§ Mr. Spencer Perceval
moved the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Lord John Russell's Motion, "for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Representation of England and Wales."
§ Lord Althorp
did not rise to interrupt the Debate, but merely to suggest to the House whether it would not be better, even if the House sat somewhat later than it had done for some nights past, to try and dispose of this Question without any further adjournment. Those who had been long acquainted with the House were aware that it was not usual, on the occasion of an important debate, to adjourn at so early an hour as the House had uniformly done during the debate on this Question.
§ Mr. Goulburn
did not differ from the noble Lord in thinking that it would be more convenient that the discussion should conclude to-night, if it were practicable; he only rose for the purpose of remarking that he thought it more convenient to the House, and more satisfactory as regarded the discussion, on so important an occasion, to adjourn the Debate from day to day, as had been done, than that the House should continue to sit until five or six o'clock in the morning.
§ Mr. Perceval
then rose. He had pledged himself some days ago to offer his most decided opposition to this Bill, and to that resolution he adhered. He had endeavoured to catch the Speaker's eye on many occasions during the discussion; and if he had not succeeded last night, he should still have persevered, for he could never have suffered the Bill to be brought in without expressing his sentiments on it. He opposed the Bill, because he was confident, that the moment it passed, a death-blow would be inflicted on the Monarchy. He had not a wavering or shadow of doubt on the subject, and, therefore, he had no power of mind or body which he should not devote to check the progress of the Bill. He agreed, however, with every one who had given an opinion on the subject, that, as the Bill had been brought forward by Ministers, leave should be given to bring it in without a division. It should be brought on the Table, that they who knew its purpose and tendency might have am opportunity of disabusing the 257 public mind, so as effectually to counteract and oppose so pernicious a measure. He felt that, in rising on this occasion, he was liable to peculiar prejudice. He did not believe any Member supposed that he would stand up and say the thing he did not mean, or, that he opposed the Bill upon any other ground than a sincere conviction that it was likely to be most injurious. But perforce, as it were, there must be a prejudice felt towards him as the son of a Tory Minister, feeling some personal interest in the Question, and burthened, as it might be supposed, with habitual and hereditary prejudices. He had the misfortune, too, as far as this Question was concerned, to labour under other prejudices. He was the holder of a sinecure place and the member for a close Corporation. At the hazard of offending against the good taste of the House, by speaking of himself, he should not hesitate to endeavour to remove these prejudices from the minds of those who heard him. As soon as he was of a fit age he was anxious to obtain a seat in that House, and could have found little difficulty in obtaining that seat through the influence of some attached friends of his father, then in power; but there were so many, and such various ties connecting him with the then existing Government, that he shrunk from the idea of strengthening those ties by coming in under its patronage. He therefore took the means then in his power, and came into that House in a way which enabled him to speak and vote without consulting the wishes of any one. He took his seat in 1819, and his first act was to resist a measure proposed by the Ministers, who united on that occasion with the Opposition to do an act which he (Mr. Perceval) considered discreditable, but to which he should not then allude further. The second time he spoke in that House was also to resist a measure proposed by Ministers, and perhaps he should have more of the confidence of the hon. member for Preston (Mr. Hunt), when he stated, that the measure he had so opposed, as a permanent law, was the passing of one of the Six Acts—that which went to prevent the holding of public meetings. He mentioned these circumstances to prove that he had no other view, in his conduct in that House, than to discharge his duty honestly and conscientiously. Even in his Tory nursery, he had learned to respect the liberty of the people, as 258 well as the rights of the Crown; and he would be as ready to resist any measure, trenching on the rights of the people as any measure trenching on the prerogatives of the Crown. So little had he made up his mind on the subject of Reform in the year 1819, that when a motion was brought forward on the subject, he left the House to avoid dividing. He stated these facts to show that he was not influenced by fixed and blind prejudices, but that he tried to do his duty conscientiously. They were told by the supporters of the Bill, that it was for their ancient rights the people were petitioning, and that it was not in the power of the House of Commons to refuse them. But he would say, that it was in its power to refuse anything which they thought would be injurious to the country. If the House of Commons had not got that power, who had? Not got the power! He said the House had the power, and those who asserted the contrary, asserted a gross constitutional falsehood. The Lord Advocate of Scotland had said the other night too, that those whose seats were affected by the measure were incapacitated from voting. That too he would deny. Both propositions were constitutional falsehoods, which he would defy any man to defend by argument. He gave the lie to both assertions; he repeated that He in the face of the Commons of England, and he would not shrink, on such a great, such an august occasion, from using the strongest words the language supplied. A right hon. Gentleman (the Secretary for Ireland) had found fault with the use of the word "revolutionary," but the word was fully justified when threats were the only arguments resorted to in support of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman was likewise rather severe on those silly folks, who, caught by such a vehement word, whenever it was uttered, backed it by rounds of cheers. Alluding to these our cheers, the hon. member for Preston, not then in his place, talked of the horrible yells of the Monster of Corruption in this its death agony. He joined in those cheers as heartily as any other individual in the House. He was amongst the loudest of those barking mouths who encircled the waist of this foul and filthy Monster, attacked in her loathsome den. He was one of the loudest barkers—one of the loudest of these yelping curs that encircled her; and he then came to meet the attack of the right hon. 259 Gentleman—for he was ready to justify the expressions he cheered, and the cheers he gave. He should be ashamed of himself if he could sit in that House, joining with silly and childish vehemence in such cheers, unless he was able to rise and give a reason, in the face of the House, for his conduct. He would take the definition laid down by the right hon. Gentleman of the word "revolution." The right hon. Gentleman said, that a Revolution was a change brought about either by a force foreign to the legally-constituted authorities, or such a change as went to subvert the great leading features of the Constitution in any one of its great component parts — the King, the Lords, or the Commons. The intervention of foreign force itself constitutes a revolution, the word "revolutionary" might be applied with the greatest justice to that which it was attempted to carry by a threat of force; but such a threat was the chief argument employed in this question. He supposed hon. Gentlemen would admit, that if a mob were out of doors, pelting the Members as they entered the House, and threatening their lives, that a bill, passed by a regular vote of Parliament under such circumstances, would be revolutionary. The present case was only removed two stages from that; for if this measure were carried, it would be under the pressure of the threats of hon. Members—of the threats of the Press — and of their false and violent representations of the state of the public mind. The threats of the noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the threats of the Press were the means employed in its favour; and if it should be carried, it would be carried under the fear of such threats. He knew that there were many men in that House who disapproved of the measure, and yet would support it under the influence of those threats. Let the House read the speech of Colonel Evans, that had already been adverted to, in which he threatened them with 10,000 men ready to march to London. He would advise the House also to look at what the papers said on the first day the measure was made known to the public that they might be aware of the principles inculcated by that corrupt and profligate thing, the daily Press—the vile daily Press of England. But the fact was, the they were the slaves of that Press, and he knew men who agreed with him, who 260 in their hearts hated the Bill, who did not hesitate in private society to say so, but who, being the slaves of the Press, dared not utter any such opinion in public. When he slated this, he did not stop to make distinctions. Those who did not deserve the stigma would be the first to thank him for having applied it where it was due. He was glad that an opportunity was afforded him of using this language, which he wished that some person of greater importance than himself had used long ago. He knew, however, that he was one of the blind bigots who could see nothing, who could not judge of what was going forward in the country, and who were unfit to give any opinion. In the Morning Chronicle, however, a Paper conducted with great talent, and using those talents with great consistency to a single end, an article had appeared on the 26thof October last year, with reference to an expression used by Earl Grey, "that he would stand or fall with his order," which he thought might open the eyes of those who had any doubts as to the mischievous influence of the Press. That Article was one of the instances that would show the prevailing sentiments of the Press of England; for in it the writer stated, that if England had a House of Commons based on the suffrages of the people, the House of Peers could not exist. But he would read the passage. In the Morning Chronicle of the 26th of October, it was said, "This is true; the order of Lord Grey is, unquestionably, the main stay of the English Constitution — the English Constitution, as it is, gives the property of the House of Commons to the House of Lords; the whole hinges on the property of the boroughs being chiefly in the House of Lords. This was clearly and explicitly stated by Mr. Burke, in his letter to the Duke of Portland:—'They (the new Whigs) know that the House of Lords is supported only by its connexions with the Crown, and with the House of Commons; and that, without this double connexion, the Lords could not exist a single year.' Were there a Representation of the people based on a plan which should identify the electors in interest with the people, we do not hesitate to say, the House of Peers could not exist." And in a weekly paper, called the Ballot, which was conducted by a person who had gained notoriety by the contest he had been lately engaged in by 261 setting up to be the Coroner of Middlesex, it was stated, that if the increase of the people's power and the depriving of the Peers of their privileges were to take place, what more could be to the credit of an enlightened nation. And this latter was one of the new lights—one of the march-of-intellect papers—which, in another passage, too, said, that Reform would not be worth having unless it brought along with it a repeal of the law of primogeniture. He would ask hon. Gentlemen, when they thought of the permanence with which our ancient institutions had endured, under the favour of Providence, how much of that was owing to the tenderness—to the superstitious tenderness, if they would—for vested rights? They could know no constitutional rights but through the laws of the country; and yet, it had been contended, that the people demanded rights—rights which, if ceded, must take away from the legal rights of others. This, he must confess, was the most revolutionary doctrine he had ever heard held; because the basis of all society was, that individual men surrendered all their natural rights into the hands of those appointed to receive them, and, having so surrendered them to the constituted authorities of the land, those authorities became the superiors and the judges of the rights, the conduct, the liberty of persons, and the speech of all. The Lord Advocate, whom he was sorry not to see in his place, had, on a previous evening, made a speech, to which he had listened with painful attention—painful, because he thought that it would be difficult to answer it. He would tell the House why he said that it would be difficult to answer it. It was, because the learned Lord had dealt so much in generals, that it was scarcely possible to characterize any particular feature of his speech. The learned Lord, however, had at length wandered out of his generalities, and remarked, that from the time of the Stuarts this country was in the advance of all Europe in liberty, and that it was so still. Why, if that was the case, could there be stronger testimony brought of the advantages that had arisen from the King, Lords, and Commons, as at present constituted? Could there be a stronger testimony of the elasticity of the system that had adapted itself through so long a course of years to all the increasing demands of society, without any 262 injurious effect to any one particular portion? Could there be a stronger evidence of its excellence, than that it had been laid smack-smooth by rebellion—a rebellion which, by the way, commenced by the House of Commons in attempting to grasp all power in their own hands, and which brought the temple and throne down to the ground. That it was framed in wisdom, and that its roots were deep sunk in the hearts of the whole nation, was evident, because, after a few short years, it rose up again, with little material alteration; its grand component parts of King, Lords, and Commons, remaining the same! The powers of electing and voting standing as at present, on the laws and charters now in existence. What had happened to it since? Why, it had stood another revolution, in which the head of the Government was changed; and the line of succession altered; yet so firmly was the Constitution built, that when that took place, not one pillar of the building was removed. What a testimony was not this in favour of our institutions. And yet, now, Parliament was to be called upon by the wretched insanity of his Majesty's Ministers to knock this admirable Constitution to pieces, and cast it to the winds of Heaven. He did not intend to combat at length the learned Lord's speech, for he thought he had been happily answered by the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary for the Admiralty (Mr. Croker)from the pages of The Edinburgh Review, but he could not resist reading another refutation from the same source. Speaking of the exercise of the veto against a measure carried by a zealous and nearly unanimous House of Commons, purely popular, the reviewer said, "No thinking man can contemplate, without dismay, the probable consequences of such a resistance: it is needless to say that the House of Lords would oppose a still feebler barrier to such a measure of popular legislation." This, according to The Edinburgh Review, must be the judgment of every thinking man; and the learned Lord could not but have felt how completely, from the pages of that work, his argument was destroyed the other night by the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps—That eagle's fate and his were one,Who on the shaft that made him dieEspied a feather of his ownWherewith he wont to soar so high.One of the first things that made him 263 doubt or hesitate on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, was the speech of Mr. Wyndham. That distinguished man commenced by stating, that hon. Members who had preceded him had neither pointed out the grievance nor established the remedy. His words were, speaking of the mover of the proposition, "He has not proved enough to encourage us to go on with him a single step. He ought first to have made out his grievance, and then to have proposed his remedy. When the House is put in possession of both, it will be the time to judge how far the first is ascertained, and the second proportionate. But the hon. Gentleman has only asserted that the representation is inadequate, without any attempt whatever to prove the fact." He had followed the view taken by Mr. Wyndham, and searching through the speeches of Parliamentary reformers, was struck with this view in all their arguments. The great fault he had to find with the reformers was, that they begged the whole question. In the first place, they began by stating that there were rotten boroughs: now that certainly was an undeniable fact; but then they went on to say, that those rotten boroughs were a grievance to the whole country: now this was what he called begging the whole question; and it was remarkable enough, that never had one tittle of evidence been adduced in support of that supposition. There was one remarkable point in the speech of the hon. member for Calne (Mr. Macauley), which he could not forbear noticing. That hon. Gentleman had said, that if he were to take a foreigner through England, and was asked by him to point out the greatest grievance that existed, he would take him to the parish of Mary-la-bonne, and after bidding him to notice the streets, the squares, the houses, the wealth, the comfort, and the luxury of that parish, he would tell him—"here lies the greatest grievance of all England, for this place has no Representatives." But if the hon. Member allowed the wealth, the