House of Lords (Themiclesia)

House of Lords

門下省

men-gra′-srêng′
Type
Type
upper house
of the Parliament of Themiclesia
Term limits
hereditary or life
History
FoundedFebruary 21, 1845 (1845-02-21)
Preceded byCouncil of Peers
Seats229
Elections
appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister
Meeting place
Kaw-men Hall

The Themiclesian House of Lords (門下省, men-gra′-srjêng′) or House of Peers is the upper house of the bicameralism Themiclesian parliament. It was formed in 1845 from the historical Council of Peers on the model of the Tyrannian House of Lords, to secure Conservative influence and to check the popular will during franchise reform that created the modern House of Commons. Its powers originally extended over legislative, executive, judicial, and royal house affairs, though the middle two have been restricted subsequently. Currently, it consists of 220 members and primarily exercise an advisory and cautionary role.

Currently, the emperor summons and prorogues the House of Lords upon the advice of the prime minister, usually at the same time as the House of Commons. The House of Lords cannot be dissolved as it is not an elected body, but it is usually prorogued while the Commons is dissolved.

Etymology

The Shinasthana name of the House of Lords is men-gra′-srêng′, literally meaning "department under [the] gates". This refers to the geographic position of the House of Lords, which originally occupied two courtyards opposite the Gate of Myriad Springs (萬春門, mjanh-t′jul-men), the east gate of the Palace Hall, and the Gate of Thousand Autumns (千秋門, sn′jing-skw′rje-men), the west gate. Since the gates of the palace hall sat on a raised dais, the courtyards outside were thought "under" it. This is the source of the Sylvanized word Subport, meaning "under [the] gate", and Ultraport, meaning "beyond the gate". The courtyard on the east side was yielded to the Commons in the 1849, but the Lords also annexed two more courtyards to its north, formerly occupied by the Tribune of the Hall, who moved further north to occupy what today is the Court of Appeal. The word srêng′, "workplace, office, department", is cognate with sjêng′, "to respond, do work".

History

Formation

Since the Great Settlement of 1801, which established the power of the elected Council of Protonotaries to control legislation and taxation, the Conservatives as a political party dominated the house, with the primary agenda of supervising executive misconduct and preventing immoderate expenses. As Themiclesia's merchant class recovered and were saturated with the ideals of Enlightenment, the traditional form of election to the Council was considered arcane and undemocratic.[1] Previously, merchants sought to gain influence in the legislative process through bribery of electors, but due to their financial security and unaccountability once elected, it was rarely effective. By 1840, frustrated at the effective monopoly of representation of established houses, the merchant leagues began several disruptive "trade actions", whereby industrialists refused to process the agricultural products from farms owned by rural gentry as a form of protest. This so greatly injured the commercial interests of the upper class that reconciliation was immediate.

The Liberals proposed to grant the franchise, on the Tyrannian model, to all educated and propertied males. The land-owning, aristocratic Conservatives were concerned such a franchise would produce a gross Liberal leaning in the Council. Against this, they sought to consolidate influence by formalizing a upper house that retained veto power over bills from the elected house. This second chamber drew on the existing Council of Peers-in-waiting (侍中省), which provided private advice to the Emperor. The function of the body, as non-partisan advisors, became already more pronounced when the executive and legislative had become very partisan and troubled the throne with conflicts in the early 19th century. Technically, legislation could not receive royal assent until one lord-in-waiting advised the Emperor to do so; however, as there was no limit to the number of lords, passing a bill was extremely easy, provided the emperor was inclined to assent. The new house would require the assent of at least half their number in the legislative process, rather than merely any two of them.

