§ On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,
spoke as follows;—In rising, Sir, to submit to the decision of this House the claims of the principality of Wales, and to offer to their consideration a brief statement of the facts on which I rest those claims, I hope I may be allowed to intreat the indulgent and impartial attention, both of the supporters and opposers of this Bill; and, Sir, I cannot forbear expressing my regret, that his; Majesty's Ministers, having introduced a; measure into this House, effecting a change in the Representation of the people, so comprehensive in its character, and so extensive in its operation, should not have thought fit to concede this as an act of grace, which I now demand as a claim of right. Before, however, Sir, I call the attention of the House to the more minute details which form the basis of this claim, I feel that some apology is due from me to those Members for the Principality of Wales, who, from their weight and standing in this House, from their established character and superior talents, have a prior right to stand forward in behalf of their country, as by their greater abilities they have a better chance to insure success. But I trust, that whether in a reformed or unreformed House of Commons, a too eager desire to evince attachment to our native land, a too ardent zeal to promote the wishes of our fellow countrymen, will always carry with it its own vindication. Linked to my country not more by an enthusiastic admiration of her loveliness, than by a warm attachment to the generous feelings of her 266 sons—bound to her by every tie of private affection—by every fond remembrance of past hours of happiness—it must always be to me a source of proud gratification, that the first time I have ventured to obtrude myself on the attention of this House, I appealed to them in the name of my country. I rise, Sir, in the name of an ancient nation—I rise in the name of a loyal people, to express their perfect confidence, that in a measure which extends to every class of his Majesty's subjects, and to every part of the British Isles, a larger share of direct Representation—they alone shall not be passed over with the slur of neglect—they alone shall not be treated with unmerited indignity. I ask, Sir, nothing which militates against the principles of this Bill; I ask nothing adverse to any expression of popular opinion; I ask for no violation of chartered privileges, for no confiscation of ancient rights—I ask for the Principality of Wales (should the House ultimately sanction this, which I must still consider as a wanton act of spoliation), that additional Member for each one of its counties, which is enjoyed even by the meanest county in England. It is somewhat difficult to define the precise ratio which would seem to entitle the counties in England to any given quantity of Members; but arguing from analogy, and adducing as instances those counties which have their Representation altered or amended by this Bill, and which, therefore, may be presumed to have a fair and not an undue proportion, I think I can convince the House of the justice of my claim. The county of Westmorland, having had its ancient borough of Appleby disfranchised, but being considered by its population to be entitled to return two Members for the shire, and one for a borough, had a Member allotted to Kendal; the population of Westmorland was, in 1821, 51,359, and this, therefore, is declared by this very Bill to be a sufficient population to possess the right of returning three Members. Now the county of Carmarthen has, by the same census, 90,239; Carnarvon, 57, 958; Denbigh, 76,511; Flint, 53, 784; Montgomery, 59,899; Cardigan, 57,784; and yet these counties have only one Member each for the borough, and one Knight for the Shire. And when the House looks at the population of Monmouth and Huntingdon, and at the Isle of Wight with 35,000 inhabitants enjoying three Mem- 267 bers by this Bill, I am sure they will recognise the justice of this claim, even for the smaller counties. I do not think, Sir, it will be necessary for me to recapitulate to the House all those many lucid and powerful arguments which we heard on a preceding night in favour of the advantages of a double Representation; but, in addition to the preservation of the peace and harmony of neighbourhoods—in itself an object of no insignificant importance—it has a tendency to check that most pernicious practice of subdividing property into innumerable petty 40s. freeholds, and thereby creating an artificial population. And this is a practice by no means confined to the resident gentry, or the larger proprietor, who know too well the baneful effects of a large pauper population—but is chiefly prevalent among the smaller proprietors; who, being in perpetual expectation of contests, are anxious, by this species of influence, to gain that station in the county to which their property would not entitle them. I can assure the noble Lord this is no hypothetical case, it is an actual, existing, and increasing evil. I cannot help considering, that even this small addition to the Members for counties would of itself be an improvement to this measure. By this Bill the number of Members for counties in England and Wales will be 157, while the Members for towns will be more than double that number. Sir, the landed interest is the most vital and permanent interest in the State; it is the basis of our national character, of our national opulence, and of our national independence. Trade and capital may make themselves wings and fly away either to a foreign or a hostile clime; every change in our foreign relations, every shock to our