Mr. Dominick Browne
presented a Petition from Galway for the speedy passing of the Reform Bill. He wished to observe, that there was a unanimous feeling in Ireland in favour of the Bill. It was universally hoped, that. Ministers would not relax in their exertions until they had carried a question which the great mass of the community expected would produce great benefit to both countries.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that as he was not acquainted with Ireland, he would not deny the assertion of the hon. Member; but they had had the same assertion made with respect to England, and he knew that that was not the fact. It was only the corrupt Press that represented the feeling as universal in favour of the Bill. The other day, there was a meeting at Birmingham, said to consist of a 150,000 persons; and as that meeting was in favour of the Bill, the Press made the most of it. But there was also, the other day, as large a meeting at Manchester, which had been called by the Whigs, but at which they had been completely beaten, and therefore the account of it was almost suppressed by the public papers. What they did state of it was 859 wrong. They said that the meeting was in favour of the Reform Bill, but the truth was, that an amendment was carried, and the meeting had petitioned for Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and Vote by Ballot; and Lord Grey was requested to present a Petition, founded on these resolutions, to his Majesty. In all probability, however, they would hear no more of the petition, as it was opposed to the measure brought forward by Ministers. Instead of the flags at the meeting, as it was asserted, having the words "The Reform Bill," "William 4th and the Ministers;" they had the words "Universal Suffrage," "Annual Parliaments," and "Vote by Ballot."
Sir John Bourke
said, as a proof that there was almost a universal feeling in Ireland in favour of the Reform Bill, he must state, that he had recently been at a meeting in Ballinasloe of all the gentry and landed proprietors of that part of the country, and he never saw a greater degree of anxiety evinced in favour of any measure than was there evinced in favour of the Reform Bill.
Mr. Dominick Browne,
in reference to the remarks of the hon. member for Preston, felt himself called upon to repeat, that the great majority of the people of Ireland were in favour of Reform. He could distinctly affirm, that was the case in the county he had the honour to represent. The same feeling was prevalent among all classes and sects. The only drawback upon the feeling being universal was, a wish that more Representatives should have been allotted to that county.
said, the sentiments of the people of Ireland generally could be gathered from the fact, that there was not one of their real Representatives who were opposed to the Bill. There could be no doubt there were many persons in Ireland opposed to the Bill, but they were persons having an interest in the borough system, and distinct interests from the people. To show how that system worked in Ireland, he might mention, that the present and the three preceding members for Dundalk were in no way whatever connected with that town, and that one of these Gentlemen had actually never seen it, and yet it deserved a better system of Representation attached to it, for the place contained 15,000 Catholic inhabitants, and had an annual export trade to the 860 amount of half a million. He agreed perfectly with the hon. Members who had spoken before. Ireland undoubtedly ought to have at least 150 Representatives, taking into account the amount of its relative population to that of the whole empire.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
did not think that the amount of population alone was a reason in favour of the extension of Members to Ireland, as to the borough of Dundalk, such places were often of great advantage, as they brought to Parliament Irish Members, and he might mention the recent case of Milbourn Port as an instance. Did hon. Gentlemen who set up that plea consider the amount of population in British India. If the measure had been framed only on the basis of population, they might claim Members, but that was not the case, property was also taken into consideration, and Ireland had her fair share of Members in proportion to her contributions to the general revenue.
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, he was surprised at the inconsistency of the hon. member for Preston, who seemed to have joined the Tories in making attacks upon the late measure of Reform. That Bill had met the approval of the great body of the Irish people; but he, in common with the great body of his countrymen, laid claim to a large increase of Representatives for Ireland.
