said, the Committee had proceeded in clause twenty-two as far as the words "Be it enacted," and it was proposed to insert the following after those words:—
"That no person shall have a right to vote in the election of a Member or Members to serve in any future Parliament for any city or borough, except in respect of the occupation of such premises as hereinbefore mentioned: Provided always, That notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, every person now having a right to vote in the election for any city or borough (except those enumerated in the said schedule A) in virtue of any corporate right, shall retain such right of voting during his life, in the same manner as if this Act had not been passed, and shall be entitled to vote in such election, if duly registered according to the provisions hereinafter contained; and that every person now entitled to take up hi freedom in any such city or borough in respect of birth, marriage, or servitude; and every son of a burgess or freeman of any such city or borough, such son having been born previously to the passing of this Act; and every apprentice bound to any person in any such city or borough, previously to the passing of this Act, shall be 881 entitled to acquire the right of voting in the election for any such city or borough, either as a burgess or freeman, or in the City of London as a freeman and liveryman, in the same manner as if this Act had not been passed, and shall enjoy the right so acquired during their respective lives in the same manner as if this Act had not been passed, and shall be entitled to vote in such election, if duly registered according to the provisions hereinafter contained."
§ Mr. John Weyland
said, that the wording of this clause required some explanation. It was confused and vague. As he understood the clause, it increased the objectionable character of clause twenty-one. The serious attention of the Committee ought to be given to the subject. Hitherto it had been held in the political world, that the person with no property was inferior to the person with some property; but according to the new system a very different notion was to be entertained. This clause was a complete extinction of those political institutions which were founded by our forefathers, and he was certain, that the intent and meaning of it could not be understood by those persons most immediately interested.
The Attorney General
would, in a few words, explain the object of the clause. Under clause twenty-one, the right of voting was given in cities and boroughs to 10l. householders. The present clause reserved the right of voting possessed by resident freemen and the sons of freemen in such cities and boroughs, previously to the passing of this Bill, to such freemen and the sons of freemen during their lives. The object of the words, therefore, which had been introduced into the clause, with regard to which the hon. Member required an explanation, was to disfranchise all such kind of voters in future, so that after the death of the present freemen in cities and boroughs, and their sons, that class of men should not possess the right of voting.
§ Mr. Edmund Peel
In rising to propose an amendment to this clause, said I assure the Committee I regret exceedingly that I should find it necessary to introduce a subject for their consideration which has very recently undergone considerable discussion; but representing a constituency who exercise their elective privileges by being freemen, and having witnessed the anxiety they feel, that their rights should 882 be permanently continued to their descendants, and that there should be no distinction between the children born previous or subsequently to the passing of this Bill, I should not consider I performed my duty to them if I did not use my best exertions to obtain the object of their most natural and anxious desires. I wish the House should understand it is not my intention to comprehend in the amendment I shall propose those freemen who obtain the right of voting by gift or purchase, It is the future resident freeman, by right of birth and servitude and marriage, whose cause I would advocate. It is for him I would preserve the constitutional privilege from the destroying power of this Bill. This measure will create a great constitutional change, which, in my opinion, can only be justified by great, important, and proportionable benefits; and, as I do not believe that, by destroying the rights of the resident freemen, and giving the power of voting to the 10l. householders, we shall create a class of voters more independent and less open to error and undue influence and corruption, I must look with disappointment and regret at the proposed alteration in our Constitution. As it is admitted there is no danger in allowing the resident freemen to retain their rights for the next forty or fifty years, and to exercise their power of voting together with the 10l. householders, who will be admitted to take a share in the future elections as soon as this Bill is passed, where, I would ask, can be the danger in allowing these ancient rights to be permanent? Where are we to look for the advantages to balance all the disappointments and dissatisfaction which this clause will inevitably produce? We are told by the supporters of this measure, that its objects are to conciliate, to unite, and satisfy all classes of the people as to the future Representation of the country, and to do away with nomination boroughs. Now, Sir, I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to such circumstances connected with the disfranchisement of freemen, as in my humble judgement will prove subversive of the principles it is intended to establish. The clause proposes, that the present rights of freemen should terminate with the lives of their children now born; beyond that limit they are no longer to exist. Thus eventually we shall destroy one class of voters, and by this Bill create another. Now, I ask the Committee from 883 what description of future electors are we going to take this long-valued right? I say, from those who might be expected to feel a most natural and anxious interest in the prosperity of their native towns—probably in the scenes of their youthful and ingenious labours—from those who, under existing circumstances, would have exercised this right as an hereditary gift of their country, or as the just reward of their servitude—a right which has hitherto constituted a safe connection between the working classes of the people and this House. By severing this connection we shall produce, I fear, not conciliation, not union, not satisfaction, but indifference, if not dislike, to the future constituted and parliamentary authorities of the country. And to whom are we going to give the elective rights? Why, Sir, I say, in many instances, to the accidental occupier of a 10l. house, to the very dependent of the landlord, often to the mere resident of a year, who consequently may be a stranger unacquainted with the feelings, and unconnected with the interests of his fellow-constituents. Thus, Sir, I maintain, we are about to create a constituency less united, less independent, not feeling those natural ties, or possessing those valuable rights which have hitherto secured to the freemen by birth and servitude the elective privileges. I never will approve of the spoliation of the rights of this class of voters. I have seen many of them struggling with their difficulties, and enduring the severest privations to preserve them. These rights, then, are most dear to their feelings. They value, they would preserve them; and why should this House cause their annihilation? Why transfer them to a constituency whose claims are less natural, whose independence is less certain, and whose situation in life will be found not superior to that of the freemen by birth and servitude? The noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) said, that few of these freemen would be prevented from voting at elections, because they might occupy the 10l. house; but I must tell that noble Lord, that the operatives in the smaller boroughs (who are equally as intelligent, equally as skilful, and as respectable as those living in large towns) will not be enabled to vote, merely because they do not live in houses of 10l. value. But, assuming they would, if any objections now exist, why would they be less likely to be practised, because they voted 884 under another qualification? We should have (according to the noble Lord's own showing) the identical same class of electors, only voting from a different cause. But there is another subject connected with my Amendment, which I consider of the greatest importance in a measure by which we are told the people ought to be benefitted, and their rights and liberties be preserved—I allude to the effect which the disfranchisement of freemen may produce as to that undue influence by which nomination boroughs have hither to been maintained. If this Bill was expected to create a class of voters more independent of the influence of the landlords, and less likely to be removed at their pleasure, and guided by their will, then it might support the just rights of the people, and preserve them from undue influence and corruption; but I cannot see that this measure is calculated to produce any such effects. I cannot see in it any safeguard for the independent principle of the elector, or any check upon the power of the landlord. He would still feel that power and the exercise of it would be rendered more easy by the diminution of the constituency. The hon. and learned Attorney General stated, in a recent debate on clause 21st, that the best security for independence was to be found in numbers. Sir, I agree with him in that statement, and therefore regret, that the numbers of voters in the small towns will be greatly reduced by the operation of this Bill. The elective franchise, derived from the various sources of birth and servitude and marriage, must, by the most natural reasoning, be productive of more independence than that which is derived from one source only, and by this Bill we shall have one class of voters, one claim to the elective privilege superseding all others, but, in my opinion, by no means establishing the point which this sweeping clause is intended to effect. Feeling this Bill will eventually invade the rights of a valuable class of voters—feeling it will not guard against undue influence and corruption, and will fail in the points it is intended to establish, I shall conclude by proposing an Amendment, to secure to the future resident freemen by birth, servitude, and marriage, a permanent continuance of their ancient and valuable rights.
