Lord J. Russell
moved, that the order of the day for the second reading of the Grampound Disfranchisement bill be now read; which having been done, his lordship moved, "that the resolutions of that House, of the 5th of July last, be read." The clerk read the resolutions, as follow:—
"Resolved, nem. con. That it appears to this House that such a notorious system of corruption has prevailed in the borough of Grampound as to call for the serious consideration of this House.—That this House will take the same into consideration early in the next session of parliament." His lordship next moved, "That the order made on the 16th of December last, relative to the borough of Grampound, be now read." The order was read as follows:—"Bill to exclude the borough of Grampound from sending burgesses to parliament, and to enable the borough of Leeds to send two burgesses to parliament, in. lieu thereof.
§ Ordered to be brought in by lord J. Russell and Mr. Tierney."
Lord J. Russell
then said, that lie felt it necessary, in this stage of the bill which he had been instructed to bring forward, to state briefly the result of the examination which had induced the House to come to the resolutions that had just been read. Those who were in the late parliament would recollect, that a petition had been presented against the return of the members for the borough of Grampound, and that the committee to whom the petition was referred had made a report imputing gross corruption to many of the electors in that borough, and the result was, that the law officers of the Crown were ordered to institute prosecutions against those electors. Subsequently, copies of the indictments on which 23 of the voters of Grampound had been found guilty were laid before the House, together with other documents connected with the election. On these grounds he moved that the House should go into a committee on the abuse of the elective franchise in Grampound. That proposition was immediately assented to by the noble lord opposite, and the committee was appointed. On proceeding with the inquiry, it was clearly proved, by the evidence of Mr. Teed, that instructions had been given by sir Manasseh Lopez to distribute sums of money to the electors of Grampound, so as to secure a majority of them. It was also proved, by an individual who belonged to Grampound, that he had seen sir M. Lopez on this subject; and that he had informed him of his having collected together a number of voters who were ready to receive his money, and in return to give him their votes. That number, it appeared, was objected to by the agent of sir Manasseh, because it did not comprise a majority of the electors. The witness stated, that a number, constituting a majority, was afterwards collected, and that each of the parties received thirty-five pounds as the price of his vote, a sum with which several of them expressed themselves dissatisfied. It further appeared, that in consequence of this dissatisfaction they gave their votes in favour of other persons. It seemed, that one of the electors had got a list, containing the names of 62 persons who had the right to vote, and of whom 58 had voted; of these 58 no less than 47 had the sum of 35l. affixed to their names as the price of their suffrages. On 482 exhibiting this list to sir Manasseh Lopez, he allowed to Mr. Teed, into whose hands it had fallen, that it was pretty correct. On this, Mr. Teed indicted 34 of the corrupt parties, out of whom 24 were convicted. Some of the others he did not prosecute on account of the insufficiency of evidence, and a still greater number on account of their poverty. It also clearly appeared in evidence, that at various times sums of money had been expended in this borough to influence the return of members to parliament. It was proved that one person had attended at a meeting of delegates from Grampound, at which it was agreed that 5,000l. should be given for the return. Another individual, an attorney at Grampound, stated, that the sum of 8,400l. was set down in a bill, as the regular sum to be paid for seats to represent that borough;—that these transactions had taken place at different times—that they passed as common ordinary events at Grampound—and that they excited neither fear nor shame amongst the corrupt voters of that borough. So far the evidence went; but the common fame and notoriety of these transactions made the case still stronger. It appeared that it was a common saying with the electors, that "they wished to be feeding again;" the meaning of which was, that they desired to be paid beforehand. One of the aldermen stated that almost every elector, at each general election, was in the habit of receiving bribes; this witness was asked, whether he did not think that there might have been two or three in the borough who had not received bribes, and his answer was, that there might have been two or three who had not. Now, he conceived that these circumstances, taken altogether, formed a body of evidence as strong and decided as was ever adduced on any similar case. There was, however, one other circum~ stance which he wished to mention to the House—namely, that the two members petitioned against in the late parliament had paid 7,800l. to the petitioners not to persist in the prosecution of their petition. Thus they found that the great majority of the electors of Grampound had received money from sir M. Lopez, and that many of them were convicted in courts of law; Sums of money, fluctuating from 5;000l. to 8,000l., had been paid for seats for that borough; and it was commonly and notoriously allowed by the electors themselves, that they were in the habit of receiving 483 bribes. One individual, when he wished to have the bribery oath administered, was so maltreated by the other electors, that he could scarcely escape with his life. Having stated these indisputable facts, he conceived the case he had made was sufficiently strong to justify that House in disfranchising the borough of Grampound.
The next point to be considered was, what measure the House would be pleased to adopt; and he thought they would be greatly assisted in that inquiry, if they looked back for precedents to what had been done in other days. It was not to be expected, in a constitution like ours, when the right to vote had been extended to small places, the inhabitants of which were frequently very poor, that the introduction of bribery and corruption could be wholly avoided. But it would be seen that, of late years, corrupt practices had made rapid strides indeed. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth a person had been fined for giving 4l. to the returning officer to procure his return. In the reign of Charles 2nd, lord Shaftesbury stated, that no less a sum than 7,000l. was paid by persons who were returned for two seats in that House. But the Revolution followed, and soon after that memorable event, bills were introduced and laws were passed against bribery and corruption; but unhappily those laws did not prove sufficiently strong to resist the influence of those vices—the odious practice of bribery gained ground, and in the year 1771 such a case was brought before the House of Commons, as rendered it necessary to adopt another and a different remedy. The returning officer for the borough of New Shoreham sent an individual to that House, who had not received the greater number of suffrages; and, when asked why he had done so, he disclosed a scene of cupidity, perjury, and corruption, such as could scarcely be imagined to have existed. He stated that he belonged to a society called "The Christian Club," whose Christian practice it was, to get into their assembly a majority of the electors, and then to sell their votes to the highest bidder. After having reprimanded the returning officer, the House thought it fit that a bill should be introduced to disable and incapacitate those persons who had abused their franchise from voting again. Their names were inserted in the bill, and the parties interested were allowed to be heard by counsel at the bar. After the bill had 484 been read a second time, and sent to a committee, it was materially altered. The names of those who were to be incapacitated were left out, and, instead of; taking the course originally intended, the freeholders, of the neighbouring rape of Bramber were allowed to vote for New Shoreham, Mr. Montague, who afterwards detailed the history of the bill in that House, stated that he had introduced! the new provision, having previously consulted lord, Camden and the earl of Chatham. The former highly approved of the provision, and the fatter said, "He was glad that New Shoreham had been removed from Bengal, and brought back to Sussex." They had therefore the authority of lord Camden, of the earl of Chatham, and of the parliament of that day, for the practice which was now recommended, and which formed the only point of innovation (if it might be so called) in the present bill. The parliament then acknowledged that the right of sending members to that House was a right and; franchise that might be abused, and that such abuse could and ought to be rectified by placing the privilege in other hands. He said hi other hands generally, as parliament pleased, because, if the freeholders in the rape of Bramber were not greater in number than those who possessed the right of voting in New Shoreham, and who were convicted of corrupt practices, the remedy proposed would be inefficient. The House, however, went farther on that occasion. They ultimately inserted the names of those persons who were to be disfranchised; and thus, those parties not having any right to vote, a predominating number of electors was, found in the rape of Bramber. The next case was that of the borough of Cricklade, which occasioned the introduction of a bill in 1782. It affected 83 persons, who, out of 243, had been convicted of corrupt practices, besides 43 more who were indicted. The bill provided that that borough should be thrown into the neighbouring hundred. He did not recollect any thing remarkable about this bill, except that, at the time, the administration of the marquis of Rockingham had just come into power, and had continued lord Thurlow in the situation of lord high chancellor. When the bill was brought into the House of Lords, so many objections and difficulties were started by lord Thurlow, that lord Fortescue, who was then an old wan, stood up and said, "I 485 find I am not in the House of Peers, but in a court of justice—not an ordinary court of justice either, but one in which the lawyers endeavour to control the judges." He described lord Thurlow as "a man composed of subtilties and contradictions;" and farther observed, "that he could not bear to see such an administration disgraced by conduct of this kind."* He stated this merely as an historical fact, and he hoped the administration of this day would do honour to themselves, and conciliate the feelings of the people, by pursuing, in this instance, the course adopted by the administration to which he had alluded in sanctioning the bill relative to Cricklade. The next case was that of the borough of Aylesbury. Out of 400 voters, 87 were rejected, as improperly exercising the elective franchise, and 220 were proved to have participated in the bribery and corruption which had been practised there. Those persons were disfranchised.
