Sir Robert Peel
said, before they proceeded further, he wished to ascertain the construction which was to be put upon the twenty-fifth clause of the Bill, which had a material bearing upon the present question. By that clause, it was provided, "that so far as it relates to any city or borough (except those enumerated in the said schedule A), which now has the privilege of sending a Member or Members to Parliament, but does not contain of houses, warehouses, and counting-houses, more than 300 in the whole, such houses being assessed to the duty on inhabited houses, upon a yearly value of not less than 10l., or such houses, warehouses, or counting-houses, whether separately, or jointly with any land occupied therewith, being of the clear yearly value of not less than 10l., or being rated to the relief of the poor upon a yearly value of 10l., the said last-mentioned Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall, within months after the passing of this Act, proceed to incorporate with any such city or borough, for the purposes of this Act, any one or more parishes or townships, the whole or a part of which may be situated within, or adjoining to, such city or borough." What he wished to know was, whether, supposing a city or borough had more than 300 houses rated at 10l. a year, the Commissioners were empowered to annex adjoining parishes to places so circumstanced?
Lord John Russell
said, the intention of the planners of the Bill was, that the twenty-fifth clause should be taken in conjunction with the twenty-fourth, by which the Commissioners would be authorised to declare the boundaries of cities and boroughs, and to incorporate adjacent townships, even though such places with which they were to form a part, should contain more than 300 10l. houses.
Sir Robert Peel
understood by this, that the Commissioners had power in all cases to annex the adjoining parishes to a city or borough, at their discretion.
Sir. R. Peel
said, he had not asked the question to provoke a discussion on that clause, but merely for the purpose of clearing away a doubt on the provisions of a subsequent clause, which had a material bearing on that now under their consideration. The question then before the Com- 665 mittee was, that Greenwich, Deptford, and Woolwich, should acquire the right of sending two Members to Parliament. He thought these places ought not to acquire that right. In considering the matter, he would cautiously abstain from entering into observations respecting the principle of the Bill, reserving to himself the full right of speaking upon it when the report was brought up, and on the third reading. He meant, as he had done throughout, in discussing any of the details of the Bill, to confine himself to the special circumstance under consideration. In this stage of the proceedings, he thought it would be more convenient to assume, that what had heretofore been done, had been done well, and justly, and rightly. Conceding this, therefore, for the present, he begged to state, that he saw no peculiarity which would entitle these places to return Members to Parliament. Assuming that they had dealt fairly and justly by schedules A and B, and that the franchises which were forfeited should be transferred to other more populous and wealthy places, still, he must deny, that the selection of Greenwich and Deptford was justifiable, even according to the principle of the noble Lord's Bill. He would avoid all reference to the discussions which had taken place as regarded schedules A and B; but he felt it his duty at once to object to the granting the metropolitan districts that vast influence in the Representation of the country which this Bill would confer upon them. He would also state, that he was perfectly willing, in order to avoid unnecessary delay, to take Greenwich as a fair specimen of the suburban parishes which were to receive Representatives, and to consider the division he meant to take upon this question as decisive of all the other districts. Certainly, he had been much surprised to find Greenwich, Woolwich, and Deptford included amongst those places which were to be enfranchised. It was said, that Greenwich had heretofore exercised the right of sending Members to Parliament; but the noble Lord could not, surely, rely upon that fact. He admitted, that Greenwich had formerly sent a Member; but to make that circumstance now available, the noble Lord should propose to give Representatives to every other place which had formerly been, and was not at present, represented. But the noble Lord had put prescriptive right out of the question, because there were a 666 number of places which he did not propose to enfranchise, and which had, in former times, like Greenwich, enjoyed the right of Representation. Even if that were admitted, there was no reason why the claim of Greenwich should be extended to the other places set forth in the proposition. In the next place, he was not aware, that there was any trade carried on in these places which required protection. The only claim they really possessed was founded on population; and this could scarcely be considered a good one, as the population was found to vary with the establishments maintained there by the Government. In the very useful notes attached to the population returns of 1821, it was remarked, that the population had fallen off in Deptford, and increased in Greenwich; and the falling off in Deptford was ascribed to a reduction in the dock-yards; and the increase in Greenwich was attributed partly to the naval arsenal, and partly to the fact of a greater number of pensioners choosing to become residents in that town. From the influence, too, which the Government would exert through these establishments, he contended, that in all cases in which the interests of the metropolitan districts were not directly concerned, Greenwich and its dependencies would be a nomination borough: but he did not object to it on that account, though it certainly seemed strange the noble Lord should have selected it under the circumstances. Great, too, he observed, as was the hostility of the noble Lord to nomination boroughs, the unconstitutional plan of giving to the King the right of nominating Members to that House had been hinted at. It was true, the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had not expressly stated, that this would be hereafter proposed; but there was a mode of doing things which, with all apparent caution, rendered perfectly evident the object which men had in view—Dum tacent, clamant. The Cabinet, as a responsible body, had expressed no intention or opinion upon the subject; but the noble Lord who had introduced this Bill had spoken of this project as a matter of grave consideration; and it was to be fairly presumed, he would not have ventured even upon this expression of opinion, without a perfect understanding with the other members of the Administration upon the subject. The truth was, the noble Lord was frightened at the probable con- 667 sequences of his own measure, and was looking out, with a provident eye, for remedies to meet the evils which it would not fail to create. But to proceed more immediately to the question before the Committee respecting Greenwich, upon which, to prevent unnecessary delay, he was willing to take the discussion upon all the metropolitan districts. He would, in the first place, admit, that it had been a blot upon our Representative system that the great towns, such as Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham, which had grown up in the country, had not been allowed to have a fair share in the Representation; but this blot, he did not believe, could be fairly alleged to exist with respect to the metropolitan districts. For these, he considered, that Representation had been amply provided. Though some opulent and populous districts about the metropolis did not enjoy the right of returning Members to Parliament, yet, looking upon the metropolitan district as a whole, it could not be supposed to be imperfectly provided. First, there were the four members for the city of London; secondly, there were two for Westminster; and thirdly, there were two for Southwark, making eight in all. To these might be properly added the two Members for the county of Middlesex, because these Members were not returned by a rural population, but chiefly by the inhabitants of the Metropolis. In an extremely valuable return which had been laid upon the Table the Members would find stated, the number of families in the county of Middlesex which were engaged in agriculture, the number concerned in trade and manufactures, and the number of those employed in neither. From that return it appeared, that, in agriculture, there were only 9,393 families engaged, while 161,356 were engaged in trade and manufactures. This showed how large was the proportion of town influence to that of agricultural, since the ratio of those engaged was as 161,000 to 9,300. Indeed, the rural population in Middlesex did not altogether amount to more than 70,000 or 80,000,while the total population of the county was 1,140,000. Thus it appeared, there were ten Members for the metropolitan district, and to them one of the members for the county of Surrey might, in his opinion, be fairly added; because, considering the influence of the borough of Southwark, and observing that the population of Brixton was a town population, and not a rural population, there 668 could be no doubt that the town population exerted sufficient influence to return one Member. The whole of the rural population of Surrey amounted to 130,000, while the town population of Southwark and Brixton amounted to 268,000. The consequence of all this was, that the metropolitan districts had eleven Members—the four for the city of London, the two for Westminster, the two for Southwark, the two for Middlesex, and the one for Surrey. Never, therefore, was there juster cause for surprise, than that ten more should be added to them, giving the metropolitan districts twenty-one Members. If Ministers were to say, that the principle on which they proceeded was population, or contribution to the taxes, this case of enfranchisement would be intelligible; but in admitting, that all they had heretofore done was done well, he was bound to say, this was not the principle upon which they proceeded. Population merely was not the principle of the Bill. If the Ministers were to say, that the principle upon which they proceeded was population, or contribution to the Assessed-taxes, this case of enfranchisement would be perfectly intelligible, and the metropolitan districts would then have a fair claim; but that was not the principle upon which they had proceeded. It was, indeed, impossible to suppose, that any Ministry would bring a plan forward to deprive England, as a whole, of forty Members, while it gave to the metropolis ten, in addition to the eleven which it already returned. It seemed to him, that the simple statement of this fact should be sufficient to deter the Committee from assenting to the proposition involved in the question under consideration. A moment's reflection ought to convince every man of the undue proportion of Representation which would be given by this clause of the Bill to the metropolis and its suburbs, as compared with the great counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. It should be considered with what justice these additional Members could be given to the metropolis, after what had been done with the Representation of the southern counties, and with the agricultural districts generally. Nothing could be more absurd, in his opinion, than to say, that as a town increased in population, so the number of its Representatives should also increase. A proposition of that kind would be regarded 669 as a wanton and unnecessary departure from the principles of the Constitution; yet that was the very proposition which his Majesty's Ministers submitted to the Committee, in recommending the clause for enfranchising the metropolitan districts. Ministers said, that they would disfranchise all nomination boroughs: let them do so; they had some ground to proceed upon; but if they had any regard for justice—any desire to maintain a character of consistency—let them abstain from making such wanton and dangerous innovations on the Constitution of the country, as those which were proposed by this clause. It never was a principle of the Constitution of England, that Representatives should be given to towns or districts, on account of their population only. The principle had been, to distribute the Representation between large and small places, and, without reference to the amount of population, to give two Representatives to every town on which the elective franchise was conferred. Upon this principle—to which there were but five exceptions—the opulent town of Liverpool, and the smallest borough contained in schedule A, were equally represented. The present Bill departed from this principle. His Majesty's Ministers rejected population as the ground upon which the elective franchise was, under this Bill, to be given; they professed to take it only as the test—the absurd test—of whether or no a borough was a nomination borough; and whether it was or was not in a prosperous condition; but in this case they adopted that alone as the ground of enfranchisement. It required but little consideration to convince any man of the absurdity of such a test. As was very justly said the other night—the great complaint of the working classes being the want of employment, you take the numbers of the population as a test of the prosperity of any particular place; whereas, in point of fact, it very often happens that where the population is most numerous, there the poor-rates are most grievous, and trade or manufacture is in the least flourishing condition. In many towns, large numbers of Irish had located themselves; but every one would admit the absurdity of taking a population of 10,000 natives of the sister kingdom as a proof of the prosperous condition of a borough. In other cases, population had not been taken as the test of prosperity; 670 or why was Liverpool, a town unsurpassed in increasing wealth and intelligence, and which, from its situation, and the enterprising spirit of its merchants, formed the great connecting link between this country and the western quarter of the world, left with two Representatives only? Liverpool had a population of 200,000 inhabitants; did Ministers on that account propose to add to its Representation—to confer upon it the privilege of returning four or six additional Members to Parliament? No. Then what became of their principle of population? If that principle were a good one, and was therefore to be applied to the metropolitan districts, the metropolis having already eleven Representatives, why should it not also be applied to Liverpool? There were many large places in the neighbourhood of that borough which had not hitherto taken any part in the election of Members. By the provisions of this Bill, they were to be incorporated with Liverpool, and thus the constituency of that borough was to be increased; yet there was to be no increase in its Representation. This proved, that the case of the metropolitan districts was an exception to the general rule laid down by the Bill. If the principle to be applied to the metropolitan districts was to be considered as a leading and a guiding one, how could the Committee possibly neglect the claim of Liverpool to additional Representation? The boroughs of Aylesbury, Banbury, Calne, Christchurch, Leominster, Malton, and two others of a similar stamp, containing, together, a population of 32,198, were each to retain the right of returning two Members. Thus, sixteen Members would be returned by a population of less than 33,000; while the town and neighbourhood of Liverpool, containing a population of 200,000, was to return but two. So, again in the case of Birmingham, which contained a population of 170,000 or 180,000 souls; there, so devotedly attached were his Majesty's Ministers to the ancient system of Representation, that although, by the result of their own plan, they had forty franchises to dispose of, they would give no more than two Representatives to the great town of Birmingham, with its 180,000 inhabitants—in short, they would give it no greater weight in the scale of Representation than they had allowed the town of Malton to retain, 671 which was saved by just eighteen persons from disfranchisement. He did not complain of this adherence to the ancient principle; on the contrary, he approved of it; but, if that were taken as the principle of this Bill, it was incumbent on his Majesty's Ministers to shew some valid ground, some great and overbearing reason, why the metropolitan districts should be made an exception to it. If they meant to proceed according to population, and the amount of taxation paid by different places, they ought to apply the same rule to all. By the Bill, certain Commissioners were to have the power of incorporating and joining particular parishes with particular boroughs; but, when they came to the metropolitan districts, their powers were all at once to become null and void; and Greenwich, and Marylebone, and other districts of the same kind, were to have their own distinct Representatives. He had an unfeigned respect for London and Westminster—perhaps no man more—but he saw no reason why their suburban districts should not rather be incorporated with them, than allowed to have district Representatives. He saw no reason why the districts in the neighbourhood of the metropolis should be made an exception to the rule which was to apply to those in the vicinity of Liverpool, Bristol, and other large towns, which had equally good claims to Representation. He had now stated the reasons for which he would oppose this enfranchisement. The first proposition he wished to urge upon the House was, that in reference to the other parts of the country, the London district was already sufficiently represented. The second was, that the ancient usage of our Representative system had been, to give an equal right to all places of returning two Members, without reference to their