commercial credit, every wind that blows may check the buoyancy of their career; but the landed interest is inherent in the soil—growing with our growth, and prospering with our prosperity; and it is the reviving essence, and the re-invigorating principle amidst all depression. That the interests of all classes are identified I admit—that their feelings are identified I deny. It is an error to assume, that reason and judgment will control passion and prejudice; every contested election in this empire, every division in this House, every man's own conscience, will prove to him the fallacy of this assumption; and, indeed, it is one of the chief excellencies of a 268 popular assembly, that by the infusion of these opposing feelings, deliberation becomes not a matter of choice, but of necessity. I am afraid I have already trespassed too long on the indulgence of the House; but let me remind the House, that while, by acts of federal union, the Representations of Scotland and of Ireland were arranged—the one at the commencement of the last, the other of the present century—while the Representatives for England have been increased almost to double their amount; the Representation of Wales remains in precisely the same state as it was three centuries ago, at a time when she was considered as a conquered province, and was very thinly inhabited. But, Sir, look at her state now—look at her rapidly-increasing population, look at her progressive advance in wealth, at the great improvement in her means of communication, at her agriculture (not fearing competition even with her more favoured neighbours); look at the incalculable extent of her infinite variety of mines; at the richness of her lead and her iron mines; at that vast bed of coal, both in the North and the South; and then, Sir, I will ask the House, if we are not entitled to this petty addition that we crave? I would entreat the House to grant this favour, then, to a people rapidly advancing in opulence and intelligence—to a people jealous of their rights, and proud of their antiquity;—and let no man undervalue that feeling; it is the surest foundation on which a nation's power and a kingdom's independence can be based—it is that spirit, which, amid the gloom of depression, and the whirlwind of convulsion, still bids the soul cling fondly to its country, and paralyses the activity of evil.Dear is that shed to which his hopes conform, And dear that hill which lifts him to the storm, While the loud torrent and the whirlwind's roar, But bind him to his native mountains more.Sir, in the name of my country, I demand this as a right—I shall be grateful to accept it as a boon. I move, that it be an instruction to this Committee, to make provision for the further increase of Knights to serve in Parliament for the different shires in the Principality of Wales.
§ The Speaker
said, that the motion which had been made was not a subject for an instruction to the Committee, but was referrable to clause 13 in the Bill, which had already passed.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, it was not usual to move an instruction of this kind in Committee after the clause to which it referred had been passed, but still, as it would be competent to the hon. Member to make the motion on the report being brought up, it would not be inconsistent with the practice of the House if he was to do so at that moment.
§ The Speaker
stated, that there were two kinds of instructions—one to enable the Committee to do that which it could not otherwise do, and the other was of a mandatory character, and compulsory upon the Committee. The instruction moved by the hon. Member did not belong to the former class; and he therefore wished the hon. Member to say whether he meant his instruction as a mandatory one?
§ Lord Althorp
said, he was glad that the hon. Gentleman's Motion was not lost through any technical objection, because the subject to which it related deserved their serious consideration. With respect to increasing the Representation of Wales, he begged to observe, that it had already been done, while the Representation of England had been diminished, so that, proportionally speaking, it might be said, that justice had already been done to Wales. With respect to the county Representation of Wales, however, it might, perhaps, be argued, that as the county Representation of England had been increased, so ought also the county Representation of the Principality; but in that case it would be necessary to show that the counties of Wales were of themselves sufficiently important to demand the increase. He should oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, but he begged it to be understood, that this did not preclude him from a further consideration of the Welsh Representation, should it be deemed necessary, on the bringing up of the Report.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
strongly recommended the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment, as the noble Lord had expressed such intentions towards the farther consideration of the point he had urged.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
pressed the recommendation of the hon. and learned Member on the attention of the hon. Member, as to the withdrawal of his Motion.
§ Motion withdrawn. House in Committee.
said, that by agreeing to these amendments, the House was allowing that part of the clause which created so much discussion last night, to pass without observation.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that at the conclusion of the Clause he should propose a proviso for the purpose of remedying those inconveniences which were complained of last night.
