brought in the Bill to amend the Representation in Ireland. Though it was somewhat unusual to enter into any remarks on a bill in bringing it in, yet as it had been understood that some observations should be made on it at that stage, he would enter upon it, though at no great length, confining himself strictly to the details of the Bill, as it would be unpardonable in him to say any thing upon the general subject after the lengthened discussions that had already taken place. He should therefore confine himself to the details of the Bill as far as it respected Ireland, and as far as it differed from the principle of the English Bill. From the first to the concluding paragraph of the Bill, there was not one single mention of disfranchisement. The Bill was wholly confined to the extension of the franchise. He had the pleasure to say, that this Bill was not a measure of disfranchisement. It did not take away the existing rights of a single individual, except the right of a few non-residents. In forming the county representation it followed the principles of the English Law, extending the right of voting beyond the freeholders, and admitting to that right that respectable class of men who constituted the leaseholders, holding land for twenty-one years, at a rent of 50l. The Irish Bill was different in one respect, from the English Bill. The English Bill excluded those leaseholders from voting whose leases had been renewed within two years. That was not to be the case in the Irish Bill, and gentlemen acquainted with the state of property in that country would see the reason why this difference was made. In that country there was a large class of leaseholders, holding their leases for twenty-one years, renewable every year, who would be excluded from voting by the clause of the English Bill. He was alluding to that class who held leases for ever, renewable yearly, under clerical or other corporations. The clause, therefore, of the English Bill, which required that the lease should not have been renewed within two years before the day of the election, was not included in the Irish Bill. As to copyholders, there was but one copyholder, he believed, in Ireland, and there was no occasion to admit them into the Irish Bill. There was no other alteration he had to notice. It was intended to give the clergy a right of voting, not as beneficed clergy, but for any freeholds they might 863 possess, being duly registered. — [Mr. O'Connell inquired of what amount?]— The same as other parties, if the property were leasehold—50l. In towns it was intended to provide for the elections as in England. Householders who paid 10l. a year rent, or who occupied a house which, if let to a solvent tenant, would yield 10l. a year, and if the rent was paid up, were to be allowed to vote. It was not thought right to exclude the freeholders and leaseholders in boroughs, cities, and towns, from voting, if the latter held a lease of 50l. for twenty-one years, and all these were now to be allowed to have votes in towns, and as the extinction of the 40s. freeholders had already been provided for, the Bill proposed to assimilate all the freeholders of Ireland to those of this country. Thus there would be three classes of resident voters—the freeholders, the leaseholders of 50l. a year having a lease of twenty-one years, and the householders paying a rent of 10l. a year. "With respect to the powers granted to the Privy Council by the English Bill, which were so much objected to, they would be much mitigated by the state of Ireland. There would be no necessity in Ireland either to unite or separate districts for the purpose of voting, and the power of the Privy Council as to Ireland would be limited to determining the limits of boroughs. It was obviously necessary to have some persons to decide whether suburbs and villages adjoining towns, should or should not be considered as belonging to those towns, and this would be determined by the Committee of the Privy Council. In regard to registering the votes, this Bill followed the enactments of the English Bill. It provided that the Churchwardens, or, where there were no Churchwardens, two persons to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant should make out a list of persons claiming a right to vote, and the list should be subject to the examination of a Barrister appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. There was not, however, to be a Barrister for each county, as in England, but only eight Barristers were to be nominated, who would each go a certain circuit to examine the lists. The Bill followed the plan of the English Bill in making the registration every year, and it gave a power of making corrections in the annual list to a class of officers who, he was sure, would meet the confidence of the hon. Gentleman opposite—the as- 864 sistant Barristers. In their hands he was sure that power would not be subject to abuse. The duration of the polls was regulated like that of the polls in England. Polls were to be open for two days and no more in towns, and in the counties fifteen polling places were to be provided, where the votes would be taken. The towns would be divided so that it should not be necessary to poll more than 600 persons at any one place. These were the principal alterations which the Bill made in the right of voting in Ireland. The result of what he had stated was, that a considerable alteration would be made in the right of voting in boroughs, but not a single borough would be disfranchised. The franchise would be extended to the inhabitants at large, because it was not right that a few individuals should exclusively exercise that right. Towns now in possession of the right of returning members, would retain that right; but it would be wrong, even if they proceeded on the principle of making population the basis of representation, which they did not, to make the smallest alteration, which was not necessary, but only to take an exclusive privilege from some, and admit others to share it. The ministers had no wish to interfere unnecessarily with existing rights; and, amongst all the towns now possessing representatives in Ireland, there was no one not in possession of sufficient population to give respect to that representative whom it might send to parliament. That being the case, they did not think it right from any untried theory, or from the wish to adopt any plan which they might prefer to the present state of things, to trespass further on existing rights than was necessary, or to make any change for the mere sake of changing. No good object, however, could be effected, by preserving the right of electing the members of parliament exclusively in the corporations of the towns instead of the respectable inhabitants at large. By the census of 1821, it appeared, that among the towns which possessed the right to return members, on comparing the number of inhabitants with the number of voters—though there was no such case of gross inconsistency as was found in England — still there were inconsistencies enough to require the interference of Parliament to correct the abuses. The first place he would refer to was the town of Armagh, which had 8,900 inhabitants, 865 and only thirteen voters. Bandon Bridge, again, had upwards of 10,000 inhabitants and only thirteen voters. Belfast had 37,377 inhabitants, and thirteen voters. Carlow had 8,000 inhabitants, and only thirteen voters. Dublin, with a population of 185,000, had only 2,500 voters. [Mr. O'Connell and other Members, stated, that, it had three times that amount]. Then the returns he held in his hand must be incorrect. Dundalk, with 9,256 inhabitants, had thirty-two voters. Ennishad 16,320 inhabitants, and only thirteen voters. Kilkenny had 23,000 people, and 600 voters. Sligo had 9,322 inhabitants, and thirteen voters. Tralee had 7,547, inhabitants, and again the mystical number of thirteen voters. He could not tell why this said number of thirteen was always preserved, or what proportion it bore to the various other numbers he had mentioned, so that these thirteen electors, whether the towns were large or small, should monopolise the representation, and that they alone should elect the members for such towns as Belfast or Armagh. As to Belfast, not to go into any very exact calculation of its population compared to the population of other towns, he would only observe that it was one of those places which stood prominently forward in Ireland as distinguished for the rapid increase of its population, the growth of its wealth, and the importance of its commerce; and those who looked at it under these relations, would hardly deny that it was necessary and proper, and not exceeding the fair limits, to give to that flourishing town one additional Member. He proposed, then, that Belfast, with 37,000 inhabitants, should hereafter return two Members to Parliament. He proposed, too, that Limerick, which had 29,000 people, should have another representative; that Waterford, with 28,000 inhabitants, should have another representative; that the county of the town of Galway, which had nearly 28,000 people, should have another representative. It was plain that the members of these corporations did not represent the population, the intelligence, or the wealth, of these towns; and therefore it was proposed, by extending the right of voting in them, and by adding these Members, to assimilate the practice in England and Ireland. There was another case in which no alteration had been made in England, but as to which it was proposed also to assimilate the practice of Ireland to that of England. 866 It was proposed to extend the right of voting, now enjoyed by the Provost, Fellows, and seventy junior Scholars of the University of Dublin, to all those who had at any time been scholars of the University, and who should, within six months, have placed their names upon the books of the University. In making this innovation, Government were recurring to the original right granted by the charter, for while the charters of Oxford and Cambridge gave the right of voting to Masters of Arts, the charter of the University of Dublin gave it prœposito et scholaribus; and it went on to say, juxta formam Universitatis Oxoniensis ct Cantabrigiensis. According to this, the Provost and Scholars were looked upon in the same light as the Masters of Arts in the English Universities. But there was another reason for the alteration. To become scholars of the University of Dublin, it was necessary to pass through a public examination, in order to prove that the candidate was worthy of being admitted; and according to the existing franchise, the right of voting as he would shew to the House, was now most anomalous. It was given to young men of eighteen years of age, who had undergone this examination; but after they had acquired the experience of five years more, when their judgment was matured, when they were able to appreciate the merits of parliamentary candidates—for it was well known that the young scholars must be under the influence of theirtutors— when they had been five years scholars, and when their judgment was mature, and they had escaped from this influence, then the right was taken from them. That was not according to the original Charter, which conferred his rights on the scholar for life; but by a subsequent charter they were taken away at the end of five years —at least the scholars' stipendia were taken away, and by rather a forced construction of that charter, it had been held by the Courts, that in taking away the stipendia the scholars' right to vote for a Member was also taken away. The case had indeed been before a Committee of that House, and so decided; but he knew that it was the opinion of many men of high authority, and among others, of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, that the rights conferred on the scholars by the original charter, as to electing Members for Parliament, were not taken away by the subsequent charter. He meant to propose, therefore, in extending the franchise to all 867 the scholars—and this was, he thought, not going too far—to assimilate the Dublin University to the two English Universities, which had four Members, and give it, instead of one, two Members. The whole addition, then, which he proposed to make to the Representation of Ireland amounted to five; four for the cities and towns he had mentioned, and one for the University. That increase, in proportion to the whole number of Representatives, was small, but he proposed to make a very large increase in the constituent body. He had gone through all the propositions which were contained, he believed, in the Bill, except one. There was a Bill on the Table of the House which had been introduced by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Trench), which provided, that "when a person owned two freeholds, the united value of which exceeded 10l., though neither separately amounted to that sum, he should have the right of voting as a 10l. freeholder." As some doubts existed as to the state of the law on this subject, a declaratory clause had been introduced into the Bill, explaining the law on this point. There was another clause introduced in the Bill of the gallant and hon. Member, which related to giving a cautionary notice by the candidates to the freeholders on coming to the poll to tender their votes. That clause was thought likely to give a great deal of unnecessary trouble, and therefore it was not thought right to insert such a clause in the present Bill. He had then explained, he believed, all the points of the Bill, and he hoped clearly. He should be quite ready, if it appeared necessary, to give any further explanation; but, as the principles of the measure had been already explained, he should abstain from offering any further observations, reserving himself to meet any objections to the Bill on the second reading, which he wished should not take place till after Easter. In the mean time, he should propose that the Bill be printed and circulated in Ireland, which would make its provisions known.
