Lord John Russell
moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Reform of Parliament (England) Bill.
§ Mr. Poyntz
said, that he had a Petition to present from a place called Islington, in the county of Devon, which parish was contiguous to, and in some respects might be considered as part of, the borough of Ashburton, and certain individuals residing therein had invariably exercised the right of voting at elections for the Mem- 205 bers of that borough. These persons were the present petitioners, and they prayed, that the parish of Islington might be annexed to Ashburton, and with it continue to return two Members to Parliament. When that borough came under the consideration of the House, he felt confident, that he should be able to make out a strong case in its behalf.
§ The petition referred to the Committee. Speaker left the Chair.
§ Mr. Farrand
rose and said, that Hedon had never been a corrupt or nomination borough. At the contested election in 1826, 331 electors were polled. It could not be deemed an inconsiderable place, for it was surrounded by a rich and populous neighbourhood. As he knew, however, that it would be altogether useless to offer any objection to its being included amongst the disfranchised boroughs, owing to the population being under the limits assigned by the noble Lord, he should not oppose the motion. It had been his intention to move, that the borough of Hedon should be transferred from schedule A to schedule B: he had given up this intention; but at some future stage of the Bill he should call the attention of the House to the case of the district of Holderness, which formed a separate jurisdiction of its own, and which he thought, as it contained a population of 27,000 persons, was better entitled to Representation than any of those eighteen boroughs which, with a population altogether not exceeding 80,000, had not less than thirty-six Members. It was also right to state, that the Riding in the county of York in which Hedon was situated, contained a population of 190,000 inhabitants, while the North Riding had only 183,000. If the provisions of the Bill were carried into effect, Beverley alone would be left in the East Riding, while no less than eight Members would be returned for the North Riding. Under such circumstances he should move, at a subsequent opportunity, that Hedon should be taken from schedule A, and placed in schedule B. He knew no reason why its franchise should not be extended to the surrounding district, which contained 27,000 inhabitants.
§ Mr. Strickland
was of opinion, that Yorkshire, and in particular the East Riding, would not be adequately Repre- 206 sented under the Reform Bill; and it had been his intention to move, that each Riding should have four Members. He had, however, refrained from doing so, because he was reluctant to do anything that might embarrass the progress of the Bill. According to its provisions, there would be only two members for the East Riding, besides those for Beverley; and the freeholders would have only a vote for two county Members instead of four. The East Riding was as large as two or three counties, and yet it would thus only have four Members. Take, for example, Northampton, which, like the East Riding, was an agricultural district. It had only 162,000 inhabitants, yet it was to have four county, and it had four borough Members. Yorkshire would have fewer Representatives than Durham, which had received several additional Members. It would have ten Members, while Yorkshire was to have only two additional; and were it to have as many in proportion as Durham, it would have sixty. He complained that the principle of giving two Representatives to counties of 150,000 people had not been adhered to; if it had, he should not have put in any claim for the East Riding. He considered each county as a Riding, and then Yorkshire would have received six additional Members. He did not wish to see England divided into districts, for the purpose of giving Representatives in proportion to the number of inhabitants; but it was, at the same time, acting unjustly to Yorkshire, not to give it, as it had 1,500,000 inhabitants, more than two additional Representatives. There were seven counties in the south of England which were to receive three Members each; and the whole of them did not contain the number of acres that were in Yorkshire. He hoped that the attention of Ministers, to whom he gave all proper praise, would be again called to the case of Yorkshire, and that then that county would receive four additional Members.
did not agree with his hon. friend on the subject of Yorkshire. His hon. friend, however, had departed from the question before the Committee, by addressing himself exclusively to the Representation of the county of York. The question was, whether the borough of Hedon should stand part of schedule A, and he was of opinion it should, for it was a corrupt, jobbing borough.
observed, that the statements of the hon. Member opposite abundantly proved, that the principles on which the Reform Bill was professedly founded had been entirely overlooked, so far as the great and populous county of York was affected by it. Even the plan of Cromwell appeared more favourable to the interests of the rural population than that proposed by the present Government, as he had conferred on Yorkshire alone not less than twenty two members, six of whom were apportioned to the towns. It was true he extinguished Hedon, but he also dealt the same measure of justice to Malton. The present Bill would leave Yorkshire worse represented than it actually was according to the system in operation hitherto. No two things could be more different, than the plan of Cromwell, with respect to Representation, and that of his Majesty's Ministers on the present occasion. According to the proposed plan, Yorkshire would not be adequately represented, while other counties, with not a fourth of the population of Yorkshire, would have more than their fair share. Durham, for example, with a population of 207,000 inhabitants, would have twice as many representatives as the West Riding of York, where the population, perhaps, amounted to a million. Again, was it fair to give the same number of Representatives to Cumberland and Lancashire? This unequal mode of distributing the franchise would produce great discontent in the country. If our ancient institutions were to be destroyed, it was necessary to erect on their ruins some measure based on intelligible principles of property or population, but this violated them all. He concurred with the hon. Members, that the rural districts of Yorkshire would be inadequately represented, and he therefore was against the disfranchisement of Hedon.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
would wish the noble Lord opposite to explain why a borough, situated in a populous district, should not be dealt with in the same manner as a borough in a parish? He had not heard any reason why the same principle should not apply to both. He would not go into the question of Yorkshire, for he was not a Yorkshireman, except by superinducement as a Member of Parliament; but, looking to the treatment of some boroughs, as compared with others, he would ask, why one law should be applied to one set of boroughs, and another to another set, 208 though under the same circumstances? Give him up Malton, and he would give up Boroughbridge; but why were Malton, Calne, and Tavistock retained, while others that had as much right to remain were disfranchised? These were questions which the public would ask, and to which it would expect an answer. He would ask, why not add Holderness to Hedon?
§ Lord Althorp
said, the hon. and learned gentleman had asked, why not include the population of a district as well as of a parish? Was he serious in that question? In the first place, if they took a district, they should take probably a hundred; but would not the effect of such a plan be to cut up the county Representation? If the inhabitants of hundreds were incorporated with boroughs, there would, according to the principle of this bill, be few electors for counties.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
did not mean, that hundreds should be cut up in this way; but boroughs had districts, called liberties round them—why not include these, instead of disfranchising the borough, where they afforded a considerable population?
§ Mr. Kenyon
would not delay the Committee at this stage, but felt it necessary to state, that at a future stage he should demand an additional Member for each of the counties of Wales.
said, his argument went to this only, that the plan of Ministers would lessen the Representation of Yorkshire, which was already inadequately represented.
§ Mr. Farrand
said, the hon. member (Mr. Ramsden) had talked of the corruption of the borough of Hedon, but if he stated that there had been any such during his connection with it, he begged to deny it in the strongest language which the custom of Parliament would admit of.
§ Sir C. Forbes
said, that a strong case had been made out for Yorkshire, by the hon. member for Aldborough. He agreed with him, that the number of Representatives for that county ought to be increased. As some insinuations had been thrown out against the borough of Beverley, which he had once represented, he must say, he had 209 been returned most independently by the electors, who were anxious again to offer him their disinterested support, from a conviction that he had discharged his duty honestly as their Representative.
said, that Hedon was the property of a gentleman who bought it, and who had sold it many years. This gentleman had written to him, stating that the electors were inclined to be reformers, but the Members for the borough voted against the Bill, and on asking for some explanation of this, he had been told, the electors would be reformers if Hedon was joined to Holderness, but that otherwise they would be against the Bill.
§ Mr. Farrand
requested the hon. Member would name any individual who had ever applied to him for any consideration for his vote. He had stood five contested elections for the borough, the third of which he had lost by a majority of ten votes, in consequence of the support he had given to the noble Lord John Russell's motion on the subject of Reform in the year 1822.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
considered the proposition for the total disfranchisement of the borough, when the franchise could be extended to an adjoining district, unjust. If they refused the district in this case, how could they allow it in others.
§ The question was put, "that Hedon stand part of schedule A," and carried.
§ The next question was, "that Heytesbury stand part of schedule A."
Captain A' Court
said, it was not his intention to offer any arguments against the motion, after the decision of the House with regard to Downton, but would content himself with saying he opposed it.
§ Motion agreed to, and Heytesbury placed in the schedule.
§ The next question was, "that the borough of Higham Ferrers stand part of schedule A."—Agreed to.
§ The next motion was, "that the borough of Hindon stand part of schedule A."
§ Mr. J. Weyland
said, it would be only wasting the time of the House if he were to contend, that the 150 honest electors of Hindon should, under any modified system of Reform, send two Members to Parliament. For his own part he cared not for his seat; he only hoped that the 10l. householders, into which these voters would be, as it were, transmigrated, would send a Member better qualified to serve the country in Parliament than he was. 210 He would say one word on the principle of disfranchisement. He thought that where it was done without necessity, it was great injustice; and when the Committee came to the enfranchising clauses, he should be able to show, that the best course to take would be, to consolidate some of these boroughs into a kind of scot and lot boroughs, by which all improper patronage would be most effectually done away with. Though he was now silent on the subject, he should be able to show, when the proper time came, that the franchise of these honest electors of Hindon ought not to be taken wholly from them; and he trusted he should not be twitted or insulted with any charge of wishing to delay the Bill by making such a motion. What was the Committee for, if they did not make amendments in the Bill? It had need of amendments. There was, however, a large body in, and a large body out of the House, cheering on Ministers to pass the Bill "with all its imperfections on its head;" or, to use the metaphor of an hon. and gallant Member on a former evening, who applied the feminine gender to his borough, he would say of this Bill—that if she was covered with ulcers, from the crown of the head to the tip of the chin, these parties would consider her a Venus. He was a Reformer, and was willing to make a sacrifice at the altar of his country, but he wished that the measure should be a real measure of Reform, and that it, should not be represented over the left shoulder to the people as one thing, and over the right described to the aristocracy as another—as quite an aristocratic measure. But the honest people of England would not be duped by having it called a name to which it was not entitled, and it could not be called a measure in favour of the people, if it took away the franchise of any part of them without necessity. He would write to his constituents to-morrow, and tell them yesterday they were killed. However, he would endeavour to resuscitate them by moving at a future period that this borough be incorporated with some others. The Bill which pretended to do so much, which was Reform from the beginning to the end, reminded him of a circumstance which he heard when a young man about twenty years ago. A Russian arrived in France with the tautologous name of Mouski-Mouski. He was accosted by a Frenchman, who asked him—" Com- 211 ment t'appelle tu?" "Mouski-Mouski," was the reply. "Ah, mon ami," rejoined the Frenchman, "soyez Mouski si vous voulez, mais vous ne serez pas Mouski Mouski: cela ne passe pas ici." The Frenchman thought, that a man should not have a monopoly of a name; and in the same way he would say, that this Bill ought not to have a monopoly of the name of Reform if it were not a Reform Bill in reality. He did not wish to see the people under a delusion as to this Bill, which they certainly were, if its effects should be, to take from them wholly the rights which they had inherited from their ancestors.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
said, he was glad to hear this from a Reformer. He was glad to find, that a Reformer admitted the injustice of taking from those boroughs the rights which belonged to them, and excluding them wholly from a share in the Representation. Why should there be such an accumulation of boroughs cut off by the Bill, when part of the object of its proposers might be equally as well answered by extending the franchise to surrounding parishes and districts. He agreed with the hon. Member that there were persons out of doors hallooing on the Ministers. These parties, like the French Revolutionists, called Ca Ira, go on with your Bill, never mind what individual Members say, do not care for trifles, you have the Press and the country with you. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would bring forward these circumstances of absurdity, to which allusion had been made, when he would support them, for at present they were striking out boroughs without knowing whether they were right or wrong. If it was really a fact, that these places were as corrupt as they were said to be, he hoped that, when they were fairly disfranchised, some locus penitentiœ would be provided for those who had represented them.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, it was quite useless for the House to make arrangements to forward the progress of the Bill if hon. Gentlemen upon every occasion entered into such long and desultory discussions. It was natural that the hon. Member who represented the borough should make a few remarks, but there was no necessity for the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak on all kind of questions in all kind of terms, and in all kind of tongues. He was a counterpart of Lawyer Endless in the 212 play. He hoped the Chairman would exert his authority, and put a stop to such long conversations.
