HC Deb 19 May 1828 vol 19 cc779-813

The House, on the motion of Mr. Tennyson, went into a committee on this bill.

Mr. N. Calvert

asked the hon. gentleman whether it was his intention to persevere in this bill?

Mr. Tennyson replied in the affirmative.

Mr. N. Calvert

said, that in that case, he should move an amendment; for he could not consent to the county of Nottingham being deprived of two of its members, as it already had not above its fair share. It was therefore his intention to move, that instead of the right of voting being taken away from the borough, it should be put into the hands of such persons in the borough and the adjoining hundred as were independent in their circumstances, and therefore less likely to be biassed in the giving of their vote. The substance of his amendment was, that the right of voting should remain with those only who were rated in their poor-rates at 20l. a year, and that the returning officer should be rated at 40l. a year.

Dr. Phillimore

thought that the hon. gentleman ought to move for the postponement of the preamble.

The Chairman

(Mr. John Wood) said, he understood that could not be done.

The preamble was then read, and Mr. N. Calvert moved an amendment to the above effect.

Mr. Peel

doubted whether the hon. gentleman had adopted the most convenient course, as he did not think that the preamble was applicable to the nature of this amendment.

Mr. Tennyson

rose and spoke as follows:—Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the disposition manifested by the House on a former night, in favour of the proposal of my hon. friend, I must confess I did entertain a hope that he would have decided to abandon it after what has since occured in the other House of parliament, with regard to the bill for disfranchising the borough of Penryn. The main grounds upon which he received the support of the House no longer exist; but as he thinks it expedient to persevere, I wish to remind the committee that, by the vote of the 21st of March, to which I have referred, we are not in any manner bound to adopt this proposition. That vote merely enabled this committee to take it into consideration, and to examine the claims of the hundred of Bassetlaw in competition with those of the important town, to which this bill yet destines the elective franchise.

And now, Sir, that ample time has been allowed for reflection, and for collecting the general feeling throughout the country on this subject,—I do trust, that in a case where no man will deny that the whole current of public opinion is adverse to my hon. friend's proposal, and where reason, justice, and expediency are, as I will undertake to shew, clearly arrayed against it, the committee will at least pause before it shall consent to that proposal.

The right hon. gentleman opposite, (Mr. Secretary Peel) and those who act with him, although they consented to give this authority to the committee, are still as much at liberty as any other members of this House. The proposition did not proceed from them. The right hon. gentleman has distinctly disclaimed it. But, even if it had originated with him, it merely reserves to those who either proposed or voted for it, the power of consideration, without pledging them to any specific ulterior course. Even if the other House had agreed to transfer the elective franchise from Penryn to Manchester, this would have been the state of the question;—but when the power, thus given to the committee, was part of an arrangement which had relation to the disposition of both these boroughs,—an arrangement suggested by the right hon. gentleman himself, upon the hypothesis that the privilege of Penryn was to be given to Manchester,—it appears to me, that since it is now clearly ascertained that no such transfer will take place, the right hon. gentleman,—although I will not say that he is distinctly pledged, as we are at present circumstanced, to the course which I would invite him to pursue,—yet, cannot be personally bound to act, in the manner proposed by my hon. friend, upon the instruction, his consent to which was governed by an hypothesis which has since entirely failed.

But although I do not assert that there is anything which absolutely binds the right hon. gentleman to adopt my course of proceeding, under the circumstances which have arisen; yet it seems to me to flow from the principles on which he professed to act in the former discussion, (although I entirely dissented from them) that he ought now to concur with me. Me proposed to divide these disposable franchises between the commercial and the landed interest. Accordingly, he agreed to transfer that of Penryn to Manchester, while that of Retford was to be given to an agricultural district. Now, if on the contrary, the House of Lords should open Penryn to the adjacent hundreds, which is the course at present contemplated, then he will as effectually act upon the plan he laid down, by giving the franchise of East Retford to Birmingham. And if the Penryn bill be entirely abandoned—still, upon the principle of alternation which the right hon. gentleman is disposed to adopt between the landed and trading interest, a commercial or manufacturing town should now have its turn; inasmuch as, in the last case—that of Grampound—and in the three other cases which preceded it, the land had the benefit of the changes which then took place.

The time is now undoubtedly arrived for the right hon. gentleman and the committee, to exercise, if they will, that consideration of the claims of Bassetlaw, which this instruction permits. But before we proceed, Sir, I entreat the committee to recollect that the town of Birmingham is still, as it were, in possession of this bill. Its hopes have been raised, and its expectations excited; and it is, I submit, incumbent on my hon. friend, and those who advocate with him, the claims of Bassetlaw,—to shew that those claims ought in justice to be preferred,—before we deliberately eject the town of Birmingham from that position which, conformably to the first impression of the House in its favour it has now for so long a period been allowed to occupy.

Sir, after the powerful arguments by which my right hon. and learned friend (Sir J. Mackintosh) opposed this motion on a former night,—in one of those convincing and splendid speeches, with which he occasionally consents to instruct and delight us,—I shall confine myself within narrow limits; and I trust, that under the new circumstances now attendant upon this question, I shall be able to satisfy a majority of the committee that every view of the public interest requires the transfer of this disposable franchise to some unrepresented manufacturing town.

In the first place, I contend, that the course which my hon. friend invites us to adopt, is novel in itself—unsanctioned by any precedent,—and inconsistent with the established institutions of the country. My hon. friend says, he means to conform himself to the precedent of Aylesbury. But in that case,—and the two others of Shoreham and Cricklade, which preceded it, and which have been assumed as precedents on the other side, although the neighbouring freeholders were admitted to vote, it was upon grounds which do not exist here. In each of those cases, one moiety, at the least, of the electors were untainted by any proof of corruption. On behalf of that unimpeached portion, it was thought right to retain the borough; but, in order to prevent corruption for the future, it was determined to make a large addition to the constituent body. The neighbouring freeholders presented a con- venient source from which such an infusion could be drawn; but this plan was adopted in each case most distinctly on account of the borough itself, and certainly not on account of any supposed claim on the part of the hundred, still less of the county in which the borough was situated. Neither the hundred nor the county was ever dreamt of, as having any pretence to increased representation. But here my hon. friend makes his claim distinctly and exclusively on their behalf. The right hon. gentleman has done the same thing. The acts of parliament, in each of those oases, recite the end and intent to be, "That the said borough may henceforth be duly represented in parliament;" and my hon. friend proposes to conform to those precedents. But does he propose this amendment as the means of having East Retford represented in future? No such thing. He, and others who concurred with him in the last discussion, expressly stated it as the means of giving representation to Nottinghamshire and Bassetlaw, and, together with the whole House, utterly repudiated the borough, and abjured all regard to it and to the whole of the present burgesses, as unworthy of consideration. My hon. friend, indeed, seems now to have discovered all the difficulty of his dilemma, and has attempted to retrace his steps, so as to steer a middle course between the anomaly of retaining the whole corrupt body of electors, and the novelty of altogether rejecting them. Yet, as he is unable to distinguish any un-corrupted portion, he attempts to-night to draw a fanciful and arbitrary line—he proposes to retain the upper portion of the electors; and, therefore, as the most wealthy, the most inexcusable portion. His plan is, to retain those who are assessed at twenty pounds a year and upwards to the poor-rate, that is, just those who ought to have set a better example. I happen to have before me, for another purpose, the assessment of the parish; and I find that it would produce him, on this principle, two or three persons at the most, as the nucleus for his new body of electors, which I before told him he wanted, and the idea of which he and the right hon. gentleman then ridiculed. His two or three individuals are probably among the most objectionable persons in the whole corporation. He cannot separate the sheep from the goats in a case where they are all goats, so he selects those which are the most powerful and mischievous. The poor are excluded, not because they are more corrupt, but because they are poor; the rich are selected, not because they are less corrupt, but because they are rich. Surely this scheme will not be allowed to help my hon. friend out of his difficulty. He cannot conceal the truth. We must see through the flimsy veil he has now found it expedient to throw over his project. It was, and it is, undoubtedly a case for absolute transfer; but my hon. friend would not deal with it by a transfer to another town, or to a county, according to precedent. He attempts, under the colour of a precedent, to which his proceeding has no analogy, to transfer the franchise to a district yet unheard of for any purpose of representation—the district or department of Bassetlaw.