§ Sir Adolphus Dalrymple
supported the Amendment. He contended, that there was neither justice nor sound policy in 885 depriving the freemen of their rights. Those persons formed a respectable, an intelligent, and an independent body of men, and were more likely to exercise properly the elective franchise than were the generality of 10l. householders. He hoped, therefore, that the freemen of corporations, who had for ages exercised their rights with honour to themselves, and advantage to their country, would not be deprived of those rights by an English House of Commons.
said, he represented a large body of freemen in the city of Gloucester, and begged the indulgence of the Committee, whilst he made a few remarks on the clause before them. And first, he begged to assure the Committee, notwithstanding all that had been said to the contrary, that the freemen of that place did, and do understand the manner by which this clause affected them; and although they might hope that such a clause would be amended in their favour, they would sooner give up that hope than the hope, that the Bill should pass into a law. But he was bound to admit, that amongst the free women there was a very strong feeling against this clause of the Bill. The wives of freemen, and the mothers of families were very naturally opposed to it on account of the valuable charities founded by bequest in that city, for the maintenance of a certain number of widows of freemen, and for the maintenance and education of a certain number of their sons and daughters. To enable them to share in the benefit of such charities, the husband or the father, as the case might be, must have taken up the freedom for which there was a trifling fee, amounting to a few shillings. Now, the ladies feared, and he thought these fears were well grounded, that if the right of voting were taken away, the freemen would frequently neglect to take up such freedom and that even those who might save a pittance from their weekly earnings to enable them to do so, would be tempted, from various causes, as they could not make all men alike provident, to spend the money so saved for other purposes; and before a second sufficient saving could be made the wife might be a widow, and the children orphans, cut off for ever from the benefit of such charities. The frequency and excitement of elections brought the right frequently to their minds—nay, the necessity of taking up the freedom be 886 fore a vote could be given secured to the families their eligibility to partake of the charities. Besides, he could not but think that it would tend to deprive the poor and hard-working orders of freemen of the benefits of the charity, whilst those of better prospects would be able to command the necessary fee, and the object of the charity thus be defeated. As the elective franchise was secured to them for he next fifty years, as had already been remarked by the hon. Member who brought forward the Amendment, he could not foresee any evil, or any departure from the principle of the Bill, by continuing the right of voting in perpetuity.
§ Mr. Buck
said, that although he had given his support to a very large portion of the Bill, yet he felt bound to oppose this clause which was unjust and severe; the freemen of the city he represented (Exeter) were independent and respectable, and no charge whatever of corruption could attach to them. He had the honour of sitting for that place some years, during which, although there had been several contests, he had never paid one of the electors a shilling. He reluctantly opposed the Government upon the present clause, but he could by no means consent to be a party to deprive his constituents of a privilege they had so well used.
Lord John Russell
said, that it was quite impossible to admit such an Amendment as this. The question was, whether the present clause, which went to preserve the right of voting to existing freemen in cities and boroughs, should be so altered as to preserve to all future freemen in such cities and boroughs that right in perpetuity. The principle of this Amendment had been already rejected by the decision of the House on Saturday last, and he did not see that there were any grounds for making this class of voters a peculiar exception from the operation of this clause. If the rights of freemen were to be excepted, and if they were to be preserved to them for ever, they would be then asked to preserve the right of voting to the scot-and-lot voters; and if they did so, the freeholders would then have a right to complain, that their right had not been preserved to them. So that one by one, each of those class of voters would claim the maintenance of their rights, and one by one they would claim to be excepted from the operation of the disfranchising clause of this Bill. He did not deny that the resident freeholders 887 were a respectable class of voters in such boroughs as Newcastle and Gloucester, and places of that description, but he would contend, that while their rights were preserved to all existing freemen under this clause during their lives, there would, in all those places, be soon produced, under the operation of the 21st clause, a sufficient constituency, and a better regulated and more extended franchise, than hitherto existed there. The question was, whether the 10l. franchise did not give a sufficient share in the Representation, and a sufficient power to the industrious classes of the country. He thought that it did, and he should therefore oppose this Amendment.
§ Sir Matthew White Ridley
said, that some more sufficient ground should have been laid to establish either the justice or the expediency of taking away such a right as this, from persons who had so long exercised it, without any complaint having been made that it had been abused. The chief objects of the Bill were the destruction of the nomination boroughs, and the extension of the franchise; and surely these desirable objects could be obtained without disfranchising persons who had inherited privileges which ought to be sacredly preserved. In large corporations, the exercise of the franchise allowed the mechanic as well as the merchant, a control over the persons who were to represent them. By excluding their descendants an injustice was done to them. The freemen of Newcastle had declared, that although they regretted such a clause had been introduced into the Bill, yet if a retention of their privileges was considered a bar to its passing, they were willing to resign all their own views to ensure its success. This was an additional reason for him to endeavour to preserve those rights to persons who so well deserved to retain them. If this Amendment should go to the vote, he should, on the principles of justice, feel it his duty to vote for it.
said, the noble Lord, the member for Devonshire, asserted, that the hon. mover of this Amendment used but one argument in favour of his Amendment, which was, that the small value of property in the lesser boroughs would act so as to exclude a numerous class of respectable voters from the 10l. franchise. He begged to say, that he could state another as regarded the borough he sat for, and 888 he was too humble an individual to argue the general advantages of this Amendment, that had been so ably, and to his view, conclusively done by the hon. mover. He should content himself with stating what he knew of the hardship that this clause as it now stood inflicted on the borough of Berwick. Perhaps the noble Lord was not aware of the circumstances of that borough. The number of voters was 500 resident, and 643 out-voters. These latter it was proposed to disfranchise, and he thought most improperly and unjustly. The whole of these freemen were members of a Corporation, and on residence acquired certain valuable rights, but none more so than that of property, for the property of the Corporation of Berwick amounted to upwards of 10,000l. a-year, and the resident freemen shared this, under certain restrictions, amongst them; and the minimum was equal to what the Constitution had settled as a qualification for a county voter, 40s. What right, therefore, had the House to acknowledge the right of one, and to disfranchise the other individual, entitled by inheritance to at least an equal right under which the county voter claims to vote? Again, under the Bill the hardship so well described by the member for Gloucester, would arise. So little interest would be held out to the freeman to take up his freedom, that he would neglect it and so deprive his widow of what she now enjoys at Berwick as at Gloucester. Whatever generosity the hon. member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Sir Matthew White Ridley) might be permitted to exercise by his constituents, he was instructed to advocate the rights of those of Berwick without any power to give them up in their names. Again, the principle of this Bill, which it assumed as a merit, and which its supporters praised it for, was, that it increased or extended the franchise. But this principle was grossly violated in the case of Berwick. The number of freemen now was 1,143, 500 of which were residents, and so would retain their franchise; add to which 250, the new voters, would make 750. And what in forty years would be the case? Why, any annuity office would tell you that the franchise would be reduced to the householders amounting to 350, and so in the end make it a close borough; and every one who knew it now would agree with him that a more open one does not exist—that no Member can reckon with security on his 889 return. Notwithstanding the wilful misstatements of public journals, and anonymous correspondents, the story that he paid an agent, who kept him secure, was all a fabrication. That agent would not support him, or any one else, unless he approved of their conduct and coincided with their sentiments; and he was no more sure of his support unless he had merited it and felt as great an anxiety to gain his suffrage as that of any other respectable individual. Thus, then, after years of hardship spent away from his native town, the out-voter conies back and finds himself, or at least his son, born free, by this Act deprived of his franchise; and that son, whose exertions have perhaps been crowned with success, returns and sees his elder brother, who has perhaps been hanging on idly, and neither respectable nor independent, in possession of what he had been deprived of so unjustly. His hon. colleague proposed as a boon, while the Bill with one hand disfranchised these voters, to make up the deficiency by adding Tweedmouth and Spittal to Berwick. He must object strongly to that. He saw no reason for disfranchising those who now voted, and thought they would find very bad substitutes in the persons proposed. There was another part of this clause to which he strongly objected, viz. to the small limit of seven miles, which, in the case of Berwick, deprived a numerous class of most respectable voters of their franchise, without giving them a vote elsewhere; and he suggested, that as Berwick was a peculiar borough, it would not be established as a precedent, or injure the principle of the Bill, if it was extended in its case to fifteen. For any extension he knew his constituents would be grateful. He could, however, hope for nothing more advantageous, than the Amendment of the hon. mover, and he should afford it his strenuous and firm support.
