§ Colonel Sibthorp
moved the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Lord J. Russell's Motion, for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Representation in England and Wales,
The Marquis of Chandos
rose and said —It is with deep regret I come forward, on this occasion, to interrupt for a minute the resumption of the Adjourned Debate. It is only through the courtesy of my gallant friend (Colonel Sibthorp) that the opportunity has been afforded to me; and I assure the House, that I should not come forward on such an occasion if I did not think it my duty to allude to a circumstance which I consider it most important should be brought to the notice of this House. Every one must admit, that it is highly necessary that our deliberations on the measure now under consideration should be unbiassed, unfettered, and conducted calmly, and without ex- 116 citement. It is a matter of the deepest regret to me, therefore, to find that persons—friends, too, of his Majesty's Ministers—not content with expressing their own opinions in support of the measure proposed, are going abroad amongst the people, trying to influence the minds of the lower classes on this subject, and to intimidate Members of this House in the performance of what they may consider their public duty on this question. I state here, before this House and the country, that no threat nor intimidation shall ever sway me in my conduct in this House, nor drive me to adopt any other course but that which I shall consider most conducive to the interests of the country. I scorn the opinions of those men, who take such means to influence public opinion— who endeavour, by violent speeches, to inflame the minds of the people, and who go so far as to teach them that, if not by free discussion within those walls, by resorting to physical force, the measure proposed by his Majesty's Ministers must be carried. I caution the noble Lord to put a stop to the progress of such proceedings out of doors. I call upon the noble Lord to show-that his Majesty's Government are determined to have a just display of the opinions of the House and the public feeling on this measure; and not by the influence of such means as I have alluded to, to direct and control their minds. I call upon him to allow the people to manifest their feelings honestly; and when the decision is come to in this House, to let every Member be able to say, that he has voted honestly, according to his conscience, and that he has not been biassed or intimidated. A meeting was held on Friday last, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in the Strand, the proceedings at which have been reported in the Morning Chronicle, and which call, as I think, for the serious attention of this House. At that meeting Colonel De Lacy Evans, lately a Member of this House, the member for Rye, is reported to have stated that he had lately come up from the coast of Sussex, where there had been two Reform Meetings; and that he knew there were 10,000 men ready to march up to London, from that part of the country, if Ministers were defeated in the measure they have brought forward. Now, it really does appear to me, Sir, that his Majesty's Ministers are called upon to notice such statements. In my opinion, no means should be allowed 117 to be taken, directly or indirectly, of biassing the determination of the Members of this House, or endeavouring by intimidation of this sort, to deter them from the performance of their duty. I have thought it my duty to call the attention of his Majesty's Ministers to this subject, and the answer I receive from the noble Lord will bias me very much in the course I shall take. It is for his Majesty's Government and the House to say what steps they consider it necessary to take in such a case, but certainly such proceedings ought not to be tolerated.
§ Lord Althorp
—Sir, I really do not know what ground the noble Marquis has for presuming that his Majesty's Ministers are encouraging any persons to inflame the public mind, with a view to disturb the deliberations of this House. I beg distinctly to state, that the Ministers have done no such thing. All we wish is, that the measure now under consideration should be calmly, dispassionately, and quietly discussed. I am aware, that the people feel a strong interest in the success of this measure, and the noble Marquis must know, as well as I do, that, when the people of this country do feel a strong interest in any public question, meetings will be held, and violent language will sometimes be used. His Majesty's Ministers have no wish, however, that the discussion of this subject should be influenced by anything but its true merits. The noble Marquis asks me what course his Majesty's Government mean to take with respect to the speech of Colonel Evans—to a passage of which the noble Marquis has called the attention of the House. I never saw any report of that speech, until my attention was drawn to it since I entered the House; but I do not hesitate to say, after having read the speech, that it appears to be a very violent and foolish speech. At the same time, I do not think it is one of those cases which the Government of the country ought to take up, and make the subject of a prosecution. If the House took up the matter as a Breach of Privilege, and I doubt very much whether we could proceed so in this instance, my experience in this House has led me to the conclusion, that nothing but strong and urgent necessity ought to induce the House to adopt that course; for, whenever such a proceeding has been adopted, I do not think the House has benefitted 118 by it. The noble Marquis says, that he will be influenced in the course he shall pursue by my answer upon this subject. The noble Marquis must take whatever course he chooses; but I can assure him and the House, that it is not the wish of his Majesty's Government to influence any one by violence or clamour on this question. On the contrary, we think that the worst thing that could happen, as regards the success of the measure, is any display of popular violence or clamour.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
did not think the noble Lord had answered the question put to him by the noble Marquis, as explicitly as he might have done. What the step was that ought to be taken in this particular case was not the point to which the noble Marquis called the attention of his Majesty's Government. There was no Gentleman in that House, however, who wished for free discussion and mature deliberation, who could withhold from the noble Marquis the praise of having acted meritoriously, in having called the attention of the King's Ministers to the passage which had been alluded to, and by calling their attention to that, directing it also to other passages and other speeches equally violent. When the noble Lord (Althorp) stated that his Majesty's Government did not wish that external threats or intimidation should be resorted to on this question, he must allow him to say, that he had not understood his duty. He would tell the noble Lord, as the Minister of the Crown, that he ought not only not to wish external threats or intimidation to be used, but it was his duty to prevent them. He could not, therefore, consent to take the definition of his duty, which the noble Lord, as the Minister of the Crown, had given the House. His duty was not only not to wish, but preventively to interpose and put a stop to, such proceedings. The noble Lord had called the passage in the speech of Colonel Evans, to which his attention was called, "violent and foolish." This was letting it down very easy. To call that passage "violent" was, no doubt, characterising it properly; but when the noble Lord added the other epithet—"foolish,"—it was alleviating—throwing a little balsam —he might say a little milk and water on it. He wished to state distinctly, that there were persons of all ranks and professions who did not believe that his Majesty's Ministers were conniving at exter- 119 nal threats and intimidation, but who were of opinion, that his Majesty's Ministers were bound by their duty to see that external threats and intimidation were not resorted to on this question. It would be too strong a charge against his Majesty's Government, to say it was conniving at such proceedings; but, if his Majesty's Government brought forward measures, and those who supported such measures resorted to threats and intimidation, and his Majesty's Ministers did not take means to put a stop to them, the charge of connivance might not be considered wholly unfounded. There was another topic to which he must advert. It was not to persons out of doors that this charge of "threats and intimidation" was exclusively confined; threats had been used in that House. In the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) a threat had been held out, but not of such a nature as would admit of any Member calling upon the Clerk to take down the noble Lord's words. The noble Lord had talked of "convulsion," in the event of the Bill being rejected. He said, they were to take the Bill or be convulsed. Now, they were convulsed undoubtedly, not by the incitement of terror, but by the excitement of ridicule. They were threatened, however, and he maintained and asserted that the threat was not thrown out against the minority of that House. The opposers of the measure were not the minority. He was of opinion that they were the majority. That would be known, however, by and by, when the votes came to be counted. Majority or minority, however, he re-asserted that the noble Paymaster had threatened the House, though not in such a manner as that a call could be made to take down his words, with convulsion in the event of—
§ The Speaker
here rose, and intimated that the hon. and learned Member could not with propriety pursue that topic any further—he was adverting to a former Debate.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
expressed his willingness, on all occasions, not only to prove his obedience to the suggestions of the Chair, but to confine himself strictly within the rules and orders of the House. He would pass by the topic to which he had been referring, and, except giving it a simple negative, would pass over another unconstitutional threat, thrown out by another member of his Majesty's Go- 120 vernment. Threats were illegally made within and without on this question, and he repeated, that it was not consistent with the duty of Ministers not to interpose preventively. In the passage to which attention had been directed, it was thrown out that 10,000 men were to march up from the coast of Sussex, to assist them, the Ministers of that House, in their deliberations. The noble Marquis (Chan-dos) had done his duty by bringing this subject under the consideration of the House. If the noble Lord meant to maintain the strength and energy of Government, he should not permit threats of that description to go forth unnoticed.
§ Lord Althorp
never meant to be understood as saying that, if illegal threats were thrown out, or intimidation used, his Majesty's Government ought to be contented with wishing that such proceedings had not been adopted. The noble Marquis accused the Ministers of exciting clamour out of doors on this question, and, on the part of his Majesty's Government, he denied that they had done any such thing. He knew, as well as the hon. and learned Member, that it was their duty to prevent the Members of that House from being influenced by threats or intimidation. He could assure the House that he would be as ready as the hon. and learned Gentleman, or any other Member of that House, to maintain the power of the law, and, by the vigorous exertion of that power, to prevent confusion, and punish violence, if anything of the kind were attempted.
§ Sir Edward Knatchbull
thought this subject most important in two points of view—as respected the conduct of his Majesty's Government and the threats which had been thrown out with regard to the important question on which the House was engaged in deliberating. He was satisfied that, whatever had fallen from persons out of doors, it was not the wish of his Majesty's Government, or of the noble Lord who represented the Ministers of the Crown in that House, to use any threat, or any improper influence; but he was sure the noble Lord and the House would agree with him, that it would be presumed that his Majesty's Government were not unwilling to countenance such proceedings, if persons connected with his Majesty's Government adopted such a course. If persons so connected used language for the purpose of exciting and inflaming the public mind, it would be- 121 come any man who disapproved of such a course of proceeding, to separate himself from those individuals who had pursued it. The House was threatened with being-forced to adopt a particular line of conduct, by an army of 10,000 men, to come out of Sussex. That was a most improper threat. There was nothing to which he had a greater aversion than calling any one to the bar of that House; but he thought the case was of sufficient importance to justify an instruction to the Attorney General to prosecute.
§ Mr. Benett
thought that nothing could be more unfair than to make a charge against the Government for a speech spoken out of doors, by a person who was not a member of that Government. It was in vain to endeavour to suppress public opinion, and wholly improper for Ministers, or those who agreed with them, to do anything that might, by possibility, lead to a convulsion. They had the legitimate support of the common sense and sound reason of the country in behalf of the measure, which was one of the most important that was ever introduced into Parliament.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, that without any allusion to what had passed in other places, he would inform the House of what had occurred at a meeting of some thousands of the livery in Common Hall. They were told most distinctly, that the franchise of many of them would be destroyed by the measure—that all those who lived out of the City would be deprived of their votes. But, with that distinct impression on their minds, they hailed the measure with enthusiasm, and voted for the resolutions unanimously, excepting that one hand was held up against one resolution, and two against another.
§ Mr. Coke
confessed that he never expected to have heard such a plan of Reform proposed by Ministers as that which his noble friend (Lord J. Russell) had stated to the House. It delighted him that a Russell should have brought forward such a Bill. He had lived a great many years, and every year had convinced him more of the necessity of Reform; but he had never indulged the hope that, at one sweep, the whole of the rotten boroughs would be carried away, and the influence of the boroughmongers extinguished for ever. He came into Parliament, many years ago, as a Whig of the old school, and little did he ever expect to 122 have seen his noble friend (Earl Grey) at the head of the Administration; who had now redeemed his pledge to the country. The plan was of the most satisfactory nature, and the feeling in favour of it was so general, that no doubt could be entertained of its success.
