HC Deb 08 May 1827 vol 17 cc682-703
Mr. LeghKeck

rose, pursuant to notice, to submit a motion to the House, founded on the late proceedings in the borough of Penryn. The hon. gentleman, after stating various instances of gross bribery and corruption practised in this borough on former occasions, adverted to the year 1819, when a committee was appointed to take into consideration the state of the elective franchise in that borough. The committee framed certain resolutions on the evidence which was then before them; and he meant to found the motion with which he intended to conclude on those resolutions.—The hon. gentleman then went into a minute detail of the circumstances attending the late election in the borough of Penryn. On the Monday preceding the election, so careful were the candidates to disclaim any notion of using any other than constitutional means to forward their respective interests, that they actually procured the town-crier to proclaim in the market-place, that the practice previously resorted to of making the electors "comfortable" would, on that occasion, be discontinued [a laugh]. On Monday and Tuesday the voters were very tardy in coming in to vote; but means having been taken to make them "comfortable," they came forward on Wednesday in great numbers. The hon. member then referred to the evidence taken before the committee appointed to try the late election, which furnished, he said, the most incontestable proof of the grossest bribery and corruption. Having sat on several election committees, and having once presided at a committee appointed to inquire into the abuses practised in this borough, and signed a report, stating that the charges of corruption and bribery were fully proved, he should ill-discharge the duty which he owed to the House and the country, if he did not endeavour to do justice to the respectable portion of the Penryn electors. There could be no doubt of the necessity of interfering to put a check to these disgraceful practices with respect to the borough of Penryn. It was impossible not to come to such a conclusion, if the House would pay proper attention to the evidence taken before the committee appointed to try the last election, from parts of which he had just read extracts.—He should now state the mildest plan which he could suggest to remedy so great an evil. He proposed to limit the right of voting in the borough of Penryn to the actual possessors of land within the borough; and then he proposed, that the elective franchise should be extended to the two hundreds in the immediate neigh- bourhood of Penryn. He was well aware that in endeavouring to carry this proposal into effect he would be met by the most decided opposition by those whose interest it was, to uphold the present system. Upon inquiry, however, he had ascertained, that the actual number of freeholders in the borough amounted to no more than eighty-five. Now, if to these eighty-five voters were added one thousand five hundred from the neighbouring hundreds, the object of the friends of reform would be accomplished, and the abuses which he had that night exposed would exist no longer. In these two hundreds there were two boroughs represented already, and two towns, namely Penzance and Falmouth, neither of which was represented. It might, perhaps, be desirable to transfer the elective franchise to either of these towns, or perhaps, according to the wish of the noble lord (John Russell), it would be desirable to transfer the elective franchise to some place altogether unconnected with the borough of Penryn. He was aware that the town of Leeds was mentioned as a fit place to which to transfer the elective franchise of Penryn, in case the House should agree to disfranchise that borough. He was told, however, that the proposal was not well received by the inhabitants of Leeds, and that in fact they were averse to such a measure. He was induced, however, to believe, according to the proposal of the noble lord, that the transfer of the elective franchise of Penryn might with advantage be made to the town of Manchester. There was, however, a strong division of opinion, as to the terms on which it would be accepted. That division arose from the difference in the amount of rate on which some parties wished the franchise to depend. But, whatever difference might exist on that point, he thought that, after the experience they had had of the transfer of the franchise in another instance, it would be a better course to extend it to the next district rather than transfer it. With this view he would submit certain resolutions, which should serve as the basis of a bill for the more effectually preventing bribery and corruption in Penryn. He would not, however, let the matter rest with the bill, but would follow up the precedents which he found on the Journals; and would move, that the Attorney-general be directed to prosecute certain individuals, against whom cases of bribery had been made out before the committee. He felt it his duty to adopt this course, and having taken the subject up in the discharge of his public duty, he would not be easily driven from it. He would propose what appeared to him to be an effectual remedy; but if the House, acting on the suggestion of the noble lord, should agree to transfer the elective franchise to some large town, he of course would submit, but the consequence must rest with those who supported that view of the case. The hon. member concluded by moving—1, "That it appears to this House, that the most notorious bribery and corruption were practised at the last election of members to serve in parliament for the borough of Penryn, and that such practices were not new or casual in that borough, the attention of the House having been called to similar practices in the year 1807 and in the year 1819.—2. That the said bribery and corruption deserved the most serious consideration of parliament.—3. That leave be given to bring in a bill for the more effectual prevention of bribery and corruption in that borough; and 4. That the Attorney-general be directed to prosecute John Stanbury, and others, against whom cases of bribery had been made out."

