§ The House went into Committee on the Bill.
said, the question was, that, in the 23rd clause, all the words after "And be it enacted" be struck out, for the purpose of inserting the following:—
§ "And be it enacted, that the persons hereafter mentioned shall be, and they are hereby, appointed Commissioners for the purposes hereinafter mentioned, with regard to elections for counties; and that the said Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall, within three months after the passing of this Act, inquire and determine in what manner each of the counties enumerated in schedule G, to this Act annexed, shall thereafter be divided into two divisions, in order that each division may return two Knights of the Shire to serve for the same in all future Parliaments, as hereinbefore mentioned; and the said Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall divide each of the said counties accordingly, and shall also determine at what principal place of election the Court for the election of Knights of the Shire for each division of the said counties shall be holden, and at what principal place of election the Court for the election of Knights of the Shire for each of the three Ridings of Yorkshire, and for the parts of Lindsey, and for the parts of Kesteven and Holland, in the county of Lincoln, shall be holden; and the said Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall have power to unite and incorporate (for the purposes of election only) with any county, or with any division of a county to be by them made, any outlying portions of any other county which may be locally situate within the former, and shall deliver a report of such their determination to one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, who shall forthwith lay the same before his Majesty in Council; and it shall be lawful for his Majesty to issue his Royal Proclamation, making known the determination and the Report of the said Commissioners, from the date of which Proclamation every county enumerated in the said schedule G, shall, for the purposes of this Act, be and remain so divided into two divisions, and each division shall return two Knights of the Shire to serve for the same in all future Parliaments; and every county, or division, of a county, shall, for the pur- 983 poses of this Act, include any portions of any other county that may have been so united and incorporated therewith as aforesaid, and a copy of such Report of the said Commissioners shall forthwith be laid before both Houses of Parliament, if then sitting, or if not sitting, then within ten days after their sitting.
§ "And be it enacted, that the same persons shall be, and they are hereby, appointed Commissioners for the purposes hereinafter mentioned, with regard to elections for cities and boroughs; and the said last mentioned Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall inquire into and determine, for the purposes of this Act, the limits and boundaries of all the cities and boroughs in England and Wales, which, after the passing of this Act, shall have or shall retain, or shall acquire by virtue of this Act, the right of sending a Member or Members to Parliament; and the said last mentioned Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall have power to incorporate (if they shall think fit) with any such city or borough, for the purposes of this Act, any one or more parishes or townships, the whole or any part of which may be situate within or adjoining to such city or borough, and shall have power to determine (if they shall think fit) what place within the limits of any borough, acquiring by virtue of this Act, the right of sending a Member or Members to Parliament, shall be the principal place for holding the election for such borough; and in case they shall not determine such principal place, then the same shall be determined by the returning officer for such borough; and the said last-mentioned Commissioners, or the major part of them, shall, on or before the next after the passing of this Act, deliver a report of their determination on the matters aforesaid to one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, who shall forthwith lay the same before his Majesty in Council; and it shall be lawful for his Majesty to issue his Royal Proclamation, making known the said determination and Report of the said last-mentioned Commissioners, from the date of which Proclamation every such city or borough shall (until Parliament shall otherwise decide) be and remain bounded and limited, for the purposes of this Act, according to such determination, and shall, jointly with such incorporated parish or town- 984 ship, parishes or townships, be a city or borough, for the purpose of electing a Member or Members to serve in all future Parliaments; and a copy of the said Report shall forthwith be laid before both Houses of Parliament, if then sitting, or, if not sitting, then within ten days after their sitting."
§ Lord Althorp
said, that as they had now arrived at the clause which had for its object to appoint the Commissioners for the division of counties, he would take that opportunity of making a few explanations. It had, at first, been intended that this task should be undertaken by Members of the Privy Council—a body that would not have been responsible to Parliament—but this had been objected to, and, perhaps, on sufficient grounds. It was now, therefore, proposed that a set of Commissioners should be appointed, and that their Report should be subsequently submitted to both Houses of Parliament for approval; after which, the course would be, an Address from Parliament to the Crown, praying it to adopt the divisions laid down in the Report of the Commissioners, if approved of by Parliament. It had been stated, it would be better to give directions to the Commissioners as to the mode of dividing the counties; but it appeared there would be considerable difficulty in wording the clause in such a way as to give them sufficient discretionary power to act; and, as the Commissioners would have to report to both Houses, it was not considered necessary, as it might interfere too much with their duty. The course which they had to pursue was simply to make a fair and equal division of the counties, and also to arrange the limits of new boroughs, and add to the old boroughs such places as were so connected and interwoven with the boroughs as naturally to form a part of them. As the Commissioners had been selected from a class of men as little biassed as possible, either by politics or party feelings, there was every probability that they would perform their duty impartially and fairly. After the Commissioners had done their work, they would send their Report to the Home Secretary, to be laid before both Houses of Parliament. A notice had been given of a motion to discuss each county and borough separately; but this he must object to decidedly, for the delay which it would cause would be interminable, In fact, the 985 discussions on schedules A and B would be but a joke to it. The House would see the whole Report, and judge if it were fair and impartial; and, if any division should be made erroneously or partially, that division could be revised on receiving the Report. There would be some difficulty in making this arrangement ["hear," from an hon. Member]. The hon. Member cheered, but he could assure him, that the Government, when they undertook the task, were well aware that it could not be effected without difficulty. The difficulty was, that between the passing of this Bill and the confirmation of the Report no new Parliament could be elected, because by the passing of the Bill, the old Election-laws would be repealed, and till the division of the counties, and the boundaries of the boroughs under the new law were determined, no new election could take place. This was a difficulty which he had thought it to be his duty to state to the Committee; but, after all, he thought that it would turn out to be rather a theoretical difficulty than a practical one. Having said thus much, he would now proceed to state to the Committee the names of the proposed Commissioners; but before doing so, he begged to observe, that it had been found necessary to have a very large number of Commissioners, in order to facilitate the work of the division of the counties and the settlement of the boundaries of boroughs. If the Commissioners had been but few, an immense portion of time would have been occupied in their having to visit every part of the country, before they could form the divisions; but by having a large number, some would be able to go in one direction, and some in another, by which division of labour the period occupied would be considerably shortened. In order, however, to prevent any misapprehension, he begged further to observe, that though a few of the Commissioners would be deemed sufficient to make the necessary inquiries on the spot, no decision of theirs would be taken, unless it was confirmed by a majority of the whole body of the Commissioners. The number of that body was to be, according to the proposition of Government, thirty-one; so that, before any division could be recommended in their Report, it must be sanctioned by sixteen at least. In the selection of the gentlemen who were to act as Commissioners, he could assure the House that the Government had been actuated by no party feel- 986 ing whatever; indeed, most of them were men who had taken no part in public life, and of whose political opinions the world was not generally informed. For himself he could say, that although he necessarily knew the political opinions of some out of so large a number, yet there were many others with whose sentiments he was in no way acquainted. In short, the ground upon which they had been chosen was that of character, knowledge, and science. He would now read over the names. They were:—
§ The Right Hon. J. Abercrombie, Lord Chief Baron of Scotland.
§ E. J. Littleton, Esq.
§ Davies Gilbert, Esq.
§ W. Courtenay, Esq.
|H. Martin,||Masters in Chancery.|
§ Sir J. W. Gordon, Bart.
§ H. Hallam, Esq.
§ F. Beaufort, Esq. R. N.
§ Launcelot Baugh Allen, Esq.
§ H. Gawler, Esq.
§ T. Birch, Esq.
