§ Mr. Gisborne
moved, that the Order of the Day for resuming the Debate on the Motion for Reform be read, which being done, the hon. Member proceeded to say, that under ordinary circumstances he should not have put himself forward before the notice of the House, but on a question of so much importance as that which now occupied their attention, he felt a great inducement to state his opinion on it. He did not, however, rise to claim the attention of the House to his sentiments because he considered himself the properest person to answer the hon. Baronet who had spoken last on the previous evening, but because he objected to many parts of that speech, and which objections he would state to the House, if he was so fortunate as to secure its indulgence. It appeared to him, that the right hon. Baronet had, throughout his speech, assumed as an axiom, that we were really in a state of the greatest prosperity,—that we had the happiness and the glory of living under a Constitution which had borne this country to a pinnacle of power such as never before was reached —that, in a word, we were as well off as mortals could expect to be, and that if we did not know it, we ought to know it. The right hon. Baronet had also assumed, that the Parliament performed its functions properly. Now, he must say, that he thought this was assuming a great deal too 23 much. The merit of this question greatly depended upon whether the Parliament had performed its functions ill or well. This was a point open, to discussion, at least, and therefore not to be assumed as settled. To take it for granted that the Parliament performed its functions well, and then to indulge in mere declamation upon the excellence of the Constitution, was, in his opinion, to attempt to lead away the passions of the House, and to divert its attention from the real question before it. He could not help feeling that he, and the Gentlemen who took the same side of the question that he did, had great difficulties to contend with in discussing it. If they spoke of danger, they were called intimidators,—if they whispered that there were grievances, they were called exciters,—if they remonstrated, they were told that they assumed too high a tone,— and if they used the language of complaint, they were accused of a desire to inflame the people with a sense of imaginary wrongs. Thus the right hon. Baronet had occupied himself last night in finding fault with one or two expressions in the able and eloquent speech of the hon. member for Calne (Mr. Macauley), but, suddenly turning round, the right hon. Baronet had dropped the hon. member for Calne, and most strangely fixed the whole blame of those one or two unfortunate expressions upon the Ministers. The right hon. Baronet had, however, very wisely abstained from attempting to answer the arguments which had been so powerfully urged by the hon. member for Calne. Now, in spite of those restrictions, by which he felt that he and the Gentlemen who thought with him on this subject were fettered, he trusted that he might approach this question in a plain and straightforward manner, and without attempting to ride such a Pegasus as might not be unsuited to the right hon. Baronet, but which he was neither fitted nor desirous to mount. The chief and the most important of the functions of this House was the imposition of taxes; and, in considering whether the House ought or not to be reformed, he considered it most essential to inquire, whether the House had so exercised its power of taxation, and so regulated the expenditure of the country, as to conduce to the happiness and the welfare of the people. Now he had no hesitation in saying, that this question must be answered in the negative, and 24 that hence had arisen that clamour in the country for Reform of which some hon. Members complained. That the clamour, however, was perfectly justifiable, might be easily demonstrated. He would take in proof of this position, only two of the books that were lying on the Table. These were the book of Salaries and the book of Pensions. Would any one tell him, that if they had had a reformed Parliament, it would have been possible that the salaries of their officers would have amounted to 500,000l., and that their civil pensions— independent of military pensions—could have amounted to 250,000l.? These were not his statements, but statements which had been laid upon their Table by authority. The right hon. Baronet had denied that there were any symptoms from which it could be inferred that the country took a great interest in Parliamentary Reform; but had they not, in spite of the late hours to which the House usually sat, been compelled to devote a day, which was usually a day of adjournment, to the mere business of receiving petitions on the subject of Reform? What did the right hon. Baronet call symptoms if these did not come under his notion of symptoms? They were told that this was a revolutionary measure; but when hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House said so, he did not mean to say any thing uncivil when he stated, that he did not think that they thought so, for their acts contradicted their assertions. That, he conceived, was the just and proper interpretation to put upon their inconsistent conduct in reference to this measure. If they really thought that this was a revolutionary measure, why did they not oppose it in limine. As the hon. member for Waterford had said, on another occasion, "they ought to die in the first ditch." It appeared that the hon. Gentlemen opposite were willing to entertain this measure, which they had characterised as revolutionary; but, if they really thought it so, why not stop the Bill in the first stage? Why not say, we will not compromise with revolution? Though the hon. Gentlemen talked so violently, they were willing, forsooth, to let the measure come to a second reading. He required no other proof how little the violent language used was in accordance with the feelings of the opponents of the measure. The hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge had argued that Reform would afford no satisfaction, unless it 25 was accompanied by a reduction of expenditure. He said, that though the Ministry had not cut off the malt-tax or the assessed taxes, they proposed to cut off sixty-two Members from that House. Now, as the Members of that House were to be estimated only by their public utility., he did not know but cutting off a few of them might be received by the public with some degree of gratitude and satisfaction.— When Gentlemen in that House talked of extensive measures of retrenchment, however, they ought to recollect that there was a great thing called the National Debt. It was senseless to suppose that the same public establishments should be kept up when the Funds were at 77, and when they were as high as 93. If the country was in the same state of tranquillity at home and security abroad as it had been before the late Government left office, he had no doubt that the reductions of taxation proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been much more extensive. If the state of the country would permit of it, he had so much confidence in Ministers, that he believed they would redeem their pledges as to retrenchment as amply as they had redeemed their pledge on the subject of reform. No one took upon him to say, that Ministers had broken their pledge on the subject of reform.— But this measure had been called robbery, corporation robbery. That was the phrase; and, therefore, those who supported the measure' were to be considered robbers. This part of the question, so far as the robbery of corporations was concerned, had been set at rest last night by the authorities produced by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Hobhouse). A great deal had been said on the score of authority, he would now address himself to this part of the subject on the score of reason. He called upon the House to consider what it was now proposed to take away from corporations. It was not their property, real or personal; it was not their lands, goods or chattels; it was not even their municipal rights; but it was that which the law declared it to be a high crime and misdemeanour to buy or sell,—it was the power of returning Members to that House, a trust reposed in their hands by the people, and for the benefit of the people, and a trust which was to be resumed whenever the trustees acted wrong, or whenever it was for the benefit of the people that they should he longer 26 hold the trust. He denied the doctrine, that taking away the power of a corporation to return Members of Parliament could be considered a robbery in any sense of the words: and if it was a robbery he did not hesitate to enrol himself as an accessory before the fact, and to express his willingness to take a share of the disgrace. The hon. member for Newport (Mr. H. Twiss) had argued, that the present system of representation was good; that the counties were represented by men of landed property, the large boroughs by commercial men, and the small boroughs introduced to the House what the hon. Member was pleased to call the professional class. Now, this description, he (Mr. Gisborne) conceived, though very ingenious, was purely imaginary. The large boroughs were not always represented by commercial men. Looking through the House, he could point out numbers who were connected with the landed interest, and represented large boroughs. There were hardly any of the commercial class representing large boroughs; and as to the professional class representing the small boroughs, that was likewise an imaginary distinction. But then it was contended, that the small borousrhs were useful, as the means of bringing in men of great minds, who afterwards guided and directed the affairs of the country. As illustrations of this principle, the names of Burke, and Fox, and Canning, had been referred to. Such men as those did not seek for boroughs, to represent them; but the boroughs had found them, and returned them. If every rotten borough was closed, such men as Fox, and Burke, and Canning, must find their way into that House. It would be impossible to keep them out. The proposed measure had been called democratic, and he confessed he wished that the representation should be framed on principles somewhat democratic, and that Members should evince something of those democratic principles in their own persons. It was very important, too, that persons having habits of business should be found in that House. It was this view of the subject which made him see with great pleasure the hon. member for Preston amongst them. The great merit of the plan now proposed was, that it brought the exercise of the elective franchise within the easy reach of every industrious man. That was a great principle. He should not trespass 27 on the House much longer. He was determined to take his stand upon this plan, as a fair, full, and effectual measure of Reform. He was not one of those who wished for annual changes in the Constitution of the country; but to prevent frequent changes, when a change was to be made, it should be made liberally. As they were much in arrear, when they did move they ought to make a long stride, if it were only to prevent constant agitation and annual excitement. It was upon this view of the subject that he solemnly declared, that if the present measure passed without any considerable amendments, should any future measure of Reform be proposed, from whoever it came, or whatever was its nature, he, for one, should be found amongst its opponents. There were many advantages, he believed, in the mode of voting by ballot; but yet, if the present measure passed, and a proposition was made to introduce the ballot, he should vote against it, upon the simple ground that enough would be done by this measure to satisfy all reasonable expectations. His judgment told him, that the measure would satisfy every reasonable mind; and, if it was carried, be should' oppose any other measure as calculated to produce agitation and excitement. There were some hon. Members who contended that there was no need of Reform, and others who argued that, though Reform was desirable, there was more danger in going on than in standing still. To these hon. Gentlemen he should address no words of his own, but would content himself by quoting a short passage from Lord Bacon, who said, "Time is the greatest of all innovators; and as time, of course, will change things for the worse, if wisdom and counsel shall not come in and change them for the better, where shall be the end? "
§ Mr. Freshfield
could not allow the speech of his right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel) to be characterised as declamatory. Let that speech in all its parts and details stand on one side, and let the speech of the noble Lord, and all the supporters of this measure be placed in juxta-position with it, and then the public might decide in favour of the measure or against it. He was much surprised that the hon. Member who spoke last should charge the opponents of this measure with inconsistency, because they permitted this Bill to proceed a, single step, He thought, how- 28 ever, that it would be of all things the most inconsistent if they put a stop to the measure in its present stage, though he believed in his conscience it was in their power to do so. If the measure was thrown out at this stage, they would be told "you oppose all Reform and all inquiry." They had heard the speech of the Paymaster of the Forces, but it was not certain that all the principles expounded in the speech would be found in the Bill. There was something so inconsistent between the previous sentiments of the noble Lord, and his speech on Tuesday night, that it was reasonable to suppose every word he had uttered would not be found in his Bill. Those who viewed the proposed measure in the same light as he did, found so much to astonish and alarm them in the speech of the noble Lord, that they doubted whether he meant to incorporate all he had stated in his Bill. They were consistent, therefore, when they said, "Let us see it in print—Jet us have something that we can determine and decide upon in detail." As a charge of inconsistency had been made against those who were opposed to the principle of the Bill, and suffered it to be brought in, he might be allowed to allude to what he considered egregiously inconsistent on the part of the noble Lord. The noble Lord said, he would not disfranchise scot and lot voters, and that he was anxious that property should be represented. To conciliate the lower orders, he proposed to continue scot and lot voters for the remainder of their days, at the same time that he said, they would get rid of all out-voters, who were the parties who put candidates to such enormous expense. The scot and lot voters having the right for their lives, might become out-voters, and in that character it was clear they might be brought down to control elections. The noble Lord's intentions, therefore, were clearly at variance with each other. He did not allude to this so much for the sake of proving a charge of inconsistency against the noble Lord, as for the purpose of showing that those who opposed the measure were not inconsistent in allowing it to come to that degree of maturity, when it might be seen how far one part destroyed the other. The hon. and learned Attorney General, in arguing this question, seemed anxious to arrive at the conclusion, that those who opposed this measure were the enemies of all 29 Reform. He represented opposition to this measure as not only inconsistent with, but dangerous to popular rights and feeling's. Every one knew that the effect of such speeches was not expected to terminate within the walls of that House, but to have the greatest influence out of doors. Those speeches were made for the purpose of courting the creature of the day—what was called popular feeling-. It was intended to monopolise all the liberality on the one side, and to throw all the danger on the other. The language used by the advocates of the measure to its opponents was, in effect, this—"We are the friends of popular feeling, and you are the enemies of all Reform." He could say for himself, that he was not an enemy to all Reform. He was ready to entertain every measure of practical Reform which was consistent with the maintenance of that Constitution under which he had the happiness to live, and, in defiance of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, hoped long to live. The measure of Reform proposed by the noble Marquis (Chandos), the member for Buckinghamshire, the proposed disfranchisement of the Borough of Evesham, was a practical measure. That was a safe and practical measure of Reform, though it had been ridiculed by the hon. and learned Attorney General, who had insinuated that it was nothing more than a hypocritical attempt at Reform. If the measure proposed by the noble Marquis, however, was to be considered as trifling and hypocritical, the noble Lord, the member for Tavistock, had also formerly brought forward a trifling and hypocritical measure, for his was a measure of precisely the same character. Whatever came fairly within the scope of Reform, and did not produce a dangerous and mischievous change, he was friendly to. Whatever rendered elections pure, and afforded electors an opportunity of voting freely, and independently, and conscientiously, should have his support. He denied the right, however, of the advocates of the measure to put the question as it had been put in that House. There was a specific proposition before the House; and to that he was unfriendly and hostile in the highest degree. He considered it a measure of revolution, calculated to destroy those institutions under which the country had flourished, and to substitute a system, the consequences of which no man could predicate with certainty, but which must ex- 30 cite the most anxious fears in the mind of every man who considered it. Some hon. Members who spoke in favour of this measure, expressed their deep sense of the danger to which the country would be exposed if this measure was not adopted. It was more than insinuated, that the country would be in a state of revolution, if the anxious wishes of the people were not met. To such a principle he could never defer. He wished his Majesty's Ministers had not given them the trouble to defeat a measure so mischievous. There might be danger in rejecting the measure; there was much more, however, in passing it. The measure was more than dangerous, it was actually destructive. He said, therefore, "let us have the probability, and not the certainty—rather than have the certainty we will take our chance pf the danger." He ventured humbly, because he was an humble individual, to, accuse the Ministers of that from which they could not escape—namely, that they had raised expectations, by bringing forward this measure, which they knew could. never be realised. So long as the Parliament of England was honest, so long as the Parliament resolved to support the rights of the people, this measure could not be adopted. Let Ministers, then take the consequences which might follow from their propositions—propositions, as he conceived, unadvisedly and improperly presented to the House. He wished to know, for he had not yet heard, upon what grounds Ministers called upon the House to adopt this plan? The language and the arrangement of the noble Lord's speech, in proposing this measure, were creditable to him; but the views he had disclosed, and the principles he had laid down, were not new. In his speech he had embodied what was written up and down in the works of all the Reformers. His reasons were known to all who had studied or considered the subject. They had never before produced conviction, and he asked why they should now? Was it it because they came from his Majesty's Ministers? As private gentlemen, moving in a high sphere which they did, he was willing to treat them with all respect. He did them the justice to suppose, from their high reputation, that they would not do anything that they knew to be wrong, But as Ministers, he placed no confidence in them. As Statesmen, they had not shown themselves to be men, having that 31 nice perception of the principles of national faith and public credit which should induce him to give up his judgment on their assertions. In the notable Budget which the Ministers had brought forward, they had introduced a tax on the transfer of funded property, in direct opposition to a statutory provision. [The hon. Member was about to enter into the legal question connected with this subject, when he was interrupted by loud cries of "Question."] The hon. Member continued. He was addressing himself to the question of confidence in his Majesty's Ministers, and was, therefore, not swerving much from the subject. The hon. and learned Attorney General had found out that the clause had been introduced into the Loan bills to protect the creditor from stamp duty, because all transfers were subject to stamp duty. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, was mistaken. There was a peculiar exemption in the Stamp Act for the public creditor. He said it not out of any feeling of ill-nature to Government, but his conscientious feeling was, that the Government might be properly designated a Government of misnomers. It was a Government interfering and intermeddling, and calling itself a Government of non-interference. It was a Government throwing additional burthens on the people, and calling itself a Government of retrenchment; and it was a Government changing the Constitution, and calling itself a Government of Reform. In conclusion, he could only say, from such a Reform may we ever be delivered.
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
said, that he felt overwhelmed with embarrassment and regret, to find himself unexpectedly placed in a situation of hostility to the present Administration upon a question of such importance as that now before the House. He for one, had taken part in placing the right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the seats which they now held, and he had been desirous to afford them his utmost support. But representing as he did a large constituency, from whom he had received the most distinguished reward, he meant their confidence, and feeling their interest involved in the question before the House, he considered it his duty, on that occasion, to overcome the friendly feelings which he bore towards the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and not to give a silent vote. The right hon. the Attorney General had said, that there were only two classes in 32 the House opposed to the Bill of the noble Lord; that which resisted all Reform; and that, for which rational Reform would be insufficient. He (Mr. Duncombe) begged to say, that he belonged to neither of these classes. He was very desirous of a rational and practical Reform. But to the proposed Reform, he was compelled to give the most uncompromising opposition; and he thought that, as respected the Constitution, the measure had been justly termed revolutionary. As respecting the House it was insulting; and, as respected the country, it was tyrannical and oppressive. He looked upon the disfranchising of the poorer classes of the people as unjust and despotic. A Reform by which hundreds and thousands of his Majesty's subjects were disfranchised, well deserved those epithets. To justify his measure the noble Lord bad referred to the disfranchisement of the Irish forty-shilling freeholders; but that he considered to be a very bad precedent. He had always been adverse to that oppressive measure, which inflicted a heavy penalty on a body of men, untried and uncondemned. If even the Bill of the noble Lord was carried into a Committee, which, he hoped, would never be the case, he was sure that it would be perceived that it never could work well. The Ministers themselves had not acted on their own principle consistently throughout this Bill. If that principle was good, why was it not extended to Calne, Tavistock, Horsham, and Malton? Why had not the franchise been taken from them, whose population did not average more than 5,000, and transferred to Halifax, Huddersfield, and other towns whose population averaged more than 10,000? How could Ministers expect the question of Reform to be finally settled by such a distribution? He was sure that they would find that it was not so, even should the measure be ever carried into effect. Thinking the measure therefore, to be unprincipled, tyrannical, revolutionary, introducing a new Constitution, and destroying the balance between the several great interests of the country, he would give it his most strenuous opposition. It had been stated, that with respect to this measure his Majesty's Ministers were perfectly unanimous. He confessed that that statement surprised him not a little, when he remembered that the noble Lord opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had frequently declared 33 himself a decided supporter of the Vote by Ballot. When he saw a Cabinet including the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the right hon. member for Inverness, he must be allowed to say, that he thought it rather a remarkable feature in the present Debate, that up to ten o'clock last night there was but one Cabinet Minister who had addressed the House. He was not less surprised to find Gentlemen also endeavouring to draw in the authority of Mr. Canning's speech on the Silk-trade, to support their own views of the question of Reform; they should have remembered, that he, above all men, was most opposed to Reform; and that if, upon a different subject, he had let fall an expression which he never intended should be applied to Reform, he left it with the House to determine what must be the extent of that candour which tortured stray remarks of a deceased statesman into the support of that, which the whole tenour of his life proved that he abhorred. The noble Lord opposite had cited the case of the disfranchisement of the Irish forty-shilling freeholders as affording a precedent to sanction his measure. It happened, rather inopportunely for the character of consistency of the present Ministry, that a noble Duke signed, in the other House of Parliament, a protest against that disfranchisement, describing it as unconstitutional, and essentially unjust. The noble Duke to whom he alluded, was the Duke of Richmond, and he was forsooth a member of that united Cabinet which brought forward the present measure. Then he found a noble and learned Lord, a distinguished member of the present Administration, supporting the Reform Bill of that united Cabinet, though, on more occasions than one, he had expressed sentiments of a character very different from those embodied in the Bill which was given to Parliament as the measure of the united Cabinet. He concluded by affirming, that the measure was revolutionary in all its tendencies, and in its principle tyrannical.