§ Order of the Day read.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
rose to state his sentiments, as the Representative of a large, respectable, and intelligent body of constituents. He was desirous of supporting the Ministers of the Crown, but their conduct on this occasion prevented his doing so. He could not support the Bill; the measure was too sweeping. The hon. member for Middlesex had declared, that he was perfectly satisfied with the plan of the noble Lord, and that he, a radical reformer, was not only satisfied, but that the plan had gone beyond his expectation. If that was the sentiment of a radical reformer, what must be his sentiment, who was neither a radical nor root and branch reformer? Though he was loth to support the Bill, he was perfectly ready to admit that some Reform was required. He was quite ready to admit, that there was room for an improvement in the state of the Representation; but when he looked at the provisions of this Bill, which at "one fell swoop" took away the franchise from those who had done nothing to merit the loss, to give it to others who had no better claim to its possession, he could not help considering the measure as one which was partial and unjust in its operation. Another point, which he thought the House had a right to complain of, and which he was glad had been mentioned that evening, was, the excitement which was raised in the minds of the people on the subject; he did not intend to accuse the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the noble Lord who had brought forward this question, as having, by their conduct or their words, tended to create that excitement, but that it did exist, and that it was mischievous in its effects, there could be no doubt. He wished, therefore, that more time should be given for deliberate inquiry and calm examination. He wished that inquiry to be prosecuted under happier auspices. The noble Lord, in opening the Debate, had certainly seemed to flatter himself that he intended to act upon a principle; but he (Colonel Sibthorp) would almost consent to pledge his word that it would be found, on in- 123 vestigation, that most of those boroughs which were still to have one Representative left, belonged to Whig patrons, while such was not the case with those boroughs against which sentence of death had been passed without any hopes of mercy. He wished then to advert to what had been said by the First Lord of the Admiralty? That right hon. Baronet had threatened, that if the House did not support the Government, Parliament should be dissolved. But he would tell that right hon. Baronet, that he was not afraid, to go back to his constituents, and no threat at any time should prevent his giving his honest vote and opinion in that House. If the Ministry really wanted to do something that should be of benefit to the country, he thought that it would be much better if they would adopt the strict letter of the Act by which no person holding place or pension was to have the right of voting in Parliament. He was a Reformer, but no Radical Reformer; but as he wished that the people of England should have full knowledge of the notable Bill which the noble Lord was about to introduce (though, in his opinion, it would never pass into a law), he should not oppose its being read a first time; but, at the same time, he would not pledge himself in that House to any single vote that he would give about it. Since this was a Bill which was to give the death-blow to one borough after another, he should like to ask the hon. member for Bletchingley (Mr. Tennyson), how he could take a seat in that House, become one of the Ministry, and actually go back to be re-elected for that very borough, when the Ministry to which he belonged had in substance declared, that the borough which he represented was incapable of sending an honest representative to Parliament? And since the noble Lord himself had relied so much upon the principle of his Bill, it might have been as well if he would have waited till a new census could be made up, before he decided on the boroughs to be disfranchised; in which case he was persuaded that it would be found, that many of those which were only to have one arm lopped off, would have had to change places with those which, according to the census of 1821, were to be killed outright. There was also one important question which the noble Lord had omitted, and one which, if the Bill should ever get as far as the Committee, he himself would take the 124 opportunity of mentioning there. The noble Lord had said no one single word on the point which he (Colonel Sibthorp) looked upon as the sine qua non of a reformed Parliament, and that was, the encouragement of the liberty of the Press. In his opinion, it was highly necessary that provision should be made for all the debates in that House to go forth freely, fully, and honestly, to the public. It would at least have the advantage of showing the public what Members did their duty, and what did not. As there would, he trusted, be future opportunities of addressing the House on the merits of the Bill, he would not at that time trespass longer on their patience.
§ Mr. Tennyson
said, his opinions on this question were so well known, that he would not have intruded them on the House if be had not been so pointedly called on by the hon. and gallant Member who had just spoken, and on a previous evening by the hon. member for Boroughbridge (Sir C. Wetherell). If he understood the hon. and gallant Member right, he charged him with representing the rotten borough of Bletchingley—with having received office under his Majesty's present Government—and with having been re-elected for that borough after having so accepted office. Now, with respect to the rotten part of this charge, it certainly was not fair to make it against him, as the hon. and gallant Member must very well know, that it was only in obedience to the law, and not from any choice of his own, that he had been re-elected after taking office. Neither could he see how it was any reproach to him, under the existing circumstances of the Representation of the country, to sit for that borough, though he knew that he had but one constituent. His opinions on Reform were well known; and the representation that he had enjoyed he had always used for the benefit of the people; and so long as he sat for that borough he would always so use it. Did, then, the hon. and gallant Member suppose, that he should shrink from giving a vote consistent with the principles he had always maintained on this question, even though, by so doing, he should be, according to the words of the hon. member for Callington, committing a sort of suicide? He was ready to do that, and much more, to place the liberties of his country on a permanent, and, as he trusted, on an everlasting basis. Let the hon. Member but wait till the 125 question came to a vote, and he should have no cause to complain. To him, however, the sacrifice he should be called on to make would be small. He could but lose a seat in Parliament; but as the hon. and gallant Colonel had also mentioned his hon. relative, the member for Durham, he was bound to say for him, what the hon. Gentleman was too modest to say for himself, that he was ready to make the sacrifice of three nominations to seats in that House, which had descended to him, and by which he would place the sacrifice of 100,000l. on the altar of his country, to give it an opportunity of rallying against that Oligarchy which had too long overborne it. The King and the people were united. His Majesty's Ministers were at length the friends of the people. The battle they had to fight was the battle of the King and of the people. They would not shrink from any portion of the responsibility which they had undertaken, and the result would be, that they must ultimately crush and destroy that many-headed monster which had too long weighed like an incubus on the best interests and prosperity of the kingdom. In conclusion, he could but congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for having, as he said, defended the rights of his constituents, particularly as those constituents were, as he (Mr. Tennyson) was informed, about to petition in favour of the Bill.
§ Sir George Clerk
had to enter his protest against the inference drawn by the Lord Advocate, that because the Scotch Members had been silent, they necessarily approved of the measure. He, as a Scotch Member, had been anxious, at an earlier period of the Debate, to offer his opinions on the question; but had not been so fortunate as to find an opportunity. He was, however, nearly precluded from entering into the question, because the noble Lord (J. Russell) had not detailed the plan with respect to Scotland. The proposition, however, with respect to the counties of Scotland was most extraordinary, for it seemed that they were to be doubled up together where the counties were not contiguous. He would not deny, that that part of the present representation was objectionable, but he did not think that the plan proposed would better it. The question now before the House was, whether there was any overbearing necessity for so violent a 126 change in the Constitution of Great Britain as that proposed by the noble Lord? He denied that there was any ground for so extraordinary a change. It would cause a great evil, and inflict great injustice on a large body of the people. They were too apt to argue, that they might do a little wrong, in the expectation of accomplishing a great good: that was, for such fallible beings as men, a most erroneous maxim. He would not say anything as to the spoliation or robbery that had been talked of, for he agreed with the hon. member for Westminster, that the change proposed was within the power of Parliament; but the mode in which that power should be exercised was a matter of discretion. They had been asked, whether they would rest upon the Constitution as it existed in the time of the Star Chamber? His answer to that was, that he would rest upon it, as it was formed at the time of the glorious Revolution of 1688. But they were now called upon to make as great a change as the one which took place then. That was not necessary. He was prepared to alter and amend where necessary, but this Bill went to pull down and destroy, and they might never be able to rebuild. The noble Lord himself, who was now sanguine in his measure, had not always held the same tone. From the year 1823 to the year 1826, he had introduced an annual motion on the subject, and he then withdrew it, on account, according to his own statement, of the luke-warmness of the people. When Mr. Canning stated' in that House that he would oppose Reform to the last day of his life, the noble Lord said, that he had proposed to his friends to make it a party question, but that they had declined. In the year 1828 there were no petitions presented for Reform. In the year 1829 there were none; but in that year the Catholic Question was passed; and those who had opposed that measure had contended, that the Parliament did not represent the voice of the people, in consequence of which they had taken every opportunity of stirring up their constituents and others to petition the House for Reform; but he believed that there were many who now bitterly repented the extremity to which they were likely to be hurried by this Bill. The crisis had been hastened on by the events at Paris, and by the ambition of individuals who would yet live to regret their 127 folly. The learned Lord, the member for Dundee, grounded his arguments in favour of the Bill upon the petitions; but what did the petitioners demand?—not this Bill; the great majority of the Petitioners demanded the Vote by Ballot; and if the learned Lord could support Reform on such grounds he ought, on the same principle, to support Vote by Ballot. The principal reason which the people had for demanding Reform was, that they expected it would lead to a reduction of taxation and relieve their distress. He remembered that the hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, stated a few nights ago, that the Irish people wanted food and clothing; and that the hon. member for Waterford, having told the Irish that the Repeal of the Union would give them food and clothing, they were all eager for a Repeal of the Union as a means of getting food and clothing. For a similar reason, the people of England now called for a Reform of Parliament in order to get a reduction of taxation. Reform was now to be the specific for every evil. The country was, indeed, under great obligations to the present Government for having disabused it of the error, that it was practicable to make any further reduction of taxation. The present Ministers wished to do so, but when they had been a short time in office they found it impossible. He feared, that if reduction of taxation were attained through the medium of Reform, it would be by attacking the public creditor; and such a Reform, for such an object, he was sure the great mass of the people could not desire. The petitioners, too, generally, asked for the reduction of tithes, and that reduction they were likely to obtain by a Reform, for he doubted if any property would be safe under a reformed Parliament. If the Bill were thrown out, as he believed it would be, by a large majority, they would, no doubt, be all sent to their constituents, as the First Lord of the Admiralty had threatened, and he would then recommend Ministers to go to their constituents, not as the right hon. member for Tamworth said, with that Bill in their hands, but with the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They might say to the advocates of Parliamentary Reform and retrenchment, that the great extent of the country, and the increase of population, demanded an expensive Government; that they had found it necessary to keep up taxation; that they could only take off one tax by laying on another; and, if they did that, they would 128 soon see the agitation cease on which they justified their measure, and the number of petitions for Reform sensibly diminish. To justify the sweeping measure of the noble Lord, what were the evils he pointed out? Formerly, the great evil always complained of, was the overwhelming influence of the Crown, which was to be overcome by strengthening the popular party. But the noble Lord had stated nothing about the influence of the Crown, because he could with no reason allege that it was on the increase. During the last four years, the greatest reductions in all the national establishments had been made, which, combined with the general diffusion of knowledge by means of the Press, prevented the influence of the Crown from being as great as it ought to be, and completely prevented it from being now employed to the detriment of the country. The House and the country were satisfied that the influence of the Crown was not now extreme. The noble Lord had described the great evils of the present system to be nomination boroughs, close corporations, and the expense of elections. The last evil was one every Member would be glad to lessen; but he doubted if the plan of the noble Lord would be efficacious for the purpose. He rather thought that the plan would increase the expense, and would give greater facility for bribery and corruption than at present. The principle of the Bill was, to establish an uniformity of suffrage, cutting off the Peers on the one hand, by cutting off the nomination boroughs, and cutting off the poor on the other, by cutting off the close corporations, and the scot and lot voters. It disfranchised Old Sarum and Gatton, but it also disfranchised non-resident freemen, and persons who had not a house of 10l. a year. How that class of electors in Westminster and Preston would like that he did not know. It was said, indeed, he knew, that it was not individuals who were to be disfranchised, but a class. But what would be the operation of the measure? It would not, he believed, be practicable to deprive those of their franchise; but if it were, only one interest would come to be represented—that of the middle classes. It had been said, could it be believed that a revolutionary measure would receive the support of the Representatives of the Houses of Russell, Spencer, and Stanley? But this species of argument was any thing rather than satisfactory. We must judge of measures according to their intrinsic 129 merits, not by the men who proposed them. Disclaimers, such as he had alluded to, had been made frequently before, but how were they treated? When the noble Lord brought forward his Reform Motion in 1826, how did the noble Lord (now the Home Secretary) receive those disclaimers of revolutionary tendency and intention? Lord Melbourne (then Mr. Lamb) observed, "the noble mover had stated, that he was not favourable to democracy; the noble seconder had echoed the same opinion; and the hon. member for Westminster had declared that he wished for nothing that could tend to revolution. Now he could only say, in answer to this, that individuals did not always want what they got, nor get what they wanted. The question here was not what Gentlemen were seeking, but, supposing they got that which they sought, what effect such an event would have on the Constitution? And his opinion was, that the alteration which was proposed would trench extremely on the monarchical portion of the Constitution."✶ In 1821 the hon. member for Durham brought in a bill, by which it was proposed to make a material alteration in the constitution of the House,—indeed, an alteration completely analogous to the present scheme; and what was the opinion of Mr. Abercromby, now Chief Baron of Scotland, on the plan? By the way, he thought Mr. Abercromby's opinion ought to have considerable weight with some Gentlemen opposite. That hon. Member said, "he felt it necessary to state, that he never could, under any circumstances, give his assent to the plan of Reform proposed by his hon. friend, the member for Durham (Mr. Lambton). If carried into effect, he could view it in no other light than as tending to a complete revolution." † Now, the plan of 1821 so nearly resembled—nay, was so completely identified with—the present Bill, that he almost thought it came out of the same workshop. It was unnecessary to add, that he was as much opposed to this plan as Mr. Abercromby could be to its predecessor. Indeed, he felt called upon to offer every opposition in his power to the measure, which he considered unjust in principle, and dangerous to our established institutions, if reduced to practice. He should be ever proud to have his name✶ See Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, Vol. xv, New Series, p. 713.† Ibid. Vol. v, p. 430.130 enrolled on the list of the large majority by which he felt confident that the measure would be rejected.
§ Mr. Anderson Pelham, as the Representative of a close borough (Newton), thought it right to state his reason for supporting the measure. He was convinced that it could never have been the intention of Parliament, that a borough containing only 102 souls should return two Members, while such towns as Manchester were unrepresented. He was happy, too, in knowing that the vote he should give had the full sanction of his family, who were willing to sacrifice all private interests for the advantage of the public. Nor could he fail to express his belief, that the Isle of Wight would be as well represented by the one Member it was proposed to give it, as by the several Members its boroughs at present returned. He should vote for the Bill.