He now came to consider what it was proper for that House to do with the borough of Grampound—whether to throw it into the neighbouring hundred, or give its franchise to some other place. In his opinion, the individuals from whom a petition had this day been presented on the subject were very little interested in the matter. Whether the borough were thrown into the hundred, or into the neighbouring hundreds, or the elective franchise were extended to the county, could be matter of little importance to them, because they constituted a very small minority, and therefore could possess but little influence in deciding the fate of an election. It would be impossible for them to have any weight in the election of members to serve in parliament, whether the House thought proper to throw the borough into the hundred, or to extend the right of voting to the freeholders of the county. Alas! the glory of Grampound was gone for ever! The electors would no more have the pleasure of seeing a baronet, out of pure motives of charity, sending confidential agents to relieve their distresses and minister to their wants. They would no more be delighted with the gratifing spectacle of the merchants of London contending to represent them. Never again would they have the satis-* Parliamentary History, v. 22, p. 1387.486 faction of almost murdering those who had the hardihood to propound the bribery-oath! The question then was, what appeared to be the best mode of proceeding which parliament could adopt? It was admitted on all hands that the free holders of the hundred had no exclusive right to the representation of the borough. That right never belonged to them, and could only be extended to them by that House, as had been done in the case he had mentioned. It was a matter entirely resting with the House to declare whom they thought worthy of returning members to serve in parliament. It was for them to consider, generally, whether the privilege that had been abused by one set of persons, might not be safely and securely placed in other hands. If it were not extended to the freeholders of the hundred, those free holders had no cause or reason to complain, since they had not any claim on the right so forfeited, more than others. There were some cases where it would certainly be expedient to throw the be rough into the hundred. This, for in stance, might be proper in a county which had only one borough, and, in which borough such practices prevailed. There it would be wise to throw it into the hundred. But this was not the case here. For, if the borough were not thrown into the neighbouring hundred of Poudrey, there would still remain places in the county that returned 10 other members, who could defend its general interests with zeal and effect. It appeared to him that there was a course much more fitting for the House to pursue, and much more consonant to the true spirit of the constitution, than that of throwing the borough of Grampound into the hundred of Poudrey. There had grown up, within the last 30 or 40 years, a number of towns, whose large population and extensive wealth placed them amongst the foremost of the great towns of this country—and they were at pre sent debarred from the right of returning members to serve in parliament. Of these towns, five alone contained nearly 400,000 inhabitants. When they saw towns of such extent, so rich, and so abundantly peopled, without representatives in that House, could it be supposed that their ancestors, who allowed members for Wales, for Chester, for Durham, and other places comparatively insignificant, would, if those great towns had 487 existed, in their times, have refused them, the right of sending members to parliament? If, in the time of Charles 2nd, those towns had grown up to such importance, would they not have had members in that House? He thought it was a great public loss that they had not representatives; and he conceived that the House ought, as speedily as possible, to remedy that which he could not but Consider a great defect. Those parts of the country which were unrepresented, were, in fact, afflicted by the same evils by which Wales had been afflicted when that part of the kingdom had not the privilege of sending members to parliament. If they looked to Bristol, Liverpool, and other great towns which sent members to that House, they would see none of those disorders which at present unhappily prevailed in the unrepresented towns throughout the country. Why, then, did not the legislature grant them representatives? If those towns were more respected—if the inhabitants were fairly represented, why not hope that angry political feelings would give place to sentiments of attachment to the constitution and of veneration for the laws? It might be said, that if those places were represented, their representatives would carry into the House their undigested notions of parliamentary reform; but they would naturally turn their eyes to that House, where their sentiments would be delivered—where their voice would be heard, instead of seeking their object by dangerous and illegal ways, which unhappily disturbed the peace and tranquillity of the country.
He knew not that he need trouble the House further, except to state and answer one or two objections that might be urged against the course he proposed. It had been observed, that, even if they disfranchise the small corrupt boroughs, there would still be as much corruption in the large towns to which the elective franchise was to be extended. He did not mean to deny that instances might be adduced in support of this opinion. He was, however, prepared to contend, that the more generally the right of voting was diffused, the less likelihood would there be of the growth of bribery and corruption in the larger towns. The principles even of the members of that House had changed. There had been times when many of the members would not have scrupled to receive large sums of money for their votes. That practice was now abolished—such a 488 thing was no longer known—because the people were less open to bribery. He stated this, because it ought to be understood that all the defects of the system were not to be traced to that House, but were rather to be found in that abuse of the elective franchise which had prevailed in the country. In support of that view of the subject, he was happy to state that there appeared, in the late general election, several instances which showed that the feelings of the people, with respect to the exercise of the elective franchise, were very much improved. One or two those instances he would mention. Some time ago a meeting had been held in a very populous part of the country, at which resolutions, binding the electors to return members from none but pure motives, were entered into. The resolutions passed at this meeting did great honour to the discretion as well as to the integrity of those who passed them. He was happy to perceive that this evil of corrupt influence was generally opposed. At Reading, resolutions were passed to prevent corrupt and illegal influence in that borough. The resolutions were to the effect that the people would use every exertion to discover and bring to punishment all, whether candidates or voters, who practised any illegal means of influencing the election of representatives. For this useful and honest purpose, 1,500l. had been collected in that borough. When he saw such a spirit prevalent—when he read such resolutions—and when he found such exertions displayed, he could not help entertaining a hope that much would be done in putting down corruption, and purifying the most important parts of our constitution, even without any measures in that House; but he hoped the House would also take measures for preventing corruption in the smaller boroughs, where the spirit and integrity of the people had no means of operating. He did not think that Grampound was a solitary instance of corruption and political abuse; but he certainly was not for any sweeping measure of reform. He was, however, anxious to punish and prevent corruption in small boroughs, and to extend to great towns and districts the rights and influence which constitutionally belonged to them. Measures of that tendency aid character were more calculated than any other to tranquillize the minds and to brighten the prospects of the people. With re- 489 spect to the particular measure under consideration, he understood that an; honourable member, his honourable friend, he would say, the member for Northumberland, intended, if the bill came to be committed, to move that the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire should be substituted for Leeds. He differed on this point from his hon. friend, he thought that the town of Leeds, or some great town like it, ought to be allowed to possess the franchise; he thought they would be likely to exercise it with purity at the same time, he considered this to be a question of inferior importance; and should deem even the adoption of his hon. friend's proposition a most valuable benefit to the country. The noble lord concluded by moving that the bill be read a second time.