comfort, and the luxury of that populous district, how did he prove that it was aggrieved by having no Representatives to look after its interests? But besides this the real fact was, that Mary-la-bonne, though not actually, was virtually better represented, than, perhaps, any other district in✶ Hansard's Parl, Hist. vol. xxviii, p. 465.264 the whole kingdom; for he should be glad to hear the place mentioned wherein so many Members of Parliament resided, and voters for other places throughout the country, as in that very parish. Certainly, if the learned Gentleman had shewn his young stranger Tothill-fields, where most of the inhabitants have votes, and return Members, he would not have preferred their Member-returning happiness to the grievance-oppressed, but well-doing environs of Mary-la-bonne. But suppose the young stranger should take the English lawyer at his word, and, with pity for the Maryla-bonnians, and having heard the Attorney-General say, that in this Bill—this senseless, ruinous Bill, the greatest act of folly ever committed by any Minister—suppose he had heard the Attorney General state, that in this Bill we should be only treading in the steps of our ancestors when they gave Members to Chester, and should go home, and draw up a Bill for the hon. member for Calne to bring in, and remedy the great grievance he had pointed out; he would naturally think, that since it was treading in the footsteps of our ancestors, in granting Members to Chester, nothing could be better, if he wanted a preamble to his Bill for granting Members to Mary-la-bonne, than to take that of the Act which was to be his precedent. He would begin, therefore, by saying which was the preamble to the bill for conferring Representatives on Chester, "Whereas the said parish of Mary-la-bonne is and hath been always exempt, excluded, and separated out and from the high Court of Parliament, to have any Knights and Burgesses within the said Court; by reason whereof the said inhabitants have hitherto sustained manifold disherisons, losses, and damages, as well in their lands, goods, and bodies, as in the good, evil, and public governance and maintenance of the common-wealth of their said parish; and that they had been touched and grieved by Statutes made in the high Court of Parliament, &c.;" and then he would proceed to enact some remedy for the manifold evils suffered by Mary-la-bonne for want of Representatives. They suffered no evil, and to say, therefore, that this was the great grievance of England, appeared to him to be childish and contemptible nonsense. Among those with whom he mixed in society he had frequently heard it said — the rotten boroughs could not be defended by any 265 reason, and therefore, as this is such an enlightened age, the rotten boroughs must be given up. He had heard this said both by the timid friends of the present system, and by its vigorous enemies. Now he had always had an answer for that remark, though those who had urged what he had just stated would never stay to listen to it. His answer was this:—The rotten boroughs constituted a great and valuable part of a whole, which, by the confession of all men, had produced the greatest benefits to the country; and if, therefore, the whole had done this, why were they to get rid of a portion which had been of great and valuable assistance to the general system? Perhaps he might be able to illustrate this to the House. He would suppose that two learned medical men— one educated at the London University, whom he would call Dr. Newlight? and the other only a poor bigot (as the Gentlemen on the other side would most likely call him); he would suppose, that these two learned men came together for the purpose of holding a consultation on the human eye. "Oh (says Dr. Newlight), have you observed the dreadful anomaly that there is in it? "—" No (says the poor bigot), I don't even know what you mean by an anomaly." "Why, a contradiction, to be sure (says Dr. Newlight)."—" Well, but what is this contradiction (says the poor bigot)?"—" Why (cries Dr. New-light), don't you observe the picture that there is in the back of the eye? And don't you see that it is topsy-turvy? That is what I call an anomaly."—"But (says the poor bigot), let us see whether that topsy-turviness is not most useful and essential."—"What" do I care (says the man educated at the London University), whether it is useful or not? I tell you that it is an anomaly, and I will have it plucked out." They all knew very well that objects were thus represented, topsyturvy, on the back of the eye, and that circumstance was explained by the laws of refraction? but no person had yet been able to assign a satisfactory reason why, when we use our eyes, every object appears in its natural and proper place. Dr. Newlight would, however, take out the eye, because he could not account for the phenomenon; and, in the same manner, the enemies of boroughs would annihilate them, because they were ignorant of the system of which they formed a 266 part. The reason, then, that he would retain those rotten boroughs as they now existed, was, because they were only a part of a great whole, and they should not be removed, lest that might endanger the safety of that whole. With respect to the reason for these rotten boroughs, he could give one. Besides being parts of one general beneficial whole, the existence of those boroughs furnished a solution to that very curious problem, the. extreme expansibility of our Constitution, by which it was enabled to adapt itself to the circumstances of the times, and the interests of society. All the interests in society were represented in money, the general representative of value: and as these boroughs could be obtained for money, all interests became by these means represented in society. They all found access to Parliament, through that money they all possessed; and so every interest, however it might grow and expand, found access to Parliament, and was represented there. There were also the nomination boroughs, and he could find a reason for them. He knew from experience that if a man wanted to be above the entreaties of friends, and resolved in spite of them to do his duty, there were no better means than to be returned to Parliament with his vote pledged to a certain line of measures. Suppose he sat for a Whig borough, he voted with the Whigs. He was bound to a certain line of conduct, which prevented awkwardness. A large constituency had an influence over a man, and was as likely to warp him from the fair line of his duty as being returned for a nomination borough. The peril of being warped by a patron was not so great as the peril of being warped by a mob. He admitted that it was a grievance, that Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, and other great towns, each of which had a large peculiar interest of its own, and contained a great number of men engaged in the same pursuits, were not represented. That evil he admitted, and that he should be ready to cure. There] was another evil belonging to the present system—that of bribery, which the present Bill did not touch, and would not cure. He admitted that it was a moral evil and moral evil never could be cured by violent or extravagant measures—Naturam expelles furcâ tamen usque recurret;but still it was a point that deserved 267 serious consideration. He had many other objections to state to the measure of Ministers. It was a departure from all the principles which had been laid down by the highest authorities on the subject of political changes. It was a saying of Lord Bacon's, that changes ought not to be made till time demanded them, and then ought to be made as time itself made changes —gradually and imperceptibly. Reform should be gentle. But this Bill was not gentle—the measure was not gradual—it was not at all like the changes effected by time. Another maxim was, that the necessity of Reform, should bring about change, not the desire of change, Reform. The cry that was raised for Reform meant only change, for no two men agreed as to what sort of reform was necessary. This cry for Reform, therefore, was only the desire of change. As he understood the Bill, it would give a greater proportion of Representation than at present to the North, and diminish the Representation in the South. If that would be its effect, he considered that dangerous and mischievous. The whole arguments, the complete arguments, in favour of the Bill, were all applications to the fears of Parliament. He would remind the Parliament, however, of the honourable conduct of the late Secretary of War (Mr. C. W. Wynn) and of the hon. member for Milborne Port (Mr. Sturges Bourne) and would warn the Members that there was a more honourable path than submission. The State was divided into two parties, and he regretted that the Tories had not strengthened their hands by nourishing the attachment of the people. There was a great conflict about to begin in Britain; there was, in fact, a conflict of principles now going on similar to that which ushered forward the downfall of Roman liberty. He believed, however, so long as the Constitution was kept whole and untouched, it would be able to resist, and he should not fear the result of such a conflict. If the conflict came, and if the Constitution were unsuccessful—and he believed there was great danger—if the Constitution should fall, it would be sacrificed by those who gave their vote under the influence of base and servile fear. If there were but three honest and bold men in that House—men fearing God, and, therefore, not fearing man, and not having the fear of the Press before their eyes, and who would bring that Press before the House 268 for the gross and daily violation of its privileges, of which that Press was continually guilty;—who would so conduct themselves, having the fear of God before their eyes, and fearing not men—if there were three such bold men in the House, he should not fear for the result. Such men would be sufficient to themselves; and if the House was now bullied by the Press, it was because they were cowards before it. He would not say more, than that he had passed many sleepless nights thinking of these things, and he was humbly thankful that God had permitted him to do so much. He had done his duty, and was satisfied.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
said, that he rose to address the House under very inauspicious circumstances; for, in consequence of the extreme length to which the debate had extended, the subject had become so exhausted, that it was almost impossible for any man, whatever might be the endowment of his mind, or the extent of his resources, to arrest the attention of the House while he delivered his opinions, except by throwing himself on its indulgence. He, however, was only anxious to address the House for a very few minutes, and, contrary to the proceeding of those who declared that they would not trespass long on the time of the House, and yet had spoken at very great length, he certainly meant to be as brief as possible. He felt that it was a peculiarly difficult task to state his opinions after the very extraordinary speech of the hon. Gentleman, who, though many years his junior, had the fiat, anticipatory of the future services which he would do his country, already sealed on his conduct, by being, even now, a very considerable recipient of the public money. ["Hear, hear," from the Opposition.] He well understood those cheers, which, he supposed, came from Gentlemen who were, or who wished to be, similarly situated. What, he would ask, was it that had created the universal feeling throughout the country, which impelled all ranks of the people to call on that House for Reform?—what was it but the presentation of those returns which had been recently laid on their Table? If anything more than another disgusted the people of England, it was the testimonies which had been given of the perversion of the means, and of the mismanagement of the resources, of the nation. And yet, with this fact before their eyes, Gentlemen 269 affected to view the applications which were pouring into the House from all quarters, as the result of revolutionary feelings, stirred up and fomented by the agency of a seditious Press. That those who prospered under the present system should take a prominent and lively interest in preserving it, and in opposing all Reform, was not surprising; but, whatever might be the fate of those political culprits, it never could be said that they had not received a fair hearing at the bar of that House. They had risen after each other in eager and rapid succession, and they had advanced every argument in support of their case which perverted ingenuity could devise. When they stated that the origin and design of this Bill was to revolutionize the country, and to destroy its constitution, he must take leave to say, that if Gentlemen looked for arguments which were calculated to produce revolutionary feelings, and to stir this country up to resistance, they were only to be found in the speeches of those who opposed the measure. With all that high and enthusiastic religious feeling, of which the hon. Member was the depository—the meek depository—what language of reproach, what terms of reprobation, had he not used in speaking of this measure? He, however, would meet the hon. Member, and all those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken so severely of this Bill,—he would meet them with language as bold as their own, and say, "this is a revolutionary measure." He repeated—it was a revolutionary measure—a glorious revolutionary measure. What was its object and drift, but to bring back the Constitution of this country to its original design— to place things in the situation in which they originally stood, and from which they had been too long removed? If the opponents of this measure could even show, that in past times the people of this country had nothing to do with the representation, or if, as the hon. Member seemed to think, the affairs of this country could be better regulated by a House of Commons, altogether appointed by some other means than through the people, either of these positions afforded a fit and proper reason for carrying a measure that would rescue the people of this country from so ignominious a bondage. The time was come, when that House could no longer stand against the growing influence of intelligence, which must in the end pre- 270 vail. When they were told that the people were urged on by feelings of a revolutionary character, he must observe, that if such were the fact, those feelings were excited by the resistance which was set up against their just claims. The speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down was, in its closing part, an excitement to resistance. The hon. Member had said, that if the Constitution were to be battled for, he would go forth with the banner of Providence in his hand,—surrounded, no doubt, by a goodly array of the Representatives of rotten boroughs, and a numerous levy of other traffickers in corruption (who were doubtless a most extensive body),—and he would exhort them, in his own peculiar style, as to the revolutionary and ruinous tendency of this measure. It was such declarations as that made by the hon. Member which excited the indignation of the people. Hence arose that manly feeling which breathed throughout the country—which showed itself, not in ignoble violence, but in generous, firm, and proper remonstrance. Could they, in such a state of things, be so blind to consequences, as to fold their arms, and take their stand on the Constitution as it now was? What were the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen opposite—all of whom, it should be observed, with the exception of the hon. member for York (Mr. Bethell), who made some qualified observations on the measure, were called into the field to defend the present hideous system in consequence of the peculiar situation in which they were placed with respect to it. They argued that the abuse should be continued, because it had existed so long. Not less than 170 Members were now returned by about the same number of persons, and they were anxious to perpetuate this abuse. They declared, that if the system were altered, the House of Commons would be a bear-garden in debate, because sufficient intelligence could not be found in the great mass of the people to select proper representatives. They declared, that men of genius and learning, reared in our Universities and public schools, would never be able to enter that House, if the proposed alteration took place. According to their argument, it was only through the portal of corruption that genius and talent could hope to enter that House. Now he would contend, that if the effect of this Bill would be to exclude from Parliament every Member who owed his 271 seat to a rotten borough, or to nomination, the affairs of the country would move on with at least as much and even with more propriety than at present. It was a libel to suppose that the people had not sufficient sagacity to examine into, and to decide upon, the character, feelings, and merits of those who might become candidates to represent them. A recent occurrence falsified the assertion. Let them call to mind the greatest man of this nation,—-he would almost say the greatest man of any age,— he who appeared to be destined by Providence to rescue his country from the overwhelming evil of corrupt, tardy, and perverted law; by what means, he demanded, had that great man a short time since been placed in that House?