Sir C. Burrell rose

to second the resolutions. The House, he observed, was bound, when a clear case of bribery was made out, to take the most effectual method for its prevention in future. In the present instance, a case had, he conceived, been made out, on which the House were bound to act. This was their duty in the first instance. The second question; namely, to whom the franchise should be transferred or extended, was not of so much importance. He did not see any objection to the plan of his hon. friend in this respect; for it would have the effect of preventing future attempts at bribery, by extending the franchise amongst one thousand five hundred or two thousand electors. But though this was not objectionable in itself, still he thought it a comparatively better mode to give the franchise to some large town which was not at present represented. They had seen the inconvenience of transferring the elective franchise to a large county such as York. At the last election, one gentleman, who was decidedly a favourite with the people, withdrew himself from the canvass, because a contest would have the effect of ruining his fortune; and, on one occasion, it had cost the returned candidates 100,000l. each. This transfer, then, was of no advantage to the county. It did not enable them to have a man whom they would choose; for it could be contested only by men of large capital, without reference to whether they were men of large or small capacity. He did not mean to find any fault, in this respect, with the present members for that county; but the fact was, that the system gave the preponderance in elections to men of large capital, without any reference whatever to their talent or fitness for the situation.

Mr. David Barclay

said, that as this was the first time he had had the honour of addressing that House, he claimed their indulgence while he offered a few remarks on the motion before them. In the outset he would observe, that he was not opposed to the principle of the House interfering to punish cases of bribery, where they were satisfactorily made out; but he could not assent to the sweeping proposition, that because bribery had been established in the case of the few, its punishment should be extended to the many. An hon. member had stated, that one candidate had withdrawn at the last election for Penryn, being unwiling to sanction the practices of bribery and corruption, by which only success could be ensured; and the inference sought to be drawn from that was, that the two candidates who were returned had sanctioned those practices. For himself, as one of those members, he must beg most positively to deny the justice of such inference. He had canvassed and been returned; but he declared most solemnly—and he hoped the House would give credit to the declaration—that he had not directly or indirectly given any bribe, or held out any promise of a bribe at any future period. The grounds on which Mr. Grenfell had retired from the contest were, that he had lost the confidence of the independent electors of the borough, and had ceased to be popular amongst them. It was, therefore, unfair to assume bribery on the part of the other candidates from the fact that one had retired. He trusted, then, that on such grounds the House would not consent to deprive five hundred electors of those rights which their ancestors had held for centuries. Such a course was called for, or justifiable only in cases of notorious corruption, which did not exist in the instance before the House. The charges brought by the hon. member were, he contended, too general and indistinct to warrant the resolutions which he had moved. They had heard of bribes to the amount of 1,300l. being given in one instance, and of 275l. in the other; but they had not been told of the great number of electors who, it was alleged, had disgraced themselves by a bribe. This sum of 1,300l. rested on the evidence of a man named Pitt, who, in the course of his examination, admitted that he himself had been guilty of the grossest profligacy, and to so great an extent, that the general opinion of the committee was, that there was no foundation whatever for the charge of the division of 1,300l. among the electors. Then as to the sum of 275l., it rested on no better authority; as there were most respectable individuals who were ready to prove, that the parties who spoke to that circumstance were perjured. But suppose that could not be done, and that the fact of the 275l. could not be denied, what did it prove against the great mass of the electors? Was it shown how it was divided, or that it went amongst the whole, or only amongst a few? Nothing of this kind was attempted to be shown. The sum of 275l. would, at 10l. a-head, afford a bribe to twenty-seven electors and a half; and now, admitting for an instant, for the sake of the argument, that that number of persons had been bribed, was that a fair cause for disfranchising five hundred electors?—Let the House look at the cases in which parliament had, on former occasions proceeded to disfranchise boroughs, and they would see that, in the last four, and most important, instances, there was not one in which the circumstances bore any analogy to those of Penryn. The cases of Aylesbury, Cricklade, Shoreham, and Grampound, were all of them cases of gross bribery. In the Aylesbury case it was proved, that the electors met the candidates; that there was a bowl of punch at one end of the table and a bowl of guineas at the other, and the electors received their punch and their gold at the same time. Of the three hundred electors in the borough it was proved that two hundred had been thus bribed. In the borough of Cricklade, it was proved that more than half the electors had been bribed. The case of Shoreham was still stronger. There a society was formed called the "Christian Society," to which electors only were admitted. It was assembled by the hoisting of a flag. When they met, their proceedings were secret. Each man was sworn to secrecy, and entered into a bond of 500l. to preserve the laws of the Society. The affairs of the electors were managed by a committee, which was authorized to make the best bargain they could with the candidates. Here was a case where the disfranchisement of the borough was called for; but was there, he would ask, any analogy between the case of Penryn and this or any of the others he had mentioned? Bud for such practices, corrupt as they were, Shoreham was not disfranchised. The only change was, the extension of the franchise to the inhabitants of the rape of Bramber. In the case of Grampound, forty-seven, out of sixty or seventy electors were proved to have been bribed. Some of them took bribes of 35l., some of 53l.; one of 140l.; and the mayor got 306l. Besides this, a paper was produced to the committee, which was a kind of bill of parcels of the borough. In that bill, the members were debited for 8,400l., the price of the two seats, and credit given them for half that sum which had been received. For this, Grampound was disfranchised; but had he had the honour of a seat in parliament on that occasion, he would have objected to the disfranchisement, though he would not have opposed the extension of the franchise to the neighbouring hundred.