§ Lord A. Hamilton
rose to bring forward his promised motion on the State of this County Representation in Scotland.
§ Mr. Serjeant Onslow
rose to order, and said, that by a standing order of the House, all orders of the day set down for Mondays and Fridays, must be disposed of, before the notices entered upon the book were proceeded upon.
§ The standing order to that effect was then read.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, that he stood upon his right to introduce his motion, which appeared first upon the list of notices. He had yielded to the call to order, and would again sit down, if that call were repeated; but he trusted, that unless he said something which the Chair should deem disorderly, no gentleman would interrupt him in the performance of an undoubted right which he was in the act of exercising. He did not mean to disguise from them, that he felt himself placed in an unusual situation. He had already, on three successive occasions, put off his motion for the convenience of the gentlemen opposite. It was understood on those occasions, that he was to have precedence on a future evening. Now, it was obvious that if such arrangements were disregarded, it would be useless to make any such in future. Under the circumstances in which he was placed, he would leave it to the hon. members opposite, whether he ought not to proceed. He had given way before for their convenience, but he could not consent to do so at present.
Mr. S. Wortley
rose to order. He said, he was anxious to have it decided, whether the House was to abide by its sessional order or not. In adherence to those orders, the orders of the day ought on Mondays to have precedence.
Mr. Secretary Canning
admitted the difficulties in which, the noble lord and the House were placed on this occasion. It must be agreed, that according to a strict adherence to the sessional order, the orders of the day ought to have precedence on that day; but it was well known that there were deviations from the rule by an understanding between members on both sides. He was not in the House when the arrangement to which the noble, lord referred was entered into, but as it was made with those with whom he acted, he would, under the circumstances, consider himself a party to it.
complained of the inconvenience which would arise from this deviation from the regular practice of the House. For his own part, he feared the delay would be fatal to his bill (the safe of game bill). He should like to hear the decision of the Chair, whether the sessional orders were to have force or not.
§ The Speaker
said, that by the sessional, orders certain days were fixed on which orders were to have precedence, and others on which notices had the priority. That regulation was, he well recollected made under a strong protest by several members, as being an infringement upon the privilege of a member, to originate a motion without notice. It was certainly right that the sessional orders should be strict adhered to; but, this session, in consequence of the inquiry into the conduct of the sheriff' of Dublin, several deviations had unavoidably taken place. With respect to the noble lord who was now in possession of the House, it must be presumed that he intended to conclude his speech with a motion; and no amendment to that could be made until it, was before the House.
Mr. S. Wortley
again rose to order, and began to point out the inconvenience of a departure from the sessional order, when he was interrupted by
§ The Speaker
, who observed, that this was not speaking to a point of order. The hon. member might urge those topics at the conclusion of the noble lord's speech, but not before.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
then proceeded. He rose, he said, to call the attention of the House to the state of the representa- 613 tion of the counties in Scotland. He was not aware that any alteration in the representation of that country would be for his individual advantage; but he looked beyond that, and took the question up as one which was likely to benefit the public. He was sorry to find that his motion had put to flight so many honourable members as he saw leaving the House, who, he believed, came there for a different object; and regretted that the interest of partridges and pheasants seemed to be so much preferred to that of their constituents. He hoped, however, the time was approaching when the interest of the constituent would be better attended to. He wished to call the particular attention of the right hon. Secretary opposite (Mr. Canning) to this important question. It was, as far as he knew, one which the right hon. gentleman had never touched—a species of reform with which he had not yet grappled. It was quite different in its nature from that of any question of reform in England. The representation of Scotland, so far from being similar, was a direct contrast to that of England. In England, representation was founded upon property and population. Neither the one nor the other formed necessarily the basis of the elective franchise in Scotland. In the Scotch counties, representation was not founded on property; in the Scotch burghs it was not founded on population. Property was excluded in the counties, and population in the burghs; for no extent of land, no possession of property, necessarily conferred a right of voting in that country. In England, the object of alt the laws on the subject of representation was, to correct the abuses which had crept in, and to enforce the rights of electors; but he would show, that the defects 6f the system in Scotland did not rest in the abuses of the law, but in the very nature of the law itself. On this subject, he would read to the House the opinion of a very grave authority; that of the lord chancellor Thurlow, who, in speaking of the state of the representation in Scotland, had said, that the evil was fundamental, and such as the legislature alone could remedy. The noble lord then read the extract, in which lord Thurlow declared, that such was the state of the representation in that country, that the right, of election might be in the hands of those who had no earthly stake in the country. This opinion he intended 614 to make the ground of some of his present resolutions.
He would ask, what ought to be the restitution of the House of Commons? In the first place, it ought to be so constituted, as to speak the sentiments of the people—to act so as to merit their confidence—and it ought to be under the control of the constituents. Applying this to the state of the representation in Scotland, it showed the system there in a most odious light. That system was in fact such, that the whole property and the immense majority of the population might be averse from those chosen to represent them. Such members, then, could not be said to represent the country, in the strict and proper sense of the word. It was, in fact, notorious that they did not speak the sense of the country, and could not therefore merit its confidence. Then, as to the third point, he would ask, was there any efficient control over the member by the constituent? If there was any control, it was a control exercised by a privileged few, not for the benefit but to the injury of the many. This evil of so long continuance was every day becoming worse and worse; because, in proportion as the population became more enlightened and more wealthy, so much the less was this system adapted for them; and it was more than absurd to continue a practice which at any time was not calculated to speak the sense of the people. To those who were not conversant in Scotch laws and customs, it was difficult to give a clear idea of what really constituted the right of a vote at an ejection for a member of parliament. It rested, as he had said, not upon property or population, but on the possession of a piece of parchment, which conferred no rank, and little or no property on its holder; for the property to which he might have claim by it might not exceed the value of one penny. It might, in some respect, be compared to the copyhold system in England. If a lord of a manor has forty persons paying him one shilling each per year, he would thereby be a forty shilling freeholder, and would, by his qualification as a voter, be supposed to represent that sum of properly. But, if each and every one of those persons who paid the shilling were worth 1000l., and still paid only the shilling, there still would be only the 40s. represented by him. Such a case as this rarely occurred in England, but it we 615 the general case in Scotland., This was clear from the rolls of the freeholders in that country. He had moved in 1820, for a return of the number of voters in Scotland, which was laid before the House. From that return it appeared, that the entire number of voters in the country was only 2,889. Now, when the House heard that out of such a population as that of Scotland there were so few voters, he thought it would be sufficient to induce them to grant all he asked: which was, to consider the state of the representation of that country, with a view to remedy its evils. He had stated, that the number of voters was only 2,889; but in fact, it should be taken at somewhat less, because many names (of persons having votes in several counties) occurred frequently. As one instance, he might be allowed to mention his own case. He had the right to vote in five counties in Scotland, in not one of which did he possess an acre of land; and he had no doubt that if he took the trouble, he might have a vote for every county in that kingdom. In some counties, two persons were named in each register of a vote, by what was termed "fiar and life rent," and of these two each had a right of voting in the absence of the other. In some counties they voted alternately. From such a small aggregate of voters as he had mentioned for the whole country, the number in each county could be but small. In no county did the number of voters exceed 240, and in one it was as low as nine. He begged here to be distinctly understood. He did not mean to say tha the possession of property did not give a vote. All he meant to state was, that no extent of property, however great, necessarily conferred the right of voting, unless it was accompanied with what was termed a superiority" of land. But this superiority might be possessed without any property whatever.