said, that he conceived it to be one great principle of the Bill, that it professed to open, not to close, boroughs, to extend, and not to contract the franchise; this clause, however, violated these principles. In Beverley, which he had the honour to represent, there were 1,500 voters respectable and independent men. There were several instances in which nearly the whole were polled in the course of one day, which proved they were an orderly and well-conducted constituency, and yet the children, of such persons were to be deprived 890 of this right, which it was their fathers highest ambition to exercise justly. The voters would be gradually reduced from 1,500 to make 328 10l. householders, for there was no more than that number of houses of adequate value in the borough. He had no desire to exclude these, but he wished them to be added to the resident freemen, to the exclusion of the non-residents. Such an infusion of fresh voters would add all the respectable residents of a town, and would go further than any other arrangement to put an end to nomination.
said, he had all along opposed this most iniquitous Bill in every stage. He would therefore support the Amendment, being desirous that the hereditary rights of burgesses should be preserved. This, in his opinion, was the most objectionable part of the Bill, though highly objectionable in almost every part. The effect, he felt certain, would be, to lessen the constituency, and to substitute a far more objectionable qualification. As in the case of Berwick, there were numerous burgesses who had a deeper interest in the preservation of the Constitution than those to whom this Bill gave the right of voting. His constituents had a strong objection to this particular clause of the Bill, and he therefore would oppose it with all his power.
said, in justice to his constituents, the burgesses of Great Grimsby, who displayed so magnificent a spirit of independence, he must oppose a clause which went to rob those honest and incorrupt voters of their rights. At present there were 400 electors in Great Grimsby. There were not quite 100 10l. houses in the borough; so that, in place of extending the number of electors, it would here be greatly reduced. There were, however, 300 or 400 5l. and 6l. householders, and, in consequence of the cheapness of houses, and of the greater cheapness of living generally, these 5l. and 6l. householders were more independent and more intelligent than 20l. rent-payers in London, Manchester, Birmingham, and such large places. It had been said, in answer to the objections against this clause, that no person was deprived of his rights—that they were preserved to all who at present enjoyed them. But he would put it to the House whether the freemen of Great Grimsby and other places could be satisfied, with mere personal enjoyment? 891 Must they not entertain, naturally, a strong desire to transmit their rights to their children, and those who were to come after them? They did entertain that desire as strongly as the higher classes did to transmit their fortunes and their titles to their descendants.
§ Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey
—No one could feel more opposed to the clause for the disfranchisement of corporate votes than I did when it was first submitted to the House, because no attempt had been made to ascertain the sentiments of those whose interests and feelings were to be exclusively affected. But this difficulty has been obviated by an appeal to the people, without which, or, when made, if followed by a different result, such a proceeding would have been justly deprecated as a violent outrage upon existing rights. This appeal to the public mind has been made, and the result has justified the measure. The Bill has been read and canvassed in every club, its bearings and effects are well understood, and the citizens and burgesses of the kingdom have given a splendid example of their disinterestedness and their attachment to the great cause of Reform, in their readiness to sacrifice their personal interests upon the common altar of their country. At the same time it should be borne in mind, that this Bill not only conserves all existing rights, but it respects all rights which shall come into actual existence to the moment that it receives the Royal fiat. I wish I could discover in the conduct of hon. Members opposite as much solicitude for the distresses of the existing generation, as they affect anxiety for the immunities of unborn beings. It is not the province of practical statesmen to legislate for remote times; a period of fifty years is abundantly distant, upon which the anxiety of legislators can be fairly expected to exert itself. Other times will bring their own Reforms. No body of constituents could be more justly jealous of their corporate rights than those whom it is my honour to represent, but they are, at the same time, a reasonable body of men. They felt, that it would be idle and ungenerous to denounce nomination boroughs and borough proprietors, and yet contend for the perpetual existence of their own mixed and varying franchise. It is a great and important object of the Reform Bill to establish an uniform right of voting in all cities and boroughs, and which can 892 only be effected by providing for the eventual extinction of the manifold and conflicting qualifications which now exist. I regret exceedingly the absence of the noble Lord (Althorp), and especially the cause of it, as I should have pressed most earnestly on his attention the propriety, and indeed justice, of repealing the stamp duty of 20s., paid on admission. This imposition bears most heavily on the industrious portion of my constituents, and, if not removed, will tend to prejudice their municipal claims. The hon. member for Gloucester has alluded to this matter, and has stated that the widows and orphans of the freemen of that city are entitled to many thousands a-year. In Colchester, the funds which ought to be divided amongst the resident burgesses fall little short of 1,500l. a year; and I can anticipate the period when the select few will have a motive in reducing the number of recipients. At present, it is not an unfrequent practice for candidates, at elections, to assist those burgesses who cannot pay the admission fees; but the time will come when the inducement will cease, and I would then ask, in what way is the poor man to vindicate his right. Thirty shillings may appear a trifling sum to hon. Members, but I have known many instances in which some of my firmest and best friends have struggled with the extremest necessity rather than lose their votes, by accepting of the miserable pittance arising from parochial aid. In what way are these honest citizens to get the 20s. wherewith to pay the stamp, in addition to other charges, making in the whole nearly 30s., and which in many places is considerably higher. I avail myself, therefore, of this occasion to express my determination, at the proper period, to move the repeal of this duty, and in the full expectation that Government will sanction the proposal. It should be borne in mind, that this Bill rather alters the right of voting than diminishes the number of electors. In Colchester, there are about 400 resident burgesses, more than half of whom would be entitled to vote, as the occupiers or owners of 10l. houses. And herein, I must think, is to be found one of the many excellencies of this Bill. It virtually excludes no man, for it holds out to the industrious mechanic—to every one who sustains himself by an honest course of industry, the means by which he may connect himself 893 with the constituency of his native town, and thus gives him an interest in the politics and property of his country. For these reasons, I shall vote against an amendment, which originates with the enemies of Reform, and who take the present course, in the hope of entangling the friends of the Bill, and impeding the triumph of the great measure itself.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, nothing could be more unjust than the charge made against his hon. relative, by the hon. member for Colchester. His hon. relative, so far from having any wish to take advantage of a thin House, had given long previous notice of his motion. He had, at an early period of the Session, intimated his intention of bringing the subject before the House, and on Saturday last he had waived his right to bring forward the Amendment, on account of the small number of Members in the House. It was not, therefore, the fault of his hon. relative if more Members were not present to take part in this discussion. The question was, whether a case had been made out for disfranchising freemen? and he must say, that a more miserable defence had never been set up for any measure of injustice than for the present. The hon. member for Colchester had borne testimony to the character of the freemen of that borough—had referred to the privations and hardships which they were ready to undergo in the honest exercise of their hereditary privilege—and yet he expressed his determination of voting against them. The hon. member for Exeter, and the hon. member for Gloucester, and the hon. member for Newcastle, Gentlemen who were friendly to the Bill, had all borne testimony to the independence of the freemen of their respective boroughs; but hon. Members, in spite of such authority, were ready to give up the cause of their constituents. It was not true, as had been argued, that if this clause were rejected, his Majesty's Ministers ought to relinquish the Bill. They would not be justified in relinquishing the Bill on such grounds. The Amendment would not give the right of voting to non-residents. It confined the franchise only to resident freemen, who had obtained their freedom by marriage, birth, or servitude. He was unwilling to forfeit the franchise of those who had done nothing whatever to deserve the forfeiture, and who were described by all the Members who had spoken, as persons of great respectability 894 and independence. The hon. Member afforded them the consolation that their conduct might be an example to the 10l. householders. A fine example indeed! They have exercised their privilege with integrity and honour—and what is their reward? That they are to forfeit it for ever! He had said last Session, that it would be a great hardship to exclude altogether from the franchise those persons who rented houses under the value of 10l., and, notwithstanding the sneers of some hon. Members, who talked of an endeavour to enlist the discontented in favour of the opposition to the Bill, he retained the same opinion. It was an error to sever altogether the connexion which now existed between that House and the humbler class of voters—unwise to brand all below a particular line with disqualification; it was a great hardship, too, on the excluded class—many of whom, in country places, were men of better education than those of the same rank of life in populous cities, and the day would yet come, when they would step forward and declare, that they were not satisfied, and claim the restoration of their rights. It was the argument of the supporters of the Bill, that this class was advancing in intelligence, and why then exclude them now, when they are capable of understanding the injury, from all participation in the Constitution? He was not for an indiscriminate admission of any class of voters, but he was for the maintenance of existing hereditary privileges, particularly when those privileges were possessed by the humbler classes of society. We had an hereditary Monarchy, an hereditary Aristocracy, and hereditary rights to property. We defended all these with the utmost pertinacity, but we had no scruple in confiscating the hereditary privileges of freemen. Beware of the precedent you are establishing. You cannot forfeit one class of hereditary privilege, though it be the humblest, without shaking the foundation of all. Independently of considerations of justice, there were considerations of policy to recommend the preservation of the corporate right of voting. It would tend to diminish the force of that objection which had been urged to the uniformity of the franchise established by the Bill. He hoped he should have the support of the Attorney General for the Amendment, for the hon. and learned Gentleman, on a former occasion, 895 had argued, in discussing the 21st clause, that the more numerous the constituency, the more likely were they to be independent and incorruptible. The effect of the Bill would be, to reduce the number of voters, in some instances, from 1,500 to; 400, and in others, even so low as ninety-six. He was sure, therefore, that the Attorney General could not, on his own principles, agree to such a reduction. The privilege was not prized by the present possessor so much on his own account, as on account of the hereditary right which the father transmitted to his children; on that ground, and not on any sordid principle, the loss of this privilege would be severely felt. The ministers had tried, but could not purchase the consent of the freemen to the forfeiture of the birthright of their children, by protecting their own existing interest in the franchise.