said, that although he had no intention to oppose the second reading; he felt it due to the noble lord, and to the House, to offer some observations on the subject. Whatever steps might afterwards be taken, he thought this the convenient moment for making a few observations on the principles involved in the bill. He should endeavour to imitate the noble lord, who had in the most candid and fair manner stated his views of the question, and the object he proposed to himself in this bill; and if he could not agree entirely with the noble lord, it would be from a different view taken by him of the local circumstances of the borough of Grampound. As far as the principle of the measure was concerned, so far as it was opened by the noble lord, there was no difference of opinion between them. That was, he agreed with the noble lord, that where it was proved satisfactorily that persons having an elective franchise had abused that trust, measures should be taken to protect the security of election and purity of election against the repetition of such abuse. Any difference of opinion arose not from any alterations proposed to be made in the elective franchise in Grampound, because, after the election committee had made their report, he had concurred in promoting further inquiry, and after that inquiry he had concurred in a resolution which stood on their records without a dissentient voice—that further measures were called for by the corruption detected in the borough of Grampound. Up to this point he and the noble lord understood 490 each other, and agreed in opinion. They agreed that the borough of Grampound had misconducted itself, and that an adequate remedy ought to be applied. Therefore the question was not whether a remedy should be applied, but what the nature of that remedy should be. The noble lord had stated fairly tonight three instances in which the House had approved of the principle of this bill; so far as to have opened boroughs in which corruption had been proved to exist, to the adjacent hundreds or country. The boroughs of New Shoreham, Cricklade, and Aylesbury, had been so treated. The noble lord had then proceeded to show, that it was not expedient to act in the present case in the same manner, but that the House, in sound and salutary discretion, ought to depart from those precedents, to leave the uncorrupted voters to have votes in the county, and to transfer the franchise to a populace place not represented at present. The member for Northumberland was stated by the noble lord to differ from, him as to the course to be adopted, and to wish to transfer the franchise, not to the place proposed by the noble lord, but to two ridings of Yorkshire. He would now very shortly state the opinions he entertained on the question. The difference he felt arose from the fundamental difference of their opinion upon parliamentary reform, which he considered fair to state to the noble lord and to the House. The noble lord wished to establish by this bill, pro tanto; the principle of parliamentary reform which he espoused. He (lord Castlereagh) did not look upon the measure in that point of view; he only viewed it as a measure to correct corruption in Grampound. He was not influenced by regard to a change in the representation, but by what was expedient to apply to this case of abuse of the elective franchise. In fixing upon the remedy to be applied, it was proper, in a prudential point of view, to fix upon that remedy which appeared likely to succeed, and to be carried into effect. In short, it was prudent and right to consider what remedy would be effectual for the object in view, and to select that remedy for legislative application. The noble lord looked at Grampound as supplying an opportunity for improving the representation. He (lord Castlereagh) looked at the representation 491 only in its practical effects, not at its theoretical composition. He looked only at the evil, and at the remedy to be applied to that evil; but he did not look at it as carrying any theory entertained respecting reform. Let the proposition of reform come before them on its own peculiar merits; but the question now before them he met on its own ground, not on the general grounds that might be connected with it. On a former occasion, when the noble lord had proposed a measure of this nature, he (lord Castlereagh) had admitted distinctly that the local circumstances of Cornwall might afford reason for dealing with boroughs in that county convicted of corruption, not as was usual with the House in such cases, but for transfer ring the abused franchise to some other part of the kingdom; but he had distinctly stated then, that he had not such local knowledge of Grampound as to say whether that consideration was applicable to it. The noble lord would recollect that he (lord Castlereagh) had reserved that question, as to Grampound being so situated as to make it inexpedient to open it to the neighbouring hundreds. The case, as to the inexpediency of opening the franchise to the neighbourhood instead of transferring it, did not appear to him to have been clearly made out. When the case of Penrhyn was before parliament, no reasons were urged for transferring the franchise from Cornwall; but that bill was lost, and this was now the first question in which the expediency or inexpediency of such a transfer came to be considered. No case had been opened, of any inexpediency arising from the particular district in which Grampound was situated. The noble lord had stated the number of boroughs in Cornwall as a reason; but, if that were conclusive reasoning, it was not at all consistent with the principle hitherto acted upon. Although there were a great number of boroughs in Cornwall—21 he believed—Wiltshire and Sussex, if their comparative extent were considered, had respectively not a much less considerable number of boroughs. Wiltshire had 16 boroughs; Sussex 13. That was a greater number, considering the extent and circumstances of each county, than Cornwall had.—[Mr. Tierney expressed his dissent across the table.]—Very well; if that particular view of the argument did not apply, still the number of boroughs in each of the two counties he had mention- 492 ed required a transfer, if the number of boroughs in Cornwall required it. Yet Cricklade, in Wiltshire, had been opened to the surrounding hundreds, and New Shoreham in Sussex, had been opened in a similar manner. If they supposed Penrhyn brought again before the House, the views of the hon. member who had introduced a bill upon that subject before, would only go to the same point, and give in Cornwall an instance to the same effect, for the franchise would only be carried to the neighbouring hundreds. In the case of Cricklade, too, there had been the objection of embracing, in the district to which the franchise was extended, two boroughs—Malmesbury and Wootton-Basset. As far, therefore, as the practice of parliament went, or the reason of the thing, there was no insuperable difficulty to extending the franchise to the hundred of Poudrey, and two or three other hundreds. The noble lord did not contend that this extension would not be an adequate remedy, but generally preferred the other mode, because it was calculated to give representation to a part now unrepresented. Yet, even if the two modes came to be equally balanced, the noble lord ought to prefer that which had the greatest prospect of effecting the object desired. It was not for him to mention the difficulties that might be presented elsewhere to the particular mode proposed. They were aware of the mode of proof adopted in the other House. But certainly they had three cases in which the other House of Parliament had concurred with that House in correcting abuses of the elective franchise. It was not for him to say that that was the only mode in which the other House would concur, but they would proceed on infinitely safer and surer ground, if they adopted what parliament had given countenance to, than if they travelled out of that ground, for the purpose of establishing the principle of parliamentary reform, and in contradiction to all the precedents now before them. If, by extending the franchise to Poudrey and the other hundreds, a second enlargement of representation could be shown to be the necessary consequence of the number of boroughs that might be a good reason for departing from the precedents before them. If this were the second borough convicted of corruption in the district, that would be good ground for sending up to the Lords such a bill as the present, for the departure from precedents could then 493 be represented as arising, not from the much-litigated and difficult question of reform in parliament, but from circumstances of local necessity. Even if it could be shown to be the second borough proved to have become corrupt in the county, that would not establish the same necessity; but it might, as a matter of expediency, form an additional objection to She opening a second borough in the same county. The noble lord had deliberately and distinctly desired the House to depart from the constant uniform practice of parliament, and, in the case of Grampound, to proceed voluntarily and of choice, to transfer the franchise to another place. He did not concur with the noble lord in this. He preferred local and district reform, if any abuse or corruption were proved, when there appeared no necessity for adopting a different mode of remedying the evil. Whatever wish the noble lord might have for establishing a principle of general reform, he must have a still greater wish for reforming Grampound. Therefore, as there were greater facilities in the one mode than in the other, he thought this was a strong appeal to the noble lord on prudential considerations, for pressing the measure on the other House with all the weight of precedents, rather than presenting it on this novel ground, and against all precedents, and calling upon them to recognize a principle of parliamentary reform—a subject not only litigated, but regarded by all persons of weight and property in this country, with very different Views. The noble lord had not merely presented this proposition to the House; he had not only proposed to disfranchise Grampound, and to enfranchise Leeds; but supported the proposition by reasons on the face of the bill which were inadmissible. The preamble set forth—"Whereas the borough of Leeds, in the county of York, having of late years become a place of great trade, population, and wealth; it is expedient that it should have two burgesses to serve in parliament," &c. It was impossible that the House or that he should concur with the proposition of transfer upon such grounds. It was impossible that they could admit that Leeds was destitute of representation, and possessed what this bill would recognize as the criterion of representation. This was not only a novel principle, but it was going back to a ground of that principle, to which it was impossible he could give his concur- 494 rence. If this principle were once recognised by parliament, it would afford ground for application from every place of trade, population, and wealth, to have additional representatives. But if he could agree to the principle of transfer in this case, he should be very far from agreeing to it or recognising it, as it appeared on the face of that bill. He would never agree to transfer the franchise to a large populous town in the form and mode of scot and lot payers having votes, so that an assessment of 5l., as he understood it, would entitle to a vote. This would give in the town of Leeds 8,000 or 10,000 constituents. But he would not go into detail on this argument. But, if he were driven to the necessity of a transfer, he would not agree to transfer to that place; and to that mode he had the greatest objection. He should have less objection to the proposition of the other member, to transfer the franchise to the two Ridings of Yorkshire. There had been various modifications of the elective franchise. It had been unconnected; or combined, as in the Scotch burghs; but there was no instance of the right being created by parliament. It was either a right of common law, or it was a royal grant. In the Scotch Union several towns were combined, and others were excluded; but this bill opened quite a new principle, and went to create a franchise by act of parliament. He did not contend that under no circumstances ought such a measure to be resorted to; but in travelling into new circumstances, in travelling into new matter, in departing from what had the sanction of experience and constitutional principle, the measure Which was desired and agreed upon would be exposed to risk that ought in prudence to be avoided. The borough of Grampound would be effectually and satisfactorily reformed by such a measure as had been applied to the three cases before alluded to; and they had the authority of those three cases to support a similar one now. He therefore pressed upon the consideration of the noble lord that it was running great risk, arid unnecessary risk, to hazard the reform of Grampound, by travelling out of the cases already recognized, and introducing a principle that would not only be denied, but be most strenuously opposed. As no borough in Cornwall had yet been thrown open to the hundred, he should, in the committee, propose that extension in the case of Grampound; and 495 if hereafter there should arise another case of the same nature in that district, there would he a claim for a transfer to some other place. He had thought it right to take this opportunity of making these observations on the subject, but he would give no opposition to the second reading.
said, he heard with some surprise and great sorrow, the speech of the noble lord. When the resolutions were brought forward by his noble friend, containing a declaration of the principle on which the House would act in case of boroughs convicted of corrupt practices, viz. by transferring the right of election to populous towns, the noble lord had undoubtedly objected to the declaration of such a general principle; but he (Mr. T.) had understood the noble lord to say, that if his noble friend would confine himself to the particular case of Grampound, he should not be adverse to that mode of proceeding: and he was confirmed in his opinion, that such was the impression produced by the words of the noble lord, by a recollection of the eagerness with which he (Mr. T.) had urged his noble friend to close with the proposition of the noble lord, and to accept of a certain advantage rather than endeavour in vain to get more.
said, he felt it to be due to the right hon. gentleman to prevent his reasoning on a misapprehension, by reminding him that he had distinctly reserved his opinion, on the ground that he was not acquainted with the local circumstances of Grampound.
