HC Deb 13 April 1831 vol 3 cc1260-76
Mr. Western

said, he rose for the purpose of presenting a Petition from the county of Essex, in favour of the Reform Bill which was now before the House and the public. The petition was agreed to on the 19th of last month, and its presentation was intrusted to him; but he had not had an opportunity of performing that duty at an earlier period. The meeting at which it was tarried was convened in consequence of a requisition addressed to the High Sheriff, and Was most numerously and respectably attended. At no time did he ever see more enthusiastic earnestness in support of any measure, than was displayed on this occasion in favour of the Reform Bill. It appeared to him that the great body of the inhabitants of the county had the success of this measure most anxiously at heart, and he believed that the dissentients were very few indeed. Attempts he knew were making to get up petitions against the Bill—private and secret attempts; and, doubtless, there would be some respectable names signed to them; but that the real sense of the people throughout the county was in favour of it, did not admit of the shadow of a doubt. The opinions of men were greatly altered on this subject; and he believed that there was not, at present, one man in that county who would have the hardihood to declare himself against all Reform. Of this, however, he was certain, that some persons who professed to be friends to moderate Reform were dangerous and insidious enemies to effectual Reform; and against them, those who favoured the present measure ought to be especially on their guard. He hoped that this Bill would pass. He trusted that the people would call For "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." He was very sorry to hear, the other day, that it was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to make some alterations in the Bill. He hoped, however, that they would not attempt to interfere with its principle. In short he would say, let us have no alteration—he, at least, wished to have none. In his opinion, those alterations had been suggested by the enemies of the Bill, for the purpose of sowing dissension amongst its friends.

Mr. Tyrell

said, he did not rise for the purpose of creating any discussion on the presentation of this petition; neither did he mean, even for one moment, to insinuate that the petition did not contain the opinion of a considerable number of his constituents. But, when he took into consideration the extraordinary exertions of the friends of his hon. colleague (he spoke not of his own exertions) to add to the weight, respectability, and numbers of the petitioners,—when he took into consideration the continued zeal and assiduity manifested with reference to this subject by the hon. member for St. Ives (Mr. L. Wellesley), who, out of that House, was in the habit of considering himself member for Essex de jure—when he call-led to the recollection of that House, that even a few weeks ago, the hon. member for Essex de facto and the hon. Member de jure were, in point of opinion, "wide as the Poles asunder" on the measure of Reform,—when he considered these things, he could not but congratulate his hon. colleague on the unanimity of sentiment and opinion which appeared to have prevailed at the Essex meeting. The requisition at first purported to have emanated from the Grand Jury of that county, but he felt it right to state, that only eight of those individuals signed that requisition. It was true that the signatures of two noble Lords were affixed to that requisition but when he told the House that those two noble Lords (for whom he entertained the highest respect) were not known in the county, —that they were scarcely acquainted with ten freeholders, except their own tenants —it must greatly detract from the weight which might otherwise be attached to the circumstance. Besides, not one of three noble Lords who resided in the county had signed the requisition. His hon. colleague seemed to view the Bill as a measure of almost "absolute wisdom." In using that phrase, he did not mean to make any allusion to the worthy Alderman below him. On the other hand, the hon. member for Colchester (Mr. D. W. Harvey) did not allow that the Bill would give him all he wanted, but he accepted it as the means by which he would ultimately arrive at the object which he had in view. In his speech at the meeting, that hon. Member had gone into a long digression with reference to ecclesiastical Reform. The Times, and other papers, which professed to give an account of the meeting, had however omitted that part of the hon. Member's speech, although it occupied a considerable portion of the time of the meeting. According to the hon. Member's plan, the Bishops were to be put on half-pay, or Serjeant's pay; and he in the course of his address entered very largely into the question of Church Reform. Whether, however, his (Mr. Tyrell's) hon. colleague held the same opinion upon this point as the hon. Member, he could not pretend to say. With respect to the Bill itself, it appeared that this measure of Reform was to be reformed again. At some future opportunity, when he knew correctly the nature of the measure to be proposed,—which, as it was to be altered, he was not aware of now,—he should deliver his sentiments upon it.

