said, the subject for the consideration of the Committee was the 18th clause:—"And be it enacted, that notwithstanding any thing herein before contained, no person shall be entitled to vote at the election of a knight of the 338 shire to serve in any future Parliament in respect of any house, warehouse, or counting-house, or of any land occupied together with a house, warehouse, or counting-house, by reason of the occupation of which respectively he, or any other person, shall be entitled to vote in the election of a Member or Members to serve in Parliament for any city or town, being a county of itself, or for any other city or borough."
§ Lord Althorp
now proposed to amend this clause, so as to make it assume the following shape:—"And be it enacted, that notwithstanding any thing hereinbefore contained, no person shall be entitled to vote in the election of a knight or knights of the shire to serve in any future Parliament, in respect of his estate or interest as a freeholder in any house, warehouse, or counting-house, occupied by him, or in any land occupied by him together with any house, warehouse, or counting-house, if by reason of the occupation thereof he might acquire a right to vote in the election of a Member or Members for any city or borough, whether he shall or shall not have actually acquired the right to vote for such city or borough in respect thereof; and that no person shall be entitled to vote in the election of a knight or knights of the shire to serve in any future Parliament, in respect of his estate or interest as a copyholder or customary tenant, or as such lessee or assignee as aforesaid, in any house, warehouse, or counting-house, or in any land occupied together with a house, warehouse, or counting-house, if, by reason of the occupation thereof, he or any other person might acquire a right to vote in the election of a Member or Members for any city or borough, whether he or any other person shall or shall not have actually acquired the right to vote for such city or borough in respect thereof."
Mr. Hughes Hughes
declared, that he was at a loss to understand why the original clause was to be altered in the way proposed by the noble Lord. He was the more surprised at the present alteration, because the noble Lord had informed him, in the presence of a large number of Members of the House, that the clause, as originally framed, should be allowed to stand. The wording of the clause as amended, substituting the words "might acquire a right to vote" for "shall be entitled to vote," appeared quite mysterious, and he called upon the noble Lord to give some explanation on the subject.
§ Lord Althorp,
in explaining the object of the alteration, said, that, as the clause originally stood, a person who held a freehold of 10l. a-year in a town, would acquire a right of voting there by the payment of his rates and taxes, but if he neglected doing so, he would be entitled to a vote for the county. Inconsistent as it was, such would have been the effect of the clause, and the object of the alteration was, that the non-payment of rates and taxes in a town, should not entitle a man to a vote for the county. Again, if a landlord let a freehold house at less than 10l. a-year, he would be entitled to a vote for the county, but if the amount was 10l. or more, he would be deprived of that vote. The Bill had been altered so as not in any case to deprive a freeholder of a vote for the county, except where he had acquired, for the same property, a vote for a borough. It should be borne in mind, that since the clause was first introduced, other classes of voters for the county had been created by the Bill; viz., copyholders, customary tenants, leaseholders, and now tenants-at-will. The object of the clause, as had been already stated, was, that the county constituency should not be overpowered by the inhabitants of the towns, which they would have been if all those who had the right of voting for property in towns were admitted indiscriminately to vote for the counties. He acknowledged that he had made the statement as to the intention only to leave out the words mentioned by the hon. Member, but on subsequent consideration it had been found, that if they confined themselves to that alteration, the effect would be, that the town constituency would overwhelm that of the county.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, that his original objection to the clause, and the notice he founded upon it, arose from this consideration. A freehold in a borough of from 2l. in value up to 10l., would not confer upon the occupier the right of voting for the borough, while it conferred the right to vote for the county, even if the owner were non-resident; but if it amounted to 10l. or more, the owner lost his vote for the county, because his tenant enjoyed a vote for the town; and then this absurdity would arise, that while a freeholder might have property in a borough which would entitle him to sit in that House, nevertheless he would not be qualified to vote for a Representa- 340 tive for the county. The recent division of the counties added to the importance of this consideration. He most strenuously objected to the alteration in the clause, and could not help complaining of the breach of faith which had been committed, after a distinct announcement to 200 or 300 Members.
said, he should have been induced to support the alteration in the clause as proposed by the noble Lord, if it were not for a late decision of the House. He did not think, that Government had been guilty of any breach of faith in proposing to alter the clause; but after the vote of the Committee, conferring on tenants-at-will the right of voting for counties, he feared that it would give so enormous an accession to the agricultural interest, that the balance of power to which the noble Lord had so often alluded, would be altogether destroyed. If the object was, to exclude town voters from any influence in counties, they had better say so at once, fairly and openly. He should, therefore, feel great difficulty in agreeing to the alteration, and would vote against it.