§ Mr. J. T. Hope
said, he was sure that the fact of his being one of the Representatives of Gatton would not weigh with the House in judging of the free and unbiassed sentiments to which he should give utterance. He had intended, being a Scotchman, to rise in reply to the learned Lord, the member for Dundee; and he trusted that the silence of the Scottish Members would not be construed into approbation of the measure. It was not, however, necessary to trouble the House with observations on the details of a Bill—-he meant the Bill affecting Scotland— which was not yet, and which, perhaps, never would be brought forward. He was actuated solely by a sense of duty in then rising to oppose the Bill. The question, as it appeared to him, resolved itself into two heads—first, as to the necessity and propriety of Reform generally; and next, as to the propriety of this particular measure of Reform. He was not going to trouble the House with his opinion as to the propriety of Reform generally, not because he represented Gatton, but because he felt that his moderate abilities, and his inexperience, must deprive that opinion of any value. But this he might be permitted to say, that if Reform were necessary or proper, the necessity or propriety did not appear from any reasons which had been adduced by Gentlemen opposite. Indeed, all their arguments resolved themselves into this simple reason, there existed a call for reform out of doors, and therefore Reform must be conceded. But he submitted, that this argument 131 proved too much,—if it was to be received at all, it must be taken to show that it was not necessary for the House to deliberate at all, it had only to follow the popular current. He really thought that they were at present placed in the unfortunate situation which once occurred in the great Council of Persia, during, if he recollected rightly, the reign of Cambyses. That monarch asked the consent of his Council to do some act which was contrary to the immutable laws of the Medes and Persians; and, on a certain day, he came before them, not, as it appeared to them, to require advice, but in a spirit of dictation. The Council felt unwilling to depart from established rules; but happily, while they were in this state of uncertainty, they found a law by which the king was permitted to do what he liked. The case was similar here. When the sovereign people came forward with their claims, they discovered, it seemed, a law, by which they were authorized to act as they pleased. He would not call their representations a cry or a clamour, as hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had done, when the people raised their voices and exerted their utmost powers to prevent the granting of Catholic Emancipation. He admitted that representations on the subject of Reform, emanating from the people, did exist; but he denied that they would be of that enduring nature which the advocates of the measure described. The question of the duration of the present feeling had, in his opinion, been disposed of by several hon. Members. For his own part, not only did he believe that it would not be durable, but he further thought, that this expression of opinion might be put on a very different basis from that on which it had been placed. It struck him that Reform was not the end which was kept in view, but that it was supported as the means of attaining two very distinct and different objects by two very distinct and different classes of people. Proceeding on the maxim fas est ab hoste doceri, he would, in touching on this part of the subject, adopt the division which had been laid down on a former evening by the hon. and learned Lord opposite. The hon. and learned Lord had divided those who were in favour of Reform into two classes,—the one comprising the intelligence which was found in the middle class of life, the other composed of crazy radicals and visionary an- 132 archists, who were ready to share amongst themselves the plunder of the country. Now what object, he would ask, had the middle class of society in view? Had they no other object but Parliamentary Reform? Let the House look to their petitions. Let them examine those petitions, and they would find that the petitioners almost uniformly called for a reduction of taxation. They clearly considered Parliamentary Reform as the great means of obtaining that reduction? He knew very well (hat taxation bore very heavily on the people; and he sincerely wished that the assessed and other taxes could be removed; but he feared that, situated as the country was, it would be impossible to afford such relief. He was sorry to observe that the people had been led away, and discontent had been fomented, by false lists of the salaries and emoluments which were granted to individuals; and Gentlemen on the other side of the House, he regretted to say, had assisted in keeping up that feeling, before they got into office; but since they had been in power, they had come down to the House and declared, that, under the existing circumstances of the country, it was out of their power to make any great or considerable reduction. Ministers ought, however, to state explicitly what those circumstances were which rendered them unable to meet the wishes of the petitioners in that respect. Would Parliamentary Reform enable them to grant relief from taxation? He thought not. Would it ameliorate the situation of Ireland? Certainly not, for it scarcely touched that country at all. Would it give relief to the agricultural labourers? No: all it would do with respect to them was to disfranchise them. Would Reform, he demanded, tend to allay the storms which now disturbed the Continent? That question he need not answer; but if Reform would do none of these things, how it could diminish the expenditure he could not possibly conjecture. He could not see the necessity for this proposed Reform; for the House, as it was now constituted, he was convinced, was anxious to do every thing that could be done for the benefit of the people. Was not every man in that House as solicitous for the national welfare as for his own private honour? Did not every Member feel and prize the high and glorious situation which this country held amongst other nations, as much as he felt and prized the liberty which it Was his 133 birth-right to enjoy? He denied, that the state of the empire would be benefitted by Parliamentary Reform, which would only create alarm, distrust, and confusion. What answer, then, should be given to those two classes of applicants? To the first he would say, "We are ready to take off taxation as far as any reformed Parliament can." With respect to the other class, the radicals and anarchists, when once they were stripped of their specious pretences, and placed distinctly before the public, they would be regarded with merited abhorrence. Would the House, then, yield to the demands of these clamorous people? If they did, it would be only adding fuel to the flame of discontent? for the radical party, he was certain, if encouraged, would not be satisfied till nothing appertaining to the Constitution was left undestroyed. As to the measure itself, he objected decidedly to it, because it drew a line of distinction, which did not at present exist between those to whom the franchise would be given, and those from whom it was withheld. It would also create a great distinction between two interests which were and ought to be intimately connected—he meant the manufacturers and the landed proprietors. These, he might be allowed to observe, were not distinct bodies, although many persons supposed them to be so. They were one and the same, having the same interests, and finding the same advantages in all public measures. The noble Lord's Bill was described as a restoration of the Constitution. That it was not; it was not a Reform according to the principles of the old Constitution, but it did, in fact, go to the establishment of a new one. The question then came to this— Was this projected Constitution a good one? He had considered the subject attentively, and he thought not, because it appeared to him to give the House of Commons too much power. In his opinion, they were about to confer the elective franchise on those who had neither sufficient property nor sufficient education to guarantee a just and correct use of that privilege. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stanley) had observed recently, that every tardy concession was like the celebrated Sibylline Books—the longer you put off the purchase, the more you paid, and the less you were likely to receive. Now, he had never heard of 134 any benefit that had been derived from the extravagantly dear purchase of the Sibylline volume, and he believed that just as little good would be effected by Parliamentary Reform.
§ Lord Dudley Stuart
rose and said, Sir,—After all that has been urged by both sides on this great question, I can scarcely hope to adduce any new argument for the consideration of the House; and it would be still more presumptuous in me to expect, by any thing that I can have to say, to influence in any degree its decision. Still, Sir, feeling strongly, as I do, on the subject, I cannot be satisfied without entreating the indulgence of the House, while I endeavour, as briefly as possible, to state my views and opinions upon it. I have considered it my duty to give to this important, this awful subject, my best attention. I have listened attentively and anxiously to what has been urged on either side of the House; and, although I have heard many brilliant speeches, and much eloquence, from Gentlemen opposite, yet, I confess, that I have heard no argument which convinces me of the inexpediency or impolicy of this measure. It appears to me, Sir, that all their arguments go to the exclusion of all Reform; yet none of them are bold enough to say they are against all Reform; not one of them has ventured to raise the standard of anti-reform, and they are all, I believe, disposed to give Representatives to the large towns. I ask those Gentlemen who are now willing to grant some Reform, by giving representatives to populous places, where they were when bills were brought into the House for the purpose of disfranchising certain boroughs, and giving their representatives to large towns? If those Gentlemen had then declared the sentiments which they now profess, we should not see those important places still unrepresented; and the measure now proposed might have been unnecessary. Sir, those who are against reform, argue as if our Constitution was so perfect that it could not be improved. Our's is certainly a noble, a glorious Constitution: but there are in it defects and a symptom of decay which, if not cured, will cause the ruin of the whole. I have no sympathy with those who would rather bear the inconvenience and abuses of the present system, (although they feel and acknowledge them) than make any change; and who are afraid to make any alteration, lest what 135 they think tolerable now, should be made very bad. Such a principle is a bar to all improvement. But we are told that this measure is unconstitutional: if we look at the history of our country, we shall find that many changes have, at different times, been made in the state of the representation; and that great statesman, Mr. Pitt, referring to history, declared that "no doctrine of antiquity was more indisputable than that the state of the representation should be changed with the changes of our circumstances." But, without going further back, we have an instance of such a change, a very short time ago, in the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders in Ireland. It is said, that the proposed measure will destroy the just influence of property, and overturn the aristocracy; I should be very sorry to see any such effect produced. Under this measure, the great proprietors in this country will have a just weight and influence, and they will not have an unjust influence. Under this measure they will not possess the influence of property alone; but they will require that of character also; and if they will consent to live in the country, to attend to the wants, and wishes, and interests of those who surround them, to fulfil the duties of their station, then will the great proprietors of England never be without that weight and influence which are so salutary when united with ordinary talents. I consider that one of the advantages of this measure is, that, by inducing gentlemen to reside more in the country, and to mix more with the people, it will promote good-will and sympathy between the different classes of the community, and tend greatly to cement the bonds of society. This of itself is a very beneficial consequence. The expense of county elections will, by this measure, be materially reduced, which every person must admit will be a very great amendment. But the great, the capital advantage of all is, that it will conciliate large masses of the people, and, by removing from them all just cause of discontent, restore their confidence in the Government, and confirm their attachment to our national institutions. It has been said, that this measure is conceded to intimidation and popular clamour. Sir, I deny that it is so conceded. Undoubtedly there is popular clamour, but it is popular clamour founded on just and reasonable grounds. Sir, I never would concede to 136 popular excitement this or any measure, which I did not feel satisfied in my conscience was for the good of the country. Sir, I have said that the great advantage of this measure is, that it will conciliate large masses of the people, and I must observe, that the persons so to be conciliated are the most important of the community—the middling classes; the most virtuous, and generally the most influential, in all countries; and particularly the pride and flower of England. I certainly do rejoice, Sir, that the franchise is to be high in those towns which are now, for the first time, to have Members; at the same time I do not feel quite satisfied at the prospect of the lowest classes being altogether and in every place deprived of Representatives. I have some doubts whether that is politic or right. I also fear, that when we go into the details of the measure, it will be found that there are some very hard cases, with, regard to boroughs which had not a sufficient number of inhabitants in 1821 to entitle them to Representatives in Parliament, but which have that number now. I am afraid that the inhabitants of such boroughs will feel themselves, and not altogether without reason, rather unjustly treated. I am reminded by an hon. Member, that these considerations will more properly be entertained when we go into Committee. I feel the justice of that remark, and I merely wish to throw out these observations for the consideration of his Majesty's Ministers. I have no doubt that we shall very soon have that opportunity of discussing the details of the Bill; I understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not intend to oppose bringing in the Bill, but whether they do or not, I have no doubt that we shall very shortly be enabled to bring in the Bill and carry it into the Committee. The hon. member for Preston, the other evening, would not allow that this House attended to the wishes and interests of the people; I trust that he will soon have grounds to change his opinion, when he sees this measure carried by a triumphant majority. I cannot, Sir, feel any apprehension for our success from the circumstance of 168 Members of this House representing close and rotten boroughs. I cannot believe that any hon. Member will be influenced by motives so sordid that I should repudiate them with scorn if imputed to myself. Sir, there is one reason which makes it very painful to me to support 137 this measure, that is, that I fear I may be acting in a manner disagreeable to my constituents, since the borough which I have the honour to represent will lose by it one Member. Should I be so fortunate as to be chosen to represent that borough again, I should only be, what the hon. member for Guildford has facetiously called, half a man. It is undoubtedly extremely painful to me to act in any circumstances in opposition to the interests or wishes of my constituents; but, Sir, I feel that I have a great public duty to perform, and no consideration on earth shall deter me from discharging it. Sir, I envied the noble Lord who introduced this measure when I saw him, after maintaining so many struggles, and fighting so many battles in this great cause, at length stand forth as the organ of his Majesty's Ministers and propose this grand measure to this House and to this country. I thank the noble Lord for the admirable manner in which he discharged the glorious task imposed upon him. I thank his Majesty's Ministers for this, not revolutionary measure, but for this measure which will perpetuate to the country the advantages and blessings of our glorious Revolution of 1688; and, when I thank them, I am certain that I am responded to by the voice of the whole nation.