population or contribution to the taxes. And the third was, that Ministers had heretofore adhered to this rule—as, for example, in the cases of Calne and Manchester—the one of which they determined should retain, and the other should acquire, two Members. Having, accordingly, adhered in all other cases to the ancient usage, they were bound in the present instance, to show why they departed from it in favour of the metropolitan districts, and what were the peculiarities of these places which had so weighed with them as to induce them to desert their 672 own principles. The point was, could that case be made out, which, upon a consideration of population, and contribution to the taxes, would entitle these districts to additional Representatives? It could be made out, but it told against themselves. So far from these places requiring additional Representatives, he thought, from their proximity to the seat of Government, that they already had sufficient influence over it. He foresaw very great danger from giving Members to the metropolitan districts; for looking at the particular circumstances of the great body of the constituency in communication—looking at their locality, their vicinity to the House of Commons, at the facility which they would always have of approaching the Government—looking at the ready access which they would have to the reports of proceedings in this House—looking, he said, to these matters, it could not be denied, that the constituents as well as the Members for the metropolitan districts would have immense advantages over every other. Alluding to one of those districts—the parish of Mary-la-bonne—he might observe, that it was about to acquire two rights; because, according to the Bill, if he understood it rightly, all 10l. householders who had not a vote for the city of London were to have a vote for the county of Middlesex, which, added to their right of voting for the new borough, would create a double right. Now this Representation, he considered, was little wanting to the parish of Mary-la-bone. It so happened, that there were at least 100 Members of Parliament resident in that parish, and of these, very many had actually an identity of interest with the parish. In its select vestry there were no less than ten Members of Parliament, and he could appeal to hon. Members present, whether these Members were the least frequent in their attendance. From this he argued, that there was little danger that the interests of this district, which had virtually so many Representatives, could suffer from not being enfranchised. If, however, it was deemed improper that the inhabitants of so rich and extensive a district should be left without their due influence in the general Representation, why did they not proceed upon the same plan as in Lancashire and Yorkshire? Why did they not give additional Representatives to the county of Middlesex? They might think they had done 673 little in adding ten Representatives to the eleven already enjoyed by the metropolitan districts, but they were much mistaken. They had deranged the balance of interests in this country more than was wise, and in a degree which would render any endeavour to adjust them hereafter a matter of almost hopeless difficulty. This balance was founded on prescription; but it was not the more unjust or the less to be respected on this account, and it produced a regularity and security which, in the practical working of the new scheme of the Constitution, he feared it would not be possible to ensure. Let them not lay the flattering unction to their souls, that the whole effect of this proceeding would be the conferring of twenty-one Representatives upon the metropolitan districts. It would create a new order of men in that House, which would alter in character and increase in power at each successive election. Antæus-like, the more they came in contact with their native earth, the greater would be their force, the higher their hope and vigour. Another point which might be urged was, that by this addition of town Representatives they were giving an undue influence to the more active portion of the House, that were desirous of changes, and that which, particularly in the present instance, was, from the vicinity, and from the aggregated nature of their constituency, more immediately under its control; for the Members for towns, must of necessity be persons of more active habits than those who sat for counties; as well from the circumstances whereby they could alone recommend themselves to the Representation, as from the character of their constituency. This, he thought, was no reflection on the country Gentlemen. On the contrary, their indisposition lightly to alter ancient institutions and established usages formed an admirable ingredient in the constitution of the House; and enabled it, when combined with the laudable desire of changes (let it be called) upon the part of the town Representatives, for the sake of improvement, by the balance of these conflicting opinions, to approximate to, if they did not arrive at truth. But now, by taking away from the one class of Representatives, and adding to the other, they were doing injury to the agricultural interests, without conferring any benefit upon the general interests of the country. Looking, he would say, for example, to the county 674 of Middlesex, he should be inclined to conclude, that local interests and local attachments would go for nothing, but that men would be chosen, as in the case of one of the hon. Members for the county to which he had alluded, for the marked line of politics they had pursued. He saw the hon. member for Middlesex selected to represent that great county, though he possessed no local connexions there, and selected, indeed, evidently for the line of conduct he had adopted in politics, which was that of watching with the greatest closeness, the expenditure of the country. He did not object to the honourable Member on the fact, that such had been the cause of his selection. The hon. Member had only zealously performed what he conscientiously believed to be a public duty, and he was rewarded for it by the Representation of the metropolitan county. The only reason for which he alluded to the circumstance, was, to show the sort of men that these metropolitan Representatives were likely to be, and to mark, in consequence, the great additional influence which such men, so closely in communication with their constituents, must have in that House. There would be in this manner ten additional Members for London, and the change would be most considerable. Viewing that change in its future effects by those which, so far as circumstances permitted, the prospect of Reform had already produced, he must say, that he did not think it a change that was likely, upon the whole, to work well for the benefit of the country. He viewed it as a departure from the ancient usages of the country, and he could not but anticipate that it would not be for the better. He thought it would aggravate the loss the agricultural interest were about to sustain by the other parts of the Bill, and that it would give an undue influence to the popular voice in that House. On these grounds, he should certainly resist giving the franchise, in the manner now proposed, to Greenwich, Woolwich and Deptford, by placing them in schedule C.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that he must do the right hon. Gentleman the credit of saying, that he had in arguing the question adhered strictly to the point, and had stated his opinions with considerable ability. He felt a difficulty in following the right hon. Gentleman, but, at the same time, he thought it was his duty to 675 state the grounds on which he differed from the right hon. Gentleman in his view of this part of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think, that the proportion of Members now about to be given to the metropolitan districts was much too large. On that point they were decidedly at variance with each other; for he (Lord Althorp) felt convinced, that in the line which the Ministers had adopted on this subject, they had not in the least degree exceeded the proportion to which the metropolitan districts were fairly entitled. The first thing which struck them in framing this Bill, and which always had been considered a great grievance, was the circumstance that large tracts of the metropolis (if he might use such an expression) were totally unrepresented in that House. In remedying that deficiency, the question was, how they could best accomplish their object. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that these populous districts might have been added to those in their neighbourhood which already sent Members to that House; and he supposed that such a course would be more consistent with the general nature of the measure, and with the principle on which the Constitution had hitherto acted. The right hon. Gentleman was, however, quite mistaken in that opinion; for the principle of the Constitution which bore on this point, was stated by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and that was, that Representatives were given, not to the populousness of the towns, nor to their size, but to a town as a separate and distinct place. That was stated by the right hon. Gentleman to be the rule; and if it were so, the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would be an exception. The course pursued by the framers of the Bill was not, therefore, a departure from the principle of the Constitution, but an adherence to it. But, putting that consideration out of the question, he would ask whether the House would be prepared to add new Representatives to those places which already possessed Members. He thought they would certainly answer in the negative, for if they were so to add them, it would almost amount to a disfranchisement of the electors in the old places. The franchise of the present inhabitants of Westminster would be diminished almost to nothing, if Pancras, and Mary-la-bonne, and the adjoining places, were 676 to be added to the present number of its electors. It would be like throwing the population of a large town into a borough; and he thought they could not adopt such a plan with any degree of fairness or consistency. The course, therefore, which they had taken was, to consider these places as separate boroughs, in the same manner as Westminster, Southwark, and London, though adjoining each other, had always been considered as separate and distinct boroughs, and had always sent separate Members to Parliament. In doing this, he thought they had taken the course most consistent with reason, and most in unison with the principle on which the present state of the Representation had been formed. The right hon. Gentleman had next told the Committee, that these Representatives of the metropolitan districts would give an overwhelming or overbearing power to the metropolis compared to the other represented places in the empire. With all due deference to the present Members for the metropolis—notwithstanding the respect due to them as Representatives of large bodies of men of wealth and intelligence—he must say, that the respect they obtained in that House was not overbearing, on account of the numbers they represented. When any peculiar deference was paid them, that arose in a considerable degree from the respect felt for their personal characters, and from their intelligence and their habits of business. Hon. Members might agree or not with what he was stating, but he would state truly his opinion on all points on which he addressed that House; and in doing it he was sure he should not, in the present instance, offend his hon. friends, the Representatives of the City. He might, perhaps, be prejudiced by his old habits of thinking in favour of county Members; but he must say, that he thought they, and not the metropolitan Members, were the men most marked and distinguished in the general business of the House. It was not the Members who came from Westminster, Southwark, and London, but those who came from parts of the country, which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose had little weight in that House, whose conduct was, in fact, guided by the most zeal, and most attention to the business of Parliament. He might add too, that on many points their conduct was watched with the greatest degree of nicety. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the 677 want of zeal and want of activity of the county Members, as compared with that of the Representatives for the towns; in that opinion, therefore, he did not at all agree with the right hon. Gentleman. On the contrary, he believed, that the county Members performed the greatest part of the practical business of that House. It was also stated, that there ought to be no Members for Mary-la-bonne, because so many of the inhabitants of that district were Members of that House. He did not think, that that was a fit objection to be entertained. They must look to the state of the constituent body, and not to the particular number of men who happened to come into that House. He must confess he saw no reason whatever why a man who lived on the north side of Oxford-street, should be prevented, by that circumstance, from enjoying the elective franchise at the same time with the inhabitants of the south side of Oxford Street. In drawing the line of distinction, he did not think that they ought to draw a line that would exclude the most wealthy, intelligent, and populous part of the metropolitan district. Having made these observations upon the general question of the clause, he should now say a word or two upon the particular point of Greenwich. If they were about to give Representatives to those parts of the metropolis which were not now represented, he wished to know, whether they would not take the same view, with respect to conferring the franchise upon the populous places on the south as on the north side of the river—and whether any other course could possibly have been justifiable? The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the people of Deptford and Greenwich depended in a great measure upon the Government. It was true, that they did somewhat depend upon the Government, but not to such an extent as to affect the freedom of their election of Representatives. Still, however, if that were the case, the fact of the Government's possessing an influence came rather oddly as an objection from the mouths of those who had been in the course of these discussions so repeatedly objecting to this Bill as a measure that was calculated to destroy the influence of the Crown. It was supposed, that Deptford and Greenwich would become a sort of nomination borough for the Crown. Why, the idea of a nomination borough with a body of 678 40,000 electors, seemed to him an absurdity and an impossibility. The Government might possess some influence there—it was very probable it would—but not enough to affect the freedom of election. Under all these circumstances, he must say, that he did not see any justice in the arguments by which the right hon. Gentleman sought to exclude Deptford and Greenwich from the right of sending Members into that House; and he should certainly press it on the Committee to keep these places in schedule C.
Sir Robert Peel
wished the noble Lord to understand, he had not intended to cast the slightest imputation on county Members. Quite the reverse; all he had said was, they did not usually exert so much versatility, or desire for change, as the Representatives of towns and boroughs. For this reason, he thought the provisions of this clause gave the party desiring change an additional power. He had always regarded the county Members as a most enlightened, intelligent, and useful body, but they did not possess the active, restless qualities of their opponents.
§ Lord Althorp
could hardly approve of the explanation of the hon. Baronet, because he assumed one class of Representatives would be an offensive, the other a defensive class in relation to the existing institutions.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
did not approve of the general arrangements of the Bill; but as they had disfranchished so many boroughs, by which the indirect Representatives of many interests in the metropolis were supported, he thought it necessary that, these should be replaced by direct Representatives. He was very doubtful, however, if the new Representatives would be of such good materials as the old ones. They would not answer the purpose of protecting the various great, interests so efficaciously as the borough Members. It was obvious, that in times of excitement, some of the worst description of Representatives would be returned; such as gentlemen-demagogues, who knew little, plausible public orators, who represented nothing but their own talents. But these were to legislate for futurity. Interests were permanent, excitement was transitory, the consequences would be, the great commercial and colonial interests which centered in the metropolis would lose their just weight. It would be unreasonable to leave the capital without a 679 large share of Representatives. He viewed the matter in yet another light, which made him anxious to uphold these clauses. Greenwich would probably, from lying near the river, send some Gentlemen to Parliament connected with the shipping interest, and Finsbury might elect a man connected with the great commercial and money establishments of the metropolis. Such representatives might serve as a balance to the Members for the new boroughs, who would represent the manufacturing interests in the north which had been erected. By the Bill, a great number of Members was taken from the south, and given to the north of England, so that the latter would have a great preponderance. By this clause, however, that evil would be much lessened, for the Representatives of the metropolitan districts would be a balance to those of the great towns in the north of England. The new Members for the metropolis would be Representatives of the old commercial and money interests of the empire, centered in the south of England, and he should, therefore, give his support to the clause.