The Attorney General
said, that his argument did not rest on numbers alone, but comprehended numbers and property. He never could have advocated the principles imputed to him by the right hon. Baronet, because these would lead to Universal Suffrage. He thought Government had acted wisely in giving the franchise to a class to whom it might be safely given, and in withholding it from others, when the public convenience required it. In answer to the remark of the right hon. Baronet, as to Government continuing the franchise to freemen for fear of making themselves unpopular, he would only say, that Government evidently had not acted on such a principle, for they took it away from non-resident voters, and thereby risked the return of many of their friends. The right hon. Baronet had declared, that taking away the elective franchise from Corporate voters was but a bad requital for the public spirit which those privileged persons had exhibited; but he could tell the right hon. Baronet, that those people would justly have treated Ministers with scorn, had they violated the principles of the Bill, out of any regard to their interests and feelings, or under a plea of rewarding their conduct. The measure had been resolved on in both cases, not as a perfection, but as a question of expediency, and those who saw it in the same light as he did, must regard it as one peculiarly necessary for securing an independent and respectable class of voters. Much had been said about the feelings of the people beginning to cool; but this was 896 said the first week of the Session, and had even been advanced before the dissolution. An appeal had been made—the people approved of the Bill, and the whole Bill; and he should consider it unjust at that stage of it to introduce a clause which would be a perversion of it. Much had been said about the independence of freemen, but he knew that the greatest corruption prevailed among that class. The gallant member for Berwick had spoken of that borough, but he had said nothing about the independence of the freemen. He approved of that clause of the Bill, because it would introduce a more expeditious and simple mode of voting. It ought to be borne in mind, too, that though such an outcry had been raised in that House—though his hon. and learned friend (Sir Charles Wetherell) had sounded the tocsin, and raised his voice against Corporation robbery—only three or four petitions had been presented against the measure. He believed that those who wished to retain the franchise were most anxious to have it placed on a different footing from the present. He could speak from experience. He had been twice in Nottingham since the election, and he had not heard one murmur of complaint against the clause. Allusion had been made to the injustice of depriving freemen of the benefit which they at present derive from charities and bequests, but there was no ground for such a charge; they would continue to enjoy these as they had hitherto done. He thought there was some security that a man renting a house worth 10l. was comparatively above want, and not so liable to be bribed as a freeman who did not occupy a house of that value. Complaints had been made against the Bill, as if it would be favourable to the lawyers; now, the very reverse was the case; for if the freemen, merely as freemen, were deprived of the right of voting, there would be an end to mandamuses, and other suits, respecting the right of freemen to vote at elections. He contended that the clause, as it now stood, was much better than the Amendment. It did not disfranchise any existing freeman; and as to the posterity of those who now lived, he believed that a freeman would rather see the prospect of his son voting from holding a 10l. house, than that the elective franchise should proceed in the way it now did.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that he was 897 at a loss to conceive how his hon. and learned friend (the Attorney General) could reconcile the two clauses with each other (the 21st and 22nd clauses), the one being directed to extend the elective franchise, the other to limit. In the course of Saturday's discussion it might be recollected by those hon. Members who happened to be present—for there was but a thin attendance of Members—that he had alluded to the inscription on the box containing the freedom of the city of London, to the noble Lord the Paymaster of the Forces, and said, that the words Magna Charta and Reform were incompatible; for in Magna Charta those very rights were declared to be inviolate which the Reform Bill destroyed. He had examined Magna Charta since, but at the time he had a perfect recollection of the substance of one of the clauses of that great charter, and it insured all the boroughs their privileges and rights. His hon. and learned friend said, that Ministers did not put this case on the ground of forfeiture—and so said the noble Lord not then in his place. No—the boroughs in schedule A and B were not disfranchised on the ground of forfeiture, but because they were contrary to the principles of the Constitution. But on what grounds were the freemen to be disfranchised? Had they departed from the spirit of the Constitution? Why every incorporate town, and the privileges of every freeman in them, were as sacred as any right acknowledged by Magna Charta. In cap. 9 it was said, and he begged in particular the attention of the Members of the city of London to the passage, "The city of London shall have all the old privileges and customs which it hath been accustomed to have: moreover, we will and ordain that all new cities, boroughs, and towns, by the terms of the five provisions, in all their parts, shall have their liberties and free customs." For 800 years the rights of freemen in towns had been as sacred as any personal right to property. Indeed there was no distinction between the two; for in a subsequent clause Magna Charta declares, that no man shall be deprived of his freehold. He might perhaps be told again, as he had been told before by some constitutional antiquarian, that when Magna Charta was granted, boroughs and towns did not possess the right of Suffrage; for besides that the House of Commons, as at present 898 constituted, was not then in being, the first Corporation which received the right of returning Members of Parliament was that of Wenlock, in the reign of Edward 4th, and that, therefore, there was no violation of Magna Charta in the present clause, as it attacked none of the "privileges and free customs" then possessed by boroughs. The answer was plain: it was the law of the land—at least as he interpreted it and as expounded at our legal tribunals, that the article in Magna Charta not only secured boroughs and corporations the privileges then enjoyed by them, but also every other acquired right which they might receive in their corporate capacity; of which newly-acquired rights he need not say the franchise was the most important. To deprive the freemen of England of their long-established right of franchise, was to subvert the institutions of the country, as confirmed by Magna Charta; and in this light the country was beginning to regard the disfranchisement portions of the present Bill. Indeed, he had reason to know, that the circle of dissatisfaction around the Bill was daily becoming wider and wider, and would, ere long, include every man in the empire who valued the rights of Englishmen. He might with ease quote cases in point of this important fact; but could not take it upon his memory to cite all the towns and boroughs which had already expressed their dissent from the Bill, by returning Anti-reformers, or approving of the conduct of its opponents. For this purpose he should have to construct a schedule A of the towns against the Bill, in which would be found Great Grimsby, Durham, Beverly, and Dublin, and several other large and populous towns and cities. He believed, also, he might include Colchester, the hon. Representative of which would find it to be his interest to support the present Amendment. Unless, too, he had been very much misinformed, he might, he believed, include the liverymen of the city of London, as dissatisfied with a Bill by which they would lose more than they possibly could gain. The country knew that the right of freemen to vote for the Representatives of towns and boroughs was, as his right hon. friend, the member for Tamworth, had observed, an hereditary right, and that principle once adopted of attacking and spoliating hereditary rights, no man could take it upon him to say where it would end. There were two modes of destroying 899 hereditary rights—either to begin at the top and go down to the bottom, or to begin at the bottom and go up to the top. If they looked to the proceedings of a neighbouring State—that is, to the Reformers of that country—they would see a striking illustration of the former mode of attacking hereditary rights and privileges: the present clause, by which the hereditary rights of the freemen of England were to be at one fell swoop destroyed for ever, was an instance of the attack from the bottom to the top, preferred by the popular reformers of this country. The French chambers, in abolishing the hereditary privileges of the Peers, began in the reverse mode—that is, they commenced with the drawing-room, while Ministers commended their spoliation of hereditary rights at the ground floor, by and by to mount up to the higher portion of our constitutional edifice. He should like to know on what ground Ministers, having once admitted and acted upon the monstrous principle of robbing the freemen of England of the elective rights which they had enjoyed and inherited for centuries, could refuse their "movement" Reform allies, to join in the spoliation of the other hereditary rights and privileges which were at present part and parcel of the Constitution? The Paymaster of the Forces, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer belonged to the hereditary peerage of England, and if they, by the 22nd clause of the Bill, remorselessly wrested from the boroughs and corporate towns their most cherished hereditary rights, on