Mr. Frankland Lewis
said, that he felt the strongest possible objection to this clause, as proposed to be amended by the noble Lord. What would be the consequence—what would be the effect of this clause, in its present amended shape? He would particularly allude to the borough of Wenlock, which contained seventeen rural parishes, being, in fact, an extensive district, inhabited by many persons entitled to vote for the county, and what would be the consequence here? Why, that a man who possessed 400l. or 500l. a-year in land in this rural borough, in addition to the 101. house which gave him a vote for the borough in question, would be deprived of the vote for the county to which his landed property would justly entitle him. Why was that done? Was it just or fair to deprive an individual thus circumstanced of his vote for the county which he and his family might have held for generations? It should be understood, that all property above a 10l. house, would be a mere surplusage. The proposed alteration, therefore, in such instances, gave a right to vote for a trifling qualification in a borough, and at the same time deprived the freeholder of his more important vote for the county: could the two votes be put in comparison? One was for 341 the unimportant borough of Wenlock, the other for the county of Salop. It would be the same in other places. The measure introduced a number of changes, which, as in this instance, were totally uncalled for, and which would appear to have been introduced through the mere love of change. Why, he would ask, was the surplusage of property which a man might possess over and above the 10l. house which gave him a vote in a borough, included in the value which qualified him for the possession of such vote? It was most unjust to take from the owners of lands in rural boroughs that influence which they should possess in the counties, when it was not at all necessary to add the surplus value of their property to the value of the 101. house which they possessed in the borough, in order to entitle them to the burgage vote. Why not make some limit to the amount of landed property which should be included with the house in a borough, as giving the owner of them a right to a vote there, and throw the remainder of the land which an individual might possess into the county, so as to give him his right to vote there also? Why not say, that the possession of a house rated at 10l. with five acres of land, should give the vote in the borough, and permit the remainder of the land which an individual so circumstanced might hold, to give him a vote for the county, in which it was situated provided that it amounted to the requisite value? A man with 1,000l. a-year or more in landed property, had no more influence than the occupier of a 10l. house, and had no greater right or privilege than the renter of one of his own cottages. He thought, therefore, that what he proposed, would be only dealing fairly with the owners of land in rural boroughs, and he would as an amendment upon this amendment, propose, that after the word "land" in the amendment of the noble Lord, the words "not exceeding five acres" should be inserted.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the proposition which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman was quite inadmissible. The hardship as to a man possessing 500 acres of land over and above the 10l. house which gave him a right to a vote in a borough might as well be applied to houses as to land; and it might be asked, why a man holding a house worth 500l. or 1,000l. should only have a vote for it as a 10l. house, and should not have any more 342 votes for it on account of its surplus value beyond the amount of 10l. The right hon. Gentleman might say, that it was hard to deprive the freeholders in Wenlock of their right to vote at the election for the county of Salop, but was it not quite as hard to deprive the freeholders of Manchester of their votes for the county of Lancaster? If such freeholders would be deprived, by the operation of this Bill, of these votes, other votes were given to them to which they had not hitherto possessed a right. It certainly was the opinion of his Majesty's Ministers, that freeholders in borough towns should not be allowed to come in and overpower the constituency of the counties in which such boroughs were situated. It was with that view principally, that this clause had been framed. It should be recollected, however, that there would be many towns still which would not be borough towns, and that the owners of property, and the residents in those towns, would have the right to vote, as they ought to have, for the counties, as well as the tenants-at-will and the farmers who would possess that right under the amendment of the noble Marquis opposite, which had been carried on a former evening. By that proposition, which the noble Marquis carried on a former evening, the landed interest gained considerably more than they would lose by allowing the freeholders in those towns which were not borough towns, the right of voting for the county. If, however, the amendment now proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite should be carried, and all the voters in all the great towns to which the right of Representation was extended should be let in on the countries, that would quite alter the balance the other way, and the landed interest would lose considerably too much.
stated, that the question now was, that the words "not exceeding five acres" be inserted after the word "land," in the original amendment.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
did not object to the principle of the Amendment, but was rather inclined to think, that it was inexpedient to deprive the owners of large agricultural property of votes for the county, because their property happened to be situated within the limits of a borough. In the cases of non-resident landed proprietors in such boroughs, he wished to know what would be their right of voting under the Bill? They could not vote in the borough 343 because they were not householders there, and their freeholds being situated within the limits of a borough would prevent them from obtaining the county franchise.