thought the worthy Alderman was guilty occasionally of that conduct himself which he reprehended in others.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, he was, he believed, at perfect liberty to speak or not to speak, as he thought proper. Not so the hon. and worthy Alderman, who had thought proper to find fault with his speeches and conduct. That hon. Member had to vote, but he was prohibited from speaking. He (Sir Charles Wetherell) knew a place in which there was a kind of Old Bailey Jurisdiction; and if the Members for that place presumed to speak their opinions, or dared to say, that evidence should be received on a question where there was great reason to doubt, then he was immediately brought before the Old Bailey Jurisdiction, and told that he was sent to the House, not to speak, but to vote. The worthy Alderman had used no ceremony with him—he would use little with the worthy Alderman, and he would therefore say at once, that the place where this Old Bailey Jurisdiction prevailed was the City of London. If the Aldermen or the Members for that City dared to express their opinions, they were instantly dragged before this new-fangled base Jurisdiction, and told, that their duty was to vote, but not to use their judgment, or to speak their sentiments.
The Chairman (Mr. Bernal)
said, he must reluctantly call the hon. and learned Gentleman to order. The question now before the Committee had reference to the disfranchisement of the borough of Hindon, a question to which the hon. and learned Gentleman did not appear to address himself.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
threw himself on the judgment of the House. The worthy Member had attacked him with a facetiousness not very common in Aldermen. He told the worthy Alderman, as he had a right to do, that he had the power to speak, but the Alderman had not, and it was, therefore, not a matter of surprise, that the worthy Alderman wished to deprive him of a power which he could not exercise himself. He would ask, whether he was not at liberty to treat with ineffable contempt and ridicule the censure of those who were not at liberty to exercise the privileges of Representatives.
Lord John Russell
entreated hon. Members to allow these discussions to terminate. The learned Gentleman had spoken a speech which was not very relevant to the question before the House; and the worthy Alderman replied in a speech which was not much more so. He hoped, that the Committee would now be allowed to proceed with the question before it.
§ Mr. Alderman Venables
felt bound to give his decided contradiction to the statement of the learned Gentleman, that the members for the City of London were not at liberty to express their opinions. As far as he was concerned, he could say, he felt at liberty to speak and to vote in any manner his judgment dictated; and he was confident that none of the members for the City of London were open to the accusation of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who charged them with being deprived of the privilege of uttering their opinions. The learned Gentleman should, however, recollect, that the conduct of the members of the City of London was open to much public observation, while his conduct, and that of the Members for nomination boroughs, was subject to no such coercion or examination.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
begged to observe, that he came into that House on the strength of the profession of political opinions which he was anxious to support, and which he was at full liberty to support in any manner he thought proper. He conceived, however, that if he, as a member for the City of London, did anything not congenial to the feelings or opinions of his constituents, they had a right to remonstrate with him on the subject.
said, that the people of Hindon had, during the last Session, intrusted him with a petition in favour of Parliamentary Reform, and he believed, although they were subjected to disfranchisement, that they approved of the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Weyland
denied this, and said, he had run a great risk of losing his seat, in consequence of the kind of felo de se vote which he gave in favour of Reform last Session.
§ Motion agreed to, and Hindon ordered to stand part of the clause.
§ The next question was, "that Ilchester stand part of schedule A."
§ Ilchester was added to schedule A.
§ On the question, that East Looe stand part of the clause,
Mr. Davies Gilbert
thought, that the situation of this borough deserved some consideration. The towns of East Looe and West Looe, were nearly one and the same. They had the same chapel and the same market, although they were situated in two different parishes. The population of East Looe, in the year 1821, was 770; and of the parish in which it was situated 411. The population of West Looe was 559, and of the parish in which it is placed 839. The whole population of the two parishes was, therefore, with the boroughs, 2,579; and he thought, therefore, it would be no violation of the rule of the Government to join these boroughs, and allow them to be placed in schedule B.
§ Mr. H. T. Hope
supported this proposition, and observed, that the voters of Looe were under no other influence than that of kindliness and respect for those who resided in their neighbourhood.
thought it rather too much that these two boroughs should, because they had hitherto sent four Members to Parliament, consider themselves entitled now to brace up between them the numbers of inhabitants which would enable them to retain one.
§ Mr. Buller
said, that these two places of East and West Looe, had originally sent but two Members to Parliament. They now claimed to be united as they were before.
Mr. O' Connell
said, there was but one borough more rotten than East Looe, and that was West Looe. The franchises were given in the time of Elizabeth; they were rotten then, and had been so ever since. Hitherto each had returned as many Members as Westminster, and taken together, as many as the City of London. This was monstrous, and he was glad he had lived to see the day, when East and West Looe, the two worst of all the nomination boroughs, were doomed to destruction.
§ Mr. Kemmis
thought, the hon. member for Kerry might be fairly asked, what number of places were under his nomination in Ireland.
said, the question was not now whether they would get rid of the 215 nomination, or corrupt boroughs, for everybody knew that, by the alteration of the franchise, the corruption in the nomination would be put an end to, even in those places where it had hitherto most prevailed. The question now was, to whom the elective franchise was to be given, or with whom it was to be left; and he must say, that there was to be a transfer of that franchise from the South to the North, which was exceedingly unfair; and which would give a great preponderance to the manufacturing, at the expense of the agricultural interest. If Cornwall had hitherto had more than its due share of Representatives, that was accounted for by its varied interests. Its mines and its fisheries were of great local and peculiar importance. The boroughs in Cornwall had each some interests to protect, either with reference to the mines or the fisheries; and he certainly thought it was of more importance to leave them the power of choosing Representatives to support their local interests, than to give Members to such watering places as Cheltenham or Brighton. If this Bill were carried into effect, Cornwall would be denuded of its Members, and the best interests of the empire left unprotected to bestow Representation on such mushroom places as these, which derived importance only from the migratory shoals which annually resorted to them.
said, that as the Looes were formerly but one town, and if the object of the Bill was to restore, and not to destroy, the present proposition could not be refused. If it were, then the country could no longer be deceived, but must see that the real object was, to make a new Constitution. On a former occasion he had proved, that small places were systematically created parliamentary boroughs, and the object was, to enable the Crown and Aristocracy to maintain an influence in that House. There was never, at any time, a separation of the three branches of the Legislature; the House had never represented the people, distinct from the Monarchy and Peerage; the system, therefore, now proposed, was not Reform, but reconstruction.
Mr. J. L. Knight
said, that he for one felt himself, and he presumed the Committee Would also feel itself, released from any engagements they had made, not to oppose the principle of disfranchisement with regard to boroughs. It was now, in 216 his opinion, perfectly competent for every Member to consider upon its own peculiar merits the fate of each case that came before them, after the decision which had been come to with regard to the borough of Downton. He rose for the purpose of saying, that he felt himself now entitled to deal with every individual borough upon its own merits, as much as if no principle had ever been laid down and acceded to.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the decision upon the case of the borough of Downton was no infringement of the rule which had been agreed to. As to what had been said by his hon. friend about denuding Cornwall of its Representation, he put it to his hon. friend, whether more Cornish men would not be returned, under this Bill, from the county of Cornwall than were returned at present.
would ask the noble Lord, whether they were likely to have fewer Cornish men returned from Cornwall by giving the right of returning one Member to the two Looes? He thought it a most material question for them to consider, whether or not they were doing wisely in disfranchising places of so much real importance as Fowey and East and West Looe, while other places of far less consequence were retained.
said, the rule was, that all boroughs with a less population than 2,000 should be disfranchised. Now the boroughs of East and West Looe had each of them less than that number; indeed he believed the population of both together did not exceed 2,500. It was said they had departed from this rule with regard to Downton; and he for one did not approve of the plan which his noble friend had adopted with regard to the borough of Downton, as he had shewn by voting with the Gentlemen opposite upon that question. But he denied, that that was any breach of the vote which declared that no borough having a population of less than 2,000 should be allowed to send Members to Parliament. It was the superaddition of a new rule for disfranchising where the numbers might be above that amount, and as such he had voted against it. But it was fallacious to say, that it was a breach of the other rule.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
said, it would be a violation of common sense for Gentlemen henceforth to talk of rules or principles in this measure after the decision of last night. By so doing they would be making 217 themselves a by-word to the country. He agreed for once with the hon. and learned member for Kerry, who described the principle of the Bill to be the destruction of nomination. If it had any principle at all it was that. It was nomination that the people complained of, and not whether a borough had 2,000 or 4,000 inhabitants. Let him, then, ask Gentlemen opposite, whether they were getting rid of nomination by this measure? Look at the borough of Malton. Would any man say that, after the passing of this Bill, the power of Earl Fitzwilliam to nominate the Members for that borough would not be more complete than it was at present? He would say, that the authors of this Bill were bound to disfranchise all nomination boroughs, and even counties, if they were found to be in the hands of nominators. The noble Lord tossed up his head, as if that could not be done. But he would tell the noble Lord, that he had created the difficulties, and on his shoulders they would fall, whether he was able to bear them or not. They would find that, after they had passed this Bill, the cry against nomination would pursue them at every step, and they would find, that they had done nothing at all. He was not saying this because he saw the evil of nomination. He much preferred nomination, with the whole of the present system, to the change which the noble Lord had proposed.
assured the right hon. Gentleman, that when he moved the disfranchisement of the nomination borough of Malton he might safely reckon upon his vote, which he should certainly have. At present nearly half the House consisted of persons having no connexion with the places they sat for. This was particularly the case with the Cornish boroughs, two of which were at present before them. The right hon. Gentleman had very kindly instructed the Radicals as to what they were hereafter to do; and he had no doubt they would refer to these debates, and take up the Tory speeches as an unanswerable ground for the entire removal of nomination.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
said, that he never should support the disfranchisement of any borough whatever. He had stated, that he preferred the present system; but that those who supported the Bill were bound to the destruction of all nomination. The hon. member for Kerry ought to be the last man in that House to join in the complaint that Cornwall had not been repre- 218 sented by Cornish men. The hon. Member himself had invaded the elective franchise of three counties in different parts of Ireland, with neither of which, excepting the last, had he the remotest connection. He was not aware of any good which the hon. Member had ever done in the House since he had been in it. The county of Clare got very suddenly tired of him, and cast him off, the county of Waterford very soon cast him off, or the hon. Member cast them off—and he did not know how soon he might be cast off by the county of Kerry.
said, that Gentlemen could not always be returned from places to which they belonged, as was shewn in the case with his right hon. friend who had just spoken, who was not able to get himself returned for the only county with which he was connected.