§ There being three different amendments given notice of with respect to this clause, some conversation took place upon the order of proceeding; and it was finally settled, that Colonel Sibthorp should have the precedence.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
stated, that it was his intention to move the insertion of the following words in the Clause;—"That allbonâ fide tenants and occupiers of land (not being freeholders, copyholders, or leaseholders) who shall hold any number of acres situate within the several counties or divisions of counties, for which any election for Knights of the Shire to Parliament should be at any time hereafter made, the annual rental whereof shall not be under or less than 501. per annum, free from and clear of all charges and deductions whatsoever, such tenants and occupiers as aforesaid shall be and are hereafter entitled to vote at any such elections for Knights of the Shire for any such county, or division of counties, in which lands are situated; providing they each and severally so claiming to vote have,bonâ fide, been in actual possession of such lands as aforesaid for a period of not less than one entire year preceding any registration as may be hereafter directed and required to be made, touching the right of voting at elections." He said that he did not anticipate carrying his proposition to a successful issue; but yet he was determined to proceed through all the difficulties of his situation, and, if necessary, to take the sense of the House, by division, on the question. One point which he would particularly press on their attention was, the justice which would thereby be done to this highly respectable class of persons; and another point, perhaps not less worthy of consideration, was, the policy of granting this boon to a class at once so respectable and numerous. On looking through the Bill he found, that the 271 class of tenants whose cause he was advocating, was the only one which was excluded from all franchise under the provisions of the Bill; the copyholders, leaseholders, and tenants at will, to the extent of 10l. a year, all three of whom were entire novelties in the system, possessed votes, whilst this truly respectable and influential class of tenants—a class of people whose loyalty, whose integrity, and the amount of whose contributions to the State, were at least equal to some of those classes who were enfranchised, were to be stigmatized, degraded, forgotten, and set aside by the Bill, as not worthy of possessing the privilege of franchise. He had resided constantly in a large agricultural district, and had mixed very much amongst the class of people to whom he referred, and he believed firmly, that of all others, they were the most independent—the last who were to be bought or sold by any set of Ministers. He found, that there were no less than 378,786 renters of 10l., to whom the noble Lord proposed to give the right of voting. Now he would ask how such a system as this could be reconciled with any principle of equal distribution, so far as property was concerned? He would now tell the Committee, that he felt himself bound to persevere with his Motion, in order to create a counterpoise against such a system. The hon. Member concluded by moving his amendment.
§ Mr. Western
rose, and said, that in his opinion the Committee had not arrived at that part of the clause in which the hon. Member's amendment should be introduced.
said, that the hon. member for Lincoln had fallen into a mistake in proposing his amendment at that period. The hon. Member did riot object to the clause.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
admitted, that he had committed an error, partly owing to the suggestion of the noble Lord (Althorp), and partly on account of the anxiety which he felt on the subject to which his amendment referred. He would withdraw his amendment for the present.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
was of opinion, that the 272 hon. and gallant Member had selected the proper period for proposing his amendment, and hoped that he would persevere in it.
said, the hon. member for Lincoln had stated himself that he had no objection to the Clause.
said, the Committee would, if they pleased, of course, deal lightly with a question which affected all the farmers in England.
§ Lord Althorp
said, there could be no desire to prevent the hon. and gallant Member from proposing his amendment at the proper time. He regretted there had been any misunderstanding in this respect. As he now understood, that the gallant Member wished to admit leaseholders of sixty years first, and others for shorter terms after, this was not the proper time to propose his amendment.
The question is, that the blank in the Clause be filled up with the words "sixty years," on which the hon. and gallant Officer proposed the Clause in question.
said, these were the very words to which he objected. He wished to give every occupier of a farm of 50l. annual value, the right of voting. He therefore proposed to leave out the words, "demised for any term not less than sixty years."
That cannot now be done, as the Committee have already decided to retain all the words down to "sixty years" in the Clause.
The Marquis of Chandos
said, that he had the some object in view as the hon. and gallant member for Lincoln—namely, to have justice done to the agricultural interest. The noble Lord had admitted copyholders and leaseholders to vote under this Bill, and why not admit respectable farmers who had no leases? He thought that a farmer paying a rental of 50l. per annum ought at least to be put on an equality with a 10l. householder, and that he would prove to be as good and honest a voter. It was desirable, that the interests of the British farmer should not be lost sight of when a new Constitution was about to be framed. Unless the justice he proposed should be done to them, they would be a marked class. In the county which he had the honour of representing, there were few leases, and the general admission of 10l. householders, therefore, would cause a great preponderance in fa- 273 vour of that class of voters. To obviate that, farmers in general should also be entitled to votes, and no man could believe that the farmer who paid a yearly rent of 50l., although he had no lease, was not quite as respectable, as good, as sound, and as honest a voter as the 10l. householder, who held his tenement on the same terms. If the landed interest was of any value to the country, if any commiseration was due to the farmers for their patient and loyal sufferings of late years, they ought not in point of Representation to be worse treated than the householders in towns; on these grounds he should move that there be inserted in the clause, in page five, line two, the following words: "Or any person occupying on his own account, land at a rent net less than 50l. by the year, although without any specific tenure of his land, shall be entitled to vote at elections for Knights of the Shire, wherein the said land is situate, provided always that no such occupant shall be entitled to vote until he shall have been one year inbonâ fide possession of the land."
said, that the Committee had not yet arrived at the part of the clause where the noble Marquis's amendment should be introduced. The only question before the Committee was, that the blank in the clause be filled up with the words "sixty years."
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
said, that the confusion in the Committee was so great as to render it impossible to understand what was going on.