§ Colonel Trench, notwithstanding what had fallen from the right hon. Secretary, declared that he meant to carry forward his Bill, if the dissolution with which the Parliament had been threatened allowed him. He hoped that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman would not pass, and ho certainly should press his own measure.868
expressed his great satisfaction with the Bill, and was sure that it would give great pleasure to all Ireland. There were some of the details of the Bill to which perhaps he should not assent, and which he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would make no objection to alter in the Committee, if they did not interfere with the principle of the Bill. He was happy to hear that non-residents were to be disfranchised. He was happy also to hear, that the corporations were no longer to return the Members; and he wished that the disfranchisement had been extended further, and that the right of electing the corporation officers had been extended to all the inhabitants. As he understood the present measure, the 40s. freeholders, being residents in towns, were not to be deprived of their franchise during their lives.—[Mr. Stanley was understood to answer, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was right].—He was glad of that, and approved of the plan laid down for voting in the counties; because he thought that there was a prospect of forming a better class of freeholders and of voters. He approved of the sum of 10l. being chosen as the point of exclusion; being of opinion that freeholds under that sum should not entitle the owners to votes. He conceived the proposed alteration would be advantageous. The right hon. Gentleman had described the electors of several towns to consist of thirteen. In fact, there were seventeen boroughs in Ireland, the whole constituency of each of which consisted of twelve members and a sovereign. They, however, were not. the real constituency; for, generally, in each case, the whole thirteen were appointed by one man; and they thought, themselves as much bound in honour to vote for the persons who appointed them, as they were to abstain from picking pockets. This was the case with the whole seventeen boroughs, except Ennis, which has two masters, for there the proprietors lay two in a bed. He felt convinced that Ireland would regard the proposed change as a great good, as it would get rid of that mockery of representation, that corruption, and that public sale of seats to the highest bidder, which were a disgrace to the country. Scats were offered for sale, not by ringing a bell certainly, but as distinctly as if they were advertized in any newspaper. Such places as the borough of Tralee or Portarlington were put up 869 and sold as by auction to the highest bidder, who did not, indeed, pay for them in money, as that would be contrary to law, but by a cheque on his banker. These formed part of the boroughs created by King James in Ireland; and he rejoiced to and that the system of individual nomination, with respect to them, was about to cease, and that those places were to have a real, and not merely a nominal constituency. He wished to call the attention of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, to some parts of this Bill, which he hoped they might be disposed to reconsider in its progress through the House. He did not understand, for example, on what principle five new Members were to be given to Scotland, with only a population of 2,100,000, while Ireland, with 6,800,000, was only to have five additional Members. It was proposed to add five to forty-five for Scotland, and only to add five to one hundred for Ireland, which, as far as he saw, was very disproportionate, according to the arithmetic which he had been taught at school. There was one town which had escaped the right hon. Gentleman's notice, owing, he was afraid, to the manner in which it was described in the return. That town was Kilkenny, which was said to contain only 23,000 inhabitants; but if St. Canice, which formerly returned two Members as well as Kilkenny, though it formed but one town with it, they being divided only by the river, were added to it, Kilkenny would exceed in population both Galway and Waterford, and would deserve to have an additional Member. Dublin also, was, he thought, ill-treated, by not receiving an additional Member. Edinburgh and London had each received two additional Members and why should not Dublin, which, including the suburbs and the vicinage of the Black Rock, contained at least a population of 250,000, receive an additional Member? They might strike off the north side of the town and. leaving the two Members for the south, give an additional Member to the north. With respect to the University, he knew that it might be convenient to have two Members for that place; but was it not preposterous to make this enlargement? There could be but seventy-two scholars in Dublin University. Each continued for five, years. The number of individuals who were thus scholars was not great, nor could it ever possibly be great. Amongst those scholars would be found beneficed clergy- 870 men of the first rank and station in society. In the next place a number of Fellows were originally scholars. Thus, therefore, the addition would not be great; but it had this inconvenience—it was continuing the principle of exclusion. This Government ought not to do any thing' that should sanction or perpetuate the principle of exclusion. Not one single Presbyterian, or, at all events, not one Catholic, could be a member of the University. Were they to perpetuate that principle of exclusion, by excluding Catholics from the right of voting in the University, and thus continue the separation between the Catholic and Protestant? He did not propose to give Catholics scholarships, but he thought that the right of voting might be common. There, perhaps, might be ten Catholic scholars. But why not take up the principle of the University of Cambridge, and give the vote to Masters of Arts? This would increase the constituency, and increase the combined education of Catholics and Protestants. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that his narrow plan on this subject would be received with considerable disapprobation in Ireland. Nothing was at present more mischievous than the distinction between Catholic and Protestant. It produced a great many of those mischievous apostates without conviction. In getting rid of one religion, they disregarded all religion. Talent was frequently driven to infidelity, in order to secure the worldly advantages of a scholarship. He himself knew many frightful instances. A man was a good Protestant, during the five years that he held a liberal situation; he then returned to his Catholicism, and advertised his shame. As for counties, he wished that the right of voting had been given to him who had a profitable interest in the ground to the value of 50l., for freeholders might have large tracts of ground, nominally of much greater value, without its yielding them so much. He believed it would have been better to give the vote to those who had leaseholds. The owners of freeholds, as he understood, might be non-residents, and the plan he suggested would have the effect of encouraging the increase of the middle classes. What was wanted in Ireland was a substantial body of yeomanry, and he had felt some consolation, when he was called upon to sacrifice the 40s. freeholders, on reflecting that it would give the landlords a motive for making free 871 holders of 10l., giving them a chattel interest. He wished that to be followed up, but he feared that this Bill would encourage the making of nominal freeholders. He feared that considerable facilities would be given by this Bill to the making of such 10l. freeholders. In Connemara, one gentleman had made 500 10l. freeholders in a year. This, he believed, could not occur in any other part of Ireland; but certainly it appeared to him that the Bill offered facilities in that respect, which it ought not to do. A man might make a lease for twenty-one years at 50l. without any reference whatever to the value of the property so leased. He therefore wished that the men who had a profitable interest of 10l. in the land should be the voters, rather than those whose freeholds were more a burthen than a profit to them. These, however, were details for the Committee, and he would wait till the Bill got into the Committee to state them. He had one other observation to make. In England there were seven counties, each of which had less than 200,000 inhabitants, which were to have two additional Members each, or fourteen Members in all; in Ireland, however, there were counties containing from 280,000 to 300,000 people, which were not to receive an additional Member. One county in Ireland, that of Cork, had a population of nearly 600,000, but it had only two Members. There was one county in England which had not above 72,000, which had two Members, while Down and Tyrone, which had nearly 300,000 people each, had only two, and were not to get any more. An objection was taken the other evening by the hon. member for Bristol to the general plan, on the ground of the addition of four or live Members for Ireland, because, as the hon. Member stated, whenever he had occasion to make any application to Government, where the interests of that place came in any degree in collision with those of Ireland, the Minister declined to interfere, alleging that he was afraid of the opposition of the Irish Members. The hon. Member was therefore unwilling to add to the strength of the Irish interests. This was at least candid in the hon. Member. It was natural that he should wish to do every thing to promote the interests of Bristol, but at the same time it would be but fair that those of Ireland should not be neglected. It was on the Representation of the inhabitants of Bristol that 872 William 3rd deprived Ireland of one of the most important branches of trade she had ever enjoyed—that of the woollen manufactures. Had the interests of Ireland not been made to give way to those of England on that occasion, she might now be in the enjoyment of the fruits of her industry in that important manufacture. Now, a century and a half after that event, an hon. member for Bristol objected to a measure lest it should be advantageous for the interests of Ireland. He did not want that the interests of Ireland should be dominant. All he wanted was, that she should have fair play. He hoped, when the Bill went into a Committee, that the difference in the Representation of some of the populous counties, and that which was proposed for some of the large counties in England, would be considered. He asked if it were fair play that the counties of England should get several additional Members, and the counties of Ireland get none? He wished to see the franchise extended, and the distinction between Catholics and Protestants done away in all that concerned corporations and political rights. If that were done, he had little doubt that this Bill would give, as he hoped it would, such general satisfaction, that no man should any longer desire any change, except those who asked for change for the sake of change itself. He did not think mere change desirable; and if the people had reason to be satisfied, they would cease to wish for a separation. He should rejoice if that desire was superseded by a wish to engage in mutual good offices, and show mutual kindness. He hoped that the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman would be taken into consideration, and that the Bill, when passed, would contribute to make a perpetual and irreversible union of the two countries.
§ Mr. Leader
regretted, that he had not been in the House to have heard the entire statement of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. He was, however, most happy to learn that it was intended to give additional Representatives to his country. He had not interfered during the prolonged discussion that had taken place, and which involved the dearest interests of the country, but he had voted for the second reading of the Reform Bill, and was prepared to vote for that Motion, and would go into the Committee on the Bill with a mind unbiassed by any wish but to promote the 873 advantage of both countries. He had listened to the topics alluded to by his hon. and learned friend, the member for Water-ford, and in most of the opinions urged by him. he agreed; but he could not be silent, nor help submitting to the House his sentiments upon what would tend to the cementing of the interests of both countries. He was one who thought that effectual relief could be afforded, to Ireland, from the distresses and embarrassments and dissensions under which she laboured, only by spreading Representation equally and judiciously over the face of that country. He wished to submit to the House some considerations of great political importance, which were worthy of their best attention, before they decided the great question. He wished to show them a way out of their difficulties, and how they might spread Representation more equally over the country. What he meant to state were facts of great importance, and nothing but facts. If they drew a line from Londonderry to Cape Clear, they would find, that on the North-west and South-west of Ireland there were only five boroughs returning Members to Parliament, while on the East and North-east the cities and boroughs returned twenty-one Members; Sligo, Galway, Ennis, Tralee, and Limerick, each returned a Member on the Western side; while on the east and north-east they had Londonderry, Coleraine, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Downpatrick, Newry, Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin City and Dublin University, Wexford, New Ross, Waterford, Dungarvon, Bandon, Youghall, Cork, and Kinsale, returning twenty Members, in opposition to the five on the other side. If, then, it was wished to know why famine and desolation made their home in the south-western part of the country, was he not justified in saying that it was because of the want of Representatives over that great space—of men who should be bound and interested to develope the resources of a portion of the country abounding in means, and possessing every facility for commerce, but, unfortunately, neglected, and of course uncultivated? On the other side of the line, there were twenty-one Members returned from towns on the north-east, east and south coasts; and the consequence was, that, while the interests on the one side were protected, those on the other were thrown into the shade. The House must see from his statements that one side 874 of the island had a large number of Members to attend to its commercial and manufacturing interests, while the other side was comparatively neglected. Could any one say that this was a fair distribution of Representation in a country which was almost unknown to those who governed it, which had no tie to connect it with the institutions of the Monarchy except its Representatives, and which had been subjected to the change of sixteen Secretaries in the course of fifty years, each Secretary having a new system of government? He contended, therefore, that an extension of the Representation was as necessary in that country as an alteration of the franchise; and that, with such a Government, and under such institutions, Representatives must be given to other parts of Ireland, in order that the people might possess organs through whom they might communicate directly with the Legislature. He supported the principle of the Bill. He approved of it in common with all the friends of Ireland; and he would vote for its going to a second reading; but he did hope, when it came into a Committee, that such alterations would be made in its details as would enable him to say, that the Representation of the parts of Ireland, as well as its fair share in the Representation of the Empire, were such as the friends of that country could cordially approve; and that it would at length possess a means of making the opinions of its people known in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passing over the question of the difference between the representation of the boroughs on one side of the island and the other, he would apply himself to the point adverted to by the hon. member for Waterford; namely, that the counties of Ireland, possessing a larger population than the counties of England, should also obtain additional Representatives. There was the county of Donegal, for instance, which possessed at the present moment a population of 310,337 persons; was it not, he would ask, of more importance that a county like that should possess an additional Representative, than that another Member should, as the right hon. Gentleman announced, be bestowed on the town of Galway? Let the House look at the population of some of the counties which had but two Representatives, compared with that of some of the English counties which were now to have four. In the north there was Done- 875 gal with 310,000, Cavan with 243,845, Monaghan with 218,000, Tyrone with 327,000, and Down with 406,762. Then, in the south-west, Galway had 386,000, Mayo 366,000, Limerick 273,000, Tipperary 433,000, and Cork 787,000. Now, without saying any thing of Down and the others, any one of which had a population twice as large as some of the English counties, how the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) could have overlooked the county of Cork in his estimate, he was at a loss to imagine. That county, with its immense population, trade, and resources, possessed but two Members, although it had a resident gentry, at all times numerous enough to form five different sets of Grand Juries, composed of men who would be entitled to take rank beside his Majesty's Ministers. How, too, could the noble Lord, in his distribution of Representatives, pass over the borough of Kilkenny, the seat at one time of the Parliament, at the present moment possessing 23,000 inhabitants, and one of the most opulent and rising towns of Ireland? He hoped that the claims of these and other places would be well considered in the Committee, and that England would at last attach to herself, by an act of justice and policy, the feelings of the people of Ireland. By giving a voice to the weak as well as to the strong- in the great council of the nation—by giving Representatives to support the interests of the poor as well as the wealthy and the opulent, they would at last possess the country in good earnest, and binding to England the affections and interests of the people of Ireland, dispelling their doubts, securing their confidence, governing by love, not by fear, they might defy, all enemies who would venture to assail them. When it was considered that in 1820 the trade between England and Ireland amounted to 20,000,000l., and when it was known that Ireland had contributed near eighty millions in a few years to the revenue, the prosperity of Ireland would contribute to the gain of this country, and she would be an immense consumer of English productions. It could not be said, that he used one language in that House, and another out of it, nor that he said then what he had not been in the habit of uttering for the last twenty years in every assembly. No man had done more than himself for that part of the country with which he was connected, and which was, as it were, shut out from intercourse; and which must 876 be given to it before it could be improved. There were no means by which the improvement of the manufactures and agriculture of Ireland could be more securely effected than by increasing the number of Representatives, and giving the great proprietors and capitalists a stimulus to reside on their estates, and cultivate the good will of their tenantry. At the present moment there were in the vicinity of the Black-water, where he resided, and which was, he believed, one of the most fertile districts in Ireland, full thirty miles in which there was not to be found a single resident gentleman. The effect of the ravages of absenteeism were but too evident in the poverty and misery of the people, and it was to this evil, and to the consequent ignorance and demoralisation of the people, that the House ought now to apply a successful remedy. He had stated facts well known. There was nothing new in them; but they were supported by testimony which could not be controverted, and it was for the House to judge of their importance. He repeated, that the present state of the Representation would not be remedied unless great alterations were made in the Bill, and he therefore implored them to consider well the nature of the claims he had put forth on behalf of others before the measure passed into a law.
said, he did not rise at that moment to enter into an examination of the details of the Bill, for, of course, he could not be supposed to have obtained information enough for that purpose: but there was a fundamental objection to the principle on which it proceeded, which he thought extremely well worth attention. The hon. member for Waterford said, all he wanted was fair play for Ireland. But he would say, give fair play to England also. He, for one, doubted very much the competency of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to do what the Bill proposed. He knew very well that it was difficult to say to what the omnipotence of Parliament did not extend, and that any attempt to question- that omnipotence was not very often willingly received by those who were called on to exercise the power. But still he would ask those who supported the Bill, whether they recollected the balance of Representation, as settled by solemn compact at the Union between England and Scotland, and confirmed by the Union with Ireland, nearly a century afterwards? Now, if it was in the power of nations to declare any of 877 their Acts permanent and irrevocable, and if it was in the power of language to express their intentions that their Acts should be so, he believed that a reference to the terms of the Act of Union would show that such was the meaning and intention of those who were parties to them. If they looked to the words of the compacts entered into on those occasions, they would find that nothing was omitted which could render solemn, and binding, and unalterable, that part of the Act which settled the relative proportions of the Representation of the different countries. If, then, they were now to destroy that proportion in the manner proposed, they would defeat and destroy the terms of a compact which was intended to be as binding and as permanent as any treaty which could be framed between independent nations. When, therefore, the hon. member for Kilkenny (Mr. Leader) pressed on their attention the comparative wealth, population, and commerce of the boroughs and counties of Ireland, he would answer him by saying, that it involved a question into which Parliament could not enter; and he would beg that. hon. Member to direct his attention to what had been done formerly on settling the balance of Representation between England, Ireland, and Scotland. Some persons considered the measures of his Majesty's present Government to be revolutionary; and he was one of those who entertained that opinion; but if he entertained the least doubt on the subject, that doubt would be removed by the plain attempt involved in it to break up that solemn compact with Scotland and Ireland which was contained in the Acts of Union. If the Parliament thought that the number of its Members should be decreased, he would say, let them be decreased; but let it be a decrease in proportion. If there was to be a diminution at all let the balance of the Representation between the three kingdoms be preserved. If the scale was to be preserved, Ireland, instead of having 104 or 105 Members, ought, if England was to lose 62 Members, to be limited at once to 84 or 85. This would be consistent with the principle of the Union, which that House had formally sanctioned and adopted; but he was one of those who thought that this was one of the few questions with which it was not competent for the House to deal.