—was it not by the sagacious selection of the people? Those who were remarkable for learning', who were distinguished for mathematical and classical accomplishments (which, after all, were not such important acquirements as common sense in directing the affairs of mankind) would not be excluded from Parliament by this measure. It would be a source of consolation to them to learn, that this Bill afforded ample room for their admission. The Bill, which was drawn up in a most statesman-like spirit, recognised those great interests which the hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed so anxious to preserve. It certainly wiped away from the political chart sixty rotten boroughs, but it left forty-seven Members for forty-seven other towns less tainted by corruption. Though he admired, and would advocate that measure, still he must reserve to himself the right of examining its details hereafter. Nothing, however, should induce him to contend against any one iota of its provisions, if, by taking such a course, he was in the slightest degree likely to hazard the great principle. Hon. Members, in expressing their deep regret that so many boroughs, almost without constituents, should be cut off, seemed not to look with sufficient attention to the other side of the case, and that there would still remain forty-seven boroughs with one Member each; and that these boroughs, too, would remain under circumstances which must be acceptable to those who advocated the narrow principles of many hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members who were such strenuous champions of select numbers as to feel highly offended at the risk of coming in contact with popular 272 elements, in their way into that House, and who sought to avoid the active expression of popular opinion in their return, would doubtless turn with pleasure to those boroughs where the voices of a comparatively small number were still to be allowed to prevail. He would beg to recommend to the notice of those high-minded individuals, those select parties of voters, those little bands of philosophers, who would still come into play as electors under the operation of the noble Lord's Bill. On looking at the returns made of the number of householders rated at 10l. who, if he understood the Bill of the noble Lord correctly, would in the course of time be the only persons qualified to vote, it appeared that in only one of the forty-seven places which were to have one Member each, would the number of voters exceed 206. There was only one which would have as high as 207 voters; but many of them would have as small and select a body of voters as most of the hon. Members opposite could covet; for example, in Bewdley there would be only twenty-one; in Downton nine; (he was to be understood, of course, as alluding to what the state of those boroughs would be when the Bill came into full operation in those places, and when those who now voted as freemen should have dropped off); Liskeard would have ninety-five; Lyme Regis, 135; Marlow, 180; Sudbury, 108; Shaftesbury, 75; and Westbury, that pattern of pure and incorruptible boroughs, only fourteen. These choice constituencies would preserve the principle of aristocratic influence for which so many hon. Members opposite still contended. He did not find fault with this limitation: it would produce so much good in other respects, that this part of the Bill would be found no injury to the general principle. The hon. Member then adverted to what had been stated on a former evening by the hon. member for Essex (Colonel Tyrell), who, quoting a paper (the Essex Standard,) in which what fell from him (Mr. Harvey) had been grossly misrepresented, accused him of advocating doctrines altogether revolutionary. He had been accused of advocating at the late Essex Meeting—at which, by the way, the hon. Member (Colonel Tyrell) was not present, though it was a meeting of the county, convened by the High Sheriff, —the doctrine of Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and Vote by Ballot— and also of having advocated, a Republican 273 form of Government. These imputations were founded on the gross misrepresentations of what he said, as contained in the Paper alluded to, — a Paper which had been described in the letter of a friend to him as containing on that occasion such a tissue of falsehood as was unexampled in the Press. Now, in another Paper which he had seen, and which contained a fair account of what he said at that meeting, it appeared, that so far from having advocated a Republic, or the doctrine of Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and Vote by Ballot, he had alluded to them only as tending to the establishment of a Republic. He had never advocated those doctrines, and on that occasion he deprecated them as tending to a Republican form of Government. He held, that such an extension of mere democratic influence as these would create was incompatible with such a form of Government as we possessed, and that, if they were adopted, they must end in the subversion of the throne and the aristocracy, and the establishment of a Republic. This he urged at the meeting, not in favour of, but against those doctrines which he had been represented as supporting. He did not say that the people might not think a republic the best form of government, but he himself did not think so; if he did, he would have avowed it openly and manfully. But his firm belief was, that the people of this country, unless goaded into madness by resistance to their just claims, would never prefer any other form of Government than that under which they now lived, as far as regarded the distinct power and influence of King, Lords, and Commons. There never was a country, the habits of whose people less fitted them for an attachment to a Republican form of Government than this. There might, no doubt, be some few philosophers, who, retired from the actual business of the world, thought that the simplicity of a Republican form of Government would be most conducive to the happiness of the people, but the great mass of the nation thought otherwise, and the greatest Statesmen and ablest writers agreed in the opinion, that though parts of our system of Government might be corrupt, the system, if freed from that corruption, was the best which could be devised for the people of this country. Let any man—the greatest admirer of an arbitrary and despotic form of Government—read Blackstone, and he 274 would there see, that the power of the three estates of King, Lords, and Commons, were distinctly defined, and that any one of them could not press upon the privileges of the other, without impairing that balance which ought to be kept up between them. Some hon. Members, however, seemed to be of opinion that it was essential to the Constitution of the House of Commons, that it should possess within itself a large portion of Aristocratic influence. On this subject he had heard remarks, that, if they had been uttered out of doors, or conveyed through the public press, the uttered or publisher of them would have been consigned to the tender mercies of the Attorney General—if the mercies of the present Attorney General were like those of some of his predecessors. The hon. member for Boroughbridge, (Mr. Attwood) in his erratic address, and the hon. member for Dublin, in his unintelligible speech, had both avowed doctrines of this stamp; and they went further, and contended that if the tide of popular feeling were once to flow into that House, such would be its destructive influence, that in ten years, to use the language of the hon. member for Oxford, the throne and aristocracy would be swept away. A greater libel than this could not be pronounced on the people of this country; but the hon. member for Boroughbridge supported his opinion by another statement, which was not less a libel on the Aristocracy; his argument was this,— that such was the dullness,—such the mental lassitude of the peerage,—so little had they kept pace with the intellectual improvement of the other classes of the community, that the force of education, the predominancy of moral virtue the dangerous improvement of the public mind in those other classes, would, when admitted to a fair share of influence in the Representation of the people in that House, bear down and overwhelm the other orders of the State, unless it was contrived to infuse into the House the morbid influence of some dull Peers, which would act as an essential clog to popular improvement. This, he repeated, was equally a libel on the aristocracy and on the people. He did not desire to go out of his way to praise the hereditary counsellors of the Crown (though no one held them in higher respect than he did in their appropriate station) but he must say, that it would be a most unwarrantable 275 attack on them to assert that they had not kept pace as a body with the vest of the nation in the great march of mental improvement. He need not go beyond that House for an illustration of this argument. There were amongst its Members many between whom and a peerage there was only one step, and who were already in possession of high hereditary rank, large fortunes, and names which had long been distinguished in the proudest annals of the country, yet who were not more distinguished by their claims to those honours and possessions, than by those great talents and acquirements which fitted them for the highest offices in the State. It was, then, he repeated, a gross libel on the people and on the aristocracy, to say that the admission of the enlightened and intelligent classes of the community to a fair share in the Representation in that House would have the effect of destroying the peerage in ten years, or in any time. The people acknowledged the great utility of the influence of the other orders of the State, when duly exercised, and the more the people were admitted to their just share of influence, the more widely would the basis of those of the other branches be extended. But suppose for a moment that the public feeling should become changed on this subject, would it be possible to dam up its expression by an Act of Parliament? Would it be possible to check it by any legislative measure? The hon. member for St. Germain's had asked who could answer for the changes which such a measure as this might bring about? He answered, no person could. Who could dive into futurity and anticipate what was to happen in ages hence? No person could. When it was found difficult, if not generally impossible, to anticipate the events of a quarter of a century, they should not trouble themselves about possible results in more distant periods; but, as practical men, they should act according to the best of their judgments in that way which was most fitted to the circumstances of the times in which they lived, and leave the result to those who should come after them who, there was reason to hope, would find their strength equal to their day; and let the House not be deterred from seizing a present practical good by its possible effect at a period to which no human foresight could extend. Let not the House be deterred from adopting the plan so ably brought forward by the noble Lord, from the fears of those who looked upon it 276 as one of unmeasured, unmitigated evil. Never was any measure submitted to Parliament looked upon by those who opposed it, as one of such unmingled, unmeasured evil. It was not admitted to have any one redeeming quality. This was one reason why he thought it ought to be supported. For none opposed it but those who had a direct interest in upholding the places which it was proposed to subvert. Every hon. Member, but the member for York, had described the measure as one of unmixed evil. He would ask did any hon. Member opposite admit that any improvement could be made in our system of Representation; if he did, he must concede the principle of this Bill. The hon. Member, who would deprive Marylebone of the luxury of being represented, by contrasting its affluent condition with the poverty of Tothill-fields, which had a voice in the choice of Members, had admitted that some of the large towns should be admitted to a share in the Representation. But how was this to be effected excepting by taking the franchise from decayed towns with few inhabitants? Nothing, indeed, surprised him more than the hostility with which some hon. Members regarded this measure; for not a single individual had spoken on the subject who did not admit that some improvement was necessary in the state of the Representation. If, then, they admitted, that improvement was desirable, they admitted the whole principle of the Bill, and the only question remaining was, as to the character of the remedy, and the degree in which it was to be applied. If, then, it was admitted that Birmingham was entitled to be represented, how, he would ask, was that good to be effected, unless through a course somewhat resembling that which was now proposed with respect to the rotten boroughs? It was said, however, that the holders of these boroughs should have compensation. He had no doubt of their willingness to accept compensation; and if Ministers had declared themselves open to proposals, and had erected a box at the Treasury to receive them, he was quite sure, that they would have had offers of twenty or thirty such boroughs upon terms very moderate. The objections of the noble Lord (Darlington), whose course in that House was so opposite to the patriotic disposition which distinguished his noble relative in the other House (the Marquis of Cleveland), were confined to the fact of a refusal of 277 compensation to the owners of borough property. He had, indeed, heard the hon. member for Corfe Castle press, in a low voice, that point on the attention of his noble friend at the time he was speaking; and he had no doubt, that if such a measure had been proposed at first by the Government, many of the keen calculations, much of the constitutional apprehension, and balance-striking arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been spared. He was satisfied, indeed, that the fears for the fate of the aristocracy, and the dread of the popular power, would have yielded at once in hon. Members' minds to the weighty arguments of some thousand pounds sterling as the price of their boroughs and their patriotism. He was, however, no enemy to compensation; but as the Solicitor General, whom he saw near him, could tell them, when a calculation of the value of property was to be taken under such circumstances, they always took into account the usufruct. Now, supposing an hon. Gentleman about to receive 50,000l., or whatever else it was worth, as compensation for the loss of Corfe Castle, he should like to know at what sum they would estimate the enjoyment of the office of Cursitor Baron preceded by a Commissionership of Bankrupts which the hon. Member's son or brother had obtained solely from the possession of that borough. [Cries of' "no, no!"'] Did hon. Members say "No?" How, then, he would ask, could they account for the possession of such places in any other manner? There were other appointments connected with other boroughs which could be explained in no other manner than by the influence of those possessions. The manner in which hon. Members shouted their cheers on this question showed how much they had practised in that mode of testifying their support, when they sat on the Ministerial side. This was the kind of support for which so much Ministerial patronage had long-been lavished. The public had seen the long list of pensions, and the kind of persons to whom they had been granted. There were in that list the names of females, whose services or claims could only be discovered by their connexion with borough influence. A borough proprietor goes to the Treasury, and making his application for patronage—he urges not that he has any great personal pretensions. Or that he could bring much talent to bear 278 in support of Government, but that he has five or six Members in Parliament, who would vote at his will, just as the Minister shall accede to his application. Let the value of borough patronage be estimated in this way, and he should not object to the principle of compensation; for if the value of patronage shared by borough proprietors and their dependents were fairly taken, the public would have to receive, and not to pay money in the settlement of the account. It was this foul traffic which had made the country so unanimous in favour of putting an end to this system of corruption. This it was which induced so many of those boroughs which would be affected by the Bill to declare their cordial concurrence in it. In this respect they showed a disinterestedness which had not, except in very few instances, been witnessed in that House. For his own constituents, he had their authority to state, that though they naturally desired to transmit to their children those muniments which would remind them of what their ancestors had done for them, they willingly gave them up for that which they believed would tend to the public good. It would be idle to go through other instances of this kind, for the whole people of England were for the measure. It was said by those who opposed Catholic Emancipation, that the people should be appealed to. If a dissolution of Parliament should be resorted to, the result would not be for an instant doubtful; and if the country were not unanimous, they deserved to be without Reform. On the occasion of the meeting in Essex, to which he had referred, he told the people, that with a reformed Parliament, they would not have disgraced themselves by coming to the hustings and giving their votes for a reformer and for a gentleman opposed to Reform. He said this without any feeling of personal disrespect to the hon. Member (Colonel Tyrell), whom he honoured for the candid and manly manner in which he had expressed his opinions. He would not take up the time of the House by any further remarks. It was said by that hon. Member, that a premium might be given to those who could produce any new idea on the subject. He could not boast of any new idea on it, but he felt it necessary to state what were his opinions. It was probable that the hon. Member who threw out the suggestion might himself have but a small chance in the competition for new 279 ideas on this subject; yet he was certain, that if premiums had been given for them, the hon. and learned member for Waterford might claim the gold medal in that respect, for his speech was one of, if not, the ablest on the question, and one which deserved the serious consideration of the House; and when he heard the hon. and learned member for Borough-bridge ask what was meant by the cheers from the Ministerial side, for one whom Government had felt it necessary to bring within the operation of the law, he (Mr. Harvey) understood the meaning of the sneer: but it did not lead him to undervalue the importance of that