said, that the boroughs which had been disposed of were found extremely useful, in enabling officers from India, merchants in active business, and gentlemen retired from business, to gain admission to that House. The same facilities would not be offered by these new creations. He thought, instead of enfranchising these places, that it would be better to grant more Representatives to some of the great counties; and he had yesterday advised Ministers to begin by giving two additional Members to the county of York. He perfectly concurred in all the objections which had been urged by the right hon. Baronet to the establishment of these metropolitan boroughs. He thought it would be much more preferable to give to the county of Middlesex six Members, in the same manner as they proposed to give six Members to the county of York. These two counties corresponded pretty nearly in wealth and population, and probably, he supposed, in intelligence, although the geographical extent of Yorkshire was so much greater than that of Middlesex. There were the Tower Hamlets, which had a lord-lieutenant of their own, a county rate of their own, and a militia of their own. Let two Members be given to the Tower Hamlets. Let two Members 680 also be given to the eastern division of the county of Middlesex, and let Hackney be the place of election. Then, let there be two Members also for the western division of the county, and let Brentford be the place of election. Lambeth was another metropolitan borough which it was proposed to create, while, at the same time, the Bill gave two additional Members to the county of Surrey. He should suggest that the county of Surrey might be advantageously divided in the same manner as he had proposed that Middlesex should be divided. A similar plan might be adopted with regard to Kent, and he was convinced that such an arrangement would be quite as acceptable out of doors as that proposed by the Government. There were great objections to Greenwich, Woolwich, and Deptford being made a borough. From the large public establishments at these places, there was reason to fear they would be controlled by Government; and the plan he had suggested would have more beneficial effects. He had no hesitation in saying, that he should oppose the Motion.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, that it was impossible to conceal the fact, that Members for such places as these were more under the control of their constituents than the Members for any other places. All experience demonstrated this fact. After what they had seen the other day of the conduct of the City towards one of its Members, who had thought proper to vote conscientiously—after what they had seen of the conduct of the borough of Southwark towards a gallant Officer, formerly the Representative of that borough—they need not go very far back for instances of this control. Now if, when a Member voted according to the dictates of his conscience, there was to be the next day a meeting of his constituents—of such persons as would form these new constituencies—to reprimand that Member for his past votes, and to dictate to him how he should vote for the future, then he must say, an influence would be exercised over the proceedings of that House which would be very inconvenient at least, if not dangerous. He believed, that the noble mover of this Bill had stated, in one of his early publications, this very argument as a reason why Representation should not depend entirely upon numbers; and few hon. Members, he thought, would forget that the principal evils of the French Re- 681 volution had resulted from the too grea control of the constituents over their Representatives. He might be told, that he was going into an old story when he spoke of the French Revolution, but allow him to say, that it was an old story which ought to be ever present to their minds. What was the fact? Was it not the influence of the sections of Paris upon the Legislative Assemblies which produced all the worst evils of the French Revolution? Upon these grounds, believing that the plan would give an influence to the popular opinion of the metropolis, which would have a mischievous and injurious effect upon the proceedings of Parliament, he should oppose the motion before the Committee. In the expression of public opinion by large masses of society so situated, it should be remembered, that they had the opinion of the lowest classes more exclusive of those of the higher than in the case of any other popular meetings in the country. Let any man look to the periods of public clamour which had occurred in the history of the country, and it would be seen, that it had always been led by the populace of large towns, often created by them alone, and often effectually neutralized by the more sober and deliberate decisions of county meetings. He must not be told, that excitement in a district sending a Member to Parliament was of little consequence, and could produce but little effect upon the proceedings of Parliament. If the enactments of this Bill should pass into a law, and a popular clamour arise in Westminster, was it too much to say, that that clamour was sure to extend to London, to Southwark, to Greenwich, and to Deptford, and to all these new metropolitan boroughs? He thought not; and, if the constituencies of those places chose to meet, after the example of London, their Representatives would be compelled to vote in accordance with such clamour, instead of being allowed the exercise of their own reason and judgment. A common principle and bond of union would prevail among all the metropolitan Members, and they would act as a body in the House. For these reasons, he should vote against the Motion.
said, he could not perceive any ground for apprehending that a Member would be the more under the control of his constituents because he happened to live among them. If a Gentleman voted contrary to the wishes of his con- 682 stituents, and a meeting of those constituents were to be called, for the purpose of expressing an opinion upon the conduct of their Representative, he could not see what difference there was between the Member receiving notice of the resolutions to which such meeting should come by the post—as that Member certainly would receive it—and the Member receiving it by some more speedy means of communication. The same result would take place in whatever part of the country the constituents of an hon. Member might happen to reside, and he did not think that that result was the more dreadful because a Member's constituents happened to live near the place at which the House of Commons held its meetings. He could not help expressing the opinion, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), in his speech, had much underrated the talents, abilities, and activity of county Members. Did the right hon. Baronet recollect the fight which the country gentlemen had made, a few years ago, upon the Cornlaws? Could any men have acted more firmly, or more intrepidly—could any men have attended in their places more constantly, than the country gentlemen did upon that occasion? And now, when a game bill was introduced, or when a question of hops or wool was touched, did the country gentlemen show any want of activity? He thought not; and he had no doubt, that the county Members would be a match for those who would be sent from the towns. He had no doubt, that the King's Government was taking a right course. He believed, that the towns would send to Parliament men of talents, and of integrity, and not such persons as were denominated, on the other side of the House, "gentlemen demagogues." But most hon. Members whom he was now addressing, had seen, that if a Gentleman in that House came forward with extravagant propositions, he was always in a very small minority, and was rendered much more powerless within, than without, the walls of Parliament.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, that he had been provoked, on a great many occasions, to rise and say something in answer to the remarks made upon the members for the city of London, but he had not done so from a fear that he should be assisting in delaying the Bill. He had not allowed himself to be provoked by the remarks of one right hon. Gentleman, but 683 another had now got up, and had, in the same spirit, referred to the members for the city of London. The right hon. Gentleman had treated the electors of the City as men of the lowest order, and as men who acted upon principles they did not understand. He must tell those right hon. Gentlemen, that they were mistaken in thus treating the Livery, for that many among that body were men of as high character, and of as much intelligence, and held a rank as elevated, and enjoyed a fortune as ample, as any men in that House, be they as high as they might. It had been stated, that they had exercised an improper authority over an hon. colleague of his, who had been called before them—or who had appeared voluntarily before them—he did not care which—and, he believed, there were several of those who smiled at the expression, able to testify to the disagreeable ceremony of being called to account, and to the more disagreeable punishment visited upon the crime of being found wanting. Hon. Members had spoken of the bad effect likely to be produced by the operation of the schedule they were now considering, and objected, that the constant presence of the Representatives amongst the constituents was an evil, inasmuch as that, in the midst of a discussion affecting the interests of the community, the former might be called upon to account for the course he had thought proper to pursue. But he begged to ask, whether a similar inconvenience had not been felt by Members of that House whose constituents were a hundred miles from the metropolis? In small boroughs it was an easy matter to call the Representatives to account, but there were difficulties in the way of precipitate complaint, or censure, in those which were extensive. The Livery consisted of a body of 14,000 or 15,000, and had his hon. colleague been called to account by that body? It had been said, that the meeting of that House on Saturday had been resolved upon in consequence of an expected meeting of the Livery; but had the Livery met? A few individuals of that body had met; but it was for the purpose of determining whether it would be advisable to call a meeting of the great body, and they came to what he considered to be a most wise Resolution—a Resolution not to summon their brethren, because they saw, that the right hon. Gentlemen who opposed the 684 Bill had begun to show that they were at length coming to their senses; because they supposed, that those Gentlemen might be looking out amongst the places upon which the Bill was to confer the advantages of the elective franchise for a passport to place. He begged the House would for a moment look to the nature of the Opposition. There were hon. Members objecting to give a franchise to 50,000 persons, after having been for days and weeks arguing, that a few hundreds should have it to the fullest extent. But the inconsistent opposers of the measure were not satisfied without throwing a slur upon the city of London constituency. He knew that the voters of the city of London were not equalled by any other voters in the country. If the House would look to the meeting of the merchants and bankers which had taken place in the city, in favour of Reform, and at which, several persons possessed of 100,000l. and 200,000l. each attended, they would acknowledge the injustice of the charge against the Livery. One of his great objects in rising on the present occasion was, to state his opinion, that it was but just in the Ministers to secure by their Bill, to those voters who would lose their franchise in the city by non-residence, the privilege of voting in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, where they carried on such extensive trade and commerce, and which they enriched by all the honourable means in their power.
§ Lord Valletort rose in consequence of the worthy Alderman having told them, that no meeting had taken place in the City respecting the proceedings in that House, and that no resolutions had been come to. He had so understood the worthy Alderman. There had, however, been such a meeting, and resolutions had been agreed to at that meeting. He held those resolutions in his hand, and he had cut them that morning out of The Times newspaper. His attention had been called to them by an expression in the leading article of The Times, which was to the following effect:—That although the meeting was adjourned for a time, yet that it was held in terrorem over the House. Let him, therefore, warn hon. Members on his side of the House, against whom this meeting was directed, that there was a sword hanging over their heads more terrible than the sword of Damocles; but let him, at the same time, express a hope, that 685 they would treat the threat as he should treat it—with utter and entire contempt. The resolutions ran thus,—"That, in consequence of the progress made in the Committee in the House of Commons, since the signing of the requisition to the Lord Mayor, particularly on Saturday last, when the disqualifying clauses were nearly terminated, and from the fear that the proceedings of any public meeting might, by those engaged in the present factious unprincipled opposition to the measure."—[cheers.] "The worthy Alderman cheers that expression, but he did not use it in his speech; it is not his; and I challenge any man to apply such language to those with whom I sit; I say, that any man who uses this expression accuses us of what we are not guilty of; and I say, too, that that accusation is false." The noble Lord continued reading the resolution as follows:—"And from the fear, that the proceedings of any public meeting might, by those engaged in the present factious and unprincipled opposition to the measure, be used as a new means of causing a frivolous and vexatious delay, this meeting withdraw their requisition for the present, and express their desire that a Common Hall should not immediately be held; and that the liverymen now assembled do form themselves into a Committee, with power to add to their numbers, and that such Committee do meet again on Monday next, or earlier if expedient, to consider whether it will then be necessary to adopt any and what measures respecting the passing of the Reform Bill." This was, to have one Committee assembled here for the purpose of considering how the measure was to be carried through Parliament, and another Committee, or more—perhaps eight of them for the different districts of the metropolis—sitting elsewhere, to watch and control the proceedings of Parliament. Such a course could not but have a most injurious and unconstitutional effect in the House; but he hoped, that none with whom he coincided would be deterred from the manly discharge of their duty. He had brought down the extract he had read, without being at all determined to use it; but after what had passed, he thought himself in duty bound to produce the resolutions. [Mr. Alderman Wood observed, that they were not resolutions of the Livery.] If they were not resolutions, he did not know what were, and those who framed them called them so, for they said 686 that "the following resolutions were unanimously adopted" [laughter]. What there was reason to laugh at he could not see, for it seemed to him a very serious matter, that any set of men should stand, as it were, at the doors of the House, so presumptuously to attempt to influence its proceedings.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, that no one could be more unwilling than he was to prolong this discussion; but after the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, he felt it necessary to say a few words. He was glad, that the noble Lord had thought those Resolutions of so much consequence, that the attention of the House should be called to them; but he was sorry, that Resolutions which the noble Lord had seemed to despise so much, should so far have affected him, as to lead him into so much loss of temper. [Lord Valletort: "No, no."] Well, if the noble Lord had not lost his temper, he was unable to tell what losing one's temper was. He was surprised, however, that the noble Lord, in reading those Resolutions, had not been able to draw a distinction between the meeting of a few individuals, and a meeting of the whole constituent body. His hon. colleague (Mr. Alderman Wood) had stated, very truly, that there had been no meeting of the constituent body; and his hon. colleague had also stated, with equal truth, that there had been a meeting of certain individuals. He knew the individuals who had passed those Resolutions; he knew that they were men of honour, of character, and of understanding, but he had had no communication with any one of them. He should not be acting honestly if he did not state plainly, that he knew there was an indignant feeling in the public mind at the manner in which this measure had been treated in that House, He hoped that he never should, in any public assembly, impute improper motives to any one; but whether the conduct to which he alluded had arisen from want of temper, or want of understanding, or want of any thing else, he must say, that he was not surprised at the indignation of the public. The noble Lord (Lord Valletort) had set him the example of quoting newspaper authority, and he should follow that example. He had seen it stated, he believed in the same newspaper from which the noble Lord had quoted, that 150 speeches had been made upon this Bill by only six Members; and, 687 when the public saw this, and when they observed, that those speeches consisted chiefly of tiresome repetitions of the same sentiments, he must say, that he thought it very natural for the public at large to fasten imputations of improper motives upon hon. Members who so conducted themselves. As to the question before the Committee, he would tell the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), that it was quite impossible to extend the constituency of London any further, and that, consequently, his scheme was not practicable. As to the fears which the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Montgomery, had expressed, lest the constituency in the neighbourhood of London should hold meetings respecting the conduct of their Representatives in that House generally, he would tell that right hon. Gentleman, that if improper measures were sanctioned in that House, as they very often had been, it would be the duty of the constituent body of the heart of the empire to meet and declare their opinion upon such measures. He should like to know what the French Revolution, which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced, had to do with this question? The French Revolution was caused by the oppressive conduct of the French government; and there was no instance, that he was aware of, of there ever having been a revolution against a good government. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman, that if the Government of this country, and the Parliament, had persisted in those abuses of which the people had so often and so justly complained, and if the people, in consequence of that, had been driven to take the direction of public affairs into their own hands, we might have had here the same scenes which had occurred in France. He considered this measure, therefore, as a healing measure, and consequently, as a wise measure. He should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman meant by running down the constituency of the city of London? The right hon. Gentleman could not surely mean to say, that if any number of London voters were taken promiscuously, as one might chance to meet them in the streets, they would not be as good at least, man for man, as the constituency of Montgomeryshire. He would not detain the House any further than to say, that he should vote for giving Members to Greenwich and the other places. The country was with the 688 Ministers, and it was the duty of Ministers, therefore, to persevere and not to yield one inch of ground to the opposite party.
said, that there were two accusations which the worthy Alderman had made against him, and to which he was desirous of making some reply. The first was, that he had lost his temper; and the second was, that he thought these resolutions very important. Now, he was not conscious of having lost his temper. He might have spoken with warmth, but there was a great deal of difference between warmth and loss of temper. So far, however, from thinking these resolutions important, if he had been angry at all, it was because any one should think that he, and those with whom he acted, could be affected by such resolutions being held in terrorem over them. Yet this seemed to be the opinion of the writer of the article in The Times, who imagined that Members of Parliament could be influenced in their conduct by the proceedings of those who had agreed to these resolutions.