§ W. Leake, Esq.
§ Benjamin Annesley, Esq.
§ J. T. Chapman, Esq.
§ R. Dawson, Esq.
§ T. Drummond, Esq.
§ J. E. Drink water, Esq.
§ T. F. Ellis, Esq.
§ H. B. Kerr, Esq.
§ T. B. Lennard, Esq.
§ W. Ord, jun., Esq.
§ J. Romilly, Esq.
§ R. J. Saunders, Esq.
§ The Rev. R. Sheepshanks.
§ W. E. Tallents, Esq.
§ H. Tancred, Esq.
§ J. Wrottesley, Esq.
§ F. Martin, Esq. Royal Engineer.
§ R. A. Scott. Esq., Royal Staff Corps,
§ W. Wild, Esq.
§ The Chairman read the clause with these names inserted,
§ Sir Edward Sugden
thought, that the alteration which the noble Lord had made in his plan, with respect to the Commissioners, had taken away many of the objectionable points that had formerly existed. It was true that the House would be delegating to another set of persons its own authority; but since it still retained for itself the right of supervision and alteration, that delegation was not so objectionable. He thought that the number of the Commissioners was very great, but 987 was willing to take the noble Lord's word, that without that number the business could not be got through with sufficient rapidity. What he chiefly found fault with was, the plan for two, or three, or four Commissioners taking a particular district under their survey, and regulating all the boroughs and counties in it. If left to themselves, it was not improbable that they would set out in parties of two or three, as suited their convenience, making their duties in some measure subservient to their pleasures. Their suggestions, it was true, were to be submitted to the general body of Commissioners—buthe was afraid that the system adopted would be, to take it for granted that those who had actually been on the spot were the proper judges; and he was quite sure that it was agreeable to human nature, for men who had their own reports and views to submit for adoption, not to examine with too scrutinizing an eye those of the very persons who were at a future stage to take their reports and views into consideration. One of his objections to the appointment of these Commissioners was, that it would be difficult for the House to disengage itself from the report they might make in any particular case; but that was an evil which would always attend delegated powers. He did not think that there would be much probability of the report that might be laid on the Table being sent back for alteration, unless some case of gross injustice should appear on the face of it; but the Commissioners would not be called upon to revise their proceedings by either House of Parliament, merely from one or two cases of partiality or other grievance being brought forward. It would be invidious for the House to find fault with the acts of those to whom it delegated a great trust, unless some charge could be sustained of having acted with general partiality. Anotherstrong argument against sending the report of the Commissioners back for revision would be, that it would restrain the Monarch from dissolving Parliament—it would strip the Crown of one of its most important prerogatives; and could the House, upon such slight grounds, say that so much of the constitutional authority of the King should remain suspended? The right of voting constituted by the latter end of the clause did not correspond with the right of voting conferred by the former part of the clause. If it were necessary for the Commissioners to go out of the borough upon which they 988 were operating, they might go to any distance within seven miles to create a sufficient constituency; for instance, if there were a large manufacturing place in the neighbourhood of any borough, they might go into it, and by taking all the 10l. houses within it might make a constituency, not merely of 300, but of 3,000 voters. As Ministers could not interfere with the conduct of the Commissioners, or indeed say one word to them about their conduct after they were appointed, it would happen that some Commissioners would look upon this clause as entitling them to add as many voters as they pleased to the constituency of a borough, and that other Commissioners would look upon it as restricting them to keep the constituency as close as they could to 300 voters. With regard to the last clause relating to the Commissioners, he meant the 26th, a monstrous power was given to them. It gave those Commissioners who were not sworn to secresy, or to any thing else, and of whose names, though, no doubt, they were very respectable, the House had never heard before, the right of examining and inquiring into the charters and muniments of every Corporation in the country. He had no doubt that the worthy Alderman, the member for the City of London, would oppose this clause, as it might materially affect the interests of the citizens of London. The power was too great even to intrust to the House of Commons, and still less to Commissioners appointed in this way, and not bound to preserve unpublished the information they might obtain. They were not merely allowed to enforce the production of the documents necessary for the attainment of the information they required, but also of all public documents. He entered his protest once for all against the scheme of ascertaining by the inquiry of these Commissioners the boundaries of a single borough. If it was necessary to ascertain these boundaries, let it be done by a solemn trial before a jury: for upon these boundaries, the legal right to tolls, &c., often depended; and it was not fitting to leave the existence of such rights to the will of thirty-one, or of eighteen, or of even two or three irresponsible Commissioners. It was not sufficient to say, that the power of these Commissioners was only for the purposes of this Act, for the whole of the documents of the Corporation might be called for by the Commissioners, and they might 989 be made public, and a Corporation or a borough ruined through the decision of two or three of these Commissioners. Suppose a trial respecting the boundary of a borough, the decision of the Commissioners would have great weight with a jury, in consequence of their having the power of obtaining such accurate information. A person about to litigate with a Corporation might go to the Commissioners, and induce them to call for papers and documents, and thus be able to obtain important information which might govern him in his ulterior proceedings. There was a most important cause before the courts, relative to the borough of Liverpool, and what was to hinder the Commissioners from calling for all the papers and documents on both sides, and thus settle a case in a week which had been before a Court of justice for years? He remembered an observation on this subject by Lord Eldon, it was the case of the town of Newcastle, the Corporation of which very unaccountably produced their title-deeds, when they were not called upon to do so, and in consequence they lost an estate of several thousands a-year. There was not a lawyer in the country who would not tell the owner of an estate to keep his muniments in a box, and to shew them to no one, for it was not uncommon to find an unexpected flaw in a title, which might lead to the loss of the estate if it were made known. There was no occasion to arm these Commissioners with such great and unnecessary powers as those which this clause would give them. If the noble Lord said, in the words of the Bill, that the Commissioners were to be intrusted with this power, and the boundaries were to be determined only for the purposes of this Act, that would not be found an effectual answer, and would not prevent injustice. He confessed he did not know precisely what was meant by the purposes of this Act, or how far they were meant to extend. No necessity whatever had been shown to confer on any set of Commissioners these enormous and unconstitutional powers; and though the clause as amended was not so objectionable as at first, yet he thought it was one which deserved the most serious consideration. Although his general objection to this clause had been removed by the alteration which the noble Lord had introduced into it, he was bound in justice to himself to state, that his other objections to it remained unaltered. He should not pro- 990 pose any amendment upon it; for as he disapproved of the Bill entirely, he had hitherto studiously refrained from any attempt to amend it. He had made himself master of the details of the Bill, as his duty required, and had expressed his objections to those details, because the Bill excited his disapprobation, and not because he wished to delay it factiously. The noble Lord would amend the clause, if he thought that there was any weight in the objections which he (Sir E. Sugden) had suggested, and if he did not wish to hear of them again at another stage of the Bill.