He now came to show what was the kind of control of the constituents over the representative. In the county which he represented (Lanarkshire), the number of voters from superiority and property was 66; the number from superiority alone was 95. So that the 95 without any property could return whom they pleased to select, and the persons who really held the property of the county could not prevent it. Was this a state of things which ought to continue? In his county there were 154 commissioners of 616 supply, who were in fact called to do the whole business of the county, except at elections, and of these not one bad a right to vote. In England, the defects of the borough representation were said to be corrected by the representation of the counties; but in Scotland, the representation of counties served only to aggravate the evil. In the counties, as he had shown, the representation might be quite distinct from property: and in the boroughs how could the evil be remedied, where fourteen or fifteen self-elected per sons returned a member of parliament? Again; what was the result of this.sys8i tem, when the conduct of Scotch members was canvassed and commented upon in that country? Why, it was made an objection to many of them, that they were not the representatives of the people, but merely the representatives of the few who returned them to parliament. This was the w case in the instance of his hon. friend (Mr. Hume), whose conduct was severely commented upon in Scotland in certain papers which were circulated there under high authority about two years ago. It was there objected to his hon. friend, who was called the member for Aberdeen, but who, it was known, had not the support of Aberdeen, that he was not the representative of the people, and did not speak their sentiments—that he was chosen by a very few. In fact, the same objection might be made to almost every election in Scotland.
So much for the freeholders. He would now come to the application of the principle of representation to the population. In the counties, the proportion of electors to the population was one 625; in the burghs it was one in 7000 and upwards. Was this a state of things which ought to be allowed to remain? Was it what could be called a full and fair representation of the people? He would not trespass on the indulgence of the House, by entering into the minute detail which the subject afforded, but would confine himself to the statement of a few circumstances which occurred in the late contest for the representation of the county of Lanark, by which as good a judgment might be formed of the system, as if he entered into it more at length. About two years before the close of the late parliament admiral Cochrane published an advertisement, stating that on the next vacancy he should offer himself for the country of 617 Lanark. At that time he was wholly disqualified, for he was not a freeholder, and the law of Scotland requited that a: candidate should be, a freeholder for a year and a day. The object of his partisans from that moment was, to make a number of paper votes, to counteract the majority that had expressed itself in his (lord A. Hamilton's) favour. He accumulated a number of technical superiorities wholly unconnected with property. The contest, in fact, was merely between the government on the one hand, and himself on the other. To place the matter in the strongest possible point of view, he would state what he himself had done. He endeavoured to obtain as many superiorities as he could buy, and these he divided into as small portions as would qualify a voter, taking care that they should not exceed a single penny either way, being 400l. Scotch. His next business was, to find persons to hold them, and here he must observe some little mystery. Upon all the rest of the case he would be perfectly open, but he could not inform the House how he obtained those persons: that was a secret, and must remain so. If it were necessary, he should resort to the same course at the next election [Hear!]. No doubt the learned-lord opposite (the lord advocate) had adopted the same expedients, or better; for no man could doubt his skill and knowledge in these matters. It was worth notice, however, that his (lord A. Hamilton's) law agents in Scotland seemed to have had a peculiar gift of knowing, from their physiognomy, what persons might or might not be trusted with superiorities, and he did not believe that, in a single instance, they had voted against him. The details of a Scotch election were somewhat amusing, and he hoped that the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Canning) would favour the House with his opinion upon them, and not deal merely in high-flown generalities. Having taken legal advice, he (lord A. Hamilton) advertised for persons to whom he might intrust the superiorities he had bought. And here he begged to read the questions that were put to voters at Scotch elections. The first was—"Did you apply for your freehold qualification?" The next, "Was application made to you to accept of the said freehold qualification, and by whom? 3rdly, "Did you pay any price for the qualification, and what was it?" 4thly, Was 618 the expense of making up your, titles paid by you, or by whom?" 5thly "Did you give any orders for making out your titles, that you might get your name enrolled as a freeholder?" 6thly, "Do you derive any pecuniary emolument whatever from your freehold?" 7thly, "Do you receive the rents established by your title; or if not, by whom are they received?" 8thly, "Do you consider yourself bound in honour to vote for the candidate whom you believe the grantor favours?" 9thly, "Do you feel yourself bound in honour to renounce your right, if convenient to the grantor?" 10thly, "Would you feel yourself bound in honour to renounce your right rather than vote against the candidate whom the grantor favours?" All these questions deserved attention on the part of the House, although he admitted they would, excite nothing but ridicule, if any body should attempt to put them at an English election. He now came to what was called the "Trust Oath," and it was in this form—"I, A. B, in the presence of God, do declare that the land and estate for which I claim a right to vote is in my possession, and is my own proper estate, and that the same is a true and real estate in fee." Any person unacquainted with the practice of Scotch elections would suppose that a true and real estate in fee meant an estate in land. Such would be the English interpretation of the words; but Scotch electors were told on high legal authority, that it meant only the possession of what was called "a superiority."
He would now say a few words as to the mode of conducting elections; and this he considered, if possible, still more objectionable. The greatest objection to it was, that it threw so much power into the hands of the Crown, or of those de pendent upon the Crown—the sheriffs of counties. In the first place, the sheriff had the right to fix the day of election; and as the right of voting depended upon possession for a year and a day, it so happened, in the case of Lanarkshire, that a great advantage was given by the sheriff to admiral Cochrane, who had made some twenty votes, a few days earlier than about the same number of voters in his (lord A. H's.) interest. Thus, his voters, by the act of the sheriff, were excluded. A great part of the science of the sheriff depended upon the fixing the days of elections; so that gentlemen who had a 619 right of voting in various counties should not have the power of doing so. On the occasion to which he alluded, this science was displayed much to his discomfiture; for though he succeeded, he succeeded by a small, instead of a large majority. The learned lord must know, that elections were often prolonged by all sorts of chicanery, in order that votes might be ripened. If necessary, a vast deal of time was occupied by the talking of lawyers; and at the last Lanarkshire election it had been determined in consequence, that no lawyer who was not a freeholder should be heard. There were, however, about twenty still left, to talk just as much as they pleased. He recollected an instance at one Scotch election, where, it being necessary to send a messenger to Edinburgh, the lawyers undertook to talk till he should come back, and they did so; though the distance was sixty miles. It was to be observed also, that the poll in Scotland admitted of no adjournment, and scenes in consequence were not un-frequently witnessed highly discreditable to the humanity of the age. He had seen voters brought in litters, and kept at the doors to prevent their polling. The election being over, as a matter of course five-and-twenty law suits, respecting the right of voting, started up against him, and though he had succeeded, it was a great evil that the right of voting should be involved in such difficulty and mystery as to render the resort to a court of law necessary. He knew that speculations had been entered into, as to whether this or that president of a court was most likely to be favourable to government. Among what were called the old fifteen judges of Scotland, the result of a political question might be as easily guessed, as the result of a debate in that House. He agreed, however, that considerable, alterations in this respect had taken place of late; but he asserted, nevertheless, that such a political bias existed in the courts of Scotland, that no man, who could avoid it, would venture within their walls with a question of that sort. He would undertake to prove that in the case of Mr. Borthwick, where he was a pursuer against the "Beacon" newspaper, that political bias had been in operation. He would stake his character and reputation upon the fact, that with eight men out of ten that political bias operated against him. After the election for Lanarkshire, he had been charged in the 620 petition with gross and corrupt bribery; but after the law-suits were defeated that accusation was withdrawn. He should be glad to know why this odious system was to be continued. What had long been the character of Scotchmen in the eye of the world? and why was the word Scotch almost synonymous with the word job? He arraigned the House as the cause; for whenever a motion had been made to remedy the evil, it had been resisted.
