Lord John Russell
moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Reform Bill.
§ The House resolved itself into a Committee, Mr. Spring Rice in the Chair.
§ The hon. Gentleman having put the first Clause after the preamble, "That each of the boroughs enumerated in Schedule A (annexed to the Bill) shall cease, 1327 after the end of this present Parliament, to return any Member or Members to serve in Parliament."
Sir Andrew Agnew
rose, to propose the Amendment, of which he had given previous notice, which he could do with great propriety as a friend of the measure, having voted for the disfranchisement. He conceived it would be easy to introduce the same system, in an improved form, with respect to England, as now existed in Wales and Scotland, as far as the boroughs included in schedule A of the Bill were concerned. The hon. Baronet moved, that after the word "shall," line thirteen in the clause, there be inserted, instead of the present words, the following, "have a share in the election of a Member or Members to Parliament in such manner as shall hereinafter be provided." The object he proposed by his Amendment was, to give those boroughs a share in electing Members to serve in Parliament, instead of depriving them altogether of the franchise. The details which the proposition would make requisite to be introduced into the Bill, might be considered after that was assented to.
seconded the Amendment. He complained of the crude nature of many of the details of the Bill, though he approved of the principle, which he would have carried into effect in a different manner. He was disposed to sacrifice such boroughs as had no voters, or only very few; but all that could muster up a decent consistency he would preserve. Disfranchisement was, as much as possible, he thought, to be avoided, and as, by the combination of boroughs into districts, most of the good intended by the present measure could be effected, he thought that the elective franchise of the boroughs mentioned in schedule A might be so extended as to meet the object of the Bill, without absolutely disfranchising them. If the Ministers were able to show, that the disfranchisement of these boroughs was necessary, he should be ready to sacrifice them; but he had not heard any argument that was sufficient to convince him of that. If these boroughs were to be given up, let it at least be for the public good; but in his opinion, according to the plan now proposed, it would only be exchanging one set of boroughs for another. He thought that there were thirty boroughs in the schedule A which might be given up; but the remainder were clearly open to the 1328 plan of the hon. member for Wigtonshire. He should support that in preference to total disfranchisement. There were some boroughs, retained, too, without sufficient reason, and, indeed, without any reason whatever, up to a short period, when a document was laid on the Table, showing that these places had suddenly and miraculously increased in the number of their houses paying rates. They now had upwards of 300 such houses, though before they had not twenty. That was not, in his opinion, fair, though it was miraculous. The hon. Gentleman concluded by saying, that great care ought to be taken, in getting rid of one set of close boroughs, not to create another. The plan to be followed ought to be one which would permanently insure a fair system of Representation.
§ Mr. Cutlar Ferguson
expressed surprise at the speech which the hon. Member had just delivered against the Bill before the House, who, although he had voted for it on the second reading, now came down with a complete new Reform Bill of his own, and took the opportunity, strangely enough, of propounding it in the Committee. The hon. Baronet's Amendment was, not to disfranchise at all, while the plan of his seconder would disfranchise very considerably: but the Amendment could not be agreed to, as the House, both on the second reading, and by the vote of last night, had decided that there ought to be disfranchisement, which should be as extensive as schedule A. If the vote of last night meant any thing, it meant that schedule A should be proceeded with; but now this Amendment proposed the adoption of an entirely new course. The schedule A had been formed on the principle, that not one of the boroughs contained in it could form a constituency sufficient to entitle it to Representation; and therefore no arrangement that could be made under the proposed Amendment could raise it to that privilege. One of the remarkable parts of the hon. Baronet's plan of contributory boroughs was, that he included in his plan Beeralston, in which there was not a single 10l. house; and, on looking at the return, it appeared there were three boroughs with only one 10l. house, three with two, and one without any such house. Now the hon. Baronet would disfranchise none; the hon. Gentleman, however, would disfranchise thirty boroughs—but, by the return, it appeared 1329 that there were twenty boroughs which together contained but ninety-four houses, and yet returned forty Members, of those included in schedule A. With respect to the disfranchising clauses, he thought them excellent, considered by themselves, and without reference to any other parts of the Bill. He trusted that Government would not depart from the census of 1821, which was made impartially, and when there was no inducement to swell out the numbers or the wealth of the various boroughs, as was the case at present. He denied, that the principle of the Bill was, to cut down one class of boroughs in order to give the franchise to another; the principle was, to extinguish them, for the purpose of purifying and correcting the Representation. He should therefore oppose the Amendment, as destructive of the principle of the Bill.
Sir A. Agnew
said, the plan he held in his hand, and on which the hon. Member had been pleased to comment, was merely intended to show the effect of the plan proposed by Government. He had prepared it during the last session, to have a bird's-eye-view of the whole subject.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, that as the proposition of the hon. Baronet went, at least, to preserve some vestige of constitutional rights, he felt that it was incumbent on him to vote for it, in preference to the total disfranchisement of the small boroughs, which Ministers projected. He was decidedly opposed to the disfranchisement of any place whatsoever. Under the existing system there was universal suffrage of classes, though not of individuals; and there were, by some means or other, regular or irregular, a free Parliament, and a Representation of all interests. He was glad to see, that the hon. Baronet had brought the map with him, which was handing about the House;—the change was there shewn to be geological. It was a transfer of the franchises of the ancient castles of England to the district of coal—the population and activity which, in early times, existed in one part of England, had transferred itself to another, and that population most reasonably demanded to take its place in the direct Representation of the State. The Ministers had brought in their Bill on that principle—had put it before the people of England, and it had been accepted by an overwhelming majority. These districts, therefore, must be included; and to bring them in, without 1330 increasing the numbers of the House to a degree in which it would be impossible that business could proceed, other interests, however aggrieved, must give way. On this ground he would have conceded the taking away from the smaller boroughs one of their Members, but with any reference to the safety or stability of the State— to the justice due to individual rights— to the fair representation of all the interests of the community, of the low as well as of the high, he could not consent to such a sweeping and total disfranchisement. He must deeply regret, that his Majesty's Ministers had not availed themselves of the great constitutional knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Knaresborough, in which case they would have made a very different Bill, instead of intrusting to a new-made Lord the arrangement of a carbonaro-reformation. As it was, the Ministerial scheme rested on no one distinct principle, and would, probably, in the end, satisfy nobody. He did not object to Reform, but Ministers, anxious to promote a sweeping Reform, had brought in a Bill which rested on no distinct principle. He believed the boroughs, as they were a very ancient so they were a very useful and important part of the Constitution, and borough Members he considered to be the most consistent and independent people in the House. He had seen the county Members—the pattern Members, as they were called—truckling to every Ministry. It was necessary, in his opinion, for the well-being of the country, to have a set of Gentlemen in that House who were not dependent on the people, and who were under no necessity to go with every stream and current of public opinion. When he saw in the metropolis a set of Benthamites and Westminster philosophers—a set of men whom he believed were regarded with contempt and scorn by the whole world, or at least by all the best part of human society— when he saw them advertising for votes and for Members of that House, making themselves into a Central Committee to control and regulate the Representation of the people—when he saw all that obtaining in this metropolis, he must confess, that he wished to preserve the boroughs, as a means of having some independent Members in the House; and he thought he might claim for them the merit of having done good service to the State. He was 1331 willing to extend the franchise; he was not one of those who wished it curtailed; he wished it extended to all classes; and he thought one of the evils of the proposed system, as of the present system, was, that it was a system of exclusion, and did not take in all classes. He should not object to vote for schedule B, preserving to certain boroughs one Member; he should have no objection to see the boroughs now placed in schedule A transferred to schedule B, but he would vote against the entire disfranchisement of any one place.
