§ Mr. W. Duncombe
presented himself, and claimed the attention of the House, stating that he had four petitions, which he had been particularly requested to present before the Bill proceeded further.
§ Mr. Speaker
said, that the time for presenting petitions having passed by, unless the hon. Member was quite sure the course he was pursuing was perfectly consonant with the feeling of the House he was not in a situation to make a Motion.
§ The hon. Member gave way to
Lord John Russell, who said, that at that time of the evening he felt it impossible, if he consulted his duty, to accede to the request of the hon. Member. If, indeed, that hon. Member alone had been desirous of presenting petitions, he should certainly yield to the hon. Member's wishes; but he felt that if at that moment he gave way, and consented to the further presentation and discussion of petitions, considerable time would be employed, which had better be devoted to the discussion of the measure itself. Being then in possession of the House, and it being the desire of the House that he should proceed, he would go on to move the Order of the Day for the House to go into a Committee on the Reform Bill. The House was then ready to enter into the consideration, in Committee, of the Bill for the amendment of the Representation. As he had before stated, that there were certain alterations which the Government intended to propose, and as his announcement of that circumstance had led to much observation and remark, which he felt he could not pass by without answer, he thought it incumbent on him to explain these alterations, which he supposed would satisfy the House, both that the original principle on which the Government had acted, had been adopted fairly and impartially, and that in the proposition for making the alterations which they now offered to the consideration of the House, they did not abandon but carry into effect the principle on which the Bill was founded. Before he entered on this matter, however, he could not avoid comparing the situation in which he had stood in the former and on the present occasion. When he first announced the measure of Parliamentary Reform, he did
it in the hope and the belief that it would be found adapted to the wants and wishes of the country. Whatever anxiety he might still feel upon the subject was mixed with pride and satisfaction, that the measure then proposed by his Majesty's Ministers had since been stamped and sealed by the approbation of the people, for whose advantage it was solely intended. As a proof that it was so, he might quote the somewhat curious statement of the hon. member for Preston, who had said that it was impossible but that the Press should advocate the Reform Bill, for if they did otherwise they would be left without readers. The approbation of the people had been further shown by the petitions sent up to that House in favour of the Bill from the Corporations, on which they were accused of committing robbery, and from the boroughs, towards which they were said to be guilty of spoliation. He would not say what the number of petitions on both sides was, but those in favour of it from Corporations and boroughs, which they were told were to be robbed, were more numerous than those against it. At the head of the Corporations in favour of the Bill were London, Canterbury, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Lincoln, Derby, and Bedford. They were well aware that they held their privileges by law, but they thought they would not be acting for the good of the country if they opposed the measure, and they were ready to give up an exclusive power when they saw it was for the advantage of their fellow-subjects. He should, as a still greater proof the popularity of the Bill, have recourse to of a calculation which, he confessed, he bad made in imitation of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel). The right hon. Baronet was very fond of quoting speeches which had been delivered on former occasions. He could not, therefore, complain if another followed the example which he had set when he brought forward the Catholic Relief bill. On that occasion the right hon. Baronet, when defending himself against the attacks made on him for introducing the Catholic measure as a Cabinet measure, pleaded the growing force of public opinion, and proved that plea by a reference to the opinions of the largest portion of the constituency of the country. Among other reasons then stated by the right hon. Baronet for supporting that question, he gave the following: He took, as a test of the public feeling upon it,
seventeen counties and twenty-two towns. The right hon. Baronet, according to the speech sanctioned and corrected by himself, said that this was a practical and constitutional way of ascertaining the sense of the people. He was now going to adopt the same course, and he should go over the very same counties and towns referred to by the right hon. Baronet on the Catholic Question. To take, for instance, the Members for seventeen counties who voted on the second reading of this Bill, there were twenty-seven in favour of it, and only nine against it. This list of counties included Yorkshire, Middlesex, Devonshire, Kent, Lancashire, Surrey, Somerset, Norfolk, Dorset, Stafford, Essex, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Warwickshire. In the list of the Members for the large towns he had the same reason to be satisfied with the result. He took the same twenty-two large towns as the right hon. Baronet, one of which (Colchester) had only one Member in the House at the time the votes were taken, and out of that list, containing forty-five Members, he found that thirty-nine had voted for the measure, and only six against it. Among these towns were London, three for, and one against the Bill; Westminster, two for, Southwark, two for, Liverpool, Bristol, Norwich, Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Leicester, Preston, Exeter, Hull, Coventry, York, Chester, and Colchester. Of eighty-one Members to whose opinion the right hon. Gentleman, with somewhat of a reforming eye, had looked for protection as expressing the sense of the people, sixty-six had voted in favour of the measure, and only fifteen against it. They had not been the supporters of Reform while Reform was only a vague word not explained and defined, but when a distinct plan of Reform had been proposed; and by that plan their real opinions were to be tried and decided. The principles on which that plan of Reform was produced were, to give Representatives to large manufacturing towns, to prevent the sale of seats, and to extend the elective franchise; and these principles had been supported by the Representatives for counties and large towns, in the manner he had before described. With respect to the borough Members, a majority had indeed voted against the measure; but as the measure was directly calculated to injure the personal interests of all the Members for such places, it was
not to be wondered at that they were opposed to it, since in matters of interest it was universally admitted, that men who were personally affected were not of all others the most impartial judges. If, therefore, out of such a body of persons, one-third were in favour of the measure which seemed to threaten their personal interests, it was, indeed, a strong proof of what was the general feeling of the people, and of the impression which had been made on men of cultivated understanding and of great property and high station, by the arguments that powerful minds had, during past years, so strongly urged on the great principle of Parliamentary Reform. He would then advert to the manner in which the Bill had been considered by the King's Ministers during the Recess, and in doing so he should show that throughout they had kept in view, in their alterations, the basis on which this measure was originally founded. To that they had adhered. He had said, on bringing in the Bill, that in the present day, absolute nomination was no longer to continue. That was to be put an end to, by creating a more numerous constituency. Thus, in Bath and Cambridge, the present number of electors, but subject, at least to a certain extent, to a particular influence, would be merged in a still greater number of persons. With a view to the same principle, the elective franchise, where it could not be extended among a greater number of persons and where it was now corruptly exercised, was to be taken away. There were various means by which the Ministers might have obtained information necessary to enable them to frame the details of the measure; they might have called for the number of houses paying taxes to the amount of 10l. or the number of houses rated at 10l. and upwards, but upon this subject they found as every body knew, that the taxes were an uncertain criterion, because the houses were in many cases rated far below their value. That, therefore, would have been a test liable to error. If they had taken the houses rated at 10l. they would have had also to institute an examination into each borough, so as to ascertain the exact number of houses contained within its limits. In determining what boroughs should be disfranchised or retain their franchise by the criterion of the number of rented houses of the annual value of 10l. they had felt also that if they took that
part of the population of the boroughs only within the limits of these boroughs, they should subject themselves to many difficulties; that if persons were sent to examine into these limits, doubts would arise, and partialities might be exhibited, or, at least, the inquiries would be so extensive that they should be involved in innumerable petty details that might, for a year at least, prevent them from introducing any effective measures, and that, even after all this, they might find that they had not obtained a proper criterion by which they could be guided. In many cases it would happen that the borough might be small, at least so far as regarded its ascertained legal limits, while the town which really belonged to it might be very large. An instance of this he could give in the borough of Bridgewater, where the parish was divided into three parts, all of which were under the same jurisdiction—all of which formed but one parish—but only one of which, according to a decision of that House, founded probably on some party motive, and called exclusively the borough, had any influence in sending Members to Parliament. Under these circumstances, they had taken the population returns as documents not made up to favour any particular interest, and as likely to exhibit, in the most correct manner, the population of the different towns and boroughs throughout the kingdom. They had, therefore, taken the returns as given in the office of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and they found, as they had anticipated, that, generally speaking, these returns were correctly made up. The statements they had since deemed it their duty to obtain were not so much corrections as explanations of these returns. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, had called the attention of the House to the fact, that these subsequent statements differed from the population-returns, and had alluded to the case of Tamworth, to show that these returns were not correct. The fact was, that Tamworth, like Bridge-water, was composed of more than one locality, and it appeared that there, as in the cases of Calne and Tavistock, there were parishes attached to, and, in fact, forming part of, the borough itself. They had, with a view of ascertaining the fact, sent letters from the office of the. Secretary of State for the Home Department to the Returning Officers of different
places; among the rest, to the returning Officer of Agmondesham, who stated in reply, that the limits of the borough only comprehended a small part of that which was known by that name—the return of houses and inhabitants, however, made under the last census, covered the whole of the parish. The returns, therefore, were not inaccurate, as had been insinuated, but merely required explanation, and the papers which the Government had in January and February last laid upon the Table of the House, afforded those explanations, and gave collateral information on the subject of the returns, but did not correct them. The borough of Aldborough, in Yorkshire, was stated in the note to contain in its entire parish 735 inhabitants. That statement was not so given in the population returns; but with Boroughbridge, which was in its immediate neighbourhood, and with one or two other parishes, the number was altogether made up to 2,000. In considering the claims of these boroughs, he was not disposed to say, that because they now returned four Members—a number exceeding that to which they would be properly entitled—he would treat them as separate places, and in that manner prevent them from returning any Member at all; for that would be exercising a severe mode of justice. He would unite the population of all these places as in one, and would give them the right of returning one Member. He should therefore propose, that they should be placed in schedule B. He next came to the borough of Buckingham, the parish of which contained 2,485 inhabitants, and which for that reason he should propose to put also in the list of boroughs in schedule B. In the same manner Malmesbury, the population of which was 2,145, and Oakhampton, the population of which was only 1,807 within the borough, but which, by the union of the places immediately adjoining it, possessed a population of more than 2,000, were now proposed to be placed in schedule B. Reigate was one of those places which were in a somewhat doubtful situation. The borough itself contained only 1,328 inhabitants; but the foreigners, as the inhabitants without the limits of the borough were technically called, amounted to 1,603, making together 2,961. That number would entitle it to be placed in schedule B; but at the same time that he said this, it was but fair that
he should read to the House what the re-turning-officer had said, and when he had done so, he thought he should have shown, that if they did grant a Member to Reigate, they must be considered to have done complete and ample justice to that borough. The returning-officer said, that the borough itself and the adjoining town were in all respects as distinct as two several parishes. These were the boroughs that he proposed to take from schedule A, and transfer to schedule B. There was a greater number which he proposed to strike out of schedule B, and to permit them to retain their present number of Members. The first of these was the borough of Leominster, which possessed a population of 4,646; the next was the borough of Morpeth, the population of which was 4,291; then followed the borough of Northallerton, with a population of 4,431; and the borough of Tamworth, having a population of nearly 7,000. That borough was like Reigate. The returning officer stated, that the parish of Tamworth was very extensive, consisting of towns and hamlets distinct from each other all maintaining their own poor separately, but all united in the assessment of the Church-rates. This separation, in particular points, had not been deemed sufficient ground for legislating upon, and therefore the borough was proposed to be permitted to retain its present number of Members. The borough of Truro, according to the population returns, possessed a large number of inhabitants. The town was larger than the borough. Looking at all the petitions and memorials that had been sent into that House, it clearly appeared that in 1821 the borough contained more than 6,000 inhabitants. It ought, consequently, to retain its present number of Members. The borough of Westbury contained a population of 2,846, and Chipping Wycombe had 2,559 inhabitants. These two amounted together to a population sufficiently large to justify the Ministers in taking those boroughs out of schedule B, and allowing them to return their present number of Members. In all cases of disfranchisement there must be a limit of some sort, and whatever might be the line adopted, there would be persons who would discover that there were places just on one side of the limit to which in literal strictness the rule might be applied, but which ought to be more favourably treated. The line which Ministers had
adopted was one which they had determined on after mature consideration, and from that line they would not depart. With respect to boroughs, they had determined that where the township was part of the borough and depended on it, both ought to form but one place for the return of Representatives. Where, however, the nature of these relations between two places was in doubt, they could not be expected to depart from the population. In all such cases as these the question had been considered to be the same as where a house was partly in one county and partly in another. In cases where it was clear that the township, which might have raised its population to the amount required, consisted of and was a part of the borough, the whole of such population was to be taken as constituting the criterion by which its proportion of the franchise was to be allotted and regulated. In such a case as that of Clitheroe, however, which had a population of 3,000 persons, but which was in the parish of Waley, with a greater population, without, at the same time having any connection with that parish, he had not felt himself authorized to give the borough and that parish a connection which they really had not hitherto, so as to allow the borough a right on account of that connection which it would not otherwise possess. The case of Beeralston was one involved in some degree of doubt. It was not properly stated in the population returns. It had been said, that Beeralston ought to betaken with the parish of Beerferries, but they did not think that they could make that change, for Beerferries was a county parish, and did not contain more than one house let at a rent of 10l. a yean. Than such places there were none, in his opinion, more deserving of being swept away from the list of represented boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman had, the other night, compared that place with the borough of Calne, with which it certainly had no one point of resemblance. Calne was composed of a borough and parish, but the parish comprised the town. The borough was small, but the parish was a town parish. As they had not adopted the rule of confining the borough always to its own limits, it would be most unjust to Calne to apply such a rule exclusively to it. There were many cases of a similar kind, such as Cirencester and Newport, in which the limits of the borough and the parish were not identical. It was easy to charge par-
tiality against those who produced this measure, but the fact was, that they took the returns as they came. It was easy to say that Calne, Tavistock, and Knaresborough, ought to have their elective franchise taken away. If such a proceeding was just, nothing would be more satisfactory than for him to do so if he could even get five votes by such proceeding. The point to which they objected was, the power to nominate. That power would be taken away by this Bill, though the influence of property would remain, and in that way, of course, the influence of the Marquis of Lansdown and of the Dukes of Devonshire and Bedford would still continue. The Marquis of Lansdown had very little influence from direct property in the borough of Calne. Of the houses let at 10l. a year in that borough only three belonged to him. If the right of returning Members should be taken away from the borough and given to the county of Wilts, the noble Marquis would obtain more influence than he now possessed. The principle of that Bill was, to take away the power of nomination, not the influence of properly, nor that of character; and if they totally disfranchised Calne, Lord Lansdown would have that influence which was properly due to a man enjoying nobility alike by his origin and talents, his high title, his vast possessions, and his great ability—an ability for public affairs united with a moderation of ambition rarely joined to such powers, and integrity, on which no spot had ever been cast—even in the utmost heat and bitterness of political contention. They might disfranchise Calne, but they could never deprive Lord Lansdown of the influence which his talents and character gave him. That was beyond their power! So long as he enjoyed his extensive possessions—his great ability, and his high character, it would be impossible for legislation to reach him, or for party malice to affect his interests; and this would, and must be so, as long as a virtuous aristocracy was held in respect in this country. Having mentioned the places which were to be transferred from one schedule to the other, or removed altogether from the operation of the Bill, he should proceed to mention those places to which Members were to be assigned as an equivalent for those that were taken off. It had been complained of by hon. Members opposite that the largest places, and that all the
