Lord John Russell
moved the order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the question for going into the Committee on this Bill.
§ Mr. H. L. Bulwer
said, that he would not enter into the discussion as to the number of Members of which the House ought to consist. That, however, could make no difference as to the general character of the measure; but he hoped, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would meet, in a spirit of conciliation and compliance, the wishes of those who desired to make modifications in the Bill, where those modifications did not trench on its general principles. He could not support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool, for that would be to admit that England, Scotland, and Ireland, were separate kingdoms, instead of being one united empire. He admitted, that the Parliament had as much right to take away from, or add to, the number of Members for Ireland, as it had to give a Member to York, or any other county. When he saw the increasing wealth and population of Ireland—he would not say a word of Scotland, for she was able to lake care of herself—but when he saw the increasing-wealth and population of Ireland, he thought the increase of the number of 1606 Representatives for that country very judicious, and in his opinion, any alteration of the Bill in that part would be very injurious. In offering his opinion, perhaps he could not commence better than by giving a few comments on what fell from the hon. member for Newark. If he understood the argument of that hon. Gentleman, which, by the bye, was not his own, he had thought it necessary to let the House know the opinions of those who had slept with the Capulets for centuries—but, if these arguments were good for any thing, they were against having any species of Reform at all. So entirely, however, did he (Mr. Bulwer) differ from this opinion, that he considered this question to have been decided ages ago by the progress of civilisation, and that the same reason which rendered the framing of a Constitution advisable at all, now made measures of Reform and repair requisite. For, was the progress of society like the progress of the tread-mill, did the wheel of knowledge go round without making any advance? Though he approved of the principle of Reform, he thought it would be better if it did not go the length proposed in the total disfranchisement of so many small boroughs. There were certain small evils in a state which it was much better to bear, because they were often made a barrier to prevent greater evils. He would preserve some of those small boroughs, as a check upon the influence of popular passion. He thought, therefore, that the noble Lord might have effected a great improvement in the Representation without going to the extent of taking away so many small boroughs. It should be remembered, however, that when the noble Lord introduced this Bill, he seemed to have considered it as a speculative object in his closet; but now, when it was brought forward as a practical measure, it was necessary to look at it with a view to its practical working and effect. In order to consider it fairly, it was necessary to look at the state of Europe for some time back, and it was to be recollected that in all countries, at the period of his present Majesty's accession, the greatest excitement prevailed. The state of England partook of this description (however true it might be that when the gentry called on the lower classes they joined in the protection of property),when they considered, too, that a conflict had taken place between the 1607 police and the people in this metropolis, and so violent that it had been admitted by the highest authorities that his Majesty might not be able to pass in safety through what ought to have been a loyal and affectionate people; when these things were taken into consideration; and when Ministers had to bring forward a measure, it was plain that that which would have been received at other times with pleasure, would not be enough, and that they must bring forward one that would satisfy and soothe an angry and a discontented people. Therefore, the lesser measure, however he might have wished it, could not be introduced, because it would not, though it might pass that House, tranquillise the country. An hon. Member had said, that even this measure would not pacify the people; but of this, except that Gentleman's assertion, no proof had been offered. On the contrary, had they not been told by its opponents, that a sufficient proof of the demagogic nature of this measure was to be found in its approval by the mobs of Manchester and the hon. member for Preston? But, with all due respect for that hon. Member, his speeches had only convinced him (Mr. Bulwer) that he was a much better sportsman than a politician, and had satisfied all those around him that his views could net be attained. He had, however, learned from the hon. member for Preston that he did not consider that the Bill went far enough, and he considered it as an argument in favour of the Bill, that it did not meet the views of that hon. Member and of those who joined with him in his notions of Reform. He took it for granted that those who were opposed to, as well as those who supported Reform, had the same object in view,—that of preventing revolution. They were all agreed as to the end, but differed only as to the means; one party thinking that the concession of power to the people, to the extent proposed by this Bill, would be itself a revolution; the other, that if such power were not conceded, a revolution must be the consequence. Now, let the House consider what were the opinions of that class of Reformers who did not think this Bill went far enough. The opinions of one part of the Press—of those small periodicals which were published in defiance of the Stamp Acts, and had escaped the notice of the Attorney General, were opposed to the Bill, because it did not go far enough, and because they hoped that, by the rejection 1608 of this, Parliament would at length be obliged to concede that more extended Reform which they desired. He would read an extract from one of these cheap publications, called the Poor Man's Guardian. It was to this effect. The writer said, "He hoped the day was not passed, and that Parliament would refuse part of what the people sought for, as then they would be sure to get the whole." When he found all those republican writings opposed to the Bill, he thought it ought to be a reason for supporting it, because it would have the effect of destroying the influence of those parties. But while he admitted the danger of going too far, he could not shut his eyes to the still greater danger of refusing every concession. What, he asked, had caused the late French Revolution? Was it the moderate and conceding plan of Casimir Perrier, or the obstinacy of Peyronnet and Polignac? Whatever the hon. member for Newark might urge, the consequence of resistance to the public feeling, in the cases of Louis 16th and Charles 10th, was far more fatal than concession could have been. The one was hypocritical and weak, and lost his life upon the scaffold—the other was bigotted and obstinate, and was banished from his dominions. Neither of them understood the power of public opinion, nor the advantage of frankly submitting to its laws. In fact, we lived in times when public opinion was every thing, and when even the prerogatives of the Crown, aided by the power of the sword, would not balance the scale against the feelings of the people. Liberal concession, then, in such a time, was sound policy. In giving his support to this Bill on these grounds, he did so at the sacrifice of some private feeling, because his own constituents would be affected by the measure. He was not there the nominee of any person in the sense of being an organ of his opinion. The noble Lord to whom he more immediately owed his seat would not require that his opinion should be merely the organ of that which he himself entertained on this important question, and would not in any manner restrict his vote. He thought it was his imperative duty to support the measure, and under that conscientious conviction, he should certainly vote against the gallant General's Amendment.
§ Mr. John Campbell
said, that if any thing could, more clearly than another, show the necessity of the Bill before the 1609 House, it would be what had just fallen from the hon. Member who last addressed it, who had openly avowed that he owed his seat in the House to the influence of a peer. In the purer times of the Constitution such an avowal would be sufficient to unseat a Member, but we had now got so much accustomed to these matters, that our feelings were not at all affected by them. A predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair had declared, that practices were now openly avowed with respect to seats in that House, which were sufficient to make our ancestors, could they be informed of them, turn in their graves; yet now an hon. Member talked of owing his seat to a peer just as he (Mr. Campbell) should talk of his constituents. The general subject had already been so fully discussed, that he could not hope to say any thing new on it. He would therefore confine himself to the amendment of the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool. The hon. and gallant member for Liverpool had a great objection to diminish the number of Members for England and Wales. He wished that number should be 513, neither more nor less. What was in the number 513 so sacred and mysterious? Lord Coke had certainly applied to the number twelve a certain sacred and mysterious influence, for he asked, were there not twelve golden candlesticks, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve Apostles, twelve months in the year, and twelve Judges in England? But why there should be any thing in 513 Members for England, 100 for Ireland, and forty-five for Scotland, because these had been the numbers fixed at the Union, he had yet to learn. At that period these were declared to be the reasonable proportions; but there was nothing to prove they could not be altered. If the gallant General proved that, he was right; but he had not done so, and only fixed himself on the number 513. He had looked into the Acts of Union with Scotland and Ireland, and there was nothing in them to prove to any lawyer or jurist that the numbers then fixed were invariable. If it were said, that the alteration of certain articles of the Union would be a breach of that Union, he would agree in that position, for the Union would be broken if the Presbyterian Church were no longer to be continued the Established Church of Scotland. But there was nothing declaring that the alteration of the number of forty- 1610 five Members would be a breach of the Union. On the contrary, it was clearly understood by the Commissioners for England and Scotland, that the number might be varied. It had been proposed by the English Commissioners that the number should be thirty-eight; and in Defoe's History of the Union there was the resolution:— "That the Lords Commissioners for Scotland, being desirous to conclude the matter, or meet the wishes of the English Commissioners, would not insist on more than what had been proposed by the Commissioners of England." They did not do so then, but looked forward to the justice of the British Parliament. That left the subject, therefore, completely open. It would have been absurd if any other meaning had been in the minds of the parties, for would it be argued that, whatever might be the changes that should take place in wealth or population, these numbers were to remain unalterable? For, suppose it were to happen that Scotland at some period possessed greater population and wealth than the Southern division, was the latter still to keep up the number of 513? Was there any necessity now? Was there any diversity of interests, or was there any greater difference between Scotland and England, than between one county and another? It might as well be contended that Cornwall should always have preserved her forty-four Members. At one time, perhaps, caution might be necessary, for there was a period when a motion for the Repeal of the Union with Scotland was lost in the House of Lords by only a majority of one. But now all the animosities that caused this were at an end. We might also hope to see the same sympathies prevail between England and Ireland, but the animosity between them now was not greater than that between England and Scotland for some time after the Union. Indeed it was much less, for, if the hon. member for Waterford brought forward his long-threatened motion for the Repeal of the Union, he might find a seconder, but he would not have another Member to vote with him. Wales, too, had formerly been an independent sovereignty, and yet was its proportion unchangeable? It had also been a hostile country, and had as little sympathy as possible with England. If this argument of the gallant General were tenable, we might go back to the Heptarchy, and learn the numbers of the Wittenagemote, to show that none of the divi- 1611 sions of the kingdom should send more Deputies than they did then. The very number of 513 Members for England and Wales, for which the gallant General contended, arose from the great abuse of the power of the Crown, in issuing writs for Members to serve for different towns before unrepresented. Under the Tudor sovereigns, 154 Members were added to the House, not allotted to the great towns, which then began to appear, such as Wakefield, Halifax, and Manchester, but to small places in the county of Cornwall. In Edward 1st's time no more than twelve Members were sent to Parliament from the county of Cornwall, but at present no less than forty-two were returned by different places in that county. If hon. Members were to examine the schedule A of the Reform Bill, they would find that the majority of the places mentioned in that schedule were first summoned to return Members to Parliament under the reigns of the Tudors, The borough of Aldborough was not larger at the time it had the privilege given to it of returning Members than at present. It was, therefore, only by an abuse of the King's power that such places were summoned to return Representatives. The writs issued to them could not be considered in any other light than as writs transferred by the power of the Crown. Hon. Gentlemen had all heard of a case which was argued before the House of Lords, in which it was contended that the possession of a barony gave a right to the possessor of a seat in the House of Lords. Lord Eldon, who was at the time Lord Chancellor, asked Lord Brougham, who was one of the counsel in the cause, whether an assignee, upon obtaining possession of the property, would have a right to sit in the House of Lords? Lord Brougham replied, that he would have such a right; and supported his assertion by saying that there were other and as great anomalies in the Constitution. Now it might be the constitution of the House of Lords, that some peerages were transferable, but it was not the constitution of the House of Commons that writs should be transferable. The House of Commons was intended by the Constitution to represent the people, and be returned by the people; and the true principle of the Constitution, was laid down in the writs issued by Edward 1st. Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbatur. All the people, according to that, ought to have a voice in the election of their Repre- 1612 sentatives. He admitted that in those summonses the principle of Universal Suffrage was laid down, and upon him and upon those who objected to Universal Suffrage was cast the onus of proving that Universal Suffrage would lead to inconvenience. He was prepared to show, that Universal Suffrage would lead to great inconvenience, monstrous ruin, and universal destruction. But still there was a medium between Universal Suffrage and giving the right to particular individuals to return Members to that House. He saw no reason why the numbers of that House should not be reduced, and he could not agree with some hon. Members in thinking the hon. and gallant General's motion of little importance. If, however, that motion should be agreed to, he hoped that the Reform Bill would still be allowed to pass, for he was confident that great benefit would be conferred on the country by that measure.
Mr. H. Fane
thought that system of Representation the best which ensured the best government and secured for the people equal laws, impartial justice, and equal rights. These advantages were obtained by our present representative system and responsible executive. In all human institutions, there must always be some defects; but instead of trying to remove faults where he found any, the noble Lord opposite had offered a visionary scheme of his own, in exchange for that system which had elevated the kingdom of England to such a pitch of grandeur and happiness. He believed, that if his Majesty's Ministers had proposed a moderate and temperate measure of Reform, the opposition to it would not have been great; but their plan was so immoderate, that he could not conceive how any person who was attached to the Constitution could give it his support. The noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) had stated, that three years ago not many petitions had been presented on the subject of Reform; but that since that time such a change had taken place in the minds of the people, that the Table of the House was now covered with Reform petitions. He asked what had occurred in England to produce that change? Nothing had occurred in England; but in France a Revolution had taken place. The French had expelled an imbecile monarch; and immediately this country became affected with the French epidemic. We, though under circumstances diametrically 1613 opposite, were for imitating the example set by the French. Their charters were violated, and they revolutionized to get a Constitution; but we were to revolutionize to subvert one. The House had been told much of the necessity of Reform, but little of its benefits. Would Reform, he asked, ease the burthens of the people, and reduce the taxes? It would not. Whoever told the people that Reform would alleviate their distress, only deluded them. If the people chose to have colonies, they must keep up an army,—if they would have commerce, they must have a fleet to protect it,—if they would have a Monarch, they must have a Civil List,—if they would have a Church, they must pay tithes,—and last, not least, if they would retain the national honour, they must pay the National Debt. By Reform, the people of England meant reduction of taxes; by Reform, the radical faction meant the violation of national faith, and the overthrow of Church and State. The faction used Reform, as the hon. and learned member for Waterford did the Repeal of the Union, as the means to what they called a good end. By Reform, the faction hoped to effect a change of Government; but whoever attributed any desire to the people of England for the subversion of the Government libelled them. There was, at present, a great call for a cheap Government, but the people might learn from the history of their own country how little they were likely to obtain that object by violent changes. Charles 1st unjustly took 200,000l. from his people. For that offence he was brought to trial and suffered. The country, in the mean time, was afflicted by all the miseries of civil war, and at length submitted to Cromwell, who extracted 2,000,000l. from the pockets of the people. So much for Reform procuring a cheap Government. The advantage of the present system of Representation was, that all the different interests of the country found advocates within the walls of that House; but the Bill of the noble Lord would exclude from the enjoyment of the elective franchise all the labouring classes, who were thus held out as unworthy to participate in the councils of the country. There were but two bodies in the country who would, under the provisions of the Reform Bill, enjoy the elective franchise,—the higher classes, and the householders paying above 10l. a-year. He did not believe 1614 that Representatives chosen only by those two bodies would be able to conduct the affairs of the country advantageously, or preserve the national faith. Locke, in his treatise on Civil Government, stated, that "the power of the Legislature being derived from the people by a positive voluntary grant and institution, can be no other than what that positive grant conveyed; which, being only to make laws, and not to make legislators, the Legislature can have no power to transfer the making of laws, and place it in other hands." The number of the Members to be returned to Parliament by England, Scotland, and Ireland, was settled at the time of the respective Unions. With respect to the proportion of the Representatives, the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, had quoted a passage from one of Mr. Pitt's speeches to serve his own purpose. The passage quoted by the noble Lord was as follows:—"Considering the question in this point of view, I really think the precise number of the Representatives not a matter of great importance." Now he would quote the passage immediately following to serve his (Mr. Fane's) purpose. "At the same time," said Mr. Pitt, "when it is necessary that the number should be fixed, it is necessary to have recourse to some principle on which to found our determination." He only hoped, that some hon. Member would bring the question of the proportion of the Representation fairly before the House; for he thought that its being introduced under the disguise of the Reform Bill was an insult to the three United Kingdoms. The noble Lord opposite last night exclaimed in a tone of indignation, disclaiming the charge of partiality in the concoction of the Reform Bill, which had been brought against Government, that he did not envy the heart of that man who could entertain such suspicions. [Lord Althorp intimated dissent from the statement of the hon. Member.] Ail he would say was, that he envied not that man his heart who had conceived the present Reform Bill. He thought it would lead to great corruption and the vilest traffic.
§ Mr. Wilbraham
said, he was determined to give the Motion of the hon. and gallant General his decided negative. He was neither jealous of the Irish Catholics nor the Scotch Members, and he thought the business of the House would be better done by a considerable diminution of its 1615 numbers. he had always entertained opinions favourable to Parliamentary Reform, and he had therefore no opinions to retract, nor inconsistencies to account for. He had always considered that the corrupt manner in which Members were returned for certain boroughs was a great evil, and a cause of that discontent which had lately manifested itself in the country. But he was free to confess, that when he first entered the House he took his station among those who were called moderate Reformers, and would have been glad to see the Representation amended by the transfer of the franchise of corrupt boroughs to populous places. But when he saw the cloak that was thrown over corruption in that House—when he saw the moderate proposals of the noble Lord, the member for Tavistock, uniformly rejected, and when he saw how the franchise of East Retford was disposed of, he then began to despair of measures of moderate Reform, and he was convinced that nothing but a great and comprehensive scheme of Reform would effect the object he had in view. He need not, therefore, say how much he was delighted with the plan of the noble Lord. It was a glorious measure, and worthy of those from whom it proceeded. It struck deep at the root of corruption, and maintained every interest in the State, except the interest of the boroughmonger. The House had heard a good deal of late about revolutionary measures, and charges had been made against Gentlemen for being democratic. He did not think the cause of truth was promoted by employing injurious epithets, or personal virulence. He would, there-lore, abstain from such a course; and endeavour to call the attention of the House to what he conceived would be the practical effects of the Reform measure. In the first place he found forty-four Members were to be given to great commercial places, and he was sure that they would return Gentlemen as well educated, and as much attached to the Constitution, as any he saw around him. One difference, however, between these Members and some of the Gentlemen in that House would be, that they would know something about the interests of their constituents; and of those particular arts and mysteries which they would be sent to Parliament to represent and protect. With respect to the eight Members allotted to the districts round the metropolis, it 1616 was impossible for him to say what would be their character; but considering the great wealth and splendor of some of those places, he could not think that those who possessed that property would be desirous to throw everything into confusion. It was said, that these two classes of Members would be too democratical; but would they not be neutralized by the additional county Members? It ought, however, to be recollected, that these persons would be chiefly returned by the middle classes—by men, he would venture to assert, as loyal and as much interested in the welfare of the State as any class of inhabitants. On the whole, however, he could not see that the House would suffer by the change. A great deal had been said about the breaking in on the Constitution; hut was not this frequently done? Was it not done in the reign of Henry 8th, when Wales and the bishopric of Durham were first allowed to send Representatives? Was it not done when Scotland sent forty-five, and Ireland 100 Members to the English Parliament; and when 100,000 people, but two years ago, were disfranchised? He did not see any evil likely to arise from taking the franchise from the lowest classes, because they were too often made the tools of the higher classes, and were prevented from following their own opinions. The middle and lower classes had been designated as revolutionary. He denied the assertion. There were, no doubt, some of the lower classes that might deserve such an epithet, but it was stigmatizing the middle classes to describe them as revolutionary. A great deal had been said about the great men that had been returned for these rotten boroughs, but not a word about the vast number of unprofitable Representatives. He represented one of those boroughs, and he could, therefore, speak with freedom —and his opinion was, if the whole class were swept away, the country would not materially suffer. By the change proposed in the Bill, 160 drones would be lost; but their places would be supplied by 115 useful Members. Much had been said about moderation; but, in fact, those Gentlemen who were now most clamorous for moderate Reform, were the very persons who opposed all Reform. The hon. Member concluded by stating, that he should vote for the Bill, and if it should be the last vote he should give in that House, he would console himself for the 1617 loss by the reflection that he had lent his aid in restoring liberty, and reviving the Constitution of the country.