§ Lord Althorp
was glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman declare his opinion, that Ministers, by agreeing to submit the Report of these Commissioners to the approbation of the two Houses of Parliament, had made a great and beneficial alteration in this clause. The hon. and learned Gentleman objected to the power given by this clause to the Commissioners to divide the boundaries of boroughs and counties, contending that some limitation ought to be placed upon the numbers of the constituency which they were entitled to create. He was, however, of opinion, that some discretion must be left to the Commissioners as to their proceedings. The hon. and learned Member had stated, that he did not know what was meant by the words in the Bill—"for the purposes of this Act." He (Lord Althorp) thought that those words were very clear, and that there could be no doubt that they meant, for the purposes of the election of Members to serve in Parliament. When the counties should be divided, the division would be made for election purposes, not with any intention of erecting separate counties. So, too, with regard to the fixing of the boundaries of boroughs. It was impossible to tell, until each borough was inspected by the Commissioners, what places ought to be added to it; and that very consideration was a complete answer to all the arguments which the hon. and learned Member had raised upon the unlimited power confided to the Commissioners. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also complained of the mode suggested of taking the nearest road within seven miles of the place. What had been done was in conformity to the legal mode adopted by the Courts of Westminster Hall. It was necessary to have some mode of ascertaining the distance, and this course was taken, believing that it would prove satis- 991 factory The hon. and learned Member had also objected to the 26th clause, because it gave the Commissioners a right, not only to examine witnesses, but also the charters and muniments of Corporations. The object of that clause was, to get at the rate-books, and at such books as would give the Commissioners information as to the number of 10l. houses. He, for one, did not think that it would be necessary for the Commissioners to inspect any charters or documents. The Commissioners would not have the power of defining the limits of existing boroughs, and therefore there would be no necessity to call for charters to prove their limits. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that the Commissioners might act on different principles, in cases where they did not find 300 houses in the new boroughs. He admitted that, when Government had once appointed these Commissioners, it could give them no other directions for their conduct than the words of this Act; and, therefore, it might be possible that one set of Commissioners might take in the constituency of a whole town in the neighbourhood of a newly-created borough, and that another set might only take in a part of that constituency. But, admitting the possibility, what was to be said as to the probability of such an arrangement? Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to assert, that when the Commissioners once entered a town, they were to end their inquiries as soon as they had gained 300 constituents? Such an arrangement would be most inconvenient, not to say most impracticable. He was of opinion, that when the Commissioners found it necessary to take in part of a town, they would also feel it their duty to take in the whole, and not to draw an imaginary line, giving the elective franchise to all who lived on one side of it, and withholding it from all who lived on the other. For these reasons, he thought it absolutely necessary that some discretion should be left to the Commissioners.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
maintained, that this clause involved principles of the very highest importance. As he had hitherto objected to this Bill in toto, he was sure that the Committee would not be surprised at hearing that it was his intention to object to its machinery in toto also. He would, however, go further, and say, that if he had clothed himself as a Reformer, 992 he could not brace himself up to carry this proposal into effect in the same manner that this Bill did. If he understood this Bill aright, the Crown would have no power to dissolve Parliament for three months after it was passed into law. Now that was a novelty in the Constitution. From its earliest rudiments to the present time, no instance had ever occurred of the Crown being limited for one hour in its prerogative to dissolve the Parliament at its pleasure. He therefore objected to the novel principle which this clause introduced into English legislation. If this principle had met with the approbation of the Keeper of the Great Seal, he would ask that learned officer, "Can you, the Lord Chancellor of England, consent to originate a bill, by which the power of your Royal Master to suspend the existence of Parliament—a power which hitherto has never been disputed for an hour, is locked up, and abrogated, For three months at least, and may be even for a longer time?" He would never give his consent to such a clause, so long as he was a Member of the House of Commons. He was most anxious to support the privileges of that House, but he was equally anxious to support the just prerogatives of the Crown; and he had always understood, that one of those prerogatives was, to dissolve Parliament at its pleasure. The existence of this clause in the Bill was, with him, an insuperable objection against the Bill itself. Besides, if the Bill were to pass with this clause in it, how would they be able to move for a new writ to supply the vacancy of any hon. Member who might die, or accept the Chiltern Hundreds, before the next dissolution?
The Attorney General
The enactments of this Bill only relate to future Parliaments, not to the present Parliament.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
If that were so, his argument fell to the ground. As many Gentlemen might not be inclined to dispose of this clause in the summary way in which he was inclined to dispose of it, he would now proceed to state his objections to the machinery of it. First of all, the Committee ought to have a greater knowledge of the individuals appointed Commissioners, than that which it could acquire by hearing their names read hastily over at the Table. For that reason alone, he thought that time ought to be given for the consideration of this clause. There 993 were some of the Commissioners whom, even the noble Lord thought, might be possibly accused of radicalism. Now a gentleman might be a very honourable and a very clever man, and yet a monstrous Radical. In running his eye through the list, he could not help seeing, that there was in it a very good list of many very warm political Radical Reformers. That was an objection to the list, and, in saying so, he did not mean to impeach the moral honesty, or the private respectability of the Commissioners. He likewise objected to the appointment of thirty-one Commissioners to new-fangle the whole geographical and political map of England. Amongst other names on the list, he perceived that of a learned and respected friend of his own, the Chief Baron of Scotland, an individual to whom he might reasonably object, as he was naturally connected by his station with the Scotch Reform Bill, rather than that which was now under consideration. The mention of this name, he was willing to believe, had originated in mistake; for the Chief Baron's situation as a Judge must necessarily render him quite unfit to discharge the duties that were to be intrusted to these functionaries. Ministers, he was sure, never meant to place a judicial character in a position that would unavoidably subject him to jealousy and suspicion. Then, was there not reason to apprehend, that the portion of the Commissioners who might be placed on active duty of such a nature, would be too severely overworked? On one day they would be whirled off to Chester in the Telegraph, and on another they would be shot away to Northampton in the Rocket. All this wear and tear of locomotion, it was much to be feared, would be productive of the most formidable consequences. He presumed it was in honour of the 1st of September, that Ministers had selected these thirty-one sportsmen to mark, wing, bring down, and lacerate every borough, town, and county in England, and return to Downing-street after having bagged their quarry. The county Members, who voted for such a course of proceeding, were, in effect, treating their constituents as animals ferœ naturœ, who might be packed in one preserve, or transferred to another, at the arbitrary will and pleasure of these erratic sportsmen, duly licensed by the Treasury. It was also, he believed, a source of general dissatisfaction through- 994 out every county in England, that the Commissioners whom Government proposed to appoint, should be empowered to name the places in which the elections were to take place. He objected, also, to the unrestrained power of the Commissioners to divide counties as they pleased, and they ought to be so divided, that the proprietors of large estates should retain the influence attached to them. But there might be a Radical Commissioner making the division, who would be of a very different opinion. Many objected to the division of counties altogether, because it gave a balance in favour of the landed interest, which it ought to have; but a Radical Commissioner might so divide a county as to neutralize the intention of the Legislature. He mentioned no names, but it was quite possible for the Commissioners so to divide some counties, as to diminish instead of confirming the influence of the landed interest. The Commissioners had power given them, not only to divide the counties, but to make up the required numbers of the constituency in certain old boroughs, and to mark the limits of all the new boroughs. When schedules A and B were before the House, a brook, a bridge, or a street, was sufficient to justify it in dislocating one part of the town from the other, and thus disfranchising it according to the arbitrary principle of the Bill. How unjustly that principle operated in the cases of Guildford and Dorchester, the House must recollect. It had here, by instructions to the Commissioners, an opportunity of repairing the injury then committed. But did Ministers compel them to join these dislocated parts of towns to the parent body? No such thing; though they were empowered to join places, many miles off, to make up a constituency. There was another power equally monstrous. The Commissioners might add the whole or part of any adjoining parish or township, to a borough, to make up exactly the required constituency, or