§ Mr. Hodges
said, that as the new constituency in this case was to be carved out of the county he represented, he begged to state, that he cordially concurred in the proposed arrangement; and that he believed the new boroughs would take a just pride in selecting, not only the ablest, but the most respectable Members. Greenwich formerly returned Members, and though the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, had spoken of the surprise with which the parish must have received the intelligence that it was to have Representatives, he (Mr. Hodges) could state, that a week before the Bill was introduced he had presented a petition from the parish of Greenwich, claiming the restoration of its ancient rights; but as soon as the inhabitants heard of the intention of Government to unite Greenwich with Deptford and Woolwich, they acquiesced in the proposal, and withdrew their own claim.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that the hon. Alderman had been very facetious upon the number of speeches made upon this question by Members on that side of the House, of whom he was one, and perhaps one of the leading ones, to offend in that respect. But the hon. Alderman's notorious modesty had prevented him from telling the House the whole of that story, as it had been got up at a City meeting. The hon. Alderman's modesty had left out the 689 moral of the tale,—the point of the whole thing; but, in justice to the hon. Alderman, he would supply it to the House. When all these speeches had been calculated and enumerated in the City, it was added, that they had all been put to flight by one speech from the hon. Alderman; all their arguments were put down, or put to flight, or exhaled in the sudorific qualities of one speech from the hon. Alderman. A right hon. friend of his, for whose opinion he generally entertained the greatest possible deference, had, upon this occasion, stated an opinion, in which he regretted being only able to go along with him half way. He had said, that the Members returned from the metropolitian districts under this Bill would be gentlemen demagogues. Now, he agreed with his right hon. friend that they would be demagogues, but he must beg leave to differ with him upon the point of gentility. He thought they would be any thing but gentlemen. He would undertake to answer for their gentility. Whether they would be educated or not educated, whether they would be enlightened or not enlightened, whether they would be useful or ornamental, he would not undertake to predict; but there were no words, expressing even the very antipodes of gentlemen, which would enable him to describe his idea of the anti-genteel qualities which these democrats would exhibit when they came into that House. The addition of ten Members to the Metropolitan Political Union of eleven Members, which had been already spoken of by his right hon. friend beside him, would constitute an union of twenty-one Members, which would be an innovation in the constitutional system of Representation that had never existed, and that ought not to exist. He did not mean to say, that such an union as that within the walls of Parliament, would be as dangerous as the Birmingham Political Union, with which a Minister of State had thought it fit and proper to correspond; but it appeared to him, that such an union, acting together, either by a spirit of party, by virtue of a previous compact, or by the active sympathy of similar feelings and influences in that House—it appeared to him, he repeated, that such a number of gentlemen, thus confederated together, would, as the right hon. Baronet beside him had already said, be a novel thing in the constitution of that House; and he, for one, did think, that such a novelty would be productive of mischief, to an extent which 690 he should not at present predicate. They had already seen how the city of London which would form a portion of that Metropolitan Union to which he alluded, had thought proper to erect itself into a judge of their proceedings, and to interfere in a most unconstitutional manner with the privileges of Parliament. Already the Livery were acting in close concert, and exercising an unconstitutional and dangerous influence; and although the constituent body might not yet be engaged, a Committee was sitting week by week to decide upon the necessity of calling it together. One hon. Alderman had been required to attend his constituents, to account for his conduct; and although his attendance had been termed "voluntary," he defied any man to produce a sense of that word, justifying such an application, in all the dictionaries, from Johnson down to Entick. To be sure, as the worthy Alderman had said, the Livery of London had not as yet pronounced their judgment on that House—they had not as yet fiated their decree—they had not as yet thought proper to determine, in regard to a matter which was still under the consideration of Parliament, and in regard to proceedings which were only in transitu, that the House of Commons must, nolens volens, pass the Bill in the shape that would please them—they had not as yet come to that redoubtable civic determination; but their resolution was only suspended; and if that House did not comply with the demands of the Livery, then down would fall this petition, like the sword of Damocles, upon their devoted heads. And this was the sort of Representation by which the Members for the city of London were honoured. He remembered, that when Dr. Johnson was asked for a definition of a congé d'elire, he replied, that it was like throwing a man out of a garret window, and recommending his falling upon the ground. In the same manner, the Representatives of London were sent into that House with a congé d'elire, which left them only one course to pursue. Would not this be the case with all the other metropolitan Members, and would they not be bound together, in the same chains with which the four Members for the city of London were now bound, disgracefully bound, together? It had, on one occasion, been declared, that no Deputy to the French Chamber, should be considered as the Representative of a Department, but of the whole nation, and 691 he must contend, that if this part of the Bill were adopted, we should have what the French decried, a Departmental Representation, controlling and influencing the proceedings of the House. The principle upon which this enfranchisement proceeded, was directly opposed to that which had governed the disfranchisement of other places. In Guildford, and other towns, the Representation had been cut off, because the towns happened to be bisected by parochial divisions; but when they came to give Members to Greenwich, they took in the parishes of St. Nicholas and St. Paul, Deptford, and of Woolwich, in the county of Kent. And this was done after they had, in a manner offensive to common sense, refused to extend the same principle to important county-towns, when by so doing, an ample, and far more trustworthy constituency, might have been formed. The tendency of all their measures was, to give an undue preponderance to the manufacturing and commercial districts, which, in his opinion, had already a sufficient influence in Parliament. Not content with depriving the landed interest of forty Members in schedule B, and giving them to the working classes, Ministers, in addition, were about to add twenty more Representatives to populous places. Thus, instead of increasing the influence of the already weaker body, Ministers were, according to their usual rule of contraries, adding to that which was the stronger party. Several principles had been laid down on the other side, none of which were closely, if at all, observed, and, though much had been said by the supporters of the Reform Bill, as yet he had heard no sufficient reason assigned why Greenwich should be favoured, and Chelsea, unhappy neglected Chelsea, remain without Representatives. For his part, he could see none, and perhaps the worthy Alderman, who so stoutly advocated the increase of Members for the metropolis, could not, in the exercise of his ingenuity, give a better reason for the distinction that had been made, than that Greenwich was below London-bridge, and Chelsea above it. Both these places were in many respects similar. They had each institutions which reflected honour on the country, asylums for men who had served their King and country, but neither the difference of one being above the bridge, and the other below it, nor the difference of 692 red coats being worn at one place, and blue coats at the other, could make a distinction in their respective claims for the exercise of the elective franchise. He mentioned this, as might easily be seen, solely for the purpose of shewing the absurdity of this Bill, and not to enforce the claims of that place. Many other large and populous places near London, had in the same way been unfairly neglected by the noble Lord. Garrat, for instance, where there could be no difficulty in finding a returning officer, inasmuch as a Mayor was annually elected. Grass-growing Battersea, cabbage-cultivating Fulham, rural Richmond, and picturesque Petersham, together with the lofty and rival eminences of Highgate and Hampstead, seclusions for courtship and cockneyism, were equally disregarded. Why, too, was unhappy Redriffe omitted? Why was not that affluent and hospitable vicinity to return its demagogue-gentleman, or gentleman-demagogue? Whatever silence might be obstinately observed on the other side—however the noble Lord might submit to a sort of voluntary lock-jaw, the people of England would expect a justification of the conduct of Ministers, and would require, that the decisions of the House should be founded, at least, upon the principles of common honesty. Why did not his Majesty's Ministers sail up the Thames, and they would find a population, equal in number, wealth, respectability, and gentility, if that was any criterion, to that which they had found in Greenwich. It was a most arbitrary selection; but then, said the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), Greenwich had formerly a Member. Now this might be true; but it was a very odd thing, that, because Greenwich had formerly a Member, one should be taken from Guildford, which always had two, and given to Greenwich [laughter]. Those were pleasantries, and it might be said by some, vaus plaisantez ici; but he agreed with the hon. Alderman, that the people of England were acutely looking to the proceedings in that House, and that they would expect to find some reason, or some ground, for the propositions submitted to it. It might be a very agreeable thing for the Admiralty barge to go down to Greenwich next time, with two new Members of Parliament—no doubt a precious cargo—but some reason ought to be given for the proposal. Looking at all the circumstances, 693 he could not see that any case had been made out to require an increase of the Members for the metropolis, nor had he heard any attempt made to answer the close and logical speech of his right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel), which shewed, that no principle of justice or policy required the preference which was given to Greenwich, or which at all justified the giving it Representatives.
begged to state, in allusion to one observation of the hon. Alderman (Wood), that the transaction to which he alluded, the burning of his hon. colleague in effigy, did not arise from the vote which his hon. colleague gave on the question relating to the borough of Down-ton, and was not a proof of the sentiments of the people of Gloucester. Those who got up that farce were not Reformers, but a party opposed to his hon. colleague.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, he did not intend to reflect on the hon. Member, he merely alluded to what he had seen in the newspapers. He had made the remark in reply to the observation, that Members for places near the House were more under the control of their Constituents, than those who Represented places farther off.
Mr. Alderman Thompson
hoped the Committee would bear with him for a few moments, as he had been alluded to very frequently in the course of these debates, and had never before ventured to take any notice of the observations which had been applied to him. As the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge, (Sir Charles Wetherell) had, for the fourth or fifth time, however, alluded to a transaction in which he (Alderman Thompson) was concerned, and had made some observations reflecting on his character and independence as a Member of that House, he felt himself called upon to break through the silence he had hitherto observed on the subject. In the first instance, he would state, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was totally misinformed, when he supposed that he (Alderman Thompson) had been summoned before a body of his constituents to answer for his vote; and that, in order to make his peace, he had surrendered his independence. That imputation he totally denied. He had heard, that the Livery of London was about to meet at the Guildhall, and he was told, that the meeting was about to be held, under a supposition that he had 694 acted differently from a promise he had given, or, to speak more correctly, from the expectation that was entertained as to the manner in which he should act. Hearing that a meeting was about to assemble under such an impression, he felt that anxiety which any man of honour or integrity must feel, to set himself right. He had repaired, therefore, to Guildhall, without any summons, in order to make a precise statement of the circumstances as they occurred. He told them the circumstances of the case, and he would venture to say, that no person came into that House more free and unshackled than he did, as to the general course which he was at liberty to pursue. He was asked at the election by an important body of his constituents, whether he was disposed to support the Bill brought in by his Majesty's Ministers, in the same way as he had done last Session? He answered unequivocally, that he would do so. In answer to another question, he said, that, if any boroughs set down in schedule A, or in schedule B, to be totally or partially disfranchised, to the partial or total disfranchisement of which he saw rational objections, from the population, wealth, or respectability of the place, he would reserve to himself the right to resist such parts of those schedules. He would appeal to his hon. colleagues if such had not been his declaration to his constituents. He should, therefore, not allow himself to be told in that Assembly, that he was a disgraced or dishonoured Member of it. Looking back over the whole course of his conduct in that House, he could not recognize an occasion on which it was possible to presume, that he had given a less honourable or disinterested vote, than the learned member for Boroughbridge. On the occasion which had been so often, and, he would add, so unfairly referred to, he came into the House at the conclusion of the debate on the case of Appleby. He was acquainted with the peculiar circumstances of that town, and he knew many of the persons who had signed the petition; but he confessed he did not know that the object of the Gentlemen with whom he then voted, was so irregular, as to wish to get up a debate in the case of every borough, on the question whether that borough should be defended by Counsel at the bar of the House. On consideration, he was convinced, that he had acted injudiciously in supporting that 695 motion; but he was sure it would be conceded to him, that it was no very rare occurrence for Gentlemen to vote in a division, without having heard the whole debate upon the subject on which they divided. He still thought, that it was his duty to state in that debate, what he knew respecting the parish in which Appleby was situated. He thanked the Committee for having heard his explanation with so much attention. He did not think that it was altogether liberal on the part of hon. Gentlemen to refer, night after night, to his conduct in a particular instance. He hoped, that after the explanation which he had made, his feelings would not again be assailed by such dissertations as the learned member for Boroughbridge had that evening indulged in. He would now only detain the Committee by one remark upon the question which had been asked by the hon. and learned Member—namely, why it was that Greenwich and Deptford were to have Representatives, whilst they were refused to Chelsea? He thought that he could give a better reason for the distinction than that which the learned Member had given, as the answer to his own question. It was this—that there were in those places a great many extensive ship-yards and manufacturing houses, and that the population was respectable, important, and wealthy.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that he had been charged by the worthy Alderman with making attacks upon him, but he had not done this. It was the hon. Alderman behind him who had first referred to the debate upon Appleby.