§ Mr. Brogden
said, the hon. and learned member for Kerry carried his elections by the amazing influence he possessed over the minds of the Irish people, which had been obtained by ministering to their religious and political prejudices. He fostered the darkness of Catholicism and the mischief of democracy; but he would find it no easy task to make these feelings generally prevail in England. The boroughs of East and West Looe were created by Elizabeth, as a protection to the Crown, and a support to the Protestant religion: and he trusted the time would never arrive when the Sovereign would feel a want of the support afforded by Members for such places. The history of the past, as well as of the present, exhibited ample proof of the advantage of these places, for most of the distinguished statesmen who had adorned that House, or promoted the interests of their country, had been sent into Parliament by small boroughs. Having represented one of these boroughs for several years, he considered himself bound to assert, that he was as independent, and as desirous of advancing the best interests of the country, as any hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. H. T. Hope
said, he did not rise to complain of any opinions expressed by the hon. member for Kerry as to the boroughs of Looe, or to those who represented them. He meant no personal disrespect to the hon. Member, but as a political man, the approbation of the hon. Member would afford no very high excitement or gratification to his ambition. When he remem- 219 bered that in the conduct of the hon. Member it always appeared to be a point gained when he could succeed in casting an aspersion upon any part of the British Constitution, or of its establishments, he certainly did not feel his censures very acutely, or entertain any strong wish to repel an attack upon himself, or upon any one connected with him, coming from such a quarter.
Mr. Davies Gilbert
intimated, that he considered the claim of the two boroughs a strong one, but that he should not divide the Committee after what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite.
§ The question was then put, and the borough of East Looe added to the schedule.
§ The next question "that West Looe stand part of schedule A" was also agreed to.
§ Upon the question, "That the borough of Lostwithiel do stand part of the clause,"
said they had heard a great deal about rules which had not been closely adhered to, and he thought, therefore, in this instance, he should be able to shew that the borough of Lostwithiel extended into other parishes, containing together a population of 3,157. He was not sure that this would entitle it to the favour of the noble Lord. He was aware that, according to the principle laid down, they had no right to take the population of the three parishes; but as the borough extended into them, on a common principle of fairness, they ought to be included in the return of the inhabitants of the borough. He thought this entitled it to peculiar consideration, especially in conjunction with its being the county town of Cornwall.
Lord J. Russell
said, the rule decided upon in the case of Appleby, was, that they should not go to the parishes when the borough stood in more than one. The population returns showed the population of the parish of Lostwithiel to be 900, while those parts of the adjoining parishes which were included in the borough had only 200 inhabitants. The case, therefore, came clearly within the line.
said, that he should not have said a word upon this question had he not been the Representative of Lostwithiel. But he understood the putting of the question upon these boroughs as a call upon their Representatives to say why sentence should not be passed upon them. All he had to say for the borough was, that 220 it was innocent. The answer to which, he knew, would be, "Yes, but you are old and impotent, and must die." He had really nothing further to say, except that in the intercourse between him and his constituents nothing had ever occurred but what was strictly honourable to all parties.
§ The question carried.
§ The Chairman then put the question, "That the borough of Ludgershall stand part of the clause."
§ Sir Sandford Graham,
as member for the borough, felt called upon to make a few observations. He had long been of opinion, that no efficient Reform of Parliament could take place without the disfranchisement of these boroughs. He, therefore, cordially supported the clause; they had heard a great deal of fetters and pledges, but acknowledging himself the patron of this borough, and being determined to support Parliamentary Reform, he felt bound to vote for the disfranchisement of the borough.
§ The question carried.
§ On the question relative to the borough of Midhurst,
Mr. John Smith
said, he did not rise to oppose a measure which, on the contrary, had his entire approbation; but he wished to state, that the right of voting for Members for this borough was vested in persons holding by burgage tenure, and that they had as much right to send any other gentlemen into that House as their Representatives, as those whom they did send. He could assert, that for thirty years, they had never received any personal advantage or favour for the use which they made of their privileges; and the Lords of the Manor, of whom he was one, had the strongest confidence that they would not betray the trust reposed in them.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
might pay a compliment to the hon. Member for his disinterestedness, but he could not give credit to the immaculate purity of the electors. The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, as one of the Lords of the Manor, let his property to his tenants upon such terms as amounted to giving them a consideration in money for their votes. The hon. Gentleman did not, surely, pretend to say, that a much larger sum of money was not given for the Manor because it had the right to return Members? These circumstances were equivalent to corruption.
§ Question carried.
§ The Chairman put the question, "That the borough of Minehead stand part of the clause."
§ Mr. Luttrell
rose to express his heartfelt grief at seeing the rights of his constituents torn from them so unconstitutionally and so unjustly as they would be by this Bill. He considered also, that the rights given to him by his station in connection with the borough, were about to be violently and unjustifiably taken from him. The Representation of the borough had been in his family from generation to generation, and he considered it as his birthright. He denied the power of that House to deprive him of rights which he derived from the Constitution. If it could do so, then it also had the power of passing a law to take from him his castle. The circumstances upon which he claimed, that the borough of Minehead should at least be put into schedule B were these:—The borough extended into the parish of Dunster, and one-third, the most populous part of the parish of Dunster, was in the parish of Minehead. Now he was greatly mistaken if the noble Lord did not state, when he first explained his plan, that where the borough extended into adjoining parishes, the parishes were to be included in the estimate of the population. But by one of those turns about, of which the House had seen so many, the noble Lord now told them, that only one parish could be so taken into the borough. The population of the two parishes of Minehead and Dunster, according to the returns of 1821, was 2,134. To shew the hardship and injustice of refusing the returns of 1831, he would mention the fact as a curious one, that by those returns the population of the borough alone now amounted to exactly the same number of 2,134; so that, if the last census had been taken as it ought to have been, for the foundation of any measure, the borough of Minehead could never have been put into schedule A at all. The independence of the voters of Minehead was secured by the nature of the right, which was vested in every inhabitant householder at the time of the election, being a parishioner of Minehead or Dunster. They had heard much last night of the difficulties of conferring the franchise on a rural population; but, by admitting the parish of Dunster, he was happy to say, that the rural popu- 222 lation of that parish would not amount to more than thirty individuals. Upon these grounds he should vote for the transfer of the borough of Minehead from schedule A to schedule B.
Lord J. Russell
could not allow, that the right to the nomination of a borough could, according to the law of this country, be supported on the ground that it was private property. Even when the law had not positively taken away the power of nomination, the only feasible defence or excuse that could be made for it was, the manner in which it was exercised in some cases. This place consisted of three tithings—first, the tithing of Minehead; second, a tithing containing only part of the parish of Dunster; and, third, the tithing of Stepfield. Now, if the three were joined together, the amount of the whole population would be only 1,800; and he did not think, that by any possibility the borough could make up 2,000 inhabitants. No sufficient reason had been given for the removal of this borough from the schedule.
said, there were circumstances in this case which distinguished it from any other. Minehead, it was true, included only a part of Dunster, but Parliament had, by its resolution, laid it down, that every parishioner of Dunster had the capacity of becoming a voter for Minehead, if such parishioner occupied a house in that borough? When every man in Dunster, if he pleased, had a right to become a voter for Minehead by becoming a householder, it made a very material distinction in the case. Housekeepers thus connected with Minehead had aright to elect, and thus a very considerable constituency was secured. If his hon. friend and his ancestors had for a long time been returned for Minehead, it was not on the principle of nomination, but from the fair and legitimate influence of property—an influence which would still continue in operation, even should this Bill be carried.
Lord John Russell
said, the resolution only referred to parishioners of Dunster, being resident in Minehead. Certainly, the statement with regard to the parliamentary Resolution, was of material importance in the consideration of the subject—and the best course, therefore, would be, to have that Resolution read, that they might know the exact words.
wished to state another fact of considerable importance. It was, 223 that there would be no difficulty in creating the constituency required by the Bill, without introducing any extent of rural population, or going to any distance from the borough. The case was different in this respect from Appleby; and the number of 10l. houses had doubled since 1781.
§ The Clerk then read the Resolution alluded to, as follows:—
§ "February, 1717. That the right of electing burgesses for the borough of Minehead is in the parishioners of Minehead, and of Dunster, being housekeepers in the borough of Minehead, and not receiving alms;" which Resolution was carried in the affirmative.
§ Mr. C. Ross
said, this Resolution proved that the right of voting was in the parishioners of Dunster, being householders, of such parts of the tithings of that parish as were within the borough of Minehead, and, that Minehead and Dunster being taken conjointly, the population would amount to upwards of 2,000. From the population returns of 1821, it appeared that Minehead contained 900 persons, and Dunster 1,200, but the portion of Dunster in the borough contained only 700, and on this account it was, that Minehead was placed in schedule A. By the addition of the remainder of the parish, the whole population would amount to 2,100, and therefore the borough ought to return one Member under schedule B.
observed, that if Minehead and Dunster, as placed in the population returns, were united, the aggregate population would not amount to 2,000. By the census even of 1831, the population of Minehead was only 1,494, and if they added 251 for Dunster, the aggregate would be 1,745.
said, that he stood upon this peculiar point, that a Resolution of the House of Commons had solemnly decided, that the parishioners of Dunster, who became housekeepers of Minehead, had a right to vote. This took the borough out of all ordinary rules.
Mr. S. Wortley
thought this case essentially different from that of Appleby. It was evident, that in Minehead the limits of the parish had nothing to do with the right of voting, and the fact, thus established, was all that was wanting to make the case of Appleby good. He was decidedly of opinion, that the whole parish of Dunster ought to be included in the borough, as it was clearly contemplated 224 that parishioners should enjoy an advantage over strangers.
§ Lord Althorp
could not think, that the meaning of the Resolution was to include the whole of Dunster in the borough of Minehead. The Resolution confined the right of voting to those parishioners of Dunster who were resident in Minehead, and it could not, therefore, have been intended to extend the borough over the whole of Dunster. The right of voting depended, not alone upon a man being a parishioner of Dunster, but upon a man being a parishioner of Dunster, and resident in that part of Minehead which was situated in Dunster.
