§ The House went into the Committee.
§ The fourteenth Clause—"Be it enacted, that from and after the end of this present Parliament, the Isle of Wight, in the county of Southampton, shall, and for the purposes of this Act, be a county of itself, separate and apart from the county of Southampton, and shall return one Knight to serve in Parliament," was read.
§ Lord Althorp
begged to propose to add the words "of the shire" to the words "one Knight," and to strike out the whole of the proviso attached to the Clause, thus making the Member for the Isle of Wight a county Member, and leaving the non-resident freeholders of Newport in the same situation in which other non-resident freeholders would be placed by the general clause, the eighteenth, of this Bill.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
concurred with the noble Lord in the alteration proposed in the wording of this clause, but he proposed to move, as an Amendment, that the blank should be filled up with the word "two,'' giving two Representatives instead of one. He had given notice of this Amendment before. The inhabitants of the Isle of Wight had petitioned for a second Member, as they would be considerable losers by the operation of the Reform Bill as now framed. They would lose four borough Members, and their share in choosing a second county Member; for they had heretofore enjoyed a voice in the return of two Members, as part of the county of Southampton. They were, in fact, the only freeholders in England who would be partly disfranchised by the Bill. The clause presented a singular anomaly in it, for under 144 the clause immediately preceding it, the Committee had given a third Member to seven counties without dividing them, and consequently given to the electors an additional vote. The population had, moreover, increased 4,000 since the returns of 1821, and now amounted to not less than 35,000 persons. He had reason to believe, that the county constituency of the Island, under the Bill, would exceed 2,000 freeholders, and he would confidently appeal to the hon. Members for the county of Southampton, whether a more enlightened or independent constituency than the freeholders of the Isle of Wight, could anywhere be found. The injustice done to the Isle of Wight by this clause would be apparent, when he remarked, that the county of Rutland, with a population of about 18,500 persons, was to return two Members; they had also given two Members to the parishes of Sunderland, Bishop Wearmouth, and Monk-Wearmouth, the total of whose present population did not much exceed 43,000. He must conclude by observing, that Newport, a borough in the Island, was to have two Members, and in common fairness, the agriculturists were entitled to at least as many.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
had also a petition from the Isle of Wight to present for additional Members. In his opinion, the Isle of Wight was better entitled to an additional Member than many places to which that privilege had been granted.
§ Lord Althorp
thought the parties concerned had no reason to complain, and could not admit, that they would be worse off, in consequence of the operation of this Bill, than they had been hitherto. On the contrary, in his opinion, the constituency, which he knew to be highly respectable, must be considerable gainers, for they would henceforth return one Member exclusively for themselves, whereas at present they had merely a voice in returning two for the county of Southampton, including the Island itself. Considering the space and the population, he thought that the Island would be adequately represented by one Member.
§ Sir George Clerk
could by no means agree to the Amendment of the hon. member for Oxford. On the contrary, he did not understand why the Isle of Wight, which was an integral part of the county of Hants, was to have a separate Member at all. The proposal appeared to him 145 nothing more than giving a fifth Member to that county. Other counties exceeded it in population and wealth, and he called upon the noble Lord to explain upon what principle this favour was shewn. If they took the county of Lincoln for instance, it was divided into three different parts known by as many names. Devonshire again was much larger and more wealthy than Hampshire, and even the great county of York itself was to have but six Members, and no other county, although several contained nearly double the population of Hampshire, was to have more than four, while it was, in effect, to have five. The reason assigned for this partiality was, that two of the boroughs in the Isle of Wight were to be disfranchised; but the same thing had been done in other counties. If they took the total number of Members returned for that county the anomaly would be more glaring. Hampshire, in all, was to have eighteen Representatives, while Suffolk would retain but nine. The Isle of Wight, would in all probability, be a nomination county, for if he were correctly informed, one influence was almost predominant there. It was wonderful that the noble Lord should have overlooked the claims of the Isle of Man, which had a population of 40,000, and give a Member to the Isle of Wight, with a less number of people. If their object was to increase the Representatives for places on the principle of population, he should wish them to explain the causes of this preference.