—The House ought to be cautious how they interfered to remove the franchise from independent boroughs [hear, and a laugh.] By independent boroughs he meant those in which noblemen and gentlemen did not actually appoint the members; which was well known to be the fact in several instances [hear, hear.] In defending a place so notorious as Penryn, he wished to state his own opinions, lest it should be thought that he was the advocate of the practices which were said to exist. He hoped the House would give him credit for what he had said—that he was perfectly innocent of any attempt at bribery. If he had been guilty, why was he not included in the petition? The borough of Penryn, which he had the honour to represent, was particularly unfortunate. It had fallen more than once under the notice of the House; and by this misfortune had acquired a notoriety which it would be impossible for him to dissipate by any thing that he could offer. But, he must say, that there were many boroughs more corrupt than Penryn. If, however, the hon. mover was to be believed, it was one mass of corruption, and like the city mentioned in sacred history, ten good men could not be found in it. There were, however, in that borough, men as honourable, and as much opposed to bribery, as any which could be found in any borough in England. There were a most respectable resident magistracy, as incapable of receiving bribes as any member of that House. The superior classes consisted of officers of the navy, who were above taking any pecuniary bribes; and, if the representation were in the opposition, it was obvious that he could not influence them by the government patronage. To these were joined many retired merchants, of wealth and respectability. The second class consisted of a rank of shopkeepers who would think it an insult to offer them a bribe. There was another class of persons in the borough, who were very numerous. He alluded to the labouring poor. This was the class upon which those who wished to corrupt could practise their contrivances. But, why should the House vent their indignation, or confine their punishment, to the poor, who accepted the offers of rich candidates or members? For his part, he thought the corruptors by far more to be reprehended than those whom they corrupted. They were by far more deeply imbued in guilt—they had less to plead in excuse—their offence was of more fatal consequences to the country; and yet they revelled in impunity, and triumphed in their practices. Of the lower classes, many were in a state of great poverty. Irresistible temptations were offered to them; and was it to be wondered at that some had fallen? Although he acknowledged this fact, he maintained, that those who had accepted bribes were not in such a proportion to the general body of the electors, as to justify the House in depriving the whole borough of its privileges. Even in the lower classes, to which he immediately alluded, there were examples of integrity, of fidelity to promises, and of public principle, which did honour to human nature. Large sums had been offered to a poor shipwright for the vote which he had promised to another candidate. This man had answered, "You may chop my head off upon that block, but I will never forfeit my word." He must say, then, that the electors of Penryn had been grossly calumniated in the speech which had been addressed to the House that evening. He was convinced that those electors were not less virtuous than the electors of other boroughs in different parts of the country. He had sat on one election committee—the East Retford—and that committee was made sensible of the fact. that corruption existed there to a very great extent. It appeared from the evidence, that the practice of receiving bribes in that borough was notorious. Therefore, he contended, that the borough of East Retford was a thousand times more deserving of the interference of the House, than that which he had the honour to represent. It seemed to him, that no case whatever had been made out, which called on the House to disfranchise the borough of Penryn; and therefore the proposition of the hon. member for Leicester could not, with justice, be carried into effect. The intention of a noble lord (J. Russell), and of which he had given notice some time ago, was not only to recommend the disfranchisement of Penryn, as was proposed by the hon. member for Leicester, but to transfer the elective franchise to some large town in the north of England. This experiment had already been tried with respect to one large district, and the effect had been any thing but advantageous. He, did not mean to touch on the delicate subject of parliamentary reform; but he certainly would view, with great jealousy, the interference of that House with the privileges of those boroughs which were open, or independent. He alluded to boroughs where the people voted as they pleased, and were not under the influence of the aristocracy. Of the six hundred and fifty eight members of which that House was composed, only one hundred and seventy-one were returned for boroughs by the people; and the House ought to be extremely cautious in transferring to other places, the privileges of any part of that body by whom those one hundred and seventy-one members were now elected. At all events, he hoped the House would not be induced to follow the plan of the noble lord to transfer the right of voting altogether, from Penryn to some distant part of the country. This was due to his constituents, who were not that profligate and corrupt body of men they had been represented to be. Most of them were individuals of very great respectability; and if any corruption prevailed, it must be amongst a very small number of persons, of the lowest and most miserable description.