Mr. Alderman Wood
gave a flat and distinct contradiction to the statement of the hon. and learned member for Borough-bridge. The debate upon Appleby had been referred to by the right hon. member for Montgomery.
was sure, that no personal unkindness was meant towards the hon. Alderman. The remarks had not been made in any spirit that could be considered a departure from those rules which usually governed Parliamentary Debates. He was satisfied, that his hon. friend had not in any way deviated from those principles which he had professed, nor could his vote on Appleby be considered as inconsistent with his general support of the question of Reform. No vote of his had indicated any change of opinion on that 696 question; but he must say, that the case of his hon. friend was closely connected with, and illustrative of, a broad principle which had been contended for by the opponents of the Bill. That principle was, the great inconvenience and danger of subjecting Members of that House to the immediate and sensitive control of their constituents. This was one of the many instances in which such control had been found to operate unfairly. The case of Sir Robert Wilson showed also the inconvenience arising from the want of independence on the part of Members, without which no business could be advantageously conducted in that House. With respect to the threat held out as a kind of rod over the heads of Members, that the public eye was fixed upon them, he considered it but a fair indication of the future conduct of Reformers, should this Bill pass into a law. These examples, and the treatment which his hon. friend experienced, pointed out clearly to all those who had a knowledge of mankind, what would be the condition of a Reformed Parliament. Even in the present Parliament attempts were made to stifle discussion and prevent deliberation. The question of giving Members to Greenwich was taken up as an instance of the undue influence about to be given to the suburban districts, and not for the purposes of delay; and yet delay was charged upon those who wished to deliberate. When this complaint was made, it ought to be recollected, that it was not merely the single question of Greenwich that was at issue, but the whole proposed Representation of the metropolis was involved in the discussion. Surely, upon so important an occasion, the delivery of a Member's opinion was not to be considered as given for purposes of procrastination. Such charges applied more properly to those who attempted to stifle opinion on a subject that involved, in a great degree, the future welfare of the nation. In the course of some observations which he made on a former evening, he had made some allusion, by way of comparison, to the town and county Representations; and from what he had since observed, he feared he had not, on that occasion, made himself intelligible, or that he had been misunderstood. Nothing could be farther from his thoughts than any disrespect towards country gentlemen, who were the very persons to whom he looked for safety under this new Constitu- 697 tion. He too well knew their ability and attention to the general interests of the country, as well as their integrity, and of all others, they were the last body in the country upon whom he would make any invidious observations. All he meant to say was, that a country life had a tendency to quietness. It had been observed by several, and, amongst others, by a distinguished French writer, that an agricultural life led to quietness and repose, whilst the pursuits of commerce tended to activity of mind, and even to agitation. In his opinion, country gentlemen would find themselves much mistaken, if they thought that mere numbers, in a Reformed Parliament, would enable them to compete with the Representatives of towns approaching in the franchise to universal suffrage. In such places as Westminster, where the suffrage would be nearly universal, the gentry would be ranged on one side, and whole masses of the community on the other. In this remark, he meant no offence to his hon. friend who had so long represented that city; but he could not help thinking that, under the Bill as it stood (and which it appeared was not to be changed), such places would not make choice of the best Representatives. They had not yet come to the qualification clause, which was to confer on every 10l. householder the right of voting, and by which universal suffrage as he would call it, was to be conferred on large places. That he thought a dangerous clause; and from what he understood, it was not to be changed, nor, according to certain resolutions entered into, was it even to be submitted to the deliberative sense of Parliament; but was to be pressed on by Ministers, who, with majorities at their back, regarded not arguments, but numbers. He was not letting out any secret, when he stated, that he understood the supporters of Ministers were required, and agreed, to give up their individual opinions, and had determined not to make what they themselves considered necessary alterations in the Bill. If that was to be the case, then would the suburban districts in particular have that precise scale of franchise which the hon. member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney) had shown to verge on pauperism. When the Bill was thus passed, or rather forced on, without the deliberate opinion of Parliament, there would be no receding. If Parliament gave too little in the way of franchise, they 698 might easily give more at another time; but if they once gave too much, they could never remedy the evil. In any way in which he viewed this measure, he thought it fraught with danger. Under the new system, there would be reaction on the House from abroad, similar to that produced by the clubs in France, which had caused so much inconvenience and confusion. The worst part of this Bill was the disfranchisement of small towns, and the enfranchisement of large ones, without limit, or restraint, and, as he contended, without necessity. An hon. Alderman had that night told them, that no tumultuous meetings ever took place under a good Government. This he denied, and would give several instances to the contrary. Why, no later than Monday last, he understood and believed, that not less than 20,000 or 30,000 persons were assembled in Spa-fields, while his Majesty was on his way to London Bridge, and there disseminating revolutionary doctrines. What security would there be for liberty or property, if such a plan could be carried on, under the new system, with impunity? His great hope and consolation were, that when the country saw the manner in which this measure was forced upon Parliament, the people would see their real interest, and resist it. If they did not, he should give them less credit for judgment than he had always done.
said, he felt himself called upon by the observations of the hon. member for Thetford, to make a few remarks on the subjects he had introduced into the discussion. He wished the hon. Members opposite to be fairly heard; but, he would not attempt to waste the time of the House by refuting arguments which had been ten thousand times refuted, or by discussing principles which had been completely settled. The hon. Member who had just sat down seemed particularly anxious about Westminster; and, though he had so long lived in it, it was surprising, that he should be so ignorant of the nature of its franchise, and the mode in which it returned Members to Parliament. The hon. Member made a most unfair charge against Ministers, by slating that, in altering the constitution of Westminster, they would deluge the borough with 10l. voters. He did not know where the hon. Member must have lived, to be so ignorant of the franchise of that borough, for he believed it was known to 699 almost every one, that in Westminster the scot and lot householders had a vote, and that by the Bill, not less than 1,500, or 1,800 of the constituency would be cut off. While hon. Members on the opposite side of the House complained that his Majesty's Government did not adhere to facts, had he not a right to complain of his hon. friend, when he made such an erroneous statement respecting Westminster? This, however, was only one specimen of the correctness of hon. Gentlemen opposite; but it was not by such paltry, by such temporary, expedients as had been resorted to, that the question was to be defeated. Hon. Members seemed to take it, for granted, that the people, from a natural feeling, had a tendency to destroy every thing like good order and good government; and that, if they should have full play, their plans would be fatal to the Constitution of the country. He denied the assertion. The people of this country, even that class to which the hon. Member alluded, had no such wish, and showed no such inclination. He had the more reason to complain of such an insinuation, when coming from an hon. Member of that House of great experience, of high character, and who, from his intelligence, was entitled to high respect. But it was not only that night he had reason to complain, for on other occasions he had repeatedly fallen into the same line of argument. He said, what chance was there of the voice of reason being heard in Parliament, when Members were returned by such electors? But what his hon. friend might call reason, he, perhaps, regarded as folly and self-interest. His hon. friend spoke of what might happen, but he would speak of what had happened, and assert, that no body of men ever sat together who had displayed more fatuity than had been displayed by the Houses of Parliament. He could quote many instances to prove his assertion, but he did not consider it at all necessary to do so, because it was evident, that while Members differed on first principles, it was needless to quote instances. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, said the other night, that facts proved, that the system worked well; but he could state with as perfect confidence, that it worked ill. When, therefore, they differed on first principles, it was not for the House, but the country, to decide. The country knew that it was vain, and he 700 would say it was vain, to dispute on first principles, when it was known that, by disputing on first principles, they might lose the opportunity for ever, of attaining a practical good. His hon. friend had asked, if the Bill were carried, who could they have for Ministers of the Crown? He would as soon consult the electors of Westminster, on that subject, as consult those who had so long appointed the Ministry. The King was not at liberty to choose his Ministers, for, before he could give his consent to the change, he must first ascertain whether it would be agreeable to those Gentlemen who possessed the parchment bonds. The King was obliged to inquire, not whether such and such a man was a man of talent and integrity, but whether he had the consent and support of my Lord this, and the Duke of that. He had to ascertain if the owner of the rotten borough of Callington, and the half-owner of the rotten borough of Thetford, would support the man he wished to be Minister, The King must inquire whether he could command the half of Boroughbridge, and dispose of Newark as occasion might require? Such was the free choice of the King. He was compelled to bow to that House which he himself created. He begged to remind his hon. friend, the member for Thetford, who had taunted the electors of Westminster, that they were a free and independent body of men, and he trusted that their influence would have an effect upon the country. The electors of Westminster were as independent a body of men as any that could be found. They felt grateful for the measure brought forward by his Majesty's Ministers, because it got rid of an evil which had too long existed. They saw that by it, the grievances under which they had laboured would be removed. But with regard to the operation of the Bill on the Representation of Westminster, it must be, in one sense, injurious. The electors of Westminster would no longer stand pre-eminent—he did not mean as respected himself, or the talent of their Representatives, but for the principles which they supported; they would no longer hold almost exclusively that high privilege of freely choosing their Representatives, nor would their Representatives be any longer almost the only Representatives of a large, and intelligent, and wealthy town constituency. Other places of importance would have, 701 in that House, Representatives chosen by the people, and expressing their sentiments. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had, in his speech of last night, admitted, that it was impossible to deny there was a feeling in the country in favour of enfranchisement. The right hon. Baronet said, "that a change must take place"—he had admitted that. Did the right hon. Gentleman allow, that a change must take place with respect to enfranchising large towns? Was it so evident that such was the will of the country that a change was inevitable? But was it a "must" in one case, and not a "must" in the other? Did not the people demand disfranchisement also? He thought, that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in his estimate of the feeling which prevailed, if he thought the minds of the people were not as intent upon disfranchisement as upon enfranchisement. He (Mr. Hobhouse) believed, that the people thought more of disfranchisement than of enfranchisement, and so convinced was he of that, that had his Majesty's Ministers only disfranchised the rotten boroughs, without enfranchising the large towns, so deep would have been the debt of gratitude on the part of the people, that they would have been contented to wait some years before the other part of the Bill was carried into effect. They would have remained satisfied for some time in seeing that destroyed which was rotten, before proceeding to build up a new fabric. With respect to these districts, he had listened with the utmost attention to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth; and would frankly own, that there was, in that speech, a great deal of forcible argument; but he must be permitted to say, nevertheless, that the great argument of that speech was based on that which has been the ground taken by all the opponents of this Bill—namely, that there is something mischievous in giving this description of people votes, because, by so doing, we arm them with power which they can exercise against the Constitution, and against the interests of the country. He had seen no case adduced in support of that assertion. He was not aware, that in any great populous districts, the choice of the constituency had generally fallen upon individuals hostile to the Constitutions, or inclined to destroy the institutions of the country. The individual 702 Members of that House who had shewn themselves most inclined, and had been most able, also, to undermine the political, and the legal Constitution of the country, were not to be found among the Representatives of populous places. His hon. friend opposite said, that popular Representatives would never listen to reason. Could his hon. friend say, that the boroughmongers had ever shewn, or did they now shew, themselves disposed to listen to reason? A noble Lord had spoken of the borough of Wootton Bassett, which that noble Lord now represented, as having been the place to which Bolingbroke owed a seat in that. House, and whom the noble Lord had eulogised, quoting, at the same time, an opinion expressed by that writer. That, certainly, was an unfortunate case, for he begged to say, in his opinion, a greater rogue than Bolingbroke, nor a more trumpery philosopher, had never been sent by a rotten borough into that House. The noble Lord who had introduced the name of Bolingbroke was not ignorant, but, on the contrary, was, as every one knew, well acquainted with history, yet he must say, that the noble Lord must have presumed on the ignorance of his auditors, if he supposed, that it was to avail his cause. The hon. and learned member for Kerry gave a complete answer to the argument of the noble Lord, by reminding the House of a gentleman of the name of Mr. Benjamin Walsh. Of these two, he preferred Mr. Walsh—for he never left to the country a legacy of mere subtle philosophy, or a code of bad morality—he left no essays on history, from which the youth of the next generation might learn how to become as great rogues as himself—he never left us anything but a penal statute, which prevented other persons from taking advantage of that which he found unprotected when he had the honour of doing so much credit to rotten boroughs in this House. His hon. friend, the member for Thetford (Mr. Baring), had seemed to make it a matter of complaint, that there was in that House no organ of the Foreign Department: he had been accidentally absent when a question was about to be asked by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), with the best intentions, of course. Did hon. Members forget, that during the whole existence of the late Government, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was not in that, but in the other House of Parlia- 703 ment? yet no want of his presence was for a single moment complained of or felt, since the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, as the organ generally of the Administration, answered all questions respecting any department of which the head did not happen to be in the House; and, in many instances, answered questions for members of the Government who happened to be present in their own proper persons. He did not attach much importance to the absence of Ministers from that House. Instead of thinking, that they had been too few there, he thought they had been too numerous. He recollected the time when the right hon. Baronet managed the official business of that House, with little assistance from his colleagues, most of whom had seats in the other House. He had no apprehension for the fate of the Bill, which he was sure would pass into a law, notwithstanding the strenuous opposition of his hon. friend, whose vote, however, he thought was a conscientious vote, notwithstanding his interest in Callington and Thetford. His hon. friend shewed he was conscientious, by his fears, and he seemed to think that armed men sprang from the ground, when a demagogue stamped. For his part, he could not believe there were 25,000 persons in Spafields, on the day of the opening London Bridge ready to overturn the Constitution. His hon. friend could not believe such to be the fact. He would rest the question