§ Lord Althorp
meant to confine the few observations he should address to the Committee entirely to the question before it. The principle of the hon. Baronet's Motion was, that it was improper to disfranchise any of the boroughs. From that principle he completely differed, and thought it was most desirable to disfranchise the nomination boroughs. They were contrary to the principles of the Constitution, and tended to make the people dissatisfied with, and dislike the Representation. They thought, and justly thought, that Members were returned who ought not to sit in that House as Representatives of the people, and he therefore differed entirely from the hon. Baronet, who thought the boroughs for which such Members were returned ought not to be disfranchised. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last, differed from him, inasmuch as that hon. Gentleman would half disfranchise some boroughs, but would not wholly disfranchise any one. The hon. Baronet's Motion was not, in point of fact, against disfranchisement; for it would take away the power of returning Members for some boroughs, which would be tantamount to a disfranchisement. The proposition of the hon. Baronet was, to unite two or three nomination boroughs together, and allow them to return one Member. He then would make the return of that Member depend, not on the people, but on a little society of boroughmongers. The proposition would not give to the people of England any increase of Representatives; but would tend to make the proprietors of boroughs form a union amongst themselves, leaving to them, when they did so unite, the power of nominating Members to that House. He could not agree, therefore, to the proposition of the hon. Baronet. His plan was contrary to the principle of the Bill. The nomination boroughs were not agreeable to the principles of the Con- 1332 stitution, and ought to be disfranchised. The proposition of the hon. Member who had seconded the Motion, and who had voted for the second reading of the Bill, was inconsistent with his conduct on the former occasion. But he had himself brought forward a plan of Reform which proceeded on a new principle, and was, in fact, a new Bill altogether. It might disfranchise one or two places; but it went altogether against the principle of the measure before the House. It was a complicated plan, and he would not then discuss it. Though explained by the hon. Gentleman, it was not before the House, and the House was not then called on to choose between that plan and the plan of the King's Government. The question before them was, would they accept or reject the proposition of the hon. Baronet? and he should vote against that
Sir A. Agnew
explained that, by his plan, the nomination boroughs would be thrown open: and he was disposed to deny the right of the Government to destroy altogether long-existing privileges.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
understood, that the question of the nomination boroughs was settled and decided last night, and therefore ought not to be renewed. The noble Lord, however, said, that the nomination boroughs ought to be disfranchised. If that were the principle of the Bill, he wished to know what was the distinction between the boroughs in schedule A, and in schedule B? Was Woodstock, then, a nomination borough, and was Malmesbury not? The boroughs in schedule B might be nomination boroughs as well as those in schedule A, and yet they were not disfranchised. Even boroughs, of which the delinquency had been proved over and over again, were not disfranchised. For example, there was Penryn, which was to be united to Falmouth, and not to lose its Members. If the principle of disfranchisement were admitted, and if the boroughs complained of were most worthy of disfranchisement, why should not Penryn, which was so corrupt, be disfranchised? It was said, that they were to be cured by the infusion of the 10l. voters, from the neighbouring places. He would not then enter into the argument, but he would ask, whether it was not likely that they would still be corrupt—whether, in fact, it had not been the case, that this class of people had been the most uniformly corrupt? But if the 101. qualification were such a puri- 1333 tier, might it not be equally applied to all boroughs? Why, for example, should a borough with a burgage tenure, and containing 1,900 inhabitants, not be preserved, and the franchise shared with 10l. voters? He believed that the effect of the Bill would be, to turn many boroughs, which were now open, into close boroughs; and where the franchise was extended, he wished that the 101. voters might exercise their rights as well as the burgage tenure holders of Knaresborough had exercised theirs through a great many years. In many cases, he believed, that towns connected with boroughs, and the neighbourhoods in which they were situated, had benefitted by their having the franchise; and when it was said, that the voters of such boroughs were too few, the obvious remedy was, to unite them with the neighbourhood, or open them to a more numerous body of voters. The right hon. Gentleman then referred to a letter written by Lord Milton to the freeholders of Northampton, and said he agreed with that noble Lord, that influence was most beneficial, and where it existed, it was a check on both parties. He did not know a more desirable thing than that young men of property should be, in some measure, dependent on a numerous and respectable body of voters; and a connection between such a body, and men of property, was a safeguard to both, and an inducement for both to conduct themselves with propriety. There was, he believed, no instance of misconduct in such parties which was not followed by a loss of confidence.
§ Mr. Alderman Venables
thought the motion was calculated to impede the progress of a Bill, which, if not perfect, yet had given more general satisfaction, and won the affections of the people of England in a greater degree, than any Bill which he ever remembered. It was objected to the supporters of the Bill, that they were not open to argument, because they were pledged to the Bill. He admitted that he was pledged to the Bill, and the principles of the Bill having been before both him and his constituents, he had expressed his adhesion to those principles in their presence. He did not sec the impropriety of that, when the King had appealed to the sense of the people; on the contrary, he thought that when the candidates came before the people on such an occasion, they ought to be required to express an opinion, and give a 1334 pledge. There was, he believed, no time of excitement when such a practice had not prevailed—when pledges had not been asked, and when pledges had not been given. That was particularly the case for many years in respect of the Catholic Question; and he could say, that on coming before a constituency on that question; he had preferred retiring to abandoning his principles. It was said, that the Government, too, was pledged to this measure; so that it was now made a reproach to the Reformers that they were all agreed. The great difficulty for many years was, that the reformers were not agreed on any plan. They were always told, that it would be time enough to discuss the question of Reform when the reformers were agreed amongst themselves; and when they brought forward such a plan, Parliament might entertain the question. That was the most successful argument that was urged against Reform for twenty-five years. Gentlemen were very ingenious in finding fault with this measure; but why did they not bring forward some other plan—or why, though they now professed themselves reformers, had the country never heard of their wishes till the present plan of his Majesty's Government was brought forward? The noble Lord who brought in this Bill brought forward a motion for Reform in 1822, the purport of which was to declare, that the present state of the Representation of Parliament required the most serious consideration. That motion was negatived by a large majority, 164 persons voting for it, and 269 voting against it. The second time it was brought forward, 280 voted against it, and 179 for it. The last time it was submitted to the House was in 1826, and then 247 voted against it, and only 120 for it. Then it was said, that the Representation did not require any alteration, and certainly the state of the votes showed that it had retrograded in that House; but had it retrograded in the country? Year after year its adherents in the country had increased, and now the Members of that House said, that they had no objection to give Representatives to large towns. But why had they not supported that proposition when it was brought forward? They had resisted it—they had resisted every attempt to improve the Representation; till at length came the vote on the East Retford case, which the whole country said was too bad, and which, he believed; 1335 had done more to damage that House in the estimation of the country than any other measure. Being disposed to give his hearty support to the Bill, he should resist the Motion.