what ground could they refuse their assent to a proposition which would reduce them to Citizen Russell and Citizen Spencer? If they he repeated, thus decimated the Corporations of the country, and robbed the freemen of England of their long-inherited rights—if they thus laid down a standard of social outrage, hereafter to be appealed to by their more eager and more consistent allies, how could they attempt to withhold their aid from some more extensive scheme of spoliation which by and by will be proposed, and which most probably will embrace, not only the hereditary privileges of the English aristocracy, but may attack the very basis on which our monarchical institutions at present rest? Were they so blind as not to see the fatal consequences of the principle they were acting upon? Or so conceited, so infatuated in their feeble self-complacency 900 as to imagine they could prevent their occurrence? No doubt, Lords Althorp and Russell wish to remain so, and not sink to the level of their democratic allies; but did they imagine that their wishes would be the goal to which all the efforts of the "movement" Reformers will be directed? The next relay of Reformers would take up the hereditary-privilege-spoliation principle when the noble Lords shall lay it down, and thanking them for having so skilfully pioneered the way—for having opened a new road to the hereditary rights of the Constitution—will, of course, not stop till they reach their Ultima Thule. Would their reforming friends stay themselves in their course at the bidding of the noble Lords, the supposition was monstrous. The hon. and learned Gentleman repeated, that the 22nd clause was not, in his mind, justifiable on any moral, political, or legal grounds. Ministers disfranchised the small boroughs for no reason but because they were small, and now most inconsistently proposed to disfranchise the corporations of the large towns, merely because they were large. Let them look, too, at the monstrous inconsistency of applying the same principle to the non-resident and the resident freemen. And look, too, at the monstrous inconsistency of a Ministry vaunting itself upon its attention to popular rights, beginning a system of spoliating the hereditary rights of the democratic portion of the community; but let them beware: the principle of spoliation once acted upon, those corporate privileges which were expressly secured by Magna Charta, being thus trampled upon, they might soon be called upon to join the present opponents of the Bill, in defending, not only the hereditary rights and privileges of the Peerage of England, but of the Monarch himself. Yes, in this clause was planted the seed of the destruction of the monarchical institutions of this country; for the right on which the hereditary succession to the Throne was founded, and by which the Peers enjoyed their titles and property, was the same in kind and degree as that by which the freemen of England enjoyed the right of franchise in Corporations. This important fact did not escape the sagacity of the levellers who figured in the early periods of the French Revolution, for their first act was the destruction of all corporate and municipal privileges, as the surest means of successfully attacking the Throne and the Altar, and thence those 901 institutions which were their main stay. He would not then pursue a parallel between the progress of the Reform Bill and of the French Revolution; but he would call upon the House to bear in mind, that amid the vicissitudes, and feuds, and intestine commotions which made the reign of Charles 1st and of Cromwell so remarkable in the annals of this country, the most sedulous care was invariably bestowed upon the preservation of all corporate privileges. In conclusion, he called on Ministers to pause in their ruinous course. If they did not, God grant that the majority out of doors might have more prudence than to follow the example set them from within—of acting upon a principle of spoliation, without crime, or any moral, political, or legal ground of forfeiture.
could not but congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman, after his six weeks' respite, on refreshing their memories with the almost-forgotten tales of Corporation robbery—Cromwell—the French Revolution—and the hereditary privileges of the Peerage and of the Monarch. He could not but remark on the discrepancy in the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the right, hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel); one of whom contended, that the Amendment would not affect the principle of the Bill, while the other supported it, on the ground that it would affect the principle. What was that principle? Simply the extension of the franchise to the wealth and intelligence of the people of England; and, so far from Ministers departing from it in the present clause, the fact was, the departure from the principle consisted in their anxiety to preserve the life-interest of all resident freemen. His hon. and learned friend had clearly shown, that the forfeiture which the clause would effect applied to the class, and not to the individual, and that it was justifiable on the principle that it was essential to the promotion of the great object of the Bill—a sound and bonâ fide system of Representation. The hon. and learned Gentleman was greatly in error in stating, that the circle of dissatisfaction on the part of the people as to the Bill was on the increase. The fact was, the only dissatisfaction against the Bill arose from the very slow progress which, thanks to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Bill had made. The feelings of the people as to the Bill had been too clearly evinced on the late election. Witness the large majority 902 which had been returned, pledged to the Bill—witness the fact, that in all the large towns the enemies of the measure were obliged to withdraw. Indeed, if he had not been greatly misinformed, the hon. mover of the Amendment (Mr. Edmund Peel) was indebted for his return for Newcastle solely to his assurance that he would support the Bill. It would be for the hon. Gentleman to reconcile to his constituents his professions and his practice, and if there was any faith in figures, the large majority of the freemen of large towns were friendly to the Bill. Lincoln might, perhaps, be an exception, but only an exception. The present clause, he begged hon. Members to bear in mind, left untouched the rights at present enjoyed by resident freemen, and only put an end to the system of non-residentship, the fruitful source of bribery, expense, and corruption.
§ Mr. Edmund Peel
begged to be allowed to say, in reply to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, that he had given no assurance at Newcastle that he would support the Bill. In fact, he had done quite the reverse, for he had been returned after declaring most distinctly that he would oppose the Bill.
said, that the franchise of men who were free from imputation ought not to be sacrificed, as they would be by this clause. Why should the freeman's son born on the 1st of October have a right to vote, while the son born on the 2nd of the same month would not have that right? He cared not for what had passed at the general election; but one thing was clear, namely, that parents were anxious to transmit rights to their children. What answer could be given to this question—why should not the children of freemen have the right of voting, even if they were not born before the 1st of October? There could be neither danger nor inconvenience in this Amendment, and therefore he would support it. No reason had been given for rejecting the Amendment now proposed. The Government seemed determined to carry their Bill exactly as they thought proper, while he, exercising a sound discretion, felt it his duty to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Protheroe
came into that House prepared to support the Bill, and the whole Bill; but, at the same time, while he was bound to support its principle, he was at perfect liberty to exercise his discretion, 903 and free to vote, if he chose, for any alteration which he might consider as really an amendment, and perfectly consistent with the principle of the Bill. This he said, in order to show the Gentlemen opposite, that he was not so fettered as they might imagine. But he did not think that the proposed alteration was an amendment, and therefore, he would not support it. With respect to the freemen of Bristol, he believed there were no direct means of corruption employed among them; but, at the same time, it was notorious that the candidates were in the habit of taking out their freedom for those who were qualified, and these freemen were launched out into the world, under some particular colours, red or blue, and were thus made, instead of real freemen, only the slaves of a party. He did not think, that it was consistent with the principle, to extend the franchise to freemen of this kind, so far as was proposed by this Amendment. He thought it would be a great improvement to separate the elective franchise from corporate charities, as the effect would be, to render these charities much more subservient to the purposes for which they were originally intended. He had, in the face of his constituents told them he objected to the system of freemen. He now repeated, what he had formerly asserted, that there was no change of opinion in the minds of the people respecting the Bill, they still regarded it with great favour, as he continued to do, and was resolved to give it his support.
said, that in supporting the Amendment he did it with a sincere desire of supporting the principle of the Bill, which was for the extension, and not for the restriction of the elective franchise. He complained, that without this Amendment the constituency of the country would be much diminished. In the borough which he had the honour to represent, there were at present 3,000 or 4,000 voters. There were not, however, more than 550 10l. houses; so that, even with the rights reserved to resident freemen, the constituency of that town would, in future, be not more than 1,000.