Mr. L. Wellesley

would assert, and he challenged the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tyrell) to contradict him, that within the memory of man no question was ever agitated in a county which had gained so much ground in a few years, as the question of Reform had done in the county of Essex. Formerly there was a strong feeling against Reform; but now large towns, inhabited by men of great experience, possessing property, and gifted with solid sense, were friendly to Reform. Those who now agitated that question were the very persons who, some years ago, had opposed it. With respect to any part that he had taken relative to these meetings, he declared upon his word and honour as a gentleman that he had not, in any way, influenced the meetings that had been called,—nor had he striven, in the slightest degree, to bias the opinions of his tenants; and therefore the hon. Member was not warranted in asserting that he had taken an active and zealous part in this business, When representations were made to him as to the necessity of calling public meetings in Essex, to speak the real sense of the county, in consequence of the attempt which was made to get up hole-and-corner petitions, he had said—"There is no necessity to do so, because the -feelings of the county had been sufficiently expressed:" but after what had been said by the hon. Gentleman, he would advise the county to assemble. The hon. Member would then have an opportunity of standing forward and stating his opinion, and he would then be enabled to satisfy himself as to the state of feeling which prevailed in the county.

Mr. Stanley

wished to say a few words in answer to, and in consequence of, certain observations which had fallen from the two hon. Representatives of the county of Essex. He only regretted that his noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, was not present, to give to what he was about to say the full weight and sanction of his authority. Both the hon. Members appeared to entertain a misapprehension —which, he believed, prevailed to a certain extent in that House and out of it, giving great dissatisfaction to the friends of Reform, and great satisfaction to its enemies—as to the intention of his Majesty's Ministers. He therefore thought it right to state, most unequivocally, that his Majesty's Ministers did not mean, in any, even the slightest degree, to deviate from the broad and plain principle on which they had founded the measure of Reform. And he only wished that his noble friend was in the House to join with him, as he would do, in expressing his entire concurrence in the declaration, that no such intention to deviate from the principle of the measure existed now, or did exist at any time, on the part of his Majesty's Ministers. No greater misapprehension could arise, with reference to what had occurred in that House, than to infer from it that Ministers meant, for one moment, to lose sight of the principle which they had originally laid down. They were determined on the entire disfranchisement of those boroughs which did not come up to a certain standard of population, and on the partial disfranchisement of those which did not come up to another given standard. No alteration would be made in these points, except that which his noble friend had stated in the outset, as possible,—namely, that if any boroughs could fairly and plainly show that they did not come within the fixed rule and line marked out by the Bill, then those boroughs would be justly entitled to be excluded from the schedules of disfranchisement or partial disfranchisement. But that this measure of Reform would be carried to the utmost and fullest extent, as had been stated by his noble friend, in point of principle, did not, and could not, admit of any doubt. If it were the feeling of that House that the numbers constituting that House would be unnecessarily or extravagantly reduced by this Bill; and if it were deemed proper by the House that its numbers should be farther augmented beyond what was contemplated by the Bill, then that augmentation should not be the means of restoring those disfranchised boroughs, but the number of Members to be added should be taken from such great, populous, and important towns as might be considered to have a fair claim to Representation, in the event of the numbers being augmented.

Sir E. B. Sugden

said, that as the principle of this measure depended on its details, which, it appeared, were now to be altered, the Bill must be looked upon as a new one. The object of the measure could only be ascertained by the details which had been laid on the Table of the House, and which specified, that the number of Representatives should be decreased. But now the right hon. Gentleman said, that so far as regarded the number of Members, if the proposition were objected to, the number might be increased, care being taken that the right of returning Members should not be restored to the disfranchised boroughs, but that it should be given to great and populous towns. Now, he asked, would not that proceeding manifestly alter the principle of the measure? the effect of this measure would be altogether to divide and cut off the manufacturing from the agricultural interest. One set of individuals would wholly represent the agricultural, and another the manufacturing interest. This measure was not, he was convinced, half so popular as many Gentlemen seemed to suppose. What did the hon. member for Preston tell them on the preceding evening? He stated that the people were decidedly against this Bill. That hon. Member averred, that of 200,000 people whom he had addressed, there was only one in favour of the Bill. The people very naturally asked, would the Bill give cheap bread, cheap beer, and cheap clothes? The answer was, "No, it will not;" and then they declared against it. The hon. member for Preston had told the House, that the people who were excluded from the franchise would have been better pleased if, instead of extending it to the 10l. householders, it had been given to the gentry; and it was very natural, that not having it themselves, they should wish to have it given to those who were farther removed from them than the 10l. householders. The noble Lord had told them that he intended to make no alteration in the principle of the Bill; but it appeared that he was now disposed not to disturb the rights of those who had acquired the franchise of corporations by birth or servitude: but did not that go to the principle of the Bill? It had been objected to him that he was unreasonable in resisting the going into a Committee with the Bill; but his objection was to going into Committee on a different Bill from that which had been read a second time. The whole Bill had undergone a material alteration, and what guarantee had they that to-morrow it would not be still farther altered? He had heard of instances in which it was proposed to bring some boroughs, which would otherwise come into schedule A, up to the number of schedule B, by including the inhabitants of the parish as well as the borough. This, no doubt, might be done by the Treasury, but was that a way to dispose of the Representation of England? He had heard also of instances of including the parish and the borough in one in cases where they were of the same name. This, no doubt, in particular instances, would be found very convenient, but the effect of it would be, to make the Bill altogether different from that which the people had been led to believe it.