continued.—He certainly had understood the noble lord at first to agree to his noble friend's proposition. In two or three days, however, the noble lord came down, and in a more guarded manner reserved to himself the right of subsequently expressing it as his opinion that the proposed reform should be of a more gradual kind—that the elective franchise should be given to some of the hundreds in the vicinity of Grampound. The ground of this was, that the innocent might not be punished with the guilty. What he had wished, and he believed this was the wish and the hope of many others and a very large portion too, in the country, was, that a measure, which, at the moment it was known seemed to give general satisfaction, should be carried into effect. It would be useless to deny, that at the moment this proposition was introduced, and was supposed to have received 496 the sanction of government, it excited a very general feeling of satisfaction amongst even those who were by no means favourable to the question of a reform in parliament. They were gratified at the disposition evinced to correct an abuse which was so flagrant. The violent parliamentary reformers, indeed, felt otherwise; but those sound and rational reformers who thought it necessary to conform themselves to the feelings of the times in which they lived—who thought it not a mark of wisdom to set up any mind, however powerful, against the temper of men and the current of events, hailed the declaration as the forerunner of an improvement in a small degree (for very small he admitted it was) of the state of the representation, but as in a great degree showing the opinion of the House of Commons in favour of improvement, when a favourable opportunity occurred. It was expected by those, and by every moderate man in the country, that the opportunity which the gross corruption of Grampound presented would be taken, to do something in the correction of a flagrant abuse; that a disposition would be evinced to suit the measures of that House to the circumstances of the times, even if it were only to show that, where a very strong case of abuse was made out, something would be attempted to correct it. These hopes, however, must now be at an end, and instead of the wholesome correction which was first suggested, and, as he then thought, agreed to, they were given to understand by the noble lord that the only remedy would be, the extension of the franchise to some of the neighbouring hundreds. He felt satisfied that if the noble lord had consulted his own good judgment, and not attended to the conversation of others he would not have adopted this new plan, and the House would have heard nothing of this consideration for the neighbouring hundreds. "But," said the noble lord, "there are precedents, and for God's sake do let us keep to precedents on this question." He (Mr. Tierney) remembered the precedents to which the noble lord alluded, and he looked upon them as much innovations in their day as the proposition of his noble friend could be considered in the present. He denied that there was any strict analogy between the cases which could justify the House in acting upon them; neither would he admit that the House of Commons should be governed, in debate 497 at least by, what might be the feeling in the other House. The House of Commons were bound to do their duty strictly and conscientiously to the country, without any reference to what might be thought elsewhere; and the other House, he supposed, would do what they considered to he theirs. But to say that he should not do his duty because it might not be satisfactory in another place, was a principle which would destroy the possibility of that House being useful. The noble lord told them that they were here doing what would let in on them the principle of parliamentary reform. He (Mr. T.) would not disguise the fact, that this was its great recommendation—that it was a recognition on the part of the House, that when a favourable opportunity occurred to amend the state of the representation, the House would take advantage of it to amend it. That favourable opportunity was the disfranchisement of the borough of Grampound. This, he maintained, was the true principle on which they were bound to act, but to this they would owe the opposition to the present measure. Now the situation in which the House stood was this—by the gross corruptions of one portion of electors, the old number of the members was reduced from 658 to 656. The question then was, whether the House should remain limited to that number or increase it to its former amount. His opinion was, that the old number should be kept up; but he wished before that was done to look about him, and see how it might best be accomplished. Should this number be filled by the same borough? That was admitted in the negative; but then it was said it should be from the two hundreds in the vicinity of the borough. Now, he contended, that from the moment it was agreed to disfranchise Grampound, the neighbouring I hundreds had no more a claim to that franchise than the people of Canada. Then, after Grampound was disfranchised the first thing, in his opinion, which the I House had to do was, to see in what way the vacancy thus created could be best filled up. As to resorting to the plan adopted on former occasions, he would say, and there was no man of common sense in the country would deny, that what might have been fit at first might, by change of circumstances, become the reverse afterwards. There had, he should say within the last fifty years, he would not go farther back, been a great shifting 498 of property, and many fluctuations of trade m the country, and this shitting and those fluctuations, had tin-own a vast population into particular places. There was no man bold enough to affirm that time had not operated great changes, and in some eases, very prejudicial ones in the representation; that what had been prudent and wholesome in its original formation, had in the lapse of time become imprudent and unwholesome; that the great shifting of property by the fluctuation of trade, had reduced to insignificance towns which had been formerly prosperous, and thrown wealth into other parts of the kingdom. Be would ask whether the power which once existed in the Crown of settling the places by which members should be returned to parliament were now in existence, Grampound was the place which would be chosen in preference to Leeds? Ought the House of Commons (or to speak in the terms of former times), ought the Crown to issue its royal charter to Grampound, to the exclusion of such a place as [Leeds? These were points which should be considered in discussing the present question, which question he conceived to be strictly this—"We have now two members to bestow to the country: what place wants them most, and where can they be placed with least inconvenience, and with most benefit to the country under its present circumstances?" This was the exact state of the question before the House, and he conceived it ought not to be decided in any manner with reference to the present circumstances and the present feeling of the country? What was the ground of the great clamour about reform in the country? He (though friendly as he always would be, to a wholesome reform in that House) used the word "clamour" as most applicable to the manner in which the question was agitated in several parts of the country. What, he asked, was the ground of this clamour? Why, that several large classes of the population remained unrepresented, and so they must be from those fluctuations to which he bad before alluded; and that when such an opportunity as the present occurred, no attempt was made to apply a remedy. "But," said the noble lord, "there is a remedy:" and what was that remedy? That the franchise should be extended to the neighbouring hundreds! Why this would be only giving two votes to a certain portion of the people in those 499 hundreds, while it left the large and populous towns in their former unrepresented state. Why riot give it to some one of those large towns which had no representatives? Suppose Liverpool, which was represented by the right hon. gentleman opposite—suppose that place had been in the same state as Manchester; and Leeds now were, would it not be considered a hard case that it should, unrepresented while Grampound sent, two members to parliament; and (considering that it was the larger place), if it were; now unrepresented, he would apply a preference to Leeds; but the same argument would apply with greater force when Leeds was compared with Grampound. He could see no one objection to giving the preference to Leeds except this—and whatever might be avowed, he believed it to be the main objection—that the House would sanction no proposition which might, in any shape or way, tend to a reform in parliament [Hear, hear!]; and this it was which operated in another place. The very mention of reform it was which dismayed some gentlemen; but, lie would ask, could they remain still while all the world was in motion; and could they hope to weather the storm which was blowing around them, without feeling any of its effects? If the noble lord thought that no motion savouring of a reform in that House should be sanctioned, let him introduce a resolution to that effect; but if he did not wish to go so far, let him not use the argument against the motion of his noble friend. There were men, and they were by no means few in number—men of rank, of property—men who had the interests of. the. country sincerely at heart—who thought in their consciences that some reform ought to take place—who conceived that the country would be materially benefitted by reform; and knowing how prevalent was this feeding, most particularly without, he was not prepared to hear the question met as it had been. He rather expected that the question would turn upon the point, whether it would be better to transfer the franchise to some imperfectly represented county, or to give it to a large town, but he did not think it would be contended that it should not be transferred at all. With respect to what had-been said of giving this franchise, in. addition, to a particular county, he thought this was a battle as against the proposition of his noble friend, which would not be 500 worth righting. In either case some good would be effected: but the noble lord was for taking the bill into the committee, and there getting rid of its principle altogether. One objection urged against the bill was the danger of giving the franchise to large districts where votes would accrue from similar of a rental as low as five pounds; this was answered by the fact that we already had such places in the country, where votes arose from similar possessions, and yet; no inconvenience was found to result from it, except that could be so called which must result from all popular, elections, and which had been; described as one of the good effects of our system—thah these large assemblages served as so many vents to popular feeling, which if repressed, might be dangerous. Instead of limiting the elective franchise to small places, his wish would be that charters, were granted to Leeds, and to such other great towns. It would be productive of considerable advantage, and of increased tranquillity in the country. He would mention the name of one large town—Manchester;, and he declared it to be his firm conviction that if that town were allowed to send two representatives to parliament, and to have its!? internal management directed by sound and whole some municipal officers, it would soon be as quiet and as tranquil, as any other town in the country. There were some men, he knew, who treated such an opinion with contempt. He could not help it; but, from all be had heard and seen, such was his firm opinion; and on that ground he should wish to see Manchester represented. He did not say that Manchester should now be preferred to Leeds—it might perhaps be thought awkward after what had happened, but no; such objection could lie with respect to Leeds. As to which side of the House might gain by giving representatives to Leeds, he would not say anything. He did not at all look to this proposition with a view to party advantages, for if Leeds had the right of returning two members, after all that had been said, the party to which he belonged would think themselves extremely well off if they could get one of them. He had made these observations, in favour of the principle of the bill; they were his conscientious opinions; and he did conceive that the passing of the measure would give very general satisfaction to the country.; It was, therefore, with much regret that be beard the suggestion of the noble 501 lord, which would if attended to, be to get rid of the whole of the expected advantage, to throw the entire benefit away. There was, he believed, no class of men in the country, who would be so much displeased with his noble friend's plan, as the intemperate reformers, for it would take from them their great ground of complaint and objection. That ground was—"Depend upon it the House of Commons will never right itself." But though it might not satisfy that class of persons, there was another—a large and most respectable class—who would hair the measure with joy, and receive it with gratitude; He meant that great and respectable body who composed the mid-die classes. They were the description of persons to whose opinions the House ought to attach the utmost weight. These individuals would be highly gratified at the passing of the bill, because it would prove to them, and to all the country that the House of Commons were determined to remedy an abuse when pointed out to them. But it was useless for him to say a word more on the subject. After the speech of the noble lord he despaired of any thing being done in it. That speech had given the bill its death blow, Cornwall would have its 45 members as before, and the hundred with the hard name would be let into the representation. One thing, however, he was glad of, that the second reading of the bill was not refused; but he was. sure the country would feel very much disappointed when they found tomorrow how it had been treated. He said he was glad that the second reading was allowed, and that the committee would go over the1 holidays, by which time he and his hon. friends who had not expected the present objection, would be better prepared to meet it. He hoped also that, in the interim, gentlemen on the opposite side would give the subject a more serious consideration. He hoped they would calmly and dispassionately weigh the merits of the question; and inquire of their friends, and ask themselves where could be the danger in transferring the right of election, to the town of Leeds or to the county of York, from the disfranchised borough.