places containing more than 10,000 inhabitants, in conformity to the standard proposed by the Bill, had not received Members. It should be recollected that, although the Bill was founded, to a certain extent, upon the principle of population, yet they did not look to population alone as the test of capacity for voting. Where there was commercial enterprise and commercial capital, combined with population, or where the same interests were represented in other parts, the proposers of the measure had thought it better to make a selection than to adhere punctiliously to a specific number of persons giving a right to return Members to that House. At present there were many small boroughs to be saved from disfranchisement, and it was therefore not advisable to give all the towns with 10,000 inhabitants a Member. Although population in the inferior boroughs had been taken as the rule for disfranchisement, it was not that alone which had guided them in all cases in determining what towns should receive Representatives. They had also been governed with a view to particular interests. They proposed as a counterbalance to the pure principle of population, to give Representatives to large towns possessed of manufacturing capital and skill, such as Bury, in Lancashire, Oldham, and Rochdale, and in addition to the towns already endowed with the right of sending Members by the Bill, he therefore proposed that these towns should each send one Member. Salford, which, with Pendleton and Broughton, contained above 50,000 inhabitants, and had commercial interests distinct from Manchester, was also to send one. For that part of Staffordshire, known by the name of the Potteries, and situated at Stoke-upon-Trent, he proposed there should be one Member. For Wakefield, which, in the original schedule, was omitted by mistake, and for Whitby, there was also to be one Member each. Instead of the parish of Halifax, which contained much poor and wild land, he proposed that the right of voting should be confined to the township of Halifax, which should only return one Member. All these he proposed should be added to schedule B. Having thus added to the number of Members for the manufacturing towns, and met, he hoped, the objections of those Gentlemen who had complained that several of these towns were not included in the Bill, it was necessary to give some additional Members to
the counties. It had been thought hard that some counties should have four Members, and others, not much inferior in extent and population, should only have two. To remedy this, he proposed, that such of them as possessed a population of above 100,000 should receive one additional Member. These counties were Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, and Glamorganshire. There were seven of these counties which would thus send three Members to Parliament, and Glamorganshire, which had hitherto had only one, would be thenceforward allowed two. What he had now said would correct a misapprehension that had prevailed on the provisions of the Bill as they related to counties. He had now gone through the intended alterations as they affected the schedules, and it would probably be convenient if he recapitulated them. It was proposed, then, that Aid-borough, Buckingham, Malmesbury, Okehampton, and Reigate, should be transferred from schedule A, and put into schedule B; that Leominster, Morpeth, Northallerton, Tamworth, Truro, West-bury, and Chipping Wycombe, should be taken out of schedule B, that is, that they should be allowed to return the present number of their Representatives. Further, it was proposed that Bury, in Lancashire, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, the Potteries of Staffordshire, Wakefield, Whitby, and Halifax, should be admitted to the right of returning one Member each; and that the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire, Oxfordshire, and Glamorganshire, should each return an additional Member. The whole effect of the alterations proposed he had brought into one view in a paper which he had intended to read, but which he unluckily had mislaid. He could, however, state from memory, that suppose five new Members given to Ireland, and five to Scotland, the whole number of Representatives for the United Kingdom would be 627, making a diminution of the present number of thirty-one Members. There were twelve towns which were to send two Representatives, including parts of the metropolis; twenty-six towns which were to send one Member; and sixty-one additional Members for counties in England; and one for a borough and one for a county in Wales. In addition to these were five new
Members for Ireland and five for Scotland. The number thus given was to be subtracted from the total diminution, which, he thought, was 154 Members, and it would leave the diminution of the present number of the House thirty-one Members. This was certainly a less diminution than was originally contemplated. He would then proceed to notice some other and minor alterations in the Bill. In the first place, with regard to the right of voting for counties. Some complaints had been made—and he admitted, naturally—that while leaseholders of a certain annual value, and copyholders, were allowed the franchise, it was withheld from those who, perhaps, had a much longer term, and greater interest, for 99, or 999 years. It was therefore intended that persons having leases of the value of 10l. a year and upwards for any term exceeding sixty years should be entitled to vote for counties. There was another description of leaseholders whom it was also designed as an act of fairness to include: he meant those who had paid large fines upon leases where the rent was small, but where the interest in truth was greater than that of a tenant for twenty-one years at 50l. a year. With regard to the qualification for voting in towns occupation had, in general, been taken as the test of residence; but it was wished to give the franchise not only to the occupiers of houses, but to the occupiers of warehouses and counting-houses. But the arrangement, as it before stood, construed strictly, would exclude all the great merchants of Manchester, Liverpool, and other large commercial towns, who did not reside within the limits, although much of their property was deposited in the town. He was satisfied that this amendment, instead of being disapproved, would be cordially accepted. Another change carried a little farther the principle of keeping alive existing rights in the persons of those who now held them. It had been very strongly urged by persons connected with cities, where the right of voting was in the freemen, that admitting the principle of saving the rights of those who were now alive, it ought to include the inchoate rights of the sons of freemen, and of apprentices not yet out of their time. This change would not make any difference in the principle of the Bill, and it had, therefore, been agreed to admit to the right of voting the children and apprentices of freemen, who at present would be entitled to it, on coming of age,
or on arriving at the expiration of their articles of apprenticeship. With another alteration he apprehended the hon. and learned member for Preston (Mr. J. Wood) would be well contented. It would conserve expressly the rights of all who at present voted by reason of inheritancy. This was merely carrying more completely into effect the original intentions of the framers of the measure, and he (Lord J. Russell) had in fact stated it on the former occasion, but the hon. and learned member for Preston having mentioned his apprehensions that a large body of his constituents would be disfranchised, the alteration he had just referred to, was especially meant to guard against that. As to the returning officers, an alteration had likewise been adopted, for it was found, that in some instances it would not be possible to insert in the Bill an exact description of the proper individual. It had been thought, therefore, that the better mode would be to adopt a general clause giving the Sheriff of the county the power, on the 1st of March of every year, to name the returning officer for places within his jurisdiction. Some improvement had also been made in registration: it was to be provided that the Christian and surname with the place of abode should be distinctly stated, so that the register should be a complete index of the voters enrolled in it; it was meant that this register should be kept in a book to which reference could be readily made, and as the Churchwardens might find it in some cases a burthen to make it out, it was provided that they might employ such clerks as were necessary to complete the lists, the expense to be paid by the parish to which they related. Some difficulty, it was thought, might arise out of extra parochial places, and they were therefore to be joined to the smallest parish by which they were bounded. Another amendment applied to polling: instead of the polling always taking place in cities and boroughs in one situation, it was thought that the chance of much tumult and confusion might be avoided, if power were given to the returning officer to direct that the voters should tender their suffrages at different places, according to his discretion. It was also provided, that persons residing near contributory boroughs in Wales should be able to vote at that contributory borough nearest to which they dwelt. To these alterations would be added a clause, declaring that any person guilty of false
swearing at an election, should be liable to the penalties of perjury. A further clause would be similar to that found in some of the Acts brought in by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, providing for cages of misnomer, that the words should be taken and construed in their popular and intelligible sense. "I have now (continued Lord John Russell) gone through all the principal alterations we propose to make; the House will be able to see them more distinctly, and to understand them more completely to-morrow, as I have taken care that the bill should be accurately reprinted and speedily delivered. By the time we have gone through the two schedules, hon. Members will be prepared to enter into the discussion of the amended measure. We may then examine the Bill clause by clause, and those who object to particular provisions, will have a full opportunity of settling and stating their objections. If it be thought proper to raise again the question of the principle of this plan, I shall be quite ready to enter into it—to defend it—and to show that it is entitled to the most favourable consideration of the House. Whatever verbal changes and local improvements may be made in the Committee as to the mode in which this great arrangement is to be carried into effect, I am prepared to argue that this House will only properly represent the people, and consult the interests of the people, by passing the Bill with as little general alteration as possible. An hon. and gallant Member, whom I see in his place, is about to propose some Resolution, by which he means to bind the House to keep up? a certain number of Members for particular parts of the empire. I will not now enter into a question which can be more properly debated when the motion is made; but I cannot help saying that the course seems to me most invidious, and likely to promote that jealousy which we ought to endeavour to allay. It is calculated to raise prejudices which I hoped were extinguished, by declaring on this occasion that there is one part, or that there are two parts of the United Kingdom which ought to have a particular number of Members, to the exclusion of the rest. As I have said, it is not my business now to enter into the discussion, as I cannot hope that my authority will prevail upon the hon. and gallant Member to relinquish his Motion. I way, however, take the
liberty of reading to him a passage in one of Mr. Pitt's speeches on the Union, which seems to me to have been delivered in the true spirit of a Statesman, anxious to make that Union real and effectual. It was judged proper, looking at the population and taxes of Ireland, to allow her 100 Members; and upon the question whether that number should be more or less, Mr. Pitt spoke as follows:—"Upon a full consideration of the subject, the Parliament of Ireland are of opinion that the number of Representatives for Ireland in the House of Commons ought to be 100. Upon this subject, the first question to which I have to call the attention of Gentlemen (supposing that they adhere to the Resolutions of last Session) is, whether the number so mentioned by the Parliament of Ireland is so reasonable, and funded in such fair proportions, that we ought to agree to it? For my own part, Sir, I will fairly confess, that upon this part of the subject it does appear to me extremely difficult to find any precise ground upon which to form a correct calculation, or to entertain a positive preference for any one specific number of Members rather than another: but I am the less anxious about it, because I do not consider the consequences as very important. In my view of Representation, founded upon the experience of our Constitution, I think we are entitled to say, that, if a nation becomes united with us in interests and in affection, it is a matter of but small importance whether the number of Representatives from one part of the United Empire be greater or less."✶ That was the view taken of the subject by a great practical Statesman, and I leave it to the consideration of hon. Members, satisfied that they will not hastily throw by such an authority. It has been my business to explain the alterations it is proposed to make in the Committee in this bill for amending the Representation. The House will perceive that the alteration as to the number of Members is considerable: that number is increased more than thirty above the amount I stated when first I introduced the proposition; but, I think, if hon. Gentlemen will consider the reasons for this change— the fitness of taking certain places out of the two first schedules—they will be satisfied of the justice of that course, and that in no instance and in no manner is it a de-
✶ Hansard's Parl. Hist. vol. xxxv. p 42–3
parture from the original principle of the Bill. It was brought forward, and was received, under circumstances which can- not but be gratifying to those who were concerned in its original formation. It was the result of great consideration, and this is the Bill—the very Bill brought for- ward by the Cabinet, which was allowed by his Majesty to take the whole subject under its view. It is the Bill which the House, after a length of debate unexampled in this country, sanctioned by its deliberate vote upon the second reading. It is the Bill which those who, the right hon. Gentleman contends, duly represent the feelings and interests of the inhabitants of the empire, approved by a majority. It is the Bill which the House notwithstanding the presence in it of 200 Members for boroughs, directly, or indirectly, affected by it, adopted, although I admit, by the very smallest majority. Be it remembered also, that this House was chosen under the auspices of a different Government, and that in it were marshalled in hostile array all those whom it was thought necessary to retain for the sake of keeping up the influence of the Crown, and who recently occupied official situations. I say, then, that the sanction of such a House is an extraordinary testimony in favour of the justice and equity of the measure. I am quite satisfied that this question ought to receive, before long, its final decision. This House will ill discharge its duty to its constituents, if it keep the topic of Reform in debate for the period of another year. Even were it to be continued for three or four months, I should say that the consequent agitation would be highly injurious. For that reason I desire to see the House, in its present shape, and with its present Constitution, sanction the principle of this Bill. I see two great authorities in opposition to each other upon this vast question—Earl, Grey on the one side, and the Duke of Wellington on the other. The noble Earl at the head of the Government is of opinion that a measure of this kind ought to be conceded to the wishes of the people. The noble Duke, who, on so many accounts, is entitled to the gratitude and reverence of his country, thinks that there should be no alteration whatever in the Constitution of Parliament. If that were a possible course, it might perhaps be a wise one; but I think that the Members of this House have made up their minds
that even if the course were wise, it is no longer possible. I ask hon. Gentlemen, then, to consider whether, from particular views, and for private reasons, they will endeavour to alter and fritter away this great substantial measure? We who proposed it are bound by its principles, and by its principles we will abide—yes, I repeat it, by its principles we will abide. Whatever may be the course which the noble Lord at the head of the Government with the other members of the Cabinet may think it their duty to take on other subjects—whatever opinions they may deliver in Parliament, and whatever advice they may give their Sovereign—be assured of this, they are united firmly for the purpose of carrying this Bill. Having been brought forward in Parliament, and announced to the people; by Parliament it has been sanctioned, and by the people it has been universally approved. If you are now to alter, to break in upon, or to fritter it away, you will only be preparing a vexatious and a useless contest, at a time when you might not have to deal with the people in their present temper and spirit of moderation; then, too, you might be called upon to discuss Reform in a state of much less comparative prosperity than the nation now enjoys. I am ready to allow, that those who bring forward and press forward this Bill, have some claim to the reputation of boldness. But I, for one, confess that I am not so bold but that I should look with great apprehension to the consequences of a continued resistance by those who have property in boroughs, with the chance, that, in the course of that resistance, new distresses or new feelings of agitation, may manifest themselves among the people. If the Bill be now passed, it will be passed in perfect tranquillity— without interrupting the union and harmony of all classes; but if you will not listen to this advice, which I very humbly offer —if you do not think it worthy of being followed—I beg you to remember that those who shall undertake the conduct of a majority of the House of Commons against this measure will have difficulties to encounter with which no Minister in the country has yet been able successfully to contend. If there ever was a Prime Minister, powerful from his authority—from the services he had rendered his country— it was the Duke of Wellington—
Exuvias veteres populi, sacrataque gestans, Dona ducum:
He was on every account entitled to power —from the victories he had won both in peace and in war, for
Peace has her victories as well as war;
but he found it impossible to resist the majority of this House. Armed with almost unlimited power, granted by one Sovereign and confirmed by another, his authority was broken and shivered by the storm to which he would not bend. If a man like the Duke of Wellington, with strength of character to sustain, and talents to unite, all parties, could not oppose the pronounced decision of this House, and the general, indisputable, and enthusiastic, voice of the people, who shall hope to resist it. I beg leave to move the Order of the Day "that the House resolve itself into a Committee to consider the provisions of the Bill for the Amendment of the Re- presentation of England and Wales."
