§ On the Speaker putting the question,
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes rose and spoke as follows: Mr. Speaker.—I have been so strongly importuned, personally, and by letter, and both in and out of this House, by some to persevere, and by others not to persist, in the important motion of which I gave notice for this evening, relative to the number of the Members of this House, and that, too, I can assure the House, 548 without distinction of party, that I have scarcely known how to act; at length, however, I have determined to take a middle course, and not to submit my motion until the bringing up of the Report—until, in short, the fate of my renewed proposition for the non-division of counties, with which, in my view, it is intimately connected, shall have been decided. And here, Sir, I should resume my seat, had not an attempt been made in the leading public journals, to injure me in the opinion of my constituency, and the public at large, by shamefully misrepresenting the object and tendency of my proposed Resolution, and declaring it to be the same which General Gascoyne, "fatally to himself," proposed in the last Parliament, and against which, I then voted; on which account I trust the House will indulge me with its attention for a few minutes, while I shew how utterly the two motions are at variance.
§ Sir John Newport
said, he rose to order. The hon. Member was proceeding to discuss a motion which he had declared his intention not now to bring on, and, in so doing, to make reference to the public journals, which, also, he submitted was irregular.
§ Mr. W. Hughes Hughes
resumed.—Although, Sir, I must consider it very illiberal in the right hon. Baronet to wish to interpose between me and that explanation which I think due to my own character for consistency, I will not further advert to the daily Press, but proceed to read the motion of the gallant General, to which they referred; it was in these words—"That it is the opinion of this House, that the total number of Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses—returned to Parliament for that part of the United Kingdom called England and Wales—ought not to be diminished." This motion, then, proposed to do that which, after the Government had determined to give five additional Members to Ireland, and five to Scotland, could not be accomplished without adding to the present total number of the House. My notice, on the contrary, was, "to move a Resolution declaratory of the opinion of the House, that the present total number of its Members should not be reduced," without objecting to the five additional Members each, proposed to be given to 549 Ireland and Scotland, or presuming to declare from what parts of the United Kingdom, or in what proportions from among those parts, the thirty-two seats, which, as I understand, remain to be disposed of, should be supplied. I have thus, I hope, shown how very dissimilar are the two motions. My view of the matter, however, is fully confirmed, and as it happens, in so many words, by the highest authority on such a point in this House—I mean that of the noble Lord, the Paymaster of his Majesty's Forces, himself, who, in the speech which closed the memorable debate of the 19th of April last, on the motion of the gallant General, is reported in Hansard, vol. iii. page 1686, to have said, "a motion had certainly been mentioned last week to declare that the total number of the House ought not to be diminished;" (the very terms, be it observed, of my notice;) "and his noble friend (Lord Althorp) and himself had stated, that they would take it into consideration; but the proposition of the hon. and gallant General" (the House will mark this) "was entirely different. It was not that the total number of the House—including England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, should not be diminished—but that the total number of Members for England and Wales should not be diminished." And in the speech of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, referred to by the noble Paymaster (as reported in page 1270 of the same volume) his Lordship said, "As to the exact number of Members which should constitute the House, Ministers did not hold it to be essential to the principle of the Bill. But if it should be the opinion of the House, that the present number was not too great, and that it should decide to retain the whole, Ministers might not think it such a deviation from the principle of the Bill, as would induce them to abandon it. On the contrary, they would then be prepared to recommend to the House the manner in which those Members should be disposed of, adhering to their original principle, that no Members should sit for boroughs which came within the line of disfranchisement which they had felt it their duty to draw. The Members thus to be disposed of, should the House so decide, they would recommend to be given, in many cases, to large towns, adhering, as much as possible, to that balance of interests which was at present kept up 550 in the country; but he begged to be distinctly understood, that the retaining of the whole number of Members was in no one degree to touch that principle which went to the disfranchisement of the rotten boroughs." I trust, then, I have sufficiently disproved the assertion that my proposed resolution, and the motion of the gallant General, were the same, or at all alike, either in their objector tendency. And now, Sir, I would suggest to the House, that there is nothing in the preamble of the Bill which would justify his Majesty's Ministers in thus abridging the number of the Members of this House, but that every word of it would lead the public to the reverse conclusion: the preamble runs thus:—"Whereas it is expedient to take effectual measures for correcting divers abuses that have long prevailed in the choice of Members to serve in the Commons House of Parliament; to deprive many inconsiderable places of the right of returning Members, to grant such privilege to large, populous, and wealthy towns, to increase the number of Knights of the Shire, to extend the elective franchise to many of his Majesty's subjects, who have not heretofore enjoyed the same, and to diminish the expense of election." Such is the whole of the preamble, and where is the solitary word from which any one would imply an intention to reduce the number of Members? All I should seek, then, by my resolution, is to follow out the letter and spirit of this preamble. I conceive, Sir, that so important a question as that of the extent and proportion of the Representation of the people of the different parts of the United Kingdom in this House, ought to be brought fairly before the House for its decision, and not left to the decision of the Government, or to be determined obliquely by the three Reform Bills. I think, too, that the House should decide upon the number while yet the English Reform Bill is under our consideration, and not that the discovery should be made when it is too late to supply the deficiency, except by adding, exclusively, to the number of Representatives for Ireland and Scotland. I should say, that all the vacancies should be filled up in favour of Great Britain alone, and perhaps England exclusively, and that if the division of counties should still be persevered in, and after the recent alteration with respect to the right of tenants at will to vote in counties, about which so much 551 has been said and written, the whole of the thirty-two Members should be given, as a counterpoise, to large and populous towns. My opinion, Sir, certainly is, that a diminution of the number of the Members of this House, would be altogether inconsistent with the present circumstances of the country, the population, wealth, and intelligence of which have so vastly increased, that that very increase has been, and most justly too, assigned as one principal ground for the present measure of Reform, and has necessarily brought with it a proportionate increase of the business of this House. All my votes on this Bill have been in harmony with these sentiments, and for the utmost extension of the elective franchise which has been proposed to the House, and appeared to me to be safe and practicable. In conclusion, Sir, I must repeat the expression of my surprise at the language of the circular to which I before alluded, and which should appear to have had the sanction of the Government, whose conduct, in such case, would forcibly remind me of the adage, that if, after granting ninety-nine favours, you refuse the hundredth, you lose your friend.
§ The House resolved itself into the Committee.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that before the clause was gone into he wished to state what course it appeared to him it would be most convenient for the Committee to pursue. He recommended, that the hon. member for Preston's Amendment should be taken first. The next in order, would be the amendment of the hon. member for Worcester, which would come in after the words "legal incapacity;" then would come the hon. member for Bedford's Amendment; after that the hon. member for Newcastle's. The hon. member for Stafford would then fall in and close the clause. The Government also proposed to make several amendments in the clause as it originally appeared in the Bill. Now, the amendments proposed by the Government had been printed, and what he hoped the Committee would think it expedient and convenient to do was this:—To take the clause as proposed by the Government, and to deal with the several amendments as the particular words occurred, after which they were proposed to be introduced.
After a short conversation the Chairman commenced reading the clause— 552 "And be it enacted, that in every election of a Member or Members to serve in any future Parliament for any city or borough every such person of full age, and not subject to any legal incapacity."
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes
inquired whether his Majesty's Government proposed to make any further amendments in the clause?