Mr. John Smith
said, that he was one of those persons who had an interest in boroughs, but at all times he entertained a perfect conviction that such power in his hands was improperly placed; at the same time, that in justice to himself he was bound to declare, that for the nine-and-twenty years he possessed the /borough in question, he never once derived 34 a shilling of profit, from the favour of any Minister, nor was the borough of the slightest importance to him except only so far, as it enabled him to enjoy the delight of bringing one or two good Whigs into that House. In Chichester, during the election, he had been hooted and assailed, although he was one of the faction of borough mongers. Now he could most solemnly declare that, neither directly or indirectly, had he sold his interest in the borough; and if any Member would move for the disfranchisement of Midhurst, and other boroughs of the same description, that Member should have his most cordial support; for it had been his full persuasion, that no man ought to sit in that House in right of his money. There were, however, some parts of the Bill to which he might urge some objection, but upon the whole he thought it entitled to the support of the House; and he doubted not that it would give satisfaction to the country. He declared that, when he first heard the provisions of the Bill propounded by the noble Lord, it almost took away his breath, so much was he delighted with it. It gave him the full assurance that Ministers were in earnest, and had determined to work a thorough reformation. He had heard last night the speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite, the member for Tamworth, and read it that morning; and the speech, though beautiful, elegant, and captivating-, was still not convincing. That right hon. Baronet, for whom he entertained the highest respect, knew as well as any one, the way in which that House was composed; and he must know, that the disfranchisement of sixty boroughs could not fail of effecting a prodigious change in that House; at least there were many now in that House— many well-dressed, well-behaved, well-bred young Gentlemen—who, in the event of Reform, would altogether disappear: but he must take leave to say, that their loss would be well supplied by the twenty new Members from the towns which were to be enfranchised. In denying the assertion that the present was a revolutionary measure, he observed that it would bring fifty-four country gentlemen into that House. Now he should like to ask, how the introduction of fifty-four country gentlemen into that House could have a revolutionary tendency; for if he were called on to select one class throughout the whole range of the British community 35 more attached to our ancient institutions than another, it was the country gentlemen. He should not waste the time of the House, by insisting upon the importance of Representatives to the seven great towns mentioned; for upon that point there could be no difference of opinion, and, in fact, no such difference had been expressed. From the intercourse that he had had with persons out of doors, he was enabled to say, that great anxiety was felt upon the subject of Reform by the people at large; indeed, no better proof could be adduced of that universal feeling, than the fact of the prodigious number of petitions praying for Reform; and the reason was, that they looked to a reformed Parliament as a means of being relieved from the pressure of taxes. They also well knew, that with a reformed Parliament there was little danger of the country being again involved in such a war as the long-protracted contest with France, which this country so unwisely began and continued. The noble Lord might rest satisfied, that the people of England were with him, and that his scheme, or something on the same principle, must speedily be adopted; for the time had arrived when they could no longer postpone the great work of imparting to that House a character of independence. He believed if the measure were adopted it would go far to effect this, and make that House worthy of an independent and great nation.
§ Mr. Calcraft
was understood to say, that he felt it his duty in the first place to notice the threats and intimidations with which the introduction of this measure had been accompanied. Threats had been held out to those who might/have felt disposed to speak their sentiments upon this important measure, and thus to do their duty to the country, or attempt to do it. They were told, that if they did not do exactly as the promoters of this measure thought fit, the Parliament would be dissolved, and they sent back to their constituents. He always was disposed to pay the greatest deference to the demands made by public opinion, when clearly expressed; but he never would, on that occasion, or on any other, give way to the expectations of the people, if he thought that by the fulfilment of their expectations, their interests would be prejudiced. He did not mean, then, to say what were his opinions upon the subject of the present Bill; but he would state 36 his feelings upon the conduct of those Gentlemen who assumed to themselves that they represented the opinions of the whole people of England. A new system had grown up in that House, according to which this or that Gentleman, as it might happen, spoke of the people of England, as if he alone were their Representative. Why was not he (Mr. Calcraft) to be considered as representing the people as well as any of them? Was not he, who was elected for one borough, to be considered as well as any other Member elected for a borough, containing perhaps a few hundred more people, as speaking the sentiments of the people? It was his duty to be so, for that was the doctrine and the Constitution of the country, and every man who had the honour of a seat in that House was bound to act in accordance with it. What were the sentiments of the people upon the subject of this Bill he did not pretend to know. The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken appeared to think that he knew. For his part, he hoped that an interval would be granted between the bringing in and the second reading of this Bill, in order that the opinions of the people might be learnt. He was desirous of knowing what the opinions of the people really were concerning this measure; for he did not mean to say, that those opinions ought not to have a reasonable influence and effect within the walls of that House. But what was the present measure? It did not give the people what they asked for. It was calculated to please neither the violent nor the moderate. Whether the measure was right or wrong he did not say; but, now that he had concluded this momentary excursion, he should deliver, coolly, calmly, and deliberately, his sentiments upon it. First of all, however, he would notice again the intimidation which had been resorted to, and also the use which had been made of his Majesty's name in these Debates. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had used intimidation before the holidays. He regretted that the right hon. Baronet was not present, for, if he had been, he would have reminded him of those person s to whom they both looked with great respect; he would remind him of Mr. Fox, who had strongly deprecated the use of the royal name in discussions in that House. As the right hon. Baronet was not present, however, he would content himself with protesting against a practice so wholly unconstitutional. As he was 37 amongst the Members proscribed by the noble Lord's Bill, he would say nothing for himself, but he would say a word concerning those whom he had the honour to represent. The noble Lord's Bill disfranchised all those boroughs which had not 2,000 inhabitants, according to the census of 1821. The borough of Wareham, which he represented, had, according to that census, only 69 short of this number, and yet it was to be disfranchised. He wished he had known what a little increase of population would have done. As it was, however, Wareham had then only, in its three parishes, 1,931 inhabitants, though now it had 2,200 or 2,300. This measure, it would be seen, struck deeply at his constituents, who had always exercised their elective franchise without reproach—who had neither been accused of, nor tried for, abusing it—but who were, unfortunately, guilty of being sixty- nine persons less in population than the Bill required, and were, therefore, declared incompetent to vote Representatives in Parliament, not only for their own town, but for any other. Amongst the electors of that town were a great many gentlemen of property, who were as independent of him as he was of the noble Lord, except, indeed, as far as the influence of kind services, of social intercourse, and good neighbourhood, might extend. He had been for half a century connected with Wareham. He was now, however, if this Bill succeeded, to make his bow and retire from the House: but if, in his retirement, he should hear that the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham), with his new Parliament, was enabled to conduct the affairs of the Government, he owned that he should feel surprised. If he could not do it, he was sure that no one else could; and if he did find himself disturbed in his seat, and was still enabled to proceed, it would certainly be without either King or Lords. He had often voted for reform in Parliament, and he declared himself to be a reformer still. If he were asked to repeat whether he thought that the institutions of the country worked well or ill, he had no hesitation in saying, that they had not worked well;—but if he were asked how they would work under the new Constitution, he would say, a great deal worse. He had always thought that the evils which appertained to those institutions might have been easily remedied, but he, and those who then acted with him, could not get the House to agree with them, nor 38 could they get the country stoutly to back them in their exertions. If, however, they passed the present measure, the mischief would be irremediable. It would overturn the balance in the Constitution, and give a preponderating influence to the one estate, which would be fatal to the other two. This he declared most solemnly to be his opinion. When he came down to the House on Tuesday, he came prepared to support the proposition of the noble Lord. This he declared upon his honour as a gentleman to be the case, and nothing but its extravagance could have deterred him from doing so. Notwithstanding his determination to support it before he was acquainted with the full extent to which it proceeded, he protested that his subsequent opposition was the result of a conscientious discharge of his duty. But to return to the Bill. He thought that there were blots in the institutions of the country which ought to be cured. There were large masses of the population which ought to be represented. All the great towns in which such a vast variety of business was carried on, ought to be admitted by their Representatives to that House, either to the increase of its numbers, or (and now he was going to admit the principle upon which the Bill proceeded), if that should be thought inconvenient and unadvisable, that some of those boroughs should be disfranchised which were without a constituency, or where the constituent body were fewest in point of numbers. Such boroughs ought, he thought, in such a case, to be sacrificed to the great principle of the salus populi. While, however, he was willing to make this concession, he was not willing that that House should become so far the slave of public opinion, that it should admit an overflowing influence of one of the estates of the Constitution, to the destruction of the other two. If they passed the Bill, they could not stop there. Indeed, it was not pretended that they would, for it was avowed that the duration of Parliaments and the Ballot were to be matters for future consideration. This Bill would be unsatisfactory to the thorough-going reformers, as was evident from what had fallen from the hon. member for Preston, who had said that it left out more than it took in. It left out the lowest orders of the community, who had certainly a right to be represented according to their importance in society. Of one thing he could assure the right hon. 39 Gentlemen opposite — the moment they should admit by this Bill four or five hundred thousand voters, that moment the people would require the Ballot. They would tell the Ministers that they had conferred a useless benefit upon them; for, as most of them would be tradesmen, they would fear offending their customers, and they would therefore say, we would vote for the hon. member for Preston, or for any other hon. Member, but we are afraid of the consequences which may ensue to our business, and therefore either take away the franchise, or give the Ballot. This Bill was giving much more than was either asked or required; if it was passed, the end would be, that they must convert the Monarchy into a Republic; and the difference between him and the new reformers that had sprung up was, that he was for Reform, and that they, with the noble Lord at their head, were for revolution. This would be the real effect of the efforts of the united Cabinet, which the country now so happily possessed; a Cabinet that made so much of its being united, though he certainly had heard that a distinguished member of it had said, that it was because they must be united, that he had agreed in the Bill, though personally he did not concur in the measure. He did not know whether this was so, but he certainly had heard it so reported. For himself, he could not bring himself to think, that he was an enemy to Reform, or to the commonalty of the country, in refusing to give his consent to this Bill, but at the same time he would unite with several hon. Gentleman who were of the same way of thinking as himself, in requesting the House to allow the Bill to be brought in without a division, in order that they might see what it really contained. That was but a sort of reasonable request for a measure that was proposed by any Government, and it would enable them to give the provisions due consideration by the time it came to its second reading. Mr. Stanley had anxiously listened to the discussions that had taken place during the last eight years upon this interesting, most important, and all-absorbing, question of Reform, without, however, having ventured to give more than a silent though cordial vote in favour of the great principle which it involved. And he had adopted this course because, when the subject was under consideration before, he felt that its advocacy was in abler hands than his; in the hands of men of more commanding 40 talent and ability than any which he could pretend to. But upon this occasion, when for the first time the nation triumphed in seeing a great and efficient measure of Parliamentary Reform brought forward (he used the words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite) by the King's Ministers, with all that authority with which their character naturally invested them,—when he saw the question thus brought forward, not as a principle vaguely thrown out by a private individual, to catch the votes of Gentlemen who dealt in generalities but fled from particulars, but as a broad systematic measure, courting discussion in all its parts, offering no concealment, but calling for the most extensive and minute inquiry, and courting public opinion upon its merits, he felt that he should be guilty of a dereliction of duty, and that he might expose himself to the possible imputation of indifference to Reform, if he refused to express his sentiments publicly upon the present occasion, and in reference to the measure under the consideration of the House. But he felt that he laboured under extraordinary difficulties in addressing the House at the present moment, because he should feel it his duty to call their attention to some portion of that commanding and powerful, he had almost said convincing, speech, to which the House had listened with so much attention at the conclusion of last night's debate; and, in the observations which he should make upon the right hon. Baronet's address, he trusted it was unnecessary for him to assure the right hon. Gentleman, as that right hon. Gentleman had assured noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, that he entered upon the discussion with no hostile or angry feelings towards the right hon. Baronet, for there was no man in the House, of whose talents, ability, and integrity, he had a higher opinion. He could not but regret, that the right hon. Baronet's opinion, on this important question, was so directly opposed to that of his Majesty's Ministers. However, he had had the satisfaction of seeing the opinions of the right hon. Baronet gradually change on one great question, and should the present Ministers succeed in this measure, he trusted that an experience of its beneficial effects would reconcile the right hon. Baronet, to that which he now contemplated with a feeling of anxiety and disapprobation. When he said he indulged no angry feelings towards the right hon, Baronet, he 41 should have added, that no angry feelings were called for by the terms of the right hon. Baronet's speech, in the course of which he was kind and candid enough to express his approbation of the recent conduct of the Irish Government. Such a tribute of approbation was not less creditable to the candour of the right hon. Baronet, than it must prove gratifying to the feelings of the noble Marquis at the head of that Government. But, in acknowledging this handsome and liberal conduct of the right hon. Baronet, he could not but express his regret that the right hon. Baronet should have appeared to doubt the probability of the late Government being supported in the execution of such measures as the present Government had adopted and carried into effect in Ireland. When the right hon. Baronet came forward with his great healing measure,— and he considered the present as another great healing measure,—was he opposed by those who were now in power? Who took up his cause? Who were they that, when he was deserted by his former friends, went with him hand in hand, and supported him through that cause? Who were they that advocated the principles of the right hon. Gentleman, because they were the principles which they themselves had always advocated. Why those very persons whom he now thwarted. They maintained the struggle in which he was then engaged, for they had long approved of the principle which at that time he supported. He acknowledged, that Mr. Canning, the former stedfast friend of that great measure, could not have carried it through, unless he had received such assistance as that which -the right hon. Baronet and his friends could have afforded. And why? Not because the measure was not a just one, but because Mr. Canning and his party were exposed to the odium and imputation of not being true and staunch friends to the Established Church. The hon. Baronet, on the other hand, had carried the measure through, because such was the confidence reposed in him that no man could think or imagine that any proposition introduced by him could militate against the interests of that Church. But now the case was reversed in this instance. It was not possible that the right hon. Gentleman could have taken such a step as the Ministers had taken in Ireland, because he was suspected the did not say justly) of being no very 42 warm friend to the rights of the people. The same feeling of confidence that was placed in his Protestant principle, which enabled him to carry the Catholic Question, was placed in the present Government with regard to the rights of the people, which had enabled it, without suspicion, to carry that into effect which the right hon. Gentleman could not have done with the same success. It was a remarkable circumstance, that every Gentleman on the other side had, on this occasion, come forward with a declamation—or perhaps he ought rather to say, with a cry—that this measure was revolutionary. Now the same confidence in the rectitude of the hon. Baronet's views and principles, which enabled him to carry the Catholic Question, would, he hoped, enable Ministers to succeed in getting through the present measure, connected as it was with popular rights, without incurring any imputation of a wish or intention to injure the Constitution. He confessed that he had heard the right hon. Baronet with some sorrow join in the cry, and use, he would not say inflammatory language, when speaking of the measure, but declare that it would lead to revolution. Though, to say the truth, the right hon. Baronet was very cautious of the word; it was not a revolutionary measure—no—but it was a new Constitution.
§ Sir R. Peel.
—I quoted the words of the noble Lord, and I adhere to every syllable of the noble Lord's speech, as bearing out my remark.
—The distinction between the word "revolution" and the phrase "new constitution"—he meant a "new constitution" of that House of Parliament, —was very evident. Ministers had been taunted by all the Gentlemen on the other side of the House, as introducing a measure which they declared to be in its nature revolutionary; and whenever the word was mentioned, it was responded to by repeated cheers. Now his idea of revolution was this,—that revolution was a great change effected in the constitution of a country by the application of unconstitutional force,—a change effected by a force not known or recognized by the Constitution, but called by the extraordinary circumstances of the time into operation, and enabled, in consequence of the operation of those circumstances, to overthrow the Constitution. The very lowest and mildest sense in which the word could be used was, the infringement 43 by one class of the community, by the exercise of exorbitant power, of the rights appertaining to another.