observed, that after the gross corruption which had been-proved to exist in Grampound, he was glad there was no difference of opinion in the-House as to the necessity of some remedy, and he hoped that the present parliament 502 would be disposed to treat this subject as the last parliament had been. He could not agree in the principle laid down by the noble lord opposite that this case was exactly like those there in former, parliaments had interfered; but even if it were the same, that did not preclude this parliament from applying a different remedy, for if a better one presented itself they were bound to adopt it. In all the other cases, however, the great majority of the electors had not been proved to be corrupt: and it was at that time argued. "Will you, by transferring the franchise, allow the whole to suffer for the guilt of a part?" and he thought it a fair objection to a transfer of the franchise. The parliament then acted upon the principle of "an infusion of purer blood being thrown in." He did not remember the exact numbers but in the cases of New Shore ham, Cricklade, and Aylesbury, there were a great number of unconvicted voters. The case of Grampound was different; the sound electors were so few, that the borough might be altogether disfranchised without injustice; though he should not object to any plan to allow the voters who had not been convicted to vote at some other election. If there were grounds for taking away the franchise from Grampound, he could see no reason why it should be given to the two hundreds in the vicinity, more than to any other part of the country; and, looking at the whole case, he thought it was one where the House should transfer, and not extend, the franchise. In the last parliament bribery had been found to exist in the boroughs of Barnstaple and Penryn but in those cases the large proportion of the electors were not proved to have been corrupted. In those cases therefore there was a good ground for not transferring the franchise, but it was not so in the present. He fully agreed that this question ought not to be viewed as a measure of general reform; not to be viewed as a measure to general reform; but still it was proved that corruption had been earned to a great extent, and with such proof the House were bound to reform it. As to the suggestion of making the transfer to the country of York, he thought it well founded. Looking at the vast extent of that country—its immense population—the great number of freeholders, and the difficult of bringing them all to any one place to vote within the time allowed for the duration of a pool; looking at those circumstances, he thought that a great evil would be reme- 503 died by transferring the franchise from Grampound to that county. He should therefore be willing to adopt that proposition, and have the county divided for the purpose of that election—the north and east ridings sending two members to parliament, and the west riding two more; and thus not to confer a double right of voting to any of the ridings. One disadvantage of the extension of the franchise to the hundreds would be that of giving two votes to a person who perhaps held only a freehold of 40s. This was the case in the extension of the franchise from the borough of Cricklade to the neighbouring hundreds. Thus the 40s. freeholders in the borough of Wootton-Basset, which was in one of those hundreds, had, a vote for two members of parliament for Crick lade, a vote for two members for Wooton-Basset, and a vote for the two members for the county. The case was much stronger against throwing the right of voting into the hundred in which Grampound stood, in which were five boroughs. This was, he considered, an evil, and should be avoided. The cases which were cited, he had said, were different from the present, and he thought that each should be con side red on its own grounds. The House had now a borough at its disposal, and he conceived that they would not be acting with justice, if they gave the franchise to those who possessed it already. He would therefore rather vote for the plan which went to extend the franchise to the county of York than that proposed by the noble lord in favour of Leeds but if there were not a sufficient number in favour of the former, he would rather embrace the latter than adopt the suggestion which had been thrown out by the noble lord opposite.
§ Mr. Sumner
fully concurred in the arguments of the noble lord, and of those gentlemen who supported the bill. He thought that such a measure was absolutely necessary at present. In reply to the clamour which was so much heard out of doors, it had often been said, "Show us the particular evil or imperfection of which you complain, and; see whether we will not apply a remedy." Now Grampound was this case: here was art evil admitted on all hands to exist; and he conceived that they would be given but too just a ground for some of the charges which were made (he thought unjustly) against them, if they did not deal with the present case as it deserved. 504 He had been apprehensive that, as this offence had been committed against the last parliament, it could not be well taken up in the present. He was glad to see his doubts removed on this point, and he thought the House were indebted to the noble lord for having brought it forward. All seemed to agree that some interference should take place, but they differed as to what the remedy should be. He certainly vie wed the suggestion of the hon. member for Northumberland as preferable to the plan of the noble mover; because he was now he had always been, a decided advocate for the doctrine, that the principle of representation should rest upon the principle: of property, and not upon that of population, as the modern reformers so clamorously contended. But he hoped that this was not the only casein which the transfer of the elective franchise would take place, and that the corruption of the borough of Penryn would also produce a similar result. The corruption of Penryn was as flagrant as that of Grampound: he trusted, therefore, that some Hon. member would take up that case also, and then he hoped that two representatives would be found, for each of the ridings of Yorkshire.
§ Mr. Beaumont,
in explanation of his proposition, stated, that the wish just expressed by the hon. member for Surrey was that which he contemplated, namely, that in order to give Yorkshire its due share in the representation, there should be two members for the West Riding, instead of those now returned for Gram-pound; and that upon the next proved case of delinquency in any other borough there should be two members also for the North and East Ridings. Hence a due share of influence on the representation would be given to the manufacturing and agricultural interests, for he had no desire to grant any undue ascendancy to either, and it was obvious that the two members for the West riding would be returned by the manufacturing interest, while it was equally obvious that the members for the other Ridings would be returned by the agricultural or landed interest.
