§ The Chairman read the eleventh Clause, as follows, viz. "And be it enacted, that, each of the counties enumerated in schedule D, to this Act annexed, shall be divided into two divisions in manner hereafter directed; and that in all future Parliaments there shall be four Knights of the Shire instead of two, to serve for each of the said Counties; that is to say, two Knights for each division of the said Counties, and that such Knights shall be chosen in the same manner, and by the same classes and description of voters; and in respect of the same several rights of voting, as if each of the said divisions were a separate County."
asked the noble Lord opposite. (Lord John Russell), in what manner he intended to proceed with the discussion upon the places named in the Schedule, should the Committee agree to the principle of the Clause; and in what manner it was intended to discuss the rule by which the proceedings of the Commissioners were to be guided?
Lord John Russell
replied, that the Commissioners, in making a division, 1222 would have to take into account both the amount of population and the number of square miles in one part and the other of the county, so as to render the two divisions as nearly equal as possible in extent and in population. But the Committee must be aware, that in many parts of the country there already existed by custom recognized boundaries, separating one part of a county from another, with which it would not be expedient to interfere; and, therefore, it would not be advisable to bind the Commissioners by any strict and invariable rule. However, it was intended to introduce into the Bill a Clause instructing the Commissioners to take carefully into consideration both the population and the extent of the two divisions.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, if the noble Lord had such a Clause prepared, it would be a great, convenience to the Committee to hear it read.
§ Lord Althorp
said, his noble friend had stated the principle, of the Clause, but if it was read now, they would, in fact, discuss that Clause out of its proper place.
said, the noble Lord had stated it was proposed to divide counties according to their extent and population; but that would be found difficult to accomplish. For instance, in the case of a county with a considerable town situated in one part of it, and having in the other part no town, the population would necessarily be condensed in a limited space, and the whole arrangement would therefore be upset.
Lord John Russell
repeated, that the Commissioners should take into account both the extent and the population of counties. For instance, there were, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in some counties a very large population in one part, and a very small one in another of the same size. Now if the Commissioners were to look only to the forming of two districts of equal population, there would be in one of the divisions only a very small part of the county. It should, on the, contrary, be their object to make the divisions as nearly equal as possible, both in extent and numbers, as in the case of the union with Scotland, where the number of Members allotted to that country was in proportion to its taxation and population as compared to those of England.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
observed, that in the most populous parts of the counties, the 1223 principal part of the population would be abstracted from the county constituency in consequence of having votes for the Representatives of the great towns; as in Warwickshire, where a great part of the present county constituency would be cut off in consequence of a Member having been given to Birmingham. He looked upon that circumstance as raising a great difficulty in the way of the division which the noble Lord proposed.
Mr. Evelyn Denison
said, it would be utterly impossible properly to divide the manufacturing counties without trespassing upon the limits the noble Lord said were not to be passed over.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
thought, that the Committee could not possibly form a deliberate opinion respecting the expediency of dividing any one county in the Schedule, unless some rule for the division was first laid down. No opinion could be formed of the propriety of dividing a county, until the borough population were first taken out of it. For instance, Merthyr Tydvil was added to Cardiff, from which it was twenty-five miles distant. How, therefore, could the county of Glamorgan be divided until it was ascertained what number of voters would be abstracted from the whole county. How could the noble Lord call on the Committee to deal with twenty-five counties in the gross, when he was unable to explain in what way he should deal with any one particular county? It might be very well to say, that it should be left to the Commissioners. But would the county Members be satisfied to leave the division to these gentlemen? The noble Lord seemed to be particularly anxious not to tie down the Commissioners by any strict or inflexible rule. To be sure he said, that their award was to be submitted to the King, and not to be valid until it received his approbation. If the King should in any case not approve of the proceeding of the Commissioners, what was then to be done? Was there to be no division? The Committee ought to be in possession of the facts of every case in this Schedule, as well as of every case in the former Schedules. The Bill had been so long in Committee, that his Majesty's Ministers ought certainly to have put themselves in possession of all the facts respecting each county to be divided. If the collection of those facts would have been attended with expense, that certainly ought to be in- 1224 curred, to enable them to state at once to the Committee the divisions which they proposed to make of each county. The noble Lord ought to be aware that there were counties in which—the voters in the towns having been taken away—there was scarcely anything left for a constituency, even without dividing them. He would mention as an instance the county of Durham, if he might do so without being supposed to mean anything uncivil. In making distinctions between those parts of counties which had large towns in them, a new difficulty would be occasioned by the circumstance that some large towns were to have Representatives, the voters in them being abstracted from the county constituency; whilst some other towns, being unrepresented themselves, must continue to be reckoned part of the county population, and would have so much influence as to be enabled to domineer over the whole division which may have been shorn of a great part of its constituency to supply the old or new boroughs. This clause was full of evil. As the Ministers had gone so far into popular Representation, he thought that they ought to pause before they entirely destroyed the influence of the aristocracy over the elections for counties, which this clause would most probably effect. At present, except occasionally, and by some accident, no man but one that had some property and standing in a county, was elected as a Representative for it; but if the counties were divided, and most of their constituency taken to add to that of boroughs, the counties would be reduced to mere districts for which any stranger might be returned. Here would be a new class of representatives entering into competition with the aristocracy, who, on the other hand, were not likely to be returned for any of the newly-created boroughs, which would, in all human probability, select men of a lower class to represent them. He would maintain, that the proposed division of counties would give them a reduced constituency, for in most of those counties affected by the division, towns had been enfranchised in such a manner as to include a large portion of the old county electors. He should most decidedly object to the powers of the proposed Commissioners being final, and without any revision on the part of Parliament. He would put it to the House, whether such a division, so much under the direction of 1225 Commissioners, was not imparting to the Executive Government a power which no Administration ought to possess? It might be very well if the Commissioners were directed to obtain information, and turn their attention to the most eligible mode of division, and having done that, to make a report, leaving the House to decide ultimately upon each individual case proposed. He should not object to men of integrity examining these matters, and making a report on them; but he, for one, never would consent to allow any authority, short of that of Parliament, being final on such an important point. In fact, the House could never form a correct judgment respecting any of the counties divided, unless the whole matter were entered into in detail by those appointed to examine the counties, and it was to him, he confessed, a matter of the greatest surprise, that the noble Lord who introduced the present measure did not regulate all these matters in detail, so as to bring them at once before the House, and explain to it what would be the operation of every clause in the Bill.