speech, and of the means which it suggested of drawing more closely the ties of interest and affection between the two countries. The hon. and learned member for Borough-bridge need not be alarmed at his chance of obtaining a seat in the House under the new Bill; for if any of the districts into which the Metropolis was to be divided should include that part of Smith-field in which the fair was held, the hon. and learned Member stood a fair chance of coming in for a large share of popular applause. He might without difficulty get Mr. Grimaldi to propose him, and some equally facetious fun-loving character to second the nomination, and he might rely on being a very popular candidate amongst the frequenters of that place. In conclusion, the hon. Member expressed a hope that the House would give its support to a measure fraught with so many benefits to the country. It would be to the eternal credit of Ministers, that in the hour of danger, when other countries were shaken by internal discord, they had effected a bloodless revolution by constitutional means, which would place the whole of the valuable institutions of the country on a wise, firm, and lasting basis. Mr. Goulburn, after stating the reasons which had induced him to postpone so long addressing the House on this important question, said, that before he entered upon it, he wished to make a few remarks on what had fallen from the hon. member for Colchester. That hon. Gentleman had made an attack on all those who held opinions different from his own. He attacked them, not for the weakness of their arguments, for with them he did not grapple; not for any particular expressions which they had used, for with them the hon. Gentleman did not quarrel; but he 280 attacked them, either because they represented boroughs which, in his opinion, ought to be difranchised, or because they were in possession of sinecure offices which he thought they ought not to hold. Now, if any man, either in the House or out of it, who held an office of that description, ought to be exempt from any observation upon the subject, or ought to be considered entirely free from the slightest stain with reference to it, it was undoubtedly his hon. friend, the member for Newport. He confidently appealed to all the hon. Gentlemen who sat near the hon. member for Colchester, whether the possession of the office held by his right hon. friend, the member for Newport so far from casting any imputation upon him, was not a subject of exultation and glory to his hon. friend, as being the reward which a grateful country conferred on a father, eminent for his services to the State, and who, in the discharge of his public duty, fell a victim—not metaphorically, but literally fell a victim—on the threshold of that House to the honesty and zeal of his efforts? He (Mr. Goulburn) was old enough to remember that melancholy day. He had now present in his mind the feeling which pervaded the whole House on the occasion. There was not then in the House any man anxious to point out the fact that the man so murdered was a Statesman, and held an office under the Crown, but men of all parties, both those who supported, and those who opposed the measures of his Majesty's Government, were anxious to mark their sense of the services of an individual who had shown himself superior to all corrupt motives, and who, throughout the whole term of his administration of public affairs, had not provided for a single member of his family, or, except in one instance, had appropriated to himself any permanent office. Parliament marked their sense of that right honorable Gentleman's eminent merits, by settling, on the recommendation of the Crown, a pension of 2,000l. on his son. If his hon. friend, the member for Newport, had continued to enjoy that pension, what honourable man could have thrown the slightest imputation upon him for doing so? It so happened, however, that some time afterwards when the office of a. Teller of the Exchequer became vacant, his Majesty's Government, with a view to a public saving, withdrew the pension which Parliament had bestowed on his hon. 281 friend, and appointed him to that office. But, because Government thought fit to perform this act of economy, was his hon. friend to be flouted and taunted with being a pensioner of the Crown? He did not envy the feelings which had induced the hon. member for Colchester to make the observations in which he had indulged. The sentiments of the hon. Member might have their effect elsewhere; but in that House, either as it was at present constituted, or even as it would be constituted if the Bill of the noble Lord were to be carried into a law, imputations on a son, for enjoying a public reward in consideration of his father's public services, he was sure would never be listened to with favour, or even toleration. He hoped the House would pardon him for having trespassed upon them so long on this point, in consideration of the friendship which had always subsisted between him and the hon. member for Newport; and still more in consideration of the protection which he had experienced from that hon. Gentleman's excellent and lamented father, on his entrance into public life. The hon. member for Colchester had thrown out the imputation that the opposition to the measure now proposed by his Majesty's Government for the most part proceeded from the Representatives of places which that measure sought to disfranchise. The hon. Member attributed that opposition to improper motives. He did not pretend to judge of the motives of others, but if he were a member of one of those boroughs which the Bill proposed to disfranchise he should certainly not think that he was performing an unworthy task if he were to defend the rights and privileges of the electors who returned him, and who claimed to retain those rights and privileges. Nor should he be afraid to compare his motives with those of the hon. member for Colchester. The hon. Member allowed, that the proposed measure would have the effect of greatly reducing in number the electors of Colchester. Whereas, at the last election, nearly 1,500 individuals voted for that borough, the number, in the event of the adoption of the noble Lord's Bill, would be reduced to 600. The hon. Member would therefore be returned by a more select, and, perhaps, to him, a more agreeable body. There had been one or two topics introduced into that Debate, not immediately connected with the subject before the House, 282 on which he wished to make some preliminary observations. The first of those topics had been introduced on the first evening of the discussion, by an hon. and learned Gentleman, who rose to overthrow the law of his hon. and learned friend near him, but who sat down without adverting to it. The hon. and learned Gentleman, alluding to the duty which the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed to levy on the transfer of Stock, contended that it was no violation of any existing law, and that it was, in principle, similar to the reduction of the interest on the Four per Cents. It was important to correct this error, that it might not be urged on any future occasion in justification of a violation of every principle of public faith and national honour. The correction was to be found in the Acts by which the terms of the loans were fixed; and in which it was expressly declared, that the holders of the Stock granted for those loans should be free from the imposition of any tax on their respective shares, "any future Act of Parliament notwithstanding." The hon. and learned Gentleman could not himself use stronger or more conclusive language. The next observation on which he wished to say a few words was made by his noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. His noble friend took great credit to his Majesty's Government for acting without reference to patronage. Now his noble friend and he had been long in office together, and he was sure his noble friend would not say that the patronage of the Crown had been perverted at that time. Having disposed of these preliminary observations, he would proceed to the question immediately before the House. He was admonished, by the length of the Debate which had already taken place, to confine his remarks within narrow bounds. He would not enter into the details of the Bill, for it was disadvantageous to discuss the particulars of any measure simply on the statement of those particulars by any hon. Member. If, therefore, he consented to the introduction of the Bill, it was only that he might thoroughly understand the details of it before he consigned it to the oblivion which it merited. It had been said to the opponents of the measure, that they opposed the right of Parliament to deal with the elective franchise of individuals in boroughs. He disclaimed being one of those who denied the right and 283 power of Parliament to deal with such a subject. Parliament was omnipotent. It had power to deal with the private estates of individuals. It had still more strongly the power to deal with the elective franchise. But the difference between the supporters and the opponents of the measure was this: the latter said, "You must make out a case of absolute necessity, with reference to the public safety; otherwise your interference will be an act of moral injustice, and will subject you to just reprobation." The hon. member for Mid-hurst, and another hon. Member had volunteered to relinquish the elective franchise of their constituents; but it was not so with others; for instance, with his hon. and learned friend the member for Borough-bridge, who remonstrated against the abolition of the rights of his constituents without previous inquiry. If large towns at present unrepresented, were to have Representatives, let them be transferred from the boroughs where the electors were disposed to surrender their votes, and not from the boroughs where they were not so disposed. It was stated by Waller, that James the 1st being at dinner where, among other company, there sat at dinner two Bishops, Neele and Andrews, proposed aloud this question—whether he might not take his subjects' money when he needed it, without all this formality of Parliament? Neele replied, "God forbid you should not; for you are the breath of our nostrils." Andrews declined answering, and said, he was not skilled in Parliamentary cases; but, upon the King's urging him, and saying he would admit of no evasion, the Bishop replied, very pleasantly, "Why, then, I think your Majesty may lawfully take my brother Neele's money; for he offers it." So he would say to Parliament, "You may take the borough of Midhurst, for the hon. member for that borough offers it." The objections to the proposed plan of Reform had been stated over and over again, and he would not repeat them. He objected to change that which he knew to be good, for the purpose of adopting something which he was merely told might be better. It was strange that all the advocates of the noble Lord's Bill admitted, that the results of the present constitution of the House had been the increase of wealth and the progress of intelligence in the country. They all spoke of the glory of that which they proposed to abolish; they 284 all adored the victim which they desired to immolate; and, having done all this, they turned round, and said, Letus reconstruct the House, in the hope that we may make it better." They had been told by the hon. member for Waterford, that the country was prosperous and happy in spite of the misconstruction of the House; that the benefits we had been enjoying for a course of years were in spite of our misconduct. He (Mr. Goulburn) had been taught to believe, that the prosperity of the country was a proof of our good institutions: but he was now told that it was no such thing, for that those institutions were valueless. He was considerably disappointed in the speech of the noble Lord who brought forward the proposition. In proposing to reconstruct the House of Commons, he forgot to state how it was intended, after the change, that the Government of the country should be conducted. He would not repeat the arguments which had been urged to show that the rotten boroughs had been the means of procuring the admission within those walls of many men who had been the most distinguished for their general talents, and for the ability which they had subsequently shown in the direction of the civil affairs, and of the complicated concerns of this great country. The fact was not disputed, and he would not weary the House by any repetition of statement on the subject. But they had not been told how the Government of the country was to be conducted after the proposed change. It had been said, that they ought to argue the question only with reference to the written forms of the Constitution. That was a narrow view of the case. The Constitution, like the Law of England, was not founded on theory alone; but also on the practice that had been growing up for years. If there was one right possessed by the Crown more sacred than another, it was the right of appointing its own Ministers. Undoubtedly the Crown might appoint as Ministers individuals who were not entitled to sit in either House of Parliament; but, practically, it was found expedient that the Ministers of the Crown should sit, some in one House, some in the other, for the purpose of explaining and defending the measures of Government. Now the very boroughs which it was proposed to disfranchise were most frequently the medium by which members of his Majesty's Government obtained seats in that 285 House. He might appeal to every Administration, he might appeal to the present Administration, whether, without the aid of those boroughs, it would not frequently be impracticable to seat members of the Government in the House of Commons, whom it was most essential to the public services should be there? What he wished to ask the noble member for Tavistock, therefore, was, how, after the proposed Bill was passed, Ministers would obtain admission into that House? He had been told, in conversation, that nothing could be more easy than to provide that Ministers, as Ministers, should have seats in that House. He did not know if the proposers of the plan had any such ulterior object in view. He did not know whether, in the reconstruction of the House of Commons, they meant to introduce this new principle. He did not know whether they intended to give to the Crown the power of appointing to seats in that House as well as to seats in the Cabinet. If that was really their view, it ought to have been stated; if it was not their view, the possible exclusion of the Ministers of the Crown from Parliament, was a strong ground of objection to the noble Lord's Motion. It should be recollected, that it was frequently the duty of his Majesty's Ministers to propose measures to which the people at large were averse. But two short years had elapsed since his right hon. friend, who was not at present in his place, did that to which an hon. Baronet opposite said Members of that House were not prone; he resigned the trust which his constituents reposed in him, because, in the discharge of his public duty, he was compelled to oppose their wishes. If, however, there had been no borough by which his right hon. friend had been enabled to resume his seat in that House, his Majesty's Government would have been deprived of the organ necessary for the explanation and defence of their measures; and especially for carrying-through a proposition, the success of which the hon. Gentlemen opposite would not deny was essential to the peace and security of the realm. He wished to know how the noble Lord proposed to avoid such a dilemma? If this Bill were carried into effect, it would occasionally occur, that ex-Ministers would be shutout of the House—men who were most formidable in opposition, in consequence of their familiarity with business. This, perhaps, 286 might be considered a recommendation of the measure. Happy would it be for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down to the House with a clumsy Budget, and find no man on the Opposition benches conversant with Treasury figures to examine and confound him; and happier still would it be for a First Lord of the Admiralty who had an estimate to propose, and was anxious to impugn the conduct of his predecessors in office, to be enabled to do so when they were not present to defend themselves. He approved of the noble Lord's scheme so far as it was directed to the diminution of the expense at elections; but he contended, this object could be attained without a reconstruction of the House. Bills, for instance, might be brought in to that effect; and he had no doubt they would receive the cordial support of a great majority of that House. But the plan of the noble Lord, he maintained, would directly tend to increase the expense of elections, by making all boroughs similar to those now having from 300 to 600 voters, which were notoriously the most expensive and corrupt. He was of opinion that none of the objections urged against the 10l. rate by the opponents of the measure had been answered by its advocates; and he denied the position of the Lord Advocate, that there was of necessity anything permanent in that species of property which was to confer the right of voting, since there was no limit fixed for the possession of a house at this low rent. He likewise objected to the measure, because it deprived the lower classes of their right of returning Representatives to Parliament. He could not, he said, contemplate the possibility of the measure being carried. He was well convinced there was sufficient sense in the country and sufficient firmness in the House to reject it. But if he could contemplate its being carried, he must conceive a House of Commons, representing not the good sense of the people of England, but their temporary passions and prejudices—possessing, as once before, inordinate power, and ready to abolish the hereditary branch of the Legislature, and overthrow the Monarchy. In conclusion he stated, that when the time came, he would give the measure his most earnest and determined opposition; being convinced that there was sufficient wisdom in the country and firmness in the House of Commons to reject it.
