§ Clause 13, enacting that in all future 1343 Parliaments there should be three Knights of the Shire, instead of two, to serve for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire; and two Knights of the Shire, instead of one, to serve for Glamorganshire, was again taken into consideration.
§ Mr. William Bankes
said, he did not intend to propose an additional Member for the county with which he was connected (Dorsetshire); any boon that was offered he would accept; but at the same time that he accepted it, he could not refrain from making a few observations upon the principle which had actuated his Majesty's Ministers in granting four Members for the county of Cumberland, while they only granted three to the county of Dorset. In looking at the returns, he found Cumberland had a population of 156, 194, and Dorsetshire, 144,000; and comparing the number of 10l. houses in each of the counties, and in each of the represented and unrepresented places in those counties, it was clear, that although Cumberland contained rather more persons, still, in point of wealth, in the number of the 10l. houses, and even of those above 40l. a year, the county of Dorset had considerably the pre-eminence; that was quite clear when the statements relating to each county were examined. In Cumberland the residents in boroughs which were to have Representatives amounted to 40,000; in Dorset only to 24,000. The number of 10l. houses in Cumberland was 2,400; in Dorset 3,050; the freeholders of the former county amounted to 1,527, in the latter, to 2,002. The number of houses in Cumberland rated at above 20l. and under 40l. was 536; in Dorset 828; the houses above 40l. were, in Cumberland 114, and in Dorset 216. The House would be surprised to learn these facts, and then to see, that it was only intended to give Dorsetshire three Members, while a county inferior in importance and wealth was allowed four Members. Dorset here was, in fact, the only county that made out a case of gross injustice, even according to the principles which had been laid down by his Majesty's Ministers. With regard to the principle generally on which the third Member was to be given, he was inclined to think it would have been better to limit the Members to two, because, as every one must have observed, rights and privileges as they were extended became 1344 less valuable, and individuals became in proportion careless in their exercise. He was therefore satisfied that the more votes a man had, the less careful would he be as to the candidate for whom he should vote. He thought it would be better, therefore, even in the case of a third candidate, to limit the votes of the freeholders to two. He was aware, that there might be some difficulties; but he did not—standing on the side of the House on which he stood—feel himself under the necessity of always providing a remedy for the evils that might present themselves in the course of this Debate. It was for those who were speculating on the introduction of the plan, to propose remedies necessary for subverting the ills which, without those remedies, would naturally arise.
Sir James Graham
did not think the hon. Gentleman had acted fairly, in selecting Cumberland on the present occasion, to make a contrast with the state of Dorsetshire. He, however, did not think the hon. Member was actuated by inviduous motives in his selection, for he understood the family of Bankes had property in Cumberland, and that he had the honour to number the hon. Gentleman's father as one of his constituents. But notwithstanding that, the hon. Member had made some painful reflections on his Majesty's Ministers, which would have amounted, if expressed in plainer terms, to a broad charge of partiality. The reason why the hon. Gentleman had compared Cumberland with Dorset, probably was, that Dorset was the largest county to which three Members were to be given, and Cumberland the smallest, which was to have four Members. The hon. Gentleman had not stated the case so fairly as he might have done. The population he had given was undoubtedly correct; but he had omitted to state what were the number of Members to be returned from the counties respectively. Cumberland, under the proposed measure, would return eight, and the county of Dorset eleven. Even after allowing four Members for the county of Cumberland, and three for the county of Dorset, Cumberland would return only one Member for 19,000 inhabitants, and Dorset one for every 13,000. Had Dorsetshire, according to the census of 1821, contained upwards of 150,000 inhabitants, it would, without any reference to the number of its boroughs, have been admitted to the right 1345 of returning four Members. It would be impossible for the hon. Member to deny this short statement, and he was confident that it would relieve the Government from any charge, directly, or indirectly, of partiality towards Cumberland.
§ Mr. William Bankes
regretted, that the right hon. Baronet had taken no notice whatever of one part of his (Mr. Bankes's) statement, namely, that which related to the comparative wealth of the two counties. He believed the number of houses above the annual value of 40l. in Dorsetshire, amounted to nearly double the number of the same description of houses in Cumberland; and of 10l. houses, the comparison was three to two in favour of the former county. Upon this ground he still maintained, that Dorsetshire had a decided superiority to Cumberland.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
felt it his duty, without any sort of delicacy, broadly to charge his Majesty's Ministers with having acted partially. It appeared by the statement of the right hon. the First Lord of the Admiralty, that in Cumberland there was to be one Representative to 19,000 of the population, and in Dorsetshire, one to 13,000. Now, in Lincolnshire there was to be only one to 23,500.
Mr. Keith Douglas
was sorry to hear the giving of Members to this and to that county talked of as a boon, which it appeared the Gentlemen who were the most likely to be returned for them, were unwilling to accept. The object of the House ought to be, to consider how the Representation could be improved in the most convenient and proper manner for the whole county. When he heard hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, talk of this county having eleven Members, another ten, another eight, and so on, and that they still required additional Representation, he could not help turning his attention to Wales, where, in many parts, there was only one Member returned for a whole county; and he did not think, therefore, this arrangement was fair or just, and it was not the way to model the Representation so as to be satisfactory to the people. Looking at the population generally, he thought his Majesty's Ministers would act much more wisely in giving a second Member to some of the Welsh counties, instead of thrusting a third or a fourth Member on more of the English counties, which were already very well represented in Parliament. To Scot- 1346 land, was given by the Bill a much larger constituency than to any other part of the kingdom, and yet, the most confined Representation. When the, electors were to be so much increased in number, the Representation must also be extended in proportion, if justice or impartiality was considered. The constituency of Scotland was five times larger than that of any part of England, having the same number of Members. Hitherto, from twenty to thirty Scotchmen, who had accumulated wealth, by their industry and perseverance, in our foreign possessions and colonies, had been returned for the small English boroughs, and had been most useful Members, by affording information respecting the interests of our distant dependencies; but, as they would no longer find an entrance by those channels, it became necessary, in order to give Scotland a due share of the Representation, that her own Members should be increased. In England, this Bill gave a Member to about every 15,000 persons. In several of the counties of Scotland, they even had no burgh Member. The large counties, such as Aberdeen, with 158,000 inhabitants; Ayr, with 129,000; Edinburgh, with 195,000; Fife, with 176,000; Forfar, with 115,000; Lanark, with 249,000; Perth, with 141,000, and Renfrew, with 114,000, had only one Member each. If the taxation and wealth of Scotland were also taken into the account, this great inequality would be still more glaring. Members from Scotland would be an important accession to the House; but both Scotland and Wales being at a distance from the metropolis, and their Members not likely to have so much influence as those near at hand, their interests had, in a great measure, been overlooked.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, the claims of Scotland to an additional Representation were very strong. But, as he thought those claims might more efficiently be urged at a subsequent period, he would reserve his arguments in their favour, until they came under the consideration of Parliament. As to one part of the arrangements contained in the clause under consideration, he would observe, if the House proceeded by the rule of population, according to the principles laid down by the framers of the Bill, that the only just way of calculating it in the counties was, to deduct from them that portion of population whose interest in the Representation 1347 were already provided for in boroughs. Upon this principle, as well as upon the test of wealth derived from the amount of the 10l. householders, Buckingham had a stronger claim than Dorsetshire, or even Cumberland, to the privilege held out by the clause.
§ Mr. Gillon
thought, that the noble Lord conceded a great boon to Scotland. He, in fact, gave it fifty Members, for it was not at present represented at all. He should be happy if, consistent with the plan of the Bill, an additional number of Members could be given to that country; but there would be a better time than the present for that discussion. He would vote for this clause, because other hon. Members opposed it, and because it would discourage a system of compromise which it was the object of the Bill to destroy.