Lord Milton

confessed, that the proposition which the hon. member for Leicester had made to the House, involved a question of considerable difficulty. The hon. gentleman who had just concluded had made out a very considerable case, in answer to that which was brought against the Borough. At the same time, he would not say that the charges against Penryn did not deserve a further investigation. Perhaps, the best mode of investigation might be in the committee upon the bill moved by the hon. member for Leicestershire. He, however, was inclined to vote for proceedings at the bar of the House. With reference to the question of Parliamentary reform, it did appear to him, that one of the most valuable parts of the constitution of that House was, the great variety of persons who were intrusted with the elective franchise. In any bills for the disfranchisement of boroughs, great attention ought to be paid, not to disturb the balance which had hitherto existed between the different classes of constituents. Half a century ago, the case of Shoreham had been brought under the consideration of parliament; and at that time, when reforms were new, nothing was more natural, nothing more easy, than to extend the elective franchise to freeholders in the vicinity. What had been done in the cases of Shoreham, Cricklade, and Aylesbury, might not go far to disturb the balance which he wished to see maintained in the representation. But if, in every instance that occurred, the House was to follow the same plan, it would make a great inroad into that relation of the different classes of representatives that had been established. In this point, he entirely agreed with the hon. member who had last spoken. In all reforms, it was necessary not to transfer any portion of the elective franchise from the middle to the higher classes. It was also necessary not to destroy the proportion between the commercial and the landed electors. If, ultimately, a sufficient case were made out against Penryn, he would vote for the measure proposed by the hon. member for Leicestershire; nevertheless, of all plans for the improvement of the representation, it was almost the last he should wish to follow. He had before objected, and he still objected, to giving to the county of York the forfeited franchise of Grampound; because he did not think it right that that county should exclusively possess a double claim to re- presentation beyond the other counties. If he rightly understood the hon. member for Leicestershire, his object was to deprive the inhabitants of Penryn, who paid scot and lot, of their elective franchise, and to extend it to the two neighbouring hundreds. Now, if it was at all desirable to increase the basis of representation in that House, he thought that no worse course than that at present proposed could be adopted; indeed, he thought it would have precisely the contrary effect. The course now proposed to be adopted would disfranchise Penryn, and extend to certain other parties a right of voting, in addition to that which they already possessed as county electors. Of all the reforms of which he had ever heard, this appeared to him to be the worst. If they should determine to deprive Penryn of the elective franchise, were there not, he asked, other and better modes of transferring it? If they should decide to disfranchise that borough, what, he would ask, had the two adjoining hundreds to do with it; or what claim had they any more than Manchester or Birmingham, or any other great town? The noble lord, after alluding to what had taken place with respect to the borough of Helstone, which had been disfranchised because of corrupt practices, went on to state, that, in his view of the question, the right of voting, if taken from Penryn, ought to be vested in some large bodies of men to be found in that district. This, he said, upon the ground of the old rights and acts of the constitution, to which he wished as far as possible to adhere. If it should be found that corruption had been so general as to render it impossible to follow this course, then he hoped the elective franchise would be transferred to some large, wealthy, and populous, place, not at present represented.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