§ Colonel Tyrell
assured the House that he would not occupy its attention beyond a very few minutes. In his opinion, the Debate ought to have ended with the speech delivered by a right hon. Gentleman at the close of a former evening, because that speech was not only unanswerable, but unanswered. Yes, he thought that the Debate might very well have closed there: time, however, being given, in the first instance, for the dying speech of the noble Lord opposite. Nothing new could now be said on this subject. He was sure that a novel idea would be bought up at a large premium. The hon. member for Midhurst (Mr. J. Smith) had said, that his joy was so great when Ministers brought forward this measure, that it had actually taken away his breath. He might say the same, it had also taken away his, but from a very different feeling. In consequence of the great agitation which prevailed, this question of Reform at present excited much greater interest in that House than it had ever previously done. He, however, did not believe (and he would 138 state his reasons why) that the people were so very anxious for Reform as had been described. He had recently stood one of the most severe election contests that ever took place in the United Kingdom, and during the whole of that contest, the great question of Parliamentary Reform was altogether lost sight of. ["No, no," said Mr. Wellesley.] The opinion which he might hold on that subject was never, he contended, demanded from him during the whole of his canvass. Neither did he feel it necessary to state what that opinion was. It did, however, occur to the hon. member for Colchester, whom he saw at the back of the Speaker's Chair, as an after-thought, to ask what opinion he had on this subject. That circumstance took place at the latter end of the contest, and the statement he made to the hon. Member then, was precisely the same as he should be inclined to make to a similar question now. He had then said, in answer to the question, that wherever corruption was proved to exist, he would be ready and willing to move for the extension of the franchise, whether that corruption was discovered in the town of Colchester or in the borough of St. Ives. It was not altogether unworthy of remark, that this great contest took place in a county abutting on this metropolis, and that county unfortunately was, like the sister kingdom, troubled with two great agitators. One of these great agitators presented a petition, no longer ago than last Monday, which petition purported to state what was the opinion of the people of Essex with respect to Parliamentary Reform. The King's representative in the county of Essex had not attached his name to that petition, and perhaps he would for thus withholding his sanction be cashiered. Probably some right hon. Gentleman opposite could inform him whether he was right in his conjecture. He would tell the Government in return, what his constituents meant by Reform; they meant reduction of taxation, they meant economy, retrenchment, and the repeal of the assessed taxes. In their opinions on those subjects for the most part he agreed, as neither he nor they were averse to the imposition of a well-regulated Property-tax, and he was himself an humble advocate for such a moderate Reform as could be effected consistently with a due regard for the ancient institutions of the country. He was opposed alike to the wild theories of the 139 learned member for Waterford, and the dangerous whims of the hon. member for Middlesex. The measure proposed by his Majesty's present Ministers appeared to him oppressive, tyrannical and revolutionary, and he thanked the noble Lord accordingly for having exposed it to men of plain understandings, unmystified by Cabinet humbug, or the usual significant obscurity of office. The proposition, in fact, amounted to this, were they prepared at once to sacrifice their constitution, valuable as it was on account of its antiquity, not to the tricolour of Lafayette and Co., but to the quadricoloured flag of the firm of Lee, Bousfield and Co.? He could not better conclude his observations than in the words of the hon. member for Colchester, which certainly should induce them to consider what they were about; for that hon. Gentleman, every one well knew, was not a person to stand upon trifles, never having courted the reputation of being "particular to a shade." The radicals, it should be remembered, were all strenuous advocates for this notable Ministerial plan of Reform, and what said the hon. Gentleman who belonged to that party, no later than Monday last?—"The radicals," quoth he, "by their system would eventually overthrow monarchy itself, which, after all, is the most paternal form of Government which the ingenuity of man has ever been able to devise." For himself he could undertake to say, that were he thought worthy of being placed at the head of an Administration, instead of directing the energies of his Cabinet to the subject of Reform, he should propose to abolish the Assessed Taxes, and substitute a Property-tax.
§ Mr. Sykes
said, that Government, in the present measure, merely designed to take away a certain power from parties who ought never to have possessed it, and he therefore felt himself justified in promoting it to the utmost of his ability. Their opponents—who, by the way, spoke the sentiments of others by whom they were habitually controlled, had called this scheme of Reform revolutionary. Now it was most desirable that those Gentlemen should define the word revolutionary, and explain the acceptation in which they had hitherto employed it. If to transfer the franchise from corrupt and depopulated boroughs, to extensive counties and important towns, was revolutionary, then 140 revolutionary he acknowledged it to be. He would wish, however, meanwhile, to be referred to the Statute, whereby Peers were entitled to have Representatives in that House in common with the people, to whom, by every principle of the Constitution, it ostensibly belonged. If the Sovereign and the nobles of the realm had a legitimate claim to legislate for the nation in what was nominally recognized as the House of Commons, where was the necessity for a House of Lords, properly so called? Were not the prerogative of the Crown and the privileges of the peerage superfluous, if the principle of such an unconstitutional anomaly were acknowledged? He entirely denied the assertion of the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge, that this measure would amount to a corporation robbery, and referred him to the speech of his learned friend, the Attorney General, for its triumphant refutation. He cordially approved of the policy of Ministers on the important question before them, as it would concede to the people their just rights, and raise a large portion of the most respectable and intelligent classes of the community to the station which their weight and interest in this country undeniably deserved.
§ Mr. Long Wellesley
said, he should have been anxious to express his sentiments in the course of the present debate, even if his hon. friend, the member for Essex, had not taken the opportunity to utter opinions, on the part of his constituents, which, to his knowledge, a very considerable portion of that constituency disavowed. He was himself one of those Gentlemen who, according to the phrase of hon. Members opposite, were about to be despoiled of half their rights; and had, consequently, a double claim to be heard. A numerous and most respectable body of freeholders, convened at a county meeting by the sheriff, had agreed to petition in favour of Parliamentary Reform, as well as other things, and that petition he had lately had the honour to present to the House. The hon. Gentleman's colleague (Mr. Western) had been all his life an advocate for Reform, and he should consider it fair to put that hon. Member's opinions in opposition to his (Colonel Tyrell's), as representing, at least, in an equal degree, those of the county by which they were returned. The friends of this measure were not to be described as favourable to revolution, when 141 they only sought to restore the national institutions to their primitive condition, and to save the country itself From the very evils which the opponents of Reform professed to expect as the consequences of its concession. He had never been fond of what was, in these times, designated agitation, but it was well known that the most respectable yeomanry of Essex had distinctly called on him to rescue their county from the degraded state of its representation, and had subsequently supported him to the extent of 2,000 votes, in consideration of his principles in favour of Reform, Retrenchment, and Non-intervention. No one had ever made more sacrifices than himself when he voted for measures, not men; but he had already relinquished personal considerations, and he should always persevere in meriting, at least, the praise of consistency in rectitude of purpose. If he were asked what, in his opinion, had most contributed to the acknowledged misery of the country, he should say without hesitation, that it was to be attributed to the last Government's not having been sufficiently guided by large and liberal principles of policy. If, however, there was any one point more than another on which the country unanimously agreed, it was, as to the necessity of Reform generally, let them differ on other topics as they might. If the people themselves were not so universally in favour of a Reform in the Legislature, he should be perhaps inclined to question the expediency of this measure, although he would always deny it to be revolutionary; but the multitude of petitions which they had received from all quarters furnished the best moral evidence of the existing state of public opinion. All the petitions which had been presented to the House, though they might differ in some minor points, agreed in one particular—they all prayed for Reform. He said it was a curious fact, that the counties palatine of Chester and Durham had never sent Members to Parliament until the time of Charles 2nd. The hon. Gentleman sat down after going into a detail of the state of the Representation of the country from the time of Edward 1st, to the accession of William 3rd, which could not be heard in the gallery, notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's entreaty to be listened to patiently on so important a question.
§ Sir G. Warrender
disapproved of the proposed Reform Bill, because it was not 142 a measure conferring rights on the people, but withdrawing and confiscating those rights which they already possessed. He should not have objected to see Representatives of Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, in that House; and he was sorry that advantage had not been taken of the conviction of the corrupt borough of Grampound, to transfer the franchise to Leeds; but he considered it a gross act of injustice to deprive any body of people of the elective franchise, without any act of delinquency being proved. In that point of view he had looked at the measure for the disfranchisement of the Irish 40s. freeholders, and he regarded in the same light the proposal to disfranchise his constituents, the potwallopers of Honiton. He had received communications from such of his constituents as were Radical Reformers, and they informed him, that they could not understand why they were to be deprived of their rights, because the Ministers wished to diminish the numbers of that House. He hoped he should be allowed to make a few observations respecting a country with which he was connected. The learned Lord (the Lord Advocate),—to whose speech the other night he had listened with the greatest pleasure, —had stated, that the requisition for the Edinburgh Reform-meeting was signed by many individuals who had lately become converts to the expediency of granting Reform. He (Sir G. Warrender) felt deep interest, and, consequently, paid great attention to whatever took place in the city of Edinburgh. He admitted that the requisition was signed by the most respectable persons, at the head of whom was the Dean of Faculty, now the Lord Advocate; but he was not aware that any one either attended the meeting, or signed the requisition, who had not always been a consistent advocate of Reform. A very large portion of intelligent and respectable persons did not concur in the petition which had been got up in Edinburgh; and he was sure that three-fourths of the petitioners would not be satisfied with the measure of Reform proposed by the Government. That measure, he was certain, would destroy the power of the landed interest in Scotland. A petition in favour of Reform had been presented from Roxburghshire; but he was anxious that the House should be informed, that the petition did not emanate from the freeholders, who had the right of voting, but from the 143 heritors of the county, who were all desirous of obtaining the elective franchise, which was so important and valuable in Scotland. The Reformers of Scotland were like the Roman reformer Catiline, who was aliena appetens, but after what the House had heard respecting the boroughs of Malton and Tavistock, he could not say that the reforming party in England bore out the similitude in being sui profusus. A very unjust cry had been raised against the Members for close boroughs, but he declared, that he never gave such independent votes as when he was member for Westbury, and had the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) for his colleague. He had divided against the right hon. Baronet on every occasion but one, and that was when they both found themselves in a minority. He declared, that if the proposed measure should pass, the boroughs which would be left in the possession of the elective franchise would be subject to Treasury influence. He had some experience in these matters, and he knew that the Representatives of boroughs with a thousand and upwards of voters, were more teased by importunities than Members for close boroughs. He had kept a list of the applications made to him while he represented an open borough, and he found, that if they could have been granted they would have amounted to between 35,000l. and 40,000l. If Reform was to be the order of the day, he should like to see the people begin by reforming themselves. He had only one other observation to make, and that was, that the measure would throw out a great number of most able and intelligent men, such as the hon. member for Gatton, who had addressed the House that night, and the hon. member for Callington, who was so attentive to the business of the House, and so ready to lend his assistance in reducing expenditure. He had on a former occasion expressed himself against Reform, and had thereby brought down upon him the vengeance of that most powerful and most dangerous engine, the diurnal press; but notwithstanding that, he would still persist in his opinion, because he was convinced he was bound to do so, both by his duty to his country and his King. He would support no cabal, if such existed, but he would oppose the measure fairly and honestly.