The Marquis of Chandos
, as member for Buckinghamshire, could not agree in the propriety of giving a third Member to that county. From all the inquiries he had made, and all the communications he had received, he was convinced there was no desire among its freeholders to have an increase of Representatives. The Bill diminished the number of Representatives in general, and as nine Members were left to Buckinghamshire, he conceived that that number was, in proportion to the whole body, amply sufficient to represent every interest in the county. The effect of the Bill would be, to increase the Representatives, and diminish the constituency. As 900 freeholders would be taken from the county electors, the addition of a third Member would only tend to encourage contests, and would, therefore, be injurious, rather than beneficial. In general, some kind of coalition would take place, and the weakest, consequently, would go to the wall. He, therefore, considered, that additional Representatives for Wales and Scotland, would be preferable to an increase of an odd Member for seven English counties. If he thought the additional Member for Buckinghamshire an advantage, after the honour that had been done him by the freeholders in electing him, notwithstanding all attempts at unfair opposition, he should be the first man to advocate their claims.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it was remarkable, that many hon. Gentlemen who now complained of the inadequate Representation of Scotland, were among the most strenuous advocates of General Gascoyne's 1348 Motion, which went to prevent any reduction of English Members, and, after this reduction had been decided on, they came forward and required an increase in the Representation for Scotland and Ireland, on the grounds of the disproportion now existing. It was strange they should in effect say, they would prevent the reduction of English Members, when the proportion was very large, and then turn round and declare, when the relative proportions were altered, that Scotland and Ireland required additional Members. With respect to the question now before them, the noble Marquis had said, the county of Buckingham did not desire an additional Member. That might be true, but it was impossible, that the framers of the Bill could have known this previously; and they went upon certain principles, intending to deal equal justice to all, although hon. Gentlemen had charged them with partiality. But it was remarkable, that most of those who had done this, acted upon the desire to acquire additional Members to the places or districts they were interested in. The county of Cumberland had been alluded to for this purpose, and a complaint had been made, that Dorsetshire and Buckinghamshire in particular, had not the same number of county Members allotted to them as that county. They were less in surface and population, it was admitted, but greater in wealth. The important consideration, however, of the number of boroughs in such counties, had been overlooked, and the necessary consequence flowing from it was, that the county constituency must be proportionably reduced, as no elector could have votes for both county and borough. On this account he was prepared to contend, that they had fairly treated the counties selected to return three Members. But the noble Marquis had taken the other side, and argued as if too much had been done for them. He was at a loss how to treat this objection, otherwise than by saying, that when complaints were made on conflicting grounds, the chances were, they had taken the right line by choosing the middle course. On that part of the objections he should say no more, but with respect to the noble Marquis's next objection, that three Members would necessarily increase the frequency of contested elections, if that should prove not to be the case, it would tend to the electors having a greater choice. At pre- 1349 sent, a compromise frequently took place between the respective parties, each to return one Member, which, in a manner, excluded the freeholders from all choice. Whether that was the case in Buckinghamshire, the noble Marquis, from his connexions with that county, knew better than himself.
The Marquis of Chandos
said, he had only dissented from the proposition of giving three Members to counties—he did not mean to oppose the extension of county Representatives generally. As the noble Lord had made some allusions relating to a supposed compromise in the county of Buckingham, he could assure him he was no party to it, and that he did not believe such a thing existed. At all events, he was elected by the free and independent electors, and would never represent the county on any such understanding.
was also of opinion, that the third Member was no boon to the Representation of Buckinghamshire. He could assert, that all the boroughs of that county were now under local influence, and that all the Members returned for them had property in the county. He believed there was no understanding relative to the return of county Members by the different parties; indeed, the late contest was a proof to the contrary. The additional Member had better be transferred to Great Marlow from the county.
§ Mr. Dixon
was prepared to prove, that Scotland was entitled to a larger proportion of Members than was allotted to that country under the Bill; and at the proper time, he would submit a proposition to the House on the subject. The hon. Member (Mr. Gillon) had argued as if he only spoke the sentiments of the people of Scotland; but although he (Mr. Dixon) was returned by a small number of individuals, yet his return was considered most satisfactory by all the inhabitants of a large city, who were favourable to Reform, but thought justice had not been done them by their not being allowed a much greater increase of Representatives.
§ Mr. Gillon
felt himself surprised at the allusion made to him by the hon. member for Glasgow. He would again declare, that the people of Scotland generally had no such feelings as were attributed to them by the hon. Member. They wished the Bill to pass in its present shape, and to consider afterwards what alterations 1350 and changes might be necessary for their Representation.
§ Mr. Blamire
said, that the hon. member for Marlborough, in his comparative statement between Cumberland and Dorsetshire, had omitted to notice, that in the former county there were considerable mining interests which did not exist in the latter, which was entirely an agricultural county, and that the borough Members were not so numerous.
§ Mr. William Bankes
said, when the hon. Member made these observations, he should have added, that most of the miners would be completely under the control of their landlords, and he had forgotten there were very important stone quarries in the Island of Portland, which were daily increasing in value. While he was on his legs, he might, perhaps, be permitted to notice, that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had alluded to an apparent difference of opinion between his noble friend (the Marquis of Chandos) and himself: if any difference did really exist, it was rather in form and shadow than in substance.
§ Mr. Charles Douglas
said, the deficiency in the number of Scotch Members had not been severely felt, from the number of hon. Gentlemen connected with that country, who had been returned for the small English boroughs; but as it appeared to be the object of Government to localize the Representation, it was positively necessary, on that account, that a greater share of the Representation should be allotted to Scotland. The proportion of county Members for England was as one to 30,000 persons; in Scotland, as one to 170,000. He therefore felt surprised at the small increase proposed. This was a subject, which had excited great attention in Scotland, as would be found when the Reform Bill for that part of the empire came before the House, by the number of petitions that would be presented in favour of an increase. He only made these few observations, because it seemed to be inferred from the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gillon), that the Scotch people were indifferent to these details. Whether population, wealth, or intelligence, was the criterion, that country was entitled to a large addition of Representatives.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
had anticipated that objections would accumulate as they proceeded with the Bill, particularly with regard to the county and Scotch Repre- 1351 sentatives. The deficiency of the latter had not been felt, from the system of virtual Representation in England, which was now to be destroyed, and which he considered had, on the whole, worked well, for by that means the wealth and intelligence of Scotland had been introduced into the House; but as the object now was to localize the Representation, and new Members had been given to several places for that purpose, which had not before been represented, the same arguments also applied to Scotland, which was justified in demanding an increase. He had voted for General Gascoyne's motion solely to prevent the English Representation from being reduced, but not to prevent an increase of Members in other parts of the empire. If they compared the Representatives of Wales with England, and if he understood the principle correctly, that it was proposed to give two additional Members to each county having more than 150,000 inhabitants, he was prepared to argue, that on the same principle by which additional Representatives were conferred on some large counties in England, the Representation of Wales ought to be increased. He was sure the noble Lord would not assert, that justice should not extend to Wales because it was a conquered country. If such objections should be made, they would apply equally to other places, for Representatives had been granted to Wales at an earlier period than they had been granted to some of the English counties; as, for instance, the county palatine of Durham, which had no Representatives until the reign of Charles 2nd, and now the Members to be returned for that county were to be increased from four to ten. At present Wales had but twenty-four Representatives, which was the number allowed by the 27th of Henry 8th, when the whole number of English Representatives were only 236. At that time the relative numbers were fairly proportioned; since then, however, the English Members had been greatly increased, and those for Wales had remained the same. It was only reasonable, that if an increase of Members were given to counties having more than 150,000 inhabitants, so as to make the numbers three or four, that a proportional increase should also be given to counties containing 80,000 or 90,000, and which at present returned but one Member. They certainly ought, on the 1352 same principles of population to be allowed another Member. This would be apparent when the relative numbers of different counties was compared. For instance, Cumberland was to have an addition of two Members, making the number four—the population being about 150,000, while Carmarthen, which had 90,000, Denbighshire 76,000, and Pembrokeshire 75,000, had only one Member, and by this Bill were to receive no increase. That was not fair or just. The Members ought generally to be approximated to the number of inhabitants. He had never heard a sufficient reason assigned why Merioneth was to have only one Member, with 34,000 inhabitants, and Rutland, with 18,000, two. He therefore regretted that some clear and general principle had not been laid down and acted upon with respect to additional county Members. If it had been declared, that every county with less than 50,000 inhabitants was to have but one Member, above that number two, and increasing in proportion, there would have been some reason in such a method of arrangement. The anomalies which at present existed might be corrected by such a principle. If they were neglected, they would be calculated (when such great alterations were about to be made) to create dissatisfaction in different places, and particularly in Wales, hitherto one of the most peaceable and contented portions of the empire. In fact, he thought the people there would have some right to complain. If it were not for a very natural partiality in the framers of the Bill, Northamptonshire and Durham would not have received so great an accession of Members. Had the line been drawn at 175,000 inhabitants, instead of 150,000; both these counties would have been excluded from four Members. He did not mean to complain further of this than that Welsh counties, of greater population, and more decided claims, were neglected. By the present measure there were to be 403 Members for England and Wales, and out of this number only twenty-four were allotted to the principality; two Members were given to the counties of Huntingdon, with 48,000 inhabitants, to Westmorland with 50,000, and to Rutland with 18,000. Surely, therefore, the Welsh counties of Carmarthenshire, with 90,000, Pembroke with 75,000, and several others with a population exceeding 60,000, were also well entitled to two Representatives. 1353 He should, however, take another opportunity to urge their claims more fully, being intimately connected with the country, and having a stronger regard for his own home than for places with which he had no connexion.