Thus, Sir, I am justified in boldly maintaining that this is a novel proposition—strange to the constitution—an invasion of the ancient scheme of representation by counties, cities, and boroughs—which I contend should not be broken into, as now proposed, without the gravest and most mature consideration. Even if I were willing to begin a new system with my hon. friend to-night, assuredly Basset-law would not be the spot upon which I would fix to open my campaign against the constitution, unless I intended it, also, as a campaign against the principles upon which it is founded; for it is notorious, that, to give the franchise to Bassetlaw, is to give the nomination of two members of this House, to a corporation of peers. Bassetlaw is well known to be a crowded galaxy of coronets. I forget:—Gentlemen may not know the fact as applied to this Bassetlaw, but who has not heard of "The Dukery"? It is this district which is so called, and to this "Dukery" it is, that my hon. friend proposes his transfer. What must the public think? Nay, Sir, we know (for the matter has been amply; canvassed out of doors), what it does think, of the proposition to allot two members for the purpose of giving double representation to the Dukery, when whole multitudes of the people, and some of the interests the most important to the common weal, are languishing for representation amongst us!

The freeholders of Bassetlaw have already ample representation. Are they to be gratuitously gorged with it? In fact, it is one of the best represented districts in England. First, by the members for the county of Nottingham: they have never said, that they were oppressed by their duties, neither has any complaint been made that they discharged those duties in a deficient manner. Next by an extraordinary providence, and beyond all example, in the other House of parliament also,—by that constellation of dukes and earls, and viscounts and barons, who reside within the boundary of Basset-law, or possess her soil: again, in this House, by all those hon. members, whom these puissant nobles contrive, by means which I will not describe, to return to parliament, for places where representation is a name. Thus it would not only be idle to urge a claim, but ludicrous to pretend a want. In affecting to give better representation to the people of England, my hon. friend would, in fact, deprive them of a portion, although, indeed, a decayed and dilapidated portion, but still a portion, of their inheritance, in order to confer it upon that noble oligarchy, which presides over the destinies of this otherwise obscure district. Bassetlaw herself is silent. Her body of independent freeholders, with some of whom I have the honor to be well acquainted, neither petition for, nor desire this privilege. They have nothing to gain, except another mark of their own comparative insignificance, and those who would really gain, cannot and dare not ask. My hon. friend saves them the trouble; for he proposes to convert an open borough, a borough open to all comers—to all at least who have money in their pockets—into what will resolve itself into a close nomination, or at least into a prize for the powerful mandarins of the district to bargain or to fight for. I have before me, a curious exemplication of the truth of my impression. A most respectable gentleman, who has lately written a very valuable pamphlet in favour of Catholic Emancipation (Mr. Gaily Knight), encouraged by what passed on the former discussion, has published an address, offering his services to the future electors of Bassetlaw. Well knowing that the fact is as I have stated it, and who would be the real electors of Bassetlaw, he addresses himself to the "Noblemen," as well as to the freeholders of the hundred; although noblemen could not vote nor interfere, without being guilty of a high infringement of our privileges. Mr. Gally Knight, adopting the language of my hon. friend and others, speaks of this operation as a "transfer" from the borough to the hundred,—and lord Newark, another candidate, does the same thing. I have also an address to these electors in embryo, signed by Mr. E. C. Brown (the witness who underwent so long an examination at the bar), on behalf of a candidate whose name is concealed, and whom he pledges to oppose Catholic emancipation. This hand-bill, I understand, proceeds from the duke of Newcastle, on behalf of a relation. It is pretended that the duke has little interest in this hundred, yet, within it lies the greater part of his estate in Nottinghamshire; and he is said to return one of the members for the county. If so, he must have still more decisive influence for this particular hundred. Why did not the relative of the noble duke come forward, openly, like the other candidates? Obviously, because it would have exposed his grace's pretensions, and increased the just opposition to my hon. friend's motion. I have also an address, to the "independent burgesses" of Retford, soliciting the "honour" of representing them; as it is probable, says this candidate, that their ancient privileges will be preserved. He, too, founds his claims on his strenuous opposition to popery, and is no less a personage than Mr. E. Goulburn, the brother of the chancellor of the Exchequer. It seems the right hon. gentleman had founded some hope, on the notice which had been given by an hon. member, to move for the issue of the writ. The letter, which brought me this hand-bill, states, that the freemen of Retford, considering Mr. E. Goulburn to be in the secrets of the government, now entertain strong hopes: that the right hon. gentleman, and his colleagues, would support even that motion.

There is only one other point, on which I would touch, in reply to what has been urged in favour of my hon. friend's proposition. It is said to be great injustice that the county of Nottingham, heretofore represented by eight members, should be reduced to six. Sir, I am confident that the measure I propose, will not deprive this county of any advantage, but simply relieve it from a flagrant nuisance. Up to a period, comparatively recent, Nottinghamshire had only four representatives. It was not until late in the reign of Charles 2nd (in 1676) that Newark, in that county, first obtained the privilege of returning members to parliament. It was the last exercise of royal favour and prerogative in this way. But the privilege was not given on the ground of any necessity which the county felt for increased representation; but is known, historically, to have been bestowed as a mark of gratitude by Charles 2nd, for the manner in which Newark had held out, on behalf of the royal cause. At that time too—if I must consider my hon. friend's view of the subject—the population of Nottinghamshire bore a much larger proportion to the population of Warwickshire (into the bosom of which I propose to transfer this franchise) than it now does—the mere increase of the population of Warwickshire, during the last century, being alone equal to the entire present population of the county of Nottingham. Again, it was only in the reign of queen Elizabeth, that Retford itself obtained the privilege it has now forfeited.

By these two acts of royal grace, the representation of Nottinghamshire (according to my hon. friend's view) was doubled; whereas it is not on record that Warwickshire, the relative importance and population of which has increased in an immense proportion, has ever received any addition to its representation since the establishment of the representative system in this kingdom. But, in fact, what have the members for Retford to do with the county in which it stands? First—who return them? The shoe-makers and minor artisans of the town, about one hundred persons, and about the same number of non-resident freemen; individuals, on the whole, who have no sympathy whatever with the interests of the county. Next, who are the parties who have been returned? Gentlemen from Nottinghamshire?—No. In the two last parliaments, my friend Mr. Evans, a banker, from Derby, and Mr. Crompton from Yorkshire. In the parliament of 1812?—Mr. Osbaldeston from Yorkshire, and Mr. Marsh, who was entirely unconnected with Nottinghamshire. Who were returned the last time?—My honourable and gallant friends sir Robert Dundas, and Mr. Wrightson, both from Yorkshire; the unsuccessful candidate being sir Henry Wilson, a worthy knight from Chelsea.