§ Lord Howick
said, the hon. Member had described the Constitution of Scotland, and 144 passed eulogiums on it, though it was well known, that under that Constitution a freehold qualification could be purchased and sold even as high as l,000l. He had been pleased also to praise the borough of Honiton, but if an inquisition were entered upon, such as that instituted with regard to East Retford, and witnesses were called to the bar, he had little doubt of being able to convince him on his own principles that that borough was not immaculate. That inquiry into East Retford had produced the best effect, because it bad exhibited to public view the most unblushing hypocrisy and the most barefaced impudence; and he trusted sincerely that such exhibitions would be put an end to for ever. The cause of the general outcry for Reform had been a continuance of misgovernment for above a whole century past—a fact which, if he were disposed to lend his aid to increase the discontents out of doors, he could most satisfactorily prove by documents which had been laid on their Table. The object the people had in view, doubtless, was to procure a repeal of unjust, unequal, and injurious, imposts and taxes. He felt, however, that no reduction of the gross amount of taxation could be immediately expected,—the greater part of the pressing encumbrances of the public originating in the necessity of providing for the payment of the interest of the national debt, half-pay and superannuation allowances, which had most disgracefully been saddled on the country by Ministers who had forfeited their character by such an arrangement. The faith, however, of the country, was pledged to that arrangement. Herein the petitioners from the county of Essex proved themselves better judges than the hon. Member who in part represented them, for they abstained from the prayer for a reduction of taxation, which was, in fact, impossible to be obtained—that is, it was not possible directly. He professed he admired the plan, because it left no place for future contention, which must have been the case if the Ministers had adopted the plan of leaving half the boroughs, and providing that each left should have but one Representative. This would have placed them and the other reformers, not in a condition of a firm and lasting peace, but in that of a hollow truce. From his earliest years, he had been a friend to Reform; but he should shrink from any plan which should have the effect of totally remodelling the system of our Representation [great laughter.] 145 Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but he contended, the present plan went no further than to confer just rights, and remove great and particular abuses. If they had abolished the present division into towns and counties, and appointed Representatives for every 100,000 or 200,000 people, that, indeed, would be a complete remodelling of the system. But his noble friend did not propose to make the Representation proportional to the population; he only declared, that where there was no population there should be no Representation; and that where there was a mass of population, the right of election should be extended to them. He wondered that the distinction between the two things did not strike the right hon. member for Aldborough, (Mr. Croker) but that right hon. Member's eyes were only clear in detecting faults. If he understood the hon. Members opposite properly, they were not altogether opposed to Reform; but if they allowed the smallest modicum of Reform, they had no right to terrify the country with the dangers to arise from the changes now proposed; nor could they bring against the Ministers the argument of prescription and of ancient usage. There was no security for them but in the nature of the Reform they adopted. If the Reform was good, the people would be satisfied, but not otherwise. The Reform must he moderate, but it must not be deceptive; for if it was too moderate, changes would be demanded every year, and they would go on year after year acceding to small changes, till the Constitution itself would be sapped and undermined. He wished to remind them of one circumstance, which they seemed not to have thought of, and that was, that the proposal having been made, it was too late to be recalled. In his opinion that proposal was most patriotically made, and every way deserved the adoption of that House. It was impossible now to suppose, that the Reformers would at present be satisfied with anything less than a measure of this kind. He repeated, that less than the present measure they would not be satisfied with. More perhaps they might have; but he appealed to any reasonable man, whether less than this was ever likely to prove a final settlement of this question. If any measure short of this was proposed, he was sure it would not arrest the efforts of reformers. The Opposition could not escape by saying they had not introduced the measure. It was the same as if a vessel should be on fire, and a 146 part of the crew should refuse to assist in putting out the fire, although, if not extinguished, it might catch the most remote parts of the ship, and blow them into the air, because they had not themselves occasioned it. He asserted, that these Reforms were cautiously prepared, and he was proud and happy to see, that as far as the people had had the opportunity of declaring their opinion, they had expressed satisfaction at the principles and provisions of this Bill, and he was sure that this measure, and this measure alone, would produce a final settlement of this important question.
§ Mr. W. Peel
could not help asking, when this Debate was to come to a conclusion. He protested against the abominable injustice of this measure. He should be forgetful of the place he now represented, and of that which he had represented for twelve years, if he did not state his indignant remonstrance against this spoliation of rights and privileges. He should revert to what had been stated with regard to the boroughs of Tamworth, and Tavistock, and Calne. He found, by the Population Returns of 1821, that the numbers of the inhabitants of these three boroughs stood in the following manner: The inhabitants of Tavistock amounted to 5,483; of Calne to 4,549; and of Tamworth to 3,572. Now, that Return was, as he should prove, incorrect. The Returns made for the purposes of this question ought to have been Returns of the number of houses, and not of inhabitants, and then they would have stood thus: The number of houses in Tamworth was 747, and in Tavistock 560. How, then, was it possible that in Tavistock there should be 2,000 more inhabitants than in Tamworth? How, then, stood the matter with regard to Calne? The number of houses in Calne was 461, and yet the population was represented as 1,000 more than that of Tamworth. He would prove this still further, by a reference to Returns from the Tax-office, stating the number of assessed houses. In Tamworth the number of assessed houses amounted to 170, while in Calne they amounted only to 134. These were houses rated at 10l. a year; so that, whether the noble Lord referred either to population or property, the argument equally turned in favour of Tamworth, which was to be disfranchised, and against Tavistock and Calne, which were to be preserved. He would prove the same thing from the Returns of the number of voters who had voted at the general elections. In 147 the year 1830 the number of voters polled at Tamworth amounted to 322, in Tavistock only to twenty-seven, and in Calneonly to eighteen. He asserted, therefore, that the present measure was one of great injustice to Tamworth. This might be his last speech in that House; but if it was, he should not make use of it to express the same feelings that had been expressed by the hon. member for Midhurst. That hon. Member had said, that he was so surprised, his breath was taken away. The measure had not the same effect on him, and why? Because he was satisfied that "the purge" would not. pass. Some physicians undertook to kill or cure, but the noble Lord who had just sat down was bolder, for he undertook to kill and cure. The noble Lord spoke to that House like a nurse to a sick child. The nurse told the child that it was the last dose, offered it a bit of sugar, and coaxed the child to take the dose. But in one respect the noble Lord was not like the nurse, for though he told them it was the last dose they should take, he did not give them the accompanying bribe of the lump of sugar. If the purge was taken, he did not think it would operate —others would be administering their nostrums. There would be Dr. Warburton, the hon. member for Bridport, who would offer them a bolus in the shape of the Ballot; and no doubt another hon. Member, Dr. Hume, would give them another dose, in the form of Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments. He did not know whether the hon. member for Preston (Mr. Hunt) was in the House or not, but if he was, he was too good-humoured to be offended with what he was about to say. His observation then was, that the noble Lord opposite was mistaken in supposing that this would be the last Reform that was demanded; for he felt sure, that if a reformed Parliament sat, and the present member for Preston was returned, as returned he no doubt would be, that hon. Member would not sit in the House for three months, without saying that the Reform was well enough as far as it went, but it did not go far enough; and he would ask them to let him prescribe, and would advise them a dose of Hunt's matchless composition. He did not mean any disrespect to the hon. Member; he only meant to say, that every one would be prescribing his nostrums to the House. But was it proper that men who had become rich under the Constitution should attempt to pull it down? He thought not; he 148 thought, indeed, that he should be worse than a villain, if he lent a hand to pull down a Constitution under which he had been sheltered and had grown up. There was nothing to compel a Member to vote for this measure, which was at once dangerous and unjust. They had been threatened with a dissolution, if this measure were not carried. He advised the Ministers not to attempt such a remedy; for they might not find themselves as well off as they expected. They were hardly on their legs when this measure was proposed; they were existing only from hour to hour, as it were, on sufferance. If this measure were not carried, God grant "that the worst consequence of it might be to leave that mine of gunpowder to overset the next Cabinet; but he feared that that would not be the worst consequence. He called on the men who opposed the Ballot, Universal Suffrage, and Annual Parliaments —he called on those who respected the Church property, who wished to avoid the destruction of all property, to reject this unconstitutional measure.
Mr. John Russell
said, the hon. Member who had just taken his seat had certainly been under some misapprehension with regard to the returns; for by the returns which he held in his hand, he found there were 710 houses in Tavistock, instead of 560; and in Calne, instead of 461 houses, there were 894. Then the hon. Member had said, that he would look at the number of persons polled at the last general election, and he had told them, that only twenty-seven voters had polled at the last election at Tavistock. Why, it was to redress that very grievance that this measure was introduced. He regretted that the hon. Member should, on this great question, have gone out of his way to make personal attacks. He was sorry, too, that the other night the hon. member for Callington had, in like manner, diverged from his road for a similar purpose. He asked the House, how the Ministers stood? They were pledged to Reform —they were accused of naming some boroughs to be disfranchised, and that their choice was influenced by partiality. Was such a charge even probable —was it probable that they should so far lose sight of their real interests, to gratify a base and unworthy motive? This measure was intended to prevent that monopoly of influence in the Representation, which had long existed; and, for that reason, it should have his 149 cordial support. It was doubly entitled to his praise, because it held out to the poorest the prospect of putting themselves in possession of the greatest of privileges.
§ Mr. J. Wood
observed, that the House would not be surprised at his wishing to address a few words to them on this subject. He owed his election to the free electors and the honest population of Preston. They had been told, that that House was an excellent specimen of the advantages of virtual representation; and they had been told, that it was a matter of no consequence whether men were sent in there as nominees of a noble Lord, or as deputies from small or large numbers of people. He thought, however, that that dictum was wrong; but if he had wanted a proof that it was so, he should have been able to find that proof in the speech of the right hon. Baronet delivered a few nights since. He could not avoid making a few remarks upon that speech. The right hon. Baronet had said, that if Parliament were dissolved, he should go to Tamworth again, and apply to the electors of that place for their suffrages, on the ground that he had resisted this Bill, in order not to deprive them of part of their votes. Now he should visit Preston again in a very different manner. His constituents would be much affected by this measure, perhaps no men more so. He had now 6,000 electors, which, by the operation of this Bill, would be gradually reduced to about 1,000; but when he visited them, he should not tell them that he came to claim their suffrages because he had stood up for their individual privileges; but that it was true a large portion of them would be disfranchised, and that his consolation was, that the whole system of representation would be benefitted. He should tell them, that they had done him the honour to return him to that House by universal suffrage; but they must recollect, that the two Members they had sent up from Preston were liable to be oppressed by the nominees of some noble Lords, and that that evil would now be destroyed; for that, though 5,000 of them might be deprived of their privileges, there were 500,000 others who would obtain the right of suffrage, and that, consequently, these rights were more likely to be better guarded than they had been heretofore. It was a matter of triumph to him that no one, even in that House, had ventured to say that no Reform was necessary. On 150 the contrary, the necessity for Reform was admitted; and the question seemed to be, what was the proposition for Reform that the House ought to entertain? In this measure, it appeared to him that the Ministers had nobly redeemed their pledge, and that the measure was one which ought to satisfy the people, and which, he believed, would satisfy them. He had received communications from Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, and several other towns in the north of England, and they all hailed the measure with joy. It seemed to him that the Bill was most wise, most effectual, and most substantial, and would give security for the good government of the country. It had been said by the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge (Sir C. Wetherell), that this measure was a corporation robbery; but the hon. and learned Gentleman was a gratuitous defender of corporations, inasmuch as, so far as was yet seen, those bodies were anxious that the Reform should be carried. London, Lincoln, Chester, and other Corporations, were already preparing petitions to Parliament in favour of the proposition, and their example would soon be followed by others, to the dismay and discomfiture of the friends of corruption. The necessity for the introduction of Reform into corporations, was as obvious as the utility of any other part of the plan. Corporators were but trustees —those trustees, in many cases, wanted change or renewal, and the hon. and learned Member knew that a trust deed was never drawn without a clause to provide for such a contingency. The House had been also told, because the measure admitted so many new electors, that it was necessarily democratical and revolutionary. Those whom it admitted were of the middle class of society; and he begged to refer the House to the authority of Mr. Canning, who, in one of his speeches in Liverpool (which he knew to have been corrected by Mr. Canning himself), at a meeting composed of all ranks, but especially of traders and shop-keepers, spoke of the high value of that class. He said, "As respects that peculiarly valuable part of the population —the middle classes of society —in which the staple interests, as well as the staple good service of the community, more immediately reside, in times like the present, when the higher and the lower ranks of society are, by the contrivances of designing men, placed— I had almost said in 151 hostility, but certainly in watchfulness and jealousy of each other, the higher ranks standing on an eminence which exposes every action and every word of theirs to a scrutiny to a degree which human imperfection can scarcely bear, and the lower classes labouring under the pressure of privations, and taught to ascribe their sufferings to causes which have no connexion with them, and the removal of which would not, in any degree, abate them; the best chance for the safety of the whole plainly resides in that body which is situated between the two distinctions. The higher classes will look with confidence to the middle ranks, to preserve that state of society which they are highly interested in maintaining; and the lower classes will rely upon them, from the habit of friendly intercourse, and the necessity of a mutual co-operation. On the sober judgment and well-regulated conduct of the middle classes —on their attachment to the laws and Constitution of the country,— on their loyalty, and their example of virtuous, firm, and prudent behaviour, I believe, in the present state of society, the hope of the security of the State, in a great measure, rests upon them." Now, he begged to know whether this measure was not recommended on the ground that it would interest the middle classes in the welfare of the State? At present, a majority of the House was returned by about 300 individuals; many of the owners of close boroughs were mere adventurers, who had purchased them on speculation; others belonged to noble Lords, liable to the infirmities of human nature, and who gave away seats as an honourable mode of providing for dependants. A third class was vested in a small handful of individuals, liable to every species of temptation. It was high time to remove these great anomalies, and to give the country that security for good government which had long been wanting. The people had the monster of corruption now at bay; it had received a mortal wound; its frightful yells were heard in the last agonies of expiring existence, and they would soon be drowned in the triumphant shouts of a rejoicing people.
