presented a Petition from the Inhabitants 1172 of the City of York, in favour of the measure of Reform brought forward by his Majesty's Government, praying the same might pass into a law. He stated, that it was agreed upon by the most respectable and most numerous meeting of persons of all parties. He stated, that he had already expressed himself in favour of the measure, but he would take this opportunity, and he felt, as their Representative, he was bound to state, that a great number of his constituents, freemen of the city, not unfavourable to Reform, viewed with dissatisfaction and regret those clauses of the Bill which tended to disfranchise their posterity of their rights of voting, by patrimony and by servitude, which they had so long enjoyed and exercised in such a becoming manner. He trusted, therefore, that as the measure professed to extend, and not contract, the elective franchise, his Majesty's Ministers, in the Committee on this Bill, would see the necessity of giving the greatest possible latitude to claims so just, consistently with the general principles of a measure fraught with so many benefits to the country.
§ Mr. Schonswar
concurred entirely with the hon. Member, and knew that the freemen of York had exercised their franchise in a very proper manner.
Mr. Dominick Browne
presented three Petitions from different parts of Connaught, and one from Clare, in favour of the Reform Bill; also, one from the town of Galway, praying that another Representative might be given to that place. The hon. Member expressed a wish that some additional Representatives might be given to Ireland. If the fate of the Reform Bill had depended on the votes of the Members for Great Britain it would have been lost. It was carried by a majority of Irish Members, which, however, shewed its utility, because those Members had constituents, whose wishes they were obliged to attend to. Of the Scotch Members, twenty-six voted against the Bill, and thirteen for it: of the English Members, 238 voted for it, and 240 against it. Of the Irish Members, fifty-three voted for, and thirty-seven against it. Its triumph, therefore, was due to the Irish Members. He was not surprised at the votes given by the Scotch Members, because they represented only themselves, but the Irish Members represented the people; as for 1173 example, in Mayo, which he represented, there was 300,000 inhabitants. After this explanation he was sure it would be more just in the hon. and gallant member for Liverpool to disfranchise the corrupt voters of that borough than the people of Ireland.
§ General Gascoyne
did not wish to contract the Representation of Ireland, or to disfranchise its people; on the contrary, he meant to propose that four Members should be given to every 150,000 inhabitants, but he did wish that the proportional number of Representatives from the three parts of the Empire, as settled by the Acts of Union, should not be altered.
§ Petition to be printed.
§ Mr. Ruthven
presented a Petition from the county of Down, agreed to at a meeting convened by the High Sheriff. The petition was signed by 13,000 persons, either registered, or entitled to be registered, as 10l. freeholders, and had been intrusted to his care, because the county Members had declined to present it. The requisition for the meeting was signed by thirteen or fourteen Magistrates, and the petition was principally signed by Protestant freeholders. The petitioners prayed for Reform, for the duration of Parliament to be shortened, and that every Member should be required to make oath that he had not employed improper means to procure his return.
§ Mr. H. Gurney
said, that if any proposition should be made to encumber Members of Parliament with more oaths than at present, he should give it his most determined opposition.
§ Petition to be printed.
§ Mr. Leader,
in presenting Petitions from Montmellick, in favour of the Irish Reform Bill, observed, that he considered the fears of those who imagined that the Bill would give an undue influence to the Roman Catholic interest in Ireland as groundless. The greater portion of his constituents were Roman Catholics, and yet he was quite sure that, were he under the necessity of calling on them for their votes, in the event of a dissolution of Parliament, those votes would not be withheld from him. He believed that the agitation which prevailed in Ireland arose from the state of destitution and distress in which the great body of the people in that country were placed, and he was convinced that any English gentleman who in that House would advocate the interests 1174 of Ireland, would, though a Protestant, be returned for an Irish county or city as soon as an Irish Roman Catholic gentleman.
§ Mr. Monteith,
in presenting a Petition from Selkirk, in which the petitioners objected to the details of the Scotch Reform Bill, observed, that the borough of Falkirk, which it was proposed to add to the district of burghs to which Selkirk belonged, was no less than sixty miles distant. In his opinion the Bill ought to be referred to a Select Committee of gentlemen connected with Scotland, who could modify and improve its details.
§ Mr. Kennedy
said, that he saw no weight in this objection, seeing that several of the burghs, under the present system, were further apart.
Lord J. Russell
begged of Gentlemen, as this was the last day of sitting before the holidays, not to consume time in the discussion of the English, Scotch, and Irish Reform Bills, but to confine themselves to the presentation of petitions.
Mr. Keith Douglas
thought that it was most desirable, in the present state of the subject, that the House should pay some attention to it. He believed, and he had always admitted, that in Scotland there was a strong desire for a considerable extension of the elective franchise; but he did not believe that such an alteration as was proposed would give satisfaction. The great question was, whether the plan introduced by the noble Lord was a convenient or an expedient one for Scotland. He was of opinion that it was neither the one nor the other.
§ General Gascoyne
wished, as the House was that evening to be adjourned for the holidays, that some day should be fixed, before the Reform Bill was considered in Committee, for receiving petitions respecting that measure. There were hundreds of petitions to be presented, which could not be laid before the House, unless some such understanding took place. Would the noble Lord set apart the first day after the House re-assembled for that purpose?
§ Lord Althorp
could not set apart the day mentioned by the gallant General; but a day should be appointed for the presentation of petitions only.