HC Deb 21 March 1806 vol 6 cc505-21

of his glory. A similar policy should govern this country. Every Englishman should be taught to feel a common interest with his country and its legislature, and the best Mode to encourage that feeling was by making every, even the poorest freeholder, an arbiter of the conduct of his representative. But the object of this bill would be to deprive the greater part of the poor freeholders of this important right. If such a bill were to pass, the effect would be to injure independent candidates, to exclude distant voters, and to leave the [...]ate of an election generally to the decision of the mob of the town where it might take place . Thus, the man who could best harangue, the mob, would probably be the successful candidate, to the exclusion of those in- dependent men who were most worthy to be members of parliament—for those who should not submit to great trouble would have no chance of succeeding. Sir Edward Coke had observed, that those men were most fit to be members of parliament who did not care whether they were so or not; and if this bill were to be adopted, such men would, in all likelihood, be utterly excluded; for being prevented from paying for the conveyance of voters, being too proud to canvass, and unwilling to count the mere mob at the hustings, they would have but little chance of any voters at all.

Mr. Morris

professed the greatest respect for the hon. mover of the bill. He knew him to be intimately acquainted with the laws on the subject of treating at elections, and that the whole had engaged much of his attention. But his objections to the present bill were of such a radical nature, that no alteration or amendment could reconcile him to its adoption, and therefore he felt this the proper stage to make his stand against it. If it were meant as a declaratory law, to explain the act of king William, he would resist it as totally unnecessary, and if meant to go farther than that act, he would resist it as improper and unjust. The giving meat and drink to voters was already prohibited by the letter of the statute of William, and there, in his judgement, the law went far enough. If it proceeded the length of forbidding the conveyance of voters at the expence of candidates, he should sincerely regret it, and, among others, for the reasons stated by the last speaker. But it was urged, he understood, by the right hon. mover of this bill, whose speech he had not the good fortune to hear, that doubts existed with respect to the interpretation of the law upon the, subject of treating, and that therefore a declaratory law was necessary. Of the existence of such doubts, he was not at all aware. In the Worcester case, alluded to by the right hon. gent., the argument of council was evidently mistaken for the decision of the committee. The fact was, that subsequent to that decision, a bill was brought in, as it professed, to remove doubts as to the treating act. That bill found its way into the house of lords, where it was strongly reprobated by lord Mansfield, who very properly observed, that the multiplication of statutes, instead of adding to the strength of the law, served to impair and weaken it. Such a remark was always entitled to consideration, but particularly where, as in this case, there was no ground of necessity. To prove the necessity, however, some endeavours had been used, by referring to cases of doubt. Among those cases Ipswich and Barnstaple had been referred to. Now the fact was, that in the former case, the subject had not been at all gone into, the election having been declared void on other grounds; and as to Barn-staple, the only appearance of doubt in the construction of the law was by the petitioners, who stated, that if their opponent had advanced money, merely for the travelling expences of voters, they should not press the committee to come to any decision upon that point. Such a statement, however, could avail nothing in arguing the question before the house. These petitioners might have declined to enter into discussion, as to travelling charges, having probably defrayed the same charges on their own side. But their motive was of little consequence. The question was, whether their misconstruction of the law should be taken as a proof that any doubts existed as to the fair interpretation of that law; whether the mistakes of a few men as to the meaning of a law, should be admitted as evidence that the law was doubtful, and that a declaratory act was necessary, as was pretended in the case before the house? Whereas, in reality, no doubt existed upon this subject. The last decision upon the Herefordshire case was quite conclusive as to treating. The committee there had before them the proof of travelling charges having been paid by the candidate; but their determination was grounded distinctly upon this, that tickets had been given to the voters for meat