Mr. John Campbell

was surprised at the course taken by his hon. and learned friend (Sir E. Sugden), who, on the second reading of the Bill, rested all his objections on its details, and now, when about to enter into the Committee, where alone the details could be examined, he occupied himself with the principle of the Bill. What was stated yesterday by the noble Lord did not at all affect the principle of the Bill. The object was, to put an end to nomination, by abolishing those rotten boroughs in which such pernicious influence was exercised. The principle adopted was, that where the population did not exceed 2,000, the borough was altogether disfranchised; and where the population did not exceed 4,000, only one Member was allowed to remain. Now that principle remained untouched; for all that was to be done was, that if any borough could show that it did not come within the rule, it should not be included. But this left the principle as it was. Any changes which might be made were changes only of detail. As to the intention of not interfering with those rights which had been acquired in corporations by birth and servitude, he fully approved of it. It was the only objection that many parties in the country had to the Bill; and he thought it not unreasonable to allow the rights of all persons apprenticed or born at the passing of the Bill, to remain during the lives of those parties. The hon. member for Preston had talked of the feeling of the people in the country on this Bill. Now he had lately been visiting several counties, and he there found all classes, high and low, rich and poor, quite in favour of the Bill. There was a public meeting the other day in this county of Stafford, the requisition for which was sighed by ten Peers, and at this meeting there was not a dissentient voice from the Bill. The people approved of it, because they hoped that it would have the effect of giving them cheaper bread and beer, and higher wages,—that it would, in short, better their condition; and there was he doubt that, in the course of time, the economy and better system which a reformed Parliament would produce would have those effects.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman below him (Sir E. Sugden) had confounded the principles on which the Bill went. It had proceeded upon a scale of population, and as long as that scale was adhered to—and he saw no attempt to depart from it—the principle would remain untouched. The only change in the detail would be, where the numbers were so incorrectly given as to bring some boroughs within either of the schedules, in which, properly speaking, they ought not to be included. Errors of this kind had occurred in many cases, and in none were they more likely to occur than in those places where the parish and the borough were of the same name. It was no departure from the principle of the Bill, then, to include the population of both places in particular instances. The principle of the Bill had for its object to put an end to that corrupt system, by which Members got into that House, not by the choice of the people, but by the nomination of Peers and other individuals; and also by which, persons found their way into the other House as Peers, through the medium of borough influence in this; —that system of traffic for the payment of election expenses, which made seats and the influence over them the objects of bargain and sale. An end had, however, been put by this Bill to all such practices, and he was not surprised at the irritation manifested in certain quarters against a measure which was to destroy this odious traffic;—practices which had been carried on in some instances to so great an extent, and which might have gone on to tarnish even the seat of justice itself. This base traffic would be at an end; and he repeated, that he was not surprised at the irritation dis- played by some persons out of that House against the Reform Bill. He must own he was surprised at what had fallen from the hon. member for Preston (Mr. Hunt) as to the opinion of the people on the subject of this Bill. Those who were opposed to it could not be genuine Reformers, who would oppose a measure which would put an end to such odious practices as a traffic for a peerage by means of seats in that House, merely because they themselves had not been included in the elective franchise. He repeated that such parties could not be genuine Reformers.

Lord Valletort

concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the change to be made in the details of the Bill amounted to an alteration of its principles. He should object very much to that change, particularly to the plan of giving the sixty-two Members to be taken from the boroughs to the large towns. Such a distribution of the Representation would destroy that balance of interests in the country which already existed. He would not take the interpretation put upon this measure by other hon. Members, for he heard from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) that such was the intention of Government.

Mr. Stanley

said, what he had intended to convey was, that if the House should decide upon retaining the whole number of Members, it was the intention of Government to give them, not all to large towns, though certainly some of them would be so disposed of, but to large and populous districts.