§ General Gascoyne
observed, that the Bill then before the House differed essentially from that first proposed by Ministers,—the Bill, by which they had pledged themselves to "stand or fall:—the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." That measure and the present differed as perfectly as any two possibly could; and from what had fallen from the noble Lord, he expected still further changes. The noble Lord ought to withdraw the Bill for the present, so as to afford sufficient time for its consideration, if not withdraw it altogether, as indeed would be his best course, for it was so new in its provisions, that it could not be expected that they should be then able to discuss it. If the noble Lord should thus postpone the Bill, he would also postpone his motion, pledging himself, however, to bring it forward whenever the noble Lord again brought his measure under their notice. Though he was willing to act thus, if the sense of the House was in favour of delay, he him- self saw no reason why he should not at once submit his Motion, and therefore,— [The. hon. Member became inaudible in consequence of the noise of hon. Members on the floor.] He could not but regret this interruption, and wished hon. Members would go to dinner at once, and not thus interrupt the public business. His Motion was directed against the proposed reduction of the Members of that House, and was not founded on any superstitious attachment to a particular number, but to the principle of such a reduction. He repeated his wish that the Bill should be 1528 withdrawn; for it was so altered from its original character, that no person could recognize any similarity. The Session was not so advanced but that sufficient time might be afforded for bringing in a more matured measure. If, then, Ministers would persist, he had no alternative but to press his Motion—not, he wished it to be understood, in a spirit of hostility to the Irish Representation, but from an anxiety to prevent the aggrandizement of the Irish and Scotch, at the expense of the English Representation. He contended that the spoliation of the English Representation was indefensible on any principle of justice or expediency. It could not be defended on the ground of the population of Ireland having increased so much as to warrant such an increase of the relative number of its Representatives in that House; for if population, concerning which, by the way, they had very exaggerated statements, were taken as the basis of the Irish Representation, it ought also to be taken as the basis of the Irish taxation. That it was not so was plain, and this circumstance had been urged as an argument in favour of the Legislative Union with Ireland by Mr. Pitt. At that time the population of Ireland amounted to 4,200,000 persons—the taxation was 4,600,000l.; while the population of England was 10,700,000, and the taxation 27,700,000l. At present Ireland did not contribute more than one-tenth of taxes in proportion to its population as compared with this country; so that if population were taken as the ground for adding to the Representatives of that country, it ought also to be made the basis of a more equal taxation. It was proposed at the time of the Union, by the present head of the Government, to reduce the number of the Members of that House, on the ground that a great inconvenience would ensue from the influx of 100 Irish Members. Now, admitting the correctness of this objection, he would ask, was it not an odd panacea of an evil to increase its cause, as would be the case by the present Bill with respect to the Irish Representation? He had no objection, he begged it to be understood, to the people of Ireland and of Scotland receiving a due share of Representation, but he must protest against their number of Representatives being increased at the expense of the Representation of this country. Ireland might obtain her five additional Members, and Scotland hers; but 1529 let it not be at the expense of the people of England. What would be the feelings of the people of those countries if the Bill proposed to add to the English Representation at the expense of the Representation of Ireland and Scotland? Would they ever hear the end of the charges of unfairness, and injustice, and violation of the Articles of Union? And was England to be stripped of her relative share without remonstrance'? Were they blind to the unanimity with which the Representatives of Scotland and Ireland resisted every plan, emanate from where it might, which tended to equalize the burthens of the State in all parts of the United Kingdom? In the divisions on the property-tax, on the assessed taxes, on the spirit-duties—in fact, on every new impost whatever, the Irish and Scotch Members always voted so as to throw the weight of the taxes off their own shoulders on the people of England; and yet the noble Lord came forward with a proposition which took from the English Representation, and added to that of Scotland and Ireland. Did they forget that Ministers were compelled to exempt Scotland and Ireland from the operation of the Small-note Prohibition bill, in consequence of the opposition of the Members of those countries?—that eighty-three out of 100 Irish Members came to a resolution to oppose Ministers altogether if they persisted in depriving Ireland of its small-note currency, and that they succeeded in their object? Look how the Irish Members contrived to throw the burthen of supporting their own poor on this country, as indeed they would every other burthen, if the relative superiority of the Representation of this country were destroyed according to the Bill. On the other hand, let them consider the dangerous influence which the Irish Representation placed in the hands of any Ministers who chose to court it at the expense of this country. By conciliating it they might carry any measure they pleased, no matter how it might affect the interests of the people of England, and such a conciliation was the boon held out to Ireland by the present Bill. It was on this ground, therefore, that he proposed that the number of English Members should not be reduced. Ireland might, if the House so pleased, receive an increase of Members, but let them not therefore diminish the number of English Members. If the Bill were altered so as to transfer the franchise of 1530 the boroughs in the schedule A, to places in England, he should not object to it; but if it were retained in its present form, he would offer it every opposition in his power. The hon. Member concluded by moving the following Resolution as an amendment—"That it is the opinion of this House, that the total number of Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses, returned to Parliament for that part of the United Kingdom called England and Wales, ought not to be diminished."
§ Mr. Sadler rose
and said:—In seconding the Motion of my gallant friend, the member for Liverpool, I feel it quite unnecessary to advance any additional argument in its favour. What he has said on proposing it is perfectly unanswerable; and has proved beyond controversy the necessity of its adoption. But had the Resolution submitted by him been introduced without the recommendation of a single argument, that necessity would have been sufficiently apparent. The proposition of the Reform Bill, as it is called, which goes to deprive of a considerable portion of its Representation this part of the United Kingdom, which is of such transcendent importance, whether in reference to its wealth, its population, or its position— which is the seat of its principal manufactures, and the centre not only of its domestic empire, but of those vast and populous colonial possessions which extend round the world, and connect this country with all others—is, as an abstract proposition, one of the most impolitic and indefensible ever submitted to the House. But when it is recollected that questions of vital importance to the integrity and existence of the empire, different sides of which are warmly espoused in different divisions of the United Kingdom, questions which the noble Lord opposite contemplates may not have to be decided by the House merely, but by an appeal to the sword; when it is recollected, that questions of the utmost importance likely to be so decided are to come before us: to diminish the number of the Representatives for one part of the empire, at the same time that those in another are proposed to be increased, is to give great legislative advantages to that portion of the community which the noble Lord thus anticipates the possibility of resisting, and would be a species of infatuation of the most fatal kind in my opinion. The noble member for Tavistock has indeed read a pas- 1531 sage from Mr. Pitt's speech, from which he meant to show, that the numerical proportion awarded to different divisions of the empire, in the Representative branch of the Legislature, is a consideration of little importance—a doctrine which I think is hardly consistent with his notions on the subject, founded as that doctrine was on the principle of virtual Representation, a principle which it is the purpose of his Bill to repudiate from the Constitution. But in the circumstances under which the country is now' placed, I repeat, nothing-can be more absurd, nothing more dangerous, than the proposed diminution. I can, however, confidently leave this proposition to the determination of the House and will therefore address myself to the general measure of which this forms only a part, though an important one. And in so doing I shall but follow the example of the noble Lord, who has not only argued the general question, but endeavoured by anticipation to answer my gallant friend before he, had even moved his Resolution. Nor shall I make any apology for pursuing this course. Having on a preceding occasion, when I gave my vote against the Bill, been prevented from addressing the House by the eagerness of many other hon. Members to obtain its attention, I shall now justify my opposition to that measure by stating those arguments which have determined my judgment. But I feel the difficulty of my attempt increased by the alterations which have been just made in the measure by the noble Lord, who has dealt with this political budget of the Ministry, as the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer has done with his financial one, of which I am not aware that there is any thing left but steam; in like manner the new Constitution, if it is to be thus altered from to time, it is quite as certain will at length end in fume and smoke. But I shall attempt to adapt my observations to this second and amended edition of the new Constitution; the alterations proposed this evening, have indeed deprived me of some of the examples of the ignorance and injustice of the measure which I should have pointed out, had I found the opportunity I sought for, on a preceding occasion, but the objections to its main principle remain unabated, or rather, indeed, as it will be seen, are on the whole, aggravated. In proceeding to show the unconstitutional and dangerous nature of the entire scheme, and how widely different it 1532 is from any thing that could have been some time ago contemplated by his Majesty's Ministers, I shall take leave to quote the recorded declaration of two of them—one made in this House, by a distinguished Member of it, now at the head of the law; and the other by the noble Earl at the head of the Government. These declarations will show, I think, how widely different are the spirit and objects of the present measure compared with that which they originally contemplated; and will warn us, I hope, from acceding to their present propositions, as utterly inconsistent with their late professions. Early in November last, Mr. (now Lord) Brougham gave notice of his intention, in a speech in this House, of which the following is an extract:—"It has been said, that I am a friend to a radical, sweeping, and innovating, and I may add—for I conscientiously believe that it would prove so—revolutionary Reform. This imputation I wish most distinctly to deny. I stand on the ancient way of the Constitution; and without entering into details, which would be now extremely irregular as well as inconvenient, I beg leave to state, that whatever plan of Reform I may propose will have for its object, in the first place, to conciliate the opinions and support of all the friends of Reform.—Such, Sir, will be the object of the great measure of change, which I intend to submit to the House. I shall only add, that my motion will be founded on a principle which I trust will ever be held sacred in this House. My object in bringing forward the measure is not revolution, but restoration,—to repair the Constitution, and not to pull it down."✶ Precisely similar in import, and not very different in terms, were the expressions of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, a short time afterwards, in reference to the contemplated measure. "I wish," said he, "to stand as much as I can upon the fixed and settled institutions of the country." The Reform he intended was, he added, "to be guarded and limited, by a prudent care not to disturb too violently, by any extreme changes, the established principles and practices of the Constitution." These declarations, Sir, will not only authorise me in appealing to the original principle of the Constitution, but they seem, indeed, to demand that it should be tried by that test. Let us then✶ Hansard's Debates, vol. i. 3rd Series p. 54.1533 shortly refer to that ancient model, in order to determine how far they have kept their word of promise; and we shall find, Sir, that they have not only deserted the practice; they have poured contempt upon the main principles of our venerated Constitution. The Constitution of England, especially the representative branch of it, now sought to be mutilated or destroyed, is, like the eventful history of the people who have achieved it, of ancient and obscure original. Like them, also, it has attained to its present state of unrivalled efficiency by slow and irregular advances, and by the incorporation of many seemingly discordant accessions, which time has at length amalgamated into one general mass of union, consistency, and strength, to which, had it been constituted of any one single element, it could never have attained. Virtual Representation, however founded upon property, much as it may be the fashion for ignorance to deny its antiquity, is doubtless the original basis of that Constitution. To this was at length added a more direct form, something like that of delegation; and yet later, distinct communities and separate interests were admitted, though still with little observance of any numerical proportion. The original Constitution thus successively adopted its several modifications as necessity dictated, and experience sanctioned them, which have rendered it a mixed, indeed, though not a complicated system; while those reciprocal influences now sought to be destroyed have cemented its several parts, and conferred on the whole that without which the happiest form of Government ever projected would be utterly worthless—perpetuity. Even the differences, or, as many regard them, imperfections, in this system, have had the practical effect, whether contemplated or not, of securing a more complete representation of this diversified community than any more uniform method, however theoretically perfect, could have produced. It has on the one hand admitted among the represented part of the community, bodies of the people which must otherwise have been totally excluded, and which the projected measure, indeed, coolly proposes, finally, and for ever, to disfranchise; on the other, it has called to this House a class of persons who have been the glory of the country and the benefactors of mankind; but which the present scheme would have necessarily 1534 excluded. As to its general effects, these may be best read in the perfect freedom, unrivalled greatness, and continued prosperity of this mighty empire. I have said that our Constitution originally recognised virtual Representation only, and it seems necessary to repeat this obvious fact when so many attempts are made to represent that principle as one of those corruptions which have crept in among us in later times. Alfred, whom this country is proud to claim as the father of its monarchy, and the founder of its liberties, founded his Wittenagemote on that principle only: which he also engrafted on that institution, which is of infinitely more importance to the mass of the community than the form of its Legislature—the administration of justice; hence the British subject, whose property, character, or life, is at stake, is still tried by his country, which country his Jury constitutionally represents, not indeed by election or delegation, but virtually. I hardly need observe, that during the Norman period of our history, down at least to nearly the close of the reign of Henry 3rd, nothing but virtual Representation is to be found in the Magnum Concilium Regni of those days. And, even in the latter period, when the rudiments of our present representative system were sketched, till that of the Revolution, when our ancestors deemed it perfect, virtual, rather than geographical or numerical Representation, remained the groundwork of the Constitution. A single moment's reflection sufficiently decides this point. Those who are not too much disposed to respect the intelligence of our forefathers, will nevertheless hardly doubt but that they knew Yorkshire, for instance, to be forty times as large as Rutland shire; and again, that the ancient capital of that great province was at least ten times as populous, and far more than so many times as opulent as some of the parliamentary boroughs in its neighbourhood (a fact which I have taken some time and pains to ascertain), and yet they gave alike two representatives in every such instance. But a nearer view of the borough Representation, as originally established, will serve to convince us, that it was not only virtual with regard to these vast differences in population, but that it was equally so with respect to those various interests, and especially to the influence of large masses of property which it al ways retained. And as this last point is 1535 the one principally in dispute, it may be proper to observe, that if there be the least truth and reality in the idea of a balance of power in the three co-ordinate and independent branches of the Legislature (and it is difficult to conceive that they could so long exist without it), then it follows, that as the Commons became more powerful, which they did, (especially when, among other causes, the Knights of the shires were added to their body, whereas, at first, they were representatives of the tenants in capite, and belonged to the higher order, their whole constituency not exceeding in number 3,000); I say, then, it became necessary, (and necessity is the mother of political as well as mechanical invention) that the Crown, as well as some of its more powerful subjects, should also extend, or rather preserve their influence, by the creation of additional boroughs, which I find some of the great Barons were permitted to do, obtaining for them the privilege of Representation. Thus was it that the larger masses of property preserved an influence in the representative branch of the Legislature, essential, I conceive, to its preservation, and thus have they retained it. The necessity of this inequality of influence, where there is an inequality of property, is held, I think, by all the great authorities, both of ancient and modern times. Aristotle maintains the principle as that of distributive justice, and I need not say, that it was fully recognized by the ancient constitution of Rome. Grotius also contends that it is highly consistent with natural equity; and says, that the number of votes in any community should be so regulated;— that is,mensoriâ proportione. But, not to appeal to foreign or ancient jurists; as profound a Judge of the original Constitution of this country, as enthusiastic an assertor of its liberties, and as daring a reformer as ever lived in it—I mean Home Tooke—fully establishes this principle. "All men," says he, "have an equal right to representation, but all men have not a right to be equally represented." But, Sir, I shall lastly avail myself of an authority on this occasion still more decisive—I mean that of the noble member for Tavistock himself. He speaks of borough nomination as effectuating the object to which I have been alluding. "Theoretically, indeed," says he," it would be better if the Members sent by single persons were elected by a 1536 body of rich constituents;" but he proceeds to show that the present mode is practically preferable; and for reasons which I think are unanswerable. And, Sir, it cannot be denied but that any scheme which should invest with distinct privileges, or award a plurality of votes to any particular class of electors, would be a far more unconstitutional, and certainly a more galling distinction, than the ancient and less offensive practice which the noble Lord now terms nomination. It suffices, however, for me to have shown that, with every other profound writer on the subject, he clearly acknowledges the necessity of that which the present measure wholly repudiates. Take away the influence thus possessed by the great masses of property (I make no distinction as to that property being held by Commoners or Peers—it were ridiculous so to do), and, looked upon, as such accumulations always have been and still are, with envious eyes by many, which rest for their security on ancient gifts and transfers; upon "inky blots and rotten parchment bonds;" take away that influence and you will tear the seals off their title deeds, as you propose to do by those of the corporation charters. The consequences are then certain, and they are at hand. Prepare, in some form or other, for those Agrarian struggles which long disturbed and at length destroyed Rome: for similar spoliations to those which have recently been witnessed in a neighbouring country, where property, bereft of its political influence, lost its rights, and only served to mark out its possessors to certain destruction. But the maligners of our existing Constitution, who thus err in supposing that the influence of the aristocracy in Parliament is a corruption of the ancient system of Representation, are equally in error in imputing the same charge to those parliamentary cities and boroughs which are under no such influence, but whose constituency is restricted to a select body of the people. Now no one fact is more clear and certain to the political antiquary than that which Hume asserts, namely, that the election of the Members for such places was made, not by "the residents, as such, of whatever rank, but by the Aldermen and Common Council." Proofs of this fact might be readily adduced which it would be impossible to withstand; it will be, however, unnecessary to advance one of them. This part of the subject has been already 1537 under the grasp of one of the most vigorous intellects of the age, and who, if he can be suspected of any bias whew in the search of truth, it would certainly be on the side of what is called liberality.