Sir John Johnstone
said, that to the general principle of this Bill he should give his cordial assent. He viewed with satisfaction a measure so restorative as this. His Majesty's Government had manifested true impartiality, steering a middle course 152 between political antiquaries and political projectors; and he hailed this measure as the harbinger of political peace. History clearly showed, that the constitution of that House was Representative —that it was deputed to administer the property of the nation, and to protect the national interests. The usurpation of kings or nobles had made the Constitution variable; but the acknowledged principle of the formation of that House was, that it should Represent the People. As long, however, as a portion of the Members of that House were returned for places which had no constituency attached to them, the people could not feel that their interests were attended to, and that conviction of security would not be felt by them, which it was necessary that they should feel, to give stability to the Government. The House and the Crown must rely on the people, but it was equally necessary that the people should rely on their Representatives. The present composition of the House also gave to factious men the means of raising a spirit of discontent in the country. He would guard the House against both these results, by rendering it such that it could never be disowned by the people, and that Parliament, instead of following, might lead and give the tone to the public feeling. The class to which this Bill would give the franchise was that class in which (when those tumultuous elections, which were a disgrace to the country, were done away with) we might trust to put an end to those practices in the election of Representatives, by which the arms of freedom were turned against herself, and by which men were returned to that House to make laws, by means of a direct violation of the law. This Bill would make the elected hold that estimation which they ought in the view of those by whom they were returned; and it would cause the lower classes to be actuated by higher feelings, and no longer to look to elections merely as to a means of putting money in their pockets. The proposed limitation of the franchise appeared to him calculated to produce good effects; because, while it included some degree of responsibility, it was so little exclusive, and was so widely extended, that there was no man who might not hope by industry to attain its privileges. There need, in his judgment, be no apprehension that rank and station would not have their due weight in the estimation of 153 the people. If he knew anything of the middle classes —and he might assume to know something of them —the aristocracy had nothing to fear from them. They were attached to the monarchical government, and had a stake in society which made them anxious to preserve social order and the institutions of the State. But the aristocracy must maintain their influence by other means than merely looking to parliamentary patronage. That made them more hated than loved, and those who had given it up would be rewarded by the approbation of the whole country. The people of every part of the world were fast acquiring political knowledge, and if the aristocracy meant to preserve a rank and station in society above other men, it must be by exhibiting higher talents and superior virtue. The other classes they must attach by kindness and good offices, for they could no longer maintain a dominion over them by force. He would support the Bill with all his power, because he thought it would produce a beneficial alteration in the habits and feelings of all classes, and would be the means of turning the ambition of aspiring men into proper and useful channels.
§ Mr. North
said, that one of the most extraordinary circumstances attending this important discussion, was the speech which the House had heard in the last hour from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Howick). The noble Lord insulted his victim before he sacrificed it; and that Constitution which was held up, not by Englishmen only, but by foreigners, to admiration, the noble Lord told them was only a corrupt instrument, through the medium of which the country had had inflicted upon it a century of misgovernment. If the noble Lord believed the vessel of state to be rotten in all its parts, and to require such extensive repairs as he had stated, if the noble Lord believed that assembly, which had been characterised by one of his colleagues as the noblest assembly of freemen in the known world, to be the last place where a feeling of shame was to be found —it would be useless for him to argue with that noble Lord the question of necessity for this Reform. If he could be brought to believe that the House of Commons was inefficient for all purposes of beneficence and utility, and useful only for all purposes of mischief and extravagance, then he would say, that the change proposed by this Bill, instead of being too large, was not large enough. 154 He would ask, in the first place, where was the necessity for this immense change? What was the recent miscarriage of the Government of England? What had the House done, that in 1831 it should come to the decision that it was incapable for the purposes for which it was designed, and that it should convict itself of being utterly inefficient to those emergencies of state to which it had formerly been deemed adequate? What were these new emergencies, which had never arisen before, but which had arisen at length in our days? This Constitution had been adequate to the emergency of a disputed succession, had been adequate to the emergency which arose out of the great earthquake of the French Revolution, by which all Governments were shaken, and some were overthrown, and had been adequate to the emergency which followed during our long struggle with Napoleon. But now, after it had triumphed over all these periods of difficulty, but at the same time of honour and glory to the country, it was found that some emergency had arisen, for which the powers of this Constitution were unequal, and for which it was necessary to apply the new machine, which was now growing into maturity, under the construction of the noble Lord. He would, however, do the Ministers the justice to state, that they did not rest the question upon this ground, that this part of the British Constitution was found inadequate for the purpose for which it was designed. Feeling that such an argument would never answer their purposes, they saw the necessity of appealing to one of another description, and they said, that there was some extrinsic violence, to which we were bound to submit without a murmur, some clamour out of doors, some call for Reform, which we ought not and dare not resist. For his own part, he was at a loss to know what that call was. He was not satisfied that there was any such feeling on the subject of Reform as it pleased hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to assert. No man would be more ready than himself to obey any steady and deliberate call of the people of England; but he was not to be told that every transient emotion of their minds, every flash and outbreak of their fiery tempers, every partial flowing and ebbing of the popular opinion, was to be considered as its deep, and permanent, and irresistible current. In a free State, where a free Press existed, 155 where all subjects were open to discussion, where any theory might be proposed, and where every system might be vindicated, they must expect many transient gusts of popular feeling; but they must beware, above all things, that they did not mistake them for those steady, deliberate and permanent sentiments of the people which ought not to be disobeyed. If they did commit such a mistake, they would find, when too late, the country ruined by it, and would hear it in its agony upbraiding them with this reproach — "In our wrath we said it —in our anger we maligned it; but we never wished to sacrifice the Constitution transmitted to us by our ancestors." A course had been taken on this question, which, though it might be quite fair in the tactics of Parliament, could not stand the slightest investigation by the eye of reason. That course had been, to assimilate the feeling which was said to exist in this country on the subject of Reform with that which had existed in Ireland on the Catholic claims, and to assert that, because the Government had yielded Catholic Emancipation to the dictates of a proper fear, they must yield this question to the dictates of groundless apprehension. Now, he would ask, was there any and what similarity between the two cases? Catholic emancipation was long the desire of a confederated nation, united together by chords as sensitive as they were strong — namely, by all the ties which oppression generates in the mind of the oppressed. United by the common grievances of a century of oppression, the Catholics of Ireland looked not for any innovation — they looked only for reception into the bosom of the old Constitution, and into a participation of all the privileges enjoyed by their Protestant fellow-subjects. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had pressed this argument upon the House on a former evening; and had pressed it so far and so keenly as to quote the speech of his illustrious friend, the right hon. Baronet on the floor, respecting the necessity of yielding to popular fear. Now it did appear to him, that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland was the last man in the world to have pressed such an argument, for he had recently had before him in Ireland a different species of excitement, artificial, spurious, temporary, produced by no real grievance, but growing out of the acts of men who wished for nothing so much as agitation and excitement. The right hon. 156 Gentleman having seen that agitation himself, and having exerted himself, very laudably, in opposing and suppressing it, was the last man in the world who ought to have brought forward such an illustration, while there was an analogy against it before him, in the clamour which had been artfully excited for the Repeal of the Union. He then called upon the House to examine into the claims which this new constitution, for such undoubtedly it was, had upon their attention. Before hon. Gentlemen determined to adopt the change of this new constitution, there were two points on which they ought to be satisfied. First of all, they must be satisfied that they understood the old Constitution; and then they must be satisfied that they saw fully the working of the new. The British Constitution was not that species of structure that every eye could understand its beauty. It had been well remarked by the hon. member for Callington, that its misfortune was, that the most ignorant could perceive the apparent faults on its surface, whilst they were unable to comprehend the beautiful nature of its interior parts, and the necessary connexion of its apparent defects with its most excellent and praiseworthy attributes. When the noble Lord proposed to use the knife in cutting off part of it as an excrescence, it was the duty of the House to stop his hand, and to see whether that excrescence had not some function in it necessary to the vitality of the whole structure. He was convinced that these close boroughs were necessary for the ends which they were designed to answer in the British Constitution. The noble Lord seemed to think that he could not establish that point, but he would show the noble Lord that he was mistaken. The noble Lord had said, that every man who had a seat there ought to have a real Representative character. Now he begged leave to say, that the mere quality of being a Representative of the people was not sufficient for the purposes of that House. Whatever might have been the origin of our Constitution, most certain it was, that in the progress of time, as our empire expanded, and our interests became more extensive and complicated, the House of Commons had become an assembly which required a mixture of every different species of talent. That being the case, he said that they must have, by some expedient or other, 157 the means of bringing into that House that multiform knowledge, that diversified experience, that variegated familiarity with all the different and complicated interests of the State, which were necessary to arrive at safe conclusions when any of those different and complicated interests came under discussion. He asked, how could this be done under the proposed exclusion of the close boroughs? It might be very true, that by this new scheme the interests of Birmingham and Manchester would be represented; but how would the East-India interest be represented? — how would the West-India interest be represented — how would the colonial interests be represented in that House? In destroying those close boroughs, the noble Lord was destroying the means of getting at those lights which were necessary to elucidate the questions in which those great interests were materially concerned. He would take an example on this point from the hon. Member who had spoken so disinterestedly on this subject on a former evening —he meant the hon. member for Midhurst. He had represented a close borough. Had he been found a useless representative in that House? Was it not from that hon. Member that the House had heard that unanswerable speech against the scheme for imposing a tax on the transfer of stock, which had determined the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to abandon that fatal measure? He should not press the argument much, that these close boroughs furnished means of access into that House to men of great talent and small fortunes. That argument had been met with the assertion, that those great men had such talents, that, under any form of Representation, they must have found their way into that House. But did any man who knew any thing of society believe that such an assertion was founded on fact? He must, indeed, be insensible to the warfare of human life, who did not see that a number of gallant spirits were constantly trodden down and extinguished by it. If these boroughs were suppressed, many great men would inevitably be excluded from this House. By suppressing these boroughs, you will prevent an opportunity from being opened to talent; and by doing that, you will also prevent talent from expanding. The slightest acquaintance with the history of mankind would convince any man of the truth of this assertion. 158 How was it that in Revolutions talent always showed itself? Because opportunity was afforded to it then, which was denied at other times. Why was it that in free States talent was most rife? Because free States nourished the growth of it, by the collision of opinions which freedom generated. Reduce, then, the number of these close boroughs, and you will immediately reduce the amount of talent, not only of this House, but also of the country. There was another advantage in the close boroughs, to which he wished to call the attention of the House. He considered them of vital importance, because they afforded a refuge for the holders of unpopular opinions. If all popular opinions were just, if what pleased the multitude also pleased the wise, there would be no weight in this argument; but he asked the House, whether any Minister could carry on the Government honestly to the people, and faithfully to his Sovereign, for any length of time, without rendering himself occasionally unpopular? If he attempted to be popular at all times, he must furnish the people with cakes which pleased the palate but injured the stomach, instead of providing them with that sustenance which diffused health and strength through the whole body. Whilst upon this subject, he could not help calling the attention of the House to a point, which had been taken for granted by all who had hitherto taken any share in this discussion. Whilst they contended that this new system would not exclude the man of talent, they took it for granted that all populous places would form such just and steady opinions respecting integrity and talent, that no man of integrity and talent would meet with a refusal of their suffrages. Now this was an assumption of the whole question at issue, and was an assumption, too, in the very face of facts. If ever there was an instance in which public men had done all that men could do, to recommend themselves to the grateful consideration of their countrymen, it was in the year 1782, in the country with which he was personally connected. At that time, Mr. Grattan and Mr. Flood, and the illustrious men with whom they acted, had acquired, by great efforts, a free trade, and a free constitution for that country. In the year 1782, they were in the zenith of a just popularity. In April, 1783, they had done nothing to forfeit that popularity, and Parliament 159 was dissolved. He would read a short but interesting extract from Hardy's "Life of Lord Charlemont," to show the manner in which they were treated by the people. The hon. and learned Gentleman then read an extract, of which the following is the substance:—"In April, 1783, the Parliament was dissolved, and a new Parliament was summoned to meet in the ensuing August. Here, then, the people was called upon to act an honest and independent part, in electing other men as their Representatives in the new Parliament. It has been said, that the state of the Representation circumscribed the popular choice in narrow limits; but it was not so closely bound as to prevent it from putting itself forth at all; numerous as the boroughs were, they still were not all the country. The counties and the free towns remained; and yet, certain it is, that not one county, nor one free town or corporation, expressed a feeling of public gratitude, by electing one of those eminent men, who had zealously led them on to the best victory of national