did not desire to overthrow the Monarchy or to abolish the Peerage, but to destroy that corrupt borough-mongering system which was the destruction of the rights of both, and thus restore the British Constitution to its ancient purity. He said he could confirm what had fallen from the hon. member for Colchester respecting the feeling towards Reform which prevailed in the county with which he was connected. He had understood the hon. member for Essex to have stated, that the feeling in favour of Reform was not strong there; in proof of which, he adduced the fact, that no pledge respecting his vote upon the question had been demanded of him on the hustings. He could not deny that this might be the case; but most certain it was, that the friends of the hon. Member (those who supported him) were impressed with the opinion that he was an advocate for Reform; for every wall in the county was inscribed with "Tyrell and Reform." To the belief that his hon. friend was a reformer, he was indebted for his election. He remembered, too, that his hon. friend stated, at the Annual Tory Meeting held in that county, that he was a friend to Reform, that and the declaration gave extreme satisfaction to the assembly. The measure which they were then discussing was called a revolutionary measure; but it was rather a Bill for the restoration of rights. If leaseholders and copyholders similar to those at present had existed formerly, there could be no doubt that they would have had the right of voting. If large towns, such as those now unrepresented, had been formerly in existence, there could be no doubt they would have had Representatives. He meant to give his, 'cordial support to the measure, but would take the liberty of suggesting, in the Committee, that the franchise, as regarded leaseholders, might be advantageously extended. If the people had formerly been silent on this subject, it was not from indifference to Reform, but from despair of seeing it carried; but now that they saw in office a Government that was willing to carry Reform, they expressed their approbation of the measure, in favour of which they had loaded the Table with petitions. They had been told that this was an improper time for the introduction of the measure, but he thought otherwise, and hailed the period at which it was introduced, and thought it was the fittest time that could have been chosen. 288 He asserted, in contradiction to those who had declared an opposite opinion, that the measure was not the consequence of intimidation, but the inevitable result of the triumph of those principles which had been so long and so zealously advocated by the men who were now the members of his Majesty's Government. This measure was not, like the Catholic Question, one that had been extorted from the fears of a weak Government, which would have withheld it if it could, but was a spontaneous act on the part of the Government, and came therefore, as a bounty, and with the grace of a matter of favour, at the same time that it was really an act of justice. He should therefore, give it his cordial support.
§ Colonel Tyrell
begged to explain, that he was a reformer, and that he did not oppose the measure because he wished to resist all Reform, but because he thought this measure went a great deal too far.
§ Mr. Charles Douglas
could not support this measure, which he thought was founded in a violation of the principles of the Constitution, and seemed to him to go to the destruction of the institutions of the country. The Lord Advocate had told the House that the people of Scotland were loyal, and that the country was in a prosperous condition, If that was the fact, where was the reason for changing those institutions under which the loyalty and prosperity of the country had grown up? He trusted, that before this Bill was brought in, the noble Lord who proposed it would more distinctly explain his objections to the state of the representation in Scotland, and his proposed remedy for them.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
wished to take that opportunity of making a few remarks upon this most important question. He was the more anxious to do this, as he represented a very numerous constituency, who were warmly in favour of the measure now introduced by his Majesty's Ministers, and who had instructed him to give that measure his support. With that instruction he should most cheerfully comply. It had been said, that the people had been indifferent about Reform, because, during a particular period, they had presented no petitions to that House on the subject. He denied that they had been indifferent upon the subject of Reform, they had not slept upon that question; but it had not been brought forward, because, when the Catholic Question and the repeal of the 289 Test and Corporation Acts came under consideration, the people were unwilling to endanger their success by agitating the question of Reform. Now, when the Government was willing to entertain the question, they came forward to show their satisfaction at the conduct of the Government, and to express their anxious desire for the success of the measure. He was sorry to see, that, during these Debates, many hon. Members had risen up to defend the abuses of the Constitution more openly than he had ever heard before. The pertinacity with which they had defended these abuses quite astonished him; and those who had, in the strongest terms, defended those abuses were the persons who were individually connected with these rotten boroughs. They had been told, that this Reform was uncalled for, because there was no complaint of grievances before the House; but he denied that assertion; for, in his mind, the people complained of the worst of grievances, when they declared that they had no voice in the election of the men who made the laws by which their lives and property were to be disposed of. It was a fact, that thirty-four Peers returned above sixty Members of Parliament—all of whom held places of profit or pension under the Crown; and how was it possible, he asked, to consider these persons as the true Representatives of the people of the country? Yet, the power they possessed was considerable, and the constitution of that House was such, that the Government could not go on without their aid, while they remained in it. That alone was a source of the greatest corruption. He denied that this measure was the consequence of intimidation. Never had the people been more calm and temperate in demanding their rights, than on the present occasion, and it was a libel on them to say, that they wished to upset the Constitution. The measure which the Government had now introduced was very generally and very cordially approved by the people, and the Government had worthily gained their confidence by proposing it. At the same time that he said the people demanded this right of full Representation temperately, he would observe, that to refuse it to them now that they did demand it, would be most improper; and unless the wishes of the people were attended to, he feared that bad consequences might ensue. The people of this country were not in the least disloyal, but 290 by long misgovernment, and by wasteful expenditure, they had been reduced to such suffering, that they had been forced to inquire narrowly into the cause; and having done that, and found it in the imperfect state of the Representation, they demanded, and with good reason, that that cause should be removed. It was said that the people who made this demand did not understand the Constitution. He denied that statement; but if it were true, what did it prove, but that the Constitution which was incapable of being understood was good for nothing, and required to be amended? He wished to call the attention of the House to one circumstance which seemed to have been but little attended to, which was, that when the Constitution was settled at the Revolution, the people were only one-third as numerous as at present, and the Debt was a mere trifle. At present the Debt amounted to eight hundred millions, and the annual revenue of the country to fifty millions; and the change, therefore, was so great, in population and in revenue, as to require a corresponding change in the Constitution. Under these circumstances, and without troubling the House further, —for his sentiments on the subject were well known—he should conclude by declaring, that he gave his cordial support to the Motion of the noble Lord.
said, it is not my wish, Sir, to occupy the attention of the House for many minutes, as the question now before it has been so fully argued during the last seven evenings, but, upon a question of such importance, I am unwilling to give a silent vote. Sir, the noble Lord who has brought forward this Bill has sentenced my constituents to be one and all for ever wiped out from the list of voters. The right hon. Baronet, at the head of the Admiralty, has stated upon this occasion, that men consider their promises generally more binding to their patrons than to their constituents. I can assure the right hon. Baronet that he shall not find in me an example of this, for I have no patron; but I have constituents, and I will vote for them. I will not trespass on the House by bringing forward any new arguments, but will merely make one observation upon the argument of the noble Lord who brought forward this Motion; and I assure him that I listened to him with the utmost attention. He stated, that he was not about to propose a new Constitution, 291 but merely to renovate the old one; but, Sir, I deny that he does this; for example, (the House will excuse my alluding to myself), but was Seaford, the borough which I have the honour to represent (and many of the boroughs proposed to be disfranchised are, I know, similarly situated), was Seaford a Birmingham, or a Sheffield, when our forefathers, of whose virtue and wisdom we have been so constantly reminded, gave it a charter? It has not fallen into decay: on the contrary, it has increased in size and wealth since it received its charter; and can any one deny but that it was intended by our forefathers that all persons, from the highest to the lowest, should have a voice in this House? Therefore it was, that the right of voting was given in some instances to potwallopers; and in others, scot-and-lot payers received the elective franchise. This, Sir, I assert was the intention of our forefathers. The present Bill has not the same meaning;—it is a change, not a renovation. But, Sir, the noble Lord states that population is his guide. Is this the fact? How has the learned member for Waterford been answered? He has shown that there are towns and counties in Ireland far more populous than those to which the present Bill gives Members. Population, therefore, cannot have been the noble Lord's guide. The noble Lord states that the Cabinet are unanimous. This may be, but its supporters are not so. Has not the hon. member for Colchester just declared, that this Bill is revolutionary, and therefore he glories in it? Sir, so much of this Bill as goes to disfranchisement, I shall oppose.
§ Mr. Schonswar
said, that when he first heard of this measure he thought it one of a most sweeping Reform; but when he had had time to consider it fully, he saw that it was a just and true measure of wholesome Reform; that it was conformable to the principles of the Constitution of England, the spirit of which it manifestly adopted, and was strictly in accordance with the principles of justice, liberty, and truth. It was in accordance with those principles which had existed before all Constitutions, and on which they all ought to depend; and in that belief he was ready to give it his full and cordial support. The Gentlemen opposite had taken a most extraordinary course in urging their objections to this measure. They asserted that it was forced upon the 292 House by intimidation. They were mistaken. The advocates of the proposed Bill were not acted upon by their fears, but by their honest conviction of the necessity and justice of the measure. With revolution sometimes threatened on one side, and rebellion on the other, he trusted that they would overlook the threats of both, and coolly and steadily pursue that course which they felt to be for the benefit of the people. There was an almost unanimous voice throughout the country in favour of this measure, and he trusted that the House would recollect that circumstance, and discharge its duty to the country by passing a measure which would be a fresh bond of union between the Government and the People. They should redeem the pledge of service to their country which many of them had so recently renewed to their constituents in the face of God and the World, and give their sanction to a measure which all the people loudly demanded at their hands.
said, after the wish he had expressed last night to deliver his sentiments upon this most important subject, and if, besides that of being a young Member of that House, he had any other claim upon its attention and indulgence, it was this—that he should not detain the House for any length of time. Though he was sensible that any arguments that he could bring forward in support of that great question of Reform, had been enforced by hon. Members possessing learning, talent, and experience in a degree to which he could have no pretensions, yet, in justice to that numerous constituency whom he had the honour of representing in that House, together with his own feelings towards the country, he could not consent merely to give a tacit concurrence to the measure proposed by his Majesty's Government. No man could be more averse than he to any line of domestic policy that could by possibility injure that Constitution under which we had the happiness to live; and it was precisely for that reason that he should give his concurrence to the proposition of the noble Lord, with whatever improvements further discussion might suggest. Surely, a measure framed by men having so deep a stake in the preservation of public order,—framed by the Government, —could not be deemed of a revolutionary, or even of a dangerous tendency. But he felt the danger to be on the other side,— 293 that not the adoption, but the rejection of the proposed measure would entail a state of things which no man could think of without shuddering, and without being prepared to make every effort, and every proper sacrifice, rather than encounter it. Let it not be supposed that he appealed to the fears rather than to the judgment of hon. Members. He appealed to the judgment of that House to look danger in the face, if it already existed; to provide against it, if likely to arise. Any opposite line of conduct would indicate either pusillanimity or perverted judgment. They were not surely called upon by any hon. Members to treat with indifference the circumstances and wants of the times in which they lived. And would any hon. Member who had had an opportunity of observing the state of public feeling throughout the country, be bold enough to declare, that the demand for Reform, so loud and so general, could be rejected without some danger? Had not a mighty spirit been awakened by recent events, fresh in the recollection of all, or rather going forward at that very moment all around them? and they might rest assured that the spirit thus awakened would not be lulled by the somniferous orations of those who, loving actual abuses,Not wisely, but too well,would rather that the whole structure should fall about their ears than that one snug comfortable nest should be disturbed. He would say with the poet—England! the time is come when thou shouldst weanThy heart from its emasculating food,The truth should now be better understood;Old things hare been unsettled.Nothing short of the most complete infatuation could blind any man to the necessity of conciliating the people,—a course advisable at all times, but absolutely requisite now. Before he sat down, he should just notice some observations which had been advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite, with reference to the decayed and objectionable boroughs, which they had been told had been the means of letting in the light of so much talent into that House, although no hon. Member, except the hon. and learned member for Waterford, in his eloquent speech of last night, who had made some pointed observations upon it, appeared to have chosen to point out the probable amount of the opposite quality admitted through the 294 same channels. These hon. Gentlemen said, that for the well-being of the country it was necessary that the aristocracy should possess considerable influence in the return of Members to the Commons House of Parliament. Now, of that fair constitutional influence, which always should, and always must, be attached to property, no one wished, to deprive the aristocracy; and when hon. Members should have felicitously proved that borough influence was constitutional influence,— that it was not one of the greatest insults to the good sense of the nation, the most unjustifiable mode of packing an elective assembly,—then he, for one, should be unwilling to disturb it. But believing, as he did, that this aristocratical influence tended to the annihilation of one of the three great estates of this kingdom, and that not the least important—the Representation of the people— reducing the Constitution, in its present very decayed and nearly worn-out state, from a Constitution of King, Lords, and Commons, to that of King, Lords, and their dependents, instead of the free choice of the Commons of England—believing that, he could not sympathize in the wish of those hon. Gentlemen, that the aristocracy should be permitted to retain what, in his opinion, was an unconstitutional power, under the gentle denomination of a considerable share of parliamentary influence. He could not sufficiently thank the House for the indulgence extended to so humble an individual; and with the hope that the happy combination of circumstances which had enabled the noble Lord, after so long and so apparently hopeless a struggle, to bring forward that great question of Parliamentary Reform, backed by the Government, would lead to the tranquility of the country, to the stability of the Constitution, to the establishment of perfect confidence between the people of England and their Representatives in that House, he would repeat the words of a celebrated writer,—Let us exult, that they who rule the landAre men who hold its many blessings dear:Wise, upright, valiant,—not a venal band,Who are to judge of danger which they fear,And honour which they do not understand.