§ Mr. Canning
said, that if the intended and avowed purpose of the bill had been merely to disfranchise the borough of Grampound, and if it had been left to be filled up in the committee by what mode the vacancy thus occasioned in the representation was to be supplied, he should not have expressed any opinion in the 505 present stage of the measure. But this was avowedly a bill for creating the town of Leeds into a borough, and that was therefore the point which they were to discuss and to which their arguments were to be addressed. He had no difficulty whatever in saying that he agreed with the noble lord as to the necessity of some new measure respecting the representation of Grampound: he admitted that the borough must be disfranchised—that was, it must be deprived of the privilege of sending members to parliament. But the right hon. gentleman who had supported the bill, carried the consequences of this disfranchisement too far^ for he thought that then there must had total end of the rights of Grampound—that it must be considered as extinguished from that moment, and blotted out from the map Of there presentation. This, however, was not the case. The noble lord did not, it appeared, as some gentlemen seemed to suppose, desire altogether to extinguish the right of voting at Grampound, for according to the bill, the few surviving voters against whom no corruption was proved, were to be invested with a right of voting for the county of Cornwall. So that here was another point distinct from the disfranchisement of this borough, as well as that with respect to the transfer of the right of return to Leeds. The proposition to confer the right of voting for the county upon the surviving voters for Grampound, was certainly a proposition of a very novel character, to which he thought the House would be rather slow to accede, but the provision itself implied the noble lord's recognition of a claim on the part of a certain proportion of the present electors for Grampound, to retain the right of voting for the return of members to that House. This provision then, proposed by the noble lord himself, presented an additional reason, in conjunction with the other reasons which had been stated, for pursuing that course which, in former cases, had always been pursued, namely, overwhelming the surviving voters by an extension of their rights rather than by extinguishing them altogether. But supposing that the opinion of the House were favourable to a transfer, rather than to an extension of the right, he could have no doubt in saying which of the proposed modes of transfer he should prefer. He would undoubtedly of the two prefer the mode suggested by the hon. member for Northumberland, to that by which the 506 noble lord proposed to create a new right in the borough of Leeds. And why would he do so? One of the grounds on which the right hon. gentleman opposite had recommended the transfer to Leeds was, that it would quell the wild doctrine of the reformers, who constantly clamoured about the futility of looting: to that House for any amelioration of the representative system. Now the ground of these wild theories of reform was, that by diffusing very widely the elective franchise, the interests of the people would be more equally consulted than at present. If he looked at the preamble of the bill, be found this very principle recognised in these words:—"The borough of Leeds, in the county of York, having of late years become a place of great trade, population, and wealth, it is expedient that it should have two burgesses to serve in parliament." If he looked at the details of the bill, he found that a right of suffrage was to be granted wild and visionary as to go far beyond a great part of the present system of popular election. Many considerable towns in the kingdom had a right of representation, so much more limited than that which was here proposed, that if parliament were to give its opinion that this was the right principle of representation, namely, that persons who held a tenement of 5l. per annum were after 6 months possession to be admitted to the rights of voters, so far from diffusing content, it must inevitably create discontent in many parts which were now tranquil. Parliament would by such a measure erect a standard of comparison, by referring to which the electors in many places would find their own right extremely limited. He was therefore happy to see, that on the second reading none of the hon. members who had delivered their opinions preferred the bill as it now stood to the other plan which had been proposed by the hon. member for Northumberland. With the exception of the noble lord himself, he believed there were none who did not prefer some other mode of disposing of the forfeited right of Grampound. He had already stated what he conceived to be the defects of the plan proposed by the noble lord, but there was between the noble lord and himself this farther difference of opinion.—He admitted the necessity of disfranchising Grampound, but regarded with jealousy the principle of reform, which the measure necessarily involved. The noble lord looked to the 507 case as a God-send, that enabled him to introduce the principle of parliamentary reform. He (Mr. Canning) submitted to what of parliamentary reform there was in the measure as an evil which the necessity of the case imposed; the noble lord considered that evil as the best part of the measure, and gladly laid hold of the necessity of the case to promote the practical application of the principles of reform. And since there was this essential difference in their opinions, it was possible that the views of both, respecting the present measure, might be somewhat tinged with prejudice. He had stated why he could on no account agree to the annunciation contained in the preamble of this bill: such a proposition going forth to the world would amount to an admission which the House was by no means prepared to make, especially when connected with the declaration of the noble lord on a former occasion, that when other cases of a similar description arose they should be disposed of in a similar manner. He begged himself to be considered as wishing rather that, from the example of Grampound, other places should be deterred from similar corruption; he wished the present case to become a warning, not an example. He earnestly hoped that this case would be a beacon to other boroughs, warning them to take care that they did not render it imperative on the House to transfer their elective rights to other places. That was the view he had of the present case, and with that guard and that protestation he was willing to view the subject as candidly as any hon. member in that House. He could not agree with the noble lord as to the extent of representation which he wished to create. The House should lay down some principle by which they were to be regulated, in future cases, and should beware of leaving the without knowing when they were to reach it again. If he was obliged to maker reform, he wished to make principles already established, and if keep within the boundaries of the constitution and if he found it necessary to make a transfer of rights, he would wish that transfer to be made as it had been made; on former occasions. If, in' the present case, there were rip alternative but, a transfer of the franchise of Grampound be should prefer removing it to the county of York to the creation of a new right in the borough of Leeds, of Leeds, and that preference was founded on various grounds. The 508 noble lord had told them that he himself had hesitated between two degrees of qualification, and had doubted whether 5l. or 10l. should be fixed as the amount. This being the case, others might just as reasonably doubt between 10l. and 15l.; and thus that new right might give rise to disputes, and to an endless complication of measures. On looking, at the population lists, he found that in the year 180O Leeds contained, 53,000 inhabitants; in 1810 the population had increased to 62,000 and calculating on a similar increase for last ten years, the present number of inhabitants might be estimated at 75,000 [lord john Russell said the population amounted, to only, 70,000]. Well, here was a population of 70,000 people; and supposing 35,000, one-half of the whole, to, be females, and one-fourth of the remainder to be incapacitated by nonage and other causes, there would then, remain 24,000 persons, of whom about 8,000, according to the noble lord's proposition, would be admissible to the elective franchise. Now this he (Mr. C.) conceived to be such an extension right of voting, in proportion to the number of the population, as could of be found elsewhere, and would unavoidably tend to create discontent, instead of allaying it. The town of Liverpool for example, which he had the honour to represent, contained 100,000 inhabitants, but only 4,000 of these were electors;, and surely they might complain if a borough of which the population was considerably less should have so many more, electors. The measure of the noble lord therefore instead of proving a source of contentment would only furnish a standard of invidious comparison. For that reason he could agree to it on any account; and if between the two modes he must choose he should prefer removing, the right; of election to the county of York. But his reasons for preferring to either plans the course which had been pursued on former occasions were strengthened by what he had heard in the course of the present debate. An hon. friend of his had stated, that in the case of Wootton-Basset the electors enjoyed a triple franchise in consequence of the borough of Cricklade having been thrown, into, the hundred; and on account of this anomaly an objection was taken to the practice of extending the franchises of corrupt boroughs to the adjoining hundreds. Now, his noble friend had parti- 509 cularly guarded against the occurrence of such a case. He had stated that the diffusion of the franchise could take place only once in the same district, and that, when the neighbouring hundreds had received Grampound, they would be, as it were, saturated. He had laid it down as an admission, that if there was occasion to disfranchise another borough in the same district, a new case would arise, and oh that case the House would be prepared to act. He apprehended the difference between him and his hon. friend was not so great as it seemed, for he admitted case might arise to call for the transfer of the elective right, but He did not wish to catch at the first instance that occurred. Since no other borough had as yet been thrown into this district, let Gram pound be thrown into the adjoining hundred and if, after that, a new borough should be disfranchised in the same case of necessity would arise, and on it they might act accordingly. He was only for interposing delay in favour of precedent, and for doing in Grampound that which had been done in every Case on the Statute-book. To this course there was at present no obstacle either local, physical, or parliamentary; but if, after Grampound, another borough in the same district should be disfranchised, then a parliamentary and local difficulty would arise. His hon. friend would find that there was no difference between them as to their preferring the transfer of the elective franchise to a large county to the creation of a new right. But, let the House defer any acquiescence in the principles of what was called parliamentary reform as long as they could. Let them avoid change as much as possible, in order to save the country from the difficulties, the inconveniences, and the dangers that might be apprehended from it. Let them keep within the range and practice of the constitution until some difficulty should arise which might overmaster their reluctance to depart from it.
although decidedly averse to the wild theory of which so much had been lately said, and which was termed "parliamentary reform," had no hesitation in declaring his unqualified approbation of the bill, as far as it went to disfranchise the borough of Grampound; and that opinion he had stated the first moment the subject came before the House The leaning of his mind was in favour of transferring the elective right either to the 510 county of Cornwall or some other county. If, however, that were done on the principle of the, noble lord he apprehended they were likely to lose the, object for which the transfer was made. He thought himself called on to notice what had been said by his hon. friend the member for surrey respecting the borough of penryn, which he now represented. When his hon. friend said that the corruption of Penryn was similar to that of Grampound, he surely could not have read the evince which had been laid before the House. In Grampound the corruption had been general, and a great majority of the electors had been, convicted of bribery; but he would ask whether there was any thing in the evidence on, the table as to Penryn which could deserve that character? Out of upwards of three hundred voters, bribery had been proved only against eight. With respect to the inhabitants of Penryn, he believed them to, he pretty much of the same character as, those of every and lot borough in the kingdom. That there were individuals within that borough by no means capable of resisting a bribe he fully, believed; but he had found the inhabitants, take them generally, a respectable; and well-informed body of gentlemen and tradesmen, who would be as ready, to restrict improper practices as his hon. friend could be; and if any gentleman should be, disposed to follow up the measure attempted in the last parliament—the disfranchisement of Penryn—he should be ready to do justice to the inhabitants of that place, and to resist such a measure with his most determined powers.