make it three, four, five, or six thousand. They might open their compasses, and draw a circle on the map just of sufficient extent, or they might open them as wide as they pleased. As it was not possible to detect and measure crookedness by a crooked rule, so it would be difficult to find a standard by which to measure perfect novelty; but certainly that was the most extravagant, unmeasured delegation of power ever practised by any Legis- 995 lature. The most unbounded room was opened for favouritism; the Commissioners might support and maintain the influence of a Whig, and annihilate that of a Tory; but to lean on either side was objectionable. He complained, that the people of England should be made a stock in trade for three trading, dealing, travelling Commissioners to dispose of as they thought fit. He must also mention another extravagant power given to these Commissioners, which had been adverted to by his hon. and learned friend near him—the power of demanding all the archives of every Corporation of this country, to be submitted to their inspection. Would any of the country Gentlemen on that side of the House like to have their title-deed chest opened and ransacked? The archives of a Corporation were their titles to their property. There were several Masters in Chancery on the list of Commissioners, and they, in looking over the title-deeds, might choose to alter the real limits of a borough, for the purposes of this Act, although they could not alter or limit its legal jurisdiction. He had no doubt that nothing was further from the intention of the noble Lord, in framing this clause, than to occasion all this collateral mischief, but it was likely, nevertheless, to happen. These were the objections which, even if he were disposed to effect any Reform, would disable him from adopting this plan. Instead, however, of having any secure ground of legislation to go upon, the House must half legislate, and give powers to complete its legislation to Commissioners, who would be open to the charge of favouritism and intrigue. There was no previous instance of the constituent body being dealt with except by a perfect act of the Legislature. He should not attempt to amend the clause, for he objected to the principle altogether. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by again asserting, that it was a monstrosity to make the people of England, as it were, a mere stock-in-trade, to be partitioned out, and divided, and sub-divided, at the election of a clique, or quorum of Commissioners.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, that he was disposed to give the largest possible powers to the Commissioners named in the clause as they would, in that case, be better enabled to execute their functions, and to do their work well, particularly as their decisions and acts were not to be final 996 until they had received the approbation of Parliament. With respect to the power of Commissioners to call for Corporation charters, that ought not to be objected to, for these charters were often abused, and frauds committed under their sanction. He was a friend to the corporate system, and therefore desired to prevent all abuses in it, and thought this power of examining their charters would tend to put down usurpations.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, that he should never have contemplated consenting to the delegation of such powers as were conferred by this clause on the Commissioners, but for the consideration that their acts were to receive the sanction of Parliament, a proviso which he must confess obviated a great part of his objections. The clause, however, as it at present stood, was not particularly well adapted to enable the House to revise those decisions in detail, should any exceptions be taken to any one of them, for the clause rather bound the House to look at the general decisions of the Commissioners in the mass, than to take each particular case into consideration. The House should recollect that these Commissioners would have to deal with considerably more than 100 places. In the first instance, there were twenty-five counties to be divided: next, thirty-eight new boroughs to be instituted in England; next, above twenty places in Wales, not before having any share in the Representation, to be made part of districts which, with almost forty boroughs in schedule B, made between 120 and 130 places the Commissioners would have to deal with. When the report had been made, of course the House would direct it to be printed, that it might be shewn all over the country, and parties who felt themselves aggrieved—for, giving the Commissioners credit for impartiality, they must inevitably commit someerror—might present petitions against what they thought unjust to the House. On these petitions the House would have to strike an average; or rather, determine upon the Report by a majority of these petitions being rightly or wrongly founded. Thus, if twenty complaints had no foundation, and ten had, the House was to say, that the whole of the Report should be adopted; or, vice versâ, to reject the whole Report if the well-founded complaints should predominate, not specifying which were wrong. But would it not be better to refer back only such particular 997 cases as required revision? He disliked, too, the constitution of the Commission, the numbers of which the list was composed being too great. He was aware of the advantage of having a large number of persons to examine the particulars of different places on the spot, but a small number ought to be set over them to decide disputed or difficult points. He was willing to take the first five names on the list, and make them the Commissioners upon whom all the responsibility should rest—styling the rest sub-Commissioners. When responsibility was divided, it was lost; and so many being engaged would render them liable to charges which would not otherwise be thought of. Suppose, for instance, that the hon. member for Staffordshire was one of the Commissioners for dividing that county; though, being Member for it he would hardly meddle with it; but suppose him to be concerned in dividing a county where any friend or relative of his had great influence—no decision that could be come to would be satisfactory, for it would be said, that he had influenced the Court of the Commissioners to adopt his views. But the constitutional objection urged by his hon. and learned friend (Sir Charles Wetherell) had struck his mind most forcibly—he meant that relating to the suspension of the power of the Crown to dissolve Parliament, which it must not be supposed would last only three months. Three months was the period within which this Report would have to be made; but some time must be allowed for its being printed and considered by the country, after which it would have to be considered by this House; the Overseers would have then to make out lists of the voters, which must afterwards be stuck on the church doors; and the decisions of the Barristers, who were to determine on contested rights of voting, must be made before the Act could come into force. Under this Act the Crown then would not have the power of dissolving Parliament. It would be most dangerous thus to make a precedent for suspending the exercise of the Royal prerogative. It was certainly highly improbable, that the Crown would desire to increase its prerogatives in this instance, but as it was possible, he would suggest that the power should not be taken away; and that, in the event of its exercising that power before any or all the final steps necessary to complete this Act be taken, 998 the business of election shall proceed in the old form. He did not deny the inconvenience of that course, and no doubt it would be a strong reason for dissuading the Crown from so exercising its prerogative; but was it attended with more inconvenience than might result from depriving the Crown of so important a part of its prerogative for six, eight, or nine months? He would suggest, therefore, to his noble friend, to bring in a clause to the effect, that if the Crown should dissolve Parliament before the completion of these final steps, the Act shall not take effect.
Sir Robert Inglis
observed, that the hon. and learned member for Montgomeryshire had said justly, that there was no rule laid down for the guidance of the Commissioners in executing their functions, whether property, population, or franchise, was to be taken as the principle upon which the divisions were to proceed; and he certainly wished to learn from the noble Lord opposite, whether it was intended, on the part of Government, to furnish the Commissioners with any rules whereby their acts might be guided.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the intention of Government was, to interfere with these Commissioners as little as possible; they would, therefore, be left at full liberty to draw up instructions for themselves. The right hon. member for Montgomery had expressed a wish to see the responsibility of their acts concentrated in the persons of seven of the Commissioners, and to make the rest sub-Commissioners. Now, though he was not disposed to deny that, in many cases, it was very unadviseable to divide responsibilities, yet he must say, that, in the present instance, great benefit would result from the extension of the responsibilities imposed on the Commissioners by the Act, and he should therefore be averse to making any alteration in that respect. The right hon. Member had also urged, as an objection, that the House would have to take the general decision of the Commissioners into consideration, instead of examining each particular case in detail, when any complaint was made of their decision; but he must be allowed to say, that if the House should pledge itself to the consideration of each particular case, the time of the House might be occupied during a whole Session in examining the merits of the complaints, should they be numerous, as probably they 999 might be. With respect to the last objection of the right hon. Gentleman, he must observe, that, even at the present period, the power of the Crown to dissolve the House was virtually restrained, until the Mutiny Act had passed; and as the objection was more a theoretical than a practical objection, he did not see why he might not bring the theoretic powers of the Constitution to bear upon the question. He must, however, express his entire disapproval of the suggestion of the right hon. Member, that incase a dissolution of Parliament became inevitable before the Commissioners had executed their functions, the elections should proceed on their present principle; for how was it possible to accede to such a proposition, after the Parliament had passed a law declaring the present constituency unfit to possess their franchises on their present footing?