§ Mr. Briscoe
said, if the effect of these Representatives would be to create more frequent contests, that would be beneficial, and would lead to the people being more fully and better represented by preventing the compromises between different parties which now frequently prevailed, but which an odd Member was calculated to put an end to. The right hon. Gentleman who had last spoke, seemed to infer, that the line of 150,000 inhabitants had been drawn to include Northamptonshire. He fully believed no such motives had prevailed in the noble Lord's mind, and the supposition of his being influenced by unfair motives appeared unjust.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, he had attributed no such motives of unfairness to the noble Lord; he had inferred quite the contrary, and had only said, it was natural for a man to feel, as he acknowledged was his own case, attached to his connexions, and to a particular neighbourhood. He looked at them with laudable partiality and the influence was involuntary: but he trusted, and this was the extent of his remarks, and he had uttered no other wish than that such sentiments might not sanction injustice to other districts.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
contended, that no intelligible principle had been stated, on which it was proposed, that certain counties should return three Members. He was decidedly opposed to the clause, which seemed to be the offspring of caprice, not of principle. He knew, that in Oxfordshire they were not pleased with the arrangement. Ministers had drawn a line of population, and had acted upon it in this instance, but some future Reformers might take a higher line, and produce a sort of schedule B, and reduce thereby the Members for these counties to one, though, he believed, they would not suffer much by the reduction, for the contests to return the third Member would be endless, and would create great confusion. With regard to Members for Scotland and Wales, he should vote for an increase, for he believed much good would result from an addition to their Representation. No principle had been, or could be laid down, on which the robberies of the English 1354 boroughs should be distributed among the counties to which it was proposed to give additional Representation, and nothing could be more absurd than the superfluous and unnecessary claims set up for them.
The question, that the blank in the 13th clause (that investing Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire, with the power of returning an additional county Member) be filled up by the number "3," agreed to. It was proposed, that the blank in the latter part of the same clause, authorizing Glamorganshire to return an additional Knight of the Shire for Glamorgan, be filled up by the number "2."
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, that this clause, giving two Members to Glamorganshire, made the claim of the Scotch counties to two Members stronger than any other part of the Bill which had been discussed. If the county Representation of Wales was increased, Scotland had also the same, or a greater right to have an increase. The Representation of Wales had been granted at a late period, by the united authorities of the King and the two Houses of Parliament, and was, therefore, not an integral portion of the Representation of England, which consisted of an assembly called together before any authentic records could be produced, shewing the way in which it had been first created. There was, therefore, a strong analogy between the Representation of Wales, and Scotland settled by the Union. Before that, Scotland had formerly possessed a more numerous Representation than at present, but the numbers had been then reduced, in order to make the amount of Scotch Representation proportionate to that of England. He concluded, that the principle applied equally to both countries; and further, the principle of double Representation had been recognized in the case of Ireland, which was allowed, at the Union, to continue to return two Members for each county. Now that the proportion of the three countries was changed, as it was by this Bill, he thought, that the number of Scotch Members ought to be increased. At present, there were but 356 10l. houses unrepresented in Glamorganshire; while in Aberdeenshire, there were 784, and in Ayr, Lanark, and other counties, the amount was even considerbly greater. If they examined the population, they would find a still greater dis- 1355 proportion in favour of Scotland. There could, therefore, be no comparison between the claim of the county of Glamorgan, and that of these Scotch counties, some of which had so much increased in importance, on account of their wealth and intelligence, as fully to deserve an additional Member. He did not mean to declare, that double Representation should be given to all the Scotch counties, but to the chief counties. Whether they took the principles of justice or expediency for their guide, they ought to grant two Representatives to the large counties of Scotland.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the hon. Gentleman did not seem to object to the additional Member for Glamorgan, but had made the granting of that Member a reason for stating his opinion, that there should be additional Members for some of the counties of Scotland. He was not prepared to go into details on this subject, but he must say, that he did not think the arguments employed by the hon. Gentleman as to the Scotch counties, at all affected this case, so far as the Representation of Glamorganshire was concerned. They must look at the question in a more extended point of view than had been taken by the hon. Gentleman. It was impossible to separate the cases of Scotland from Ireland. Had they to create a representative assembly for the first time, they might introduce a theoretical equality of Representation; but they must take the case as they found it, and the feeling of the House, and throughout the country was, not to alter, in a material degree, the proportion of Members now returned by different portions of the empire. There were so many different interests affected by this Bill, that, though he admitted there was some force in the observations of the hon. Gentleman, the Government had not felt itself called upon to adopt that line of conduct which the hon. Gentleman now recommended; for there was reason to fear, that the introduction of so great a change into an important part of the measure might have had the effect of materially retarding its progress. Under these circumstances, he could not promise to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member, and, at all events, the question of the number of Members that Scotland ought to have was not now before the Committee, who were called upon, at present, merely to say, whether 1356 the county of Glamorgan should have two Members.
§ Sir George Clerk
said, that although the noble Lord would not now go into the details of this question, it was one to which it behoved him to turn his most serious attention. The noble Lord seemed to admit, that Scotland, from its increased wealth and intelligence, deserved to have an increased share in the Representation; but then he gave, as reasons for not having given it that increased share by this Bill, that some jealousy might be excited in the minds of the English people, and that the Government was afraid, by making so great a change in an important part of the measure, of delaying the progress of the Bill. What, was the noble Lord afraid of change, when this Bill itself, from beginning to end, was intended to produce one of the greatest possible changes in the Constitution of the country? The argument was certainly an odd one to come from the noble Lord. Scotland was now in some sort represented by Scotchmen, who sat for English boroughs, and who were just as valuable to the interests of that country, as if they were elected for Scotch burghs; but when these boroughs were destroyed, that kind of Representation would be at an end, and that would be a change that ought to be provided for, by giving to Scotland an additional share in direct Representation. It certainly would not excite the jealousy of England to give additional Members to the large counties of Scotland. The House had been told, that it was necessary to give seven new Members to counties in England, to balance the number of large towns to which Members had been given, more than was originally contemplated. Now, all they desired was, that the same justice should be dealt to the Scotch counties; but, instead of that, it was proposed to increase the borough Members there by seven, and decrease the county Members by two. Several of the English counties did not desire the additional Members; but, as they were given to them upon principle, the same principle ought to be extended to Scotland. In England, it so happened, every county with above 100,000 inhabitants would receive three, if not four Members. Now, they required that Scotch counties, containing the same population, should also obtain an additional Member, and return two, as was the case before the Union. The same claim 1357 could not be made for the burghs, for they never had but one Member in the Scotch Parliament. The great change made by the noble Lord had, as it was said, for its basis, to equalize the Representation, according to wealth and population, but, in Scotland, that principle was departed from.
