presented a Petition from the county of Middlesex, praying for Retrenchment and Economy, for a general Reform, and for the Vote by Ballot. The petitioners also prayed for a reform in the Poor-laws, and in the present mode of collecting Tithes; but they stated, that they did not expect that any effectual remedy would be applied to the evils of the country, unless a thorough reform in Parliament should be accomplished, and the right of election given to every individual paying rates and taxes. But they conceived that no extension of the elective franchise would be beneficial, unless the mode of voting by ballot should 7 be adopted. In these opinions the hon. Member fully concurred; as well as in another resolution which the meeting from which the petition proceeded came to; namely, that it was impolitic to make any addition to the Army; and that the abolition of the Corn-laws, and reduction in the expenditure, were more likely than military force to appease the general discontent of the country. He thought that one of the greatest mistakes the present Ministry could have fallen into, was to increase the Army. The Army, instead of being increased, ought to be reduced by 30,000 or 40,000 men.
§ Sir G. Warrender
concurred in the prayer of the petition as far as regarded retrenchment and economy, and if the Government only persevered in measures of economy, they would gain the support of the country. He had the fullest confidence that they would redeem the pledges they had given on that point; and he said that, because he deprecated the advice which had lately been given them from the other (the Opposition) side of the House. He had observed symptoms in that House of late, which made him think that, at no distant period, Ministers would be obliged to appeal to the opinion of the people. But they had only to persevere in measures of economy to secure the sympathy of the loyal but distressed inhabitants of the country. He did not concur in the opinion expressed by the petitioners, that it was impolitic to add to the numbers of the army. The first duty of every Government was, to put down sedition and uphold the laws, and he, for one, should always be ready to vote any amount of military force necessary for that purpose. To reform he had always hitherto been opposed, and unless he heard some better reasons adduced in its favour, his opinion would remain unchanged. It was curious to observe the resemblance between former periods of our history and the present period. The overthrow of the Administration of Sir Robert Walpole in 1742, was the result of the first vote of a Parliament which had just come from the people, and since that time he knew of no similar event till the present Session of Parliament. In 1742, as at present, there was a cry for reform, and Lord Percival, who was then member for Westminster, thus described the public proceedings:— "Meanwhile a prodigious ferment appeared 8 throughout the nation; and the popular clamours for reform were no less violent than discordant. Some were for triennial Parliaments, which all who did not delight in riot, or in the prospect of corruption, thought both dangerous and dubious; some were for annual Parliaments, some for a reduction of the Civil List, which others thought unjust to take away, having been legally given; some for abolishing all employments; others for allowing a few; some for making the Army independent; others for no regular troops at all." He did not believe that the feeling in favour of reform was so universal as some hon. Members would have the House to suppose; and when the petition from the city of Edinburgh, in favour of reform, should be presented to the House, he would take that opportunity of showing, that the majority of the people of education and property in that place, were hostile to reform. The example afforded by the late election at Liverpool was not calculated to convince him, that purity of election would be obtained by the extension of the elective franchise. Neither did he look with satisfaction at what had occurred at Preston, where a member of a family which had served the country for ages, and whose acts were mixed with past recollections, had been deprived of his seat; and that member, too, a gentleman remarkable for an early display of ability in that House, and the zealous defender of civil and religious liberty. That event had not weakened his conviction against reform, and he, for one, expected no good from a reformed Parliament.
was not surprised that the hon. Member, an opponent of reform, was in favour of maintaining a large standing army; because, if the people did not have reform granted them they must be governed by the bayonet. The hon. Member had said, that the late proceedings at Liver-pool had brought him to the conclusion, that the mere numbers of the voters would not secure purity of election. In that opinion he agreed with the hon. Member, and the ballot was the only security, in his opinion, against such misconduct as had been exhibited by the electors of Liverpool. With respect to the election at Preston, he was sorry that a very distinguished Gentleman, a member of his Majesty's Government, had not succeeded there. But his defeat was owing to his having answered in the 9 negative to two questions which were put to him on the hustings. Those two questions were—whether he would support the vote by ballot, and the repeal of the Corn-laws; and he replied, that he could not conscientiously advance those objects. Now, whatever opinion he (Mr. Warburton) might have of the gentleman who had succeeded, he did think that the electors of Preston had done themselves signal honour, and shown great independence, by acting as they had done. With respect to the petition, he had been requested to give it his support in the House, and he did so with the greatest pleasure; and as a proof of the good feeling that pervaded the meeting, he might mention, that when his hon. friend (Sir. Hume) had stated, with regard to the Church, that he did not seek its spoliation, but only a commutation of its revenue, the sentiment was received with general applause. At this meeting the feeling as to the necessity of reform was universal, though there might be some difference of opinion on subordinate points. Reform was not a new question; for Mr. Pitt, as every body knew, was a reformer, and he was prepared to bring in a bill to buy up the rotten boroughs. Such a bill, he knew, was actually prepared, and the pleasure of Mr. Pitt taken on it, but meeting opposition, and he growing lukewarm, it was dropped.