§ Colonel Sibthorp
expressed a hope that the Bill would not pass the House, or if it did, that it would neither pass the upper House nor obtain the sanction of the Crown. He recommended the Government to withdraw it altogether. He decidedly objected to Members of the House being appointed Commissioners, more especially county Members. There was an individual among these Commissioners for whom he had great private friendship,—whose integrity, and whose general, as well as parliamentary knowledge, all must respect—he meant Mr. Davies Gilbert; but even to him he objected as a Member of this Commission, as well as to any other Member of this House in that capacity. He particularly objected to the hon. member for Staffordshire, because he was a county Member; not that he thought him inclined to do wrong, but because his name as a county Member would have too great an influence. He objected also to Ministers having the appointment of these Commissioners; for although he acquitted the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of wishing to do anything underhand, yet the impression on the public would be, that the secrete consiliarii had been at work. The Commissioners, too, were to make their report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department; but would it not be more constitutional for them to come at once to that House? There were a few select, honest, excellent, persevering, determined, unchangeable men, men who would not cut—who were not here to-day 1000 and there to-morrow—but who stuck to those benches every night in spite of the injury they did their constitutions. But the other side were secure in their numbers. All they said was,"Come along my lads! care not for them or what they say:" and the sic volo sic jubeo being passed along the line, the question was put, the hon. member for Middlesex took down his names and numbers, the question was carried against them, and they were handed down by the Press, perhaps to the obloquy of posterity. He objected to every clause in the Bill; but if there were one set of clauses in it more objectionable than others, it was these; and he hoped that if they could overturn the phalanx opposed to them by numbers, they should do so by integrity and prudence.
§ Mr. Freshfield
thought the power of the Commissioners too extensive. A great objection was, that though an appeal from the award of the Commissioners was allowed, if this House was dissatisfied with it, in the first instance, there was no provision made for an appeal from the second award. The time for making the award was three months; but suppose the Commissioners did not make their award within that time, was this to be remedied by passing another act of Parliament? Another and more serious objection was this: suppose the case of the demise of the Crown at a particular period. The House had no power to sit beyond six months; and suppose that they were occupied longer than that in considering, and referring, and reconsidering awards, what, constitutionally, would be the situation of the country?
Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, he could not approve of the appointment of four of the gentlemen included in the proposed list of Commissioners. He objected to a learned Judge, the Lord Chief Baron of Scotland, being at the head of a parliamentary Commission of this description. He had the strongest objection to two hon. Members of the House, and one of them, too, a Representative of one of the counties which were to be the subject of division, being members of a Commission upon whose report they would afterwards have to sit in judgment. He objected, also, to the appearance of a reverend gentleman in that list, whose sacred office could not have supplied him with any peculiar qualification for the task, and who ought to have far higher claims upon his attention. He 1001 begged to be understood as objecting to these honourable gentlemen, not as individuals, but on account of the stations they filled. In introducing the amended clause, then before the Committee, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to certain further alterations in it, which he (Mr. Hughes Hughes) had taken the liberty of suggesting on a former day, but with respect to which the noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that he intended to give a notice of a motion on the subject. One of his suggestions was, that the Commissioners should make a separate report in the case of each of the twenty-five counties enumerated in schedule G, and to this he thought the noble Lord offered no sufficient objection, when he said that this would lead to debates, compared with which the discussions on schedules A and B must be looked upon as brief. Did the noble Lord then suppose that, because all the twenty-five counties were the subject of one ponderous report, the case of each county would not be separately considered? If his suggestion had been adopted, instead of referring back to the Commissioners the whole report; if, with respect to any one of the counties, Parliament should think, that it required to be revised and amended, the report upon such county only would be so referred back, while the remaining reports would be adopted, which would surely be more convenient. To the subject of another suggestion which he had taken the liberty of throwing out, his hon. friend, the member for Penryn, had adverted. Clause twenty-five not providing what should be done in the possible event that the report of the Commissioners, after one revision, should not be adopted by both Houses of Parliament, he had recommended an addition to the clause, to the effect that every county, the report with respect to which should not be so adopted should remain entire and undivided, and should in future return four Members and this he submitted to the Committee as one mode of finally disposing of the important question as to the division of counties. And here he would repeat the opinion that he had expressed on the first appearance of the amended clause then immediately under consideration, viz. that it was a very important improvement of the clause for which it was substituted inasmuch as it removed the unconstitutional objection which he felt, in common 1002 with so many hon. members of the House, to the irresponsible and absolute power of the Commissioners, whose reports must now be approved by Parliament; but still he could not help saying, and he thought the public, would go along with him in the opinion, that it was paying dearly for the Ministerial adhesion to the generally obnoxious provision for the division of counties, to be obliged to submit to the necessity which it involved of an additional delay of six or nine months before a reformed Parliament could be called into existence. He must still think that Ministers had much better, even now, surrender the joint of the division of counties. He had some verbal alterations to suggest in the clause, but, believing that the single point then under consideration was the list of Commissioners, he should not do so at that time, but conclude by intimating that, if any amendment should be proposed, having for its object the erasure of all or any of the four names to which he had objected, he should feel bound to support it.
§ Mr. John Fane
condemned the legislating in so uncertain and prospective a manner as this clause professed to do. They had heard of ex post facto law, but here was an Act to declare something to be law in future which was unknown. He considered that this delegation of the legislative power was a surrender of the privileges of Parliament. He wished to know, as the clause declared that the two Houses of Parliament were to address the King, and then the report was to become law, what would be the law suppose only one of the two Houses should agree to address his Majesty. He apprehended in that case, they should have disfranchised the old constituent body without having created a new one.
§ Lord Althorp
believed, that three months was ample time to make a Report, and when Parliament enacted that something was to be done, it presumed that it would be done. Many objections of this kind might be made with reference to other subjects besides this. The hon. member for Penryn (Mr. Freshfield) had asked, what would be done in the event of the demise of the Crown. Why Parliament would meet immediately. If the Commissioners had not completed their labour in three months, and the House had not done their's in six months, undoubtedly great difficulty would arise, 1003 But if Parliament saw this, they would, of course, adopt measures to obviate the difficulty. Therefore, the objection of the hon. Member appeared of very little weight. To suppose that the Commissioners would not make their award in six months, was to suppose that they would purposely obstruct an Act of Parliament. The hon. member for Oxford had recommended Ministers to give up the division of counties. He (Lord Althorp) confessed that he was surprised that there were some in that House, and out of the House, who were friendly to the Bill, who had approved of every part of the Bill at first, but who now professed the strongest possible objection to that clause which related to the division of counties. This, however, was not a time to argue that point. Then, with regard to the names of the Commissioners. The Lord Chief Baron of Scotland was objected to because he was a Judge; it could not be on the ground of the business of his Court interfering with his duties as Commissioner. Had it been the Chief Baron of England it might be different. Then, he could not see upon what ground the two Members of Parliament were objected to. They were perfectly competent. If it was supposed that his hon. friend, the member for Stafford, would show such bad taste as to undertake the division of Stafford, it was supposing what was improbable. The Commissioner objected to on the ground of his being a clergyman, the rev. Mr. Sheepshanks, was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge—a man of great science, and likely to be of the greatest service, where a scientific person was required. If he had been a clergyman intrusted with the cure of souls, it might be improper to draw him from that duty.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
had not objected to the Commissioners as individuals, but on account of their stations.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
said, it was not unreasonable to assume, that the Commissioners might be unable to divide counties consistently with the principles of the Bill; and if a report came before the House which the House could not approve of, it must send that report back to the Commissioners for revision, which was such a delegation of their power as they ought never to tolerate. He should rather see the House undertake the division itself than submit it to others, and this evil was increased when, there appeared some 1004 symptoms that Ministers were not agreed among themselves on the subject of the appointment of Commissioners. When the Bill was first before them, it had been proposed, in the case of Appleby, that such persons should be appointed to decide disputed cases, as to the extent and population of boroughs, and then they were told, that Commissioners ought not to be appointed, for the House was the proper tribunal to decide upon such subjects—but now it was affirmed the House was unfit to decide, and Commissioners were to be named. He had no doubt the whole was, and would be, attended with infinite difficulty.