—In a number of the Edinburgh Review, of no old date, usually, and I believe correctly attributed to the pen of the noble Lord now at the head of the law, the real question regarding the original law of election in these parliamentary corporations, is thus decided: — "There is reason to believe that originally the right of election in boroughs was vested in the governing portion of the burgesses, and that in the progress of the House of Commons to power and importance, the tendency has been in general to render the elections more popular." It follows, then, if there be truth in history, as understood by the ablest among us, that the terms corrupt and rotten, now applied to many parliamentary boroughs, are used either in utter ignorance, or thorough disregard, of the truth. According to the doctrines of those who hold such language, all such boroughs were decayed from their very origin, and intentionally rotten. The motive of this strange misrepresentation of historical facts is but too obvious. Machiavelli earnestly recommends those who seek to subvert the institutions of their country, to disguise their design as much as possible by these references to ancient privileges; and "if," says he, "they would change the power, the number, or duration, of Magistrates (Parliaments he would have written in this country), it would be convenient to continue the name." The projectors and supporters of this "sweeping measure," as they justly call it, follow his political morality. Respecting the borough Representation, under the hollow pretence of lopping-off decay, they propose utter destruction; and, as to what is to remain, they talk indeed of restoration—but, by altering and equalizing the entire constituency, they mean revolution. I shall not now touch upon the entire system thus sought to be changed, the very discrepancies in which, according to such authorities as Paley, and Burke, and Fox, including the noble member for Tavistock himself, have had the effect of giving to this House, the country, and the world, many of the brightest names which have adorned the page of history; the destruction of which system would henceforth close these doors against that intellectual superiority which, without accidental ad- 1538 vantages, is long in making itself widely known; and which, were it to put forth its pretensions, would be rejected in favour of those declaiming demagogues, or lofty patricians, whose admission it alone secures; while it would expel from these seats any one, however elevated by talent or distinguished by virtue, who should not bow down his conscience and surrender his judgment to the popular opinion of the day,—a plan, in short, which would deprive henceforth the country of its ablest advocates, and posterity of its best guides. But I shall not touch upon these topics, important as they are; they have been the subject of exultation with our most enlightened patriots ever since freedom has been established among us; nor have they been forgotten by those who have preceded me in this debate. I will, however, venture to advert shortly to the practical effects of that part of our Constitution now sought to be destroyed, and they have been of such a nature as to demand our notice, and excite, I think, our warmest gratitude. Leaving, then, the proofs of the superiority of the new scheme in its future operation, to our political quacks and soothsayers, let us examine by the lights of experience what the effect has been of retaining the close and rotten parts of our system, as they are called, now threatened with destruction. Take, then, two or three of the most striking events which have recently occurred in our constitutional history, either as indicative of the national will, or productive of the most important results. And first, after some examination, I will venture to assert that the Revolution would never have been achieved, at least as it now remains, had it not been for the direct effect of this part of the representative system, of which more anon. Twice the guarantee of that great event was resisted, and the succession of the House of Brunswick opposed; on each of which occasions that security of the liberty of the country was obtained by a majority of one vote only. The division on the first occasion I have not met with; that on the second is in my possession, and by accurately examining it, I find that of the county Members more than two for one voted against the House of Brunswick; the Representatives of the open towns and boroughs were more nearly equal. But it was the close boroughs, and those which this Bill regards as decayed and rotten, and which were at 1539 least as much decayed and rotten then as at the present day—I say it was these that decided that momentous national event. Sixty-five of these against forty-nine, stood between a misguided populace and tyranny, and gave to this country the illustrious House which still happily rules over us, and sways the destinies of half the world. But it is not even patriotism, however disinterested, that is alone sufficient to promote the interests and secure the institutions of a great people. Talents also are required. And how stands this matter in reference to these condemned boroughs? With regard to the influence under consideration, while it can hardly be conceived that it would be otherwise exercised, intentionally at least, than in the selection of those who appeared best calculated to promote the public good; so it is quite obvious that after certain other considerations should have been regarded, it would be also exerted in returning those whose talents would best enable them to realize that design. So reason dictates; but what says experience? Who were selected to draw up the Bill of Rights? The choice of this House fell by a great majority on those Members who would not have had an existence in it, had the new and improved system been adopted; namely, upon the Members of the close boroughs which you propose to us to open, and of the rotten and decayed ones as you call them, which you wish us to sacrifice. Again, who were the managers appointed to conduct the free conference with the Lords, which demanded, either in reference to the importance of the subject, or the known state of the public mind, the greatest talents and learning, as well as the most unsullied patriotism? Of the twenty-three selected by the House of Commons, two were Members for counties, three for open boroughs, and eighteen for those places you propose to disfranchise. Look at the list, and see the names which this wretched scheme would have excluded; and with them the Constitution which they perfected. It is idle to say that they would have been returned under the new system; the facts I refer to, demonstrate the contrary. Once more: on an occasion, concerning which I differ, I am aware, with many, in deeming it to have been, at the time, of the deepest import; namely, at the trial of that personification of bigotry and tyranny, Sacheverell, when, had the Houses acted and 1540 judged differently, the freedom so recently achieved would, I am convinced, have been long suspended, if not finally destroyed—whom did the House again choose at that period of public infatuation as the champion of the civil and religious liberty of this country, then its only asylum? A Committee of Management, consisting of fifteen of its most able and distinguished Members. Of these, two sat for counties, two for open boroughs, and eleven for those which we are asked to deprive of their right of sending such men to this Assembly, including, however, three which it is proposed to open—open so as to stuff with a new constituency. I might continue these historical illustrations of the practical necessity of that part of the system now gravely proposed to be destroyed. In particular, I might show, in a similar manner, that not only has it produced the most distinguished patriots, the greatest orators, but the most efficient servants of the Crown and of the public in the most important offices of State, during a long period of time past; and that it is hardly possible to see how any Ministry could be formed or preserved, or the business of the country efficiently conducted, without retaining it, at least, consistently with the established principles of the Constitution. Nor is it the least important objection to this new Constitution, that it would of necessity leave the immense colonial possessions of this extensive empire, with the scores of millions of our fellow-subjects which they contain, wholly unrepresented. Direct Representation is out of the question, and this sweeping measure would destroy that virtual one which has till now existed, except after having poured the utmost contempt upon the very idea of virtual Representation, we are all at once, and in this particular case, to sanction and apply the principle in a wider sense than the firmest friends of the existing Constitution have ever dreamt of doing. To these topics, however, I shall not further advert; it has been sufficient for me to show that those parts of the Representative system which you propose to mutilate or destroy, are precisely those to which the nation is the most indebted. In a word, had schedule A and schedule B of this Bill been dealt with at the period of the Revolution as now proposed, the Bill of Rights would not have been in the schedule of our chartered privileges, nor the illustrious House of Brunswick in the 1541 schedule of British Monarchs. Hitherto I have been attempting to defend and show the necessity of what may perhaps be deemed the uncomely parts of our system —for such there are in this as well as in all other human performances, at least, as far as we are acquainted with them. Nor need I enter upon the other and more inviting parts of the subject: the excellencies of our happy Constitution have been pourtrayed in terms which will live as long as the language itself, and will, I trust, be echoed down to the remotest posterity with increasing exultation and gratitude. One thing, however, I may notice in its favour to those who are perhaps more bent upon improvement than preservation, namely, that the British Constitution, beyond every other, possesses an inherent power of rectifying its own abuses, and consequently of perpetuating its existence, and improving its character. And this power has been in constant exercise for a scries of ages; hence, contrary to the assertions of those who are constantly making disparaging and irritating appeals to some past period of our history, as that of superior purity and freedom, directly the reverse of what they assert or assume is the undoubted fact. The Constitution of this country, and especially the representative branch of it, instead of having gradually decayed and become rotten, has acquired greater purity and strength; and more faithfully represents at this moment the real voice of the people, than it ever did at any preceding period of its history. That system has, by the operation of time, and the force of circumstances—by the diffusion of knowledge and the increase of wealth—by the multiplication of freeholders in counties in consequence of the minuter divisions of property; and of voters in large; represented towns by the growth of population; together with the transfer of the franchises of really corrupt and convicted boroughs to larger masses of the people—by these, I say, and similar means still in constant operation, this House has kept continually reforming without being revolutionised. A contrary opinion regarding the advance of popular privileges in this House is sometimes held, but I might appeal to the deliberate opinion of no mean authority, and one who has been already referred to during the agitation of this important question, Swift,—who asserts the growing power and popularity of this House, and warns the friends of liberty and the Con- 1542 stitution against its further encroachments, as threatening the destruction of the entire system. But I shall not fatigue the House by reading the passages from him, which I hold in my hand, decisive as they are on this most important point. Thus, Sir, among the other excellencies of our Constitution, is that principle of improvement, and consequently of perpetuity, which it obviously embodies, and which has been in constant operation. Hence, Sir, at the present moment, that Constitution is more popular and efficient than it ever was, at any previous period of its history.—What a moment, then, has been chosen for this work of. demolition! Is it now that this Constitution, the admiration of surrounding nations, the model of all the free institutions in the world, the just pride of all true Britons, is to be destroyed? Not at a time when it has yielded to decay, and sunk into corruption, but at the period of its greatest purity and vigour! Is it to fall, not when it has become weak and rotten, but when, like its native oak, it has braved unshaken the tempest which has swept and desolated all around, and stands the monarch of surrounding nature? That there are striking anomalies in our Constitution has not been denied; but they are of such a nature as to have been as clearly apparent at the period of the Revolution as they can be at present; and when, therefore, incomparably the most favourable moment occurred for remedying them, had that been deemed a safe or desirable course. But the difficulty of extensive changes has ever appeared the greatest to the strongest and most elevated minds. These projects were entertained (says an author to whom I have previously referred with the highest satisfaction, the noble member for Tavistock); but by whom? By the most violent. They wished to remodel the House of Commons, compared with whom he describes as "more reasonable those who desired to abolish the monarchy and constitute a republic." But the great authors of the Revolution, says the same authority, "unambitious of the fame of founding a new form of government, obtained for the nation the full benefit of those rights and liberties for which their ancestors and themselves had toiled and suffered." Even Locke, whose principles are sometimes thought to have run into extremes, especially on the subject of liberty, and when a voluntary exile, just previous to the Revolution, and when, therefore, his feelings 1543 were doubtless much excited against the Government of his country, nevertheless, thus expresses himself as to the difficulty, which he puts in a single case, and in the strongest possible point of view. "It often comes to pass, that in Governments where part of the legislative consists of Representatives chosen by the people, in track of time this Representation becomes very unequal and disproportionate to the reasons it was first established upon. To what gross absurdity the following of custom, when reason has left it, may lead, we may be satisfied, when we see the bare name of a town, of which there remains not so much as the ruins, when scarce so much housing as a sheep-cote is to be found, or inhabitants than a shepherd, sends as many Representatives to the grand assembly of law-makers, as a whole county numerous in people and powerful in riches. This strangers stand amazed at, and every one must confess needs a remedy, though most think it hard to find one; because the constitution of the legislative being the original and supreme act of the society, antecedent to all positive laws in it, and depending wholly on the people, no inferior power can alter it. And therefore the people, when the Legislature is once constituted, having, in such a Government as we have been speaking of, no power to act as long as the Government stands, this inconvenience is thought incapable of remedy." Such were the difficulties which presented themselves as to the remedying a single, and that the most glaring, inequality that could be selected, to this powerful mind, as little influenced, perhaps, by prejudice, or shackled by forms, as any that ever existed. Others, however, feel not the least hesitation in disposing at once of many scores of cases, against which no such objections lie, concerning which no decay can be proved, no corruption alleged; and the disfranchisement of which involves at once the greatest possible personal injury, and the utmost degree of public danger; thus it is thatFools rush in where angels fear to tread;or, if this language appear too strong, let me still express myself as to this rash and unprincipled demolition, in the language of the noble Lord so often quoted, but somewhat differently applied; "it is thus that, when the statues of the gods and heroes are thrown down, snakes and reptiles are obtruded into light." In neither 1544 instance do I apply these quotations personally, nor even to the party I oppose, in their literal signification, though the noble Lord has set me the example of so doing. In thus expressing myself, let it not be supposed that I am arguing against remedying any real abuses, or reforming any known corruptions, or supplying any obvious defects of the present system—quite the contrary. I am averse to no real amendments of which it may be thought susceptible, consistently with its original form and structure. But in attempting these matters, I would obey the injunctions of a great authority often quoted here, and especially by a noble successor of his now on the Woolsack, I mean Bacon. It is true he does say, as is constantly cited from him, that "Time is the great innovator;" but he adds likewise, what is always suppressed, "It were good that men in their innovations would follow the example of time itself, which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarcely to be perceived." This, I conceive, is consistent with the soundest principles of good sense, as well as of political philosophy. If, then, any part of our system is really found to be corrupt and decayed, restore it to its first state of purity and efficiency, but do it so as to harmonize with, and not disfigure, the whole structure. Act as you have recently done regarding the sacred fabric close at hand, which contains the venerated ashes of many of those patriots who perfected, and heroes who have bled for, the Constitution you are now called upon to destroy. You found that the touch of time was here and there upon it, effacing its ancient beauties; did you therefore demolish the whole structure, and "break down the carved work thereof, with axes and with hammers," in order that a knot of combined architects might exhibit their crude ideas of beauty and proportion on its majestic ruins? No, Sir, you disturbed, you destroyed nothing; while the pealing organ and the daily hymn were heard within, stone by stone you repaired the sacred edifice, and it stands majestic and beautiful, as it did in days of yore, a monument of the genius' of your ancestors, and shaming the trumpery attempts by which, in these days of the march of intellect, it is surrounded. But what is it that our political projectors propose? Why, to raze much, and remodel the whole of the Constitution; and they excite the people to the work of demoli- 1545 tion, as though it were another Bastile—a dungeon of slavery instead of the temple of freedom. But let us coolly examine the plan which our State architects ask leave to execute, in order to see whether, as might be hoped, that will be gained in justness and conveniency of proportion, which will be lost in grandeur and antiquity. Let us, then, wipe off, with rude and unrelenting hand, as dust and defilement, the hoar of antiquity which has gathered upon our venerated institutions for a succession of ages, in order coolly to compare its several parts with the Cabinet model which these united artificers have produced. A very little examination will suffice to convince us, that the new Constitution is founded upon no principles which will bear the light, and that its whole structure involves a series of the grossest errors and disproportions. Like the unhappy French constitution-mongers, the dupes and victims of their own delusive systems, the present projectors seem to have rejected the idea of virtual Representation, and to have established their new system on the tri-form basis of geography, population, and finance. But they have so jumbled these principles, that by no happy chance is any one single part of the whole reconcileable with the remainder. Now, in projecting a new representative Constitution, the