I T was the general opinion at the close of the eighteenth century that all peers ought to be great landowners, and although the converse was not necessarily true, the peerage was certainly the most conspicuous and powerful institution of the landed aristocracy. The House ofLords was the direct institutional expression of the political power of the nobility, but by no means the only one, for in addition a sizeable fraction of the nobility exercised a considerable degree of direct control over the composition of the House of Commons through proprietary rights ofnomination and virtually irresistible influence. A still wider control is revealed if we add to this variety of patronage the hereditary leadership of constituencies which depended for its effectiveness on the co-operation of other independent landowners. The nobility, moreover, provided a formidably overwhelming proportion of the political elite, the men who wielded·power, made decisions and conducted the business of government, if this can be measured by membership of the cabinet. In society, granted certain attributes of wealth and aptitude for the life of the great world, the sentiments of tradition, respect and snobbery marked out the noblemen and their ladies as inevitable leaders.