§ Mr. Leader
agreed with the honourable Baronet, the member for Oak-hampton, that revenue and property should be considered as tests for Representation as well as population. Besides the amount paid into the Exchequer, on account of Ireland, there must be considered the immense sum, at least 4,000,000l., sent anually to her absentee proprietors, which was chiefly spent in England, and in any fair measure of the allotment of Representatives, this sum must be taken into account. If that country was well governed, it might materially assist in contributing to the necessities of the whole kingdom; but its best energies were cramped by misgovernment, and it was too hard to hear the effects of that misgovernment alleged as a plea to deprive her of her rights.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, that the talent, eloquence, and zeal of Members from Ireland in that House had often contributed to the success of the most useful measures. The cause of Reform especially was greatly indebted to some of 861 these Gentlemen. He regretted that the hon. member for Preston, and other Gentlemen who sat near that hon. Member, availed themselves of every opportunity to embarrass the business of the House, and to impede the progress of Reform. He thought the alliance which that hon. Member had formed was most, unnatural; nor could he understand how that Gentleman reconciled his votes with his speeches. The hon. Member's conduct was very different from that of all the, true friends of Reform throughout the country. All those who were sincerely desirous of Reform had determined to accept that measure which gave the best chance of being carried into effect; and when such a measure was offered to them, they, with the greatest wisdom and prudence, concurred in supporting it, and each of them gave up his own favourite plan. It seemed to him to be most extraordinary, that any friend to Reform could decline to support the only measure which had a good prospect of success, and should persist in culling for another measure which could have no chance of being carried into effect. He thought the conduct of all the other Reformers was much more sincere and judicious. They were unanimous in favour of the Reform Bill, to a degree such as never had been witnessed before in this country upon any public question.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, the hon. Baronet, had accused him of forming an unnatural alliance with Gentlemen on that(the Opposition) side. Now, was it not the fact that he had always voted against them? As to his inconsistency on the subject of the Reform Bill, the hon. Baronet must know very well that he expressed the same opinion on that Bill on the first day that, he spoke about it as on the last day. He did not, think it a sufficient measure, and he said the first day that the people would be dissatisfied with it. But still he voted for it, as he would have done if it did not go half so far; and he would have voted for any measure that went to remove even a part of the abuses in the Representation. The hon. Baronet could not fairly blame him for not supporting the Whigs, for it was the hon. Baronet who taught him to distrust them, when the hon. Baronet, used to talk of the Constitution being crucified between the two thieves. It was from the hon. Baronet that he had learned his political creed; 862 and it was not he, but the hon. Baronet, himself, that had changed sides. What sort of alliance did the hon. Baronet form when he the advocate of short Parliaments and Universal Suffrage, became the supporter of Mr. Canning, and was seen sticking his knees into that right hon. person's back, after his declaration that be would to the last, hour of his life resist Reform in every shape? He had been sent to the House to do his duty to his constituents and to the country, and he would never allow it to be said that it was a sufficient Reform which gave the suffrage to no more than one-seventh of the whole male population. Since the years 1806 and1807, when the Whigs were in power, he had adhered to the creed which the hon. Baronet had taught him. He had never been a Whig, nor professed to be a Whig; but, on the contrary, he had always said, that, bad as were the Tories, they were still better than the Whigs.
§ Sir John Newport
said, that if the hon. member for Preston's declaration were to receive credence, it would appear that he alone spoke the sentiments of the people; and that he alone, of all the Members of that House, was their real Representative; so that he stood in the situation of being an universal Member—a position in which he did not feel disposed to allow the hon. Member of stand. He must remark, however, that he rose for the purpose, of replying to an assertion of an hon. Baronet (Sir R. Vyvyan), who contended that Ireland had not contributed her fair proportion to the burthens of the State. Now he must say, that he could prove, by reference to an authority of undeniable weight, that Ireland had not only paid her proportion, but had paid a sum towards the public burthens much exceeding her proportion of the weight, and this fact, would be found in the Report of the Committee, at the head of which was Lord Bexley, which had been appointed in the year 1816, for the purpose of inquiring into the subject of Finance.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said, that he had been misunderstood, for he had confined his remarks to the statement of a simple fact—namely, that in his opinion, Ireland did not contribute so large a proportion to the public burthens as to entitle her to a larger share of Representation than she now possessed.
§ Sir John Newport
said, that he had 863 certainly not understood the hon. Baronet's observation to be so confined as he had then explained it.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
assured the hon. Baronet, that he had been misunderstood, what he had repeated was the full substance of his former remark.
§ Colonel Trench
said, he must corroborate the hon. Baronet in the denial he had given of the observations imputed to him. He was prepared to admit, that the people had been carried away by the delusions which had been practised on them with regard to the Reform Bill; but they were fast coming to their senses. He must also remark, that the Press was daily becoming more licentious and abusive with respect to the Bill. He himself had been a paper that day, at the head of which was a gallows, and three Bishops suspended from it, the contents of which pointed out to the people that they ought thus to take vengeance on that body for having contributed to throw out the Bill. He did not mean to say that Government ought to take any measures with respect to these publications: but he did really think that they had of late given an indirect and tacit encouragement and sanction to such attacks from the Press.