first thing that a wise and patriotic statesman, who should find himself in the position of a lawgiver, would do would be, to determine concerning the nature of the constituency which he would select. And in casting his eyes on any community, he would find it presented in two grand divisions, namely, the town and country population. The former, from their close association, union of feelings and interests, and from their facility of acting at once and in a mass, exercise, in proportion to their numbers, a degree of political influence and power which the scattered inhabitants of the country can never possess. If, therefore, the legislator did not govern himself by numerical proportions merely, he would attempt, perhaps, to counterbalance, in some way or other, the political disadvantages under which the latter are necessarily placed. This, I apprehend, he could do, without reference to any moral differences which he might suppose to exist between them. If he attended much to the latter, and concurred, for instance, with the publicly expressed opinions of the noble Lord who has brought 1546 forward this measure, namely, that "the worst of all hands in which the Government can be placed are those of the population of great cities," then, perhaps, he would still further lean to the giving of a certain preponderancy to the rural Representation. But, Sir, in proceeding to consider the Constitution now presented to us, all observations of this nature, however important in themselves, are wholly unnecessary. The measure propounded regards none of them: it seems indeed to proceed upon an utter disregard of every principle of political justice and equity, by whomsoever expounded. In overturning our present system, it reverses the very basis on which it professes itself to be founded; exhibiting, I will venture to assert, a greater mass of absurdities, a more naked and disgusting violation of all arithmetic, as well as reason and justice, than any previous proposition submitted to this House since its foundation. Now, Sir, let us fairly examine this notable Constitution on the noble Lord's own principles, I do not mean those principles which he expounded when he was wandering in the mazes of fancy, but since, to continue his distich, he has recently "stooped to truth, and moralized his song;" and we shall speedily find that we must have a new code of truth and morality before we can reconcile ourselves to this new Constitution. The noble Lord, as far as I can understand his prospectus, professes to base his national Representation on property, with reference also to population. We shall submit his scheme to both tests, in regard to the two great and essentially distinct masses of society among us, the town and country inhabitants; attending first to that criterion to which he and others have appealed with such visible complacency—property. Having done away with all that influence which he has deemed corrupt, and established a more direct system of Representation, what is the nature of the proportions he seeks to establish? Adverting to the last parliamentary returns which give the particular items of the Property-tax of England, which were those of 1810, I find the rental of the houses, warehouses, factories, &c., in both town and country, given at 13,010,546l. Now it is quite obvious that no inconsiderable part of this sum belongs to the country, many, and among these the most valuable houses in the 1547 kingdom, being certainly in the country districts. But to let that pass. What was the rental of the lands and other profits appertaining to them at that period, exclusive of the tenants' tax? 32,589,303l. It is clear, then, that were the value of the houses and warehouses situate in the country parts deducted from the former sum, and added to the latter, that the property of the country districts would appear, as it certainly is, more than thrice in amount that of the towns. Then as to population. In the cities and towns given separately in the census of 1820, the inhabitants amounted to 2,920,095; those in the remaining or country districts, to 8,341,342, very nearly three times the number. I am aware that there are in large towns and places not separately given in the abstracts, a population to the amount perhaps, of an additional 500,000; but a rectification of a contrary nature will render any calculations on that ground wholly unnecessary: the unrepresented towns having precisely the same share in the county Representation as the rest of the freeholders, and being proportionably more numerous. Now, then, let us see how the noble Lord, in his new scheme, proposes to represent these two great classes of the community. Why, to less than one-third of the wealth—to about one-third of the numbers—he actually proposes to give within three of double the number of Representatives! In round numbers to 30,000,000l. of rental, and to 9,000,000 of people, he allots, including the addition of this evening, 149 Members of Parliament; while, to about 10,000,000l. of rental, and 3,000,000 of people—being a sort of constituency also of which he professes his dislike—he allots 295 Members; giving, as I calculate, individually, six times as much influence to him that happens to live in a town as to him that lives in the country. Nor, Sir, is this all. The distinction this Bill attempts to establish between the nature and amount of the qualification demanded from an elector in the country, coin-pared with one that lives in the town, is, if possible, still more objectionable. The former regulation might possibly be construed into negligence,—this amounts to positive insult. Not to allude to the grievous mistake into which the noble Lord has fallen in taking the rated value of the houses in towns as their actual rental, a mistake which will silence all his 1548 boastings as to the middle classes, in which he professes to have placed the franchise—let us inquire why, while the townsman renting a house of 10l. by the year, has his vote given to him, a countryman who rents ten times or a hundred times that amount for the same term, is to have none? Sir, if we are to debate about new Constitutions, regulations like these would be better laughed at than argued against, only they are of too insulting a nature to be made matter of mirth, and too unjust to be endured. Sir, the noble Lord who has expressed himself so strongly as to city constituency, and who drew, not long ago, a somewhat exulting comparison between the farmer of Norfolk and the elector of Devizes, will find it difficult, I think, to convince the former that he is very sincere in his preference when he gives the latter a vole and allows the former none, though he may have ten times over the amount of the qualification required from the townsman. I regret that the noble Lord has been prevailed upon to be the instrument of propounding a scheme so utterly irreconcileable with his better principles, which he had so well expressed; in so doing, I fear his distich may be reversed,—he seems to me to have "stooped from truth and demoralized his song." When it is considered how little the inventors of this new Constitution have been restrained by any of those considerations which have been more or less respected by all previous Reformers, with one exception alone; and hence that they have converted rights of property into mere trusts, and again have seized upon these trusts when it suited them, without any alleged breach what so ever on the part of their ancient pos- sessors—I say it is difficult to imagine how a system so utterly irreconcileable with sense or justice could have been projected, I have alluded to one exception among Reformers as little swayed by scruples of the kind adverted to, as these have been, and one who was the other evening eulogized in no very measured strains by his Majesty's Attorney-General,—I mean, Oliver Cromwell. Now I ask that learned eulogist of Cromwell, whether he will stand forth and defend the Constitution now proposed, by the one that great individual put forth? I tell him that he cannot. Cromwell really did in that act what these Constitution-mongers have professed to do; he conformed to the basis of property and 1549 population, which he evidently laid down for his guide. On a rather close examination of his plan, and comparing it with other documents, especially those which give, in a very few years after, the relative values of the respective counties, I have been surprised how nearly he conformed to that rule. These have, notwithstanding their boasts on the subject, actually reversed it. He gave 237 Members to the counties of England, and 143 to the towns. These give, as I have before observed, 149 Members to the counties, and 295 to the towns. The masculine mind of the Protector could not produce anything so false and incoherent as this attempt; nor, tyrant as he was, stoop to anything so partial and selfish as I shall speedily prove this to be. It may, however, be, and is argued, that the aristocracy will obtain that influence under the projected Constitution which they possess in the present one, by representing the towns and boroughs in their respective neighbourhoods, when thus opened; and that, consequently the agricultural interest will still have, though indirectly, its fair share of influence. Those who thus argue must know little of the constituency which they are creating. The qualification of a 10l. rental is demanded from a town voter; and I can tell you what the qualification will be that a town-voter will, in a great majority of instances, demand of his Representative; it will not be that which will exactly comport with the views and interests of the latter. But, Sir, if the neighboring gentlemen will not promise largely enough, or bid sufficiently high at the auction of popularity, those will speedily be found who will. And the idea of the fair balance of influence between the town and country interest, destroyed by this Bill, being thus restored, would turn out to be, like the rest of its provisions, a mere delusion. If we examine the two grand divisions of this scheme, that relating to the counties, and that relating to the towns, separately, and without the slightest reference to each other, we shall still find our astonishment, not to say indignation, increased. I shall add nothing to what was so admirably advanced by the hon. and learned member for Weymouth, as to the monstrous and unconstitutional power claimed for the Crown, and consequently for Ministers, in empowering certain Privy Councillors itinerant, to go forth as politi- 1550 cal engineers and draftsmen, to cut up and parcel out the ancient divisions of the empire, as settled since the time of Alfred. This departmental scheme also is, like most other of the provisions of this Bill, borrowed from the revolutionary movements of France; but, waiving this consideration, let us consider its effect. I know enough of several of these counties myself, to be certain, that in many cases this partitioning will, in point of fact, either constitute much of what is meant to be county Representation, to all intents and purposes town Representation—the town freeholds in populous districts preponderating so greatly—or otherwise it will render the Representation what is now called close, placing it under the complete control of some great proprietor of the distinct section. I am aware, that the latter observation may be turned against my general argument by the advocates of this Bill, who in the same breath satisfy the people that it will deliver them from the influence of the aristocracy, and the aristocracy that it will deliver the people into their power; who try to convince the country population that it will gain upon the town, and the town again that it will gain upon the country, by this new system of borough representation, and this distribution of these demi-semi-county Members. The fact is, new influences would be created throughout, inconsistent with each other, and ruinous in their conflicting effects to the interests of the entire community. But a closer inspection of the new arrangement will show us more clearly its gross injustice, not to say its disgusting partiality. It is proposed, I think, to afford, on the average, one county Member to about every 60,000 of the country population, excluding the inhabitants of those towns which are to be directly represented. I include in this calculation those small counties, such as Rutland, which it is not proposed to touch. But then this average is made up by the most glaring violations of every recognised rule, whether of property or numbers. It is difficult to guess on what principle the united Cabinet can have proceeded, in framing the measure and settling its details; perhaps some of them can explain. For instance, the Lord Privy Seal perhaps can tell us the reason why the county whose name he bears, the population of which being only about one-sixth as large as that of the bordering county 1551 of York, is to have five additional Members; the latter, on the balance, only two, I think, according to the new version of this evening. Not on any very just principle, I fear; for while four Members are to be allotted to the county constituency of Durham, two to each prospective division, still two only are to be given in the whole to the West Riding; that is, about one Representative to every 34,000 of the former constituency; one in 303,000 only to the latter! If the noble Lord has any reason not personal to himself, and which may therefore be given to the public, it seems necessary to advance it, as well as for a similar liberality in regard to the town Representation of his favoured district, to which I shall shortly advert by-and-by. What can be the reason for this course in Durham applies equally, as it appears, to Northumberland; and the noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government can doubtless clearly explain why that county also should be carved up, and two additional Members given to its rural population, while those of the North Riding of the province of York, should have two only among them, exceeding as they do the former in number by 30,000 souls, or, giving a Representative to Whitby (which it is marvellous could have been previously neglected by those who were so occupied) larger by about 15,000. As good a reason, doubtless, may be advanced by the First Lord of the Admiralty, why the same united Cabinet have unanimously determined that it was proper for Cumberland to have two additional county Members, and Lancashire no more; the county constituency in the latter being, when compared with that in the former, six times as large, if calculated even on mere numbers; twenty times more numerous if property, so much boasted of, be made the basis. A similar necessity must have been also seen, and doubtless one as capable of explanation, why Northamptonshire should be equally favoured. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose office demands that he should be clear and accurate at calculations, can make good this division and multiplication regarding that particular county, while the unity of several of the neighbouring counties has not been invaded. Some line has in these cases been doubtless drawn as fine as that which decides that Malton shall have two Members and Bedwin none. The broad fact, however, is the same as 1552 noticed in the preceding instances. The Representation of Northamptonshire has been amended, as the Bill expresses it, so that one Member is given to every 36,000 of its country population, while the next county, that of Buckingham (to instance no other at present), is left, or at least was till this evening, with one only for every 61,000. This was a fortunate affair, as the house of Buckingham might, at some future period, interfere — that of Spencer never. It is, however, it must be confessed, a happy chapter of accidents which thus plays into the hands of a particular party in the country, not only as to those whose franchises have to be annihilated, but those which have to be created by this famous Bill Accidents? Can that be supposed accident, which could thus propose to portion out even the county Representation in almost a twofold measure to those particular districts with which its framers are connected? Turn we then to the Attorney General's favourite hero once more; let us see what Cromwell did in this case. Already have I shown the proportion of Representatives he awarded to the town and county Representation; let us now examine how he regulated the latter. Did he jumble in either instance as the framers of this measure have done? His character stands absolved from such folly and inconsistency at all events. Take the two bases which they have professed to adopt, but which they have so miserably violated, and let us see how Cromwell respected them. Within four years from the date of his ordinance which regulates his Representative system, the values of the counties were estimated, in order to apportion their respective quotas to a monthly assessment of 120,000l., authorised by Government. In the year 1690 the number of hearths assessed, or otherwise, was also ascertained, which enables us to arrive at the ratio of population in the different counties at the preceding date, nearly enough for our present purpose. Now Cromwell's respect to the principles of distributive justice was as manifest in his Constitution, as the contempt of that, or indeed any regular principle, is obvious in that of our present legislators. As to the basis of property, his scheme, when accurately examined, runs thus: those counties which contributed less than l,000l. monthly, had on the average three Members in the whole; those which con- 1553 tributed from 1,000l. to 2,000l. monthly, seven; from 2,000l. to 3,000l., eleven; from 3,000l. to 4,000l., fourteen; from 4,000l. to 5,000l., sixteen; from 5,000l. and upwards (the last class), twenty-one. But, Sir, his plan, as a new Constitution, was popular as well as just. Thus he gave to those counties, in which it subsequently appeared there were 20,000 hearths and under, three Representatives in the whole; to those in which there were from 20,000 to 40,000, six; in those which contained 40,000 to 60,000, nine; 60,000 to 80,000, eleven; 80,000 to 100,000, fourteen; 100,000 to 120,000, seventeen; 120,000 to 140,000, twenty; from 140,000 and upwards, twenty-two Members each. So much for the Protector's Constitution. Now, Sir, I have in my hand a similar calculation regarding the present measure, but I shall not trouble the House by reading it; suffice it to say, that so great a mass of absurdities and contradictions has rarely been exhibited by any schemers on any subject as it presents. Thus, those counties the population of which is from 200,000 to 250,000, will have just as many Members as those where the population is double, and the values nearly in the same excess. Durham, for example, with about 200,000 inhabitants, is to have ten Members; Surrey, with 400,000, nine; the income, in 1810, in the former having amounted to less than 1,500,000l., in the latter to above double that sum. I shall forbear continuing to exhibit these anomalies, of which the new scheme is full: I cannot, however, but observe, that amidst all its irreconcilable confusion and contradictions, there is a dexterity apparent, which however is, as I take it, any thing rather than a redeeming point. Much more might be advanced against the scheme of county Representation now proposed to us, but I fear I should trespass too long upon the time of the House were I to pursue this part of the subject any farther. I shall, therefore, proceed to make some observations upon the plan of town Representation developed in this Bill, which is still more partial and incongruous than the other parts of the measure. "God made the country, and man made the town," says one of our best poets, after Bacon; but as the noble Lord, notwithstanding his written opinions to the contrary, has lavished his principal attentions on municipal or town Representation, let us fol- 1554 low his proposition into this part of its details. And if in the constituency of the county districts, and the towns, comparatively considered, the most opposite principles have been adopted, respecting the latter, none whatever seem to have been regarded. The claims founded on ancient right; on amount of population; on important avocations and pursuits; seem alternately to be respected and insulted: while the most arbitrary and yet ridiculous rules have been adopted, which have received the previous condemnation of the advocates of this measure, and which it is impossible to justify upon any known and recognised principles of justice or equity. The noble Lord who has previously written on the difficulty of disfranchisement, now proposes to disfranchise wholly, and at once, sixty parliamentary boroughs; and to deprive of half their ancient privileges forty or fifty others. Of the 159 seats thus obtained, not indeed by surrender, but by legislative force, he proposes to give eight additional to the metropolis, twenty-six to thirteen large towns and parishes, and eighteen to as many other places. At least this was his scheme, till somewhat altered this evening. I need not pursue the detail further than to say, that England was to be deprived of seventy-one Representatives, Wales is to have one or two, Scotland five, and Ireland three additional Members; the House being thinned by the total extinction of sixty-two seats, and that wholly at the expense of England. Some alteration has, it is true, been now proposed, but not so as to rectify the general principle. And first, Sir, one word as to this addition to the Members for the metropolis. Without again calling in aid of the argument the opinion of the noble Lord, as to the quality of the constituency of large cities, I shall mention