If we consider the manner in which the counties are represented—not as the right hon. gentleman looked at it in the former discussion, but with reference to their population—the population of Nottinghamshire does not appear to require eight members nearly so much as Warwickshire. Warwickshire has at present only six members for its population, which may now be stated at three hundred thousand; while Nottinghamshire has eight for its one hundred and ninety thousand. But, taking the relative population as stated in the last census—that of 1821—Warwickshire at two hundred and seventy-four thousand, and Nottinghamshire at one hundred and eighty-six thousand; still, after the transfer to Birmingham, Nottinghamshire will be better represented by its remaining six members, than Warwickshire by the eight members it will then have, for it will still have only one for each thirty-five thousand inhabitants, while Nottinghamshire will retain one for each thirty-one thousand. At present the disproportion is quite unfair; Warwickshire with six members has only one to about forty-six thousand, while Nottinghamshire has one to about twenty-three thousand, or, in other words, has more than double the representation of Warwickshire. In fine—Nottinghamshire stands the twenty-first in point of population upon the scale of English counties, while Warwickshire is the twelfth.

Sir, I have thought it a proper mark of respect to my hon. friend so far to discuss upon his own grounds, the proposition which he has submitted to us. But Sir, there are other, and far higher motives, which have influenced me in the course I have pursued, and to which I feel it my duty to adhere.

My hon. friend has told us, with that candour which belongs to him, that the object of his motion is to give this franchise as a boon to the landed interest. I am one of the last men in this House likely to take a bigotted view, in opposition to the landed interest, because all the means which I possess are derived from that source, and thus identify my private interest with it. My hon. friend will recollect, that I lately sat in a division upon the same bench with him in support of the landed interest, and I was satisfied that, in giving that vote, I was not aiming any blow at the commercial or manufacturing classes of the community; for, whatever supports the agriculture of the country, must be beneficial to them. And now, I am equally persuaded, that the landed interest will be effectually promoted by duly en- couraging and giving the advantage which I now seek for the commercial and manufacturing interests. But if I did not think so, still a sense of the injustice of my hon. friend's proposal would divert me from acceding to it.

I have shewn that the members for Retford did not, in any sort, represent the county of Nottingham. But, Sir, I will now add that, they were never intended so to represent it, and ought not, according to my hon. friend's design, to be made to do so. I will cite an authority to which he will defer, that of sir W. Blackstone. He says in his first volume, page 159—"The counties are represented by knights elected by the proprietors of lands: the cities and boroughs are represented by citizens and burgesses chosen by the mercantile part, or supposed trading interest of the nation." Again, page 174:—"As for the electors of citizens and burgesses these are supposed to be the mercantile or trading interest of this kingdom. But as trade is of a fluctuating nature, and seldom long fixed in a place, it was formerly left to the Crown to summon, pro re natâ, the most flourishing towns to send representatives to parliament; so that as towns increased in trade and grew populous, they were admitted to a share in the legislature."

In fact, the boroughs did, as sir W. Blackstone states, formerly give direct representation to the trading interest of the nation, such as it then was, and of which those communities were the chief depositories. Changes in the circumstances of the country have thrown its trade, and that of a much higher chracter, into other hands; but still these small open boroughs form the main source from which a secondary representation is, in a circuitous way, furnished to the new and real trading interests which have now risen up out of the pale of the representation. The demand for representation on the part of these new and extensive trading, manufacturing, and monied interests, during the last one hundred and fifty years—that is, since the Crown discontinued exercising the prerogative referred to by Mr. Justice Blackstone, has set them to obtain, by corruption and stratagem, that supply, for which the practice of the constitution had ceased to afford the due and legitimate means. Just as the demand for game, on the part of the monied interest, is satisfied through the lawless chan- nel of the poacher, for want of a supply through channels authorized by law. The small open boroughs have accordingly fallen a prey to this demand and necessity for representation, which have risen up in other quarters. The result is, that some virtual or secondary representation is thus obtained for these new interests, but it is accomplished by means of the most demoralizing and vitiating character. The matter should not be so left. It may be said that the venality and corruption now practised are necessary, as it were, to the system; that without them, this system would not "work so well" as it has been said to do, and which I admit that, to a considerable extent, it still does. Yet they should, undoubtedly, be got rid of. But, if got rid of, per se, and the franchise were continued in the hands of these petty corporations then the dregs of the people, such as the one hundred resident voters of Retford (for the non-residents would not come to vote if there were no money in the case) would be represented on the one hand, and the upper classes, by the counties, and close boroughs, on the other while the middle classes, at present forming the substance of the people of England, would be deprived even of that secondary representation which they now, by these vicious means, obtain. The judicious course is, therefore, gradually, and as opportunities offer, to transfer these franchises from the hands of those, who, not requiring the privilege, abuse it—to the interests which, having a real necessity for it, are driven to obtain it by mischievous courses. With regard to the close boroughs, I mean those which were formerly, for the most part, open boroughs, but are now fallen under the control of some individual patron, they still give some virtual representation, in many cases, to the monied or commercial interest; but, inasmuch as the proprietors of these close boroughs are, in great measure, exclusively connected with the landed interest, the chief dependence of the monied, commercial, and manufacturing classes, must be upon those which yet remain open boroughs.

When arrangements were, from time to time, formerly made for the due representation of the landed and trading interests, the former, in the early periods, bore an enormous proportion to the latter. I have seen it stated somewhere lately, I believe in that very able and valuable work recently given to the public by Mr. Mackin- non, on the progress and present state of Public Opinion,—a work abounding in new and interesting matter, and directing the statesman and the legislator to the most important conclusions, I say, I believe it is there stated, that at the time when the land was chiefly in the hands of the king, the Church and the barons, the landed interest bore to the trading interest a proportion of five hundred to one. The bulk of the people were then in an abject state; but, as circumstances arose to develope and stimulate their industry and intelligence, a middle class sprung up in the trading towns, who were to bear a considerable proportion towards the national charges.

In behalf of these towns, as their means of contribution increased, abundant use was made of the power of the Crown, in order to give them representation in parliament. In the century which elapsed between the reigns of Henry 8th, and Charles 2nd, the period during which various circumstances, and some wholesome laws, caused trade to make its first great strides in this country,—ninety-three boroughs, a majority of those now sending members to parliament, as will appear from Mr. Hellyer's very useful tables, were added to the representation. Many of them, indeed, have since decayed, or become corrupt, amongst them, East Retford; but, with some of the first so added, I find Lancaster, Preston, and Liverpool. Subsequently, in the reign of Charles 2nd, Durham and Newark were likewise admitted; from that period, the representative system has stood still; but while it has been stagnant, trade has been making prodigious advances. The trading and monied interests are now, at least, equal in importance to the landed interest; and I may appeal to the right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer, whether they are not estimated, as contributing, at least in an equal degree with the land to the revenues of the country. That trade has, in this interval, advanced in an enormous ratio to the advance of the landed interest, will be obvious from a very simple statement. About the period of the Revolution, and for a few subsequent years, the rental of the landed property may be stated as amounting' to between 10,000,000l. and 14,000,000l. In 1812, according to the returns under the acts relating to the property-tax, it scarcely amounted to 30,000,000l., so that it had, within the intervening period, doubled, or at the most, trebled. Now let us look at the relative progress of trade. In 1689, the customs yielded, about 600,000l.; and, according to the account lately presented to the House, they produced in 1827 about 20,000,000l.; or nearly 18,000,000l. into the Exchequer; thus the customs' duties have, between those years, increased thirty times. Yet, notwithstanding this enormous proportionate advance of trade and manufactures, in this state of things, which, if the ancient prerogative had continued in action, would doubtless, have caused great additions to the borough representation, my hon. friend, instead of agreeing to my proposal, (which is, not to make any addition to it, but merely to substitute one borough for another), would seduce us to make a direct transfer to the landed interest from that fund which was designed to represent the commercial classes, and thus invade the limited territory which still, after a fashion, supplies a kind of virtual representation to the new trading interests of the community. Sir, this project is therefore, as unjust at it is novel; but it is also unwise and inexpedient.