relating to Greenwich and the other towns upon the mere question, whether there had been such an assemblage? He would tell his hon. friend it was not so. Was the House and the country to be frightened from propriety by such a tale? His hon. friends who sat on the same side of the House that he did, and who had adopted the resolution of supporting the great measure of Reform then under the consideration of the House, were taunted with being a pledged and unlistening Majority. Lord North had sometimes been reproached for falling asleep in his place in that House, but the answer of the noble Lord was, that he often wished to sleep, and could not. He wished he could be an unlistener to the many speeches that were made. He considered the subject had been argued over and over again, and that it was a mere waste of time to be continually replying to the speeches made by the opposers of the Bill—their object being evidently 704 delay. He begged to say, that he did not blame them for the course they took, believing as they did—and he was bound to admit conscientiously—that the measure was fraught with that danger which they asserted. If he believed as they did on the subject—if he had an interest like them in arguing on that side of the question, he would delay the measure as much as possible, but he would also own, that his object was delay. This would be putting the question upon intelligible grounds. It would be the fair and candid way of opposing the Bill, to declare that delay was what was sought by its opposers in the course taken. But it was the business of the friends of the measure, let it be borne in mind by the House, to prevent delay as much as possible. The supporters of the Bill were not to be caught in the traps which the young fowlers on the opposite side had thought proper to set. The experience of the world had taught him to reject the advice of his adversaries. It was a good general rule upon which to act, and he trusted in the present case, that the friends of the Bill would not do as its enemies recommended. The Members of that House ought to represent the Commons of England, and consequently, ought to respond to their wishes. Taunts had been thrown out against the friends of Reform, because they were pledged to support the Bill. It was rather too bad to hear such taunts fall from the lips of hon. Members who had no right whatever to a seat in that House—who were merely sent there by a nominee—sent, too; not to attend to the public interests, but to the interests of their patrons. He disclaimed any personal allusions in what he felt it his duty to declare. He must confess he heard with surprise the taunts which had been thrown out respecting what had transpired in reference to the constituency of the City of London. It would appear that a great and populous constituency were not to exercise any control over their Representatives, but that control might be exercised over Members who represented nomination boroughs. What did the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) do, when he differed from his constituents, the electors of the University of Oxford? His conduct was in effect this:—" You have returned me to Parliament for one purpose, and I have thought it my duty to take another 705 course. Here is the trust which you have reposed in me again placed in your hands." This was the proper course to take. It was truly honourable. The right hon. Baronet had shown, that he considered that the Members of the House of Commons were bound to represent the people of England. He begged to ask the right hon. Baronet, what were the workings of his mind when he resigned his seat for Oxford? Was he not pledged against the Catholic Question? It was well known that the speeches which the right hon. Baronet had delivered in that House as an Anti-Catholic Member, had procured for him the suffrages of the electors of Oxford, and the observation of Mr. Canning upon that would probably be remembered, that he did not envy his right hon. friend, who was then his Colleague, the Representation of that University, for he deserved it; and to this he would add, that the right hon. Baronet never deserved it better than when he resigned it. His hope was, that the peculiar interests of the country, pressing on all persons at that moment, might induce the right hon. Gentleman now to show himself equally susceptible of the true course of public duty. He thought he saw a struggle in the mind of the right hon. Baronet, and a conviction, that he was fighting a hopeless battle—one in which there was no glory to be gained, because it was a stand against the voice of the country. His hon. friend, the member for Thetford was always tolling the Committee, of the time to come, and the danger of carrying the provisions of the Bill into operation. For his part he really entertained no fear respecting the passing of the measure. He trusted, notwithstanding what had been insinuated and asserted in the course of these discussions, respecting the influence of another place—if he might allude to it, for it was a question which properly belonged to that House, that the Bill would be carried triumphantly. He would ask, if this great measure was stopped, what would be the result? He had heard it said, they were not to talk about the consequences, and that the Bill was to be rejected was settled elsewhere. This he considered unconstitutional, but he would say, he had no fear for that which might happen elsewhere. He had no fear, for the Members of the other branch of the Legislature would know their own interest. His hope was, that they would know that 706 this great Question belonged exclusively to the House of Commons. It did belong to the Commons of England. "We have heard their advocates" said the hon. member for Westminster, "in this House, and we are not to have their overbearance in the other." Was it denied? The hon. member for Thetford had said, "Thank God, if the influence of the Peerage was not paramount in that House, it was at least useful." If the great Question, after having been disposed of by a majority of that House, and sent to the other House by the real constituency of England, was to be decided against them, he would ask the Peers to consider, whether those were not their best friends who advised them to march in unison with the people of England, rather than those who counselled them to take a line of road which led to an impassable torrent, in which they would be inevitably overwhelmed and lost. They were the elegant Corinthian capital of the society, according to Mr. Burke; but what would they do if they wanted a base? The strong case of the hon. Gentlemen opposite was, that they were nominees ["No," from the Opposition.] These "Noes" were extraordinary, for the great merit, or the stronghold of the opponents of this Bill was, that they were nominees sent to that House to prevent the excess of popular power, and they themselves had fifty times over declared their merit and their strength to be, in having been sent there, not as a control for the people, but a control upon them. Yes, they had been, as they themselves stated, sent there to prevent the accelerated progress of popular opinion, and on that the chief argument of the right hon. Baronet had rested. He would not then go any further, but he should give his decided vote in favour of the proposition before the House; and his only apology for not before having given his opinion on the subject of this Bill was, the consciousness of his own want of influence, and his desire to have it passed for the general welfare of the nation.
was doubtful of the correctness of the assertion of his hon. friend, that many of the present electors for Westminster would be disfranchised by the qualification attached to the present Bill. He feared, on the contrary that the franchise would be extended; and both there and in Southwark, great additions would be given to the power of the people.
§ Mr. Charles Calvert
begged to state, that the right to vote for Southwark was in the scot and lot electors, many of whom would be disfranchised by the present measure.
would then advert to another point, and from all he could collect of his hon. friend's speech, he seemed to consider democracy as the best kind of Government. His hon. friend had, moreover, given them a clear view of the result of the system of Representation he advocated, by the manner in which he had spoken of another place. It was impossible to hear of the easy mode in which he had disposed of the authority of the other House, without understanding the hon. Gentleman's allusions. His sole object was, to have the interests of all classes of the State joined, agreeable to the spirit of the Constitution and he feared the result of the present measure would be to destroy this.
said, that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, so far from justifying his vote, would afford the best possible argument for that which he (Mr. Goulburn) intended to give. The question was, whether or not they would increase the Representatives of the metropolitan district by ten, and in maintaining that they ought so to do, he told them the Lords were not entitled to come to any decision upon that question.
explained what he had said respecting another place, which was, that the House of Lords would much rather concur with the general feeling of the country, than oppose themselves to that, as well as the expressed opinion of this House.
resumed. He certainly heard the hon. Gentleman say, that the present was a question solely for the Commons, and that the Lords incurred the, hazard of being overborne by a torrent, if they opposed themselves to the popular will. The hon. Gentleman, had perhaps, spoken inadvertently, but his argument was destructive of the principles of the Constitution. He was the advocate for freedom of debate, and could never consent to have Members returned to that House who would destroy in the House of Peers that check upon democracy which constituted one of the most valuable principles of the Constitution. The right of discussion and decision upon the measure then before the House, or any other measure, belonged to the House of Peers. It was a right he knew to be indisputable. It appeared 708 to him, that the only way to meet the growing democracy of the country was, by affording a full and fair opportunity to the other House of Parliament to decide upon this momentous question. With respect to the principle upon which the provisions of this Bill were founded, he must again and again state, that they were to him utterly incomprehensible. While the disfranchisement of boroughs had been going on, the increasing suburbs and neighbourhoods of particular towns were pressed upon the attention of Government, but without producing any effect; and yet now, when the enfranchising clauses were before the Committee, one of the principal arguments insisted upon by Ministers was the increasing suburbs of the metropolis. The hon. Member, in his argument in favour of the union of circumjacent districts, admitted that Westminster would suffer a reduction of its voters. If that was so, what became of the noble Lord's argument, that vested rights would not be touched? The hon. member for Westminster had spoken of the nominees that were sent into that House to oppose the Bill; but he begged to tell that hon. Gentleman, that he (Mr. Goulburn) was the nominee of no patron, for he Represented a constituency as enlightened, to say the least of it, as that which returned the hon. Gentleman to Parliament; but when the hon. Gentleman was pressing this point upon the attention of the Committee, he (Mr. Goulburn) could not help wondering, that it had never struck him, that there were nominees on both sides of the House, and that before he ventured on making such a charge, it would have been as well for him to have looked at those who were in his own immediate neighbourhood. When he looked to some of the districts to which it was proposed to give Representation, he found great inconvenience must occur. In the Tower Hamlets alone they would bring in from 25,000 to 26,000 voters. As to what the hon. Gentleman had said, respecting the right hon. Baronet having given up his Representation of Oxford, he perfectly agreed in all that had fallen from him: but he thought that this very case was an argument in favour of close boroughs, instead of one against them; for in what a state would his right hon. friend have been, if, after resigning Oxford, he could have found no means, as a Minister of the Crown, of obtaining another seat in that 709 House. Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House what might have been the consequence to the great measure of Emancipation if the right hon. Gentleman had been deprived of all power to advocate and carry through the House that great measure? Had it not occurred to the hon. Gentleman, that the borough of Westbury was most useful on that occasion, and that it furnished a strong argument against the disfranchisement of that class of boroughs? With respect to the case of Greenwich and the other townships, he should vote against the Motion, conceiving at the same time that the course he adopted was supported by the arguments of the hon. Gentleman. If Representation was extended to Greenwich, other divisions of the metropolitan districts more numerous would require the same privilege. There was another district, containing 176,000 inhabitants, that would demand Representation, which, injustice, and upon the noble Lord's scale of numbers, could not be withheld. Greenwich had no other claim than that founded upon its 50,000 inhabitants. The union of those districts was objectionable in many points of view, and, therefore, he should oppose the Motion.
thought, that the right hon. Baronet had, to a certain extent, contradicted himself; for he refused to vote for the enfranchisement of Greenwich, because it would be a nomination borough under the control of the Government, and yet he had complained, that under this Bill the Ministers of the Crown would have no opportunity of obtaining seats in Parliament. But another objection that had been urged against the admission of the new London districts to the right of having Representatives was, that it was contrary to the ancient rule of the Constitution to give more than two Members to any place. This appeared to him to be entirely a mistake. London had always had four Members, and Westminster and Southwark two a-piece, though their division from the City was described by a very narrow line. To give, therefore, Members to these new and flourishing districts of the metropolis, would be strictly following out the precedent already set; besides which, in all previous plans of Reform that had been submitted to the House (including that proposed by Mr. Pitt in 1785), it was always a part of the proposition, to give additional Members to the suburbs of London. It was with plea- 710 sure that he had heard the right hon. Baronet, on the previous night, state, that now that the enfranchising clauses had come before the House, he should not have to continue that opposition which he had felt it to be his duty to shew, when the question was the disfranchisement of so many ancient portions of the Constitution; and yet, now the right hon. Baronet stated, that he could not consent to the enfranchisement of these London districts. He should like to know, since the right hon. Baronet objected to this proceeding, what his own plan of enfranchisement was? He should like to know why, if Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester were to have Representatives, the districts of the metropolis were to be excluded? To this query he had heard no answer, for he could not admit as one, the point that had been laboured to show that these suburbs were already represented through the metropolis; for the fact was, that these districts had as little to do with London as Edinburgh with Sheffield, or Sheffield with Cambridge. If the rates of the houses in the different districts were attended to, that one point alone would be sufficient to make out his argument. In the Tower Hamlets the majority of houses was rated above 20l. a-year; in the Finsbury district the Majority was rated above 30l. and in the district of Mary-la-bonne above 40l. He therefore thought, that the Representatives of these respective districts would represent very different interests, and afford what might be termed an agreeable variety in the way of Members. Two points that the right hon. Baronet appeared to have relied upon chiefly for his opposition were, that these home districts (as they might be called) would have such early intelligence of the proceedings of Parliament, that it would enable them to exercise a control over it, and that their physical force was so great, that they might have it in their power to awe the proceedings of Parliament. Now, with respect to their physical force, it was to be observed, that that would neither be augmented nor diminished by giving them Representatives; and, in his opinion, so far from increasing the danger, he believed that their having Representatives would diminish it; because it would be affording a legal outlet for the ebullition of their feelings. With respect to their means of speedy intelligence, he admitted it; but, if he understood the Bill aright, that was one of its 711 objects; for, Ministers having perceived that the wealth and power of the country were about to demand their rights, this measure was proposed in order that those rights might be legally bestowed upon them. He must, therefore, confess, that when he had listened to the arguments of the right hon. Baronet, it appeared to him as if he (Sir R. Peel) had been saying, because London is the greatest city in the world—because it is the mart of all wealth —because it is the centre of all knowledge —because it is the hive of industry—for these reasons he would exclude it from the right of having Representatives. For his own part, he believed that the time was now come when they might attach to the Constitution the whole of the middle classes of England, who, though they loathed corruption, and writhed under oppression, felt as much interest in upholding the Constitution as the highest nobleman in the country. But if they were to withhold this privilege from the metropolitan districts, while they gave it to other parts of the country, he must confess, that he should think that the Bill, instead of ending the dispute, would only be the beginning of it; and he would never consent to do that which, in his opinion, would lead to the immediate engendering of ill-will.