§ Sir John Malcolm
was surprised at the Ministers and their supporters, objecting to this Motion, and objecting to all discussion, as tending to provoke delay. They were sure of their enormous majority, and ought not to be otherwise than desirous to give every part of the Bill the fullest consideration. Why should not the people be satisfied not only concerning the general question, but on all the details, which he considered to be most important in their effects on the interests of individuals? It was something new to him if the interest of 100 persons was not as dear to that House as the interest of 100,000. A due observance of prescriptive rights was the great conservative principle of society. He knew of nothing which he should like less to see let loose on society—not even a tyrant who carried devastation over the land—than those philosophic theories which some persons had conceived, and which went to do away all prescriptive rights, and appeal only to the expediency of the moment. He did not accuse Ministers of entertaining any such theories; they had, no doubt, carefully examined the question, and were seriously convinced, that the Representation required amendment. They ought, however, to allow every part of the question to be patiently discussed, and be guided by arguments—not by popular passion— which could not last for ever. They themselves would regret deeply, should they allow any part of the Bill to be settled, except by reason. There was not a single clause in it which did not deserve a long and close examination; and he would not admit, that the details were agreed to, because the principle was carried. He did not care for the pledges that had been given; he had given none; and he would rather be as he was, than the Colleague of the worthy Alderman. He depended on no man. The Duke of Northumberland, whom he was accused of representing, was a nobleman who took a deep interest in the welfare of India; and if he were placed in that House, it was for no other purpose but because it was supposed he might benefit India. He wished that country to be represented, and as long as be had. life and health, he would 1336 devote himself to its service. He professed himself a friend to popular elections, which he regarded as the safety-valve of the Constitution. He did not wish to restrict popular elections; for, he repeated, that an election every five or seven years was a safety-valve to the Constitution. Gentlemen might smile — they might frown—he was too old a man, though a young Member of Parliament, to be intimidated by the latter, or intoxicated by the former. The hon. Baronet concluded, by expressing his determination to support the amendment of the hon. member for Wigton.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, he had hitherto thought it better to leave the discussion to abler hands, and to those who had not bad previous opportunities of speaking on the question of Reform, and should have done so on the present occasion, but that he wished to state his motives for supporting the proposition of the hon. Baronet. In doing that he would not follow the wilful deviations of the worthy Alderman, and enter into the general question, discussing the propriety of pledges, and the history of the divisions in that House. He had heard many doubts expressed upon last night's decision, but he thought it was perfectly clear, and left the House free to follow its own course on this occasion, for the question then was simply, whether the House would dispose of these boroughs as a class, and on the principles of the Government? Although he agreed with many of the hon. Gentlemen around him, on the subject of the defects and bad consequences of the measure then before the House, yet he differed from them on one point—namely, the power which Parliament possessed to alter or amend the system of Representation. He believed, notwithstanding all he had heard on the subject of vested rights, and corporation privileges, that Parliament possessed the right, if it had the will, to model those institutions as it thought proper. He did not deny the power and right of Parliament to disfranchise. He respected the opinions of those who did; but he thought the Act of Henry 6th, which restricted freeholders to 40s., was enough to decide the question, as well as the bill which accompanied the act of Catholic Emancipation; but, while he conceded this to the supporters of the Bill, he must, before he agreed to make any alteration, be convinced of its 1337 necessity; and there he was at issue with them. He had heard a great deal of the unanimous demand of the people, but, he confessed, that all he had yet met with was mere popular clamour; and until he saw the demand for Reform assume somewhat more of the shape of real public opinion, he must take leave to deny, that the general voice of the rational and intelligent of the inhabitants of this country was in favour of such an extensive measure of Parliamentary Reform. He did not think there was a necessity for Reform, partly because the Members of close boroughs could never enable a Government to stand for any length of time against public opinion, although they sometimes usefully counteracted popular clamour, and partly because public opinion operated efficaciously in the present Parliament. The House having, however, sanctioned, by a considerable majority, the proposal for some change in the Representation, it now became their duty to consider how that change might be most beneficially effected; and he certainly thought that the proposition of the hon. Baronet (the member for Wigton) was the most defensible, in theory as well as the least dangerous in practice, which had yet been submitted to the House. It had the advantage of being supported by the precedent of Bassetlaw, and other places, in the case of laying the right of voting open to the Hundreds. The same system, too, had been adopted in Scotland, where the burghs were separate and independent before the Union; but Parliament united them rather than destroy them. But in this very Bill the House had only to look at Wales, where the Government had recognized and arranged a system of this precise sort; and where, when the case was examined, it was found, that a number of boroughs below the standard of schedule A were joined together. Thus, Aberystwith, Lampeter, and Adpar, were to share the right of franchise with Cardigan, although, if these places had been situated in England, and possessed the right of returning Members, they had so small a population they must have been disfranchised. He found, too, that the same plan was adopted in Cumberland; where Workington and Whitehaven, at eight or ten miles distance, were joined together. Such was the case also with Deal, and Sandwich, and Walmer, which he believed was 1338 below the standard, but which had been put together. With respect to the closeness of these boroughs also, when united, it must be recollected that they would no longer exist as corporations, or with burgage-tenures or out-voters, but would be opened to the householders of ten pounds, of which there would be more in many cases than in the Welsh list of schedule F. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill had dwelt much on the pernicious effects of influence and of nomination. By adopting the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, all fear of domination, corruption, or corporation influence, would be dispelled, while they would at the same time avoid all dangerous or questionable innovations. He would therefore support the Amendment. He would not detain the House longer than to say, that he was aware of the imputations of direct interest to which persons speaking under his circumstances were exposed on this question, but that such suspicions should never deter him from taking what he believed to be the best course for the country. He wished to God, that he could sacrifice his own interests to save the country from those consequences of this Bill which the Ministers might, as well as himself, live long enough to rue, though at present they seemed neither to comprehend nor to fear them.
The Lord Advocate,
after explaining to the House the understanding which had been come to with respect to the first clause of the Bill, proceeded to contend, that, as they had agreed to that clause which pronounced the boroughs in schedule A to be disfranchised, and as they had negatived the motion of the hon. member for Montgomery to postpone that clause, as well as the motion of the right hon. Baronet in opposition to the disfranchisement of the boroughs, they were now precluded from entertaining the motion of the member for Wigton, that the boroughs should be united. If he understood the meaning of the vote which the House had already come to, it was this—that all the boroughs enumerated in schedule A should be totally disfranchised, save those which might be able to prove themselves possessed of a certain population; and if so, then he would ask, how could they stultify that vote, by declaring now that these same boroughs might be either united for the purposes of Representation, or thrown open to the hundreds? If it was the 1339 object of the Bill to destroy nomination boroughs, he would ask, how the plan of the hon. Baronet could effect it? The noble Lord who introduced that Bill had stated, that there were two kinds of nomination boroughs—one class so incurably corrupt, that no infusion of popular Representation could possibly render them independent; and another class, which, although at present under corrupt influence, would, from being thrown open to a numerous constituency, be enabled to exercise the elective franchise, so as to speak the opinions of the people. The schedule A contained all those boroughs which had in them so much of corruption that no infusion of popular Representation could possibly mitigate their virus. It was in vain to suppose, that by any union of interests, or throwing open of boundaries, any beneficial change could be effected in them. As well might they hope to make a perfect man by the union of a number of ungrown babies, as expect that the junction of the rotten boroughs would give a sound and wholesome constituency. He knew something of the effect of giving boroughs for the purpose of Representation—and he had some experience of the manner in which the interests were portioned out, so that A should have the nomination this turn, and B the next; and he would tell the House, that although they might succeed in neutralising opposing interests, that would not be a Representation of the people. Their object was to diminish corrupt influence, and that he could assure them, was not the way in which it could be effected. The hon. Baronet seemed to have a great veneration for ancient institutions. He could assure him, that no one had a greater veneration for these institutions than he had: but he apprehended that much misapprehension prevailed with respect to their importance. They had been told, that by the alterations proposed in the borough system, they were breaking down the Constitution of Old England; the fact being, that it appeared from all the ancient writers on the Constitution, that at different periods of our history the elective franchise had been conferred on certain boroughs, and that certain other boroughs had ceased to exist. The changes made by the Bill had, therefore, a constitutional foundation. The proposition of the hon. Baronet, to unite several boroughs, was an innovation on the principle of the Bill, and could not, there- 1340 fore, be adopted by the friends of the measure.