§ Mr. Crawpton, in answer to the objection of the hon. member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes), begged to refer him to the 878 terms of the Act of Union itself. By the 40th of George 3rd, c. 29, the hon. Member would find that certain boroughs and towns of Ireland were to continue to send Members to Parliament in the proportions there mentioned, not for ever, but until the United Parliament might otherwise provide; the boroughs which were disfranchised being allowed 15,000l. each as a compensation for the loss of their right. The very borough mentioned in the debate by the hon. member for Waterford, that of St. Canice, claimed 15,000l., or rather the Bishop, who had returned the Members, claimed it, but the claim was disallowed, and the money applied to other purposes. The hon. Member called the Bill revolutionary, but he contended that the whole plan was founded both in law and in equity. The measure was called for by the unanimous voice of the people. It was supported by every principle of sound legislation, and justifiable on every moral and sacred feeling. The time was come when such a change could not be delayed; and it was the merit of the plan that it did not reconstruct, but restore the Constitution, in a manner which would place an effectual bar to the inroads of all who desired more violent alterations. The hon. and learned member for Waterford seemed to think that the part of the Bill which gives a vote to a person in possession of 50l. leasehold property would prove injurious, and defeat the objects of its framers. The hon. and learned member, if he (Mr. Crampton) understood him right, seemed to say, that a person in this manner might obtain a vote, although the subject matter, on the light of which he voted, might not be worth fifty shillings. The hon. Member could not, however, have said this, if he had read the very first clause of the Bill, for he would find it there expressly stated, that the leasehold must be bonâ fide worth 50l., and that the legality of the vote was to be determined in the same manner as in England—by a reference to a barrister, appointed for that purpose. The hon. member for Kilkenny intimated an opinion that the town of Galway was not so well entitled to an additional Representative as some other places; but the hon. Member did not, perhaps, recollect, that although the population of Galway itself was only 27,000, the population of the suburbs, which were now to participate in the right of voting, amounted to full 40,000 persons; and so great had been the increase of its 879 trade, that the Customs' Duties, which five years ago were only 30,000l., now amounted to near 100,000. The hon. and learned member for Waterford, among other objections to the Bill, contended, that the right of voting for the University of Dublin would be too limited, and that it should be extended to all who had taken the degree of Master of Arts. The hon. Member should, however, recollect, that the right was regulated by a Charter. These Charters were very different in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In Oxford, for instance, the right was placed in the Chancellor and the Masters. In Trinity College the right was in the Provost, Fellows, and Scholars. Now, one of the great principles of the Reform Bills was, to preserve all existing institutions, as far as it was possible to preserve them, consistently with the objects which were to be attained. The usage for a long time had been, that no scholars should vote who were not on what is called the foundation. The Bill, however, set this right, and restored the ancient practice, which allowed the whole of the scholars to exercise the right of electing a Representative. If they were to admit the Masters of Arts, it would be an invasion of the Charter, and, at the same time, render the number of voters most inconveniently large. He believed that the number would then be near 5,000, and that must render the elections so tumultuous, and, from the voters being brought from a great distance, so expensive, that he thought it would be anything but an improvement. According to the present arrangement, there would be about three or four hundred voters. The hon. Member, when he argued so strongly in favour of the right of Catholics to vote, seemed to forget that the Charter of Trinity College was granted for the support and extension of the Protestant religion. The hon. and learned member for Waterford probably thought the Catholic religion the better religion. He (M r. Crampton) thought otherwise. He thought the Protestant religion the better; and, it should be recollected, from the number of Catholics who had graduated, and who would continue to graduate in Trinity College, that, if the plan of the hon. Member, in allowing the Masters to vote, was adopted, the Catholics would certainly return Catholic Members. The arguments of the hon. Member did not go against the Bill so much as it went to the subversion of the Charter of the College. The obstacle to the course pro- 880 posed by the hon. Member was to be found in the oath; and if the hon. Member would bring in a Bill to remove that oath, he could understand the hon. Member's object, but he could not understand the objection as an argument against the Bill. Having thus attempted to reply to some of the objections urged against the Bill, he would now merely say, that it was, in his opinion, calculated to avert revolution, not to produce it; and, he was confident, that the benefits the people would derive from it must associate the noble Lord who introduced it to that House, and the name of that other noble Lord who was known to have drawn it up, with the glory and prosperity of their country, and that they must go down to posterity, among its greatest benefactors.
§ Mr. O'Connell, in explanation, said, that the hon. member for Saltash (Mr. Crampton) had proved himself, at all events, a sufficiently good Protestant to represent the most Protestant University.
Sir C. Wetherell, although impar congressus in any contest between two such able and learned persons as the Solicitor General for Ireland, and the hon. member for Waterford, yet he was unable to resist the temptation to break a lance with the learned Solicitor on one part of his argument. The hon. and learned member for Saltash, the Solicitor General for Ireland, had concluded his speech by a reference to the perpetuity of the fame of the founders of the Reform Bill. The Members of that House had heard of a certain worthy of antiquity, who, in order to obtain immortality, had burnt down the Temple of Ephesus. He did not know what kind of immortality he obtained, but some such immortality was that which the hon. and learned Gentleman was disposed to confer on the authors of the Bill. In some such manner the hon. member for Saltash himself was brought over from Ireland to represent the borough of Saltash, in order that he might follow up the true Ephesian and immortalizing principle, by burning down the borough he represented. The instances of this kind of Ephesian conflagration were not, however, confined by the present Cabinet to Irish Members. There was his hon. and learned friend, the member for Bletchingley; he was another of those Ephesian conflagrators; he was another of these Reformers, these Restorers; who were brought into the House for the purpose of showing that
they ought not to be there. Then there was the learned Lord Advocate. He had also been brought in for the same purpose; namely, to close the avenues to the House against all future Attorneys and Solicitors-general, and against all future Lords Advocate; and, in short, against all future men of talents and genius. Last, but not least, of these Ephesian conflagrators, was the hon. and learned member for Milborne Port, who on a late occasion had expressed sentiments as well conceived as they were forcibly delivered. He had received peculiar pleasure in hearing that hon. and learned Gentleman say, that if, on former occasions, he might have shewn himself too warm, and intemperate, and violent, he had given them up, and would not return to, that agitating system. He could not refrain, indeed, from expressing his satisfaction at the modest and decorous manner in which that learned Gentleman had expressed his intention to abstain from agitation, after the object which he so long sought had been constitutionally obtained. The First Lord of the Admiralty, by the way, who must be so conversant with naval geography, was no doubt aware that this same Milborne Port was not a Port, properly so called, not having any connexion with the Channel, it was therefore to be blocked up, or suffocated with sand, and not blockaded by the legislative manœuvrers who had the conduct of the Reform Bill. The hon. and learned member for Milborne, it appeared then, was another of those who came amongst them to declare that they had been returned by corruption, and to denounce the system that returned him. He was also, in this instance, countenanced by the hon. and learned member, the Solicitor-general for Ireland; who, with a certain constitutional confidence, or, if he might so speak, a force of visage which an English lawyer could not easily attain, protested with both hands against the system which returned himself and his learned friend, bearing in mind the maxim of an ancient writer, with whom he was, of course, well acquainted:—"Suadet monentis exemplum plusquam oratio." The member for Milborne Port should meantime have recollected, that there was a distinction between declamation and argument in favour of a proposition, the absurdity of which himself, and others similarly circumstanced, in their own persons so well demonstrated. They ought to remember that the more
brilliant and powerful their speeches, the more conclusive were they as arguments against their side of the question. He hoped, indeed, that Saltash would be long furnished with so able a Representative, and that the House would enjoy the benefit of his assistance hereafter, in deliberations on other subjects, besides that ungrateful one on which he had already indulged them with the expression of his opinions. Then there was also the learned member for Nottingham, than whom a profounder scholar or abler man had never been sent to that House from the classic retirements of Cam or Isis, but he did not then see him in his place. [The Attorney General, who happened at the moment to be seated on the Opposition benches, here intimated his presence.] Oh! his learned friend, it appeared, was in the House, and he was happy, moreover, to find that he had found his way to the right side of the House, which change of place certainly was, an indication of his learned friend's liberality and good sense. [The Attorney General again returned to the Treasury bench, and the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded.] He was sorry to perceive that his hon. and learned friend was so much addicted to the arbitrary exercise of locomotion, and could not help applying to him the passage of the poet:
—" Video meliora proboque,
The hon. Gentleman had come thither, he believed, from the banks of the Cam, which was certainly a circumstance quite accordant with his character; for at the sister University of Oxford, they were habitually more sensitive to change than the Alma Mater which had had the honour of his scholastic education. When he was interrupted, he was about to observe, that there was an anti-Reform petition from Cambridge on its way to the House; and when it was said, that there was complete unanimity in favour of the Bill out of doors, he did not know why such a place as Cambridge should be overlooked. It appeared to him very strange, however, that, this Cambridge petition had not been presented before the second reading of the Bill. Perhaps it was delayed on the way,—some accident happened to the Mail, or it might be delayed in the Dead Letter Office. It was to be expected, however, that it would find its way some day after the second reading, and that the distinguished ornament of the University
whence it emanated—he meant the Attorney general, who gravely, and he was a grave man, told them the feeling out of doors was unanimous in favour of the Ministerial Reform measure—would stand up in his place and maintain his assertion in the teeth of the petition of so erudite a body. And next with respect to the proposition immediately before the House. He entirely agreed with the hon. member for Dorsetshire, that the proposed increase of the number of the Irish and Scotch Representatives in that House would be an infraction of the Treaties of Union with those countries. By the Act of Union with Ireland—an Act that was not a mere Statute of Parliament, but was a federal Treaty between the two countries,—100 Members were made the numerical basis of the aliquot relative proportion of the Irish fractional quantity of Representation in that House; and by the federal Treaty with the people of Scotland, he meant the Union of Scotland, forty-five Members were to be the Scotch aliquot ratio of Representation; therefore to disturb these numerical proportions would be to violate the Irish and Scotch Treaties of Union. But the Bill would alter these proportions altogether; and he should like to hear from the hon. and learned advocates of that Bill, on what ground they knocked off sixty-two Members from, not, be it borne in mind, the aggregate Representation of the United Kingdom, but the direct Representation of the people of England. The inviolability of the numerical ratio and aggregate sum of the Representatives of the three countries, was laid down over and over by the advocates of the Catholic Question as an argument against -those who contended that the admission of Catholics to civil power would be fraught with danger to existing institutions. Such was the line of argument urged by Mr. Pitt, by Mr. Fox, and by Mr. Wyndham; that the numeral aggregate being inviolable, the infusion of a few Catholic Members could not affect the Protestant excess of the entire body of Representatives in that House; that the few Catholics who might find their way into Parliament would be so many "rari nantes" undistinguishable in the "gurgite vasto," of Protestant Representatives. But this was a point of too much importance to be thus incidentally touched upon. He would bring it in the distinct form of a Resolution before the
Committee, to the effect that the lopping off sixty-two English Protestant Members, while they were adding to the Irish and Scotch Representation, was fraught with danger to the interests of the Established Church in this country. But more of this anon. With reference to the mere principle of disfranchising sixty-two Members of the people of England, he could not help expressing his surprise that a Bill based on such a monstrous principle, should receive the support of the hon. member for Preston, who was in his own opinion, though not in fact, par excellence, the Representative of the vox populi in that House. That hon. Member seemed to think, that he performed his duty as an echo of the popular will by securing the stability of the popular franchise of his own popular borough; but such narrow and selfish compromising was unworthy of a Representative of the people of England. Then let them look at the numerous shirkings and alterations which had been introduced into the Irish revolutionary Bill. [a laugh.] He would repeat revolutionary, and would seek his epithets in the vocabulary of his own political dictionary. When the general measure was proposed by the noble military Deputy Paymaster, it was stated, that but three Members would be added to the number of Irish Representatives; but now they were told that the Dublin College should possess one additional Representative, and the town of Galway. The fact was, the Bill was a kind of stock in trade to the present ricketty and almost bankrupt Administration: it enabled them to job here and to job there, as it suited their immediate wants, and insured them supporters; and hence the present jobs with respect to the Dublin College and the borough of Galway. When Ministers were, through the measure of their military Deputy, disbanding one numerous set of boroughs altogether, and putting another numerous set on half-pay; there was no respect for, no mention even made of Charters; but now the exception was made, though on what grounds they had not condescended to mention, in favour of the Dublin University; and this, forsooth, was the great discovery they had made after twelve nights' Debate. It was the only time during the whole of the discussions that the supporters of Reform had mentioned Charters. It could hardly be known that any Charters were in existence, or that
any Charters were about to be destroyed. But now, after twelve days' deliberation, there came this miserable postscript, in which the necessity of consulting Charters was insisted upon! He must repeat, that to add to the Irish and Scotch Representation, while they lessened the number of English Representatives, would be an infraction of the Articles of the Irish and Scotch Treaties of Union, apart from his other serious constitutional objections to the Bill.