said, he felt the same objection as the noble lord to giving additional votes to men who already enjoyed the elective franchise, while large bodies of men were without that privilege. When the corruption in the borough of Grampound was proved, he had thought that the right of election should be transferred to Leeds, Manchester, or Birmingham, rather than to the county of York. In conformity with that feeling, he hoped that on the present occasion, the elective franchise would not be transferred to places which now possessed that privilege, but to places situated like those to which he had alluded. He begged leave to ask, whether this was not a fit and proper time for making an experiment of this nature? He knew not how they could ascertain the manner in which such a plan was likely to operate, unless the experiment were fairly tried. It had been said, that corruption would flourish in those great towns. He, however, was of a contrary opinion. All experience proved, that corruption flourished most in those little boroughs. Some hon. members asked for proofs, when it was well known that boroughs had their books and their agents, and that the price of admission to any candidate, no matter whom, was regulated by circumstances. If the number of voters were few, then the price was high; if the number of voters were many, then the price was low. There were the regular accounts of the buyers and the sellers in the market; and the bargains were made in the usual way of business. The thing was notorious. He himself knew a borough-agent, who often had fifteen or twenty candidates for boroughs, or their agents, at his table. There was one person in the city, who must be well known to the leading members of that House—he meant Mr. Oldfield—who frequently entertained more than twenty attorneys, each of whom introduced some stranger for the representation of a borough in Cornwall. The prices varied from 3,000l. to 5,000l. for a seat; and even the price of a seat for a session was regularly fixed. During the war the price of a seat was from 4,000l. to 5,000l.; but, since the peace, that price had rather declined. It was rather an extraordinary thing, when it was known that money was given, that nobody could be pointed out as the person who gave it. This reminded him of a circumstance which had not very long since occurred. A general officer had been robbed, and after a little time the robber was taken up, tried, and convicted. He was asked, if he had committed the robbery: he replied that he had: he was asked if he had any accomplices, he said he had; he was asked to name them, but he declined, and said to his former master, "Sir, you are a man of honour, and would scorn to betray a friend. I, too, am a man of honour; and if my life could be saved by the disclosure you wish me to make, I should still persist in refusing to make it." Now, this was precisely the case with respect to the borough-agents and borough-dealers: they managed their business upon "honourable" principles, and often left to a future day the payment of the account. This corruption was always found to exist in small boroughs. For himself, he was sent to that House by four thousand five hundred electors of the city of London, without one single farthing expense, and he had even received from those who returned him a sum of two shillings, to pay his expenses upon taking the oaths and his seat. He mentioned this fact with a view to shew, that the greater the number of electors, the greater was likely to be the purity of election. He thought that, if the elective franchise was to be taken from a borough because of corruption, it ought to be extended to large trading and commercial towns, instead of being given to counties already represented. It had been said, in that House, as well as in other quarters, that the lower orders had no discrimination—that they possessed no interest; for himself he would say, that they possessed interest and discrimination enough to guide them in the choice of men of honour and independent spirit to represent them in parliament. He would rather allow things to remain as they were, than adopt the course proposed by the hon. member. He thought the elective franchise ought, in this instance, to be extended either to Manchester, Leeds, or Birmingham; and, if no other hon. member rose for the purpose, he should propose that it be extended to Manchester.

Lord John Russell

said, it was not his intention to trouble the House at any length in expressing his opinions upon the question under discussion. He agreed almost entirely with his noble friend upon the subject. But he felt, after the reports of 1807, 1819, and of last year, to which he would add the present report, that there was sufficient evidence upon which to bring in the bill proposed by the hon. member; and when that bill went into a committee it would be proper to inquire whether the electors of Penryn had been partially or generally corrupt, and to decide upon the necessary steps to be taken for the prevention or punishment of such practices. An hon. member (Mr. D. Barclay) had distinctly stated, that he had not, by himself, or his agents, offered a bribe in the borough. That hon. member should recollect, that the charge was not against him, but against the other member (Mr. Manning), who had not thought proper to favour the House with a single observation upon the subject. As far as his own opinions were concerned, he confessed that he should like to reject the remedy proposed, and at once transfer the elective franchise to Manchester. He had made inquiries in Manchester upon this subject, and he found that the inhabitants concurred in a general wish to send representatives to parliament. Notwithstanding this opinion, however, he was anxious that the hon. member should bring in his bill; and, if an alteration was found necessary, to give an instruction to the committee to that effect. He would just refer to the Grampound case. The transfer of the elective franchise, in that case, to York was at the instance of lord Liverpool. When the bill was introduced into this House, it was proposed to transfer it not to York, but to Leeds; and it might be remembered that on a proposal to give it to York, the motion was rejected by a majority of one hundred and twenty-six to sixty, after an able speech of a noble friend of his, who now filled the post of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The hon. member proposed to transfer the right of voting from the electors of Penryn in this manner—of four-hundred or five-hundred electors, he left only eighty; but he had no evidence to show that those eighty were pure men, and that all the three hundred or four hundred were corrupt. The hon. member assumed this arbitrarily. With respect to the plan of the hon. member, if no great trading place could be found in the country which was not represented, it might be very proper to give to Penryn the double elective franchise proposed; but this was not the fact. Since the year 1770, great towns had sprung up, and presented the means of a remedy for the evil.

