§ The Motion being agreed to, the Order of the Day was read.
§ The Speaker
put the question, That this Bill be read a third time—those that are of that opinion say Aye ["loud cries of Aye."] [Before the right hon. Gentleman put the negative, he made a considerable pause, as if expecting that some Member would rise to speak on the question; but no one presenting himself, he at length proceeded to the words—"Those that are of a contrary opinion say No." Immediately after which Sir James Scarlett rose, as if to address the House, but sat down again, in consequence of an intimation from the Speaker that he had let slip the right opportunity of addressing the House, the question having been fully put.]
§ The House divided: Ayes 113; Noes 58—Majority 55.
|List of the AYES.|
|Astley, Sir J.||Handley, W. F.|
|Althorp, Viscount||Heron, Sir R.|
|Atherley, A.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Adam, Admiral C.||Hodgson, J.|
|Baring, Sir Thomas||Host, Sir J.|
|Barnett, C. J.||Hoskins, K.|
|Bernard, Colonel||Hudson, T.|
|Bernal, R.||Hughes, H.|
|Brayen, T.||Hughes, J.|
|Blamire, W.||Hume, J.|
|Blount, E.||Hunt, H.|
|Browne, J.||Hutchinson, J. H.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Johnstone, Sir J. V.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Johnstone, J. H.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Johnston, A.|
|Calley. T.||King, Hon. R.|
|Culvert, N.||King, E. B.|
|Campbell, J.||Knight, R.|
|Callaghan, D.||Labouchere, H.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Lamb, Hon. G.|
|Clifford, Sir A.||Langton, Colonel G.|
|Copeland, Alderman||Leader, N. P.|
|Cockerell, Sir C.||Lee, J. L. H.|
|Cripps, J.||Lester, B.|
|Currie, J.||Lennox, Lord G.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Lopez, Sir R. F.|
|Dixon, J.||Maberly, J.|
|Denman, Sir T.||Mangles, J.|
|Doyle, Sir J. M.||Macnamara, W.|
|Dundas, C,||Mackenzie, S.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Marryat, J.|
|Ellice, E.||Milbank, M.|
|Ewart, W.||Mostyn, E. M. L.|
|Evans, Col. De Lacy||Musgrave, Sir R.|
|Fergusson, R. C.||Nowell, A.|
|Foley, J. H.||O'Connell, D.|
|Fox, Lieut.-Colonel||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|French, A.||O'Conor, Don|
|Grattan, James||Ord, W.|
|Grattan, Henry||Paget, Sir C,|
|Paget, T.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Petit, L. H.||Throckmorton, R. G.|
|Petre, Hon. E.||Troubridge, Sir E.|
|Power, R.||Tavistock, Marquis|
|Portman, E. B.||Tomes, J.|
|Robarts, A. W.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Ruthven, E. S.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Sanford, E. A.||Villiers, F.|
|Sinclair, G.||Warburton, H.|
|Skipwith, Sir G.||Walrond, B.|
|Slaney, R.||Wood, J.|
|Stanley, Lord||Wason, W. R.|
|Stanley, E. J.||Webb, Colonel|
|Stewart, Sir M. S.||Westenra, Hon. H. R.|
|Stuart, Lord D. C.||Wilde, T.|
|Sheil, R L.||Williams, W. A.|
|Smith, J.||Williams, J.|
|Smith, J. A.||TELLERS.|
|Smith, R. V.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Smith, Hon. R.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|List of the NOES.|
|Alexander, James||Legh, T.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Lefroy, Dr.|
|Best, Hon. W.||Maitland, Lord|
|Brogden, J.||Malcolm, Sir J.|
|Bruce, C.||Maxwell, H.|
|Capel, J.||M'Kinnon, W. A.|
|Constable, Sir C.||Miles, P. J.|
|Conolly, Colonel||Miller, W. H.|
|Cooke, Sir H.||Murray, Sir G.|
|Courtenay, T. P.||North, J. H.|
|Dalrymple, Sir A.||Pemberton, T.|
|Douglas, H. C.||Perceval, Colonel|
|Dundas, R. A.||Peel, E.|
|Estcourt, T. B.||Peel, J.|
|Fane, Hon. A. S.||Rose, Sir G.|
|Forbes, Sir C.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Forbes, J.||Shaw, F.|
|Freshfield, J.||Scarlett, Sir J.|
|Gordon, Colonel||Taylor, M.|
|Gordon, Capt. J.||Thynne, Lord J.|
|Hardinge, Sir H.||Trench, Colonel|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Trevor, Hon. A.|
|Hay, Sir J.||Worcester, Marquis|
|Holmes, W.||Wortley, J. S.|
|Hope, T.||Wrangham, D. C.|
|Jones, T.||Wigram, W.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W.||Yorke, J.|
|Kemmis, T. A.||TELLERS.|
|Kerrison, Sir E.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Kenyon, Hon. L.||Peel, W. Y. *|
§ Lord John Russell rose to propose the
* So sudden, and apparently so unexpected, was this remarkable division, that upwards of eighty Members, the large majority supporters of the Bill, were shut out, though in the neighbourhood, or at the time actually on their way to the House. Their entering the House just after the motion was disposed of, occasioned considerable laughter. Among those shut out were Sir F. Burdett on the one side, and Sir R. Peel and Sir C. Wetherell on the other.