To create the widest Conservative bloc possible, all the peers were granted the house's membership. The Liberals, while not entirely satisfied with the situation, found the compromise acceptable. According to the first Liberal prime minister, the Lord of Rjai-lang, the Conservatives lost nothing, and the Liberals gained representation. The emperor was given considerable control over the membership of the house, still allowed to create peers at will. Ironically, the emperor was made more politically important by this change in affairs. Additionally, since the institution of rural election was not abolished, Conservatives still expected to dominate the higher rungs of the civil service, from which most new members of the upper house were expected to be appointed. The bill was passed in 1844 and came into effect after the election of 1845, which, as the Conservatives had feared, produced a massive Liberal majority.

Stasis

As the upper house was conceived as a Conservative body, conflict with the elected house was a constant (and some argue, dominant) theme in its history.

In the first decade of the upper house's existence, party discipline was lax, as the house was comfortably Conservative in leaning. However, the Liberal leader the Lord of Gar-lang was also a member of this house. Gar-lang was responsible for a number of key debates in which he sometimes successfully swayed the members of the house to vote against their immediate, personal interests, appealing to future or national ones. Yet due to its natural alignment, the house was invariably at odds with the elected lower house. By the end of Rjar-lang's premiership in 1859, deadlock between the two houses had become the norm. The Liberal Party's programme to reform and invest in the military and eliminate unimportant offices in the civil service were particularly contentious, only passing the Lords by the cheap sale of public lands to peers, which was a thinly-disguised form of bribery. Since 1860, Themiclesian commons and crown lands have been wholly exhausted, leaving the Liberals nothing by which to purchase the support of the Lords. In 1862, the new Liberal leader appealed to rural tenant farmers, accusing the aristocracy of extortion and not earning their prestige and wealth. This was aimed at destabilizing rural communities that most peers relied upon for income, thereby weakening them, and inducing long-term tenants to move to cities, which would further depress labour prices. In response, the peers aligned with and funded workers unions in urban environments, militating them against the capitalist politics and provoking strikes.

Since the opening of the franchise in 1844, the House of Commons had been a Liberal stronghold, largely due to the terms of the franchise; only in the presence of contentious issues or failed Liberal promises have Conservatives ever commanded a majority there. Electors were very likely to be bourgeoisie, since only these individuals would own enough capital equipment or non-agricultural land (taxed at a much lower rate) to be enfranchised. In 1870, the Conservatives proposed to extend the franchise by halving the theshold from ten m′rjing per annum to five, which is projected to quadruple the size of the electorate. The Liberals rejected the Conservative proposal in the Commons, resolving that the franchise should be given to all men of "proven worth", which excluded peers (who did nothing to gain their worth) and the poor (who had too little worth). Thus, neither Liberals nor Conservatives supported universal franchise in this period. Instead, both parties in 1878 agreed to an extension of the franchise that maintained the current balance of power in the Commons. The new strain of Conservatism that sought to maintain the social structure by portraying the upper class as philanthropists, juxtaposed against the unrestrained capitalist, is called New Conservatism, or New Conservative Movement. This is compared to the old movement that believed the role of elected representatives was limited to assent and budget.

Function

Legislative

The primary function of the House of Lords is as a second chamber in the legislative process, having the power to propose, debate, amend, and pass bills. The chamber initially enjoyed all the formal authorities that the Commons possessed—including the right to propose and amend money bills, or to refuse passage, but this particular right has been curtailed by statute in 1913.[2] The Lords in the house or committees have power to summon experts to acquire opinions on bills, and they maintain the power to refuse passage of a bill from the Commons, until a general election has occurred and it is passed again by the Commons. At this point, the support of any two members of the house, a sponsor and a second, will be sufficient to pass the bill, regardless of how the rest of the Lords vote. On at least four occasions the Conservatives in the house have attempted to block a bill so desperately, that they would pay a great sum of money to ensure that not even this support could be procured; they were unsuccessful in each instance.