§ Mr. George Robinson
said, that he was returned by 2,500 constituents, all of whom were freemen, who were in general disposed to make great sacrifices to promote a measure which they considered a general benefit, and, therefore, he desired they should not be called on to give up more 904 than was positively necessary. He thought no necessity existed for the proposed change, and when the Government proposed to retain the existing rights, and to destroy the prospective rights of freemen, the burthen of proving the necessity for such destruction lay upon them; and he must say, that the case which the Government had made out, was not at all satisfactory to his mind. He was bound to support Reform generally, but was free as air to exercise his judgment in all the details of the Bill. The arguments that had been used, had not convinced him that it was necessary to take their votes from the present freemen, to bestow them upon the 10l. householders. It had been said, there would be some inconvenience in the great numbers of freemen, but that would be more than balanced, in his mind, by the prospect of limitation of the number of electors in some places. He was further influenced by the conviction, that a large class of freemen obtained their rights by apprenticeship, and by depriving them of this, you took away the reward for industry and integrity. He would by no means consent to disfranchise any one man or his children, and he therefore considered this Amendment a great improvement of the Bill.
§ Mr. Thomas Dundas
opposed the Amendment. At the last election he was asked by his constituents, whether he intended to support the rights of freemen, and was told by them not to do it if it interfered with the principle of the Bill. He thought that this Amendment did interfere with that principle. Whether his vote on this question would be gratifying to his constituents or not, he could not tell; he could only say, that it was given according to the dictates of his conscience. His hon. colleague had stated, on a former night, that there was a strong feeling among his constituents on this point; but he had not heard of their wishes regarding it being expressed, either by any public meeting or petition, or even private letter. So anxious were they for the success of the Bill, that he was certain they would not consider themselves injured by this clause, which supported their existing rights, and provided for a future uniform right of voting in all cities and boroughs in the kingdom.
Sir Francis Blake
said, he could not approve of the Amendment, although he was desirous to extend the franchise, But, 905 in saying this, he did not go the length of approving of the manner in which the clause was worded. He wished to see no distinction made between the children of freemen, and freemen themselves, and, therefore, recommended, that instead of children born before a certain day being considered entitled to their parents' privilege, that it should be extended to all children born from a marriage solemnized before that particular time; this, he thought, would prove more satisfactory to the ladies, who were especially interested that no distinction should exist between their children.
§ Mr. Wrangham
said, the arguments used in favour of the clause were, first, that freemen were very susceptible of bribery; and secondly, that an exclusive class ought not to exist. With regard to the first, it had not been shown that bribery was confined to freemen, and it was a sorry remedy to take away a right altogether, because some of the persons interested had abused it. With respect to the second, it was a privilege of long standing, and was interwoven with all the usages of the Constitution, and on that account ought not to be abolished. The hon. member for Colchester had asserted, that there could be no objection to disfranchising resident freemen, because they would generally be in possession of the 10l. right of voting; but, however that might be in the place the hon. Member represented, it was not the case in the town which had sent him to that House; there were at present nearly 1,000 voters in Sudbury, about 600 of whom would be deprived of their right of voting. The clause, altogether, appeared to him to be a very great injustice, because no sufficient reason had, in his mind, been assigned for the disfranchisement of freemen.
said, he was instructed by his constituents to support the Amendment of the hon. member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Mr. Edmund Peel), and he hoped, therefore, it would be pressed to a division. If the opinion of the House proved to be against them, he was confident, however, that the freemen of the place he had the honour to represent, would, after the sacrifices they had already made, resign themselves to the urgent necessity of carrying the principle of the Bill into full effect.
An Hon, Member
begged leave to ask 906 the noble Lord, whether freemen, absent for some time from the place of their residence, in consequence of business, or the necessity of serving in the militia, would retain their votes on their return; and whether, also, those who went abroad in the army or navy, could claim their privilege when they came back to this country?
Lord John Russell
replied, that all persons occupying 10l. houses, and serving in the militia, would have the right of voting, although they might be absent from their homes. With regard to persons in the army and navy who were freemen, but not residing within seven miles of the town, they would lose the right of voting; but he begged to remind the Committee, that they would also lose it by the effect of the Amendment.
Mr. Philip Howard
would oppose the Amendment, but, in so doing, felt it his duty, representing as he did a large body of freemen, to state the reasons which guided him in the vote he was about to give. The present clause deprived no man living of his rights—the clause which had just received the sanction of the Committee, conferred the elective franchise on modest independence—it held out the possession of political power as an incentive and reward of industry, and borne forward by feelings of honourable ambition, the sons, when raised to the rank of ten-pounders, would no less effectually discharge their volleys against the strong holds of corruption; he conceived, that the extinction of the rotten boroughs, which had entailed a ruinous system of misgovernment on the country, would amply compensate the freemen for those sacrifices which they had, with such single-minded devotion to their country's cause, made at the late election. He concurred with the hon. member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, that granting the elective franchise to the issue of all marriages solemnized previously to the passing the Act, would do away with invidious distinctions in the families of freemen, and he trusted, that Ministers would, on bringing up the Report, take this subject into their serious consideration. He thought the framers of the Bill had done wisely in continuing to freemen, within seven miles of towns, their privileges. He thought it dangerous to draw too distinct a line between the agricultural and commercial interests. It was on that 907 principle that he had voted that freeholders of towns should retain their votes for the county Representation, convinced that, by blending, by amalgamating in some degree, the constituencies of town and county, that collision between the two great interests might be avoided, which every well-wisher to his country must deprecate as deeply detrimental to the well-being and security of the empire at large.
§ Mr. Trevor
observed, that all their opponents had praised the freemen, but, at the same time, desired to deprive them of the power of transmitting their fair and equitable rights to be enjoyed by their descendants. The hon. member for Carlisle eulogized freemen for good conduct, but declared that he meant to vote against them. He considered the disfranchisement of non-resident freemen one of the most unjust provisions of the Bill. He should certainly support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle, as he considered the freemen a most injured body of men.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, he should oppose the Amendment, which he conceived no Member who had voted for the second reading of the Bill could support, consistently with the recognition of the principle on which Government was acting. Ministers had gone a great way in consideration of what was due to existing rights, and he thought that they would not be justified in going a single step further.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
thought, that the Attorney General had uttered a most unwarrantable libel on the non-resident freemen. And he was determined to support the rights of resident and non-resident freemen.