§ Mr. Charles Douglas
could not agree in the principle laid down by the noble Paymaster at his first announcement of the measure, with respect to the extension of the franchise to the class of 10l. householders. Nor did he generally anticipate that the composition of the House, after the change proposed by this measure, would be benefitted or improved in the manner expected by the noble Lord. He was convinced, quite contrary to what had fallen from his hon. friend the member for Kirkcudbright, with respect to the effect of the Bill upon Scotland, that the Bill, as altered, would not serve the Representation of that country. He should, therefore, feel it his duty to oppose it.
§ Mr. Hawkins
spoke as follows:—As I consider the present Motion of the gallant General as the first of a series of somewhat similar measures, the tendency of which, whether intentional or not, will be to defeat what may be called the disfranchisement part of the present Bill, and as to all such attempts, I am prepared to give the most strenuous opposition in my power, I shall, perhaps, be sparing the time of the House if I take this opportunity of stating, once for all, my opinions on this part of the subject, and as briefly as possible, a few of the reasons which have induced me to consider the schedules A and B as the most important and most indispensable part of the present measure. I would, most assuredly, Sir, not have troubled the House now, had I succeeded in catching your eye on either of the former Debates; and even now were my own interests alone affected by the vote which I am about to give, I should have preferred giving that vote in silence; nor would I have obtruded upon the attention of the House any reasons for the correctness of those opinions, for the sincerity of which, such a vote would have been a sufficient guarantee. But, Sir, the House will probably think with me. that the sacrifice, even to a great constitutional necessity, of the privileges of those who have intrusted their interests to my keeping, demands a few words in justification of so painful a duty; and the more especially so as, in the present instance, this sacrifice of them is not rendered less painful to me by any corruption on their part. If I had paid, or was about to pay, 1618 directly or indirectly, by myself or by others, a single farthing for the seat I now hold, I might have been expected to reconcile myself without regret to this vote, upon the incontrovertible plea that purchase makes property, and that I had a right to do what I like with my own. But, Sir, as I have no such excuse to offer to my constituents, the smallness of whose numbers is their only fault, I am unable to avail myself of such an application of a new constitutional doctrine either in excusing myself to them, or in arguing to the House. Though I have no such exquisite reason, yet I think I have reasons good enough, and some few of them I shall, with permission of the House, proceed to offer. Of course, Sir, I shall avoid, as strictly as possible, all arguments for the mere purpose of proving that of which I am glad to see so many have become convinced since the first introduction of this measure, of which this House seems, at last, as unanimously convinced as the people—the necessity of some Reform; but one argument there is which I shall notice, inasmuch as the unfairness of its sophistry is only equalled by the constancy of its repetition. I allude to that class of antagonists who do not venture into the brunt of the battle with a bold and decided opposition to Reform, but who always entertain a sincere conviction, at any given moment, that the present is not the right moment for the discussion of this question, and they arrive at such conviction by this ingenious dilemma—when the people are clamorous for Reform, they tell us that we ought not to concede such a measure to the demands of popular turbulence; and when the people are silent, that silence is a proof of indifference, and, therefore, the measure need not be passed. I will readily allow, Sir, to these tacticians all the merit which is due for a very skilful disposition of such forces as they possess; but it is scarcely necessary to remind them, by way of serious answer, that if the turbulence of yesterday was their only reason for refusing Reform, the tranquillity of to-day is a conclusive reason for granting it. If, as they themselves say, we sit here to consult the interests rather than the wishes of the people, surely, Sir, their patience under misgovernment is no more an excuse for our denial of their rights, than would be their impatience under salutary control a reason for surrendering our own. And this allusion to the wishes 1619 of the people reminds me of one other argument of our adversaries, concerning the way in which this measure has been received by the people of England, which I will notice on account of its originality: and at this stage of the Debate we should be unreasonable indeed, if we were not thankful for originality of argument in any shape. If one of his Majesty's Ministers had told us as a proof of the merits of this measure, that its appearance had been hailed by Reformers of all parties, and all opinions, as the signal for rallying again round that Constitution whose regeneration they had abandoned in despair; if his Majesty's Ministers had told us how this measure had reconciled to the Legislative authority of this House the friends whom its corruption had disgusted, and the enemies whom its misconduct had exasperated, we should have found in the petitions laid on this Table since the appearance of the Bill the natural and satisfactory grounds on which such assertions were founded. But who ever expected to hear this fact seriously brought forward, as it has been, as a reason against this Bill?—"Your measure must be bad, because it is approved by every body."Your sins are great, because they are so small.Sir, I have heard much in my childhood of a precept to this effect—that he who begins by attempting to please everybody, will probably end by pleasing nobody; but this is the first time I have heard either a person or a measure abused upon the express ground that it actually did please everybody. Surely, Sir, the dearth of argument on that side of the House has induced hon. Members, in the desperation of this last struggle for political existence, to snatch up hastily their adversaries' weapons at the risk of cutting their own fingers. Sir, I acknowledge this change of tone in the petitions of the people; and I hail it as a gratifying proof (to those by whom such proof is needed) that the people are not unreasonable; that they will give up as much to the prudence of their rulers as they expect to obtain from their generosity; and will prove by the example of the present, to those who will not condescend to read the history of the past, how very limited a measure of confidence on the part of a government in the fidelity of its subjects is repaid—with how full a confidence on the part of those subjects in the wisdom and integrity of their rulers. And now, 1620 Sir, that I may keep my promise of brevity better than such vows are usually kept, I will omit what I would have said on those inquiries into the primitive form of our Representative System, of which we have in former years heard so much; and I will more willingly give up those doctrines of abstract right so much insisted on by our predecessors in this great cause; I should even be content, for the purposes of this dispute, to assume that our right to our present liberties is a prescriptive right alone; for, by the very same evidence whereby this is proved, I claim the same prescriptive right to occasional necessary Reform. If I am referred to the records of history for the title deeds of our representative system, that same history tells me of alterations in that system, compared with which the present measure dwindles into insignificance. If I am told that the transfer of the elective franchise from Gatton to Birmingham, without judicial procedure, is a violent innovation, I cannot but recollect that within little more than a century, two independent Legislatures have been blotted out from the page of the Constitution, and with them the greater part of the representation whereof they were composed. If I am told that the vested rights of the present constituency are inviolable, I ask (and though so frequently asked before, it has never yet received an attempt at answer) what has become of the 40s. freeholders of Ireland? Sir, that very Revolution of 1688, which has sometimes been appealed to as the definitive resting-place of our constitutional ark, as the Sion of our political wandering, that Revolution which changed the succession to the Throne, is surely sufficient precedent for the disfranchisement of a nomination Borough. Sir, if the success of my own argument were the sole interest I felt in this question, I should willingly risk the event of the controversy on this appeal to historical precedent; but I will not place the cause of the people of England on any such narrow ground of defence. We seek not this Reform, as a matter of abstract right, but of practical expediency; we claim it, not as the fruit of historical research, but of historical experience; we ask it, not because it was so in our forefathers' time, but because it would have been so now, had our forefathers lived in ours. Sir, it is not enough to tell us that our borough system is now what it was 1621 200 years ago. It is not enough to tell us that a system of tyrannical compulsion and corrupt influence which was in harmony with the violence and fraud of the political warfare of those days, which was in harmony with the remains of feudal power and the remembrance of feudal fidelity, which was suited alike to the selfishness of their political vices and the sternness of their political virtues; it is not enough to tell us that such a system is not grown worse, or even that it is considerably improved. If the political struggles of those days were compared with the like encounters of our own, they must be considered as the warfare of giants; they displayed the selfishness and tyranny of giant natures; and when the bludgeon was the umpire of popular meetings and the axe of legislative assemblies, it was natural and unavoidable that corruption and intimidation should be reckoned the two main pillars of established government and social order, and that political honesty should be identified with blind fidelity to the landlord or the party leader. But now, Sir, that the Sunday Pamphlet has superseded the bludgeon of the mob; now, that the daily journal has been admitted, by mutual consent, as a fitter arbiter between contending factions than the axe; now, that the prim schoolmaster is found a more effective bugbear to political disturbers than the grim headsman, it is too much to demand of us the continuance of those means of government whose worst corruption was unnoticed amidst the greater hideousness of the ends to which they were rendered subservient. Sir, I never contemplate the discussions which have passed on this question, but I feel myself half a convert to the now unfashionable doctrine of the wisdom of our ancestors. I am told that they had, of necessity, less experience, and less wisdom than ourselves. Less experience I admit they had; but that they had less wisdom I almost doubt, when I see that, unlike their descendants, they made, to the best of their ability, a practical application of that experience to the necessities and difficulties which occurred; and were Sir Thomas More really to rise from his grave for the purpose of instructing a Poet Laureate in Political Economy, he might well ask us what do we gain by our superior knowledge and accumulated experience, when a few sounding phrases and a few hard names are sufficient to de- 1622 ter us from putting to a practical use the results of that experience, and the deductions of that knowledge. So much, Sir, for the authority of past generations; now a few observations addressed to the reflection and the experience of the present. Of course, Sir, I shall not be called upon at this day, either in or out of this House, to answer an opponent who seriously pretends ignorance of the manner in which our nomination system works, whatever may be his opinion of the results which it produces. Upon the former of these questions, there is no longer either mystery or disagreement; to the latter I shall briefly address myself. Now, Sir, this question of the results of our borough system is a question of fact; and it is a question of fact to which the limits of debate preclude us from adducing satisfactory and direct testimony; for such testimony would be nothing less than the political history of England for such a period as the disputants should agree in considering a fair criterion. To enter satisfactorily upon such a field of inquiry, is, in this place, manifestly impossible; and to touch upon it by quoting a few isolated examples is only opening a vast magazine whence disputants on either side may furnish themselves with a species of light weapon of equal brightness, but equally indecisive. We have been told, for instance, of the talent habitually introduced into the House through the narrow portal of a close borough; but we have not been told what proportion this talent bore to the aggregate mediocrity, not to say occasional imbecility of such introductions. Hon. Members opposite string up their dozen of choice pippins in a golden row to win our admiration; but we have not been called to notice the bushels of crabs which have sprung from the same stock. And surely, Sir, it would not have weakened our opponent's case, if they had bestowed some pains in showing that this talent had been generally applied to the service of the country, and not to that of its possessors and their patrons. Napoleon's servile Senate was a collection of the talent, the science, and the experience, of France; but we shall hardly refer to that as a pattern of a Legislative Assembly. And these observations, Sir, remind me of what is, after all, the fatal objection to such a system of election; that which is, to my mind, the decisive reason against the existence of even the purest of these 1623 boroughs. We have heard much boasting of the independence of our self-elected Legislators; and if independence is always to be measured by irresponsibility, it is not to be denied that they are most aristocratically independent of that people whose representatives they are so fond of styling themselves. But here, Sir, is the fatal taint in the source from whence they spring—here is that illegitimacy of origin which will ever stand in the way of that salutary respect which all rulers, to make their rule effective, should enjoy in the eyes of the people. Legislators they may be—wise and honest legislators if you please—but representatives they are not and cannot be. Hereditary members of an Elective Assembly—Peers in the House of Commons—by their presence here they intercept from the hereditary branch of the Legislature that popular confidence which they cannot enjoy themselves. Sir, there is no one remark which our adversaries are more assiduous in submitting to our attention than the necessity, that a legislative assembly should so far enjoy the confidence of the people that it should not be obliged to act as the mere momentary index of popular will; that it should represent the opinions of the community upon an average of years, and be responsible for the ultimate tendency rather than the particular line of its conduct. Sir, in this doctrine I most cordially agree; and I do, therefore, protest against the continuance of that system of representation which compels the people to interfere with a jealous expression of their opinions on each particular action of this House that does not fall in with their momentary humour; because they feel, that whether the ultimate results of that action be such as to justify us or not, they at least will have no future opportunity of controlling the actors, or of adopting precautions against the repetition or continuance of the action. It is, Sir, for these reasons that the press admonishes us by threats instead of advice; that the manufacturing artizan enrols his name in affiliated societies, instead of subscribing it to petitions; that the agriculturist winks at, if he does not encourage, the outrages of his labourers, as a circuitous means of lightening those taxes which had disabled him from meeting their demands; it is, Sir, for these reasons that (however our adversaries may persist with a politic affectation of fear to transpose the terms) 1624 that revolution has been called for when Reform was wanted; it is, Sir to the obstinate continuance of this antiquated corruption that we owe those periodical outbreaks of popular discontent which, since the first French Revolution, have kept that people, and among them the greatest intellect of the age, in a state of wonder at the continued existence of a Constitution which only throws off its peccant humours by this system of chronic convulsions. It is, Sir, to use the language of common life— it is because I am obliged to secure, not by force, at least by an understood readiness to apply it, the good conduct towards me of that man to whom I can offer no other motives; it is because a very little knowledge of human nature would make the most careless disposition unwilling to trust for a moment out of sight that man who has any power in his possession, but of whose character I do not approve, and over whose actions I have no control. But, Sir, as I said before, it is quite impossible to prove general misconduct, or general merit, by any number of particular instances which the limits of debate will permit us to quote; there is but one indisputable criterion to which we can appeal in this place; and that criterion must be sought by each individual among the results of his own observations, and his own experience without these walls. That criterion of legislative capacity is the general effect produced upon public opinion by the conduct of such a legislation: a slow, silent, continuous effect—visible, indeed, through the whole of its insidious progress, to those whose business it is to watch the signs of the times—the gathering thunder-cloud of a summer's day—unheeded by less attentive observers, until the first audible mutterings of its wrath, and unnoticed by the multitude in general, until it burst in storm and desolation on the land. This is that unerring criterion to which rulers have never yet appealed until the eleventh hour; this is that indisputable sign of the times which Governments never deign to notice until they can no longer close their eyes to the lightening nor their ears to the thunder. There is, indeed, Sir, on this question of fact—on this question of the good or bad results of our present system —one argument which I shall suggest to the House—an application of the old argument from cause to effect. What, Sir, is the plain state of the case now before this Court? Here are two parties; one 1625 affirming the good effects of our nomination system; the other at least equally numerous, and if not more disinterested, at least placed in circumstances which throw less suspicion over their testimony, affirming with as bold an appeal to experience, the bad effects of the same system! So far, Sir, the testimony in favour of our side is at least of equal value with that in favour of our adversaries; but what will be said when these very adversaries join most cordially with us in their character of the system which produces these much-disputed effects? Why, Sir, these very trumpeters of this House— these champions of our motley franchise— allow that they are astonished when they contemplate the apparently inadequate causes which produce these vaunted results; they, allow that they cannot explain by what miracle of our politico-moral nature such purity is engendered of such corruption. We infer the existence of bad effects from bad causes. Our adversaries join with us in our character of the causes, but infer there from nothing but good effects. Thus much, Sir, for those who, abandoning the machinery of our Representative system as untenable ground, take up their position in defence of its results. But there is another, and no less numerous class, who, giving up both machinery and results as equally indefensible—who, acknowledging that they see here no exception to the old rule, of "like causes produce like effects," demur, nevertheless, to any proposal for amending the system from an apprehension of danger, the magnitude of which, in their eyes, is perhaps to be explained upon the old principle of" omne ignotum pro mirifico." inasmuch as they have never yet been able exactly to specify what that danger is. The sole difference between them and us is, shall the decayed parts of the system be mended or not? Both are agreed how much the system wants mending, but one party is unwilling to begin so perilous a job. Both are agreed that it is in rags and tatters; but whenever we begin to thread the darning-needle they exclaim, "Leave it alone, in the name of prudence—in the name of caution—in the name of Robespierre and Danton—it is so rotten, that if you attempt to put a stitch in, the whole will fall to pieces." I will not stop, Sir, to remind such objectors what manner of compliment they are paying to the old garment which has served their turn so long, and for 1626 which they profess such a veneration; but do they not see the inevitable inference which the political renovators would draw from this admission? Would not the answer be ready and irreplicable? If the state of the garment be such as you avow, then it is high time to get a new one. And is not this, Sir, the dilemma in which the obstinate refusal of all the moderate and timely amendments has, for some time, placed us? Have we not been told by a loud, if not a strong party, that the Legislature of England is incorrigible?