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that after the speech and line of argument of the learned Lord, he hoped they should hear no further accusations against hon. Members at that (the Opposition) side of the House, for protracting the Debate, The learned Lord had himself taken the course of which others had been accused—of recapitulating arguments that had been already refuted, and of debating on principles already disposed of. The first part of the learned Lord's Speech consisted of a declaration that he would make no speech at all, as he was anxious to save time; but then the learned Lord entered into a discussion of what, according to his own showing, had been twice disposed of; and with great ingenuity, and great ability, he told the House what every Member who had attended the Debates must have known as well as himself. No doubt the speech of the learned Lord was an excellent speech; but it was any thing but a speech calculated to save time. At least, it did not come up to the notion which he (Mr. Croker) had of saving time. Had they now arrived at the fourth night of the Committee to so little purpose?—had they now come to the fourth night of the Committee, he repeated, to so little purpose, that the noble Lord did not know what they were about? He owned he was surprised at one possessing the critical acuteness of the learned Lord—for if he had not much parliamentary experience, he had an acuteness of understanding and an extent of intelligence possessed by few men—but he owned he was surprised, that the learned Lord should not know the meaning of the two votes to which they had come on the preceding evenings. If the learned Lord did not know, he would tell him. There were three great principles to be decided in this Bill. The first was, whether the enfranchisement should take precedence of disfranchisement. This had been decided, it was true; and the noble Lord referred to the present Amendment, and the discussion upon it, as to a matter already decided. But had this any relation whatever to the question whether there should be a union of boroughs? Was not the essence of the motion of his right hon. friend (Mr. C. W. Wynn), that schedule C should take precedence of A and B, this—that disfranchisement was arbitrary and doubtful, and might depend on 1341 the extent to which enfranchisement was carried? This was the first question, and the House decided that enfranchisement should not take the precedence. What was the next question? It was that moved by his right hon. friend, (Sir R. Peel) who certainly was the best judge of his own motion and its object; and when the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Agnew), who voted with Ministers against the amendment of his right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel) asked his right hon. friend, before the division, whether, by voting against him on that amendment, he should preclude himself from moving the Amendment now before the Committee, the answer was, that his Amendment would still be open, whichever way he voted. This showed the understanding, at least at that (the Opposition) side of the House, as to the distinct character of the two Amendments. The House was at that time about to decide whether there should be any disfranchisement. It had decided that there should, but it had not decided to what extent that disfranchisement should go. It had not said what boroughs should be disfranchised, in the whole or in part. The second division, then, only established that the general principle should take place, but it went no further. The motion of the hon. Baronet, then before the Committee, was only a corollary to that principle. It went thus far —that the disfranchisement should not be of the general and sweeping character contemplated by the Bill, but that, in certain cases, there should be an union of the boroughs; and unless they went on some such principle, it was impossible they could make any progress in the Bill. But the learned Lord called this a revival of the discussion on the general principle of the Bill, and called it a debating of that principle at every turn. He would appeal to the candour of the noble Lords opposite, and ask, whether this question about the union of the boroughs was not a new question? The learned Lord was, however, pleased to term it a strange, unprecedented, and fantastical scheme; but, whatever there was strange, unprecedented, and fantastical in the scheme, belonged not to the hon. Baronet, but to the Bill introduced by his Majesty's Ministers; for if the hon. Baronet could have postponed his Amendment to a few clauses farther in the Bill, he would have found the same principle adopted. He would have found a union of boroughs and adjoining places. 1342 He would have found Sandwich included Deal; Penryn included Falmouth; and so on with the other unions of the same kind. All the hon. Baronet would have to do would be, to put his opinions in schedule C of the Bill of his Majesty's Ministers, and from this strange, unprecedented and fantastical scheme would forth come the ground-work of the happiness of the nation—the hope of the people—the sure foundation of the prosperity of England. The learned Lord, in his comment on the Bill, not only forgot what was done in the last two divisions, but, by an unaccountable shortness of memory, he forgot the speech to which he rose to reply. The argument used by his (Mr. Croker's) hon. friend was this—that the argument of the noble Lord (J. Russell) would be correct, if the boroughs were to be left in the same state, with respect to constituency, as at present;—if Beeralston was to be left with only one voter, and Down ton with eight or nine; but, said his hon. friend, these boroughs are to have a new constituency, which will take them out of the class of nomination boroughs; and if they are not so, then what becomes of the schedule B?" This was the argument of his hon. friend; and he repeated the question, were there no nomination boroughs in schedule B [" No."] He did not catch the eye of the hon. Member who cried "No," hut he would watch, and probably find him, and no doubt would have his vote against even the partial disfranchisement, for he was anxious to save all he could out of this Bill. But why should he rest merely on such chance support when he might go to a higher and more certain authority? Did the Committee recollect the speech of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell)? He remembered that one of the great arguments used in that speech, in support of the Bill, was, that it would destroy nomination. Then if nomination was to be destroyed in those boroughs in schedule B, why place them in that schedule to be half disfranchised? or was there any one of them in which nomination would still exist? If so, why not place it in schedule A?
§ Mr. Croker
.—The hon. member for Dorsetshire did certainly understand the Bill. The hon. Member from the rear ranks gave a voluntary explanation of what seemed a matter of doubt to so many. He told 1343 them that Lyme Regis would cease to be a nomination borough; why, so would they all cease to be; why then, vote for this schedule B, if they were not to be nomination boroughs any longer? But it was only a waste of time to dwell further upon this point. He would ask, however, if boroughs which would cease to be nomination boroughs at the passing of this Bill, were to have the franchise extended to other places, why not adopt the same principle with respect to the boroughs in schedule A? or why diminish the number of Members in those boroughs in schedule B? He would take, for instance, the borough of Aldeburgh, with which he was connected, but on which he meant to raise no question, as it was within the line of population marked out. But Malton was to be retained. It was not one of those paralytic boroughs which were stricken on one side, but Malton had not a sufficient number of 10l. householders to give it a place under the Bill, and accordingly the parliamentary Commissioners would have to mount their nags, and ride round the adjoining district to complete the number. But he would venture to say, that if the Commissioners were to ride out from Aldeburgh, they would have a much shorter distance to ride than round Malton, to complete the requisite number of voters; and when the number had been completed the electors would consist of independent voters. He would leave it to hon. Gentlemen opposite to state whether the same thing could be said of Malton? The learned Lord talked of adding cipher to cipher to make a number, and of babe to babe to make a case to illustrate the absurdity of taking several small places to make one borough. He owned that he was at first surprised at such a metaphor as that of adding babe to babe, coming from one who was so complete a master of metaphors as the learned-Lord, and the learned Lord must not wonder that so excellent a judge as he was in these matters should have so many eyes fixed on him in the use of it. He had listened to the learned Lord's use of the metaphor of the babes, and was at a loss to find the point of it. He saw the foundation on which it rested, and, looking at the Bill, he was at once reminded of the massacre of the Innocents. He would, however, leave the massacre and the learned Lord to his partiality for one set of boroughs, and his proscription of another set, with only this remark, that 1344 if the franchise in those boroughs was not to be extended to the 10l. householders, the argument of the learned Lord would be correct; but having made that extension, he must say the argument was quite puerile. He would now come to the question [cheers from the Ministerial benches.] He had waited for that cheer, for these kind of things were pleasant, and he would now inform the Committee, that in his remarks he had followed the learned Lord step by step and word by word, almost too literally, considering that the learned Lord rose to shorten the Debate. He must also say, that he did not originate the question, but when he found such a strange, unprecedented, and fantastical plan as the learned Lord had described a part of this Bill, though he applied the terms only to the Amendment—when he found that plan lauded by one of his great intelligence and sound judgment, in an appeal to majorities, he was disposed to say that—Half a patriot half a coward grown,I fly from petty tyrants to"—he would add, though it would not make out the rhyme—to the Bill, for refuge. There was in the Bill something of a conservative principle, though it was very little; but wishing to add to that principle, and choosing rather such a precarious existence as that of Sandwich and Deal in preference to total disfranchisement, he would support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