Acts of parliament require royal assent to become statute, as a continuation of the ancient process of drafting and passing edicts. In previous centuries, this ceremony would have taken place at the East Parlour of the Front Hall, where the emperor held court. The ceremony was as follows. A delegate of the Council of Protonotaries (to beomce the House of Commons) would bow to the emperor in the throne, reading the title or full text of the bill and handing the bill itself to the Royal Attendant, who stood, facing east, before and to the west of the throne. Royal Attendant would walk into the throne canopy with the bill and receive the royal response. If granted, he would verbally declare, "the emperor commands its acceptance" (制曰可, djêdh-gwrjat-k′ar); if not, he declared, "the emperor commands the council to re-open deliberations" (制曰下省復議, djêdh-gwrjat-gras-srêng′-bjegh-ngjarh). The Ordinary Attendants, hearing this, would write the response onto the bill and impress the seal onto the same. Since 1849, this ceremony happens in the chamber of the House of Lords. Emperors Muk, Tjang, and Mjen invariably granted their assent promptly, in person, and in the chamber, but Emperor Goi (r. 1886 – 1921) was uninterested in administration and often complained that his assent was meaningless. He commanded other courtiers delivered assent in his stead, which greatly alienated the Conservatives, believing the monarch had a formal but indispensible role in politics.

Executive

The power of the Lords over executive actions is directly inherited from the traditional powers of the Councils of Attendants. Any act of the government that requires the assent of the crown must be tabled at the House of Lords, where it is given a pro forma reading and presented to the sovereign for approval. Generally, little debate occurs on these acts. In recent years, Progressives have resented even this degree of scrutiny and sought to abolish this formality, since any speeches made may influence the reputation of the government. The Reductions in Formalities Act of 1975 provides that secondary legislation may be presented to the sovereign directly, without passing the House of Lords; however, both the Liberals and Conservatives have generally sought to follow this custom despite its being non-mandatory.

Judicial

Review of capital sentences

The judicial role of the House of Lords is, again, connected to those of its predecessors. Prior to the abolition of capital punishment in 1853, the Lords retained an absolute veto on its use. After the Exchequer of Appeals and Home Secretary had reviewed the capital sentences meted out during the year, the list of sentences would be read, one-by-one, to the Lords; members would be called by name and declare either "Upon my conscience, this case is satisfactory", indicating that the punishment was justified, or "Upon my conscience, this case is not satisfactory", indicating the punishment was unreasonable. A simple majority in the chamber was required to validate the sentence. Scholars have asserted that, since the lords were called upon, by name, individually to give their judgment, it resulted in a very restrictive use of capital punishment, as few wanted to be seen as profligate with capital punishment. After abolition, this procedure became obsolete.

Impeachment and attainder

The Lords have power to try impeachments that the Commons pass but not to begin impeachment proceedings, except against the house's own members. When impeachment trial begins, the Commons command the President of Tribunes or one of his subordinates to present its arguments to the Lords. The defendant, depending on his identity, can only be arrested by the Commons, if not a courtier, or by the Lords, if a courtier. The royal family, nobility, and civil servants above a certain rank were deemed courtiers. The Lords may summarily refuse to proceed on impeachments if they refused to admit the President of Tribunes. After the defedant has been brought before the house, arguments are heard much as a normal trial. If the defendant was a commoner, he is represented by a member of the house and is not present in person; if no member of the house sponsors the defendant's case, the Lord Speaker is at liberty to appoint a member to do so.

After arguments, the members of the house act as judge of both fact and law; a simple majority is required for conviction. If a conviction is secured, the house also determines punishment by a simple majority. Historically, any punishment found in the law may be imposed, including any form of capital punishment, unlimited fines, imprisonment, and punishments that extended to the family of the convicted. After the establishment of the House of Lords in 1845, this procedure has rarely been used. But after the 1948 and 1950 impeachment trials of Lieutenant-general Kraw and Rear Admiral Tsro, respectively, the question of separation of powers came into public attention and was subject to much criticism. Particularly since Kraw was sentenced, in absentia, to hang himself largely due to public anger in Dayashina rather than any domestic capital crime, the susceptability of the upper house to act impulsively on the perceived prejudices of the upper class was well-articulated by public commentators and members of the lower house.[3] The Limitations on Judicial Powers Act of 1953 limited the range of possible punishments to removal from office, personal debarrment from public service, and fines not exceeding the total value of emoluments received up to the point of impeachment.

