HC Deb 27 August 1831 vol 6 cc698-701
Mr. Wilks

presented a Petition from Mr. Charles Pearson, of the city of London, praying that the House would introduce into the 22nd clause of the English Reform Bill, certain words, to protect the rights of the widows and daughters of freemen. The petitioner stated, that he had lately had occasion to observe, that the right which the widows and daughters of freemen possessed of giving to the persons whom they married the privileges of freemen, was much valued by those who enjoyed it. The hon. Member said that he had communicated with Government on the subject, and found that they had shown a liberal disposition to meet the wishes of those who appealed at once to their gallantry and justice.

Mr. Lennard

supported the petition, and gave notice, that he would move the insertion of certain words in the 22nd clause, which would have the effect of preserving the rights of those female connections of freemen.

Sir Edward Sugden

said, that when it was known, that the right in question operated as a marriage portion, he was sure the House would not be so uncourteous as to deprive the ladies of it.

Sir Charles Wetherell

hoped, that when these words were inserted, the city of Bristol would not be forgotten, where the ladies had now the privilege in question. He was glad to find, that as people became better acquainted with the Bill, the feeling in its favour abated in Bristol.

Mr. Wilks

said, that the words intended to be proposed, and which had received the sanction of his Majesty's Ministers, would extend to all boroughs.

On the question, that the petition be printed,

Lord Althorp

submitted, that, as there was a general rule, that petitions signed by a single individual should not be printed, except on particular occasions, there was no reason that this petition should be printed.

Mr. Protheroe

said, that he felt it necessary to make one observation in answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had stated what he believed to be the present state of feeling in the city of Bristol, with regard to the Bill. His (Mr. Protheroe's) female constituency was as large, he believed, as that of most hon. Members; and, although their feelings were in favour of retaining the rights of widows and daughters of freemen, and granting those rights to their husbands, the feeling of the people of Bristol in favour of the Reform Bill was not decreasing. On the contrary, if there was anything for which they condemned his Majesty's Government, it was, that it had not pressed the measure with more unrelenting perseverance. It was only owing to his representations, that a petition had not been presented, complaining of the delay which had taken place, in language so strong, that, perhaps, it would not have been admissible.

Sir Charles Wetherell

said, that he spoke from his knowledge of Bristol, as senior Alderman of the borough, and in that capacity had taken an oath to maintain the rights and privileges of that city. He therefore thought, he had a right to see that nothing was done contrary to the charter, although he never interfered in the general business. If the hon. Gentleman had abstained from presenting a petition in favour of the Bill, he had presented two petitions against it, and he could say, that the Bill stood by no means so high in the barometer of Bristol as it had done.

Petition laid on the Table.

Mr. Blamire

presented a Petition from the freeholders of the county of Cumberland, against the clause for the division of counties, and for conferring the right of voting on tenants at will of 501. a-year, which, they represented, had deceived and betrayed them, and would hand them over to the aristocracy. It was altogether calculated to produce the worst consequences to the farmers. They also expressed their fears, that the towns in schedule B would become close boroughs. The petitioners concluded by praying that those clauses might not be carried into effect.

Mr. Philip Howard

supported the petition, and agreed in thinking, that the concession of the elective franchise to tenants at will, would, in many instances, stifle the voice of the free constituency of counties. To the agricultural interest he conceived it would be no boon, as it would have the effect of deterring landlords from granting leases, and it was quite evident that one single bad season would place the tenant at will completely in the power of his landlord; still the concession would be less objectionable if not coupled with the clause for the division of counties; that measure would sink the spirit and destroy the unison of feeling in counties; it was considered as a partial disfranchisement, whilst it went to remove those landmarks, those boundaries, which had endured from the time of Alfred, and which were associated with every feeling of patriotism.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

felt himself called upon to defend the respectability of tenants at will. They were by no means a destitute class of persons; he knew many of them to be men of opulence.

Mr. Philip Howard

said, that he had not impugned the respectability of tenants at will. He had only asserted, that one bad season placed them completely in the power of their landlords. He was surprised that any friend to the agricultural interest could have proposed to give them the right of voting.

The Marquis of Chandos

said, that he was a member of the agricultural interest, and he thought, that the Amendment which he had made in the Bill was calculated to prove most beneficial to that interest.

Mr. Hughes Hughes,

in rising to offer a very few remarks on one branch of the subject of the petition, would take the opportunity of assuring the House, and his Majesty's Ministers, that notwithstanding what had been publicly insinuated to the contrary, he was as sincere a friend to the great measure now before the country, and as anxious not to create unnecessary delay, as any Member of the House. It was with the sole object of saving the time of the House, by preventing the renewed discussion of his motion with respect to the division of counties, that he would offer a few words on clauses 23 and 25, as proposed to be amended. While he sincerely congratulated the House on these Amendments, which, as far as they went, he most heartily approved, he was anxious to suggest two or three further alterations, which might render the clause for the division of certain counties comparatively unobjec- tionable. He would propose that the Commissioners should make a separate report of their opinion, not determination, as to the manner in which each of the counties enumerated in schedule G should be divided; and that every county, the report with respect to which, even after revision and amendment, should not be adopted by Parliament, should remain entire and undivided, and should, in future, return four Members. He would only add his hope, that his Majesty's Ministers would consider these suggestions, which were offered in all sincerity, worthy of their serious consideration, before the clauses in question came under the consideration of the House.

The Petition was ordered to lie on the Table.