§ Mr. Courtenay
was anxious to take his full share of that awful responsibility, attached by the right hon. Baronet opposite to those who ventured to oppose this measure; and he wished to discharge himself 295 from that still more awful responsibility which would attach to those who concurred in effecting this very great change in the Constitution. With regard to one borough included in the list of the noble Lord, he had to charge him with taking away its franchise upon erroneous pretences. He would not enter into any detailed defence of the present system of Representation, because the subject had been entirely exhausted; but it was, nevertheless, necessary for him to say, that after having listened with great attention to three Cabinet Ministers—to the noble Lord who brought forward this measure, and to the Judge-Advocate, and to the noble Lord, the Under secretary for the Colonies, he was not satisfied of the principle on which it was founded. He did not deny the necessity of a Reform, but he did not agree to the principle on which that Reform was to be effected: for he could not think with the Lord-Advocate of Scotland, that a Reformed Parliament would produce benefit to the country, without first considering what the nature of the Reform was to be. That might be called a Reform which, after all, might be no amendment, which he thought would be the case, if the exposition of the principle on which this Bill was founded, was to be taken from the speech of the right hon. Baronet who spoke last night, and his learned friend, the Judge-Advocate, who spoke the night before. The right hon. Baronet, however, did not take quite such high ground as the Judge-Advocate. He merely said, he must concur with the just demands of the people; but the Judge-Advocate took a much higher view of the case; made an elaborate exposition of the principle, and asserted that this House should represent all the Commons of England, and nothing but the Commons of England. The right hon. Gentleman said, that was the principle of our Constitution; and he quoted Mr. Justice Blackstone as having clearly laid down this principle. But he confidently asserted, that the true principle of the Constitution of England was not to be found in any book, but in practice. The right hon. Gentleman would indeed find it laid down, that in order to preserve the balance of the Constitution, the three branches of the Legislature, the King, Lords, and Commons, ought to act independently of each other, each serving as a check upon the other; but he would put it to his right hon. friend, whether that had been the practice of the Consti- 296 tution, and whether it could work for ten years in that manner. Mr. Speaker lately furnished a very apt illustration of the difference between the practice and the theory of the Constitution, in what he said with respect to the use made in this House of the name of the King. He decided, that Members were perfectly justified in alluding to that name, because, if Ministers acted constitutionally, they could not bring the measures under discussion before the House without having first submitted them to the King. That was most assuredly in accordance with the practice of the Constitution, as it had subsisted for many years; but, according to what was found in the books, it would be an impeachable offence. In practice, the different branches of the Constitution operated upon each other, imperceptibly producing the protection and mutual advantage of every public interest. Whatever might be the theory, the practice, as laid down by the Speaker, was perfectly correct. In his opinion, any measure which would greatly popularize the House of Commons, would destroy the balance of the Constitution, and render it impossible that the King and the Peers should preserve their station. When he said that this was impossible, he did not impute any fault to the Commons, as the hon. member for Colchester appeared to suppose, but he certainly was of opinion, that any system of pure and perfect Representation must destroy the other two branches of the Constitution. If it were said, that the only perfect system of Representation must be founded on a notion of the abstract right of the people to govern themselves, without the interference of any other power, how could one man, and a body of 300, or 400, possess each a third part of the legislative power? Mr. Fox, in one of his celebrated speeches on the subject of Reform, stated, he was not of the opinion generally held, that the Constitution was beautiful in theory but erroneous in practice, but exactly the reverse; he thinking that it was in some degree absurd in theory, but excellent in practice; for what, he asked could be more absurd in theory, than that one man should have a third part of the Legislature in his own person? The right hon. Baronet, and the noble Lord, professed to give to independent and intelligent classes the right of voting, for the purpose of returning Members to Parliament; but in doing 297 that the noble Lord drew a line, which; must necessarily be arbitrary. The noble Lord assumed that inhabitants of houses rented at 10l. a-year possessed independence and intelligence. For his part he did not see that paying a 10l. rent afforded any security for independence and intelligence; and he was sure that the enactment would present as many anomalies as exist in the present system, because the 10l. householder in one place, and the 10l. householder in another would be in as different situations as two persons could possibly be. Without, however, going further into the discussion of that part of the subject, as he saw the House was impatient, he would only add, that he did not think the noble Lord extended the franchise to the general body of the intelligent inhabit ants of this country. Suppose that 10l. householders represented the intelligence of the country, they must have the good for tune to reside in, or at a very small distance from, certain towns, or they would not be entitled to the privilege of voting; and supposing there are 400,000 10l. householders, 200,000 out of that number would, prima fade, be disqualified from the privilege of voting. The noble Lord, therefore, on his own principle, did great injustice. If he had recurred to the principle adopted by Earl Grey, who, when he brought forward a motion on this subject, in the year 1797, proposed to give to all householders the right of voting; he would have introduced a much more fair and just measure than this. He must also take the liberty of saying, that there was one remarkable feature in the speech of the noble Lord, in which he departed from all other speeches he ever made on this subject. The noble Lord did not state to the House any one practical benefit that he expected would result from this measure, and he would find it most difficult to discover one. The learned Lord Advocate contended, that public opinion ought to operate rapidly upon the House; but he (Mr. Courtenay) held, that the influence of public opinion should only make itself gradually felt. In the list produced by the noble Lord, of close and decayed boroughs, he found the borough of Tot-ness, which he had the honour to represent. Would the noble Lord have the goodness to tell him whether, in his estimation, that borough was a close or open borough? Decayed it was not; it never was more flourishing than at present; and 298 he would venture to say, that it was as open as Westminster. If the noble Lord, therefore, intended to disfranchise it, the ground for his doing so should be fairly stated. In respect to that borough, the Bill of the noble Lord would actually give rise to evils that never before existed; and this would be the case, not only in that borough, but in many others similarly situated. That borough was now perfectly open; there was no bribery—no patronr— but the immediate effect of the noble Lord's Bill would be, to place it under the control of a patron. By return of post— as soon as his constituents were informed of the nature of this Bill—they wrote to inform him, that after this Bill had passed —if, indeed, it ever received the sanction of this House,—they would do their best to return him to Parliament, but that a great deal would depend on a noble Peer, whom he would not name,—who would possess a considerable degree of influence in the borough and adjoining parishes, and on the decision of the Privy Council, as to the point to which the limits of the borough should be extended. On these j circumstances it would depend, whether, this free and open borough should remain! so, or be transferred to the influence and j control of a Nobleman who, he believed, supported his Majesty's Government. It was true, that this borough had a smaller population than those left with two Members, but that and many other boroughs, contained a much greater portion of intelligence than those towns which would be put in possession of new Members. The noble Lord assigned the elective franchise, not according to the quantity of intelligence a place possessed, but according to the number of persons, without taking intelligence at all into consideration. The noble Lord actually favoured those places which contained a large number of inhabitants, without any degree of intelligence, and disfranchised those which contained a smaller number of inhabitants with a greater degree of intelligence. Judging from the population returns, about two-thirds of the boroughs would require that the neighbouring parishes should be included in them, and there would be then nearly 100 Bassetlaws. The noble Lord, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, asserted, that a great part of the evils of this country, and especially the National Debt, was owing to the existence of an unreformed Parliament. That very 299 allegation was contained in a petition presented to this House by the present Karl Grey, in the year 1793; and Mr. Fox, whose conduct on the subject of Reform was moderate in a remarkable degree, expressed his regret that a proposition so absurd should be found in the petition, yet that absurdity is now repeated by the son of Mr. Fox's friend. When Lord Grey, in the year 1797,✶ proposed, for the last time, his measure of Reform, which resembled, in some respects, that now under discussion, he felt so deeply the importance of the subject, and the difficulty of making so radical a change in the constitution of this House, that he did not move for it to pass, but that it should be brought in and printed, and laid on the Table for another Session. He would suggest the adoption of the same course on this occasion. There was not the slightest doubt but this Bill would have the effect of producing the greatest change which had ever been made in the Constitution, not excepting the Revolution of 1688; and he really thought that a measure of this unspeakable importance ought not to be passed in a hurry, ft was, in his opinion, a revolutionary measure in two senses of the word—in the first place, it infused too much of the popular feeling-into the composition of this House; and, secondly, it tended to produce a change which, when once effected, would instantly lead to others, leaving, at no distant time, hardly a vestige of the original Constitution of the country remaining.
said, having the honour of being one of the Representatives of a large county, he felt anxious to trespass a short time on the indulgence of the House. There were many paints connected with the measure upon which he would not now speak. He was desirous of stating what he had been able to collect from his constituents and others in the county of Lancaster, as to their opinions upon the measure which had been submitted to Parliament. It gave him great pleasure and happiness to say, that the principles of the measure were not only supported by the great body of the people in that part of the kingdom, but that they met with complete approbation. Many persons who had never before hazarded an opinion upon their own rights—having been bought and✶ See Hansard's Fail. History, Vol. xxxiii, p. 644.300 sold like cattle in Smithfield, as had been said of voters for certain boroughs in the course of the Debate—now came forward, and were loud in their praises of the measure. He was persuaded that in the course of a few days hon. Members representing boroughs, who had never been desired by their constituents to declare opinions on their behalf, would be called upon to state in that House—opinions indicative of approbation of the measure. In the course of a very short time a meeting was to be held in the county of Lancaster, for the purpose of the people expressing their satisfaction at the course taken by Ministers. Many great obstacles, he was aware, were presented, but they would give way. He was ready to confess, that when he heard the speech of his noble friend—when he unfolded the plan of Parliamentary Reform—he really was apprehensive that he had gone too far. It was not with respect to the principle of the measure; but he feared that, by its largeness, a powerful force would be enlisted against it. He had listened to the arguments, certainly with an anxious wish that the measure might be carried, and he would now say, he had confident hopes of that being accomplished. He would tell the hon. Members who had opposed it, and this he said not as a threat, that such opposition only tended to cause the people to unite more strenuously in its favour. Was the House of Commons, he would ask, to remain a doubtful power, uncertain whom it represented? or was it to become again what was the original design—the true and full Representative of the people? He had represented, in several Parliaments, a borough in the county which he had now the honour of representing; and it might be said—nay, he knew it had been said—that great influence had been made to return him. It might be so, or not. He was aware that he had many personal friends in the place; but this he would say, that, of the four times which he sat in Parliament for that borough, three were contested elections. That borough, he was glad to find, had been included in the plan of the noble Lord. He rejoiced that the House of Commons would henceforward consist of real Representatives of the people. This was a subject of great congratulation to the country. It would afford him infinite pleasure and satisfaction if he could in any way contribute in rendering so important and valuable a service 301 to the empire, and his vote should be most cordially given in support of the measure.
§ Mr. Keith Douglas
was exceedingly anxious to hear some explanation given of the plan as it affected Scotland, more particularly in relation to the Scotch burghs. He was prepared to show, when the Scotch Bill was brought in, that the present districts into which the boroughs were grouped could not be continued.