Mr. North

wished to know what modification was to take place in the Irish Bill, if so great a change was to be made in the English?

Mr. Stanley

had already stated, that no change would take place in the principle of the general measure. The only modification in it would be, to exempt those boroughs which could make out a case to show that the returns with respect to them were erroneous. This was only an alteration of detail, and, as it did not affect the general principle, could not affect the Irish Bill.

Mr. North

considered, that as the general measure, as it first stood, would give five additional Members to Ireland, and take sixty-two from England, the retention of those sixty-two Members would make a serious change which would affect Ireland.

Mr. Stanley

had not said a word of any intention on the part of Government to retain the sixty-two Members. All he said was, that if the House should be of opinion that the number should be continued, Government would recommend that they should be given to large bodies.

Mr. Hunt

said, as allusion had been made to him, he could not avoid saying a few words. He would again repeat what he stated last night, viz. that the people in several large and populous districts in which he had addressed them, were without exception (not with one exception, as he was represented to have said) against the measure. His constituents were all for Universal Suffrage,—which they themselves enjoyed in an extreme degree, and they wished that every man who resided in the town should have a vote. The hon. member for Waterford had pretended to lament over him, as having ceased to be a genuine Reformer; and, in return, he might express his regret that that hon. Member had turned round and departed from his promises to his constituents to support Universal Suffrage and Vote by Ballot. If he were under prosecution, or even on the scaffold, no consideration on earth should prevent him from declaring his honest sentiments, or induce him to retract any opinion which he conscientiously held.

General Guscoyne

had understood, and in that he was not singular, that the noble Lord (Russell) had declared that the sixty-two Members would be retained, and given to the large towns; but now it was stated that no such intention existed. He owned he should like to hear some statement as to what really were the intentions of Government in this respect. He thought it right, that before they went into the Committee they should know how the sixty-two Members who were to remain after the disfranchisement were to be disposed of. In Liverpool, which had a population of 180,000 souls, there was very great difference of opinion as to this Bill, and great doubts of its advantages. The lower classes were not at all favourable to it; but this feeling was not confined to those classes. It was shared by very many amongst the merchants, bankers and others; and he was convinced that the more the people saw of the measure, the less they would be pleased with it; and he believed, that in a week more, petitions from several parts of the country would be presented against it.

Lord Althorp

said, that after what had fallen from his hon. and gallant friend who last addressed the House, he could not avoid saying a few words. He was not present when his noble friend (Lord J. Russell) addressed the House yesterday on the subject, but he was convinced, that he had not stated it to be the intention of Government to replace the Members who might be cut off by the disfranchisement of the small boroughs, and he would briefly state to the House what was the course which his Majesty's Government intended to pursue. On looking at the different returns and the schedules, they found that, from the incorrectness of those returns, there would be an addition to the Members which his noble friend had stated would constitute the House, because some of the boroughs had been found to have a population sufficient to exempt them from the operation of the Bill; but in this there was no departure from the principle of the Bill; the principle remained the same, but it would not apply to so many boroughs as was at first supposed. This would increase the number beyond what had been stated. As to the exact number of Members which should constitute the House, Ministers did not hold it to be essential to the principle of the Bill. But they were determined to carry the measure with respect to the reduction of numbers, if they could. He repeated, if they could accomplish that, they would not depart from the original plan as to numbers, except in those cases where, as he had said, boroughs could make out that they had a population large enough to exempt them from total or partial disfranchisement. But if it should be the opinion of the House that the present number was not too great, and that it should decide to retain the whole, Ministers might not think it such a deviation from the principle of the Bill as would induce them to abandon it. On the contrary, they would then be prepared to recommend to the House the manner in which those Members should be disposed of, adhering to their original principle, that no Members should sit for boroughs which came within the line of disfranchisement which they had felt it their duty to draw. The Members thus to be disposed of, should the House so decide, they would recommend to be given in many cases to large towns, but in all to large bodies, adhering as much as possible to that balance of interests which was at present kept up in the country; but he begged to be distinctly understood, that the retaining of the whole number of Members was in no one degree to touch that principle which went to the disfranchisement of the rotten boroughs.

Lord Stormont

said, that even after the explanation of the noble Lord, the House was still ignorant of what was intended by Ministers as to other parts of the Bill; and in order to put the House in possession of such information, he hoped the noble Lord would answer a few questions. He wished to know whether the additional Members were to be given to towns or counties; and whether they were to be given solely to places in England, Scotland, or Ireland; or to places in the three kingdoms.

