HC Deb 14 March 1831 vol 3 cc404-7
General Gascoyne

presented a Petition, most numerously and respectably signed, from the Town of Liverpool, in favour of Reform. The petition, he stated, expressed the opinions of nearly 12,000 of the most respectable inhabitants of that great and opulent town, who had put their names to it, and it had affixed to it the signatures of the first Merchants and most respectable Bankers in Liverpool. He could not say, that the petition was in favour of the Bill which Ministers would introduce, as that Bill was not as yet before the House, but it was in favour of Reform generally, and the petitioners particularly called the attention of the House to the necessity of adopting measures for disfranchising the close boroughs, and transferring the right of Representation to the large and populous towns. He certainly thought, taking into account the immense load of business which devolved, necessarily, upon the Representatives of such a town as Liverpool, a circumstance with which he was well acquainted, having represented that town for upwards of thirty years, it might be worthy the consideration of the House whether it would not be advisable to give more Representatives to that town. The town of Liverpool paid more to the revenue in the year than all Ireland, and there were more houses in it rated at 10l. a-year, (the standard taken in the measure of the noble Lord who had introduced the Ministerial plan of Reform), than in Cambridge, Bedford, and Berks. To such a place, therefore, an increase in the number of Representatives might be a most judicious measure. The petitioners stated, that as far as they had become acquainted with the details of the measure of Reform which had been introduced by his Majesty's Ministers, it should have their full support. He was sorry to differ from his constituents with regard to that part of the noble Lord's Bill which went to settle the elective franchise, of which he disapproved. It was principally to the details of the measure of Ministers that he should give his opposition. He thought it might be very right to disfranchise some close and notoriously corrupt boroughs, and to transfer their franchise to the large towns, but he could not go the length of throwing sixty boroughs at once overboard. He agreed with those who thought that some Reform was necessary, but it was a different question whether the specific plan proposed by Ministers should be adopted or not. Whether that were adopted or not, he was sure that it would lead to some Reform before the end of the present year.

Mr. Ewart

gave his warm and cordial support to the petition. The petition was in favour of the measure of his Majesty's Ministers, for the petitioners expressed their great satisfaction at its introduction, and their determination to give it their support. He knew well the respectability of all the parties whose names were signed to the petition. He believed his hon. and gallant colleague would bear him out in saying, that no petition had come from that town more numerously and respectably signed than this, during the long period he had represented Liverpool. He might be allowed to take the opportunity of saying, that he considered the measure of Reform proposed by his Majesty's Ministers, as one of the greatest boons ever offered to the country. It would tend, more than any other measure which could have been devised, to give stability to our institutions; the best security for which was, placing them in accordance with the spirit of the country, by a change like that now proposed to be adopted. Much had been said as to the opposition of Mr. Canning to Parliamentary Reform, but when Mr. Canning made that celebrated speech against Reform, which had been so often quoted, he said to some of his principal supporters in Liverpool, "Though I oppose Reform now, the day will come when Reform must be conceded."

Sir E. Sugden

wished to know, as the petitioners were so strenuous in the cause of Reform, whether they lost sight of the necessity of some measure for preventing the excessive bribery which usually occurred at elections in Liverpool?

Mr. J. Wood

said, that the measure introduced by his Majesty's Ministers would effectually prevent bribery there in future, by putting an end to the system of outvoters.

Mr. C. Calvert

presented a Petition, most numerously and respectably signed, from the inhabitants of the borough of Southwark, in the Town-hall assembled, in favour of the plan of Reform brought forward by his Majesty's Ministers. The petitioners stated, that they would give that plan their cordial support, and they mentioned, that the proposed system of franchise which that plan went to establish was so similar to that which had been established in that borough for many years, that they were quite sure that the establishment of it throughout the kingdom would not be attended by any of those dangers which timid or interested persons had predicted from it. This petition was adopted at a general meeting of the inhabitants, and though the majority of them were in favour of the Ballot, they so cordially concurred in their approval of the measure of his Majesty's Ministers, that they altogether omitted to express their sentiments on that subject.

Sir R. Wilson

supported the prayer of the petition. The example of the Borough, which the petitioners said justified the measure, was he thought extremely appropriate. He had been elected four times for the Borough, and he could safely say, that he never had endeavoured, in any improper manner whatever, to influence the vote of any one elector. He denied that the majority, or even that a great proportion of the voters in the Borough of Southwark, were in favour of the Ballot, and would repeat what he had before stated, viz., that though Ballot might do pretty well in other countries—the instances quoted, however, did not even bear that out—yet it would never do in this country. Indeed, he believed, that it had totally failed in other countries. The measure introduced by the Ministers should have his hearty and cordial support.

Sir J. Macdonald

presented a Petition from the borough of Calne, in favour of the Ministerial plan of Reform.

Mr. Hunt

.—I will take this opportunity of replying to a personal allusion which was made a few nights ago to myself, in the course of the Debate, by the hon. member for Yarmouth (Mr. W. Peel). The hon. Member thought proper to make some allusion, and I am led to believe good-humouredly and inoffensvely, to my trade or profession, or whatever else you please to call it. Now, if I had been present on that occasion, I would have risen and addressed the hon. member for Yarmouth as good-humouredly and inoffensively as he addressed me. I would have said to him— "Sir, the only difference between you and me is this—your father was the first person of your family who was a gentleman, and my father was the first gentleman of his family who was a tradesman."