The senate and the social majority: Johannes Theodorus Buys (1826-1893) and a 'meritocracy' in the Netherlands (1848-1887)

S.W. Verstegen

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In his study on the Constitution, published in 1883–1887, the famous Dutch legal mind Buijs wrote a paragraph about the Senate, discussing the controversial reasons for its existence, why it was full of contradictions and what a better senate would look like. It was a Fremdkörper, not considered useful by the Dutch reformer Johan Rudolph Thorbecke (1798–1872), in addition to being undemocratic. Its foundations were controversial, even vague, and were based on distrust. The Senate was powerful in theory but weak in practice. The senators themselves were chosen from a moneyed elite. After briefly comparing senates in different countries (the House of Lords in England and the Senates of the United States, Belgium and Denmark), Buijs formulated what a useful senate should look like. Instead of representing a ‘money-aristocracy’, senators should be chosen from the most authoritative of people – the best elements among the population. The aim of such a senate should be that the population, the ‘social majority’, could really trust that they were ruled by wise men, making universal suffrage superfluous.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReforming Senates
Subtitle of host publicationUpper Legislative Houses in North Atlantic Small Powers 1800-present
EditorsNikolaj Bijleveld, Colin Grittner, David E. Smith, Wybren Verstegen
Place of PublicationLondon New York
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780429323119
ISBN (Print)9780367339685
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Modern History


  • Senates


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