Lord Althorp

wished the noble Lord to recollect to what his observations had applied, when he said the additional Members were to be given to populous towns. He had said, that if after the Government had proposed the number of which they thought the House ought to consist, the House should compel Ministers, by a division, to increase that number, then they would take in populous towns, or populous bodies of constituency, and bestow the elective franchise on them. It was true that he had made use of the words populous towns, and he believed it would be to them principally that such additional Members would be proposed to be given by Government. But the same rule would be followed with respect to the addition which Ministers of themselves would propose, they having for their object to keep up a fair balance between the representation of towns and counties. With respect to the last question put by the noble Lord, he had to state, that the additional Members would be given principally, if not entirely, to England.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, that some of the enemies of the Reform Bill, and some persons who, he believed, had been connected with the late Administration, had been in the City that morning, expressing the delight they felt at Ministers having got themselves into confusion by the alteration which they had proposed to make in the Bill. He had himself seen some of these gentlemen, and certainly the expression of their countenances had considerably changed for the better from that picture of dismay and terror which it exhibited on the day of the important division, when their faces were as long as it was possible for human faces to be ["Name."] No, he did not mean to give any name, for that was rather a delicate affair; but as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Sugden) had shown so much warmth on the subject, it was probable that he was himself one of the parties. He believed, however, that the Ministers had got into no confusion at all; and he considered the proposed alteration an improvement.

Mr. Cutlar Ferguson

said, that hon. Members who spoke so warmly on the subject of preserving the proportion of Members for the three kingdoms, did not seem to consider that the proportion between the Representation of Scotland and England had been disturbed by the introduction of the Irish Members. All that Parliament had now to do was, to give Representation wherever it was wanted. He had never seen the necessity of reducing the number of Members in that House, and he did not see that any proposition to preserve the existing number would at all trench upon the principle of the Bill. He hoped that in selecting the places by which the additional Members were to be returned, the claims of Scotland would not be forgotten. There were many places in that country of the greatest importance, to which no Members had been given,— namely, the large town of Inverness, that of Perth, and Dumfries, which with its suburbs contained 15,000 souls. The Scotch county Members were to be reduced from thirty to twenty-eight, and one district of burghs, containing a population of 6,000, was to be disfranchised, though the revenue of Scotland, as compared with England, at the time of the Union, was as one to forty, while it now was as one to six or seven. The hon. and learned member for Weymouth had, for the first time, declared himself a friend to Reform, but not to the extent of the Bill. The hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, was also now friendly to it, and thought that Representatives ought to be given to populous towns. And how was this to be done without reducing the close boroughs, or increasing the number of Members, to which all were opposed? The fact was, that many, who now said they were friendly to Reform, had, by refusing to consent to moderate Reform in due time, contributed to bring about this new Bill. Many, some time ago, would have been satisfied with much less; and he, for one, even at the present moment, would have been satisfied with a less extensive Bill. One thing, however, was certain, and even the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge could not deny it, that all were agreed that the people of the United Kingdom were not fitly Represented. The hon. member for Preston professed himself to be a friend to Reform, and yet his observations were always cheered by those who were the enemies of all Reform. The hon. Member had said, that the people were displeased, because the Reform Bill would not make bread and clothing cheaper. Now, he asked the hon. Member, whether he thought that if the elective franchise were extended to every man in the kingdom, it would make bread cheaper? The hon. Member had said that he had met 200,000 men, all of whom he found opposed to the Reform Bill. Now he (Mr. Ferguson) did not believe there existed 200,000 persons in the kingdom entertaining such sentiments. There were many, no doubt, who thought that it went too far. For his part he had not heard of any who said the Bill was good for nothing because it did not give Universal Suffrage Persons who held such an opinion, ought not to have the elective franchise. They were too ignorant to have it. Home Tooke said there were three descriptions of persons who ought not to be intrusted with the elective franchise; namely, the extremely miserable, the extremely dependent, and the extremely ignorant; to which he would add, the extremely selfish —a character that evidently belonged to the friends of the hon. member for Preston. He was decidedly of opinion that the principle of the Bill was approved of by the whole population of the empire.