§ The question having been put,
Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, he rose to propose the amendment of which he had given notice. He should leave it to hon. Members to state the details, as regarded those counties in which each was interested. By merely looking at a map, it was clear that some counties might be so divided as to render the division merely nominal, and to create a close or proprietary division of counties. This would be as bad as nomination boroughs; and for his part, he should much prefer retaining twenty-five of the places in schedule A, to giving two more Members each to twenty-five counties, upon the condition of dividing them. The consequence and rank of county Representatives must be thus greatly reduced; and as to a division by Commissioners, he objected to it as unconstitutional. The clause provided, that after the report of the Commissioners, it should be lawful for his Majesty—not imperative on him—to issue his proclamation accordingly, so that the Government would be free to act upon the Commissioners' report or not, as they pleased. One reason assigned for this division was, that where there were four Members returned by the whole county, a compromise usually took place. This was answered by what happened at the last election in 1226 the city of London, in Yorkshire, and in Weymouth. Was there any compromise in these cases? No. Each of these three places sent four Members, all of the same principles. He did not see, that the division was more necessary in these twenty-five counties, than it was in the seven counties which were to have three Members each, and which were not to be divided. It was not clear to him, how the expense of county elections could be reduced by it, for, according to the Bill, there might be fifteen polling-places, which must add greatly to the expense. What inconvenience could there be, in each elector voting for four Members in place of two? The booths should be erected at the expense of the county. He greatly feared, that to prevent the evils of a division of counties, it would eventually become necessary to have recourse to the Ballot. The hon. Member concluded, by proposing an amendment on the clause, the effect of which would be, to give the right of returning four Members to the electors of the county at large, without any division of it. He gave notice, that he certainly meant to take the sense of the Committee on his amendment.
§ Lord Althorp
would offer to the amendment of the hon. Member every opposition in his power, because he conceived that it would, if adopted, effect a very important alteration in the general operaation of the whole Bill. The objections of the hon. Member to the clause as it stood, seemed to him of very little weight. He could not see how that clause could bestow such an undue influence upon the great landed proprietor in the division, as would render the Ballot necessary as a protection to the less wealthy electors, nor could he apprehend, on what ground the hon. Member conceived that these divisions would be practically so many close boroughs, in the hands of the rich landed proprietors. No doubt the influence of property would tell in the proposed divisions, particularly so far as it was in the hands of some one or two large landholders—that is, these individuals would have a much greater chance, indeed certainty, of being returned for the divisions in which their property lay, than they could have of being returned for the whole county at large; but he was sure, that that influence could not be so preponderating, as to warrant the apprehensions of the hon. Gentleman. How the 1227 hon. Gentleman could suppose the clause now under discussion would lead to a similar mode of nomination in the county Representation, to that which existed in the borough nomination, he was at a loss to conceive. The patron of the borough could elect at his bidding whomsoever he pleased. Just, however influential a person might be in a county, he could not have that power. Without doubt, there would always be an influence exercised by a person possessing property, and this was neither to be wondered at nor objected to, but that influence would depend upon his popularity in some degree. The arrangement, besides, he was pretty certain, would preclude those partial compromises which took place between the large proprietors, and the independent interest, in the larger counties. At present, it was too much the case, that one Member was returned by the individual holding the largest property in the county, and the other by the independent interest. But the objection of the hon. Member, that the clause would tend to increase the aristocratic influence in the Representation of counties, was, in the eyes of the framers of the Bill, no objection at all. On the contrary, they felt the necessity, while they were adding to the democratic share of the Representation, by extending the franchise generally, and adding to the Members of the large towns, of preserving the balance of the aristocratic share, by increasing the influence of the great landed proprietors in the counties. In saying this, he did not mean that it was an object with Ministers, that the great landed proprietors' influence should entirely prevail in the proposed divisions, for he was convinced, that some degree of popular influence would be necessary to the candidate. All he meant was, that it was expedient that the aristocracy should preserve their due influence in the Representation of that House. The clause would effect this by, in a great degree, confining the Representation of the county divisions to the gentlemen of property resident in them, and, therefore, best acquainted with their wants and interests. He considered it an evil of the present system, that mere popularity should be the means of returning Members for counties, oftentimes, even, of returning strangers, to the exclusion of gentlemen of retiring habits, holding large property in the county, and well qualified to repre- 1228 sent its interests; and he knew not how that evil could be entirely got rid of, so long as the freeholders of a wide surface of country were distracted in their choice of the candidates proposed by the districts best acquainted with their respective merits—a distraction that almost inevitably ends in their choosing some popular individual, whose chief merit is, that his name is best known to all. The hon. Member had stated as an objection, that the expenses of the elections would not be diminished by the mode proposed. Did the hon. Member forget, the expense of appointing agents, of canvassing, which each candidate had to incur, and which must, of necessity, be considerably enhanced, when the whole of a county was to be canvassed, instead of a part? He was fully persuaded, that the expenses of elections would be so much smaller, that many men of great respectability, of good family, and proper qualifications, would be elected, but who did not possess the money necessary to procure their return under the old system. The objection of the hon. Gentleman, as to the power which the clause gave the Government, appeared to him to be totally without foundation. It was not intended, that the King's sanction should be optional, but imperative, and the clause, as he read it, made it imperative on the King to sanction the report. If the hon. Member's proposition should be acted on, the result would be, in counties returning, say four Members, that at least three of them would be persons of this popular description, while the fourth would only come in on a kind of compromise. For these reasons, he would otter to the hon. Member's amendment all the opposition in his power— not that he was prepared to say, that if it should be carried, that, therefore, the Bill should be abandoned, but that it involved a principle which would materially affect the Bill, which, as a whole, had been adopted by that House, and approved of by the country. He was aware that there existed a difference of opinion among the friends of the Bill, as to the merits of this county-division clause; but he still thought, that the Reform majority would not be acting up to their duty to the public, if, by way of compromise between hostile premises, they should, in the present case, vote for the amendment. Ministers owed it to the public to carry the Clause as it stood, if possible.