said, it was not his intention to detain the House at any length. He did not wish to take up their time by answering the ingenious remarks and witty sarcasms of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; but it might be worth while to call home the scattered thoughts of many Members to the real question before the Committee, from which it seemed to be the wish of the right hon. Gentleman to divert them. An hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir C. Wetherell)— and he was followed by several others in the same strain—had last night attacked Ministers for their silence, and it was not until six or seven had followed on the same ground of attack that any hon. Gentlemen at that (the Ministerial) side were found to grapple with them. Yet this evening, when an hon. Member on this (the Ministerial) side rose to enter upon the question, he was taunted with every kind of sarcasm. [" Cries of No, no."] He 1345 maintained that it was so. Now what was the amendment, for objecting to which, on the ground that its principle had been already decided, the learned Lord had encountered so much of the right hon. Gentleman's sarcasm? It was one which went to the principle of the Bill. What was the decision of last night?—that schedule A should stand, and that one or more boroughs should be included in it; but the present Amendment would destroy schedule A, for if you decide, that there shall be this union, you decide against all disfranchisement. The principle of the Bill was disfranchisement for the purpose of destroying the nomination boroughs; but how could any man recognize the amendment and not extinguish the principle of schedule A by its adoption? If his Majesty's Ministers were to recast the Bill—if they were to begin it anew—it was probable there were some parts of it which would be introduced in a different form. He was sure that men of their great political sagacity and statesmanlike views—he certainly did not compare them with the statesmen at the opposite side of the House, whose Amendment of last night was not understood even by their own friends, and which Amendment, if it had been carried, would have made nonsense of the clause—but he would repeat, that men of great sagacity and sound views, and who had so deservedly obtained the approbation of the country by their conduct with respect to this Bill—such men would, no doubt, avail themselves of all the intelligence and information they had obtained from the suggestions of friends and the opinions delivered through the Press, and would alter some parts of the Bill if they had to remodel it; but they were so circumstanced, that they could not adopt that course at present without a delay which ought not to be allowed to intervene. But the principle of the Bill must not be altered, and that principle, for which the people called, was the destruction of the nomination boroughs. Lethon. Gentlemen, then, not be turned aside from that principle by the tortuous ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. If they remodelled the Bill, they would delay it to a period which must risk its passing, or if they were to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Baronet, they would have a constituency of nominators, not a constituency of voters, and the future candidate would not have to address himself to the people, but to re- 1346 pair to the drawing-room of some wealthy nominator who would have to decide upon his qualifications. There were, he admitted, some clauses in the Bill of which he did not approve, for every Reformer had his own views; and he believed if twelve men sat. upon the question, they might be all found differing as to the means, though concurring in the end and general principle. But he did not intend to offer any opposition to the Bill because of his objections to some clauses. On the contrary he was prepared to give it his support, as a great boon to the country. If he were disposed to risk the loss of the Bill, he might move his own views in the shape of Amendments, and certainly some of them would make a change in the Bill, of no slight importance; for instance, one of them would be, that no place or places should return a Member with a constituency of less than 1,000; but he had no intention of making any such Amendment. Ministers had difficulties enough to struggle with, natural as well as artificial, without the addition of those which would arise from the various suggestions of friends; or as they had seen, the attempted inoculations of insidious enemies. He did hope, then, that those who were the friends of the Bill would go on, and not allow themselves to be turned aside by the smiles, or sneers, or taunts, or intimidations, of their opponents. It would, no doubt, give those opponents great consolation, amongst their other consolations, on Sunday next, to say, that after a struggle of a week they had prevented the strangulation of one rotten borough. He hoped, however, the friends of the Bill would persevere, and would succeed that night in destroying, at least, one rotten borough, and that in the course of the next week the others would fall by the same hands.
denied, that there was any disposition to create unnecessary delay, but he hoped, that hon. Members would persevere in stating the different views on the subject which occurred to them. He begged to recall the attention of the Committee to the real question before them. Several propositions had been made, and were to be made, before the consideration of the individual boroughs to be disfranchised could be entered upon. There was, first, the proposition which had been made, to delay the disfranchisement part of the measure until the enfranchisement part had been determined. Would any candid 1347 man say, that that was an irrelevant consideration? Then there was the present proposition. Those who opposed it might condemn it; but could they assert, that it was not founded on reasonable argument, or that the discussion of it could be deemed a waste of time? Another proposition to be made was, that instead of taking both Members from the boroughs enumerated in schedule A, they should be allowed to retain one Member. That might be an unwise proposition; but if it were founded on a bona fide view of the case, it was one that ought to be entertained and examined. He must say, that they would get sooner through the discussion if the friends of the Bill would cease to protest against waste of time. Let them rather, one by one, quietly dispose of the propositions submitted, and to be submitted to them. If the boroughs were united in the manner proposed in the amendment, and 10l. householders admitted to the franchise, it could not be justly said, that the places would be, as now, open to patronage; the moment the 10l. householders were included, the change wished for would be effected, and the Members returned would completely and truly reflect the sentiments of the people of England. The fact was, that the lines of 2,000 and 4,000 inhabitants, drawn by the framers of the Bill, not only did not destroy the power of nomination, but he pledged himself to prove, that it increased the probability of such a state of things. The Bill, therefore, in this respect, was inadequate to the end in view. He recommended that the House should employ itself in listening patiently to the arguments on both sides, and that Members should avoid disputing and wrangling upon points of comparatively little importance. A great deal of time would thus be saved, and a reasonable chance afforded of rendering the measure less objectionable.
Lord John Russell
certainly thought, that if any hon. Gentleman had a plan of Reform to propose, the proper time at which to propose it was when the Bill came into Committee. He, however, did not think, that the House would be inclined to agree to cither of the plans of Reform which had been produced to-night, because their authors had failed to explain what their effect would be, and what advantage they would possess over the measure proposed by his Majesty's Government. He had no doubt that the hon. Baronet 1348 (Sir A. Agnew) was sincere in his desire for Reform, but he thought, that the Motion which the hon. Baronet had made was not quite consistent with the general desire entertained, he believed, by the hon. Baronet, to support the Bill of Ministers. The hon. Baronet could not have failed to see, that those who approved of his plan, instead of being in favour of Reform, were the enemies of any Reform whatever. He confessed, that he had thought that the question respecting the disfranchisement of the boroughs in schedule A had been substantially settled by the decision of the House last night, upon the amendment moved by the right hon. member for Tamworth, to leave out the word "each." What consolation would it be to the proprietor of Old Sarum, to posses?, in lieu of the unlimited power he had at present, of nominating two Members of Parliament, a vote in the choice of a Representative in common with 200 or 300 persons? It was said, that Scotland afforded an example of the union of burghs; but since the Union of Scotland with England, Ireland had been joined to this country, and there the close boroughs were not united, but entirely extinguished; therefore the later precedent of the two was in favour of Ministers. He admitted, that by the Ministerial Bill, certain places would be joined together, for the purpose of sending Members to Parliament; but they were populous districts, and could not fairly be put in comparison with these small boroughs. He did not impute to the hon. Baronet any desire to create unnecessary delay; but if his amendment were carried, it would have the effect of altering the whole complexion of the Bill. It would enable the patrons of two or throe boroughs to join together, and carry the election for the district of boroughs, and disappoint the country of those effects which they expected from the destruction of the nomination boroughs. He was entirely of the same opinion as the right hon. Baronet, and the hon. Member opposite, that while it was expedient that a fair and full discussion on the Bill should take place, there could be no advantage in keeping the public mind in suspense.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that the advantage which had been taken of the declaration which he made the other night, as to the course of proceeding he should adopt with respect to this Bill, was enough to discourage him from making any similar de- 1349 claration again. What he had proposed to do was, to take the opinion of the House on the principle of disfranchisement in general, instead of troubling the House with a division on the case of each particular borough. The hon. Baronet's (Sir A. Agnew's) amendment had been given notice of two or throe days before. It was not made in any concert with him, for the hon. Baronet did, in fact, vote against the amendment which he moved last night. But time ought to be given to discuss, whether the disfranchisement should be total or partial? He should pass over the taunts of the hon. member for Colchester, He thought he could afford to do so. He was quite sure, that they would never come to the details of this Bill if they were constantly diverted by considerations of a personal nature. The hon. member for Colchester said, that the omission of the word "each," had been proposed in order to make nonsense of the clause. That he admitted; it would generally be the effect of moving the omission of certain words from any clause; but it would have been perfectly competent for any Gentleman to have made sense of the clause, by moving that six or seven of the boroughs in Schedule A be retained. He was not a strenuous supporter of the hon. Baronet's amendment; but when this alternative was offered him, he should follow the course pursued by all Statesmen, and of two evils adopt the least. There was another line of conduct which he might adopt—that of leaving the House altogether; but that was not a course consistent with his duty as a Member of Parliament; and he should therefore remain in his place, and try to amend the Bill as much as possible. The noble Lord had told the House, that at the time of the Union of Ireland with England, the close boroughs were disfranchised; but the noble Lord had forgotten to mention this important fact—that pecuniary compensation accompanied the disfranchisement. He admitted, however, that there were at present great difficulties in the way of pecuniary compensation, arising from the state of public feeling on the subject.