He now came to his last point—the method by which he would correct the abuses he had stated. On this subject he was disposed to say very little, and would in fact, merely give the outlines of his plan. He first laid it down as a position, that he would destroy no existing right, but he would add others which did not exist. He would introduce some question between properties and superiorities, by making the vote depend in some degree upon the dominium utile; or, if that were not deemed qualification enough, he would include also a certain extent of personal property. The number of electors would thus be increased, and in general his object would be to approach as nearly to the spirit of the English constitution as was practicable in countries so differently circumstanced. He was aware that his plan might be attended with difficulties; but he was persuaded that it was liable to no formidable objections. The leading point he wished to impress upon the House was, that whereas Scotch county elections ought to be correctives of the Scotch burghs, they were in fact augmentations of the evil. He could conceive few things more painful than for a member to be returned, by twenty or thirty self-elected council-men, while there were thousands who, if they had had a right to vote, would have opposed him. The present member for Edinburgh (sir G. Clerk) was returned by about thirty electors, while there were 30,000 of the population decidedly against him. The situation of his hon. friend the member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hume) was directly the reverse. He was elected in spite of thirty council-men, arid 30,000 inhabitants of Aberdeen rejoiced in his return. The noble lord concluded by moving the following Resolutions:
- 1. "That it appears, by a certified copy of the roll of freeholders of every county in Scotland, as last made up, laid before this House in 1820, that the total
621 number of persons having a right to vote, in all those counties together, did not exceed 2,889.
- 2. "That, by the same return, it appears that the greatest number of persons having a right to vote in any one county, did not exceed 240, viz. for the county of Fife; and that the smallest number did not exceed 9, viz. for the county of Cromarty.
- 3. "That it further appears, from the same return, that many of the same persons have a right to vote in several counties, and consequently that the total number of voters for all the counties of Scotland is considerably less than 2,889.
- 4. "That it further appears to this House, that the right of voting for a representative for a Scotch county depends, not on the possession of the dominium utile of any real landed estate in such county, but on holding superiority over such estate, which superiority might be, and frequently is, disjoined from the property, insomuch that of all the persons qualified to vote for a Scotch county, there may not be one who is possessed of a single acre of land within the county; while the whole of the land may belong to, and be the property of, persons who have not a single vote for the representative.
- 5. That this House will, early in the next session of parliament, take into its most serious consideration the state of the representation of counties in Scotland, with a view to effect some extension of we number of votes, and to establish some connexion between the right of voting and the landed property of that country."
§ The first resolution being put,
begged leave to second the motion, and contended, that the people of Scotland were extremely dissatisfied with the existing system, and claimed of the House that a change should be made. No doubt the support which ministers received in some places was a conscientious support, but in general their friends had displayed credulity rather than discretion. The state of the House of Commons—the feeling of the members who composed it—might be read in the general conduct which they pursued towards the country. The labouring classes were ground down by taxation. The merest necessaries of life paid tribute to the state. The manufacturer was reduced to the lowest rate of wages upon 622 which it was possible for life to be maintained and he was forbidden by law to carry his abilities abroad, even though he should be unable to find a market for them at home. He (Mr. M.) could hardly believe that any Scottish freeholder could look at such a state of affairs, and not feel himself, in some degree, responsible for it; that he could reflect on the manner in which the revenue was collected in his country, or of the vice and general discontent which of late years had arisen therein, without being reminded, that much of that vice and discontent lay at his door. If it was worth while for a country to have a representative system at all, such a system ought to be a substantial and not a nominal one. It ought to be a system in which the people could place confidence, and not one upon which no minister could rely, if he brought, forward any measure for the people's benefit.
§ Sir George Clerk
believed, that the present system of Scotch representation was one with which Scotland was perfectly satisfied; at least, he had himself heard no complaints against it, and he was convinced it would be impossible to make any operative alteration in that system, without entirely changing the municipal law, and the tenure of property throughout the kingdom. He confessed that the extent of copyhold property, or of tenure tantamount to copyhold; was not so great in England as in Scotland; but why was it more anomalous for a copyholder to be without the elective franchise in Scotland than in England, where the principle was; that a man might hold a large estate for 999 years, a term as good as perpetuity, without having a vote for members of parliament, while that privilege was within the exercise of every freeholder of forty shillings year? The noble lord opposite had talked of the subserviency of the Scottish members, and of members returned by "parchment" voters; but if the "parchment" returned members were the subservient party, how happened it that the noble lord, who was decidedly returned by parchment interest, was constantly standing forward in opposition to ministers, while he (Sir G. Clerk), coming from Edinburgh, where the noble lord admitted the voters to be real, usually saw cause to support the measures of government? He denied that there was any man of large copyhold property in Scotland—any man of 10,000l. a year, or of any property ap- 623 proaching to it—who had not, in some way or other, (though not upon his copyhold), the right of voting. If the House was to enter upon the broad question of parliamentary reform, and. to decide, generally, that population rather, than property was to be represented, then let the change, extend to Scotland by all means; but, if property was to continue in England the basis of representation, let it be remembered that the "parchment" voters of Scotland were created by the influence of property. Honourable members spoke of the manifold evils which were entailed upon Scotland by her restricted elective franchise; but he confessed he saw none of, them. During the late pressure of public, distress, Scotland had suffered comparatively little; while the condition of Ireland, with all her extent of suffrage, had been wretched to a proverb. Indeed it had been doubted whether Ireland might not be benefitted by a restriction of her elective, franchise. The noble lord, among other grievances which he had brought forward, complained of political bias in the minds of judges. He (the hon. baronet) believed, that upon matters connected with election rights, twenty-five actions had been brought on the part of the noble lord; and he begged to ask whether as many had not been decided in his favour as against him? The noble lord had more reason to complain of the juries of Scotland than of the judges, since it was a jury that had given him a shilling damages, in his action against the printer of a newspaper. He was sorry to bear the noble lord falling into that vein of insinuation, too much encouraged since the Union, as to the faculty of Scotchmen for making their way in the world. The prudence and good conduct of the natives of Scotland who had left their own country, had too often excited ill-feeling and jealousy. They had been charged, and most unfairly, with over-subserviency; and he was sorry to hear such charges indirectly supported by the noble lord. Feeling, as he did, that the noble lord's proposition was uncalled for, and that the act of the Union was a complete bar to its being carried into effect, he should sit down by moving the previous question upon the noble lord's preliminary resolutions, and giving a direct negative to the last.