We have been long and anxiously engaged in promoting the commerce and manufactures of the country. They have, within the last century, doubled its population, and infinitely more than doubled its resources. They have created several immense trading communities, yet unrepresented in parliament; and a prodigious mass of wealth and intelligence, residing in a widely-extended middle class of the people, which is now become the chief seat of the public feeling and opinion of this kingdom.

Some there are who view this result with alarm. And, Sir, I confess that I have, myself, looked with occasional doubt and anxiety at the question—whether our institutions would be allowed to expand and adapt themselves with sufficient promptness to this great change in the condition of the people. Let those who have felt alarm be assured that this is the only important and just ground for it. No scheme of representation can possibly be adapted to all states of society; and no institutions can hope for perpetuity, but such as are endowed with some inherent power of adaptation; for change of some kind, in the condition of society, is continually in progress. The history of mankind shows, that, as these mutations have taken place, old governments have been constantly thrown off (sometimes, indeed, to exchange them for worse) and the disquietude now exhibiting in some European states, arises from the progress of society on the one hand, and the stationary character of the existing institutions on the other. But, up to the Union with Scotland, the English constitution possessed—nay, it still retains, although no longer exercised—this inherent power of adaptation, this vis medicatrix, by means of that prerogative of the Crown, to which I have before referred; and in cases where it was probably doubted, whether the Crown possessed this prescriptive power, acts of parliament were resorted to, as in the instances of the Principality of Wales, the County Palatine of Chester, and Berwick-upon Tweed, in the reign of Henry 8th.; and again, in that of the Palatinate of Durham, in the reign of Charles 2nd.

If, in centuries past, these measures of the Crown or of parliament had not, from time to time, established a direct correspondence and sympathy between the legislature and the new communities and interests as they arose, by giving them representation in this House, long, long ago would it have become unfit for its purpose; and that constitution, the balance of which has been thus preserved, would have shared the fate of some other gothic constitutions, which, having lost their sympathy and due connexion with the people, had become unfit for their new exigencies. And now, Sir, if the frame of our representation be not allowed to recover that elasticity, in this respect, which it formerly possessed; if it is to remain stationary, while these great interests are progressing, and are giving birth to vast unrepresented and intelligent communities, it will gradually become less and less adapted to the condition of the country, and we shall remain in a continual state of approach to some great and fatal catastrophe ! A century and a half has elapsed since the ancient prerogative of the Crown did infuse any new portion of vitality into the constitution. During that period, the system, which before expanded as new wants and interests were developed, has stood still, while a variety of causes have so co-operated, that, precisely during the same period, the monied capital, the commerce, manufactures, and general intelligence, of the country, have made an infinitely greater advance than in all the centuries which preceded it. It is time, then, if we would avert that catastrophe, which, if the next half century is to effect as great a change as the last, may be at no great distance; if we would not, by damming up the stream, suffer it to accumulate, and finally to overwhelm us or our posterity, it is now time, to recommence a gradual accommodation of the representative system to the new condition of the people. Thus, instead of postponing and seeking pretexts to get rid of such opportunities as these, a wise and enlightened government should even studiously seek, encourage, and court them. At any rate, let me ask, are these times and circumstances in which, instead of so taking advantage of a favourable occasion like that which I am now able to offer to parliament, we should not only neglect it, but, by complying with my hon. friend's proposition, work precisely in the contrary direction, and actually transfer such means of secondary representation as the commercial and monied interest now possess, into the opposite scale?

But if, Sir, the commercial interest were at all times considered an object for representation, how much more important to the country, and even to that interest itself, is the representation of those great manufacturing classes, which may, in an especial manner, be said to be the new interests which have risen up since any change took place in the representation! It is these which have given life and activity to all the other interests, and are the very soul and substance of commerce itself; for that commerce must sink into its original comparative insignificance, unless our manufactures enabled us to create at home, articles, in exchange for which we may receive the raw produce or manufactured goods of other countries. The main source of our national wealth is the industry and ingenuity of the manufacturing classes of the people; it is that ingenuity and that industry which chiefly impart to us the civilization, the wealth, the power, and the happiness we now possess; which enable us to maintain our extensive establishments, and our eminent position amongst the nations of the world.

One of the great branches of our com- merce and manufacture, vast in its importance as a source of national prosperity, I would now particularly recommend to the favourable consideration of the House. Employing and maintaining half a million of people, dividing itself into an infinite variety of ramifications, diffusing its productions through the whole country, supporting an extensive export trade, in articles unrivalled, unapproached, and almost unattempted by any other manufacture in the world; otherwise important, as giving an immensely increased value to the metallic productions of our own soil, by the simple application of human labour and ingenuity, which, so applied, adds to the stock of national wealth, in a greater degree than any other application of it, by converting materials of trifling intrinsic worth, and for which no equivalent is paid to the foreign merchant, into articles of great comparative and exchangeable value; I have not hesitated to select it for the transfer of the elective franchise now at our disposal.

This manufacturing and commercial interest so extended, and so varied, complicated, and important, is connected with, and has created and collected together, large masses of the people. In one particular district—and that, the very heart and centre of England—one of these masses consists of four hundred thousand persons, in the midst of which, an enormous town, a sort of focus, has formed itself, containing a wealthy, industrious, enlightened and loyal population.

This prodigious capital, the whole of its own peculiar commercial kingdom, the interests which created and maintained them, are unrepresented, totally unrepresented in this House, either directly or indirectly, actually or virtually; for no other town which enjoys the privilege of returning members, has the slightest identity of trading interests with this community; so that such interests, important as they are, must depend upon the gratuitous and charitable attention of others, or, as my right hon. friend (Sir James Mackintosh) on a former night expressed it, upon the general justice of parliament.

Will any man, will my hon. friend, the member for Hertfordshire himself, contend, that such a community ought to remain an outcast from the scheme of representation, if the means of remedy offer themselves, as in this case, without trenching upon other interests; and not only without risk, but in conformity with the ancient practice and principles of the constitution? Yet such is the town of Birmingham; and now it is proposed by my hon. friend, to eject Birmingham from this bill, and bestow the two members we have to dispose of, not upon any unrepresented town, or even district, but upon the dukes and earls of Bassetlaw, already represented twenty fold!

