HC Deb 21 April 1823 vol 8 cc1147-9
Mr. A. Pelham

presented a petition from the county of Lincoln, praying a reform in parliament.

Mr. A. Smith

, though not present at the meeting, was able to take upon himself to say, that it did not consist of more than 500, including men, women, and children. Much as the word had been stigmatized in the mouth of a noble duke, he would assert, that a more complete farce had never been played off than at the meeting at which this petition was agreed to.

Sir R. Heron

maintained, that the meeting was extremely respectable. The amendment of major Cartwright for a radical reform, as it was called, was negatived most decisively, only about twenty hands having been held up in its favour. It had been said, that the majority was against reform; if so, why did not they effectually resist the petition? That the enemies of all reform were numerously assembled on that day, he would not deny; for, in the reading-room at Lincoln, he had never seen so large a collection of big-wigs, shovel-hats, and short petticoats in his life. They, however, had not thought it right to stand forward, and the petition was carried.

Colonel Johnson

avowed himself a radical, however unpalatable the term might be in that House. He had seconded the amendment of major Cartwright, and was satisfied that the great majority of the people were in favour of reform.

Lord Milton

said, that the duty had been imposed upon him of presenting the petition of the freeholders of Yorkshire. The; petition, he might assert, was unanimously carried, and the persons assembled were at least ten times as numerous as at Lincoln; and generally it might be stated, that at least among the middling and inferior classes, great uniformity of opinion prevailed upon this question. When sixteen years ago, a contest took place for the county, every part of Yorkshire was ransacked for voters, and 23,070 came to the poll. To this petition no less than 17,083 names were affixed, forming two-thirds of the free holders of Yorkshire. The utmost pains had been taken to exclude the names of persons who were not bona fide freeholders; and he did not believe, having gone over the whole of them, that there were fifty to which an exception could be reasonably made. One or two had signed as trustees, a few more as free holders of Hull, and of York, who ought properly not to have been included, and he believed that the names of five females would be found upon the petition. Strictly, perhaps, they were out of their place, although, according to the scheme of reform of major Cartwright, they would be entitled to vote. With regard to the opinions of the petitioners, he entirely concurred in them. He had formerly, once or twice, voted against reform, but the conduct of the House had converted him to the persuasion that a reform was absolutely necessary. In this conversion he was not singular. The same change had taken place in the opinions of a man of most calm and sober judgment, the hon. member for Thetford. The same remark would apply to the noble member for Salisbury (lord Folkestone) a man of inflexible political integrity, though in some of his notions eccentric. A similar conversion had occurred in the case of a noble relation, one of the members for the county of Nottingham (lord W. Bentinck). The petitioners did not point out any particular course with respect to reform upon which they wished the House to proceed: and he approved of their silence upon that head. The House would do well to attend to opinions which were backed by the authority of more than 17,000 names; that list embodying, independent of respectable free holders, absolutely a majority of the aristocracy of the county of York.—The noble lord, after declaring as his fixed opinion, that the House had long ceased to do its duty faithfully, moved, that the petition be brought up.

Mr. Stuart Wortley

, although be willingly bore testimony to the excellent conduct of the meeting, and to the high respectability of the names affixed to the petition, yet dissented entirely from the opinions which that petition expressed.

Mr. R. Colborne

, thought that the modern practice of publishing parliamentary debates, by subjecting public men to the influence of public opinion, had done much towards a practical reform.

The petition was then brought up and read. It was 380 feet in length.

Mr. Sykes

reminded the House, that the signatures had been fairly and openly obtained, at a time when, from the general cheapness of provisions, there was little incitement to discontent. He believed that for the present petition, the friends of reform were a good deal indebted to the late member for Liverpool, who now held so distinguished a place in the councils of the Crown (Mr. Canning). That right hon member, in a speech at Liverpool, had pointedly alluded to the reformers of the county of York. The county of York by its petition now answered the right hon. gentleman.

Ordered to lie on the table.