Mr. Davies Gilbert
bore testimony, from local and personal knowledge, to the respectability of the freeholders of the two hundreds to which it was proposed to extend the right of voting for the future representatives of Grampound, declaring that he had no doubt, upon such an arrangement, the members would the returned for, that district upon such an arrangement the members would be returned for that district upon as independent principles as for any county in England. He was decided advocate for the principle of representation upon property for than population; and he though that the signal merit of the representation no in that House was, that it did not amount to a, direct delegation from the people; for it would be impossible for an assembly controlled by the mass of the people to be co-existent with any other, branch of the constitution The events of the few last years had sufficiently proved 511 that such a power would speedily sweep away the aristocracy, would speedily overwhelm the monarchy itself. Sorry should he be to see the country placed under the dominion of an assembly ready to assent to any proposition, however wild and visionary, that might strike the fancy of its constituents. Well was he convinced that the evils which must result from such a system would go on increasing, until a military despotism became the only remedy which could effectually be applied to them. He did not mean to say that the simple transfer of the elective franchise from Grampound to Leeds would of itself produce the consequences which he had described; but he thought it the first step towards a new fangled and dangerous system, and should therefore oppose it.
§ Sir John Newport
was of opinion that the concluding observations of the hon. member who last spoke, were not called for by the subject under discussion. He thought that the House was bound to examine in what part of the country the greatest portion of the people ought to be represented; and he objected to throwing the borough of Grampound into the adjoining hundreds, upon the ground that the county of Cornwall was already more than sufficiently represented. It mattered little whether the members returned were chosen by the inhabitants of Grampound or by those of the adjacent hundreds; they were still members for the county of Cornwall, and would, in the execution of their parliamentary duties, look especially to the interests of that county. In the present case, an occasion offered for letting in a part of that large portion of the people who were insufficiently represented; and he thought that the House was bound to avail itself of the opportunity. In what quarter of the kingdom did the want of adequate representation more decidedly exist than in Yorkshire? The noble lord opposite had said that he did not consider amount of numbers and contribution in the way of taxation as affording a ground for superior representation. He was surprised at hearing such a proposition from the noble lord, when the noble lord himself in the case of the Union between Ireland and this country, had acted directly upon a contrary principle. Upon that occasion it had been matter of arrangement, in selecting those places which should be struck off and those which should be represented, that the numbers 512 of the inhabitants, and the amount of contribution, should be especially considered; nay, he believed—if he was wrong the noble lord would correct him—but he believed that, there having been two particular places in which the numbers were equal, those places had drawn lots for the privilege of representation. He considered that principle as a wise and a just principle. It was a principle calculated to effect that species of reform which was most desirable; and the noble lord, in acting upon it, had been the greatest parliamentary reformer who had ever appeared in the country. He was sorry to find that the noble lord now proposed to act upon a contrary principle. He meant no censure upon that noble lord; he might have changed his opinion upon wise and sufficient grounds. In opposition to the hon. member for Liverpool, he (sir J. Newport) looked with favour upon the proposed measure, because it did savour of parliamentary reform; because it did coincide with the promise held out by the House, that, although they would not deal in general measures, yet, when a case should be made out before them, then they would act upon it. Why ought the House to do so? Because it was their duty, and they must feel it their duty, to correct those defects which time had allowed to creep into the established system.
in explanation, said, that he was under the necessity of pursuing the course in Ireland alluded to by the hon. baronet, in order to settle the competition between the different boroughs.
§ Mr. Warre
observed, that it required no great sagacity to foresee that the fate of this bill would be like that of many other bills of a similar nature, upon which ministers had smiled in the first instance, but from which they had afterwards withdrawn their support. The noble lord opposite would take no measure in favour of parliamentary reform, unless, driven to it by necessity. The noble lord would not agree to carry a single particle of elective franchise out of Cornwall, unless the county were so full that there was no longer room to put a member into it. He (Mr. Warre) was an enemy to all wild and sweeping plans of reform; but they who considered the present system of representation so all wise and all perfect as to admit of no improvement, erred in the other extreme, and he was anxious to avoid extremes of every kind. No one could deny that a 513 general feeling did pervade the country that the House ought hot to shut their ears against such an opportunity as that which now presented itself. What mode of alteration could be so fit, in the eye even of the most timid reformer, as a measure which applied but to one single place? In common with an hon. member Who had spoken some time before him, and with many other gentlemen on the same side of the House, he could not forget the general satisfaction which had been manifested throughout the country at the manner in which this question had been originally met by ministers. They were applauded for having allowed the extent of the corruption, and it was in all societies a subject of congratulation. "At last," the world had said, "here is the thing fairly admitted by government; at last, the case is clearly made out; at last one Cornish borough will really be extinguished." He (Mr. Warre) was he wild or desperate reformer; but he trusted that the measure now proposed would be considered once more before it was rejected. He would support the measure upon its own independent merits, and he would also support the measure inasmuch as he deemed it absurd to contend that, because the House of Commons was constituted in a particular manner at the present moment, it therefore was impossible to amend or to improve it.
§ Mr. William Smith
rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the noble lord opposite to a point which had been urged by his hon. friend the member for Water-ford, and which the noble lord had not satisfactorily explained. In answer to his hon. friend's argument, founded on the course pursued by the noble lord at the period of the Union with Ireland, the noble lord had alleged that in that case he had been compelled to select. Some members were to be retained, others to be rejected; and population and taxation had been made the criterion; but, if that principle for selection was not the best that could be adopted, why did the noble lord then make choice of it? The noble lord had borne testimony to the soundness of that principle in a way which he would find it extremely difficult to get rid of. When he (Mr. William Smith) recollected that Cornwall at the present moment returned 44 members to that House, he could not but consider it highly objectionable that the elective privilege taken from Grampound should be retained within that 514 county. He had heard it lamented by some gentlemen that the county of Cornwall, notwithstanding the number of its members, was inadequately represented, inasmuch as that the members returned to that House were not, in general, persons resident in, and connected with, the county. It certainly was matter for explanation how it happened, that the electors of Cornwall, instead of choosing persons interested in the county, thought fit to send all over England in search of representatives. Was not that single fact sufficient to prove that undue influence prevailed, and that elections in Cornwall were not always governed by proper motives? He could not help adverting to the observations which had been made by an hen. member on the other side. There could be little danger of members coming to that House delegated by the mass of the people, merely because the elective privilege was transferred from Grampound to Leeds. He apprehended that a householder paying scot and lot in the town of Leeds, and occupying a house of 5l. value, would be as well instructed, and as free from undue influence, as a 40s. freeholder in the county of York. If the question had been a question of universal suffrage—if it had been proposed to give the right of voting to the mob that met on Hunsletmoor, there might have been some ground for such an argument as that which the hon. member had employed.
Mr. D. Gilbert
explained. He thought that the hon. member could want no assistance from any one to understand the nature of the Cornish boroughs, because, if he was not mistaken, the hon. gentleman had first entered that House as member for Grampound.
§ Mr. W. Smith
allowed that he did, certainly, thirty years ago, represent a Cornish borough; and if he were to state the mode in which he had been returned for that borough, perhaps the manner of his election would not be sanctioned by the public approbation.
thought that the question; had hot been placed in the true point of view. It was admitted that some measure was required in order to prevent the recurrence of those practices which had, up to a certain point, prevailed in the borough of Grampound. It was not necessary, however, for that purpose, that the borough should be disfranchised. The; ordinary practice in such cases had been to admit a certain number of new voters, 515 in order to control those already existing. The right hon. gentleman opposite said, "Here is a case in which you admit that Grampound is to be disfranchised. Gram-pound is to be struck out of the list of boroughs; and there are two members of the House to be disposed of." But the practice of the House upon similar occasions had been, to remedy the evil with the least possible infringement upon the rights of parties. The question was not whether the measure of the noble lord was or was not the best mode of disfranchising the borough of Grampound, but whether it was necessary to adopt that course at all. The three cases of precedent which had been alluded to must be in the memory of every one; in those cases the course the House pursued was, to provide a remedy with as little injury as possible to existing privileges; but there was another case to which he would advert. In the case of the borough of Helston, all the voters had been affected by the charge of corruption, as far as that charge went; for the members were proved to have paid all the poor-rates; and in that case it had been proposed by a brother of the noble lord to transfer the elective franchise of the borough to some great town in York shire. The House, however, negatived that proposition; and threw the right of voting into the adjoining hundreds. Now it was not supposed that the whole of the inhabitants of Grampound had been implicated in corrupt practices, any more than that the whole had been implicated in the cases of Cricklade and of Shoreham. It was by mere accident that the noble lord was enabled to give any colour to his plan for transferring the elective franchise from Gram-pound to Leeds, for if the Penryn bill had happened to precede that of the noble lord, there would have been, no other question before the House but that of throwing the votes of electors into the adjoining hundreds. It seemed to result from what had been said in answer to an objection, which was at one time manifested, to transfer the franchise to Leeds, that it was conceived Cornwall returned too many members to parliament.; but this opjection so far as it went, might apply equally well to other countiiesr—to Wiltshire, for instance. Cornwall, he believed, contained twenty-two boroughs; Wiltshire for sixteen. The principle of the noble lord's measure, therefore, seemed to be the same as that upon which the necessity of 516 parliamentary reform was contended for, namely, that some counties returned too many members. Now, at present, he did not see what necessity there could be for mixing up with that subject questions which were merely dependent upon and necessary parts of it. He considered that it would be sufficient for the purposes of punishment, and the visitation of the abuse, to take away the elective franchise in this instance; but it was not required that that proceeding should have the effect of giving, representation to others who were now unrepresented. He voted for the proposition of his noble friend, and of course against the motion of the noble lord because it introduced no new right, while at the same time, it would tend to inflict such punishment on Grampound as its corruptions deserved. No sweeping measures should be resorted to, except in the last necessity; nor should a principle of loose reform be engrafted upon a measure which had-a; specific object in view—namely, the remedy of certain and avowed corruption. On the question of reform generally, he did not then wish to give any opinion; but when it came formally before the House, he should freely state what he thought upon the matter.