— that it is too rotten to be patched up—and that it is high time to get a new one? And to whom do we owe this, but to those who passed by every opportunity for a timely Reform, with an impudent denial of the existence of any blemish; and who now, when such denial is no longer possible, think to evade the results of their own obstinacy by an affectation of sudden discovery, that such blemishes have gone too far—have spread themselves too universally through the system—to leave any part where a repair may be commenced without danger of pulling the whole to pieces? And these, Sir, are the self-elected champions of our Monarchical Government! And these are the best grounds on which they would risk its defence! Sir, I am not of their opinion. I have better thoughts of that Monarchy of England, which has withstood far more serious renovation than this—I have better thoughts of those institutions which our ancestors feared not to reform and repair whenever they saw need so to do. I tremble not at their exposure to the ordeal of public opinion; through that ordeal they were never yet passed but they came out with equal beauty and with renovated purity; from those struggles which exude the superfluous flesh, the bone derives its strength and the sinews their elasticity. What these apprehensions of danger are, it is in vain for us to ask. Our opponents have on this subject contented themselves with vague generalities, nor have they even condescended to place before us any intelligible picture of those phantoms which exercise so powerful an influence over their own imaginations. We cannot, of course, be expected to combat those forces which will not take the field. We can only ask, what danger there will henceforth exist which does not exist now? What supports the Monarchy and Peerage now but public opinion? and how can that support 1627 be weakened when we have enlisted public opinion in their favour, by granting that Reform which, of all others, public opinion is now most loudly demanding? We have been told, indeed, that the House of Peers could not exist without the support which it derives from its nominees in this Assembly. But, Sir, were we to grant this we should immediately ask, what supports this Assembly? If the House of Peers is thrown back upon the House of Commons on what does the House of Commons rely? After all the discussions of the theoretical and the intrigues of the practical Statesman, we come ultimately and in the last resort to public opinion as the tortoise which is to carry the elephant, which carries the Ministerial world; and, however we may consult our distaste for unpalatable remedies—however we may think to avoid the bitter necessity of physic by attributing on strength to the disease of which we are dying—however we may flatter our imagined dignity by a vaunted independence of popular opinion—it is that popular opinion which is our best staff of support, though we will continue to insult it by clinging to a broken reed. This topic, Sir, reminds me of Mr. Canning, and which is thus briefly summed up in his own words:—"If you reform the House of Commons on the ground of past misconduct, what will you do with the House of Lords?" Now, Sir, this objection to Reform in general, is shortly and conclusively answered by a reference to that part of the Bill which is now the subject of discussion. In the schedules A and B is written that which we intend to do with the House of Lords: we intend to deprive them of that corrupt and unconstitutional influence which they exercised in this House; intend to confine them to their own Court; we wish in future that either House should be what it was intended to be, a Court of perpetual appeal from the decisions of the other, instead of that monstrous anomaly which they now offer to the world of two Courts, designed to control each other, but ruled in a great measure by the same judges, and controlled by a mutual influence. One complaint has been made against the particular part of the measure now under discussion, which comes with a peculiarly bad grace from those by whom it is now put forth; we are told of the anomalies both as regards population and property, which will still defend our Representative system, as if those anomalies 1628 could be put for one instant in comparison with those which now exist; and as if those very persons would not be the most vociferous in scouting such a Reform as would be necessary to sweep away all anomalies whatever. Another complaint I will notice is one not directed against the measure itself, but against those who have introduced it; and this complaint I approach with some diffidence of my own constitutional knowledge, Sir, I must confess (and I shall be thankful for correction if wrong), I must confess that I was not aware until the late debates on this question, that the appeal of a British King from his Parliament to his people was an unconstitutional measure. I had thought that both the theory and practice of our Constitution had decided, that a Parliament at issue with its constituents on a great constitutional question might, by no unprecedented exercise of the Royal Prerogative, be sent back to those constituents, if not for further instruction, at least for further proofs of confidence. And now, Sir, before I sit down, one word concerning that people of England, to whose hopes and wishes, as it seems, his Majesty's Ministers must not even allude in this House, without danger of being taunted from the opposite bench, with an appeal to their physical force! I, Sir, shall put forth myself no vaunting defiance of that giant power which now sleeps a faithful servant at our feet—that power which never yet put forth its strength but in our defence—and against which, if once it turn in madness on its master, no defiance will avail. If, as a Legislator, I am called upon to forget that the people have hands, as an Englishman I cannot forget that they have hearts; and at all times, indeed, but more especially in times like these, I do think those hearts worth the winning, even at the price of my own power. We have been accused of attempting by a threat of revolution to intimidate those very opponents, whose favourite argument against this Bill—whose staff of reliance, if I may judge from their cheers, is their own fear of revolution as the ultimate consequence. Why, Sir—threat for threat— upon our joint showing of the case, the question would only be which way led soonest and straightest to revolution. They do not defend acknowledged iniquities of the present system upon any other grounds than those of general expediency; they acknowledge the occasional personal, and 1629 constant moral corruption inflicted by our present nomination system; but it is the only way, forsooth, of keeping things quiet; the only way of saving the Monarchy, the Peerage, and the Church. Why, Sir, may we not entertain the same fears as our adversaries? Why are they to be allowed to allege their own prospective cowardice as a reason against that measure in favour of which we must not state our present apprehensions? Sir, I am not afraid of a revolution in either case. I am not afraid of that physical violence against which, if we were not protected by the good sense of the people of England, the bigotry of their self-elected rulers would be but as a broken reed. But I do think that we shall give no small confirmation of that charge of legislative incapacity which is now ringing in our ears, if we neglect to repair our House while it is still summer, because the winter hurricane is not yet upon the horizon. It is because we can retreat with dignity that I wish to retreat now; I wish to exchange that suspicious safety which we owe to the good sense rather than to the good wishes of the people, to the remembrance rather than to the continuance of former affection, to the habit rather than to the feelings of past fidelity—I wish to exchange that suspicious safety for the holiday security of a people's love. There be some few, I know, in all political parties, who care neither for a people's love, nor have faith in a people's gratitude; whose best political virtue is a proud consistency in wrong, and whose highest moral courage is an unreflecting security. Where, indeed, was ever seen a fabric of time-worn political privilege tottering to its fall, the majority of whose possessors have not displayed the same idiotic security, amidst the ruin which every one else foresaw. I will not detain the House by quoting proofs of that melancholy truth, of which political history is but one long example; I will go no farther back than to the early days of many whom I now address, and ask, was it the firmness of real or the madness of fancied security when the Court of Versailles drove the representatives of popular opinion to swear in a Tennis Court their own inviolability and the regeneration of France? Or was it the firmness of real or the madness of fancied security, when, as it were but yesterday, the breathless herald of approaching insurrection was ordered to wait on the threshold of St. Cloud 1630Donec Borbonico libeat vigilare tyranno.''What price, not the people of France alone, but all civilised Europe, were compelled to pay for chaining that first madness, is now matter of history; what price not France alone, but all civilised Europe, are about to pay for chaining this second madness, I dare not trust myself to prophesy; but I appeal to all impartial observers of past and passing events who have witnessed the reluctance with which that mighty people commenced the struggles for which they have paid so much, to say whether that people would not have repaid, with a rich return of confidence and love, the voluntary sacrifice of antiquated power, worthless and defenceless though it was. That such gratitude would have been felt by the people of France for such sacrifice, I do most sincerely believe; that such gratitude will be felt by the people of England for far less painful sacrifices I do most unhesitatingly affirm; and the more gratitude, inasmuch as such sacrifices on our part are not yet inculcated by the presence of that other fearful alternative. For the honour of this ancient monarchy, whose perils and whose triumphs for so many generations are chronicled in the proceedings of this House; for the sake of this faithful people who have stood by us in the hour of our trial, and borne with us in the hour of our pride, let us seize the opportunity which now presents itself, to inscribe ourselves on the page of history as the first recorded example of "power correcting its own usurpation."
§ Sir George Warrender
said, that a speech more eloquent than the one just delivered by the hon. member for St. Michael he had seldom heard in that House. But the hon. Member offered by that speech one of the best defences for the present system; for, in his own person, he gave an instance of that eloquence and ability which had been introduced into that House through the nomination boroughs, and in the persons of borough proprietors; and he should be happy if, in the event of this measure being carried, it would have the effect of preserving for the service the same ability as was now possessed by some of those who were what the hon. Gentleman had described as a sort of representatives of the hereditary Peerage. Should the present system be superseded by a new one, the country would be compelled by the alteration in the fran- 1631 chise to return to Parliament demagogues, and men ignorant and unworthy of the trust reposed in them. He had heard with considerable dissatisfaction, that the Scotch, at least, had no right to be dissatisfied with the proposed change, because it inevitably must increase their influence and weight in that House, in proportion to the influence of the English Members. This, as a Scotchman, he felt called upon to reject—it was a been he would scorn to accept. Never should it be said, that he, as a Scotchman, would consent to spoliate upon the boroughs of England. In this scheme for disfranchising, the guilt of bribery did not seem always to be followed by the appropriated punishment. There was no proposition to take away the representatives of Liverpool, yet Liverpool was the most corrupt of those boroughs that had been brought under the notice of the House. If that borough was disfranchised, and if Evesham, which was now under consideration, followed the same fate, he should then do what had never before been done—he should put in a claim for a large town in Scotland. The rights of Leeds, of Manchester, and Wake-field, had been asserted, but Glasgow had never been mentioned. If the boroughs of Liverpool and Evesham were disfranchised, he should put in a claim for Glasgow. He was determined to oppose the measure of Reform, but he would oppose it directly, and not by a side-wind, like the motion of the hon. and gallant General; least of all would he consent to a proposition, the result of which he considered would be injurious to the interests of Scotland. He could not help thinking it strange that these Scotch Gentlemen who represented English constituencies should be more favourable to the interests of Scotland than the Scotch Members. Twenty years since, he had represented a Scotch borough, and even if the Reform Bill were to pass, he did not yet despair of representing some populous place in his own country. To vote for the proposition of the hon. and gallant General would be in effect to say, that, let the population and importance of Glasgow or Aberdeen at any future period be what they might, let Scotland be ever so great and prosperous, it should only have the same number of Members, and that the whole representative body of Scotland should undergo no change, although at present it had only one more Member than 1632 Cornwall. Without supposing that this Bill would pass into a law, he might fancy that at some future period English boroughs would be disfranchised for corruption, and he would not destroy the chance Scotland at present possessed of obtaining the franchise, which would thus become vacant. He begged it, however, to be distinctly understood, that he did not vote against the proposition of the hon. and gallant General because he was favourable to the Bill to which it applied.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
also congratulated the House upon the extraordinary ability displayed by the hon. Member for a close borough (Mr. Hawkins,) who, but for such modes of gaining admission into Parliament, might never have enjoyed the opportunity. He was sorry for his own sake that his hon. friend had forestalled him in these congratulations, but it was at least an evidence of their mutual sincerity that they were both of the same opinion. When such were the consequences of the present system, who would not wish that it should be perpetual? It was not possible for any constituency at all times to return Representatives equally excellent; but, looking back to the history of the House of Commons, he saw that men of the most splendid abilities had first fostered their talents in close boroughs, and had afterwards been deservedly chosen for populous places. Some individuals seemed possessed of hereditary ability, but the great mass of the House was unquestionably of a contented mediocrity of talent. Nearly all the great characters whom he had seen, or of whom he had read, had commenced their career, and had originally entered the House through the channel of a close borough. Without going into particulars, he would look to general results, and he would appeal to the government of the country for the last century as a proof of the excellence of the present system of Representation. If, on the other hand, a century of misgovernment could be. shown, he would admit it as an irrefragable argument in favour of Reform. During that period, what country had enjoyed more general happiness—more public and individual liberty? in what country had a more rapid progress been made in arts and manufactures and literature? Had any nation met the same dangers, endured the same struggles, and triumphed with the same glory? The Government had been constantly supported by the con- 1633 fidence of Parliament and the suffrages of the people. He did not deny, that upon this subject the feeling's of the people had been excited, but their good sense was now awakened, and they had returned to their reliance upon the House of Commons as at present constituted. He agreed with those who said, that times of peril and pressure were not the fittest for discussing a question of this sort; but he saw no reason to anticipate any such evils in a time of profound peace and growing prosperity. With regard to the Bill itself, he regretted that so much had been attempted in it, since the effect was, that the details had not been sufficiently examined; and he condemned the test of population, which had been resorted to as the criterion for conferring the elective franchise. Besides, it was little less than absurd to pretend to ascertain that population by a census taken ten years ago, when the lapse of only a few weeks would have furnished returns far more recent and accurate. Another anomaly in the plan was this;—that although those who voted for boroughs could not also vote for counties in respect of the same property, yet the population of those boroughs was taken into the calculation in deciding the point, whether the counties where they were situated should or should not be allowed additional Representatives. The right hon. Gentleman illustrated this point, by reference to the cases of Glamorganshire and Cumberland. Care ought to be taken not to give a double effect to some part of the constituency of the kingdom, by communicating to them a double right of voting. During the thirty years he had sat in Parliament, he had paid great attention to the different cases of corruption brought before the House; and when it was proper to do so upon strong proof, he had supported the extreme of disfranchisement. It was observable, however, that corruption had, in various cases, been established not against the lowest class of voters. At Cricklade, Aylesbury, and Ret ford, it had been proved against the householders. Those who had resided in houses of 10l. a year rent and upwards, had been shown, in many instances, to be the most corrupt; and what security was there that 200 out of the 300 voters in each place contemplated by the Bill under consideration, would not be very willing to accept 10l. a piece for their Suffrages? The measure was so compli- 1634 cated that in his opinion, the better course would be, to divide the subject-matter of the Bill as it was now framed, and submit it to the House in the shape of Bills specifically separate and distinct, for the question of the disfranchisement of close boroughs alone was quite sufficient to employ the attention of Parliament for an entire Session. The proposed registration would lead to perpetual disputes, and the provisions relative to the leaseholders were in the highest degree injudicious. It. was intended that leaseholders of 20l. a year should not be allowed to vote during the two years subsequent to the renewal of their lease. Now the consequence of this would be, that for six years out of twenty such leaseholders would be deprived of their acknowledged privilege, as their leases would require renewal once every seven years. It had been said, that the general effect of the Reform would be to get rid of 114 drones, and to replace them by as many active and intelligent Members; but his experience rather showed, that, the best men of business, and the most efficient Members of Parliament, were not usually those who represented counties or populous towns. Judging from his experience of that House, he should say, that the greater proportion of business was transacted rather by Representatives for boroughs than by county Members. Many of those who sat for boroughs possessed a commercial knowledge, and an aptitude for business which materially promoted the interests of the nation. Splendid talents would unquestionably make their way, but he begged to call the attention of the House to the case of the late Mr. Huskisson—a man not remarkable for the brilliancy of his abilities, but who invariably secured attention by his habits of business, and by the depth and accuracy of his knowledge. Instances of the same kind were frequent, and showed the necessity of some mode of introducing such useful and able men to public life. He was certainly of opinion that the present number of close boroughs was larger than necessary, but the proposed remedy was infinitely too sweeping. He was disposed to approve of the plan of throwing the small boroughs, where it could be done, into districts—not depriving them of their share in the Representation, but calling upon them to exercise it conjointly. Such a svstem prevailed in Wales, and was 1635 adopted by the present Bill. In the cases of Aldborough and Buckingham, where it had been tried, it had worked well, and a bill was before the House for extending it to Scotland. Let that experiment be made in one or two places first, and if it succeeded, next year it might be carried further. With respect to population, he thought that another Session ought to elapse before it was definitively fixed; a new census would be soon made, and was it to be said that it was fit to establish a principle in 1831, which might be altered in 1832? Claims to the franchise which could not justly be resisted, might next year be advanced, and the only answer must be, that the Bill had been passed, and that the application was too late. This brought him to the Motion immediately before the House. He saw no reason why the Representation of Ireland should be altered. It was true, that since 1800, and chiefly in consequence of the Union, Ireland had increased in population, wealth, and happiness ["No, no" from Mr. O'Council.] The hon. Member, no doubt, had more personal experience than he had; but even he would not deny, that Ireland had increased in intelligence. Of late years the Members she had sent over were men of wider views, and greater talents than those who arrived in this country immediately after the Union. But it was to be recollected', that if the population of Ireland had been augmented, that of England had been augmented also, and in an equal proportion; and if the number of Members were to depend upon the number of constituents, it would be necessary to review the subject every ten or twenty years. For the reasons he had stated, unless stonger arguments than he had yet heard were brought forward, he was willing to adhere to what was established, if only because it was established: be onus of proving the propriety of a change rested upon those who advocated it.
§ Sir G. Clerk
wished to state a few of the reasons which induced him to support the motion of the hon. and gallant General. The only reason why the measure of Reform had acquired a certain degree of popularity in Scotland was, that it proposed to give five additional Members to that part of the United Kingdom, and if he could approve of any part of the plan, it would be that. He did not think with the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Warrender) that 1636 the effect of the motion of the hon. and gallant General would be to limit the number of Representatives for Scotland: if that were his opinion, he would certainly not support it. He wished the case of Scotland to stand upon its own merits, so that, if necessary, additional Members should be given to Glasgow or Edinburgh, without reference to the numbers for England or Ireland. If, by acceding to the proposition of the gallant General, he should preclude the towns of Scotland from receiving any increase of Members hereafter, he certainly should not have voted in favour of it; but so far from that being his impression, he was convinced that, the claims of Scotland to an additional share in the Representation would be rather strengthened than weakened by the adoption of the Resolution proposed by his gallant friend. He would transfer the franchise from boroughs proved to be delinquent to the large towns, and not at one swoop deprive England of forty-one Representatives. He had voted last year against the proposition of the noble Lord opposite to increase the numbers of the House, by adding Representatives for some of the large towns; but he would have had much less objection to such an increase than to the sweeping measure of disfranchisement which the noble Lord now proposed. He could not see any reason for the diminution of the number of Representatives, when the population, wealth, and intelligence, of the country had increased, and when that very increase was the principal ground on which the measure of Reform was defended.