one objection, which I think, admits of little dispute. The circumstance of the Parliament of this country being in later times, constantly holden in the metropolis, gives an advantage to its population infinitely exceeding that possessed by any other portion of the community, even supposing that it were totally unrepresented. In these days more especially, when public opinion is so much urged on the one hand, and yielded to on the other, the facility and effect with which this opinion is made to act on the Legislature, individually and collectively, give, I repeat, the 1555 population of the city which happens to be the seat of legislation an advantage which it is not easy to over-rate. If you add to this advantage a corresponding share of direct influence, you run the risk of rendering it overwhelming. When you draw around the seat of legislation a circumvallation, if I may so speak, of a constituency thus accumulated, directed as in all probability it must be, the consequence is easily predicted. London will become the Paris of England; than which a greater curse could never befall the peace, liberty, and property, of the country. But to attend to the other features of this notable scheme. I have already remarked, what I defy any one to disprove, that the original foundation of the right proposed to be destroyed in so many cases, was not placed upon mere numbers. To determine therefore regarding that right, upon any such principle, is unconstitutional as well as unjust; but if such were made the test of its validity, it would in almost every case be found as strong as at the first; —stronger indeed; the population of most of the boroughs now selected for extinction being more populous now, both positively and relatively, than they were at their creation. But to determine concerning the ancient rights of Corporations and boroughs by an arbitrary scale of population, and to attempt to disfranchise a freeman or his children, because he has not a given number of neighbours, is quite as unjust, and not a whit less absurd, than were you to determine any other of his legal claims by the same evidence. Besides, the rule proposed for our adoption is most objectionable in another point of view —in attempting to establish, for the first time, as a scale of Representation, mere numbers; a standard, which is in its very nature constantly and necessarily changeable. Nor will I leave out of the case the gross and palpable injustice, never previously contemplated by our greatest and most enlightened reformers (at least of the monarchical school), of depriving property of its ancient influence, which I have already attempted to show is held as beneficially, as regards the public interest, as it is in reference to those of the individual possessors. You may talk of this privilege being a trust, so is all property, so is the Crown, as the noble member for Tavistock writes; and still further to quote him — "We ought to have as good, and as strong, and as 1556 cogent reasons for disfranchising Old Sarum, as we had for expelling James 2nd." Every thing possessed, if traced to its abstract title, is in the nature of a trust, for which its possessors are, doubtless, accountable to God and man. But to spoliate this property, to destroy these trusts, for no other reason but because we think proper to produce a new system, and to plead our power to do so, is the most fatal impolicy, as well as the grossest injustice. This is to admit a principle of a most dangerous character, and one which can never rest with such an act. If you scrutinise the pedigree of property thus, and determine that the ancient rights of the owner of Callington, for instance, are spurious, I will answer for it that those of Tavistock will be as certainly investigated. And, as to the latter, it is not the sanctity of their well-remembered origin, or their having been once devoted to the cause of piety and charity, or the circumstance of their having been since secularised, I will not say by what means, or for what purpose, which will long protect them. How, then, are we to begin the work of reformation? asks the same author I have quoted so frequently. "It is," he answers, "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cut off some boroughs on account of their size, without drawing an arbitrary line. If a borough with 500 votes is to be disfranchised, what is to save the borough with 560? Any Reform of this kind leads to the general reconstruction of the whole building, the plan we wish to avoid." This very plan has, however, been voluntarily and exultingly adopted; the same honourable individual who scrupled about the rights of Old Sarum, now proposes to annihilate every borough in England, however ancient or incorrupt, the inhabitants of which are under 2,000. The number of these is or was sixty; forty or fifty others are to be half disfranchised, the population of which happens to be below 4,000. But when all this is done, will the system exhibit any degree of proportion or regularity? On the contrary. Previously to this night's emendation, there were towns of 2,000 inhabitants with one Member each; towns of 20,000, with none; towns of 4,000 with two; of 40,000, with one, or none, as it happened. Many similar differences will still remain. To talk of throwing antiquity into the scale, as a sort of political make-weight, when de- 1557 termining on those rights which you retain, when it has been held as nothing regarding those which you destroy, is only adding insult to injury. In a word your new scheme manifests all the confusion and irregularity which has ever been charged upon the ancient one, without any of its apologies or justifications, founded on utility and right. Have, then, our constitution-mongers been led into these irregularities, by giving a preference to those places which are the principal seats of some of the important manufactures of the country, which is one of the professed objects of their whole scheme? No, they could not have been guided by this principle either; though they might have occasionally stumbled upon it. For instance, they have allowed Malton, with its 4005 inhabitants (oh, happy five!) — a neat little town, I confess, but not particularly noted, excepting for the learned persons it sends here —two Members; but to a neighbouring town, now one of the first places for naval architecture in the kingdom, at least long unrivalled in that pursuit, and distinguished for its respectability and opulence, Whitby, which with its strand, contained in 1821, 14,916 inhabitants, they have given none. Peterborough, belonging to the same noble Peer as the former place (Malton), had, at the same same period, 4,598 inhabitants, and Peterborough, therefore, is to retain two Members in a reformed Parliament; but the Potteries, as the continued townships of the parish of Stoke, in Staffordshire, are appropriately called, containing (even exclusive of Burslem, which has about 10,000 inhabitants) above 30,000 people, and being the seat of one of the most extensive and profitable manufactures of the country, was to have no Representation. Calne keeps two Members still, for, either by a fortunate chance, or a happy management, it has, including its parish, and also Bow-wood, above the privileged number; but the parish of Old-ham, the principal seat of the hat manufacture of England, with 52,490 inhabitants, was to have none. Tavistock puts forth a bolder claim: it had in 1821 actually 5,483 inhabitants, for whose future political purity and independence a noble Marquis has stood sponsor in this House; I say Tavistock, which I never heard was famed for any particular pursuit of national industry, is to retain two; but Rochdale, the centre of the flannel manufacture of the country, with its 47,109 inhabit- 1558 ants, was to have none. Bedford, according to the new scale, will be still entitled to two; but Barnsley, with the parish to which it belongs, having about 14,000 souls, and being the place where the British linen manufacture has grown up, and where it now flourishes, is to have no direct voice. It is true, that some of these glaring violations of their own rules have been this night partially rectified by Ministers, but how came they originally into the Bill? With the Pandect of the Population Abstracts before them, and with many weeks of consideration in which to concoct and perfect their scheme, how was it that such gross errors could have been made? Sir, it is my opinion that they have been shamed into these rectifications. It would have appeared too monstrously unjust and disgustingly partial to have retained the Representations of Malton and Peterborough, Tavistock and Calne, with their handful of inhabitants, and to have left unrepresented, in a system which scouts the idea of virtual Representation, towns comprising so vast a mass of population. Some places, it is true, have been from the first far more fortunate. For instance, not only has Newcastle-upon-Tyne its two Members, but, including its suburb, Gateshead, it is to have three. Gateshead being fortunately situated on the Durham side of the water, and close to the Lord Privy Seal's abode, is therefore selected to have one also, though the Ministers half disfranchised Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, simply on account of their contiguity. But, Sir, half-a-score other places in the next county (York, which I cannot but think our constitution-makers have much slighted in their arrangements) are left unrepresented. The same patron of Durham, whoever he may be, has also stuck into the lists South Shields and a place called Westoe, which he also wishes should have a Member, in contempt of the claims of at least another half-score places in the next county, Lancashire —all of which have a greater, some twice and thrice as great, a population as those united places. But I will particularize no further. It would indeed be an endless task to exhibit the strange and irreconcileable elements this Bill attempts to incorporate; the glaring inconsistencies from which, as a paper constitution, one would have thought it might have been free. I shall no longer dwell upon the unfairness with which it has 1559 overlooked some great interests, and the injustice with which it has destroyed others. Among the last, I cannot refrain from noticing the prospective and total annihilation of the political privileges long exercised by many of the humbler classes of society —a regret which I put not on as a garnish to my present argument; on the contrary, it has been always a matter of exultation with me, that the Constitution of England, while securing the rights of the Crown and the interests of the higher orders, made room also in its Representative system for the humblest rank above that of paupers; for those who, to use the metaphor of the learned Lord Advocate, are beneath the firmament of a ten-pound rent, which he deems to be in a state of Stygian corruption and darkness. A better insight into the structure of society would, I think, have convinced him that in that despised and repudiated class, for such it now seems to be by many of our modern liberals, there is often as much patriotism, and always as. much purity, as in any above his "firmament," even though he mounted to it as high as the stars and garters of society. Deeply should I regret the hour which should deprive those honest and industrious artizans, who contribute to the comfort and support of every other class, and who furnish their full quota to the service of the State, of all political existence, and leave them as totally without a voice in the councils of the country as the slaves in our colonies. Sir, I regard these new and revolutionary schemes with more apprehension and dislike the more I consider them, and turn to the ancient Constitution of my country with increasing attachment. But, when I contemplate that Constitution, the object of my early reverence, and which all I have since read and observed in my passage through life has still more endeared to me, I confess I am hurried away with feelings not perhaps quite consistent with calm deliberation; but when I "awake my senses that I may the better judge," I find that reason itself heightens my enthusiasm; while all those unrivalled names that have arisen among us, formed to correct the past and influence the future opinions of their country and of mankind, have given immutability to those views on this most important subject, which I shall ever be proud to cherish, let who will be their impugners. Still more do I feel assured when I find the greatest authorities 1560 of other countries, wholly unbiassed, therefore, by national partialities, loud and unanimous in their admiration of our venerated form of government. Above all, when I consider, that experience, far above all other authority, and whose voice is truth itself, has long confirmed the superiority of our Constitution however compared; I say, when I consult my own understanding, or am recumbent upon that of infinitely more powerful minds, or open my eyes to simple facts, I feel resolved to cherish and defend to the utmost of my power, and to the last, our happy Constitution, and to resist every attempt of those who would destroy it to place in its stead a scheme and invention of their own, though it were, far unlike this, theoretically just and perfect. Sir, a comparison of the very names of those whose wisdom and patriotism formed and perfected our Constitution —of those who have eulogised and defended it — with those of the united Cabinet who now seek to revolutionize and destroy it, would, I think, shame the attempt, and expose to just derision the self-sufficiency and temerity of their designs. In patriotism are they superior? That is impossible. In genius, in wisdom, in knowledge, are they equal? The keenest sarcasm which could be launched at them would be so to compare, or rather contrast them, one by one. It would then be found of each of them that he was not— twentieth part the titheOf his precedent lord.The former, indeed, established their lasting fame by erecting upon its ancient foundation, and by careful and slow degrees perfecting, the fabric of the Constitution; these place their hopes upon mutilating and destroying it. I am not aware that they have any other claims upon the recollection of posterity but what rest upon the present attempt. If, however, they succeed in destroying this wonder of the world, they will be as certain of immortality as those who founded it. The memory of Erostratus is as secure as that of Ctesiphon. But, Sir, much as I venerate the founders and assertors of the British Constitution, I cannot dare to attribute to human wisdom or human power merely what I believe to be of still higher original. It may seem, indeed, that what man calls accident did much, that necessity prompted and experience adopted those several provisions, and formed those various adaptations which constitute the system, which 1561 wisdom and patriotism at length perfected. But if ever there was an occasion in which we are justified in appealing to a higher power as overruling those events which produced that system which has been the blessing of this country and of the civilized world, it was that of the establishment of the free institutions of England. May not we exclaim with far greater emphasis than could the Roman orator, "Non est humano consilio, ne mediocri quidem, judices, deorum immortalium curâ, res illa perfecta?" The very origin of Englishmen was favourable to the institution of freedom; and every event in our changeful history contributed ultimately to its slow, indeed, but hardy growth. The gradual, but constant increase of knowledge had been for centuries ameliorating the condition of the people, and remedying successively the grosser defects in our institutions, when the Press poured forth a torrent of divine and humanising truth, and the Reformation broke the chains of despotism, civil as well as religious, and genius and eloquence went forth unmanacled to their great task of elevating the intellect and purifying the feelings of the people. The almost unbounded property of the ecclesiastic establishments, though infamously seized and disgustingly appropriated, became beneficially divided. Commerce multiplied the wealth of the nation, and mingled society into a more undistinguishable mass, infusing through the whole a portion of its own spirit of enterprise and independence. Then was it, that the dreadful struggle between arbitrary monarchy and unbridled democracy commenced, and was pursued with varying success, but with unabated fury, till military despotism, as it ever does, became the arbiter, and settled itself upon the subjugation of both; thus inflicting upon the wearied and desolated nation, the bitter experience of tyranny in every different form, till its liberties were established, and I hope perpetuated, at the glorious Revolution—a Revolution so little like any other the world had previously seen, or has since witnessed; undesecrated by human blood; uninfluenced by lawless force; when the wisest and the greatest of our countrymen in the brightest age of England, utterly rejecting those theoretical changes, which were as obviously suggested to them as to our more rash and ignorant innovators, established and completed that form of government which had no arche- 1562 type in the history of the nations, and which had existed but indistinctly in the theories of former philosophers and politicians —which, embracing the wants and wishes of preceding times, provided for the freedom and happiness of future ones. And thus, while its founders have been the means of elevating this country to its unrivalled pinnacle of greatness, they have, by furnishing the model of the noblest system of government ever witnessed, laid all other countries and every succeeding generation under an eternal debt of gratitude and admiration. Something, perhaps, I might have added, regarding the character of the Representative branch of this Constitution which it is now the fashion with many to decry. But it is unnecessary, nor is this the proper place, to do so. Its eloquence will excite the admiration, as its acts will demand the gratitude, of posterity. It has been the nurse of freedom; the champion of the rights of nature; and, above all, the protector of the friendless and the poor. It is identified with whatever is great or patriotic in the annals of the country. In a word, it is a fit personification of the great and noblest community upon earth. But if it should be objected that these observations on the excellency of our present Constitution, which our reformers stigmatize as so corrupt and rotten, are mere declamation —a short and ready way of evading what is often unanswerable,— let us no longer advert to opinions and authorities, of what order, but turn our eyes to undeniable facts. "The tree is known by its fruits," is a maxim as true in politics as in religion. What, then, are the fruits this system has produced? And in this case the fruits must be of too general a character to be overlooked, and too plain to be mistaken. In adverting to them, I am not about to contend that the Constitution we enjoy is theoretically perfect, or that practically it has been always administered in the best possible manner; still I think experience decides that the proud boast of successive generations of our patriots —that England possesses the most free, happy, and efficient form of Government existing on the face of the earth, is just; and that it has been productive of the happiest effects, is fully substantiated. Can we forbear, on an occasion like this, casting our eyes on the present condition of the empire, and tracing that measure of prosperity which we 1563 have, under Divine Providence, long enjoyed, to its true source? A territory placed almost at the northern extremity of the civilized world; so confined in extent as to justify the language of one of its poets —— "a spotNot quickly found, if negligently sought;with no peculiar advantages of soil or climate; with no wealth but what its people have created; where, under the encouragement and guarantee of her free institutions, industry, directed by intellect, and supplied by capital, has made the mightiest and most triumphant efforts ever witnessed in the history of man; a country which, while accumulating its internal resources, has spread its dominion like a zone round the habitable world, and gathered under its sway a greater mass of human beings than ever bowed to the sceptre of any of its ancient and vaunted universal monarchies; a country where, for ages past, no hostile foot has dared to tread; no slave has breathed; where impartial justice has constantly presided; and which religion and humanity have made their own. The nurse of heroism and valour, the school of genius and science, and the seat of that moral empire which her literature has established throughout the world, she seems still destined to nobler tasks than those she has yet achieved, and to be visibly selected by Providence as the great instrument of benefitting and blessing the universal family of mankind. But I will not indulge in these topics of exultation and gratitude, however justly they may suggest themselves to my mind. Let me only ask whether all these great and glorious results, which fill our past history, which crowd the present era, and which extend to the remotest verge of the earth, comport with the idea of a weak, corrupt, and decayed Constitution —rotten at its very heart! The idea is preposterous. So long as political philosophy shall acknowledge that effects so great and stupendous as these are produced alone by adequate causes, so long will the vituperations against our present institutions be as inconsistent with possibility and truth, as they are insulting to the country. Nor is the excellency of our Constitution