§ [A conversation arose as to the course of proceeding, and at last it was arranged that Lord Milton should move his amendment, which related to some words at the first part of the paragraph.]
then rose to move the omission of that part of the clause which extended the right of voting in counties to leaseholders at rack-rent. His objection to that class of voters was, that their's was a derivative right, and in general he thought such rights were considered, under the Constitution, to grant no political privileges. It appeared to him, as had been stated on a former occasion by the hon. and learned member for Cockermouth, that a lease for seven years, whereon there was a reserved rent of 50l., was not likely to produce that wealth which would enable the possessor to act in a manner independent of the landlord. He had always understood the opinion of the wisest and 274 most experienced men to be, that the county constituency, as it stood, was the most perfect in the kingdom, and he had heard, therefore, with great astonishment of those attemps to engraft upon it new rights of election, for he feared the result would be, that the derivative right would be prostituted solely for electioneering purposes. The landed aristocracy were, in general, very anxious to make their election influence paramount to that of the independent freeholders, and he was sure that greater facilities enabling them to do this could not be devised than by adopting the amendments proposed by the noble Marquis. He did not mean to assert, that the counties would be under the nomination of individuals; that would be prevented by their extent; but the great evil to be apprehended was, that a knot of persons, of great landed possessions, would combine for the purpose of securing the Representation, and by the power which the adoption of these proposed amendments would give them, would fix the whole Representation in the hands of an oligarchy. He was convinced the noble Marquis was aware of this effect when he brought forward his proposition. As allusion had been made to the results of the late election, he would freely allow, that occasions would surely arise, when the feelings or passions of the tenantry were strongly excited, that would set at defiance all the usual ties between them and their landlords; but on ordinary occasions these ties would have their full force, and the landlord would always be on the watch to extend them; instead, therefore, of the avowed object of the noble Marquis, that of making the farmers more independent, being obtained by his Motion, that, if carried would have quite the contrary effect; it would make the farmers more dependent. The electioneering and the agricultural interest would not agree well together, and this amendment would hold out great inducements for the landed gentry to divide their estates in order to create votes. Those who knew any thing of Ireland must be aware of the manner in which the system recognized by this clause had worked in that country. Circumstances might justify its introduction there; but there was no necessity for its adoption here, where there was a very large constituency of freeholders. If the clause were agreed to, it would be adding twenty-five or thirty per cent to a constituency already 275 very numerous. The noble Lord concluded by moving the omission of the following words from the clause, "Or who shall hold as lessee or assignee, any lands or tenements demised for any term not less than sixty years (whether determinable as a life or lives, or not) of the yearly value of not less than 10l. above reprises, or demised 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 shall have been paid, shall have a right to vote in the election of a Knight or Knights of the Shire."
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, that every one of the objections of the noble Lord, both on this and the preceding night, was founded on the necessity of respecting derivative rights, which rights, it should be observed, were those which individuals connected with boroughs and towns that would be affected by this Bill complained of as being invaded by the measure, Now, he could not conceive how the noble Lord, who was willing to give the right of voting to persons holding houses from year to year, could refuse it to the substantial renter of land. Was it to be supposed, that the tenant from year to year, nay, from week to week, paying 3s. 6d. a week, could not be corrupted, while the reverse would be the case with the extensive fanner? The idea seemed to him to be preposterous, when the situation of the two classes of individuals were considered. A farmer must have a capital, either himself or borrowed, which was represented by the stock on his farm, of at least 10l. for every acre he held, and before he could be ousted by his landlord, an appraisement must be made of his effects, and he must receive six month's notice, at a particular period of the year; while the 10l. householder might have no effects, or any visible means of livelihood. Would any man in his senses place such persons in competition? Moreover, where a sort of weekly tenancy existed, there would also be a covenant for a weekly notice to quit. Why, then, could it be asserted, that the 10l. householders, if they were subject to this influence, deserved to exercise the elective franchise more than the leaseholders and copyholders? But what did all those alterations come to? The late elections proved, that the English Constitution, as it now stood, without any of these new-fangled changes, enabled the 276 people to return whomsoever they pleased. He thought, that if they excluded the class of persons which the noble Marquis proposed to include, they would be doing a gross act of injustice; and much more would they be unjust if they should adopt the noble Lord's amendment, which would not only exclude them, but leaseholders. It certainly was, to him, astonishing how the noble Lord could give a vote to a 10l. householder, and withhold it from a farmer renting land at 50l. a year. The farmer had such a beneficial interest in his holding that there was little probability of his allowing any electioneering influence to predominate over that, while the weekly tenant of a house had no interest in it whatever, and no proof to offer, that he was deserving of the smallest confidence. He should most certainly give his vote for the amendment of the noble Marquis, and as a step towards that, he should vote against the amendment of the noble Lord. In agreeing to the clause, nothing more was done than placing a certain class of the landed interest on a footing with the householder, and it had his hearty concurrence.