Mr. Davies Gilbert
said, that at the commencement of his life, no one had ever been more hostile than he was to Parliamentary Reform. His opinions had, however, somewhat changed; and, although he did not go the whole way with Ministers in the present measure, yet he did agree with them to a certain extent. To certain clauses of the Bill he was most friendly. No one felt more than he did, the necessity of additional county Members, to counteract democratic influence. The augmentation of county Members, was essential for that purpose; and, if that were to be the case, the counties must be divided, and two Members given to each division. It was absurd to suppose, that this division would create an effect similar to that of nomination boroughs; for he asked, whether these divisions would not all be equal to, and many larger than, several of the smaller counties? He was favourable to the principles, that county Representation should be in the hands of country gentlemen, and that seven or eight gentlemen of large property, should have all the influence in the division of a county, that was to be derived from popularity and property. Again, the expense of contests would be diminished; for, if there were any one person out of four candidates for a whole county, objectionable, the whole four would be involved in the expense of the contest, and the effect would be similar to that which was known by having what was called a third man in a borough. There was only one alteration which he wished to see made, as to the county elections, and that respected the 40s. freeholders, whom he wished to see in some degree assimilated to the freeholders of Ireland. A. 40s. freehold of inheritance he would not disturb; but a freehold for life, or, what was more absurd, for the life of another, or an annuitant of 40s., he should wish to see put an end to, at least put on the same footing, and subject to the same qualifications, as copyholders in counties were to be put by this Bill.
thought this was one of the most important parts of the Bill, and, if it could be so arranged as to avoid influence and partiality, would be unquestionably beneficial. He understood there was a difference of opinion among the supporters of the Bill, on this clause. The 1230 noble Lord had hinted, that the rejection of this clause would destroy the effect of the Bill; he thought these fears were not altogether groundless. There were difficulties, no doubt; to overcome, in the division but, looking at the whole of the proposed alterations, there would be less than to leave the counties as they were. He could not conceal from himself, that to divide them was to bring them nearer to a level with boroughs, but he must deny there was any fear whatever of their becoming like close boroughs. If they looked to the other side of the question, it must be admitted, that the agricultural, as well as the mercantile interest, ought to be attended to. He would ask the hon. members for Yorkshire, were not the four Members at present who represented that county, influenced chiefly by the commercial interest? and as that had principally returned four Members, it would most likely have weight enough to return the two additional ones to be granted. The danger, he considered, would be greater to the agricultural interest, to have Members elected for the whole county, I than for each of the Ridings to return two separately. The great towns being enfranchised, also, would lessen their influence in the county elections. If the division, then, could be properly arranged, he thought they would be advantageous to the agricultural interest, and the counties might be justly and fairly represented under them. Although there might be impediments in the way, yet he considered these could be surmounted. It must also be remembered, that the expense of elections would be materially decreased, by the number of agents and voters required being much less. This, of course, could not apply to those counties where there were to be three Members, further than a greater number would have to bear the necessary expenses among them. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, he was in favour of the clause as it stood, and should support it.
§ Mr. Vernon
said, as he had hitherto cautiously abstained from interfering in the debates upon this Bill, already too much protracted, he trusted the House would pardon him if, on this occasion, when the interests of those whom he had the honour to represent were more immediately concerned, he endeavoured to explain, as briefly as possible, his reasons for the vote which he was about to give. He 1231 was the more anxious to do so, because he was aware that many of the most strenuous reformers, many of the most zealous supporters of this Bill, and not a few, he was sorry to say, even among his own constituents, were decidedly averse from the division of counties. He would not enter into all the objections which had been urged against that measure, he would content himself with saying, that he did not participate in the fears of those who thought that undue influence would thereby be created, nor did he see any thing in it which militated against the great principles upon which the Bill had been framed. If to the Bill in its former stages he had been able to give his most uncompromising, yet he must be allowed to add, his most conscientious support—if he was prepared to continue to give it the same support in its progress through the Committee—he must confess, that he did not see any thing in this clause which should induce him to deviate from that course in this instance. He was aware that the noble Earl now at the head of his Majesty's Government, in the Reform Bill which he introduced into this House in the year 1798, proposed to divide the counties without increasing the number of their Representatives. To that proposition he could not have agreed; but now that all the counties enumerated in schedule G were to have four Members, he did think it better, on many accounts, that those counties should be divided, and he did so for these reasons—first, because, although he concurred with the hon. member for Leicestershire (Mr. Paget), in approving of large constituent bodies, he did think, that that principle might be carried too far—so far indeed as to defeat its own object. He also thought, that an elector would be likely to give his two votes much more independently, much more conscientiously, and much more from principle, than he would do if he had the privilege of voting for four Members. Secondly, he approved of the division of counties, because it would allow of a more frequent intercourse between a Member and his constituents; it would allow them to become acquainted with his opinions, and, by enabling them to place confidence in his political integrity, do away in a great measure with the necessity of pledges, which had been so much complained of lately, which he admitted in a general way to be undesirable, but which he believed to have been 1232 indispensable at the last election. Another reason was, that the expense of canvassing counties would, by the proposed clause, be very much diminished. Under the present system, the electors were frequently compelled to choose, not the best nor the wisest—not the most efficient—not the person whom they thought the most fitting to represent them—but him who had the longest purse. He begged to thank the House for the indulgent manner in which they had listened to him. He had endeavoured to state some of the reasons for the vote which he should give on this question; and he assured them, that he should not give that vote with the less satisfaction, when he thought that this clause would tend to allay the fears of many who had opposed the Bill from conscientious, though, as he conceived, from mistaken motives.