denied, that the proposition of the noble mover involved the subversion of the existing tenures of property 624 in Scotland. The hon. baronet had asked, what evils Scotland sustained from the present state of her representation. He would fell the hon. baronet, Scotland suffered that evil of which the hon. baronet's, own conduct formed an illustration. The majority of her members were always in adherence to the government of the day, let that government be what it might. The fact was incontestable. It was impossible to deny, that ever since the Union, the great majority of the Scotch members had uniformly been subservient to the government of the day. In Scotland there could be no such thing as a public meeting. In the county represented by the hon. baronet, there must be at least 250,000 persons of property. No opportunity was afforded to them to express their sentiments, ["What hinders them?"] The hon. baronet asked, what hindered them? The answer was, that the constitution recognized no legal mode by which they could be called together, though a more wealthy and respectable population could not be pointed out in any part of the United Kingdoms. He exhorted the House; to consider well the danger of leaving so large a population as that of Scotland, increasing as they were in property, morality, and intelligence, without any vent for public opinion. What would be the state of England or of Ireland, had they always been kept without opportunities of making known their grievances? He was convinced, that were he to appeal, to the sympathies of the English gentlemen who heard him, and if the question were left to be determined by what they must feel upon this subject only, there could, be but one decision, and that would be in favour of the motion of his noble friend.
§ Mr. Horace Twiss
said, he hoped that, though unconnected with the kingdom of Scotland, he should be pardoned for expressing some opinions on this subject; especially as he had no intention of entering into the details of it, which had really, he thought, been disposed of in a most complete and satisfactory manner by his hon. friend, the worthy baronet near him. The noble lord had proposed a very large and wide change; but the grounds which he had laid, instead of being co-extensive with that project, were all of them narrow and particular. The greatest evil complained of by the noble lord seemed to be the inconvenience said to be sustained from the want of a powers to 625 adjourn the poll: and if his remedy went straight to that grievance, without sweeping over other matters where no grievance whatever was proved, perhaps there would be no great objection to be made; but the fallacy of his reasoning was, that from a few particular and slight inconveniences, he inferred the necessity of a sweeping reform. Not less strange was the argument of the hon. member who had spoken last; who in one part of his speech had observed, that the evils of the Scottish representative system were uncomplained of, only because the people of Scotland are indisposed to political agitation; and in another passage had made it a main argument for reform, that a vent 'was necessary for that political agitation which, a moment before, he had denied to exist.
But, Sir, (continued the hon. and learned gentleman) if I do not concur with the supporters of this motion in their view of the reasons for it, still less do I concur with them in their estimate of the reasons against it; among the foremost whereof I regard, what they deem of little import, the treaty of Union between England and Scotland. Why, we are asked, when all else is changing, should the elective franchise be held unchangeable? I will not descend to the narrowness of arguing that every provision of the act of Union is as incapable of alteration, as that which guarantees the respective churches of the two kingdoms; but it seems to be the opinion of the best authorities, that there are some other conditions, which were intended to be equally fundamental. Now, but for the inference suggested by the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions, which were included in the same article with the superiorities which carry the county franchise, I doubt whether it would ever have occurred to any body to suppose, that the representation and the franchise were among the items intended by the treaty to be left open for future alteration. And this, not only from the intrinsic importance of these matters themselves, an importance second only to that of the enactments touching the two churches,—but also by reason of that peculiar tendency in such topics to excite irritation, which made it manifestly necessary that when once settled, they should be stirred no more. For, without meaning to contend that any compact ought to fitter the parties to it, from doing what may be agreed on every hand to be really 626 for the common advantage of all concerned, we may still keep in mind that there are objects, about whose tendency toward that common advantage we never can hope for any agreement, even among the wisest and most moderate men. And there is the utility of preliminaries. Upon points on which parties are likely to agree, the preliminaries they may have signed matter little; but upon points on which they are prone to fall out, the preliminaries become infinitely important, as constitutional barriers against any attempt at invasion on either hand. Such our predecessors regarded that long fertile theme of distraction, the religion of the Scottish people. Such is that scarcely less exciting topic, the constitution of parliament: and therefore does the act of Union appear to have required, that subjects so pregnant with dissention should never be quickened into debate. It set down those adjustments as final ones, to be taken for better for worse, in all time coming: to be subscribed by each kingdom, not indeed in the nature of articles of faith, because opinion is uncontrolable even by law,—but in the nature of what the churchmen call articles of peace, which the subscriber, though he be tolerated to doubt, can never be sanctioned to disturb.
But then comes the argument from the heritable jurisdictions, which though secured like the superiorities which carry the franchises, by the 20th article of Union, were yet abolished by the united parliament. Sir, there is a clear distinction between the lawfulness of abolishing the jurisdictions, or superiorities, and the lawfulness of re-modelling the elective franchise. A word or two will shew it. After the propensity which had been evinced, both at the Reformation, and during the civil wars, to take away such parts of the rights and properties of the subject as savoured in any degree of public trust or of corporate interest and that too without making any compensation to the proprietors; it was very natural that the holders of such beneficial property in Scotland, as was not strictly private, such, for example, as the heritable jurisdictions, should be anxious, when they were entering into new connexions, to put all this property upon a footing which should at once make it private, and thereby secure it against the chance of a patriotic confiscation, by those into whoso hands they were now about to surrender their constitution. Seeing that they were 627 powerful proprietors; without whose consent you could never have accomplished any union at all, you granted the stipulation, which they required to protect them a stipulation, not that their heritable jurisdiction's and superiorities should, like the constitution of parliament, be perpetual, but that they should be enjoyed as they then were by the laws of Scotland, that is, not as mere revocable public trysts, but as rights of property. If, after that article, you abolished them at all, you could do it, only as the Scottish parliament before the Union, and the British parliament since, could, and very often does take away a strictly private right of property, be it a toll, or a rent, or a piece of ground through which a road or canal is to pass—that is, by making due compensation to the owner. That was the manifest object of the reservation so carefully worded as to the heritable jurisdictions. That is therefore the true key to the construction of the reservation: and the proof of it is, that when the jurisdictions were abolished, the statute made express provision for giving compensation to the proprietors. [See 20 Geo. 2, ch. 43, s. 6—and 21 Geo. 2, ch. 23, s. 22.] But this was not the footing on which the same treaty of Union established the elective franchise. The elective franchise, was not put upon any ground of proprietorship—that franchise was not left to the loose phraseology of the 20th article of Union, which made property, or confirmed as property, the superiorities and heritable jurisdictions: that franchise was guaranteed in a separate branch of the treaty, as a part of the constitution of the Scottish slate itself. Now, so guaranteed, I do argue that it became incapable of being overturned by the united parliament, either with or without compensation to the individuals deprived.