§ Lord Althorp
referred his right hon. friend to the clause which had already been read by the Chairman, and by which he would perceive, that a person with property in the situation described, would not be affected by its operation.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, copyholders in boroughs ought to be entitled to vote as well as freeholders; they were, to all intents and purposes, in the same situation, and were equally as well entitled to the same privilege as persons of their description who were to have votes for counties. The clause would create much confusion in county elections, as so many rights were undetermined. In Leominster, for instance, several hundred freeholders would be taken from the county constituency, and some of them were considerable freeholders. The great objection to the clause was, that it admitted small freeholders and excluded large copyholders. He could not conceive, that his noble friend had answered the objection he had made as to the nonresident freeholders, to whose disfranchisement he strongly objected. Let him, however, be understood, he had no objection to the principle of giving Representatives to large towns, but he thought the clause was not correctly worded, and would be liable to various interpretations.
§ Sir George Clerk
was of opinion, that the original clause, as it stood in the Bill, was far preferable to the amendment which had been proposed by the noble Lord. Why had they not adopted the principle which the Scotch Reform Bill adopted on this point? It was much more simple and equitable than the one upon which this clause was framed. By the Scotch Bill it was enacted, that the owners of any property whatever in a borough from which they derived a right to vote for that borough, should not derive a right from the same property to a vote for the county. It was stated in the Bill, that copyholders ought to enjoy the elective franchise, but yet they were not allowed it in cities. On one hand a vote was given to a person just above the condition of a pauper, and on the other, large landowners were prevented from voting. It was said to be immaterial where the elector voted, so that he had the privilege, therefore persons were taken from the 344 county constituency, and placed in boroughs, and the same was, in many instances, reversed, to the destruction of all old habits, interests, and connexions. The operation of the clause would be more extensive and objectionable than the framers of it imagined, and he should therefore support the Amendment.
said, that he entered fully and altogether into the objections which the hon. member for Oxford had started to this clause. It was a clause which appeared to him to proceed upon the falsest political view possible—namely, upon the separation instead of the political union and identification of the various classes of the community. It was founded on the principle of dividing the country into two divisions, opposed to each other, instead of considering it as one general community; and it proceeded upon the assumption, than which none could be more false, that the nation at large was composed of discordant, instead of being constituted of concordant, interests. How would it operate in Wiltshire for instance? That county would, in all probability, be divided in such a manner, that in the northern district there would be six boroughs, exclusive of Cricklade; all of which, with the exception of Devizes, would require a considerable portion of adjacent country to be added to them. There would, therefore, be seven districts cut off from this half of the county, and this would, of course, abstract a large part of the county constituency, who, as they would be taken from the vicinity of towns, might be considered as about the most respectable and intelligent of the whole body. In the pursuit of a great national object, the rights of some private individuals must be affected, but as little disregard of these as possible should be exhibited. If they looked at the case of Chippenham, which was to lose one of its Members, they would find, that the owner of a house there had hitherto held the right of voting for the Members of the borough and for the county; he had, in fact, four votes; but how would this clause operate upon him? He would be deprived of his two county votes and one of his borough votes. This was unjust, unnecessary, and undeserved. His objections to the clause were not to be overcome. Persons removed from the county to the town, and returned again at their convenience, shewing, in fact, that the interest of town and county 345 was the same. It was absurd to attempt to separate their interests, and he believed there was no fear that the town population could overpower the county constituency. He was sure that was not the case in the West Riding of Yorkshire, not with standing his hon. friend had asserted the contrary. He wished the various classes of persons to meet, and it would contribute very much to the advantage of both town and country, that they should have the means of acting, and be mixed up together at common county meetings. He was satisfied, on the principle that a Member of a great county, had more general, although less private influence, that most persons would prefer having votes for two county Members, to a vote for one borough Member. That, however, was only a minor objection to the clause, the main one being the separation of interests which it contemplated, and was calculated to cause. People, in general, were prone to consider themselves, and imagine, that different classes had different interests, but the House ought to set itself in opposition to such opinions, instead of encouraging them. "On these grounds," continued the noble Lord, "I feel the strongest possible objection to this clause. Wise as this measure that has been brought forward by his Majesty's Ministers is, in its principle, it does appear to me that it should have been in its details bottomed more upon ancient foundations. I admire the principle and the general character of this measure of Reform. I admire its boldness, too; but I must say, at the same time, that many of the principles of the details of it have not been based, as they ought to have been, upon the ancient institutions of the country. It should have been so founded, instead of trying to make a balance between the trading and commercial interests on the one side, and the landed interest on the other—instead of trying an experiment, the success of which is obviously impossible, for no ingenuity will be sufficient to render that balance so nice as not to excite dissatisfaction on the one side or the other. The noble Marquis who brought forward the amendment which was carried the other evening, said, he did so because the landed interest had not been sufficiently attended to in this Bill. Is it not possible that other interests, as well as the landed interest, may feel dissatisfied? I wish that every freeholder of the ancient county court 346 should continue to possess his right to vote for the county, and upon this ground that the ancient principle of the county Representation was, that real property should be the basis of it, and that personal property should be represented elsewhere. I do not think, that it is a very wise thing to teach the people that the institutions of the country are but as of