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that were he to consider this proposition abstractedly, and without reference to the Bill, he should have the greatest objection to it. He should be sorry to see the immunities of the ancient divisions of England come to an end. When he heard the noble Lord, the member for Yorkshire, on a former occasion congratulate himself with respect to the county of York, and say, "we are in this proud situation—we are separate from every county in England, for true it is, we are to have six Members, but we are to have two Members for each of our old Ridings, and we are to preserve those divisions that have existed since the days of Alfred; and, therefore, I object to the proposition of giving York ten Members." When he (Sir Robert Peel) heard that from the noble Lord, he thought it a just and natural feeling. It was one he did not wish to destroy, nor could he be surprised that any honourable man should feel an objection to a division of the limits and the loss of the unity of his county. It was quite consistent that men should maintain those local feelings with a general feeling. God forbid they should be ever destroyed, and, therefore, abstractedly from this Bill, which he looked upon but as a precedent for a departmental division of the country, this proposition should have had his decided opposition. He thought it unjust to that display of public spirit, which every man wished to see. And let it not be said, because there were now two nominal divisions in Sussex, that this would have 1233 no effect; for, after counties were divided into separate portions, their common feeling would be extinguished—they would be like Holland and Belgium, no longer the same. This might be derided as prejudice, but he, with the member for Yorkshire, must feel it was more. Let them look at the consequences. Let them take the county of Stafford for instance. When this division took place, he who belonged to No.1 Stafford, would have a different interest from him who belonged to No.2 Stafford; they would no longer have the same identity of feelings, as natives of the same county, which had before existed among them. It was true, that all this might be denounced as so much prejudice; so it was, perhaps; but, at the same time, those feelings existed, and it was a part of those feelings which had always made Englishmen so ready to defend the Constitution of the country. Another provision of the Bill, which he most seriously lamented was, that the division of the counties was to be effected by Commissioners, and not by the House of Commons itself. He saw no reason why the House should not undertake the task of dividing the counties. They had details enough before them. Why could not a Committee of the House consider and report the facts, and the House make the final decision? He saw no reason why the House was not perfectly competent to decide on this point; and if it were so, on what constitutional grounds was the important function devolved on another authority, without appeal to that House, of deciding what should be the future Representation of England? It was a monstrous dereliction of duty, that that House—the Representatives of the people—should devolve to other and extrinsic hand the office of deciding what should be the Representation of twenty-five populous counties. The noble Lord had said, there would not be an appeal even to the Crown itself, which would be barred from reviewing the decisions of these Commissioners however unjust. If the Bill was to pass into a law, they were bound to use their best endeavours to make it perfect as far as it went; and he, therefore, thought that they ought to make the most strenuous opposition to the appointment of Commissioners for the performance of a duty which really belonged to the House and if it was said, that the House was too numerous a body to take this matter 1234 into consideration, his answer was, that in that case a Committee of the House light be appointed, whose capacity to perform the task would be unexceptionable, and whose decision, as emanating from an authorised portion of the House, could not be called in question by the House itself. Another great objection which he had to this part of the Bill was, that the House was called upon to give it once its consent to an indefinite division of all the principal counties of England, without so much as knowing whether the division was to run from north to south, or from east to west; so that, in rating for the additional Members to counties, they would be, in fact, voting for something, the effect of which they could not by any possibility foresee. As he had already said, to the division of the counties, taking it abstractedly, he had the greatest objection; but when he viewed the subject with reference to this Bill, at the same time taking into consideration the disfranchisement that had been inflicted on the borough system, by means of schedules A and B, he thought, that the adoption of the division of the counties was a judicious step. He had to consider in what manner he could best give that countervailing influence which should be consistent with such a measure; and he was bound to say, that he thought there were solid arguments for the division of the counties, as the means of maintaining the wrecks of aristocratical influence. He was glad to hear from the noble Lord, that it was not intended entirely to destroy aristocratical representation; and he thought, that the small remains of that representation might be better maintained by dividing the counties, than by continuing them as they were at present. Those who thought the Bill did not go far enough, might very consistently be hostile to such a plan; but he avowed that his reason for supporting it was, because he agreed with the noble Lord, that the popular influence was greatly increased by this Bill, and he thought that the division of the counties would give a kind of counterpoise. He repeated, that he never would vote for the introduction of clauses, which would render the Bill inefficient, with a view of defeating it. Still he thought great improvements might be made. It was a great object with him to dispense with the necessity of employing Commissioners, and to leave their duties to Par- 1235 liament itself. It would be a great advantage, under this point of view, if there could be an arrangement, after constituting the electoral districts of a town, to prevent any proprietor living in the town from exercising an influence in the county elections. He did not see the reason for excluding a 40s. freeholder from the right of voting for a town, and giving him a right of voting for the county. Why not, after determining the boundaries of a new town, say that all 40s. freeholders in the town, and 10l. freeholders, should exercise the right of voting in the district, and not in the county, instead of telling them "You cannot vote for the district, though you may for the county." If the 40s. freeholders were allowed to exercise their elective franchise only within the new electoral districts, the necessity of riding Commissioners might be dispensed with, and it would be scarcely necessary to look for 10l. freeholders within the limits of a town. There was one other clause to which he had an objection. The Bill gave to freeholders in counties of cities, for the first time, the right of voting for counties. In these counties of cities, the splitting of freeholds, and other practices, had led to the greatest abuses. He would call the noble Lord's attention to the county of the city of Lichfield, where freeholders had a right to vote, and the noble Lord knew how many annuitants had been created in violation of the spirit of the law. The Bill would give to these annuitants of Lichfield, amounting to 400 or 500, a new right of voting for the county. It would be better to confine them within the county of the city, than to let them into the county. Much difficulty arose from the mode in which England was to be divided, which would throw considerable discretion into the hands of the Commissioners; and it was extraordinary, that after this House had struggled so hard against the interference of another branch of the Legislature with their elections, they should devolve so great a power of interference on gentlemen of whom the House could know nothing. Seeing the destruction of aristocratic influence which was to take place, from the mode in which the franchise was extended in towns, he thought that the safest course to take would be, to adopt that division of counties by which gentlemen of landed property would have their fair share of influence in the Representation of counties. He owned that he 1236 had not seen any practical good effect from allowing Yorkshire to send four Members for the whole county, rather than for its separate divisions; and he thought, that that county would have consulted its fair influence just as much, or more in returning one of its own landed gentry, rather than the highly respectable individual who had since become High Chancellor of England. Under these circumstances, he would vote in favour of the proposition of Ministers, for the division of counties.