Nay, Sir, the very statute for the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions, which gentlemen have cited as an authority for changing the elective franchise, that very statute itself affords one of the strongest arguments to prove the elective franchise unchangeable. That statute, among other reforms, enacted, that certain lands which, for many civil purposes, had been long, by some fiction of law, disunited from the shires within which they were locally and substantially situate, and treated as part and. parcel of other distant counties, should once more be deemed portion of their? contiguous shires, so as to re-unite 628 their legal with their natural locality. But the re-union thus ordained would, if no caution had been inserted to the contrary, have transferred, with the reunited lands, the corresponding rights of votings likewise to the same contiguous counties: which consequence in order to pre vent, an express provision was inserted in this statute [s. 16.], that the measure should not extend to vary or alter the elective franchise. Why, Sir, if rather than make any, the smallest alteration in the elective franchise, at a time when alterations so extensive were making in the forensic jurisdictions, the legislature was fain to keep up so anomalous and in convenient a piece of antiquity, as the arbitrary severance of the vote, not only from the particular farm that grows it, but even from the very county in which; as gentlemen opposite would say, it would naturally have gone to market,—so as to send the voter, for the exercise of his right, from Fifeshire, perhaps, into extreme Caithness—I think it is pretty strong evidence, to shew how sacred that section of the Union act, which fixed the representation and the franchise was held by lord Hardwicke and the other great authorities who carried the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions—how immutable such stipulations of the Union as bear a public and constitutional character, were considered by those eminent statesmen, even at the very moment when they were extinguishing, by a compulsory purchase, the rights which had been reserved but as rights of property.
Sir, I come now to what may be called the popular part of the noble lord's case. It would be much too large a question, for me now to consider, how far it may be possible, in common reason and justice, for members who are elected by the few, to act as fair representatives of the many. The theories of reform deny that possibility—the constitution we live under affirms it; and, preferring, as I do, the experience of the one to all the philosophy of the other, I rest satisfied in the belief, that thirty members, chosen by no other constituents than the holders of two or three thousand superiorities, may be, and are, a fair representation of the entire landed interest of Scotland. But observe the more specific objection. These franchises, it seems, are often mere paper superiorities, held without an inch of land. Be it so; but do reformers deem property indispensable to franchise 629 [Hear!]? If so, in what manner does the noble lord propose to deal with, our populous cities, where every freeman who can pay, or get somebody else to pay, for the stamp on which his freedom may require to be engrossed, though he have no other property, real or personal, becomes straightway an elector in virtue of that paper superiority? If property be indispensable, what view will the noble lord take of that nearest approach to the perfection of universal suffrage the borough whose hospitable franchise bestows itself even upon a beggar, by the boiling of a pot—insomuch that the treat, which the politic liberality of the candidate may have conveyed into that magical cauldron, comes out of it, at once a supper and a vote [Hear, and a laugh!].—O, but mark the danger these paper superiorities lead to: the whole elective franchise of Scotland may come, by possibility, to be engrossed, by a set of voters, not one of whom shall hold a single acre of her soil. Sir, that is about as reasonable as it would be to allege, by way of objection against the English representation, that, by possibility, the few hundred individuals who constitute the House of Peers might buy all the lands and' tenements in England, and so become masters of both Houses of Parliament. Such things, to be sure, are possible in a physical sense, and possible in a legal sense; but in a moral, practical sense, with which alone we have here to do, they are not possible at all:—and this extreme kind of hypothesis, though useful enough by way of illustration, or to try the universality of an abstract proposition, is far from being a safe guide to the undoing of existing institutions.
In general, Mr. Speaker, when a system is attacked, it is alleged to be overgrown with abuses: backslidings from its original integrity are strongly charged:—but the noble lord insists little, if at all, on that ground: his imputation upon the county electors is, not that they are corrupt, but that they are few. Why, he inquires, when England has a mixture of popular with close election, should Scotland want popular election altogether? Why should there not be something like uniformity between the two systems?—Now, independently of the obvious consideration, that two widely different systems may be better suited to the different circumstances of two different districts than any uniform system 630 could be to both—there is this farther answer to be given, that it is a mistake to speak of the two modes of election, north and south of Tweed, as if they were two distinct systems. That may have been very accurate language before the Union, but they are now distinct no longer; being equally parts of one larger and more comprehensive system: and to argue upon the Scottish constitution as if it were still a separate one, is now to take an unconstitutional as well as an inaccurate view. For Scotland, like England, at the time of the Union, gave up: all separate allotment of her own, in order that, by that new charter, she might take another and more beneficial title, and become joint tenant, throughout, of our common and undivided constitution [Hear, hear!]. In settling the Union with Ireland, the representation of that kingdom was permitted to take a character, by much more open and popular than the representation of Scotland bears. But if, after giving the preponderance to the popular principle in the Irish Union—a fair compensation for the closeness preserved in the Union with Scotland—you are now to re-organize the Scottish representation also, upon a popular scheme, you then give the cast in both cases to the popular weight, and destroy the whole balance of your former arrangements. And thus, however the professed object might be mere uniformity, the actual result would be gross disproportion.—Practically too, is not the benefit of whatever is popular in the elections of England or of Ireland, just as much open to a native of Scotland, as to the English or Irish themselves? The noble lord has taken the hon. member for Aberdeen as an example in more than one passage of his argument: I have no objection to adopt the instance; and I ask whether, if that hon. member, taking advantage of his great name, should offer himself on the next vacancy for the populous borough of Southwark, his Caledonian nativity would be any bar to his English promotion? On the contrary, I doubt whether his success would not be such, that the gallant absentee (sir R. Wilson) who now fulfils by a very able deputy (Mr. Lambton) the trust of representative for that extensive district, might go near to share the let of those unlucky birds, who, on returning from a distant flight; have the mortification to find the stranger cuckoo domiciled in their nest [Much 631 laughter!] The complaint therefore is that the. Scots are excluded from their share in the popular part of the representation, but only that they must come across the Tweed to get at it. Does a Scotchman think that such a hardship? [A laugh!] If, indeed, the converse had been the case—if the northern candidate, instead of being allowed to cull the fruits of popularity in the south, had been limited to the growth of his own soil, and, as the epigram has it, "not left to wander, but confined at home," one could have conceived the hardships of clogging the privilege with that unpalatable restriction. But at present, to speak seriously, the whole objection amounts but to this, that each of the districts does not present, within its own limits, as gentlemen would have it, a miniature of the whole united election—a microcosm of its own, which I believe would be practically as unserviceable, as I allow that it might be curious in the way of speculation. And therefore, even if I were to admit, which I do not, that the representation of Scotland had been defective, when, as before the Union, it did form a distinct system of its own, I should not therefore be bound to acknowledge it defective, when combined, as now, with the representation of the rest of the empire, any more than I should be obliged to concur with the reformers in condemning the Cornish representation, mixed as it now is with that of the empire at large, however little I might approve it as an integral system. There was nothing in the respective constitutions of England and Scotland, that should prevent them, different as they were, from harmonizing when united, and that without neutralizing the peculiarities of either. The principle of each representation, and especially of the English, which was the larger, was always a miscellaneous one: a principle not of uniformity, but of variety; and though, when the united constitution was built out of the separate materials, the combination included more numerous diversities than had ever before been brought together in any single design, yet diversity here was not incongruity, inasmuch as the original fabrics had both been of the composite order. If, indeed, the question had been merely upon the taste of this that theory of representation; if the dispute were simply whether variety, or uniformity would have the finer effect in laying out 632 the ground-plan of a constitution one might be more ready to accommodate matters and yield a little upon the great contention whether it would be more tasteful to leave our land, both north arid south, in its present natural swells and falls, or to square it out, as the theoretical reformers would have us, into a smug parallelogram of smooth-shaven terraces, arid regular quincunx, where—"each alley has a brother,And half the platform just reflects the other.But ours is a constitution not kept altogether for ornament. We want it for work and for wear; and if there be any one of its principles to which, more than to any other, I believe it to be indebted for that faculty of self-adaptation to the circumstances of all times, which has preserved it, under the blessing of Providence, through so many centuries of chance and change, it is that variety in its combination by which it has always been enabled to bring some fresh energy forth, suited to the nature of the particular difficult which may press it. Of all the arguments, therefore, which can be urged in favour of these resolutions, that which turns upon the expediency of trimming the different kingdoms to a common measure, is that which seems to roe the least entitled to regard; because it proceeds upon a fanciful analogy, one which has no existence in fact, and which the spirit of our plain constitution not only disavows, but absolutely and repugnantly rejects.