§ Mr. Courtenay
said, if they disfranchised this borough, they took from the inhabitants of Dunster the power of qualifying themselves as voters for Minehead. He considered this a valuable privilege to such inhabitants; and, considering the peculiar circumstances of the case, it would be a measure of great injustice to continue Minehead in schedule A.
§ Sir E. Sugden
was of opinion, that, independent of the question which turned upon the Resolution, this was clearly a case in which a constituency could be created without having recourse to the rural population. They had here an adjacent town, from which they could derive a constituency. As to the Resolution, it clearly gave the right of voting to all the parishioners of Dunster; only that, in order to qualify themselves for the exercise of that right, it was necessary that they should have a house in Minehead. The possession of the house, therefore, was merely the qualification. If this were not the meaning of the Resolution, it was one of the most absurd Resolutions that reasonable men ever came to.
said, that the amendment proposed when the Resolution of 1717 was adopted, was a clear proof, that the construction placed on the Resolution by the then Ministerial side of the House was the correct one. The original Resolution proposed to give the right of voting to all the parishioners of Minehead and Dunster being householders of the borough of Minehead. The amendment proposed on this, to leave out the words, "being householders of the borough of Minehead." Had the Legislature intended to attach the meaning to the Resolution which the hon. Gentleman opposite assumed, would it not have assented to the 225 amendment? The fallacy of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, and what he complained of as nonsense, consisted in a word which the hon. and learned Gentleman had inserted in the Resolution. This was the word "all," which was not in the Resolution, and which made nonsense of a Resolution that was very good sense without that word.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
could not think the House of Commons would sanction anything so absurd as the words at the end of that Resolution, without intending to attach some meaning to them. The Resolution was, that the right of voting was in the parishioners of Minehead and Dunster, who were householders within the borough of Minehead. The question was left to be decided as to the limits of the parish. It was obvious, from this, that the parishioners of Dunster were to enjoy privileges, with respect to the borough of Minehead, which strangers could not enjoy. He was decidedly of opinion, that the franchise ought to be extended to both parishes.
could only repeat, what he had before said, that the proposing of the amendment to the Resolution, as it stood at present, and the rejection of that amendment, was a sufficient proof of the meaning the House of Commons of that day attached to it—the Resolution did not say "all" the parishioners, but only such as were housekeepers within the borough.
said, it was clear, that the House intended to limit the right of voting to that part of Dunster into which the borough of Minehead extended. It seemed to be supposed, that there was an inchoate right in all the parishioners of Dunster to vote, and that that inchoate right might be perfected, by going to reside in Minehead. This, however, could not be intended; for any man who became a householder for a certain time, became a parishioner of the place in which he held his house, no matter from what part of the kingdom he might come. Why, then, pass a resolution to effect that with regard to Dunster or Minehead, which was already true of every other part of the kingdom?
The Solicitor General
said, that as he understood the question, it stood thus. There was no doubt as to the limits of Minehead, nor as to the population of it being below the fixed mark. It was then said, that by calling in the aid of strangers, 226 the population might be brought up to that mark; but, it seemed to be forgotten that the strangers so to be called in, must not only be householders of Minehead, but also parishioners of Dunster.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
was glad to find, that his learned friend was with him. That was precisely the point for which he contended.
considered the statement of the learned Solicitor General, supported what they had been contending for; it was necessary, as a previous qualification for the voter of Minehead, that he should be a parishioner of Dunster. He should like to know why the House of Commons introduced the words "Parishioners of Dunster," if they did not intend these parishioners should enjoy certain privileges.
The Solicitor General
had stated, that the resolution of the House made it necessary that a person should be a parishioner of Minehead or Dunster, before he was entitled to vote.
maintained, that any person, whether previously or not a parishioner of Minehead or Dunster, residing as a householder six months in the borough, was entitled to vote. The Resolution of the House of Commons, in fact, was, that a person being a householder in the parish of Minehead, was entitled to vote; and also, a person being a householder in that portion of the parish of Dunster situated in the borough of Minehead, was entitled to vote. The qualification appeared to be no other than being a householder in the borough of Minehead, which he, might become, and yet never enter Dunster. A great deal of special pleading had been thrown away, to make a clear question obscure.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
was satisfied, that no charge could be made against him, for attempting to make a clear subject obscure, by special pleading. He would ask the noble Lord, whether he would continue to press the case, after his learned friend, the Solicitor General, had attached the same meaning, exactly, to the terms of the Resolution as the Members on the Opposition side had done. His learned friend stated, that if a person wished to vote for this borough, he must, in the first instance, become a parishioner of Dunster, and afterwards a householder in 227 the borough. The rule laid down by his learned friend was clear and satisfactory.
The Solicitor General
understood his learned friend to contend for a very disferent point. He meant to say, that strangers must make themselves competent, before they were entitled to vote for the borough of Minehead.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, his learned friend had satisfied every one in the House. If he had any doubts before, they had been entirely removed by the opinion of his learned friend.
§ Lord Althorp
begged to remind the House once more, that the rule was, that the right of voting was in the householders of the borough of Minehead, not receiving alms; and also, the housekeepers of that part of the parish of Dunster, situated in the borough of Minehead, not receiving alms. The residence in the other part of the parish of Dunster, gave a capacity which a person not so residing did not possess. He meant, immediately on his becoming a householder in the borough of Minehead, he would be entitled to vote; whereas, a stranger would have to wait for some time before he could claim that privilege. The question, therefore, was, whether these privileged inhabitants of Dunster had a sufficient share in the borough of Minehead to give them a claim to be added to the population of the borough. It was his decided opinion, that they possessed no such claim. He should, therefore, support the original question, that the borough stand in schedule A.
Sir Robert Peel
did not think a mere residence in the borough of Minehead established a right to vote.
Sir Robert Peel.
—Certainly not the mere residence, because a voter must become a householder; but something in addition to that was required from a stranger. The inhabitants of Dunster possessed this advantage, that immediately on a freeman becoming a householder in the borough of Minehead, he was entitled to vote; but it was necessary that a stranger should gain a legal settlement.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that the hon. and learned member for Kerry had stated this question too short, and had forgotten that there was in England such a thing as a law of settlement, though there was no such thing as a law of settlement in Ireland. It happened, how- 228 ever, that in England a man could not have a vote till he had obtained a settlement. He had no doubt, that if the Resolution which had been read, were maturely considered, the borough would be taken out of schedule A.
said, that if he had stated this case too short, that was a fault which could seldom be laid to the charge of the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge. He knew well enough, that it was necessary for a man to occupy a house of a certain amount, and for a certain time, before he was qualified to vote. But the qualification was a mere matter of time; and where the franchise was fixed like this, that time being completed, the qualification would fall to any man, from whatever part of the kingdom he might come.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
begged that the House would not, in these nice distinctions, lose sight of the important question before them. Let hon. Members recollect, that the hon. member for Minehead had claimed this borough as his own property, on the ground that it had been the property of his family from generation to generation. If there were any argument more strong than another, in favour of its disfranchisement, the hon. member for Minehead had furnished that argument. It was the duty of the House to negative such a claim at once, and to get rid of this generation proprietorship.
§ Mr. Attwood
was of opinion, that the rule which Ministers had laid down would not be impartially applied, if this borough were not taken out of schedule A. He did not expect, however, this would be done, after the decision of the Committee on several other boroughs. If the object was to destroy as many of them as possible, then the claims of Minehead would not be admitted; but if the object was justice, and adherence to rules laid down, then Minehead must be saved. A strong case had been made for the borough of Appleby, but this was stronger. The parishioners of Dunster had a right, an imperfect right, it was true, but still one which was entitled to respect. He hoped, therefore, the Committee would extend the franchise to the whole parish of Dunster, and place Minehead in schedule B.
§ Mr. Praed
was against the disfranchisement of this borough; because, a stranger coming and occupying a house 229 there, would not acquire the right of voting until he had gained a settlement, but a parishioner of Dunster would obtain this right as soon as he was in possession of the house. Here was a case of distinct parliamentary connexion, in which no question could arise as to the position of the church, or the jurisdiction of the coroner, &c.; so that there seemed to be no difficulty in the way of removing the borough from schedule A.
said, that two constructions had been put upon the Resolution which had been read, and it was upon which of these they adopted, that the question of Minehead returning a Member seemed to be placed. The hon. and learned member for Kerry laid down the rule, that unless an individual be a parishioner of that part of the parish of Dunster, within the borough of Minehead, he was excluded from being an elector; he thought this interpretation most consistent with parliamentary practice and precedent. He believed there never was a case in which residence gave an inchoate right of becoming an elector, as was now contended for. No claim was, therefore, made out for the continuation of the franchise in Minehead. What was the state of things there? It was not what the hon. Baronet had represented, viz. that every person must be legally settled in the borough of Minehead to give him a vote, for the right existed before the Poor-laws were established. It was, consequently, impossible that the right of election, so ancient, could depend upon what was afterwards done on the subject of Poor-laws. There were one or two cases in which the rights of election were so qualified, as to render them the greatest possible anomalies. But, supposing the parishioners of Dunster did possess this capability of eventually becoming electors, what was it but the common case of non-resident freemen, who did not possess the right of voting, until they became inhabitants of the town of which they were free. In scot and lot boroughs, a man might have a habitation which would entitle him to vote by residing in it. It appeared, however, from other considerations, particularly from what had been said by the hon. member for Minehead, even admitting the views of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that it was a borough which ought not to retain the right of sending Members to Parliament.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
maintained, that the parish of Dunster ought to be united with the borough, and that to both, thus united, the right of returning one Member should be continued. Dunster had been an ancient borough, and had alone exercised the franchise under the protection of its Castle. In the 1st of Elizabeth, when Minehead was summoned to return Members, the amalgamation of the two places probably took place.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, it was clear from all they could see, that for parliamentary purposes the two places were one and the same.
Lord J. Russell
said, that no reason had been shown why the parishioners of Dunster ought to be taken into account with the population of Minehead. It was not sufficient, that a man was a parishioner of Dunster, he ought also to have a holding in Minehead.
§ Sir James Scarlett
said, that his hon. and learned friend had stated, that the payment of the poor-rates in the borough parish of Dunster conveyed no right of voting in the borough, for the right existed before the establishment of the Poor-laws. Although that might be generally true, yet, in a variety of cases, such payment had been taken as a proof of the right of voting in scot and lot boroughs always. His hon. and learned friend had also said, that there was no more reason for preserving inchoate rights in this case, than in the case of freemen, whose rights must be perfected by inhabitancy. But freedom was generally a personal right; here the right plainly attached to the locality. This brought before them something like a question worthy of consideration; for if the right of voting existed, in any parishioner on his taking the smallest tenement in the borough, it was clear, that if the Committee disfranchised the borough, it would also disfranchise the parish. He would not put any off-hand judicial construction upon an obscure Resolution of the House, passed in 1717, as he well knew, that questions of constructions as to resolutions referred to Select Committees by the Act 10th George 3rd, had required days before they could be decided.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
wished to defer the consideration of the question, but as hon. Gentlemen had come to the House to vote for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," for the whole of schedule A, and nothing but schedule A, it 231 was in vain to appeal to the justice of the Committee; he should not, therefore, make any motion for delay, as that would be called factious.
was still of opinion that the parish of Dunster ought to be united with the borough, and that it ought not to be disfranchised, but he would not divide the House on the question.