following clause, to be added by way of rider to the Bill: "And be it enacted, that if a dissolution of the present Parliament shall take place after the passing of this Act, and before both Houses of Parliament shall have voted Addresses to his Majesty, praying his Majesty to issue his royal Proclamations as hereinbefore mentioned, in such case such persons only as would have been entitled to vote in the election of Members to serve in a new Parliament in case this Act had not been passed, shall be entitled to vote in such election, and the proceedings at all such elections shall be regulated and conducted in the same manner as if this Act had not been passed; but if a dissolution of the present Parliament shall take place after both Houses of Parliament shall have voted such Addresses as aforesaid, and before the last day of April, in the year 1832, in such case such persons only shall be entitled to vote in the election of Members to serve in a new Parliament, for any county, part, riding, or division of a county, city, or borough, as would have been entitled to be inserted in the respective lists of voters for the same, directed to be made under this Act, if the day of election had been the day for making out such respective lists; and such persons shall be entitled to vote in such election, although they may not be registered according to the provisions of this Act, anything herein contained notwithstanding; and the polling at such election for any county, or part, riding, or division of a county, may be continued for fifteen days, and the polling at such election for any city or borough, may be continued for eight days, anything herein contained notwithstanding." The noble Lord said, that Ministers had framed this clause less with a view to meet a practical difficulty, than to provide the Bill against what he might designate as a theoretical contingency. As applying to a theoretical principle, therefore, it should be regarded, rather than as a remedy for a contingency not by any means probable—that was to say, though they did not anticipate the contingencies which the clause was devised to meet, they felt that the theoretical perfection of the Bill rendered it necessary.
Sir Robert Peel
wished to call the attention of the House to one or two objections which struck him to the present clause. That such a clause was necessary he was ready to declare, but that the present 144 one met the difficulty of the case, he could not so readily admit. In the first place, it struck him that it placed on the chance of a refusal of the House of Lords to concur in a proposal made by the House of Commons, the actual nullifying of the operation of the Bill altogether. For what did the clause propose? that if a dissolution take place before "both" Houses shall have agreed to a specific Address, to be founded on the report of the district-division Commissioners, such and such things shall take place. Now, suppose the House of Lords should not approve of this report, and therefore should withhold its assent from the proposition for an Address, was it not plain that for every practical purpose the Bill would be negatived? Now this objection was not met by the present clause, which, indeed, was based on the assumption that "both Houses" would, as a matter of course, sanction the report of the Commissioners. It was true, he was ready to admit, the chance of their disagreeing was very remote—that the difficulty which he was pointing at was very improbable; but still it was possible, and if it occurred, would be fatal to the Bill, supposing the general measure to have been in the mean time approved of by the Lords and Commons, and that objection was not conquered. The second objection was of still more force. The clause provided, that after the "last day of April, 1832," should a dissolution take place, either by a demise of the Crown, or the exercise of the prerogative, that the right of voting shall be just as if the Bill had passed into a law. Look to the results of such an arrangement. In such a state of things, they would have neither the votes under the existing system, nor the constituency which the Bill was intended to provide, but would be placed in this strange position—that they would be obliged to receive the vote of every man who presented himself and said he rented a 10l. house. The Bill provided, that a strict registry with a very complex machinery, should be preliminary to the right of voting; that, in fact, no man could be entered on the list of voters who had not been duly registered, and undergone every proper scrutiny, as to his qualifications, before the registering officers. But the clause was founded on the fact that no such registry had taken place: that was an extraordinary state, and any person might vote whether he was registered or 145 not. One right of voting was by occupancy; and if the votes were not registered, how could it be known that the claimants actually had such a right? The supposition was, that no registering of the new votes had taken place, which would create difficulty, and there could be no inquiry whatever as to the validity of the claims. Every man who supposed he inhabited a house of 10l. rent, or which would be assessed to the poor-rates, would claim a right to vote. He would tender his vote, and there would be no means of controlling or refusing him, and no means of checking his assertion that he lived in a house rated at 10l. All inquiry, then, would be set aside, and every person who brought forward a claim must be allowed to vote. Admitting the necessity of some provision like the present clause, he could not support it, because he considered the first part of it as very clumsy, and the latter part of it as very objectionable.