§ Sir John Malcolm
would not occupy the House by discussing the details of the Bill. He was opposed to the whole measure, by which an example would be given for taking away the charters of Englishmen. If that Bill were passed, and those boroughs, of which he himself represented one, were cut off from the Representation, how could men who had passed a great part of their lives abroad in the service of the country, and, therefore, possessed no local influence, obtain access to that House? How were merchants and professional men, however qualified by their peculiar experience to enlighten the deliberations of the Legislature, to obtain places in Parliament, they having no family or lo-cal influence? Nomination boroughs were the only avenue which the great mercantile Representatives of the great interests of our 1637 East and West-India colonies had of admission to a scat in the councils, by which the property and well-being of 100 millions of our fellow-subjects were regulated: so that to cut off them was to deprive those great interests of any direct Representation. He had studied the Constitution of this country attentively during the last ten years—had had opportunities of contrasting its workings with those of the governments of almost every country on the globe—and, as an old man, would give his advice, not to rashly tamper with that which produced such inestimable blessings. Never had he felt so much pain, as when sitting in that place, he heard himself described as a piece of dirt by gentlemen in their charges of rottenness and corruption against those boroughs and their Representatives. Although, as a Scotchman, he was desirous to obtain all proper advantages for Scotland, he yet was of opinion that the Representation of England ought not to be diminished. If the new experiment upon the constituency were to be made at all, it ought, at least, to be confined to those places which had at present the right of Representation. With respect to the proposed increase of the Representatives of Scotland—although he was by no means deficient of that attachment to his country by which Scotchmen were distinguished— yet, using a military phrase, he must say that the Scotchmen had taken the liberty very often of billetting themselves upon England since the Union. On the contrary, he had never heard of an Irishman or Englishman having sat for a Scotch borough. He knew that in voting against the Bill, and also in supporting the Amendment of the Iron, and gallant Member opposite, he differed from his constituents, and he felt that in doing so, he was acting with the boldness and independence in which he had prided himself throughout his life.
§ Sir R. Wilson
thought, that the noble Lord who had introduced the Reform Bill had done honour to himself and the Administration with which he was connected, by the redeeming of their pledges to the nation, however objectionable in some of its details that Bill must be considered. That he should be obliged to find any part of it objectionable was a most painful course for him, but he must openly avow, that, his objections to the reduction in the number of the English Representatives 1638 were insuperable. He had never heard the noble Lord allege a single reason for that reduction; and certainly he could not understand why a diminution of the number of Members was to be considered advisable at a time when the business of the country was confessedly increasing. He knew that the time was not distant when England would require the aid of the full amount of her Representatives to maintain her interests; and he could not but be startled at the proposition which, instead of increasing, or at least preserving the amount, was, in effect, a decimation of the English Representation. He, therefore, felt himself compelled to dissent from a measure containing so insuperable an objection as that appeared to him; not to say anything of other serious objections which would flow from its operation. Whether, in those views, he was right or wrong, the moment he heard the proposition of his noble friend, he determined rather to relinquish his seat in that House, than give his support to that part of the Reform Bill. He had been sent into that House as a Reformer, and he would not appear to his constituents an enemy to Reform, by withholding his support from the Reform proposed by a Government with which he was associated on the general principles of their Administration, and on the general question of Reform. He felt an unwillingness to appear by such a vote the enemy of an Administration with whose general policy he concurred. Accordingly, on the very night the proposition was first broached, he communicated his misgivings to some hon. Members connected with the Government, and had with them a confidential communication, the result of which was, that he was led to believe that Ministers did not consider the proposed reduction as an essential portion of their measure of Reform, but as a suggestion for improvement in the machinery of that House, which they thought would be worthy of adoption. During the recess, he had had conversations with several other individuals, who confirmed him in that opinion; and he had also been assured by the gallant General who moved the Amendment now before the House, that his proceeding was not of a hostile character. Accordingly, agreeing with the gallant General in that view, and in his disapproval of the proposed reduction of the Members, he had promised to support the present Motion. In promising that sup- 1639 port, he conceived that he was not acting in opposition to the views of his Majesty's Government. If it seemed necessary to give Representatives to places in Scotland and Ireland; hitherto unrepresented, it would be much better, he thought, to enlarge also than diminish the number of English Members. He felt, therefore, that in voting for the Resolution, he should not be opposing the extension of franchise to Scotland and Ireland, but only preserving the integrity of the English Representation; and he also was induced to believe, from his confidential communications with certain Gentlemen, whom he had reason to regard in the light of organs of the Government, that the reduction formed no essential part of the measure of Reform; and that, therefore, to oppose it, it did not follow but he might, as he would, vote for the Bill. On the 12th of April, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said, that as it was thought desirable by many persons who were favourable to the principle of the Bill, that the Members of the House should not be reduced, the Government had been induced to relax its determination on this point, not thinking it of vital importance. On the 13th of April, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said, that in order to remove erroneous impressions which seemed to have been made by the explanation of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on the preceding evening, he wished to state, that Government had no intention to restore the whole number of the Members which it was originally proposed to take from the House; but that if the House, upon consideration, should come to a decision not to diminish its Members, the Government would not think that such an inroad upon the principle of the Bill as to induce them to resist it, as they had never considered the reduction an essential part of the Bill. But, last night, that proposition was declared to be essential to the Bill; and the Motion of his gallant friend opposite was described by the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) to be an invidious measure, and they who supported it were set down as enemies to Reform. He was greatly surprised at that change of language. He was a Reformer, and he had been prepared to support the Government even on that point to which nothing could ever have reconciled him but the fear that opposition to it might cause the Bill to be lost; he meant the disfranchisement of the potwallopping bo- 1640 roughs, supporting which gave him great pain, for he had always considered them a most useful and efficacious part of the Constitution, acting like its safety-valves, and guarding the Constitution against any sudden ebullition of popular feeling. At the same time, he had never advocated Universal Suffrage, or the Ballot, because he believed, that if those measures were once conceded, they would lead to others by which the overthrow of the Constitution would speedily be effected. He was not the Reformer who could change his opinions on the subject of Reform every week. He was not a shifting Reformer. He was not the Reformer who put on and cast off his principles with as much readiness as his garments. He was not the Reformer, who by his indecision disparaged his own character, and threw doubt upon his own opinions. He was not one that could play the part of vacillation, as it might meet the purpose of the passing moment; far less could he permit himself to be influenced to do so by the most base and sordid motives. Neither was he the Reformer, who, having passed his word to his gallant friend opposite, that he would support his Motion, could afterwards appear to barter his political independence, in assisting the opposition of the Government to that Motion. He never bartered for place—nor sought to barter his political independence for the possession of political power. He thought it the duty of every man embarking in public life to sacrifice all private interests—to sacrifice not. only his own hopes and fortunes, but those of his relatives, which he must hold far dearer than his own—rather than to compromise his character for political integrity. But the fluctuation of counsels on this question had been such, that it seemed as if the Government had set its fortunes upon a die, which, in prudence, ought never to have been cast. He regretted that uncertainty of counsels, as it endangered the measure upon which the peace and tranquillity of the country depended. He regretted it also on his own account, but he could not let mere personal considerations stand in the way of his zeal for the interests of his country, in whose service he had spent the best years of his life, and in which he had shed his blood. He did not believe that the fate of the Bill depended on the success of the proposition of the hon. and gallant member for Liver- 1641 pool, but he felt himself placed by the fluctuating conduct of Ministers in an embarrassing dilemma. In the first place, he could not, consistently with his duty to his constituents, vote for a proposition which Ministers said would endanger the Bill; and in the next, for the reason he had stated, he could not consistently vote against the Resolution which he had promised to support. He felt himself in a position of extreme difficulty; he could not retract his promise to his gallant friend, nor could he (after the declaration of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, last night) consistently with his duty to his constituents, vote for the Amendment, [cheers.] He could understand what was signified in those cheers. Who, then, were the men who dared by such cheers to impugn the integrity of his conduct? Let them stand up boldly in their places. he did not shrink from the difficulty into which he had been involved; though he felt that he had been inveigled into his present dubious position by his mistaken confidence in the assertions of Ministers. he was prepared to surrender to his constituents the trust which they had committed to him, if they disapproved of his conduct, and withdrew their confidence. If it should be the consequence of the course which he pursued on that occasion, that he should retire from public life, he should carry with him into his retirement a grateful recollection of the courtesy which he had ever experienced in that Mouse, and a perfect confidence that he bore with him into private life an unblemished character for political integrity.
had listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant-member for Southwark with no ordinary amazement. Language so different from that usually uttered by the hon. and gallant Member, he defended by imputations on Ministers of a change of sentiment, which however quickly discernible by the eye of an enemy, revealed itself but slowly to an ally. He really knew not how to reconcile such language with the professions of the hon. and gallant Member, of his having been a lie-former all his life. Such language was in truth a strange commentary on the text which the hon. and gallant Member had expounded with such emphasis when he said "I am and ever was a Reformer!" It was not for him to judge the hon. and gallant Member's motives; he had neither the right nor the intention to impugn 1642 them: it was a question between the hon. Member and his constituents alone to reconcile the tone and spirit of his present remarks with his pledges and declared attachment to the principles of a measure which he was now about to oppose. It was for himself only to explain to them the grounds of the conduct, why it was, that he who had obtained their suffrages as a Reformer, and who, in obedience to his pledge to them, expressed his readiness to resign his seat, after he had effected the mischief, perhaps, which that seat was given him to prevent. All that he would say was, that it did not strike him as the conduct of the honest and consistent Reformer, which the hon. and gallant Gentleman professed to be, first to defeat a great measure which he was sent to support, and then lay claim to high-mindedness of purpose by an expression of readiness to resign. As to the "confidential communications" of which the hon. and gallant Member had spoken, informing him that Ministers did not consider the proposition to reduce the number of Members fatal to the Bill,—he would only say, that it was impossible for the Government three weeks ago to have expressed an opinion on the present proposition, for it had not yet been more than two nights promitigated. But the hon. and gallant Member had, it seems, had other "confidential communications" besides that which he alleged to have had with the Ministers, who gave. him credit for the character of a consistent reformer. He had a subsequent confidential communication with the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool, who had come forward with a proposition to defeat the Bill, the principle of which the hon. and gallant Member pledged himself to his constituents at Southwark to support. "But," said the hon. and gallant Member, "if [vote for the Resolution of the hon. member for Liverpool '—and he had not as yet, it should seem, made up his mind as to the side he should vote for—"I shall not do so in hostility to the general measure—for I conceive it not to be brought forward with such feelings." But, supposing the hon. and gallant Member, notwithstanding his confidential communication with the hon. Mover of the Resolution, had laboured under this delusion of its not having originated in a spirit of artful, covert hostility, to the Bill, till yesterday morning, how could he continue under the delusion after the proceedings of 1643 last night? Had he not heard a noble Lord (Lord Stormont) opposite attempt to reflect his little light on the character of that Resolution—had he not heard him admit, that though it was possible that some might vote for the Resolution who would also vote for the Bill, it was not brought forward in any friendly feelings? He knew not whether the hon. and gallant Member had taken a part in the "confidential communications" which led to that Resolution—indeed he knew not who had or had not—for it was a combination of a strange mixture of parties, and principles, and no principles, and motives, and stray voters from all parts of the House, all united in the concocting of a plan the most likely to umbarrass the great measure of Reform which had received the sanction of that House, and, above all others, was stamped with the approbation of the country. He should like to know from the chief actors in these confidential communications, whether it was not a simple fact, that repeated discussions had been held on not less than four modifications of the original proposition of the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool before the present was ultimately agreed to. He said, that such was the fact, and he appealed to the hon. and gallant Member himself for the truth of his statement. [General Gascoyne—"Yes, there were some alterations."] He knew that such was the case; and yet the hon. and gallant Member, forsooth, told them that the proposition did not emanate in hostility to the principle of Reform. It was the deliberate, and, as its framers thought, the most efficacious, means of securing a large number of votes, so as to indirectly, but effectually, defeat the great object which the friends of the present Bill have in view. Would the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool venture to deny, that the first draft of the Resolution applied to "Great Britain" instead of "England and Wales?" And was it not in consequence of the unwillingness to provoke any marked hostility on the part of the Irish and Scotch Members that it was, after several modifications, altered to its present form? And yet this is the Resolution thus framed in deadly hostility to the Bill, which the "consistent reformer," the hon. and gallant member for Southwark, would forsooth support! He would also ask the gallant General, had there been one word said in the discussion 1644 upon the Amendment to prove the inconveniences which were apprehended from the altered proportions of the English to the Irish and Scotch Representation? Had they not, on the contrary, gone over and over the discussion of the principles of the Bill, whereas that principle had been already decided by the House, and still more decidedly approved of by the whole country? And had not the discussion of that almost universally approved principle been renewed upon a debate which professed to concern the relative proportion of the Representation of England and Wales to that of the remainder of the United Kingdom. If he rightly understood the hon. member for Southwark, that gallant Officer was bound, in duty to his constituents, to oppose the Resolution then before the House, although be could not support the Bill. What, then, was he to oppose the Resolution and the Bill also? Well, then, he was bound to speak against the Bill, as he had spoken, and to vote for it; or to speak in favour of the Amendment and not to vote for it or for the Bill? The gallant Member seemed to him to have very doubtful notions of his duty. He understood the gallant General to regret that the English people were by the Bill to be less efficiently represented, because the number of those professing to represent them was to be diminished. But he would ask the hon. and gallant Member, did he not believe, that although the number of English Members in that House were diminished by the Bill, still the real constituency, the number of Englishmen actually represented, would be considerably increased? The country had received the Bill with almost unqualified and universal approbation. The country was well pleased that the constituency was enlarged, and complained not that the number of Representatives was diminished by the measure, which at the same time cut off so many sources of corruption. Were the hon. Members who were prepared to vote for the Amendment proposed by the gallant General prepared to go still farther, and vote that the Members of the House should be increased? This would be the result of the vote, unless they were also prepared to contend that no additional Members should be given to Ireland and Scotland. The hon. and gallant General was, however, willing that Scotland and Ireland should receive an increase; but how were 1645 they to receive it, unless by giving to them some of the seats taken from rotten boroughs of England, or by increasing the whole amount of the Representation? This was the dilemma into which they were thrown by those who opposed the reduction of the number of the English Members, but who in reality were anxious, through the means of that opposition, to defeat the Bill altogether. There was a part of the question, connected with the proportions of the Members to be given to the three kingdoms, which he approached with the greatest pain. Much, indeed, did he regret, after all the discussions they had already had on such subjects, and after the passing of that great healing measure of Catholic Emancipation, which it was fondly hoped would have set the question at rest for ever—much, indeed, did he regret to hear the noble Lord (Lord Stormont) revive those discussions last night, and by again throwing down the apple of discord in that House, seek to secure an opposition to the Bill on questions of religious controversy. The noble Lord contended that it was not so much a question of the comparative number of Members which should be given to Ireland, as the propriety of not giving a greater proportion of Representatives to Catholic Ireland. In this respect he differed in some degree from the gallant General, who had no objection to give additional Members to Ireland and Scotland; but then the number of the Representatives of England was not to suffer any decrease. For his own part, he confessed he did not attach much importance to these questions of national proportion. As long as he found great cities and towns, or populous districts, deprived of their fair share in the Representative system of the country, it differed little to him whether these towns, and these cities, and these districts were situated in England, Ireland, or Scotland; for, he thanked God, they were now one united people. Did, however, the hon. Members and the noble Lord who advanced these arguments respecting Ireland and her Representation, recollect the consequences which must follow them, or consider what arguments they placed in the mouths of those who contended that Ireland, if it was to be considered as a part of the empire, was entitled to her fair share in the Representation; and that if she was not fairly represented in the Parliament of England, she must be repre- 1646 sented elsewhere? He entreated them to consider this, and to beware how they strengthened the influence of those who advocated a separation, which he trusted in God would never take place, by denying to Ireland those rights which she was fairly entitled to demand from them. The complaints of the advocates of a Repeal of the Union were the more dangerous in proportion as they were founded in justice; and he trusted that the time was gone for ever, when they could hope to govern by a system of exclusion. They had passed the Catholic Relief Bill; they had abolished the penal laws; they had put an end to all religious distinctions, and he implored them, in the name of God, unless they intended to revert again to the vicious system they had abandoned, not to grudge to Catholic Ireland that fair share of Representation in the Parliament of England, to which she was entitled by her wealth, her intelligence, and her population. Was there any ground that the Catholics as Catholics should be deprived of the same proportion of Representatives to which their other fellow-citizens wore entitled? He should now advert, for a few minutes, to a speech to which he had listened with little less astonishment than he had to that of the hon. member for Southwark—he alluded to the speech which had been delivered by his right hon. friend, the member for Montgomery. His right hon. friend had not spoken against the principle of Reform, he had not addressed a syllable to the House against that principle; but he had told them that his objections principally lay against the details of the Bill, to which, on the second reading, he had reluctantly given his assent, and which he said had astonished him when he found it brought forward. His right hon. friend, though not a member of the cabinet, was perfectly cognizant, previous to the introduction Of the Bill, of the details of the measure, and of the extent to which they went, for they were communicated to him ten days before the measure was brought forward in that House, and yet his right hon. friend had expressed his astonishment at finding such a Bill brought forward. His right hon. friend said, that he did not object to the principle of the Bill, and that he was friendly to Reform. He could not therefore avoid expressing his astonishment, that his right hon. friend should now give so strong an opposition to the principle as 1647 well as to the details of a measure with which he had been previously so well acquainted. His right hem. friend, among other arguments against the Bill, had declared his objection to their taking up the principle of population in their distribution of the franchise. Now, the Government did not take population as a principle, but merely as a test, for the purpose of discovering whether the place to which they were disposed to give the franchise was above or below that rule of importance and consequence which would entitle it to obtain the right of returning Members to Parliament. But then his right hon. friend said, that population was no test of that. Be (Mr. Stanley) admitted, that it was not an unerring test, but yet, at the same time, it enabled them in many cases to ascertain the real condition of those places to which it was necessary that their inquiries should be applied. As a proof of this, he would take leave to read a short statement to the House. He held in his hand a list of six places above and six places below the standard of population fixed by the Bill in the Schedules A and B; that is, of six places above and six below the numbers of 2,000 and of 4,000, which were the lines of disfranchisement adopted by the Government. In the six first places below the line of 2,000 inhabitants, he found a total of 152 inhabited houses at a rent of 10l. a year, making an average of twenty-five 10l. houses in each of those places. Again, in the six first places above the line of 2,000, there were 411 houses rented at 10l. a year, making an average of sixty-eight inhabited houses of that description in each borough. Again, taking the six first places above and below the line of 4,000 inhabitants, he found that the number of 10l. houses in the six below were 766, making an average of 127 and a fraction. In the six boroughs above the line of 4,000 inhabitants, he found there was a total of 1,314 inhabited houses at 10l. a year, making an average of 219 houses of that description for each borough. He repeated his confession, that population was not an unerring test, but he must also be permitted, from this statement to assert, that in taking the lines of 2,000 and of 4,000, they had taken those lines which afforded immediately above them a greater average of those householders to which they proposed to give the right of voting, in proportion to the population 1648 generally, than were to be found in those towns immediately below them. So far, therefore, the test of population had been found to be a good test. He was surprised that his right hon. friend should object to the disfranchisement of the nomination boroughs, and should then tell them that he did not object to the principle of the Bill. His right hon. friend had repeated the old arguments on the benefits which the House derived from these boroughs, through the facilities they afforded to the entrance of