§ The question "that Minehead stand part of schedule A," was carried.
§ The next question was, "that the borough of Newport stand part of schedule A."
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, he had no abstruse points to interpose to prevent the extinction of Newport. He could but admit, that this was one of those boroughs which came within the line which the noble Lord had selected for disfranchisement, he would say, nevertheless, that that was a most arbitrary and unjust line. This borough had exercised the franchise for upwards of 300 years, and it had never been accused or convicted of corruption. The only crime, in fact, of which it was guilty was, that of being an inconsiderable borough.
§ The question carried.
§ The next question "that Newton, Lancashire, should stand part of schedule A," was also put and carried.
§ The next question was "that the borough of Newtown in the Isle of Wight, be placed in schedule A."
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, Sir; On this somewhat inauspicious roll-call, I had hoped that my hon. and learned colleague, his Majesty's Solicitor General, would have risen in the defence of the borough which has done us the honour to return us to Parliament. I am sorry, that the task has fallen into weaker hands. Sir; the borough of Newtown does not come within the line traced by his Majesty's Ministers. It has not 2,000 inhabitants. But the borough of Newtown never returned to Parliament on the score of habitancy. It is a right purely of tenure—the original summons going to it by the prerogative of the Crown, as of the demesne of the Crown, and as being of the possessions of a branch of the Royal Family. This borough was first summoned by Queen Elizabeth—the major part of the burgage tenures on which the old town and port of Newtown had formerly stood, being then in the possession of Sir Thomas Barrington, in right of his wife, who was nearly related to the Queen, 232 and was one of the co-heiresses of that line of the Plantagenets in which these ancient burgage holds had vested. In their descendants these lands have remained ever since. To two successive Baronets, the representatives, in a direct line, of this splendid alliance, I acknowledge myself to have been indebted for my seat during six Parliaments; and as, by the tenure of these burgage lands, the possessors were bound to service in Parliament, either by themselves or by deputing some one in their place, I have always held, that I occupied as constitutional a seat as any in this House. I have considered myself charged with an honorable trust—I received it under no unworthy conditions—I have endeavoured to execute it independently—and the voting away so distinguished a privilege, attached to the inheritance of this highly-descended family—not matter of mere influence, or corporation management, but part and parcel of their possessions—without any arrangement towards compensation or indemnity, can only be regarded as one of those acts of spoliation, of which all that can be said is, that it is a confiscation, which, in times of political change, those who are the weaker are compelled to submit to, from those who, at the moment, may be stronger than they. I have had a succession of colleagues, returned under the influence of the noble Lord to whom the greater part of the remaining burgages belong, certainly under one bias as to political leaning, but all of them men with whom I was proud to be joined;—and if I should now retire from this House, and if I should witness the extinction of the borough of Newtown, I shall at least carry with me one consolation—that, during the sixteen years in which I have had the honour of a seat in Parliament, I have never known the members for Newtown rendered such a spectacle to men and angels, as the four members for the City of London, within the last week.
said, the hon. Gentleman was one who declared every session that no Peer had, or ought to have, any influence in the election of Members to serve in that House His patron was a Baronet; that was a pretended escape. The representation of a noble Duke or a noble Lord was to be put in competition with a representation of the City of London. Well, be it so. The people understood that. In that House he heard a feeble cry in favour 233 of the nomination system; but there was a voice abroad which spoke in the tone of thunder against that system. There was a cry abroad against the nomination system, which extended from one end of England, Ireland, and Scotland to the other.
§ Mr. Attwood
thought, the spirit of the speeches of the hon. and learned member for Kerry ought to teach that Committee a most serious and important lesson. Indeed, the whole of the discussion upon this Bill ought to convince the Committee of the extreme danger to be apprehended from its consequences. Let the argument advanced by the hon. and learned Attorney General last night be well weighed, and the frightful results to which it must lead, if acted upon, would be palpable to the meanest comprehension. The Attorney General held that, if the origin of a thing were bad that justified its abolition. Such was the argument of the King's Attorney-General, and, if acted upon, there could be no doubt that the time was not far distant when the Peerage would be assailed and destroyed, and the Throne itself would lose its stability. From the manner in which the advocates of the Bill had conducted themselves during the Committee, from the levity with which they had treated the matter, it could no longer be doubted that the doors to change and revolution were thrown wide open. The proceedings of that Committee, the conduct of that Committee, presented such a scene as had not been exhibited since the first sitting of the National Assembly of revolutionized France.
Lord J. Russell
said, that he wished as much as possible, while they were occupied with the consideration of particular cases like the present, to avoid entering upon any discussion touching the general bearing or nature of the Bill itself. He could not, however, permit attacks to be made, night after night, upon a majority of the Members of that House, and upon the members for the city of London in particular, without saying, that such attacks had no foundation in reason or justice; and that it was most offensive towards the House to continue to indulge in them. An hon. and learned Gentleman, for instance, had said, in an early part of the night, that the decisions to which this Committee had come were founded in iniquity; and another hon. Member had just accused them, of acting like a revolutionary assembly. Whatever those hon. Members 234 might allege against a Reformed House of Commons, he (Lord John Russell) must say, that he had never before sat in a House of Commons in which such language had been employed towards the majority of the House, as those hon. Members had thought fit to use. Then an attack was made upon the members for the city of London, because, forsooth, they listened to the advice of their constituents. Now, what were the facts of the case to which so much reference had been made? After the dissolution of the late Parliament on the question of Reform, he believed, that the candidates throughout the country had stated to their constituents, their sentiments with regard to the Bill, before they were elected, and it was, therefore, perfectly fair and natural, that when the worthy Alderman alluded to had given a vote which his constituents might consider rather at variance with his previously avowed sentiments, they should call upon him to reconcile it with those sentiments. They had heard much of the independence of the Members for nomination boroughs. It was more than probable that the hon. and learned Gentlemen who sat for those boroughs had previously stated their sentiments in regard to the Bill, to the noble Peers who sent them there, and had avowed their hostility to it as a democratic and revolutionary measure; and he believed, that if any of those hon. or those learned Gentlemen should, in any stage of the Bill, vote for a motion which was in favour of it, the noble Lord, who had sent that hon. Gentleman to that House, would turn round upon him at once, and call upon him to reconcile his vote with his previous pledge, or to submit to the alternative. Away, then, with the idle talk of independence as compared with the independence of those Members who represented popular places. With regard to the imputation which had been cast upon the members for the city of London—namely, that they were in a state of degraded dependence—he must say, that it was a most unworthy and a most unfounded one, and as long as he had a seat in that House, and as long as he had the honour of being a Citizen of London, he should never allow such attacks to be made without defending them from such groundless imputations.
§ Sir James Scarlett
had been surprised at the zeal and animation of his noble friend, until he had heard the peroration 235 of his noble friend's speech. When his noble friend alluded to his recently-acquired civic honours, his unusual animation was accounted for. Like his noble friend, he did not wish to travel out of the question properly before the Committee; but, certainly, if called upon to deliberate on the topics noticed by his noble friend, he must say, he should view them in a very different light to what his noble friend did. He was not desirous of investigating the conduct of his noble friend's colleagues and compatriots; but if his opinion were asked, he should certainly say, that that conduct had not been constitutional. He did not, however, wish to go into that question, but he rose principally for the purpose of calling the attention of the Committee to the evident inconvenience which must arise from multiplying the Representatives coming from the immediate neighbourhood, and sent there by large popular bodies. His noble friend had spoken of nomination Members, and had asked, if they were not all pledged and bound? To that question, his noble friend knew that many might answer in the negative; but supposing the point were conceded—and supposing it also to be conceded, that the electors, be they many, or be they few, who returned a Member, had a right, as they certainly had, to know a Candidate's general principles, and to demand his adherence to them—supposing all this, there was a wide distinction between their exercising such a right, and the conduct of some of the electors of London, in the case of an hon. Alderman (Mr. Alderman Thompson). Let him draw the attention of the Committee to that distinction. The hon. Alderman had pledged himself to support the Bill; but, in giving that pledge, was it to be understood that the hon. Alderman bound himself to support all the details of the Bill, let them be good or let them prove absurd? Surely not. From the pledge the hon. Alderman had not departed, in the vote complained of. That vote was not a party vote. The hon. Alderman had stated his reasons for giving it; and in giving it, he did not vote against the Bill, but against a part of the details of the Bill, which the hon. Alderman thought to be bad. The hon. Alderman, therefore, had not violated his pledge, but still he had been called upon, while Parliament was sitting—while he was acting judicially, and the proceedings were still pending, to give an explanation of his 236 conduct to a part of his constituents. He wished not to make any unkind remarks, either on the hon. Alderman in submitting to this interference, or on the conduct of those citizens who had practised it; but he wished to point out to the Committee the inconvenience and the danger of a popular jurisdiction being exercised over that House. And he must say, that if he had required any new proof to convince his mind of the impropriety of that part of the Bill which went to increase the number of popular Representatives returned by the Metropolis and its vicinity, he should have found that proof in this transaction. Could that House be called a deliberative Assembly, if every Member within the circulation of the morning journals was to be compelled, the day after he had given a vote, to account for that vote at a popular meeting, although the matter with which that vote was connected had not been concluded? and yet such was to be the Representative system under the Bill of his noble friend. It might be a system of real and not virtual Representation, but it would never furnish a deliberative assembly. He respected the voice of the people; he knew, that that House emanated from the people, and existed for the benefit of the people; but he could never consent—his duty would not allow him—to consider the sovereignty of the people so complete and unrestricted, that their mere will was, on all occasions, to be the guide of that House. The Members of that House were sent there by the people. He did not call the people either entirely the mob or the 10l. Householders—he included all ranks and conditions: but there could be no deliberation, if all they were to do was, to know what was the will of the people, and to execute it. He could not avoid making these observations, for he thought that so recent and so strong an example could not be passed over. He could not agree with the noble Lord, that no allusion ought to be made to the subject. On the contrary, he thought it ought to be alluded to, as a warning to that House against giving sixteen Members to the places in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis, everyone of whom, during the time that any great question was depending in that House, would be liable to be perpetually called to account before another deliberative assembly. Every parish, at least every parish within the reach of the morning journals, would contain 237 one of these deliberative assemblies, which would daily sit for the purpose of, every morning, calling the Member to account for the vote he had given the night before. He repeated, they were sent there by the people, but it was their duty to deliberate, and to act as judges only upon their own conscientious convictions. But if the doctrine of his noble friend was to be acted upon, their deliberative character was gone—that House would be overawed and superintended by another tribunal, and the institutions of the country, and the Throne itself, would be left at the mercy of popular error and irritation.