.—It was a revolution of which he was proud—a glorious revolution; but it was carried into effect by a Convention,—by the aid of foreign troops, and without the sanction and consent of one of the estates of the realm. But what was the case here? His Majesty's Ministers came forward to propose to that House,—whether justly or not calling themselves the Representatives of the people was of no consequence,—an alteration with respect to one estate of the realm. They had canvassed the plan in allitsparts,—itwas subjected to the control of public opinion, it must be submitted to the other two estates of the realm, and then he was, forsooth, to be told that this was revolution. Much had been said, also on the subject of intimidation. At every turn Ministers were met with the cry that they wished to carry this measure by intimidation. Their opponents said, "You threaten us with bloodshed and massacre, as the consequence of a refusal to agree to this plan, and thus endeavour to prevent us from doing our duty as we ought to perform it." Now on this point he was going to quote a very great authority— that of the right hon. Baronet opposite. In doing so, he did not mean to charge the right hon. Baronet with inconsistency. He admitted the justice of his argument: he agreed to every word of it. But when Ministers were told, that when they spoke of danger from the refusal to grant this measure, they were using threats and intimidation, he begged leave to read a passage from a speech delivered by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet was arguing, as the House would anticipate, the Catholic Relief bill; and, after going very largely into the state of Ireland, he proceeded thus:—"We have also had the sad experience of that other and greater calamity, civil discord and bloodshed. Surely it is no unmanly fear that shudders at its recurrence—no degenerate impulse that prompts one to exclaim with Lord Falkland—'Peace! peace! peace! '— that looks out with anxiety for the alternatives by which civil war may be honourably averted, which may rescue the natives of the same land, and the fellow subjects of the same king, 44 from the dire necessity of embruing their hands in each other's blood:—'Coëant in fœdera dextræ'Si datur—ast armis concurrant arma cavete'!"✶Now he (Mr. Stanley) asked the House, whether, in the course of the debate on the proposition of Ministers, there had been made so direct and strong an appeal as to the danger which might result from the refusal of this great and healing measure, as had been made by the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the danger which the right hon. Gentleman had adverted to, as likely to result from a refusal of the great and healing measure introduced by him? Further on, the right hon. Baronet thus expressed himself:—"That the disorganization in Ireland could not be looked on without fear; and that, to affect not to fear it, was to affect to be ignorant of what was passing around us. For his own part, he could not understand the constitution of that man's mind, who in contemplating the present state of Ireland, did not feel the most serious apprehensions." He agreed with the right hon. Baronet in every syllable contained in these observations. The righthon. Baronet's argument, on that occasion, went to this, that, entertaining the feelings which he had always entertained against the measure, still, believing that it would be a wholesome and salutary one—believing that it would be the means of averting an impending danger,—that sentiment so prevailed on his mind, that he was willing to set aside previously-formed and even still-retained opinions, in order to effect that object. "When this was the case with respect to the right hon. Baronet, then, at least, let those who had always, on principles of justice and of policy, maintained and upheld this great question of Parliamentary Reform let them, in bringing their proposition forward without being told that they were endeavouring to overawe and intimidate the House, be allowed to advert to the situation of the country, as a collateral argument in favour of the measure they advocated. Surely they had a right to do so, in order to enforce their opinions on the minds of those who might be hesitating, timid and undecided, for the purpose of relieving them from their doubts, and of clearly pointing out to them from which the greater danger was to be apprehended—from the refusal✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vol. xx, New Series, p. 750.45 or the concession of Reform. He regretted as much as any man that the name of the Sovereign had been too frequently used in that House. He was sorry that, in the anxiety and hurry of debate, any hon. member should have brought forward that name in a manner which might be supposed likely to influence their decision. But when it was remarked that the name of the Sovereign had also been made use of in the public press—to that observation he would only answer, that that House was not, that none of the Ministers were, responsible for it. That House had no influence over the public press. Neither the House nor his Majesty's Ministers were responsible for what appeared there. Ministers never used any words in the way of intimidation. It was said, that his right hon. friend near him held out the threat of a dissolution of Parliament, in the event of this measure not being carried, as a means of intimidating its opponents. But his right hon. friend positively and decidedly denied, that he had threatened a dissolution in the event of a failure of this proposition. If, however, a set of Ministers who brought forward a measure to which they were solemnly pledged, for the good of the country, found that that measure was defeated, it certainly might not be improper, in such a case, that a reference should be made by them to the opinion of the public. But the right hon. Baronet himself answered this point with a positive menace. He said, "Dissolve the Parliament if you please. If you do so, I and the 160 Members who are to be disfranchised will go to our constituents, and say, 'We are the defenders of your rights, we support your privileges, we uphold your particular interests therefore return us. We are looking to that which will advantage you, we say nothing about the good of the nation.'" The appeal the right hon. Baronet intended to make was this—"I will go (said the right hon. Baronet) to my constituents with this Bill in my hand, and say, 'return me again, if you wish to have your privileges preserved, your rights guarded, or your franchises maintained." Thus, he supposed, every Gentleman who opposed this measure would make his appeal where he had constituents; and those who were so fortunate as not to have any constituents,—he meant individuals who were returned by the patrons of boroughs,—would doubtless make the game representation in the proper quarter. 46 It was therefore evident, that those Gentlemen looked more to the private interests, passions, and feelings, of a portion of the people than to the welfare of the country at large. "But," said the right hon. Baronet, "If any danger arises from the failure of this measure, impute it not to those who oppose it; I throw the responsibility on your own shoulders." He, however, would contend, that the responsibility must rest with those on the other side of the House, who could not go on with the Government, because they were disposed to resist all Reform. If those Gentlemen, who, in place, resisted all efficient Reform, and who went out because they would not agree to it, though it was loudly called for by the people— if they afterwards endeavoured to baffle the efforts of those who succeeded them, —who were anxious for the success of a measure of Reform—if they strove to baffle and embarrass those who came in bound and pledged to Parliamentary Reform,—then the right hon. Baronet and his friends must take upon themselves the responsibility that would attach to the loss and defeat of the great measure. But the right hon. Baronet said, "Why has Government brought it forward? It is a bad time, and it ought not to be introduced now." In answer to this, he would ask, what was the conditional pledge upon which Ministers came in, and without which his noble friend and right hon. friends near him, would not have accepted office? It was, that they would bring forward a measure of Reform. Now, with this pledge on their lips, with those principles in their hearts which they had always maintained, they entered office. They appeared as the friends of Parliamentary Reform, hoping, as they yet did, to have the public feeling with them when they proposed a measure on that subject. And what was the kind advice which, under these circumstances, the right hon. Baronet gave them? He said, "Now that you are in office, tell the people that the time is not convenient for Reform." If the Ministers acted on such a principle as that, then, indeed, a fearful responsibility would rest upon their shoulders. Dreadful would be the consequences arising from disappointed hopes and high-raised expectations blighted and falsified by the mean conduct of those upon whom the people had relied! Procrastination in these cases was always mischievous, and 47 the late Government might have learnt an important lesson from the consequences of delay in carrying the Catholic Question. If that had been much earlier carried, many struggles would have been spared, and that feeling which now prevailed in Ireland, the feeling of restless agitation, which had placed the population of that country in the hands and under the control of any man who sought to disturb it, would not have existed. The people would have been taught to look to other leaders and guides than those whom they had chosen, and that great measure would have been productive of the utmost good, which, now it was granted, was rendered, by the course which had been taken, comparatively useless and inefficient. All these cases of tardy political concession were like the old Sibylline Books—"the longer you delay the purchase, the higher the price you must pay, and the less the advantage you receive." He had been in hopes that a gradual Reform would have been effected in Parliament by selecting, one after another, the most notorious cases of delinquency, not as technically proved, but those great cases against which no man could close his eyes,—cases which legal evidence could not reach, but with respect to which moral conviction prevailed. They might have shown a determined desire to reform, by degrees, the abuses of the system, and then the public would have been satisfied with a less sudden and less extensive change than was now contemplated. But, let the House look back for the few last years, and mark the time, the money, and the talents, which had been wasted in discussing useless questions, with respect to boroughs charged with malpractices; inquiring, for instance, whether one voter received one guinea and another five, when it was as notorious as the sun at noon-day, that boroughs were commonly bought and sold in the market by the proprietors; and, after all this labour,—after all this investigation— after all this minute inquiry,—what had been gained for the cause of Reform? Not one great town,—not one great district—had been added to those represented in that House. Not one corrupt borough had been deprived of the means of corruption. But the right hon. member for Wareham said, that he was ready to concede to the just demands of the people. [Mr. Calcraft: Burke said so.] He was glad to have such good authority. That 48 was very good authority indeed. But then why did hon. Gentlemen raise up their hands and their eyes, when they heard the demands of the people mentioned? Surely the people had not been very clamorous; they had made their representations for a long time in the mildest manner; and were they still—"in bondsman's key,With bated breath, and whispering humbleness,to sue for those privileges which he contended they ought to claim and demand as a right? Let him remind the House, that in the Bill of Rights they might find the terms, "to demand, claim, and insist upon." Was it not proper that their constituents should say to them, "At your hands we demand what are our constitutional rights?" His right hon. friend (the member for Wareham), for one who thought that the proposed measure would produce revolution, and overthrow the House of Lords, had certainly made very great concessions. He said, he would willingly give up the non-resident freemen; but, as to Wareham, he was very anxious that it should be preserved. He admitted that some boroughs ought to be disfranchised, and that certain large classes of people, and some towns, should be represented. "But," said he, "I would not have the measure of disfranchisement go so far as to those places where there were barely 2,000 inhabitants,—that step should not be taken except where the number was 1,931." This was certainly a very nice line of distinction, indeed far nicer than any that his noble friend had ever contemplated. His right hon. friend did not combat the principle of the measure, he did not contend against the propriety of drawing a line, but he wished it to be somewhere about a hundred less than his noble friend had proposed. It was clearly evident that, in adopting the principle of laying down a certain line, his noble friend had not the smallest interest at stake; but if they went on altering it, it was clear that every representative of a borough would make a request similar to that of his right hon. friend, and at length there would be no line at all. It was the opinion of Mr. Pitt, when he endeavoured to effect a Reform in Parliament, that a certain line should be fixed with respect to the disfranchisement of boroughs. Mr. Pitt having adverted to the earlier periods of the Constitution, observed,—"That as one borough decayed, and another arose, 49 the one was abolished and the other was invested with the right." He then contended, "that the same notion should still prevail, but that it should be rescued from that accident and caprice in which it had before been involved; that the alteration should be made on principle; and that they should establish this as a clear and eternal axiom in representation,—that it should always be the same,—that it should not depend upon locality or name, but upon number and condition, and that a standard should be fixed for its size. He would submit to the world which of the two was most anxious for the preservation of the original principle of the Constitution, he who was for maintaining the exterior and name of representation, when the substance was gone, or he who, preferring the substance and reality of representation to the name and exterior, was solicitous of changing its seat from one part of the country to another, as one place might flourish and another decay?" ✶ Now, he believed, that Wareham was one of those boroughs which might be thus dealt with. It came within the line thus pointed out, and its franchise might be advantageously bestowed on some more flourishing place. It was one of those boroughs which were so constituted that they did not give utterance to the sentiments of the community residing there. He understood that it was only necessary for the proprietor of that borough (as was the case in many others) to make a civil bow to the electors, and propose himself as their Representative. He had been told some curious circumstances, by an hon. friend of his, relative to the proceedings at Wareham. His right hon. friend near him need not feel any alarm—he was not going to divulge any secrets. The hon. friend to whom he alluded informed him, that on the occasion of his being chaired as one of the members for the borough of Wareham, he heard one elector saying to another, "Pray, who is the new Member?"—" Why, answered the person interrogated, "Calcraft is one, and a friend of his is the other; but I never saw him before, and I don't know who he is." Doubtless any person recommended by his hon. friend would be highly respectable; but he was elected without being at all known by the voters. This was not much in favour of✶Hansard's Parl. Hist. vol. xxv, p. 438–9.50 Wareham. The opponents of the proposed measure said, "We do not object to the disfranchisement of delinquent boroughs; prove corruption, and we will give them up." Now he would ask, how was it possible for the ingenuity of man to discover delinquency in the wall at Midhurst, or corruption in the green mound at Old Sarum? The proposition of those who offered to give up the delinquent boroughs went to this,—"Those poor people who are discovered to have taken a paltry petty bribe shall be sacrificed; the boroughs they belong to shall be disfranchised, but other places, which are notoriously bought and sold, shall be preserved, because no bribery can be traced there." And why? Simply, because there is not a soul to be bribed. As to the accusation of corporation robbery and spoliation, he would say little about it; because Mr. Pitt, the hon. and learned member for Nottingham, the hon. member for Westminster, and other hon. Members, had completely and triumphantly set aside that part of the arguments advanced against this measure. He would merely ask, if delinquency were to be the rule of prostration and cashiering, as it had been called, how could the right hon. Baronet defend the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders? He agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that it was a beneficial measure for Ireland; and he did so because the franchise was exercised under the dictation of parties who looked only to their own interests, and were careless of the public good. But still the 40s. freeholders were not to blame: the franchise was taken away, not on account of any delinquency of theirs, but because the right, while nominally exercised by the many, was really wielded and used for their own purposes by the few. But Gentlemen objected to the sum of 10l. being selected as the qualification: while those Gentlemen themselves had fixed at that sum, the qualification of the freeholders of Ireland. Here was, indeed, the difference between this Bill and that by which the 40s. freeholders were deprived of their right—that by it not a single individual would be deprived of the right which he at present enjoyed. If hon. gentlemen would wait till the Bill came before the House, they would find that the deprivation extended to the class, and did not include individuals. The qualifications of those voters who now voted in towns or any thing less than that fixed by the Bill 51 would not extend beyond the lives of the present possessors. No man, he repeated, therefore would be disfranchised, except by his own act. The rights of individuals were saved, but the rights of classes would be abrogated. Much had been said of the benefits of the nomination boroughs, but that had been so ably answered by the hon. member for Calne, that it would not merely be a work of supererogation in him to expose that fallacy, it would be impertinent to go over the same ground which that hon. Member went over so much to his credit. It might be true that they had been the means of bringing many able and excellent men into the House, but there was one class they could never bring; there was one point in which they must fail; they could never send to the House representatives of the people. That defect must, in the minds of the people, more than balance all the merits of such Representatives. They had been told last night that this measure would be admitting 500,000 persons to the councils of the nation. In his opinion, it would do no such thing. It. would admit them to the possession of rights which belonged to them from their wealth and intelligence, and consequent importance in the political scale. By this means, they would attach them to the institutions of the country, and gain more from their affection than they could by keeping them unconnected with, and at a distance from, the benefits of the Constitution. But then it was said that the measure was revolutionary. To this it was scarcely necessary for him to urge more in reply than a mere denial of any such object on the part of those who introduced it. He should observe, however, that he was not likely to be a party to any measure of that kind. Was his noble friend who introduced the measure to the House a man without any stake in the country? Was not the name he bore in itself a guarantee against any such intention? Was his noble friend, the noble Earl at the head of the Government,—he who was said to be strenuously attached to the privileges of his order,—who had on more than one occasion been made the object of attack on that ground,—was he, he repeated, likely to advocate a measure which was to involve those privileges, and to involve the monarchy, in one common ruin? Look round at the other members of his Majesty's Government, and of those Who have come forward to support them 52 on this occasion, were they men of no fortune, mere adventurers, who would have every thing to gain and nothing to lose by a revolution? Or were they not men who have large stakes in the country, and whose individual interests are bound up with the permanent peace and security of the State? What, then could they gain by the chance-medley of a revolution? Their object was the promotion of the true interests of the country. They conceived that in no way could they more effectually secure those interests,—in no way could they render permanent the institutions of the country, than by basing them on the affections of the people. They endeavoured to strengthen the Constitution by a reformation of some of its abuses—by adjusting it to the altered circumstances of the time; yet for this wise and salutary course they were stigmatized as persons who would annihilate the power of the Crown, and of the House of Lords. For his own part, he felt no alarms of the kind for the results of the Bill. By that Bill would be upheld the influence of the aristocracy as it was before,—he meant that legitimate influence which they ought to possess,—not the influence of bribery and corruption,—not the influence of direct or indirect nomination. These were influences which it was one object of the Bill to remove, because they were nnjust, and inconsistent with the principles of our Constitution. But the influence which it was always within their power to secure,—the natural influence of property, the influence arising from that respect to high rank which was no where greater than in this country,—the influence which they might obtain from affection generated by kindness and good offices to those around them,—these would all remain in full force. The only influence which the Bill would remove was that which was in itself illegal. It had been stated by a noble Lord (Stormont), that it would be difficult to find, in or out of that House, 168 Members who would he content to sign and seal their own damnation. There might, he would admit, be some—though he did not know them—who looked more to their own private interests in important public measures than they ought to do,— but one striking instance, of a very different kind, in the course of that evening had been displayed. The hon. member for Midhurst, one of the boroughs proposed to be disfranchised, had come 53 forward and stated, that he had unjustly exercised a power which did not belong to him,—though the fault certainly was not his, but that of the Legislature which had permitted it,—that he had exercised that power too long, and he now offered it as a sacrifice to the general good of the country. Earnestly did he hope that others might follow the example, and among the 168 he had no doubt that many would think the measure was brought forward in sincerity and honesty, and would not impugn the motives under which the Ministers had acted. And let hon. Members say whatever they pleased against the policy of the measure, Ministers had come into office pledged to Economy, Reduction, and Reform. Those pledges they had redeemed. They had cut off, from themselves and their successors for ever, that corrupt patronage upon which, heretofore, so much of the influence of Government depended. With these views of the measure before the House, he earnestly implored hon. Members, by their sense of justice to the country,—by their respect to what was due to the people,—by their regard for the maintenance of that glorious Constitution which had been handed down to them by their ancestors [great cheering on the Opposition side],—he repeated, that Constitution which Ministers were now endeavouring, not to violate but to amend,—by their regard for the permanency of our institutions, and the peace and security of the State,—he called on them by all these considerations, by their respect for the petitions of the people, for what might be lawfully asked, and could not be constitutionally refused—to support his Majesty's Ministers in their endeavours to uphold and cement the legitimate rights of the Crown, the aristocracy, and the people, and by so doing to fix the whole, as well as their own fame, on the imperishable basis of the affections of the people.