yesterday. I do not think it is proper to tell the freeholder, to whom the right of voting has been handed down during the course of six centuries—I do not think it is just or proper to tell him, that he can be deprived of that right by an Act of Parliament. We are come, Sir, to that part of the Bill at which I must take my stand. I voted for the disfranchisement of all the boroughs. I voted for that disfranchisement con amore. But, Sir, I will not vote for the partial disfranchisement of any freeholder in England. I will not vote for the partial disfranchisement of any freeholder, whether that freeholder be in Leeds, in Chippenham, or in Truro; whether he reside in Yorkshire, in Cornwall, or in Wiltshire. I stand up for the rights of all those freeholders who are all interested in the preservation of those rights which they have, through a series of centuries, derived from the lesser barons, who, with those of a higher grade, in a former period, vindicated the liberties of this country, and their descendants possess an equal claim to those rights and privileges for which our forefathers in common contended. I shall therefore not vote for the disfranchisement of any bonâ fide freeholder in England. In conclusion, I beg to say, that I object to the clause now under consideration, because I look upon it as a clause of injustice. I oppose it because I look upon it as a clause destitute of political wisdom—as a clause which goes to separate, instead of to unite, the different classes of the community—which teaches the people of this country to believe, that their interests are discordant, instead of being concordant—which teaches the commercial and trading interests to look with jealousy on the landed interests, and teaches the landed interest, on the other hand, to regard with suspicion the growing wealth and prosperity of the trade and manufactures of the country."
said, that the question now before the Committee was simply the amendment of the hon. member for Radnorshire, that the words "not exceeding 347 five acres" should be inserted after the word "land."
Mr. Frankland Lewis
said, that no reasons had been stated to induce him to alter his opinion as to the necessity of introducing those words into the amended clause of the noble Lord. A mansion worth 100,000l., or an estate of 10,000l. a year, would only give a vote for a borough if it happened to be within the boundaries of such a borough, to the exclusion of all the tenantry, as well as the landlord, from votes for the county. These rural constituencies were called in to form an independent borough constituency, and received a great injury by being thus deprived of their county votes. When Cricklade, Aylesbury, and Bassetlaw, were thus purified, the electors created for that purpose from the surrounding districts were not deprived of their freehold rights for the county. Had that been proposed, the possessors of the land would not have accepted the offer on such terms. No country gentleman would consent to exchange his county franchise for that of the adjoining town, which he knew had always been in the market, and sold to the best bidder. He did not, however, see a sufficient number of his friends about him to warrant him in dividing the House on this question. He hoped, however, that the Committee would feel, that he had done his duty by bringing it under notice.
§ Amendment withdrawn. Question again put on the clause.
§ Mr. Pemberton
apologised to the Committee for presenting himself to their notice, which, however, he had been induced to do in the absence of hon. Members better qualified for, and usually taking a prominent part in, these discussions. As he understood the clause, it left the right of the freeholder thus:—If a man lived in a borough town, in his own freehold house, he was divested of his right of voting for the county by virtue of that freehold; but if he happened to live in an adjoining house, and not in his own freehold, then he had the right of voting, as the holder of the house he lived in, for the borough, and also in right of his freehold for the county. Was there ever so monstrous a proposition submitted to a body of reasoning men, as that the mere fact of a man living upon his own freehold should divest him of the rights which that freehold, if let to another, would bestow upon him?—Another anomaly in the clause 348 was, that while it gave the freeholder the right of voting for the county, if he did not reside upon his freehold, the same right was not to be enjoyed by the leaseholder and the copyholder. The noble Lord had told them, that the distinction was made because the right of the leaseholder and the copyholder was a right newly created by this Bill, whereas that of the freeholder was an ancient right, which ought to be held sacred. He confessed, he had heard that sentiment from the noble Lord with much pleasure, but with no less surprise. What! were they all at once become so tender of ancient and vested rights, in the very midst of a measure the very object of which was to destroy all the most ancient, and, as far as law and usage could make them so, the most sacred and inviolable rights in the country? Had they not been trampling upon corporate rights from one end of the kingdom to the other? Had they not disfranchised thousands and tens of thousands, who held their rights by the most sacred ties, as well of property as of a personal description?—Was not this measure founded upon the destruction and built upon the ruins of ancient and vested rights? He thought, then, that the noble Lord was something fastidious, if he would give him leave to say so, to boggle now at the shadow after he had destroyed the substance. It was like a man being startled at the ghost of the body which he had killed—like crossing the sea, and being stopped by a gutter.—The effect of the alteration proposed in this clause would be, to destroy that balance of the interests in the State upon which the Bill professed to be founded, and upon which it was accepted by the country. The proposed change would be a breach of the compact so made with the country, and would be so regarded. It was not with reference to the effect on the success of the motion of the Marquis of Chandos that the present Amendment had been introduced. He was not disposed to deny, that the feeling of the country was in favour of the Bill, but he contended, that the satisfaction, if well founded, could not continue when the leading principles of the Bill were entirely altered. How long would it be possible for the people to regard the Bill with confidence and satisfaction, when they found that the balance originally proposed was destroyed—when indeed the whole weight was taken out of one scale and 349 thrown into the other? He therefore opposed the amendment of the noble Lord. He opposed it because it would destroy the proportions of the original Bill. The Committee was told, that the great, if not the only, reason for passing the Bill was, that the people might be satisfied. That might be a good reason for adopting the measure; it might be a good reason for destroying the English Constitution; but if that Constitution was to be sacrificed to such a motive, at least let not the people be deceived, and let the Committee have the price of their consent. Let not the principles of the Bill be wholly departed from by Ministers.