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, he had never heard more uncalled-for, and, he might add, more malevolent allusions, than those made to the members for the City of London. With all the correct notions of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, no one ever heard them deliver a sentiment in favour of the liberty of the people. Reflections had been made as to the manner in which the constituency of the City of London conducted itself on a late occasion; but he did not hesitate to state, that no man ever came into Parliament in a more honourable way than the four members for the City of London. When they came forward as candidates, they were called upon to give expression to their sentiments on the great question of Reform; and when they had stated their sentiments to be favourable to the Bill introduced by his Majesty's Ministers, and were returned upon that statement, their constituents had a right to watch their conduct, and to see, that they had one and all performed their duty, and fulfilled their engagements. The hon. Gentlemen opposite spoke highly of borough patrons, and vaunted that they had never received an order from any one with respect to their votes on any question. Could hon. Members, however, say, that they represented any thing but their own money, or the wishes of a patron? The members for the City of London were returned free of all expense. Could the hon. Member for Newtown say he had come in without expense? Would he be candid enough to say what he paid? The House did not want to hear, however, for it knew well enough. But the object of the present measure was, to put an end to those shameful and disgraceful practices, and to wipe out this blot from the Constitution. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir James Scarlett) 238 also thought fit to allude to the City of London. It was said, that those boroughs brought in men of talent, and great lawyers, into that House. With all the talent, however, the public opinion was against the boroughs, and none of the advocates of the system, gifted as they were, would venture to go before the constituency of the City of London, and oppose the Reform candidates. The hon. member for Newtown sometimes went to dinners in the City of London; but why did not he go to the hustings? Why did he not appear at the Common Hall, as well as at the London Tavern? The hon. Member well knew that, with his sentiments on the subject of Reform, he could make no way in the City of London, where the people had been petitioning for half a century in favour of Reform, and had determined to support no man who would not vote for it. It was matter of great surprise to him (Alderman Waithman) to hear a great whig lawyer who had always professed to act upon whig principles, utter sentiments that would have staggered all the great constitutional lawyers that had ever sat in that House. The hon. and learned Gentleman protested, truly, against the public voice, and against the practice of constituents calling Members to account. Why, it was the very essence of the Constitution, that there should be a sympathy and a corresponding feeling between the Representatives and the people. Mr. Burke had said, that it would be better to give way to the wildest enthusiasm of the people than not to sympathise with them. This great whig lawyer was seen every night voting in support of all the rotten boroughs, but he said nothing in support of the liberties of the people. He stated, that there were instances in which the nominees for those boroughs voted against the sentiments of their patron. There might be such a solitary instance, but if there were any such cases they were exceptions to the general rule. He would take leave to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, that such conduct was considered very dishonourable. When a man was seated in that House by a patron of a borough, and no direct stipulation was made with him, but confidence placed in his principles, if he should vote directly in opposition to that patron and yet continue to hold his seat, it was, to say the least of it, a most dishonourable thing, and he had good authority for saying this, 239 for a noble Lord, who nominated some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, had said, in another place, that if the nominee of a borough was disposed to vote against the patron who nominated him, as a man of honour, he was bound to resign his seat. The hon. and learned Gentleman would not surely have alluded to a solitary and disgraceful precedent of a man's holding his seat, and voting in contempt and defiance of his patron, and in violation of his own professed principles; but, had the hon. and learned Gentleman stopped there? for he it seems could "turn and turn, and yet go on;" had he not known an instance of a nominee not only thus voting in opposition to his whig patron, as well as in violation of his own principles, and retaining his seat, but afterwards coming into this House as the nominee of a tory patron, and opposing every measure for the reformation of abuses in the reformation of of the representation, and throwing imputation upon those Members who were the representatives of a great and independent Constituency for the deference paid to their opinions. When the hon. and learned Gentleman stated a case respecting the members for the City of London, he stated a case that he did not understand, and plainly proved, that he ought not to speak without a brief; the facts were simply these: the members for the City of London, after an explicit avowal of their sentiments on this measure, were returned without expense. The electors of the City of London thought, that a very factious disposition had been shown by the Opposition, and that the object was to obstruct the Bill. Perhaps this was misconception, but it was out of doors the general feeling. It was also thought, that the proposition to call Counsel to the bar was a gross attempt to delay the Bill, and the hon. Alderman (Thompson) having voted for that proposition, his constituents called upon him to explain his vote. The hon. Alderman said, he had no intention to delay the Bill; and whether that explanation was good or not, he would not take upon him to determine, for he might say, "I am not my brother's keeper." The eyes of the public were on that House. The public saw their nights wasted in frivolous discussions, and a string of lawyers rising to oppose the Bill, who had no sympathy or connection with the people. Those Gentlemen talked of the rights of the Monarchy and the Peerage, and contended 240 that the Crown and the Aristocracy could not stand if there was a free House of Commons. To that he would answer, that if the Crown and the Aristocracy could not stand honestly, they ought not to stand at all. They would stand, however, on the surest base, when they stood upon the affections and love of the people. The King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, were the trustees of the people, more particularly the latter; and whatever the other branches of the Legislature might do, at all events the House of Commons ought to do the business of the people. The boroughmongers, however, had no sympathy with the people, but had loaded them with 800,000,00l. of debt, suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, and filled the Army and Navy and Offices of the State with their relations, to the third and fourth generations. This was what had roused the public indignation, and every discussion tended to open the eyes of the people more and more. The people would know from whom the unmerited and uncalled-for attack, made that evening, had sprung. It was from no Representative of the people, but from one who represented his own property, and sat for a paltry and contemptible borough, not having one house in it worth 10l. a-year. An hon. and learned Gentleman over the way, who was a nominee, was most pertinacious in his opposition, he threw himself into all manner of attitudes and distortions, and was full of the most melancholy presagesTwas sad by fits, by starts 'twas wild"—there was, indeed, among them weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and they mingled their tears with the waters of Babylon for the loss of the rotten boroughs. The people, however, would contend for their rights, and, to use the words of Lord Chatham, "they would perish in the glorious struggle, rather than give up one iota of the Constitution." The state of the country, until the late change, was appalling: it might be said that it was on the eve of a revolution, but it was saved by a popular Sovereign and an honest Ministry, who brought forward this Reform, by no means sweeping in its provisions—or if it swept away anything, it was only cobwebs and rubbish—as the best method of restoring confidence and re-establishing the Constitution. He had been quite sorry to see the desperate condition to which the right hon. Baronet had been reduced last night; he had 241 absolutely found himself in the melancholy plight of being the only laugher at his own stale joke. That he laughed at his own jokes was not perhaps so new; but that he should be the only laugher on this occasion was to be accounted for on the score of its frequent repetition. If talent could do any thing against the Reform Bill, there was surely enough among no less than thirty or forty lawyers who had been introduced into that House, not to represent the people, but by way of trade purchasing seats to obtain places and appointments. In fact, with most of them, it was a mere matter of trade; no man of common sense, if a lawyer, who had a little money to buy a seat, but knew he could forward his interests by such means, but to do this, even common sense was not always requisite. In the House, and out of the House, he would do his duty by contributing all in his power to the passing of the Bill, and to the removal of trifling difficulties so easily seized on the other side. He would maintain his post, division after division, as long as health and strength permitted, in order that the great objects of the measure might not be defeated by a factious Opposition.
felt himself called upon to make a few observations, in consequence of what had fallen from the noble Lord who had introduced this Bill, who had tauntingly alluded to some supposed pledges given by certain Members previously to their entering the House, and especially in opposition to this measure. He could assure the noble Lord who had put that question, that, as to himself, he had never been called upon to give an engagement, nor to express an opinion on any political measure, whatever, neither then nor since. He was as free to act according to the dictates of his conscience as any Member that ever sat in that House. There was no difference, however, he contended, between a man prostrating his opinion, and bowing down to the dictation of one individual or of one thousand. The man that did so, in either case, was totally unfit to legislate; and he was not the less fit, because his servility might be displayed in sacrificing his conscience to large numbers, which the noble Lord had declared to be the very worst constituency in any community. Such was the noble Lord's deliberate, recorded, and published opinion, and he might reconcile that as well as others of his previous principles, 242 with his present language and conduct as well as he could. He (Mr. Sadler) was not answerable for any such comparisons; on the contrary, he was rather for equal justice being done to all classes. Then he thought the term boroughmongering, which the noble Lord so frequently used, ["No, No," from Lord John Russell.] well then, corrupt patronage and nomination, came with a very ill grace from that noble Lord, when connected with certain facts of which the noble Lord could hardly be ignorant. The noble Lord sneered at the nomination of certain Dukes, and talked of corruption. Had he forgotten certain transactions recorded in a work which he and his colleague had obviously consulted in framing their new Constitution, he meant "Oldfield's History of the Boroughs?" It was there said, that a noble Duke, with whom the noble member for Devonshire was closely connected, had sold his "corrupt, unlawful, and scandalous influence," as it was now termed, in the borough of Camelford, for 32,000l.—a pretty good price, considering the number of 10l. houses it contained. That very influence the noble Lord was then engaged in destroying. Again, did the noble Lord, so deeply read in the history of these boroughs, know nothing of the sale of Okehampton, another condemned borough, of which, the father of his noble colleague, together with the aforesaid noble Duke, was a joint proprietor. The price, in this case, he believed, was about double the former. Now, who, he would ask, were the individuals deserving the opprobrious epithets? who were the real borough-mongers—those who thus bartered and sold their influence, now pronounced unlawful and infamous, for pecuniary considerations; or those who had always exercised that influence with a disinterested desire to promote the prosperity, and serve the cause of the country? If he had been a pecuniary gainer by such a transaction, he would have been inclined, before he demanded the disfranchisement of the borough, to have, like one to whom his party had been assimilated—he would, like Judas, have thrown down the pieces of money, after he had betrayed the innocent. What would be thought of a West-Indian proprietor, who should sell his degrading property in slaves at its utmost value, and then turn round at once, and boast of being a warm advocate for instant, unconditional emancipation? As 243 to these boroughs, at all events, there was no great merit or patriotism in persons crying out for the extinction of a property which they had previously taken care to dispossess themselves of, for a large pecuniary return. The noble Lord had laid it down, in his valuable work on the Constitution, that it was as great an iniquity to deal with the rights of the smallest borough, as with the rights of the Crown. The hon. Alderman, and other professed advocates of the poor, however, thought nothing now of personal rights. The only inquiry was, how many 10l. householders there were? There were many, however, whose rights were dear and valuable to them, and who did not occupy 10l. houses. The valuable exertion was not confined to the 10l. householders. The great majority—those who created all the property of the empire, and gave it its value when created, who fought the battles of the country on both elements, and who laid down their lives in its defence, were rarely inhabitants of 10l. houses. It was a great objection, in his mind, to the Bill, that whereas, under the existing system, the lowest class of society had Representatives in that House, under the new system they would be entirely deprived of those Representatives. He did not hold nomination to be the purest part of the system, but he held it to be necessary to maintain the balance of the Constitution. At all events, ancient privileges were about to be destroyed—privileges granted for valuable purposes; and he conceived that those privileges ought not to be taken away, unless as good a case could be shown for the disfranchisement, as was shown for the dismission of the House of Stuart, in the reign of James the 2nd. Such was also the opinion of the noble Lord. Looking at the Bill altogether, he must say, that there was a great deal of injustice in it, that the stronger party prevailed over the weaker, and that, as to the continual accusations of corruption, made by those who might have been silent on that score, he might apply to it, with perfect fairness, the saying of the Latin Poet, "Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas." He should revert to the subject hereafter.