—The hon. and learned gentleman sat down amidst cheers. After which the question was loudly called for and the gallery was partially cleared for a division, when.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
rose. He began by complaining of the small number of the gentlemen of England who were present at the discussion of a question of such vital importance, and of the still smaller portion of attention which that question seemed to command. These circumstances had induced him to offer a few remarks upon the arguments of the hon. baronet, and of the hon. and learned gentleman who spoke last. He begged leave to remind the House, that the hon. baronet had attempted to couple the present question with the general question of Reform, but that there was not the slightest ground for so doing; seeing that the measure proposed would not pledge any man to vote for any other measure. The hon. baronet had had recourse baronet had had recourse to the usual 633 argument of the scattered abuses which were found in the English constitution. He had introduced the case of the exclusion of copy and leaseholders from the franchise, as a justification of the case in Scotland. This argument did not, however, meet the reasoning of his noble friend either fully or fairly, as his noble friend had two grounds of complaint—the exclusion of real freemen from the franchise, and the admission of those who were not freemen. Now, there was in the practice of England no parallel to the latter of these, and it was the one which called most loudly for reformation. He would ask, what there was in the exclusion of the copy and leaseholders of England from the franchise, which could be pleaded as a precedent for the admission of the paper freeholders of Scotland to that right? Although these were excluded, still the great mass of the English counties were freeholders, and in the representation of these the mass of the county was represented. The freeholders had, no doubt, their due ascendancy; but still that did not destroy the general effect of public opinion. The representation of Scotland was not arraigned because it excluded a few leaseholders and copyholders, but because it excluded bodies of men who were the real possessors of the property of the country. But, said the hon. baronet, the case of Scotland was not worth the consideration of Englishmen. If, however, such a case was to be given up—if it was to be disregarded or treated lightly by the gentlemen of England—then he would say, that they had renounced every English idea. He would appeal to the feelings and to the conscience of every independent man, whether it was just to take this paltry petty fogging view of the question. It had been urged, that Scotland was a province of Great Britain, and hat, as the degrees of political right and political feeling varied in the different provinces, there was no reason to complain, though in Scotland it was nearly extinct. But he would ask whether there was any district of England where political feeling was extinct? Even in Cornwall, the very home and holy land of borough mongering, the feelings of freedom were not extinct. No doubt it had been buried under an immense mass of corruption; but still it was cherished with religious care. This was the cause of the want of parallel between Scotland and 634 England. The whole of England from Cornwall to York, was subject to the same laws. In Scotland however, case was the reverse. The laws and their administration were not the same their as in England; and, if the people had worse laws, they had need of a more liberal presentation than in England, was. true that the constitution of England was the security for the liberties of Scotland; but the advantage which Scotland derived in that way was very different from that which was derived by an English province.—it was much the same as that which was enjoyed by the people of India.—The hon. and learned gentleman who spoke last had urged the articles of Union as reason why there should not be any change in the representation of Scotland. He had admitted, that the contracting party was at liberty to make any change which might be of advantage; but some how or other, he had forgotten show that the change of the representation did not belong to that class. The hon. and learned gentleman had got over the case of the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions with much ease,—because they were matters of property. Yes, because they were matters of property! Now, in his (sir J. M.'s) opinion, this was a much more difficult business to get over than any thing which applied to the county elections. In the proposal of his noble friend there was no right to be taken away from any man—it was merely proposed to give the people that which appeared to be their right.—There was another argument which had been set up by the hon. baronet and the hon. and learned gentleman against the change suggested by his noble friend, and that was the antiquity of the present system. He would, however tell them, that things had not been always so; and that the present mode of county representation formed he part of the original aw of Scotland. He should not find it necessary to go back to the romantic or ideal period of Scottish History, to the time of Hugo, the great emperor of the Picts. There was enough for his purpose within the range of authentic history, and even in the statutes of the country. In those statutes a more ample and liberal system of representation was recognized; and it had been confirmed at the Revolution by an extensive reform in the county representation. Those who had the conduct of the affairs of Scotland had done well in that they had pre- 635 vented the return of the exiled tyrants; but if, at the same time, they had prevented all improvement in the mode of representation, Scotland would have had little cause to thank them upon the whole. The fact was, that the representation was liberal in Scotland, at a time when it was barely known in England. Whatever might be said of their prudence, the Scottish reformers had pursued bolder measures than those of England. By a statute of James 1st, in the year 1427, which was coeval with the English statute for regulating the elections of English commoners, it was enacted, that two or more wise men should be returned out of each sheriffdom to serve in parliament, according to the largeness of the shire. This statute was re-affirmed in 1587, under James 6th, of Scotland (James 1st of England), in nearly the same words. There had too been a claim of rights, analogous to the English bill of Rights, and articles of grievances agreed to by the Scotch parliament. The articles of grievances were presented to William and Mary, together with the crown of Scotland, in April, 1689. Among other things, they required a more full and impartial representation of the lieges in the Scotch parliament. This did not remain a dead latter, but in June, 1689, when the Scotch church establishment was settled—when the fundamental laws and institutions were finally to be adjusted—the reform of the county representation was settled also. The former declaration was cited, together with the statutes of James 1st and James 6th, and the county representation was enlarged. The larger counties were to send 26 members each (only two from each shire had been allowed previously), the smaller ones were to send 9. Sixty-five commissioners of shires were ever after to sit in parliament, and 66 more burgesses, making an addition of one-half to the whole representation of. Scotland—one-fifth to the Commons representation. It appeared then, that nearly four hundred years ago, the people of Scotland looked for a better representation than they then enjoyed; and that it was on the condition that their representative system should be improved, that they agreed, at the Revolution, to place William and Mary on the throne. His noble friend, he contended, had never called for a more extensive reform than that which the parliament of Scotland had itself demanded. Thus, as he. had described 636 it, stood the representation of Scotland, at the period of the Revolution, and until the Union of the two nations was effected; and, by not following up that which had been previously promised, as great a breach of trust had been made, as if the Presbyterian church, government had been overturned: not because the promise was established by law, but because it was a matter of compact between the king and the people, at the time of the Revolution. At that period a remedial measure was proposed, and his noble friend now wished that a remedial measure, commensurate with the evils which were complained of in the present day, should be carried into effect. It was not until the progress of commerce had enriched the inferior classes, that there was, in the parliament of Scotland, any important number of land-owners, except the tenants of the crown in capite. The great body of the people, oppressed by a feudal system, were not represented. The nobility and ancient gentry might be said to have been represented, but no others. The situation of the people was deplorable. That great man who might be denominated the last of Scotchmen, who never laid himself open to those common imputations which the hon. baronet had so liberally used—that high-minded individual, whose integrity and independence had earned the glorious eulogium that "he would cheerfully lose his life to serve his country, but that he would not do a base act to save it,"—that venerated man, Andrew Fletcher, of Saltoun, patriot as he was, and much as he loved his native land, felt so sensibly the lamentable situation in which his countrymen were placed, that he declared himself willing to accede to a system of slavery, by which he believed their condition, as compared with that in which they then stood, would be improved. He said this because he saw that the plans of representation which were at that time proposed, embraced the rich, the great, and the powerful, but excluded the people in general.