hoped, from the tenor of the noble Lord (Althorp's) speech, that the claims of Scotland for additional Representation would yet obtain a favourable consideration. It appeared, that the great obstacles in the way of it were the claims of Ireland and the jealousy of England. But there was a material difference between the claims of the former country and those of Scotland, which he thought necessary to bring under the attention of Government. In doing this, he did not wish to pronounce any opinion as to the claims of Ireland to increased Representation, but merely to contrast them against the claims of Scotland, which stood on very different grounds. At the several Unions, it was a fair presumption, that the number of Members assigned to each was adjusted on a fair computation of their relative importance in wealth, population, and contributions to the public revenue. Taking that as the basis on which future claims for Representation were to be settled, when such sweeping alterations were to be made as at present contemplated, and when the whole previous system of Representation was to be overturned, they ought to recollect, that the union with Scotland took place nearly a century before that with Ireland, and since that period, the relative importance of Scotland, in all that concerned wealth, population, and revenue, had greatly increased, while the wealth and revenue of Ireland had remained nearly stationary, though its indigent population had greatly increased. On all these accounts, Scotland could make out a strong claim which could not be urged in favour of Ireland. Another consideration was, to compare the revenue and charges of each country. In Ireland there was no surplus revenue, but, on the contrary, it required nearly all the surplus which was contributed by Scotland to defray the expenses of her government and defence. He was also at a loss to understand, why the relative proportions of Members for counties and burghs, which had been adjusted at the Union, was to be altered. Was it that the manufacturing and commercial interests of Scotland had increased 1358 in a greater ratio than the agricultural? He believed, on a thorough investigation, that would be found not to be the case, and to furnish no grounds for the proposed change. If it was expedient to augment the number of Members for burghs, on account of their increased affluence and weight, it was also right that the number of county Members should be increased. To reduce them, appeared to imply, that the agriculture of Scotland was decaying, which most assuredly was not the case. He felt these considerations would not be lost upon Ministers, and that they might yet hope for an increased county Representation when the interests of Scotland came to be discussed.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
, recurring to the question under discussion, being a Member for a Welsh county, and deeply interested in whatever related to Wales, must be permitted to say, that the increase in the population, in the industry, the wealth and intelligence of the people of Glamorgan was such as fully entitled them to have an additional Member, independent of the peculiar circumstances that made that desirable. That claim being granted, would increase the claim for the principal Scotch counties to have also an additional Member. He had objected to the diminution of English Members, but now that the relative proportions had been broken down, it was just and reasonable that the full principle of the Bill should be followed throughout, and that the several parts of the United Kingdom should be governed by their particular circumstances, and not by any fanciful notions of the noble Lord, who was the great advocate and proposer of the measure. He should support the Motion.
§ Mr. Briscoe
did not see why discussions upon the English Bill should be so much protracted by unnecessary references to the state of Representation in Ireland and Scotland. That would more properly be the subject of discussion on another and more fitting occasion; and, as there would be thirty English seats disposable after this Bill had passed, any increase for Ireland or Scotland, that was shown to be absolutely necessary, might be given out of that number.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, it was necessary to mention the subject now, for when the Scotch Bill was produced, it would, perhaps, be got through in such a hurry as not to leave them the opportunity 1359 of getting the number of Scotch Members increased. The hon. member for Surrey was mistaken in saying they had English seats to dispose of; they were altogether abolished, and no seats were to be given except those named in the Bill. The Scotch Members, therefore, possessing the proverbial sagacity of their country, were not likely to wait and be ultimately told, "We are sorry your claims cannot be attended to, as we have no seats to give away, or time to attend to you."
§ Sir John Malcolm
said, that when, in the last Parliament, he had voted against the decrease of English Members, he had assigned as his reason for doing so, that many of his countrymen were billeted upon England. Twenty-two Scotch Gentlemen, of whom he had the honour to be one, who were now Representatives for English boroughs, would, by the success of the present measure, be unseated; and as it set aside the fundamental principles of the Union, by which the number of Scotch Members was fixed, they had a right to claim an increased and direct share of the Representation, in proportion to the population, property, and revenue of their native land. The Scotch Reform Bill was at present, in their eyes, a measure of much importance, and he objected to its provisions, which he thought would not improve the Representation from that country.
§ Motion that Glamorganshire have three Members, agreed to.
§ On the question, that the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill,
§ Mr. Praed
said, * I believe it will be regular for me now to propose the amendment of which I have given notice. That notice, Sir, has been upon the paper for so short a time, that many Members may possibly be hardly aware of its existence: it will be well, therefore, in the first place, to state to the Committee the terms of the Motion with which I shall conclude. I shall move "That no person who shall be qualified to vote in the election of Members to serve in Parliament for any one of the first-mentioned counties, that is to say, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire, shall have the right of voting for more than two candidates at any such election." The Motion has one merit, or demerit, for I* Printed from the corrected edition, published by Roake and Varty.1360 scarcely know which it should be called—that it cannot be conceived to have been suggested to me by a desire to conciliate the favour, or to advance the interests, of any particular person or party in the State. This circumstance ought to ensure me an impartial judgment; I fear it may not obtain for me an attentive hearing. Yet no motion ever stood more in need of an attentive hearing; for without it, such is the novelty of the principle which I venture to introduce to the Committee, I know it cannot be entertained for a moment. I will pray hon. Members not to suppose, from the mere novelty and strangeness of the proposal, that I bring it forward out of an idle fondness for singularity, or a fantastic partiality for speculation and theory. The Committee may be assured that I estimate too highly the value of their time, and remember too constantly the importance of the task in which they are daily engaged, to have obtruded this Motion upon their notice if I had not myself bestowed upon it much thought and study—if I had not a firm conviction of the truth of the principle on which it is based, and a deep sense of the benefit which would result from its adoption; and I would entreat hon. Members not to forget, that however strong may be the prejudice with which they may regard the introduction of a perfectly new principle into our representative system, it is still a naked prejudice. For upon what do we rest the right hitherto enjoyed by the member of the constituent body, to vote for the full number of Representatives by which the body to which he belongs is to be represented? Upon nothing, surely, but long, prescriptive usage, originally adopted without reflection, and subsequently acquiesced in without dispute. Even in these recent debates, in which we have been taking to pieces the whole frame-work of Representative Government, the particular part of its machinery to which I invite the attention of the Committee has been wholly unnoticed. Whether the Representation should, or should not, be taken from Gatton and conferred on Leeds, is a matter on which much has been said; and, probably, the most part of us have made up our minds by what class of voters the elective franchise, which we extend to Leeds, shall be exercised. But by what rule shall the exercise of that elective franchise be regulated, so that the wishes, the opinions, the interests of Leeds, may 1361 be most fully and fairly represented in Parliament? I venture to say, it is a question for which no member of the Committee has yet meditated an answer. I say this the more confidently, because in the course of these protracted debates, a sentiment arising, as it seems to me, from a very mistaken view of this point, has been frequently expressed, more than once applauded, and never, to the best of my recollection, analyzed or exposed. I allude to the horror which seems to be generally felt of a compromise in the election of Members of Parliament, between parties entertaining different opinions. The member for Oxford, in proposing that the counties divided by the Bill into districts should return each four Members without division, anticipated the objection, that in such a case a compromise would take place between parties, and answered it by reference to the returns at the general election for the city of London and the county of York. The noble Lord opposite asserted the objection, and maintained, that the answer to it was insufficient. Today we have heard an hon. Member talking of "compromise and corruption," as if there were any natural connexion or similarity between the two. Sir, a few minutes' reflection will convince that hon. Member, that the compromise he condemns, is only a means, an unsafe and imperfect means, of obtaining what I would seek by more direct and certain enactment—the full Representation of all classes of the community in Parliament. I can assure the noble Lord, that the apprehensions which induce me to bring forward this Motion, were suggested to me by some who were unfriendly neither to the Bill nor to its authors. I heard fears expressed by many who approved of much of the Ministerial plan, that its effect would be, by throwing the constituent body universally into populous masses, to shutout the minority on great national questions, from its fair share in the deliberations of Parliament. And of course this evil would be severely felt, if it should ever happen that the country should be divided by a question which should place a minority of number, but a majority of property and intelligence, in opposition to a majority, perhaps a large majority, of number, but a minority, perhaps an insignificant minority, of property