Lord John Russell
said, he should be extremely sorry if the right hon. Baronet should be discouraged from pursuing the course he had so fairly marked out for himself, in consequence of any thing which had fallen from him. He had alluded to the Motion which had been made 1350 by the right hon. Baronet, because it was last night stated to be of great importance, and to-night described as being of no importance all.
§ Mr. Freshfield
said, that allusion having been made in the course of the debate to the borough of Penryn, he rose to declare most solemnly, that it was as free from corruption as any open borough whatever. His own opinion might be considered partial and biassed, and he would therefore beg leave to quote to the House the declarations made by Lords Lyndhurst and Eldon, that no proof had been given in support of the bill to disfranchise that borough. The House would recollect, that in the year 1828, it sent up to the Lords a Bill of disfranchisement against the borough of Penryn. Witnesses were examined at great length against the borough; and it was found wholly unnecessary to adduce a single witness in its defence, although many were in attendance for the purpose of being examined; but in the close of the case made in support of the charge against the borough, both the then Chancellor (Lord Lyndhurst) and the preceding Chancellor (Lord Eldon) delivered their opinions on the subject. Lord Lyndhurst, after minutely recapitulating the evidence, said— "That no case had been made out against Penryn,"* and the Earl of Eldon said— "He thought it his duty to express his opinion on the evidence given in support of the Bill. In his life he had never seen one so utterly destitute of all foundation." He trusted the House would feel, that with such a judgment of honourable acquittal, from such Judges, he could not, consistently with his duty, permit the imputation upon the borough of Penryn to pass, without respectfully, but firmly, repelling it, and he must repeat, that he believed Penryn to be as free from corruption, as any open borough in the kingdom.
said, he also should be sorry like his noble Colleague, if the right hon. Baronet should be discouraged from pursuing that candid course of conduct which he had hitherto followed. The right hon. Baronet, though opposing the Bill most decidedly, had yet objected to it in a fair spirit, and the Gentlemen on his (the Ministerial) side of the House, were anxious to meet his objections in the same spirit of*Hansard's Debates, New Series, vol. xix, p. 1448.† Ibid. p. 1449.1351 fairness. With respect to the question before the Committee, it was true, that in Scotland neighbouring burghs had been united for the purpose of electing Representatives; but how could the boroughs in Schedule A, which were distant from each other, be united for a similar purpose? With what other places, for instance, he would ask, was Appleby to be united? The onus was upon the proposer of the amendment—to show, first, that there ought to be no absolute disfranchisement, and that the union of boroughs could be conveniently made.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, that almost all the boroughs in Schedule A were situated in one or two counties in the southern or western part of the country, and therefore might easily be united. He should vote in favour of the hon. Baronet's amendment, for the reasons stated by his right hon. friend (Sir It. Peel).
§ Mr. John Campbell
said, that hon. Gentlemen were mistaken when they spoke of these clauses as disfranchising boroughs, He thought that it was quite clear, that these were not boroughs that were contained in schedule A, but the mere abstract right of nominating by certain individual members to that House. As an instance of that, he might mention Old Sarum, where the few inhabitants had no more to do with returning the members for that place than had any other people in the kingdom. He could tell the House how Members were made. A solicitor of Lincoln's Inn took down six friends with him in a post-chaise—that is, he took six pieces of parchment, which would constitute as many voters, and by the aid of these pieces of parchment the Member was made. The bits of parchment were delivered to the nominal voters—the election took place—the members were returned, the slips of parchment were replaced in the green bag—the solicitor and his friends replaced themselves in the post-chaise, and returned to London, having performed the duties of electors of Old Sarum, and sent a Representative to that House. Not one. inhabitant or resident in Old Sarum had any thing to do with the matter.
Sir R. Inglis
said, that the Ministers had no hope of attaining any fame, at least of an imperishable nature, except by the introduction of an incendiary measure of this kind. Their hope of celebrity was like that of the man who fired the Temple of Diana as the only means of attaining a 1352 deathless renown. The Constitution of this country was the temple which they attempted to fire, and to that admirable Constitution preceding ages had contributed their richest stores, till it had become the admiration of the world. He should prefer the amendment of the hon. Baronet to the original motion, and he should therefore give it his support
Sir A. Agnew,
in reply, said, that he was convinced this plan of uniting the boroughs would be highly beneficial, and in order to obtain that advantage, he had hitherto supported the plan of the Ministers.
§ The House divided—for the Amendment 205; against it 316. Majority 111.
§ The Committee then proceeded to discuss what Schedule A should contain, and the Chairman put the question, that the words, "Aldeburgh, Suffolk," stand part of the clause.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that the House having come to certain divisions which he bore in mind, he did not intend to take any division on this borough, at least so far as the principle of the Bill was concerned. He should consider himself bound by the recommendation given by his right hon. friend, the member for Tamworth, in consequence of which he should consider that the division which had previously taken place must be deemed sufficient with respect to every borough which could not be brought decidedly within an exception from the general rule. He should take the opportunity of the discussion upon this borough to say a few words concerning his constituents, who were thus about to be deprived of their franchise. He wished to know what course the Committee was now to pursue?
Lord John Russell
said, that he should propose to take the borough of Aldeburgh at present. He would avail himself of that opportunity to state, with respect to the borough of Appleby, that he should not consider it fair to enter into the particulars of that borough at so late an hour as the present, and therefore he proposed to proceed no further than Aldeburgh tonight. If, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had any observations to make upon that borough, he might proceed to do so now.
§ Mr. Croker
said, he should consult the convenience of the House, in not speaking upon the case of Aldeburgh at that moment, as he should have the opportunity of doing so when the case of the borough 1353 of Orford came to be considered. He should wait till then. All that he wished was, to enter his protest against being concluded upon the subject of the borough of Aldeburgh, by that word being passed over. He should, therefore, postpone his observations upon that borough.
Lord John Russell
said, it was indifferent to him whether the right hon. Gentleman made his observations upon the subject of Aldeburgh at that moment, or whether he waited to do so till the case of Orford came before the House. If the House agreed to pass that word, it would be on the understanding that, when the Committee met again on Tuesday, the word "Appleby" should be the first discussed.