§ Lord Althorp
objected to the amendment of his noble friend, as well as to the proposition which the noble Marquis opposite had given notice of his intention to introduce. With respect to the latter, he would, when the proper time arrived, state his reasons for dissenting from it. He could not conclude, from any thing which had fallen from his noble friend, that individuals holding leases for a term of years, at 50l. per annum; or of sixty years, at 10l. per annum, were not likely to be independent enough, according to existing circumstances, for all the purposes of that Bill. It might be theoretically true, that none but the owners of the soil had anciently the right to exercise the elective franchise, but certainly that principle could not now be acted on.
did not approve of the amendment of his noble friend (Lord Milton). He would suppose the case of a respectable farmer, renting land to the extent of 1,000l. a-year, which had been occupied by his family for perhaps two; centuries, without a lease; and there were; many such; he had one in his eye at that moment—a most respectable man. How would such an individual feel, if he were not allowed the right of voting, when the 277 cottagers around him, and employed by himself, holding their tenements for lives, had that privilege granted to them? The framers of this Bill, he must say, had devised the most complicated system of voting that the human mind could imagine. Votes were to be given on account of leasehold tenure, and on account of copyhold tenure. The consequence was, that it would give employment to the lawyers throughout the country, to settle disputed rights and claims. This had been called a landlord's bill, but he believed that it would turn out to be an attorney's bill. The best course would be, to sweep the whole of the rubbish away, and to adopt some clear and simple principle of qualification. In his opinion, no set of men were more fit to enjoy the elective franchise than the respectable farmers. He would, therefore, cordially support the amendment of the noble Marquis, and oppose that of the noble Lord.
explained, with reference to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman, that leaseholders and tenants at will were new creations by the Bill, whereas freeholders were of old entitled to the elective franchise. He had reason to believe farmers in general would not consider the franchise being extended to them as a boon, because, from their dependent situation, they would be compelled to vote at their landlord's bidding. He had known small farmers divest themselves of their freeholds previous to an election, to prevent their being compelled to vote contrary to their conscience.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he quite concurred in the observations of the hon. member for Thetford respecting the case of the large farmer. He knew something of such cases, and could testify to the truth of the description drawn. The hon. Gentleman had also observed, that this would be an attorney's bill. Now, who, in the case of county elections, would be the attorney? Why, as it was at present, the Steward of the hon. Member, or of any other man who had extensive influence in any given county. The Steward was always sent round to direct the voters to whom they should give their suffrage; and he believed there were no men in the country more subject to this kind of influence than the poor 40s. freeholders. As to the motion before the House, he would vote for the extension of the franchise to the farmers; 278 for his principle was, that every man should have a vote; and, of course, he would not exclude that respectable and useful body; but if he were asked, why he gave a vote that would throw the influence into the hands of the landlord, he would answer, that it was because he was sure that they would never have another election after this without being obliged to resort to the ballot.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The question, that the blank in clause 16, page 4, last line, be filled up with the words "sixty years"—agreed to.
§ The next question, that the blank in the same clause "of the yearly value of not less than——above reprizes," be filled up with the words "ten pounds"—was agreed to.
§ The next question was, that these words stand part of the clause—"or demised for any term not less than seven years (whether determinable on a life or lives, or not), whereon a yearly rent of not less than 50l. shall have been reserved, or for which a fine or premium of not less than—pounds shall have been paid, shall have a right to vote in the election of a Knight or Knights of the Shire to serve in any future Parliament, or for the part, riding or division, of the county, as hereinbefore mentioned, in which such lands or tenements shall be respectively situate."
The Marquis of Chandos
said, that he was glad they had now come to that part of the clause in which he might move his amendment without any irregularity. So much had been already said upon the subject, that he would not then detain the Committee by any further remarks in its support. He was glad, that as they extended the franchise to the 10l. householder, they had also given it to the 10l. leaseholder; but he thought they ought also to give it to the farmer occupying, though without a lease, land for which he paid 50l. a year; he considered the farmers who held their lands without leases to be as independent a class of men as any that could be found in counties. He did not think the noble Lord (Lord Milton), the member for Northamptonshire, was right in doubting the independence of the farmers; for he thought, that in other places they would be found as independent as they were known to be in Buckinghamshire. He would now, without further observation, move his amendment, and leave it altogether in the hands of 279 the Committee. The noble Marquis then moved, that all the words in the above-mentioned part of the clause, from the word "or" to the word "paid," be omitted, and the following be substituted,—"any person occupying or farming on his own account, land at a rent not less than 50l. by the year, although without any specific tenure of his land, and not being less than one year in thebonâ fide occupation of such land."