Mr. Bonham Carter
said, the Isle of Wight had always been considered a distinct and separate district, in the Statute-book, from the county of Southampton, and provisions had been made therein to have the place of polling removed nearer to the Island. This circumstance also would afford some reason for the separation which was justified on other accounts. He could assure hon. Members who represented the agricultural interests, no place was more likely to return respectable Members of that class than the Isle of Wight.
An Hon. Member
said, the argument of the hon. Member who had just spoken, only proved the necessity of having separate places for the freeholders of the Island to poll, not to give them an additional and separate Member. It appeared that by this Bill some places were to be more favourably dealt with than others. 146 Most of the English counties were to have additional Representatives, and even that privilege was extended to some of the Welsh counties, but the Scotch counties, with an immense population, were to see the number of their representatives reduced on the whole. On these grounds he most decidedly opposed the Amendment.
said, he was anxious to call the attention of the House to the argument of the hon. Baronet (Sir George Clerk), who had considered the Isle of Man as well entitled to Representatives as the Isle of Wight. There was, however, this essential difference between the two Islands—this House taxed the latter, but not the former, and that was a good ground for treating differently their claims for Representation. He should vote in favour of the Amendment, not that he thought the Isle of Wight should have an additional Representative on its own account, or for its own benefit alone, but for the benefit of the community at large. He thought the remark of the hon. member for Portsmouth (Mr. Bonham Carter), was a sufficient reason for considering it a separate district.
§ Sir George Warrender
should be happy to concur in any proposition for giving two Members to each of the large counties of Scotland, but he was surprised how any Gentleman could vote for such a motion who had supported General Gascoyne's motion last Parliament, which would have deprived Scotland of any additional Representatives.
§ Mr. Robert Dundas
deprecated any allusions to the former Parliament, and stated, that though he had voted for General Gascoyne's motion, he thought the Legislature might give additional Representatives to Scotland without diminishing the number for England.
§ Lord Althorp
said, in reply to the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Clerk), who had inquired why the Isle of Wight was to have a separate Member, he must beg to inform him, the grounds were in a great degree geographical; it was totally separated from Hampshire, and they took that county by itself, and found that, independent of the Island, it had so large a population as to entitle it to additional Representatives, by the same principle on which additional Members had been given to other counties. Another objection had been taken, that the Island would become a nomination county. It was true there 147 were two gentlemen who had each a very large property in the Island, but there were many other considerable proprietors who were fully equal to counteract their influence.
§ Mr. Croker
considered this another of the anomalies which began to weary the House. The noble Lord had said, that, having divided the county of Southampton, by taking off the Isle of Wight, that county was still worthy of having four Members. Would the Committee believe there were fourteen counties, larger than Southampton—and possessing a much larger population—which had only four Members, and yet Southampton, with the Member for the Isle of Wight, would have five? Why did not the noble Lord turn his attention in the same manner to the county of Kent, and give the Isle of Thanet a Member, which was quite equal, in its population and wealth, to the Isle of Wight? If there was any consistency whatever in the rule laid down by the noble Lord, Kent ought to have at least ten Members. He had no desire to confine or limit the franchise, but he must say, the great counties of Kent, Somerset, and Lancaster, would be unfairly dealt with, if the noble Lord gave five Members to Southampton. It was said to be of very little consequence to the general Representation, whether a county had four or five Members. If additional Members were of no advantage to the places that were to have them, why was this partiality shown, but for some purposes which were not apparent?