§ Mr. Hunt
then rose to bring forward his promised motion. He thought it due to himself, to the House, and to the country, to show that he was not about to make any proposition not recognised by the ancient law of the land. The principle which he contended for was, that every person who paid taxes should be entitled to a share in the Representation; and the motion with which he meant to conclude did not go beyond extending the franchise to all persons paying scot and lot. He should enter into a few observations, in order to show that Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments formed part of the ancient Constitution of the country, and could not be considered as wild and visionary propositions. In the regins of Henry and John the population of the country was divided into two classes. The first consisted of the nobility, the knights, the freeholders, and freemen of the country; and the second class consisted of their vassals and slaves. This state of things continued down to the reign of Henry 6th, being a period of 150 years, during the whole of which every freeman in the country had a right to vote for the return of Representatives to Parliament. By the 25th of Edward 3rd it was enacted, that no freeman should on any pretence be deprived of his franchise. This Act appeared to be altogether overlooked by the noble Lord in making the present Bill, for it would have the effect of disfranchising very many persons indeed. By an Act passed in the reign of Edward 1st, it was enacted, that Sheriffs, and other civil authorities, should be elected by the people, and that no other qualification should be required to entitle a man to vote than that of being a male, and being also of age. The hon. Member referred to various statutes, such as 3 Edw. 1st c. 5; 34 Edw. 1st c. 4; 25 Edw. 3rd c. 4; 4 Rich. 2nd c. 7, and 7 Hen. 4th, c. 5, in order to show that every man had a right to the 553 elective franchise, down to the time of the great disfranchisement Act, passed in the 8th of Henry 6th. This latter Act, however, stated, that as elections had been made by an outrageous number of persons of no substance, and of small value, yet whose pretensions to vote were as great as those of knights and gentry, it was thereby ordained, that all voters at elections for counties should be freeholders to the extent of 40s. per year. This Act at once disfranchised three-fourths of the electors of the whole kingdom. He had always been, as was well known, an advocate for Annual Parliaments, which were no novelty in this country; for by the 4th of Edward 3rd it was enacted that, in order to remedy public grievances, a Parliament should be holden every year. All these Acts to which he had referred, justified him in saying, that the ancient Constitution of the country consisted in Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage; and that he had been the advocate of no new doctrine, but of one which had actually been in existence for a period of 150 years. His proposition was, that all housekeepers paying rates and taxes, as in Westminster, should be allowed to vote at elections all over the kingdom. The clause of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) went further than this in some respects, for it went, in London and its suburbs, to the full extent of Universal Suffrage of householders. But he would ask, how this clause would operate in Manchester, Bolton, and other great towns throughout the country? Its operation would be most unequal, for in London there were no houses under 10l. per annum, while in the other towns of England, the average rents of the houses of the working classes were from 5l. to 7l.; and yet many of the inhabitants of the latter class of houses were in a far higher state of comfort and independence, and better qualified to vote, than those who occupied 10l. houses in the metropolis. There were 7,000,000 of the male adults in the kingdom who would have no share in the Representation, and 1,000,000 only who would. Such a measure could not give satisfaction, and the effect of his Amendment would be, to diminish the displeasure which would naturally be felt As the clause now stood, a great part of the 10l. householders would have no vote at all, and therefore it was a delusion to say, that the whole of the 10l. householder 554 would be admitted to the elective franchise. He offered the present proposition with a view of rendering the Bill more simple in its details and in its operation, and to relieve it from the difficulties and perplexities which it must otherwise be involved in. Ultimately, he was convinced, that his motion must be carried into effect, though Ministers might have made up their minds to reject it at present. In his opinion the franchise ought to be extended much further; but he was content to give up a great deal, in order to meet the wishes of those who did not go the full extent that he was prepared to go. He did not anticipate that Government was prepared to adopt his Resolution, but he brought it forward as a matter of principle; and, though it might not now be conceded, he had no doubt but he should live to see the day when it would be adopted. He was of opinion that every man was entitled to a vote; but, as the House would not go that length with him, he would confine himself to the present motion. Though the Ministers might not agree with him, yet he would not on that account impute to them improper motives; for he believed they were doing what they thought best. In the discussions upon Calne, and one or two other boroughs, he might have said and thought that their conduct was very curious; but he now divested himself of all such feelings, and was willing to admit, that Ministers had no other view than that of forming what they conceived to be a fair system of Representation. If they anticipated, that trade and commerce would revive immediately after the passing of the Reform Bill, they might then fairly expect that it would give universal satisfaction; but he expected no such immediate revival of trade, and could not, therefore, anticipate any general satisfaction from a Bill which was so partial in its operation. The hon. Member concluded by moving "That, after the words legal incapacity' in the clause, there be introduced the words 'that all persons being householders, and paying rates and taxes, shall be entitled to vote for Representatives in Parliament.'"
§ The Amendment having been put,
§ Lord Althorp
would not follow the hon. Member through the statements he had made, as he had fairly acknowledged he did not expect the House would concur in his proposition. The hon. Member 555 assumed, that every man who paid taxes, directly or indirectly, or who paid scot or lot, had a right to vote for Representatives. No doubt the proposition of the hon. Member was a very simple one; but it was equally true, that it was contrary to the principle of this Bill, which had been approved of by a large majority of the country. It would alter the whole character of the Bill, and make the elective franchise depend upon mere personal rights. If the Bill were framed on the principle which was proposed by the hon. Gentleman, it would be impossible to carry such a Bill through Parliament. It would be impossible to carry any Bill, founded on the principle of Universal Suffrage, or a principle next to that of Universal Suffrage; and the adoption of such a proposition as that brought forward by the hon. Member, would alarm a very large class of sincere and honest reformers. He objected to the proposition of the hon. Member as being one, that would extend the elective franchise too far in this country, and he objected to it in the second place because the adoption of such a proposition would effectually prevent the success of any reform at all. On those grounds he would oppose the proposition which had been made by the hon. Member.
was decidedly opposed, both to the clause itself, and to the Amendment. It was calculated to degrade the constituency, and this he said from sad experience in the part of the empire with which he was particularly connected. The effect of the Amendment would be, entirely to swamp the middle orders, and virtually to disfranchise them by the multitude of pauper voters that this measure would introduce. Those classes of society which he always understood to be the most virtuous and intelligent and independent in the country, would be sacrificed for the purpose of giving an undue influence and power to that class who would necessarily make a bad use of it. The great objection to the whole measure was, that its principle was too democratic. After the evils that had followed from the introduction of such a class of voters in Ireland, and whom they had been compelled to disfranchise, it was absurd to run the risk of introducing such persons into the elective franchise in England, who, in all probability, would select their Representatives from the same stamp as themselves, to the exclusion of 556 persons of talent and integrity, who would be chosen by the middle orders. If this clause of the Bill were agreed to, even as it stood, where, as the hon. member for Preston said, were they to stop? Much injury had been already done by the hopes that were excited abroad—hopes of improvement which could not be realised, and, he was sorry to say, hopes of pulling down the aristocracy. It was impossible that the expectations excited could be realised; and nothing but disappointment would follow from the Bill. It was clear from the Amendment proposed by the member for Preston, that Ministers had only baited the trap for further spoliation. The noble Lord (Althorp) went far beyond his own principle in some of the alterations made in the Bill. He alluded to such places as Dorchester being disfranchised, while, on the other hand, some contemptible towns, owing to some local cause, retained their Representatives. The consequences would be, that by endeavouring to please all, they would please none. Besides the more general and extensive rights which were cut up by the measure, a great amount of individual and private rights were also destroyed. The people, for a time, had been strongly excited, but they were now returning to reason. He should be disposed to propose rather an increase of the qualification than a reduction of it. He had from the beginning, and should continue to oppose the whole measure, the tendency of which was, to throw the Representation into the hands of those who would not use it for the benefit of the State.