§ Lord Althorp
could not avoid making one or two observations in reference to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman had characterised the present Bill, as he had that first brought before the House, as a "revolutionary" measure. He might persist in doing so, if it so pleased him, he might call it what names he thought most disparaging, but the people of England would not be affected by his abuse. Far from it; the people of England had hailed the measure with welcome, and would support it, let hon. Members in that House designate it as they might. The people of England, he repeated, approved of the Bill, and the abuse of the hon. and learned Member would be as dust in the balance. The hon. and learned Gentleman had made the most of the Cambridge University Petition against the Bill not having been presented before the second reading, as if the delay was an artifice of the Representatives of that body in favour of the Bill. He did well to make the most of this unique Anti-Reform Petition. [Sir C. Wetherell said, that two other petitions from important corporate bodies had been presented against the Bill.] Well, be that as it might, the fact that but very few petitions from the people of England against the Bill had been presented, while hundreds in favour of it had been and were still to be presented, remained unaffected. But the hon. and learned Gentleman's censure with respect to the Cambridge petition was unmerited; for the fact was, his noble friend, and the other hon. Representative of that University had not received it in time. Then with reference to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, touching the disfranchisement of the close, or rotten boroughs, he begged to say, that he was in error if he supposed that Ministers would consent to any departure from the principle of that disfranchisement in Committee. They would not, and they 886 knew that the public mind was with them. All the objections against this part of the Bill, which had been brought forward on the other side of the House since the commencement of the Debate, had been over and over again urged against the Catholic Relief Bill, and in fact were a part of the "stock in trade" of the enemies of every species of Reform whatever. They were proved to be idle with respect to the Catholic Relief Bill, and would be found still more so as they applied to the much more important measure of Reform. "But," says the hon. and learned Gentleman, "recollect that by the articles of the ' federal treaty' of Union with Scotland, forty-five was fixed upon as the basis of the proportion of Scotch Representatives to the aggregate of the two countries—the number in this country being laid down as 'fixed, unalterable, and definitive.'" But did the hon. and learned Gentleman recollect that this federal treaty was most essentially according to his interpretation of it, violated by the addition of 100 Irish Members to that House, swelling the "aggregate sum" of the "proportion" which the whole representation bore to the Scotch? And then, with respect to his objections as to the increase of five Members being made to the Irish Representation, was the hon. Gentleman so absurd as to suppose that his raising a "no popery" cry of that increase being fraught with danger to the interests of the Established Church in Ireland, would in these times, and in that House, prevail against the lessons of wisdom and experience? Let the hon. and learned Gentleman try how far his "no popery" cry against Reform would avail him in the present enlightened state of the public mind. He would find that the day for such idle clamours was gone by; and the attempt to raise it now would recoil upon its promulgators. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman argued that Ministers were destroying popular rights by disfranchising the close boroughs, in the same breath that he most inconsistently argued that they were turning the balance in favour of popular rights by the other provisions of the Bill. If these boroughs were truly popular, then to disfranchise them could not be, without the rankest contradiction of the literal and obvious meaning of words, tortured into a throwing the weight of popular representation into the balance. The fact was, that the Bill would extend the popular franchise 887 in the best sense of the terms, and disfranchising the dispeopled boroughs would be a means to that object. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked Ministers, did they mean to persist in disfranchising the sixty close boroughs mentioned in the Bill? Their answer was, "We do." Nay more,—they would not abate a jot of the principle of that disfranchisement, but would stand or fall, as it succeeded, or the reverse. The hon. and learned Gentleman was in error with respect to the borough of Preston. There was no arrangement entered into with its Members, under which it would be made an exception to the general operations of the Bill. As with other places, a life-interest would be preserved with respect to the present mode of franchise; but on the expiration of the lives of the present electors, the Bill would be in force in Preston as elsewhere. It was true, that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir E. Sugden) had pointed out some verbal defect in the Bill, under which, according to him, Preston might be an exception; but all those verbal defects would be guarded against when the Bill was in Committee. Then with respect to the additional Member that was to be conferred on the University of Dublin, and the alteration as to the nature and period of the tenure under which the electors there might vote, he begged it to be understood that the alteration was one founded on the principles and usages of the representation in the two great Universities in this country. It was deemed expedient that Oxford and Cambridge should possess their present elective system, as a means of protecting the interests of the Established Church in this country; and in conformity with that principle it was thought but fair, that the interests of the Established Church in Ireland should be equally represented in that House. On this ground, too, he must tell the hon. and learned member for Waterford, that the franchise ought to be confined to Protestant scholars.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, that although he had a very high respect for the noble Lord himself, he had none at all for the measure which he had introduced. He would repeat, and maintain, that the measure was of a revolutionary nature He would ask the noble Lord himself, if he could assert that a Bill, which completely changed the whole Constitution of England, was not, in fact, a new Constitution? 888 He would ask, if a Bill, which, by violent means, upset and destroyed the charters of so many boroughs throughout England, and annihilated the rights and privileges of so many thousands of the population — whether a measure which effected such purposes as these, by a sudden and sweeping change, could be called other than revolutionary? The change which was made in 1688 was called, at the time, a revolution; but that was only a removal of the Stuart family from the Throne, while the whole representation of England, and all the ancient privileges, were asserted and maintained unimpaired; and the close boroughs which were so stigmatized and called rotten boroughs by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, were retained in the same manner in which they had existed before the change. The object of the change, in fact, was to preserve things in the state in which they had before been. The object of this revolution was to change every thing that is. This was a disfranchisement of a large portion of the population—a summary privation of their rights, without any proof of guilt, and the weak and feeble were selected as the victims in this unjust sacrifice. The noble Lord professed to found his Bill upon the principle of combining population and property in the qualifications for the elective franchise, but he directly contradicted his own principle by giving to Bedford, Tavistock, Calne, and Malton, which contained a population of 21,000 poisons, more Members than were to be given to Bradford, Bolton-le-Moor, and Blackburn, which consisted of about 50,000 each. Nor would the delegates, for he would not call them Members, who would sit in the House of Commons, represent property. When this revolution was consummated, and the delegates came into the House, each would be trying to get for his constituents a larger representation, and could these demands be refused in 1833? After violating charters, and stripping away every existing right, it would be proved that an Act of Parliament in 1833 was as good as an Act in 1831, and therefore we should have further changes, and where those changes might stop, no man could foresee. It appeared to him, that there was abundant proof of the correctness of that argument to be found even in the discussions which had taken place in that House. Had not the hon. member for Waterford already claimed a greater share of representation for Ireland? The hon. 889 member for Kilkenny had done the same, and the demands of those hon. Gentlemen only furnished a specimen of what was to be expected from all parts of the empire if this ill-judged measure should ever be carried into effect. In 1832 some new measures might be proposed which would be considered as good as the measure of 1831. And was it not likely, that some parliamentary Lord would devise some new plan which would be more fashionable than the old one, and which from its fashion would acquire such a degree of popularity out of doors, that the Government of the day would be obliged in 1833, or 1834, to adopt the new plan without the means of resisting it? It was not only the Representation of the towns that was affected by this measure, but the noble Lord had erected a barrier between the lower classes and those which by this Bill were considered the middle classes. Every man who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow was to be disfranchised and thrown into a degraded class, unless he could realise a rent of 10l. a-year. Such men finding themselves thus unjustly dealt with, would excite distrust out of doors; and although the hon. member for Preston said, that his object was to take what he could get at present, in the hope of soon obtaining more, yet he felt confident, that when the lower classes found themselves degraded they would become dissatisfied; and when the noble Lord should find himself surrounded by delegates in a Reformed Parliament, he would be unable to resist the further changes which would be demanded. The hon. member for Waterford had said, in letters and in speeches, that this would be a stepping-stone to the Repeal of the Union. Did not this prove that the change was not expected to stop here? The hon. member for Middlesex also, bad said, in writing to some of his friends in Scotland—"Do not touch upon the Ballot, or Universal Suffrage. On no account introduce any of these subjects into your petitions. Praise the Ministers—express confidence in them, and be satisfied with this measure for the present." This also proved that there were ulterior objects in view—that some parties expected more than this Bill conceded, and that, in short, it was but the forerunner of still greater changes. He said, that a measure which was the source of constant change must infallibly be a measure of revolution. The noble Lord stated his object to be, to create 890 a firmer and purer Representation, and to augment the democratic power in that House. He would ask the noble Lord, had not the democratic power in the House very greatly increased within the last fifty years, and the influence of the King and the Aristocracy been proportion-ably diminished? The abolition of patronage showed that this was the case. In the reigns of George 1st and 2nd there were 250 Members of that House who held amongst them places to the number of 400, and many of them perfect sinecures. At the present time, when corruption was said to be so universal, and a Reform of Parliament was so loudly called for, out of the 658 Members there were only seventy-two Members receiving salaries, or holding offices under Government. That made out his case completely. The influence of the Crown had decreased, and the democratic influence in the House increased, during that period. Any larger infusion of democracy would, in his opinion endanger the existence of the monarchy, and instead of having a constitutional King, whose pride and pleasure it is, to wear a constitutional Crown, he would either have that Crown torn with violence from his head, or it would become to him a Crown of terror. If that position were disputed when laid down upon his authority, he was ready to support it by that of much greater names. He had no great favour for the terms Whig or Tory, and disclaimed all idea of speaking as one or the other, but in his conscientious opinion, great danger attended upon enlarging the democratic portion of that House, which was the main object of the noble Lord's plan. He would instance what he conceived would be a part of its effect with regard to Durham, a city which he had long the honour of representing. The constituency was composed of noblemen, and some of the richest gentlemen in the neighbourhood, among them Lord Durham; of shopkeepers, and of the working classes —in all about 1000. Of these, some 600 or 700 were of the lower class; and he could assure the hon. Member opposite, that it was no small satisfaction to that number of poor persons, when they came into the Court-house to give their vote, to find that it was as good as the vote of their richest neighbours. Would not these people be reasonably dissatisfied when deprived of their votes? He affirmed that his Majesty's Government were the 891 innovators, and were striving to carry dangerous measures, and those who opposed them were the conservators. His Majesty's Ministers were the agitators in this question. They agitated the country on the subject of Reform, and between them in England, and the hon. member for Waterford in Ireland, there was no great difference, except in the very objectionable manner in which, that hon. Member might allow him to say, he had always thought the hon. and learned Member proceeded in Ireland. If the measure were calculated to produce mischievous effects in this country, infinitely more mischief would it effect in Ireland, and he apprehended that the legislative connexion of the two countries would be placed in imminent danger, if the measure were applied in the mode which the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had stated, If Gentlemen would look at the condition of Ireland, they would see that five-sixths of the property of the country was Protestant, and an equal proportion of the population—five-sixths of the population—Catholics. How, he would ask, was it possible to combine population and property, when there was so great a disproportion of them? He said, it would be impossible for any Protestant gentleman to be returned, unless two-thirds of the Catholic population chose to return him. Look at the effect of the measure upon the city of Dublin. It had been stated, that the electors of Dublin were 3,000. He understood that they were double that number—that they exceeded 6,000. By this Bill they would become 18,000, instead of 6,000, and of those 18,000, 14,000 would be Roman Catholics. He could appeal even to the hon. and learned member for Waterford, and ask who would be returned in that case? He was afraid, not his hon. and learned friend, the present member for Dublin. The Representation of Ireland was settled at the time of the Union. It was then arranged what proportion the counties and boroughs of Ireland were to hold in the Imperial Parliament. But, for the very purpose of giving protection to the Protestant property of Ireland, twenty-four close boroughs were expressly reserved as stated in the Debates of the day. If the proposed change were made, could his hon. friend, the member for Drogheda, hope to resume his seat? It was certain that no man could do so unless he became an agitator, and pledged 892 himself hand and foot to pursue a particular course, otherwise he was sure to be excluded from Parliament. His Majesty's Government said, that they had no wish to carry on their duties by patronage. He would venture to say, that they would not, even if they were so disposed; for there was very little patronage left them. The late Government—his noble friend, the Duke of Wellington, and his right hon. friend behind him (Sir R. Peel) had, with the assistance of those who were associated with them in the various departments, strangled patronage whenever they could get it within their grasp, and had abolished 4,050 places, amounting to no less a sum than 600,000l. He was therefore borne out in stating, that there was but little patronage left to the noble Lord opposite when he entered upon the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. If patronage could keep a Government in office, he would ask why had Lord Goderich's Government ceased to exist before it had passed through one Session, and why had not the Duke of Wellington's Government continued up to this day? He could safely ask the noble Lord opposite, whether, since he had come into office, even if he had been what he was not—corrupt, whether he could have carried on his duties by such means? and he was sure the noble Lord would candidly admit that he could not. It was, therefore, a vulgar error and a calumny, to assert that the late Government had been carried on by patronage. He had heard a rumour, which he repeated only as a rumour, that it was the wish of his Majesty's present Ministers to annihilate the Tory party in that House by the disfranchisement of so many voters in the boroughs, and to create a new form of Representation, so constituted as to enable them to retain office. He did not entertain any belief which would impute to those Gentlemen unworthy personal motives in the measures which they proposed. He should be the last man in the world to insinuate any thing of the kind; but he must say, that this measure was, most of all others, calculated to create such a suspicion. He could assure the noble Lord, that although those with whom he associated might not present to him the same view which was placed before him, (Sir H. Hardinge), he could assure the noble Lord, into whatever society he went. that there was not a person of property who did not regard these measures 893 with apprehension and alarm. If he might with propriety allude to what had passed in another place, he could refer to a declaration, made within the last twenty-four hours of the highest authority there, and who, when in that House, had reflected honour upon it by his talents, that "he was extremely sorry the plan had gone so far. He was sorry it was not less, although he thought, if it had been, the country would not have been satisfied with it; yet, so far as his own feeling went, he was sorry it was not less." This he learned through those faithful means of communication which they had every morning upon their breakfast tables, and by which they ascertained what occurred in the other place to which he alluded. This declaration, coming from such an authority, he considered highly important. He thought this measure would be productive of fatal consequences in Ireland, and of very injurious ones here; and he should have felt that he failed in his duty if he had not stated his sentiments on the occasion. So long as he should have a voice in that House, he would not surrender his reason, his honour, or his conscience, to any fear of public or popular sentiment. Where the Constitution was concerned, he would, in every stage, without, he hoped, incurring a character of factious resistance, give the measure his strenuous opposition in a legitimate and proper manner; and he considered it the duty of every man who wished well to his country, to give such legitimate and proper opposition to this unfortunate, this fatal Bill.