Mr. Philip Howard
said, the hon. Member could not support the claim of non-resident freemen on the score of ancient right, for they were not allowed to vote by statutes passed in the reign of Henry 6th and Henry 8th, and were only admitted to vote in 1774.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
could assure the Committee that he was not going to take up their time. When he heard it stated over and over again by the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge, that the Livery of London was becoming unfavourable to the Bill, he felt himself bound to give that assertion a flat contradiction. It had been stated at least twenty times, that there 908 was an altered feeling among the people on the Reform Bill, and the hon. and learned Member had said, the feelings of the citizens of London were altered; so much so, that they were unable to get Up a Reform meeting. He certainly received as much information with respect to the city of London as the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he could assure the House there was no foundation for the assertion. There had been no attempt to get up a meeting, and the only dissatisfaction felt amongst the citizens was that occasioned by procrastination in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
expressed his abhorrence of the Bill, on account of its being an infraction of the Constitution as settled by Magna Charta.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 131: Noes210—Majority79.
|List of the NOES.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Dundas, C.|
|Anson, Hon. G.||Dundas, Hon. T.|
|Astley, Sir J.||Dundas, Hn. Sir R. L.|
|Atherley, A.||Dundas, Hon. J. C.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Easthope, J.|
|Baring, Sir T.||Ellice, E.|
|Baring, F. T.||Ellis, W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Etwall, R.|
|Berkeley, Captain||Evans, W. B.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Evans, W.|
|Blackney, W.||Ewart, W.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Fellowes, H. A. W.|
|Blamire, W.||Fergusson, Sir R.|
|Blunt, Sir C.||Fergusson, R.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Fergusson, R. C.|
|Bourke, Sir J.||Foley, Hon. T. H.|
|Boyle, Hon. J.||Folkes, Sir W.|
|Brabazon, Viscount||Fox, Lieut. Colonel|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Gilbert, D.|
|Brougham, J.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Brougham, W.||Gordon, R.|
|Brown, J. D.||Graham, Sir J. R. G.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Grant, Right Hon. C.|
|Byng, G.||Grant, Right Hon. R.|
|Calvert, N.||Grattan, J.|
|Callaghan, D.||Grattan, H.|
|Campbell, J.||Grosvenor, Hon. R.|
|Carter, J. B.||Handley, W. F.|
|Cavendish, H. F. C.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Chichester, Sir A.||Heywood, B.|
|Cradock, Sheldon||Hill, Lord A.|
|Crampton, P. C.||Hill, Lord G.|
|Clive, E. B.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Creevey, T.||Horne, Sir W.|
|Currie, J.||Host, Sir J.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Hoskins, K.|
|Denman, Sir T.||Howard, P. H.|
|Dixon, J.||Howard, J.|
|Doyle, Sir J. M.||Howick, Viscount|
|Duncombe, T. S||Hudson, T.|
|Hume, J.||Rickford, W.|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||Robinson, Sir G.|
|James, W.||Rooper, J. B.|
|Jeffrey, Rt. Hon. F.||Ross, Horatio|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Jerningham, Hon. H.||Russell, R. G.|
|Johnston, A.||Russell, C.|
|Johnstone, Sir J. V.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Johnstone, J. J. H.||Sanford, E. A.|
|Kemp, T. R.||Scott, Sir E. D.|
|Kennedy, T. F.||Sinclair, G.|
|Killeen, Lord||Skipwith, Sir G.|
|King, E. B.||Smith, J. A.|
|King, Hon. R.||Smith, J.|
|Knight, R.||Smith, R. V.|
|Knox, Hon. Colonel||Smith, Hon. R;|
|Lamb, Hon. G.||Smith, G. R.|
|Lambert, H.||Spencer, Hon. Capt.|
|Lambert, J. S.||Stanhope, Captain|
|Langston, J. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hn. E. G.|
|Langton, Colonel G.||Stanley, Lord|
|Lawley, F.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Leader, N. P.||Stewart, E;|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Stewart, Sir M. S.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Strickland, G.|
|Lennox, Lord J. G.||Strutt, E.|
|Lennox, Lord W.||Stuart, Lord D. S.|
|Littleton, E. J.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Loch, J.||Tennyson, C.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Maberly, Colonel||Thompson, W.|
|Maberly, J.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Macaulay, T. B.||Throckmorton, R. G.|
|Macdonald, Sir J.||Torrens, Colonel|
|Macnamara, W.||Townshend, Lord C.|
|Mackenzie, S.||Traill, G.|
|Mangles, J.||Troubridge, Sir E.|
|Marshall, W.||Tynte, C. K. V.|
|Martin, J.||Tyrell, C.|
|Maule, Hon. W. R.||Villiers, T. H.|
|Mildmay, P. St. J.||Venables, Ald.|
|Mullins, F.||Vernon, Hon. G. J.|
|Musgrave, Sir R.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Newport, Sir J.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Norton, C. F.||Walker, C. A.|
|Nowell, A.||Waithman, Ald.|
|Nugent, Lord||Warburton, H.|
|O'Connell, D.||Wason, W. R.|
|O'Connell, M.||Wellesley, Hn. W.T.L.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Old, W.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Osborne. Lord, F. G.||Wilde, T.|
|Ossory, Earl of||Wilks, J.|
|Paget, T.||Williams, J.|
|Payne, Sir P.||Williams, W. A.|
|Palmerston, Viscount||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Pendarvis, E. W. W.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Penlease, J. S.||Wood, Alderman|
|Penrhyn, E.||Wood, J.|
|Pepys, C. C.||Wood, C.|
|Petit, L. H.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Philips, G. R.||Wrottesley, Sir S.|
|Philipps, Sir G.||Wynn, Rt. Hon. C.W.|
|Ponsonby, Hon. G.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Ponsonby, Hon. W.||Wyse, T.|
|Protheroe, E,||Rice, Hon, T. S,|
§ The Chairman then proceeded to read "Provided also that every person now having a right to vote in any election for any city or borough, in virtue of any corporate right, and every child of a freeman, such child being born previously to the passing of this Act, and every apprentice bound to any freeman previously to the passing of this Act, which child or apprentice would have been entitled to vote in such election if this Act had not been passed, shall respectively retain, acquire, and enjoy such right of voting during their respective lives, and shall be entitled to vote if duly registered according to the provisions, hereinafter contained."
stated, that in some places a custom prevailed, whereby a female, if the daughter or widow of a freeman, had the power of conferring the franchise on her husband. Bristol and Exeter were in this situation. Such rights, according to analogy of principle, ought to be equally respected, and he should therefore move the insertion of a sentence extending the provisions of the clause to those who, previous to the passing of this Act, had married the wife or daughter of a freeman, and thereby acquired a right of franchise. The hon. Member accordingly moved as an Amendment that, "Every person who shall hereafter marry the widow or daughter of a freeman in any city or borough, where the right of becoming a burgess or freeman, and of voting in the election for such city or borough is acquired by marriage, such widows or daughters having been born previous to the passing of this Act, shall" &c.
said, he had no objection to the introduction of the words proposed, but he rather imagined that the custom alluded to, only applied to a widow's first and second husband, and did not extend to her third or fourth.
was happy that Government intended to sanction the Amendment of the hon. member for Boston, as he knew many cases in which the Bill would have otherwise operated as a hardship.
§ Mr. Croker
said, there could be no objection to the proposed Amendment, but still he could not consider it quite fair, that the widow of a freeman could transfer her right to a stranger whom she might again marry after the decease of her husband.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The following part of the clause was then 911 put, "But that no person now having, or hereafter acquiring his freedom as aforesaid, shall be registered in the present or any succeeding year, unless he shall have resided for six calendar months next previous to the first day of November in the present year, or next previous to the last day of August in each respective succeeding year, within such city or borough, or within seven statute miles of the place at which the election for such city or borough has been usually holden, or in the case of places named in the first column of schedule F, to this Act annexed, within seven statute miles of any of the said places respectively."
§ Mr. Trevor rose to move, that the right of voting should be continued to non-resident freemen for the term of their lives. The hon. Member said, that he had pledged himself to his constituents, on the hustings at Durham, to bring forward this Motion. He was at a loss to conceive how 10l. householders could be more free from the influence of bribery than independent non-resident freemen. He admitted, that there was an expense attending the conveyance of non-resident electors, who must be brought to vote at the cost of the candidate; but he hoped that, from the measures adopted by his Majesty's Ministers to obviate abuses from this source, a plea of this kind would no longer be possessed of any weight. If there was any class more injuriously and cruelly treated than another in this Bill, it was that class denominated freemen. The people had not been fully alive to the evils of the Bill; when the appeal was made to them, they were in an extraordinary state of excitement and agitation, and gave their attention only to the A B C part of the Bill. If their attention had been more carefully directed to it, they would have been less eager for it in its present state. When this Bill was first introduced, it was intended to disfranchise the existing race of freemen. A clause was also prepared, to bring the freemen within certain limits, and all who did not reside within those limits were to be excluded. To those persons, consisting of freemen within cities and boroughs, he wished to secure their privilege, in order that it might be enjoyed by themselves and their posterity, provided they continued within the city or county. When he saw the cause of the ladies was so successful, he had hopes that non-resident voters would have the consideration of the Committee. What had 912 the non-resident voters done to be excluded? [Question.] The observations he made might be irksome to the Committee, but he had a duty to perform to his constituents, which he could not compromise. If the clause was adopted without his Amendment, the city of Durham, which contained 1,200 freemen, would not have more than 500. It was his intention to take the sense of the House upon his Amendment, and convince his constituents that he had redeemed his pledge. The hon. Member concluded by moving to insert his Amendment, after line twenty-four in clause 22.