§ Mr. Western
expressed his decided approbation of the amendment of the noble Lord; and if the amendment of the gallant Colonel (Sibthorp), which went to the same effect, had precedence of that of the noble Lord, he would give it the same support. In giving his approbation to this amendment, he was not supporting any thing hostile to the principle of the Bill. On the contrary, he thought he was acting in accordance with, and in furtherance of, that principle, in advocating the proposition now before the Committee, and he owned, that he was at a loss to understand the reason on which his noble friend (Lord Milton) near him should doubt, that the farmers and occupiers of land were not as likely to be as independent as any other class to whom the franchise was extended. His own opinion, and it was founded on an extensive acquaintance with that class of men, was, that a more intelligent or more independent body of men did not exist in society. He would not say, that the great body of the tenantry of the country had always been of that description, but the times were now changed; the middle classes of society were more enlightened; their feelings and habits were in every respect improved. It was said, that the tendency of such a proposition as that of the noble Marquis would be, to throw the Representation of the counties into the hands of the oligarchy; but let it be recollected, that the lands of this country were not now in the hands of a few grandees. The landed proprietors now consisted of men of all classes; and one effect was, that the occupiers of land were, in general, a more intelligent, more independent, more numerous, and more important class than formerly. Indeed, he was acquainted with no class of men to whom the elective franchise could, with more propriety, be intrusted, than the occupiers of the soil. The question was, whether the exercise of the elective franchise would make them less independent 280 than they now were. In his opinion it would not diminish their independence, and he begged to deny, that they were at all that dependent body which some hon. Members seemed to think. In the present state of the country, a good tenant was as necessary to the landlord as the landlord was to him. There was a reciprocity of feeling between them, and every man possessed of land must feel the value of an honest and respectable tenant. He would repeat, that a more intelligent class of men—men more devotedly loyal and attached to the Constitution—did not exist. They understood the interests of the country well, and were sincerely attached to its Constitution. He would not detain the Committee further, or go into an inquiry as to the comparative importance of the class of men included in the noble Lord's amendment, and the 40s. freeholders. All he would say was, that many farmers in the country held large tracts of land without any lease; and if the franchise were limited to the leaseholder of seven years, it would exclude, not only men who held lands at a rent of 50l., but, in many instances, of 500l. a year. On these grounds he would give his cordial support to the amendment of the noble Lord.
§ Lord Althorp
would briefly state the grounds on which he should object to the noble Lord's Amendment. The arguments on which it was founded were these—first, that the landed interest required that influence which the Amendment implied; and next, that it would be hard on the occupiers of land that you should give the franchise to the 10l. householder, and exclude it from that class of men who paid 50l. rent for land. This, he believed, was a fair statement of the argument. The noble Lord, however, in the wording of his Amendment, had, he believed, gone to an extent which he himself did not intend; for, as the clause would stand, if the Amendment were adopted, all leaseholders would be excluded who were not farmers or occupiers of land; and he presumed the noble Lord did not intend to exclude leaseholders of other property. Having said thus much as to the wording of the Amendment, he would state his objections to its substance. No man was better aware than he was of the respectability of the farmers. Few men knew more about them, or had a higher opinion of their intelligence and integrity. But 281 the question was, were they in such a situation as would ensure the same independence as to their votes as might be expected from freeholders? The Committee were not now called upon to decide upon their respectability, but whether they were in that situation which would make them independent county electors. The argument was, that you gave the 10l. householder in the borough a right to vote, and you ought, on the same principle, to give to farmers paying a certain rent a right to vote for the county; but then it should be recollected, that there was always a great difference between the right of voting in boroughs and counties. There was also this distinction, that it was in the power of the landlord of the farmer to do his tenant a greater injury than the landlord of the householder could do to his. The circumstances in which they were placed with respect to their landlords were wholly different. It was urged on the part of the occupier of land, that he was a man of some capital, that it often happened that the occupier of land paying a rent of 50l. a-year, had embarked a capital of 500l. or 600l. on that land, though without any lease, and only a tenant at will. That might be, and he had no doubt it was so in a great many instances, but see how this operated as between him and his landlord. If a man thus circumstanced should vote contrary to the wish of his landlord, and he was turned out for it, he would lose all the capital he had embarked in the land. He would not, of course, lose his stock or his crops, but he would lose all that he had expended in its improvement; and all who were acquainted with the nature of land, and the employment of capital upon it, must be aware of the inconvenience and loss which a tenant must be put to if obliged to quit at a short notice, when he had calculated upon a longer possession. Now all these circumstances were so many motives which must make such a tenant dependent on the will of his landlord, and which must, in the same degree, detract from his independence as an elector. It was said, that the leaseholder of seven years must be nearly in the same situation, for, towards the expiration of his term, he must be nearly as much in the power of his landlord as the tenant at will. He did not think so. The leaseholder of seven years so employed his capital