§ Mr. Serjeant Wilde
said, that an exceedingly minute portion of the gallant Colonel's speech had reference to the clause under the consideration of the Committee, and, with that exception, the gallant Colonel's oration might just as well have been delivered upon the second reading of the Bill as upon the present occasion. The adoption of the proposition of the hon. member for Preston would tend more to destroy the hopes and wishes of the reformers, than any thing that had been as yet proposed by any opponent of the Bill on the other side of the House. The friends of Reform had been wise in rallying round the measure which had been proposed by Ministers, and they would equally show their wisdom in rejecting a proposition like the present, which was totally inconsistent with the 557 principle of that measure. He begged to say to the hon. member for Preston, that if there were no probability of obtaining such a state of Representation as he wished at the present moment, and from the present Government, he was only aiding the enemies of reform by pressing amendments upon Ministers. He submitted to him, whether he was not at least running a risk of helping the adversaries of the measure. The friends of Reform had but one course to pursue, and that was, to obtain the good which was within their reach, instead of impeding the measure by cavilling at the details, which, although in some instances imperfect, were still very far superior to the present system. This had been taken advantage of by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who lost no opportunity of finding fault with all the provisions of the Bill. The same parties who were the advocates for admitting small farmers and tenants-at-will (the most unfortunate of all people on the subjects of taxes, tithes, and rent), were also so inconsistent as to contend, that the measure was too democratic, and would affect the stability of Government, and facilitate an attack upon the Church and other property. The friends of Reform had been generally returned at the late election on the principle that each should forego something of his own particular views to further the measure introduced by Government; and yet those Gentlemen were daily recommending changes which would certainly tend to the defeat of the whole; for, if its character was materially changed, their reforming constituents would withdraw their countenance from the measure, which the opposite parties would be very ready to take advantage of. He would not enter into the whole question, whether it was wise to extend the franchise to the length proposed by the hon. member for Preston, but, as Representative of a scot-and-lot borough, which contained about 1,700 voters, of whom, perhaps about 400 were 10l. householders, and the remainder occupied tenements, of less value, he was materially interested in promoting the extension of the suffrage. His return had been principally effected by the smaller occupiers, who were a most independent and worthy constituency, and had deprived themselves of the necessaries of life to ensure his return. That was not, however, to benefit their own interests exclusively, but to 558 forward the general measure of reform, which he should at all times advocate. He trusted, therefore, that other hon. Members, as well as himself, would not attempt to urge their own exclusive views, as that would certainly tend to defeat the measure in another place. Let them secure the good which was within their reach, rather than hazard that by endeavouring to obtain more.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, the hon. and learned Member had merely repeated the cuckoo-cry—"The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill;"—and had undertaken to lecture other hon. Members upon the impolicy of delaying the measure, but he (Mr. Hunt), had always asserted, that it was his intention to bring his present Amendment forward at the proper opportunity; and therefore, there was no reason whatever for the hon. and learned Gentleman to accuse him of delaying the Bill. The hon. and learned Serjeant was himself much more open to such an imputation, by occupying so much time in an extraneous and prolix argument, which appeared to have no other object than to eulogize his own constituents. Notwithstanding this, however, he should divide the Committee on the first part of his proposition, and he would move the second part of his proposition, although he would not upon that part of it press to a division.
§ Mr. Croker
would oppose the hon. Member's Amendment, on the ground that it would have the effect of supporting the principle of the Bill itself.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 1; Noes 123.—Majority 122.
§ Colonel Davies rose to propose his Amendment, which he felt justified in once more bringing forward, as his object was, to provide an effective constituency for all boroughs and cities, by enacting that the owners of freeholds within them should vote at the election of Members for such cities and boroughs, and not at the county elections. As some hon. Members, had not heard the arguments used when the subject had before been under discussion, and as some had since assured him they did not know on what they were voting, and as the Amendment seemed to him a most important one, he took this opportunity of again proposing it. It appeared to him an anomaly in the Bill which ought to be corrected, that voters were taken from, towns and boroughs to make up a county 559 constituency, and, on the other hand, persons connected with the counties were taken from them to vote for towns. It would be much better to leave their own voters to each. By one of the provisions of the Bill, large electoral districts were to be created from the counties; of these there would be seven in Devonshire; six in Sussex; and eight in Wiltshire; and in every one of them the tenants at will of 50l. would be taken from them, and merged in the borough constituencies, which was not the only encroachment the county constituencies would sustain. There were ninety-three of the boroughs in which 300 10l. houses could not be found, and to which the voters of the adjoining parishes must be added to obtain a sufficient constituency. This must give rise to great inconvenience and to endless controversy. The independence of the boroughs would be thus greatly impaired, and in some cases annihilated. He would take East Grinstead for instance. In that borough there were only 120 houses rented at 10l., and they must go to the county for 250 electors. In Amersham there were only ninety 10l. houses, and 210 voters must be brought in from the adjoining county. Why incur so much inconvenience when it could be so easily avoided. It was necessary, if they desired to retain the independence of boroughs, to guard them against an influx of voters who could have no feelings of interest in common with them. It would also be necessary if they wished to do justice to the counties, not to allow so large a portion of their constituency to be swallowed up in boroughs and electoral districts. It was obvious this part of the Bill must be amended, for the provisions were nothing more than a mass of contradictions and absurdities a confused and irrational heap—which would create greater bickerings and more bitter heart-burnings than could have been imagined. A much higher authority than his, that of the Lord Chancellor, was opposed to such a principle as this, as appeared by a passage from a speech of that noble and learned person, referred to last Saturday by an hon. Member. To avoid the inconvenience of this and of other parts of the Bill, they must ultimately have recourse to the Ballot. The measure had of late fallen very much in public estimation, even in the city of London. He did not mean that Reform had fallen in public estimation, but the Bill certainly 560 had. People began to think it impossible that its arrangements could be carried into operation. Some Members thought so, but said, never mind, let us have the Bill, and it can be altered afterwards. He should regret if every endeavour was not made to amend it, and to get it out of the Committee as perfect as possible. If this was not done, they would be called upon, in a year or two, to break up the whole measure. Many friends of Reform considered the Bill to be very ill-constructed—that it contained an extraordinary number of anomalies; but they were afraid to vote against it, because they apprehended their opposition would be considered as applying to the principle of Reform itself, rather than to the anomalies of the Bill, which few persons but those who had gone through the details, would believe it contained. If it were ultimately to be good for anything, it required many and very serious amendments. He would move,"That persons resident in towns or boroughs having the right of voting, should be restricted from voting at elections for the counties in which such towns or boroughs were situated."