The House has lately declared its opinion that Manchester should be represented in parliament. Undoubtedly, she does require it, in an urgent degree; but if Manchester require it, still more urgently does Birmingham. There are towns sending representatives, which have the same interests as Manchester: namely, Lancaster, Preston, Wigan, Newton, Liverpool, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, and Glasgow. Thus Manchester has some virtual representation; but Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Sheffield, have none, absolutely none, direct or virtual, except through the county members. Accordingly, last year, and now again, I have presumed to recommend this important interest to the favour of parliament. I did so on public grounds, and I do so still. The right hon. gentleman opposite, on a former night alluded to a rumour that I intended to offer myself as a candidate to represent the town of Birmingham. The tone and manner of the right hon. gentleman, at the time, were so far from importing anything like an imputation upon my motives, and it was so unlike him to intend it, that I did not then think it necessary to express any disavowal. I trusted, also, that my friends, and those whose regard I value, would acquit me of all interested objects. And I should not now allude to it, if, out of doors, I had not been assailed by the public prints, some of which have thought fit to construe the right hon. gentleman's expressions, and my silence, into a charge on the one hand, and an admission on the other. But still, Sir, I should not, perhaps, condescend to notice this unwarrantable inference, if I did not feel that those claims which I wish to recommend might, by possibility, suffer by any suspicion attached to their advocate. I can not only assure the House that, when I originally inserted Birmingham in the bill of last year, I did so spontaneously, but that I had not the slightest private communication, or even acquaintance, with any individual connected with the town. With regard to the supposed intention, on my part, to offer myself as a candidate to represent it, I am the only individual existing who would stand precluded. The slightest reflection will make it clear, that common delicacy must prevent me from asking that which, if asked, could scarcely be met by a refusal, unless, indeed, the indelicacy of the request should produce it. So far, therefore, as my own conduct and intentions are concerned, I am ready to pledge myself that I shall not make any tender of my services to the town of Birmingham, if it should obtain the privilege of representation in parliament.

Trusting that I have now relieved the question from any prejudice this unfounded rumour might have occasioned; I wish to state, that Birmingham herself is most anxious for the boon. She is a humble petitioner at your bar. All the principal and influential inhabitants, individuals of all parties, and of all political feelings, have testified their anxiety for representation. The petition was signed by nearly all the chief merchants, bankers, manufacturers, and members of the chamber of commerce, and by four thousand individuals, within sixteen hours.

Of course I have now had much communication with the town. But one sentiment prevails, one uniform feeling, founded upon the necessity which those connected with it have long experienced, that it is of the last importance for them to have members of their own to represent them in parliament. They are gratefully sensible of the attention of my hon. friends, the members for Warwickshire; and of that eleemosynary assistance which they constantly derive from my other hon. friends, the members for Staffordshire; but they have explained to me a variety of constantly recurring1 particulars, which render it important for them to have representatives in more immediate connexion and correspondence with the town. Their intense anxiety can only arise from their extreme exigency. The grounds of that exigency may be, in some degree, estimated by the quantity of local legislation connected with Birmingham. There are between one hundred and fifty and two hundred private acts, relating to the canals, public offices, companies, and establishments, and to the various branches of trade and manufacture, peculiar to this town. In the present session, there are two canal bills, and a town-improvement bill, by the last of which it is proposed to lay out no less a sum than 125,000l. for that object. But the application of the great body of the public statutes to the trader of Birmingham, is more extensive than to those of any other town, except the metropolis; and she has no representative to attend to them as they pass. In fact, all these large trading communities are deeply interested in the general legislation of the country, considering the great mass of it which affects the mercantile interest. The House can scarcely have a conception of the extent and importance of the manufactures of Birmingham. There are at least sixty different trades quite peculiar to it. They are carried on by about two thousand master manufacturers, and are chiefly founded on our native minerals, iron, steel, copper, tin, and zinc. Thus the great mineral interests, and the interests of five hundred thousand persons engaged in hardware manufactures, are essentially bound up with those of Birmingham, but are now entirely unprovided with any special guardian in this House. The population of the town alone is about a hundred and twenty thousand. The advance of this population to great intellectual weight may be estimated from the fact that fifteen thousand children are constantly in progress of education at twenty-six different schools. And its moral weight is equally indicated by those various philosophical, scientific, literary, and charitable, establishments, which belong to an enlightened and highly-civilized state of society, and are worthy the capital of a considerable kingdom. The rental of Bassetlaw was mentioned to justify the course proposed by my hon. friend. The rental of the town of Birmingham alone is 300,000l., the local rates about 55,000l., and the estimated capital of the town and immediate neighbourhood about 10,000,000l. Her manufactures for exportation to America alone were, in 1812, estimated at 1,000,000l. The usual stock, in transit, at Liverpool, has been stated at 500,000l. The manufactures for home consumption may be estimated at 2,000,000l. per annum.

The extent and peculiar character of these manufactures for home consumption are such, as may satisfy those gentlemen who imagine risk to the landed interest, by giving representatives to the large towns, that if, in any instance, it be true that the agricultural prosperity of the country is identified with its manufacturing and com- mercial interests, it is so in relation to the town of Birmingham. The great mass of the articles of its manufacture are those of ordinary necessity in every family, as any man may perceive who will look round a farm house, or even the meaner habitation of the labouring peasant. The next class of articles are of the same nature, but fall within the range of comforts, and some amount to luxuries. For each of these, there is, of course, a greater or less demand, according to the prosperity or depression of the agricultural interest; and no proposition is more clear than this, that although such depression might afford cheaper bread to the artisan, yet it would leave those who are chiefly engaged in manufactures for the domestic use of the rural population, with much diminished means, if not utterly without means, to purchase it. On the other hand, the prosperity of the artisan, reacts upon, and advances in its turn, the prosperity of agriculture; and so it is obvious, that they must constantly go hand-in-hand; and it is idle to imagine, that any course which shall advance the prosperity of one, can retard or interfere with the prosperity of the other.

Thus, Sir, the manufactures of Birmingham, being not only an important source of foreign commerce, but based upon, and more closely connected with home-interests of every sort than any other, mainly dependent on the welfare of the agricultural population; supplying domestic comforts and luxuries to all classes of the people; giving life, and vigour, and value to our mineral productions; engaging and supporting three times the population of the whole county of Nottingham, and fifteen times that of its aristocratical rival, the hundred of Bassetlaw; I now seek for this community, so abundantly productive of national wealth and energy, admission into the constitution: I implore for it the signal advantage, the just privilege of distinct representation in parliament.

With her half million of dependent population, with her three millions of annual manufactures, with her ten millions of active capital, I submit it to the candour of my hon. friend, whether his hundred of Bassetlaw, with all its coronets, has any claims which could compete with these, even if justice, expediency, and the constitution, would permit them to be heard?

Mr. N. Calvert

said, that the agricultural interests were dwindling away daily, and ought to be supported. Even the county members for York were as much the representatives of the manufacturing as of the agricultural interests.