and drink, and this it was which they pronounced to be within the meaning of the treating act. Of course upon that ground the candidate was disqualified. So far as to the decisions of committees with regard to this law. Now, as to the proceedings in the courts respecting it, there were but a few cases. From the actions however, which were brought by inn-keepers against candidates, for the expences incurred at elections, contrary to the treating act, it appeared that such actions could not be maintained. In the action brought against two members of that house, Messrs. Francis and Moore, lord Kenyon did not, to be sure, direct a nonsuit, because, very properly as a judge of nisi prius, perceiving a look of equity in the claim, he referred it; at the same time pronouncing an agreement which appeared to have been entered into by one of the candidates to indemnify the other for his election expences, to be totally illegal, " because it pledged a man to pay those expences which it was contrary to law to incur." There were other cases on the books which served to shew that no doubts prevailed in the courts below, upon the interpretation of the treating act. The point was, indeed, conclusively determined, by the decision in the court of Common pleas, in the case of Ribbons v. Crickett. Upon the whole then, it was obvious to his judgement, that as no doubt existed as to the construction of the treating act, no declaratory law was necessary; and that a new law, such as that before the house, would be highly improper, it required very little consideration to prove. It was impossible to say what mischiefs would result from the adoption of such a bill, A vast number of freeholders would be disfranchised, not for any improper act, but merely in consequence of their inability to defray the expence of their conveyance to the hustings, The right hon. mover was reported to have said, that the removal of a voter from the place where his right of voting lay was a matter of option; but that was not the case. For the tradesman and the manufacturer must go where his industry would meet employment: he must shift his residence to follow the market. In many, if not most, instances, the change of residence on the part of voters was not a matter of choice but of necessity, oftentimes painful necessity, and yet this bill would aggravate such pain. In counties the right hon. mover proposed the taking of the poll at different places, in order to obviate one of the most glaring objections to his bill, but such a multiplication of polling places would be productive of confusion and increased expence even to the candidates. Furthermore, he would object to such a proposition, because he liked the publicity in which a freeholder now gave his vote; in the face of the county and of the candidate.—It had also been said that such a measure would only be acting up to the spirit of the act appointing the right of election to be confined to those possessed of a 40s. freehold, since 40s. at that period might be reckoned equal to 30l. at present; and thus you preserved more completely the independence of electors. But with regard to the independence of 40s. freeholders, his opinion was, that from the general diffusion of industry and its productive capacity, freeholders of that class posses- sed as much independence of mind as an other description of persons. To deprive a great body of such men, as this bill would tend to do, of the exercise, of their elective franchise, would serve to produce a disposition to listlessness and languor among the people, than which nothing was more to be dreaded; for nothing would be better calculated to facilitate the subjugation of the country and to lead to despotism. The French scarcely valued such a thing as the elective franchise; but any man who had, ever seen an election in this country must be sensible how different was the feeling which prevailed among Englishmen, how eagerly they crowded to the hustings, and, how little they were in a state to be reconciled to the relinquishment of a right they so highly prized. He was glad to think on the estimation in which the people held this important privilege, and was always happy to perceive the enthusiam which prevailed at popular elections. Since such scenes had been freed from the tumult and intoxication which formerly disgraced them the enthusiam displayed must be observed with pleasure by every man who loved popular liberty; who felt as an Englishman. The hon. and learned gent. concluded With stating that he could not conceive the least mischief likely to arise to the freedom of election merely from the candidates paying the expense incurred by the carriage of poor voters to the hustings, while very great evil was to be apprehended, if, by disqualifying candidates for merely defraying such expences, a vast number of voters should be precluded from the exercise of their franchise.