§ Mr. Tennyson
expressed his surprise at hearing the opinions which fell from the right hon. Baronet respecting reform. He believed that the desire for reform pervaded all places, and he believed that a full, efficient, and complete reform must take place. That was necessary for the salvation of our institutions, and to give contentment to the people. He had of late mingled much with the people of all classes, and he was sure that such was the universal sentiment. Amongst the great majority of the well-informed classes at present, the only apprehension was, that reform would be too long delayed, and would not go far enough. That was the opinion and the apprehension of the upper classes as well as the middle classes. At the numerous public meetings which had lately taken place, not one person had proposed to make any amendment to a Resolution for Reform: and whenever the opposite question had been mooted the speaker had not been listened to. He did not believe that any person could be found to vote against reform except such persons 10 as those noble Lords who could command as many votes as were possessed by the Representatives of five counties.
said, that he could not concur in the statement made by the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Warrender), that the people were not generally in favour of reform. In his opinion, 19-20ths of the thinking part of the community were in favour of reform, though they might not all be prepared to go the same length.
§ Sir R. Wilson
agreed with the petition as far as reform and economy were concerned, but he disagreed with the petition, and with the hon. member for Bridport on the subject of ballot. He had on a former occasion expressed his opinion on this subject, and he did not like to sit silent, lest the hon. Member should suppose, that his arguments might have influenced him to change his opinions. He had before referred to America, and some other States, where the ballot was in existence, and had shown that it had not answered expectations there. He had since received a letter from a person of the highest respectability, who had been informed by a merchant of America, "That America had experienced the greatest, evils from the election by ballot; there was a general impression in that country that it would be found necessary to abolish it altogether, and he expected that a measure would soon be proposed to effect it." In Virginia, which contained upwards of a million voters, a Convention had lately met to consider what changes it was necessary to make in the existing institutions, including the Legislature, and in that Convention it was proposed to adopt the ballot, but that proposition was completely rejected, on the ground that the Representative ought to know the opinions, and communicate with the persons who send him to the Senate. It was requisite that the Representative should know the opinions of those who delegated their power to him; he ought to know all their opinions, and he could not do this if they voted by ballot. He should know the feelings of the different parties among the electors. In America it was found necessary, both for the well-being of individuals, and from regard to public opinion, that the votes should be publicly known. The ballot existed too in Sweden; what was the consequence? The Diet was divided into two parties, the French and the Russians, the former being called Hats, the latter Caps. 11 A struggle took place for the ascendancy, and much bribery was used, but it was soon found out, that most of the members accepted bribes from both, which led to an. arrangement, that no man should receive any thing who did not carry his ballot-ball in his hand, to signify for which party he voted. Secret voting, he believed, never would satisfy the people. He further objected to the ballot, that it did not necessarily preserve that secresy which was said to be its great merit. He knew that the question was gaining in favour with the people, owing to the example of France; but it ought to be recollected, that in France there were only 80,000 voters, and in France it was of great use in protecting the voters against the power of the government. But, as the ballot existed in France, would Members wish to have it here? Would the hon. member for Middlesex have the House of Commons vote by ballot, as the Chamber of Deputies voted? Would the hon. Member be contented that his vote should be unknown? Would he like to have to say, "Oh! I assure you I voted for that question;" instead of seeing his name in those printed lists that were now circulated? It was not a system which could be applied to that House, and was therefore plainly imperfect. It was a newfangled passion of a certain class of doctrinaires, who imagined that they had found out in the nineteenth century a remedy for all abuses. If it were introduced into that House, it would overthrow the monarchy, and to such a proceeding he would be no party. He was born under a monarchy, and so he wished the country to remain, and he should always oppose the introduction of the ballot.