§ Lord Althorp
had much difficulty in replying to the various objections that had been made to the present clause, as amended. First, there was his noble friend (Lord Milton), whose object was, that all persons who had freeholds, or the right of voting in towns, should have the right of voting for the county. Then, there was the member for Oxford, who wished that persons occupying their own freeholds should be excluded from voting; but that, when those freeholds were occupied by other persons, they should be admitted to vote. Then there was the hon. member for Bridport, who said, that he could have approved of the clause, as altered by Ministers, but that he must object to it, after the proposition of the noble Lord (Chandos). Next came the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, who wished to exclude every body in a borough; and then the hon. member for the county of Radnor (Mr. F. Lewis), who wished to have a limit of five acres. Now, he confessed he found some difficulty in the attempt to answer those several objections; for, when replying to one, he was in danger of saying something that might seem to support some of the others. With regard to the observations of his noble friend, they did appear to him to amount to arguments against the Bill. He could not understand the separation of interests which had been spoken of. There ought, in this country, to be no separation of interests, and he was sure that, in the view which his noble friend took of the question, he would not find many supporters in that House. If all interests were the same, why should there be separate rights of voting for towns and counties? He wished that the noble Lord, who talked of simplification, had heard the hon. mem- 350 ber for Thetford on the other side. Neither did he anticipate, that the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, founded upon an assumption that the Bill went to destroy vested rights, would have much weight; for he conceived it to be not possible for any man, or body of men, to frame a measure, effecting such important changes as the Reform Bill did, without affecting vested rights much more extensively. It had been, on the other side, contended, that all rights existing in counties should be extended to boroughs. That, he thought, would be scarcely consistent with the simplicity which ought to be preserved in all matters relating to boroughs. One of the most prominent causes of complaint against the borough system was, the great expense which the conveyance of non-resident voters entailed. Even in counties, were it practicable, it would be a great advantage, were the privileges of non-residents abolished. Upon the whole, he thought, in the course of the present discussion, there had been more arguments founded upon extreme cases than ought to enter into the consideration of an assembly legislating upon such a question.
Sir Robert Peel
could not help thinking, that, even on the noble Lord's own showing, it was advisable to confine the right of voting to towns in which the freeholds were situated. The noble Lord said, that there were two objections to it: first, that it would destroy the simplicity of voting, and next, that it would let in non-resident voters. In his opinion, it would greatly tend to simplicity, and he asserted that the argument as to non-residents did not fairly apply. In all cases of residence, the freehold gave the right of voting for the electoral district, and not for the county. How much more easy would it be to practise frauds under the system now introduced, than by confining to one person the right of scrutiny? With respect to the necessity of enforcing the principle of residence in towns, it was admitted, that the same objections which applied to nonresidents voting in towns, applied in some degree to non-residents voting for counties. If it was not right, and if it was expensive, in towns, to bring non-resident freeholders to the poll, it was equally so to bring them to the poll in counties. The advantage, therefore, derived in this view, from obliging the freeholders in towns to vote for the county was not all clear gain. 351 Again, the same objections which applied to non-resident freeholders, applied still more strongly to non-resident freemen. A non-resident freeman had often no connection whatever with the place for which he was entitled to vote. The right was usually acquired by birth, marriage, or servitude; and there was no necessity for his having any property within the town. It was also to be considered, that the non-resident freeman was often a person in a very low class of life, and, therefore, open to bribery, and very often not able to bring himself to the poll. In any one town, however, that could be named, there were very few small freeholders—he meant freeholders under 10l.—who were able to go to any expense in bringing themselves to the poll. The question, however, was, whether the small freeholder, within the limits of a town, had not a greater connection with the town Member, than with the Member for the county. The freehold generally partook closely of the nature of the town. Whatever promoted the interest of the town, usually promoted the interest of the town freeholder, and he had more ready means of access to, and communication with, the town Member than with the county Member, who resided, perhaps, at a distance of forty miles. Believing, therefore, that the simplicity of voting would be assisted by making the alteration, and that the evils of non-resident voters would not be increased by it, it had his support, and he hoped it would be adopted.