to be estimated alone by the blessings it has conferred upon us, but also by the calamities from which it has been equally the means of protecting us. It has preserved 1564 this country in security and internal peace, amidst the ruin of empires and the fall of thrones —in freedom, amidst surrounding tyranny. Can such a system justify the illustration applied to it, more than once, during this discussion, that of a rotten and sinking vessel? No! its soundness and strength have been too recently tried. When the foundations of the social system of Europe were broken up, and the lawless floods of democracy rose and overwhelmed the proudest elevations of society under one wide and stormy abyss; when all seemed darkness above and tempestuousness around, then was the British Constitution seen like a sacred ark, mounting triumphant in the storm, and preserving for a world restored to peace and order the elements of loyalty, liberty, and law. Again, Sir, the same portents seem returning; the cloud appears gathering and darkening in the distance, and the roar of the desolating floods is heard from afar! And this is the very moment that we are urged to quit the ark of our safety, and trust ourselves for preservation to the shapeless raft which an inexperienced crew have suddenly provided for us. Such, then, is the Constitution which we are exhorted to desert and deliver over to destruction, in order that another system may be erected on its ruins. But what an experiment! If it succeed, it would be difficult to suppose that the country could become greater, and grow more prosperous than it has under the Constitution bequeathed to us by our ancestors; if it fail, dreadful indeed must be the consequences. The history of the world presents but few and doubtful instances of free communities surrendering their institutions in hope of an undefined advantage to their liberty and happiness by some great and sudden change; but it is crowded with cases where such a course has led to their degradation, slavery, and ruin. At all times such attempts have been found dangerous; at the present moment, when almost every government of Europe seems shaken to its very base, and many have already tottered to their fall, the present attempt appears presumptuous in a tenfold degree. It might have been hoped that the events of the last fifty years would have instructed us as to the value of our settled institutions, and united us all, hand and heart, in their preservation. The scenes of confusion, confiscation, and blood, had, we hoped, 1565 closed. Is the same fearful drama to be again enacted —the character and catastrophe the same — the scene only changed, and changed, alas! to our own country? May God forbid! I regard, it may be perceived, the condition proposed to us by the present Bill, as only one of transition; it is impossible to view it otherwise. A proposition which is, on the part of its promulgators, one of compromise, and, on that of its most zealous supporters, accepted only as a first and large step to their ultimate designs, can only be the precursor of further and indefinite changes —Through what variety of untried being, [pass,Through what new scenes and changes it mustI shall not attempt to prognosticate; but as to its final result, should it be adopted, few rational men can entertain much doubt. The catalogue of compliances which must be made, and of changes which must ensue, should this measure pass, are, I should think, sufficiently apparer in the minds of those who hear me. The steps by which we must descend to the catastrophe may not be precisely seen, but the termination is certain, nor can it be remote. Had we no examples, too recent to be forgotten, and too similar in their nature to these meditated changes, to be overlooked, it would be most easy, from their very nature, to divine their issue. The representative part of our system — already, if we must confess the fact, so powerful as to leave the other branches of the Legislature barely independent, were the influence which the aristocracy exercises in this House, and the connexion of this House with the aristocracy dissolved — would, literally speaking, become omnipotent. If there be any the least utility in the other branches of the Legislature, the royal and aristocratic power of the State, the present constitution of this House can alone preserve it. I will not attempt to prove by laboured arguments what must be abundantly clear without any; but if any doubt remain on the mind of any one who hears me, I will resolve that doubt by an authority, second in point of information to none now among us, and the more to be attended to, inasmuch as ho composes one of the members of his Majesty's present Government. The author of that admired work, the Vindiciœ Gallicœ, when advocating Parliamentary Reform upon the direct, in contradistinction to the virtual, principle of Representation, thus delivers himself 1566 upon this momentous point: — "The powers of the King and Lords (says Sir J. Mackintosh) have never been formidable in England, but from discords between the House of Commons and its pretended constituents. Were the House really to become the vehicle of the popular voice, the privileges of the other bodies, in opposition to the sense of the people and their representatives, would become as dust in the balance." If, then, in this new system, not only the Lords Temporal, with all their power and privileges, and the hierarchy of the Church, representing as they do their own order, but the Sovereign himself, would become as dust in the balance when weighed against this reformed House of Commons, can we suppose that such unwieldy and expensive parts of the system would be retained, their functions having become totally superseded, and their very existence useless? That the monarchy itself, expensive as it must necessarily be, would in these days of rigid frugality and retrenchment be retained, its power being as dust in the balance, and its office therefore useless, it were folly and infatuation to suppose. No, Sir, with a House of Commons thus "reformed," on the authority of the hon. member of his Majesty's Government I have just quoted, the fate of the peerage and of the monarch would be sealed. The next sweeping Reform, and it could not be far distant, would wipe away this expensive dust, and give to the Government of the country, not the essence merely, that it would have the moment this Bill should pass —but the very name of democracy. Let, then, his Majesty's present advisers, supposing (which God forbid) this measure should pass, approach their Sovereign with this Bill, and practising on his generous and unsuspecting nature, obtain his assent — at the moment his royal hand shall inscribe the fatal act, it will require no peculiar strength of mental vision to perceive the image of another hand, shadowy indeed, but darkening into reality, and inscribing in portentous characters upon the tablets of the history of this ancient monarchy, Mene — "Thy kingdom is departed from thee!" Sir, I must have exhausted the patience of the House, and cannot but be grateful for its continued attention, on which I will no longer trespass, though some parts of the subject, to which I fully meant to have addressed myself, and those not the least important, I shall leave un- 1567 touched. Should it be imputed to me, in order to weaken the arguments I have used, that I have engaged in the defence of certain parts of our representative system, merely because I am more or less connected with them, I will deny that imputation. I entertained the views which I have now advanced before I entered Parliament, and had acted the part of an humble indeed, but public defender of the character of this House, long before I anticipated sharing in the honour it confers. My opinions are those of sincere conviction; and if, in these days of change and tergiversation, I may assert so much, they have been consistent throughout. They are such as I think are conducive to the general good, and the liberty and happiness of my fellow-subjects. But this revolutionary scheme, I cannot but believe, is fraught with present danger, and future destruction to the country. The unanimity with which it is said to be received, when the various objects of its promoters are considered, is of itself portentous, and is like the boding calm which is the precursor of elemental warfare. The consequences of adopting this measure will be soon apparent. When you shall have seized upon the rights and franchises you purpose to destroy, other interests than those which you thus unsparingly attack will next await their fate. The ecclesiastical establishment will probably be the first of the ensuing victims. Other spoliations will follow, and of quite as justifiable a character. When vested rights shall no longer be favourably regarded, will vested wrongs be respected? No. I would ask the noble Lord whether the immense spoliations of the funds of piety and charity, which have been perpetrated at a much later period than that of the origin of the rights which he thus unceremoniously treats, and all of which are as accurately known at this moment as they were when the act was perpetrated, will these be much longer respected? It is not the franchises alone which will be seized, it is the property with which they are connected, which some hardly more daring, certainly not more unjust, reformers will treat also as a trust, unjustly acquired and injuriously retained. For myself, though in an humble rank, 1 have ever been and shall always remain, to the utmost of my power, a defender of the rights of property, as well as I trust those of poverty; both of which I think are threatened by this mea- 1568 sure. But acts like these endanger the whole social system. The noble Lord has urged us in a threatening tone to proceed with this Bill; I conjure him as earnestly himself to desist. He appeals to the momentary excitement which has been suddenly and intentionally raised, and which is as rapidly subsiding. The people of England like not sweeping changes nor dangerous experiments; their sober judgment is in favour of their ancient and happy institutions, which they may indeed wish to have improved and perpetuated, but which they will never consent to see mutilated and destroyed. The projectors of this sweeping and revolutionary change assure us they will stand or fall by their Constitution. Let them! For myself, I will stand or fall by the Constitution of England. I second the Motion of the gallant General.
§ On the Amendment being put by the Speaker —
§ Lord Althorp
said, he could assure the House that in rising to address them he had no intention of following the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down through the very discursive speech with which he had favoured the House. He was quite sure that the object of the Amendment which had been proposed was to destroy the Bill; and, considering that such was the object of it, he need not say, that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, was irrelevant to the matter immediately before them. The proposition now made was not merely that the numbers of the House should be kept as they were, but that the Members of the House should either be increased, or that Ireland and Scotland should be deprived of a part of their Representatives. The hon. Gentleman who had proposed this Amendment, had very wrongly and unjustly accused the Government of having made such changes in the Bill as rendered the Bill an entirely new one. With that accusation he would presently deal; but he must observe at once, that the changes would be extraordinary changes indeed, if, when they proposed to decrease the numbers of the House, they were to accede to a motion for increasing them. It was impossible to misunderstand the nature of this Amendment. It was the first of that series of motions by which it was intended to interfere with the progress of the Committee; and which, if agreed to, would be fatal to the Bill, or, at least, so detrimental 1569 to it, as to render it impossible that it should be proceeded with. Yet the hon. mover of this Amendment had told the House, that he could not believe the Ministers would seriously oppose his proposition. Now he begged to assure that hon. Member, that he never was more serious in his life than he was now in his opposition to this Amendment. They had heard a good deal about the injustice of spoliating England for the sake of Scotland and Ireland; but the hon. Member who had introduced that topic might as well have talked about the injustice of spoliating Cornwall for the sake of the United Kingdom. Next, the hon. Member had made an appeal to the feelings of the English Representatives, and had endeavoured to persuade them that their interests, and the interests of their constituents, would be endangered by the proposed arrangement. But what was the fact? Why, the Members for Great Britain would be as five to one to the Members for Ireland, and yet this was the proportion which the hon. Gentleman pretended would endanger Great Britain. They had all along stated the mode in which they had proceeded. Finding it desirable to disfranchise a certain number of the smaller boroughs, the next point they had looked to was, to find out places on which they should confer the franchises thus acquired. It was in the first instance proposed that these franchises should be given to a certain number of large towns, and by the amendments which they intended to bring forward in the Committee, this number of large towns would be increased; so that he believed it would be seen that no place of proper magnitude would require farther Representation. With regard to the proposed additions to the Representation of Ireland and Scotland, they had added Representatives to flourishing places in both. This was the principle which had guided them, — this was the only principle on which they had acted —and they had applied it in the same way to both countries. But the hon. Member had accused them of having made such alterations in the Bill, that the Bill was, in fact, an entirely new one. This was a strange accusation, when it was considered that the hon. Gentleman had admitted the principle to be the same: and to put this forward as an objection was still more extraordinary when the hon. Gentleman at the same time admitted that the Bill had been much improved by 1570 the changes. Yet, in the very same speech, the hon. Gentleman had told them that very little of the original Bill remained. Now he should have thought the arrangements, with regard to the boroughs in schedule A, and schedule B, were amongst the most important parts of the Bill. Certainly the Gentlemen opposite had appeared to think so. And what alterations had been made in those schedules? Why, fifty-five boroughs out of the sixty in the first, and forty-one out of the forty-seven in the second, still remained in them. Now he contended, that the alterations which it was proposed to make in the Bill were only such as were constantly made in measures of importance: the principle, and all the great features of the measure, remained untouched, and the cheers with which the statement of his noble friend had been hailed, proved to him that the alterations were considered in that light by the friends of the Bill. The manner, too, in which that statement had been received by the Gentlemen opposite, proved that they also did not consider, that the principle of the Bill had been departed from. Let them depend upon it, that the time had now arrived, at which no system of Representation could stand which was not defensible by reason. Let them depend upon it, that they could no longer go on with a system of Representation which was defensible only by prescription; and that if they were desirous of preserving the institutions of the country, and of securing the attachment of the people, they must make such changes in the system of Representation as would prove to the people that they were really, and not merely virtually, represented. But the hon. Gentleman had said, that he (Lord Althorp) had admitted that this measure was a compromise. His opinions, God knew, were sufficiently notorious upon one point of Reform —that point to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded; but he begged to remind the hon. Gentleman, that he had never made that a sine qua non; and although he had supported a mode of voting which had appeared to him the preferable mode, still he had never pretended that no Reform would be effectual which did not include the Vote by Ballot. He thought that the plan now proposed would be satisfactory to the people. Indeed, that was no longer a matter of opinion; for the voice of the people had already been raised in favour of the plan, and it 1571 had been hailed, too, as satisfactory by much warmer advocates of the Ballot than he had ever been. The hon. Gentleman had talked of the indirect influence of property being exercised by means of these boroughs; but it was not the indirect influence, but the direct power of property, which was exercised by means of these boroughs, and that was his objection to them. He admitted, that the indirect influence of property was a good thing, but he contended that the direct power of property, as exercised in returning Members to Parliament, was the worst possible thing for this country. The one made a man cultivate popularity and respect by his virtues and his good conduct, and this was most beneficial; whereas the other — the direct power of property —was actual compulsion, independent of, and distinct from, all considerations of good conduct. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and whose elaborate speech did great credit to his industry, had referred back to parts of the history of this country, in order to show that if the people's voice had always been predominant, we should never have acquired many of the greatest blessings which we now enjoyed. He was not there to say, that the aristocracy had not been the supporters of the liberties of the country; they had been so on many occasions, and he hoped they would always be so. Did it follow, however, from that fact, that when commerce and wealth had spread throughout the country, and when education and intelligence had become so generally diffused —did it follow, he said, that such a new state of things was not to be considered, or that measures which in former times, and under different circumstances, might not have been suited to the country, were now to be withheld, when the people were prepared and anxious for the reception of them? Mr. Locke had been quoted, and he must confess, that he was surprised that Mr. Locke should have been quoted upon this question, because Mr. Locke had declared, that the existence of boroughs was a great evil; he doubted, indeed, whether it could be cured. But Ministers hoped that the present measure would cure it, and therefore they called upon the House to adopt the remedy. A great part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and a great part of the speeches of other hon. Members, had turned upon former speeches of those who supported the Bill; the argumentum 1572 ad hominem was almost always resorted to. This course might be satisfactory to some, but he could not say, that because a man some years ago had expressed a certain opinion, it was to be contended that his present opinion was wrong. Then some hon. Gentlemen complained of the gross iniquity, as they called it, of the Bill, because, in the distribution of Members, more favour had been shown to towns; whereas, the number of Members for them was decreased, whilst the number of Representatives for counties was augmented. Then the danger of revolution was again brought forward. Now, he could not understand the grounds of this danger of a revolution. If the class of persons who were to return Members under the Bill were revolutionists, we should have a revolution without the Bill. If the larger class in the country were discontented with the existing institutions of the country, make what law you will, they would he discontented still. But this Bill would make them more contented. If they were discontented, it would afford them reason for contentment. So far from creating the danger of a revolution, the measure would have a directly contrary effect; it would tend to preserve us from revolution. The hon. Gentleman had attacked him (Lord Althorp) because there was to be an addition to the representatives of Northamptonshire. If the hon. Member knew as much of Northamptonshire as he did, the hon. Member would hardly conceive that any alteration should not diminish his influence there. But really, when Gentlemen brought forward suspicions of this kind they did not give to Ministers the ordinary credit for a sense of honour in their conduct of a measure which would have such most important consequences. "Thinking as we do," said the noble Lord, "that this measure is one of such great importance, and so highly beneficial to the country, that we might rest our hopes of present fame and of reputation with posterity upon it, is it to be supposed, that any private motives of personal interest would make us swerve from the just line of impartiality? The hon. Member, I hope, said it in the heat of debate; I cannot conceive that he could intend to impute to us such motives; if he does, I can only say, I do not envy him his mind." He begged all those who were friendly to the measure not to be deceived as to the consequences of the proposition now sub- 1573 mitted to the House, nor to think it of small importance to the great object. If it were carried, it would effect such damage to the Bill, it would be such a blow to it, that it must be fatal to the success of the measure. He appealed, therefore, to all who were friendly to the Bill to join in opposing the proposition of the hon. Member.