Sir T. Fremantle
understood, that the House were about to apply a test to all the boroughs in the schedule. The Committee ought to understand what that test was, and perhaps the noble Lord would tell them before they proceeded further. He had twice before given answers on this subject, but they were not satisfactory.
Lord John Russell
could not lay down any rule further than he had already done on the subject. When a case of difficulty arose, he should be ready to explain on what grounds those boroughs, with a population under 2,000, were to be disfranchised.
Sir Henry Hurdinge
believed the case of Launceston to be peculiarly deserving of attention from the Legislature. It consisted of Launceston and Newport, which latter was so close to it, that the houses were only divided, if always so divided, by the breadth of a street. Together, they consisted of five parishes, which, in a much smaller space or area than Malton, contained above 4,530 inhabitants, yet he was told both these boroughs were to be disfranchised. The Bill, however, stated expressly, that adjoining parishes were to be added together, to make up a constituency, and he was therefore wholly at a loss to know why Launceston, with the population he had described, should be placed in schedule A, while Malton, with not so large a population, was to be placed in neither schedule of disfranchisement. He would not enter into general statements, but requested to be informed how this palpable inconsistency occurred?
Lord John Russell
said, when the particular borough in question came under consideration, he should be prepared with a circumstantial answer. He could not 1354 reply to such questions at present, but he believed, by the population returns, Launceston contained less than 2,000 inhabitants. That was the reason why it was placed in the schedule; and as by the same returns Malton had more than 4,000, that was the reason why it was not placed in the schedule. They had taken what they thought the best rule; whether that was wrong or right was another question, but if this questioning upon particular places was persevered in, there would be no end of disputing whether one borough had a few more or less inhabitants than when the officers drawing up the census finished their task.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
had no wish to make the question more complicated, but only to know how they were to proceed, because it might be too late to ascertain the particular facts relating to each individual borough, when they came to discuss it. The Bill laid down as a principle, that adjoining parishes were to be included; he therefore required to know on what principle Launceston was placed in schedule A, instead of having the adjoining parishes added to it and retaining its privilege of sending two Members to Parliament.
Sir Robert Peel
said, it was not his intention unnecessarily to detain the Committee, by pressing a division in the case of Aldeburgh, for other cases would arise, when the same question could as well, or perhaps more conveniently be determined by taking the sense of the Committee. But he felt it necessary to state, that, as he altogether questioned the propriety of making population alone the test of qualification, he should for his own satisfaction, as well as from a sense of public duty, take the sense of the House on the propriety of including within the schedule A the very first of those boroughs which clearly came within the line of disqualification drawn by the noble Lord as to the number of 2,000 inhabitants.
thought it very necessary they should have as clear an explanation of the principle of the Bill as possible. Some boroughs were situated in one parish, others in two or more, and he wished therefore to know, whether the parishes were to be included in the boroughs, and whether the rule, whatever it might be, was to be general, and to be applied to all cases? Some principle ought to be laid down for the House to understand the subject.
Lord John Russell
would again repeat, what he had so often before said, that all boroughs which contained less than 2,000 inhabitants were to be disfranchised. They had endeavoured to lay down this principle clearly. With respect to the noble Lord's question, he begged to state, that where a borough and parish could not be separated, they were to be taken together.
§ Lord Stormont
requested the noble Lord to lay down some precise rule, which by adopting, would facilitate the progress of the Bill. The parish of the borough he had the honour to represent (Woodstock) formed a part of the town; it was, therefore, of some consequence to ascertain the precise rule that was to be acted upon.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, the noble Lord was called upon to state some certain rule by which all boroughs of a particular class might be judged. He had not given an answer, and until he had done so, how could the Committee know on what ground they were to proceed?
§ Lord Stormont
said, the question he had asked was, what rule was to be established with respect to the inclusion of parishes in boroughs? The noble Lord in answer, said they were to be dealt with according to their particular cases. But it would be much better to know the principles first on which the noble Lord meant to decide the particular case. Did the Gentlemen opposite not intend to give a plain and satisfactory answer to this question?
Lord John Russell
replied, that the broad rule adopted was, that every borough containing less than 2,000 inhabitants should be disfranchised. In making out the lists, they had gone on the population returns last laid before Parliament.
§ Lord Stormont
said, the noble Lord had not yet answered the question as to the general principle. Some boroughs were of the same name as the parish; some contained four or five parishes. He should divide the House upon every separate borough unless the question was determined.
§ Mr. Croker
said, nothing had been concluded with respect to Aldeburgh, because that was considered a special case; and he had postponed his observations on the first disfranchising clause, until they came to a case which clearly and avowedly fell within the principle of the Bill.
Mr. I. L. Knight
said, that the hon. and noble Members who had preceded him, were anxious to know what the noble Paymaster of the Forces meant by boroughs? In some instances the noble Lord had included the population of parishes, on which boroughs touched, in the boroughs themselves, and in others he had not. What he wished to ascertain was, whether it was to be considered a general rule, that where a borough extended into more parishes than one, and contained a population of less than 2,000 inhabitants, that borough was to be disfranchised? When any question was asked the noble Lord, he referred only to his Domesday, the population returns, but gave no satisfactory answer.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the principle on which the Bill proceeded was, to disfranchise boroughs whose population was under 2,000. It would be for the Committee to apply that rule to each case as it came before them.
said, the House ought to know distinctly and clearly the principle, before it proceeded to discuss the particular cases. It would be very inconvenient to raise an important question like this at the very moment of applying it to particular cases.
said, that the question before the House was, whether Aldeburgh was a rotten borough. Who doubted it? It was notorious, that the Marquis of Hertford sent the two members for Aldeburgh. Having ascertained this fact, were they to go on with special pleading as to the number of inhabitants? The people of England insisted on the reform of those boroughs, and yet an hon. Member, the Representative of a well-known rotten borough in Cornwall, had compared that borough to the city of London. The member for Launceston had talked with as much pride of representing that place, as if he had represented the wealth and power of the city of London. The people insisted that the House of Commons should no longer be merely responsive to any aristocratic faction whatever. The time for the oligarchy's decease had arrived. The people insisted on having Representatives, and the House was now to decide what boroughs were open, and what boroughs were close and corrupt, and belonged to the aristocracy. That these boroughs were corrupt was notorious; it was a part of history. He calumniated no one in saying they were the property 1357 of individuals. Hon. Members talked of boroughs which embraced two parishes, and it was said, that the noble Lord did not answer their questions. The commonsense of the people was about to put down such mockeries. After all the discussion they had had on this subject, would any Member of the House assert that Aldeburgh was a free and open borough?. The discussion was idle, the people had sent a majority into that House to carry their determination, that there should no longer be rotten or nomination boroughs, into effect; and would they let the real and substantial question slip from their hand, in order to engage in some special pleading as to the limits of a borough? The actual inquiry was, as to its being corrupt or not. Were not our ears used to the sound, we should start with horror at the crime which was now committed, of a single person buying a right of legislating, and a right of making laws for the people of England—buying a right to lay taxes on the people, and to make laws to put those taxes into their own pockets. This had been borne too long. The House had now come to the question of putting down those boroughs, and that must be decided in the affirmative, or there would be an end of government. The immediate question before the Committee was, "Is Aldeburgh a rotten borough?" and who could answer that in the negative?
Sir R. Peel
said, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman's principles were acted upon, the House would be at sea, and it would be absolutely necessary to remodel the Bill. Said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "I do not care about the population—whether it is more or less—but I condemn the boroughs solely because they are nomination or corrupt boroughs." Said the noble Lord, "I have no means of knowing the degree of influence which is used, and thereby I presume it from the amount of population." The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think this perfectly absurd; and in that he perfectly agreed with him. He wanted to know, not the number of inhabitants, but the degree of influence used.