Court of final resort

The House of Lords, in a nominal sense, has remained the court of last resort for private and public cases in general. While formerly appeals were tried by the entire house, with all members acting as judges of law, procedures since 1860 legally require that only members who have been Justice of Appeal (since 1920) be involved in deciding each case. These members are customarily called law lords after Tyrannian practice. Since the size of the bench in the Exchequer of Appeal is not fixed, and it was customary to make a judge there a member of the house after 15 to 20 years, the bench of the House of Lords is also not fixed in size, fluctuating between 1 and 17 historically. As the upper house had no original jurisdiction, the bench decided on questions of law by a vote of majority. Trial proceeds very much as in impeachment trials, with both parties represented by counsel, rather than in person. In 1953, as part of the reforms to the judicial functions of the House of Lords, the law lords were deprived of the power to vote on legislation.

Unlike some apex courts, the house had no discretion over the cases it heard. In the 19th century, about three quarters of the house's sitting time was devoted to judicial proceedings, which was considered anomalous. Between 1873 and 1955, in an effort to prevent waste of judicial and legislative resources, the government reserved the right to impose a forfeiture on the plaintiff-in-error, before the case is presented, in case the Lords do not overturn the judgment of the court below. The size of the forfeiture is arbitrarily decided and has been set as high as 100 million m′rjing in the past.[4] Nevertheless, the forfeiture is not considered an illegal barrier to litigation, as the amount does not need to be paid beforehand. In actual practice, the government's imposition of any amount of forfeiture was invariably criticized, sometimes even by the upper house itself. Moreover, the case is seen to have failed if the house was prorogued before favourable judgmet was given. The house sometimes waives the forfeiture for litigants deemed unable to pay or if the case had "legitimate cause" to see further judicial deliberation, even if judgment was not reversed. In 1937, Lord of Snjang-lang castigated the Forfeiture Act in terms of executive infringement on judicial power, stating that the imposition of such a massive and debilitating fine amounted to judicial power, which was exercised without authority and proper oversight. In 1955, the Liberal government abolished the reviled forfeiture system under great public anticipation.

Membership

Composition

Life members

The Royal and Ordinary Attendants originated as trusted advisors of the emperor that enjoyed a right of entry to the royal bedchamber. As the emperor was usually bound by protocol when holding court, the opportunity to approach him in private was a great political preferrment. High-ranking civil servants who obtained the monarch's favours were the primary population amongst these two bodies. Generally, the prime minister was always a Royal or Ordinary Attendant, with little difference between between the two offices. Other cabinet ministers also typically received one of either title, if only for the convenience of holding meetings before the monarch. This created a problem known as the Upper House Case, which meant the cabinet ministers tended to be members of the upper house and created endless problems in later politics. During the 19th century, the emperor still actively made appointments to upper house, but with the ascension of the famously-indifferent Emperor Gar in 1889, the Liberal government prevailed upon him that making personal appointments would expose him to political liability. As a result, Emperor Gar never made appointments except those recommended by the prime minister.

Today, life members are appointed by the emperor with the approval of the prime minister; while this means the Commons could theoretically threaten confidence if the head of government made too many unpopular recommendations, it has in practice rarely happened, as long as the prime minister confined himself to two recommendations during every year in office, though this is not a firm rule. In the presence of a large majority in the lower house, at least two premiers have gone over the "recommended limit" and made three appointments. In an early case, it was an exceptional appointment for the first female in the upper house, in 1921. While it had once been held that members of the house had to be male, on the grounds that females would be attendants to the empress instead, as early as 1870 this was considered unreasonable and technical. While there is no statutory age limit on life members, no one younger than 32 has been appointed to the house, and there is no upper limit to members until 1981, when a bill required life members to relinquish their vote on completion of their 85th year.