§ Lord Althorp
could not see the force of the objections just stated by the right hon. Baronet. It was true, that in the event of the other House of Parliament withholding its assent from the Address to confirm the Report of the Commissioners, there would be such a difficulty as the right hon. Baronet had pointed out; but such a difficulty could not well be anticipated, unless on such a supposition as would imply difficulties which neither the present clause, nor indeed any that he could suggest, could provide against. The clause certainly implied a concurrence between both Houses, and till the want of that concurrence was a matter of certainty, the contingencies, which, as his noble friend had justly observed, were much more theoretical than practical, to which the clause applied, would be to all intents and purposes provided for. The object of the clause was to provide for circumstances in the event of a dissolution before the Bill came into operation, and he could not see how—the Bill itself having been sanctioned by both Houses—an insuperable difference of opinion could arise as to the Report of the Commissioners. Then, as to the other objections of the right hon. Baronet, it was, perhaps, sufficient to observe, that the difficulties which the right hon. Baronet had stated, as the natural result of admitting the constituency under the Bill to vote before all its registry mechanism had been completed, would be met by the existing law with reference 146 to elections. The right honourable Baronet said no, for as there would be at the time no registered list, there would be no means of preventing every man from voting who rated himself as a 10l. householder. But the right hon. Baronet seemed to forget, that at present it was the business of the returning officer and his deputy to institute a strict inquiry into the qualification of every voter who presented himself at the poll. This being the fact, where was the difficulty of his instituting a similar scrutiny with respect to the qualifications of voters under the present Bill on such an occasion, necessarily a single one, as that which the clause contemplated as possible? That the returning officer might be enabled to do so effectively, the clause provided that the poll should last fifteen, and eight days as at present. He thought he need not add another word in explaining away the right hon. Baronet's objections. In the first place, the clause provided against a dissolution of Parliament by the demise of the Crown's interfering with the operation of the Bill after a certain date. It certainly would not do, that a House of Commons should, after the last day of April next, be returned by the imperfect constituency of the present system, and therefore, as the right hon. Baronet had correctly stated, it was proposed, that if both Houses shall have addressed his Majesty to sanction the Report of the district division Commissioners before a certain period, that an election taking place between the last day of April next, and the perfect operation of the Bill, then the constituency under the Bill should be admitted to vote: and in the next place, in order that time might be afforded for a due scrutiny into the qualifications of voters, it was provided, though the Bill fixed two days as the average of polling, that the full complement of fifteen and eight days, as under the present system, should be afforded.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that there were two points omitted in the Bill. The first point was, who were to be the constituents of the House of Commons, if a dissolution of Parliament should take place before the new constituency which was to be framed by this Bill should have come into existence. The next point was, who were to be the constituents of the House of Commons in case of a dissolution of Parliament taking place after the Bill had been passed, and before the month 147 of April next. These were two very large and important questions, all consideration of which had been wholly left out of the Bill, and which had escaped the attention of all the members of the Cabinet, till they had been reminded of them by the Opposition. That clause was another and additional proof of the imperfect, and imbecile, and chaotic, and ignorant system of groping in the dark, on which Ministers had acted through the whole progress of the present measure. Here a contingency, the most important, in a constitutional point of view, that could possibly engage Parliament, had been wholly overlooked, and would still be unprovided for, but for the importunity of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House: and yet the principles and difficulties involved in this important contingency were, even at this twelfth hour, far from having been foreseen or provided against by the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his sapient and eloquent colleagues. They had provided neither for the dissolution of Parliament in case of the King's death, nor for the dissolution of Parliament in case of the exercise of the King's Prerogative. In the progress of the discussion, these points had been brought under the consideration of the Ministers, and the clause was intended to meet these events. The first part of the clause provided, that the old constituency should elect the House of Commons, which he thought was right. The second part of the clause he did not approve of. The clause did not, in fact, meet the difficulties of the case. The new voters