said, the measure proceeded from a desire to court popularity. It was an unjust attempt to reduce the power of the aristocracy as well as of the lower classes. If that House was the corrupt body it was represented to be, it was incompetent to settle this great constitutional question. There was no principle preserved in the measure; and the House was threatened, if it did not consent to it, with the vengeance of the Crown, and the fury of the people. 54 Than such a large and sweeping alteration, it would be better to have a new Constitution at once. It left the indirect influence, and did away with direct influence, which of the two was the least injurious. He could not support the measure, therefore he had left the Ministerial and gone over to the Opposition side.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, that he had listened with great attention to the different arguments which had been ably urged on both sides of that most important question. With the single exception of the Catholic Question, it was of magnitude unparalleled by any measure brought into Parliament for the thirty years that he had had a seat in the House. He came to the consideration of the question fairly, and destitute of all bias, except that which naturally arose from the respect he felt for his noble friend, who brought forward the subject, and except that respect he had for the different members of his Majesty's Cabinet, with whom he had been long in habits of intimacy. He trusted, that in his opinion he was not influenced by the false pride of consistency; and he held, with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that nothing was so contemptible as knowingly to persist in error. On what was opinion formed but on the state of circumstances and of society, and of all the things around them, including the tempers and dispositions of the people, the Government of whom was placed in their hands. He believed that he could say with truth, that on this important question he had no bias. He had looked at it for many years with deep interest, and had always opposed large and general changes in the system, and visionary alterations. At the same time he had never felt that dread of innovation which had prevailed amongst some of those with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and for whom he felt great respect; for he was convinced that the constitution of this country was one of innovation, of perpetual innovation, and that a susceptibility to perpetual amendment and improvement was one of its leading principles. He had always been a friend to regulation and improvement; but then the amendments and improvements ought to be gradual. Measures by which large changes were contemplated ought to be gradually introduced, otherwise 'they might endanger the safety of the whole. He had therefore 55 always supported bills which went gradually to ameliorate the Constitution. To those bills which had been brought in at different times to disfranchise corrupt boroughs he had been uniformly friendly. He might say without egotism, that the first proposition which was submitted to Parliament for the complete transfer of a franchise from a corrupt borough, that of Hellestone, to Yorkshire, on the motion of his noble friend, that of the Marquis of Tavistock in 1813, was drawn up by him. He thought that ameliorations of that description were necessary, and were desirable, and he had always wished to effect them. He believed, that from the period when the borough of Grampound was disfranchised, most of the friends of Constitutional order had entertained sanguine hopes, that by persevering in a course of that description, the House would run no risk of any danger, and a great and sudden change would be avoided. For many years, he must say, that House did its duty, and not a bill of that description had been proposed to that House which had not received its sanction. But, unfortunately, a practice adopted in the other House, of not passing such bills, unless the strongest and most complete judicial evidence was produced of the corruption of the borough, became a rock on which all such bills split. He did not wish to blame those at whose instance this practice was adopted. It arose, perhaps from a habit of considering these questions as merely judicial and penal, and affecting only the individuals accused, but they were also questions of remedial policy, in which Parliament was to act legislatively. At length the case of East Retford arose in which he had hoped the same course might have been pursued as with respect to Grampound, but that measure had failed and never did so small a cause produce so great an affect. His right hon. friend asked if the failure of that measure was enough to justify so great a change as the present. He would say, not intrinsically, but by the feelings it produced. When it was seen that two cases occurred together, one the strongest possible, and the other very weak; and when it was seen that the weak one was selected for the application of the strong remedy of transfer, and as had been repeatedly foretold, had failed in the House of Lords —while in the strong case, the most appropriate ever known, for a transfer of the 56 franchise the only remedy granted was the weak one of throwing in the adjoining hundreds, the result, he believed on the general feelings was greatly mischievous. He was satisfied that it was desirable to extend the representation to large towns. How was that to be done? An addition to the numbers of the House, already inconveniently large, would not answer. It was already more than sufficiently large for the due discharge of its duties. The large towns, then, could only be represented by disfranchising some other places. His noble friend (Lord Palmerston, we believe,) could bear witness for him that he had always considered the subject to be environed with difficulties. A man must be bolder or wiser than he was, who could see his way out of these difficulties. Under these circumstances when the change took place in the Administration, the new Government pledged itself to safe and practical retrenchment, the maintenance of peace, and efficient Reform. In the propriety of the two first, all men, he believed concurred. On the third, there was more difficulty, he felt the greatest confidence in the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and in the assurances of the moderation of his views, and that confidence was increased by the admission to the Cabinet of several friends, who had for years struggled for the same opinions as his own on this subject. He had stated to that noble Lord, that he could only look at the Reform Question reluctantly, and was not willing to adopt any change, except one of great necessity. It was due to himself to state this, and he hoped the House would allow him to speak of himself. On these grounds he had accepted office, stipulating expressly on the subject of the representation, that if that question were submitted to Parliament, he reserved to himself the liberty of stating his opinions on the subject, whatever they might be on the usual implied condition of relinquishing office, if he could no longer support the Government under which he acted. In the formation of the measure submitted to Parliament, he of course had no share; and, not being a member of the Cabinet, that measure was not communicated to him till the week preceding the time it was brought forward. He had given great attention to the measure; and, in many points, he highly approved of it. He approved of the part stripping non-residents of the 57 right of voting, confining the right of voting to the resident householders paying 10l.. rent. That was a great improvement. He approved, too, of the regulations for taking the poll by districts, and all the regulations connected with that part of the subject, except one—the proposed Committee of the Privy Council. The power given to that Committee was, in his opinion, greater than the House was authorised to delegate to any individuals. If the counties were to be divided into districts, that could not properly be done by the Government, it must be done by Parliament, and Parliament could not and ought not to delegate the power to do this, nor suffer the Crown to delegate such a power to any individuals. There were many defects in the measure which he could conceive it possible to remedy, but he would not enter into any details. It might be altered in the Committee, but the changes must be large and extensive. He did not agree, indeed, with those Members who said it was not in the power of Parliament to alter the franchise. It was not a right to return Members to Parliament, it was a duty; and when the sovereign power which resided in Parliament thought that duty would be more advantageously fulfilled by a different class of persons than by the present voters. Parliament had a right to make any alteration it thought proper. He could not understand how any person who had voted for the disfranchising the forty-shilling freeholders could make an objection to the Bill on that score. But when he saw that the measure contained such a wide, such a sweeping proposition, as to dismiss at once nearly one-fourth of the Members of the House of Commons, replacing them by others, he felt that the change was much greater than he was prepared to agree to. The measure was much too vast to be contained in a single Bill. When 107 places were to be disfranchised, separate questions must be taken on each individual case. He was told, indeed, that the greatest care had been taken to draw the line impartially, and that only population was considered. But was population the only criterion which ought to determine their decision? He thought they also ought to look at the circumstances, wealth, and situation of a borough as well as at numbers. For example, a borough might consist of a single street, and have only half a dozen voters, but it might be close 58 to a large town; now if such a borough was to be disfranchised, and another that had more people, but was not near so large as the town adjoining the disfranchised borough, was to retain its privileges, that would be, in his opinion, improper. He was obliged, therefore, to say, with pain and regret, that unless the Bill received modification, which could not reasonably be expected, so as to change the nature of many of its propositions— unless many parts of it were expunged, which he could not hope for—he could not give his support to the measure. He had seen times more perilous than the present, times he believed more perilous than any other in history, and the country had been safely conducted through them by the wisdom and firmness of the Government. In those critical times, many of the Members of the Boroughs it was now proposed to annihilate were the safeguards of the Constitution. He was not prepared, therefore, to make so large a sacrifice. It was said, that the measure was one of safety, as precluding further changes; that if less were now done, greater changes would speedily be required, and there would be no safety. He did not agree with that opinion. If, even in ten years, the whole of this measure would be effected, he should think that was a good reason why the measure should only be adopted in part, and that according to the success of that part, other portions should be gradually and successively adopted. He remembered that it had been well stated by his noble friend, the Lord Chancellor, that every man who set about making a reform should reflect that he was about to proceed in an untried path. The noble Lord compared such a man to a navigator exploring an unknown coast, and counselled him frequently to heave the lead. He was not satisfied that large bodies of the population should remain unrepresented; he was anxious that the manufacturing towns should be represented, and it might be desirable that room might be made for those Representatives by the disfranchisement of some place now sending Members; but he was not satisfied to adopt the large changes proposed by this measure. He differed on this point from many of those with whom he had been in the habit of acting, and whom he respected; and he must also state, that he had an additional regret in differing from 59 a large body of his constituents, who had pronounced a very strong opinion in favour of Reform. He regretted this; but there were occasions when a man would be worse than contemptible if he did not act on his own opinion, let the consequences be what they might. It was his duty, he thought, in accepting a charge as a Representative, to state his own opinions in the best manner he could, but to do it honestly. It had been his lot, on former occasions, to differ from his constituents, and he had experienced uniformly the same confidence as at first. The opinions he had formerly given were honest; he had now, too, given an honest opinion, and he trusted that he should have the same confidence continued to him now as in former times. He had done his duty, though he had done it with pain.
The Lord Advocate
spoke as follows: I believe, Sir, that I need scarcely state that the part of the great measure introduced to the House by the noble Lord, which first attracted my attention, was that which related to the Representation of Scotland,—a part of the subject which has hardly been noticed in the course of the debate, and which, from the general silence of the Members for Scotland, I must presume meets with their approbation. The noble Lord who explained the measure of Reform to the House, stated in a speech unusually distinct and luminous, and, considering its brevity, surprisingly complete, that Government proposed to bring in successively three bills, with the intention of reforming England, Scotland, and Ireland. If I do not greatly misapprehend the rules and forms of this House, the question relating to the representation of Scotland is now as much within the consideration of the House, as if it had been specifically brought before its notice. The duty of drawing up the bill relating to that part of the subject, has been officially intrusted to me; but I certainly have no wish to enter into what might now be considered by the House as an uncalled-for defence of that proposition. Two noble Lords on the opposite side of the House have indeed introduced the name of Scotland; but beyond a general statement of the sufficiency of the present system of representation, or rather the undoubted prosperity of the country under that system, I am not aware of their having made any impeachment of 60 the proposed alterations, or any distinct vindication of the existing system. In so far as relates to the great measure itself which has so long-engaged the attention of the House, I cannot but feel, that some of the topics which in the early part of the debate occupied a great share of the attention, and not a little of the interest of hon. Members have been already finally disposed of in the judgment of both sides of the House. I believe that the grounds on which the opposition to the measure now rest are these—the undoubted prosperity of both parts of the island under that form of representation which the proposed measure impeaches as imperfect—the want of specification of any positive or direct evils, which can be traced to alleged defects in the present system, and the want of any specification of particular benefits which tie proposed alteration would produce. To these grounds of opposition I might add,—for I shall say nothing of Corporation robberies, or even of the more favoured, though not less extravagant imputation, that the measure is revolutionary,—that it was calculated to infuse too democratic a spirit into the Constitution; and was likely to lead, by gradual progression, to other alterations, which would ultimately destroy the monarchy and the hereditary branch of the Legislature. It was further urged, that no reason had been presented on the part of those who proposed these very extensive changes, except, that the country not only desired, but clamoured for them, and that with such determination of purpose and such undisguised menaces, that the House must concede to the cry of the people what it would not to the arguments of those who proposed changes; while that cry had actually been raised by those persons who had introduced the proposed measure of Reform into the House. Now, with respect to the argument which appears to me to have produced the greatest effect in this House—namely, that the country had prospered eminently under the present form of representation, for a long' course of years, and that it was rash, therefore, and unnecessary, to venture on a change, I must be permitted to say, that nothing can be more fallacious than this argument, or more extravagant than the conclusions to which it necessarily led. When, I would ask, when was the time, for many hundred years back, that England was not distinguished for glory, 61 wealth, and splendor? Is it not true, that in the days of the Tudors and the Stuarts, England had already achieved a high place among the nations of the world for wealth, splendor, and cultivation, and even for a great degree of domestic liberty? But, would it be alleged, that the people of England ought now to be satisfied with the political institutions, or the measure of political liberty which satisfied their ancestors then? The fact to which all history bore witness, and independent of that testimony a principle offered to the consideration of every reflecting person, was, that for nations to attain a great measure of prosperity, and an infinite measure of wealth, very little political freedom was necessary. The truth is, that it is most generally under such defective political institutions that nations first obtain eminence in arts, manufactures, commerce, and wealth,— and the fruit of that prosperity is liberty. The first step to regeneration was, the moderate degree of freedom granted to commercial towns, which had made some advances in civilization and wealth. The other day, the hon. and learned member for Newport, (Mr. H. Twiss) had indeed expressed great apprehension at such places being admitted within the pale of the Constitution. The hon. and learned Member, to support his own views, had quoted from a very able commentator on the British Constitution—the author of Ecclesiasticus—the following passage.— "They are wise in the work to which they have committed their minds." They might work very well, he admitted, in metal, and in wood, but were not fit to come into Council. And this might be true enough of the first generations of the industrious: but another spirit arose in the race to whom their wealth was transmitted; and to whom it imparted leisure to reflect, and to cultivate their faculties; and a sense of dignity and independence, which led at once to the assertion of political power and importance. This, in truth, was the natural history and genuine genealogy of freedom; and, in the first instance at least, though the order might be afterwards reversed, liberty was the daughter, not the mother of riches. Thus, and thus only, arose the Italian Republics, the free towns of Germany, and the acknowledged germs and seeds of our own liberty, the trading towns and Corporations which were the first to be eman- 62 cipated from the oppressions of feudal tyranny. As wealth accumulated, men became anxious to have protection from vexatious and illegal interferences with their concerns; and, soon after, the increase of cultivation, and the diffused intelligence which wealth had created, required, from time to time, more and more intelligence, and skill, and concern for the general good, on the part of the Legislature, and a more minute acquaintance with the wants of the community. The fact was deducible from principles which admitted of no question, that as long as nations continue crescent and progressive in wealth they constantly and successively outgrow the dimensions of their political institutions; and it becomes necessary to alter, adapt, and enlarge those institutions, in order to accommodate the continually increasing number of intelligent and independent citizens who are entitled to share in their benefits, and to meet the great and accumulating difficulties which grow out of such complicated interests. Accordingly, what had been the progress in England? We were prosperous and splendid, while we were saddled with the Star Chamber, with the prerogative, with purveyance, and with ship-money. At that time there were merchants of great opulence, men of spirit and intelligence in public affairs, and authors of unequalled talent, and immortal glory. England, in fact, then bore as proud a name among the nations as at any after period; but as wealth multiplied, intelligence spread among the population; and in the same proportion it was found necessary to widen the basis on which the Constitution rested, in order to provide room for the multiplied children of freedom. The question, then, was, whether that basis was wide enough at this moment, or whether more room must not still be made for those who had now become entitled to better accommodation? The great question, therefore, is, whether it can be seriously doubted, that within the last twenty-five or thirty years, there has been generated and developed among the people of this country, a vast mass, not of intelligence and independence only, but of political capacity and interest; a power to understand, and a desire to possess, their constitutional rights, compared with which, all which I have spoken of as existing in the most glorious periods of our older history, was 63 proportionably insignificant. We all knew how, in feudal times, the Barons extorted charters from tyrannical sovereigns; and how towns were taken under the protecting wings of the Barons, or the Sovereign, in order to give strength to one or other of those parties. Then the serfs and villains were emancipated; and, last of all, the burgesses rose into wealth and importance. But, where was the man who would say, that at any of those periods the improvement and enlargement of our political institutions should have finally stopped? Or can any man, who looks at the present condition of these institutions, aver that they are actually such as no improvement in the wealth, numbers, and intelligence, of the community, could justify us in enlarging? By what criterion is a judgment to be formed as to the point beyond which it would be impossible to go with advantage? This is truly a matter of feeling and observation, rather than of reasoning. Wherever there is lasting and reasonable discontent, there is, probably, need for reformation. I know no limits to such improvements, but the limits to the desires of intelligent men, who crave, and render reasons for their craving, or some plain unsoundness in the arguments by which their desires must be defended. But I shall now come to the fact; for it really seems to be little else than a matter of fact that is in dispute between the two sides of the House. I wish, in the first place, to look for moment, exclusively, to the great number of persons of wealth, respectability, intelligence, and loyalty, belonging to the middle ranks, in London and Manchester, who are now unrepresented. Is it true, in point of fact, that that great body of persons are discontented and dissatisfied, soured and alienated, by their exclusion? ["No, no," and Cheers.] I think I may venture to answer the question. I think I may assume, without much presumption, that it is generally known in the country, that petitions in favour of Reform have been laid on the Table of this House, uncountable in number; signed, not by tens, or twenties, but by fifties, and hundreds of thousands. Now, if it was, indeed, true, that these petitions did not speak the desires of the wealthy, intelligent, and industrious persons, whose names they assume, if it was true that the great body of respectable people in the districts I have mentioned, did not share 64 the sentiments of the petitioners, how was it they had not sent other petitions to