merit and talent into that House. He admitted that argument to its full extent, but he was satisfied that there would be as good an opening for virtue, and talent, and knowledge, after the Bill passed, as there was now, and he was quite sure, that there would be no indisposition on the part of the people to avail themselves of their assistance. The argument was, at the best, a mere argumentum ad hominem, and he was not disposed to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of the advantage of it. He was sure, however, that there would be no want of talent in that House if the Bill received its assent, and he really had no fear that it would ever become too pure. He did not set himself up to be a man of talent or genius, and yet it so happened (and he was sure that his right hon. friend would forgive him for stating the fact) that only about three hours ago he had received a letter, calling upon him to offer himself for the county of Montgomery at the next election, in opposition to his right hon. friend, with whose conduct, in reference to this measure, it appeared that his constituents were dissatisfied. He hoped his right hon. friend would not be alarmed: he had no intention to avail himself of the offer thus so liberally made to him; but he mentioned it for the purpose of showing that these persons, of whom there were so many distinguished by much greater powers than he could pretend to, would have no difficulty in getting into the House, and that they would find constituents in many places ready to come forward and afford them an opportunity of serving their country in that House. He held that, indeed, to be one of the great benefits of the Bill, that men of virtue and knowledge would have an opportunity afforded them of getting into that House without purchasing their seat, or being indebted to the favour of a patron. The right hon. Gentleman, the 1649 member for Montgomery, seemed to think that the Members for the House should be increased rather than reduced, and that they should keep pace in that increase with the growth of the population and prosperity of the country. Every one who knew anything of the conduct of business in that House, and particularly in the Committees up-stairs, must be sensible that numbers retarded the despatch of affairs, and that business was better-done by those who represented large bodies of constituents than by those who merely represented their own opinions. The right hon. Gentleman said, however, that the business of that House was principally transacted by the Members of the rotten or nomination boroughs. He denied that it was so. Except on some occasions, when Members of that description were canvassed for some peculiar interest, or when they were called on to attend to the wishes of some of their constituents, or to obey the commands of their patron, he appealed to all who heard him, whether the real business of the House was not transacted chiefly by the Members for counties? He did not speak of public business when he said this. He knew that the greater part of the public servants in that House were generally Members for those boroughs. He believed, indeed he could mention cabinets in which almost every Member sat for a nomination borough. He alluded solely to that business which was intimately connected with the interests of constituents. His right hon. friend founded his chief objection to the Bill on the further demands to which it would give rise, and the continual excitement which it must Keep up among those who would prefer these demands. His right hon. friend had said, that with every new census they would have a new excitement, and new demands from different places for constituents, to which they would be obliged to consent if they passed so extensive a measure as this. His right hon. friend did not deny, that an excitement existed at present; he did not take upon him to assert that there was not a general call for Reform; and how then did his right hon. friend propose to allay that excitement, and to stop those demands? Why, by not giving, for the present, above one-third of that which he admitted would be requisite to produce a temporary tranquillity, while he at the same time admitted that something must be done. The argu- 1650 ment, he confessed, was not very logical, but it was the right hon. Gentleman's, and they were bound to take it for its worth. One word as to the rotten boroughs in connection with the relative proportion of Members between England, Scotland, and Ireland. It was said, that they proposed to diminish far too much the proportion as it already existed in favour of England. It was the object of the gallant General's motion to preserve that proportion. What was it, then, that they were about to disfranchise? Not the Representatives of the people of England, but those who either purchased a seat in that House for money, or owed it to the favour of a patron. These boroughs were the property of the first man who chose to buy them, and the Members who were sent to that House from them, were subject either to the influence of the man who had bought the borough in the one case, or in the other case of the patron of the borough who had returned them. It was expected that the disfranchisement of such boroughs would take from England its just proportion of Representatives; but what was the fact?—that, in many instances, those boroughs were represented by Scotchmen and Irishmen. He begged to call the attention of the House, in connection with this part of the subject, to a memorable instance of the manner in which it operated with respect to England. The gallant General, and those who supported him, were unwilling to increase the number of the Members of Catholic Ireland at the expense of England; and yet a distinguished member of the Catholic body had somehow or other, by means to which it was not necessary to allude, been selected to represent the English borough of Mil-borne Port. Did not this form a complete answer to all the arguments which had been put forward on the subject of the balance of Representation? The rotten boroughs, in fact, belonged to no country, and it was mere mockery to talk of the proportion of the Members of Ireland or Scotland, when it was in the power of any one who pleased, and possessed the means, to enter that House for one of the rotten boroughs of England. He had already occupied the time of the House much longer than he originally intended. He would conclude, therefore, by repeating what he had said frequently before, that the proposition now before them was a most insidious attempt to get rid of the 1651 Bill, and secure the destruction of the measure proposed by his Majesty's Government. It was clear to every man, that on the vote to which the House would come that night, hung the question of Reform; and he warned the timid, although, per-haps, sincere reformers, that however they might be led to judge of the nature of the question before them by any specious arguments, that this was the time when they were called on to show their desire for Reform. He would tell them, and he would tell their constituents, that by the vote of that night they were cither losing | or gaining the first opportunity ever offered them of gratifying or of defeating those highly-raised and highly-excited hopes of the people, that they should at last possess a House of Parliament really representing the feelings, the wishes, and the interests, of every class in the country.
§ Mr. C. W. Wynn, as he had been personally alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, expressed a hope that the House would permit him to say one or two words in explanation. The right hon. Gentle-man, whom he had the pleasure of calling his friend, had charged him with having altered his opinions with respect to the Reform Bill—with having acted in a manner which he certainly could not have supposed that right hon. Gentleman would have imputed to him on such an occasion. The right hon. Gentle- man stated, that he had seen the Re-form Bill ten days before it was presented to that House, and that he had been advised with, and consulted, on its provisions. The Bill was certainly shown to him on the Saturday preceding the week on which it was brought in, and he then expressed his objection to it to the noble Lord who framed it. On that same evening he went still further, and expressed to the noble Earl at the head of the Treasury his doubt whether he could support the whole of its provisions. He told that noble Lord, that it was impossible he could pledge himself to support it, but that he would wait until its details were explained more precisely, as he had not been consulted until the plan was completely settled. The reason why he did not speak more decidedly at that time was, because he had not had an opportunity of reading the Bill more than once, and he was anxious to hear the opinions of those with whom he had always acted on previous occasions, in opposition to some 1652 of those strong plans of Reform which had been more than once urged on their attention. For these reasons he deferred, until a future day, saying more on the subject of an opposition which he, of course, considered to carry with it the immediate relinquishment of office. If it was meant to be insinuated that he had acted unfairly in not immediately tendering his resignation, he could only say, that he was most anxious, if he could have found it possible, to avoid opposing the Bill. He felt that he was bound to avoid that, as much from the feelings of private regard as from respect to the opinions of a large body of his constituents, who entertained opinions favourable to Reform. He wished, therefore, to support the Bill; but, on the most mature consideration, he found he could not. The announcement which the right hon. Gentleman had just made with respect to the county of Montgomery, was no news to him. He had heard of the intentions in the right hon. Gentleman's favour some time ago; but he could assure him he was not afraid of meeting him on the hustings at the election in that county. Two-and-thirty years of honest and zealous service in that House would, he hoped, prove sufficient to plead his cause with effect to the great body of his constituents. To their impartial judgment on his conduct he fully trusted, and he feared not the result.
disclaimed all intention to impute any act of unfairness to the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Montgomery. All he had said was this, that he felt surprised his right hon. friend could have any doubt for a week, or for a day, respecting the principle of a Bill which he had that night condemned so strongly.
§ Sir George Murray
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the Bill as likely to give that House better Members for counties; but it would not be easy to find more honest and able Representatives than they already possessed in the person of the member for the county of Montgomery. One of the main objections he felt to the Bill was that which he had expressed before, that it would open the door to all kinds of changes. It was said, however, as an excuse for these changes, that they were become absolutely necessary, and that they must be brought forward without delay. This was the reason offered for that great alteration in the 1653 political system of the country which they were now called on to adopt. He knew it would be said, that the Government were pledged to a plan of Reform, and that they could not avoid bringing it forward as speedily as possible. He admitted that the seeds of the present measure were sown on the Opposition benches, and the fruits, however unripe or unwholesome, were now offered them by the Government. While they talked, however, of the perfection of their plan, they seemed to forget the memorable and expressive declaration of a great statesman (Mr. Fox), that if, by the peculiar interposition of Divine Providence, all the intellect of men was collected together, it would be impossible for them to frame a perfect Constitution. Applying himself to Scotland, he must say, that the number of Scotchmen was greater now than it would be under the new system, for it was well known that great numbers of Scotchmen sat for English boroughs. The Bill itself would change the whole form of the Representation of Scotland. Population, which the authors of the Bill professed to be its principle, had not been extended as a principle to Scotland and Ireland. He had received a letter from the Moderator of the Synod in Scotland, stating, that in order to secure the Church of Scotland, there ought to be an addition to the number of Scotch Members proposed, of two representative Peers, and four Members of the House of Commons. He mentioned this to show the extravagant notions to which the Bill had given rise. He wished the Bill to be rejected, and the great majority of his constituents entertained the same desire. But it was certainly open both to those who were favourable and to those who were unfavourable to the Bill to support the Motion of the gallant member for Liverpool. He should give it his cordial support.
represented the inconsistency of those who argued for cutting off boroughs in which corruption had been proved, and who, in the same breath, recommended keeping open those channels by which Members obtained admission to that House, who would not otherwise be returned to it. An hon. and gallant General, who had served with so much distinction in India, had said, that he should not have been in that House but for one of the boroughs in question; but he ap- 1654 pealed to that gallant Officer, whether his distinguished services would have obtained him his seat, if he had not agreed with his patron in opinion? For himself, although he was friendly to the colonies, and thought they were not sufficiently attended to, he sat there as a representative of the people of England; and he would in no case sacrifice what was proved to be for the interest of the country, to any consideration or feeling of his own. No remarks made either in or out of that House—no taunt of any kind should induce him to depart from what he felt to be the strict line of his duty. The effect of acquiescing in the motion of the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool would be most injurious to the Bill. How was it possible to say that the number of English Members should be 513, and yet to suppose that five additional Members were to be given to Ireland and five to Scotland? But where would be the danger of the addition? Could the addition of five members to Ireland, or the addition of five Members to Scotland, occasion any risk to the Church? It was evident that the object in supporting the hon. and gallant General's motion was, to throw out the Bill in limine; and he must express his surprise at the inconsistency of the hon. and gallant General, who, having voted for the second reading of the Bill, now objected even to its principle.
§ Sir J. Malcolm ,
in explanation, said, that he had scarcely landed in England when he received an invitation to represent the place for which he had the honour to sit, with an assurance that he should be as free as air. He should consider himself as a most degraded human being, if he had consented to support opinions which were not his own.
§ Mr. North
observed, that he foresaw when he first read the original Bill, and he would undertake to say, that every lawyer in the House agreed with him, that the Bill would never be presented for the approbation of the Crown. Whatever might be thought of the fitness of its end, the means by which that end was to be obtained were so manifestly insufficient, that it was impossible that any Government, after due consideration, could think of adopting the Bill as it was originally introduced. It showed distinctly that those by whom it had been preferred had not fathomed the depths of the subject to 1655 which it referred. Every page of it betrayed marks of doubt, haste, and imbecility. It bore on its face the proof of the inability of its author, and he might apply to it the language in which Dryden had described the feeble and ricketty offspring of the subject of his satire:Got while his soul did huddled notions try;And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy.It was evidently necessary that great alterations should be made in the measure; but he had hoped that those alterations would be such as to correct its great original vice. That vice was the uniformity which the Bill introduced into the elective franchise. He had hoped, that the re- framers of the Bill would have given to the elective franchise that happy variety which had hitherto been found so inestimably beneficial to the country. He could not help thinking the House had not sufficiently considered the advantages which resulted from that variety. They were of this nature. If by any combination of circumstances one place had a leaning to a particular interest, the variety in the franchise created an antagonist bias in another place, which corrected the partiality. The whole system of the Representation was by that process beneficially adjusted. But the change which the noble Lord had made in the Bill was merely an addition to it; a continuance of that dull uniformity of the elective franchise which was the great fault of the Bill as it originally stood. The vessel still pursued its dull course in the stagnant water of a Dutch canal, upon an everlasting level. Not only in that respect, but almost in every other, the Bill was defective, and worse than defective. in the peculiar circumstances of the times, one should have thought that no means would have been resorted to, to point the attention of the people to the fact, that the Empire was composed of three distinct parts. Yet one of the express objects of the Cabinet seemed to be, by the introduction of three separate Bills, to emblazon that fact which every wise man would endeavour to keep out of view. If there were any time worse than any other for thus marking the difference in the three parts of a legislative body, belonging to what were once independent countries, it was at a time when a numerous and active party in Ireland had declared their determination to dissolve the happy union with Great Britain. One of the soundest and most phi- 1656 losophical principles which influenced the great men by whom the Bill of Rights had been framed was, while they made the changes which circumstances rendered necessary, to mark the extent of those changes, and not unnecessarily to disturb established institutions. But what was the conduct of the present Cabinet? They did not determine the extent of the changes which they proposed, and while they cut off the rights of boroughs, and conferred rights on other places, they disturbed various fixed and fundamental principles of the Constitution, which it was not necessary to disturb, and involved in discussion questions which it was not necessary to discuss. For instance, why raise the difficult and delicate questions connected with the Union between England," Ireland, and Scotland? What purpose could that answer but to excite every bad and rival feeling; to make the member for Waterford haggle in a bargain with the member for Kirkcudbright; and to render Paisley envious of the better luck of Limerick and Galway? The jealousies and rivalries of former times, long buried, his Majesty's present Government had exhumed. They had "burst their cearments," and "ope'd the ponderous and marble jaws "of their sepulchres, "to cast them up again." The disadvantages, however, of the measure, the authors and supporters of it declared were countervailed by the great benefit of which it was to be productive; described by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his calm language as the destruction of nomination, and by the hon. member for Kirkcudbright as the annihilation of the boroughmongers. And here he must observe, that greatly as he respected the hon. member for Kirkcudbright, and highly as he estimated his genuine and sterling-talents, he had heard him last night, not with pleasure, but with surprise. The hon. member for Kirkcudbright, after having adverted to the retrenchments made by the Duke of Wellington (a declaration highly complimentary to his Grace), declared that the power of the Crown over that House had been so weakened and impaired by those retrenchments, that it had been absolutely annihilated. And then the hon. Member added, "Will you not allow the power of the borough Lords to be annihilated also?" What kind of argument was this? Because one great mound against the injurious increase of 1657 popular opinion was broken down, there- fore they were to destroy the barriers which still remained. Let that course be persevered in, and nothing would be left to resist the tide; and the Monarchy, the Peerage, and the Church, would soon be swept away as useless rubbish. The 10l. a year freeholders in counties, and the 10l. a year householders in towns would,; for a time, engage in a contest, with al-ternate superiority, until some conquering dictator, like those of Germany or Gaul, would interpose and reduce all under his single domination. He begged to ask the friends of the Bill, in what way they supposed the Representation under it for populous places would be supplied? No candidate could possibly expect favour at a popular place without flattering the people by the adoption of popular prejudices. Any man who had been sent to prison for riot or libel—any preacher of sedition from the pulpit of democracy— any proprietor of a republican press, would be sure of success. What provision would there be for resisting men of that description, leagued together in a bond of common purpose? Vain would be the hope that the country Gentlemen in the House, not bound by any distinct tie, vacillating, doubtful, and incoherent, could stand against such a combination. Another view of the subject had been taken by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman charged a noble Lord, who spoke from the Opposition benches last night, with throwing into the House that apple of discord which every wise and good man would wish withheld. But the right hon. Gentleman, and the other members of the Government, would find that any attempt on the part of Ministers to fix the agitation of Ireland on those who opposed this measure would be perfectly useless. He had been a firm advocate of the great measure of 1829, and particularly because it was likely to put an end to the agitation of that country, and restore the peace that was so much wanted. Everybody acquainted with Ireland was aware that that measure tore up by the living roots some of the strongest affections or prejudices of the Protestants of Ireland, but they consented to the sacrifice as a means of providing for the security and tranquillity of the country. To obtain those objects the 40s. freeholders were disfranchised, because they were likely to give a prepon- 1658 derance to the Roman Catholic interest. That measure was one of the peace-offerings to Protestant security. From the bench, near which he then stood, the present Lord Chancellor of England expressed himself hostile to the principle of the Bill, but declared that he would vote for it, as essential to the success of the great measure. The 40s. freeholders, however, were left in the towns, because there the Corporations were Protestant, and they having the power of admitting freemen through the means of their charters, would preserve their ascendancy. But the measure for reforming the Representation of Ireland annihilated these Corporations, and disturbed the balance that was there meant to be established. They had also passed an Act of Parliament contrary to the Constitution, giving to the Government great temporary power, which nothing could justify but the great advantages expected to result from it. On that occasion the language of Statesmen of all descriptions was, that agitation must be put an end to, for repose and tranquillity were above all things necessary to Ireland. The Government had, however, by this measure caused a far greater agitation in Ireland than was known before, and effected that which all good men had laboured to suppress. The Government might say, indeed, because there was an hon. Member of that House standing at the bar of justice, that it had done a great deal to remove all agitation. But. it had harassed the Protestant mind; and then the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, commanded them not to throw the apple of discord among the parties of Ireland. The Government had thrown it, and there it was lying. They had presented a measure to Ireland for which Ireland did not ask. The Irish called for the repeal of the Sub-letting Act; for the repeal of the Vestry Act; and for an amendment of the Tithe-laws; but not one voice was raised for Reform. He was wrong there, even one voice, that of the hon. and learned member for Water-ford, was raised in favour of Reform as a means of promoting the dissolution of the Union. The hon. and learned Member admitted, that to bring forward any measure of that nature with an unreformed Parliament would fail; but he was satisfied that, with a reformed Parliament, a measure for the Repeal of the Union would not be impracticable. The hon. member for Limerick had denied this. But he 1659 preferred the reasoning of the hon. and learned member for Waterford to that of the hon. member for Limerick, for he conceived that any attempt to promote a measure for the Repeal of the Union with the present Parliament was quite idle, but a reformed Parliament would lead to a dissolution of the Union as a necessary consequence. The hon. member for Waterford felt that all his arguments would be confirmed by the Irish bill. The result of that measure would be, to place in the hands of the hon. and learned member for Waterford the power of nominating eighteen or nineteen Members of that House. That would be the inevitable consequence. The giving to the 10l. renters the right of voting gave it to those who had a chattel interest. He had had an opportunity of making himself acquainted with those people, and he was quite sure that this Bill would throw all the inhabitants of the towns into the hands of the agitators of Ireland. Men would be returned to that House who would be averse from all those institutions which the Members of that House respected, and on those said Members the Parliament could not rely for any co-operation in preserving those institutions which Englishmen venerated and were bound to preserve. If there were no other reason but this, on this alone he should be ready to give his support to the Motion of the gallant General, because he was anxious to preserve unimpaired the English Representation, as necessary to support and maintain the Protestant interest in Ireland, for which he was anxious, and which it was the duty of that House to support. It was his intention to have gone further into the subject; but at that late hour he would only say, that if any Members had been seduced to give their votes in favour of the Bill, on the supposition that it would promote the tranquillity, and secure the Protestant religion in Ireland, he hoped that they had now become sensible of their error, and would vote against it as injurious to the Protestant interest, which the Government was bound to protect, and that they would see that the Protestant interest of the empire required to be saved by the resolution from the ascendancy of the Catholics.
