HC Deb 24 March 1831 vol 3 cc858-61
Sir J. Scarlett

presented a Petition from the inhabitants of Malton, in favour of the plan of Reform which had been introduced by Ministers. About 500 electors of that borough would be disfranchised by the proposed Bill; notwithstanding which, they petitioned in favour of the measure. He was sorry that he could not go the length of his constituents in approving of that Bill. He did not feel himself bound to surrender his own conscientious opinions to those of his constituents; but differing, as he did, from the sentiments of his constituents, he should be ready to surrender the trust which they had confided to him into their hands, if they should require it.

Mr. Hunt

said, that nothing could be fairer than the declaration which the learned Gentleman had just made, that if he acted in opposition to the sentiments of his constituents, he would be ready to resign his seat if required. He would take that opportunity to contradict an assertion which had been made by the learned gentleman in a former debate,—namely, that the people of this country wished for a republic. They were perfectly satisfied with the form of government which they possessed, if a cheap government and a proper Representation of the people' in Parliament were established.

Sir J. Scarlett

was happy to hear such a statement from an hon. Member who, it was to be presumed, was so well acquainted with the sentiments of the people.

Mr. G. Dawson

was surprised that the hon. member for Preston should have forgotten his own declarations in that House. He could positively assert, that he heard the hon. member for Preston himself declare in that House, before the measure of Reform had been introduced, that he preferred a republican form of Government to any other. With his own ears he had heard the hon. Member make such a declaration and the hon. member for Middlesex checked him at the time.

Mr. Hunt

begged to state most unequivocally, that neither in that House, nor out of that House, upon any occasion, had he said, that he preferred a republican form of government to that which now existed in this country. He had never gone further, in that House or out of it, than to say that the people would be perfectly satisfied with the present form of government, if that House were properly chosen by the people, as according to the constitution it ought to be chosen. He certainly had said out of that House, and he would now repeat the sentiment, that if the people of England should be unfortunately driven to fight for their liberties, and that he (Mr. Hunt) should survive the contest, he, for one, would then be for a republican form of Government.

Mr. Hume

said, that he had no recollection that such an assertion as that attributed to the hon. member for Preston by the right hon. member for Harwich had ever been made by the hon. member for Preston.

Mr. Jones

said, he recollected that the declaration which had been made by the hon. member for Preston on the occasion alluded to was, that if that House should not be reformed, and if a cheap Government should not be established, he then might prefer a republican form of Government. He (Mr. Jones) trusted that hon. Members would have the good taste to refrain from expressing their opinions on the measure until the Bill went into Committee.

Captain Maitland

presented a Petition against Reform from the town and county of Berwick.

An hon. Member, in supporting the petition, said, that he believed that the sober sense of the nation was against Reform. Petitions were fabricated for others to sign in favour of the measure, and Ministers were inconsistent, for when the people petitioned against the Catholic claims the present Ministers said the petitions deserved no attention; whereas, now that the petitions of the people were coincident with the wishes of Ministers they were argued upon as things of importance. He hoped never to see such a revolutionary measure as the Reform Bill succeed; for if it did, the British House of Commons would be transformed into a Chamber of Deputies, the British House of Lords into a Chamber of Peers, and the British King into a King of the English.

Mr. Kennedy

said, that the county of Berwick contained 33,000 inhabitants at least, and not more than forty or fifty had attended the anti-reform meeting. The petition was filled with signatures from other places and resembled one lately presented from Edingburgh to the same effect, it was signed by about 500 persons; whereas one which he had presented from that City in favour of Reform was signed by 31,000 persons.

Captain Maitland

said, that the Berwick petition was agreed to at a county meeting regularly convened.

Petition to lie on the Table.

Lord R. E. Somerset

presented a Petition from the county of Gloucester, in favour of the Ministerial plan of Reform. Being a Representative of the county he was sorry that he could not concur in the prayer of the petition, being of opinion that the measure, if carried into effect, would be subversive of the Constitution.

Sir W. Guise

gave his cordial support to the measure, for which the whole country owed a debt of gratitude to the present Government. If he thought with the noble Lord that the plan was revolutionary in its tendency, he would be the last person to approve of it; but he was satisfied that the noble Lord's apprehensions were perfectly groundless.

Mr. Cripps

took that opportunity to state, that he had voted for the second reading of the Reform Bill, in order that the subject might be fully investigated. He trusted, however, that the Bill would be considerably modified in the Committee, and unless it were, he should be unable to support it.

Sir E. Sugden

was surprised that the hon. Member could expect the Bill would be modified in the Committee after the declaration of the noble mover (Lord J. Russell), who distinctly stated, that he would admit of no material alteration in the plan as originally proposed.

Colonel Davies

denied that Lord J. Russell had so expressed himself.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

said, no statement of the noble Mover could be considered binding upon the House, which was able to make whatever alterations it might think proper in the measure. He was one of those who voted for the second reading with the desire that the Bill should be materially altered and modified in the committee. As the Bill stood at present, he could not give it his support. His principal objection was to the first clause of the Bill, and whenever it was submitted to a Committee, he should propose either to omit or postpone that clause. It was his wish to make the disfranchisement and the enfranchisement co-equal.

Mr. George Bankes

understood the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to express his sentiments respecting the measure as the hon. and learned Member (Sir E. Sugden) interpreted them.

Sir J. Wrottesley

would rather the Bill should be thrown out than submit to any alteration in its principle. If any material change were made in the measure, it would no longer deserve the confidence of the country. He might be disposed to yield a little in minor details, but he would not have the Bill frittered away in the Committee.

Mr. R. Gordon

was astonished, that the hon. Member (Mr. Cripps), or any body else, should have thought it necessary to apologize for supporting the second reading of the Bill. For himself, he gave his full and entire approval to the measure of his Majesty's Ministers, and he sincerely hoped it might be carried into effect in all its leading principles, whatever slight alterations some of the details might require.

Mr. Cripps

explained, that he had offered no apology for his support of the second reading, which was quite consistent with his wish that the Bill should be modified.

Mr. H. Gurney

had also voted for the Bill, that, its details might be modified. He did not conceive that his vote pledged him to any one of those details.

Mr. Benett

cordially approved of the Bill, which, as it now stood, afforded satisfaction, not only to moderate reformers, but to persons who were considered immoderate reformers.