Hereditary members

The hereditary members of the house are Themiclesia's princes and lords, who are collectively called peers in Tyrannian writing. According to the rules of the peerage, the younger brothers and legitimate sons of the reigning emperor and crown prince are entitled to be created princes, and the father and brothers of the empress and legitimate sons of princes are created lords, though neither process is automatic. Additionally, non-royals could be created lords in recognition of exceptional service, though this was traditionally within the gift of the sovereign, on the pretext that this involved alienating the emperor's demesne land. This was long since not a substantive problem, since peers have never enjoyed the right to rule or even directly tax their land in the current millennium. Nevertheless, the peer was still entitled to a vast quantity of private, heritable land, which might not be within his fief, and a share of the taxation income from his fief. A peer is automatically granted a seat in the house upon creation, with no difference between princes and lords in terms of voting power.

The inclusion of hereditary seats in the upper house of the legislature has been a source of acute criticism by Liberals since the establishment of the house, since these seats tended to be ultra-conservatives in terms of policy. Any attempt to raise tax on land or encourage population movement to the coastal, industrial areas would be relentless blocked by these individuals, since it injured their ability to profit from agriculture; if they desired to raise money, it was usually in the form of commercial or income taxes or transit duties, which hurt the interests of the Liberal commercial and industrial classes more directly. These arguments found little resonance in public discourse, and Liberal leaders usually appealed to equality against privilege, especially hereditary privilege. However, the Liberal distaste of hereditary peers was not uniform. As prime ministers were always created peers after leaving office, peerages offered an avenue for Liberals to institute their supporters in the upper house, which otherwise was a very Conservative chamber. Indeed, according to some scholars there is reason to think that the Liberal Party switched through six prime ministers between 1850 and 1859 to gain a foothold in the upper house. While such former-prime ministers were expected to remain loyal to the Liberal cause in the Lords, the performance of their successors was less guaranteed. Of ten Liberal PM seats in the upper house, four had defected to the Conservatives by 1900.

While automatic entitlements have rarely been challenged in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Liberals generated a public outcry when they planned to block the creation of 12 peers on the occasion of the emperor's marriage to Empress Hruh-′an. When the to-be-peers assured the Liberal party leadership that their political views were solidly Liberal, the Liberal PM withdrew his critical speech and instructed his foreign secretary to make speeches in the house defending their elevation, giving Conservatives one of the "greatest victories" in parliamentary politics the party had experienced in decades, ridiculing the Liberal front bench for abandoning all its principles when the new peers would support their platform. The Conservative leader came off smelling like roses when he asserted that his party would back their elevation, regardless of their political views, so that "the upper house could maintain its political dynamy and constitutional function". This severely weakened the parliamentary standing of the Liberals, who were already under much criticism for introducing conscription and the mishandling of the Prairie War. The government announced it would not consider the creation of new peers until the national crisis (the impending war) abated.

Seat

Kaw-men Hall

The House of Lords currently occupies the Kaw-men Hall (高門殿, kaw-men-ntenh) and its surrounding galleries, peristyle, and buildings, to the east side of the Palace Hall in the Hên-lang Palace. The name Kaw-men means "tall gate", a reference to the diased gates of aristocratic houses, though the suitability of this name to the house is accidental for the reasons below. The Kaw-men Hall was originally built in 525, and several times rebuilt, in traditional Themiclesian architecture, with a hip roof over a plot of pillars. It originally served as the bedchamber for the empress-dowager when she visited the monarch's palace and, thus, was built with royal sumptutory entitlements in mind. The main hall measures, from pillar to diagonal pillar, 98 by 42 meters, with fourteen bays on the north-south axis and six on the east-west. The middle row of pillars are removed from the fourth to twelfth columns to create a more open interior down its axis. It is mostly occupied by the chamber of House, with a gallery one bay wide on each side. For these dimensions but not membership, the Lords has been considered one of the largest upper houses in the world.