Mr. Lumley

said, that although the hon. member for Blechingly had spoken of the hand-bill of Mr. Gally Knight, he well knew that the freeholders had more power in returning the members than the noblemen. As it was not known to the House from any authority, that the franchise of Penryn was to be transferred, the fact ought not to influence the debate. He denied that any expectations had been created in Birmingham; as the proposition, when put, was negatived without a division.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

said, that the present was a great contitutional question, involving the most important interests of the country. He could not, therefore, consider it merely as a question between the agricultural and trading interests of the community. He could not help expressing his surprise at the ground taken by the hon. member for Hertfordshire, and at the arguments by which he had supported his position. That hon. member had treated the subject as one purely between the two contending interests. Now, he could make no such distinction, but should consider it as a great constitutional question. The right hon. Secretary (Mr. Peel) had condescended to give them his opinion upon it. For half an hour he had listened to the right hon. gentleman without being able to guess which way the balance would turn. At last it came out, that one franchise was to be given to the landed, and the other to the manufacturing interest; but the right hon. gentleman had used no argument at all. He had, indeed, talked a good deal about expediency, but he was at a loss to know what the right hon. gentleman meant by expediency in this case. As to what had been quoted from judge Blackstone, that judge had taken nearly the very words of Bolingbroke, and the Tory writer Hume had used the same language. They were here asked to transfer the franchise of East Retford to the hundred, instead of to Birmingham, which was one-fourth larger, whose population was one-third more, and which was infinitely superior to the hundred, whether they considered the taxation which it paid, or the property it included. The present arrangement proposed to give the right of franchise abso- lutely to people who were already represented and did not demand it, while one hundred and thirty thousand manufacturers in Birmingham were without any representatives in that House. He had been, and should always remain, a steady advocate of reform in parliament. It was not that that change would bring better men into the House, but that the same men would come in under different and more beneficial circumstances. They would then stand, not as the representative each of his own purse, or of that of some other wealthy individual, but as the trustees of understanding and watchful bodies of their fellow-subjects, who would hold them responsible for their conduct.

Lord Ranclife

said, that though he took a great interest in the county of Nottingham, yet, if this question came to a vote, he should prefer giving the franchise to an opulent town rather than to his own county.

Sir G. Philips

contended, that the identity of the landed interest was such, that the member for one county might easily represent any other, but that the interests of different species of manufacturers, and of different merchants, were so different, that they required different representatives. The proper representative for Leeds, for instance, would not do for Birmingham, and the gentlemen who might be well acquainted with the interests of the cotton, might know nothing of the interests of the woollen, manufacturers. Virtual representation might be very good in theory, but, in the present state of the country, it was necessary that the different commercial interests should have special representatives.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he had already stated his view of the course fit to be pursued on the present question, and hardly felt that he should be justified in detaining the House by repeating it. He had proved by his vote in the case of Penryn, that he had no aversion, under some circumstances, to the transfer of a borough franchise to a town of great manufacturing interest. But he confessed, that, in doing this, he meant to recognize no general principle, and was a good deal governed by the circumstances of the case. He thought there was a difference between the position of Penryn, which had twice been warned by bills in that House, of the effect of the course which it was pursuing, and the case of East Retford, the disposal of which was now the question before the House. He had been induced to look a little, too, to the comparative condition of the two counties in which the delinquency had taken place; the first, Cornwall, sending forty-four members to parliament, and the last, Nottingham, only eight. The hon. member (Mr. Tennyson) had spoken of an insinuation thrown out on a former evening by him, that in case the town of Birmingham succeeded in gaining the elective franchise, the hon. member was to represent it. Now, the hon. gentleman would not fail to recollect, that that insinuation had been made in answer to something like a charge, from the side of the House on which the hon. member sat, that ministers desired to throw the right of voting into the hundred, in order to place it at the disposal of a certain noble duke. But the fact was, he considered the question of persons one of no consequence. If he were at all influenced by personal considerations, his vote would go with that of the hon. member; for he had a deep interest in the welfare of the town of Birmingham, while of the hundred of Bassetlaw he knew nothing whatever. The hon. member, too, who looked on every side for an interest, supposed that ministers were disposed to favour the hundred of Bassetlaw because the brother of the present chancellor of the Exchequer was a candidate for the representation. If such was the fact, this was the first occasion on which he had heard it; but he rather believed that there was some mistake. The right hon. gentleman, in conclusion, said that his opinion on this question was not in any degree altered: he would therefore give his vote for the transfer of the franchise to Bassetlaw in preference either to Manchester or Birmingham. He did not know what had been done in the House of Lords with reference to the Penryn bill; but he thought that the House ought to determine on what they thought proper, without reference to what might be done in the House of Lords.

Mr. Littleton

said, that the proposition was, whether, in transferring the franchise from a borough which had been proved to be corrupt, they should allow the principle of representation to keep pace with the population of the country, or whether the representation of the Commons should remain stationary while the Lords received constant accessions of wealth and influ- ence? If this principle were to be admitted, it would tend to the destruction of that balance of influence, which the constitution established between those two of its branches. Would members, by sanctioning this unequal division, destroy that class to which they belonged? The hon. member, after observing that those members for counties who represented mixed agricultural and manufacturing interests were the most likely to come to the consideration of this question with unprejudiced minds, went on to say, that the only safe course for the House to pursue, in the transfer of a franchise forfeited by the corruption of a borough, would be to give it to that place, whether it was county or large town, which, under all circumstances, should appear most to deserve it. When they talked of the numerical proportion between the people and their representatives he could not see why a transfer of two members should be made to the county of Nottingham, where the proportion of members was as one in twenty thousand, rather than to Staffordshire or Warwickshire, in which the proportion was as one to forty thousand; but why Birmingham should be omitted, he owned he could not account. As an illustration of the claim of Birmingham to representation, he would repeat a statement which had been already made by his hon. friend. The acts of parliament passed within the last twenty years affecting the local interests of Birmingham and its vicinity,—acts for building bridges, erecting churches, making canals, and roads,—were not less than one hundred and fifty; and there were nearly the same number of statutes, relating to the different branches of trade carried on there. There were in Birmingham not less than nineteen thousand master manufacturers, and there were a greater number of trades carried on there than in any other part of the empire. The exports from it were wholly made up from articles of our own produce; and to give the House an idea of the nature of the trade, he would mention, that it constantly happened that one pound's worth of iron was manufactured into articles exceeding 100l. in value. He was not a friend to the general question of reform in parliament! the friends of such reform might view a measure like that now proposed with jealousy, but those who were opposed to reform in its more extended sense should be anxious for the success of this bill, as no measure was better calculated to prevent anything like violent innovation.