thought the arguments of the gallant General did not proceed from reason, and were not addressed to reason. It would be more useful to appeal to what had been done in America, than to what an individual said the Americans were going to do. In the United States, at the first beginning of their independence, open voting had been universally adopted ["No" from Sir R. Wilson). Afterwards, alterations were successively made in the institutions of that country, the vote by ballot was generally introduced. In the State of New York, that was not intended to be a permanent enactment; but after it had been for some time tried, when the time came to re-model the Constitution, the plan of voting by ballot was preserved, 12 and had been continued to this day as most expedient and useful, and was at present employed at all kinds of elections. France, to which the gallant General had also referred—France, that "bad example," as it had been called, would not give much support to his argument. The paucity of the number of votes, to which the gallant General had referred, was the very fact which made that example so very precious. If the government had been unable, with 14,000 places under the Crown—with electors only amounting to 78,000—to intimidate the electors; if 60,000 of those electors, from possessing places, or from that still more influential cause the expectation of possession, might have been under the control of the Crown; if, under such circumstances, France had been able to achieve its freedom, her disposition to employ the ballot, and the disposition of other nations to adopt it, must have been strengthened by that glorious result which had given freedom and strength, not only to France, but to all Europe. Supposing that France had had no ballot, could the electors have dared to vote as they did? It was one of the charges against the unfortunate men who were now put upon their trial in Paris, that they had violated the secresy of the ballot, and there could be no doubt that they had. Franco, however, by that simple contrivance, the ballot had secured her own freedom. In England there were more electors than in France, and more of them were liable to be influenced than of the 80,000. The 80,000 electors in France possessed at least one quality which was not possessed by all the electors of England—they were all men of independent property. In this country only few of the electors, comparatively were independent in that sense; they were not persons of property, and for such voters there was no other protection or security but the vote by ballot. If it were not secret, as the hon. and gallant General contended, then it was not the ballot, but some imperfect imitation of it, for secresy was essential to the ballot. He knew that at the India-house the ballot was not secret; the voters made a merit of telling how they voted. To that he had no objection. If people liked to tell their votes he would allow them to. do so; but if they did not like to tell how they voted, then he would have them protected, and the ballot would protect them. The gallant 13 General asked, if the hon. member for Middlesex would like the ballot applied to the House of Commons—if he desired secret voting for the Members of that House? He would answer, certainly not. There was a wide distinction between the cases which the gallant General could not possibly overlook. The House of Commons, representing the people, appealed to public opinion; it depended on that, and therefore the votes of its Members should be given openly. They ought to be subject to the influence of public opinion, but the voters ought not to be subject to undue influence; and to guard against that the ballot was useful. This was not his argument, at least he did not state it for the first time—he drew it from the works of that profound philosopher, whose writings displayed more acumen, he believed, than those of any other author of the day—he meant the celebrated historian of India, Mr. Mill. The arguments of the gallant General showed, that he was not. yet acquainted with the elements of the question. He complained of the ballot system encouraging guile and baseness. Did not the present system also beget perfidy and baseness? Was there nothing in it to make men ashamed? Was there no room in it for the exercise of tyranny? Was there no guile—no perfidy—no baseness, in a man going to the hustings, and there telling, and there acting, if he might say so, a lie, by giving a vote to a man whom he did not wish to vote for—by giving his vote against his conscience, and what he thought was for the public good? Was there in that no perfidy to the voter himself and his country? There was much perfidy—much guile; and that was the cause of the corruption which disgraced the House of Commons, and which had reduced the country to that state, out of which the new Government was called upon to extricate it. As to what the right hon. Baronet had said last evening about the demands of the people, he did not believe that in those demands there would be any excess. There might be a difference as to terms; but there was now a plain necessity to do what the people wished. It was not possible to stop short, and he believed that they would not be contented with anything short of the ballot. He would not then say whether they were correct or not in forming those wishes, but it would not be denied, that the opinion in favour of the ballot was making great progress. In 14 fact, it had made more progress in public acceptation, within a comparatively brief period, than had ever been gained before in the same space of time by a mere theoretical opinion. The reason of this was, its extreme simplicity: it was like the egg of Columbus, which could not be made to stand until the principle was discovered, but was so easy of accomplishment when attempted, that the elucidation excited surprise that such a mystery had so long evaded conjecture. If a better protection to the elector could be substituted, he was quite ready to abandon the theory; but he did not believe that possible, and he knew that under our present circumstances, no better protection for the electors than the ballot could be found. He wondered the gallant General, who must know something of popular elections, had not found out what a protection it would be for voters. He himself knew something of popular elections; when he formerly had gone to canvass the electors of Westminster for the hon. Baronet of whom he was then the colleague, he had more than once been met with the question, "Do you want me to ruin my family? I would willingly vote for the Baronet—I am friendly to reform; but I dare not vole as