HC Deb 16 February 1831 vol 2 cc603-4
Lord Ebrington

presented a Petition, praying for Parliamentary Reform, agreed to at a public meeting, without a single dissenting voice, and signed by between six and seven thousand freeholders and inhabitants, paying rates and taxes, of the county of Devon. The noble Lord observed, that it was well known that the county of Devon had repeatedly petitioned for Parliamentary Reform, but it was a peculiar feature of the present petition, that among the signatures attached to it were the names of several highly respectable persons, who had never before expressed an opinion in favour of a Reform in Parliament. There would have been more signatures to the petition, had not a number of persons conceived, that, as the question had been at length taken up by the Ministers of the Crown, it was no longer necessary for the people to make their usual exertions; an opinion which, he regarded as erroneous. On one point connected with Parliamentary Reform—he meant the election by ballot—he would not then enter; but he should not do his duty to the House if he did not state, that, that question was making great progress-in the county which he had the honour to represent, and, as he had reason to believe, throughout the whole kingdom. He could not conclude without congratulating his constituents, and the country, that that prayer which they had so often made to the House was now in a fair way of being granted.— He moved that the Petition do he on the Table.

Sir Thomas Acland

seconded the Motion, and bore testimony to the highly respectable character of the petitioners. His noble colleague had said, that the petition was signed by several persons who had never before expressed an opinion in favour of a Reform in Parliament. He himself (Sir T. Acland) had attended the meeting from which the petition emanated, for the first time, with sentiments favourable to Reform, and in accordance with those of the petitioners; he was satisfied, however, that the time had now arrived when Parliamentary Reform was highly expedient. He would not go at that moment into the question of Reform, as abundant opportunities would soon offer themselves for the expression of his opinions. Those opinions he had stated at the meeting of the county of Devon, though, perhaps not so strongly as he felt them, and further reflection confirmed him in them. He hoped, however, that the course taken by his Majesty's Government and the House would be marked by caution as well as by firmness, and that the deliberations of Parliament on the subject would exhibit that regard to the ancient and venerable institutions of the country which was perfectly consistent with the reparation of those defects which time had produced in them.

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