that House expressive of their opinions, and denying the statement of their dissatisfaction? The petitions were not got up in a corner, nor were they looked upon, either in this House, or without it, as so notoriously false and absurd, as to be deserving of no answer. On the contrary, they had shaken the country from border to border, and had sent forth the boldest defiances and challenges to any one to dispute the truth of their allegations; yet these challenges had not been accepted; and those who were now said to be contented, had been silent under the defiance. So far as I can recollect, I have heard in this House but of one petition which has been presented against Reform, and that came from Bristol, and contained a sort of mimicry of the language of the Iron Barons of Merton;—"We do not wish the laws of England to be changed." But it is more eculiarly my province, as it is my pride, to call the attention of the House to the vast number of petitions which have been presented in favour of Reform from different parts of Scotland; and as to the greater part of which, I think I may say, with confidence, that not the slightest influence had been exercised to get them up. I must advert particularly to the petitions, not merely from the merchants, bankers, and manufacturers, but from the Magistrates, and Town Councils of Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, and from the citizens of Edinburgh; the latter of which I know to be signed from my own personal knowledge, by four-fifths, if not five-fifths of all the persons of wealth and respectability in that city: and also, that a large proportion of the 180 persons who signed the requisition for the meeting at which it was carried, had been converted from a feeling of distrust towards Reform, to a sense of the propriety of its concession. There are two points upon which objections have been taken to the measure; one, the giving of the elective franchise to those who had it not; the other, the taking it away from some of those who had it. At present, I wish to speak only to the first of these points; and with regard to it, would any man say that a body of unrepresented persons, equal in numbers, and far superior in wealth, to double the population of some of the capitals of Europe, should not have a Member to repre- 65 sent them? Was not this, then, a great advantage in this Bill? It was not easy indeed to comprehend the grounds upon which this part of the measure is objected to; and even the luminous statements of the hon. member for Callington have left it in utter darkness. Why should the men of wealth, intelligence, and industry, in certain parts of London and in Leeds, not have Representatives, as well as men in the same, or a lower condition, in other parts of London, or in Nottingham? The member for Callington had made no answer to that question; but had gone off in a fine-spun and hypothetical dissertation on the advantages attending the present system, under which the hereditary aristocracy and the democracy were so harmoniously mingled in the House of Commons! and he said, "If you change this system, you lose these advantages." But how would this part of the Bill interfere with these imaginary advantages? The advantages flowed, it seems, from the close and rotten-borough part of the system; and were not diminished by the franchise in old London or in Nottingham. How, then, should they be diminished by the creation of similar franchises in newer parts of London, or in Manchester or Birmingham? But the truth was, that these supposed advantages were purely ideal and imaginary; and that the hon. Member's whole exposition and deduction of them, was a conspicuous example of the strange, fantastical, and unsound speculations by which ingenious men will cover the palpable unsoundness of tenets which it is their interest or inclination at all events to maintain. There was, in truth, no advantage in the Peerage or the Crown having an influence in the Commons House of Parliament; and if there were, it was manifest that the present system of election did not secure that advantage. The matter is settled everywhere, except in this House; and I should like nothing better than to see the hon. member for Callington proposing his fanciful theory to the merchants of Leeds or Manchester; not in the streets or marketplaces, to an inflamed or ignorant multitude, but there, where merchants most do congregate, in the counting-houses and wealthy dwellings of men, as cultivated and intelligent as himself. Let him see how such men would deal with his theory. Let him consider how the Press already 66 treats it out of doors. Every body knows what strange tricks interest will play with a man's faculties, and how unconsciously we are duped by our own prejudices and partialities. Let the House consider, but for an instant, what is the amount of the hon. Member's argument about Peers possessing their native authority, and privileges, and prerogatives, in the House of Commons. I must take leave to say, in the first place, that I am not aware that Members of the House of Lords, in their individual capacity, do now possess any prerogatives or privilege at all, except that of being hereditary legislators; which privilege they could not possibly exercise any where but in their own House. It is not therefore as Peers, but only as rich proprietors, that they could ever enjoy this extraordinary privilege, and there was an end, therefore, at once, to the dream of these two branches of the Legislature, blending their functions, in some inexpressibly benignant manner, in this House. But, in the next place, it is not true that the privilege belongs to rich proprietors, or is a beneficial way of bringing the legitimate influence of properly to bear on public concerns. The richest proprietor in the land has no such privilege, unless he is proprietor of a borough: and many men own boroughs, who have little other property. Take the average wealth of all the borough-holders in the country, and I will undertake to show that, for every one of them, there are fifty men of equal wealth, who have no boroughs, and thus there is an end also of the other dream, of this arrangement being a desireable means of giving weight to property! In fact, it is not the influence of large property at all; and it is not a fair influence of any property. Many poor men invest their capital in boroughs, in hopes to enrich themselves by the illicit sale of them; and many rich men grow poor by the unskilful management of the same illegal traffic. If it were right that rich men or Peers should have this strange privilege, why is it not given to them openly? Upon the theory of the hon. Gentleman opposite, every Peer, with an income of 10,000l. a-year, should have a Member to sit in that House to represent him; and every commoner with 20,000l. should have his Member too; then there would be ensured a proper appendage to rank and opulence, instead of there being, as at present, a narrow and unjust mo- 67 nopoly of the privilege. There is no doubt, I believe, in any quarter, that property ought to have a large influence in the election of Members of Parliament. But is it really pretended, either that the proposed Bill will destroy that influence, or that the present system gives a fair or secure scope to it? That it would not destroy or exclude that influence, seemed to be conceded by the hon. member for Callington, when he referred to the influence of the Bedford family in Tavistock, and said, "that, after the proposed measure had done its worst, he would still ensure the present Member's Seat for that borough, for half-a-crown." I think the hon. Member would very probably be safe with that cheap insurance. But could there be a more conclusive proof that the fair and legitimate influence of rank and property will not be diminished by this Bill? In my opinion, indeed, it will be very much increased; for, as things now Stand, a very large proportion of boroughs are withdrawn from the natural and benignant influence of property bestowed in acts of kindness and judicious charity; and, instead of being cheered by the un-debasing bounty of a munificent and hospitable neighbour, are degraded and enslaved by a sordid and tyrannical dependency on a sordid and tyrannical master. The objectors to the measure were singularly contradictory; some objected to it as too popular and democratic; and then they also objected that it excluded the lowest classes. How were these objections to be reconciled? It was said that tradesmen, and attornies, and petty householders, would be admitted to the elective franchise, under the qualification of 10l., and that therefore the qualification was too low. Now, the fact happens to be, that, in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, the qualification, whenever it is altered, is raised. In the counties, where it had always stood at 40s., it is now 10l. In boroughs, again, the corporators, if resident, are left during their lives; but instead of scot and lot, or pot-walloppers, a 10l. qualification will be required. Gentlemen argued, too, as if the qualification was not to include houses above 10/., whereas it was 10l. and upwards, and that might be 100 or 1,000 fold. Was that to inundate the land with a democracy? Really, if the 40s. freeholders and the pot-wallopers of the present system did not produce that effect, it was not easy to 68 see how it was to be produced by raising the qualification. But even if the qualification had been lowered, it seems to me a strange mistake to suppose that it would be likely to produce dissatisfaction or disloyalty, or an indisposition to acknowledge the authority of the law. Would it be said that a comparatively poor man was less interested in the security of his little property, than the rich man who was dying of ennui in the midst of his useless hoards? On the contrary, a man who had acquired a certain degree of competency, looked with the greatest anxiety on what affected the security of his property and was of all others the most likely to rally round the only authority by which that property would be defended. He felt himself lifted above that want which he once endured; and though he felt pride in contemplating his own elevation in the scale of society, he looked down with sympathy and affection upon those who were still struggling with adversity. He was the person, therefore, whom it most behoved the Government to attach to itself by kindness, and by conceding his rights, and the firmest reliance might then be placed on his fidelity. And if it be indeed true, that there are individuals, or associations, in this country, who meditate an attack on property, and set lawful authority at defiance, such persons as he would be ready to join hand and heart in resistance to them. No thinking man, who reflected upon the subject, would contend that the safety of the country rested upon any other basis than a regard for the security of property; and when society was founded upon that basis, the coronet was in no danger of being touched, nor a jewel of the diadem of being soiled. I have, therefore, no distrust of this 10l. qualification; nor, indeed, am I able to imagine by what process of reasoning a contrary conclusion has been formed. Had the Bill done the reverse, and proposed to reduce the qualification, there might have been some reason in the objection. How this inconsistency is to be explained, I confess I am unable to conjecture; but I think I have found a key to some of the mysteries of the opposite side of the House, in their wilful blindness to a distinction, the full perception of which I humbly conceive to be essential to any just views of the great measure before us. To me, Sir, it seems evident, that there are at this moment two entirely separate classes of 69 discontented persons in this country, whom it is most important not to confound in our deliberations, but incomparably more important not to identify and drive together by our proceedings. The one—by far the most numerous and important—consists of those loyal, orderly and industrious persons, who are unjustly excluded from their share in the Representation, and are, on that account, offended, alienated, and dissatisfied with those who have so long persisted in rejecting their earnest and humble petitions. The other consists of far more desperate, and dangerous individuals—persons, not many I trust in number, but multiplied of late years, by I know not what causes, who utterly distrust and despise all the institutions of the country; who hate law and authority, and aim directly, and, with little disguise or equivocation, at the destruction of all property, and the abolition of all dignities. It is painful to think, that there should be such a faction in such a country; but, I am persuaded, that no man who moves about in society, with his eyes and his cars open, can fail to be convinced of the fact, It is, perhaps, but an aggravated form of the old feud, which has always subsisted between those who have nothing, and those who have something; but frightfully embittered of late years among us, partly, perhaps, by the long-continued pressure of distress; and, partly, by the increased intelligence and easier means of concert among the lower orders: but, no doubt, in a still greater degree, by the effect of infamous publications and harangues, proceeding from wicked and designing-, or most misled and deluded individuals. But, be that as it may, the point I wish chiefly to impress on the House, is, that those men are not to be confounded with the former; that their discontent does not proceed from their exclusion from elective franchises, and that they neither petition for Reform, nor would be in any degree gratified by its largest concession. Their views go far beyond the sphere of Parliamentary Reform: they care nothing for laws or law-givers, or those by whom lawgivers are appointed; and make a mockery quite as much of Commons, as of Lords, or of King. Their object is the invasion of all property, the cessation of all authority, the levelling of all ranks and degrees, every man for himself, and God—or some Other personage—for all! No blunder than could be so great, no injustice so 70 flagrant, as to confound these men with those who petition for a better system of Representation; or to draw inferences as to the consequences of yielding to the prayers of the latter, which might be applicable to capitulating with the demands of the former. But, there is something far worse, and more practically dangerous, in confounding those two distinct kinds of discontent, than the mere blunder in reasoning, or injustice in moral judgment. Your petitioners, though naturally, and actually, loyal and orderly, are not all, of course, philosophically patient, or religiously meek. If, then, their just claims are disregarded, they will all be offended, and many will be excessive in their resentment and their hatred, and in expressions of anger and dislike. They will join, therefore, in the language at least, of the apostles of disorder and anarchy, and plainly be in danger of imbibing a share of their passions and opinions. They will join with them to the extent of distrusting, and perhaps despising this House; of believing that the Government; is corrupt and oppressive, and that their ineffectual petitions must be reinforced by something more energetic and irresistible. I am persuaded, I need not dwell on a topic so painful. If the fact be admitted, that a great part of the petitioners are not to be confounded with the desperate and wicked individuals to whom I have alluded, can anything be so plain, as that it is the first and foremost of our duties, to prevent the one from graduating into the other, or from being exposed to the infection, even of a partial or nominal alliance? to snatch them from the tremendous dangers of such a communication, and at once to deprive the mischievous of the encouragement and credit of their apparent support, and to detach them, by merely doing them justice, from that perilous community of discontent, in which, by its refusal, they arc now unhappily involved. To the question, therefore, of—what are the actual evils of the present system, and what the actual benefits you expect from its reform, I now answer boldly, that the evil is the grievous discontent, gradually passing into disaffection, which it produces in those who suffer from it, and that the inestimable benefit to be derived from its reformation, is the cure of that discontent—the redemption of great bodies of meritorious citizens from the hazard of being seduced into fatal 71 disorders and excesses; the visible separation of those who mean mischief, and seek pillage, from those who insist only for right and justice, and the final embodying of all the latter, in support of property and lawful authority, against the implacable enemies of both. I grant, at once, that no Reform will satisfy those whose real object is, not Reform but confusion. I not only grant, but I maintain, as the very basis of my argument, that no reasonable improvements will satisfy those who are unreasonable. But it is implied, in the very terms of this proposition, that they will satisfy the reasonable; and when the reasonable are once satisfied, can any man doubt or deny that we shall be better able, with their aid, to deal with the unreasonable who remain? The mischief is, that by refusing just requests, we not only alienate those who desire no more than justice, but give a colour to the malignant imputations of those who say, that we love injustice for itself, or for the peculations and oppressions for the sake of which it is committed. The Catholic remedy for the evil in all its aspects, the true cure for the actual sufferer, the infallible exposure of the turbulent pretender, is, to do justice fearlessly, and fearlessly to resist all unjust encroachments. From the very first time my attention has been directed to this subject, it was in this aspect that it has presented itself to me. The great object is, to allay reasonable discontent, and to win back alienated confidence and affection, on the one hand, and, on the other, to disarm sedition and mischief of its most powerful means of seduction, by separating from it, and, finally, arraying against it, all that is fundamentally sound in the great mass of the population; all, that is to say, who, by the possession of property, and political rights, can be made to feel that they have an interest in the protection of property, and the maintenance of lawful authority. In the present agitated state of the country, when the flood is growing on the land, I would fain draw a firmament, and impassable barrier, between the pure and wholesome waters that are above, and the noisome and polluted contents of the dark abysses below: and this is the first good effect I venture to anticipate from the Bill now proposed. It will not only pacify and appease multitudes who are now discontented, and likely to be ranged in hostility to Government, and authority generally; but it will array them 72 into a great phalanx for the protection of property, and the maintenance of the Constitution and the law. They are all persons of property, generally speaking, of larger property than the body of English electors have heretofore been required to possess; and if those electors have hitherto been found true to their country and their trust, I confess my inability to understand how merely multiplying their numbers, and raising their rank, can be supposed to debase their characters, or pervert their views. I have, perhaps, said enough already on the value I attach to property, as a qualification for electors. It is not the property, certainly, not the acres, or the pound sterling that are to be directly represented; but the will and intelligence of the men to whom they belong. If property were the sole and ultimate qualification, I do not see how we could avoid recurring to the scheme of a famous Reformer in his day, the late Mr. Home Tooke, who seriously proposed, that votes should be multiplied according as property increased; and that a rich man should be allowed to vote seven times at an election, when a poor man voted but once. That theory, however, has been long discarded; and I rather think men of all parties are now agreed, that the only reasons for requiring electors to have property, are, first, as a sort of test or presumption, that they have rather more intelligence and information than are usually found in persons of the very lowest condition; and, secondly, as a pledge of their interest and disposition to maintain that respect for property in general, which all thinking men must feel to be at the bottom of all civil institutions, and the true foundation, not only of law and good order, but of liberty and of society itself. I have already endeavoured to shew, that a very moderate share of property is as likely to give this disposition as a greater share; and I cannot but think, in opposition to the hon. member for Preston, that the standard taken in the proposed Bill is not on the other hand too high. If I understand that hon. Member rightly, he, too, is for some qualification of property. But, wherever the line is drawn, it must necessarily appear to bear hard upon those who are immediately below it. The hon. Member said, that there are many persons, who occupy houses worth from 4l. to 9l. a-year, who would make as good electors 73 as those who paid 10l. I have no doubt it may be so. But, if the standard were let down to 4l., the same thing might no doubt be said as to renters at 3l. 10s. By a little further effort of industry and frugality, the 9l. renter might surely, in most cases, raise himself to 10l.; and the motive—no longer a sordid or base motive —that this Bill holds out for such efforts, is not the least of its recommendations. But, in the mean time, and on the whole, I cannot persuade myself, that the occupancy of a house, worth 10l. a-year, is too high a qualification; and if it brings in 500,000 new voters, who are now excluded from all share in the Representation, it is impossible not to feel, that while it enlarges to this great extent, the basis on which the Constitution reposes, it binds, at the same time, to the better protection of that Constitution, a prodigious mass of actual property, and does all that can now be done to secure the confidence and affection of this great body of proprietors. It is curious to observe, how extremes meet, in the arguments of disputants who are reduced to extremities, and what contradictions are hazarded by those who can dispense with no auxiliaries. The same persons, who rest their chief objection to this measure, on the ground of its throwing too large an infusion of popular or democratic influence into the Legislature, are also the loudest to clamour against its tyrannical and aristocratic rejection of the pot-wallopers, and scot and lot electors of Preston and Honiton. Nay, the hon. member for Callington does not scruple to say, that the best way to give property its due effect in the Representation, is to give almost the whole of that Representation to those who have either very large fortunes, or no fortunes at all—to take special care of the rights of pot-wallopers, and of opulent Peers and borough mongers, but to look with jealousy on the claims of the middling and upper classes! He is for a circulation of 100l. notes, and of farthings, and from which shillings and sovereigns are to be, in a great measure, excluded! I confess I do not know how to deal with such an argument. But it should always be remembered, that the existing pot-wallopers are to retain their franchise for their lives; and that as it is but in a few places that this right now exists, it is absurd to represent its ultimate cessation in those places, as the disfranchisement of a great class of 74 electors, long known to the Constitution, and acting an important part in its structure. If this extreme element of democracy could ever have been defended in such a Government as our's, it could only have been as a counterbalance to the