Mr. Francis

rose and said:—Mr. Speaker; The unexpected mention, which the learned gent. has made of me by name, and of my hon. friend the present representative of the city of Coventry, makes it indispensibly necessary to set my hon. friend and myself right on this subject. The learned gent. has been led into a great error concerning some supposed facts, which he has asserted, and he has done us great injustice. I had not the advantage of hearing the first part of his speech, and therefore I know not, nor am I able to conjecture on what evidence he makes such assertions. Whatever it may be, I assure him it is false. On this point I cannot be mistaken, because it is impossible I should ever forget the contested election at Tewksbury in 1796, or any material passage in that transaction. In truth, I have too much reason to remember it. The calumnies, to which he alludes, and which in the first instance were passionately and most indecently delivered from the bench, and propagated afterwards with great industry in the newspapers, have been publicly refuted, and ought to have been forgotten long ago, But it is in the nature of calumny, not indeed ultimately and always to survive truth, but, to live and lurk in the dark, and, when an interval has elapsed sufficient, in appearance at least, to furnish a probable security against detection or to escape contradiction, to revive with new malice, and endeavour to do its dirty work again. I am far from attributing that intention to the learned gent., but I say he is deceived, and that the information he has given the house is not true. He supposes that my hon. friend and I had been convicted of a contract, by which he was bound to bear the whole expence of the contest, and that such contract was illegal. Whether it would have been so or not, is immaterial, because in fact there was no such agreement. My hon. friend, I know, did incur a much greater expence than I did in the course of that transaction; because he was engaged very long before I had any concern in it, and because he managed every thing. What I affirm is that my proper share of that expence was paid by myself. The generous ardour, with which lord Kenyon maintained the moderate demands of the innocent inn-keepers against us, whom he charged in terms with a plot first to corrupt and then to cheat them, does honour to his moral character. At sight of virtue in distress, that worthy judge's passions were always ready to take fire. Unluckily for my hon, friend and me, he was not at all a political judge. If the Treating act, as it then stood, vacated any action, and ought to have non-suited any plaintiff for the expences in question, I presume it was the duty of the judge to advert to such act, and to let the law take its course, even against his own tender feelings for the plaintiff. All I know is, that lord Kenyon did not take notice of it, that he gave a violent and reproachful charge to the jury against us, and that in the end we paid the full demand of the inn-keeper within a trifle. We never pleaded the statute; nor, if there had been fifty statutes to bar the action, should we ever have resorted to that or to any other legal pretence to shelter us from an honest or an equitable demand. What we contended, and what I still believe to be true, Was that the amount of the charge was exorbitantly unjust; three times greater, as we at least were convinced, than the real expence. Several months before the action was tried, we made a public tender of two thirds of that and of all other demands on the same account, without examination, which several of the publicans accepted.—I shall now, sir, submit to you a few observations on the general tendency of the bill before the house. It is a duty, of which I am bound to acquit myself, by some particular considerations, which immediately concern me and a few others, and by no means the generality of the house. The first is the special relation and connection, in which my right hon. friend and I have heretofore acted together on the subject of a parliamentary reform. In April 1792, a certain society was formed in this city, called " The Friends of the People." My right hon. friend and I were members of it, with other persons, who now occupy some of the highest stations in his majesty's service. In that Company I passed for a moderate reformer, and, I believe, not without some little discredit to me in their opinion; though in fact moderation was the professed principle and the real character of the society. No doubt or suspicion of that kind could attach to the conduct of my right hon. friend. He fairly went the full length of his principles; and so did some others, who are now too modest to boast of the part they took in those proceedings, or to make it any way the subject of immediate ostentation. In so numerous a society, various theories and opinions might naturally be entertained. Even they, who agreed in principle, differed in degree. In those days, the idea of reforming the house of commons by a scheme of universal representation, that is, by giving a vote to every hackney-coachman and chimney-sweeper in the kingdom, was by no means so much out of date or out of fashion as it is now. In our society, however, I do sincerely believe that it would not have prevailed, nor was any man so ill advised as to propose it in form. Nevertheless, I confess it was tot so directly rejected, or so explicitly condemned, as it ought to have been. On that account, the