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, it appeared as if the only obnoxious words which could be used in the House were "No, no," although "Hear, hear," were, similarly treated. He would assert, that there was not the least change in the minds of the Livery of the city of London, and he would contend, and prove the assertion if necessary, that there was not any adverse feeling to this Bill in that City. He considered that owners of freeholds in London should have a vote for the City quite as much as for the county; but on calling a meeting of the Livery to ascertain the point, he found that they objected to the principle of the freeholders voting for the City, and moreover, the freeholders themselves desired that they might vote for the county, and had no desire to vote for the city. Such were the feelings which generally prevailed. The citizens of London had early voted for this Bill, although an objection was urged to the clause for giving to tenants at will of 50l. a right of voting. His constituents were decidedly in favour of the great principles of the Bill, without any regard to its subdivisions, as they always were devoted to the public good.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
had purposely abstained from making any observations in the course of the numerous discussions 561 which had taken place, because he was friendly to the Reform Bill, and was exceedingly anxious not to be in any wise instrumental in retarding it. He could not, however, hear the hon. and gallant Officer make such assertions, respecting what he had been pleased to describe as the altered opinions of the citizens of London with respect to the Bill, without noticing the remark. From whom had the hon. and gallant Gentleman derived his information? He had given his opinions with great confidence, but they were inaccurate as far as the notions of the citizens of London were concerned. He (Mr. Alderman Waithman) had seen many influential men, whose opinions were entitled to great weight, intimately connected with the City, and he could say with great confidence, that their opinions had undergone no change as to the Bill. There was but one feeling in the City upon that subject, and there was unanimous disgust expressed at the continued obstructions given to the measure, which occasioned so much delay in passing it, by parties, too, who professed to be friendly to the Bill. He could assure the House, that this feeling of disgust was universal among his constituents. It was far from his wish to impute improper motives to the conduct of some hon. Gentlemen who had declared themselves friendly to the general principle of the Bill, but who had, nevertheless, taken those steps which had of necessity delayed it in its progress through that House. He must be permitted to say, that it appeared to him they were playing the enemy's game by such a mode of proceeding. He deeply regretted what had transpired within the last six or seven days, as it had tended to prevent the measure from being advanced—a measure to which the eyes of the whole country were directed. But it had been again and again repeated, that the people did not understand the Bill. They did understand it—and they had elected so many Members of that House who had declared themselves favourable to it, in order that it might pass. He hoped that now, when so much time had been lost in useless discussion, and so many obstructions had been thrown in the way of the Bill, that his Majesty's Ministers would assume a bolder tone, and proceed with more vigour. The humble advice which he would venture to give, should these obstructions be continued (for the object of them could not 562 be mistaken), was, that Ministers would cause the House to assemble at ten o'clock in the morning, instead of three in the afternoon. He did not like to pledge himself, otherwise he would give notice of a motion for the House to meet at the period he had named; but he really hoped that, if there were a necessity for it, his Majesty's Ministers would act as he had suggested. Complaints had been made that the present Government had interfered at the elections; but did hon. Gentlemen who made these assertions, forget what other Governments had done? Why, it was well known that all Governments had interfered, and as long as such a system existed they would interfere. The accounts at the Treasury would show that. When the right hon. member for Tamworth was a candidate for Oxford—
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, he would not detain the Committee longer, and in conclusion he repeated his objections to the system of obstructions which had been cast in the way of the Bill; obstructions which appeared to him admirably calculated to suit the views of the avowed enemies of the measure.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that with respect to the motion of the hon. and gallant Officer opposite, it had been discussed in principle, and decided before; and as the gallant Officer had set out by saying, that he hoped for a considerable minority at least, he (Lord Althorp) trusted, that as soon as the hon. and gallant Mover found that his support would be inconsiderable, he would withdraw his Motion. The object was the same as that of the former motion; and it was scarcely to be expected that the House could now be prevailed on to give it their sanction, especially after the debate of last night, which showed as clearly as anything could, the mischievous effects of giving the franchise, to 40s. freeholders in large towns. In small towns the case would be still worse; for one or two individuals could easily command the suffrages of the freeholders in such circumstances. He fully agreed with those who thought, that it was not at all desirable to annex county districts to boroughs; and that was a course, in the framing of the Bill, which had not been resorted to in any case wherein it could be avoided. The persons living near a 563 borough, and those living within it, were not opposed in interest to each other. The tradespeople were employed by the neighbouring farmers, and it might naturally be presumed, that their sentiments and feelings were in unison; and small towns would return, in most instances, persons attached to the landed interest. His gallant friend was in error as to the number of towns to which it would be necessary for the Commissioners to annex the rural population in the suburbs, for the purpose of securing a broad base of constituency. His gallant friend had rated these towns at ninety-two, while, in point of fact, they would not be more than one-third, of that number; and of this one-third the instance of the annexed rural electors outnumbering the town voters would be so very rare as to be the exception to the rule. His gallant friend was, besides, influenced by a mischievous fallacy in supposing, that the town and the rural electors would in these cases be influenced by such clashing motives in the choice of Representatives, that the latter would prevail, unless the former received the aid of his Amendment. There was, and would be, in point of fact, no such contrariety of interests; for the farmers in the neighbourhood being the best customers of the tradesmen in the towns, there would be but one common interest between them. Besides, it was always considered and admitted, that the smaller towns to which a rural elective population was to be annexed, should return on what, for brevity, he would call the agricultural interest; so that the very argument of his gallant friend for strengthening the town electors against that interest was, in point of fact, a valid objection to its being adopted. In a word, then, in the large towns the Amendment could effect no practical advantage: in the smaller towns it would, besides throwing an undue influence in the hands of the proprietors of the freeholds, lead to great practical inconvenience.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, as the main principle of this Amendment had already been discussed, he would not enter at any length into it at present, further than to assert, that the adoption of the proposition would be attended with great benefit The noble Lord had asserted, there would not be more than thirty boroughs which would require to have surrounding districts annexed to them, but he was satisfied that 564 ninety rural districts would merge in the own population, without any good effect, this Amendment were not agreed to. He could not consider it fair that the large freeholder was to vote as a householder for a town, and the smaller ones, who could be created in abundance, sent to deluge the county Representation. In many cities and boroughs, the freeholders in them had no right to vote either for them, or for the county in which they were situated. Certainly such persons should be admitted to the enjoyment of the franchise, but it ought to be confined to the places of their residence. There were two classes of freeholders to be dealt with under this third Bill of the Government, and these two classes were, the one, as in the city of London, where such voters were now to be created; and the second, that which applied to the freeholders who were to be disfranchised. The conduct of the Livery of London had been alluded to, and why, he would ask, should the Livery refuse to allow their-fellow citizens a vote for the city, and be so anxious to throw them on the county of Middlesex, while their property was in the city of London? The truth was, that the Livery of London had shewn themselves to be most interested parties. They most illiberally refused, although these freeholders were their landlords and neighbours, to allow them to participate in the franchise for the city, but were most willing to throw them upon the county. The object of giving the rural population a right of voting was admitted to be, to balance the democracy introduced by this Bill, and he therefore could not see upon what principle this Amendment was now objected to by the noble Lord. From the new franchises which were given in Surrey, added to the proposed division of the county, the borough of Southwark would necessarily have a powerful influence in electing the Members for one of the divisions, and the Representation of the county would be a nullity if this Amendment were not carried. The noble Lord had referred to the discussion of yesterday, relating to the Dublin Election, and had declared that debate shewed the evil effects of bestowing the franchise upon 40s. freeholders of towns, but that proved nothing, for it appeared the needy freemen were equally open to the influence of bribery with the needy and fictitious freeholders. The amendment relating to tenants at will, had been 565 objected to on a former occasion, but there was no such tenancy in law, inasmuch as the tenant must be in possession for a year, with notice to quit, as the case might be, before he could have the right of voting. If that were so, the tenant of 5l. or 10l. or 500l. would be equally under the influence of his landlord, as the tenant at will; and yet to the 10l. renter in towns the right of voting had been given without much hesitation, although it must be obvious that allowing a 10l. householder, without any regard to the time of occupation, whether in the rural district, or the town itself, a vote, must allow of a greater influence being exercised over them, than in the more independent and intelligent class of farmers, who had property, and must receive a long notice. He had always opposed this Bill, from the most honest motives—he would still continue to do so, and, though he would not divide the House, he would support the Amendment.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, that he had supported this Bill most sincerely, but he would not surrender his own opinion to endeavour to improve it, notwithstanding the censure passed upon all such persons by the worthy Alderman. The House would be wholly unmindful of the interests of its constituents, if it adopted the course the worthy Alderman was pleased to recommend, and abandoned the principle and details of the Bill to chance. The Amendment now proposed had been already discussed. He then had not made his mind up on it, but he would now support it, as being actually necessary. The object of the original clause he understood to be, to separate the constituents of the counties and towns entirely. He feared this arrangement had been departed from in the amended clause, and that its effect would be, to make the election of the county Members depend on the poorer classes of freeholders in towns. He had understood this was a result to be avoided, but this clause, as now worded, would infallibly produce that consequence. The large populous towns should not be let loose upon the county Representation. For instance, Birmingham would influence the returns of one division of Warwickshire; Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield, and other large towns, would do the same with the West Riding of Yorkshire, and instead of an agricultural, they would have a manufacturing county Representation. 566 Could there be any doubt, if the freeholders of the city, and the smaller freeholders of the metropolitan suburbs, or boroughs, were annexed to the county of Middlesex, that they would control the choice of its Members? It was most essential to keep the constituency of large towns and counties entirely apart. He protested against the large manufacturing towns holding any influence over county elections, which they would have if this clause was allowed to stand. He did not mean to go so far in his objection as to desire that the freeholders of towns, who had no Representatives of their own, should not vote at county elections. They would, undoubtedly, have a considerable share in the return of county Members, but that was desirable, as they had no other Representative. If the Amendment was pushed to a division, he should certainly vote for it.