§ Sir George Clerk
begged to refer the noble Lord (Lord Milton) who had said the Isle of Man was not taxed by this House, to an Act passed in 1825, in which there was a schedule of duties on every article imported into the Isle of Man. Not only did the House therein assume this right of charging duties upon all importations, but the inhabitants depended on the Treasury for the exercise of some of their privileges. He considered the Isle of Wight the Gateshead of the county of Southampton, and he did not think it possible that any satisfactory reasons could be given for allotting it a distinct Representative.
was perfectly well aware of the Act quoted, but the island was not taxed by the House internally, although the House had interfered with the external duties, for the purposes of placing the 148 trade of the island under proper regulations.
§ Sir James Macdonald
defended the Bill, and contended, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Croker) who had pointed out anomalies, was himself anomalous. The Ministers did not pretend to cure all anomalies, but to remedy some of the most glaring of those in existence. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman had previously been opposed to excess of Representation in manufacturing districts in the North; and when Representation was given to the Isle of Wight, standing in the South, with an agricultural population, the right hon. Gentleman still urged his objection, and said, the county of Southampton was much lower in the list of population than several counties which did not receive a fifth Member. When the Isle of Wight was separated from the county of Southampton, its population would still amount to 250,000, which was much larger than the two counties which immediately followed it, and were each to have four Members. He thought, therefore, that to give an additional Member to the Isle of Wight, was, upon every ground, a most proper distinction. The island, in many respects, had a separate jurisdiction, and was totally separated from the county, unlike the Isle of Thanet, which was only nominally separated from the county of Kent.
§ Mr. Croker
said, the hon. Baronet had declared, that it never had been the intention of Ministers to cure anomalies; but was that any reason why they should have committed the most gross anomalies themselves? What he objected to was, a departure from the principle of the Bill, in giving five Members to a county, where there was no reason for so doing. He had put this forward as one of their anomalies, and contrary to their own principles. Had not the hon. Baronet heard him enumerate several counties with a much larger agricultural population than Southampton, which had not been so favourably dealt with, and which, as he had already said, and continued to say, had much greater claims to additional Representation, if the object of Ministers was, to increase the number of rural Representatives?
Sir Robert Inglis
could not understand why the county of Southampton should have five Members, when the great county of York, with 1,500,000 inhabitants, was to have only six. He deprecated, too, the principle of dividing the Isle of Wight 149 from Southampton, when it had the same jurisdiction, and was, in every respect, a part of the county. The whole plan was at variance with the principle of the Bill, and he had heard no reason from the noble Lord in support of it.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
decidedly objected to give a Member to the Isle of Wight, while large counties were left comparatively unrepresented; and he especially objected against places being separated, which had been united for so many years. It would have the effect of destroying advantages, and severing well-understood interests. He feared, notwithstanding all that had been said, that the island would become a nomination county, for he remembered when the county of Southampton itself was subject to one predominant interest, the persons who swayed in it, being landed proprietors of the Isle of Wight.
§ Mr. Poyntz
considered the Isle of Wight quite independent and indifferent about two Members. An influential Gentleman in that island had declared to him, that the inhabitants would be satisfied with one Member.
Mr. James L. Knight,
asked, was he a Military Officer, under the influence of the Crown? and did he appoint the Sheriff?