society itself was calumniated, and my right hon. friend and I were Cruelly misrepresented. We were at the Same time members of another society, (the 'Whig Club,) of a more convivial character and composed of greater names, where it was the custom to deliver Many instructive sentiments from the chair. These admonitions descended upon us with great authority, because the chair was usually filled by a noble person of the first rank; and they made a deep impression, because our hearts were open; and, if we deliberated at all, it was at a moment, when few of us were capable of deceit. One of these admonitions was, never to relax our efforts in adversity, or to forget our principles in prosperity. It cannot be denied that on the subject of parliamentary reform, my hon. friend and I laboured hard enough in the service of the commonwealth without fee or reward; and, if we should forget our principles now, I do not think it can be attributed to any particular good fortune, that has befallen us. As far as I can perceive, our morals are not likely to be corrupted by prosperity. I never did or could suspect a man of his sound judgement of favouring such A folly as universal representation. For my part, sir, it is well known that I took every opportunity to disclaim it and even to engage the society to disavow it.* I never harboured a thought so dangerous and so absurd, as that of separating the power from the property of the country. " To those, who would place power in the hands of indigence, I said, that power and property cannot be separated long. Sooner or later, the power will take the property, and the property gradually revert to a new set of men, who would still be the few compared with the whole number; that is, property would soon be distributed and settled more or less, just as it is at present. The final result, at best, would be nothing but a change of hands and a temporary shifting of possession." But who is there can calculate, or who can think without terror of the dangers, that must be encountered, and the miseries that must be endured, in transitu †I say that such a scheme is no more authorized by example and success, than it is to be defended on general principles, or any rational theory. Of all republican constitutions, that of Rome, on the whole, was the wisest for its purposes, of which history has given us any accurate information. In that republic, a census, or fortune was necessary to entitle a Roman to be a soldier. No *Vide Proceedings of the Friends of the People, 5th April, 1794. †Vide Mr. Francis's Letter to Mr. Wyvill, dated 20th Jan. 1795. Vol. V. p. 295. man was thought fit to be entrusted with arms for the defence of his country, who had not that interest in its welfare, which was attached to property, and could be derived from nothing else. The proletarii, who were supposed to be good for nothing but propagation, and the capite censi, who were counted by the head or by tale, belonged to no class, and had no vote or voice in any act of the people. My right hon. friend and I concurred in thinking that, in order if possible to make venality in the election of persons to serve in parliament useless, if not impracticable, it would be advisable to extend the right of voting to the greatest number of voters that could be obtained consistently with the public safety. With that united view, we hunted for property, wherever it could be found, in order to support the vote. He knows best whether he ever meant to consider the vote as a personal right without any other qualification, and to act on that principle. I believe not; but I am sure that such a project never entered into my contemplation.—I ought now to state to the house for what purpose I have introduced these topics and reflections, and how I mean to bring them home to the business of the day. The fact is, that I have had no opportunity of examining the bill which is under consideration. But I have collected enough from the debates to know that it is the prevailing opinion of this house, and not yet disputed by any body, that the inevitable effect and operation of the bill, whether intended or not, will be to reduce very considerably the number of voters in county elections; and that, the larger the county is, the smaller will the proportion of actual voters be in such elections. It, is said, and I believe, truly, that the little freeholders, at any distance from the county-town, would never vote at all. What the consequence of that would be, deserves the serious consideration of every man, who: wishes to preserve the popular part of this constitution. The question that deserves to be more immediately considered by my right hon. friend, and to which I wished, by all that I have said, to draw his attention, is, whether it be possible for him to, reconcile the principle, which he and I avowed and acted on from 1792 to 1795, viz. of extending the right of voting as far as property could be found to support it, with the practical effect of his present bill, which, as I 'find it asserted on all hands, would be to reduce and confine the exercise of the right to a much smaller number, than that, which he and I formerly agreed in thinking ought to be considerably increased; I mean in the counties, where the vote might have been extended with the least inconvenience and the greatest safety. With this impression of the operation of the bill, which on his part I am sure was neither intended nor foreseen, I am hound to oppose it.