and intelligence. I believe that the remedy for this mischief may be found in the removal of an error, which 1362 exists in the very first principle on which we found Representation. What, then, do we understand by the very word "Representation?" If we desire that the Representatives of a numerous constituency should come hither merely as witnesses of the fact, that certain opinions are entertained by a majority of that constituency, our present system of election is certainly rational; and Members are right in their reprobation of a compromise, because it would diminish the strength of the evidence to a fact we wish to ascertain. But if we intend, as surely we do intend, that not the majority only, but the aggregate mass of every numerous constituency, should, so far as it is possible, be seen in the persons, and heard in the voices, of their Representatives—should be, in short, in the obvious and literal sense of the word, "represented," in this House;—then, Sir, our present rule of election is in theory wrong and absurd, and in practice is but partially corrected by the admission of that compromise on which so much virtuous indignation has been wasted. For let us examine the results to which, in theory, our present rule may be shown to lead. Sir, with the leave of the Committee, we will first examine these results, with reference to the more familiar and simple case of a numerous constituency returning two Members to Parliament. The case, to which my amendment is applied, is that of such a constituency returning three Members. And I will beg the Committee, as I go on, to bear in mind, that every consideration which makes for me, where the constituency returns two Members, will derive additional weight when the constituency shall return three—and that every objection which will occur to their minds as to the first instance, will be found less formidable, when they come to apply it to the other. Let us take then a constituency of 12,000 voters, and let us suppose that upon some subject of great temporary interest, such a constituency is divided in opinion. It is clear that a bare majority of such a constituency, 6,001, out of 12,000, combining in support of one set of candidates, may return the whole allotment of Representation, leaving 5,999 voters—I do not say un-represented—but, if the question on which the division is taken, be one on which strong differences prevail, mis-represented in the grossest manner. Look at the present Representation of the county 1363 of Northampton. I select that county, because I would appeal not only to the noble Lord's justice and discernment, but to his compassion and generosity. The county of Northampton has two Representatives in this House, noblemen of talent and integrity, acquainted doubtless with the local interests of the county, and desirous to promote them. But remembering how the poll stood at the closing of the poll-book, I would ask of the noble Lord himself, if the county of Northampton, not the majority merely, but the county at large, were fully, and in the fair sense of the word, represented in this House—would not Mr. Cartwright have come hither as the colleague of the noble Lord? Again, observe the present Representation of the University of Cambridge. Of course I am well satisfied in this instance with the results of our old system; yet knowing, as I know, how large a portion of the numbers, the learning, and the reputation of the University, supported the unsuccessful candidates at the last election, I am bound to admit, that the opinions of the University are not, in my understanding of the term, represented in Parliament. Sir, I cannot ask the Committee, upon the first suggestion of these things, to adopt my conclusions; but is it not worth while to consider, whether there may not be something unsound in the foundations on which so faulty a superstructure is raised? Let us investigate the results of our present system in another point of view. Let us take two large constituencies of 12,000 voters each, and let us suppose that on some question of importance, the feeling upon which is to decide the fate of an election, the one constituency is divided as before, the other unanimous. From the first constituency you have two Members returned by a bare majority; setting aside from the majority a number of votes equal to those which constitute the minority, you have, in fact, two Members representing two constituents. From the other constituency you have two Members chosen by the unanimous suffrage of 12,000 men. Now, is it reasonable to give, in your parliamentary expression of the national sense, as much weight to the bare majority here, as to the undivided unanimity there; to represent a constituency of two, as you represent a constituency of 12,000? The county of Northampton was pretty equally divided, at the last election, between the 1364 noble Lords and their opponents; the county of Devon was uncontested, and therefore (I will admit, in compliment to the noble Mover of the Bill, what I know was not the fact), may be taken to have been unanimous. Is it equitable to represent the balanced neutrality of Northamptonshire, just as you represent the active unanimity of Devonshire? I say again, Sir, is it not, at least, worth while to consider, whether there may not be something unsound in the foundations on which so faulty a superstructure is raised? Sir, I supported last night the clause of the Bill which provides for the division of counties, on principles similar to those on which I ground my Motion to-day. The division of large counties into districts will give to the minority in those counties a surer hope of Representation. As I have before shown, out of a constituency of 12,000, a majority of 6,001 may at present return the whole allotment of Representation. But if you divide the large constituency of 12,000 into two smaller constituencies of 6,000 each, you will require a larger majority of the whole number to give you a majority in each of your divisions; and, as you continue to subdivide your first numerous constituency, the majority requisite for the stifling altogether of the opinions of the minority will become greater and greater. Look once more to Northamptonshire. If that county had been divided into two parts previous to the last election, I question—speaking from no local knowledge on the subject—I question whether any partiality in the drawing of the line of division could have prevented the Representation of the sentiments of the minority by the return of Mr. Cartwright for one of the divisions. With respect, however, to the counties to which my Motion applies, no division is contemplated; and I propose to effect the object which in my vote last night I had in view—the fair Representation of a respectable minority—in a different manner. Let us examine, first, the result of the principle I desire to introduce, if it were applied to a constituency returning only two Members to Parliament. In this case my principle would allow to each voter but one vote. Let us take, as before, a constituency of 12,000; it is obvious that a bare majority would now be able to return but one of the two Members. But this rule would not extend so far as that any minority, however small and con- 1365 temptible, would have the power of returning a Member. So soon as the majority should exceed two-thirds of the whole constituency, it would be able, by a division of its strength, to return both Members. Of our 12,000 voters, 6,001 could return but one Member; 8,001 could return both; 5,999 might return a Member; 3,999 would possess no such power. There is this practical objection to the operation of the principle in this instance; the minority would not only be represented, but would be represented on equal terms with the majority. For my own part, balancing the disadvantages of the two systems—observing that the system I propose would give to a minority of more than one-third too much Representation, and that the system we at present employ gives to a minority of nearly one-half no Representation at all, I have very little hesitation in preferring the new to the old inconsistency. But I will go on to the case which is involved in the clause before us. This clause gives to seven counties the right of sending three Members to Parliament. I do not participate in the repugnance, felt by many of my hon. friends, to the assigning of three Members to a numerous constituency. If it is desirable that the opinions both of the majority and of the minority should be represented here, and if it is reasonable that the majority should have a larger share than the minority in such a Representation, surely we cannot accomplish our end more securely than by giving three Members, not to these counties only, but to all numerous constituencies. Nevertheless, the objection we have before stated recurs; the combination of a bare majority can return the whole allotment of Representation, and the grievance of the misrepresented minority becomes greater, as the Members chosen by the represented majority become more numerous. Now, Sir, I propose, that where a constituency is to return three Members, each voter of that constituency should have only two votes. What would be the result? I would remark, first, that we inflict no hardship on a single individual, we deprive no man of even a fancied privilege; the freeholder in Buckinghamshire will give as many votes in a county election as he has ever given; he will give as many votes as his brother in Bedfordshire is, by the provisions of this Bill, to give. It is impossible to argue that the member of a body has a vote the 1366 less, merely from the fact that the body of which he is a member has a Representative the more. What then would be the result? Taking the constituency of 12,000, as before, we find that a bare majority, 6,001, can return two Members out of three; and a minority, varying from more than one-third to nearly one half, can command—what?