne (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999),  p241

[10] Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 2, p305

[11] Burke, Further Reflections on the Revolution in France (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1992), p101

[12] Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 2, p187

[13] Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 2, pp266-7

[14] Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 2. p192

[15] Burke, Further Reflections, pp321-2

[16] Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. 4, p21

[17] Burke, Further Reflections, p194


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6 Responses to In defence of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal – guest article by Alfred Smith

  1. David Ashton says:

    A good article.
    The latest journal of the Royal Society of St George (www.royal advertises “Nobility and Analagous Traditional Elites” by Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira from the TFP Association (Tel: 0141-956-7351). I haven’t yet read this but it sounds quite relevant and intereresting. The problem is the restoration of a proper aristocracy (rule by the best) in an era when good breeding has been damaged by dysgenic war, taxation and “democratic” ideology. The degradation of monarchies into an adjunct of the entertainment industry is another handicap.
    Rotating the elites in a direction that actually benefits the “demos” is one of the two main political problems of our time, the other being foreign mass-immigration. Plato needs a comeback.

  2. David Ashton says:

    Thank you, Alfred. I am happy to say I own several valued books by Ludovici, including the second edition of “A Defence of Aristocracy” (1933) ex libris Dr Sidney Vere Pearson, a TB and demography expert. The second world war and its aftermath have made recovery of a true aristocracy harder than ever, and this requires careful consideration of productive strategies “when money is celebrating its last victories, and the caesarism that its to succeed approaches with quiet, firm tread” (Spengler).

    • Alfred Smith says:

      Clearly you and I are on the same page, then. I also have the 1933 edition of A Defence; however, my copy was withdrawn from a public library. I think the time has come for this book to be reprinted. I agree that it’s been all down hill since 1945.

  3. Alfred Smith says:

    Lord Sudeley FSA has sent in the following comments on what he considered the “best points” of the above article:

    ‘During the 17th century there was still a great respect for the role of heredity in the body politic.
    As a small instance, let me quote the wording of Charles I’s Letters Patent to grant us our peerage of Tracy:

    ‘ “When men, glittering with the splendour of their virtue, the nobility of their ancestors, and the amplitude of their fortunes, are raised to honours and rendered illustrious, we think that the position of our Royal Dignity is adorned and advanced; hence we also discover that industry and all manner of virtues are greatly promoted and increased: that we, seriously weighing these matters, have looked with our royal eye, upon the merits of that most illustrious man, John Tracy in our County of Gloucester, knight, whose virtue is not only most eminent, but also the splendour of his descent, celebrated by an ancient line of illustrious ancestors, enriches him also with a sufficient ample patrimony to support respectably the rank of Nobility.”

    ‘ “The Sudeleys-Lords of Toddington”, published by the Manorial Society of 104 Kennington Road, London SE11, includes papers by Rosamond McKitterick (author of “The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians”) and David Bates (author of “Normandy before 1066″) to give the Tracy descent from Charlemagne, the Saxon Kings of England and the Dukes of Normandy.

    ‘In his essays Hugh Trevor-Roper explains exceptionally well why Cromwell with his Parliaments failed to new-model our constitution. Sometimes it is remarked that the real watershed of change came just a little later with the Glorious Revolution, when Contract succeeded Inherited Status as the foundation of English society.

    ‘There is much truth in the point of view that when any such class revolutions arrive, a harsher social order is imposed than the one which existed before. Sorokin, who liked to taunt Lenin, made this point in his pioneer treatise on Social Mobility, Tarle particularised it in his biography of Napoleon.

    ‘A democracy of atomised individuals who vote at an election to express the will of the people turns out to be a disaster where it fails to protect significant minority interests. Much to be preferred is the system of Mediaeval Corporativism, where the Body Politic consisted of the various Powers, Interests and Liberties of the land, and when they happened to conflict the Monarch was the Arbitrator. This matter was well described in the old journals of the Monday Club by their editor David Levy, who was a Lecturer in Sociology at the Middlesex Polytechnic, in his gifted interpretation of the “Oeuvres Capitales” of Charles Maurras of the Action Francaise.

    ‘To give a practical example, nobody thinks there was any excuse after the onset of the agricultural depression in 1879 for Gladstone’s refusal to rescue the important minority interest of farming except expediency when any Government which put up the price of food would be voted out of office at the next election. My family was bankrupted by this experience, and in his book “The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy” David Cannadine shows how most of our other old families who were all big landowners did not fare much better.

    ‘Finally, Alfred Smith complains about the classical liberal reductionists who scream at any restrictions on the economic liberty of individuals. How did these members of the Third Estate or middle class become the cuckoos in the Tory Nest and change the economic philosophy of the Tory Party from within so that it became the bankers’ party in the way which it had never been before? The answer lies in how they left the Liberal Party owing to Gladstone’s change of mind in the year 1886 to favour Irish Home Rule. Historically it has been to a quite undeserved degree that Ireland has dominated British politics.’

    For more visit Lord Sudeley’s website here:

  4. David Ashton says:

    These observations recall old rather faded but still sadly treasured memories – Bede Jarrett, Arthur Penty, Christopher Hollis, English Mistery, “Chesterbelloc”, Brocard Sewell, Jorian Jenks, Anna Bramwell, etc.
    How do we actually get back to medieval corporatism in our damaged multicult island, and enlist Prince Charles to the cause of regeneration? More luck than Maurras had with the Pope?

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