Sir R. Peel

thought, that as it was now Wednesday, and the Reform Bill stood for commitment on Monday next, it was important for all parties to know the course which Government proposed to take. In particular he should like to know whether it would be proposed to make any addition, beyond the number contemplated originally in the Bill, of Members to Ireland and Scotland. If that were the case he hoped the Representatives of England would not permit themselves to be betrayed by a false liberality to acquiesce, without the fullest consideration, in any proposition prejudicial to England. He wished, therefore, to know, whether the additional Representatives were to be distributed among the three parts of the United Kingdom; and whether, while proposing to make an addition to the Representation of Ireland and Scotland, that opportunity was to be taken to deprive England of fifty or sixty Members, which it was now entitled to send to Parliament? Both these questions involved considerations of the greatest importance, which ought to be reserved for separate discussion. He understood Ministers had discovered, that in the original schedules some errors were made with respect to particular boroughs, which did not fall within the principle of the Bill, but which would be disfranchised if the returns on which those schedules were framed were strictly adhered to. Would the noble Lord now state whether he intended to admit the population of parishes as a test by which this disfranchisement was to be regulated; and next, whether Government proposed to take the sense of the House by a division on the question of the reduction of the number of the English Representatives? What he understood the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to have said the other night was this —that he did not mean to restore the proportion between the Representation of the different kingdoms established at the time of the Union; that he intended to increase the number of Representatives returned by Scotland and Ireland; yet, finding that there was a strong feeling in the House adverse to the reduction of the number of the English Representatives, he proposed, not to restore the schedule A, or the schedule B, but to make up to England the present amount of Representatives in some way or other. He, and he believed every man in London, had so understood the noble Lord. Gentlemen now proposed to correct the errors in the schedules A and B, and the correction of those errors would of itself tend to restore to England some portion of the Representatives; and by that arrangement there might probably remain to England forty Members less than at present. Now he wished to know, whether that was a question on which the House was to be called upon to declare its opinion by a division? He also wished to know whether it was proposed to enter into the consideration of all these important questions on Monday next; on which day the House was to be informed, for the first time, of the names of several places to which Government proposed to extend the right of Representation?

Lord Althorp

said, it was intended, in estimating the population of the boroughs, to take the population of all parishes into account which were chiefly town parishes. With respect to the other point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, he repeated what he had said before, that the errors in the schedules A and B, which required alteration, were very inconsiderable, and arose out of the imperfect nature of the population returns. But besides that, it was proposed to rectify errors of a different kind; namely, such as arose from the omission of places of large population from the list of those to which it was intended to give the elective franchise; and it was further proposed, in order to keep up the balance between the Representation of counties and towns, that a certain number of Members should be added to the counties. The number of the Members of that House would be thereby increased beyond the original proposition of Government; and upon the whole, the present number would be reduced pretty nearly as was supposed by the right hon. Baronet. It was the intention of Ministers to submit the measure, with these additions, to the House on Monday next; and if the House should think the present number of the House ought to be preserved, he did not think any proposition of that nature would so essentially affect the principle of the Bill, as to induce the Ministers, if it was agreed to, to throw up the measure.

Sir Robert Peel

said, the Bill was then a perfectly new one. It was a new Bill, and on Monday next the House would be called upon, not to consider its principle, but to go into its details. By some towns it now appeared the privilege of returning Members was to be retained; and, besides having to take this alteration into consideration, the House would also have, on Monday next, to determine whether a parish in which a given town stood, was a town parish, or country one. On Monday next, too, it would be proposed to give the privilege of returning Members to a certain number of new places. Was it consistent with strict justice, that the House should not have four or five days to consider those matters before it was called upon to agree to them? If after four months' deliberation, the Government had proved to be fallible, was it not possible for the House to fall into error, if it should be called upon to decide on these important subjects without full time for consideration?

Lord Althorp

said, that the Govern- ment had no intention to take the House by surprise. A full statement would be made of the alterations proposed by Government on Monday next, and it was his opinion, that there would be found nothing in that statement to render the postponement of the consideration of the Bill at all necessary.

General Gascoyne, seeing the noble Paymaster of the Forces now in his place, begged to inform him, that a good deal of misconception had prevailed in the House during his absence as to what fell from him the other night. He had conceived the noble Lord to have stated that the Government would consider of means to preserve the proportion of the Representation of the three kingdoms. As he found that that was not the case, he should pep-severe in the Motion upon that subject, of which he had given notice.

Lord John Russell

said, it would not be necessary for him to go into any explanation at that time. He was inclined to think, however, that the gallant General had not so far misunderstood him as he had represented, as he recollected perfectly well the gallant General putting some questions to him on the subject, and, on receiving his answer, said he should still persevere in his intention of moving the instruction to the Committee. The gallant General was at perfect liberty to go on, and when the time came he should be prepared to deliver his sentiments.

The Petition was brought up. On the question that it be laid on the Table,

Back to