Lord John Russell
said, it was sufficient for him to observe, that the hon. Member had admitted that non-resident voters must be brought to the poll at the expense of the candidates.
§ Mr. Croker
said, there had, no doubt, been great abuses respecting non-resident voters in certain places, but it was melancholy that in the few boroughs to be retained, the constituencies could not be completed without their disfranchisement.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 38—Noes 151; Majority 113.
|List of the AYES.|
|Arbuthnot, Hon H.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Ashley, Lord||Lefroy, Mr.|
|Beresford, M.||Loughborough, Lord|
|Boldero, H. G.||Lovaine, Lord|
|Churchill, Lord C.||Lowther, Sir J.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Maitland, Lord|
|Clinton, F.||Maitland, Captain|
|Davidson, D.||Maxwell, H.|
|Dick, Q.||Miller, W. H.|
|Douglas, C.||Murray, Sir G.|
|Estcourt, T.||Pemberton, T.|
|Fitzroy, Captain||Ryder, Hon. G.|
|Forbes, Sir C.||Sadler, M. T.|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Gordon, James||Trevor, Hon. A.|
|Goulburn, H.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Hodgson, J.||Wetherell, Sir C.|
|Hodgson. F.||Williams, T.|
|Hughes, H.||Wrangham, D. C.|
§ On the question, that seven statute miles stand part of the clause,
said, the wording of the clause might perhaps exclude persons who resided in the parish of a borough or city, but at a greater distance than seven miles; he begged, therefore, to suggest the propriety of inserting words to this effect, "in a town or parish any portion of which is within seven miles of the borough."
§ Mr. Trevor moved to leave out "seven miles," for the purpose of introducing "residing within the county in which such borough or city is situated."
Lord John Russell
said, he could by no means consent to the hon Gentleman's suggestion, because it would in many cases, extend the distance much beyond the space contemplated.
An Hon. Member
inquired, how the distance of seven miles was to be measured, if by the high-road, or any nearer way.
Lord John Russell
replied, that the usual legal method would be followed, which was, to compute the distance by the nearest high-road.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, this Amendment, if carried, would place them in rather an awkward situation. He did not think he could agree to it, consistent with the other votes he had given, as it would admit all non-residents to the right of voting.
felt the same difficulty. He was desirous to preserve the rights of non-residents, but great difficulties must accrue if such an Amendment was carried.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Mr. Edward B. King
said, this part of the clause would bear hardly on individuals who voted at the late election, in places where the right of voting was in the rated inhabitants. In Warwick, for instance which he represented, many were prevented from polling by errors or informalities in the rate, and though such persons immediately had the mistakes rectified they were not good voters until the expiration of six months. If this Bill passed before that time, they would lose their franchise for ever, unless they happened to be 101. householders.—Several of his constituents were so situated, some of whom voted at former elections for that very property for which they now claimed a right, and if this Bill did not pass, would have good votes in three months' time. He was friendly to the Bill in general although he regretted the alteration it made in the right of voting in the scot-and lot boroughs. The rated inhabitants in the county towns, who would eventually lose their franchise, were of the same class as the 101. householders to be 914 enfranchised in large towns; yet, as rants were lower in the old boroughs, many would lose their franchise. The numbers of electors would be greatly reduced, and by that means nomination would again rear its head, which it was the professed object of this Bill to put down.
The Attorney General
admitted, that this was undoubtedly a defect in the Bill, and it had been the wish of Ministers to apply a remedy, but as it could only be done by bringing before the Assistant Barrister every case of assessment, the mass of inquiry would be much more than could be dealt with, and they were, therefore, compelled to let the clause remain as at present.
§ Mr. Poyntz moved as an Amendment, that the following words be introduced: "And any minor, in whom any freehold tenement is now, or may be hereafter invested, such Minor being born previous to this Act, and who, on attaining the age of twenty-one years, would have been entitled to vote if this Act had not passed, shall have the right of voting, in virtue of such freehold."
Lord John Russell
said, he had not had an opportunity of inquiring into the effect which this Amendment would probably have, and therefore he requested the hon. Member would withdraw it, and Ministers would take it into their most serious consideration. The hon. Member must, however, be aware, that a very considerable difference existed between minors the sons of freemen, and minors possessing freeholds.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Lord Dudley Stuart
said, as the clause was now worded, it seemed that the scot-and-lot voters, who pay their poor-rates, were to be permitted to retain their right of voting. Under the existing law, that right had been suspended when the voters themselves had sunk into pauperism, but was again revived whenever their condition was improved, so that they contributed to the rate. What he wished, therefore, to understand was, whether, by this clause, if a man had once received relief from the poor-rates, he was thereby, for ever after, incapacitated from voting, however prosperous his condition might become. He understood the Bill was to preserve existing privileges, and he therefore desired a distinct answer to this point.
Lord John Russell
said, that it was certainly their intention that voters of this 915 class should not again obtain their right of voting after they had once become disqualified.
§ Lord Dudley Stuart
begged to know how long it would be necessary that a voter should have been qualified to give him the privilege of polling.
Lord John Russell
Whatever day the registration may take place previous to an election, upon that day the elector must be qualified.
§ Mr. Rumbold moved, "That all nonresident freemen at present exercising an elective franchise in places not named in schedules A and B, shall be permitted to vote, by virtue of their present corporate right, for Members of Parliament, in those cities and boroughs where they are resident."
Lord John Russell
hoped the hon. Member would not persist in an Amendment, the operation of which would be so extremely inconvenient. It would hardly be fair, if he lost his vote for Bedford, that therefore he should claim a vote for Westminster, merely because he had once been free of the former place.
approved of the Amendment of his hon. colleague, and thought the non-resident voters had many claims to consideration, as they had made no objections to the sacrifice required of them; but they wished, in giving up their valuable privilege, to be allowed to register themselves to vote for the nearest borough to the place of their domicile. The great objection to this was, as urged by his noble friend, that, in many large places the constituency would thereby be amazingly increased. This objection he saw no chance of overcoming; therefore, to prevent any delay in the Bill itself, he recommended his hon. colleague to withdraw his Amendment.
proposed his Amendment as a compensation to the persons whose franchise had been sacrificed, and who, in general, exercised it most worthily; but, as he saw he had no chance of carrying it, although he was still convinced it was founded on justice, he would consent to withdraw it.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ On the Chairman proposing the last part of the clause, rendering it imperative on every person claiming to vote under it, that he shall have "owned, occupied, or inhabited," in the city or borough for which he sets up, the right of voting for 916 six calendar months, in default of which owning, occupying, or inhabiting, he shall not be entitled to be registered,
§ Mr. Freshfield
said, the effect of these words would be, that a man who had complied with all the necessary forms and customs to constitute him an elector for a city or borough, would forfeit his rights, unless he had "owned, occupied, or inhabited" for six calendar months. If the custom in any city or borough was, that a person should exercise the right of voting after being forty days a resident, he lost that right by this Bill requiring a residence of six months.
Lord John Russell
said, that though it might be a hardship on some particular boroughs, he still thought, that as a general arrangement it would be desirable: it did not apply to freeholders, but only to scot-and-lot voters.
§ The Chairman then put the question, "That the clause, as then amended, stand part of the Bill."—Agreed to.
§ The House resumed. The Committee to sit again on Thursday.