Mr. Morris

explained, that he took his statement of Mr. Francis's case from the reports of the Court of King's Bench, which were generally allowed to be accurate.

Mr. Tierney

disclaimed the slightest intention of proposing to disfranchise any freeholders under 30l. On the contrary, if a proposition of that nature were brought forward, he would be among the first to oppose it.

Mr. W. Dundas

said, that he should find himself under the necessity of opposing the present bill, unless Scotland was altogether excluded from the operation of it.

Mr. Johnstone

could not see that any great benefit was likely to arise from the alterations that this bill proposed. As to the practical part of the constitution, he thought, it would be hard to point out any considerable improvement. He might quote the words of Dr. Paley, who would be allowed to be a good authority on the subject. He might, like him, ask, Whom is this house composed of? It is of men which come from every class of society, which produces considerable talent and information. In that house there were not only representatives of the landed interests, but of the commercial interest also; there were men, who were the most distinguished in every liberal profession and honourable situation. He could not see what sort of men were fitter, to sit in that house, than those who actually had seats under the present mode of representation. As he therefore did not perceive any practical good that was to result from Changing either the mode of representation, or the description of persons who were to be representatives, he should oppose the bill.

Mr. Lee

considered this a measure, the appropriate title of which would be "a bill to lessen, the number of voters." It was calculated, he thought, to deprive a class of men of the right of voting, who, although poor, were capable of exercising that right as independently and as free from corruption as persons of affluence. He could never relish the idea of disfranchising a man for his poverty; and that would be the effect of this bill. In fact the proportion of freeholders which it would disfranchise would be enormous. In Coventry alone, the freemen disfranchised by such a measure, would amount to several thousands. Another objection he had to the measure before the house was, that it proceeded upon a principle of partial legislation, by enacting one law for England, and leaving the law of Ireland upon the same subject in statu quo. The law ought, in his Opinion, to be in all cases general, as far as was consistent with the difference of local circumstances.

Sir R. Buxton

entreated the house not lightly to reject a measure which he thought perfectly congenial with the spirit of the British constitution. According to the principles of that constitution, a man should come into that house free and independent, and the constituent who sent him there should be free and independent also. Now the former could not be so if he were to pay an enormous sum of money for his election; nor could the latter be so if he were to receive money for his vote; and, disguise it as gentlemen pleased, the expense of carriage was a species of payment to the voter. There was a time when, instead of members paying for their election, they were paid for their attendance; and he should be glad to see the same, practice again. The hon. baronet repeated his wish. Members would be likely to enter that house not with a view to derive any emoluments from the state, but for the benefit of the country.

Mr. Rose

did not agree with the distinction taken by the hon. and learned gent. (Mr. Morris) that if any thing more was given than merely the price of conveyance to the place of election, it must be considered bribery. If freemen were to be conveyed to a distant town, suppose, for instance, Coventry, it was evident that there must be considerable expences besides the mere price of the carriage. The candidates were now in a very disagreeable situation, as they could not tell, in the manner the law now stood, what was, or what was not, to be considered in that light. He thought it was therefore right that the law should be made explicit on this point. He trusted that the house would pause before they rejected such a proposition, and begged them to consider that if the expence of carriages were allowed, it was nonsense to suppose that refreshment and treating by the way would not follow; also whether a compensation for loss of time, which would lead to complete bribery, might not be the next proposition.

Mr. Courtenay

remarked upon the purity of the principle and the refinement of notion, which the house had witnessed in the speech of the hon. baronet, and the right hon. gent. who had just followed him. Really those two gentlemen were not only so pure themselves, but they seemed to think they were addressing themselves to an angelic audience. No doubt the hon. baronet came into that house with the purest and most disinterested views, and had nothing in view but the good of his country— and the right hon. gent, who followed him was inspired with equal purity, and equally discarded every consideration but that of patriotism. That right hon. gent. had stated, that it was nonsense to suppose that a voter would go from one place to another to give his vote without receiving something more than the law would allow. No doubt the right hon. gent. spoke from his experience. He was, it might be presumed, tolerably competent to judge upon such a subject; and so, perhaps, were others also. If in reality, every candidate were disqualified who paid the travelling expence of poor voters to the hustings, nay, something more, the right hon. gent. would admit, that the benches on both sides would be rather thinned. For himself, he would say, that he did not like this extreme solicitude to exclude the poor from the gratification usually enjoyed at popular elections. They seldom had such opportunities, and when they offered they ought not to be shut out from them, merely on the pretence of seeking for purity. He could not approve of the use of a filtering stone to clear away all the mud of poverty, vulgar mirth, &c. from popular elections, and to let nothing but the pure water of affluence, good order, &c. trickle down to invigorate the members of that house. The right hon. mover had said, that he would not introduce a bill to disqualify freeholders under 30l. But it would not perhaps be amiss to call to mind, that the bill of Henry VIth, confining the right of voting to freeholds of 40s. was itself a bill of disqualification; and it was one advantage resulting from the depreciation of money, that the object of that disqualification law had in a great' measure been defeated. As to the objections of the noise and confusion which these voters occasioned, who were carried from distant parts, they alarmed him not. Cockades, and the liberty of huzzaing, were things which every Englishman admired; they contributed to give him an idea of the rights he enjoyed, and on the possession of which he prized himself. This was well expressed by one of our celebrated poets, he believed Dryden, who spoke thus of an election time— —" Where every man enjoys, His liberty and property of noise. On the whole, the bill appeared to him highly objectionable, as operating to the disfranchisement of thousands, and should, therefore, vote against it.