§ Mr. C. A. Pelham
begged leave to call back the attention of the Committee to the real question before it—namely, whether the borough of Newtown should or should not stand part of schedule A. He did not think so small a borough as 244 this ought to send Members to Parliament. The time of the House had been too long wasted in irrelevant discussions, quite foreign from the subject.
Sir R. Peel
agreed with the hon. Member as to the expediency of hon. Members confining themselves more than they had done to the immediate subject before the Committee, and not, like the hon. Alderman opposite, indulge in a meandering discourse, half prose, half poetry, touching the politics of the last fifty or sixty years, including the American and French revolutions, the Continental wars, the state of Ireland, and the National Debt. He, as well as the noble Lord, had the honour of being a constituent of the hon. Alderman, and must say, that such an oration would hardly be tolerated at their Common Hall. The hon. Alderman was in error, in supposing that they on the Opposition side of the House, felt disposed to taunt those hon. Members who had voted with them in their large minority of last night, though friendly to the principle of the Bill. By no means: he admired them for their high-minded conduct, and trusted, that in several other matters of detail, the Opposition would have the benefit of their votes. It was not to be supposed, that because hon. Members had expressed their determination to support the principle of the Bill, that, therefore, they were tied down to its every detail, without the power of adopting or proposing such verbal amendments as might be necessary. If such were the case, there would be an end to their character as a deliberative body. He could not, as a Liveryman of the City of London, help regretting that his hon. friend opposite (Mr. Alderman Thompson), had not, in his late intercourse with a small party of his constituents, instead of entering into the unnecessary explanation he had made, in his usual manly manner addressed the Livery thus:—"Gentlemen, I have voted for the second reading of the Bill, and am still determined to support its principle, but I do not feel that I am, therefore, fettered so as not to exercise my own discretion with respect to its details." Had the hon. Alderman addressed the Livery thus, he was confident that, at the next election, the Livery would raise him to the head of the poll.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, the hon. Alderman had said, every discussion on this measure opened the eyes of the public; he 245 perfectly agreed with him, and was convinced, that the delusions and fallacies of the measure were becoming daily more notorious. He certainly was of opinion, that the Bill would be fatal to the existing institutions of the country. He did not represent so large a city as the worthy Alderman, but his constituents deserved all the praise of patriotism, and had sent as independent Members to the House as ever came from the Metropolis, although they might entertain opposite sentiments to those expressed by the worthy Alderman. The worthy Alderman had lauded his own constituents very much, and their propriety of demeanour was fully exhibited at a meeting last Wednesday, at which the hon. member for Middlesex presided. The hon. Member could not preserve order, and was even in some personal danger when he was compelled to vacate the Chair. The speeches there delivered, and the class of persons present, went to show that the radical supporters of the Bill hailed it but as a step to their ulterior purposes.
§ Mr. Gillon
could not help complaining of the manner in which the time of the Committee was thus wasted in idle discussions of no public moment.
§ The question was then put and carried, "that Newtown stand part of schedule A."
§ The next question was, "that Orford (Suffolk) stand part of the schedule."
§ Mr. Croker
considered the case of that borough far too important to allow it to be passed over without drawing the attention of the Committee to its peculiar circumstances. He thought, that the principle proposed by the hon. member for Montgomeryshire ought to be applied to this borough and to Aldeburgh. He admitted, that neither contained the number of inhabitants which the Bill stipulated as the qualification for Representation; but, as a matter of good policy, he thought it expedient to unite them so as to constitute one borough. Orford contained upwards of 1,700 inhabitants, and Aldeburgh more than 1,300; and the two towns were situated within three miles of each other, being separated only by an arm of the sea. And the officers of the Revenue, and of other departments of the public business, were in both towns the same persons. He thought the continuation of the Representation to these towns particularly expedient, in consequence of one important feature of the Bill, which had not yet 246 been sufficiently attended to. On examining the Bill, it appeared to him, that the noble Lord had laid a hand peculiarly heavy upon the Representation of the agricultural districts. He would not say, that the partiality was intended, but in effect the proposed system was exceedingly injurious to the agricultural interests. The number of the Representatives to be returned by the counties south of the Trent which were chiefly agricultural, was to be, by the Bill, ninety less than those counties returned at present; whereas the counties north of that river, which included the principal manufacturing districts, would gain by the Bill twenty or thirty Representatives. So that the preponderance of the manufacturing counties in the Representation would be increased by at least 110 Members. The county of Buckingham would lose five of the present number of its Representatives. Devonshire, which at present returned 24 Members, would, under the Bill, send but 16. Dorsetshire would have its Representation reduced from 28 to 8 Members; Kent, from 16 to 12; Lincoln, from 10 to 9; Hampshire, from 24 to 18; Norfolk, from 8 to 7; Northamptonshire, from 7 to 4; Oxford, from 6 to 2; Somersetshire, from 16 to 9; Surrey, from 12 to 5; Sussex, from 26 to 14; Suffolk, from 14 to 5; and Wilts, from 32 to 13. Whilst ninety Members were thus subtracted from the southern counties, he found that the northern counties gained considerably, as the following statement (which he would read) would show:—Staffordshire, having at present 8 Representatives, would have 9; Warwick would have 6, instead of 4, the present number; Durham would have 6, instead of 2; Cheshire 5, instead of 2 (he begged the Committee to bear in mind, that he all along spoke only of the borough Representation in the several counties); Yorkshire, having now 28 Members, would retain that number without diminution. Now, he mentioned these particulars, to show, that the full tide of favour was set northwards. But while the Representation was thus carried from the southern to the northern counties, the increase of the Representation in the one, and its diminution in the other, were totally independant of any regard to the proportion of their population. He was desirous that it should be clearly understood, that in advocating the case of Orford, his object was not to support that borough itself, but to defend 247 the landed interest. He would compare in more detail, the population of two or three counties with the alteration in their Representation, to show that the changes were altogether in favour of the manufacturing counties. According to the census of 1821, the county of Suffolk contained 270,000 inhabitants, and returned to Parliament fourteen Members for boroughs. Of those Members, the majority were connected with, or representatives of, the land. But now the landed interest of that great county was to be deprived of nine Members, retaining only five Members for the boroughs of Bury St. Edmund's and Ipswich, and the half-borough (as the Bill made it) of Sudbury. But what was the case of Durham? That county was not, by any means, so populous as Suffolk—having, indeed, only 207,700, that is, nearly 60,000 less than the latter county—and yet, whereas Suffolk was to lose nine Members, Durham was to gain five. In the same way, the great, indeed he might say, the metropolitan, county of Surrey—having a population of 338,900, and being one of the most thickly inhabited counties of England—was to be reduced in its Representation, from twelve to five Members; whilst, on the contrary, the county of Warwick, being inferior in population to Surrey by more than 100,000, was to have one Member more than the latter county. Now, if that disproportion were accidental—were referable to ancient prescription—or were the result of a long-continued course—it might be less objectionable. But when they were told, that this Bill was devised for the purpose of setting the Representation right, and of restoring it in a due proportion to the population, he thought it right to draw the attention of the Committee to those inconsistencies. Norfolk had a population of 344,000, and Stafford, of about 341,000—that is, three thousand less than the other. Under the old system of Representation they returned each eight Members. In that respect they were exactly alike. But the arrangement was now to be changed, so that one Member was to be taken from Norfolk, and bestowed upon Stafford, which would therefore have two Members more than the county which always exceeded it in population, and was before equal to it in Representation. Although that was not a very large change, it yet served, with the other cases he had mentioned, to show 248 that the tide of the new Representation was against the agricultural counties. In Yorkshire, Aldborough was permitted to retain a Representative, although it was a very poor town situated in a district populous in boroughs. Almost in its immediate neighbourhood were Knaresborough, Ripon, Malton, York, and Thirsk. While Aldborough in Suffolk, which was three times the size of Aldborough in Yorkshire, and had no borough nearer than Ipswich, 20 miles, and Bury and Sudbury, which is near 40 miles distant, were to be wholly disfranchised; and thus the whole northeastern district of Suffolk, about 40 miles long, and near 30 miles wide, will be left without a member. He would not then renew the Debate as to the principles of the Bill, nor introduce to the House any fancies of his own; but he should content himself with submitting to the consideration of the Gentlemen connected with the agricultural districts, what he thought their interests required; and with assuring them, that he should take every opportunity of giving them his assistance.
§ Sir H. Bunbury
did not think, that there could be shown any sufficient reasons for the union of the two boroughs (Orford and Aldeburgh). There was no close communication, and there was very little intercourse between them. They were separated, at full title, by a broad expanse of sea, and at low water, by a broad expanse of mud. A great part of that expanse might sometimes be dry, but he (Sir H. Bunbury) had many a time attempted to cross from one town to the other, and never had found the passage practicable. As to the population, they were both declining fishing towns, but yet much frequented in the season for sea-bathing. In summer, therefore, there might be found a very respectable and numerous constituency, which he feared would be reduced to a very small one at an election in winter time. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Croker) had said, that the boroughs of Suffolk were necessary to represent the agricultural interests of that county. But he (Sir H. Bunbury) believed, that the members for the boroughs of Ipswich and Sudbury had never been persons connected with the landed interest. As to Aldeburgh, he could not say whether its Representatives had ever been other than persons connected with manufactures or commerce. To show, that the people themselves did not set much value upon the Re- 249 presentation which those boroughs afforded them, it was sufficient to say, that he had presented a petition from the borough now under discussion, praying that the present Reform Bill might be passed by that House.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that the observations of his hon. and gallant friend opposite strengthened the case which he had endeavoured to lay before the House. The boroughs of Ipswich and Sudbury were not to be disfranchised; but as these places generally returned mercantile men as their Representatives, and as Aldeburgh and Orford generally returned persons connected with the landed interest, if the first were to be preserved and the latter to be disfranchised, it was clear, that the influence of the agricultural interest of the county of Suffolk must be almost annihilated. He certainly had omitted, and purposely omitted, from his statements, the increase which was made to the county Representation; but that did not alter the question, for there was in proportion as many Members added to the counties of the north, which were manufacturing, as to those of the south, which were agricultural. He was not so anxious to combine these two places into one borough, as to reserve to the county of Suffolk the power of returning another Member of the agricultural interest. He would, therefore, be content if the noble Lord would transfer to the thriving and populous town of Woodbridge the franchise which was taken from Aldeburgh and Orford, and thus preserve to that district of Suffolk, some small shew of the representation which it at present possessed.