extreme, and equally indefensible element of aristocracy, arising from the nomination borough in the hands of Peers, and other persons of great wealth; and if it is right to exclude the latter, as alike contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, there can no longer be any good reason for retaining the former. To represent the franchise of a few bands of pot-wallopers, in certain towns, scattered thinly over the face of the country, as the vital link by which the great body of the labouring classes are connected with the Constitution, does appear to me, I confess, a very notable extravagance. The great body of the labouring classes have, in fact, no participation in this franchise; and can derive no comfort or benefit from its occasional exercise, probably utterly unknown or unheard of by them, in Preston or Honiton, or a few other insulated places. The extension of the franchise to 500,000 new voters, occupying houses of 10l. and upwards, is a far more substantial opening of the Constitution to the labouring classes in general. It will reach, indeed, directly to a considerable proportion of those classes; and it admits, at all events, an immense multitude of those who have recently risen from those classes, whose relations and sympathies are all still in that circle, and whose mere elevation will excite a most beneficial ambition in the whole body, to acquire, by increased industry and economy, the very moderate qualification which will entitle them also to its full participation. I think, Sir, I have already sufficiently answered the demand for some specification of the ill effects of the present system, and of the benefits we expect from. its Reform. But it would be easy to extend that answer. One benefit, which I rather think has not yet been suggested to the House, I will, with their indulgence now venture to explain: I mean the great advantage which I have no doubt a reformed Parliament would have in insuring the more prompt, steady, and effectual operation of public opinion on the Legislature, and the measures of the Government. I do not deny, that, even as things now are, public opinion is, in the long run, 75 irresistible. But infinite evils and dangers have constantly resulted from the tardiness with which it operates, the dissatisfaction which is generated by long opposition to it, and the contempt which but too often follows the reluctant triumph it obtains. I shall not be understood, I trust, as if I thought that this House, and much less the Legislature at large, ought to yield or respond to every casual and transient impulse of popular feeling or excitement. It is its first duty, on the other hand, to watch such impulses with jealousy, and wherever it truly appears that they are but casual and transient, to resist them with firmness and dignity. But I think it can scarcely be denied, that, from want of a due sympathy, or sufficient means of communication, this resistance has been too often, and I would almost say, systematically, continued far longer than was justifiable, and extended to cases where it should never for a moment have existed. I would say, generally, that most wars have been inexcusably protracted, for years after the public voice had justly condemned them. I would say the same thing of the abomination of the Slave-trade, of the sanguinary parts of our Criminal-law, of the Game-laws, and generally of that system of wasteful expenditure, and scandalous abuse of patronage, for purposes of selfishness or corruption, from which the Government was only driven, after incurable distaste and resentment had been excited by nearly half a century of resistance. The mere needless continuance of the folly and abuse, is but a small part of the mischief of this habitual rejection of public opinion—this obstinate clinging to discredited and detected iniquities. The fatal evil is, the distrust and dislike of which the Legislature, and this House especially, necessarily become the objects, which alienates from the Government the confidence and affections of the people, and produces that unhappy state of public feeling, which is truly aggravated, rather than allayed, by the tardy and compulsive compliance which is at last ungracefully yielded, and thanklessly and scornfully received. In a reformed Parliament, I think it is obvious that no such thing could occur. But there is another advantage which I think this Reform can scarcely fail to secure, which appears to me of still greater importance, with regard both to the contentment and the perma- 76 nent prosperity of the people. I am aware that no Reform will give them absolute prosperity. No man can be more deeply convinced, that the greater part of their distresses arise from causes over which Government has no control; and I think that those who would teach them otherwise, act a very weak or a very wicked part. But such, unhappily, is not their general opinion; they think, naturally enough, perhaps, in most cases certainly excusably, that most of their sufferings are owing to our misgovernment; and that if it was not for the selfishness and hard-hearted indifference of the Legislature, they might all be comfortable and happy. Nothing, I admit, can be more absurd and extravagant. But, as long as they see the Legislature composed entirely of persons, nominated almost exclusively by the higher aristocracy, and find themselves, very generally, excluded from all share in the election of their Representatives, you may be assured, that they will continue to be of that opinion; and to indulge in all those feelings of animosity and distrust, that now prevail to so unfortunate an extent among them. But the Reform we now propose, will disabuse them, I think, of these errors,—and is the only thing that will disabuse them. They will not take our word, when we tell them, that we feel deeply for their sufferings, and are doing all we can for their relief, although for much of their miseries there is no relief in our power. They will not take our word for this,—for we are strangers to them, and are sent here, apparently at least, for other interests than theirs. But when at last they have Representatives of their own choosing—when they have deputed to Parliament individuals, on whose thorough knowledge of their situation, and whose sincere anxiety to befriend them, they place entire reliance, they will, and they must believe the testimony which is brought back to them by these Representatives. And if they report, as they must necessarily do, that this House is not deaf to their prayers, nor insensible to their sufferings; but that, while measures are actually taking for their partial relief, it appears to be really impossible to eradicate poverty, or to create beneficial employment, I do not think I am too sanguine, when I conclude, that they may, at last, be taught that there are evils, in every human lot, for which Governments are no way responsible, and for which laws can pro- 77 vide no effectual remedy; and that, instead of indulging in idle resentments, or deluding themselves with the hopes of impossible relief, they should co-operate, by their own providence, with the beneficent intentions of Government, and wait, in patience, for that fortunate change in their relations, which cannot be accelerated, though it may be retarded, by turbulence and abuse. For this reason, as well as for many others, I hail the appearance of the hon. member for Preston in this House. I flatter myself, he has already learned to think more favourably than when he first entered it, of the disposition of this House towards those classes, whom he considers as more peculiarly his constituents; that he now believes in their sincere sympathy with their sufferings, and even that there are far greater difficulties in the way of their relief than he had formerly imagined; and I trust, that he will not fail to report his altered opinion to those over whom he has so much influence; and so begin the good work, which, I trust, this great measure will complete. [Here the hon. member for Preston intimated his dissent in some points from the speaker, who went on.] I am sorry the hon. Member does not quite agree with me; but he is yet but in his noviciate; and when we have had him a little longer among us, I doubt not that we shall convert him entirely. In the mean time, allow me to say a word on the subject of that cry or clamour, which hon. Gentlemen, on the other side, will have it, is all that the advocates for this Reform can produce to justify or support it, and on the strange allegation of their having themselves been the raisers of that cry! There has been a cry certainly; and, certainly, it has not only been raised in former times, but it has also, apparently, subsided, or been intermitted; from which they would infer, that its causes are merely temporary, that it may now be resisted as safely as it has been resisted before; and that if we merely do nothing, we shall speedily see it subside, and die away. I cannot persuade myself, that those read either the past or the present with intelligence, who so interpret the signs of the times before us. True, the cry for Reform has formerly subsided; but has it not always revived; and, at every revival, been echoed from a wider circle, and in a louder tone? Is not the very fact, that all national excitements, of whatever kind, 78 the pressure of internal distress, the sympathy with foreign triumphs, uniformly receive this passion for Reform—a proof that it is not an accidental symptom, but a constitutional affection—the indication of a deep-rooted disease, which every excitement calls into action, and at every recurrence in an aggravated form? It has slept, indeed, by fits, but has never been dead; and it wakes, at last, like a giant refreshed, to bid defiance to all attempts at opposition. Occasional causes there have been, no doubt; but the great exciting cause has been the spread of intelligence, and the actual increase of the grievance, from the increasing numbers of those who suffer by its continuance. When the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs said, that but for the proceedings as to East Retford, this Bill might not have been necessary, he did not mean that a better issue of those proceedings would have finally satisfied the wishes of English Reformers, but only that it might have, for a while, postponed the crisis, which an opposite issue contributed to bring on. There were occasional causes, no doubt, at work, along with the great internal agencies, which determined, perhaps, the moment of that consummation, which, of themselves, they could neither produce, nor prevent. The manner and the moment of all great events, are ever determined by such causes; but the events themselves have always a deeper principle, and depend on a higher fate. Mr. Fox has recorded, that the year before the Revolution, 1688, the tyranny of the Stuarts seemed more secure, and the cause of liberty more hopeless, than at any other period. Some authors ascribe the immediate cause of that great event to the trial of the Bishops, and some to the proceedings at Oxford; but no men of common sense will, therefore, contend that the event itself was casual, or that it had any other real cause than the gradual accumulation of just discontent and apprehension, arising from a systematic persistance in injustice, and an obstinate refusal of redress. There were occasional causes here, too; the mortifying issue of the proceedings as to East Retford, and the fatal determination which the people read in those proceedings, to resist any measure, and any degree of Reform; the proceedings, and the tone and temper of the defence of the proceedings, at Newark, the shameful exposure of 79 the state of our official pensions, and, generally, the disgusting spectacle of corruption and venality which was displayed at the general election; these things naturally excited she impatience and the zeal of the people. To say that the passion for Reform originated with the present Ministers, or the present Ministry, is too palpably absurd, and contradictory to dates and transactions. It was a common topic at most of the elections, before the present Ministry had been imagined, or its members communicated with each other; and the absence of all reference to it in the King's Speech, at the opening of the Session, occasioned a general disappointment, as well as the omission of all mention of prevailing distress. Then came the fatal pledge of the head of the former Government against all Reform, along with a repeated denial of the existence of general distress; and in that moment, the cry of indignation and impatience went forth from all parts of the land; and it was seen and felt that Reform was unavoidable, if the peace of the country was to be preserved. The Ministry gave way before that cry; and the very men who could not keep their places against it, while it was yet but a popular clamour, and unaccredited by official countenance, now hope to regain them by opposing it, when it has taken the shape of a grave and deliberate measure of the accredited Ministers of the Crown! I have said more than enough, perhaps, on this strange proposition; but as a Member for Scotland, I cannot pass over the most important, perhaps, of the occasional causes by which the feelings of that part of the country have been excited on this occasion; I mean the memorarble declaration of the right hon. member for Edinburgh, that he did not believe there was any desire for Reform in that city, or in the country in general. The reason assigned for that opinion is not less singular than the opinion itself. It was, that a petition had been sent from Edinburgh, but a few years before, earnestly praying for Reform, and signed by 7,000 or 8,000 persons; but that no new petition had been since presented. The challenge thus given, was accepted; the construction thus unfeelingly put on their forbearance was indignantly refuted; and in a few weeks a new petition, signed by upwards of 21,000 persons, was sent up from the citizens of Edinburgh. Glasgow followed with 33,000; and from every 80 city, town, village, and parish, almost, of the country, similar petitions have ever since poured in. And here, for the sake of my countrymen, I am bound to state, not only that those petitions do not proceed from any persons entertaining designs against the Government, or in rebellion against the law; but that so far as Scotland is concerned, there is really no room for such an imputation. The disorders that have afflicted portions of the south, have not penetrated to that country. It is my official duty to ascertain the condition of all its districts as to disorders, and tendency to crime; and I am proud to say, that it never was in a more orderly or peaceful condition. We have had no burnings, and no machine-breaking. Some movements towards combinations about wages may have been traced near Glasgow, but even these attended with no violence or terror, and the minds even of the distressed operatives so generally informed, that I observe the Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge, in a most meritorious work they have recently published, have bottomed their argument in favour of the use of machinery, on the answers made on that subject by an unemployed Glasgow weaver, when examined before a Committee of that Society. I am not aware that the present Ministers are accused of having extended their agitations to Scotland; and yet from that peaceful, thoughtful, orderly, and loyal people, more petitions for Reform have been sent up, than from any other equal portion of the population. One word more, Sir, on the subject of intimidation, and I have done. I shall say nothing as to the intimidation which the advocates of this measure are accused of having practised upon their opponents— for that imputation really seems too absurd to deserve an answer—I shall speak only to that of which they are supposed to be themselves the victims. The right hon. Baronet opposite has told us, that instead of submitting their fears to their judgment, they seemed to have submitted their judgment to their fears. If to foresee and to provide against coming danger, be unworthy of a courageous Statesman, they probably deserve this heavy imputation. But I will not now trespass on the indulgence of the House by pursuing that discussion. I wish only, in concluding, to point out the difference between the fears of these magnanimous Gentlemen who reproach the authors of this measure 81 with pusillanimity, and the fears by which it has been partly suggested. The main argument against the measure is founded on fear—a fear, I must say, the most exaggerated, and least likely to fall on a brave or constant man, of any I can well imagine—the fear that by yielding their just demands to the loyal, respectable, and intelligent proprietors of middle rank in this kingdom, such strength will be given to the disloyal, ignorant, and destitute persons who hate the Constitution, and defy the law, that it will be no longer possible to protect it against them. This, Sir, I do submit to the House, is a visionary and fantastic fear; and I think stands not very reputably contrasted with the fears which those who are actuated by it impute to their opponents. We fear, Sir, and do not scruple to confess that we fear, the consequences of refusing the just requests of a petitioning nation: but we do not fear the threats or the clamours of those who would invade the property, or insult the laws of the country; and the difference between us and our antagonists is shortly this—that we fear to do injustice, lest the right should be too strong for us; and that they fear to do justice, lest those who seek more than justice should profit by the example.
§ Mr. Hunt, having been alluded to by the hon. and learned Lord, felt it right to say, that he had been misunderstood. What he had said was, that in his mind every man liable to be called out to serve in the militia should have a vote for the Representatives who made that call. He never could mean to extend the franchise to paupers, as the law of England disqualified all paupers from, voting.
§ Mr. Croker
spoke to the following effect: ✶—I feel, Sir, that under any circumstances, I should require the indulgence of the House; and I am aware that, at so late a period of so protracted a Debate, I must stand peculiarly in need of that indulgence. I can assure the House that, if I did not, in my heart and conscience, feel that this is by far the most important—the most vital and tremendous—question, that has ever yet been agitated within these walls, there are at this moment abundant personal reasons which would deter me from intruding upon its patience. Sir, I listened with✶The following speech (as also the notes) is printed by permission from the corrected Report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.82 very great pleasure—pleasure does not always imply assent, and still less conviction—to the very eloquent and ingenious speech of the learned Member who has just sat down (Mr. Jeffrey, Lord Advocate of Scotland); but I confess, Sir, that there was one part of that address which was, I think, not quite consistent with good taste, or the decorum of this House. I do not think that it was either parliamentary or prudent in him to cast imputations upon Gentlemen who take the opposite side of the question, as if they were persons already stigmatized and disqualified, as being Members for corrupt and delinquent boroughs, who can only be heard by courtesy and sufferance, and only be allowed to plead here, like convicted criminals, for the indulgence of what is called a long day. Sir, the learned Lord, with his high legal authority, has told us that the strict rules of a court of justice would exclude the majority—nay, would exclude, he said, without almost a single exception, the whole of the opponents of this proposal, as interested parties, from voting on this question, or even addressing the House in this Debate. Sir, I tell that learned Lord, that such is not the law either of Parliament or common sense; and that his pretended analogies derived from the courts of justice are wholly inapplicable to the case of any deliberative assembly. I might have overlooked such a mode of argument, if it had emanated from an inferior authority, and treated it with what it would, perhaps, better deserve than any observation; but I pay so much respect to the learned Lord's official station, and his late appearance in this House, as to acquaint him, that it is equally irregular in form, and erroneous in fact, to impute such motives or influences to any of those whom, as long as our Constitution lasts, I must assert to be the Representatives of England. I shall take the liberty of. adding, that, if I was surprised at an observation so unconstitutional falling from a gentleman of the learned Lord's profession, I was doubly astonished to hear it from a person placed in the situation in which the learned Lord stands in this House. The learned Lord's claim to a seat in this House being, as he has been told by the straight-forward and plain-spoken member for Preston, suspected of being more than fictitious—
§ Mr. Kennedy
rose to order. There had been presented against the return of the 83 Lord Advocate a petition, which had been referred to an Election Committee. He put it to the House, whether it was usual for Members, even of such authority as the ex-Secretary of the Admiralty, to anticipate what might be the decision of the Committee sworn to try the merits of that petition.
§ The Speaker
said, that if he could have foreseen that the observation of the right hon. Member on the floor would have been taken in the light which it had been taken, or that it had been intended in that light, he hoped that he should not have been backward in calling the right hon. Member to order. The reason why he had not interrupted the right hon. Member on the score of order, depended upon his understanding of what the right hon. Member had said, and upon his knowledge of the right hon. Member's intention in making that statement. He understood the right hon. Member to complain of a statement made by the learned Lord in his speech, that a certain number of Members were to be disqualified from stating their opinions on this measure, because the boroughs for which they then sat were to be disfranchised by it. Further than that, the right hon. Gentleman not only wondered at the quarter from which the observation came, but also at its coming from a person in the learned Lord's situation, inasmuch as the learned Lord was himself returned to the House for a seat of this description, and must be aware that his right to his seat was disputed by others, inasmuch as it was even now forming the subject of a contest before a Committee. He did not conceive that anything which had fatten from the right hon. Member on the floor could be interpreted as giving either a determination or a decision on the merits of that petition, much less as having been uttered with any intention of inflaming the feelings of such Members as might be the sworn judges on that petition.
Lord John Russell
said, that he should not have risen upon this point of order, if his apprehension of it had been the same as that of Mr. Speaker; but he wished to remind the House, that the right hon. member for Aldborough had said, that the seat of the learned Lord was suspected of being more than fictitious. It appeared to him that such words ought not to be used of any Member of Parliament, whose right to be seat was to be tried before sworn judges 84 on an Election Committee; and therefore he thought that the right hon. Gentleman was not in order.
§ Mr. Kennedy
said, that if he owed an apology either to the Speaker or to the House for the step which he had just taken, he was very ready to make it: but with all deference to the Speaker, he conceived, that such language as the right hon. Gentleman had used was calculated to mislead the judgment of Gentlemen who might have to sit as sworn judges on the petition against the learned Lord's return.