—a minority, a third only, of the Representation. So soon as the majority shall amount to more than two-thirds of the whole constituency—so soon as it shall exceed the minority in the ratio of two to one, it will, as before, return the whole allotment of Representation. The noble Lord expresses dissent; and I think I can guess what is passing through his mind. He will tell the Committee presently, that a majority will be afraid to divide its strength so as to secure the whole Representation; and that I presume too much on the possibility of accurate and extensive combination. Granted. But the fears of the minority would act occasionally in the same manner. In one year a minority, in the next a majority, would abdicate the power which strict arithmetic would give them; and my proposition, stripped of its numerical exactness, will be found to be generally true. The reasoning on which I have relied is applicable to all times and circumstances alike. It is generally true, that a respectable minority ought to be represented; that upon our present system it will find Representation only through the insecure gate of compromise; that upon the plan I would substitute, we should afford to it a more certain and less objectionable path to Representation. But in the contemplation of the time in which we live, and the circumstances under which we deliberate, although I find no new proofs of the truth of my proposition, I see much additional cause for insisting on the importance of its adoption. Is the state of the country such that we can safely calculate upon compromise as a future basis for the Representation of the minority? I will indulge in no exaggerated prophecies of the mischiefs which are to be immediately consequent upon the passing of the Bill of his Majesty's Ministers. I desire neither to mistake nor to over-state anything. I have no near vision of a prince on the scaffold, or of a murderer on the judgment-seat; I see few sans-culottes in our streets; and as yet, I hear but a very faint echo of our Marseillaise. Yet I 1367 cannot but see, that the agitation of this important question, to whatever good it may finally lead, has, for the present, unsettled the public mind, and disorded the natural and wholesome influences under which men ordinarily act. I speak of no particular party or class of society. It will not, it must not be denied, that in all ranks, from the highest to the lowest—in all intellects, from the most cultivated to the least refined—there is a vague spirit of speculation—a restless distrust of the stability of all existing institutions—a fearful wondering at the work of to-day—a doubtful looking onward to the event of to-morrow. There is, too, that most alarming of all symptoms by which we judge of the health of the body politic—a suspicion—ludicrous if it were not dangerous—of the motives of all public men; and a readiness to find purposes the most improbable, and actions the most impossible, in the breast and in the conduct of all who are conspicuous by their station or their talents. The noble Lord and his colleagues have enjoyed, no doubt, their full allowance of the credulity of hostility. It is not long since one of our most influential Journals gravely announced to us the advent of a Tory counter-revolution. The right hon. member for Tamworth, in the anticipations of the far-sighted scribe, at the head of a corps of 40,000 yeomanry, is to assemble a parliament in a distant part of the country; and soon, with some antitype of you, Mr. Bernal, in our Chair, we shall be in Committee at Peebles or Penzance, discussing the abrogation of Magna Charta, or the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. I have found a man rational enough in other matters, performing sufficiently well the common duties of life—Not quite a madman, though the pitcher fell,And far too wise to walk into a well,giving a doubtful faith, a sort of bashful acceptance, to this most prodigious absurdity. Why have I alluded to these signs of the times? It is because I cannot but remember, that while the public mind is thus prepared for excitement, that excitement will certainly and speedily be supplied by the agitation of questions which will exclude all terms of friendly compromise from the minds of contending parties. Upon the Question of Reform, it is admitted, it is boasted, that no compromise was suffered. The propriety of continued restrictions on the importation 1368 of the prime necessary of life—the expediency of a prolonged union with a country which is daily struggling to escape from our embrace—the utility of an hereditary Legislature, controlling by its after-decree the will of the assembled nation—the sanctity of the revenues of a hierarchy, against whose cope and mitre the whisper of its enemies already is swelling into a murmur—can we not conceive, that on all, or on some, of these mighty themes, society should be so divided, class against class, as that no compromise should moderate the victories of political zeal? And if it be possible, barely possible, that in such a conflict of interests and inclinations, an opulent, a numerous, an intelligent minority, may have to contend with a sincere but mistaken majority, do we demand too much, when we say, give to such a minority—not control, not resistance, not supremacy—but the privilege of being heard; heard—not only from the hustings, where the appeal is made more effectively to the hasty passion, or to the inveterate prejudice, than to the cool judgment and the sober memory of men; not only in the market-place, where argument is confuted by clamour, and the statement of a fact met by the discharge of a brickbat; but here, in this House, where we trust Reason will yet be listened to, though she may rise on the left side of the Speaker's Chair. These are the considerations, Sir, which induce me to recommend the principle on which my Motion rests, to the serious attention of the Committee. I have no desire to press my Motion to a division today; because I am aware that its principle, however just, is so startling and new, that it cannot find favour till after much more examination than can be given to it in the course of a single and a brief debate. I have introduced it, in the earnest hope that it may be examined—that it may receive from his Majesty's Ministers, from this House, and from the public out of doors, that attention which, in my conscience, I believe its justice demands and deserves. I will notice a few of the objections by which I may be met, beginning with those which were urged last night by the hon. member for Kirkcudbright. He can scarcely complain if I reply to him in his absence, since his observations were directed against my Motion before it was before the House, and at an hour at which it was clearly im- 1369 possible that it could come before the House. He fears, in the first place, that if only two votes are allowed where three Members are to be returned, the whole of a large constituency may concentrate its good opinion upon two fortunate individuals, and the Sheriff find no third name upon the poll-book. Sir, if I had entertained a doubt of the correctness of the principle on which I was about to argue, how must my conviction have been confirmed last night, on finding, that to the active and searching mind of that hon. and learned Member, no more satisfactory answer presented itself, than one built upon so unnatural, so impossible an hypothesis! If such a fear is to influence legislation, we ought not to permit only, but to compel, the voters for the City of London to exercise their right of voting for four candidates; for it is at least a possible contingency, that, under our present arrangement, but three names should be found upon their poll. The hon. Member's second objection is a more plausible one. If, he says, you give to each voter but two votes, you may have two candidates so overwhelmingly popular, that they will unite the suffrages of all well-judging men; a third candidate of blameless character will thus be left unsupported; and a fourth, with no merit to recommend him, may come in by the votes of a small and ill-disposed minority. I answer, that where three Members are to be returned, no regulation of the elective franchise will prevent the occasional return, by management on the one side, or miscalculation on the other, of a candidate not entitled to success by the due share of the popular support. But such an evil is less likely to occur under the regulation I would introduce, than under those which at present exist. Has it not been alleged, as an ill-consequence upon the giving of three Members to counties, that the third Member will often be a man unknown to, and unrespected by the county at large? This will happen only on the supposition, that many of the constituency will have a waste vote—a vote to spare, after the gratification of their own natural partialities, and that this vote will be bestowed on the first comer who may chance to solicit it. If, by the allowance of two votes only to the voter, we confine his exercise of the elective franchise within the sphere of his own local knowledge, of course we avoid, rather 1370 than incur, the danger against which the hon. and learned Member has warned us. We may be told, however, that this is a most extensive and extraordinary innovation in the constitution of our representative system; and that it ought not to proceed from this side of the House, from one of the partizans of antiquity, and the sworn foes of change. I might retort, that the defence of old usage would sound as strangely from our opponents, as the advocacy of new theory from this. But I do not think any thing is gained to either party by bandying backwards and forwards the charge of inconsistency. In certain anomalous institutions, we found, or thought we found, a security for the representation in this House of the feelings and opinions of the minority, confessing that, upon the abstract principles of Representative Government, we could not vindicate those anomalous institutions. You have destroyed that real or imagined security. Let us now try if, by a more perfect adherence to the abstract principles of Representative Government, we may not replace it. We have not cheered the noble Lord, as he embarked on what seemed to us a far and perilous voyage. But he is fairly on ship-board. We are guilty of no inconsistency, if we advise him to provide himself with the best instruments, and the most correct chart. The hon. Member concluded by moving, "That in the seven counties to which three Members were assigned by the clause, each constituent should have the right of voting for two candidates only."
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman had proceeded upon extreme cases—upon cases so extreme, that he did not believe they would ever occur in practice; at least they had not occurred in the history of any country with which we were acquainted—not even in countries where the system of Representation had been as popular as it was possible to make it. In the United States of America, for instance, there had always been a minority in the Congress. During the French war, too, which in the early part of it was exceedingly popular in this country, there had always been a minority in that House, though only a small minority; and it was worthy of remark, that many of the Members of that minority were returned for populous places, and that the leader of it was member for Westminster. The hon. 1371 and learned Gentleman had most unwarrantably assumed that the minority would always be so large and so respectable as to deserve Representation. He thought, however, that when a county returned three Members, it would be clear that the minority must be very small indeed if all the three Members returned were men professing the same politics. He had had no small experience in elections, and he had found that there was the greatest possible difficulty in persuading electors to give their votes to two candidates, though both professed the same politics. Every Gentleman who had been engaged in county elections knew that there were always private and personal considerations which induced electors to give their second vote in a different manner to that in which they had given their first—he meant in a different manner with regard to the political principles of the candidates. The late general election furnished an exception to this otherwise general rule; but it furnished that exception only because there had hardly ever existed before so strong and so universal a feeling upon one political question. He would only add, that he saw nothing in the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, or in the reasons by which the hon. and learned Gentleman had supported it, which ought to recommend it to the adoption of the Committee.