Lord John Russell
did not see any grounds for uniting these two boroughs. In the view which the right hon. Gentleman had just taken of the loss which he supposed this Bill would inflict on the agricultural interest, he had taken a partial view of its effect in several counties, instead of taking a general view of its operation all over the country. He ought to have recollected, that the agricultural interest would receive a great addition of weight from the large addition which had been made to the county Representation; for, owing to the elective franchise being conferred on the large towns, and to the circumstance of freeholders, who claimed a right, from their freeholds, to vote in those towns, being disqualified for voting for the same freeholds in counties, the county Representation would, in future, be placed in the agricultural inha- 250 bitants of villages, rather than in the inhabitants of the large manufacturing towns. The right hon. Member had said, that these small boroughs generally returned agricultural Members. Now that observation was another proof, that great wits had sometimes short memories; for it was not many evenings since he heard the right hon. Gentleman asserting, with unusual gravity, that one great advantage of these small boroughs was, that they opened to commercial men the road into that House. He could not allow the right hon. Gentleman to blow hot and cold at one breath.
§ Mr. Kilderbee
—My right hon. friend below me (Mr. Croker) has so fully explained, that he rested his propositon for a case of Aldeburgh and Orford, not upon their own merits, but entirely as a question of compensation to the county, as an agricultural body, for the votes it will lose by the disfranchisement of both these boroughs, that I will not say a word upon that point. The hon. Baronet, the member for the county, will, I am sure, admit, that I, from residing immediately in the neighbourhood, must be fully as well, if not better, acquainted with these places than he can be. The hon. Baronet has said, that Aldeburgh and Orford are divided by a muddy creek, and that the communication between them is by means of sandy lanes, at a distance of twelve miles. Now the Orford river can hardly be called a muddy creek, for it has deep water, not less than three fathoms at the lowest spring-tides up to Orford quay, and not less than two fathoms at low water up to Aldeburgh. There are from sixty to seventy vessels belonging to the three ports of Orford, Aldeburgh, and Snape, and the whole corn and coal trade of a very large district is carried on from these ports. There is a ferry, passable at all times of the tide, and the distance from Aldeburgh to Orford does not exceed by land three miles and-a-half. My hon. friend (Sir H. Bunbury) has also stated, that these boroughs have always been represented by Gentlemen not at all connected with the county of Suffolk, or with the landed interest. Now, I believe that they have invariably returned Gentlemen who have, upon all questions relating to the landed interest, voted in favour of it. I have had the honour of representing both these places in Parliament, and the hon. Baronet will hardly say, that I have no connexion with the county of Suffolk.
§ The question was put and carried, "that the borough of Orford stand part of schedule A."
§ The next borough on the list was Petersfield.
proposed, that as Petersfield was part of the parish of Beriton, and as the parish of Beriton contained more than 2,000 inhabitants, the elective franchise of the borough of Petersfield should be thrown into the parish of Beriton, and it should be suffered to return one Member. He could assure the noble Lord, that if he acceded to that proposition, he would deprive the present patron of all power over the borough. The right of electing the Members would then be placed in the hands of one of the most respectable constituencies in the county.
Lord J. Russell
could not assent to such a proposition. The principle was, that no borough containing less than 2,000 inhabitants, by the census of 1821, should return Representatives. Such a population was not possessed by the borough of Petersfield.
§ Sir W. Jolliffe
thought the proposition of his hon. friend a perfectly fair one. At the same time, he made no complaint against the Government, for the course which it had recommended, with regard to this borough, as the documents before them were calculated to mislead them. There was no such parish as Petersfield; but it ought to be considered as part of Beriton; and the population of the adjacent tithings, which were connected together, and formed one Hundred, should be taken together, in which case it ought to be allowed to send Members to that House.
urged, that the borough had a fair right to be placed in schedule B, as it was most unjust that the inhabitants should suffer from the mistakes which had been made by their Mayor in the returns of the population.
stated, that the freeholders of the adjacent tithings who had claimed a right of voting in 1820, found, that their votes were disallowed by an election Committee.
§ The question "that Petersfield stand part of schedule A" was carried.
§ The next borough on the list was Plympton, but on the Chairman's putting the question on that borough,
§ Lord Althorp
could not recollect, that he had ever pledged himself to any such arrangement, as the course, in his opinion, must prove highly inconvenient, and would very unnecessarily retard the progress of the public business. He, therefore, would by no means consent to so early an adjournment.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
thought it was too much to expect Members to work from five o'clock until one in the morning.
§ The Chairman put the question on Plympton.
referred to the statements contained in a petition presented yesterday by the hon. member for Plympton, from certain inhabitants of that borough, which he considered of such a nature as ought fairly to exempt it from disfranchisement. There were in Plympton 130 10l. houses. The amount of assessed taxes paid by those who resided in that borough was very considerable, and the neighbourhood was remarkable for the respectability of its inhabitants. The borough of Plympton had, however, been inserted in schedule A, for the most preposterous reason that could well be imagined. And what was that reason? Why, because the borough happened to touch upon two parishes, each of which contained a church, one dedicated to one Saint, and the other to a different one, whereas, had there been only one church, the inhabitants would be permitted to send two Members to Parliament. Such were the ridiculous absurdities and egregious inconsistencies of this Bill, which had been thrust upon the House, and which the Members were to be bullied into passing. This was the Bill which was about to be forced upon the Legislature at the impudent dictation of an arbitrary Press, which, base as it was, had acquired such an ascendancy in the country that there was now no resisting it. He would beg leave to be permitted to read a single specimen of the species of democratic despotism to which he particularly alluded, and from this alone, the House might be sufficiently enabled to judge of the animus that actuated not merely the writer alone, but the party generally to which he belonged. The noble Lord then proceeded to quote as follows, the concluding paragraph of an editorial article 253 in The Times of Thursday:—"We confess—for why should Sir Robert have all the praise of candour to himself?—we do confess that Lord Althorp has more than once put us a little out of patience, by treating the public enemy with so much consideration. Lord Althorp, if he be the leader of the House of Commons, ought to lead, not merely the proceedings of the House, but the sentiments and judgments of the majority. His Lordship ought, therefore, to keep up a more lively spirit in his camp, by not being satisfied with dull defensive war: he ought to carry the fight into the adverse quarters. He ought never to repulse the borough-monger crew without attacking them in turn. Why not meet at ten o'clock in the morning? Why not force the disfranchisement of nomination boroughs in the lump, instead of strangling the reptiles by the tedious and troublesome process of succession?" [cheers and laughter] [The noble Lord observed, that he could see nothing laughable in the subject, and was quite at a loss to understand the joke which seemed to give hon. Members such entertainment.] "The majority, he continued, if he will but blood them a little, by closing instead of always skirmishing, are with him to any constitutional extent he pleases. The country is with him, the Press is with him, what does his Lordship fear?" There, then, was a precious sample of the bullying and bravado which had been put in requisition, with what success they all witnessed, for the purpose of carrying this monstrous and outrageous measure. He left it to the House to judge from the case before them, amongst others, how far it merited the praises which had been lavished on it.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
asked Ministers, why they did not take the advice of their sagacious friend of the Press, and make a levy en masse for the massacre of the proscribed boroughs, seeing that they had a majority which would back them in that or anything else that they might think fit to propose. Why not throw the questions of justice and constitutional policy at once overboard, and proceed in the straightforward course recommended by their friend? One of the members for London had "inadvertently" paused to examine before he decided, and the consequence had been, that he was cited before an unconstitutional tribunal, and called to account for his breach of dis- 254 cipline. It behoved them, then, to abstain from all troublesome examination for the future, and act as their friend the editor had suggested.
observed, that the majority, he had no doubt, would not object to cancel the remaining boroughs by a single vote: to them he was sure no proposition could well be more satisfactory.
denied, that he had assented to such a course, merely because he read a public paper recommending it.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, he had no local knowledge of Plympton, but certainly expected an answer from the noble Lord opposite, in refutation of the objections already taken by the noble member for Lostwithiel.
An Hon. Member
said, he was not surprised, that no Minister had risen to answer the noble Lord, because Plympton was in exactly the same predicament as Appleby, which the House had recently discussed at more than usual length, and decided for its disfranchisement. The influence of the Press, of which the noble Lord complained, was owing to the imperfect Representation of the people in that House, which had led them to consider the Press as their natural and most efficient Representative. Let the people be fairly represented, as they would be under the operation of this measure, and a Reformed Parliament would take into their own hands the enormous power which he acknowledged was at present exercised by the Press.
Lord J. Russell
insisted, that the principle of the Bill applied equally to Plympton and to Appleby, and he would, therefore, retain the former as well as the latter borough in schedule A, both of them being, in his opinion, justly marked for disfranchisement.
§ Mr. C. Ross
contended, that the borough had a right to retain one Member, for the limits of the borough were not accurately defined, and the whole parishes of which the borough made part, ought to be taken, when it would be found to contain more than 2,000 inhabitants, with a large number of 10l. householders, who paid a comparatively large sum in assessed taxes.
Lord John Russell
said, the return stated that the male population in 1821 was 328; the number of houses 108; and an answer given to the third question in that return was, that the limits of the borough 255 were not accurately defined, but that, probably, the addition to the number of houses might be twenty, and the male inhabitants about forty; thus, making in the whole 128 houses, and 368 male inhabitants. Was this return so notoriously incorrect that it could not be acted on?
could not say, it was so, but he had asserted, that in the borough and parishes together, a constituency might be formed, which ought to prevent the disfranchisement.
§ Mr. C. Ross
had also argued, that out of the borough, including all the parish of Plympton-Maurice, and part of Plympton-St. Mary, the requisite number of 10l. houses might be found, by including the whole of the latter parish, to make up a most respectable constituency.
§ Mr. Croker
wished to know, as the borough of Malton had been allowed to retain its two parishes, why the same rule should not be followed with respect to Plympton.
said, that the question of the right hon. Gentleman put him in mind of the observation of Fluellen, "There is a river in Macedon, and there is also, moreover, a river at Monmouth—it is called Wye at Monmouth." The cases of the boroughs of Malton and Plympton were not at all parallel. In the former borough the two parishes were included in the town, but in Plympton the parishes were rural, and had nothing to do with the town.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
was surprised at the tone of the Treasury benches, but they were supported by the Press. The interesting debates in the Reform Committee were not properly given in the public Press. The fact was, that the Press was corrupt—it was bought and paid for by the Government. What the Ministers and their "followers up" said, was given in detail, while all that was said on the other side was curtailed, misrepresented, misinterpreted, and (he believed, in his conscience, by the advice of the Ministers) suppressed from the public by the most nefarious practices.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, did the hon. Member not know there were two sides in the Press as well as in that House, and if one party made a misstatement the opposite one corrected it?
§ The question "that the borough of Plympton stand part of schedule A," put and carried.
§ Lord Althorp moved, that the Chairman do report progress.—Agreed to.256
§ The House resumed—the Committee to sit again on Tuesday.