I wish." More than once had he seen people shed tears. It was not only against the rich that the ballot would be useful, but neighbours and employers exercised the power which an election gave them, to compel the people to vote as they liked. That consideration alone would make him vote for the ballot, and he would venture to say, that ere long the gallant General would be as sensible as he was of those evils, and as ready as be was to support reform by the ballot. The obsolete distinctions of Whig and Tory had now been superseded by those of reformers and anti-reformers; a few borough-mongers constituted the latter, and the former consisted of the great body of the nation. Parties had completely changed, for when the Walpole Administration was broken up, as had been mentioned by the hon. Baronet, the Tories were reformers. Now the anti-reformers were all to be found in their ranks, though even all those who still called themselves Tories, were not anti-reformers. The question of reform, however, was now in the hands of Ministers, and there he wished it left, not calling on the Government to explain its plan, or embarrassing it by opposition. 15 Let the Ministers only speak out fairly, and if the country did not agree with their opinions, they would soon hear of the disagreement in such a manner as honest Ministers should hear. The country expected relief; and expected it from the hands of the Ministers. Reform must be given; the Ministers were pledged to reform. The general opinion of the country was in favour of reform; and if the Ministers acted on that principle, they would be supported by every intelligent man in the country. As long as their opponents—the members of the late Government—continued to be opposed to reform, he was sure that every man in the country would exert himself to keep them out of place; for the country would look on their return to office as one of the greatest curses which could befall it. No man, nor set of men, could now carry on the Government by any middle course. The country could not any longer be governed by a corrupt Parliament; and if the Parliament were not reformed, it could not be governed at all. The people would no longer bear the present state of the representation. If the right hon. Gentlemen below him [Mr. Hobhouse sat on the Opposition side of the House] believed that they could govern the country by any new system—if they did show any disposition to try again their corrupt system, they might make some sacrifices —but they would find that they could not succeed, and that it was too late for their plan. They must cither have recourse to pure despotism, or they must go with the people. There was no middle course. They might try to have recourse to their old system; but they would never afterwards repeat the lesson, as they would find that the people would not listen to their voice. He agreed with the petition as far as it demanded an effectual reform, and the institution by ballot, and gave it his cordial support, though there were some minor points on which there might be a difference of opinion.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
declared, that when he was convinced that the feelings of the great body of the people were as much in favour of ballot as they were in favour of reform, he, for one, should never oppose it by his vote. When it could be shown to him that the respectable body he represented were friendly to the ballot, he would yield his individual opinion to the general opinion. He regretted, 16 however, to find that other Gentlemen, whose motives he respected, and whose zeal he honoured, should find in the ballot a remedy for all things, and a reform no remedy at all. This was, he thought, an ungenerous sentiment, and it was telling the people—for what was spoken in that House got abroad—it was telling the people, that it was of little importance in the opinion of those Gentlemen that Ministers meant to propose reform; and it was decoying the public mind from a due and calm consideration of that reform which Ministers meant to propose. The advocates of the ballot seemed to him to fall into error. They had alluded to Liverpool; but did they suppose that after the reform, the election of Liverpool would be in the hands of the same class of persons as at present? Would it be so equally balanced by parties, that a little knot of ten or fifteen voters should at the end turn the scale? Would it be so balanced that a corrupt body should make up a tally in the street, and that an attorney and an elector should say, "I can bring them up, but I must name my own price." In all plans of reform that he had heard of, the elections would not be left in such hands. He relied much on the circumstance, that the character of the electors would be improved by any plan of reform, and though he would not vote for the extinction of any one elector, he trusted that no person in possession of property would be excluded from voting, whenever a reform should take place. Was it to be supposed, that when all the respectable and opulent inhabitants of Liverpool, containing 140,000 people, had a share in the representation, that such disgraceful scenes would occur as at the late election? If it were true that the Americans were not about to abolish the ballot, that was no reason why we should adopt it. He was surprised at the existence of ballot in a republic, and he thought that with a ballot a republic was incomplete. In a republic the basis of its institutions was public purity, in it patriotism was virtue, and with both these the principle of secret voting was inconsistent. A Reform would extinguish the influence which now corrupted the elections. A reform would sweep away those places to obtain which electors were corrupted. Great and little men, landlords and tenants, masters and servants, employers and tradesmen, would have but one interest— 17 that of good government; and secresy would not be necessary to induce them all to follow one interest. He would not, however, go further into the subject, though he must say, he did not consider the arguments of that celebrated Essay, by Mr. Mill, to be impregnable; and he should be ready when the question was discussed, to explain his views. If Gentlemen thought Reform incomplete without ballot, they would be better able to obtain the ballot after the Parliament was reformed according to the plan of Ministers, than while it was in its present state. If after their plan of Reform were brought forward, the public still found themselves under the influence of terror, surely that reformed Parliament would listen to the public voice more readily than when there was no hope of Reform.