said, that although this debate had been protracted beyond the time, which, he presumed, it was originally intended to occupy, yet he would beg leave to detain the House a little longer, in order to say a few words which might explain his reasons for supporting the motion of the noble lord. As right hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House had thought it due to themselves, and due to their characters for fairness and candour, to state the reasons of their support to the measure before the House, he trusted they would allow him, in justice to his own character for fairness and candour, to make the same explanations, although they would proceed upon principles totally different from those of the right hon. gentlemen. Upon the present occasion, he thought the House did perfectly right in recognizing, as a principle, that the representation of the people wanted some reform. He should himself have taken the opportunity of submitting a similar proceeding to them before, if he had not thought that the noble lord who introduced the bill might have lost as much by his (Mr. Hobhouse's) alliance in that House as he had lost in the country by the alliance of the noble lord oppo- 517 site. Really, at that moment, it did seem very necessary that the House should adopt some measure or other to prove to the country that they participated with them in the general call for a reform of parliament; and so far as the noble lord had in some degree recognized that necessity in the preamble to his bill, he gave it his support. And he said this so much the more, because it had been re presented in that House that there was a certain number of reformers in the country who called for so much that they would not take less than they called for. If it were so, he could only say that lie was not one of those reformers. He was one of those who received with gratitude every concession of this sort; who was grateful for every step which was taken by the House in meeting the wishes and in favouring the just demands of the people of England. And he was most grateful to the noble lord who introduced the bill, not only for what he had now done, but for what had been done by him upon former occasions to restore the just rights and liberties of the people of England. With respect to the objections which had been taken to that part of the bill which said, that something should be done to reform the representation, and to transfer the franchises to Leeds, he could not concur in them; because all that he had heard upon this topic was, that those hon. gentlemen who so objected, would defer the fulfilment of that part as long as possible—would defer, what they were pleased to call the evil day. The right hon. gentleman who had used that term was not then in the House, and therefore he would not indulge in replying to the observation. But, as far as his voice might reach, he wished it to be known that he did not consider it an evil day: he looked forward to it as one auspicious to these kingdoms, and beneficial to the nation—as a day calculated to confer lasting happiness upon all classes without alloy and without his content,—as that day which would restore to the Crown its true and real dignity; and to the people of England, a government, to which, by the ancient laws and; constitution of the realm, they possessed an indisputable claim.
§ Mr. A. Moore,
in contending for the propriety of this bill going to a Commit—tee, reviewed the various objections which had been taken to it by hon. gentlemen, and the propositions which had grown out of it. Some of those objections 518 having been taken as to particular clauses, had been thought to affect the principle of the bill. But it was difficult to say what the principle of a bill was. The principle must be diffused through all the clauses; but if an objection was taken to a clause was it, therefore, an objection to the bill? If so, no bill scarcely ever would pass that House, It seemed to him, however, that whichever way the different opinions of hon. gentlemen tended, they all went to this point—tliatit was most expedient the bill should go to committee. It had been said, that in the cases of Shoreham, Cricklade, and Aylesbury, there was no principle of reform recognized or adopted. But this statement' he conceived to be erroneous; because every change effected, even in the mode of returning members, or in the mode of exercising that elective franchise, by virtue of which they were sent to that House, was a species of parliamentary reform. And then again, this was in reality transfer of the franchise as had been said it was either an extension the franchise in the borough of Grampound, or the creation of a new right in the borough of Leeds. Whether they transferred the right, therefore, or diffused it through these hundreds, as had been suggested, in whatever had been proposed, the principle of parliamentary reform was equally recognized. If the reasoning which had been set up against the one clause were to avail at all, it would avail against the whole bill. If the noble lord Opposite maintained that the principle of reform ought not to be recognised, upon such a view of the question this bill could never be passed at all. The noble lord's mode of attacking the bill as; in effect a mode of attacking that part of it upon which the House entertained no difference of opinion.
Lord John Russell,
in reply, observed, that he had but a very few words to offer tbthe1 House. He had heard, with great pain the declaration of the noble lord opposite, and he did hope to have heard him, in the course of the debate, retract: what he had said; but in that expectation he was disappointed. At the end of December last, the noble lord would recollect, that he (lord John Russell) had given notice of his intention to bring in a bill to transfer the right of voting from Grampound to Leeds. Not one word of objection was, upon that occasion offered by the noble lord; but he did understand 519 him then to say, that he admitted his (lord J. Russell's) principle, as one proper to be adopted by the House, whenever the debate should occur. What he now complained of in the noble lord, was, not that he had violated any engagement which he had stipulated to observe, as upon this occasion, but that the grounds upon which he contested the measure were so weak and nugatory. It was something curious that the noble lord in the interval which had elapsed since December last should not have found some better reason to assign for this seeming difference of opinion, than that which he now brought forward, namely, that the present measure was not founded upon the same principle as that which had been gone upon in the cases of Shoreham, Cricklade, and Aylesbury. But upon the noble lord's own showing, the force of his objection, in this respect, did not appear. The population of Cornwall was 269,000, who returned 44 members. The united population of the counties of Wilts and Sussex amounted to 383,000 persons, who re-turned 32 members. Therefore, the effect of the bill was, to take away a portion of its franchises from a county that with the lesser population returned the more members. But the noble lord and the right hon. the president of the board of control had found great fault with the principle of the bill, as admitting population and taxation to be the basis of representation. But this had been completely answered by an hon. baronet, who had observed, that the noble lord himself adopted the same principle at the Union. But what, he would ask, should be the principle of such a bill as this but the claims of population? Surely those who were to transfer the right of voting would not seek another Sarum to rest it in! He was sorry the right hon. the president of the board of control was not present; for he should have liked to ask him, whether, even in Liverpool itself, where the right of voting was not very unequally diffused, there were not many voters who could not come up to the poll, and swear that they were possessed of freeholds worth 5l. a year? He would ask if any one would deny the numerous political and moral evils which flowed from the corrupt state of the representation? Then, if they could find one of these boroughs in which corruption existed to a notorious degree, why should they not carry its right of voting to a town of so large a population? He 520 was an enemy to extensive reform, because he found that every principle of that sort led to a re-modelling of all our political institutions which he was far from wishing, and could not countenance. But why should objection be taken to a measure which was intended to punish and to remedy absolute and detected abuses—a measure founded upon constitutional principles, and upon the analogy of ancient laws? It had been termed a visionary hope, that it should have the effect of repressing similar offences on the one hand, and producing beneficial consequences to an unrepresented part of the community on the other. But the views of the president of the board of control appeared far more visionary, for he had expressed his hope, that the punishment of Grampound would teach all the other boroughs of Cornwall more caution, more propriety for the future. Now he (lord J. Russell) had heard of many visionary schemes; but of none quite so visionary as this expectation of the right hon. gentleman, that the punishment of one borough would purify all the rest. He had only further to say, that, with respect to what had fallen from the hon. member for Northumberland, he should be perfectly ready, for his part, to meet whatever might be the sense of the House; and he should have been pleased to have found in the noble lord the same readiness upon this point.
rose to explain. He was fearful that some misunderstanding had occurred between himself and the noble lord: at the same time he had no wish to conceal his real sentiments upon the point to which the noble lord had alluded. He could have wished that the noble lord had felt himself at liberty to remodel his bill upon the principles observed in former cases: but he must contend that he had acted with every public and private candour towards the noble lord.
§ The bill was then read a second time.