§ Mr. Thomas Duncombe
assured the House that he should not detain it long, but having Constituents to represent, he was anxious to say a few words. Two-thirds of the time occupied in the debates which had taken place on the introduction of the measure submitted to Parliament had been occupied by hon. Members who had no Constituents to represent. The arguments of those hon. Gentlemen who represented rotten or close boroughs would have no weight with the people of England, excepting making them insist upon having the measure passed. From the knowledge which he possessed of the opinions entertained by his own constituents, they were in favour of it. They had authorised him to convey to his Majesty's Ministers their gratitude for the unflinching manner in which they had redeemed their pledge; and gone further than was expected in destroying the aristocratical influence which had so long disgraced that House, by having Peers' nominees seated as the Representatives of the people. The people were bound to support Ministers, and they would contribute their share towards such an object. The hon. Member who had commenced that evening's debate, bad said that he (Mr. Duncombe) was a slight authority. He would admit that he was, and he had shown that he thought so by not often troubling the House with his observations. He thought that the hon. Member who had addressed the House at the beginning of the evening with so much vehemence, and with so little argument, would do better if he would follow his example. The hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge (Sir C. Wetherell) who had rather prematurely called upon any member of the Cabinet to uphold the measure if he dared, would now, probably, think that the challenge which he had put forward would have been much better omitted. He would, however, upon the present occasion, follow a little the indiscretion of the hon. and learned Member; and be called 302 upon any hon. Member opposite to answer or reply to, the able speech of his right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland. If, however, hon. Gentlemen did not like to attempt a reply to that speech, he would beg to invite them to endeavour to answer the speech of the learned Lord—the Lord-Advocate. He begged to call upon the dying member for Boroughbridge—to answer the speech of the Learned Lord; and he would give him until the passing of the Bill—and pass the Bill would—to frame his answer. He would give the hon. and learned Member time, even until the moment when the Speaker put the question "that this Bill do pass," after its third reading, to reply to that speech—a speech fraught with argument, which the right hon. the ex-Secretary of the Admiralty had vainly attempted to answer—in language no more to be compared to the language which had been used by the learned Lord, than the trash of a certain Sunday newspaper was to be compared to the elegant diction and acute reasoning of the Edinburgh Review. There never was a Bill so auspicious and promising. Who were the opponents of the measure? Of course the rotten-borough Representatives. The opposition thus offered was the greatest honour which the Bill could receive, even although among its opponents were the hon. members for Wareham (Mr. Calcraft), and for Calling-ton (Mr. Baring). If the measure were defeated by its opponents, the country would compel them to pass it. If Ministers did listen to the opposition, and wished to retrace their steps, he believed that the, country would not allow them. The country had seen Ministers destroy the out works of corruption; they had witnessed the manner in which the citadel had been summoned, and did the House believe that the people of England would stand idly by, were an attempt made to abandon the siege? No. He would tell the borough proprietors to listen to serious advice and open their gates; let them unfasten their rusty bolts, for although they might possibly postpone, they could not prevent the hour of victory from arriving. The House had been told that it was something bordering upon treason to recommend an appeal to the country on the part of Ministers, should the measure be rejected. He would tell the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge, and the noble Marquis, the member for Buck- 303 inghamshire, as far as that recommendation went, he would plead guilty: to such a charge be was a rebel. He would say, in the event of the Bill being rejected, that he would recommend his Majesty's Ministers to dissolve Parliament. Nay, he would go further, and recommend them to advise the Grown to suspend the writs for the sixty rotten boroughs that were to be totally disfranchised, and he believed that the country would put upon that proceeding the stamp of legality. He knew there was a party in that House who were opposed to the present measure, some of whom had formed part of the late Administration, men who would be happy to turn out the present Government on that question. But could they maintain themselves in the situation to which they aspired? could they succeed in cajoling the public with a sham Reform? No, let them not lay that flattering unction to their Tory souls, for never again, he could tell them, would the country submit to be governed by the system of patronage and corruption which they had upheld. As the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had declared—the days of patronage were gone by, and if those who were opposed to Reform were to succeed in turning out the Ministers on this measure, to favour the principles of patronage and corruption, the country would set the rotten-borough Administration at defiance, and the conflict which they themselves now predicted, would infallibly ensue. Such a state of things no man, no honest man, could desire to witness, and in order that it might be averted from this country, he hoped the House would adopt the measure now before it, and secure to the people of England by that means a secure, safe, efficacious, and constitutional Reform.
§ Mr. Tennant
addressed the House amidst loud and continued calls of question and much confusion. He was understood to express his gratitude and the gratitude of his Constituents to the Ministers for this measure. He contended, that the balance of the Constitution, supposing the different branches to be equal, and supposing them represented by figures, had been destroyed, and that the Peers had doubled the number which expressed their power, while the Commons and the Crown had diminished the number which expressed their power. He would place up in some part of the House, "Repaired and Beautified Anno Domini 1831." The 304 Bill was, he thought, the greatest boon ever bestowed on a loyal and affectionate people.
Lord John Russell
said, that after a Debate which had endured for seven days, of which no previous example was before the House, he felt it to be his duty to address the House in answer to what had fallen from several of those hon. Members who had spoken against the measure, and also to set them and the House right upon one or two points upon which he had been misunderstood. And, first, he must express his extreme surprise at the line of argument adopted by his opponents; a surprise awakened by the consideration that such a course should have been taken upon a question of such vital importance and of such deep interest to the country: those hon. Members who had spoken against the measure had confined themselves chiefly to an attack by means of personal gibes, and to throwing out taunts against himself and his right hon. Colleagues. They had not endeavoured to point out any of the inherent and latent faults which must ever be found in a measure based, like the present, on very broad principles, and which would make very important alterations; they had confined their chief opposition to bringing an accusation against himself and some of his friends in the Ministry, that, in framing and bringing forward this measure, they had considered the claims and interests of their own connections with too partial an eye. Now, he did not expect, when he had looked forward prospectively to the debate which he knew must ensue on his propositions, that such a system of warfare would be maintained only with such weapons. He had looked for sharp words and angry arguments from those hon. Members who were opposed to Reform; but he must say, that the course taken by them had been as unexpected as it was unworthy. Hon. Gentlemen had been seen day after day coming down to that House, pursuing a line of argument mixed up with vituperation, and attributing to the Ministers motives which could not be regarded as otherwise than base and degrading. What, on a matter of such overwhelming importance, when the future welfare of England, and the future construction of that House, and of the Constitution, were under consideration, did hon. Members leave such high matters in order to fix on him, and on his friends in the Cabinet, the paltry charge of consulting their own inter- 305 ests. Such a course of proceeding reflected more discredit on the opponents of the Ministers, than on the Ministers themselves. He was sure that no Member who knew him would impute to him, in advocating such a great measure, the mean, paltry, and pitiful desire to serve his party or his friends; least of all, did he expect to have found his hon. friend, the member for Callington taking that line of argument, and making such an imputation, for he had been long in habits of friendly intercourse with that hon. Member, and certainly had hoped, that the hon. Gentleman had known him too well to cast such a slur on him. He would now proceed to answer in as few words as possible, what related to the personal share he had had in selecting the basis assumed for the measure. In doing this the Ministers had taken the population returns of 1821 as the rule by which to frame the enactments of the Bill. They might have gone further and have taken the number for determining the disfranchisement of boroughs at a much higher mark; they might have gone so far, and their opponents reproached them for not having done it, as to exclude Tavistock and all boroughs which possessed a population only equal to that borough. But what would have been the consequence? Why, they found that whereas by the line which they had drawn, 168 Members only would be cut off, no less a number than 260 Members would have been cut off had they drawn the line so as to exclude Tavistock and its equals; and it was not thought advantageous to propose a measure which would have the effect of excluding Members to such an extent from that House. Supposing they had fixed the limits of the boroughs at above 500—why, Higham Ferrars would have escaped. If they had fixed the limits at 1,000, it would have been said that certain Whig interests had been considered; at 2,000, it was the same; and if they had gone to the extent of 3,000, the plan would have been open to similar unfounded imputations. He must beg to observe, that of the boroughs whose population exceeded 4,000, there were twenty-five left, and out of these twenty-five boroughs only three had been selected as points of observation by the opponents of the measure, who had totally omitted to make any mention of the remaining twenty-two. A noble Lord opposite would probably, after the measure was passed, retain some of that influence at Cirencester which he was 306 known now to possess; and was one solitary borough to be picked out of the twenty five, as a foundation whereon to fix an accusation against justice and impartiality of Ministers? He could assure the House that the subject had been very carefully gone into; the authentic returns laid on the Table had been taken as the basis of the whole measure, and he professed himself utterly unable to discover any plan that would not have been liable to similar objections. Then, again, some hon. Gentlemen had made a point of comparing boroughs, and had said, that one was small and another was large, and yet both were allowed to retain the same number of Representatives. He could only say, that this part of the subject also had been carefully looked at, and the different returns upon which it would be best to proceed, had been compared by the Government. And after the most mature consideration, the population returns, though they were uncertain, and in some instances incorrect, had been selected as those which, on the whole, it would be most proper to adopt as the basis of the alterations. Another ground for opposition had been taken on the proposition for giving a vote to the inhabitants of houses paying 10l. a year rent, and it had been asked did these form a proper criterion of the wealth and importance of a borough? It was also urged that there would be no certainty in the mode of ascertaining the number of these householders—that the persons employed to collect the taxes would favour their own districts, and that their returns would be no safeguard for a measure of this kind. To that he would only observe, that the Returning Officers had no notion that such a use would be made of these returns when they were made, and could not, therefore, have wilfully committed any errors. The hon. member for Yarmouth (Mr. William Peel) had compared the Returns with a document containing an account of the population of Tamworth; but would it have been expedient to found an Act of that House on the mere letter of a Returning Officer, without knowing whether it were correct, and especially when Returning Officers sometimes confessed their total ignorance of the subject? The hon. Member compared Tavistock with Tamworth, in respect to the number of houses rated at 10l. a-year. But the indirect objects of tax-officers render their returns not always a 307 safe guide. The hon. Gent, after comparing Calne and Tavistock, and Tamworth, did not notice in the second return, that the number of houses in Tamworth is 130, and in Tavistock 260. That the measure was free from errors, he did not say, or that it would not admit of some slight amendments, but the Ministers had thought it best to take the Returns upon which they had founded it without making any private inquiries at all,—to let the general propositions first be placed before the public, and to obtain such documents as might be necessary for its perfection, after they had done so. He hoped the House would give him credit for the assertion, that the measure was founded on the general Returns, and not on any partial inquiries. The right hon. member for Aldborough had told them on a former night, that the Ministers had not gone by the population returns in regulating the number of Members for different places; that they had allowed certain boroughs to return two Members on a population of 4,000 or 5,000 whilst they had allowed the same number only to several of the large Yorkshire towns, where the population was 12,000 or 15,000. But this was no information to the Ministers; they had never put the measure of Reform on a footing of such perfect symmetry and regularity as to reduce the Representation of the country to exact proportions, so that a certain and fixed number of persons should return a certain number of Members. When the right hon. Member compared Sheffield with other towns, containing a much smaller number of inhabitants, he wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman, that the discrepancies at present were still greater, and he might have extended his observation to Westminster, which, with a population of 180,000, returned only two Members, whilst St. Alban's, Reading, and other towns in the neighbourhood, returned the same number. That circumstance was certainly an anomaly, but they had not interfered with it; anomalies they found, and anomalies, though not such glaring ones as now existed, they meant to leave. A regular distribution of an equal proportion of Members to equal population might be a wise and a great scheme, but the proposers of this measure had not thought fit to bring such a plan before Parliament; and if those who threw opposition in their way on that ground 308 thought that such a plan would prove either beneficial or practicable, let them come forward and propose it, but let them not on account of this measure wanting a species of symmetry which they would have been the foremost to reject, censure it. Let them not bring forward arithmetical calculations on which to found arguments against this Reform, for the purpose of marring it, and stopping all improvement in the institutions of the country. The member for Tamworth had said, that he had not heard one ingenious reason from him in support of the plan for Reform which he had brought forward. He was willing to confess the truth of this charge, having thought it a sufficient merit, on his part, to have produced a plan for the remedy of evils which were so glaring in the constitution of that House that everybody acknowledged them; and he had, therefore, confined himself to the simple explanation of the remedies proposed. That Ministers were not required to state many reasons in support of the Bill, he needed no stronger proof than the reception which the measure had met with throughout the country. It had been received in all quarters, North, South, East, and West,—in Scotland and in Ireland—with one universal feeling of satisfaction; and he trusted that no fault could be found with him, because he had not taken up the time of the House by unnecessarily expatiating on the ingenious reasons in its favour which might be urged, and which the right hon. Member seemed to have expected. The nation was satisfied with the scheme as it stood, because the great and long-wished-for object of Reform would be attained by it; and he was satisfied also that there was common sense in the composition of the measure, even though there was some lack of ingenuity on his part in explaining its bearings. An hon. Member had done him the honour to read an extract from a speech made by him in the year 1819,✶ in praise of the Constitution, wishing to know how he could reconcile the language he then used with the measure at present before the House? Any change of opinion of his could, of course, be a matter of very little importance. The honourable Baronet was, however, partly right and partly wrong. He (Lord John Russell), had truly de-✶ See Hansard, 1st Series, xli, 1104, 5. Also 3rd Series, ii, 1342, 3.309 scribed the working of the Constitution in favourable terms, because he confined his view to a certain period subsequent to the Revolution; and in attending to the events of the last century, he had overlooked those of the present; but as he advanced in the labours of a Reformer he came to juster notions—From fiction's heights, where I had wandered long,I stooped to truth, and moralized my song.He certainly admitted, that in the year 1822, when he again came forward with a measure of Reform, and, looking at the state of the country, he perceived that the middle class, as compared with the corresponding body in the preceding century, had risen in wealth, arid intelligence, and knowledge, and influence; and as they advanced, the limits of the Constitution became narrower and narrower, while the basis upon which the middle classes had established themselves was becoming broader and broader. Considering the increase of importance in that class, he had come to the conclusion that they were not sufficiently represented in the House. The basis upon which it was constituted was too narrow to admit of their equal participation of that Representation, on that account they had become dissatisfied, and on that account he had thought an extension of the Representation necessary. The votes of that House were not calculated to restore the confidence of the people. He had proved that on almost all great Questions of Economy, Retrenchment, and Reform, the Representatives of populous places were in favour of them, and the Representatives of the boroughs against them. There might be some egotism in reading part of a speech of his own, but that was he thought necessary in this case to set himself right with the House. He was censured for having said something in praise of the Constitution in 1819, but in 1821 he had moved for a Committee to inquire into the state of the Representation, which was not granted, and in 1822 he brought forward a measure more extensive than the present Bill, for it went to disfranchise 100 boroughs. The reason he had then given for that change in his opinion was as follows: "The indifference of the House to the measures I then proposed, has compelled me to look for others more calculated to insure the cooperation of the country at large, and to obtain from the House in the gross, that 310 Reform which they were unwilling to effect by gradual and unpretending means."