Mr. O' Connell
was not surprised that the hon. and learned Member should have been one of the first to introduce religious altercation into this discussion; for he had done the same on the Catholic Question. 1660 It was easy by such means to catch a ready cheer, and captivate a few votes for the amendment. In all that concerned Ireland, nothing was more insulting than the air of patronage assumed by some men, who had no other claim to superiority than a pompous diction and theatrical gestures, and who pretended to take the poor agitators under their protection. The hon. and learned member for Drogheda, though he now sat for an Irish city had been introduced into Parliament for one of the rotten boroughs, and nobody better than the hon. and learned Member could defend them. He was, however, quite misinformed, and the House was misinformed, as to the probable effects of Reform in Ireland. The hon. Member said, that he (Mr. O'Connell) advocated Reform in Parliament as a means of obtaining a Repeal of the Union. He had done no such thing. He had advocated a Reform as a means of getting justice for Ireland. He repeated it, he required justice for Ireland, and he believed that there was a chance of obtaining that from a Reformed Parliament. He had said, that a Reform of Parliament would be beneficial, but did the anti-Unionists join him? Did not Mr. George Ensor, who was one of the most intelligent and clever advocates of the Repeal of the Union, call on the people of Ireland to oppose Reform, as likely to raise up obstacles to oppose the Repeal of the Union? That was the argument of George Ensor. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that he (Mr. O'C.) kept up agitation in Ireland; but what was likely to be the effect of introducing the Motion of the gallant General? Those who looked at the Irish Newspapers knew that the agitation of the Reform Question had not been caused by the discussion of the Union Question. Those who had most opposed the Repeal of the Union were most in favour of Reform. The counties of Antrim, of Down, of Armagh, which were much opposed to the Repeal of the Union, were the foremost in promoting Reform. He did not mean to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through all his statements, but he would ask, as the hon. Member had stated, that it threatened the Monarchy, the Church, and the Peerage, if they all were founded on nomination boroughs? Did the Monarchy depend on them? Could the Peerage only exist by trafficking in boroughs? Could the Church not exist except on traffic or 1661 on corruption? Could the Peerage and the Monarch depend on practices that were crimes in the eye of the law? The Peerage of England had a better foundation.' But was it right to say of the Protestant Church that it was founded not on "airs from Heaven, but blasts from Hell?" If such were the character of the Establishment, would they tell the people that their Church was nourished and sustained by what they knew to be corruption and crime? That description would make the Monarchy, the Peerage, the Church, depend on very cobweb ties. He knew, however, that they had a far better foundation. The hon. member for Kirkcudbright had spoken of the influence of the Crown being diminished; but the influence which had been restrained was that species, of which it had been said, that "it had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished." It was only the corrupt and improper influence of the Crown which had been diminished, and that had been taken by the oligarchy. That influence it was now necessary to diminish; and that which had been taken from the Crown and usurped by the Peerage this Bill would diminish. He had formerly spoken in that House of a sordid oligarchy, which had usurped the privileges of the people. But noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen had well defended the Aristocracy, by showing that what they had accidentally acquired of the property of the people they were willing to resign. His accusation had been well replied to, and a noble answer had been given by the splendid speech of an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hawkins) who spoke in the early part of the evening. The proprietors of boroughs had been willing to resign their advantages. Would those who spoke of the safety of the Monarchy give up their emoluments? Would those who dreaded the fall of the Church, persuade the Clergy to resign their plunder? He was afraid not; but if they would, he would tell them that the Church of England would then have nothing to fear from a Reformed Parliament, but what it might have to dread from arguments founded in reason and Christian charity. The object of the gallant General's Motion was to prevent Ireland from getting her full proportion of Members. The Bill only proposed to add five Members to Ireland, and he could not conceive a topic better calculated to serve the cause of the anti-Unionists in 1662 Ireland, than the proposition to deprive her of her fair share of Representation. The speeches of the hon. members for Aldborough, for Brecon, and for Dysart, would admirably serve the cause of the anti-Unionists by shewing, England, Scotland, and Wales, combined to prevent Ireland from getting her fair share of the Representation! The Tories had printed the speech of the reforming member for Preston, and the speech of the gallant General would, on the same principle, be printed and circulated through Ireland. There was no better means by which to rouse the prejudices of the Irish, than to inform them that the English, Scotch, and Welsh Members, had combined to oppose doing justice to Ireland. No Member was to be reduced from England, no Member was to be reduced from Scotland, but Ireland had lost two-thirds of her Members at the Union. Ireland was the most miserable, the most distressed country of the world, and what did that arise from but the injustice done to that country? She suffered from losing her domestic Legislature. All she wanted was justice and adequate protection by a Legislature of her own. Would they do justice to Ireland? Would they give her a full share in the legislation of the empire, so as to take from her the necessity of demanding a domestic Legislature? Every tongue demanded, and every heart throbbed for, a domestic Legislature. Would they give that to Ireland? Ireland had lost two-thirds of her Members, and now, when it was proposed to restore part of them, among the persons who was found to oppose that was the hon. member for Drogheda. The hon. and gallant General had referred to what he called the combination of eighty-five Irish Members, to compel the Ministers to agree to their terms. There was, indeed, a meeting of eighty-five Irish Members, but only one was willing to pledge himself to resist giving taxes to Ministers till they had done something for Ireland; and this was what the hon. and gallant Member called a combination. There were eighty-five Members met; but only one was ready to agree to the proposition. They were spoken of as a club of mechanics who had combined for an increase of wages; and yet the hon. member for Drogheda supported the Motion, and was well content in making his points against the Ministers, and lauding his own religious liberality. 1663 As for the hon. member for Liverpool, he was consistent in his hostility to Ireland. In the history of Parliament, he never knew an instance in which he had not voted against the interests of Ireland. The Irish Members had been charged with opposing all measures for the improvement of Ireland. There was a time when they were utterly subservient to the Minister, and when their names were never heard of except in the lists of the Government majorities; then they never fell under the ban of the gallant General's displeasure. Now that Irish Members represented a nation, and not a part of a pitiful province it was widely different. But he asked, what measures for the improvement of Ireland they had opposed? Was it the introduction of the Poor-laws? And were they such a panacea—were they found to work well in England? No one would presume to say they had. Therefore, Ireland should not be reproached with not taking English Poor-laws, until they were so amended as to be rendered worthy of example. The hon. member for Liverpool had also sneered at the statements respecting the amount of population in Ireland. The authority to which they had referred were the official returns of 1821. And these returns, he could tell the hon. Member, were below the real amount of population. In the county of Mayo alone, it was a well known fact, that the names of 33,000 persons more were written down as having got relief than were numbered in the returns. Another subject invidiously urged was, that Ireland did not pay her due proportion of taxation. This was a miserable fallacy. And now they refused Ireland the paltry been of five additional Members. But, he repeated, it was a fallacy to say, that Ireland did not pay her due proportion of taxation; those who fancied she did not, were totally unacquainted with the real condition of Ireland. In the first place, the real amount of taxation paid by Ireland was far greater than it appeared. The taxes arising from the Customs were not placed to the credit of the Irish Treasury. Half a million of money was paid as a duty on tea, in London, which was not placed to the credit of the Irish Treasury. A great revenue was paid for rum and wine in Liverpool. Then there was all the money drawn from Ireland by the absentee landlords, which was spent in England, and paid taxes in England, without a single sixpence being put to the 1664 credit of the Irish Treasury. One-fourth of the surface of Ireland belonged to men whose rents were punctually paid, although they never once set foot in the country. Ireland, therefore, beyond any country on the face of the earth, needed protection, when one-fourth of the revenue of the country did not go to the credit of the Irish Treasury, but was expended in England. Taxation had in this country been compared to the moisture which was taken indeed from the earth by the sun's heat, but returned to it again in gentle and refreshing dew; but the scorching sun passed over Ireland, drawing up all the moisture, but no refreshing dew visited it in return. No! Let them talk not of taxation in Ireland until they understood the burthens that she bore. In the appropriation of the additional members, he contended that injustice had been done to Ireland. There were thirty-two counties in Ireland of which there were only two with a population of less than 100,000. If, therefore, these Irish counties had been English, they would have had thirty additional Members for Ireland. There were twenty counties with a population of above 150,000. If they were English, they would have two additional Members each and if the Union was not a name and a mockery, they would yet receive additional Members. There were twelve counties in Ireland that had a population above 200,000, four a population above 300,000, and one population above 600,000, and yet not one additional Member was to be given to them. This was his case for Ireland. In this impartial proceeding was the real anti-Union agitation,—its source was to be found in the conduct of that House, which said, we will keep all for England, and then, if you please, you may come and ask us for more. Even the paltry addition of five was considered by some hon. Members too great. He hoped, however, the Ministry would have the firmness to persevere—the country was with them—Ireland was with them. The Amendment of the hon. Member was got up, and the country would feel it, to excite English prejudices; and Ireland would feel that it was anti-Irish, and that it was meant to excite a religious fend. It was a base calumny, to say that Catholic electors would prefer a Catholic candidate to a Protestant of higher qualifications. He referred to the election of Mr. Leader, who was preferred by Catholic electors to Catholic candidates. He 1665 called on any man to prove that this was not the fact. He called on the hon. member for Drogheda, who was the chief calumniator of Ireland at present ["Order," "Chair, chair."]
§ The Speaker
explained to the hon. Member, that his language and manner were both unjustifiable, and expressed a hope that the hon. Member would himself feel it.
confessed, that in the heat of debate he had been betrayed into expressions which were not parliamentary; he was sorry for it, and begged to retract them. He contended, however, that it was a gross misrepresentation of the feelings of Ireland, to say they were influenced by religious bigotry. And as to Catholic Members, he would, in reply to the hon. Member, say they were as deserving of confidence and as independent as any Members in that House. They had won their civil rights, and they would wear them thus—by, on all occasions, supporting the principles of civil and religious liberty. He would now come back to the Motion, and had further to remark, that there were fourteen towns in Ireland which, had they been in England, would have received the elective franchise. He declared, in conclusion, that he would support the Bill because he conceived it would be useful to the people of England, and he was influenced by no feeling from rivalry. He called on the House to reject the Amendment — he called on the gallant General himself to fling it to the winds. "But," said the hon. and learned Member, "I am laughed at—I have my answer."
§ Mr. Hunt
was proceeding to move, that the House should adjourn, but there being loud cries for a division, he said, that as he had been alluded to so frequently during this debate, he would take the opportunity of saying a few words. It had been stated, that the member for Preston supported this bill as a fulcrum on which to put his lever to hoist the people into Universal Suffrage, and Vote by Ballot. He thought he could satisfy the fears of hon. Members upon that subject. He said before, and he again repeated, that he was only fearful that it would prevent him, and those who acted with him, from any chance of ever obtaining it. For the Ministers had, from the first moment, declared the Bill to be final, and as the people had in all parts of the kingdom petitioned for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, if they, or he for them, should 1666 ask for more, the Government would say, "No, this is not fair; the bargain was, that you should be satisfied with the measure we gave you, and you shall have no more." It had been said by those who addressed the House from this side, that on this Bill passing, the great towns would return those who had been convicted of some political libel, or who had been sent to prison for some riot. He would relieve the hon. Gentleman from any apprehension in that respect. Of all the individuals who intended to stand for various places in Lancashire in the event of a dissolution, none of them, he could assure the House, had ever been either convicted of political libels, or agitators. The hon. member for Kirkcudbright had told them, that in the reign of Edward 6th, all persons paying scot and lot had the right of voting. Now, although he had been a Radical Reformer all his life, yet with scot and lot, and the protection of the Ballot, he, for one, should not contend for any Reform beyond that. Scot, according to the old signification, meant the person who paid rates; and lot, signified that he stood his lot for the militia ballot. The hon. Member then alluded to his late journey to Manchester, and said he had received letters, stating that his answers were differently understood by the people from what he had intended. But when he stated that the flags of the several bodies of men that came to meet him were inscribed with "Annual Parliaments"— "Vote by Ballot"—"Universal Suffrage" —and "No Corn Laws," whatever words he might have used, would he not have been justified in describing their feelings as he had done? He opposed, or rather exposed, the Bill, because it did not; come up to any one of the points he had advocated. If he had been a general reformer, and never expressed an opinion before, he might be called a captious man, if he were not satisfied with the Bill; but as it was, if he acted otherwise, he should be false to the whole professions and principles of his life. It had been said to him by some reformers, "Why do you expose any part of the measure? Let us get this first, and then we will get the rest after." He knew that, out of doors, the reformers considered the Bill as a stepping-stone to other objects. This was the fact. But he did not consider, that he should be acting honestly if he had described the measure as one of unmixed good, as the hon. member for Waterford did the Catho- 1667 lie Question, and afterwards say give us the Vote by Ballot. In his opinion the only efficient Reform was Universal Suffrage and Vote by Ballot. That was the species of Reform which he looked upon as an unmixed good. He had never said out of the House what he would not repeat in it. He would support the measure all the way through. The Amendment of the gallant General appeared to him so preposterous, that he did not intend to have voted at all upon it. He meant to leave the House without dividing on it, and would have done so, if he had not heard from the Government that they considered it a matter of great importance; and he then resolved to give them his humble support, as he would, were it simply for the disfranchisement of one rotten borough. ["Adjourn," "Question."]