§ Mr. Praed
said, he had attempted to address the Committee when the hon. member for Westminster sat down, but he was glad that he had not been allowed an opportunity of doing so. The hon. member for Westminster had indulged in remarks which might at the moment have drawn from him a reply that, upon consideration, he might have regretted. The remarks and the taunts of the hon. member for Westminster, he now felt to be unworthy of further observation, and he would at once proceed to the question properly before the Committee. The question now to be decided was, not as the hon. member for Westminster appeared to think, a stale and often-argued question, but it was a new one, and one of vast importance. He certainly thought that, looking at the present circumstances of the country, some enfranchisement was necessary; but, at the same time, those were fully to be excused who formerly, and under different circumstances, contended against that question altogether, and now admitted its necessity. But the question now to be considered was, not the abstract one as to 712 whether any new and large and important places of commerce and wealth should be permitted to send Representatives to that House, but whether districts of the metropolis, which had never before entered even the dreams of the most fanciful of Reformers, should be intrusted with that privilege. That was the question now to be considered; and upon that he should found the few observations he should intrude on the Committee. If the metropolis was not to be taken as one great city, it must be evident that a different principle was acted upon with respect to it, to that upon which the Bill proceeded with reference to all other cities and large towns. This weakness, this defect, in the details of the Bill, had been felt by his hon. friend, and therefore his hon. friend, endeavouring to avoid it, had contended, that the metropolis was not one great city, but four great cities. Against this division of the metropolis he protested. Nothing had been advanced which at all justified it, and indeed it appeared to him to be impossible to justify it. No distinction of interests had been shown, or even asserted to exist. The metropolis was one continuous mass of buildings, and it was an incontrovertible fact, that the buildings in the extreme parts of it were frequently to be found in the occupation of those who had mercantile establishments in the city. Surely, then, it was an error, and a palpable one, to say, that the metropolis was four cities, and not one city. Another argument which he must notice was one that had been frequently touched upon, and was this night again renewed. It was contended, that the agricultural and the manufacturing population ought to be subjected to the same rule—that was, that a manufacturing and an agricultural population, of an equal amount in number, ought to have an equal number of Representatives—to that he objected. An agricultural population was scattered, and so circumstanced as to be unable to combine as a manufacturing population might, and naturally would. The agricultural population was spread over the country, while the manufacturing population was always in garrison, as it were, and ready for attack. It had been asserted by his hon. friend, that the arguments against dividing the metropolis into districts, and giving those districts Members, were founded in a fallacy, and that that fallacy was the assumption, that the class of persons 713 who were to have the right of voting were actuated by a mischievous spirit. He assumed no such thing; but this he did assume, and for this he did contend—that the class of persons to whom the right of voting was proposed to be given, would not govern themselves so well as they would be governed by Representatives. Under the Bill, the districts of Finsbury, the Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, and Greenwich, would not be governed by Representatives, but they would be self-governed. The voice of the electors would not only be paramount in the election, but it would be paramount also upon every question that was agitated, and the voice of the Member would be but an echo of the voice of the multitude. Upon the point of the unconstitutional nature of the entire subjection and control of the Representative by the elector, the argument of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had been so conclusive and so satisfactory, that he would not touch it further than to mention one circumstance which had hitherto escaped notice. The fact of the Parliament being held on a particular spot gave an influence to that spot, independent altogether of its possessing Representatives. If the members for Middlesex were dismissed, and the members for Westminster cashiered, and the members for the city of London cast adrift, still the interests of the metropolis would, if necessary, be protected by that House. This must be felt by every hon. Member. If the members for Dublin, or for any other city or town, were to act prejudicially to the interests of the metropolis, they would be called to an account by their constituents, because, by injuring the metropolis, they would have injured the interests of their constituents. Although he had admitted Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham to the franchise, for these reasons he should resist the admission of the districts of the metropolis. If he were told that the capital ought to possess peculiar advantages, he would remind the Committee of the language used with respect to Chelmsford, which was the capital of a county, and of which the Attorney General said, it was not the worse for not being represented. For his own part, he had never advanced different opinions to those which he now professed, but those who had changed their opinions were fully justified in their conduct. The country had been excited by the conduct of the Government, a cry of Reform had 714 gone abroad, and that cry ought to be met by a spirit of reconciliation, but not of senseless surrender. He could never agree with those who exclaimed—Much has been done, much more remains to do; The City burns, why not the Palace too?The question under consideration was a most important one, and among the most objectionable that would be mooted by the Ministerial plan of Reform. He disliked it greatly from its inherent defects, but he disliked it more because it was an imitation of another country. If, however, the proposition should be carried, and experience should prove, that, the Representatives of divided London did not act under the influence he anticipated they would—if it should prove also, that the virulence of the journals was softened rather than excited by this increase of their means to affect the decisions of that House, then he should rejoice in his error; but until that proof was given him, he should persevere, urging as his excuse the language of the poet—Forgive my warmth upon a theme like this—I cannot bear a French metropolis.
Lord John Russell
did not propose to enter into the subject which had been so fully discussed, but simply to explain what he had said with respect to the difficulty of a Member procuring a seat under peculiar circumstances. What he had said was, that if this Bill passed, it might be a question whether it might not be advisable that the Act of Anne, which obliged a Minister to vacate his seat on accepting office, should be altered. As to the question before the Committee, he had heard no one good argument or reason why these districts should not be allowed to send Members to Parliament. The contributions of these districts to the exigencies of the state, their wealth, and population, fully entitled them to the privilege.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that he rose to answer the question of the hon. member for Thetford, as to how a newly-appointed Minister was to obtain a seat in the House? There would be no difficulty in the case. There were forty boroughs in schedule B; some of them with not more than 300 voters. The application of 5,000l. or 6,000l. to any one of them would manage the business. He wished to allay the nervous feelings of hon. Members on another point: that was, the meeting at, Copenhagen House, which was, to prepare a petition for the repeal of the Corn-laws, and 715 grew out of another meeting, held to celebrate the French revolution of the "three glorious days," and probably consisted, at most, of 2,000 or 3,000 persons, though this had been magnified into a Spa-fields meeting of 25,000 men. He gave this explanation to prevent any further alarm on the subject.
§ Mr. Croker rose amidst cries of "Question," which were continued for some time. The impatience of hon. Members, even thus exhibited, should not excite him to say one syllable more than he had intended to say at the moment of his rising [a laugh]. He need hardly add, that they would not induce him to say less. He merely wished to state a fact or two supplementary to the two able speeches which had been delivered by the hon. member for Westminster, and the hon. member for Calne. The hon. member for Westminster had forgotten one part of the speech he evidently intended to make. That hon. Member said, "I don't exactly approve of all the distinctions made, and I will come to that point presently." That "presently," however, never came, and he (Mr. Croker) rose to supply the deficiency. He knew, that hon. Members not in the habit of frequently addressing the House, must necessarily commit such omissions, especially when they entered upon so comprehensive a view as that attempted by the hon. member for Westminster. The other hon. Gentleman, the hon. member for Calne, had missed, in a similar manner, a part of his speech. That hon. Member had talked of the North, the South, and the West districts of London, and their population, their wealth, and their importance, but he had said nothing of the East—of Greenwich, the very subject of debate. Upon the district, now properly under consideration, the hon. Member had not said one syllable. It was to supply this deficiency in one Member, and the 'presently' of the other, indeed to finish the matter by a sort of postscript to the speeches of the two hon. Members, that he now intruded upon the time of the Committee. The hon. member for Calne had passed a high eulogium on the city of Westminster. He had characterised it as the seat of arts, and as a magnificent and imperial metropolis; but having thus exalted Westminster, he ought to have explained to the Committee, why it should raise the paltry town of Greenwich to the same height in the constitutional scale as that 716 magnificent and imperial city? Such was the fact, for imperial Westminster was to return but two Members, and suburban Greenwich was to do the same. Greenwich was, as even the keenest devourers of while bait must acknowledge, no rival of the glories, or dignity, or wealth, or importance, or population of Westminster; and yet the Bill, which was to be satisfactory to all ranks and parties, and an arrangement upon intelligent and impartial principles, was to put the city and suburb on a par. If it had been proposed to give one Member to Greenwich, such a proposition, however absurd in reference to the real principles of Representation, might in some measure have been defended upon the principles of the Bill; but to the distinction of a double Representation now claimed for Greenwich, that place had as little pretensions under the principles of the Bill, as under those of common sense. Its population did not amount to one-fourth of the amount of the population of Westminster, and it had not a hundredth part of the wealth or importance of that city; but it was to have an equality of Representation. Very justly did the hon. member for Westminster say, that no persons would lose more by the Bill than the members for Westminster would. He (Mr. Croker) had loudly cheered the hon. Member when he made that statement, and he now repeated his approval of it. The hon. Gentleman who took such pride in being the member for magnificent and imperial Westminster, would find himself when this Bill had passed, no better than some dealer in old clothes, or low attorney, or under-strapper of the Ministry; who might be chosen by the intelligent, refined and independent, 10l. lodgers of Woolwich, Greenwich, and Deptford. He (Mr. Croker) well knew, that the Government had been very reluctant to propose this absurdity—they felt that Greenwich and Deptford burlesqued Representation, and would have avoided it, if they could; but they had adopted a system founded on population, and by it they were reluctantly forced to include Greenwich. But then, why did they not extend the same principle to other places? Why was Clitheroe, and its parish of Whalley, disfranchised? Was it because their population was too great, more than double that of Greenwich, Deptford, and Woolwich? If the amount of population was to be the leading rules of the Bill, then London 717 would be entitled to one-tenth of the whole Representation, for it possessed, as nearly as the calculation could be made, one-tenth of the population, and more than one-tenth of the wealth of the whole country. If, then, those rules were to be acted upon, London ought to return fifty Members to that House; but if they were to be discarded, and the safer guides of common sense and practical experience adopted, then Greenwich had no just, claim for Representatives, and as little deserved to be in schedule C, as Appleby in schedule A, or Clitheroe in schedule B.