§ Mr. Hunt
said, it was well known the county of Southampton, through the means of the dock-yards, was a mere Government borough. He did not believe the Isle of Wight would be under the same influence, and he, therefore, gave his consent to its having one Member; but he could not agree that it should have two Members, when Bolton was to have but one. He begged, however, to be allowed to say a very few words on the subject of the abuse of those Members who presumed to say, that the Bill was not all perfection. He, among others, had been denounced as an enemy of all Reform, because he merely ventured to hint that the Bill might be much improved, and that it would not give universal satisfaction. He was told, that the people demanded the whole Bill, and nothing else would they consent to have; 150 and yet, at that very moment, some of those who were the loudest in shouting for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, were moving Amendments which were directed against the Bill. He repeated, that, according to the creed of the opposite party, all who did not take the Bill as it was presented to them by the noble Lord, were to be considered enemies of Reform, and yet had the member for Middlesex this evening moved an Amendment, and many other thick and thin supporters of the Bill were to follow with their Amendments. He had two of his own, of which he had given notice at the very earliest moment. He repeated, however, that according to the doctrine of the hon. Members opposite, all who attempted to amend the Bill were its enemies. He had one word to add on the subject of the newspapers. He must speak plainly, and call things by their names. He had not yet acquired the parliamentary tactics of adverting to the Press under the name of "the usual sources of information." He wished to direct their attention to the course pursued by the Press, and particularly by The Times. That Paper denounced every man who presumed to find fault with a single word of the Bill, as an enemy to his country. It had so denounced him. But he would ask them to look at The Times now. He would ask them to look at The Times of that morning, and see how it was laying it on Ministers about the division of the counties. He would ask them to see how The Times was calling on the country almost to rise in arms against one part of that Bill, the whole of which they had previously called on every man to accept without hesitation, under the pain of being considered an enemy of his country. The Times called on the counties to meet and petition for the purpose of putting a stop to that atrocious part of the measure, the division of counties. But he could tell The Times, the power of the Bill-men, as they were called by the hon. and learned Member (Sir Charles Wetherell), was gone by. The day for obeying their call for county meetings was gone. They had endeavoured to get up a Common Hall, but they failed; and he would tell them why: they could not get a Common Hall to suit their purpose; and if they were to attempt to get up county meetings, they would meet with the same disappointment. The day was gone by for that. The Times, 151 however, held out threats to the Members of that House, and he, for one, was for bringing the writers of these attacks to the bar. In The Times of that day there was a general attack on the House, as well as on individuals, and he should like either to have some of the gentlemen who wrote these attacks, or the ladies, brought up to the bar to answer for them.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
rose to order. He wished to ask if there was any question before the House connected with The Times newspaper, and if the hon. Member was in order in pursuing his present course of argument?
as he was thus called on to give his opinion, felt bound to say, that he did not think the hon. Member confined himself, as he ought to do, to the question before the Committee, and therefore, in his opinion, the hon. Member was out of order.
§ Mr. Hunt
proceeded: If every Member, in the course of the debates, were forced to confine himself, as the Chairman said, to the question before the Committee, he knew not the man who would be in order. He was speaking of the newspapers at the time he was interrupted. The Press made it a practice at the present moment to abuse the House, and to misrepresent and vilify its Members. In one part of that day's Times they had alluded to the hon. member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) by name; and, what was the most extraordinary and most infamous part of the business, they had coupled the member for Lincoln and him together. They had made a gross attack on the member for Lincoln by name, and then they put him and that Member to run as a couple. He cared not what they said, but he would state it broadly and openly, that if the debates on the Bill had been carried on with closed doors, the country would have understood the Bill better than it now did, after the gross and scandalous misrepresentation of their proceedings which had appeared in the papers. The people would have read the Bill, and judged for themselves, without being prejudiced by the scandalous misrepresentations contained in the reports of the Press. He knew he should be libelled and calumniated for this, but he cared not for attacks of that kind. He was determined to do his duty, in spite of all the hostility with which he might be assailed. With respect to the motion before the Committee, an hon. 152 Member had allowed that Hampshire was under Government influence in time of war, but it was said, in time of peace that influence was diminished; but he believed by this Bill it would be done away. The dock-yard men, however, would have no votes for the Isle of Wight, and therefore he should support the clause. The Isle of Wight was not properly represented, and he would readily vote for its having one Member.