§ Sir Robert Peel, said, that he rose rather for the purpose of bringing this discussion to a conclusion, for it seemed to him that the attention of the House was exhausted, and that nothing further could be said upon the subject, than to enter into any lengthened remarks on the measure which had then been so long under discussion. Delay, too, had this disadvantage, that it propagated itself; and if it were resorted to on this occasion it would only be resorted to again. He had purposely avoided rising immediately after the speech of the hon. and learned member for Waterford, for he was afraid that he might catch the contagion of the spirit of that speech. If he had caught it, he should only have done so from the temporary excitement of the debate, for he had not been habituated, with respect to that hon. Member's country, to entertain the feelings that had pervaded his speech with respect to this country. He had a deeper and a better reason for feeling it strong interest in the prosperity of Ireland than existed in the mere circum-stance of the union of the two countries. Six years of his early life had been passed in Ireland, and he entertained feelings of kindness towards it, and an interest in its prosperity, which he trusted would never expire. But where, he would ask—where was the man who did not feel that the interests of this part of the empire were involved in those of Ireland, and that anything which impeded the prosperity of Ireland must re-act. upon England; and that he who was sordid and mean enough to hope to gain an undivided advantage 1668 for this country, would hope it in vain, for one of the two countries could never procure a benefit at the expense of the other? While he listened to that speech, and to the sort of contest that had been excited with respect to Irish and English interests, he could not but draw a melancholy foreboding of what were likely to be the consequences of the subject-matter of this night's discussion. Why was it necessary that this Question of Reform should be mixed up with that of the relative proportions of the number of Members? Why had the Government abandoned the prescriptive number, and proposed to establish a different proportion in the number of Members from different parts of the British empire? Why was it to be taken for granted in the argument, that the attempt to purify England necessarily involved a spirit of hostility towards Ireland? Could nothing be said, however strong might be their feelings, in favour of retaining the old number of Representatives for England? Could nothing be said by them as Englishmen, in vindication of that measure, and yet avoiding that, other difficulty which was not. incidental to the Question of Reform, of inflicting injury on Ireland? Since the time of Charles 2nd there had not been any variation in the number of English Representatives. Till this Bill had been introduced, there had not been a complaint made on the subject of the relative number of Members for England, Scotland, and Ireland. Hut this Bill, or, if it was not carried, he feared even the bare proposition of it, would introduce these complaints; for the Bill was a gratuitous assumption of a cause for their existence. Let. this Bill pass, and see. the consequences of a departure from a prescription so long preserved. Discussions and comparisons of population would be constant. Not Ireland only, but every county in England, would be discussing the principle of the Bill, and asking whether it were fairly applied or not. They would not be contented with the population returns of 1821. It, was not merely in Ireland, but in every county and town in England, that this Bill would be thus discussed; and the people would ask whether the principle on which it affected to had, had been properly applied? If, as the hon. member for Waterford supposed, the number of Members was an indication of the prosperity of the country, and if as the noble Lord said, properly was to be represented, why was not England enti- 1669 tled to ask for an increase in the number, to be sent to Parliament; why was not England entitled to ask it, not only for herself, with her increased manufacturing and commercial wealth, but with all her enormous colonies acquired since the last settlement of the number of Representatives, and containing 100,000,000 of people? At least England was as well entitled to make the demand as either Scotland or Ireland. He regretted, that this subject had been introduced, that the Government had proposed any departure from the proposition which the law had established and custom sanctified; and he feared that what he said would be the consequence of the introduction of such a topic. At the same time, if it was shown that the basis of the Union was founded on a calculation not fair, as between the two countries, though there was no other consideration for the change, he should be induced to consent to the increase for Ireland without a corresponding increase for England, though he would not consent to the same increase in England, without a similar increase for Ireland. He, for one, however, saw no reason for adding to the number of the Members for Ireland. He did not, at the same time, agree in opinion with those who thought that the hon. and gallant General's proposition, if carried, necessarily precluded such an increase, for he saw no particular reason why the Members of that House might not be increased, though he did not deny, that it would be inconvenient. It was, therefore, most unjust to accuse those who supported that proposition with hostility to Ireland. All which they contended for was, the Maintenance of the present number of Representatives for England, which was surely not unreasonable. The Ministers had at one time said, that they did not consider the question of number to involve the existence of the Bill itself, but that, if the sense of that House was in favour of the maintenance of the present number, they would agree to the opinion, and bring in a Bill in accordance with it. ["No, no" from Lord John Russell.] Such at least had been his understanding of the noble Lord's statement, and he had asked the noble Lord if that understanding was right, and the noble Lord answered in the affirmative. Yet, after all this, the fate of the Bill was now made to depend on the present Amendment. He confessed himself 1670 hostile to the Bill, but he exercised a fail-hostility to it. He was prepared to persevere in a fair and direct opposition to the Bill. There had been a talk of conclaves. There not only had been a talk about it, but it had actually been a charge against them, and a charge of enormous delinquency, that the party who opposed the Bill had met together to consider the means of defeating it. This was a strange charge, and if the present Ministry could direct the course which their opponents should pursue, he would predict that they would be a much more fortunate Ministry than any that had preceded them; but if they could do so, it would be fatal to the free discussions of the House of Commons. But it had been also charged against them, that those who composed the late Ministry had formed a "strange union" with those who had voted against them on. a particular question. What, was it a charge against them that they had united with the anti-Catholics; and was it meant that they should say to these Gentlemen, there is an old grudge between us which must yet be kept alive? Surely it was not meant that they should act on such rules of conduct. If, however, it was meant that they should do so, he begged leave to assert his opposition to the principle, that men were not to unite together for the purpose of defeating a measure to which they were opposed. It had been asked why he had not brought forward some other plan of Reform according with his notions upon the subject? He did not intend to do any such thing, and for this among other reasons, that if he did propose any such measure, he should be taunted with framing a bill as a means, and with the view of getting back to office. He assured them most sincerely, that the charge would be most unfounded; for so much did he deprecate these changes of Administration, and so highly inconvenient did he deem these changes, that he had stated some time since, there would be nothing more gratifying to him than to be able to support the Ministry in some moderate change of the existing system. The noble Lord opposite had said that there were but two authorities on this subject—Earl Grey and the Duke of Wellington. Certainly, after that declaration, he ought to be convinced that there was not an end of respect for the Aristocracy; but he ought to be the more especially convinced of that fact when he was further told, that between 1671 these two authorities he had nothing to choose. But if it were true, that there were but these two opinions, he might even take that of Lord Grey; and he would ask, what was that noble Lord's opinion at the end of last year? He was happy to take that opportunity of declaring, that no one had a higher opinion of the noble Lord than himself, for none more sincerely esteemed that noble Lord's ability and integrity; but what had that noble Lord said at the close of the last year? Why, that the measure of Reform which he desired was moderate, much more moderate than the present measure could possibly pretend to be. The Lord Chancellor, too, had then held the same language. He did not quote these opinions of those noble persons merely for the purpose of showing their inconsistencies, as the noble Lord opposite had seemed to imagine. His own speeches, indeed, had been quoted in that manner, so that he seldom saw an hon. Gentleman rising on the opposite side of the House to speak on this question, but his mind vacillated between the vanity of having his speeches quoted, and the fear of being taunted with inconsistency in what he had spoken. In fact, in most instances when hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side rose to speak, he saw two volumes of the Parliamentary Debates open, the passages was marked down, and the volumes were handed up to the hon. Member before he began. He believed that the speech he had delivered on the Catholic Question was the foundation of many remarks in speeches made in the course of the present Debate. There was, however, a great difference between the Catholic Question and the Reform Bill. In the former, the matter admitted of a final settlement: it was a restitution not a change in the Constitution; but the Reform Bill admitted of no such settlement, and was a complete change of the Constitution. With respect, also, to the 40s. freeholders, of whom so much had been said, he must observe, that the most ample compensation had been granted. The 40s. Catholic freeholders were compensated by their establishment upon a footing of equality with the rest of their fellow-citizens, while the Protestants received by the change the assurance that they would not again be overwhelmed by the influx of Catholic voters. But he repeated once more, that if he had the same proof of necessity, 1672 the same proof that the change of the nature of English voting was as requisite as the change which had been in Ireland, he should not hesitate to make the sacrifice. But having strong doubts as to the policy of the present measure, he could not consent to such a plan of confiscation. He did not see, either, that this measure equally balanced the different interests it affected. The Ministers proposed to give an undue proportion of influence to the Metropolis. By the present Bill they gave no less than sixteen Members to London and its environs. These Members, who would always be on the spot, who could always consult their constituents, and support themselves by their opinions, would exercise in that House a power which no other sixteen Members in it could possess. This arrangement was at least unfortunate. They followed the example of France, and gave to London that species of influence which was so unjustly and perniciously exercised in Paris. He was opposed to the Bill on general principles. One of these was the uniform right of voting which it attempted to establish. All aristocratic influence was to be destroyed, while all democratic influence was carefully retained. The former object was accomplished by the extinction of the small boroughs. The latter was the whole aim and scope of the Bill. The noble Lord opposite had last night declared, that he did not wish to destroy the influence of the Peerage—that, in fact, he wished it to continue; and yet it was a charge made against him (Sir Robert Peel) that he exercised an influence in Tamworth. The only influence he exercised was that which the noble Lord wished to see still enjoyed by the Dukes of Devonshire and Bedford. Would the noble Lord deny the wish, or would the learned Lord Advocate, who now cheered so loudly, say to what he owed his present seat in that House, but to the influence exercised by a Peer in the borough of Malton? He was glad to find that such an influence would be maintained; but influence it was, and the influence of a Peer, of the venerable Earl Fitzwilliam, who could now exercise without obstacle his influence over that borough. Malton was now retained, but what was there to prevent, three years hence, the populous towns from interfering with the elective franchise of that borough, and declaring that it ought not to be placed in the same 1673 situation with themselves, for its claim was influenced by a respectable nobleman, whose character, as well as his property and wealth, had given him the power of purchasing their suffrages? With reference to the assertion, that there was no middle course between the opinion of Earl Grey and the Duke of Wellington, he must remind them, that the Gentleman who now entertained that opinion, had not always held it, and that when the right hon. Baronet opposite held a more elevated situation than he did at present [pointing to the post in the third row of seats on which Sir J. Graham used to sit], he had recommended the formation of a middle party of country Gentlemen, who should check both the others in the extremes that either might possibly fall into. He now returned to the Bill itself, to which he had the strongest objections; and first and chiefly, that it went to create a great change in the mode of voting, and thus decidedly altered the constituency of the country. The number of dwelling houses in Manchester rated between 10l. and 20l. was 1,770, while those rated above 20l. amounted only to 851; the amount of the assessed property in houses above 20l. was 29,300l. while the amount below 20l. was 22,130l.; so that, according to the first proposition of the noble Lord, the Representation of Manchester would be placed entirely in the bands of the 1,770 10l. householders, owning only three eighths of the property of the 851 householders above 20l. He did not say respectable voters would not be found, but he did say that superior intelligence and superior property would be overborne. To remedy some part of this obvious inconvenience the noble Lord now proposed that persons assessed to the rates of a place, though not resident, should be allowed to vote. How would this new plan operate as to Manchester? The assessed value of the dwelling houses there was 51,000l., while the assessed value of the factories, counting houses, &c. was 240,000l. According to the first proposition of the noble Lord, the Representatives for Manchester would be given to the 51,000l., while the 240,000l., because it belonged to out-voters, would be excluded from the right of giving any vote. The noble Lord, however, had at length discovered his mistake, and, to use the expression of the Lord Chancellor, was now about to sluice the 2,621 voters with 4,500 nonresidents. But 1674 after this alteration, of which the House heard yesterday for the first time, what became of the principle of the Bill? He would not absolutely say that this was against the principle of the Bill, but it showed the necessity of the Ministry deeply considering the measure before they proposed it to the House. The noble Lord concluded his speech by asking— and no doubt it was an important question—"Supposing, after examining this measure, you reject it, who will you find capable of governing this country?" He had heard the same question asked (though he believed in a different mode and tone from that adopted by the noble Lord); but he had heard it said, "if we are incapable of administering the public affairs, at least we will render them impossible to be administered by others." But, surely, even in the mitigated sense in which the noble Lord used it, it was a great objection to the Bill, if it was to have this effect, viz. that those who consistently opposed it, and believed it, in its ultimate consequences, to be pregnant with ruin, had the alternative offered them by his Majesty's Government, either to accept that which they believed to be radically wrong, or to be convinced that it had become impossible for others than the present Ministry to conduct the affairs of the Government. He should deeply lament if this indeed was the alternative. He knew not whether it was or not; but this he knew, that he saw no advantage in relinquishing the exercise of his deliberate judgment, or in yielding, against the dictates of that judgment, to the popular clamour on this Bill, or in yielding to the infuriated menaces of that Press which exerted in so degrading a manner the irresponsible power with which it was endowed, and which, to make it wholesome or even bearable, ought to be exercised with the most scrupulous care. Besides, if he were to give way to those motives, what security had he that he must not persevere in the resignation of his own judgment and conviction to the same influence? His conscience, in acting on his own judgment, was at rest. He could not expect to gain anything by the defeat of the measure. The Bill interfered with no interests of his. Quite the reverse: for if it produced the effect which its friends ascribed to it, it would add to his influence in every county where he possessed any property. He, therefore, could not be 1675 influenced by those motives which he had heard ascribed—and, as he believed, most unjustly ascribed—to honest men, who had endeavoured, from the sincere convictions of their minds, to resist this measure as pernicious and destructive. What might be the consequences of the Bill he would not say; but if it should prove prejudicial to the interests of the country, he should hold responsible for it, that Ministry which had prepared the Bill without due consideration of its importance, and by so doing, had reduced them to such a state of embarrassment, that they must either acquiesce in what they believed to be injurious to the Constitution, or witness the melancholy prospect of the affairs of this realm being submitted to misrule and anarchy.
Sir James Graham
said, that with respect to the motives that had been attributed to the opponents of this measure by the friends of the Bill, before any weight was laid upon that, it should be remembered, that the basest motives had been attributed to those who had brought forward this measure; though he must observe that his noble friend (Lord Althorp) had on the previous night well answered such insinuations, when he had observed, that the Ministry would have been unworthy of the slightest confidence, could it for one moment be supposed, that in bringing forward a measure, which he would readily admit to be the most important since the Accession of the House of Brunswick to the throne of these realms they had attended to either private or party interests, or done other than pursue an open, manly, and straight-forward course. The right hon. Baronet had mistaken his right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, in thinking that he had complained of any combination among the open enemies of the measure. The right hon. Baronet himself had given an open and manly opposition to the Bill; and when he (Sir James Graham) sat at that post to which the right hon. Baronet had referred, and where it might, perhaps, be his destiny to return—for he agreed with his right hon. friend, that the vote of that night would be vital to the Bill itself, and that, if defeated in this, it would be a question of anxious deliberation with the Ministers, whether they could venture to urge the rest of the Bill on the future attention of the House—when he sat at the, place the right hon. Baronet had pointed 1676 out, he had openly opposed several measures, and he had recommended combinations to oppose others, but the right hon. Baronet, he was sure, would do him the justice to say, that he had never recommended a combination to defeat a measure which he professed his desire to support. He remembered the arguments of which the right hon. Baronet had made use, and was willing to admit that they were consistent with those now employed by the right hon. Baronet. At the same time the argument of the right hon. Baronet equally applied to those who had voted for the second reading of the Bill, as to those who had spoken in favour of the gallant General's motion; for the speech of the right hon. Baronet not only impugned the principle of the Bill, but went into details—and, although approving some of them, still sought for support of this amendment. The right hon. Baronet spoke to all sides in this way; but he (Sir J. Graham) had not as yet heard one argument from the other side, that it would be politic to disfranchise one small borough, or extend the franchise to any large town. If that were the opinion of any one of them, why not say so? It was well understood that the gallant General's proposition was, that the number of Representatives for England and Wales should not be diminished. But how could that be carried into effect, and not destroy the Bill? The right hon. Baronet had felt that himself, and thought the only way to meet it would be to propose an additional number of Members to the House. To that proposition, however, the Government could not agree. When, hut year, his noble friend (Lord J. Russell) had proposed that Members should be given to Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham, the right hon. Baronet had opposed the motion, because the present number was sufficient, and even inconveniently large, and more would be excessive. That, too, was an opinion not peculiar to himself, for it was that of one of his constituents, Mr. Southey, whose authority would be of considerable weight he believed with some Gentlemen in that House. Mr. Southey had said, that the number of the House was inconveniently large, and made it bear the character of a popular rather than of a deliberative assembly. Although he (Sir James Graham) could not go that length, yet he agreed with Mr. Southey that, if the number could be diminished, it would be proper. The right hon. Baronet asked, was it wise to bring 1677 forward such a measure? But had it been done gratuitously? No; but because the time had come when the nomination boroughs ought to be at an end. In looking into the details of the Bill, the Representation of Scotland necessarily came under their view; and it was impossible, looking at the wealth and importance of that country, and at its growing prosperity, that the basis of Representation should not be extended in it; and he would appeal to the hon. member for Edinburgh, whether he could deny, that the addition of at least five Members was necessary. When an addition was made to Scotland, it would be unjust not to make a similar extension to Ireland, and neither would be possible if an addition were at the same time to be made to the English Members of the House. That, indeed, was not to be thought of; for were the principle allowed, they might be trebled or quadrupled. He saw no other means of adding to the Representation of Scotland and Ireland but by diminishing that of England. He had endeavoured to be explicit upon this point, and although they had been taunted with the changes they had made in the Bill, he trusted that he had exhibited nothing which could be construed into a wish to conceal or to obscure. He did not say, that if this amendment were carried, the ministers would abandon the Bill, but he did say, that if the amendment were carried, it would be a matter of very grave consideration to the Ministers whether the Bill had been so impugned that they ought to attempt to carry it through its other stages; and he therefore warned the friends of the Bill not to concur in the Amendment. Though clouds and thick darkness might have overcast the measure—though he might return, as he was ready to return, into that class of his fellow-citizens in which he had formerly moved—still, thinking that this measure would effectually secure the stability of the throne and the most valuable institutions of the country,—thinking that nomination was actual power, and a power that ought not to be exercised,—thinking that the time was now arrived at which the people must have, not a nominal, nor a virtual, but a real Representation, thinking, too, that the stability of the Constitution depended on rallying around it again the deserted and deserting affections of the people; entertaining these opinions, he sat down with the most perfect conviction, that in the observations which he had ad- 1678 dressed to the House, he had said nothing which had not a tendency to support the stability of the Throne and the security of those institutions which they all agreed it was most desirable to uphold for the welfare of the country.
§ General Gascoyne
rose amidst the most deafening cries of "Question" and "Divide". The gallant Member said that he had understood that his motion would not affect the principle of the Bill. If he had understood the noble Lord, the mover of this Bill, aright, in a conversation which he had had with the noble Lord only yesterday, the noble Lord had distinctly stated to him, that his amendment would not touch the principle of the Bill. He conceived, therefore, that he was bound to persevere in his amendment.