§ Mr. Hunt
concurred with the hon. member for Oxford. He supposed these Commissioners were to have a salary. ["No" from Lord Althorp] He was glad to hear that denial, as it would tend to shorten the time the Commissioners would take to make their reports. That would depend, too, on the manner in which they proceeded to their business. If they went in small parties, and collected information to be afterwards determined on, then the majority of the Commissioners would decide in the dark—for the facts of each case could be known only to a few, and if the whole body visited every place, there would be no end to their labours. They would not make their reports in three years, much less in three months.
§ In reply to questions from Mr. Hughes Hughes,
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the Commissioners were to have no salary; they were to be paid their travelling expenses. They had not commenced their duties, though they might have made some inquiries.
Sir Thomas Fremantle
protested against giving so great a power to Commissioners, without allowing the House fuller time for consideration, and to ascertain the qualifications of these gentlemen for the office. Two-thirds of the Commissioners the House had never heard of before. Some were officers on half-pay, some barristers, and some attornies. He did not say they were unfit for the duties imposed on them, but he suspected they had generally a political bias. The two first names were those of persons connected with the Government, and the appointment in general was primâ facie evidence, that their opinions were not hostile to the present Ministry. They were to have great authority to decide upon the constituency 1005 of boroughs, and they might be supposed liable to be influenced by a wish to make such a selection of additional voters as would give the town or borough a future political character. He was happy to hear they were not to have salaries, but it was idle to assert they were nominated by the House, when the fact was, they were appointed by the Ministry.
§ Mr. Robert Grosvenor
said, that if some of the Commissioners were favourable to the opinions of Government, there were others who held different opinions, and who would be a sufficient check on any political bias in their brother Commissioners. The hon. Baronet had objected to half-pay officers being nominated—he had yet to learn that a half-pay officer was not as competent to perform the duties of a Commissioner as any other man, if he had, in other respects, the requisite qualifications. No reason could be assigned why they might not have these as well as any other class of society.
§ Mr. Wrangham
said, it was true that the Commissioners might be compelled to make their report within three months, but then it might be so crude and imperfect as to require further consideration. They had already an illustration of this in the "additional information," that it had been found necessary to obtain respecting the population of boroughs. That, however, was not the chief reason for his troubling the House with a few remarks. He wished to be allowed to say a few words respecting the Commissioners to be appointed. Although he by no means wished to attach a suspicion of unfairness to the gentlemen appointed as Commissioners, yet he thought he was perfectly justified in calling the attention of the Committee to the fact, that a very great proportion of those so named, were gentlemen who were publicly known to participate in the political sentiments of the present Government. There were at least sixteen of the number whom he could state to be more or less connected with his Majesty's Government, and friendly to Reform. He had no doubt, indeed, that the majority were persons favourable to 1006 that measure. He begged it might not be imagined that he was actuated by any sort of invidious feeling in making these remarks, for there were but two gentlemen on the list with whom he had any personal acquaintance, but without imputing the slightest degree of interested or improper motive, he would say, that persons so circumstanced must have a certain political bias, and it was idle to suppose that they could divest their minds of it.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
could not help thinking it a very bold undertaking, particularly for a young man, and a young Member of Parliament, to assume to represent the opinions of gentlemen, with, whom, at the same time, he acknowledged himself to be unacquainted. He knew many of the gentlemen named in the list to be men of high attaintments, and to be the farthest in the world from suffering themselves to be influenced by any political bias. But would his noble friend have done well to have selected men of a political bias the other way? Would he not, on the contrary, have subjected himself to much ridicule? And he (Sir John Wrottesley) would much rather see the measure meet with opposition than ridicule. All the gentlemen appointed were men of high character—a character of which they were as tenacious as the hon. Gentleman himself; that even if it could be supposed that they would be capable of any partiality, that and the other House of Parliament would have a remedy before the public could suffer any detriment.
§ Mr. Wrangham
maintained the right of all, whether old or young Members, to comment on the list; the promulgation of it invited criticism. If his opinions, from a want of the experience of the hon. Baronet, were not as valuable, they were at least as honest.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, he was ready to allow that as these names were brought before the House, they were a fair subject for criticism, and every hon. Gentleman had a right to comment on them. He only complained because the hon. Gentleman had commented on the names of persons of whom he knew nothing.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that it was only from the hon. Member (Mr. Wrangham) he had for the first time heard of the political opinions of many of the proposed Commissioners. He believed, however, that the majority of them were favourable to Reform; and, indeed, it would be diffi- 1007 cult to meet thirty-one gentlemen of intelligence out of that House, the majority of whom were not favourable to Reform. If the majority of the Commissioners were hostile to the measure, they would be the least fit persons that could be chosen.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, that when the noble Lord called upon the House to adopt these names, the House had a right to canvass the opinions of the individuals. If he saw names in the list which were not known publicly to be qualified to perform the duties of Commissioners, he would not willingly adopt them. He must also say, that if gentlemen were proposed, to whom no remuneration was to be given, he could not help looking at the election of such persons with suspicion. The noble Lord could not suppose that those who engaged to perform the duties of Commissioners, ought not to be remunerated in some way or other. If they were not to receive compensation in money, they must receive it in some other way, and the expectation of remuneration was calculated to give a bias to their judgments. He wished for the nomination of persons who would act impartially between all parties and all interests.
§ Mr. Baring Wall
suggested, that those members of the Commission who were barristers, should not go to the counties in the circuits in which they practised, and that those connected with particular counties should not go as Commissioners to those counties. There were some names on the list which he thought would not act well together. For instance, Mr. Bellenden Kerr and Mr. Davies Gilbert, than whom no two men could be more opposed to each other. He admitted that the first named gentleman was a man of considerable talents and acquirements; but at the same time he must say, that he was a most unaccommodating and unquiet individual. He meant nothing personal or disrespectful, but it was necessary, when the constituency of England was to be remodelled, that, at least, the Commons should be allowed to comment on the gentlemen by whom that important office was to be undertaken. There were particular objections to the gentlemen whom he had named, being employed to divide the county with which he (Mr. Baring Wall) was connected.
§ Lord Althorp
had known Mr. Bellenden Kerr, and acted with him in a public society, and he had always found him an ex- 1008 tremely active, intelligent, and useful man, and, in his opinion, not at all open to the objection which the hon. Member had made against him. It had been argued that the Commissioners should not divide any districts with which they were themselves connected, but this arrangement was left to themselves, as men of honour and character, acting under a heavy responsibility.
§ Mr. Blamire
said, that the division of some of the counties could be as well effected by the Commissioners, by the aid of maps, in London, as by visits to the counties themselves, For instance, he thought that a division of his county (Cumberland) might be easily and speedily effected in that way, without giving the Commissioners the trouble of a journey down to it.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, notwithstanding the opinion of the hon. member for Cumberland, he thought a personal knowledge and inspection of the counties to be divided absolutely necessary.