freedom. Nay, some independent country gentlemen were thrown out of their seats, for the part they took in vindicating the independence of their country. Mr. Flood, and his illustrious rival, Mr. Grattan, were obliged to wander up and down the country, through this mist of popular oblivion, and to find their way as they could to Parliament. The obscure borough of Charlemont again received Mr. Grattan, but Mr. Flood had great difficulty in finding any seat at all." He must add, that Mr. Hardy subjoined to this extract a sentence, of which the import was, that at that very time a set of demagogues were rushing forward for Parliamentary Reform, and vociferating that the people ought not to elect a single man for their Representative, unless he would pledge himself to obtain a more extensive right of suffrage. Here they had this remarkable instance, not of the people having so much discernment as to find out unknown and untried talent, and transplant it into that House, but of popular places having rejected these tried, and well-known, and illustrious patriots. And how had these illustrious patriots found the means of getting into Parliament? Why they entered Parliament by means of boroughs, which were under the patronage of an enlightened government. But the hon. member for Calne had told them, that this 160 was merely a happy accident, which might belong to the most despotic country in the world. Happy accident! Why the hon. member for Calne might as well tell him that it was accident which made the hand of that clock point to the hour. It was no accident; it was a part of the mechanism of our Constitution. And let him tell the hon. member for Calne, that many men who had been eminent for their talents, who had been admired for their acquirements, and who, moreover, had adorned and advanced the literature of their country, had not met with that happy accident to which the House had been indebted for the display of the hon. Member's eloquence, and without which happy accident the hon. Member might have toiled and laboured for many years yet to come, before he obtained that just distinction which already awaited him Thus, then, he had endeavoured to press, without, he hoped, fatiguing the House, the arguments which appeared to him to support this part of our Representative system — arguments which no practical man would underrate, because their value was understood only by experience. He should, perhaps, have thought it necessary to have dwelt upon the details of the system which the noble Lord had brought forward, but that he felt that those details would be better discussed at another stage of the measure. There was one other point connected with the details of the measure, which, as it had been overlooked by all who had preceded him in the debate, and as it regarded Ireland, he trusted the House would permit him to glance at,— he meant the effect which the measure would have upon the representation of that country. The noble Lord should have borne in mind, that it was now only two years since an alteration had been made in the system of Representation in Ireland. That alteration was made upon principle, and it had for its object the preservation of a fair balance between the two great interests of that country. It was thought, in 1829, when the Roman Catholics were admitted to a participation in the privileges of the Constitution, that it was necessary to guard against their influence becoming so great, as to overturn that balance which was deemed, and justly deemed, essential to the welfare of Ireland. For this reason the 40s. freeholders had been disfranchised. But the measure which was then resolved upon, and carried into execution, 161 would be entirely subverted by the proposed plan of Parliamentary Reform; for the consequence of it would be, that in twenty cities, and towns, and boroughs in Ireland, the Protestant interest would be tied hand and foot, and entirely subdued by the Catholics. He spoke this advisedly, and no man who was acquainted with the country would, he was persuaded, venture to deny it. The hon. member for Waterford might, indeed, deny that such a consequence would be pregnant with the mischief which he anticipated from it, but he was quite sure, that even that hon. Member would not deny that the measure would produce the preponderance he had mentioned. He had thought it necessary to point this out to the House and to the Ministers. He could assure the right hon. Gentlemen that he did so in kindness, and in order that, if the measure were pressed, this consequence might be guarded against. With this observation he quitted the details of the subject, and returned to the momentous and important question of the propriety of adopting this great measure; and, in considering this question, he could not conceal from his mind, that one of the most formidable evils connected with it was, that it would not be final. Evil as he considered it to be,— injurious, as he felt certain it was, to the best interests of the country,— still it would have been some consolation to him, though but a poor consolation, to know that it was a final and permanent settlement of the question. But if the measure were to be passed to-morrow, still he could see no moorings or anchorage-ground for the Constitution. He felt that this was only the first of those steps which would lead us day after day in our progress away from our ancient institutions, —that it was the first abyss in the revolutionary hell that was yawning for us. He felt, to use the beautiful and energetic language of Milton, that— in the lowest deep a lower deepStill threat'ning to devour opens wide.In a year or two the Government might be embarrassed by the failure of the harvests; by some sudden panic, or by some continental troubles: and at such a time it might be again asserted, that all the grievances, real or imaginary, which could be enumerated, were owing to defects in the Representative system. What would they do when defects were pointed out in the new system —for defects would be pointed 162 out in it, skilful as were the artificers who framed it —and when petitions crowded the Table, asking for a new Reform and for a new Constitution? What would they do when the hon. member for Bridport came down, and, with a budget of grievances, asked for Vote by Ballot; while the hon. member for Middlesex, with a still greater catalogue of grievances in his hand, called upon them to agree to Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage? What would become of their new constitution then? How would they protect it? They would then have no ancient prescription to rest upon, —no history to appeal to,— no argument to adduce from long experience of the most beneficial effects. In such a case he could fancy the noble Lord opposite, the member for the University of Cambridge, rising in his place and defending, in one of those classical orations with which the noble Lord so often delighted them, this new and now much-lauded constitution: but he would tell that noble Lord how his eloquence would be answered,— it would be answered in the very language which the noble Lord himself had applied to the revolution in Belgium, and would be told, "It is a mere constitution of yesterday." Had they contemplated our constitution in a large and extensive view,— these arrogant and self-conceited men! — who had given a verdict against institutions which had called forth the admiration of a Somers and a Locke, and to which we were indebted for a century and a half of felicity? It was thus, that the measure would lead to endless changes, and for that reason it was, that he called it revolutionary. Believing it to be a revolutionary measure, he had felt it his duty to give utterance to the sentiments of his heart regarding it. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had told them that, no change could be properly called revolutionary which had the consent of the three estates of the realm. But he would ask the right hon. Secretary, whether, if the supplies were to be voted for ten years if the Habeas Corpus Act were to be repealed —if the Press were to be annihilated,— all which the three estates were competent to do, whether, he said, the right hon. Secretary would or would not call these measures revolutionary, and especially if these were effected by that of which the noble Lord (the Under Secretary for the Colonies) had spoken to them, namely, some physical and external power acting upon the three 163 estates? But when he saw that this measure would inevitably disturb the balance of the Constitution; destroy the ancient institutions of the country, and make even the King's Crown sit loosely on his head, was he not justified in calling it a revolutionary measure? When they found that the wound which was struck would prove fatal, was their attention to be turned aside from the catastrophe in order to inquire by whose hand it had been inflicted? Did murder change its character and become less than murder because it was suicidal? But he had already detained the House too long, and would trespass no longer upon their attention. He would only say, that if the House were determined to effect a vital and radical change in the Constitution, he entreated them to approach the discussion with temper and with caution,— to recollect that their institutions had grown up with them from age to age, and that those institutions had formed their character and their manners;— that the constitution of their country was like their language, the origin of which it might be difficult to trace, and to refer to Saxon or Danish sources, but which they knew it was much more difficult to improve, and yet more difficult still to reconstruct;— that their institutions had been found, up to the present moment, sufficient for the worship of God, and for the wisdom of man; — that under them had flourished the philosophy of a Bacon and a Locke, the genius of a Shakspeare, and the sublimity of a Milton! and that they had always furnished enough of rational liberty to satisfy the spirit of a Somers, and secure all which the most ardent admirer of social happiness could desire.
§ Mr. R. Grant
said, that after the very copious, able, and eloquent disquisition which they had just heard, he should have been very slow to follow, if he did not feel that he could safely answer for himself to this extent,— namely, that he could at least compete with the hon. and learned Member in some of the excellent features of his speech, and that, in the short address with which he was about to trouble the House, he could practise that moderation which was part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's recommendation, but certainly not found in his performance. He would not imitate the example, but follow the exhortation of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and would refrain 164 from retorting upon the hon. and learned Gentleman the epithets "arrogant and self-conceited." He should have thought, that the conduct of the present Ministers, humbly endeavouring to tread in the footsteps of a Pitt and Fox, might have protected them from such epithets as these; but the respect which he entertained for the character of the hon. and learned Gentleman would prevent him from following the hon. and learned Gentleman in such a line of crimination. He must, however, say, that he did lament that notwithstanding their earnest endeavour to avoid all irritating topics, and to induce hon. Members to apply themselves to the discussion of this, the most important measure which had been debated within the walls of that House for a century past, there should have been found some hon. Members who, abandoning that wise and prudent course, had allowed some matters which were altogether of a personal nature to creep into their speeches. He did not regret this on his own account; for the single personal allusion which had been made to him was one which he was so far from finding fault with, that he should not at all object to its being re-introduced as frequently as hon. Gentlemen pleased. He must, however, repeat, that he did most sincerely lament that hon. Gentlemen should think it worth while to introduce any topics of an irritating character into the discussion of this important, this difficult, and, in its consequences, this momentous question. If the House would allow him, he would despatch in one single sentence the allusion which had been made to himself personally. It had been said, that some of them who sat upon that bench, and particularly those who were supposed, but who certainly did not attempt, to represent the late Mr. Canning, were guilty of inconsistency in supporting the present measure. It would certainly be arrogance of the grossest kind in him, and would subject him most deservedly to the epithets which the hon. and learned Gentleman had so bountifully bestowed upon the members of the Government, if he were to aspire to the character of being a representative of Mr. Canning. Allow him to say, that he had never aspired to the reputation or character of being the representative of that great genius, but that he stood there as one of the Representatives of the people, and in that capa-city he claimed the right of considering 165 with reason, and without prejudice, and of pronouncing boldly upon any measure which might be submitted to the Legislature. To claim this right, which no one could deny him, and to perform this duty, which if he neglected, he should be answerable for his negligence to his constituents, were of far more importance to him than to save himself from a charge of inconsistency, however unjust that charge might be, and however intemperately that charge might be urged against him. The charge, however, which had been made in his absence, for he had not been present for one or two evenings in consequence of indisposition, he utterly denied to have any foundation in truth, or justice, or good sense. He might, indeed, as other hon. Gentlemen had done, take refuge against this charge in the fact, that he had never opened his lips in that House on the subject of Reform, and that he had very seldom been present, when the question of Reform had been discussed. But he would take no such ground. He confessed, freely and candidly, that his early opinions were very much against it; but these opinions were neither well matured nor well considered, and the events of the last Session of Parliament had called his more serious attention to the subject. The events of the late general election, and particularly at the county elections, — which events, allow him to say, he was filled with astonishment to find hon. Members asserting to be the fruits of some temporary excitement,— had made a deep impression upon him. He might be wrong, but upon these events, and upon the most mature deliberation, he had felt himself called upon to support the present measure; and he felt not the slightest displeasure at the taunt of inconsistency, being perfectly satisfied that no man could be justly called inconsistent who acted consistently with the dictates of his own judgment and his own conscience. But how, let him ask, could it be supposed that they who had seen Mr. Canning when he came into another department —he meant when Mr. Canning was called upon to preside over our foreign policy —assume a ground altogether different from that on which he had taken his stand during all the former period of his life,— when they contemplated the acts of Mr. Canning's foreign policy, and saw the consequences of those acts, and the electrical effects which they produced upon every country 166 in Europe,— how, he repeated, could it be supposed that they who had been witnesses to this conduct on the part of Mr. Canning, in his department, should hesitate, if they were to take Mr. Canning as their example, to act according to their own judgments in their own department, when the circumstances of the time were altered, and when new exigencies required new measures? He would contend that they should adapt themselves to the changes and the circumstances of the times. Could it be that, at this eventful period, opinions in that House alone should remain quiescent and immoveable, while every thing around them was in motion and in change? With regard to the able and eloquent address which they had heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, be begged to say, that in one respect, and in one respect only, he concurred with that hon. and learned Gentleman. That hon. and learned Gentleman, taking for granted that there was a cry abroad that there was a craving by petition before Parliament for this measure, as was the case in the instance of the Catholic Question,— taking that for granted, which was the fact, the hon. and learned Gentleman argued, that in the instance of Catholic Emancipation, we properly yielded to long-continued demands for the redress of long-continued grievances; but that the excitement on the present occasion was of a transitory and temporary nature,— that it was produced by individuals who had no interest in allaying it, and that there had been no long-continued existence of grievances which called upon us to depart from the olden system. Now he thought that the hon. and learned Member did great injustice to the Members who had advocated Catholic Emancipation, and to that great cause itself, if he argued that that great question had been granted merely because agitation and excitement had existed upon the subject for a number of years. He (Mr. Grant) had for years been an advocate for Catholic Emancipation; but he denied, that in advocating it he argued for it as a mere question of time. He advocated Catholic Emancipation because he considered it a cause founded upon the great principles of justice; and though in that instance, as in the present, he acknowledged that they should attend to the discontents, and give a patient and a willing ear to the peti- 167 tions of the people, he was the advocate of both measures, because he