§ Mr. Calcraft
only rose to express his astonishment at the attack which the hon. member for Westminster had made on the government of the Duke of Wellington, and those who had formed part of the Administration of the Duke of Wellington. The hon. Member had spoken of that Government, as if it had conducted itself only by the principles of corruption, and as if he could not heap upon it too many disgraceful epithets. The hon. Member had stated, that the Duke of Wellington had so governed the country, that if his Administration were again to be placed in office, he must have recourse to a true despotism, because he could not govern by the old means of corruption. The Government of the Duke of Wellington was at first very popular, and it deserved to be so. That Government had repealed the Test and Corporation Acts; it had emancipated the Catholics; it had reduced taxation; and it had carried the principles of economy to a greater extent than he had ever before witnessed. Great credit was due to the Duke of Wellington for his management of the national affairs. He had never before heard, that of all the measures of the Duke of Wellington's Administration, there was not one that was not carried by corruption. He would only beg his hon. friend, if he again made such accusations, not to generalise so much, but to enter into particulars, to point out individuals, and bring forward proofs of his assertions. He wished to ask the hon. member for the county of Middlesex one question: Was it true, as had been stated, that when Mr. Byng, who had represented the 18 county of Middlesex for twenty-five years, with great credit to himself and he believed great advantage to the country—he wished to ask his hon. friend if it were true, that Mr. Byng was so violently opposed, because he expressed an opinion unfavourable to the ballot, that he was not listened to when he attempted to address the meeting? If that were so, he would only say, it was very harsh treatment for an old public servant.
§ Sir John Newport
was sorry to hear his right hon. friend give the Duke of Wellington credit for actions for which none was due. Did the Duke of Wellington begin the repeal of the Test Act? Certainly not; he did not agree to it till he was forced. He admitted, that the Administration of the Duke of Wellington was popular at the outset, but his Administration had ceased to be popular. Why was that? Because the Duke of Wellington had resisted the wishes of the people for Reform. He had ceased to be popular because he had declared that he would resist their wishes. If the present Ministers should resist those wishes,—if they did not gratify those wishes—they would show themselves unfit for the situation they held. The great military achievements of the Duke of Wellington made the people expect much from his civil government, but they were disappointed. His military glory cast a hope over his civil government, which had never been realized. His civil government never deserved any credit, and he believed no military man ever would make a good civil governor.
§ Mr. Calcraft
explained, that he had been one of those who had forced the repeal of the Test Act on the Government; but though they had carried the question in that House, they had no hope of carrying it through the other House. That was done by the Duke of Wellington, and therefore he attributed the carrying of it to him.