§ Viscount Stormont
designated the Bill introduced by his Majesty's Ministers as a tissue of errors and absurdities. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill confessed, that he had discovered numerous errors in it; but yet he contended that it was not a new Bill —the alterations were merely addenda. The new Bill was printed, and it had increased from thirteen pages to twenty-five —nearly double —and yet they were told that it was the same Bill. Were they to believe it was now the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill? or was it hot, rather, a different Bill? The noble Lord (the member for Tavistock) contended that it was the same Bill, and that the principle was still the same. That assertion reminded him (Lord Stormont) of an anecdote to be found in that well-known compiler Mr. Joseph Miller. A person passing through a turnpike said to the man at the gate, "Have you seen a short, thick-set fellow, with broad shoulders and a red face, riding through this gate?"—"No," replied the turnpike man, "but I saw a long, thin man, with narrow shoulders and a paleface, riding through." "Oh," rejoined the querist "it is all the same; that must be my friend.'' The noble Lord had proceeded on a similar principle. He altered the measure in every respect, and then talked of its being the same measure. The noble Lord talked of direct and indirect Representation; but his observations on that point had been well met by the hon. member for Newark (Mr. Sadler), who observed, that men would endeavour to get into Parliament by courting popularity, and however high a man might bid for popularity, he would find ten others to out-bid him. It was seeking for popularity, and men's fearing to act on their own opinion, that had decided the fate of the Bill. If that influence had not operated, the House would never have been called upon to consider the Bill in Committee. Men who courted popularity might rest on it as long as they truckled for it; but it would not subsist longer. He believed that many of the 1574 ancestors of those he addressed would not have supported such a course. They would hare said, "This Bill is in its principle vicious, and we will not entertain it." There were many, however, who had said, that, though they should vote for the second reading of the Bill, they could not support its details; and the measure had now arrived at the stage when those persons were bound to act. He acknowledged that there were discrepancies of opinion as to what part of the Bill ought to be supported, and what part opposed. The hon. and gallant General had done him (Lord Stormont) the honour to consult him as to the expediency of bringing forward a motion, which was to the effect that it was desirable to retain the relative proportions in the Representation of England, Scotland, and Ireland; but it was thought, on mature consideration, that such a proposition might be deemed invidious. The hon. and gallant General, however, was strongly of opinion that, as so many Roman Catholics had entered the House, the number of English Members ought not to be diminished; and he was also one of those who thought that large constituencies should return Representatives. The present Motion was framed with these views; and he might add, that it was not brought forward to throw out the Bill. He admitted, that the Motion was not brought forward with friendly motives, but he denied that it was brought forward as a trial of strength. The Motion did not affect the principle of the Bill. He denied, that the number of Members now belonging to the House was found inconvenient on ordinary occasions, and many who were not unfavourable to the Bill generally would be glad to get rid of so much of it as reduced the total number of Members in that House. He called upon those who voted for the Bill, as well as those who voted against it, therefore, to support the proposition of the hon. and gallant General. Ireland was in a dreadful state: and if this measure was carried, what power would it not give the hon. member for Waterford (Mr. O'Connell) in pursuing his favourite measure —the dissolution of the Union. If this measure was carried, they would have in that House persons not possessing the same reverence or love for the Constitution, nor the same station and character in the country, as those he had now the honour to address. He was sure, if the Bill was 1575 carried, the hon. member for Waterford would return thirty Members from Ireland, all of whom would be at his beck, and ready to support every proposition made by him, however detrimental it might be to the general interest of the country. As the hon. and gallant General meant to take the sense of the House on his Motion, he hoped the House would support him, and he trusted, the noble Lord would distinctly inform the House what time he meant to go into Committee on the Bill, for the House should have some time to consider the new propositions now submitted to them.
§ General Duff
said, he should certainly support the proposition of the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool. He was by no means an enemy to Reform; but the Reform he was friendly to, was one that would be wholesome and salutary, and consistent with the feelings of the country.
Mr. Cutlar Ferguson
said, that this question was of vital importance to his country. It was to be determined that night whether any addition was to be made to the Representation of Scotland? If there was one Representative of Scotland in that House who thought the large towns of Scotland should be represented, that individual would fail in his duty if he did not vote against the gallant General's Motion. The Representation of Scotland and Ireland could be increased only either by transferring the elective franchise from some of those by whom it was at present enjoyed, or by increasing the number of the Members of that House —not by ten, but at least by sixty. If they adopted the latter, they must give to England a proportion of four times more than to Ireland and Scotland. Instead of 658 Members, the House must be made to consist of 720. Now, there was not a Member of that House who would consent to that. There were no means, therefore, by which the Representation of Scotland could be improved unless the gallant General's Motion were negatived. The gallant General seemed to object to the addition of any Irish Members, not so much on the score of religious considerations, as on the ground of the obstruction to public business which the frequent addresses of the Irish Members occasioned. Now it appeared to him that there was not one of the hon. Members for Ireland who addressed the House so frequently as the 1576 gallant General did. But if the Irish Members spoke much, the Scotch did not speak at all. If the gallant General thought, that the Presbyterians of Scotland would join the Catholics of Ireland, he was mistaken. On the contrary, he might consider the former as a set-off against the latter; and look to them as his allies against any attack of the Catholics, come when it might. It was said that the Church was in danger. Was it ever in danger from Scotch Members? When the Test and Corporation Act was repealed, the Scotch Members divided thirteen to seven against the repeal. It ought to be recollected, that, at the time of the Union with Scotland, when forty-five Members were allowed to that country, the revenue of Scotland was only 120,000l. It was now 4,000,000l. The present population of Scotland, as compared with the population of England, was as one to four; the revenue as one to eight. And yet the effect of adopting the gallant General's Motion would be, that not a single additional Member could be given to Scotland. On that ground he should oppose the gallant General's Motion, if on no other. The friends of Scotland must reject the Motion. No Scotch Member who voted for the Motion would dare to go back to his constituents and hope to find favour with them. If he thought that what he asked for Scotland, or the Irish Members for Ireland, were contrary to the principles of sound Representation, he would not advocate it; but what was asked would only do away with the rotten part of the Representation. They were told that Glasgow, having 148,000 inhabitants, was to have two Members, the number which Gatton at present had. In the Bill his Majesty's Ministers had dealt severely with Scotland. Forty-seven boroughs were still to have one Member each; yet the whole population of those forty-seven boroughs did not amount to within 10,000 of the population of Glasgow alone. He would not detain the House on the general question. There was one view which he took of it which he had not yet seen touched upon. For fifty years the popular complaint had been, of the influence of the Crown in that House. That influence was now dead and gone. The last finishing to it was given by the Duke of Wellington; not with the view of reducing the influence of the Crown, but with the view to retrenchment. By 1577 that retrenchment the influence of the Crown in that House had been annihilated. There existed, however, an influence much more base and degrading —the influence of the owners of boroughs; an influence base and degrading, and frequently turned against the Crown. He had seen Administrations formed —not on the ground of the confidence which the country or the Crown had in its members, but from the reply to the question, whether the Members of it could gain the assistance of this Duke, or that Marquis, who had Representatives in the House of Commons. Even the possession of the Treasury boroughs was now of no use; for, on a change of Ministry, their possessors immediately went into Opposition. Among the other objections which had been urged to the Bill, it was stated, that it would prevent lawyers from getting into the House. He should like to see the popular assembly into which lawyers would not get. There never had been any Parliament in which there were not many lawyers, except that of Henry 4th, to which the Sheriffs were instructed not to return any lawyers; a circumstance of which Lord Coke spoke with great indignation — calling that Parliament, Parliamentum indoctum. He believed, that the proposed Reform would effect the greatest possible change in the Representation. He believed, and he hoped and wished, that that change would be greatly beneficial. It had been said to those who talked of restoring the Constitution —show us what the Constitution was which you wish to restore. That Constitution declared, that Parliament should be composed of the Earls, Barons, Burgesses, and Freemen of the Realm. A commission, composed of the most learned men, in the reign of James 1st, declared that the ancient Constitution, established by the law of the land, was, that the elective franchise was vested in every man paying scot and lot. The present measure did not go so far as that declaration, but it was an approximation to it. He hoped that no attempt would go beyond it; for it was sufficiently sweeping. It was a vital measure as considered with reference to the Representation of the country to which he had the honour to belong; and as such he should cordially support it.
said, that if he thought it possible that the Motion of the gallant General could be in any way in- 1578 jurious to Scotland, he should, as one of the Representatives of that country, pause before he gave it his support. But, being of opinion that the House, as at present constituted, was not too numerous to attend to the various questions and important interests upon which it had to determine, he should certainly vote for the gallant General's Motion. With respect to the noble Lord's Bill, it appeared to him to alter, not only the constituency of that House, but the Constitution of the country. If population were to be the criterion of Representation, why make such a distinction between England and Scotland? Why adopt one principle on one side of the Tweed, and another principle on the other side? Why give twelve Scotch counties, with a population of 1,521,000, only one Member each, and give twelve English counties, with a population of 1,175,000, three Members each? It was in vain, after that fact, to talk of the principle of the Bill. In truth, there was no principle in it but the principle of Revolution [hear, hear!]. He was aware of the meaning of that ironical cheer; and that the word Revolution was considered an objectionable one. The member for Preston, and other Members, voted for the Bill, because it would lead to Annual Parliaments, Vote by Ballot, and Universal Suffrage. He therefore would resist the measure. He would not only do his duty as an individual, but his duty to his country as a Member of Parliament. He meant to vote for the recommendation of the hon. member for Liverpool, and he would do so because a change would be a violation of the Union. It would infringe the eighteenth Article of the Union. It would increase the Representation of one part of the empire without increasing that of the other. He would oppose all the changes, unless they were made on the basis of the present proportion of the Representatives of the different parts of the empire.
§ On the hon. Member taking his seat, there was a cry of "Adjourn," but after some time,
obtained possession of the House, and went on to say, that as he voted for the second reading of the Bill, he was anxious to explain the reason of the vote he meant to give. He felt it his duty to vote for the Motion of the gallant General, but in doing so he did not give that vote for the purpose of destroying the 1579 Bill. The time was arrived when some Reform was necessary, and the Bill, with certain amendments might effect that Reform; but if it were to pass into a law, it must be with many amendments. The instruction moved by the gallant General, related, in his opinion, to a point which was open to discussion; and if it was not, it was of no use for them to go into the Committee. As he understood the gallant General's proposition, it said nothing of the proportion of Members for the different parts of the empire. The gallant General said, indeed, and so he (Colonel Wood) thought, that the relative proportion of Members for the different parts of the empire was a point of great importance, and it had been solemnly settled at the Union of Scotland, and the Union of Ireland, and ought not to be disturbed. He wished to say nothing unpleasant to his Irish friends; but when it was said, that they were not sufficient to protect Irish interests, he was bound to say, that, at least, he heard as great a number of eloquent appeals from Members of that part of the empire as from any other. The Bill, as it was at first drawn, went to extinguish seventy of the Members for England; and now it would extinguish forty-one [some voice called out "forty."] As that was the case, when he found Irish and Scotch Members standing up for their countries, he thought it his duty, as an English Member, to stand up for the proper proportion of Representatives for England. He should, at a future opportunity, explain what amendments he thought necessary in the Bill,
§ On the hon. Member resuming his seat, there was a mingled call to "adjourn" and "go on." After the calls had continued some time,
§ Mr. Lytton Bulwer
moved the adjournment of the Debate, as there were yet several Members who desired to speak.
§ Lord Althorp
said, as it was evident that the Debate must be adjourned, he did not see any use in continuing it any longer.
§ Debate adjourned.