Captain Herbert

disapproved of the bill because it would have the effect of disfranchising by much the greater propotion of the electors of this country, namely, all those who resided at a distance from the place of election. This bill, if it passed in its present state, would have the effect, in a great county, of making it the election not of the county at large, but of the county town, and instead of operating in favour of gentlemen of small fortune getting into that house, as the right hon. mover alleged would completely defeat that end, if they resided in any remote part of the county by depriving them of the power of bringing forward their friends.

Mr. Secretary Fox

rose to assure his right hon. friend who brought in the hill that his voting for the bill's going into committee, by no means proceeded front his objections to the bill being done away; but from a desire to see if it might not be there rendered more palateable, if not entirely agreeable to the wishes of gentlemen on all sides. There was one object of the bill to which he was friendly, that of removing doubts which at present existed. If that could be done, it would be highly desirable; and, as such, he would vote for its going to a committee; but he, by no means, in giving this vote, pledged himself to any further support of the bill. He thought it necessary to say thus much, lest his vote should be misconstrued.

Mr. Buller

said, that when such high authorities as the chief justices of the two supreme courts differed, and the committees of that house also; it was necessary those doubts should be removed; and he wished, therefore, the bill should go into a committee. He approved also of the poll being taken in large counties, in different places, as it would tend much to lessen the expences, and enable men of moderate fortunes, to offer themselves as candidates, without the risk of being ruined.

Mr. Leycester

begged to put the house right as to the supposed contrariety of opinion between the judgments of the two courts. The decision in the Common Pleas was the only one which could be calculated on, as that in the King's Bench, which was not as solemn judgment, but merely a verdict at Nisi Prius, did not at all proceed on the act of King William, but was founded on the statute of George. II. imposing penalties, where the judge necessarily left. it to the jury to find, quo animo the 30l. was given.

The Attorney General (sir Arthur Pigott)

hoped to be forgiven while he in as few words as possible stated the situation in which the law of the case at present stood. The only instance in which a solemn decision on the point had taken place was that before alluded to, in the court of Common Pleas, in which the law was laid down as stated by his right hon. friend who introduced the bill; as to what had passed at Nisi Prius, that he did not pretend to know. As to the state of the practice before the committees of the house of commons, that, he confessed, had been in general contrary to the decision of the court of Common Pleas. He had had considerable practice in matters of that kind, and he had seen several committees find that the providing of carriages to electors who resided at a distance, or supplying them with the means of providing such carriages, were not violations of the act of king William. Other committees he had seen find, that supporting such electors while absent from home, and enabling them again to return to the place from whence they came, were also not to be esteemed as falling under the act. For 20 years, he was certain, that had been the general plan pursued by committees: that was to say, elections were not declared void on account of such practices. But the difficulty had always been, what was properly to be ascribed to those motives, and if, under pretence of such allowace, any corruption had been exercised. Where no such excess was found, the facts already stated, were not esteemed grounds on which the elections should be declared void. This was an extremely singular state of the law between our courts of justice and our parliamentary judicature. In the courts of law, an action for these expences could not be entertained; in our parliamentary judicature they were held to be perfectly legal. He had indeed seen committees who thought otherwise, and who had esteemed such furnishings to come within the statute of William. But what must be the case of the candidate in such an uncertain state of matters? Or what could a person to whom he applied for advice, say to him? He might tell him; I cannot advise you, the general turn of the opinion of the committees is so and so; that, by the act of king William, it was, at least, extremely questionable how far he was entitled to grant any of those furnishings; but still he could give him no precise advice by which he might not be injured either in a court of law or by 'a parliamentary judicature. Miserable, in such a state as this, must the case of the candidate be. For these reasons he wished the bill might be allowed to go through a committee, where it would be in the power of the house to determine the general rule or admeasurement by which conveyances for electors was to be regulated. He could not approve of the bill as it now stood. If it were to be laid down, that a candidate, by conveying an elector on a coach-box from the place of his residence to the scene of the election, forfeited his seat, he should esteem it, not the disfranchisement of the electors, but of the candidates.