§ Mr. Croker
then proceeded—Sir, I by no means complain of the interference of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I only wish that he had used a little of the same vigilance heretofore, and I hope he will exercise a more peculiar vigilance hereafter, when he hears repeated, as I have no doubt he will, that which has been so often stated in the course of this Debate, namely, that we are all sitting here fictitious Representatives of the people. I trust that his legal knowledge, his personal candour, and parliamentary jealousy, will induce him to interfere on every such occasion which may again present itself. Sir, I return to the speech of the learned Lord—the most remarkable point of which was the boldness with which he assailed, and the success with which he overthrew the speech of the noble Lord who introduced this measure. The learned Lord began by saying, "Is it possible that you can at this time of day throw away your time in debating on a Constitution generated in the barbarous or tyrannical days of the Tudors and the Stuarts? Are you not aware that those times go for nothing, and that a new light is broken in upon us, and new doctrines been established throughout the political world, within the last five-and-twenty years, and that it is on these we must decide?" Such, however, are not the principles adopted by the noble Lord, the member for Tavistock; for he has gone back to the days, not merely of the Stuarts and Tudors, but even of those of Edward 1st, and fixed the data of his proposition at that remote period. He has exhibited his antiquarian lore, and even quoted the venerable statute de tallagio non concedendo, as the grounds of a measure which his learned Colleague, coming with a second and better sight, wholly abjures as obsolete and absurd, and tells us, that there is no question here of any statute of Edward 1st, or any 85 thing done in the time of the Tudors or Stuarts; but that the subject must be discussed on present expediency—on views of a new political philosophy—on a consideration of the French revolution—of the Belgian revolt—of the disorders so rapidly spreading abroad—of the blasphemy, sedition, and extraordinary excitement of the lower classes at home,—which he, by-the-by, would allay with every kind of fresh excitement; acting in this respect like one who, meeting a mob determined to break into his cellar, attempts to quiet them by brandy. I say, that this is a just description of the learned Lord's argument, and before I have done with him, the learned Lord shall himself be obliged to confess it. The learned Lord has told us, that he takes his stand on the petitions of a supplicating people—he has told us to look at those petitions—he has told us that those petitions do not come from the dangerous classes of the community— he has told us that they are the petitions of those more favoured orders of society which the noble Paymaster of the Forces wishes to introduce into political life— and he concluded all, by warning us that if we did not grant the prayers of these petitions, we ran great risk and danger of a tremendous convulsion. I will take the liberty of asking the learned Lord, whether he has read the petitions on which he professes his readiness to take his stand. I am sorry to say that I have looked through two or three hundred of them, for a purpose which I will proceed to explain as concisely as I can to the House. I challenge the other side, out of the whole mass of petitions which they now wield as weapons against my side of the House, to produce one solitary petition, in which the petitioners state that they will be satisfied with this extent of Parliamentary Reform. In the numerous petitions which I have recently read, there are indeed two or three worded with that happy generality which leaves the reader to infer every thing or nothing from them. But the rest are unanimous in their language and their prayers; and I have selected one of them to read to the House, because it is couched in moderate language, because its arguments are placed in regular order, and because it is one of the best specimens which I can find of the demands of the people. It is the petition of the artisans of Merthyr Tydvil, in the county of Glamorgan, a large manufacturing place, 86 where a great mass of intelligence has, I suppose, been collected together. That petition asks for four classes of Reform, one only of which the noble Lord's Bill even affects to concede. The first is the right—and they call it the just right—of having all placemen dismissed from the House of Commons. The second is the right of having annual, or at least triennial Parliaments. The third is that which would now be given them by the noble Lord's measure—the right of having all the large towns and populous districts of the country represented in the House of Commons, and that those close and decayed boroughs containing but a few inhabitants, which now return Members to Parliament, should be disfranchised. The fourth is the right of every man to have a vote in the election of Members of the House of Commons, who is in any way called upon to contribute to either national or local taxation, either direct or indirect. "These," say the petitioners, "are the principal rights we demand." Of this, one of the most moderate of the petitions, the proposed Reform will satisfy but one class of demands out of four. What is to become of the other three? Is this measure of universal conciliation and satisfaction to leave them rankling in the hearts of a discontented population? But the great majority of the petitions are by no means so precise or so moderate. They deal in more extravagant generalities. To demands—the same or equivalent to those I have just mentioned—they add, almost without exception, a call for a wide reduction of taxation, and they solicit Parliamentary Reform, chiefly as a step to the abolition of tithes. Do those who lay such stress upon the petitions mean to concede these points? Are all taxes to be abrogated, and is the Church to be despoiled of its property? This, indeed, will satisfy the petitioners—nothing else—if we are to take their own words—will. And so far will the noble Lord's measure be from quieting the petitioners, that I am convinced it would create nothing but an increase of demand, and an increase of disappointment. The learned Lord has insisted, with extraordinary anxiety, that great mischief is to be apprehended from discontent, arising from a refusal of, what he assumes to be, the just rights of these petitioners; but I must, before I submit to that argument, ask what has occasioned that discontent? and I will produce the 87 evidence of the noble Lord who brought in this Bill, to answer that question. The noble Lord, alluding to the assertion of my late right hon. friend Mr. Canning, that the people were not anxious for Parliamentary Reform, admitted that there was great weight in that argument some years ago; "but," said the noble Lord, "I and others have since appealed to the people on that subject, and they have responded to our call, and, as a proof of our success, we have now collected an immense number of petitions in favour of Reform." What, Sir, that all-engrossing subject which is now, as we are told, rankling in the heart, and prompting the tongue, and arming the hand of every man in the country against the constituted authorities, was, it seems, dead (my noble friend, the Secretary of State, said it was only asleep), until the noble Lord and his associates summoned it once more into life, and gave it fresh powers of animation. And they now summon us, in the name of the people, to yield to a clamour which they confess, that they themselves have excited. Dead, or very sound asleep indeed, was the rage for Reform, if we are to judge by the very test that the noble and learned Lords referred to—the petitions of the people. I find that, in the year 1821, nineteen petitions only were presented in favour of Reform. In the year 1822 the number was reduced to twelve. In the year 1823 the number was twenty-nine. In the year 1824, there was no petition at all. In the year 1825, no petition,—in the year 1826, no petition,—in the year 1827, no petition,—in the year 1828, no petition,—in the year 1829, no petition,—and even in the session 1830, only fourteen petitions presented in favour of Reform. Such, then, was the state of the public mind on this subject up to that date. Then came the late dissolution of Parliament. The noble Lord and his political friends then sat on the side of the House from which I am addressing you, and they went from these seats to the elections, little dreaming that they should so soon change their situation to the other side of the House. They looked about for a political lever to move the Government of the day from its place, and then, from hustings and windows, and their different places of canvass, they instigated the clamours of the people in favour of Reform; and the people, as the noble Lord boasts, responded to their call: 88 650 petitions have been the result of that appeal! Now, I will venture to affirm, that in all—no, I will not say all, for I have not yet looked through those which were presented in a mass on Saturday last —but that in the vast majority of them, the most prominent demand of the petitioners is, as I have just stated, for the abolition of tithes and taxes. The first object of the petitioners is, generally, reduction of taxation; the second is the suppression of tithes; and Reform occupies, most frequently, only the third place in the prayers of the petitioners. And, again I ask, are these demands to be conceded? But this is not all. Some of the petitions are still more exigent, and more extensive in their demands. In this crusade of petitions on Reform, a right hon. Baronet (the First Lord of the Admiralty) opposite was most anxious that an influential part of the community—the respectable inhabitants of Cockermouth—should bear their part in expressing their opinions on this important subject, and straightway there came from Cockermouth a petition which, for the moderation of its language and the sobriety of its desires, is most worthy the attention of the House. That petition complains 'of misery and distress, and of excessive suffering, owing to the representation not being Reformed; of the unjustifiable monopoly of twenty-four East India Directors; of that disgrace to the country, colonial slavery; and of the Corn-laws;' and says, that the 'Corn-laws have commissioned the pestiferous demon of hunger to stalk through this unhappy land, spreading interminable ruin upon all who have come into its baneful influence, while thousands have fallen victims, and have been brought to a premature termination of their existence, by his merciless grasp.' Do the right hon. Gentlemen opposite expect to satisfy such petitioners as these by a measure like the present? Will a change of the right of voting, however extensive, appease the pestiferous demon of hunger? The quixotic enterprise of satisfying such petitioners would be ridiculous, if the consequences were not so frightful and appalling! When the noble Lord and the House flatter the people that such petitions ought to be and will be attended to, have they considered what the result may be, when, on the contrary, they shall be obliged to tell the excited and deluded multitude, that compliance is impossible? But let us examine, a little, the plan of the 89 noble Lord. My first objection to it is, that he introduces it under the name of a restoration of obsolete or usurped rights, whilst, instead of being in fact anything like restoration, it is an entire novelty and a complete substitution of new modes and principles in every part of our system. I believe it is unparalleled in the annals of political history, that a restoration of rights should be the pretence of a measure which does not preserve one single right, or maintain any one principle that ever existed before. Scot-and-lot voters are swept away; potwallopers are annihilated; freemen wholly disfranchised; burgage tenures are not to be heard of; corporations are mentioned only that the House may be informed that they are to be utterly abolished; and in place of all these, a new, untried, and unexampled right of election is created—not in one place, by way of experiment, nor for a limited time, but throughout the whole country, and, as we are told, for all futurity! In place of the various modes of election which are acknowledged by the law and the constitution, the noble Lord undertakes to substitute this novel fabric of his own, and modestly proposes to extend it over every portion of the constituency of the empire. This, Sir, is no experiment of transferring the privilege of a disfranchised borough to Birmingham, where, perhaps, it might have been expedient to adopt a new right of voting, for the purpose of trying whether the practical effect of such a new sort of franchise, mixed up with the others, might not be advantageous: not such is the plan of the noble Lord; he makes his new fancy the undeviating franchise of the whole kingdom. Now, Sir, let us see what this general principle is, and how it is likely to work. The noble Lord has selected houses rated at 10l. annual value as the universal qualification; but why he has made this selection, he has not condescended to inform us. I will not pretend to divine the noble Lord's reason for fixing upon that particular qualification, but I will say, that it has always been my opinion, that one of the greatest advantages of our Constitution is, that we have under it great varieties of franchise, and rights of election, because this circumstance offers a variety of modes by which varieties of men may enter this House, and every class and degree of our complicated society find means to make itself heard; and I will affirm, that to thing can 90 be more dangerous than to put all the political power in the kingdom into the hands of any one particular class of persons, which will be the inevitable effect of the noble Lord's plan. If, in popular places, there should prevail a temporary panic—or if hatred should arise in one constituency to any particular person or party—then there is a place of refuge to be found in a borough which may not participate in the same passion or prejudice. While, on the other hand, if there happen to be an individual politician obnoxious to the Aristocracy, or to the Government, or even to the middling orders, there are such places as Preston, and a few others—they are, and ought to be, but a few—by which such a person may come into this House. The complexity of the British Constitution, like the complexity of the universe, is a complexity only to the eye; for its apparent irregularities all tend to general order, and seeming anomalies and counteractions contribute to produce the most admirable symmetry and the most beautiful proportions. Yet the noble Lord thinks he has done a miracle of political wisdom by getting rid of that well-regulated diversity —and by submitting the whole representation of the country, as far as regards cities and towns, to one undeviating form. But, Sir, I shall now proceed to show, that this attempt at theoretical uniformity, while it fails for any good or useful purpose, will be found, in practice, to work the most monstrous and incredible injustice. For, let us now see, how this plan of the noble Lord will work. I have looked into the returns of the number and value of houses, and I have found that there are in England about 378,000 rated houses. Those 378,000 houses are divided into sixteen classes, and the three lowest classes comprise no less than 250,000, namely, two-thirds of the whole number in England, while the proportion of the lowest to the highest class of householders is, I believe, still greater in Scotland,—nearly, I believe, three-fourths. The consequence, therefore, will be, that by the noble Lord's plan, so far from property having a proportional influence, all the power of election will be thrown into the lowest classes of householders. I have no doubt that when we shall have the means of examining these matters in detail, it will be found that the majority of voters in every town will belong to the very lowest class of houses, and that, con- 91 sequently, the effective representation of the whole empire will be thrown into the hands of one single class, and that, too, a very narrow class of the people.✶ See, again, the consequences of this. If it should happen at any time that an individual Minister could not find his way to this House, it would perhaps be thought a matter of little consequence: but if, in extraordinary times, in a storm of popular ferment, it were necessary that a whole Ministry should find seats, what but the most dangerous results must be anticipated from the mode in which the noble Lord would fix the elective franchise throughout the kingdom? The. choice of the Crown must be fettered by, and dependent on the mere potential suffrages of the 10l. householders. But the noble Lord has told us that he was obliged to draw a line somewhere, and that, therefore, he had drawn this line. Why, Sir, if the noble Lord were consistent, and would obey the wishes of the petitioners—for whose opinions he professes so much respect—he would find that they have given him a line, which, in my humble judgment, is much more intelligible and plausible than his. It is not an arbitrary line—it is one for which, in the theory of the Constitution, there is some shadow of foundation —it is that which the hon. member for Preston advocates—namely, that every man who is called upon to contribute to the exigences of the State, should, either by himself or his representative, have a share in voting the taxes which he has to pay. When the noble Lord is founding a new and theoretic Constitution on the will of the people, why does he abandon this plain course, and substitute such an unequal and narrow franchise as 10l. householders? But observe the effects of this new system —at present men of every class, the lowest as well as the highest, are somewhere represented. No one class can be said to be predominant; there is variety, perhaps partiality, but no exclusion—the poorest* By the return No. 202, of the number and value of inhabited houses in the several cities, towns, and boroughs, presented since this speech was delivered, it appears that the occupiers of houses of the value of 10l. and under 20l. will constitute a vast majority over all other electors. In great and well-built towns like the metropolis, Bath, Brighton, &c. the upper class of houses have a superiority, but taking the whole constituency of the country, the lower class has an immense majority.92 inhabitants and potwalloppers have in many places the most powerful influence; but under the new and arbitrary plan of the noble Lord-the millions who inhabit houses under 10l. value, and the thousands who inhabit houses above 20l., will be equally over-borne and virtually excluded by the noble Lord's favoured class of 10l. householders. Will this satisfy, on the one hand, the petitioners for a more extended right of suffrage; or, on the other, those who expect some attention to the proportionable influence of property. No, Sir, it considers neither property nor population, and will as far as I can see, throw the predominant power of the state into the hands of about 200,000 persons. But, Sir, if the noble Lord's line of suffrage be arbitrary, the lines which he has drawn to include or exclude the several borough, which are to be maintained or annihilated, are still more arbitrary and unintelligible. The House will, doubtless, recollect that the hon. Member for Callington last night intimated his suspicions that the line of the noble Lord had been, drawn partially; I too, have my suspicions on this subject. Not that I mean to impute any personal interest to the noble Lord but that I think he has been partial, not only between two sets of constituents, but between two classes of boroughs; and has therefore drawn lines which will throw all the power into a certain constituency, and will have the effect of preserving the franchise in certain boroughs, which he no doubt thinks better entitled to those favours, than those which another—and what I might think fairer—line, would have selected. It therefore becomes really important to observe the effects which this line will produce. The noble Lord has told us that he drew his first line at places containing 2,000 inhabitants; but the noble Lord gave no reason for that. The noble Lord told us that he drew his second line at 4,000; but for that, also, he has not condescended to give any reason. It is all sic volo, sic jubeo, with the noble Lord: however, such are the lines, and all below 2,000 are disfranchised,—all that come up to 4,000 are to have the right of sending one Member—all who pass the line of 4,000 are to have the right of sending two Members. There are no reasons whatsoever assigned for these arrangements. These are my lines,' said the noble Lord, these nay arrangements; I cannot tell you 'why I 93 made them; all I can tell you is, that they are lines and arrangements, and that you may approve of them or not as you please, but they are the unalterable system of the measure I propose.' I now proceed to call the attention of the House to a very serious point; one that I consider exceedingly important. The noble Lord in another part of his plan, and for a different though a similar purpose, has also drawn two other lines; I mean, when he comes to distribute his franchise to the new boroughs which he designs to create. Then he draws one line at places having 10,000 inhabitants, and another at 20,000: and to all above the 10,000 line he gives one Member, just as he gives one to the boroughs under 4,000: and to all past 20,000, he gives precisely the same number of Members as he gave to Knares borough and Tavistock! or in other words, the noble Lord's system of arithmetical proportion treats 2,000 inhabitants on the same footing as 10,000; and 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants receive from his impartial hands exactly the same measure as 4,000. I ask the noble Lord how he can justify this to the country;— how he and his Colleagues—his Colleagues I may call them ad hoc,—will defend this mode of disposing of the elective franchise. When we hear propositions—affecting, too, to be founded on mathematical proportions —which so outrageously set arithmetic and common sense at defiance, it is not extraordinary that suspicions should be excited, and that we should be inclined to inquire, with the hon. Gentleman I have already alluded to (Mr. Baring), why the noble Lord on his way to Callington had not stopped at Tavistock. I was, I confess, curious to find out the places which would mark the limit between the fatal proscriptive line of 2,000, and the happy conservative line of 4,000; * and I have been still more curious to discover the place which* The borough which, according to the return No. 202, stands lowest on the new constituency—viz. 10l. householders—is the borough of Downton, now belonging to Lord Radnor. If that noble Lord happens to have the majority of the property in or about that borough, he will probably have as much influence there after this Reform as he has now. This much is certain, that there are now but nine persons, entitled to vote under the new system, resident within that borough, and that the line must have been drawn on strange principles, which, in such circumstances, pre-94 will exhibit the still greater good fortune of during the corner—the lucky corner of 4,000. The line of 2,000 falls oddly enough, and when we come—if ever we come—to examine the minorde tails of this measure, there will be some serious explanation required on that point; but for my present and more general purpose (and not to weary the House) I shall pass by the line of 2,000, and call the attention of the House only to the others. However, I must premise,—and I say it with the utmost candour,—that in pointing out the circumstance to which I am about to allude I do not mean to make the slightest personal imputation against' the noble Earl whose borough I shall be obliged to mention. If the case is a bad one, let it be recollected that it is a case of the noble Lord's selection, not of mine. The noble Lord has drawn an arithmetical line, and I have therefore no choice in mentioning the place that approaches nearest to the line so drawn. Well, then, the borough which just passed the bridge as the fiend was ready to catch it—the fortunate borough which has escaped into the Elysium of undiminished patronage, is the borough of Malton, in Yorkshire. And how has this borough contrived to escape? Oh, fortunate Malton! it has exactly 4,005 inhabitants;— four thousand and—five —inhabitants! But the noble Lord refers us to the population returns*—ay, the population returns of 1821: they are the Pandects of our new Justinian. It is in the dry numerical details of that mass of figures that our tyro legislator looks for the seeds of a new social and political Constitution. There have been statesmen —Pitts and Foxes, Burkes and Cannings, —who looked at the constituent classes not merely numerically; who saw in the body of the people various interests, various localities, various pursuits, andserves one member for an obscure borough like Downton, with nine 10l. householders and disfranchises a county town like Buckingham, with eight times that number.✶It seems as strange as all the rest of this proceeding, that the Population Returns of 1821 should have been selected as the sole guide in this general and momentous change just at the very moment that their inapplicability to the present state of the country is slow notorious, that an Act of Parliament has been passed in the present year for a new census. There can be little doubt that the new census will exhibit an increase of about 2,000,000 souls.95 various conditions of persons and property; and who, when they approved of our Constitution, approved of it mainly because every local spot had its local customs and its local jurisdiction fitted for its peculiar uses; but our new Justinian has very different views,—he will not look out upon the face of nature,—he will not enter into the pursuits of society,—he will not examine the works of man in their large capacity. No; the noble Lord sits himself down with the population returns of 1821 before him, as the guide and manual of a new Constitution, and proceeds to remodel all the institutions of the empire by the four rules of arithmetic. I suspect, Sir, that the worthy gentleman at the Table (Mr. Rickman, the clerk), who took so much pains in arranging these population returns, little thought to what high purposes his numerical labours were to be applied; and must, at this moment, feel exceedingly surprised, no doubt, at finding himself turned into the Solon or Lycurgus of regenerated England. I am sorry to disturb the noble Lord in his arithmetical calculations; but I must say, that the result of them appears to me the most narrow-minded, the most unstatesman-like attempt at legislation that ever was made; and that in his endeavour to produce his beloved uniformity in franchise, he has— no doubt, undesignedly—committed an act of the most flagrant injustice on the great body of the country, and conferred the most indecent patronage on a small number of—I do not say favoured—but certainly fortunate, boroughs. The House, already surprised at what I have stated, will be still more so by the detail I am about to lay before it. No wonder that the noble Lord was so sore last night when we asked him a question or two about Returns. "How," said he, "do you want to shut out all information?—too much light blinds as well as too little; for God's sake be content with my little candle, and don't think of letting in a blaze that will distract the country!" I was astonished that so trifling a matter should have created such an alarm, and immediately suspected that it must have some serious though secret cause. The noble Lord told those who made the inquiries I allude to, with the greatest gravity, "The returns are on the Table of the House." Why, Sir, I know as well as the noble Lord that the materials of his legislation are on the Table pf the House,—here they are (holding up 96 a large volume), and tolerably bulky they are; but what can we learn from such a mass as this? [Lord John Russell.— There is the small return.] Yes, but the small return is not yet delivered to us, and will not, I believe, show what I am about to explain. I was saying that the House will be surprised at the combination I am about to develop with regard to Malton: I have been informed that the noble Lord's new Constitution will not essentially alter the influence at Malton. Malton is now a scot-and-lot borough, with as I understand, between 400 and 500 electors: under the pretended Reform, the number of electors will, I imagine, be very much diminished; and if, as I am led to believe, the town and neighbourhood are the property of Lord Fitzwillam, his Lordship will not find it more troublesome to manage 300 10l. householders than 500 scot-and-lot men. Happy Lord Fitzwilliam, whose influence will stand almost alone and safe, while that of so many others must perish in the general wreck! When we are told that all influence is to be abolished, and that near 200 nominations to seats in this House are to be suppressed, what a vast and incalculable increase of authority will be given to any leviathan aristocrat who shall retain his influence, while that of all the rest of his class is swept away! We see and admit —indeed, it is the chief point of the case of our adversaries—the vast power that one or two nominations, even in the present state of the representation, confer on an individual; but who can calculate what the influence will be, in the new Constitution, of any two or three individuals who may, by the accidents and irregularities of this act of uniformity, happen to preserve their patronage? They can be but very few indeed; but the smallness of their number will only render them more powerful and dangerous. I beg that I may not be misunderstood. I consider Lord Fitzwilliam as one of the most amiable men alive; and I would not for the world say one word which could give him a moment's uneasiness, or which should have the slightest appearance of disrespect towards a nobleman who is so much and so deservedly respected. But I am speaking of the public character, not of the individual person; and the noble Lord has forced me to allude to this person and to this place, by drawing his line of favour just below Malton. Lord Fitzwilliam 97 then, or the Lord Fitzwilliam of the day or Lord A, B, or C. call him what you please, who happens to be possessed of this property,—he will stand unshaken amidst the general crash and must inevitably rise to exorbitant and dangerous power. I have specially referred to the case of Malton, because it happens to fall nearest to the noble Lord's line; but there are several others which deserve to be looked at with the same jealousy and apprehension—and not merely on the score of influence, but as operating great comparative injustice to other places, and laying the foundation of future complaints and just dissatisfaction. Let us see, Sir, how this just and healing measure, as the learned Lord calls it,— how this just and healing measure will practically operate in the great county of York. There are three boroughs in the North riding of Yorkshire,—Malton, Richmond and Thirsk. These three old boroughs contain a population, according to the noble Lord's return of 10,000 persons, viz.—