§ The gallery was then cleared, and the House divided, when there appeared: Ayes 295; Noes 188—Majority 107.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adeane, H. J.||Colborne, N. W. R.|
|Althorp, Viscount||Cradock, Col. S.|
|Anson, Sir G.||Creevey, T.|
|Anson, Hon. G.||Curry, J.|
|Atherley, A.||Curteis, H. B.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Davies, Col. T. H. H.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Denison, J. E.|
|Baring, Sir T.||Denison, W. J.|
|Baring, F. T.||Denman, Sir T.|
|Barnett, C. J.||Duncombe, T. S.|
|Bayntun, Capt. S. A.||Dundas, C.|
|Benett, J.||Dundas, Hon. T.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Dundas, Hon. Sir R. L.|
|Berkeley, Captain||Dundas, Hon. J. C.|
|Bernal, R.||Easthope, J.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Blamire, W.||Ellice, E.|
|Blunt, Sir C.||Ellis, W.|
|Bouverie, Hon. D. P.||Etwall, R.|
|Bouverie, P.||Evans, Col. De Lacy|
|Brayen, T.||Evans, W. B.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Evans, W.|
|Brougham, W.||Ewart, W.|
|Buck, L. W.||Fergusson, R.|
|Buller, J. W.||Fergusson, Sir R. C.|
|Bulwer, E. E. L.||Fitzroy, Lt.-Col. C. A.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Foley, Hon. T. H.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Foulkes, Sir W.|
|Burton, H.||Fox, Lieut.-Col.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Gisborne, T.|
|Byng, G.||Gordon, R.|
|Byng, G. S.||Graham, Rt. Hn. Sir J.|
|Calcraft, G. H.||Graham, Sir S.|
|Calvert, C.||Grant, Right Hon. R.|
|Calvert, N.||Greene, T. G.|
|Calley, T.||Guise, Sir E. B.|
|Carter, J. B.||Gurney, H.|
|Cavendish, C. C.||Handley, W. F.|
|Cavendish, H. F. C.||Harcourt, G. V.|
|Chaytor, W. R. C.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Chichester, J. B. P.||Hawkins, J.|
|Clifford, Sir A.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Clive, E. B.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Cockerell, Sir C.||Heywood, B.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Penlease, J. S.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Penrhyn, E.|
|Hodgson, J.||Pepys, C.|
|Horne, Sir W.||Petit, Louis H.|
|Hoskins, K.||Phillips, C. M.|
|Howard, P. H.||Phillips, G. R.|
|Howard, K.||Polhill, F.|
|Howick, Viscount||Ponsonby, Hon. W.|
|Hudson, T.||Powell, W. E.|
|Hughes, W. H.||Poyntz, W. S.|
|Hughes, Colonel||Price, Sir R.|
|Hughes, W. L.||Protheroe, E.|
|Hunt, H.||Ramsbotttom, J.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||Ramsden, J. C.|
|James, W.||Rickford, W.|
|Jerningham, H. V.||Rider, T.|
|Kemp, T. R.||Robarts, A. W.|
|King, E. B.||Rooper, J. B.|
|Knight, H. G.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Knight, R.||Russell, R. G.|
|Labouchere, H.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Langston, J. H.||Russell. C.|
|Lawley, F.||Scott, Sir E. D.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Sebright, Sir J.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Skipwith, Sir G.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Lennox, Lord W.||Smith, J. A.|
|Lennox, Lord J. G.||Smith, J.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Smith, R. V.|
|Lester, B. L.||Smith, Hon. R.|
|Littleton, E. J.||Spence, G.|
|Lloyd, Sir E. P.||Spencer, Hon. Capt.|
|Loch, J.||Stanhope, Capt. R. H.|
|Lopez, Sir R. F.||Stanley, J.|
|Lumley, J. S.||Stanley, Right Hon. E.|
|Lushington, Dr. S.||Stanley, Lord|
|Maberly, Col. W. L.||Stephenson, H.|
|Maberly, J.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Macauley, T. B.||Strickland, G.|
|Macdonald, Sir J.||Strutt, E.|
|Mackintosh, Sir J.||Stuart, Lord P. J.|
|Mangles, J.||Stuart, Lord D. C.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Marryatt, J.||Tavistoek, Marquis of|
|Marshall, W.||Tennyson, C.|
|Martin, J.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Mayhew, W.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Milbank, M.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. C. P.|
|Milton, Lord||Tomes, J.|
|Moreton, Hon. H.||Torrens, Col. R.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Townshend, Lord C.|
|Morrison, J.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Mostyn, E. M. L.||Tynte. C. K. K.|
|Noel, Sir G. N.||Tyrell, C.|
|North, F.||Uxbridge, Earl of|
|Norton, C. F.||Venables, Ald.|
|Nugent, Lord||Vernon, Hon. G. J.|
|Offley, F. C.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Ord, W.||Villiers, T. H.|
|Osborne, Lord F. G.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Waithman, Ald.|
|Paget, Sir C.||Walrond, B.|
|Paget, T.||Warburton, H.|
|Palmer, Gen. C.||Warre, J. A.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Waterpark, Lord|
|Palmerston, Lord||Wason, W. R.|
|Pendarvis, E. W. W.||Watson, Hon. R.|
|Webb, Col. E.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Western, C. C.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Weyland, Major R.||Winnington, Sir T.|
|Whitbread, W. H.||Wood Ald.|
|Whitmore, W. W.||Wood, J.|
|Wilbraham, G.||Wood, C.|
|Wilks, J.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Williams, W. A.||Wrottesley, Sir J.|
|Williams, Sir J. H.|
|Adam, Admiral C.||Johnstone, J. H.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Dixon, J.||Loch, J.|
|Ferguson, R. C.||Mackensie, J. A. S.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Ross, H.|
|Grant, Right Hon. C.||Sinclair, G.|
|Innes, Sir H.||Stewart, Sir M. S.|
|Jeffrey, Right Hon. F.||Stewart, E.|
|Johnstone, A.||Traill, G.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Lamb, Hon. G.|
|Barham, J.||Lambert, H.|
|Belfast, Lord||Lambert, J. S.|
|Bernard, T.||Leader, N. P.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Macnamara, W.|
|Boyle, Lord||Mullins, F.|
|Boyle, Hon. J.||Newark, Lord|
|Brabazon, Viscount||O'Connell, D.|
|Brougham, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Brown, J.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Browne, D.||O'Grady, Hon. S.|
|Brownlow, C.||Ossory, Earl of|
|Burke, Sir J.||Parnell, Rt. Hn. Sir H.|
|Callaghan, D.||Perrin, L.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Ponsonby, Hon. G.|
|Chichester, Col. A.||Power, R.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Rice, Rt. Hon. T. S.|
|Dawson, A.||Russell, J.|
|Doyle, Sir J. M.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. R.||Sandford, E. A.|
|French, A.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Harty, Sir R.||Walker, C. A.|
|Hort, Sir W.||Westenra, Hon. H. R.|
|Howard, R.||White, S.|
|Jephson, C.||Wyse, T.|
|Knox, Hon. J. H.||TELLER.|
|Killeen, Lord||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Paired off in favour.|
|Belgrave, Earl of||Lee, J. L.|
|Blount, E.||Maule, Hon. W.|
|Campbell, W. F.||Musgrave, Sir R.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||O'Neil, Hon. J. B. R.|
|Coke, T. W.||Oxmantown, Lord|
|Foster, J.||Newport, Sir J.|
|Godson, R.||Portman, E. B.|
|Grosvenor, Hon. R.||Robinson, Sir G.|
|Gurney, R. H.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Heathcote, Sir G.||Russell, Lord W.|
|Hill, Lord A.||Smith, G. R.|
|Hill, Lord G. A.||Smith, M. T.|
|Hume, J.||Thompson, P. B.|
|Hutchinson, J. H.||Throckmorton, R.|
|King, Hon. R.||Vere, J.|
§ The Chairman then put the question, "that Sheffield, including the townships of Sheffield, Ecclesall, Brightside, Nether Hallam, Upper Hallam, and Attercliffe, Yorkshire, and the words 'the Master Cutler,' as returning officer, stand part of schedule C."—Agreed to.
§ The next question was, "that Sunderland, including the parishes of Sunderland, Bishopwearmouth, and Monkswear-mouth. Durham, stand part of schedule C."
§ Question agreed to.
§ The Chairman put the question, "That Devonport, including the township of Devonport, parish of Stoke Damerell, and township of Stonehouse, Devonshire, stand part of schedule C."
§ Mr. Croker
said, he had some observations to make on this question, which might lead to some discussion; but he would either proceed now, though it was late, or postpone what he had to say till to-morrow, as might be most agreeable to the House.
Lord J. Russell
thought, the right hon. Gentleman had better go on till the usual hour, as had been previously arranged.
§ Mr. Croker
said, he did not expect this particular question to come on that night, and therefore he had not come prepared with the extracts he should wish to quote. If, then, he committed any error, he trusted the noble Lord would set him right. What he intended to contend for was this, that Portsmouth, Portsea, and Gosport, were as much entitled to return four Members, as Plymouth, Devonport, and Stone-house. The town of Portsmouth was a very considerable one, and immediately adjoining it the town of Portsea had sprung up. Across the harbour was the town of Gosport. That town was situated in the parish of Alverstoke, and contained the Victualling Yard, Haslar Hospital, and other establishments immediately connected with Portsmouth, and it therefore ought to be considered, for the purposes of this Bill, as a part of Portsmouth, If that were the case, it would be found, that the amount of the population of Portsmouth and its suburbs, was nearly the same as that of Plymouth and its suburbs. Now the Bill of the noble Lord gave Plymouth four Members, two to Plymouth proper, and two to Devonport, but only 721 two Members to Portsmouth, Portsea, and Gosport; the parish of Alverstoke not being included in the Portsmouth calculation, as the parish of Stoke Damerell had been in that of Plymouth. Portsmouth being a walled town, it was of course circumscribed, and it had not a population of more than 8,000 or 9,000. But he saw no reason why Portsmouth and Portsea should have only two Members, while Plymouth and Devonport were to have four. He should like to know upon what principle this was done. The towns of Portsmouth, Portsea, and Gosport, with the parish of Alverstoke, were in all circumstances, exactly like the towns of Plymouth, Devonport, and Stonehouse; with the parish of Stoke Damerell, and he wished to be informed, upon what principle, they had been so differently treated?
Lord J. Russell
said, the population might be nearly the same, but Portsea and Portsmouth were so closely connected as to be one town, while Devonport was quite a separate and distinct town from Plymouth.
§ Lord Althorp
said, his noble friend had omitted to state, that the number of 10l. householders was much greater in Plymouth, than in Portsmouth.
§ Mr. Croker
did not admit either of the facts stated by the two noble Lords; but, even if they had been established, they made no answer to his objection, which was that of two masses of population nearly equal and resident in towns exactly similar in interests and extent, one was to have double the Representation of the other. If, in such a parity of circumstances, either town were to be entitled to a preference, it was surely that which was the more ancient and more extensive seat of our great national power; but under this inconsistent, if not fraudulent Bill, Portsmouth, the greatest of our naval establishments would thus have only two Members, while the smaller, Plymouth, would have four.
§ Sir James Macdonald
said, Gosport presented no memorial. The inhabitants infinitely preferred being exempt from the privilege of returning Members. The right hon. Gentleman, who took these towns under his especial care, should have made himself acquainted with their wishes.
§ Mr. Croker
said, he must express his surprise at what fell from the hon. Gentleman. He did not pretend to take these towns under his care, but he took the Bill 722 under his care, as it was the business of every Member of that House to do. He took, under his care, the rights and privileges of the people of England; and would endeavour, as far as his humble efforts could avail to procure them justice, not only without the assistance of, but even against the opinions of their nominal Representative. But he must take the liberty of telling the newly-elected Member for Hampshire—a gentleman very lately, and as he was informed not very extensively, connected with that county—that he (Mr. Croker) might justly feel some peculiar interest for the towns in question. He had been for twenty-two years in official communication with these towns, and must, therefore, be well acquainted with them, and he must be blameably insensible, if he did not feel some interest in what concerned them. The hon. Gentleman said, that the inhabitants of Gosport had presented no memorial. Nay, that "they infinitely preferred not returning Members." What? they desire to be excluded from this great and transcendant boon? What? they repudiate all the blessings and privileges of Reform? and this avowal was made by a supporter of the Bill! Had any of its antagonists ever said any thing so bitter? But admitting, that these good folks repudiate the Bill, the House must not allow themselves to be influenced by that. Was the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Macdonald) influenced by any of the petitions or memorials presented to the House deprecating the disfranchisement of the boroughs in schedules A and B? They were not here to consider what the wishes or opinions of the inhabitants of Gosport might be at present, but what their children or children's children might think. They were to legislate for posterity, and not merely for the present generation. He knew, that extraordinary pains had been taken to silence and suppress the opinions of those whose fair claims had been neglected or disregarded in the Bill; and then forsooth, they were told, that no memorials had testified the people's dissatisfaction on such points. But if, as he had said, the positive memorials, the indignant exclamations of those whose rights were spoliated and destroyed, had no effect on the hon. Gentleman opposite, how could they expect that the negative approbation, which, after all, might be a contemptuous silence, was to have such weight in 723 the other scale. Let the Committee be just, let it act with candour and common sense—if it was to regard the wishes of the parties, let that be done in all cases of disfranchisement, as well as of enfranchisement; but if it was not to regard those personal and local influences; then, let the Committee legislate for posterity, and not betray the future interests of Gosport and Portsea, merely because their present Member chose to abandon them.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the difference in the cases was, that Portsea and Portsmouth were, strictly speaking, only one town; not so Devonport and Plymouth.
merely rose to state, that the population of Devonport exceeded that of Portsmouth, and Gosport, by several thousands.
said, when they came to another part of the schedule, he should take an opportunity of asking the noble Lord opposite on what principle he proceeded when he increased the electoral body at Portsmouth, and pursued a different course in other places.
§ Lord Althorp
should be perfectly ready to give the right hon. Gentleman any information at the proper time.
An Hon. Member
thought the right hon. Gentleman was not aware of the facts of this case. Portsea was a part of the borough of Portsmouth, and a great proportion of the inhabitants of the former place had actually a vote for the latter, without reference to any clause in this Bill.
§ Question agreed to. House resumed, Committee to sit again the next day.