§ Mr. Cutlar Ferguson
had heard, with a good deal of astonishment, the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Milton), the member for Northamptonshire, in which he declared, that he would object to disfranchising any freeholder in England, not considering that when he voted for schedule A, he voted for the disfranchisement of many freeholders. He considered, that the right of voting was vested in every man who possessed it, for the public good, and therefore, he felt no scruple in dealing with the rights of freeholders, when the public good required it. Upon this principle, he had gone the whole length which the Bill required by its disfranchising clauses. There was another thing in which he could not concur with the noble Lord (Lord Milton). The noble Lord seemed to think, that there ought to be no distinction between borough and county Representation. That, however, was not 352 the ancient principle of the Constitution. The distinction was obviously drawn. This Bill, too, he contended, had been purposely framed, and properly framed, with a view to separate and render more distinct, the county and the town Representation. This was the principle of the Bill as it originally stood, and he (Mr. Ferguson) could not agree with the clause as it now stood, so far as it differed from the clause as originally framed. With this view, he took the liberty of strongly urging upon his Majesty's Ministers the expediency of their adhering to this clause as it stood originally. Though he seldom concurred with the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), he admitted the force of his argument in the support of the proposition that freeholders in towns ought to be admitted to vote for those towns, rather than for the county. It was most important that the county Representation should be preserved free and independent, although he admitted, it was hard to know how this could be done, especially after the decision of the House on the noble Marquis, the member for Buckinghamshire's, amendment. For his own part, he had voted with Ministers on the proposition for dividing counties, but as tenants-at-will were to be admitted to the franchise, if another opportunity arose, he should retract that vote, and support the proposition for preserving the counties undivided. His opinion as to the present clause was, that it was much better as it stood originally.
thought, that the scheme of the right hon. member for Tamworth, to allow 40s. freeholders to vote for the boroughs in which they resided, would not work well when reduced to practice, particularly in the new boroughs. It would tend to create a mass of constituency which would overload the borough Representation. It would also produce discontent; for the man who lived in a house worth 5l. or 6l. a-year, and had no vote in a borough, would feel something like jealousy, when he saw his neighbour voting out of a garden worth 40s. It was better, he thought, to confine the 40s. franchise to counties. The 40s. freeholders were of a class easily bribed. He did not mean to speak it invidiously; he thought it was so, and that there was not so much facility for bribery in county elections as in towns; and, as to non-residents it is evident that it would be impossible to enforce residence as a qualification for voting in counties.
was anxious that the clause should be so framed as that freeholders should have the option to vote for the borough or the county, as they thought fit.
thought, the noble Marquis's (Chandos) amendment had completely overturned the balance between town and county Representation, and had given the land-owners a preponderating influence. With a view to correct this, he should now propose an amendment, to give freeholders and copyholders in boroughs the double right to vote for the county and for the borough. He did not wish to include leaseholders in towns in this amendment, but merely freeholders and copyholders. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had, in fact, admitted, that the balance was destroyed by the carrying of the noble Marquis's amendment; but then the noble Lord conceived, that he had restored the balance, by extending the right of voting to tenants-at-will occupying 50l. houses. The number of tenants-at-will occupying 50l. houses, however, was not to be compared with the number of tenants-at-will occupying farms, and therefore the argument as to restoring the balance went for nothing. If the noble Lord had known, in the first instance, that tenants-at-will were to be admitted to vote in counties, the clause, in his opinion, would never have been proposed, to exclude freeholders in towns from voting for the towns, as well as for the county. The hon. Member concluded, by moving an Amendment as follows, viz.—to leave out all the words after the word "as," in the fourth line, down to the word "as," in the fourth line; and to add the words "that nothing herein contained shall prevent any freeholder voting in a county at large, from voting also in the borough or city in which his freehold is situated."