as to get out of the land the value of the capital 282 he had embarked in it, within the time for which his lease was given, and for this time he was independent of the landlord. He would admit, at the same time, that seven years was the lowest term under which the holder of land could be looked to as independent of his landlord; but if that were so, then the independence of the tenant-at-will could not be much counted on. Look, however, to the householder who carried on business in a shop in a town. It would, no doubt, be an inconvenience to such a man to be removed from a place where he had carried on his business; but in removing, he could carry all, or nearly all, his business with him, and could remove the whole of his stock; and in that respect he was much more independent of his landlord than the farmer. There was another distinction between the two classes, which was, that the country votes represented property, and those in towns represented interests. Now if the franchise should not be given to farmers to the extent proposed by the noble Lord, it could not be said that they were not placed in a better situation than they were before, as compared with the scot and lot voters in towns; for while the franchise was taken from many of the latter class who hitherto held it, it was given to a large body of the former, by whom it had heretofore never been enjoyed. He thought, that the tenantry, such as were proposed to be included in the extension of the franchise by this Bill, were fully entitled to have a vote for the county; but he could not concur with those who thought that the same right ought to be extended to tenants-at-will. There was another ground on which he objected to this proposition, which probably would have less weight with others than it had with him. It was this—that if you put the tenants-at-will in a situation where they might vote against their landlords, you would go one step towards the introduction of the Vote by Ballot, and he owned that he was surprised that his hon. friend, the member for Essex, whom he knew to have so strong an objection to that system, should support a proposition which led so directly to it. On these grounds he felt it his duty to oppose the proposition of the noble Lord, though he owned he did so with regret. He knew, that his own constituents were very anxious for the introduction of such a clause, but with every good feeling towards them, he must 283 say, that in wishing for it they did not understand their own interests. He felt it his duty to oppose this wish of many of his constituents, but such was the respect and affection he felt for the fanners, that he did oppose it with much personal regret.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
expressed the gratitude he felt to the hon. member for Essex, for the cordial manner in which he had expressed his disposition to vote for his proposition if it had had precedence. He also declared the strong feeling of respect which he entertained for the noble Marquis (the Marquis of Chandos), in whose ranks he had fought on more than one occasion; but while he expressed this feeling, he could not but regret the want of courtesy shown towards him by the noble Marquis, in having taken out of his hands a proposition of which he had given notice so long back as last. Session, and which he brought forward in nearly the same words as that of the noble Marquis's. His notice was entered on June 24th, while the noble Marquis did not announce his intention till July 5th. The noble Marquis had taken from him, almost by force, that which he must have known was his adopted child. Such was the poignancy of his feelings in having been anticipated by the noble Marquis in a Motion which he had long cherished as his own, that he was about to quit the House, but a sense of what he owed to his conscience, to the merits of that class to which the Amendment had reference, and to the interests of the country, that he could not leave those ranks in which he had been engaged, had induced him to wait and give his cordial support to the Motion.
Sir Charles Burrell
supported the Amendment. He could by no means agree with the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), that farmers, being tenants-at-will, were so dependent upon their landlords as to be obliged to vote at their bidding, and that the 10l. householder was exempt from such influence. The fact was the reverse, for any Gentleman who had ever canvassed a borough must be aware, that shopkeepers were so totally dependent on their landlords as to be compelled to vote by their directions, and contrary to their own inclinations. He was satisfied, that the franchise could not be trusted to a more independent body than the Yeomen whom that Amendment would include.
The Marquis of Chandos
disclaimed any intention of anticipating the gallant Officer's (Colonel Sibthorp's) motion. He was aware that that Motion stood on the Orders; but his own being in some respects different, he took the first opportunity that presented itself of bringing it forward.
thought, that the 50l. landed tenant had quite as good a right to the elective franchise as the 10l. householder. He was sure that the former was at least as honest, as intelligent, and as independent as the latter. The Bill was said to be brought forward to give Representation to such parts of the manufacturing and commercial interests as had hitherto not been sufficiently represented; but the landed interest required to be equally well represented. It was his opinion, that by giving farmers a vote, instead of making them more dependent on their landlords, it would raise their characters in society, and it would be the very means of increasing their respectability. It had been said, no independence could be found except that of the freeholder. It was most extraordinary doctrine, that a man holding 40s. a-year freehold property should be more intelligent, and better calculated to have a vote, than the smallest farmer to whom it was proposed to extend the privilege, who must, have a capital of at least 200l. or 300l. There was another consideration which applied particularly at present, and had not been taken into account. From the present state of agriculture, landlords were very much troubled to obtain respectable tenants, and instead of the tenants being dependent, the fact was quite the reverse, for the landlord found it necessary to court the tenant, and comply with his wishes, or the land would be thrown upon his own hands. For these causes he should heartily concur in the Amendment.