§ Mr. Blount
stood up to defend his worthy friend Mr. Bellenden Kerr, from the charge made by the hon. Member opposite. He had been personally and intimately acquainted with Mr. Kerr for many years, and the attack made was as unjust as it was uncalled for. It was insinuated that he would cause strife among the Commissioners, which was a very odd sort of charge. He had no doubt the gentleman in question would perform any duty he undertook, conscientiously and firmly, and he would resist any impropriety, by whomsoever attempted.
§ Mr. Baring Wall
asked whether Mr. Bellenden Kerr was brother-in-law to Mr. Gawler? (another of the Commissioners).
§ Mr. Blount
replied, that he was not.
The original question was, to leave out all the words in clause 22 which follow the words "be it enacted," for the purpose of introducing other words; such other words consisting of clause 23 as originally proposed to be amended. The question now was, that the words proposed be inserted as part of the clause.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
begged to ask the noble Lord, if the districts to be taken by the Commissioners were to be determined by a majority of themselves.
§ Lord Althorp
had before stated this was matter of arrangement to be determined on their own parts.
§ Question agreed to.1009
§ The Chairman then put the question, that "the names of the Commissioners (as read) be inserted in clause 23."
§ Mr. Baring Wall
said, that he thought it was most important that the Commissioners should be persons of some standing, and such as the country could repose confidence in. Why was Mr. Mogg's name not in the list? He perceived in the list the names of some very young men: he thought this very injudicious. In fact, he could not imagine a selection less calculated to give public satisfaction than that which had been proposed. The noble Lord should give the House time to consider the character of the individuals proposed to act as Commissioners under this Act, before he pressed the list which had been read for the adoption of the House. He felt convinced that the candour which always characterised the conduct of the noble Lord would induce him to reconsider the subject. What, he would ask, would the people think of that list? Would they feel satisfied that the persons appointed were competent to discharge the important duties they would have to perform? He did not think they would. He did not mean to throw any imputation on those persons. They were, no doubt, very respectable individuals, but, notwithstanding, by no means competent, as far as he could form an opinion on the subject, to perform their duty to the satisfaction of the country.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he would not deny that some of the proposed Commissioners were young men, but that circumstance did not, in his opinion, form a valid objection to their ability to discharge the duty they would have to perform in an efficient manner. Several of these gentlemen were engaged in the artillery and in the engineers, and were, in consequence, peculiarly fitted for the service for which they had been selected. He had no apprehension whatever that the proposed list would meet with the disapprobation of the public. He considered the few objections which had been taken to the list sufficient evidence that it was unexceptionable. He certainly never expected it would meet with the approbation of the hon. Member.
§ Question agreed to.
§ The question—"That sixteen of the Commissioners form a quorum, and that they make a report in writing to the House within three months after their appointment agreed to."1010
§ Clause 23rd as amended was then agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ The Chairman began to read the 24th clause, when
§ Sir George Warrender
said, that he wished to call the attention of the House to a notice of an Amendment which he had given on a former night, to the effect "That all boroughs which had more than 400 resident inhabitants should continue to return Members as heretofore." He took that opportunity to assure the House, that whatever opposition he had felt it his duty to give to the Bill, it was not his intention to throw any vexatious impediments in the way of the measure in its progress through the House. He still, however, remained of opinion, that towns which contained 400 electors would return as independent and free Representatives as any place in the kingdom,though,after the decision that had been come to in respect of these boroughs, he felt it would be useless to trouble the committee any further. He knew that his conduct in this regard had called forth the disapprobation of some young Members on his side of the House. He, however, as an independent Member of that House, did not seek to please them, but to do his duty. He would conclude by stating, that it was not his intention to press his Amendment.
The Chairman read the 24th clause, and put the question, that after the words "be it enacted" there be inserted "that the Commissioners have power to incorporate with any city or borough any parish adjacent to such city or borough, within the distance of one mile."
Mr. James L. Knight
said, that the effect of this clause would be to give a very dangerous power to the Commissioners. For example, it would be in their power, if they thought fit, under this clause, to add to the borough of Marylebone, which was to be constituted by this Act (and which was already large enough), the parishes of Kensington and Chelsea. Such a power vested in those Commissioners might be attended with the most alarming consequences. It would invest them with an authority to alter the whole constituency of the country. He wished to know from the noble Lord opposite, if it was intended that the Commission should possess such powers.
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that it would be extremely inconvenient to limit the powers 1011 of the Commissioners in particular places. He was quite sure there was no danger to be apprehended from allowing the clause to stand as it was at present.
§ Mr. Tennyson
said, he was aware of the difficulty in limiting the power of the Commissioners in any particular place, but he thought they ought, in settling the new limits of boroughs, to have authority to separate from such boroughs any districts in which an undue local influence predominated. He was induced to express this opinion, because, in the borough he had the honour to represent (Stamford), a part of the town was situated across a river, and in another county; this was not within the limits of the borough, but if the Commissioners, in the exercise of their authority, should annex it to the borough itself, they would replace Stamford directly under the control of a noble Lord, to whom the chief part of the parish in question belonged. He therefore trusted, that as the borough at present contained a sufficient constituency, the Commissioners would not interfere with it in the way he had mentioned, which would have an effect wholly contrary to the principles on which the Bill was founded. Some caution ought to be given to the Commissioners, to observe generally, that their divisions or additions should be free from any undue controlling influence,
§ Lord Althorp
could not agree in the opinion expressed by his hon. friend. He thought the Commissioners, to discharge their important duties properly, should enter upon them utterly ignorant, not only with respect to the localities of any borough, but of the influence that was prevalent in its vicinity. The only instructions Ministers would give were, that the Commissioners should perform their duties with the utmost impartiality, and according to the principles of strict justice. They would have little chance of giving general satisfaction, if they suffered such considerations as his hon. friend had alluded to, to influence their decisions.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said, that no speech had been delivered in that House which made more against the Bill than that which had just been delivered by the hon. Member opposite, he being a member of the Government which had proposed it. He fully agreed with the opinion of the hon. Member, and feared Stamford would not be the only place where undue influence might be apprehended. He 1012 knew something of borough representation, from being connected with Cornwall, and he was positive, that in many of the boroughs of that county, the plan of Government would open the door to the introduction of that sort of influence which the hon. Member hoped would not be exercised about the limits of his own borough, but with a different effect as to the parties concerned. It was, however, well that the noble Lord had dissented from the hon. Member's suggestion, but it showed that some of the members of Government were not disposed to be rigidly impartial to their political opponents. Among the gentlemen who were to be appointed Commissioners to execute such duties as the hon. member for Stamford had described, he regretted to see that there were some Members of Parliament. He had a high respect personally for these gentlemen, but he feared their knowledge and acquirements, as representatives of the people, rendered them peculiarly liable to be biased in their decisions. In making such appointments, the House should be particularly cautious. The Commissioners would, in fact, be similar to those appointed under the celebrated India bill of Mr. Fox, and almost as objectionable. There was no occasion to insert their names in an Act of Parliament. It appeared to be done to obtain undue influence. Suppose that a change of Ministry should take place, the persons who entered into office could have no voice in the appointment of these Commissioners for, being named in the Bill, their office was not derived from Ministerial authority. The whole clause with reference to these appointments, was hasty and injudicious, and would throw an immense power into the hands of the Ministers. As the hon. member for Stamford had remarked, unless very carefully and exactly administered, it would tend to place certain boroughs more under direct nomination than they were at present.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the Commissioners in the present instance would not be at all similar to those to whom the hon. Baronet had alluded. The Commissioners under Mr. Fox's bill were Commissioners for managing the whole affairs of India; they were to be permanent and independent of the Crown. Now the present Commissioners would be merely appointed to discharge the duties assigned to them in this Bill, and after they had performed those duties their office would cease.