§ Sir John Malcolm
said, the learned Gentleman had alluded to him, and seemed to repeat the terms "Rotten Boroughs" and "Borough mongers" as a war cry against hon. Gentlemen who sat for what were deemed close or nominee boroughs. The use of such epithets only proved, that 1358 there was a great lack of argument on the side of the Constitution-destroyers. He wished, however, to correct an erroneous representation made by the learned Gentleman with regard to himself. He had never compared Launceston with London; he had only said, that as a point of personal feeling, and with reference to his own situation in life, that he would rather owe his seat in that House to the influence by which he had been aided, than be placed in the position of the hon. Alderman to whom he had alluded, as that situation was described in the newspapers.
§ Lord Althorp
stated, that the question before the House was, whether Aldeburgh should be disfranchised. If there was any doubt as to the population of that borough, the question which had been put would be relevant. Putting hypothetical cases was not the proper way of proceeding. When the case of the borough of Appleby came on, he might be called upon to state his reasons.
after what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member, could not help thinking he had rightly understood him. The hon. Member had contrasted the situation in which he was with the situation of a Representative of London; as if any single human being could be contrasted one moment with the wealth, the intelligence, the honesty, and patriotism of the city of London, to which all classes were so much indebted for the liberties of England; which, in the worst periods of our history, had rallied round the Constitution, and to whom the very existence of the House, at the present moment, was owing. If any man in the House owed his election to any Duke in the land, that man could not for one moment be placed in comparison with the Representative of the first city in the world. When he had got to the fact, away with special pleading, and the rules of evidence. He was quite prepared to vote for the extinction of Appleby, and when Malton came before them, if it were shewn to be a corrupt nomination borough, he would vote for its extinction.
Lord John Russell
said, every borough which contained less than 2,000 inhabitants was considered to be, and treated as a nomination borough, which ought to be disfranchised. Those places which contained more than that number of inhabitants they considered open, or it was intended to make them so, and they were 1359 not to be disfranchised. They had obtained information on these points, by circular letters, issued in December last, calling for accounts relating to population, and other matters connected with boroughs. No doubt, hon. Gentlemen had heard of this circular, and the information received from it had enabled them to come to a correct opinion.
§ Mr. Attwood
repeated the argument of the hon. member for Bishop's Castle, and urged the noble Lord to afford an answer to the question which had been put to him. He wished to know what were to be considered the limits within which the population of 2,000 was to be circumscribed. Some boroughs formed parts of towns, and were adjoining populous places; were they all to be disfranchised if the borough itself did not contain the requisite number of inhabitants? All these points ought to be clearly laid down.
observed, that a nominee of an Earl had been sworn in and taken his seat this evening. He wished to know whether or not that borough was to be disfranchised?
said, if the hon. Member proposed to add any nomination borough to Schedule A, he should be ready to second his Motion.
§ Lord Althorp
remarked, that there was no question before the Committee, and he begged leave to move, that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Mr. Croker
complained of the want of courtesy shown towards him by the hon. member for Kerry. With respect to the borough he represented, every one of these moderate and. conciliatory expressions applied as well to the borough of Knaresborough, which was not to be found in the Schedule.
Sir R. Inglis
observed, that although the hon. member for Kerry had proved himself an able advocate, yet in his own person he had shown himself as bad a specimen of a judge as could be exhibited; Sitting in a judicial character, and deciding without evidence, and without inquiry. There was nothing in the Bill by which they could proceed to disfranchise any borough, unless it was the words "inconsiderable places." Now they ought to know what was really meant by an inconsiderable place. He wished the noble Lord, therefore, to explain that point.
disclaimed any intention 1360 of being uncourteous to the right hon. Gentleman—did nothing else influence him, early recollections must have prevented his intentionally saying anything that might prove disagreeable. As to what had fallen from the hon. Baronet, the member for the University of Oxford, he must be allowed to say, that he fully concurred with him in thinking that he (Mr. O'Connell) had been too much of a political partisan in his own country to be fit for the office of Judge; but that had nothing to do with the present question, which was, whether or not the borough now under consideration should be disfranchised? If Knaresborough or Malton were in the same situation, let any hon. Member propose to have them added to the Schedule, and he would vote with him. They wanted no farther evidence to prove Aldeburgh a nomination borough. Its rottenness was as plain as the sun at noon day, if the hon. member for Oxford would only open his pious eyes to it.
Sir R. Inglis
said, that on no occasion had such expressions before been used in the House. It was not at all courteous. He had not denied the existence of nomination boroughs, but contended their existence was coeval, and not inconsistent with the principles and practices of the Constitution.
Sir Robert Peel
suggested, that it would be advisable for the House to accede to the proposition of the noble Lord, and allow the Committee to report progress.
said, he must call their attention to the situation of the Committee. He had read the words "Aldeburgh, Suffolk," without putting the question, that these words stand part of the Schedule. A Motion was afterwards made, that he was to report progress, and ask leave to sit again. He should wish to know the pleasure of the Committee thereupon.
§ Mr. Croker
understood then that this conversation was to be renewed when the Committee sat again, which he believed would be on Tuesday.
§ Lord Althorp
could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that they, would stand in the same position on Tuesday. He considered, that it had been decided that Aldeburgh should stand as part of 1361 the Schedule. The Chairman would commence his reading on Tuesday with the word "Appleby."
§ Mr. J. Campbell
hoped it was understood that Aldeburgh was condemned. It had not been denied by the right hon. Gentleman who represented it, that it was a nomination borough, and did not contain 2,000 inhabitants. The most calm, dispassionate, and impartial judge might now safely proceed to its condemnation.
§ Mr. Croker
.—"The hon. Member asserts, that Aldeburgh is condemned, and follows up his assertion by saying, that it ought to be condemned."
said, it would appear from the doctrines they had heard laid down, that the boundaries of boroughs had not been considered, but whether certain places were nomination boroughs or not, and if that fact was substantiated, whatever was the amount of the population, the House ought to place them in Schedule A. If nomination was an evil, that evil was not decreased, because it operated on a large mass; the greater number of tenants a landed proprietor had, the greater was his control over them.
said, the intention of Government with respect to particular boroughs, must be interpreted by the Bill and Schedules—and when they came to particular places, their cases would be governed by precise grounds applicable to them. The question of Aldeburgh had been disposed of, for the right hon. Gentleman had said, he did not intend to oppose that question, but reserved to himself the right of making some remarks on that borough when they came to consider Orford, to which his remarks would be equally applicable.
§ Mr. Croker
said, the right hon. Gentleman had correctly stated the understanding with respect to Aldeburgh, but if the noble Lord (Althorp) persisted in reading the word Aldeburgh, all that had passed went for nothing.
§ Lord Althorp
considered the question as regarded Aldeburgh decided, and was under an impression that the question, that "Aldeburgh, Suffolk" stand part of the Bill, had been put and carried. He would, therefore, beg leave to withdraw his Motion to report progress, and move that the words "Aldeburgh, Suffolk" stand part of the clause.
Sir Robert Peel
consented to the question as to Aldeburgh being put, on the 1362 understanding that the particular circumstances attending the borough should be inquired into on a future occasion.
did not see how they were to return and again discuss the question regarding the borough of Aldeburgh, when the Chairman had once read the question that it should pass as being disfranchised. They could not again revert to it without travelling out of the course generally pursued by Committees.
said, the Resolution of the Committee, that such a word should stand a part of the clause, did not prevent that clause from being again discussed at any period by the Committee.
agreed with the gallant Colonel in that point, but what he had said was, that when the Chairman read the name of a particular borough, and no observation was offered, it was not allowed afterwards to make any opposition to that borough being included in the Schedule.
§ The question was then put, that the words "Aldeburgh, Suffolk" should stand part of the clause, and it was agreed to without a division.