§ Colonel Sibthorp
wished to put one or two questions to the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). Before he proceeded to do so, however, he wished to express the satisfaction which he, no doubt in common with others at his side of the House, felt, at receiving into their ranks such a recruit as the noble Lord (Lord Milton), the other member for Northamptonshire. The noble Lord appeared to have been converted to a great extent on this question, and his abilities and exertions would be a great acquisition to its opponents. When he looked at the clause 354 then before the Committee, and at the noble Marquis's amendment, which he believed the House and the country went along with him in considering, not the noble Marquis's but his amendment—[a laugh] Hon. Members may laugh, said the hon. and gallant Member, but it is my amendment.Hos ego versiculos scripsi, tulit alter honores—
§ Colonel Sibthorp;
"Well, scripsi or feci, I don't know which, though I wrote it down. But scripsi or feci, I did both, and I take credit for both; and to the noble Marquis (pointing to the Marquis of Chandos) I apply the words 'tulit alter honores." With respect to tenants-at-will, he would select an instance from Lincoln which city was a county corporate. He knew a farmer in that place, a worthy and excellent man. This farmer held, as tenant-at-will, a house of above 10l. value, under the Corporation in the city, and also as tenant-at-will under the same Corporation in the county, but not in that division (Lindsay) in which the city of Lincoln was to be included. What he wished to know was, whether this individual, who was his constituent, would be entitled to a double vote, or whether he would be excluded from voting for the city of Lincoln? He also wished to ask, if freeholders in towns were to vote for counties, why copyholders and leaseholders in towns should not be admitted to exercise the same privilege?
§ Lord Althorp
said, his attention had been called away for a moment, and he had only heard one of the hon. Member's questions—that respecting a person occupying a house above 10l. in a corporate county, and lands, as tenant-at-will, in the county at large. The only reply he could give to this question was, that he saw no reason why persons residing in counties of cities should be placed in a situation different from those who resided in boroughs. Under this Bill they would be precisely in the same situation.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, it appeared by the answer given by the noble Lord, that freeholders in counties corporate were to vote for the counties, but the cities so situated as counties of cities, were to be part and parcel of the counties in the exercise of voting: as to freeholders, they were not to participate in the same enjoyment as others in counties, such as copyholders, and leaseholders, or-tenants-at 355 will at 50l. rent; this he pronounced unjust and partial. Why annex them to counties, unless you gave them the same full right of voting in all the branches; or rather, why deprive them of the full exercise of the right of voting?
§ Lord Althorp
could see nothing inconsistent between the two propositions, as the constituencies of counties corporate were assimilated in every respect to those of boroughs.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
thought he only spoke the sense of his constituents, when he said, that counties of cities were most unjustly dealt with in it. As to the Bill itself, he believed now, as he had always done, that it must go—to the Devil.
§ Mr. Praed
said, that, as the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) felt himself impeded and embarrassed, by not knowing which of the arguments urged by his opponents he should first reply to, those who opposed this Bill found the same difficulty in knowing which of the objectionable parts they should first attack. He agreed with those who thought it best to exclude altogether the freeholders in towns from any share in the county Re-presentation, and he would exclude from towns those who voted for counties. That this was the principle upon which the Bill was framed he was satisfied, from the language of the noble Lord who introduced it. His (Lord John Russell's) words were—"At the same time that the towns shall have of themselves a proper share in the Representation, having their own proper Representatives chosen by themselves, I do not intend that they shall interfere with the Representation of the counties."* If that was a fair exposition of the principle of the Bill, and they were now endeavouring to carry it into effect, the only question was, whether freeholders in boroughs voting for the county, should be said to interfere or not with the Representation of the county? and it was impossible, as he conceived, to answer that question any other way but in the affirmative. Whether or not the noble Lord who introduced it had given a fair exposition of the principle of the Bill, he (Mr. praed) would not take upon him to say; but the principle, he contended, was a good one, and whether the Bill was framed upon it or not, he should support any proposal tend-*Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Third Series, vol. ii, p. 1076.356 ing to carry that principle into effect. He concurred with the noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire (Lord Milton), that it was bad and unwise to say, that the interest of the town was in hostility with that of the county; but he contended that it was neither unwise nor incorrect to say, that the interests of the towns might be distinct from that of the county. This was the principle adopted from the earliest ages of our Representative history, and it was recognized in the present Bill. For instance, in the case of Yorkshire. If the interest of Leeds could not possibly be distinct from that of Yorkshire, why was it thought expedient, that the people of Leeds should send Representatives for themselves? If the present Lord Chancellor was in that House, and his noble friend (Lord Milton) had ventured to urge such a position as he had now done—that no distinction should be made between the county and town Representation, how would his noble and learned friend have answered him? The Lord Chancellor, speaking on this subject in another place, on the 28th of March, said "he should not care if the leaseholders of the smallest term were let in; for while he let in the towns, it was his anxious wish, that the counties should be independent."