Lord John Russell
said, that the hon. Gentleman had changed his opinions upon this question, for which he did not blame him, although he was not prepared to say, that it was desirable that the Representatives of counties should be chosen entirely by agricultural constituents; nor did he believe, confining the freeholders to vote at their place of residence in towns would have that effect, but would be mischievous on other accounts. Property, he believed, would be cut up, in small proportions for the purpose of creating votes, and they would thus re-establish with one hand the nomination they were endeavouring to put down with the other. He regretted, that his hon. and gallant friend, the member for Worcester, should have brought forward his Amendment, for the Committee should consider, that a great change had been made in this Bill, by the motion of the noble Marquis (the Marquis of Chandos), to admit tenants at will for the amount of 50l. per annum, having been sanctioned by the Committee. He (Lord J. Russell) could not agree to the proposed Amendment of the gallant Officer, who had found out that the Government was now unpopular, and therefore held out his helping hand to reinstate it in the public confidence. It was with a view to prevent abuses in the smaller boroughs that he would oppose the Amendment of his hon. friend. He believed, for the reasons he had given, that it was necessary to confine the rights of voting to householders of a certain description in all boroughs and towns.
§ Mr. Croker
believed it would be found necessary to separate the districts for counties, for the reasons urged by the hon. and learned member for Kirkcudbright, but he considered, that the amended 18th clause, which was agreed to on Saturday, would materially narrow the question now under discussion, and render the present Amendment the less necessary. Indeed, there was very little difference between the views of both sides of the House, as to the Representation of incorporeal rights, to which this Amendment would in some degree apply. The chief objection of the noble Lord was this; if these small freeholds were to be confined to towns, they would be liable to abuse, and therefore, he threw the abuse into the county, where they would be much less liable to detection, and would be lost in the mass of voters; while, if they were to remain in the towns, it would be the interest and desire of all parties to submit them to a severe scrutiny. It would be equally the interest of the townspeople, if these electors were to merge in the county, that they should be increased, because it would tend to carry off their populace, and give them influence in the county as well as in the town; and from the parties being well known to some leading man or demagogue, they would be subject in a mass to his influence. What an opening for abuse was here! It would be necessary to provide a remedy against fictitious voters in all cases, at circumstance which did not seem to have occurred to any hon. Gentleman at either side of the House until this moment. By clause 18th, if it was altered as he supposed, a large proportion of the town constituency would be restricted from voting in counties, and thus prevented from committing abuses; and he could really see no very valid or pressing necessity for the Amendment o the gallant Member.
§ Lord Althorp
said, if the right hon. Gentleman had looked completely at the 18th clause, as amended, he would have observed, that persons could not obtain a right of voting for counties by owning a house occupied by another in a borough, and the same rule applied also to lands within the precincts of a borough. This would of course deduct all such persons from the constituency of counties, but the proposition of the hon. member for Worcester did not apply to this, because it was the intention of the 18th clause to disqualify all persons from voting for 568 counties who could acquire the privilege of voting in towns, on the principle of a 10l. householder, and if the right of voting was confined to persons only having that qualification, the smaller freeholders, unless they were to vote for the county, would be disfranchised. But the hon. Member wished, by his Amendment, to allow these to vote for the town rather than the county: this was opposed, on the principle of preventing the creation of votes by the division of estates, and the erection of small tenements upon them, which would create many fictitious votes, and would thereby enable a considerable proprietor to overpower the bonâ fide householders and the respectable part of the constituency. The right hon. Gentleman, however, said, if this was bad in a town, it would also be bad in the county; but he had himself given an answer to his own objection, when he asserted, that they would be merged in the mass of freeholds, and there would, therefore, be less inducement to make them; a proprietor might still grant freeholds of inheritance, but it was not likely he would permanently alienate his property.
§ Mr. Praed
considered the proposed Amendment to be of the greatest importance. The objections of the noble Lord to the argument of his right hon. friend, had failed in this essential particular, that although it was evident there would be less inducement to create fictitious freeholds in towns, by the voters being merged in the county, yet there would be great inducements to do so, to obtain influence in the county, as well as in the town. The opposing influences of the towns would prevent much abuse on either side, from the voters being there well known; yet if such parties were to be sent to a county election, where they were wholly strangers, by whom or by what means could such abuses be detected, particularly when it would be the interest of all parties in the towns to carry their populace to vote for the county. He must say, he thought the Opposition had not been fairly treated, when they were denied the opportunity of having a division on this principle of the Bill, when it was formerly under discussion. The only discussion which had taken place upon this part of the Bill, related to the separation of the town and county constituency, which as far as it went, he opposed. But it had not gone far enough; and no sufficient attention 569 had been paid to the particular circumstances of each case. The advocates of the Bill said, that clause 18th would simplify the mode of dealing with the county constituency, and render the electors independent; but he was quite of a different opinion. On Saturday last he had briefly stated the reasons upon which he came to this conclusion; and to-night he certainly must confess that he heard the opinions of the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) with perfect astonishment. One of the principles laid down, by the noble Lord was, that Representatives were to be given to great towns, which were to give up the right of voting for counties. Thus Members were to be given to Manchester, for instance, and the voters of that town would lose the right of voting for the county of Lancaster, on condition of having Representatives of their town. It was of no consequence, on this principle, how they selected the qualification, whether, according to the hon. member for Preston, for "scot or lot" or confined it to the lord of 10,000 acres. In either case the principle of separation was clear, and why then give double and complex rights of voting? Such were the extremes and the incongruities of this most notable Bill. Why had any man a vote given to him, except for the protection of his property? And why should any man have such a right, if it were not for the place in which his properly was situated? Why should two interests be created for one property, or, in other words, two voters for it? What was the reason, he asked, for all that? The reply was, to make the Representation of towns more simple; but in proportion as this was done, the complexity and confusion of that of the counties was as much increased. Some objection was taken to the respectability of the 40s. freeholders if they were permitted to vote for counties, but the rural part of the population, living in the neighbouring towns, were as well entitled to the right of voting for Members as any other class of voters. Why should they be denied the exercise of a right? At all events, why deny the right to the present holders for the period of their lives, even if it were to be denied to their descendants? The original Bill, as to the right of voting was based upon the payment of the assessed taxes; but out of seventy-two places which were referred to, it was said that forty-five would have an insufficient number of constituents, without having recourse to the 570 neighbouring districts to supply the number of 300; but that he, believed, was very erroneous. From the information since laid upon the Table, it appeared that a great proportion of these seventy-two boroughs had, within their own limits, the necessary number of 10l. houses, and would return Members independent of the agricultural population. Then, if they looked at the actual number of houses, they would find that in Devonshire the boroughs and towns contained 13,000 10l. houses, and the county but 6,000, the boroughs were to return ten Members, and the county four. In Dorsetshire the boroughs contained 1,370 10l. houses, and the county 1,600; the former were to return eight Members and the county but three. In Berkshire the proportion was nearly the same. In Hertfordshire the boroughs had 559 10l. houses, and were to return four Members, while the county had 2,391, and was to return only three, the boroughs, therefore, returned more Members, in proportion to property, than counties. Looking to history, he found, that the Representatives of rural populations were opposed to change, whilst the cry of movement and revolution proceeded from the inhabitants of towns, and their Representatives. Considering as he did that the agricultural interests were not fully represented, he should support the Amendment.
had observed with surprise, that his hon. and gallant friend had, after the division, waited some considerable time, till certain gentlemen who gave the proceedings of that House to the public the next morning had taken their seats. And he was the more surprised at it, because the declaration which his hon. friend had made was calculated to injure the measure, if his hon. friend could persuade the public to believe, that the Members on the Ministerial side of the House had changed their opinions. He, however, denied that they had changed their opinions, and he begged to refer to their votes in proof of that denial. He did not intend to accuse other hon. Gentlemen, who had spoken fifty times, and had repeated the same things three or four times in each of those fifty speeches, of having done so with a view to delay. He must admit that they had a right to make as many speeches as they pleased; but at the same time he must observe, that such a course did not suit the convenience of the House.
