moved for leave to bring in a bill to regulate the taking the poll at elections for Preston. At present it was impossible, that all the inhabitants could be polled. His object was, to supply a specific remedy to this evil. He did not mean to press it at present, but only to ask leave to bring it in, and have it printed, in order to submit it to the parties most interested.
§ Mr. J. Wood
said, that he and his hon. colleague were fully agreed upon the subject. The suffrage at Preston was very extensive, and many voters, in consequence of the custom adopted, were unable to come up to the poll. The intended bill was no innovation: it was founded upon two bills, one in force in Ireland, and another in Westminster. Instead of circumscribing the rights of the electors, it would increase 1301 them; because every voter would be enabled to tender his vote within the time limited by law.
Mr. N. Calvert
hoped never to see the day when that demoralizing principle should be introduced into elections [loud cheers]. The lower order of voters must necessarily be influenced, when few, by bribery, and when numerous by cajolery of some sort or other. Their only remedy, in cases of ballot, would be hypocrisy, promising the vote one way and giving it another.
§ Mr. P. Thompson
said, it was much more easy to make assertions, than it was to meet one argument by another. The argument of the hon. member for Aberdeen was, that the exercise of undue influence would be prevented by a system of ballot; and the member for Hertfordshire met this by hoping that he might never live to see the day when such a system would prevail. The surest way to prevent the exercise of bad passions, worse than hypocrisy, was to take away the occasion of calling those bad passions into operation, and leaving the voter to the exercise of his own free will; which, in the case of the poor, could only be properly effected by ballot.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
contended, from the example of those countries where the mode of election was by ballot, that such a mode was not free from influence, and by no means favourable to liberty.
said, that he knew that many of the voters of Nottingham had been deterred from coming to the poll by the fear of losing their places.
recommended the leaving the matter to the general measure which was in the hands of a noble lord.
§ Mr. A. Dawson
saw no reason why a man voting by ballot should not declare for whom he voted. The principle was said to be unfavourable to liberty; but let the House look to America, where every man voted according to his conscience, without bribery, alehouses, or the 120,000l. which was lately spent upon an election for Yorkshire.
§ Sir C. Forbes
said, that in all elections an allowance of from twenty to twenty- 1302 five per cent was made for votes promised, but not given. It was quite ridiculous for the advocates of the present system to complain of the demoralizing tendency of elections by ballot. He objected not to reform, but to this pettifogging mode of effecting it; it did not go at once to the root of the evil. He should like to see every member, on entering the House, compelled, under the pains of perjury, to swear that he had not obtained his seat by corrupt means.
Leave was given to bring in the bill.