§ Mr. Gisborne
was surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's arguments against the proposed elective qualification for boroughs. He was himself one of the Lichfield annuitants, and he would only ask, what would the effect be of allowing these 40s. freeholders to vote in boroughs? Simply this, that any Gentleman who had 100l. a year in a borough could make fifty annuitants for 40s., and so secure an influence, whereas, by their being thrown into the county, their power would be merged in the mass.
Sir Robert Peel
said, they should be as much on their guard against fictitious votes in counties as in counties of towns. But on what principle were the counties to be inundated with these voters from towns? The spirit of the law was decidedly evaded by the creation of annuitants in this way. He had no objection whatever to the bona fide 40s. freeholders being left as they were, but he would certainly confine the new voters, and the annuitants, to the counties of towns in which they happened to be placed.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, that if the annuitants of Lichfield were confined to the county of the city, the freedom of the election would be completely curtailed, and a person of large property, by dividing it into annuities, might acquire such influence as to convert the place into a close borough. The spirit of the law might be against the practice of creating annuities, but the letter was in its favour, and if the votes so created were to be limited to the counties of towns, these places must become in a short time little better than nomination boroughs. A man who might create 400 or 500 votes, by such a process in a county, would not possess material influence among a body of 8,000 or 10,000 electors; but in a town, where the number was comparatively small, the temptation to create them, would be so 1237 great as most likely to lead to the practice being largely adopted.
was anxious to bring the Committee back to the real question before it. The right hon. Gentleman had, no doubt, assigned an inconsistent reason for his vote, for, after having declaimed against the appointment of Commissioners, he said he would vote for the clause which constituted them, concluding, to be sure, with a hope that the Government would alter its intentions. Another reason for his vote was, that this division of counties would be against democratic influence, which, he said, was unduly exercised, because there were forty or fifty additional Members given to great towns. But did he forget, that for the sixty-three additional county Members, Gentlemen of ancient lineage, and all as much aristocrats as the first Peer of the realm, would be the persons most likely to be returned? Influence of property would no doubt prevail, but in only one instance that he was aware of, had it returned both Members for one county. He should vote for the motion of the hon. Member behind him; and he would, when they came to the eighteenth clause, acting upon the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet, move that the freeholders of boroughs should vote for boroughs, and not for counties.
§ Mr. Hodges
said, that the part of the Bill which he approved of least was the division of the counties; but the feeling in favour of the whole Bill was so unanimous through the country, that he had been induced to alter his opinion. He was not so much afraid of aristocratic influence as some other persons seemed to be; and although he believed he should offend many of his constituents, yet, as the country demanded the whole Bill, he was bound to preserve the consistency of the measure, and to vote for the division of counties. He hoped, however, that in the future clauses some provision would be made for the further extension of voting in counties, and he should therefore vote for the clause as it stood.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, he would support the proposition for a division of counties. He had formerly, upon the question of giving four Members to York, intimated his opinion, that the Members should be given to the East and West Ridings, and he was convinced that the principle would be equally beneficial in the other great counties of England. All ex- 1238 perience told them that candidates for whole counties had found the expense immense whether they were popular or unpopular. Nothing could prevent this, for if a man depended on his popularity alone, and neglected canvassing, he would most probably lose his election. Now, this very necessity prevented gentlemen of moderate fortunes from offering themselves, for even if they were returned in the first instance without much expense, yet, on a subsequent election, a principle of honour, and a wish to stand by their friends, might involve them in a contest which could not be carried on but at the ruin of their fortunes: for these reasons he supported the division, and approved of distributing the franchise which was to be taken away from the small boroughs, to increasing the county Members. But although he might approve the division abstractedly, he objected to the method of arranging the divisions through the means of Commissioners, whose report was to be approved by the King in Council, and not to be laid before Parliament. He had no doubt, that the Commissioners to be appointed would be the best qualified persons that could be found, but in a matter requiring such extensive and minute local knowledge of all the principal counties of England, no small number of gentlemen could be expected to have, or be able to obtain, a sufficient knowledge. Serious errors, therefore, would be committed, which might be corrected if the returns were laid before the House, by which the local knowledge of each individual member might be used to perfect the whole. If this were not done they might expect petitions without number, and endless discussions, he therefore hoped the Government would abandon this system of delegation, and leave the boundaries to be arranged by Parliament, who would, he was convinced, pass a bill for that purpose much sooner than the Commissioners could agree on their plan of division. Another point he would beg to suggest to the noble Lord's consideration was, whether it would not be advisable to restrict the power to create franchises by the means of annuities. His right hon. friend seemed to think this practice would be guarded against, by voters being obliged to swear to their qualifications, but this in very many cases of creation, would only give rise to perjury.