The Lord Advocate
said, that from the course which this discussion had taken, one would be disposed to imagine that it was the tenth night of the Debate on the other Bill, instead of the first introduction of the Bill relating to Ireland. About that country and its Representation he knew very little, but he would reply to the arguments of the hon. Members. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had again indulged in, not the first, or the twentieth, but the hundredth time repeated charge against the proposed measure, as being revolutionary. Revolution, in the sense which was ordinarily and properly affixed to it, implied some change of the dynasty from one hand to another, or some essential alteration of the fixed principles upon which the Constitution was founded; but he maintained that nothing of that character could be imputed to this measure. 894 If certain changes were proposed, while other parts of the system were to remain untouched, it was their duty to consider how far that which was altered, or that which remained unchanged, formed the substantial principle of the Constitution. A right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had, in an eloquent, persuasive, and he might say, seductive speech, pointed out to the view of the House the beautiful, and almost theoretically impossible arrangement, by which the democracy, the aristocracy, and monarchy, were blended together in one harmonious machine, so as to combine the advantages of all those different institutions, and save the hazard which would arise from the undue predominance of any. The right hon. Baronet, when expatiating in impassioned language on all the advantages of this Constitution, had quoted those illustrious writers with which every Student was more or less familiar; and remarked, that although the genius of the great philosopher had conceived such a form of Government, he considered it impossible in practice; and that the sarcastic and sententious Tacitus had in bitterness spoken of a Constitution thus prized as the perfection of Constitutions, though he doubted its practicability; and presuming even of that, despaired of its existence for any long period of time. The Constitution was formed of King, Lords, and Commons. Let them now see how it was affected by the measure. The prerogatives of the Crown, and the privileges of the Aristocracy, were left untouched, and it was admitted the Bill rendered the Representation of the people more true. The King and his power then were not directly to be touched. The privileges of the Lords were not altered or affected by the measure. Would it then be said, that the correcting the faults of the popular Representation was a revolution? They had then to see whether the alteration in the mode of returning Members to Parliament could be said, not justly, but even plausibly, to be a revolution or alteration of the Constitution. Two separate charges had been blended, rather skilfully, to distract the public opinion, and to throw on the measure obscurity, not light. He wished to know if the revolutionary vice consisted in the disfranchisement of the boroughs, or in the alteration of the constituency and qualification. They could not properly be taken together. Take the disfranchise- 895 ment first, and suppose no alteration had been made respecting the boroughs, and that sixty or seventy of them, with 500 inhabitants each, continued to send Representatives to Parliament, while the great towns in the neighborhood of those boroughs, averaging a population of 50,000 each, remained unrepresented. Now, he asked, would the learned Gentleman opposite say, that there would be any revolution or change in the Constitution by the transference of the right of return from these boroughs to the great towns? They would have the same number of Members in that House, and the same qualification for the electors—the only difference being, that the electors would exist in greater number, and that the Members would have a greater variety of interests, and interests on a large scale, to represent which imperatively demanded their care. In this hypothetical case, would any man think the Constitution was endangered, or a revolution commenced, of which no human eye could see the end, by the transference of the right of electing Representatives from decayed boroughs to thriving towns? He would now come to the next point. Was it the proposed change in the qualification of electors that constituted the revolutionary vice? This change, it was contended, would open the way to an inroad of more democracy in the Constitution, by making the election of Members more depend upon the lower classes of the State. And here mark the inconsistency of the hon. Members who argued thus, when they, at the same time, so piteously bewailed the disfranchisement of a small portion of the very lowest class. They complained of the cutting off of this small portion of the lowest class—yet they, at the same moment, declared the measure would open the way to a too great infusion of democracy. They admit that the persons to be disfranchised are of a lower class than any who gain electoral power by the Bill, yet they will not allow that we became safer as we approached the level. Now, the county Members, it was always understood, held a higher place in the general estimation than the Members for boroughs, although the qualification by which electors were entitled to vote for the county amounted only to 40s., and although rustic persons were neither more respectable nor intelligent than the inhabitants of towns. Besides, the 40s. qualification in the towns con- 896 ferred upon the holders the right of voting in the best and most honourable part of the constituency; and therefore it was evident that the fixing a qualification of 10l. instead of 40s., could not, in the counties, increase the democratic influence; for no one would dream of saying that the intermixture of 10l. freeholders would debase or pauperize a 40s. constituency. On the contrary, it was plain they were giving greater respectability to the constituency in the counties, and by no means increasing democratic influence. Therefore, it could only be in the boroughs the mischief was effected. But he really could not see how democratic influence could be extended in the larger boroughs by adding richer persons to those who already had —say a 40s. qualification. In fact, the only mode was in the small Corporations; and could it possibly be said, that the Constitution was endangered by taking away the right of nomination from close Corporations? The great effect of the Bill would be, that wealthy and respectable men would be let into the right of voting, instead of Corporations, that were neither rich nor noble. As to what had been urged respecting the nominees of the close boroughs, he observed, that he would not advance the opinion that they had been always spies in a hostile camp—really the Representatives of the Aristocracy and Crown—but condescending to sit there under the humble garb of Representatives of the people, and ever voting for the maintenance of aristocratic privileges, and not for the advantage of the nation. The right hon. Baronet had made a list of some twenty or thirty great names in a period of forty years; but he regarded the proportion as by no means great, considering the number of unhonoured names that had been in the same space of time placed upon the list of the House of Commons as Representatives of these boroughs. The truth was, these nominees did not form a corps d'élite—they were not Knights Templars in disguise—they were not the champions in that House of the Crown and the Aristocracy—they did not come in as the alloy to democratic influence— they did not stand forth to stay the tide of democracy, for the close boroughs had sent in the greatest agitators. The aristocracy did not, like the ancient noblesse of France, enjoy privileges galling and oppressive, and offensive to the people— privileges which degraded and threw the 897 great body of the nation into a vexatious inferiority. The prerogative of the Crown was not of a nature to press heavy on the people, and therefore the Crown and the Aristocracy needed not the support of the nominees of close boroughs, nor were they defended by them. No, they did not represent either the order of the nobles or the disposition of the King in that House, but they represented the passions and prejudices, and the adverse and corrupt motives of a certain number of individuals. Who were the Peers?—They were gentlemen who were dignified with hereditary titles,—they exercised a separate legislative power—and it was their duty, according to the scheme of the Constitution, to defend alike the Crown from the encroachment of the democracy, and the people from an oppressive exercise of the influence of the Crown. The Members for these boroughs were neither required to fulfil this duty, nor did they, in fact, undertake any such task. They were not placed there to defend the prerogatives of the Crown, but were, in fact, persons who were intended to maintain the power of the Ministers. These boroughs did not represent any particular order, or any one of the three estates, and they ought not—they represented individual interest, and influence, and caprice, and they obstructed the entrance into that House of the real Representatives of the people. The nature and object of these popular Representatives were much mistaken. They were not sent there in the spirit of a wild democracy, to overturn or weaken, the rights of the Crown and the Aristocracy, but with their knowledge and spirit to represent in that House the knowledge and spirit of their constituents, who were taught that they formed part of a monarchy adorned with an ancient peerage, and sustained and directed by the magnificence of a simple executive. The duty of the House of Commons was to resist, on the one hand, the advances of an oligarchy, and on the other the progress of an executive towards despotism; but they would fail in the discharge of at least the first of these duties, if their Members were nominated by one of the bodies upon which it was their object to act as a check, or if the majority of their number was under the influence of the House of Peers. That House did not interfere with the rights and privileges of the Peers, by sending their nominees into the other House of Parliament to modify their un- 898 mitigated Aristocracy; and equally were the Members of the Commons House of Parliament entitled to be free from the influence of that aristocratical body. It was thus that he had been taught to understand the principles of the British Constitution, and those principles appeared to him likely to be best secured by the measure which was now under the consideration of Parliament. He should now take the opportunity of making one remark on the supposed independence of those Members who sat in that House for close boroughs. He should say nothing of the obvious objection to the perfect freedom from control of those persons who called themselves the Representatives of the people, nor of the necessity and justice of the people possessing some degree of influence over the conduct of the men they chose as their Representatives; but he should take that opportunity of declaring, that these borough Members, with but a few exceptions, were, as the practice of that House demonstrated, infinitely more under trammels than were the Representatives of the most populous places in the empire. He had great reliance on the mass of the people, and for that reason he did not fear, as some hon. Members did, a measure that would in some degree give power and influence to the mass of the people. He repeated, that he had great reliance on them; and he would tell the House, that if they did not rely on the body of the people they would find themselves miserably deceived and mistaken; and that if it was true, that there was a taint on the character of the people, that taint must be removed by instruction, and could not be got rid of by those precautions, even the mechanism of which had not been explained to them, and which, in any time of danger and necessity, would be found but a cobweb barrier to the progress of those they were intended to oppose.