1013 Colonel Sibthorp begged to take this opportunity to give notice, that on the bringing up of the report, he would move, that no Member of that House, or Member's son, should be appointed to fill the situation of a Commissioner for the purpose of deciding the division of the counties, or fixing the boundaries of cities or boroughs which it was determined by the Bill should be divided.
§ Mr. Tennyson
said, his only object had been to express his anxiety that the Commissioners should exercise their duties with great care, and, in general, to avoid introducing predominating influences into any particular borough. Their object ought to be, to extend real Representation, and to be careful that any additions they made should not have a contrary tendency. His objection was made on the part of the whole people of England, as it might affect the new constituencies generally; and he repeated, if the Commissioners should take the course, at Stamford, to which he alluded, he would bring the matter under the consideration of Parliament.
§ Mr. John Campbell
protested against the doctrine of the hon. Member. The Commissioners, in the exercise of their functions, should have eyes, but no ears. Their object and duties were, to include particular portions of towns to be annexed to boroughs, and, in the exercise of this power, they ought to decide without considering what particular election interests might be affected.
§ Mr. Dixon
begged, as the hon. member for Stamford had declared he would, if there was any interference with the borough he represented, which he did not approve of, bring the matter under the consideration of the House, distinctly to say, he should oppose him; and if the Commissioners were to be liable to such imputations from one of the members of Government, the only way to relieve Ministers from the difficulty of their position would be, for the hon. Member to put an end to his official connexion with them, when, as a private Member, he might take what course he pleased.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
begged to congratulate the House upon the very decided manner in which the hon. member for Stamford had laid down the principle on which he desired the Commissioners to act, which he (Sir Charles Wetherell) scrupled not to say, would be a great perversion of their duty. An hon. member 1014 would say, "these Commissioners shall cut my borough as I like;" and then, up gets another and says, "I will have my borough divided in the way it suits me;" but the hon. member for Stamford insisted, that "his borough was not to be interfered with at all," and said he did this injustice to his constituency at that place. This was certainly an admirable way of putting the case; and he thought the House must agree with him, that the principle of the hon. Gentleman was totally at variance with every just ground on which the Commissioners ought to proceed. He believed the whole enactment was nothing more than a job under the name of Reform, and he had no doubt the observations of the hon. member for Stamford were quite consistent with the ideas of many Reforming Members of that House, although the noble Lord had expressly disclaimed such sentiments. Independent of this, however, he objected to the appointment of these Commissioners, because an unlimited and uncontrolled power was placed in their hands.
agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman, that if the popular opinion was to be formed from the remarks of the hon. member for Stamford, that it would be adverse to the appointment of the Commissioners; but he was sure, that that matter would be completely set at rest, both as regarded the Commissioners and the public, by the unanimous expression of opinion which had now been given from both sides of the House, as to the line of conduct which those Commissioners ought to pursue.
§ Mr. Tennyson
said, that in what he had suggested, he had not been influenced by private or personal motives or considerations. He had urged what he had stated, on behalf of his constituents and the people of England generally. He surely could not be suspected of personal motives, after the sacrifices some of his connexions had made.
§ Mr. Lowther
thought, some of the members of Government were rather severe upon their colleague, the hon. member for Stamford, who had only abided by the rule which had been laid down, as a reason for adding 4,000 inhabitants to White-haven, which, in the debate on that part of the Bill, it was said by Ministers, would prevent Whitehaven from being improperly influenced. One district, it appeared, was passed over, and another added, to 1015 suit a particular purpose, which was found fault with when applied in another way, by the hon. Member.
Sir James Graham
said, the hon. Member referred to a case which had been decided in a former debate. In that case, he (Sir James Graham) had stated, that he had so strong a feeling with regard to the influence of property as bearing upon the elective franchise, that he had recommended the borough which had been alluded to, should be extended, because it was notoriously the property of one noble individual, whose ancestor had boasted, that the inhabitants of that town could only claim one of the four elements as a right—that was air; fire, earth, and water, he had the complete disposal of. He had frankly declared, that if the town were left alone, and allowed to return one Member, that it would become a nomination borough, and he, therefore, wished the House to be very careful, when making a reform of the Representation, how it perpetuated or strengthened an abuse. The circumstance he had described ought not to be tolerated. He had, he presumed, answered the hon. Gentleman; and now, with respect to the question immediately before the House, he differed altogether from the view which his hon. friend (Mr. Tennyson) had taken of the line of conduct to be pursued by the Commissioners, and he quite coincided in the view which had been taken on that point by his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Lowther
said, if the right hon. Gentleman could find no better arguments than the idle boast of an ancestor of his, all he could say was, that was no answer to the objections he had urged.
Lord John Russell
was quite sure that in what his hon. friend, the member for Stamford, had stated, he had not been influenced by any personal feelings or considerations, but that he was merely anxious to express the sentiments of his constituents.
§ Mr. Curteis
said, that part of this clause seemed to him to militate against the principle on which this Bill professed to proceed. It would appear as if the Commissioners, in the exercise of the very considerable power with which they were to be intrusted, might, if it suited them, omit the agricultural parishes in the local divisions they made, to the entire exclusion of the rural population.
§ Lord Althorp
assured the hon. Gentle- 1016 man, that he misunderstood the clause. The Commissioners had no power whatever to skip over any agricultural parishes.
§ Mr. Curteis
said, then the clause was not properly worded, and he must recommend hat some alteration should be made, so that the country gentlemen might understand it.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he thought no words could be plainer. They were—"The said Commissioners, or any sixteen of them, shall have the power, if they think fit, to settle, for the purposes of this Act, the limits or boundaries of the several boroughs mentioned in the schedules hereunto annexed."
An Hon. Member
begged to inquire, whether any limit was to be set to the districts to be included, or whether it depended on the discretion of the Commissioners to include any proportion they thought proper.
§ Lord Althorp
said, in reply, that any division the Commissioners thought proper to include, for the purposes of this Act, would become part of the town.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
wished to ascertain, if it was in their power to make a place as large as they thought proper, or could they contract it at their pleasure?
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
suggested, that it would be better to appoint a Committee of the House to decide upon the decisions of the Commissioners. How could the House itself decide upon upwards of 300 cases?
§ Lord Althorp
considered the appointment of a Committee unnecessary. The House could certainly find time to hear any appeals that were made to it.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
asked, if there was to be a separate report made on the case of each borough?
said, the question was, that the words proposed be inserted after the words "be it enacted."—Agreed to.
Verbal Amendments were agreed to, and the Question, that "Clause 24, as amended, stand part of the Bill," also agreed to.
§ Lord Althorp moved, that the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
Mr. Alderman Wood
thought, that they ought then to proceed with the two next clauses; as they formed only a portion of the clause to which they had just agreed it was not likely that they would provoke any discussion. The fact was, that people 1017 out of doors were quite dissatisfied with the slow progress of the Bill, and they should endeavour to proceed at a somewhat more rapid pace, if possible.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that it was now more than half-past one o'clock, and though the worthy Alderman and his friends might remain, he would certainly go out of the House; and the worthy Alderman, and his friends out of doors, might express what dissatisfaction they liked with his personal conduct.
§ Lord Althorp
felt bound, in pursuance of the contract originally made on the subject, to stop at that hour of the morning.
§ The House resumed: the Committee to sit again the next day.