§ Mr. Praed
felt himself bound to state, before he withdrew his amendment, that he must deny, that he had proceeded upon extreme cases. He had certainly said there might be a case in which 6,001 persons in a county would be fully represented, and 5,999 unrepresented; that, however, he had merely said to illustrate his argument in the strongest and clearest manner. The case which he had really supposed was, that a small majority might return all the Members, and thereby leave a large minority wholly unrepresented. Nothing which had fallen from the noble Lord had shaken his conviction of the soundness of the principle which he had advocated, not even the allusion to America. When the noble Lord said no such results had there taken place as he (Mr. Praed) had anticipated here from popular elections, the noble Lord should have recollected the circumstances were different, and no questions were likely to arise there to divide the people; but here it was extremely probable, such questions 1372 might prevail as would tend to set class against class, as appeared in a very recent case. But there was also another distinction between the United States and this country. The legislature of America had provided that no change should take place in the Constitution of that country, without the consent of at least two-thirds of the constituent body. We had no such security against great constitutional changes, and were therefore bound to take care that a mere minority should be duly represented. With reference to the late contest for Northamptonshire, the noble Lord said, that if there had been but three candidates, two on one side, and one on the other, it was probable the result might have been different, as the two parties were so nearly balanced, and each would have returned a Member; but here the evil he complained of appeared; the opponent parties being equal a small majority would carry all the Representation. The same result would invariably take place on any question likely to excite exclusively the minds of the electors. If they had votes for all the candidates, whether they were three, or thirty, they would be returned on one side. The noble Lord said, there was no instance in the parliamentary history of this country, where such a case had occurred, and he referred to the minority of the House, in the early part of the Revolutionary war, which was then very popular. He knew, that several Members had seats for populous places, who advocated unpopular opinions according to the notions of the times, but he was not sufficiently acquainted with the transactions of that period to make any material objections to the noble Lord's illustration, further than that he was most anxious to avoid any compromise of principle, and therefore wished that measures should be taken to ensure, at least, a hearing for the voice of the minority. He therefore had no objection to a third Member; he rather advocated the necessity of one, but he wished to confine the number of votes of the electors to two, when the candidates were more than that number.
§ Lord Althorp
said, in alluding to the minority in the early part of the French war, he merely wished to shew that where there was a large minority, some of the Members would be sure to be elected for populous places. The minority to which he then referred was undoubtedly extremely unpopular at the time, and yet 1373 some of them were Members for the most populous places.
§ Mr. Sadler
would take that opportunity of referring the House to a speech of Mr. Fox, made at the time alluded to. He said, the advocates of liberal principles were then so unpopular throughout the country, that liberty itself was in danger of becoming unpopular, and falling into disgrace with the English nation. This remark was a most striking illustration of the unpopularity, at certain periods, even of those who usually advocated what were called popular opinions.
§ Mr. Praed
would beg leave finally to remark, that however staunch a reformer, the noble Lord might be, yet he could not deny, that the details of the Bill would not have been sufficiently argued or understood, had the opinions of a most respectable minority, for wealth, rank, and intelligence, not been fairly represented in that House upon the present occasion.
§ Amendment withdrawn, and the original clause agreed to.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that as the time had now very nearly arrived at which they usually closed their proceedings on a Saturday, he should move that the Chairman do report progress. In making this Motion, however, he should take the opportunity of explaining to the Committee the nature of those alterations in certain clauses of the Bill which Government intended to make, and which he had last night promised to take the earliest opportunity of putting the House in possession of. The alterations which the Ministers proposed to make were not alterations in the principle of the Bill. They left the principle of the Bill untouched, and they only tended towards carrying that principle into more perfect and complete operation. The first clause which it was proposed to alter, and to which he begged now to call the attention of the Committee, was the sixteenth clause. The object of this clause was, as the Committee were aware, to give the right of voting in counties to copyholders who possessed a copyhold estate for life, or any larger copyhold estate of 10l. a year value; to leaseholders who held property on lease for any term of years not less than sixty years, and of the yearly value of not less than 10l.; and to leaseholders, who held property for any term not less than seven years, on which property a yearly rent of not less than 50l. should be reserved, or for 1374 which a fine of not less than a certain sum (which sum was not yet specified) should have been paid. The sixteenth clause proposed to add the class of voters here enumerated to the freeholders in the elections for counties. Now, in the wording of this clause a doubt had arisen whether the words, "who shall hold any lands or tenements by any lease, assignment, or other instrument," would include agreements for leases, which agreements, as the Committee were aware, gave an equitable title, as the actual lease or assignment gave a legal title. From the suggestion of this doubt had arisen the alteration which the Government intended to propose in the wording of this clause. The analogy which the Government desired to follow out was this—the equitable title to freehold property gave, under the existing law, which law it was not proposed to alter, the right of voting for county elections; and the Government were desirous, that the equitable title to the leasehold and copyhold property, specified in this clause, should, in the same manner, give the right of voting for counties under this Bill. A very slight alteration in the wording of the clause would, he understood, carry into effect this object of the Government. The words "seised of and in any lands or tenements," would, he was informed, be taken to apply only to the actual occupation or legal estate of such lands and tenements; and if so, these words would of course bar all equitable titles to such lands and tenements. These words, therefore, must be altered, as also must the words to which he had before adverted, and which occurred in two places a few lines lower down in the clause—the words "who shall hold any lands or tenements by any lease, assignment, or other instrument." He was informed, that if the word "have" were inserted in the places of the words "be seised of and in," and if these words, together with the words "by any lease, assignment, or other instrument," were struck out, the clause would give the right of voting to those who possessed equitable titles to the species of property specified in the clause. By this alteration, the clause would stand thus—"Every male person, &c. who shall have any lands or tenements for an estate for life, or for any larger estate of at least the yearly value of 10l. above reprizes, holden by copy of court-roll, &c., or who shall have any lands or tenements for any term not less than sixty years, and 1375 of the yearly value of not less than 10l. above reprizes, or for any term not less than seven years, whereon a yearly rent of not less than 50l. shall be reserved, or for which a fine or premium of not less than—pounds shall have been paid, shall have the right to vote," &c. He should here observe, that it was proposed in this clause to fill up the blank after the words "fine or premium of not less than," with the words "three hundred pounds." The calculation might not be quite exact, but it had been reckoned that a fine of 300l.—calculating at four per cent, would be about equal to a lease for seven years, at a rent of 50l. a year. In the twenty-third line a slight verbal alteration would also be proposed to give to the lessee under a copyholder the same power as a lessee under a freeholder. It was his hon. and learned friend, the member for Kirkcudbright, who suggested that a copyholder, under this clause, was not put in the same situation as a freeholder, and it being the intention of government that a copyholder should have the same power as a freeholder in everything, except as to the value of the qualification, the copyholder being required to have an estate of the value of 10l., whilst the freeholder could vote in respect of an estate of 40s., a slight alteration was necessary. He did not apprehend that this distinction would be very important in practice, as the number of copyholders of 40s. a year was not very great. These were the only alterations which it was proposed to make in this clause. The Committee would see, that they were merely verbal alterations, and that they were made for no other purpose than to confer upon equitable titles to copyhold and leasehold property, that right which at present attached to equitable titles to freehold property. This was the only object which the Government had in view. In the next clause to which he had to call the attention of the Committee, the alterations which it was proposed to make in it were more numerous, but they also were alterations of a merely verbal nature, the effect of which would not be greater than the effect of the alterations in the sixteenth clause, and which, like the alterations in that clause, tended only to carry the principle of the Bill into more complete operation. This clause was the twenty-first, which, as the Committee were aware, regarded the right of voting in boroughs. The object of this clause was, to 1376 give the right of voting in boroughs to all occupiers of houses, warehouses, or counting-houses, which were bonâ fide of the yearly value of 10l., or rented at 10l. a-year, or rated to the relief of the poor upon a yearly value of 10l., or assessed to the taxes at 10l. a-year. In this clause the Government had made a mistake, with which they had been so frequently taunted by the Gentlemen opposite, that every Member of the Committee must be quite familiar with it. This mistake consisted in their having attached to the clause a proviso that the rent of these 10l. houses must be reserved half-yearly. He need not add, that the Government, on discovering their mistake, had immediately abandoned this proviso; but it might be as well that he should state how the Government had been led into that mistake. Although he and his colleagues were now perfectly sensible that such a proviso would exclude and disfranchise many persons who were in all respects most worthy of the enjoyment of the elective franchise, yet he would fairly state that the