Mr. Alderman Wood
begged to be permitted to state the case exactly, so far as the Livery of London were concerned, who had been alluded to frequently in the Debate. It had been asserted, that the Livery were unwilling that the city freeholders, at the most amounting to about 200 persons, should have the right of voting for the city, but desired them to be sent to the county. This was rather an extraordinary assertion, in the face of the fact, that his constituents had expressed no jealousy at 3,000 or4,000 householders being added to their numbers.
begged to assure the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Praed), that the remark he had made, relative to Birmingham returning the Members for Warwickshire, was not well founded. He himself was an example to the contrary, as he had been returned by the agricultural interest, in opposition to his hon. opponent, who had been chiefly supported by the manufacturing interest.
§ Mr. John Weyland
said, the great increase of some manufacturing towns had led to more than a proportionate increase of freeholders within them; so much so, that he had reason to believe, that in some counties they considerably outnumbered the rural constituency. This clause would necessarily have the effect of driving the class of small voters in the towns into the counties; they would be multiplied, and the result would be, that the agricultural interests would be lost in the House. He would support the motion of the gallant Colonel, because, if it were not carried, the counties would be sluiced with voters from the towns of the lowest classes. It tended to decrease a great evil. He would throw every obstacle in the way of the 10l. voters, which would open the door to numberless frauds—would let in the occupiers of small tenements in the suburbs of large towns, and would exclude respectable persons in remote parts of the country.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
found it his bounden duty to vote for the motion of the gallant Colonel. He was always happy to support a reformer against another of the same stamp. This whole measure increased the inequality against the landed interests, which the noble Lord (Lord Althorp), declared already existed; and he felt it 572 necessary upon all occasions to express a decided opposition to so odious a measure. He knew, that there was always a difficulty in obtaining a hearing, because he always thrust it home. He believed that the Gentlemen opposite did not like to hear him, because he generally touched them on the raw, as had been said by the First Lord of the Admiralty. The people were beginning to find out, that the Ministers were humbugging them; that while they professed Reform, they were creating nomination boroughs, such as Woolwich, Chatham, and Plymouth, which would give them an influence they ought not to possess. He opposed the Bill, the whole Bill, and every part of the Bill, and would oppose it.
§ Mr. Sadler
called the attention of Ministers to the fact, that the towns afforded a constituency to the counties, in the proportion of two to one, more than the agricultural population. He wished the small freeholders to be confined to the towns with which they were connected. Had he known this proposition was to have been brought forward to-night, he should have furnished himself with some data, which he had selected, showing what would be the probable effects of the working of the system in each county. In towns it was evident there was a more complete identification of interests, and a greater union of action, than in counties. The result would be, that the Members given to the towns would represent them, and, by the working of this measure, a manufacturing constituency would be added to the counties in such numbers as would overwhelm the agriculturists.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that freeholders of the towns had always had votes for the counties; and therefore they could not overwhelm them now, particularly as in the counties the copyholders and leaseholders had been added to the freeholders. The Bill, in his opinion, would have a contrary effect from that described by the hon. Member who spoke last.
denied, that he was hostile to the Bill: he was only hostile to its defects, and he was anxious to make it as perfect as possible. It had been attempted to be denied that hon. Members had changed their minds on the Bill and their votes had been referred to as a proof of that assertion; but many had stated they perceived great difficulties in the working of the various clauses, but they would not endanger the great principles of 573 it by their opposition, preferring to amend the evils they anticipated by amendments afterwards. Some of these evils, however, were so notorious that they ought not to be overlooked. In Leeds, for instance, there were 2,300 freeholders; 500 of these only; would have votes for the town, these were the most wealthy and respectable portion, and the remaining 1,800 smaller freeholders would be sent to deluge the county. To some of the boroughs they would have to add large districts to make up 300 constituents; for Northallerton they must go sixteen miles. If the Ministers had brought in a bill only to disfranchise the boroughs, and to enfranchise the large towns, they might have been sure to carry a bill of that kind, and all the minor points might have been discussed at leisure.
§ The Committee divided on the amendment. Ayes 136; Noes 225—Majority 89.
finding the sense of the Committee to be decidedly against the Motion, which was one of a series of measures intended to secure to boroughs a constituency within their limits, he should not bring forward his proposition for extending, in certain cases, the right of voting to the occupiers of houses at a rent of 51.
read the resolutions for filling up the various blanks in clause 21. Agreed to without opposition.
On the question "That the occupier of any house, assessed to the duty on inhabited houses, upon a yearly value of not less than 10l., or of the clear yearly value of not less than 10l., or rated to the relief of the poor upon a yearly value of not less than 10l., or bonâ fide liable to a yearly rent of not less than 10l., shall have a right to vote"—
§ Sir Edward Sugden
called the attention of the noble Lord to the very objectionable wording of so important a part of the Bill. As the clause now stood, there were four different methods of ascertaining the fact of qualification—namely, assessment to the inhabited house duty at a yearly value of 10l., or rated to the relief of the poor—or of the clear yearly value or liable to a rent of 10l. Now, he need not tell the noble Lord, or any Magistrate, how much difficulty was often experienced at Quarter Sessions in ascertaining the point of the value of a tenement for the purpose of assessment, and how much it was in the power of the owner to bring evidence to prove his tenement to be worth 574 more or less, according to the object he wished to effect. It would be exceedingly desirable to ascertain what was the precise object of the framers of the Bill with respect to this clause, and whether they intended to give the franchise to one class, or to all the classes comprised in the clause. For his part, he thought the clause was worded in a manner both confused and highly objectionable, and that with respect to that part—the proof of the yearly value—it would give rise to the greatest confusion, embarrassment, and imposition.
§ Lord Althorp
had repeatedly observed, that it was the intention of Government to give the franchise to all the householders in boroughs, whose tenements were of the yearly value of 10l.; and he must say, that as the price paid by the tenant to the landlord at once showed the value, he did not anticipate any difficulty in cases so circumstanced commented on by the hon. and learned Gentleman. Where a man lived in his own house, and claimed to vote for it, he must prove its adequate value, and the tax-gatherer would immediately advance his rates upon such premises accordingly, if necessary In cases where the tenant did not probably pay 10l., but where he claimed to have his house considered of the yearly value of 10l., there might be some necessity for inquiry; but the cases of that kind would, he believed, be very few; and it was impossible, in fairness, to exclude those who had a house of much more than the value of 10l., but who had, perhaps, paid a fine to reduce the rent from the privilege of voting granted to others.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
observed, that as the clause stood the man rated at 8l. would have to bring a host of surveyors to prove it was worth 10l. per annum. This was a state of things which must lead to great difficulties. The best criterion would be the rent he was paying. The clause should not be suffered to pass without amendment. The noble Lord's idea upon the subject was this: if a house was rated at 8l., and the occupier could prove that it was worth 10l., a year the assessment must immediately rise to 10l.