and they are, by the new Constitution, to send four Members to Parliament; being at about the rate of one Member for every 2,500 persons. Now, let us, by way of comparison, examine what is proposed for three new boroughs which are to be created in the West Riding of the same county,—Huddersfield,Halifax,andWake-field. These three great and increasing towns contain a population of 36,000 souls, viz.—
Thirsk 2533 Richmond 3546 Malton 4005 10,084
Will it be believed that, when the 10,000 inhabitants of Malton, Richmond, and Thirsk, are to send four Members to Parliament, the 36,000 inhabitants of these three towns are to send only three— only three—one for every 12,000 inhabitants? What can the noble Lord allege for this monstrous anomaly? Where is his principle? Where is his justice? I invite any one to say how the proposition of the noble Lord can be explained? Is Malton more independent than Hudders- 98 field? Is Thirsk more populous than Halifax? Is Richmond more important than Wakefield? What are the superior claims of the North Riding over the West? I tell the noble Lord, that he must explain this extraordinary fact to the country. I warn the noble Lord, that I am new making a charge against him of the gravest description,—a charge certainly not of personal partiality, but a charge of negligence and temerity,—a charge of not having duly, nor according to any principle of justice, considered the great and momentous operation of the measure he has proposed; and I charge the measure itself with being founded on principles so false and fallacious, that its first and most prominent operation is, to produce, such extraordinary anomalies and extravagant irregularities. Now, Sir, I will proceed to show how this system will work in other parts of the country. There is a certain borough in the south of England which certainly never stood higher in this House than it does at this moment, in consequence of the able and eloquent speech made by its Representative (Mr. Macauley) the other night,—I mean the borough of Calne. I have looked into the noble Lord's Pandect—the volume of Population Returns—and there I find the town of Calne described with an adjunct which I think will amuse the House, ' Calne, and the Liberty of Bowood. Calne, and the Liberty of Bowood, is certainly rather a singular coincidence. Well, Sir, this borough of Calne contains 4,612 inhabitants; Tavistock—where the noble Lord would not so much as stop on his road to Callington—Tavistock contains 5,482 in habitants; Knares borough contains 5,280; and Bedford 5,466 inhabitants; and by the operation of one of the noble Lord's lines, each, of these places is to send (like Malton) two members to the Reformed Parliament. I request the House to take notice, that in selecting these boroughs for observation, I have no personal, nor even local, object,—I mention them rather than others, because they have already been referred to by other Gentlemen in former parts of the debate. Well, Sir, Calne, Tavistock, Knaresborough, and Bedford, contain altogether about 20,000 inhabitants, viz.—
Huddersfield 13,200 Halifax 12,600 Wakefield 10,700 36,500
99 and these 20,000 inhabitants are allowed, by the new economical distribution of representative patronage, to send, as I have already stated, eight Members to this House. It has, I am aware, been said, that although the noble Lord preserves the franchise to these towns, he alters the right of voting, so that the old aristocratical influence will no longer exist. Sir, this might be true of large places, such as Bath, which are now in the hands of a limited Corporation, and which will hereafter fall into those of 10l. householders: but it is not true of the class of small towns to which I now allude; a place containing 4,000 or 5,000 souls is not so large, but that it may be the property of one man. Some of those towns that I have named are, I believe, in this very condition; and in such of them as happen to be scot and lot boroughs, the alteration of the franchise, so far from extending, would narrow the limits of the franchise, and render some of them as close as Gatton. I entreat the House to look at this important consideration in all its bearings, and to weigh the danger, as well as the injustice, of throwing such enormous, undivided, and unbalanced patronage and power into the hands of half-a-dozen selected individuals. But leaving—though certainly not exhausting—the moral and political part of the subject, I proceed to apply the noble Lord's own arithmetic to a comparison of these four old borough swith some of the new ones which he is about to call into existence. Now, Sir, it appears that, while Calne, with 4,612 inhabitants, is to return two Members, Bolton, with 22,000 inhabitants, is to return but one;—while Knaresborough, with 5,280 inhabitants, is to nominate two Members, Blackburn, with 22,000 inhabitants, is to be limited to one;—Bedford, with 5,466, and Tavistock, with 5,482 inhabitants, are still to be favoured with the double representation; while Tynemouth and Brighthelmstone, with each above 24,000, are to be put off with one. Thus, to recapitulate, four small and now close boroughs, and which in the new system may become still closer, containing about 20,000 inhabitants, are to have the undiminished number of eight Members; while four great cities, I may call them, containing 94,000 inhabitants are to be insultingly restricted to four Representatives. But let us give the noble Lord the full advantage of the large stand most comprehensive view of his plan—what is the result? 100 —eighteen of the old boroughs which his arbitrary line includes, containing about 80,000inhabitants,will send thirty-six members to this House; while eighteen new boroughs, with a population of about 280,000, are to have barely eighteen Representatives: in the former case, one Representative for every 2,300 souls; in the latter, one for every 16,500. And this astonishing disproportion is not the result of any restriction imposed on the noble Lord. He was stopped by no regard for vested rights or ancient interests—he was, with a free and unfettered hand, recasting the whole Constitution, and might, if he had so pleased, have given Bolton two members as well as Tavistock. Nor can he plead that he had no Members to spare. He found
Calne 4612 Tavistock 5482 Knaresborough 5280 Bedford 5466 20,840Ample room and verge enoughThe characters of hell to trace—and might have easily found a little space to enable him to do justice—justice on his own principles—to the larger towns. He has lopped off sixty-two Members from the House, some of whom he might have retained to correct these disproportions; or granting that the new number of Members assigned to this House is the exactly right one, still he might have preserved it, and yet have acted with something like fairness, by varying his proposition, and assigning two to Bolton and only one to Tavistock. Thus, Sir, I have shown that the noble Lord's plan is totally inconsistent with itself; and no wonder—when we find, as was so admirably proved by my right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel) last night, that the noble Lord is so entirely inconsistent with himself. I shall take the liberty of recalling to the noble Lord's recollection another instance of his inconsistency. Among former exhibitions of his talents in this House, there was one occasion on which he distinguished himself by replying to an hon. Baronet, whom I see over the way (Sir Francis Burden), on the occasion of his proposing a plan of Reform, which the noble Lord characterized as impracticable and unconstitutional. Now, Sir, I will venture to say, the hon. Baronet's plan was not more violent, not more extensive, nor more daring, than the plan of to-day: it was not a more direct infraction of private and public interests—not a more comprehensive violation of the Constitution than that of the noble Lord. It was, in other respects, much better; it had the advantage of being, at least, simple and clear, intelligible and impartial; it did. not leave the 101 door open to improper patronage, nor operate to benefit one class of interests at the expense of others. Of the two, I should infinitely prefer the plan of the hon. Baronet; and, therefore, even if I were friendly to a wide and general principle of Reform, I should feel it my duty to resist what I call so injurious and disproportionate a plan as that of the noble Lord. We have been told, that these great changes are to be made in order to satisfy the people; but this proposition is not only not what the people ask, but it is not what the people will accept; nothing like it—"they ask for bread, and you give them a stone." They do not ask, that Bolton and Blackburn, with four times the population, should have only half the representation of Calne or Tavistock; and I will venture to say, that whenever the scheme of the noble Lord comes to be generally known and perfectly understood, you will have petitions—just, reasonable, and irresistible petitions—presented from the inhabitants of those towns, who will find themselves so unjustly and partially cut off from the privilege, promised them by the noble Lord, of returning a fair proportion of Representatives. Is this a plan to make the system of Representation more full, more free, and more equal? Is it not, on the contrary, certain to scatter the seeds of contention and discord throughout the country? Will Huddersfield, Halifax, and Wakefield be contented?—can they, on any principle of proportionable Representation, be satisfied with one Representative, when twenty small boroughs are to have two? I assert, Sir, that this is the most monstrous inconsistency that even was heard of; and I now boldly tell the noble Lord, that he will not be able to carry it. There are other reasons, powerful and numerous, which will prevent such a catastrophe; but I repeat, even those who may be favourable to a free and equal Reform cannot be friendly to one so incongruous and so partial. But, Sir, this Reform has already had another very injurious and lamentable effect; it tends to make the most natural and legitimate influence so suspicious and odious, that sensitive minds are in haste to disclaim it. Let me exemplify this by what the noble Marquis opposite has said with respect to the beautiful and flourishing little town of which he bears the title—Tavistock. The Duke of Bedford—as everybody knows who 102 knows anything of that part of the country—has paid peculiar attention to that town; he has enriched it by his munificence, and adorned it by his taste; and it is, therefore, not to be wondered at that its inhabitants should be influenced towards his Grace by feelings of gratitude for the benefits which have been conferred upon them. And yet, Sir, the noble Marquis, the son of that noble Duke, felt it necessary the other night to rise in his place, and assure you, that his noble father would never again allow any influence of his family to mingle with the representation of that town. What, Sir, is it come to this, that it shall be considered as a kind of contamination if a Russell shall represent Tavistock?—come to this, that the delicacy of the noble Marquis obliges him to declare, that nobody bearing his name—a name illustrious in our annals—shall represent that town with which they have been for centuries connected, and on which they have recently conferred so much enlightened protection? God forbid, that we should ever see the time when the natural influence of a munificent and beneficent landlord like the Duke of Bedford is to be annihilated. And yet, Sir, such is the apprehended operation of this fatal Bill—such is the odium of the comparisons which it creates between such places as Bolton and Tavistook—that the heir of that illustrious house repudiates for the future an influence which is so natural and so legitimate that I hope and believe it is also inevitable and imperishable! Now, Sir, I shall, with permission of the House, proceed to say a very few words on the general principle of the noble Lord. Sir, the learned Lord declares that he and his noble friend intend to remodel and reconstruct the Constitution. In what sense does he mean to remodel and reconstruct it? It is a matter of complaint, on the other side, that the measure has been called revolutionary. I do not assert that it is meant to be so, nor that, in its present state, it is so in a legal sense; but I assert and insist that it has a revolutionary tendency, and will, if carried, at last end inevitably in a revolution. The design of the noble Lord may be honest and moderate, but human nature and circumstances will be too strong for him; and when once he has set this mighty globe in motion— down the declivity of what he calls Reform, but what I know to be Revolution— 103 it will descend with increasing force and rapidity, and all that it may meet in its progress will be involved in the wide and irreparable ruin! The first sensible effect will probably be on that part of the prerogative which gives to the Crown the choice of its Ministers—a most serious and fearful consideration; but the next, and perhaps even more important, will be the operation of this House, when it shall be the direct and immediate delegate of the democracy, on the other branches of the Legislature. By what new influence is the House of Lords to maintain its independent position in the State? Even constituted as we now are, the House of Commons has occasionally shown a disposition to encroach upon the other branch of the Legislature. I will not allude to the bad times when the Peers of the realm were voted needless nuisances, but to a more modern instance—in the year 1742, when a Bill of Indemnity for certain witnesses was sent to the Lords, which they—in their double and doubly-sacred character of Legislators and Judges, thought fit to reject—at that date a noble Lord (the Lord Strange, the eldest son of the then Earl of Derby) was found in the House of Commons to propose a vote of censure upon the House of Lords, for exercising this its most indisputable right. The good sense of the House at that day rejected this factious and dangerous motion; but such a state of things, I fear, will soon again occur, if this measure receive the sanction of Parliament. Such must be the result of human infirmity influenced by human passion. I never was more surprised than when, this night, I heard the learned Lord, through a great part of his able speech, employ himself in showing, that the indirect mode in which the influence of the Aristocracy makes itself felt in this House, is not only wrong in theory, but injurious in practice. The learned Lord argued that point with great assiduity and ample force of expression; but in reply to him I can produce, if not a higher, at least a more mature and better-reasoned authority. Sir, I hold in my hand a publication of which the learned Lord may know something. I am not entitled to say that the learned Lord wrote the article to which I am about to direct the attention of the House, but he at least gave it his sanction; however, whether he wrote it or only sanctioned it, or whether 104 it was written by the noble and learned Lord now on the Woolsack, to whom report more generally assigns the authorship —I say, let it be written by whomsoever it may, it deserves the highest praise; for sounder sense and closer argument were, I believe, never yet published, and it applies exactly and in every point to the present argument. The passage I am about to read occurs in the Edinburgh Review for July 1809, p. 300. After suggesting some objections to the inequalities of the present system of representation, and some improvements in the details of elections, the author of the article goes on to say— "Such a Reform as this, we are convinced, might be effected with perfect safety, and, we make no doubt, with considerable benefit to the country. Its beneficial effects, however, we are persuaded, would be confined to the points we have just mentioned. It would not materially touch the state of taxation or of influence; and as for altering the composition of the House of Commons, by excluding from it all who are sent there by the interest of the Ministry or of noble families, we can only say, that if we believed it at all likely to produce such an effect, we should think it our duty to strive against it, as against a measure which would deprive us of all the practical blessings of our Constitution. We took the liberty, on a former occasion, to say a good deal upon this subject; and after observing that the whole substantial power of the Government was now manifestly vested in the House of Commons, we proceeded to show that the balance of the Constitution was preserved, and could only be preserved, by being transferred into that House, where a certain proportion of the influence of the Crown and of the great families of the land was advantageously, though somewhat irregularly, mingled with the proper representation of the people. The expediency, and indeed the necessity of this arrangement, we should humbly conceive, must be manifest to all who will but consider the distractions and dreadful convulsions that would ensue if the three branches of the Legislature were really to be kept apart in their practical operations, and to check and control each other, not by an infusion of their elementary principles into all the measures of each, but by working separately to thwart or undo what had been undertaken by the other, without any means of con- 105 cert or co-operation. In the first place, it is perfectly obvious, that if the House of Commons, with its absolute power over the supplies, and its connexion with the physical force of the nation, were to be composed entirely of the representatives of the yeomanry of the countries and the tradesmen of the burghs. (This appears to have been uttered in a spirit of prophecy) —and the tradesmen of the burghs were to be actuated solely by the feelings and interests which are peculiar to that class of men, it would infallibly convert the Government into a mere democracy, and speedily sweep away the encumbrance of Lords and Commons, who could not exist at all, therefore, if they had not an influence in this assembly." In answer to the learned Lord, therefore, Sir, I produce the Edinburgh Reviewer. I certainly concur with the intelligent and able personage who wrote that article, whoever he may be, and I think the learned Lord will not find it easy to refute it. And now, Sir, I approach the conclusion of what I have to say—I approach the great and important conclusion—which is, or ought to be, the object, end, and aim, of the whole discussion—What is to be gained by this change in the Representation? The learned Lord has most powerfully described the brightening prospects and happy state of this country; he has dwelt upon its "undentable prosperity," and congratulated us on its "wealth, splendor, and happiness." Those were the very words of the learned Lord; and these or similar expressions are to be found in the speeches of every Member who has addressed you. But amidst these general admissions, that our present Constitution has produced all these glorious results, what better prospects, what happier consequences, this fine scheme is to open or to realize—that, Sir, no one has ventured, even in remote anticipation, to predict. Why, I ask, then, are we to change the certainty of so much good for a perilous uncertainty? Why are we to consent to this vital experiment without any statement, nay, without the slightest conjecture, of any possible advantage that is to arise from this measure, further at least than, as we have been told, it will satisfy the petitioners? But it is plain, from the prayer of those petitioners, as I have already shown, that this measure does not attempt to conciliate them, and will certainly not give satisfaction to those whose clamours you hope to silence. Are 106 we then to throw away admitted and substantial benefits, in the pursuit of an undefined, inexplicable; and, to my view, most frightful phantasy? Sir, the learned Lord, after exhausting his eloquence in the praise of the general prosperity of the country, turned short round on us, and drew a frightful and metaphorical picture of the present state of the country, and the appalling consequences of refusing the concessions which the existing clamour demands. He told you, Sir, that the stormy tides of popular commotion were rising around us, that the Stygian waters were rapidly gaining upon us, and that it was time for us—and barely time, to endeavour to save ourselves from being swallowed up by the devouring waves. He told you that the deluge of public opinion was about to overwhelm you, and he invited you to embark with him on this frail and crazy raft, constructed in the blundering haste of terror, as the only means of escaping from destruction. No, Sir, no; trust not—that fatal and perfidious bark!Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,No, Sir, stand firm where you are, and wait until the threatening waters subside. What you hear is not only a fictitious but a factitious clamour. Be you calm— steady and bold; and the people, under the influence of your wisdom and courage, will recover their wonted judgment, and become sensible of the value of what they would lose by this scheme, and of the uselessness of what they might gain. Of the Constitution of this country there might' perhaps have been a better theoretical arrangement; but I do in my heart firmly believe, that no human ingenuity could, â priori, have conceived so admirable a practical system, promoting, in such nice and just degrees, the wealth, happiness, and liberties of the community at large—Where jarring interests, reconciled, createTh' according music of a well-mixed state;Where small and great, where weak and strong are madeTo serve, not suffer—strengthen not invade;More powerful each, as needful to the rest,And, in proportion as it blesses, blest!Such, Sir, is the combination of the British Constitution,—a Constitution which, as my right hon. friend ably observed in his speech last night,—a speech which, from its ability, reminds us of the best days of this House, and by its principles recalls the best times of the Constitution, —a Constitution which eminent specula- 107 tive writers of antiquity shadowed out as of almost hopeless perfection, and which the words of the philosophic poet I have quoted, so admirably describe as the best of human combinations. This perfect government the country possesses, and long may it continue to enjoy it unchanged! Among its advantages is one with which I beg to conclude—that however popular clamour may be excited—however popular delusion may be created—in point of fact the nation is always attentive to the voice of the House of Commons; in the long-run, the people always acquiesce in its decisions. Government could not exist if it were otherwise, and all history attests the fact. Look back into other times, and you will find that whenever the House of Commons has done its duty, the people have returned to theirs. The noble Lord has told you that it was appeals from this House that roused the people. I admit the fact, and reply that it is the moral influence of this House which again must quiet them. At your voice disorder will subside—error will be corrected, and violence repressed—under your auspices and guidance, good sense, Constitutional opinions, and respect and love for our ancient institutions will recover their sway, and restore the nation to its accustomed moderation, tranquillity, and happiness.Exæstuantis pectoris impetum—tu regis arbiter;Mentisque, te tollente, surgunt,Te, resident, moderante, fluctus!
§ On the motion of Colonel Sibthorp, the Debate was adjourned to Monday.