The layout of the hall has not changed since its original use as a royal bedchamber. The north and south ends of the hall, within the gallery, each have one bay separated from the chamber. This four-bay-wide space was used as an antechamber, in the south, for visitors and, in the north, for staff. In the third bay from the north, there is a large, canopied structure against the middle pillar, facing south. This the Throne of Parliament (省御座, srêng-nhjah-dzarh) is where the reigning sovereign sits when he visits the house. Presiding officers sit at the foot of the throne but not in it. Seats for the members of the house are laid out facing east and west, along the central axis. Seating order in the House of Lords is not partisan as in the House of Commons, but according to rank. Hereditary peers sit on the west side, facing east, and life peers on the east, facing west. Within either half, the more senior members sit towards the north, starting in the fourth bay. However, sitting order is only enforced when the floor is opened each morning; afterwards, since peers may always enter and leave the house, it is customary that peers late to arrive simply sit at an empty place.

The main chamber is separated from the gallery with drapery, which could be lifted or lowered to regulate lighting in the chamber or provide privacy. The drapery of the House of Lords is renowned for its luxury and weight, being silk and velvet lined several times over and woven out of gold thread in many places. As the chamber has no permanent walls, the weight of the drapery is key to keeping the interior at a tolerable temperature during winter. The original drapery of the chamber was looted by Camian soldiers during the Pan-Septentrion War and is now displayed at the National Museum of War in that country; however, for this reason we also learn the cost of a full replacement—€145,000 in 1948, equivalent to about $30 million in today's money. Since the chamber would be completely dark with all curtains closed, there is a considerable number of lamps and chandeliers, which were candlelight until the introduction of electricity in 1905, fully 22 years behind the Commons. The house being a wooden structure, all open flames were contained by a polished bronze shroud that emitted light by reflection; a dish of water surrounded the actual fire source so that it would go out if the light tipped over. Foreign dignitaries visiting the house in the 1800s described the atmosphere as "eerie and quiescent, as it might have been in the dark ages".

Kaw-men Peristyle

Courts of Attendants

Notes

  1. Traditionally, the gentry of each prefecture met every third year to rate candidates for public service. One candidate per prefecture would receive the rate of Second Class, whose customary appointment was to the Council of Protonotaries, where their duties were to draft legislation. Though not legislators in the modern sense, these individuals were historically expected to represent the opinions of the rural gentry, who constitutionally formed the enfranchised class. It is through this power that, in 1801, the Council began to block government business, establishing the principle of legislative oversight in Themiclesia.
  2. Historians think this is related to the share of revenues influenced by the shifting economic structure. As the Commons represented the commercial and industrial classes, which came to dominate the economy approaching the end of the 19th century, it was believed the Lords, whose income was primarily agricultural, should not be able to interfere with the spending of the Commons.
  3. Lieutenant-general Kraw was implicated in a mysterious case of indecent contact with an underaged female while in Dayashina. The female subsequently committed suicide, accusing in a letter Kraw of violating her and causing her shame. The Dayashinese press printed the letter, engendering public fury against the occupation forces (of which Themiclesia was not one). In view of the danger it may case for the occupational powers, the upper house chose to try Kraw by the process of impeachment and use its reserve powers to impose a specific punishment to soothe public discontent. Domestic jurists noted that the sentence was problematic because even if the alleged crime were true, it did not carry capital punishment, so that the sentence to hang himself was "not within the law". Nevertheless, the sentence was not subject to appeal, so Kraw eventually hanged himself.
  4. The famous "you will be ruined if the government wins" case, in 1880. This would have been a grossly-unpayable fine that would 1) force the convicted into debt servitude and 2) saddle his estate with so much debt that his descendants would be disinherited from any real property.

See also