* The Lord Chancellor did not mean securing the independences of the counties from the great landowners, as some might suppose, but securing their independence against the influence of the population of the towns. In reference to his own canvass for Yorkshire, the noble and learned Lord said, "He begged to remind his noble friend, that he never thought of canvassing the squires, although he had taken great care to canvass the towns." The noble Lord then proceeded to state some of the circumstances connected with his canvass—"that the squires were at first violently opposed to him, though he had the honour of boasting many friends amongst them," and, after stating that they "held a meeting for the purpose of preventing him from becoming a candidate, which ended in their inviting him to offer himself;" he went on to say—"However, he had not placed any dependence on the squires, all his reliance was upon the towns, for they were sure to carry the election." He then put it to the dignified Assembly he was addressing,* Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Third Series vol. iii p. 1063.357 "whether this was a state of county Representation which ought to be satisfactory to the country?" The only mode in which the county Representation could be kept distinct and independent was, he contended, by excluding altogether the freeholders in towns from any share in the county Representation. It was said, that if the 40s. freeholders were added to the number of town voters created by this Bill, it would render the constituency in large towns inconveniently numerous. They had not yet come to the clause, however, entitling persons to vote in towns. Notice of an amendment was already given, that the qualification in large towns should be the occupation of a house worth 20l. instead of 10l. a-year; and when the clause relating to the qualification in towns came under discussion, then would be the time to consider whether the constituency in large towns should be diminished. The only question now was, whether the inhabitants of towns, being freeholders, should vote for the town or the county; and his opinion decidedly was, that the county Members ought not to be chosen by the constituency of the towns.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had before given the reasons which applied to the case remarked upon by the hon. and learned Gentleman; he would not trouble the Committee by repeating them.
amendment, which he declined to press, was negatived without a division.
The original clause, as amended by Lord Althorp, was then read, and the question put upon each sentence. On coming to the words "or any other person,"
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes moved, for the purpose of assimilating leaseholders and copyholders in towns and boroughs to freeholders, that the words "any other persons" be omitted.
§ The Committee divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question. Ayes 187; Noes 1 *—Majority 186.
§ On the question being put, that the words "might acquire a right to vote in the election,"
Lord Althorp moved, that the words "shall be entitled to vote," be inserted in lieu of the words "might acquire a right."—Agreed to.
* The only Member who voted for Mr. Hughes Hughes' amendment was Mr. Warburton.
§ The original clause, as amended, was then agreed to.
§ The Chairman read the 19th clause, as follows:—"And be it enacted, that in order to entitle any person to vote in any election of a Knight of the Shire, or other Member, to serve in any future Parliament, in respect of any messuages, lands, or tenements, whether freehold or otherwise, it shall not be necessary that the same be assessed to the Land-tax, any Statute to the contrary notwithstanding."—Agreed to.
said, the 20th clause, that which related to the registration of voters for county Members, and the period during which persons must hold property before being entitled to vote, unless coming by descent, was next to be considered.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
said, as this clause formed the preamble of the Registration clause of the Bill, and was important on that account, and likely to create much difference of opinion, he wished it should be postponed.
§ Lord Althorp
hoped the noble Lord would withdraw his objection, and allow the clause to be proceeded with. If there was any part of it to which he objected, he should have ample opportunity of discussing it, when the Registration clauses were before them.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
suggested that the clause should be postponed. Some part of it could not be discussed until they came to the Registration clauses.
§ Lord Althorp
could not well understand how they were to come to the consideration of the right of voting in counties, before the general machinery of the right of voting was discussed; but as it appeared to be the desire of the Committee to postpone it, he would not object further than to suggest, that the clause should be read.
Mr. Bonham Carter
wished to see the clause disposed of, so that no advantage might be taken of the omission of the words relative to Registration.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
had no objection to the clause passing, pro formâ, as it stood, provided that was not made a plea for hereafter refusing to allow him to oppose the whole principle of Registration. But, besides this, there was the proviso, which required explanation, for an exception was there made in favour of certain parties, but still under a limitation which might exclude them from voting.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the reason for the exception was, to enable parties who might be promoted to benefices, and to whom property might come by descent, marriage, or otherwise, to acquire thereby a right of voting.
thought it would be better to leave out the proviso altogether. It would generate the same abuses as prevailed in Ireland, where they were compelled to get rid of them by the manufacture of fictitious votes. Parties could easily evade the necessary scrutiny as to their being properly entitled to vote.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the proviso only gave all such parties a right to be registered; it declared, that "such person shall be entitled in respect thereof, to have his name inserted as a voter in the election of a Knight or Knights of the Shire in the lists then next to be made."
§ Clause 20th was agreed to, after the following amendment, proposed by Lord Althorp, had been inserted. For the words "unless he shall be seized thereof," to substitute the words "and also in the actual possession or receipt of the rents and profits for his own use."
§ House resumed.