§ Mr. William Peel
said, he considered the clause now under consideration at once 575 the most important and the most objectionable of all the clauses in the Bill, and one which went, more than any other, to increase democratic influence in this country. The clause was intended to give a vote to all householders of 10l. a year; and the consequence would be, that in all the great commercial and manufacturing towns, the householders of that kind would overwhelm all the other portions of the constituency. In the inland county towns, there might be 1,000 houses, and perhaps not more than 100 10l. houses among them; but in the great commercial towns there were perhaps 10,000 houses, every one of which might be rated at ten pounds a year. What would be the consequence of this? Why, that the occupiers of the small houses would command all the influence of every election. Did they, therefore, suppose, that with such a constituency the Bill would put a stop to bribery, or improve the character of the Representation? It was said, however, that the country called for this kind of Reform. He answered at once, that it did not; and although they were told that there was a general call for it, and that it would satisfy all classes, he put it to the House, whether it had not heard Reformers frequently declare, that they would not be satisfied, and that they merely took this now, in order that they might be able to command more hereafter? They were told, however, that there was a miraculous unanimity on the question throughout the country. He denied that there was any such unanimity. He was satisfied, on the contrary, that a great change had taken place on the subject. Could the noble Lord opposite (Althorp) say there was this marvellous unanimity in Northamptonshire? or was it to be found in the late elections in Buckinghamshire, or Shropshire, or Weymouth, or Great Grimsby? It was notorious, that a number of the advocates of the Bill supported it, not because it was desired by the people, but because they considered it the commencement of a series of revolutionary and democratic operations, which would terminate in the overthrow of all the established institutions of the country. They were told, that if they rejected the Bill, the consequence would be civil war. He confessed he did not envy the feelings of those who had, most unnecessarily, brought the country to such a crisis. He 576 said most unnecessarily, for at the time the Government proposed their plan of Reform, all the various branches of public industry were prosperous, and the people both contented and happy. He was one of those prejudiced, narrow-minded people who thought that this plan of Reform, brought forth with so little reason and so little necessity, would, if carried into effect, produce the overthrow of all the institutions which were the object of their veneration and regard. For this reason, because he thought the Bill neither gave security to any class, nor freedom from future contention, he would oppose the clause then before the House, as one of the most dangerous and injurious which that Bill contained.
§ Captain Polhill
alluded to the qualification, and declared his intention to move an amendment to reduce the amount of qualification. This was a most important clause, because it affected the right of every Englishman with respect to having a vote in returning Members to Parliament. There were forty-six boroughs in which the right of voting ought to be less than 10l. These he would place in a schedule by themselves, calling it schedule L, and would propose, that the qualification for a voter in them should be no more than 5l., instead of 10l. He called upon all the Reformers to support his amendment. He should propose, if he lost his motion, that the qualification for the places in schedule C, be 20l. Was it not out of all proportion that the Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Deptford, Lambeth, and other districts, should be placed on the same footing as the boroughs he had mentioned? The hon. Member thought the population, in certain districts, would not be able, as the qualification then stood, to exercise the right of voting, and therefore concluded by moving "That the blank in clause twenty-one be filled up with the words 'five pounds' instead of 'ten pounds.'"
opposed the Amendment proposed by the hon. member for Bedford. He supported the clause because, in his opinion, it was an adherence to that ancient right of franchise, the violation of which he had complained of in other parts of the measure. By the clause, the right of franchise was advantageously removed from the payment of parochial to the payment of national taxes. If the qualification was lower than 10l. this object would 577 not be attained. The hon. Gentleman opposite wanted a uniformity of franchise. Now, if there was any thing which, in his (Lord Milton's) opinion, it was desirable to preserve, it was a variety of franchise. It was desirable, that in some places the franchise should be extended almost to Universal Suffrage. That variety the clause would secure under a nominal uniformity. While human nature was constituted as it now was, and as it ever had been, the poorer classes would be liable to be corrupted by the higher. The only guard against that corruption was, that where the poorer classes were numerous, they should vote in great numbers. He had no such apprehensions from an extensive-exercise of the franchise as were entertained by the hon. Member. The hon. member for the University (Mr. W. Peel) doubted if the feeling in favour of Reform was unanimous in the country. In answer to that observation, he would refer the hon. Gentleman to the late election. The householders in general, regarded the measure with particular favour. He had no objection to places, with a smaller franchise, such as Preston, being counteracted by a higher qualification in other parts of the country. At the same time it was unwise to lower the qualification generally; and, therefore, he voted against the Amendment of the hon. member for Bedford; still less would he vote for any amendment, if such were made, which should raise the qualification above that sum. The 10l. franchise was contained in the former Bill, and the late election proved it had been well understood by the country.
Mr. Charles Russell
could not support the Amendment generally, but thought the qualification should in all cases depend upon the parochial rates. To make the qualification dependent on the rent paid to the landlord by the tenant, would lead to great collusion between them, and would facilitate fraud and deception, which would be easy to accomplish, and very difficult to detect. The inhabited house duty would be no efficient check upon those who lived in their own houses, from the uncertain principles on which it was levied. If a just valuation could be introduced by it, then it would be an excellent general qualification, and no other than it, or the payment of parochial rates, would be efficient. The objection made to the latter was, that it varied in amount in 578 various places, and that it was impossible to engraft any thing certain upon that which was in itself uncertain. But they might have a general law to determine the relative value of land and houses through the kingdom in general, and this would lead to the further advantage of introducing a just and equable imposition of taxes, while it had the further recommendation, that they could dispense with the 33rd, and subsequent clauses of the Bill before them, which he looked upon as likely to be a fertile source of fraud and litigation: eleven months in every year would be employed in manufacturing voters, and the twelfth, that of October, in establishing them. On every point of view, therefore, he thought there could be no better qualification than the payment of parochial rates, or being assessed to the inhabited house duty, under general laws, bearing equally on land and houses.
§ Mr. Gillon
I have hitherto purposely abstained from offering any remarks to the Committee, from a desire to avoid any thing that might tend to delay, in any degree, the passing of this most important measure; and because, in the previous details, much local information was required, with which hon. Members were so much more conversant than myself. On this, however, one of the most general and important provisions in the Bill, which marks out what shall be the future constituency of the cities of this kingdom, I beg to offer a few remarks; and I trust for that indulgence I so much require, from my inexperience in the forms and usages of the House. I observe among the notices of motions, a very great number which refer to this clause: some proposing that all resident freemen should permanently retain their rights—some that nonresident freemen should retain them during life—some that there should be a scale of Representation—and some that the right of voting should be extended to all paying taxes. Sir, on a primâ facie view of this provision, I own it did strike me, that, taking the 10l. medium as a qualification, to entitle to the possession of the elective franchise, it ought to have been higher in some of the large towns—as London, Manchester, &c., and that it should have been reduced even lower in some of the remote districts. In fact, I thought that, for the sake of establishing uniformity in the right of voting, a scale of representation would have been necessary. I have, 579 however, had reason, on mature deliberation, to alter that opinion; and I trust that all those hon. Members who have raised an objection to the Bill on the score of its depriving the lower class of voters of their right, will yet see reason to support this clause. In fact, the apparent or nominal uniformity of the right of voting establishes that variety in franchise, that representation of different classes and interests, which I have heard so warmly contended for on the other side of the House. I have no doubt I shall be told by the hon. member for Preston, that his constituents—the potwallopping voters—are to be disfranchised, at least prospectively so, and I own the Bill does press a little hardly upon them. But what is thus lost on one ground is gained on another; that is to say, that in some of the larger towns the franchise will descend very low in the scale—will reach all possessed of any thing like property and respectability, and will at length approach to what is called Universal Suffrage. I rejoice sincerely at this, as I look on it as affording that vent for popular feeling so much desiderated, and properly, by Gentlemen on the other side, without which the Bill would be defective. We find at present that in the places where there is the largest constituency—where it most nearly approaches to universal suffrage, that the least corruption prevails. I may mention Westminster, the Borough, and Preston; therefore, on every account, it is desirable that an infusion of this sort should be found in the Bill, both in order to express the sentiments of a very large portion o the community, and for the very valuable Members who must thus be returned to this House. This varying of the nominally uniform scale will, in other places, operate in a rather exclusive manner; and in those boroughs which are partly made up of agricultural districts the constituency will consist of what I may term the aristocratic part of the community, that is, will consist of men very far removed indeed from what will be termed the lower orders, of men closely connected with the landed interest, of men strongly interested in securing a permanency and stability for property and the existing order of things In fact, they will consist of men as far from democratic in their views or pursuits, as is consistent with any thing like a full and free Representation of the people. The 10l. franchise generally will comprise the 580 respectable and intelligent middle classes of society. It will give to them, now justly disgusted with the anomalies of our Representation, with the impost of taxes, with the payment of which alone they have low to do—it will give to all these an interest in the Constitution, and a desire to rally round the Throne, and will induce hem to look with an eye of veneration upon institutions which they have perhaps been inclined to despise, from observing the many and glaring imperfections of our Representative system. Sir, I cannot agree with those hon. Members who have declared their anticipation, that the great body of our countrymen are to become universally corrupt. I little envy the feelings or the hearts of those hon. Gentlemen; and I know not with whom they have had their transactions, to form so bad an estimate of human nature. But night after night have I listened with indignation in this House to annunciations of this sort, and have heard the great body of my countrymen thus scandalously libelled. Sir, I think more highly of my countrymen than this; and from the many magnanimous sacrifices I have seen numerous classes of them ready to make, to promote the success of this great measure, from the enthusiasm and loyalty I have witnessed every where, I cannot believe, that sordid motives will be the ones that are hereafter to regulate their conduct. But to pause one moment to show the inconsistency of the arguments used on the other side of the House. They have been loudly complaining that money and personal property will not be duly Represented. They now turn round, and say, that our new constituency are to be swayed solely by selfish and sordid motives. Surely, if it were so, which I say it is not, here would be a mode for money, at least, to be represented in this House. Perhaps they will tell us, they would not condescend to such means to procure their return; but I cannot believe, that he who will give a sum to secure the right of sending here two nominees in defiance of the laws and the Constitution, will hesitate to offer to the frail the wages of corruption. Sir, this clause shall, for these reasons, have my warmest support; and I fondly look to this Bill and to its provisions—I look to the time when we may fairly call ourselves the Representatives of the people of this country, for that union among ourselves, and respect from without, so essential to 581 our deliberations, but so long denied to this anomalous, and I fear it may be added, corrupt assembly.