§ Sir Robert Peel;
—Whatever merit the speech of the learned Lord may have, and its merit I do not contest,—it is not, I fear, much entitled to the praise of being1 well calculated to recall the attention of the House to the immediate subject of this night's Debate,—namely, the Bill for Irish Reform. Says the learned Lord, and apparently with great truth—"About Ireland and its Representation, I know positively nothing.'' As to the fitness or un-fitness of any one clause of the Irish Bill, the learned Lord seemed to think himself 899 wholly incapacitated to form a judgment but I will take, thinks he, this unsuitable occasion of delivering an ingenious and powerful argument on that which is by far the most important matter in discussion—the ultimate and permanent tendencies of the general measure of Reform. Sir, I quarrel not with the noble Lord for having done this; I am not so zealous a partisan that I cannot listen with satisfaction to the exercise of powerful talent, and the display of astute reasoning", even when they are arrayed against the cause which I espouse; and I listen to them, on this occasion, with the greater satisfaction, when I recollect the avenue through which the learned Lord effected his entrance into Parliament, and when I can appeal to them as an argument against the intended close of every such avenue for the future. Though wholly unprepared to expect the speech of the learned Lord,—having concluded that nine days' Debate had completed the discussion, for the present, on the general question of Reform—I still feel that it would not be right to permit the learned Lord's speech to pass without a reply The learned Lord has disregarded the vulgar appeals to the feelings and passions of the House; has wisely disclaimed the resort to those means by which the. cheers of the unreasoning and unreflecting can at any time be easily purchased; and has attempted to establish, by a chain of temperate consecutive reasoning, that our alarms as to the tendencies of the measure of Reform are visionary,—that, so far from being a revolutionary, it is a constitutional and conservative measure, and, above all—and I must say, to my infinite surprise— to shew that it has that which, in the eyes of the learned Lord, is its pre-eminent merit—a tendency to diminish the democratic, and confirm and increase the aristocratic influence in this House. I will attempt to imitate the example of the learned Lord, and follow him step by step in his argument. The learned Lord began his speech by a vehement protest against the application of the word "revolutionary" to the measure of Reform. I, for one, never have used the word revolutionary in the sense and in the mode against which the learned Lord protests—that is, I have not attempted, by giving a nickname to the Bill of Reform, to excite an irrational prejudice against it; but if by revolutionary was meant, by those who did use the term, 900 a tendency to make an immense change in the form and practical working of the Constitution—a tendency to derange the well-adjusted balance of opposite and conflicting powers—to introduce elements into the Government of this country, untried in practice, of power almost unlimited and in their probable effects, replete with danger,—if that be the sense in which, as I believe it was, the term revolutionary was used by those who applied it, then I am prepared to vindicate its application, and to repeat the phrase as one perfectly correct and apposite. The noble Lord equally objects, also, to the course of argument which has been pursued by the opponents of this measure. He says, that we confound two things which ought to be kept perfectly distinct; that the measure, if it be revolutionary, must be so, either oh account of the disfranchisement of the boroughs, or on account of the change that will hereafter take place in the Constitution of this House; and that we are bound in argument to assign to each of these separate causes of danger its own proper effects, and that if we cannot prove the effects, separately, to be considered revolutionary, we have no right to combine those effects, and argue, from the cumulative danger, against the measure as a whole. Certainly, Sir, nothing could be more convenient to the learned Lord than to confine within such limits the reasoning of his opponents, but what pretext can there be for prescribing such limits? What could be more rational or more just than, supposing that any given measure should recognize principles that shake the foundations of property, and the security of chartered rights, and should, at the same time, introduce perilous changes in the working of the Constitution—what could be more rational than to argue, "Your measure is unjust in its principle; and is dangerous in its tendency, and it is from the combined considerations of injustice and danger of unconstitutional precedent, and imminent positive evil, that I am compelled to reject it, and reject it by the peculiarly fitting name of a revolutionary measure?" If then, Sir, I am entitled, in estimating the merits of this measure, to consider its general scope and character, let us see what is the amount of the practical change which is made by one stroke in the Representative system of the United Kingdom? It is proposed to destroy the proportions which are at pre- 901 sent established between the several parts of the United Kingdom. There is to be an addition to the representative body of Ireland; an addition to that of Scotland; a small addition to that of Wales: all these additions made on no defined principle, and at the same time that they are made, no less than sixty-two Members are to be withdrawn from the representation of England. The constituent body in every place, county, city, and borough, is to be materially changed—the limits of almost every city and borough in England must inevitably be changed—the limits of all without exception are liable to be changed — to be changed, not by law, but by the arbitrary discretion of the Privy Council. By this Bill there are not more than fifty cities and towns in England which can, by possibility, retain their former limits, so far as their borough or electoral jurisdiction is concerned; and those fifty are liable to have their limits changed, if it shall so please a Committee of the Privy Council. But above all, by this Bill the right of returning Members for towns and cities in every part of the United Kingdom is hereafter to be intrusted to one predominant class of the people—that class, subject to the same influences, whether for good or evil, swayed by the same sympathies, agitated by the same passions, combined by the same interests. Is that an unfair description of the scheme of Reform? Now if you had done that which you have totally omitted to do,—proved that à priori at least, it was a beautiful scheme,—if you had given, which you have not given, convincing reasons for altering the relative proportions of the Representation of the United Kingdom—if you had established any sufficient ground for the extensive disfranchisement you propose, and had demonstrated the policy of the new qualifications you are about to establish— if you had done all these things—not one of which you have attempted—still I should distrust your predictions as to the future practical working of your beautiful speculative scheme—I should distrust them, from the experience of repeated failures in cases wherein, à priori, there had been just as good reason to expect success. Does the learned Lord think there is no hazard in extensive change, apart from any consideration of the nature and character of that change? Docs the learned Lord think, that it is wise in any country, above all in a country like this— 902 of institutions so ancient—of interests so complicated—of relations of society so artificial—to abandon the magic influence of prescription—to resign the unpurchasable benefit of those associations which connect the present with the ages that are past, of those feelings and affections of the heart, that in every clime, and under every form of government, are the unseen prompters of loyalty—the true motives of cheerful obedience? You may frown upon them as irrational prejudices. They are no such thing —they are the impulse of a wise and provident nature—the checks upon the restless appetite for change—the unerring instincts that were purposely planted in the heart "to correct and fortify the feeble contrivances of reason." Such are the aids of good government which the learned Lord's scheme has rejected. And yet he tells us, after abandoning the main, the only guarantee against perpetual innovation, that the chief merit of the scheme is —that it is a final settlement. A final settlement!—it cannot be final. If the principles upon which it rests be good,—if the arguments which are its sole vindication be conclusive,—they are conclusive against its being a settlement of the question of Reform. What avails it that reformers are agreed upon the acceptance of it? What consolation is it to me that the member for Middlesex (Mr. Hume) has sent forth his circulars, enjoining unanimity for the present? "Waive," says he (I quote one of his letters,) "all discussion about the Ballot,—be silent about Annual Parliaments,—above all, praise the Ministers, and take the present good they offer you." Why, Sir, he might just as well have added,—what he has thought it politic to conceal, but which he meant to imply. "Seize the instrument which this Bill puts into your hand,—occupy the commanding position which will enable you to extort all that you can wish." What avails it that the Ballot is now kept in the back-ground? If the advocate for the Ballot could say with truth, that this Bill was a compensation for the loss of the Ballot,—that it was an equivalent, which he could accept in the lieu of the Ballot,— there might be some pretence for his supposed compromise; but if this Bill only fortifies his arguments in favour of the Ballot,—if it. establishes a new class of voters, peculiarly liable to that aristocratic influence, which the learned Lord says will be so copiously and so successfully exerted 903 —what pretext has the advocate for the Ballot to postpone, beyond the passing of this Bill, the assertion of his own views? When the learned Lord says this settlement will be a final one, he is so far right that probably, for a short time, there may be a general wish, at least on the part of the reformers, to acquiesce in its provisions. The expectation of great benefits—gratitude for new privileges—the pleasure of novelty, may secure a short trial for the new Constitution. But these impressions will gradually grow weaker. The classes that are left unrepresented will begin to stir—they will read the preamble of the Bill—and with some justice, inquire why they should be excluded from its benefits? Every one naturally seeks for an illustration of his argument, from some place of which he has a local knowledge; and I shall be obliged to the learned Lord if he will now favour me with the answer to the claim which I am about to prefer on behalf of the place of my nativity. I have no interest in preferring it—no property in the place,—no peculiar motive for wishing its prosperity, except one, which the learned Lord, I suppose, will reject as a mere prejudice—that it was the place of my birth, and remains endeared to me by the first and most durable impressions that are made on the mind. Now I ask the learned. Lord, what will be his answer to the parish of Bury, in the county of Lancaster, supposing that two years hence it puts forward its claim to the Representation? It will—at least it may—allege, that it had, in 1821, a population of 34,500 inhabitants,—that it included large manufacturing establishments. It may remind you that you confiscated the franchise of thirty boroughs—curtailed that of forty-seven— that you contended you had a perfect right to do this, in order to transfer the privilege to more important and more populous places. Then will Bury put this perplexing question—"Why exclude me from the privilege of sending a single Member to Parliament, and continue to the town of Malton the privilege of sending two?" What is your answer? Surely, not prescription,—surely, not chartered rights. Oh, no! You have no better answer than this:—"That the same population return which assigned to Bury 34,500 inhabitants, assigned to Malton 4,005; and the privilege of Malton rested on this sure and stable foundation, that, ten years since, it had actually live inhabitants more than 904 he number of 4,000." How satisfactory to Bury! In 1821, three prolific ladies of Malton protected their native place from spoliation, by clubbing among them the lumber of five children. Charter is nothing,—prescription is nothing,—but two pair of twins, born ten years ago, are the guardians of the privileges of Malton; and the bar to the claims of Bury. I suppose, however, that Bury should cheerfully acquiesce in the superior claims of Malton. What will it say to Gateshead? Gates-head is an upstart like itself, with nothing but population to plead; and when the parish of Bury shall have proved to you, that whilst its population was 34,500, the population of Gateshead was less than 12,000, what is the answer which you will make to the claim of Bury to be admitted to a privilege which has been conferred on Gateshead? So much for the prospects of the final settlement of the learned Lord I approach another branch of the argument of the learned Lord. He says, that the balance of the Constitution has been destroyed—that the popular rights have been invaded—that the ancient theory of the Constitution is in favour of a popular assembly controlling the prerogative of the Crown, and balancing the power of the House of Peers. When the learned Lord reverts to ancient theories of the Constitution, will he revert to them all? And if he does not, is he not deranging, instead of adjusting, a balance between opposing powers? If the learned Lord could find, in his history of the Constitution, any precedent or preamble on which it could be right to give to the people a controlling power, such as he would give to them; and if the learned Lord thinks it advisable now to reinstate the people in the possession of that power; surely it would be right, at the same time, to restore to the Crown those countervailing prerogatives, which it would be necessary, by the learned Lord's theory of the Constitution—that the Crown should not only nominally possess—but be enabled practically to exercise. Can the learned Lord do this? Can he remount to the ages of comparative barbarism, and restore to the Crown, for any practical purpose, its slumbering prerogatives? Can he draw from the ancient armories of the Constitution the rusty weapon of the veto, with which the Crown once could check popular encroachments? Why, Sir, if he cannot do this for the Crown, let him beware 905 how he resorts to ancient theories of the Constitution, which can only be partial in their application. The learned Lord, however, asks these questions;—" What can be the danger of intrusting power to that industrious, intelligent, enlightened class of society, to whom the present Bills give the right of voting? Are they incompetent judges of their own interests? Are they disloyal? On the contrary, are not the people of this country distinguished for loyalty, and for almost an undue deference to rank and station?" I answer the noble Lord thus:—When you have once established the overpowering influence of the people over this House— when you have made this House the express organ of the public voice;—what other authority in the State can,—nay, more, what other authority in the State ought—to control its will, or reject its decisions? The people are the judges of their own interests—the people are enlightened and well-affected to the Throne, the House of Commons is the organ of the people—who will presume to check its patriotic course? Let not this question be decided by mere abstract reasoning—by calculations of opposite probabilities:— look at the history of your own country— at the history of all other countries,—and inquire, whether it is not the tendency of every popular assembly to assume power to itself, and to encroach on the authority of other co-existing institutions? The assumption of such power is no necessary evidence of evil intentions; it may commence with patriotic views—it may be compatible with good government;—but the question for us is this,—is it compatible with the good government of this country, and with the maintenance of a limited monarchy? Look at the early history of the National Assembly of France.—I say the early history—for I purposely avoid the reference to the later stages of the French Revolution, because I want not to scare you with the visions of rapine and of blood.—Of whom was the National Assembly composed? Of men of great acquirements—of high moral character—of men who professed the most devoted loyalty to the Crown, and who assured Louis 16th that the only danger he incurred was from the exuberant affection of the people of France. Mark the gradual, but rapid progress, by which all power was absorbed;—and mark the difficulty—the real difficulty, of maintaining in 906 argument—that the National Assembly, deriving its powers immediately from the people, was not competent to exercise, and ought not to exercise, the sovereign power of the State. A question arose, not long-after the formation of the assembly, "In what authority ought the prerogative of declaring war and making peace to reside?" Mirabeau, at that time among the warm advocates for popular privilege, contended, notwithstanding, that that special prerogative should continue in the Crown. He was overwhelmed by the reply of Bar-nave, who asked, naturally and justly, why, if the people understood their interests—why, if the National Assembly was faithful to their constituents, and was the mirror of the popular will—why should they devolve on a single individual (possibly on a child, possibly on a man of weak understanding) the exercise of a prerogative which involved the interests, and might hazard the existence of France? So difficult was it for Mirabeau to resist the popular torrent, that, in his reply to Barnave, he bitterly complained that he had been denounced in the streets of Paris as a traitor to the cause of the people, for maintaining what he thought an essential prerogative of the Crown. I cannot but think that even the discussions in which we are at this moment engaged, afford an example of the probable power which any authority will hereafter possess to control, the voice of a House of Commons, much more popular in its origin than the present. Who asks now what course the House of Lords will take with respect to this Bill, should it pass the House of Commons? It seems taken for granted, that it must pass the House of Lords—that it would be vain to oppose a measure that extends popular privileges, and is said to be in conformity with the wishes of the majority of the people. The same impression will exist in a still stronger degree, hereafter, with respect to all popular measures which a reformed House of Commons may offer for the acceptance of the House of Lords. The tendency on the part of this House will be, to gratify their constituents by popular measures, and to increase their, own power; and the countervailing influence of any of the authorities in the State will become gradually weaker, and, ultimately, owe its bare existence to its practical disuse. It may be said, that no such consequences follow in the United States of America, and that the Senate of 907 that country can resist, with effect, measures proposed by the popular assembly, of which it disapproves. But let. it be remembered, that the Senate of that country is no hereditary aristocracy—that it derives its authority from the same source which confers all authority in that country —the choice of the people; and that the conflict, therefore, between the two branches of the Legislature in the United States is the conflict of one portion of the people with another. "But," says the learned Lord, "the House of Commons will be less democratical in its new form than it now is." "It is a mistake," argues the learned Lord, "to suppose, that because the close boroughs are destroyed, therefore the influence of the aristocracy has ceased. Friendly ties will still continue to exist between the landlord and the tenant, and can it be doubted that the latter will adopt the opinions, and act upon the wishes of the former?" But, Sir, if this be the case, whither has fled all the indignation that has been directed against such influence; and what becomes of the Standing Order, which we have had so often quoted, declaring any interference of Peers in elections unconstitutional? I am afraid that this is one of those cases referred to by the member for Milborne Port, in which "the sarcasm destroys the syllogism, and the argument is lost in the vituperation." It is said, that there is a strange inconsistency among the opponents of the measure,—that some admit that the aristocratical influence may be maintained, and that others assert that it will inevitably be destroyed. It may seem very absurd, but I see no inconsistency in the same person holding nearly a similar doctrine, I cannot deny that, in times of political quiet, the just influence of the landlord will tell upon the tenant—that the influence of gratitude, of interest, of deference to authority, will be felt; but what I fear is, that when the storm rises—when the passions of the people are excited— when the Press is exercising its mighty