§ Sir George Murray
saw so much of a democratic principle in the Bill, that he 1239 should be happy to give all the Members in his power to the counties, to counteract it. He objected to the division of the counties, because he wished to avoid taking any step towards recognizing the employment of Commissioners, and because it might lead afterwards to a departmental division of the kingdom; which he thought highly objectionable in any case, and which, in other hands than those of the present Government, might ultimately prove dangerous, and be made still further to operate to an increase of democratic influence. He feared this influence would be further augmented by the additional Representation given to the Metropolitan districts; and, unless some expedient were adopted to counterbalance the influence exercised by a coercive body on the spot where the Representatives of the people meet, over the views and sentiments of their Representatives, he conceived this access to the democratic influence would prove fatal to the Constitution. With these views he agreed to the suggestion, and if he had been present at the time it was discussed it should have had his support, that Yorkshire should have ten Members, among whom there would most likely prevail such a thorough identity of interests and sentiments, as would be sufficient to counteract the proposed increase of Metropolitan Members.
§ Mr. Littleton
could by no means believe the division of counties would lead to the adoption of departmental districts. If he had any suspicion of the kind, he would oppose the clause, but he could not imagine it would lead to any such result. He had, therefore, heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, with great satisfaction, in which he in a great measure withdrew his opposition to this clause, and he must give the same credit to other hon. Gentlemen who took the same views. He believed their opposition to the Bill in general was sincere, and he should be ready to listen to any arguments they could urge against such parts of it as they could not approve. With respect to the clause at present before them, he was the last man to consent to any undue preponderance being given to either the aristocracy or the democracy; but of this he was convinced, that unless the counties were divided, the contests for a seat would be so frequent and expensive, and there would be such a truckling of interests, that no Member would be able to 1240 retain his place unless he made mean and unworthy sacrifices to the sentiments and prejudices of his constituents. No man of honour and character would stand a contested election on such terms. He believed there was no danger, by assenting to the clause now before them, that the progress towards departmental divisions would be facilitated. He was well aware there were many hon. Members who entertained such strong feelings against the Bill, that they would not give their support to any part of it, but as the measure was now, beyond doubt, destined to pass through the House, he would appeal to them whether they should not concede some portion of their opposition, and apply themselves to the improvement of a measure, the success of which was now inevitable. He had no wish to embarrass Government, but as he believed a great source of complaint would be removed, and by its being known who were to be the Commissioners, he recommended an immediate explanation with respect to the persons who, under the provisions of this Bill, were to be appointed to carry this clause into effect. For his own part he was perfectly indifferent as to who were to be appointed to determine the boundaries. He was quite convinced that, whether done by Commissioners or by Parliament, the effect would be the same. He had no doubt the Commissioners would be men of honesty and integrity, and as an individual Member he should be quite content to abide by their decision.
Mr. Briscoe regretted,
that he felt himself bound to support the Amendment, as he supported every part of the Bill which had come under their consideration; because he thought the original proposition had a tendency to subvert and neutralize much of the advantage conferred by the Bill. How, he would ask, could those who favoured popular Representation vote for a measure which would deprive the middle classes, and men of moderate property, of all their just influence in their counties? This clause would undoubtedly have that effect, by giving to large properties such a preponderating influence in each district, as would tend to convert the divided counties into nomination boroughs. It was calculated to restore and increase those nests of corruption which it was the professed object of the Bill to destroy, and it would go far to put an end to the hope of a full, 1241 fair, and free Representation of the people. They would have tinder its operation less enjoyment of the elective franchise than they had at present. For these reasons he opposed it, and was determined to vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Benett
said, that if he regarded the present clause as an integral part of the Bill, he should perhaps be disposed to follow the example of the hon. member for Kent, and for the sake of the safety of the whole measure, vote for this particular part of it. He, however, believed, that the proposed division of counties would be a most unpopular act, and would be attended with other mischievous effects. The general object of the Bill was, to extend the franchise so as to prevent by numbers, those corrupt practices which could only be brought fully to bear on a small body of electors. The division of counties was an exception to this principle, and by lessening the number of constituents, the separate parts of each county would be likely to be influenced by the corrupt practices said to prevail in certain boroughs. The half of some counties would be very little better than nomination boroughs, and the other half would be swamped and overborne by the influence of some large manufacturing town. He thought the Bill would stand on as firm a footing, whether it did or did not contain this clause. The division of counties would destroy the perfect freedom of election, while it was calculated to increase the expenses of elections. He saw no difficulty in giving to every elector four votes. It would ensure the election to the most popular candidate, by this rule, that an individual might ensure one vote, and take one elector to the poll for that purpose; yet the other three votes would be free. He felt quite convinced, that the freedom of election would be better maintained, the influence of powerful individuals be less available, and the respectability of county Representation be better preserved, by maintaining the counties entire. For these reasons he should vote for the amendment.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that he felt no necessity to make any apology for opposing this clause as other Members had just done. He had, from the beginning, opposed every clause of this Bill, and he saw no object to be answered by making any apologetical excuses for the observations which he was about, to make. The Bill altogether, as it was first propounded, 1242 was too glaring, too enormous, even for a Whig Government, but his Majesty's Ministers, in the Bill before the House, their second plan of Reform, had committed the authority of cutting up all the counties in the country to a Commission of their own appointment, whose acts were to be irresponsible and without appeal. He objected to this arrangement, because he did not know but that the Commissioners would be guilty of gross partiality, corruption, and all sorts of blunders and mistakes. The power which, by the first plan of Reform, it was proposed to confer upon the Privy Council, in the division of counties, was not half so wild, so dangerous, so irresponsible and jacobinical as the plan now proposed, of confiding that same power to irresponsible, unknown riding Commissioners. There was to be no appeal, no matter what blunders, what partiality, or what corruption might take place. And was this a system under which Englishmen should be compelled to live? Twenty-five counties were proposed to be carved into districts by Commissioners, from whose will and pleasure there