Mr. Tierney

rose to reply. He observed that it appeared to him rather inconsistent in his right hon. friend (Mr. Fox), to consent to the bill going into a committee, while he at the same time pretty clearly signified his disapprobation of its principle. One gentleman had found fault with the bill because he considered it a sort of parliamentary reform. Another objected to it, because it was not a parliamentary reform, and thought that he (Mr. Tierney) had deserted that principle, which he had so often professed that he adhered to. In the first place, he would say, this measure was not connected with what was generally called a parliamentary reform. But at the sane time, no person ought to consider his introducing it, as any dereliction of the principles and opinions he had formerly professed. A wise and prudent lover of reform would get what he could towards his object, when circumstances prevented him from getting what he wished. He was a little astonished at what had fallen from another hon. gent. (Mr. Courtenay), who had been a long time, a warm advocate for parliamentary reform, and who still considered the noise and tumult attending po pular elections, as a genuine symptom of the spirit of British liberty. He could assure that hon. gent., that if he had ever been at the Borough election, about three or four o'clock in the day, when the poll was cast up, he would have witnessed as much of those indications of the spirit of British liberty, and heard as much noise, shouting, and tumuit, as his heart could wish. He could not conceive, how it could be said to be disfranchising any body, to declare "that no man should be permitted to exercise his elective franchise at the expence of the candidate." Would any gent. contend, that the franchise included a right of being carried, free of expence, to and from the place of election? As nobody could argue that such a right existed in the elector, there would be no right taken away by the present bill. But while this practice was allowed, it was impossible for gentlemen of moderate fortune, whatever might be their talents, or the esteem in which they were held, to stand before men of much superior wealth. They could not afford to bring the freeholders in their interest from the distance of fifty or sixty miles to the county town. It was not so much his object to protect candidates from expence, as to protect parliament, and to throw its doors open to that description of men, whose introduction he considered as a most desirable thing: he did not wish that wealth should be deprived of its proper influence, but he must object to its being the only qualification; he always wished to see men of large fortunes in that house, but he also wished to see members of another description. As long as the candidate was expected to pay the expence of bringing the freeholders to the place of election, so long great wealth must carry every thing before it; for no man of moderate fortune, whatever might be his talents, or the esteem in which he was held, could ever venture to incur the expence of being a candidate for a county. He could see no better reason for a candidate being expected to be at the expence of conveying to a borough town all the freemen he could find to vote for him. If those men left the town where they had obtained their franchise, it was for their own emolument they left it; and if they should come up to London, in order to get more money than they would have done in that town, the improvement of their circumstances could give them no right to put any body to additional expence, for the exercise of their franchise. If gentlemen considered that this bill would virtually disfranchise any body, they should always recollect, that it was in the power of the candidates themselves to do by an agreement, what the present bill proposed to do by a law. He declared, his only object in bringing it in was, to put an end to the dreadful expence to which candidates were now exposed: and, by that means, to encourage men to stand as candidates, whose talents would be an acquisition to that house, but who were, at present, unable to stand before the length of purse which might be opposed to them.

Lord Porchester

objected so much to the principle of the bill, that he could not vote for its going into a committee. It was his opinion, that no bills should go into a committee but such as were approved of in their principle. His objections were principally to the disfranchisement of such a considerable number of electors.—The question was then called for, and the house divided; when the numbers appeared, for the second reading 73; against it 17; majority 56. The bill was then read the second time, and committed for Wednesday.