power, all in one direction, and on that class which has just education enough to be peculiarly liable to its influence—then I fear the same consequences will follow, that have followed in Ireland; excitement and agitation will overbear the weight of gratitude and interest, and all the ordinary motives of action—then, I fear, the remaining barriers you will have left against popular encroachment, will be swept away 908 by some sudden and irresistible influx of the tide. The learned Lord says that, on a former night, I argued unjustly in favour of the maintenance of the small boroughs, by making an unfair selection of the eminent men whom they had returned to Parliament. He says, if I gave the names of the eminent men, I ought also to have given those of the useless and undistinguished Members, and that the number of the latter would have greatly predominated. Of course it would; but this was not the principle of my selection. I took the names of ail those persons (without the least reference, in the first instance, to the place by which they were returned) who had been the most eminent in the annals of Parliament. One omission I made, and I rejoice in the opportunity of repairing it—I omitted the name of Mr. Ricardo—a name for which I have true respect. I took twenty men, the most celebrated of the times in which they lived, and I inquired by what means they came into Parliament? Surely, if I found that sixteen or seventeen were returned for the small boroughs, and not more than three or four for the populous districts, it was fair to argue that the total extinction of the small boroughs would probably exclude great talents that would otherwise gain admission to the House. But, said the hon. Gentleman, the member for Milborne Port, many of the eminent men, returned for small boroughs, were advocates for Parliamentary Reform, and were among the most enlightened friends of popular rights. So much the better for my argument. If the Members for the decayed boroughs had been infected by a narrow corporation spirit—if they had, indeed, been curvœ in terris animœ, ac cœlestium inanes—then you would have justly demanded the abolition of the system which sent them here; but if you have found among them men of expansive minds, who justly claimed for themselves the privilege of representing, not the decayed borough that sent them here, but the universal people—then, I contend, they reflect a luster on the humble origin from which they derived the opportunity of personal distinction and the means of public service. Sir, I have referred to the member for Milborne Port (Mr. Sheil);—I heard his speech with great satisfaction. I was consoled by the reflection, that I had contributed, by that measure which cost me so much uneasiness, to wean great talents, 909 great powers of eloquence, from popular agitation, and to find for them a fitter and worthier occasion for their display. I thought, too, I saw an argument in favour of that system which the hon. Gentleman was condemning—when I recollected, that although the popular constituency of an Irish county had rejected the hon. Gentleman—the avenue of a decayed borough had been opened to him—and that Milborne Port had bestowed the distinction which the county of Louth had refused. I asked myself, by what means—when we have made, by this Bill, the mere local interests predominate in every town and district in England,—when we shall have established not one, but 200 Bassetlaws,— by what means will the hon. Gentleman effect his future return to Parliament? Must he, hereafter, have to stoop to agitation, to conciliate the favour of an Irish constituency? or, disdaining to do it, must he retire discomfited, before either the purse of a richer, or the exciting violence of a less scrupulous rival? One word more to the hon. Gentleman. When he stood on that floor, discussing the interests of the mightiest empire of the world, when he was heard with mute attention, or cheered by the animating voice of this assembly,—did he feel it no advantage— no distinction to Ireland,—that an Imperial Parliament was open to her distinguished sons? Never, never, if I were he, would I consent to relinquish that privilege for my country,—never would I consent to banish such talents and acquirements as his from the councils of a great empire and send them back to the narrow arena of a local Parliament in Dame-street—to the discussion of Dublin Police and Dublin Paving Boards—and all the comparatively petty subjects of mere Irish legislation. Sir, I have been seduced far away from the subject under immediate consideration—the details of the Bill for Irish Reform. I was greatly disappointed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it. I expected a statesmanlike, exposition of its principles,—an enlarged view of its probable bearings on all the great interests of property, of establishments, of religion, which it so deeply involves. I have heard nothing but a dry explanation of the clauses of the Bill which I could just as well have collected from the reading of the marginal notes. I consider it a great mistake, that you pro pose to disturb the relative proportions of 910 the constituency of the United Kingdom. As if Reform was not a subject difficult enough for the grasp of the Government, they embarrass it with extrinsic difficulties, which every prudent man would be most cautious to avoid, and which it was totally unnecessary to incur. What have you gained by giving five additional Members to Ireland—while you deprived England of sixty-two? Why, that an Irish Member is the first to complain, and tell you, that, if you are to disturb the proportions, you ought to disturb them on some principle. The singular grievance is, not that Ireland gains five additional members, but that she does not gain ten. The hon. member for Kilkenny has another ground of complaint: he says—and really I know not who is to answer him— "While you are about it, why not Reform effectually, and on some intelligible principle? You disregarded charters, you laugh at established usage—then why, as you are unfettered by all such considerations, not give Representation according to. the wants of the country?" The hon. Gentleman then observed,—that if you draw a line from Londonderry to Cape Clear, on the east side of that line there is Representation in abundance, on the west side a lamentable want of it—twenty or twenty-five places on the east side; five only on the west. Says the hon. Gentleman, "What is the consequence? Such are the blessings of Representation, that the eastern parts of Ireland are flourishing in prosperity, while the western coast is languishing in decay." What then!— have the small boroughs in Ireland so effectually answered the object of their institution—are their Members such watchful guardians of Irish interests, that the prosperity of Irish provinces varies directly with the amount of Irish Representation? If this be so, it may be a good argument for adding to the number of boroughs in the west of Ireland, but it does not seem a very cogent argument for destroying the system with which the prosperity of the east has been interwoven. The Solicitor General for Ireland has greatly surprised me by attempting to shew, without the shadow of foundation, that the Act of Union with Ireland expressly contemplated a probable future variance in the proportions of the Representation assigned by that Act to the two portions of the United Kingdom. The fourth Article of the Act of Union expressly 911 declares, that 100 Members shall sit and vote in the Imperial Parliament as the Members for Ireland. I appeal, not to lawyers, but to men of common sense, whether the plain meaning and intention of this be not, that so long as 558 Members sit for the rest of the United Kingdom, 100 Members shall sit for Ireland. I do not question the competency of Parliament to vary the proportions; if ten additional Members would really benefit Ireland—would promote her peace and ensure her prosperity, for God's sake let her have them; but this I do deny, that the Act of Union has made any provision for the increase of the Irish Representation, or contains a syllable from which the expectation of such increase, to the disturbance of the proportion fixed at the time of the Union, could be inferred. The member for Boroughbridge was very facetious on the Solicitor General for Ireland; and, because he consents to the destruction of his own borough—the borough of Saltash—compares him to the incendiary of the Temple of Ephesus, who was content, by any means, to secure notoriety for himself. Now, Sir, it appeared to me that the Solicitor General was much more prudent than the incendiary. Three-fourths of his speech was a canvassing speech, addressed to the students of Trinity College, Dublin; and if the learned Gentleman can effect his own return for the additional seat which the College is to acquire by this Bill—what the member for Boroughbridge calls "the spirit of Ephesian destruction" will entail no great sacrifice; he can afford to set fire to the hovels at Saltash, if he can immediately afterwards take refuge in the more splendid edifice which this Bill will construct for his reception. Sir, there is no part of the whole measure of Reform which is pregnant with consequences so important as this remodelling of the constituency and representation of Ireland. I fear the result—and above all—I deprecate the time at which the experiment is made. Two years only have elapsed since that great change in the internal policy of Ireland was effected; and, before there is any sufficient experience of its practical operation, we are called upon to make another change, that puts to imminent hazard the securities we provided against the danger of the first. It is now beyond the control of Parliament to remedy the evils which are, in my opinion, inseparable 912 from the course which the King's Government has pursued. In the completion of their measures, I see the utmost danger; and who is there that can look with satisfaction on the consequences of their rejection? Who does not see, that the moment the King's Ministers have, with the King's sanction, denounced the constitution of this branch of the Legislature —have proclaimed the necessity of an effectual change—have invited great masses of the people to a share in the privileges and authority of Government: who does not see, that, whatever be the abstract merits of the question of Reform, the practical position of that question is materially altered? Still, Sir, I must compare the consequences of passing this measure of Reform, with the consequences of rejecting it. It is with this measure as a whole, with which we have to deal—which we must accept or reject —but which we are not, it seems, at liberty, in any material respect to modify. If that be the alternative, I must reject it; for, with my opinion as to the ultimate effects, in this country and in Ireland, of the measures now under our consideration —I should in the words of Mr. Fox, be "a traitor to my King, to my country, and to my own conscience, if I did not prefer the Constitution to popular favour "—and if I did not protect the rights and interests of the people, when they are threatened by their own delusion and excitement.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, he felt all the disadvantages under which he came forward to reply to what, though made unexpectedly, he was bound to admit was one of the most successful efforts of the right hon. Baronet. Though his right hon. friend had excited his attention, he must confess, that at its close he laboured under great disappointment. His right hon. friend had argued the question with that ability which distinguished him; but he had pressed into his service all the arguments employed by those who were the most uncompromising enemies of Reform. He had argued, not only against Reform in the abstract, but against every species of Reform, and every part of the measure now proposed. On a former occasion, when his right hon. friend addressed the House on this question, he opposed the measure of Ministers, as too extensive, at the same time admitting, that such a change had taken place in public opinion on this sub- 913 ject, that if a more moderate measure of Reform had been brought forward he should have been prepared to support it. After hearing his right hon. friend's arguments, however, he wished to know what was the degree of moderate Reform which his right hon. friend was prepared to propose himself, or to support, if proposed by others? What kind of Reform was it to which all his right hon. friend's arguments of that evening did not apply? Individually, his right hon. friend had adopted the highest view of the ease yet taken—he adopted the opinion, thrown out certainly in the course of the debate, that the admission of copyholders to vote gave the proposed measure a revolutionary character. As one of the arguments to prove that the measure was revolutionary, his right hon. friend said, it went to change the constituency in every county. He (Lord Palmerston) did not recollect in what way the proposed measure changed the constituency in every county, but by letting in copyholders and leaseholders, above a certain amount, to vote. If the admission of householders and copyholders to vote was so material a change in the constituency as to render the measure which proposed that change worthy to be deemed revolutionary, he wondered that it had not occurred to his right hon. friend that he himself had introduced a measure changing the franchise in a much more extensive manner. His right hon. friend talked of taking away vested right, in very beautiful language—but language, he must say, better calculated for a former debate. As his right hon. friend, however, made some allusion to a similar subject, he must congratulate him on the prosperous delivery of twin speeches. He could not say much, however, as to the shortness of the period of gestation. His right hon. friend's speech was apparently attached to that of the learned Lord who preceded him; but it appeared to have been rather a fortunate incident for his right hon. friend, that the learned Lord had made that speech. When his right hon. friend, said, that the ancient usage, and even prejudices, ought to be dealt with tenderly, and objected to altering arrangements made in the early periods of our history, he wished to know upon what grounds the right hon. Baronet had proposed to disfranchise 170,000 40s. freeholders, many of them bonâ fide freeholders, holding land, not by leases, but in their own right? Upon what ground did 914 his right hon. friend ask in that case for the support of the House? His right hon. friend would answer, no doubt, that it was for the public advantage to carry a measure necessary to secure the public tranquillity and to avert the evils arising from national discontent. It was upon those grounds his right hon. friend proposed to disfranchise the Irish 40s. freeholders, and to abrogate uses consecrated by the respect of the people. The present Government now proceeded on the same grounds. It proposed to alter arrangements of long standing; but there was this difference in the proposed measure and that to which he alluded—It was now proposed to alter arrangements not consecrated by the respect and veneration of the people. If these matters had the undivided and unalloyed respect of the people, he admitted the argument would be conclusive against the proposed change; but that change was proposed because the people were of opinion, with the Government, that the evil practices which it was proposed to remedy did not belong properly to the institutions of this country; and that they were not in unison with the laws. In his alarm of revolution, his right hon. friend attacked the measure, as going, not only to alter the constituency of counties, but likewise the constituency of cities and boroughs. He enumerated the number of towns and cities to which it was proposed that the power of the Committee of the Privy Council should extend, in order to annex a sufficient number of voters. That was the alteration in cities and boroughs which his right hon. friend considered revolutionary. The revolution, then, was to be effected by the King's Privy Council. If it was from such a quarter that revolution was to come, he should not feel so much alarm at the idea of revolution as he had hitherto done. The argument formerly used against the appointment of the Committee of the Privy Council, was, that it subjected the constituency to the arbitrary will of the Privy Council; but now it was apprehended that the King's Privy Council would work a revolution! But then his right hon. friend said, the measure went to deal with the prerogative of the Crown. Some people chose to consider close boroughs as the props and support of the Crown; but when they talked about the Crown, they meant only the Government of the day. The Representatives of boroughs, however, were not 915 in the habit of voting always for the present or any other Government. He asked any hon. Member whether the Members fur close boroughs were not distributed as much on one side of the House as on the other. As many Members for boroughs were to be found in the ranks of those who wanted to force the Crown, as in the ranks of those engaged in. its service [cheers]. He understood the cheers; but they were applicable to an argument distinct from that to which he adverted. So far as the prerogatives of the Crown went, the presence of Members for close boroughs in that House did not support them; whilst their presence inflicted a deep injury on the interests of the people. His right hon. friend had alluded to the French Convention, and to the insanities of the French Revolution, as arising out of that Convention, as supplying arguments to show that the House of Commons ought not really to represent the people. There was no analogy, however, in the two cases. His right hon. friend really seemed to think, that the theory of the British Constitution not only ought to differ from the practice, but that the only safety for the country was to be found in a continual and practical departure from the theory. There was not the slightest analogy between the French Revolution and the proposed measure. It was like comparing the conduct of a child, or a person ungifted with reason, with the conduct of a person of sound mind and full estate, to say that the people of this country would act in the same way as the people of France had done, if they had real Representatives. The argument drawn from the French Revolution, then, had no weight; for there was no similarity in the two cases. His right hon. friend also argued, that the Bill would destroy the influence of the House of Lords; and then he referred to the resolution which said, that Peers should not interfere in elections. That was a new line of argument against the Bill. The argument hitherto had been, that the Bill went to establish a number of Bassetlaws throughout the country; and the Ministers were charged with not being earnest or sincere in their desire to give the people a real Representation. It was said that they only proposed to give a different kind of influence to the aristocracy. But now it was said that they would destroy the aristocracy. The opponents of the Bill should abandon one or other of those 916 arguments, for they destroyed each other. His right hon. friend, with the good feeling and good taste with which he always addressed the House, adverted to the speech made on a former occasion, by an hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Milborne Port (Mr. Sheil). He referred to the hon. and learned Gentleman as a proof of the advantages of the system of close boroughs, as, after having been rejected by a county in Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman had been enabled to come in for a borough, to delight the House by the display of his eloquence and talent. He (Lord Palmerston.) conceived that his right hon. friend might have also drawn another moral from the presence of the hon. and learned member for Milborne Port. The hon. and learned Member was an instance of the advantages which arose from the concession of rights from which he had been long and unjustly excluded. He had been converted from being an agitator, to which circumstances had driven him, and was permitted, by the change of the laws, to exercise that share of power which naturally belonged to him, to assume the character which the right hon. Baronet had done justice to, and to devote his faculties and talents to their legitimate object—the service of the public. The state of the hon. and learned Gentleman before the change of the law, resembled the state of the middle classes throughout the country at present. They were excluded from a fair exercise of power —from their due share in the government—and were discontented: they were the prey to every factious agitator who chose to pander to their passions, for the gratification of his vanity, or of worse passions. The people of England now were in the same state which the Catholics of Ireland were. Let them deal with the people of England as they did with the Catholics of Ireland, and the result would be the same. As the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) turned his great faculties to the good of the country, so they would find, upon passing the measure proposed, that the middle classes, now discontented at being deprived of their rights, would become contented, and their satisfaction would tend to attach them to the higher classes, and to strengthen the ties which bind them to the Constitution.