§ Mr. Western
thought the most important point in the petition had not been adverted to. It began by alluding to the very great distress in which the country was now plunged. In his opinion, that was the subject which ought most to attract the attention of the House. The state of the country, however, having been already sufficiently discussed, he should make it his endeavour to point out some of the causes which had brought it into 19 its present condition. Among these, none had acted more powerfully than the ruinous changes that, within the last ten or twelve years had been made in the currency-He said, "ruinous," because that was the epithet made use of by the petitioners as descriptive of the change to which he alluded, and it certainly was the most appropriate that could have been selected. That these changes would induce the ultimate ruin of the country, he had no doubt. They had already occasioned the ruin of many thousands of the industrious and labouring classes of the people, and a rapid progress was making towards the ultimate ruin of all. The baneful influence of changes in the currency was not confined to one class or to one interest— they affected alike the agriculturist and the manufacturer—the ship-owner and the merchant—the tradesman and the mechanic:—in short, from those who employ the greatest capital, down to the lowest and poorest labourer, the ruinous effect of the last unwise and unjust change in the currency, was felt and condemned. To this, then, more than any other cause, he attributed the present extraordinary situation of this country, in which a people of greater industry, energy, skill, and ability than any other people in the world, were reduced to a state of the extremest and most grievous distress. Well and truly, then, might the change in the currency be termed ruinous and disastrous. The next topic to which the petitioners adverted was that of the Corn-laws; upon which subject a very strong public opinion prevailed. He, for one, however, felt that they were necessary for the protection of the agricultural interests. The petitioners appeared to entertain a different opinion, and expressed their conviction, that it was owing to the operation of the present system of the Corn-laws that wages had been reduced. He, however, was of opinion that if it were not for those laws, wages would have been reduced still lower. The great affliction of the lower orders was low wages, — insufficient wages. From whence did that arise?—From want of means in the employer to pay more, in consequence of the lowness of the prices which he obtained for the produce of his capital. That had compelled the agriculturist and the manufacturer to reduce the amount of wages paid to the labourers; and unless the means of the employer were increased, it was impossible that a 20 fair or adequate remuneration could be given to the workman for his labour. Let the demand for labour be increased; let the means of the employer be increased, and the rate of wages would be raised. But the change of the currency, and not the Corn-laws was the cause of this want of means, which might be proved to demonstration, if the case were fairly investigated. At the time that the contraction of the currency took place, the distress began, and, as in subsequent years, the currency became more and more contracted, exactly in the same proportion the distress of the country became more and more severe. It was, therefore, the duty of the House to institute an inquiry into the subject, with a view to ascertain how far the distressed condition of the industrious classes had been produced by the operation of the contracted currency, and how far it might be alleviated by a change; and, unless some other hon. Gentleman, more able than he was, would undertake to move for such an inquiry after the holidays, he should feel it to be his duty to take up the subject. It was admitted on all hands, that the change of the currency — the raising of the value of money—must press, to a certain extent upon the industrious classes of the community; and when the people, in many parts of the country were driven to acts of violence and outrage from the pressure of distress, it became the imperative duty of the House to institute an inquiry, for the purpose of ascertaining how far the evil might be remedied. The distressed state of the country was the first consideration which ought to occupy the attention of Parliament after the recess. At present, neither the agriculturist nor the manufacturer obtained any adequate return for the expenditure of his capital; the labourer was not sufficiently remunerated for his toil; and the consequence was, that all classes were discontented, and the country threatened with convulsion. The bonds of society were already rent; and discord, tumult, and outrage had begun their career. Could it be denied, then, that the first attention of Parliament should be directed to this state of things, with a view to avert the greater evils which must ensue if relief were not afforded?
Sir R. Inglis
said, that as he was not likely to have another opportunity before the holidays, he felt himself called on to express his opinions on a subject which 21 was at present made the source of considerable excitement in the country—the question of Parliamentary Reform. He believed, and he made the declaration without hesitation, that the sentiments of the great body of the intelligent and well-educated persons in the community were not more favourable to Reform at this moment than at any given period within the memory of man. The multitude— the uneducated and unthinking classes might entertain opinions at the present crisis somewhat differing from those they held six months ago, or from those they would probably hold some six months hence. He did not mean to deny that, from certain peculiar events, the advocates for a Reform in Parliament were just now more in favour with a portion of the people than they had been a short time since, but he looked forward with confidence to the speedy return of a sound and healthy state of public opinion on that question.
felt strongly inclined to ask the hon. Baronet, the member for the University of Oxford, who the persons were, and in what class they were to be found, whom he denominated the intelligent portion of the community. And he would be glad also to know at what period all classes had so loudly demanded, and were in fact so absolutely clamorous, for a Reform of Parliament. He thought that the intelligence of which the hon. Baronet spoke, was to be found in the middle classes. They were the persons who now demanded a Reform of Parliament; and if the present Ministry did not make up their minds to grant the concessions which were required from them by the universal voice of that class, he saw no prospect of permanency in power for them, nor for any other party which might be called to take the helm of affairs. He was no advocate for what was called radical Reform; but he wished to see the intelligence and the property (if they pleased) of this country fairly and truly represented in Parliament; for as the House was at that moment constituted, no man could say, that, intelligence and property were fairly represented.