Mr. Manning

said, that after the personal allusion which had been made to him, he could not avoid throwing himself upon the indulgence of the House, while he said a few words in defence of his conduct. He might, and, probably, should have remained silent, but for the observations of the noble lord. He could assure that noble lord and the House, that his silence had not proceeded from any desire to keep from the knowledge of the House any of the circumstances of the transaction. His hon. colleague, who had already spoken, had declared that he had, neither by himself nor his agents, been guilty of bribery to the electors. He also could make exactly the same statement. He should hardly have thought that statement necessary, after the Resolutions which the committee upon the Penryn election had passed. He begged now to refer the House to one of those resolutions, in which the committee had declared, that it did not appear to them that Mr. Manning had been at all concerned in such bribery and corruption. With such a testimony in his favour, it was impossible for him to sit still after the personal allusion which had been made to him by the noble lord. He begged now to say a word or two upon the subject itself. He was opposed to the proposition for disfranchising the borough, and bore testimony to the high character which some of the electors maintained. There were, perhaps, five or six hundred voters, and many of them were persons who had retired from the army and navy, and who were above the charge of being bribed. He thought the evidence on which the present proposition was founded was very unsatisfactory; and that no ulterior measure ought to be adopted upon it. As a proof of it, he referred to the evidence of the cook-maid, who had been examined upon the question of bribery, and who, though one of the witnesses upon whose testimony the charge was supported, had not been able to say whether the bribe was paid in notes or in sovereigns, or what was its amount. Upon such evidence as that, he thought the House could place very little, if any, reliance.

Colonel Davies

said, that he was happy to have heard from the hon. member, the decision of the committee, as he had himself the greatest respect for that hon. member. Still, however, he could not avoid believing, that though that hon. member might be free from the imputation of having offered bribes, yet that the place itself was the most corrupt that could be imagined. He should support the transfer of the franchise from Penryn to Manchester; but he trusted that when the transfer was made, care would be taken to put it into good hands there. He believed that corruption existed in all places, populous or not; and that the only difference was, that in a close borough the voter received twenty guineas and kept his word, while in a more populous place, where the franchise was further extended, he received a smaller sum from each of the candidates, and deceived them all in turn.

Mr. Wynn

thought, that the case of the Penryn election particularly required further investigation, before any decisive steps were taken upon the matter. He was not satisfied with the course which it was proposed to adopt. He had no doubt that there had been gross and notorious corruption in the borough; but to what extent that corruption existed it was impossible to say. He could not determine, upon the evidence already before the House, whether that corruption affected so large a portion of the voters, as to justify the remedy of disfranchisement. If it should ultimately appear, that a large and material part of the voters had not participated in the corruption, it would be grossly unjust to disfranchise the innocent majority, for the act of the guilty minority. But if, on the other hand, the corruption had been universal, or that a very large proportion of the voters had participated in it, he must say that disfranchisement was the best and most fitting punishment that could follow their offences. At all events, let the questions he had now stated be decided as they might, he was opposed to granting the motion of the hon. member for Leicestershire upon the evidence now before the House. If the borough of Penryn should ultimately be disfranchised, he did not see any strong objection to transferring it to Manchester; but, he thought that, perhaps, the best course would be to let those who were not convicted of having participated in the corruption of the borough retain the votes they now possessed. At present, he did not think the evidence before the House would justify them in disfranchising the borough; and he thought the best mode of ascertaining who were the persons that had been guilty, would be for the House to direct the Attorney-general to prosecute those who now appeared to be inculpated, pending any inquiry the House might think fit to institute, with a view to any ulterior measures. The right hon. gentleman concluded with expressing his wish for further information upon the subject.

Lord Stanley

said, he was in favour of the transfer of the elective franchise from Penryn to Manchester, and was happy to find that the proposal to give representatives to that large and important town was well received by the inhabitants. He read a letter he had lately received from Manchester upon this subject, in which the most respectable inhabitants of that place were stated to be in favour of the measure; and the only question they seemed to be anxious upon was, as to the qualifications of the voters. They were particularly desirous of obtaining representatives for the town, and they asked from his lordship further information upon the subject; as they heard that Mr. LeghKeck intended to move that the elective franchise should be transferred from the hundred of Penryn. He certainly must say, that he did not think the report now on the table was sufficient to warrant the proposed proceeding; although he could not say, that, after what had occurred on previous occasions, it was possible to believe that the great majority of the inhabitants of Penryn were pure. The present proposition seemed merely to be, to take the elective franchise from those who were acknowledged to be guilty, and to leave it still in the possession of those who might be guilty, but who had the opportunity of voting, perhaps, in more places than one, for the election of members. He had no hesitation in saying, that he fully concurred in the recommendation of the right hon. gentleman, that a prosecution should be instituted by the Attorney-general against some of the voters, for bribery and corruption. He wished that, in this instance, the House should follow the course which they had adopted in the case of the Grampound election, where the House had first decided that the borough should be disfranchised, before they entered into the discussion to which place that franchise should be transferred.

