HC Deb 23 June 1831 vol 4 cc277-80
Mr. Hunt

presented a Petition from Preston, signed by 3,000 or 4,000 persons, praying that the franchise rights which they at present possessed might not be interfered with by the Reform Bill. This petition he had received previous to the late dissolution, and it would be in the recollection of the House, that he had asserted that the measure of Reform proposed by Ministers had not satisfied the people of the north of England. They demanded more than that Bill professed to give. This declaration had been denied by several hon. Members, but the petition now presented was a proof of the correctness of his assertion; for although his constituents supported the Reform Bill, yet they prayed the House to grant Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and Vote by Ballot, and they would not be satisfied until these were obtained. He agreed with this opinion, for he thought every man had a right to vote, as was the case at Preston, and his constituents and himself were anxious that all their countrymen should enjoy the same privileges. He did not mean to throw any impediment in the way of the plan introduced by Ministers, for he believed there was an overwhelming majority in its favour throughout the country, and he had no doubt it would be carried with a high hand. He certainly thought it would do but little good, but the general opinion seemed to be, that if this was settled, the people would soon obtain the other things they demanded. He regretted, that his opinion on this subject should have been misrepresented, and he conceived the petition to be a complete answer to the misrepresentations which had been made of his unpopularity with his constituents. He maintained, that by the old law of the land, up to the reign of Henry 6th, every man had a right to vote, and at present the great body of the people were looking forward to regain the privileges of which they had wrongfully been deprived, They said, "give us the Reform Bill, and we will obtain the measures which will satisfy us." He had been assailed by such violent charges, which were equally false and scandalous, of having deceived the people, that he wished an inquiry to be made, and if the charges were proved, he ought to be expelled from that House. He denied that he was connected with either Whigs or Tories, and detested borough mongering, by whomsoever it was practised.

Mr. James

could not assent to the statements of the hon. Member. He had been all his life an advocate for Universal Suffrage, the Vote by Ballot, and Annual i Parliaments; but would abandon all, except the Ballot, in favour of the measure of Reform proposed by Ministers. Should, indeed, that measure fail—as he did not expect—in producing all the benefit which he contemplated, he would again be an out-and-out radical Reformer.

Mr. Slaney

was sure that the bitterest foe of Reform could not give utterance to any doctrine more insidiously adapted to mar the success of the Reform Bill than that just propounded by the hon. member for Preston.

Mr. Hunt

next presented a Petition from the county of Somerset, the result of a public meeting, approving of the Ministerial plan of Reform. The hon. Member declared, that the petition had been intrusted to him, in preference to the county Members, because they had confidence in him, and that the meeting agreed unanimously, that the Ballot was necessary for the security of the voters. He had been accused of being an enemy to Reform, and that he had changed his political principles, and been bought over to the side of the Tories. In contending that the Bill was by no means entitled to the popular commendation so lavishly bestowed upon it, he but spoke the sentiments of his constituents, who again returned him, notwithstanding the efforts of the Parliamentary Candidate Society to unseat him; so that all the stories relating to his unpopularity at Preston were untrue.

Mr. Alderman Waithman

was sure that something must be done towards curing the hon. Member of his cacoethes loquendi malady. Night after night the hon. Member was wasting the time of the House with long-winded egotistical harangues, in which nobody felt the remotest interest, and which the Reporters, in the exercise of that discretion—for which he (Alderman Waithman) could never be too grateful—very judiciously permitted to drop into deserved oblivion. The other evening he heard the hon. Member make use of not less than seventy-five "I,"—"I's," "I did this," and "I did that," in twelve minutes by the clock. If the hon. Member proceeded at this rate, the hon. member for Kerry (Mr. O'Connell) would have to complain of his monopoly of long-winded egotism being invaded.

Mr. Hunt

was not an orator, par excellence, like the hon. Alderman, but would nevertheless pledge himself not to produce the invariable effect of the hon. Alderman's orations on all who had the misfortune to hear them—namely, set them to sleep. He would back ton minutes of the hon. Alderman's eloquence at any time as a specific where the strongest opium had failed.

Colonel Evans

said, he was the individual alluded to by the hon. member for Preston as having endeavoured to prevent his return at the late election; and he had only to regret that he did not arrive at the place till it was too late, and thereby have effected a great public benefit by the defeat of the hon. Member.

Mr. James

said, he had not changed his opinions with regard to the Ballot without which he feared the proposed Bill would not be effectual. But he thought the Bill with the Ballot would' be sufficient to render Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments unnecessary.

Petition laid on the Table.