§ Sir Robert Peel
complained, that his noble friend had dealt unfairly with, his 917 argument as to the admission of copyholders to vote. When he enumerated the changes which the Bill would work in the constituency, he referred to the admission of copy-holders in counties as one element. As to the argument he had used being against all Reform, he should not enter on that question, but he repeated, that, seeing the difference of opinion between that House and the late Ministry on the subject of Reform, for though they were turned out on the Civil List, he believed there would have been an expression of opinion on the subject of Reform, which would have made it very difficult for them to have carried on the Government, as the new Ministry was formed on the principle of some Reform, he (Sir Robert Peel) said, he was prepared, as an individual, to make a compromise on that subject, and to support a measure of moderate Reform, if such had been introduced. After the course taken by the Ministers on this subject, however, the position of every man was changed. [The right hon. Baronet was here interrupted by cries of "Spoke, spoke."] He did not mean to trespass further on that courtesy which permitted a Member to explain, than merely to guard against wrong inferences being drawn from what he had said, and to prevent sentiments being ascribed to him which he had never professed.
§ Mr. Goulburn
wished to call attention to some points adverted to by the noble Viscount who had just addressed the House. The noble Lord, in reference to the objection which had been made, as to giving power to a Committee of the Privy Council to alter the constituency, asked, who ever heard of a Revolution effected by the King's Privy Council? He would not enter into the question as to whether the measure was revolutionary. He would take the measure in its modified sense, as productive of a great and important change. A Committee of the Privy Council, appointed by the Crown, was to have the power of giving a Member of Parliament to any number of constituents they thought fit, by annexing any adjoining parish or district to a borough or city. This was giving an enormous power, he contended, to the Privy Council, and making a great change in the Constitution, which was unwarranted by any precedent. It was not necessary that the Privy Councillors should confine the exercise of their power to boroughs wanting an increase of 918 constituents, they might go into the City of London, and add to it any adjoining parish, the inhabitants of which would thenceforward share the rights now exercised by the City of London exclusively. Giving such a power to the Crown, through the medium of the Privy Council, was, in his opinion, a great change and deterioration of the Constitution. The noble Lord said, that the Members for boroughs were equally distributed now on each side of the House. The effect of the proposed measure, however, would be to place, if not the Members of all boroughs, the constituents who returned those Members, in the hands of the Government of the day, by giving the Committee of the Privy Council the power of altering the constitution in each particular case. This was, in his opinion, one of the worst parts of the whole arrangement. One ground on which the measure was defended was, that it would prevent future alteration, whereas the principle on which it rested was, that as an alteration was made in the constituency in Ireland, in the passing of the Catholic Question, so a similar alteration might now be made in this country. If any individual hereafter desired to make a further change, he need only quote the argument now adduced, and he would have two precedents instead of one to urge, in favour of Vote by Ballot and Universal Suffrage, which were so much desired by many persons. His noble friend seemed to say, that if they had had a Reformed Parliament, they would not have found so much difficulty as had been experienced in carrying the Catholic Question. Now, judging from the petitions presented against that measure, when under the consideration of Parliament, he should say, that it was anything but popular. It was certainly not one of those measures which the great body of the people appeared to be most anxious to see carried; and he therefore felt himself justified in assuming, that if the popular influence in that House at the time mentioned had been greater than it really was, they would probably have that great measure yet to discuss. The fact indisputably was, that Government, in carrying that measure, had to contend against a great amount of popular feeling. It had been charged against his hon. friends, that they were afraid of allowing the practice of the Constitution to be made conformable to its theory. He wished to know at what period the prac- 919 tice of the Constitution had ever resembled the theory which the present Bill went to establish? When was the theory of the Constitution conformable to the present Bill? Amongst other objections to the proposition then under the consideration of the House, it was to be observed, that it would go to change the whole Representative system of Ireland, and it would most probably lead to the further discussion of a subject, that, above all others, it was most desirable to avoid— namely, the Repeal of the Union. There was, in his opinion, nothing more to be avoided than further changes in the Representation of that country; and, least of all, should there be any augmentation made of the Members sent from that part of the United Kingdom, seeing that an other measure had been introduced, which would so greatly alter the relation hereto fore subsisting between the Irish and English Members. He really, in every point of view, professed himself unable to understand how any hon. Member, opposed to the Repeal of the Union, could advocate the present Bill.
§ Mr. Hunt
wished to set himself right with the House respecting an observation which fell from the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge, to the effect, that he (Mr. Hunt) had spoken of himself as representing the whole people of England and that he had made a bargain for the borough of Preston. That he begged most distinctly to deny. He begged also to state, that neither in nor out of the House had he ever expressed an opinion favourable to the disfranchisement of any man; nor had he on any occasion demanded more for Preston than he was perfectly willing to concede to other places. As an old reformer, and one who had never departed from the principles he had advocated, be they right or wrong, the House might conceive how amusing it must have been to him to hear the hon. and gallant Member on the one side of the House, represent the borough of Boroughbridge as black as the devil, and on the other to hear the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge represent the rotten boroughs on that side of the House to be still blacker. What would the people of England say when they heard the language which had been used on both sides of the House with respect to these rotten boroughs? Why, they would say, what they say now, "Give us some change; we 920 have been represented in this way for a great length of time, and now his Majesty's Government offer us some change, we, one and all, with one voice accept it." It had been said, that this was a revolutionary measure. The learned Lord, the Lord Advocate, contended, that instead of taking away the powers of the aristocracy of the country, although it would lessen them so far as to prevent the return of certain branches of the Aristocracy for the rotten boroughs, if he understood him rightly, the learned Lord contended it would give as great, if not greater, powers to the aristocracy than at present. He perfectly agreed with the learned Lord, that it would directly place great power in the hands of the great landed interests, and particularly with regard to the county Representation. He could not, however, let that opportunity pass without denying that the measure of Reform, as proposed by his Majesty's Government, was revolutionary. Let the House see how the matter stood, viewing it solely with reference to the population of the United Kingdom, and they would be enabled to judge how far the Bill went to strengthen the hands of the people. The population of England, Ireland, and Scotland, he would take at 22,000,000; of that number 11,000,000 were males, and 3,000,000 were infants, leaving a remainder of 8,000,000 of adults. Under the new Bill there would be only 1,000,000 of electors, and calculating their income at an average of 150l. per annum to each, would be 150,000,000l. Then taking the 7,000,000 of male adults unrepresented as earning by their industry the sum of 12s. 6d. a week each, he was entitled to say, there was an annual income of 227,500,000l. not represented. Surely a measure which left things in that state, so far from being revolutionary or democratic, was nothing more than very moderate Reform [much coughing.] If hon. Members were really labouring under the effects of recent colds, he had some lozenges which he could recommend as very efficacious. He was sure the disturbance was not intentional. As to the general plan of Reform he must be allowed to say, that if it were carried without the protection of the Ballot it would place the country represented in a worse state than before. What were his reasons? The little 10l. householders were more open to improper influence than any other class, and it was evident that the proposed change in the Representation 921 of counties would lead to increasing the influence of all the great landholders. There was not one of the persons enfranchised under the new Bill, who would not feel the want of that protection which the Ballot alone could afford. At the same time that he felt bound to thank the Ministry for putting an end to the rotten boroughs, he should rather have the representation in its present state with the Ballot, than Universal Suffrage without it.
§ Mr. Thomas Lefroy
entirely disapproved of the principle of the Bill, and thought it would have a bad effect in Ireland.
said, the present measure would be considered a very great boon in Ireland. He felt assured that it would have the effect of sending into that House men more distinguished for knowledge than for readiness or fluency in debate; by which the real business of the country would be much promoted. He thought that the modification of corporation influence which would result from the Bill would go far to get rid of the Anti-union spirit existing in that country.
§ Mr. Gisborne
approved of the measure which had been introduced by his Majesty's Ministers; which, he contended, was not calculated in any way to sever that from the other House of Parliament, or to injure the constitution of the country. For his own part, he could not see any thing of a revolutionary tendency in the measure of the noble Lord. By it fifty-three Members he believed were to be added to the county representation, and could it be said or thought that would lead to a Revolution. One of the effects of the present state of the Representation was, constantly to force an unpopular Government on this country. Even if the right hon. Baronet opposite was called on to create a Government, he was certain that, let him do his utmost, he could not give satisfaction to the popular feeling. He hoped that this great measure would be carried in its present shape, and that by its operation the House would not, in future, be an object of suspicion, not to say of aversion, to the great body of the people.
§ Mr. Ruthven
expressed his general approbation of the Bill then before the House. The determination of Ministers to effect a Reform of Parliament was highly gratifying to Ireland, because the people believed that through Reform something would be done for that country. Ireland 922 was at present calm, and he appealed to those who best knew that country, whether that calm was not produced by the expectation of good which the introduction of this measure had produced. Those who were anxious for a Repeal of the Union were quieted, because they believed that a Reformed Parliament would make the Union productive of that benefit which had never yet been derived from it. With respect to the north of Ireland, he could truly state, that great expectations were entertained that much good would be derived from this measure. He hoped that the Bill would go through the. House, and if any little alterations were deemed necessary, he trusted that they would be made with good temper and discretion.
Mr. John Fane
thought the Bill would benefit no man, and he should wish that it might never pass into a law.
§ Mr. G. Moore
said, he would reserve his observations on this Bill for a more fitting opportunity. When the proper time arrived, he trusted that he should be able to prove that this Bill, which affected the franchises of every Corporation in Ireland, was illegal, unconstitutional, immoral, and inequitable—that its effect would be, not restoration but destruction, and that it had no constitutional ground whatever for its support.
§ Bill read a first time.