believed in his conscience that they were both based upon justice. While the hon. and learned Gentleman was so severe upon the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, for referring to the settlement of the Catholic Question, as a parallel case to the Reform Question, he seemed to forget — that in the speech which he had made on this occasion against Reform, and which had been so loudly and repeatedly cheered by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, he had furnished an exact parallel, in the arguments which he now employed, to those which were employed against emancipation, and which were then cheered with equal vociferation by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. Did it not strike the hon. and learned Gentleman, that in the arguments and the language which he now used against Reform, he had furnished an exact fac simile for those which had been urged against Catholic emancipation? One would think that he had gone over and ransacked the debates on the Catholic Question,— that he had walked over the "well-fought field," and had taken up the errant shafts, and had thrown them against that shield which had so often repelled them. The hon. Member had given them fine-spun passages about the glories of Cressy and Poictiers, and had spoken of them as if they were the effects of the close-borough system. But there he was also anticipated upon the Catholic Question. It was a standing topic on that question. In every discussion of it we were referred to the deeds recorded in our history; we were referred to the wars we had sustained,— to the triumphs which we had achieved,— to the struggles which we had maintained,— we were referred to all those things, which we were told had made us the "envy and admiration of the world," and it was asked, would we permit aught of innovation upon a Constitution under which the country had witnessed such a career of prosperity and glory? Such absurd arguments were repudiated, as they ought to have been in the case of the Catholic Question; and they ought to act now as they had then — they ought to do justly and righteously, and not to attend to arguments drawn from the armoury of antiquated opinions and exploded prejudices. The most remarkable parallel between the hon. Member's arguments against this question, and 168 those which had been urged against Catholic Emancipation, was this,— the opponents of Reform said to the friends of the measure," You talk of clamour, and violence, and agitation, but we tell you that you yourselves are the cause of it." That was the cry of the hon. Member on this occasion, but how often had they not been condemned to hear the same argument urged against Emancipation? The standing topic then was, in answer to the advocates of Emancipation,—"You talk of the agitation of the people, but you have no right to talk of it, the causes of it are of your own producing." Let him tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that that was then the favourite argument, and the favourite doctrine with some of his allies on the present occasion. But what was the answer of the right hon. Baronet opposite to this, when, to his immortal honour, he took in hand the settlement of that great question? He said in substance this,— "I ask not whence this discontent proceeds, but I say that it exists, and I recommend you to take this measure for the removal of it." He (Mr. Grant) called upon the House to do the same now,— not to contend against the tempest which could not be thus assuaged, but to pour oil on the troubled waters, and thus to calm the storm. There was another argument employed against Emancipation, which the hon. and learned Gentleman had also called to his aid on this occasion. They had been told, in reference to Emancipation,— "See the consequences of such a measure, behold the expectations which you will raise amongst the Catholics, and which it will be impossible to satisfy,— they will call for an abolition of tithes — for an abolition of taxes —and for a separation from England altogether." Now, that there existed in some quarters extravagant expectations with regard to Reform, he would not deny; but he would repeat, in imitation of what had been so eloquently and ably urged by the right hon. Baronet opposite, in reference to Emancipation, that the only way to defeat unreasonable expectations and claims, was to grant those that were reasonable. They had come to that point; they were called upon to grant what was just and reasonable; and let him tell them, that the best mode to defeat extravagant hopes and expectations was, not to defer any longer the granting that which was due to justice and the people, and that the giving to them 169 that which they ought to have, was the true way to prevent them from seeking that which they ought not to have. But they had heard another argument used on this occasion, with regard to what was termed the extreme cruelty of disfranchising, not individuals but whole classes of persons. The very same argument was used with great force when the hon. member for Staffordshire introduced his bill in 1825, for disfranchising the 40s. freeholders of Ireland. Those who opposed that bill, and the right hon. Baronet opposite amongst the number, argued in that way, and the right hon. Baronet said, that he could not consent to proceeding with such a sweeping measure of disfranchisement, and that he could not at all consent to such a disfranchisement, without at least an examination into the causes that called for it. Four years after, the right hon. Baronet commenced a similar Reform, not by adopting but by proposing a measure of similar disfranchisement without any examination whatever. The right hon. Baronet then did his duty in defiance of the taunts which were thrown out against him, and his Majesty's Government proceeded upon the same principle upon the present occasion. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had dwelt upon the beautiful mechanism of the close-borough system, and had spoken of it as if it were the real basis of the Representation of the Commons House of Parliament. He wished, however, to ask, what view would any one who looked into our constitutional writers for his guides take of the system of our Representation in the Commons House of Parliament as it ought to exist? Would he not be led to consider it as the full, efficient, and complete Representation of the Commons of England, and not the representation of a part of the country? Our constituent system in the House of Commons was understood, in the sense of our fathers, not to mean universal suffrage, but that representation of the country which was not only effectually but exclusively a popular Representation; and that the Members representing that constituency in the Parliament, should not be the House of Commons merely, but the House of the whole Commons of England. That was what our ancestors understood when they spoke of the Commons of England. The hon. and learned Gentleman had gone to the time of our Henries and Edwards, to find out, as he asserted, that the close-bo- 170 rough system was the essential basis of the representative system; and, reading our Parliamentary history in rather an extraordinary way, he maintained that the close-borough system was a beautiful system, and that without the close boroughs the House of Commons could not exercise its Constitutional functions. The hon. Member, indeed, spoke of the King, Lords, and Commons, as if the two former constituted a portion of the third estate of the realm. The hon. member for Callington had certainly used the same argument, when he admitted that there were influences which had no connexion with the people of the country, which were, on the contrary, opposed to them, but which were and ought to be represented in that House. If that were the case, then they who read the theory of our Constitution in our best writers, must suppose that this House had forfeited that high character which had raised them to such an elevation in the eyes of all foreign nations. He would venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that representation was a positive trust. If that were the case,— and he fancied that the position could not be disputed —then it could not be denied that this House now stood, and had long stood, in what might be truly called a "false position;" and in these days of growing light, intelligence, and education, it would be manifestly impossible for them to maintain themselves in that "false position" much longer. If the theory of our Constitution was right, as it was delivered to us by our best Constitutional writers, then our present practice must be bad; and if the practice was correct, then it falsified the theory. He would refer for that theory to Blackstone, De Lolme, and every writer upon the English Constitution; and if it was possible for him to refer to any treatise of the learned Gentleman opposite upon Constitutional law, he was sure that the learned Gentleman, writing like a lawyer, would propound a similar theory. Why the very forms and proceedings of that House proved that it was in its Constitution mainly, essentially, exclusively, and entirely popular. On the first day of every Parliament they deputed their Speaker to demand from the Crown a full liberty of speech, and that the Crown shall not interfere with their proceedings. On the first day of the Session they passed a resolution that no peer ought to have any influence in that House; and the very 171 forms with regard to election petitions, committees, &c. proved the soundness of the doctrine that that was essentially the House of the people. The care and caution which the other House exercised in respect to interfering with money bills, established that doctrine. This was a theory of the Constitution of the Commons House of Parliament, as well known to the people of England as it was to them. The present state of knowledge —the immense diffusion of education, owing to the establishment of innumerable schools —was such, that the majority of the population of England were fully able to understand the theories of Blackstone and De Lolme on that subject. At a general election, indeed, the Members of that House, Whig as well as Tory, admitted the soundness of that theory to their constituents, and it would not now do to tell them that the practice was one thing and that the theory was another: it would not do to tell them that the theory of Blackstone, and of our best constitutional lawyers, was one of yesterday, and that the practice of which they complained was founded on the wisdom of ages. Their theory and their practice were thus viciously opposed to each other; by the one they were generating evils, for which their theory precluded the only remedy. The happy mean which policy would point out between the quid ultima libertate on the one hand, and the quid ultima servitute on the other, would by them be lost sight of, leaving them only a choice between the worst consequences of either. Would they imitate the blind obstinacy of the rulers of a neighbouring State in their opposition to the just demand of an intelligent people? Let them recollect that the despicable aid which 500,000 legionaries, and an aimed Praetorian band in the heart of the metropolis afforded to those rulers was discarded in this happy country, and that wise and temperate concessions to justice were the best preservatives of social order. And what was it they would oppose? Why nothing more nor less than a measure for uniting in the closest bonds the wealth and intelligence of the people to the Constitution. In the emphatic language of Lord Plunkett on another occasion, let them recollect that "if they separated wealth and intelligence from the state, wealth and intelligence would destroy the State." But perhaps the opponents of Reform would, in the crude spirit of most 172 of their assertions, maintain that the wealth and intelligence would not be united to our existing institutions by the present measure. Well, then, what was the test? Let them look to the last returns made under the property-tax, and they would find that the large mass of the returns were for property under 500l., —the holders of which constitute the great nidus, so to speak, of our national intelligence and prosperity. This most important body would be wedded to the maintenance of our institutions by the measure now under discussion, and by doing this we are converting into our most powerful allies, against those innovations and revolutionary evils which our opponents would fain persuade the House would be the consequence of it, those who would be irresistible in effecting the rashest innovations. When they considered, moreover, the hourly increasing knowledge of the middle classes, and their hourly increasing sense of their own rights and importance in the State, they would pause before they would alienate them from all that was wise, and just, and beneficent in the Constitution, in refusing to remedy the gross abuses which time and circumstance had ingrafted on it. He would not say that they would at once declare themselves in hostile array against that House in the event of its rejecting the present concession to their just demands; but they would stand aloof from them,— they would hang upon and impede the chariot-wheels of the Government, till, sooner or later, they would arrest its course, and, as with the Egyptian host of old, all would be over whelmed and lost in the great flood of anarchy that would rush upon them irresistibly. With reference to the observations of the hon. member for Drogheda, who spoke last, on the circumstance, that Mr. Grattan, and Mr. Flood, and other Irish patriots, who in 1782 effected the commercial independence of their country, and had nevertheless great difficulty afterwards in getting into Parliament, he must say that the hon. Member's acts were quite contrary to his inference. It was true that Mr. Grattan and Mr. Flood found difficulty in obtaining a seat, notwithstanding the patriotic exertions to which Hardy, in his "Life of Charlemont," alludes; but why? simply because the Representation then in force in Ireland was essentially one of close boroughs. Under a better state of things, in which the wealth and intelligence of the country would have 173 their due weight in the election of Representatives, such illustrious patriots and orators would have had no difficulty in getting returned to Parliament, and were only impeded by the close-borough system which the hon. Member would hold out to admiration as the means of procuring men of talent a seat in that House, and patriot statesmen an asylum in the event of a temporary unpopularity. Another argument — if argument it might be called that argument was none —of the hon. Member, was still more groundless. The hon. Member asked, under the new system, what was to become of the West-India, and the East-India, and other colonial interests, which at present were virtually, though not directly, represented? He would give the hon. member a simple answer, —the representation would remain unaltered. If they looked over the list of the boroughs proposed to be disfranchised, they would find that they were not represented by either East or West-India virtual representatives. Four East-India directors sat in that House for places which the present measure would not affect; and the West-India interest had one member for Buckinghamshire, another for Sandwich, a third for Rochester, a fourth for Cricklade, and a fifth for Dumfries: all of which places would remain untouched by his noble friend's Bill This showed how easily a quasi plausible case was destroyed upon accurate inquiry; and how easy, till such inquiry was made, it was to vamp up a specious fallacy as a kind of argument. Before he sat down he could not help expressing his surprise —to use a mild term —at the sneers of the hon. member for Newport, at the middle classes of society in this country. The hon. Member quoted certain expressions contained in Ecclesiasticus, respecting the usefulness of artisans "to he sought for in the public counsels, or placed in the seat of judgment," as a portion of the sacred scripture. But this was —as perhaps the hon. Member was too dignified to learn,— an error. The passage quoted by the hon. Member was a part of the Apocrypha, and, like the argument founded upon it, was spurious and Apocryphal. There were other points which he would, at a future occasion, offer a few observations upon. At present he would only call upon the opponents of the great and most beneficent measure they were discussing, to reflect on the course they were pursuing. The clamour which 174 had been so long raised, and with too much success, against the Catholic Relief Bill, had yielded to the wisdom of experience; showing that human prescience, even in the wisest and the most confidently prophetic of the evils of that legislative measure amongst them was not in-fallible: so would it be, sooner or later, with respect to the still greater question of Reform. The arguments and assertions now made use of, even to the metaphors, were the same. If he had Hansard's Debutes in his hands he could, he was sure, quote a number of parallel passages even to the very words and ornaments. He would meet these assertions, therefore, by the great arguments then used. He would say, be just and fear not. Grant the people their rights and rely upon their gratitude; for so far from its following, that a concession of unjust demands must be the consequence of conceding what was just and right, he maintained that by doing that, they strengthened themselves against the necroachments of what was unjust and wrong. By doing so, they would be acquitted in their own consciences, and might, with confidence, leave their fame to their country, and the event to Providence.
§ Lord Althorp
expressed a wish, that the House would come to some understanding as to the period on which the present discussion should terminate.
§ Motion agreed to.