was to be no appeal. He agreed with much that had fallen from his right hon. friend, but he could not agree with him as to the propriety of dividing the counties into departmental districts, as this clause proposed to do. It might, perhaps, confer some advantage upon the Aristocracy; but he would not take that advantage at the expense of principle. He would not invade the constitution of Parliament, and the rights of the subject, from a supposition that he might strengthen the power of the Aristocracy. He considered the clause to be injurious, degrading, and improper. In short, he would not take any little bonus at the expense of an irresponsible, an impeccable power upon the part of Commissioners of whom he knew nothing. The Government all through had been deficient in giving any thing like explanation upon any one clause; and as to that now under consideration, it was so utterly at variance with every constitutional principle, that he hoped the House would not entertain it. The division of counties went upon no principle, either as to property, as to space, or as to the payment of taxes; there was nothing in the clause to compel the Commissioners to act by any rule; no standard was fixed for their guidance, nor was there any tribunal to correct their errors 1243 or their corruption. Only let the House see what a deviation they were about to make from their own Standing Orders which had been devised for the protection of property. In cases of bills for canals, docks, or roads, notice was to be previously served upon all the parties interested before their property could be interfered with. A common turnpike-road could not be cut through any county, without notice being given to the inhabitants of the intended undertaking, and maps and plans of its direction being lodged in the Speaker's chamber. Yet it was now proposed to commit to certain persons the power to cut up all the counties, without hearing evidence, and without appeal. What a mockery, what an insult was this to the county constituency of this country. This, indeed, was not an incipient step to reform or revolution, for revolution had already advanced with giant strides. For his own part he felt no necessity to disguise his opinions; he need not muffle his speech any more than many others of his hon. friends; he and they could equally speak out; and he would say again, that this Bill was a decidedly Jacobinical Bill. They had already abolished the rights and privileges of boroughs, only, as it would appear, to be the precursors of the abolition of those for counties. But it all tended to forward the progress of revolution. It all tended to a direct jacobinical division of the country. It was a sequel to the measure proposed by the Lord Privy Seal in 1821, for the purpose of apportioning England into departmental divisions. What would be the consequence of adopting the proposition under consideration? There were many hon. Members who now fancied themselves county Members. Would they be so by-and-by? For instance, there would be no hon. member for Wiltshire. He would be split into a member for the north of Wiltshire, and a member for the south of Wiltshire. The noble Lord opposite would not be the member for Northamptonshire. He must be described by a circumlocution, travelling through the names of several little districts. There would be the member for the north of Surrey and the member for the south of Surrey,—the member for the Maidstone division of Kent, and the member for the Canterbury division of Kent. Fifty per cent would be deducted from the present importance and dignity of a county Member. At present 1244 the Member for a county thought himself greatly superior to the Member for a borough. But when a present county Member became only a half-county Member, he, the humble member for Borough-bridge, might stand erect by his side. The proposition was to bring down the independent and dignified county Member to the level of the poor corrupt Member for a borough. This was a change which, in his opinion, was exceedingly unwholesome. And who were the Commissioners to be? Addison had said "that it was impossible to dislike those whom we had never seen, and whom we did not know." He could not be supposed, therefore, to speak from prejudice. But he felt it impossible to consent to intrust these incogniti Commissioners with the power of destroying or diminishing, at their pleasure, the influence of the landed interest of the whole country. It was an anomaly in the practice of the Constitution, to which he would oppose all the resistance of which he was capable.
Lord John Russell
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman would persuade the House, that nothing but plunder and corruption could come from the Commissioners. Now, he would ask, what would have been the consequence, if they had proceeded in a Committee of that House to make the divisions which were proposed to be made by Commissioners? They would have had all the same reproaches to undergo; for, with the hon. and learned Gentleman's disposition to trace every thing to a desire of plunder and corruption, he would, in all probability, have said, that the Committee was formed of the friends of Government, and they would have been involved in a labyrinth of details of which in the progress of the Bill, the House had already had an example. It was in anticipation of this difficulty, that his Majesty's Government had, in the first instance, placed the matter in the hands of a Committee of the Privy Council, which was now changed to Commissioners. The objections which had been urged were partly to the proposition itself of dividing the counties, and partly to the mode of doing it. As to the mode, although the counties were to be divided by the Commissioners, and although it was intended that they should remain as divided by them, yet there was nothing to prevent Parliament from revising their decision, and to alter the division if 1245 it should not appear the best adapted to the circumstances of any particular county. Now with regard to the proposition itself, he thought that with respect to the influence of the aristocracy, there would be no very great difference between the effects of this proposition and the plan of each county undivided sending four Representatives. Where there was a large property in a county, it was sure to have a share in the Representation, whether there were; two Members or four; and although the division might in some places give a greater command to property, yet it would bring a greater variety of interests into the Representation, and small properties would acquire a greater weight than they could possess if the whole county sent four Members. From his experience, his opinion of the freeholders of this country was, that they were very competent to select two suitable candidates, out of three or four, to represent them; but, when the Representatives were to be four, it would be a matter of chance rather than of choice. He considered it a great advantage to the Constitution of that House that its county Members were, for the most part, as it were, permanent Members, because that circumstance imparted a consistency to their measures; but the election of tour Members would be much more liable to vacillation and vicissitude than of two. He considered, too, that the division of counties would be a great means of limiting the expense of elections, which was, he thought, most desirable. As to the proposition of the hon. member for Worcester, for admitting freeholders to vote for towns, he thought it would produce an opposite effect to that intended by the hon. Gentleman, and would make nomination boroughs in a very short time.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
objected to the nomination of Commissioners by his Majesty's Government, for what appeal could be made against their decision by Members at the opposite side of the House? Why not name the Commissioners if any thing like fair play was intended? He had no delicacy in stating his objections to every clause of the Bill. He objected to the line of argument taken by the hon. member for Stafford, for he thought the old system was the best safeguard to the purity of election. The further this Bill went on, the less, he was sure, would it give satisfaction to the people.