—The hon. baronet, in the elucidation of his views on this subject, had adverted to the slate of the representation in Ireland. He could not have had recourse to a more unfortunate exemplification. He (sir J.M.) knew perfectly well the state of the representation in that country. There was an abundance of voters. But of what description? They were nominal and fictitious voters. The multiplication of voters, of this kind 637 was the bane and curse of Ireland. They had no opinion of their own. They were driven to the hustings, there to vote just as' the proprietor of the soil pleased. Between the proprietor of the soil and the voters thus fabricated, there was no community of interest, there was no reciprocity of feeling, which was the link that bound together the landlord and the tenant in this country—It was the true source of a fair and legitimate influence—of that influence which he hoped would never be extinguished in England. The voters of Ireland were driven, like slaves, or rather like irrational brutes, to give their votes; when, in reality, they had no voice in the election, but were compelled to act as others dictated. In the present instance, the people of Scotland complained of nominal and fictitious voting; and it astonished him that the hon. baronet should have met that complaint by referring to a place where nominal and fictitious voting had produced such baneful effects. He had long lived in England. He had spent his life in studying the practical effects produced by a free constitution; and he was convinced, that the greatest blessing they could bestow on the people of Scotland, would be, to approximate, as nearly as cfreurtistance9 would permit, the system of election adopted in Scotland to that pursued in this country. He was ashamed to hear it said that the constitution of England was unfit for Scotland, at the very time when they were reproving other nations for not bringing their constitutions nearer to the great model of justice and liberty. Mr. Burke had truly said, that "liberty was not an evil to be limited, but a good to be increased." The observation was founded on the experience of ages. As much liberty as there was in a government, so much happiness would there be in a country. Liberty was the great stimulant which called forth genius. It was the school of every public and every private virtue. The nearer they approached a pure elective system, the nearer were they to rational liberty. If these, then, were its beneficial results, upon what ground was Scotland to be denied even an approach to the enjoyment. He begged the House to recollect, that in giving its support to a measure which led to such an approximation, it was not to be presumed that it was committed on the question of popular representation. He acknowledged himself a friend to parliamentary reform; but, in the present instance, there was no 638 analogy between that question and the motion before the House. Should here after any hon. member who supported the present motion be charged with inconsistency because he opposed the general question of reform in the representation he pledged himself to be the man, who would prove that the charge was ill-founded—that there was no necessary connexion between a vote for the motion of his noble friend, and the larger question of parliamentary reform. The House would bear in mind, that no popular election whatever existed in Scotland. To refuse the rights of freemen to a neighbouring people, so fitted by knowledge and by property, for the enjoyment of them, was a system of, policy not merely unjust towards Scotland, but dangerous to the security of the empire at large.
entered his protest against the assertion, that the present motion had no connexion with the question of reform in England. The proposition of the, noble lord, with respect to the county re presentation of Scotland, would make a greater change than the adoption of universal suffrage in England. Much had been said about the want of freedom in Scotland; but he would appeal any English gentleman who was at aft acquainted with the state of Scotland, whether he did not consider it a perfectly free country? If the people of Scotland had been dissatisfied with the state of the representation of that country—if they had entertained the same views as the noble lord did on the subject—they would have been forward enough in letting the House know their opinions. But he denied that they wished for the projected: change; and he would not consent to unsettle the whole system of representation in Scotland, for the advantage that might be derived from a few votes at a county election. It was said, that all the members might be elected by persons not residing in Scotland. This was the fact theoretically;—but, practically, it was not the case. There was no part of the empire in which the land was more decidedly in possession of the elective franchise. If the noble lord's statement had been true, it would have been a ground for some v change, but he denied its correctness. The noble lord had stated the fact, that in the county of Lanark there were superiority votes; but he bad not shown how they were connected with the land, Now twenty of these votes belonged to 639 the landed estate of the duke of Hamilton, and twenty to the landed estate of lord Perceval. Here were 40 out of 95 directly connected with the land. This might be a bad system; but, whether good or bad, it was clearly connected with the land; and when he showed that it was so connected, he overturned the noble lord's argument. He had heard no complaints against the existing system, amongst the people of Scotland; and he believed it would be allowed that the peasantry of that country were as enlightened and as happy as any portion of the empire. The noble lord had not proved that any abuse had taken place under this system; and therefore he trusted the House would not be induced to alter it. When it was stated that there were only 2,889 voters, gentlemen, who were unacquainted with the subject, doubtless felt considerable surprise at the smallness of the number; but the house had no notion of the very limited number of landed proprietors in Scotland. The extreme barrenness of the soil necessarily reduced the number of proprietors. It required a very large piece of land, in Scotland, to realize 100l. a year. Therefore, when 2,889 proprietors were spoken of, that number, in Scotland, was equal to a very large number indeed in this country. He was convinced, that the introduction of popular elections in Scotland would not produce any of those blessings which the noble lord had pictured. Besides, the plan of the noble lord was by no means clear. He was quite certain that any alteration would be mischievous; and he would contend that they had no right to interfere with that article of the Union which applied to this subject, unless it was for the benefit of the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland had not called on them to do so: and they ought not to be induced to alter the law, either upon the arguments of the noble lord, or the reasonings of general theorists, however ingenious those reasonings might be.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
supported the motion of the noble lord. With reference to the article of the Union which had been so frequently alluded to, he held it to be perfectly clear, that no country could bind its posterity by any stipulation which the circumstances of the moment had created. He was clearly of opinion, that no gentleman who voted for the proposition now before the House, would be bound, in consequence, to support any motion for a reform in the representation 640 of this part of the kingdom. He did not wish to conceal his sentiments On the question of general reform; but he abstained from doing so, because he thought it was better that they should confine themselves to one tangible point. This question was said to affect only a district of the empire. But how could any gentleman who recollected that that district contained two millions of inhabitants—who considered that it was rich in every attribute which constituted power and greatness—argue that it should have no popular election of any kind, and assert, that such a state of things could have no prejudicial effect on the general prosperity of the country? If the House looked to the case of England, what was it, he would ask, which connected the higher and lower classes together, and brought all portions of the community into communication with each other, but popular representation? While in England all classes took the warmest and most anxious interest in a popular election, in Scotland the case was quite the reverse. The question then was, not as to the providing any specific remedy for the evils of Scotch representation, but whether or no those evils did really exist. On these grounds he gave his hearty support to the motion.