in reply to the assertion of the member for Preston, that Hampshire would be a Government borough, said, that undoubtedly the Government, through the means of the dock-yards, had great influence in time of war, but it had little or none in time of peace, and through the operation of the Bill, would now lose it altogether at any time.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
declared, that he was totally indifferent as to the treatment the Press gave him. He did not understand what reasons they had for accusing him and the hon. member for Preston with running in couples, unless it was, that he intended to vote against the amendment of the hon. member for Oxford, and he presumed, from what the hon. member for Preston had said, he proposed to do the same, but he did not give the Press credit for so much prescience as to enable its conductors to foresee this. The newspapers had given publication to the attack made upon him by a right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) the other night, when that Minister had thought proper to call him a "driver"—but they had not given a word—not touched upon an atom of the lashing which he had found it necessary to inflict upon the right hon. Baronet, and the rest of his Majesty's Ministers in reply. As for the imputation of having hunted in couples, he had only to say, that he was no greyhound, and it would not be easy to find him hunting in couples with his Majesty's Ministers. He agreed with the hon. member for Preston, that if the newspapers had given faithful reports of what had passed in that House, the impression upon the public mind would have been very different from what it was. But The Times might do its best. The editor might write to eternity without being able to prevent the inevitable re-action.
said, the county of Southampton had certainly been greatly under the influence of Government, and this Bill would not remedy the evil if Portsmouth 153 was thrown in, either on one side or the other. He wished to ascertain who was to be the returning officer for the island. If he was the Governor, that would be a violation of the principle of the Bill, which was said to go upon the overthrow of corrupt influence, but in this case they were to have the direct servant of Government as the returning officer.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the Isle of Wight, with respect to a Sheriff, was in the same situation as the county of Westmorland. In one the Governor was Sheriff, and appointed his deputy, as a noble Lord did in Westmorland.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
denied, that the Isle of Wight was likely to become either a nomination-borough, or under the influence of Government, as had been represented by the hon. member for Edinburgh, and other hon. Members. He begged to assure them, there was no paramount influence in the island, and that it would return most independent Representatives. One hon. Member had asserted, that the inhabitants were perfectly satisfied with the one Member allotted to them, but in opposition to that assertion he must ask the hon. Member, had he seen a petition presented to the House, signed by four Baronets, and many other respectable individuals for two Members?
§ Lord Stormont
said, the present Governor held his place by patent. Upon his decease, how was the office to be filled up? And if the situation of Governor and Sheriff were to be kept distinct, how was the latter officer to be appointed?
§ Lord Althorp
said, the Governor and Sheriff would in that event become distinct officers, and the Sheriff would be appointed in a similar manner to other Sheriffs.
§ Mr. Gore Langton
said, he had been attacked by the member for Preston, with not being a sincere reformer; the best answer to that charge was the manner in which he had had the honour to be returned to Parliament by the freeholders of Somersetshire. But in avowing himself to be a determined and staunch adherent of Reform, he did not consider himself on that account one of those who were pledged to support Ministers in every vote he might give.
Mr. James L. Knight
said, he was not satisfied that the Governor of the Isle of Wight was a purely civil officer.
§ Lord Stormont
rose to order. Some hon. Member on the opposite side interrupted the hon. and learned Gentleman by making a noise with a stick or key, or something of the kind. Were such proceedings to be tolerated in a company of Gentlemen? If they were continued, he should move an adjournment.
Mr. James L. Knight
thought the Committee should have a copy of the patent laid on the Table, before if decided. The present Governor might be a civilian, but they had no security that the next might not be a military officer.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
always understood the offices of Governor and Sheriff were distinct, and he believed a gentleman in Newport held the latter office. Although he retained his opinions, yet, as he observed the sense of the Committee was against him he would not trouble them to divide at that late hour.
§ Lord Althorp
said, when the present patent expired, the office would be without salary. The Governor's office was similar to that of Lord-lieutenant of the county.
Mr. James L. Knight
said, the Lord-lieutenant of a county was a military officer, and he objected to proceeding further till they had the patent.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
also considered it essential, from the vague answers of Ministers, that they should actually know who was to be the returning officer under the Bill.
§ Amendment negatived, and clause agreed to. House resumed—Committee to sit again on the following day.