Mr. Dominick Browne,
in moving that the petition be printed, said, he must object very strongly to the sentiments expressed by the hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Vyvyan) on the subject of the contribution of Ireland towards the demands of the State. He wholly denied the correctness of the assumption of the hon. Baronet.
Sir Francis Burdett
looked upon the two factions of Whig and Tory to be now nearly extinct in everything but the name, and he believed that the Reform Bill would put an end to them altogether. It was true that he supported Mr. Canning, when that right hon. Gentleman, in consequence of his intentions in favour of religious liberty, was deserted by his party, who pulled the best feather from their own wing when they drove Mr. Canning from their side, and they ever afterwards made but a bad flight—something between a hawk and a buzzard. But the hon. member for Preston who now attacked him (Sir Francis Burdett) must be well aware, that he supported Mr. Canning for the purpose of enabling that Minister to carry the great, measure of Catholic Emancipation. On the same grounds, and with 864 just the same inconsistency, he had supported the Administration of the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel, by whom that great measure of civil and religious liberty was successfully carried through. He had always looked upon the system of religious disabilities, which was then abolished, as the great stumbling block which it was necessary to remove before they could ever be able to proceed to Parliamentary Reform. He would go further, and assure the hon. Member, that if the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel had gone on in the way in which they had set out, he would have continued to give them his support. If there were now any set of men in the country who thought that the Reform Bill did not go far enough, he thought it would be a sufficient answer to them to say, that no more extensive measure could be carried into effect, although no measure less efficient would be offered. It seemed rather inconsistent of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the same breath to blame his Majesty's Ministers for exciting the people, and to assert that the people were not excited. But the fact was, they represented the excitement of the people to be great or small, not as it really was, but just as it answered their own purposes. When the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Trench) said, that the people were now coming to their senses, of course he attributed their restoration to reason to the wise and temperate appeals that had been made to them, and to the conciliating language that had been employed by the hon. Gentleman's friends around him. But the excitement which prevailed, was only the excitement of anxious hope, that his Majesty's Ministers would adopt every measure which could assist them to carry the Bill. But if it were supposed by the country that Ministers would shrink from employing all the means in their power, they would lose all the regard and confidence, which, fortunately for the peace of the country, they now possessed. He thought that hon. Gentlemen were mistaken, if they supposed that there was any; diminution of the feeling of the people upon the subject of the Reform Bill. On the contrary, their anxiety was wrought to the highest pitch, and the worst consequences would follow if anything were done to destroy their hopes, or to delay the realisation of them too long. It certainly could not be denied, that the Members of that House required some relaxa- 865 tion from their Parliamentary labours, which had been for so many months unusually severe, and had nearly worn them out. But the period of relaxation should be made as short as possible, to put an end to the doubt and uncertainty which paralysed all business from one end of the country to another, and which, if protracted, would produce the most disastrous consequences.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
contended, that the eagerness of the people for Reform had considerably abated; and he was surprised to hear the hon. Baronet make the contrary assertion. He had received several letters from various parts of the country, which fully bore him out in declaring, that many persons began to alter their opinions as they came to understand the measure.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he had not opposed the Bill, but he objected to it because it did not go far enough. As to the hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, the question he put to him was, did the hon. Baronet not continue to support Mr. Canning after that Minister had declared his hostility to all Reform. He believed the hon. Baronet could not deny that he had so done. As to the present Ministry, he had no scruple in saying, that, in his opinion, they had brought in the late Bill because they could not keep their places without introducing some such measure. The Duke of Wellington only gave way to circumstances, and had he continued in office, he must have seen the necessity of conceding on the question of Reform. The more he thought of the late measure, the more fully was he convinced it would not have satisfied the country. He trusted that the hon. Baronet, after the inconsistencies in his own conduct, would no more be guilty of the folly of charging him with having joined the Tories.
Mr. Dominick Browne
begged to ask the hon. Baronet, the member for Oakhampton, if he had meant to say, that if Ireland was to return Members in proportion to her population, that the colonies had an equal claim to the same right.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan,
in answer to the hon. member for Mayo, wished to remark, that all he had said was, that if population only was the test of representation, any part of the empire might be taken.
§ Petition to be printed.