The Lord Advocate
said, that at that late hour, although he had originally intended to go into the subject, he should not now discuss it at any length. He admitted, that those who were attached to the English system of representation, could not be favourable to the system of Scotch county representation. But gentlemen would do well to consider whether seeing that such as it was, it was approved of by the people of Scotland, they would do right to force a new system upon them. As it now stood, it was as ancient as the reign of Charles 1st, and had remained unaltered and uncomplained of since the time of the Union of tin two crowns. The lion, and learned member for Knaresborough had spoken of the complaints made by the people of Scotland at the period of the Revolution, and the remedies proposed in the mode of representation; but there was then no subject of complaint but one, and that was, that where the large counties returned two members, the small counties returned the same number. To this sole cause of complaint a remedy was applied, by allowing an additional number of 641 county representatives; and since that event the people have expressed no dissatisfaction on the subject. He contended, that the more powerful country of England was not entitled to make a change in the representation of Scotland, unless the necessity for it was clearly proved; but no such change was called for by the people of Scotland. Had there been one petition in favour of such a change? What had the noble lord been about for these three years, during which he had been bringing forward motions affecting the elective franchise in Scotland, that all that time he had not procured the support of one petition? The House had been told, that there were no popular meetings in Scotland; but the fact was otherwise; popular meetings could and had taken place in the towns, and he did not see what was to prevent popular meetings in the counties. In the counties, all the freeholders, the justices of the peace, the commissioners of supply, and every heritor had a vote. How, then, could it be said, that there was no such thing as a popular meeting in Scotland? Were the people of Scotland so blind to their own interests, or so inveterately stupid, as to neglect a matter of essential national benefit, if they regarded a change in the representation in that light? If the state of the representation was a grievance, would it be passed over by a people who treated all measures of national import with wisdom and intelligence? He could instance the tithe question, the game laws, the poor laws, and the laws relative to insolvent debtors. It was, therefore, to be inferred, that they would have been fully sensible of the necessity of the present proposition, if it were really founded in a true view of their interests. He entreated gentlemen not to suppose that this was an isolated question. Let them be assured, that if it was: carried, it would be a great advance towards the carrying of the general question of parliamentary reform. On the grounds he had stated, he should oppose the motion altogether.
§ Lord Milton
observed, that an erroneous impression had gone abroad with respect to this question, as if it were interesting to Scotland alone. Now, he considered it interesting to the whole united empire. If it were the law and the practice for the Scotch members to confine themselves to subjects of Scotch legislation, the question would in that case exclusively affect Scotland; but as 642 the representatives of that country had a vote in the united legislature, the question was one of imperial interest. It was hot denied that the Scotch system of representation was imperfect, and the learned lord had allowed that there was a body in the Scotch counties capable of forming political opinions, and, consequently, as capable as the corresponding body in England of exercising the elective franchise. He believed the middle class of people in Scotland the most moral and virtuous in Europe. What reason, then, could there be that the elective franchise should not be intrusted to them? But it had been said, that if this improvement were conceded to Scotland, something of the same nature ought to be granted to England. He did not see the connexion between the two questions. That might be necessary in Scotland which was not so in this county. He should give his warm support to the motion.
said, he felt he should be wanting in the discharge of his duty, to his country, if he did not express his decided concurrence in the motion of the noble lord. If there had been no petition in favour of the motion, it was because public sentiment had not the organ of county meetings in Scotland; but it was not less true, that the people of that country wanted a full, ample, and equal representation, instead of the system how existing, which was marked by egregious absurdity and injustice [Hear, hear!].
§ Lord A. Hamilton
, in reply, took occasion to observe, that the heritors of Scotland who were not represented, were, in every other respect, similar to the yeomanry of England, who were represented in parliament.
The previous question being put on the first resolution, the House divided: Ayes, 117; Noes, 152; Majority against lord A. Hamilton's motion, 35. The announcement of the numbers was received with loud cheers from the Opposition benches.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Birch, Jos.|
|Althorp, visc.||Boughton, sir W. R.|
|Anson, hon. H. G.||Browne, Dom.|
|Baring, H.||Buxton, T. F.|
|Barnard, visc.||Calcraft, J.|
|Belgrave, visc.||Calcraft, J. H.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Galvert, N.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Carter, J.|
|Benyon, B.||Cavendish, lord G.|
|Bernal, R.||Cavendish, H. F. C.|
|Corbett, P.||Newport, sir J.|
|Chaloner, R.||Normanby, visc.|
|Clifton vise.||Nugent, lord|
|Colburne, sir N. W. R.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Creevey, Thos.||Ord, W.|
|Crompton, S.||Palmer, C.|
|Cradock, col.||Palmer, C. P.|
|Davies, S.||Pares, Tho.|
|Denison, W. J.||Pelham, J. C.|
|Denman, Thos.||Powlett, hon. J. F.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Poyntz, W. S.|
|Ebrington, visc.||Ramsden, J. C.|
|Ellice, E.||Rice, T. S.|
|Ellis, G. J. W. A.||Ricardo, D.|
|Evans, W.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Robarts, A. W.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Robarts, G. J.|
|Frankland, R.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Glenorchy, visc.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Grant, J. P.||Russell, R. G.|
|Grattan, J.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Grenfell, P.||Scarlett, J.|
|Guise, sir R. W.||Scott, James|
|Gurney, Hudson||Sefton, earl of|
|Heathcote, G. S.||Smith, J.|
|Heron, sir R.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Smith, W.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.||Smith, R.|
|Hume, J.||Stanley, lord|
|Hurst, Robert||Stewart, W. (Tyrone)|
|James, Wm.||Sykes, D.|
|Jervoise, G. P.||Talbot, R. W.|
|King, sir J. D.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Kemp, J.||Tennyson, C.|
|Langston, J. H.||Tierney, G.|
|Lawley, F.||Titchfield, marq. of|
|Leader, W.||Townshend, lord C.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Lushington, S.||Webb, Ed.|
|Maberly, J.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Maberly, W. L.||White, L.|
|Mackintosh, sir J.||White, col.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Marryat, J.||Williams, John|
|Martin, J.||Williams, W.|
|Maxwell, J.||Wood, M.|
|Moore, P.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Mostyn, sir T.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Neville, hon. R.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Newman, R. W.||Knight, R.|
§ The previous question was then put on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th resolution, and negatived. The last resolution was then put and negatived.
§ Lord Milton
said, he could not help expressing a hope, that the result of the division which had just taken place would be well considered by the whole country; and that in it the inhabitants of Scotland, who take an intent in state of their representation, would see a much nearer prospect of their wishes being' accomplished than some gentlemen who spoke 644 in the early part of the evening had anticipated.
Sir J. Sebright
stating, that he had been accidentally locked out during the division Had he been in his place, he should have thought himself unworthy of the, seat the had in the House, if he had not given his vote for the motion.