Mr. Canning

said, he wished to offer a few words upon this subject, and to state the reasons on which he was prepared to accede to the motion for leave to bring in a bill to prevent corruption in the borough of Penryn. The noble lord who had just spoken was mistaken, if he supposed the object of the bill was to transfer the franchise to another place; for, according to the words of it, it was merely to prevent bribery and corruption at Penryn. That was the point to be judged. He was of opinion, that enough appeared on the face of the report now before the House, to justify the resolutions which had been proposed. But, though he went thus far, he could not say that enough had appeared to justify the House in taking any ulterior measures. He thought that the hon. members for the borough ought to be allowed, before any final decision was taken, to show that they had not been engaged in the work of bribery and corruption, or that it was not so general as it was now supposed. He thought the House ought not only to have the report which was now before them, but ought to be supplied with other information, before they proceeded further; and he certainly should require additional information, before he formed any decisive opinion on the subject. Without now expressing any opinion as to the propriety of the transfer of the franchise, he should observe, that he thought it improper at present to mix up, in this stage of the discussion, any dispute as to the place to which the franchise should be transferred, and still less as to the terms on which that transfer should be made. It was their duty now to judge whether bribery and corruption had taken place at the borough, and it was impossible that men should go as they ought to the judgment of a criminal, when they had already cast lots for his clothes. In like manner, he thought the House could hardly go properly to the question, whether the borough should be disfranchised, when they had already determined to what town its franchise should be transferred. The question now was, whether there was at present sufficient to justify the House in admitting the bill. To the introduction of the bill he gave his hearty consent; but he thought he ought to reserve his opinion on any ulterior question for the further progress of the discussion. He was of opinion, that further investigation was necessary, and he thought some measure ought to be adopted; although he was not favourable to that sweeping and overwhelming reform, which was to cure the great blots of the House, while it passed by, with closed eyes, the minor defects of the present system.

Lord Althorp

observed upon the difficulties of proving corruption in the agents, so as to affect the candidates. When the House went into evidence upon this subject, he was certain that a system of great and gross corruption would be proved. He was not inclined to charge the hon. member for Penryn with having been guilty of the bribery; but, though he felt that doubt with regard to the hon. member, he was convinced that such corruption did take place, and that, if it was not practised by the candidates themselves, it was by their imprudent friends and agents, or, at least, by those who acted on their behalf. He had no doubt the existence of the corruption in this instance would be proved to the satisfaction of every body, if further evidence was gone into.