§ Mr. Horace Twiss
said, he could not well understand why the observations of the member for Oxford had been received with a laugh by those who merely entertained a different opinion. It was by no means certain that the feelings of the people were so universally in favour of 22 Reform as the present Government seemed to suppose. A very short time would, however, enable the House to go into a discussion of that question, and he should reserve himself for that occasion. He would then merely say, that the members of the present Government would be more fortunate than any of their predecessors, or than created man ever had been, if they succeeded in proposing a plan of Reform which would be equally acceptable to every class of reformers. If the whole of that class of persons were to be polled, taking in the advocates of Universal Suffrage, and Vote by Ballot on the one hand, and the most moderate reformer of general existing abuses on the other, he believed a much greater number of the people of this country would be found willing to vote for the continuance of the system as at present, with all its faults, than for any other which could be proposed to them.
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
was not disposed to agree with the hon. member for Oxford, that the desire for Reform had not increased. He believed that some Reform was necessary, and that the desire for it had lately made considerable progress in the country. When Ministers brought forward their plan of Reform, he would give it his best consideration; and if he could, consistently with his sense of duty, and without yielding to mere popular clamour, assent to that plan, he would give it his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Attwood
did not believe it possible for the Government to go so far as it promised, nor did he believe that even what it professed, could it act up to its professions, would satisfy the people. Their demand for Reform was neither temperate nor moderate. Much as the Ministers were disposed to boast of, and to vaunt their new-born popularity, it rested, in his opinion, on a very slippery foundation, and he was confident they would not long be able to retain possession of the popular confidence. They refused to look into the real cause of the distresses of the people, although they vaunted so much their desire to relieve them. In the petition which was before the House, a prayer was to be found for an alteration of the Corn-laws. He always felt grieved to see the attention of the public diverted in this manner to the discussion of fallacies, be cause they were diverted from the real cause of the distress. The Corn-laws, so 23 far from being injurious, bad really tended much to diminish the injurious tendency of the interference with the currency. The principal object sought for at the present moment seemed, however, to be Reform—for the Ballot, so loudly demanded, was nothing but a new principle of the old question of Reform. He would just call the attention of the Government to the last passage of the petition now presented. He would desire those who profess themselves determined to float on the popular current, to look to the words of the petition, in which it is declared, that unless a Reform be granted to the extent which, in their wisdom, will be considered sufficient, the refusal will be speedily followed by a popular rebellion, of which England must be the victim. Now, when he saw a Ministry of this country priding itself so much on popular applause, not only in that House, but on the hustings at elections, and in all public and county meetings, he confessed he could not entertain any very sanguine hope of their being long able to satisfy the wishes or the hopes of those whose opinions they thus courted; nor could he entertain any strong opinion of the duration of a power which professed to found itself solely, and rely exclusively on the confidence of the people. He had heard a good deal of the professions of the Government with respect to Reform, and he should like much to hear them state some palpable, tangible alteration which they proposed to make in the system of Representation. He should like to know what sacrifices they proposed to make to popular applause? He should be glad to know to what lengths they were willing to go with those whose favour they sought, and whose opinions they professed to court? What part of the existing institutions of the country they were prepared to sacrifice? At what point they proposed to make their stand against popular innovation? What they proposed to abandon, and at what boundary they were prepared to pause in their career, and brave all the censure of their present admirers, and the full force of opposing public opinion? For a Ministry, resting, as the present did, on popular favour and popular confidence, he considered it most extraordinary, that one of their first —their very first acts, should have been an addition to the standing army, and consequently, to the burthens of the people. Jo the midst of peace, with no foreign 24 enemy to fear, with nothing to dread, but the very people for whose support they look, and whose confidence they boast of possessing, they had proposed a large addition to the military force. This was an ominous commencement for those who existed but by the public confidence. The Ministers had, he feared, assumed too rashly that they possessed public confidence; and built too heavily on a popularity which would speedily fail them. Though he did not approve of the policy of the late Ministers, their manly, direct avowal of it was far better than the vague, obscure, and undefined promises made by the present Ministry, merely to catch popularity. Why