✶ He could but express much sorrow that the proposition he had then brought forward, for transferring the franchises of 100 boroughs to the larger towns had not been adopted; for, though it would not have been a final measure, it would have made the transition from the evils of the Representation to a reformed state of things much more easy than it was now. One right hon. Gentleman had said, in reference to the willingness expressed by the hon. member for Chichester to give up his boroughs, that those who liked might give them up, and that those who did not should retain them. The right hon. Gentleman counselled the Whigs to give up their boroughs, which was as much as to say, leave the field open to us and we shall find a rich harvest of patronage and emolument. But as long as the House was formed, as at present, it was necessary for Ministers to have some influence in such boroughs as Midhurst, Tavistock and Calne, in order that they might be able to meet their Tory adversaries in that House, and to have some chance with those who raised their voices in favour of corruption and patronage, as those hon. Gentlemen had so long done, with great advantage to themselves. The hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge had talked about the democratic Assembly, the Ministers were about to create, which would, at no distant day, destroy the King and the House of Lords; but there was a fallacy in the word democratic, which it seemed was made to imply an association of democrats, whose wish was, to overturn the House of Lords and the Crown. He denied altogether that the measure would have the effect of rendering that House a democratic assemblage, in that sense of the word. He could not conceive why Yorkshire, which now sent four Members, who were not democrats, should, when six Members were returned from that county, all at once send nothing but democrats. Nor could he conceive why Manchester, or Birmingham, should send democrats any more than Bristol or Liverpool. He did not know where Members could come from, who should be disposed to overturn the Crown. He was rather inclined to✶ Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, vol. ii., New Series, p. 79.311 look upon the supposition as one of the same class of chimeras as had agitated the minds of hon. Members when the Test and Corporation Acts had been repealed, and when the Catholics had been admitted into that House. There was, in fact, no change proposed, down to a simple alteration of the Game-laws, which Gentlemen did not meet by similar arguments. The gallant Officer, the Ex-Secretary for Ireland, had made two mixed objections to the measure—the first, that it would take the Crown off the King's head; and the second, that it would give too many Members to Durham; these were very disproportionate objections, and as to that about the Crown, he thought he might leave the safety of his Majesty to the protection of his people. The advocates for the existing state of Representation were mistaken, if they thought their arguments would prove that the stability of the Throne depended on their boroughs. It was not upon such rotten and decayed timbers that the Throne could with safety rest. They were a disgrace to the House, and a peril to the country! It might be very true, that the borough Members, up to the present time, had had too much influence in the councils of the Sovereign, but he was apt to imagine that, upon inquiry, it would be found that their advice had not increased, but rather diminished the loyalty of the people. The Crown would be more secure, and the Throne more firm, by being placed upon the affections of the people. They were the fittest guardians of the institutions of the country. What might be suited to other times was unfit for the present, and the sooner the vicious parts of the system were lopped off the more would the people be disposed to consider it with that respect and reverence which the inhabitants of a free country should entertain for those institutions by which they were guarded. But the House had been told, it would be impossible for the Government of the country to be carried on if there were no boroughs by means of which Members of the Government could find seats in that House! When a Member of Parliament accepted office, and took upon himself the duties of a situation of great labour and responsibility, he acknowledged that it was sometimes convenient for such a person to get in for a close borough, where he had no constituency and no responsibility. He admitted that this convenience 312 would be lost; but that men of great eminence, of any party, would not get into Parliament as the Representatives of great counties or towns, he altogether denied; let them look back to the leaders of the House. Mr. Pitt represented the University of Cambridge, Mr. Fox, the City of Westminster, Mr. Canning represented Liverpool, and Lord Castlereagh the County of Down. Now, if these Gentlemen, after they had accepted office, had chosen to retain their seats for those places, or had chosen at any time to resume those seats, he was satisfied that they might have done it. And as to the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, he was certain, that if at the last general election, that right hon. Baronet had chosen to stand for Liverpool, or for any of the large manufacturing districts with which he was connected, any of those would have been glad to obtain the services of so able and efficient a Representative. Men of great eminence, therefore, would not be excluded from Parliament. The abolition of the close boroughs, he admitted, might subject persons in office to some inconvenience, but in a great Question of this kind, the benefit must be weighed against the injury. In such a measure it was impossible there should not be some inconvenience; but the advantages to be reasonably expected from it so far over-weighed the inconvenience to which individual members of the Government might be subject, that he did not look upon that argument as deserving of any consideration, being satisfied that the practical working of the measure on the Constitution would be productive of no injurious effect. Much had been said of threats and intimidation in and out of that House. What would hon. Members, who made this charge against his Majesty's Government, say to the words of Lord Chatham? "If this House does not reform itself from within, it will be reformed with a vengeance from without." Had his Majesty's Ministers said anything so strong as that? Had they thrown out such a threat to the House of Commons? But he should read for hon. Members the words of Mr. Burke, whose name was put forward, and his authority quoted, as the great antagonist and opponent of Parliamentary Reform—the enemy of all innovation, the champion of the Constitution and of the aristocracy, and the protector of that House against all the schemes of wild democracy. Mr. 313 Burke, in introducing his plan of economical Reform, spoke to this effect—"The whole hope of reformation is at length cast upon us; and let us not deceive the nation, which does us the honour to hope everything from our virtue. If all the nation are not all equally forward to press this duty upon us, yet be assured that they all equally expect we should perform it. The respectful silence of those who wait upon your pleasure ought to be as powerful with you, as the call of those who require your service as their right. Some, without doors, affect to feel hurt for your dignity, because they suppose that menaces are held out to you. Justify their good opinion by shewing that no menaces are necessary to stimulate you to your duty. But, Sir, whilst we may sympathize with those in one point who sympathize with us in another, we ought to attend no less to those who approach us like men, and who, in the guise of petitioners, speak to us in the tone of a concealed authority. It is not wise to force them to speak out more plainly what they plainly mean. But the petitioners are violent. Be it so. Those who are least anxious about your conduct are not those that love you most." "Let us return to our legitimate home, and all jars and all quarrels will be lost in embraces. Let the Commons in Parliament assembled be one and the same thing as the Commons at large."✶ That was the way in which Mr. Burke, in one word, disposed of the theory that the House was not to represent the people, but that it was to be something better, and should not in all points represent the Commons at large. Mr. Burke went on in say, "The distinctions made to separate us from the people are mischievous. Let us identify and incorporate ourselves with them. Let us cut the chains and cables which hold us from them, and float into that harbour, whose moles and jetties extend to receive us;" and then he added, "War with the world, and peace with our constituents." Such were the words of Mr. Burke, in introducing a measure of economical reform, from which the people at that day hoped every thing. In that hope, however, they were mistaken. No cutting off of offices or of patronage, though it was done with ever so unsparing or so judicious a hand, could prevent the Hydra from rising again.✶ Hansard's Par, Hist, vol, xxi., pp. 70.314 Until the House was reformed, the people had no hope from retrenchment; for if one office was abolished, ten were created. What the people now called for was, not economical reform; it was another remedy. They saw clearly its necessity, and acted wisely in demanding an amended Representation in that House. What the people wanted was Representatives in that House in whom they could confide, as the most vigilant guardians of the public purse and the national interests. The people wanted not to trouble themselves by considering particular measures of Reform, and the abolition of particular places, but they expected such a change in the character of their Representatives, that in future they might rely confidently on it, that, when an expense was found to be unnecessary, it should be retrenched; when an armament was useless it should not be made, and when a law was oppressive, it should not be passed. There was but one topic more on which it was necessary to trouble the House. The right hon. member for Tamworth expressed his regret, partly for his own sake, partly for the sake of his Majesty's Ministers, but, most of all, for the sake of the country, that the Government had not produced such a measure as he could agree to—a measure in which there should be nothing of confiscation; by which the right hon. Baronet no doubt meant—no disfranchisement of the boroughs. The right hon. Baronet had wished that such a measure had been produced, as might have been passed through that and the other House of Parliament, without any dereliction of duty, or any great offence to the principles on which the majority of those Houses were in the habit of acting. If the ministers had done that, and acted on the right hon. Baronet's suggestion, no doubt they would have conciliated many—they would have avoided much opposition—the measure they produced would have been carried by a vast majority—they might have gone on with success through the Session; but they would have inflicted a great evil on the country at large. The hon. member for Callington (Mr. Baring) said, there was something or other about the institutions of this country, which did not succeed. There was something which wanted to be amended; but he did not know why or wherefore this was. Now such language was very well for a mere critic of the Constitution; but men who took upon 315 themselves to conduct the affairs of the country, and were called by their Sovereign to its councils, had a more serious duty to perform. They ought not to rest satisfied with merely ascertaining that things did not go on well, their whole hearts, and souls, and minds should be employed in making them go better. What was the great evil—a greater evil far than even the constitution of that House, which the Government felt it hard to contend with? It had been Seen, for several years past, that there was an increasing want of confidence in public men. The people had been for some years separating themselves into parties and sects, and unions and classes, without looking to any set of persons in that House with perfect confidence and reliance. If that were to go on for many years longer, he was satisfied it must lead to a total separation between what he might call the constituted authorities, and the mass of the people. Well, then, if Government had produced a trifling and unsatisfactory measure of Reform, it would have confirmed the distrust, and perpetuated that want of confidence with which public men were regarded. The Government might have obtained a large majority in that House; they might have gone on for a time triumphantly, by exhibiting, in this measure, a care and indulgence for private and personal interests, and also a respect for long-established and confirmed prejudices. They might have had that House with them, but could they, he asked, have gone on long without the confidence of the nation? And if they, the present Government, were removed from office, could the Gentlemen at the other side go on at all? He said no. The Gentlemen at the other side would have an additional difficulty to contend with. The evil would have increased. The public would give its confidence to no party. Those now in office would be said not only to have denied Reform, but to have betrayed the people. The hon. Gentlemen opposite would suffer from the want of confidence felt for them by the people, from their having opposed—perhaps with honesty—but certainly with a fixed and obstinate determination—those measures on which, as he believed, the great majority of the people had set their hearts. The people's want of confidence in that House would increase; they would continue to separate themselves into classes, 316 and seek for a Reform—not a peaceable Reform—not a reformed system of Representation, including all the wealth and property of the kingdom—but the country would come to a species of Reform which might, indeed, be properly termed revolutionary—a Reform in which the interests of the higher classes would be but little considered, but to which the country must submit, as to the law of a conqueror. They had had bad examples in their own times of holding out too long against necessity. They had seen men come down to that House, and talk of making their stand on the fixed principles of the Constitution, and that nothing should ever shake them, let the consequences be what they might; and then they had seen those very men coming down to propose the very measures which they had thus argued against. As often as they had protested that nothing should induce them to yield, they had seen those men yield avowedly to fear. That, he conceived, was the' worst course that any Government could pursue. A Government should act when it was not forced; it should anticipate the will of the people; it should propose more than was expected; it should take advantage of the reasonable time, and then Reform would produce gratitude and affection, instead of producing nothing but contempt. The language on the other side, "We are not to be intimidated" merely meant "We are not to be intimidated to-day. We see no sufficient reason for yielding at present. We can postpone it for another year. Put it off for another year, and, if we find it impossible to resist then, why, we must yield." Such was the fact. No Gentleman who talked of resisting the measure ventured to say, that the time would not come when it must be granted. The House had been told of the opinions of Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson, but, opposed as they were to Parliamentary Reform, though they might have thought that Reform was not an improvement, yet both of them were of opinion, that many years could not elapse before some measure of Reform must pass. Within eight months he had shown Mr. Huskisson at the bar some Resolutions he had prepared, with a view to a motion on Reform last year, and, after having looked over the Resolutions, Mr. Huskisson said "I cannot support those; but before long something of that kind will be carried in Parliament." If such was the opinion of 317 wise men, of able men, and of men who were enemies to Reform, why should they hesitate, or wait longer? If Reform was to be carried let it be carried now, and they would raise an altar to the Constitution, in the affections of the people. Let those who had personal interests give them up freely, and with a good grace, as the Duke of Norfolk, and other men, with a truly liberal spirit, had already done. Be assured (said the noble Lord in conclusion) that there is nothing mean, nor timid, nor cowardly, in a sacrifice of private and personal interests, for the sake of the peace of the country—for the sake of future harmony, and for the sake of preserving the Constitution of this mighty—and as, I hope, enduring;—empire, with satisfaction to the people.
§ The Question that leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Representation of England and Wales, was then put from the Chair.
§ The voices which shouted forth "Aye" were loud and many, but, when
§ The Speaker, in the usual form, put the question in the negative, there were only two or three voices cried "No," one of which was remarkable for its loudness, and the others scarcely audible.
§ The Speaker having decided, that the question was carried in the Affirmative, that announcement was received with loud cheers from the Ministerial benches.
§ The Bill was ordered to be brought in by Lord John Russell, Lord Althorp, Sir James Graham, Mr. Charles Grant, Mr. Stanley, the Attorney General, and the Solicitor General.