§ Mr. Benett
said, the objections of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, applied almost, wholly to the influence which it was supposed that the landlord might exercise over his tenant. In the present state, however, of the relation between landlord and tenant, as had been also observed by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, the landlord was quite as much dependent upon the tenant, as the, tenant upon the landlord. Another objection had indeed been made by the noble Lord. He had stilted, that estates would be divided 285 for the purpose of manufacturing votes, but a little consideration would have shewn him, that the expense attending such a project would make it very difficult of execution. If farms were to be divided, new barns and farm buildings must be erected, and such a division would, after all, procure but a small addition to the constituency. The noble Lord had drawn a parallel between the householder and the renter of a farm, and had said, that if the householder were turned out of his tenancy, he would only have to take away his shop goods with him to another house, whereas the farmer would entirely lose the capital he had expended upon the farm. Let him, however, ask the noble Lord, if such a man could take away the custom of his shop with him, as well as his goods? He believed the answer must be no, and the injury to such a man would chiefly consist in losing the custom he had established. From these facts, it appeared to him, that a wealthy man would be able to command comparatively many more votes in a town, than with a county constituency. He knew, that there was among the farmers a general feeling in favour of Reform, and he knew also that they were almost all in favour of this amendment.
§ Mr. Hodges
had, a few nights ago, given notice, that he should support this amendment, and he heartily concurred in all the observations that had been made in its favour. He understood the object of the clause to be, the increase of the constituency of counties, which increase had become the more necessary, in consequence of the creation of large boroughs in the counties. He approved of this object, and he was therefore very anxious for the success of the amendment, for he thought it carried the principle of the Bill into more effectual operation than the clause did as originally framed. He saw nothing in the objection founded upon the influence which the landlord might exercise over the tenant, and he considered it an act of justice to confer the elective franchise upon the renting tenancy of counties, who bore so large a proportion of the county and poor rates.
An Hon. Member
said, that from the manner in which the question had been put by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it became a question, not whether the 50l. yearly tenant was a fit person to receive the elective franchise, but whether the landlords of England 286 were a set of unjust, tyrannical, and oppressive men. If this question were determined in the affirmative, then it would behove every man to set himself about procuring Vote by Ballot as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Adeane
felt himself compelled to support the Amendment. This Bill gave the right of voting in boroughs to all persons who occupied a house for which they paid 4s. a week, and no particular species of holding was required further than that he should have occupied the house for a year. Now, was it meant to be contended, that the man who held a farm for which he paid 50l. a year, was not as respectable as the occupant of such a house? Then, as to the influence which might be exercised upon each of these classes of persons, it would be ten times more strong over the householder than over the farmer. The householder might be turned out of his tenancy at a week's notice. On the eve of an election, if such a person refused to promise his vote to his landlord, the latter might turn him out of his house, and thus prevent him from having any vote at all. The yearly renter of a farm, however, could not be turned out under any circumstances, without, at least, six months notice; and as 50l. a year was the minimum, it must be evident to any man conversant with these different classes, that the agriculturist was decidedly the most superior man in the scale of society. He thought the amendment was in favour of the principle of the Bill, and that it was calculated also to diminish the objections to the division of counties.
§ Mr. Gisborne
said, that the supporters and opponents of the Amendment agreed as to the occupation of the land and the amount of rent; the difference between them was only as to the time of holding it. When he considered, that the 10l. householder was liable to be removed at a shorter notice than the agricultural occupier, he felt convinced, that the latter was quite as well qualified as the former to hold the franchise, he should therefore support the Amendment, as furthering the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Sanford
observed, that Ministers must see, by the opinions expressed by some of the most stanch supporters of the Bill, that the Amendment was considered by its friends to be in accordance with the principle of the Bill. He was of that opinion, and should vote for the Amendment.
§ Mr. Tyrrell
intended to withdraw the amendment of which he had given notice on a former occasion, and vote for this.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
was anxious to state, in one word, the reason of the vote he was about to give. He would not consent to give the power of withholding or conferring the franchise to the landlord, which would be the case if the right of voting depended on his granting or refusing a seven years' lease, and therefore he would vote for the amendment of the noble Marquis.
§ Mr. Alderman Venables
was very sorry to vote against Ministers; but as he considered that this Amendment would be a very proper extension of the elective franchise, he must give it his support.
§ The Committee divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause. Ayes, 148; Noes, 232—Majority, 84.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he must propose that the clause should be withdrawn, in order that the Amendment might be embodied in a technical form.
§ The House resumed; the Committee to sit again the next day.