§ Mr. Mundy
said, that he had voted for the second reading of the Bill, and as he intended to vote for the Amendment, he wished to make one observation. The Amendment, as he understood it, merely went to prevent the diminution of the English Members, and that diminution he conceived to be fatal. In giving this vote, he begged to guard himself against the imputation of voting against Reform. He hoped that the Ministers would not think it necessary to abandon the Bill, if this Amendment were carried; but that the Bill would be so modified and so altered, that it would be made acceptable to the majority of the House.
The Attorney General
rose amidst cries of "Question," which, for a long time, rendered him totally inaudible. When the learned Gentleman's voice rose above the clamour that had so long prevailed, he said, that the House was very naturally anxious to come to a division after this long discussion, and that it was very far from his intention to defer for any length of time the gratification of that anxiety. [Loud cries of "Question."] Gentlemen might, however, be assured, that he was not a person to be silenced by clamour of that kind. He must say, that honourable Gentlemen, who put themselves forward to prevent his expressing his opinions, did not do justice either to the constituents he represented, or to the situation which he filled. The simple question before them was, whether they should pronounce a resolution that the number of the House should not be diminished. Now he believed that the point of view in which he was disposed to place this question, had 1679 not yet been suggested, and he hoped for the attention of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, who had voted for the second reading, and meant to vote for the Amendment. It was merely this, that by agreeing to the Amendment, the House would fetter the hands of the Committee, in the most inconvenient manner. The pledge might be found to hamper their proceedings, and was clearly unnecessary into the bargain. The whole House being the Committee, had full power to act upon this opinion if they entertained it; but suppose a certain reduction adopted, the consideration how the whole number should be kept up, might involve them in the greatest perplexities. [Cries of "Question."] Again he repeated, that he was not to be put down. Complaints were made of public clamour; but if the hon. House proceeded in this course—if these interruptions were continued, and succeeded, the public would see, that the question had been strangled by the clamours of those who had a present interest in defeating it. He, conceived the friends of the measure could not adopt a course more unwise and imprudent than to give the slightest sanction to a proposition which should have the effect of embarrassing the operations of the Committee. Very possibly the gallant General might have an expedient to propose— they might split Liverpool into several districts, and give to each a Representative, and so fill all the possible vacancies. After what had recently occurred in Liverpool, Reformers might be excused for pausing before they adopted this expedient. Yes, it would defeat the measure, and the hon. Gentleman opposite, who cheered the observation, plainly avowed, that such was the object of the Motion. He wished to know, was the hon. Gentleman a friend to the Bill; did he propose the Amendment in amity, and with the view of doing the Bill a service? If so, how came it that all who now supported him were its most inveterate enemies? It had been said, that the present Bill was a concession made to public clamour. He hoped he might be permitted to say, that there was not in that House—nor in the country, one man less disposed to yield to that degrading influence than he was. He would not go one step in obedience to it; but, at the same time, he would say, that the possible imputation of yielding to such an influence 1680 would not deter him from avowing his determination to support to the utmost that which he thought right—that which promised to effect the long-cherished and always unchanged opinions which had governed his political conduct—that which the country had received with acclamations, and which, if rejected, they would hear of with the loudest expressions of discontent and grief. [Cheers, and "No, no."] He would put it hypothetically, if the Gentlemen opposite pleased, and say "if the people received it with acclamation;" but let him tell them, that it was an hypothesis which was supported by a large number of tolerably stout petitions, independently of what had been called the clamour of the multitude, and independently of the imaginary phantom which the opponents of the measure fancied they saw among their antagonists; namely, a tyrannical Press. An hon. Member had told them, that when in addressing, a large body of the people, he informed them that this Bill, if passed, would neither give them food nor clothing, the people who had before been favourable to the measure became opposed to it. Now, without meaning to question the assertion of any hon. Member of that House, he must be allowed to say, that this occurrence could only have taken place in some of the lately disturbed districts of the country, where the grossness of the ignorance that unhappily prevailed, had led to the commission of outrages which none but the rudest and most uninformed could ever have been brought to commit. To say that such an opinion could be maintained in any other classes of society, was a libel, without any foundation in truth. With regard to the Press, he could not read all the publications of the day; but he must say, that he heard a great deal more about those publications in that House than he heard out of it. A great soreness betrayed itself, and something like a feeling of resentment, that their purity should be questioned for a moment. But could they expect the Press to be mute on so great an occasion? When the highest interests were discussing here, did they require neutrality in public opinion, and enjoin its most effective organ to be silent? If a bill were passing through the House, to remedy the defects of any other establishment, the Press would blamelessly allege against it the delinquencies that required correction; and 1681 when the abuses of the Representation fixed Parliamentary Reform upon us, was the House of Commons alone to be exempt from criticism? A century of experience had convinced the people that the public business could not be transacted as it ought, but they must be debarred from complaining of an evil so enormous, and that discussion which alone can remove it is denounced by the right hon. Baronet as the language of intimidation.
The Attorney General
resumed.—The right hon. Baronet, in speaking of the Press, had complained of intimidation, and he knew not how to give his words any other meaning. Another kind of intimidation, indeed, he seemed to have imputed to the Ministers themselves: one of them was charged with exultingly avowing, that the country was brought to such a state by the agitation of Reform, that if the present Ministers could not carry on the affairs of the country, they had at any rate spoiled the machine of Government for any other hands. Where such a phrase was said to have been used he knew not: never in public, to his knowledge, and reporters of private conversations should be heard with caution. But he would venture to give the true interpretation of this rumour, and if any such remark had been made, would assert that it was tortured from its true meaning. It was doubtless the plain but important statement of an undeniable truth, that if the Reform proposed by Ministers were rejected, the greatest difficulty in governing the country would result—a grave and weighty consideration for all men in the country and for themselves, at the present moment, before they came to a division; for in the opinion of many, that division would be decisive of the fate of the Bill, and of Reform. Then he asked hon. Gentlemen, whether or not they were prepared to grant some measure of Reform, and what that measure would be? He thought it unworthy of the right hon. Baronet to impute to the noble Lord who had said that the Duke of Wellington and Earl Grey were at the head of two parties, the one against all Reform, and the other in favour of Reform, an intention to insinuate that those two persons dictated their opinions to those who were of their party. All that the noble Lord meant to say was, that their different opinions represented the doctrines of their respective parties.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that the noble Lord had stated that there were two authorities on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. He never understood the noble Lord to say that those two persons had the power to dictate their opinions to others; but he had understood the noble Lord to say, that the Duke of Wellington and Earl Grey expressed two extreme opinions, and that between them there was no medium.
The Attorney General
said, he had understood the right hon. Baronet to make such an imputation on the noble Lord as he had stated; but he would pursue the topic no further. The right hon. Baronet had said, that he had not the least disposition to return to power; but he put it to the House, whether it was not likely that any individual desirous of returning to power would pursue the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman? He did not agree with his right hon. friend (Sir J. Graham) that should the present Motion be carried, Ministers would have to resign; but if the Motion was carried, and Ministers did resign, he would ask those who were to succeed them, to look at the circumstances under which they would come into office. What was the state of their opinion with respect to Parliamentary Reform? The Duke of Wellington's opinion on the subject was well known, and therefore he would leave that noble individual out of the question. He dared to say, that the hon. Gentlemen opposite could get up an Administration without him; but he must be allowed to say, that it would be something like the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet left out. [The cries of "Question" which had been occasionally heard throughout the whole of the hon. and learned Gentleman's address became very frequent and loud.]
Lord John Russell
rose to order, in consequence of the constant interruptions which his hon. and learned friend experienced, and said, unless he (the Attorney General) was allowed to express his sentiments, he should move the adjournment of the House. He claimed a hearing for his hon. and learned friend, and should afterwards stand upon his own right to. reply on the whole Debate.
The Attorney General
thanked his noble 1683 friend for the interference, and observed, that his last remark made it needless for himself to trespass much longer on the House. Me would ask whether the Government, should the Duke of Wellington's Administration be restored, would bring forward any measure of Reform? The right hon. Baronet had said he was not prepared to say what plan of Reform he might agree to; but he would ask them if it were proper, in such an emergency, not to be prepared what to do? In fact, a determination to promote Reform had been too long delayed, and ought to have been come to at the commencement of last Session, and some preparation made for the storm which evidently was coming. The right hon. Baronet said, he was not altogether hostile to Reform, and the right hon. Baronet, lately the Secretary for the Colonies, was even favourable to it, but they were opposed to this Bill; the only attempt made to carry Reform into execution. That Ministers were sincere and in earnest, their conduct fully proved, when they braved the certain hostility of so large a portion of the House of Commons. They had executed honestly, what they had conceived boldly. The welfare of the country, not less than the opinions of the people, demanded the measure at their hands, and he trusted the House, like the people, would stamp their exertions with approbation. It was absurdly argued, that one of the objects of the Bill was, to exclude the monied interest from all share in the councils of the nation. Yet money had both the means and the instinct of taking pretty good care of itself, and the possessors of it were unjustly aspersed by the supposition of wanting all popular talents to endear them to the people. On another occasion they would resent the insinuation that their time was consumed in poring over their ledgers, and they disqualified from bearing a part in public concerns. The state of society in England soon mingles them with the most distinguished of her sons, in their education at our public institutions, in the equal intercourse of daily life, in their mutual enjoyments of the sports of the field, and in the alliances they daily form with the high-born and noble. The House of Commons alone is not the place to which their talents and accomplishments would fail to procure admission, far better and more honourable when purchased by ability, than by corrupt bargains and disgraceful bribery. One thing he admired and envied in the enemies of Reform— 1684 their self-complacency. Every good thing that exists in spite of corruption, they trace to corruption as its cause; and thus, when the eloquent and hon. Member (Mr. Hawkins) addressed them, in one of the ablest arguments he had ever heard, which put down every one of the sophisms by which Reform is encountered, do they deny his premises?—No! Do they question his conduct?—No! but they boldly claim him and his unanswerable speech in their own troop. "He is one of us," they exclaim; "he sits for a close borough, he owes his return to the system you condemn." As if he owed to that system his superior understanding and enlightened views, when the first act of his matured mind was, to sacrifice the unhallowed advantages, which fortune gave him, to the conviction that they could not be retained without dishonour to himself, and detriment to his country. The example of the hon. Member was even more convincing than the eloquence which was so deservedly praised. The same remark might be applied to the great lights which the borough system boasted of introducing into the House, forgetful of the numbers it excluded, and of the dulness and corruption by which, if it did not quench their brilliancy, it counteracted their effect. If Knaresborough derived honour from the names of its illustrious burgesses, their efforts were directed to the downfal of its burgage tenures. If Malton was justly proud of his right hon. and learned friend (the Lord Advocate) he came among them to say, that as a close borough Malton ought to exist no longer. When Burke had filled the same seat, he struggled in vain against those corrupt majorities which the borough system placed in the hands of Government, to avert the shame and ruin of the American War. That system, hatched in jobs, and ever producing them anew, had inflicted on us the dead weight of a National Debt, from which relief was almost hopeless. So closely are the disastrous consequences interwoven in every part of the State, that their removal can scarcely be expected by that of their original cause. But there being no other remedy; the experiment is worth trying; the state of the question forbids the Government to be neutral, and they stake their fate on this measure. When the right hon. Baronet abstained from suggesting any particular scheme of Reform, lest he should be 1685 accused of courting the support of some reformers who might not approve of the Bill, it is strange, that he did not perceive how his present conduct exposed him to the same charge. But the heaviest charge of all against the late Government is, that they could fold their hands, and come to no decision on a principle of such immense importance in its own nature, and which the feeling of the country made so practical and pressing. He denied the justice of censure that right hon. Baronet had passed on the Bill, from the absurd supposition that a uniform right of voting-must throw all elective power into the hands of a single class, to the imputation of partiality in disfranchisement, where an arbitrary line must be drawn, and fall where it would, some would think themselves entitled to complain of it. The vote of that night might possibly retard the Bill, but could not finally defeat it; but he wished hon. Members who had given it their support to be fully aware of what they were doing. All the foes of the measure were united as friends to the Motion. A noble Lord (Lord Stormont) who had called himself the Patroclus of his learned friend (Sir C. Wetherell) had found another Achilles in the gallant member for Southwark (Sir R. Wilson), and both had been in council with the other gallant General (General Gascoyne) who must be called the Nestor of the conclave, on the Motion now before the House. It was in vain to talk of the Motion being friendly to Reform, or conceived in the spirit even of mitigated hostility. If carried, the proof that the majority of the present House of Commons is against the measure, will be complete. How such a result may be received by the country he would not pretend to anticipate, but whatever might become of the Motion, or of the minority, he should derive lasting satisfaction from his honest co-operation with his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose vindication of his conduct and his motives, none who heard it were likely to forget. Surrounded by the friends of his youth, and acting on his well-known principles, his noble friend had placed his honour on an imperishable foundation, and entitled himself to the lasting gratitude of his country.
Lord J. Russell
said, that although he was reluctant to obtrude himself upon the attention of the House, yet, considering the part he had taken, and that he had 1686 not yet spoken upon this particular question, he was compelled to request the indulgence of hon. Members for a few minutes, while he gave an explanation upon points in which he only was concerned. A motion had certainly been mentioned last week, to declare that the total number of the House ought not to be diminished; and his noble friend (Lord Althorp) and himself had stated, that they would take it into consideration; but the proposition of the hon. and gallant General was entirely different. It was not that the total number of the House—including England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, should not be diminished—but that the total number of Members for England and Wales, should not be diminished. That was a motion of parliamentary tactics, brought forward, indeed, by the hon. and gallant General, but concocted by more wily advisers, by which an attempt was made to brine; together all the enemies of the Bill, and to entrap such of its friends as might be dupes and gulls enough to fall into the snare. With deep regret he found that the first dupe, the first gull who ran headlong and blindfold into it, was his hon. and gallant friend the member for Southwark, whom until this moment he (Lord J. Russell) had looked upon as a not less staunch, or less strenuous Reformer, than himself. Upon the point of population, he would say, that neither Lord Somers, the great author of the Union with Scotland, nor Mr. Pitt, the able promoter of the Union with Ireland, had ever thought that there should be necessarily a particular rate and proportion between the number of inhabitants and the number of Members. In the same way Ministers had thought that they had an opportunity, not of adding to the proportion of Scotland or of Ireland, but of giving Members to large, populous, and commercial towns, and upon the principles of Lord Somers and Mr. Pitt they had proceeded. Where they thought there was a want of Representatives, they wished that Representatives should be given. If the Motion were carried, and Ministers were called upon to deliberate on the fitness or unfitness of increasing the Members of the House, to decide on the affirmative, would seem little less than an act of folly; and supposing it decided that the English Members should continue as numerous as at present, what would become of the assurance of the hon. and gallant General, to the Scotch and Irish Members, that 1687 they were not prevented from having additions to their number? If, indeed, the conduct of the Bill, and the determination of the House, were in the hands of the hon. and gallant General, he might order it as he pleased; but he (Lord John Russell) gave warning to the Members for Scotland and Ireland, that if they supported and carried the Motion before the House, they must relinquish for ever the hope that new Representatives could be given to either. He was convinced, that the Irish Members would feel it as he had put it; but not so the Scotch, who, by a little sophistry and a great deal of special pleading, had been led to believe, that the two objects were compatible. The Motion worded as it was, had been designed merely to put the advocates of the Bill in a dilemma, and to retry the question of the second reading. Ministers had thought that the vote of the House in favour of the second reading was conclusive, that the measure should be referred to the Committee, and he (Lord J. Russell) said with the noble Earl at the head of the Government, that any improvement which left the efficiency of the Bill unimpaired would be adopted; but that by its principle, the Government was ready to stand or fall. When he had last night introduced the names of Earl Grey and of the Duke of Wellington, he had had no other object than to show, in the shortest form and in the plainest manner, that there were but two courses—Reform or no Reform. The Duke of Wellington had avowed himself the friend of all close boroughs, and had defended the present system and all its abuses, as the most perfect that the wit of man could devise. Earl Grey, on the contrary, had applied himself to secure the confidence of the people, by obeying the universal call for Reform. If the Bill were thrown out, the consequences might be various. He would not give it out as a threat, but he might allude hypothetically to the results. The Crown might, in the first place appeal to the country, in order to ascertain whether it approved of the decision of the House of Commons. That was at least a possible case, and it would be a very constitutional course. But suppose some modified plan of Reform were introduced and adopted before the disso- 1688 lution of Parliament, it must be dissolved afterwards, in order to give the people the benefit of the change. Would that be accomplished with peace and satisfaction, and would not the first step in the new House of Commons be for some Member, favourable to this rejected measure, to bring forward a motion to revive it? He (Lord John Russell) could not imagine how any of the supporters of the present Bill could refuse to vote for such a motion, and then, instead of peace and satisfaction, there would be a continual struggle between the people, on the one hand, to obtain effectual Reform, and the House of Commons, on the other, to resist it. It had been said that this Bill would only be a stepping-stone to those who wished for greater changes; but he appealed to any man whether a more moderate Bill, which satisfied nobody, and offended many, was not much more likely to be converted into a stepping-stone. Indeed, the objection of the hon. member for Preston was, that this Reform would be final, and that, when once it was made nothing more would be granted. He must contend, therefore, that this Bill was not only much more likely than any measure of what was called moderate Reform to preserve the enduring excellence of the constitution of the House, while it secured the confidence of the people in its deliberations and decisions, and confirmed their affection and loyalty to the Throne but also to prevent further alterations. The object of the Bill was to raise a bar to the accomplishment of the wishes of those who looked forward to more extensive and violent changes. In conclusion, therefore, he earnestly entreated all who were friendly to the measure to vote with him and his friends.
§ The House then divided. For General Gascoyne's Amendment 299; Against it 291—Majority 8. The Resolution "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," put and agreed to.
§ Committee on the Bill deferred till Thursday.1689
§ A LIST OF THE
§ MINORITY AND MAJORITY.