Mr. Stanley

said, he regretted to hear, in a question of such constitutional importance as the present, any allusion to private or personal motives in those who supported it. In the vote which he was now about to give, he would support that one of the three propositions before the committee, in which alone he could be said to have no personal interest. He considered that there were three propositions before the House;—one for giving the franchise to Birmingham, another for transferring it to Manchester, and a third for extending it to the adjoining hundred of Bassetlaw. He would not have mentioned Manchester if it had not been alluded to by the right hon. Secretary. Now, it so happened, that those who were likely to become candidates for Bassetlaw, should the House decide on bestowing the franchise on that hundred, were, with the exception of a right hon. gentleman who had been named, his personal friends. In Manchester it was well known he had a considerable connexion, but in Birmingham he had none whatever; yet, for that place he would give his vote, and he hoped that no competition between that place and Manchester would be made, as it would tend to weaken the greater question of taking the franchise from the corrupt borough of East Retford. To the country generally it was of no importance which of the two was represented. He wished that both could be so; but as that was not to be hoped for at present, he trusted that no difference would arise between the friends of either place. The real question was, whether the corrupt borough should be disfranchised, and he did hope, that no jealousies would prevent its being extended to that town, whose name had been connected with its disfranchisement, as Manchester had been with that of Penryn. He would now say a word or two as to what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, with reference to the measure before the House of Lords. The right hon. gentleman had told them, that he could not know what had occurred in another place. It was true, he could not, at the present moment, know it officially; but was it possible he could not know it practically? Was there, he would ask, any man who could remain for forty-eight hours practically ignorant of what was going on in that House? The right hon. gentleman talked of a compromise, and that he acted upon it. He owned he could not hear of such compromise without shame. If, however, it was to be adopted, it should not be on theoretical but on practical knowledge. He himself knew nothing of such compromise. He was no party to it; but if he was to be bound by it, he was entitled to have the benefit of it. If there was to be a compromise to establish what was called the balance of power between the agricultural and manufacturing interests, it should be followed up: but what guarantee had the House, that after it was assented to, the other House would not reject the bill already before them? He would say, then, that this question of compromise was futile, and one which he could not have expected to come from the right hon. gentleman. He owned he was sorry to hear this question of a balance of power between the agricultural and manufacturing interests coming from a minister of the Crown; or that any collision should be acknowledged between them. The precedent which he had quoted was a bad one, and ought not to be followed up; but, if they were to act upon the principle of a balance of power, they must retrace their steps, for the precedents which had been quoted tended to destroy that balance. A balance of power between those interests was, however, unknown to the constitution. The only balance which the constitution recognised was a balance between the three estates; and, in considering the composition of the other House, let it be recollected that, in the aristocracy of which it was composed, the agricultural formed not merely the majority but the sole interest. God forbid that they should not have that influence to which their rank and property entitled them; but the House of Commons had to represent the interests of the whole people, mixed and varied as they were. They had knights of the shire, who, it was to be supposed, took care of the agricultural interests; but all the others were burgesses, representing the interests of different cities and towns; and he could not see why, if a borough became so corrupt as to forfeit its right of sending burgesses to parliament, other burgesses should not be sent from some other town less likely to abuse its privilege, so as to place the representation by burgesses in the same state in which it was before. He owned he had heard with sur- prise the arguments of the right hon. gentleman, as to the proportion of representatives to the population in some counties. He could not have expected such an argument from the right hon. gentleman. Nottingham, it was true, sent fewer members than Cornwall, but it sent more than some other counties; but why, because there was that disproportion, the franchise should be transferred to Bassetlaw,—the very name of which was, he believed, unknown to most members of the House before this bill was introduced—why it should be given to the freeholders of that hundred, who already had votes for the county, he owned passed his understanding, and he believed that of every other man who had heard of the proposition. If, however, this principle of giving it to a county was to be acted upon, were there no other counties which required an addition of members as much as Nottingham? There was the county of Chester, for instance, containing an extensive manufacturing population; yet Chester sent only two members to parliament, and two for the city of Chester, which was comparatively an unimportant town. If, he repeated, they were to have this compromise, let them have all the benefit of it. Hitherto, the benefit had been only to one interest. An addition had been made to the representation of the county of York; but no franchise had been; given to a manufacturing town. The precedent was a bad one; and the more they added to it, the worse it would become. Let the principle of compromise be now extended to the interest which had heretofore been overlooked. Under all the circumstances, he would give his humble support to the proposition of his hon. friend for giving the franchise to Birmingham.—The question of reform had been mentioned. He was not a friend to most of the plans of reform which had been introduced; but to this kind of reform he would give his hearty concurrence. Let each case of gross abuse be taken as it occurred; and a remedy be applied; and thus would the evils complained of be diminished, not by violence, but gradually, as they arose:— Utor permisso caudæqup pilos ut equinæ Paulatim vello; et demo unum, demo etiam unum, Dum cadat elusus ratione ruentis acervi. So convinced was he of the necessity of the proposed transfer, that if the committee should reject the proposition, he would take every opportunity of opposing the future progress of the bill; because he would rather have to deal with abuses which in time might be corrected, than attempt a remedy which would establish permanently a system which he considered impolitic and unconstitutional.

Mr. L. Foster

said, that the question they were called upon to decide was not between Birmingham and Bassetlaw, but whether they were then to set a precedent of an entirely popular representation. They had already given a pledge to that effect in the case of Penryn; and if they did so in a second instance, they would be bound by that precedent [cheers]. He knew the meaning of those cheers; but he desired the House to look to the inferences which would be drawn, next year, by those gentlemen who had thus cheered, and see whether they would not deduce a strong argument from this precedent. The hon. member who spoke last had talked of checks by the three estates upon each other; and he believed it was essential that checks should exist, in a constitutional government, in every branch of those estates. They were told not to look to theories or to forms; and if they did look merely to facts, he asked, were there not sufficient checks, and was not each interest, whether East India or West India, Protestant or Catholic, represented in that House? He was anxious that each should have its fair turn; and, looking to the hundred in which East Retford was situated, if numbers were a guarantee for purity of election, it might be found, where the voters were from one to two thousand, and he was sure that when the motion of the hon. member for Hertfordshire was looked to, it would at once be seen how unfounded were the rumours that the change proposed was only intended to increase the power of the aristocracy.

Mr. S. Bourne

said, that, as he had felt it his duty in the last session to oppose this bill, so should he now express his regret at the course about to be taken with respect to it by his right hon. friend. His right hon. friend thought that the cases of Penryn and East Retford should be dealt with on grounds of expediency. Now, that was not the course he would pursue, as he would deal with it according to the dictates of justice. He said now, as he had said last session, that he did not think the House justified in taking away the franchise of Penryn; for, after inquiry, there were found one hundred and fifty electors uncontaminated, and that was the reason why he had voted against the bill being sent up to the Lords, as he was sure it would meet the fate which it was vain now to attempt to conceal that it had met with; it being well known that it was lost, so far as respected Manchester. The case of East Retford, on the contrary, was one of most flagrant corruption. It had been proved, that there were not twenty electors in the whole borough who were innocent. What was it, then, that was proposed? Having inflicted the heaviest punishment in the borough in which the offence was the lightest, the House was now called upon, by the amendment of the hon. member for Hertfordshire, to inflict the lightest punishment on the borough in which the offence was the heaviest. He must decline, therefore, supporting that amendment. He had always opposed what was called parliamentary reform; and he believed, that with a reference to that measure, the House could not do better than, in such a case as that under their consideration, to transfer the elective franchise to a large place like Birmingham. By so doing, they would take from the advocates for parliamentary reform, one of their chief arguments, and would confer a great benefit upon Birmingham.

Lord Sandon

said, he rose to express his concurrence with what had fallen from his right hon. friend who had just sat down. If any thing could have induced the House to come to a compromise upon this subject, it was from the idea that the House of Lords would have given their consent to the bill which had been sent up to them. That, however, had not been done, and no one could say that the compromise had been fairly kept. He recollected that the Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Huskisson) had said, that if there were only one case before the House, he would have no hesitation in transferring the franchise, in this instance, to Birmingham. He therefore claimed the vote of the Secretary for the Colonies; and he claimed it on the very grounds on which his right hon. colleague had rested the defence of his own consistency. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had deprecated the idea of establishing any uniform precedent one way or the other: yet if the mode now proposed were followed, that would establish the general precedent for transfer to the hundred; for all that had been transferred were disposed of in that way. Every one of those cases were wrong in principle; for they were then in parliament vested with, and ought to exercise, that prerogative which the king formerly had; namely, that of transferring franchises from boroughs which had become decayed, or had rendered themselves unworthy by their own improper conduct. On these grounds he would vote most cordially in support of the original motion.