thought, that the clause would operate in a manner contrary to every principle of law and equity. The persons in the borough which he had the honour to represent (Great Grimsby), who lived in houses of 5l. a year, were equal in property and respectability to the persons who at Hull (not above an hour's sail) lived in houses of 15l. a year. They were generally masters of vessels, and other seafaring persons, who would be wholly excluded from voting by the operation of this clause. The Bill would, therefore, work a manifest injustice. Would it not be advisable to introduce a proviso, that the qualification in all the boroughs in schedule B should be 5l. instead of 10l.? In his opinion, that would give a more fair and equal participation of the franchise.
§ Mr. Trevor
said, that if the qualification were raised from 10l. to 20l., he should not object to the clause, and should feel less hostile to the Bill. He did not think, that anything which was now supposed to be defective in the Constitution, would be cured by giving votes to the holders of 10l. houses, who, he maintained, would be completely open to bribery. Would any man assert, that persons occupying houses of that supposed value in the portions of Deptford, Greenwich, Finsbury, and the Tower Hamlets, would be insensible to the value of money? Instead of their being an intelligent and respectable body of the middle classes, they were some of the lowest and most corrupt portions of the community. He begged leave to say, that he was determined to express his opinion, notwithstanding the noise he heard around him. He believed, that a considerable change had taken place in the feelings of the people with respect to this measure. He knew, that many of those who had called for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," had altered their opinion. And he could produce letters from some of his own constituents, in which they declared, that the measure was anything but satisfactory to them. This Bill was brought forward at a period of agitation which he believed had been increased by undue means. But the more calm the public mind became, the more unfavourably would the plan be received.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
objected to the precipitate decision of a question which affected so nearly the whole borough constituency of the kingdom. He thought it was a question not fit to be discussed in the present state of the House; and certainly it ought not to be debated at such an hour. The hon. member for Bedford objected to 10l. as the general qualification, and had moved an Amendment, which, to many Gentlemen, was just as obnoxious as the original proposition. Now he wished to know, whether, if the clause for allowing persons renting houses of 10l. a-year value were carried, that proceeding would prevent any further offer of amendment.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the only mode he had of obtaining the decision of the House, whether the blank should be filled up with 10l. was, by moving to that effect, and such was the motion before the Committee. But an Amendment had been moved, to substitute 5l. for 10l., and he apprehended that it would still be in the power of the hon. Gentleman, or of any other hon. Member, to move any other sum instead.
(the Chairman of the Committee) said, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stuart Wortley) seemed to labour under a mistake. It was not necessary now, as it would be in a Committee of Supply, when a smaller sum was proposed as an amendment, to put the question upon that smaller sum first, and there would, therefore, be an opportunity of proposing any other sum in a subsequent motion.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, he should certainly be averse to the qualification being the same in all the small boroughs and large towns, where houses varied so much in value.
§ Captain Polhill
withdrew his Amendment.
The question that the blank be filled up with the words "ten pounds," put and carried.
§ Captain Polhill
said, that it was most erroneous policy to make the qualification in all towns alike, when the value of houses were so different in different places. It was much like sending a man to Jamaica with the same clothes which he wore in Siberia. The clause would have the effect of making close boroughs of many places that were now open by some large proprietor obtaining the majority 583 of 10l. houses. The large boroughs to be created ought to be satisfied with any franchise which was extended to them; the mere fact of receiving Representatives was a great boon. He should now move, that after the words "ten pounds" be inserted these words; "with the exception of the several places enumerated in schedule C." If he carried that motion, he proposed to follow it up by another, that in those boroughs the qualification should be raised to 20l.
§ Lord Althorp
could not assent to the Amendment, which went to increase the qualification in certain boroughs, and was to be followed by further propositions having the same object in view. He was fully persuaded, that the holders of 10l. houses in these towns were perfectly qualified to choose their own Representatives, and, therefore, held, that to raise that qualification would be to strike at the very principle of the Bill. He had always desired to extend the constituency to the utmost limits of intelligence and property, and thought the present Bill had introduced the just medium for obtaining a full and fair Representation. On that ground he should oppose the Amendment.
said, that there were other large towns besides those in schedule C, where it would be desirable to raise the qualification to 20l. He particularly alluded to Southwark and Bristol, which contained such a large population, that it would be advisable to raise the rate in them that would entitle a person to vote. Whether he should or should not bring forward any such ulterior proposal he had not yet made up his mind.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that he would object most strenuously to any rise in the franchise. It would create infinite dissatisfaction amongst the people. It had been said, that the people were indifferent to the measure; he did not think so. The 10l. clause had given a new fillip to the Bill. Of course it was quite impossible to think that any measure should give universal satisfaction. For his part, he would not move any further amendments, but on some future discussion would at once propose Universal Suffrage. He had resolved to adopt that course, from the disregard paid to his suggestions by the Committee, and from believing, by the number of petitions, that the people were desirous of universal suffrage.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
thought this the most important and the most objectionable part of the Bill. He was prepared to disfranchise the non-resident freemen, but would not take away the right of future freemen altogether, by limiting the franchise to a certain value, which would, in many cases, have that effect.
The question put, "that the several places in schedule C should be exempt from the clause," which was negatived without a division.
The question was then put, that the words "or any warehouse" do stand part of the clause.
wished to state to the Committee the object of his Amendment. The Committee were aware, that no person could vote for a shop and house unless they were separately of the value of 10l. each, or held under the same landlord. He intended to propose, that tenants from year to year, who paid a rent of above 10l., and under 20l. a-year, for two tenements, should have a right of voting for the borough in which the premises were situated.
§ Mr. Wrangham moved, that the Chairman should report progress, and not proceed further that night.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
contended, that there ought to be a fixed hour, and that beyond that hour the Committee ought not to sit. There was an agreement that the House was not to sit after one o'clock, but it generally sat till three.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had never pressed the Committee to entertain any important question after one o'clock.
§ Mr. Trevor
wished to know, whether the hon. member for Newcastle would persevere in his Amendment or not?
§ Amendment negatived without a division.
§ Question again put, that the words "or any house or warehouse" stand part of the clause.
The Attorney General
said, the word was so large in its legal acceptation that all tenements were included within it.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
doubted if the words would include the stalls or buildings in markets and other places.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
was not parsimonious of sitting up in the morning, but he put it to the noble Lord to say, whether he would press any part of so important a clause as that under consideration at such an hour (one o'clock).
§ Motion agreed to.
§ The House resumed; the Committee to sit again the next day.