said, the people of Eng- 1246 land had shown great good sense in being enamoured of this Bill, inasmuch as it took the nomination of boroughs from aristocrats, who provided for their friends, as Generals, Admirals, and Bishops, at the expense of the public. But while he admitted the consistency of the right hon. member for Tamworth, who had voted against the disfranchisement of rotten boroughs, and now intended to vote for rotten nomination districts, or divisions of counties, he could not follow his example. It would be vain to talk of a popular Representation, if this clause were to stand part of the Bill. They were only labouring night after night in vain if, with one vote, they disfranchised nomination boroughs, and the next vote established nomination districts. This Bill would be but a mockery, and the. Government would only "keep the word of promise to the ear," and not to the good sense of the people, if they persevered in this course. This division clause was a complete contradiction to those that preceded it; and of what avail could, it be to destroy Boroughbridge if they gave to a large proprietor the Representation of one-half or the quarter of a county? The Tories acted consistently in denying the democratic principle, but he could not say the same of those Members who cherished Reform, and who wished to see the democratic principle in more extensive operation. Every man who was acquainted with history must know, that the most flourishing States were always those in which the democratic principle most prevailed, and the oligarchical aristocracy had the least predominance. It was by the recognition of the democratic principle, that England had become the most powerful and prosperous country in the world. The old oligarchical principle should be put down, or nothing would be done. He did not think that there could be any free election without the Vote by Ballot, although he would not now contend for that; but certainly, in the absence of the Ballot, nothing could ensure a free election but a numerous constituency and the influence of public opinion. In deference to other Reformers, he felt reluctant in stating these opinions; but as he was a thorough and sincere Reformer, he must oppose every species of nomination.
would support the proposition for the division of the counties. He was not insensible to the arguments which 1247 had been adduced against the proposition; but he thought that the hon. member for Kerry had exaggerated the effects which would be produced by this clause; which could only be attributed to his want of sufficient knowledge of the nature of property in this country. The divisions of counties would, in several instances, give a constituency of 100,000 persons, and even in Cumberland, no less than 78,000. So far, then, what became of the charge of nomination? The effect of the clause would be the same in this House, whether counties were divided or not. He denied that the divisions of counties would throw the nomination of Members into the hands of the aristocracy. And whatever the power of any knot of individuals might be in cases of public excitement, the aristocracy could do no mischief.
§ Mr. Hunt
would not detain the Committee, for it was obvious there was at once a defection in the ranks of Ministers, and a split in the enemy's camp. He concurred with the noble Lord in approving of the division, as the best mode of proceeding under all the circumstances. He thought Government ought not to be left in the lurch on the present occasion, and expressed his belief that to defeat this clause, was to defeat the whole Bill. He could not, however, avoid saying a word upon the inconsistency of the hon. member for Kerry, and others, who knew this clause was in the Bill of last year, which they so strenuously supported, and for which they had so recently declared, shouting aloud for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill; and who now, nevertheless, deserted Ministers, and rushed forward to oppose it. He must observe, too, that he had been denounced by the hon. member for Kerry, when he had said this Bill was, in essence, an aristocratic measure; and yet now the hon. Gentleman asserted the same thing. Touching the appointment of the Commissioners, he had a scheme to propose. It was to call a county meeting, and let the freeholders appoint three honourable men belonging to the county, who knew the localities, and on whom they could depend, to divide the county. In conclusion he stated, that all true Reformers—all who wished to see the Bill carried—ought to support Government on the present occasion, because they had been deserted by many who ought to have adhered to them.
said, that the great diffi- 1248 culty in which they were placed arose from the Government having left them in ignorance of the mode in which these divisions were to be effected. Dealing with this proposition in the abstract, and in reference to a measure which the House adopted, he took a balance of the evils, and preferred voting for the division, as being the best calculated to sustain the just influence of property.
said, that he had taken the greatest pains to ascertain the feeling of the county which he had the honour to represent, and he had found but one individual who wished to see that county divided. Under these circumstances, he should make no apology for voting against, this part of the Bill.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, that knowing this to be the most unpopular part of the Bill throughout the country, he must persist in pressing his Motion.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
said, that if this was the last vote he should give, he would say "no" to the proposition for dividing the counties.
§ Mr. Blamire
said, that he knew, from his knowledge of the different interests of the county of Cumberland, that that county would be rendered much less independent by being divided as the Bill proposed. Though that county had a small population, it had a large constituency, amounting to above 9,000; and he believed that the division would have a most injurious effect upon the freedom of election in that county.
§ The Committee then divided on the clause—Ayes 241; Noes 132—Majority 109.*
§ House resumed—Committee to sit again the next day.
§ *No Lists were published of the Ayes and Noes on this division, but the following notice of some who usually oppose the Bill and voted in favour of this clause, and of others who usually support the Bill, but voted against this clause, may convey a little useful information.
|Fifteen Members who voted for the clause, but who hitherto have voted generally against the Bill.|
|Apsley, Lord||Lowther, J.|
|Arbuthnot, Colonel||Mahon, Lord|
|Ashley, Lord||Praed, M.|
|Ashley, Hon. W.||Warrender, Sir G.|
|Cholmondely, Lord||Villiers, Viscount|
|Dugdale, W. T.||Wood, Colonel|
|Eastnor, Lord||Wynn, C. W.|