Mr. Brougham

thought, that a primâ facie case had been fully made out for the House to proceed upon; but he did not think that enough had been shown, as yet, to justify a disfranchisement of the borough. As for the nature of the transfer of the elective franchise—if it turned out to be necessary that any transfer should be made—that was a point upon which, he apprehended, there could not be a moment's doubt. The only proper transfer would be, not to Penryn in part, and to the hundreds adjoining in party which would be giving part of the franchise back to the very people who had abused it, and the rest to another set of people who held their right of voting, which they had already, by the most objectionable tenure in the country, but to some one of those large and populous towns, which, by their wealth and importance, were entitled to a more distinct and particular representation than they at present possessed; and he had no hesitation in saying, that he thought the fittest course that could be taken would be to transfer it to Manchester. He agreed, that in that which appeared to be proved against the borough of Penryn, there was nothing which affected the lion. Bank director. He agreed, that that hon. member was not to be fixed with the conduct of those persons who had acted on his behalf and for his interest. But he confessed, that he had heard with some suspicion the statement of the hon. member's colleague, that neither directly or indirectly had he taken any part in, or known of, or suspected—and this, too, he spoke without the slightest mental reservation—any of the measures which had been taken in the borough of Penryn on his behalf. Now he (Mr. Brougham) believed this. He believed it—not because it was in the slightest degree probable, but because the hon. gentleman stated it—stated it without mental reservation, too— and, therefore, it was impossible for him to doubt it. But, as the hon. member knew nothing of all that had been done, could any body explain how it happened that a certain Mr. Stanbury was in gaol at the present moment? Mr. Stanbury had been summoned by the committee to tell what he knew about this affair, of which nobody else knew any thing; and instead of coming forward to illuminate the committee, he had absconded, and had been committed for contempt. It was no mistake; although something to that effect had been hinted: because, if it was a mistake, Mr. Stanbury might petition the House, give his evidence, and be let out. But Mr. Stanbury did not attempt to do that: and altogether, perhaps, it was not so very extraordinary that he should have a fancy to pass the summer in gaol; for the House would find that he was altogether a very odd fellow. He went to Penryn, it appeared, for no purpose but to see the amusements of an election; and he gave away, for the pleasure of seeing the hon. member (Mr. Barclay), of whom he knew nothing, represent that place, as much as 1,300l. in the morning; and this could not have been all that he had given away; because the hon. member did not sit there as member for Penryn for 1,300l. The price of boroughs was known too well for any body to believe that; and, at the time when Mr. Stanbury gave those sums away, he knew that, besides parting with the money, he was running a chance of getting into what was called, in Penryn, a "misfortune," and what was called, in the court of King's-bench, a misdemeanour; and Mr. Stanbury did all this, and moreover chose to lie and rot in gaol, rather than say a word about it, purely to secure the election of the hon. member for Penryn; he not being at all employed as the hon. member's agent, nor in any way indemnified by or connected with him! [hear, hear]. Now, he hoped that the entire veracity of all this statement would be as clear out of the walls of that House as it was within them. His mode of reconciling the apparent difficulty was a plain, and, he trusted, not an illiberal one. It was this:—He supposed that an hon. gentleman, who could swear, without mental reservation, that he knew nothing of particular acts, done obviously for the furtherance of his interest, must have made a provision for future ignorance, by employing an agent generally, and shutting his eyes to all the steps or measures which that agent might find it necessary to take. Because the fact was, the hon. gentleman had no property or connexion in Penryn [expressions of dissent]. Well, if the hon. gentleman had an overpowering property and influence in Penryn, it was another matter; but still the hon. member must admit that Mr. Stanbury was a very odd man? Because, that he did really pay the 1,300l., and other large sums of money in Penryn, the House would see. And who the deuce could have paid him again? for nothing could be more certain than that the hon. gentleman had not. Where could these sums have come from? What a man of means, as well as bountiful disposition, and particular desire to see the hon. gentleman member for Penryn, was Mr. Stanbury! And what was still more extraordinary—and even as extraordinary as his fancy for lying in prison all the summer—his good offices were not confined to giving away large sums of money to secure the election of the hon. gentleman opposite for the borough of Penryn, but he appeared, just at that same time, to have been disposing of his wealth, with equal liberality, in two or three other places: it was very odd, too, that they were boroughs in the county. The hon. and learned member, after repeating his belief that hon. gentlemen who were so fortunate as to get all this done for them, and yet were able to swear, without mental reservation, that they knew nothing of the means by which it was accomplished, could only place themselves in that lucky position, by choosing an agent, and taking care to avoid seeing any thing of his operations, concluded by stating, that he thought the case of Penryn merited a candid and impartial, but a most rigorous inquiry.

Mr. Charles Barclay

felt himself compelled to address a few words to the House, lest the talent of the hon. and learned member who had just sat down, for ridicule, should lead hon. members to a wrong conclusion, The hon. and learned member had stated—that the hon. member for Penryn, his relative, had no property or influence in Penryn. This was directly the reverse of the fact; for his hon. relative had been introduced there by persons of the highest influence, and had gone down to offer himself upon their assurance, that he might come in upon the most honourable terms. With respect to the observations about Mr. Stanbury, if the hon. and learned member had only looked at the evidence before the House, he would have seen, that to the case of his hon. relative they were entirely inapplicable. He would have found there, that the 1,300l. which he stated to have been paid by Mr. Stanbury, had been paid for purposes and objects quite distinct from his hon. relative's election. The hon. member, after asserting, he begged to say, in the plainest terms, that Mr. Stanbury was no agent, nor had been, of his hon. relative, sat down by declaring that that hon. gentleman had been returned as fairly to the house as any member who sat in it.

Mr. Brougham

said, he had certainly laboured under a mistake, and he had no hesitation in at once admitting it. He had supposed Mr. Stanbury and Mr. Sowell to have been general agents for the hon. sitting member for Penryn; but it turned out that they had been agents for the member who had petitioned.

Mr. Legh-Keck,

in reply, moved, that the Report of the Committees on the Penryn elections of 1807 and 1819 be read, and the Resolutions of the House thereon. They were accordingly read by the Clerk of the House.

The Resolutions were then put and agreed to, with the exception of that directing the Attorney-general to prosecute Joseph and Richard So well, John Stanbury, and others, which was postponed until further evidence should be produced. The Reports of the Committees upon the elections at Penryn in 1807 and 1819 were then ordered to be reprinted; and Mr. Legh-Keck and sir Charles Burrell appointed to prepare the bill for the prevention of bribery and corruption in the borough of Penryn.