object which they had in view when they made this restriction was, that the rent should be paid half-yearly and no oftener. It had been stated to the Government, that there was a class of persons who paid their rent weekly, and monthly, and quarterly, and that they were a very disreputable class. Now, the object which the Government had in view in making this restriction was to exclude that class of persons. The Government, however, had discovered that this information was not correct. They had ascertained, upon inquiry, that many most respectable persons were in the habit of paying their rent, not only quarterly, but even weekly and monthly. To give an instance—this was the case in Manchester. He had conversed upon the subject with persons from Manchester—persons, he must say, of as much intelligence as any men that he had ever conversed with in his life, and persons whom he believed to be, in every sense of the word, most respectable—and these persons had told him that they occupied houses, the rent of which they paid weekly. These persons explained to him, that it was sometimes for the convenience of the landlord, and sometimes for the convenience of the tenant—generally for the convenience of both arising from the custom of making weekly receipts and payments—that this system should be adopt- 1377 ed. They told him, that this was the only reason of the rents being reserved weekly, and that this reservation, and the custom of paying them weekly, arose from this circumstance only, and not from any doubt on the part of the landlord as to the respectability of his tenants. The same they had found, upon inquiry, to be true of other places; and he had stated this case of Manchester only as an example. Under these circumstances, therefore, the Government had considered that they ought not to make any regulation as to the period at which rents should be paid, and that a man's right of voting should not be made to depend at all upon the manner in which the rent of his house might be payable. But then, while thus, on the one hand, they did away with all provision as to how a man's rent should be paid, they ran the risk, on the other hand, of opening the door to the admission of a class of persons which might be very far from respectable. To obviate this inconvenience, the Government proposed to make another alteration in the clause. As the clause now stood, it required that the occupier of the 10l. house should have held the house for six months. This period of six months they proposed to change into twelve months. By this alteration they disfranchised no one, while they required a reasonable security for a man's respectability, by rendering it necessary that he should have occupied a 10l. house for so long a period as twelve months. Another alteration which they proposed to make in the clause was this:—The clause, after giving the right of voting to the occupiers of houses which were of the yearly value of 10l., or rated to the relief of the poor at 10l. a-year, or assessed to the taxes at 10l. a-year, or subject to a rent of 10l. a-year, made it necessary that all rents, rates, and taxes, due in respect of such houses, should have been paid before the person claiming to vote could be registered, and exercise the right of voting. This restrictive provision it was intended to alter. Early in the discussions upon this Bill, the hon. and learned member for St. Mawes (Sir Edward Sugden), in allusion to this provision that the voter's rent must be paid before he could exercise his right of voting, had said, somewhat sarcastically, that the Bill was a capital landlord's bill. Now he could assure the hon. and learned member for St. Mawes, that this objection had 1378 struck the Government as a very forcible one; and it had produced an effect which, in all probability, was not contemplated by the hon. and learned Member. The Government had determined to abandon, except in one particular case, this provision with regard to the payment of the rent. If a man claimed to vote on the simple ground that he occupied a house of 10l. a-year rent, then, that being the only ground of his claim, the Government thought it only just to demand that such person should prove, that he had paid his rent, because there was no other means of ascertaining whether the rent was a bonâ fide rent; but the Government had considered, that if a man had paid his rates and assessed taxes, then it would be an unnecessary interference with, and inquiry into, the private concerns of individuals, to ask for the proof that the rent also had been paid. The clause, therefore, as it was proposed to amend it, would stand thus—that if a man had paid his rates and taxes, no question should be asked him as to the payment of his rent, and that the proof of the payment of the rent should only be necessary when a person claimed to vote in right of the rent only. The clause would omit all provision as to the payment of rent, except in that one case of voters claiming to vote solely on the ground of their paying a rent of 10l. a year. There were many considerations which had induced the Government to make this alteration in the clause. For instance, the fact of a person who occupied a 10l. house having paid his rates and taxes, would be known to the overseers, and that fact being known to them, they would place such person upon the list of voters. Being so placed on the list, such person might be called upon to prove, that he had paid his rent, without his ever having sought or wished to place himself in such a condition. Such person might not have paid his rent, and might be obliged to say so. Thus the credit of tradesmen might be materially injured, and so, therefore, besides causing an unnecessary and unwarrantable interference with the private affairs of individuals, the practical working of the Bill might be considerably impeded. It must be recollected too, that it was by no means easy to ascertain whether a man had or had not really paid his rent; whereas, there was no difficulty in becoming assured that a man's rates and 1379 taxes were paid. Again, he did not think that any disadvantage would result from this alteration of the clause in the way of lessening the security for the respectability of the electors; because, as they had altered the period of occupancy from six to twelve months, they had thereby a tolerable security as to respectability; and if a man had not paid his rent one year, it was only a fair inference that his landlord would remove him from his tenancy. Another alteration which it was intended to make in the Bill, had arisen from the provision, that all rates should be paid having been so put as to include Churchrates. Now this would exclude from the exercise of the elective franchise one of the most respectable classes of his Majesty's subjects—he meant the Quakers. It was well known that Quakers refused to pay Church-rates until their goods were distrained. An alteration, therefore, would be made in the wording of the clause, so as to respect the scruples of the Quakers. A difficulty had also arisen with regard to the registering clause. That clause enacted, "that the list of the registered voters should be made up on or before the last day of August in each year. It appeared, however, when the ordinary days of making the payments of rates and taxes required to be made by the Act were considered, that if the lists were to be made up on the last day of August in each year, and no persons put on those lists who had not paid their rates and taxes up to that time, the consequence would be, that many would be unavoidably, and without any fault of theirs, excluded from the lists. It was proposed, therefore, that all persons who had made such payments up to the first day of the preceding July, should be entitled to be placed on the lists. The Committee were aware, that in the clause which regulated the registering of votes in counties, it was required, that the Overseers and Clerk of the peace should prepare the lists of voters; but then the Clerk of the Peace and the Overseers were not to be the final judges of the correctness of such lists. The clause empowered the Judges of Assize to appoint Barristers, who were to revise the lists of the county voters, and the Overseers and Clerk of the peace, attending before the Barristers so appointed, with the lists they had prepared, the Barristers were, on due proof made before them, to insert in, and expunge from the lists, such names as might have 1380 been improperly left out of, or admitted into, the lists, and to rectify any other mistakes which might occur in the list. The provisions, however, of the clause which regulated the registering of the votes in boroughs were different. The Overseers were to prepare the lists of borough voters, as in the case of county voters, but then the clause made the returning officers of the borough, the revisers and rectifiers of the lists of the borough voters in the last instance. Upon consideration, the Government had considered, that this duty ought not to be confided to the returning officers. The Government had considered, that the final decision upon the borough lists should be committed to the same authority as the final decision of the county lists. It was proposed, therefore, to assimilate those two clauses in this respect; and as in counties, so in boroughs, to enact, that the final revision and settlement of the registered lists should be vested in Barristers, appointed to that duty by the Judges of Assize. He had another point to mention, which he believed was deemed of importance; he alluded to the subject of joint occupancy. The principle of county Representation was, that when the joint occupancy of any freehold amounted to as many 40s. tenancies as there were owners, every owner had a vote and he intended, that the same rule should be observed with respect to the joint occupancy of premises in towns. If, for instance, there were a tenement of the value of 100l. a year, which was held by twelve persons, none would have any right to vote, but if it was held by ten individuals, then each would have his vote. By this regulation many grounds of dispute would be avoided. He had now given a general view of the alterations which had been made in these two important clauses of the Bill. He trusted, that the subject would not be discussed at present, as the clauses were not immediately before the House, but the clauses, as amended, should be printed directly, and laid before the Committee. He should move, that the Committee do report progress.
Sir John Bourke
wished to know if the equitable instrument at the time of registration was to be stamped or not?
The Solicitor General
said, that the object of Ministers was, that the equitable instrument should apply to copyholders and householders as well as to freeholders, and that it would require to be equally valid.
wished to know, if persons occupying shops and houses in different parts of the same town would be prevented from voting, if neither separately were of sufficient rent to confer the right.
The Attorney General
was not quite prepared to answer the question, but he thought the circumstances mentioned not likely to occur.
assured the hon. and learned Gentleman, that in the town he represented if the clause operated in the 1382 manner he had pointed out, it would completely exclude 200 or 300 persons from the enjoyments of the elective franchise.
was not perfectly aware whether the 8th clause was withdrawn or not, and he should be glad to be informed, as, if it remained, it would excite some alarm.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again on Tuesday.