was it even that they were popular? Because they advocated Reform. Taking advantage of the removal of that which has always been the bulwark against Reform—the great prosperity of the people; for as long as they were prosperous, declaimers in favour of Parliamentary Reform declaimed in vain;— taking advantage, he said, of the discontent, arising from property having been confiscated, and trade destroyed, they had put themselves at the head of that discontent, and promised to gratify it by reforming the institutions of the country. As long as the people found protection under the system of government, they were contented, and did not heed the theorists who told them they could improve the government. He was afraid a little experience would teach the people, that the present Ministers could give them no protection, and would give them no relief. They had come into power with promises of an immediate and effectual redress of all the abuses of the State, but a little time would show that they had exaggerated their power and their means—that they were grossly deluding those who trusted in them—and that they were impotent to relieve the country from the difficulties in which it was placed. They were more powerless to relieve the distress than the late Administration, and were practising a gross imposition by making the people believe that they would or could relieve their distress. He had hoped to see a man in office capable of confronting the evils of the times; the present Prime Minister seemed made up of vague and empty promises. The Prime Minister, within three hours of his appointment, declared in another place, that the night should not pass away without his summoning a Coun- 25 cil to devise some remedy for the distresses of the people, and instituting an inquiry into the cause of those distresses. He entreated the Ministers not to tamper with the country, not to put forward petty schemes that were wholly inadequate to meet and relieve its deep calamities. He entreated them not to increase the army, and to shuffle anew the cards of taxation, changing, but not lessening, the burthen. Nothing had, indeed, yet been done. The Ministers were practising a system of delusion, which would, in fact, destroy the character of all public men. When it was found that they deserted their professions—and desert them they must, for they would find it impossible to perform them—the character of all public men would in future be so much suspected, that all confidence must be at an end between the people and the Government. The hon. Gentleman concluded by observing, that he had not dealt in flattery. He had spoken truths, however unpalatable they might be to those who heard them.
§ On the question that the petition be brought up,
rose to defend the character of the Ministry, and to justify the course adopted by the noble Premier, with respect to the question of Reform. That noble Lord had not held out any illusions, or pledged himself to more than he could perform. On that occasion, the noble Lord thus expressed himself in the other House [cries of "Order!"]. He thought, that as the hon. Member had referred to what took place elsewhere, he might do so too. He happened to have brought down the paper containing the words alluded to by the hon. Member, for another purpose, and he would now read it to the House.
§ The hon. Member attempted to read a paper, beginning with the words, "My Lords," but he was as often called to order, and
§ The Speaker
at length informed him, that he could not read the paper, with reference to its being the speech of a noble Lord of the other House, because the custom of Parliament forbade it; and furthermore, the hon. Member must be aware, that it could not have been inserted in the paper alluded to without a breach of the privileges of Parliament.
—Well, then, I'll take another way. In a certain island called Brob- 26 dignag, there was a Chief called to command over his brother Chieftains, and he addressed them in these words:— "Fellow Chiefs! The State you know is in great danger, and I think it will be well to make preparation for the storm which is approaching. Make fast your doors. Bar down your windows. Be prepared for defence. I think that the manner in which you are to meet the foe, demands your attention; and that you are, above all other things, especially bound to endeavour to gain the affections of your enemies. I don't mean to say that they have rights; but I think it will be admitted, that it is expedient to give a little, in order to guard against ultimate evil." These, said the hon. Member, were the words of the Chief, and they were intended to show, that a resistance to what the voice of the people so loudly demanded, would be impolitic; and that by giving what was likely to satisfy their reasonable demands, would render bolts and bars unnecessary. It was but fair to give the new Ministers a fair trial, and not to add to the difficulties which every honest Ministry must experience, under the existing system, in their attempts to redress public grievances.
§ Mr. Attwood
explained, that he was not opposed to the present Ministry, and he would support those who served the country.
§ Mr. Curteis
denied, that the tithes were felt by the agriculturists as a burthen; and maintained, that if a vote by ballot were conceded, it would involve the country in all the horrors of a civil war. He allowed that the great majority of the people were favourable to Parliamentary Reform; but he denied that they were favourable to the ballot. He had been attacked a few nights before, for using intemperate language, and those who attacked him had now supported a petition threatening rebellion.
§ Petition to be printed.