Mr. Secretary Huskisson

said, that his noble friend was not incorrect, as to what had fallen from him on a former occasion; but when he said that if they adopted the proposition of the hon. member for Hertfordshire they would create a precedent for future occasions, he could not admit the principle, that the franchise should always in future be transferred to a great town whenever any borough might be disfranchised. The House might make a bad selection, and as what his right hon. friend near him said, related only to a choice between two towns, so his opinion had been that it would be better to extend the franchise to the neighbourhood of the town which had formerly enjoyed it, rather than to a distant part of the kingdom. Now, as to the present, which his noble friend considered a strange course, it should be recollected, that when the House first took upon itself to punish for corruption, it did not disfranchise any borough, but considered that a corrective was applied by throwing the liberty open to the vicinage; and that had been done in the cases of Shoreham, Aylesbury, and other places, and the argument in favour of that course was strengthened when there were numbers in any place who had not vitiated their franchise by using it for corrupt purposes. In such cases parliament had no right to take away the franchise, and thus punish innocent persons for guilt incurred by others. The proposition, however, of the hon. member for Hertfordshire, was not to infuse fresh blood into the borough by letting in the freeholders of the vicinage, but to deal with East Retford as they had with Grampound; and then, by giving the franchise to the neighbourhood, to create a new representation.

Mr. N. Calvert

said, that his object was, to give the franchise to the freeholders of the hundred in which East Retford stood, and who were about two thousand in number; and also to continue it to such of the freemen of East Retford as were rated at 20l. a year to the poor rates.

Mr. Secretary Huskisson

said, that did go, in fact, to annihilate the borough, as in the case of Grampound, inasmuch as it transferred the right of the voters to the hundred of East Retford, and created a new right in the borough. He did therefore wish that further time should be given; because he thought the hon. member for Hertfordshire's motion was entirely different from the instruction to the committee, which was:—"in order to prevent all unlawful proceedings, and that the borough be duly represented." He maintained, however, that it would no longer be represented if this motion were agreed to, and that the motion called on the House to transfer the franchise to the neighbouring hundred. Under these circumstances, he felt a great difficulty, and wished that the decision on this question should be postponed. As to the insertion of Manchester in this bill, it would be irregular, because another bill had been sent up to the Lords, which might pass, and in which Manchester was also inserted. The better way, therefore, was to postpone the decision until the fate of the other bill should be known.

Lord W. Powlett

said, that the hon. member for Hertfordshire wished still to preserve the franchise to those freemen who were rated at 20l. a year, although they had been the most corrupt persons in the borough. If ever there was a case of gross corruption, it was this; and he would therefore vote for the original motion.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he wished to make a few observations in reply to the remarks of an hon. member opposite, in reference to what had fallen from him (Mr. Peel) as to a compromise, and affecting his own personal character, which he felt more deeply concerned for than for any constitutional question. He denied that he held out any particular compromise. It might be true, that he had said he would give no opinion as to Penryn, until he knew what was done with East Retford, because he knew that the policy of the whole measure depended on whether there was one or two places to deal with. He denied, however, that he had entered into any compromise, which bound him to a particular case. It there was one borough only, he claimed a right to say whether he would dispose of it to the hundred, or to a great town. He left the hon. gentleman to the care and conduct of his own bill; and he had, in an early part of the evening, objected to the words of the preamble, that it was not carrying into execution the resolution of the House. He had told the hon. gentleman, that he objected to his proposition of giving the right of voting in East Retford to the freeholders paying 20l. to the poor rates. The hon. gentleman had brought forward his proposition, and, because there was a rumour of a certain peer abandoning his bill, he (Mr. Peel), forsooth, was to alter his course as to the bill before the committee. He denied that a mere rumour of this kind furnished grounds which ought to govern that House. He denied that he was under any obligation to pursue a particular course, as to the appropriation of a particular franchise; though he voted for the transfer of the elective franchise from Penryn to Manchester, he was not thereby bound to vote, on all future occasions, on a similar principle. Whatever other branches of the legislature might decide, this House was free. He was now told, that East Retford was to be given to a town, and Penryn to the hundred; yet how did he find this question discussed last session? When it was proposed to throw open Penryn to the hundred, it was negatived by a majority of two to one. On the third reading of the bill, the House decided by a majority of four to one, that the hundred had no claim to the privilege. With respect to the expression used by the hon. member for Preston, of "miserable compromise," that hon. member might employ what epithet he pleased, but he should take care that it did not attach to those whom he might feel disposed to honour. In the Grampound case, which was one of notorious corruption, Mr. Canning voted for transferring the elective franchise to the hundred. In the case of Penryn, Mr. Canning voted for transferring the elective franchise to the hundred. On what ground, then, could the hon. gentleman charge him (Mr. Peel) with monstrous and unconstitutional doctrine, when, on one occasion he supported the transfer of the elective franchise to a great manufacturing town, and on another, the transfer of it to the hundred? Many specious arguments had been resorted to to recommend the invariable transfer of the elective franchise in such cases as the present, to great towns; but if those arguments were pushed to the extent of which they were susceptible, the conclusion would be, that parliament ought not to wait for the opportunity which the discovery of corruption in a borough afforded; but ought to admit great towns immediately to a participation in the elective franchise. For his own part, he was by no means prepared to admit that, in all future cases of corruption, the transfer should be to great towns. A perseverance in such a principle would diminish the just weight and influence which the landed interest ought to possess. He thought he should best discharge his duty by holding the balance as steadily as he was able between the two interests. If that was a miserable compromise, he should not be ashamed of having the term applied to his conduct.

Mr. Stanley

said, he gave the right hon. gentleman full credit for acting from the most conscientious motives: but, he must repeat, that comparing the right hon. gentleman's course that night with what he had held out on a former occasion, his parliamentary conduct was not consistent, The right hon. gentleman had said, that he was not bound by any declaration made at a former period. If not, what avail was it, before dealing with the present case, to see how the oilier was disposed of by the Lords? The right hon. gentleman gave it to be clearly understood, that he was disposed to give one borough to the one interest, and the other borough to the other interest. In the same breath in which the right hon. gentleman denied that he had made any compromise, he recommended waiting, until it should be ascertained what the other House had done with the other bill. What was that but a compromise? He was opposed to waiting. To go on without such a reference was the constitutional doctrine. As to Mr. Canning's vote on the Penryn question, that was no compromise. He might, perhaps, have expressed himself too strongly when he used the words "miserable compromise;" if so, he was sorry for it; but he must still maintain, that the right hon. gentleman's conduct was a compromise of constitutional principle. Mr. Canning had been guilty of no compromise; he had voted as he had done, because he-thought there was not sufficient evidence to justify him in voting otherwise.

Mr. Peel

said, he must again positively deny, that he made use of any words which pledged him as to the course he should pursue, if the two places were to be disposed of. He might have contended that one ought to go to the hundred, and another to a great town; but he denied that there was any compromise upon the subject.

Mr. Wynn

said, he was bound to declare that, although he might have argued erroneously, he had understood his right hon. friend distinctly to state, that if there were but one borough to deal with, he would vote for the transfer of the elective franchise to a great town. In his opinion, the House ought, without any reference to the course that might be pursued by the other House, to send up to that House bills, alternately transferring the elective franchise to a borough and to a great town. It was now pretty well understood, that the Penryn bill was not expected to be returned to that House; and if, on the disfranchisement of East Retford, the franchise was not transferred to a populous place, the country would conclude that the House had given to the popular interest the weaker case, Penryn, and reserved the stronger, East Retford, for the purpose of serving another interest. On these grounds he should vote for the original question.

The House divided—For the Amendment 146:—Against it 128:—Majority for the Amendment 18.