would have no right to vote till they were registered, and there would be no means of registering, and no legal votes. The constituency of the country might then be anybody; it would vibrate between the old and the new, and place the country in a state of great danger. There would be no means of cutting off those who claimed to vote without any right, or of adding those who had the right, and were not inserted in the lists. What was there to prevent improper persons from voting? What security against this? Would it not be in the power of the Overseer to put in any person whom he pleased? [Lord John Russell here said "No."] The noble Lord might say no, but did he really believe that no person would be inserted in the Overseer's list who ought not to vote? He believed, that such radical and revolutionary Overseers as the Bill would generate 148 would place the return of Members—in the event of a dissolution within six months—wholly in the hands of revolutionary voters. He thought, in case of a dissolution taking place after the two Houses had addressed the Crown, and before the month of April, that the old constituency ought to elect the new House of Commons. It was a mockery, a delusion, and a cheat on the understandings of those who had attended to the progress of the Bill, to say that the lists could be scrutinized or the voters checked, under the new Bill, before they were registered. There would be a crisis of great danger, should the demise of the Crown take place between the passing of the Bill and the period when the lists of the new constituency were complete.
Lord John Russell
had little to add to the satisfactory explanation of his noble friend, and therefore need not detain the House with a formal reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman. On the supposition of a demise of the Crown taking place at any period before the Bill came into full operation, it was, perhaps, sufficient to observe, that very little more than seven months would bring them to the last day of April, the day on which the clause would be operative. Parliament possessed the power of sitting six months after that demise—that is, had six months to provide for all those difficulties which scared hon. Gentlemen opposite. He need not say how remote was such a contingency at the present moment, and, indeed, need not add how earnestly he trusted it would long continue so. Then, as to the other objection—that founded on the possibility of the House of Lords not concurring with the Commons' Motion in an Address adopting the Report of the Commissioners—he really thought it so extraordinary, so utterly improbable, that he knew not how seriously to meet it. It was a sufficient answer to say, that the Bill provided for a constitutional theoretical contingency; but that no legislative measure could, a priori, provide against every possible difficulty which subtilty might be able to devise. Then, as to the objection, that as there would be no registered list of voters on the occasion contemplated by the clause, there would be no means of preventing surreptitious persons voting under an alleged 10l. qualification, it was sufficient to ask, in answer, how were such fraudulent votes prevented under the existing 149 system? The answer was, by the scrutiny of the returning officers.
Lord John Russell
Why not? The circumstance of there being no list, of the voters, could be no objection, for there was no list of the 40s. freeholders who voted under the present system. The only mode which the returning officer had of determining the validity of a 40s. vote was by examining into its authenticity; and the same mode would enable him to determine the validity of a 10l. suffrage. But all these objections, he repeated, were so improbable, that it was a waste of time to discuss them, the clause being, as he had stated, intended to meet a theoretical contingency by no means practically probable.
thought the noble Lord had given no answer to the objections stated to the clause. It was not so impossible as the noble Lord seemed to suppose, that the event alluded to, of a dissolution, might take place before the end of seven months. He, therefore, did not consider that this was a mere constitutional and not a practical difficulty; it was, certainly, a constitutional difficulty and a practical difficulty also. The noble Lord should recollect, that the returning officers had, in the assessments to the Land-tax, a guide to check the claims of the freeholders. He was of opinion, too, that the new rights of voting were much more complicated than the old, and would give more trouble.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
approved of the clause, as likely to answer the object proposed. The objections made to the Bill which this clause was to obviate, were not theoretical, but practical and constitutional objections, made to defend the Prerogatives of the Crown. If the clause had not been introduced, the House of Commons might, if the Bill passed into a law, continue its sittings for seven years, and the Crown would have no legal power to put an end to it. He was quite satisfied with the former part of the clause, but not, with the latter, and believed it would have been better to have stopped at the former, and allowed the Parliament, should it be dissolved before the last day of April, to be elected in the same manner as it would be if the Act did not pass. By the second part of the clause, the 150 polls were to be kept open for fifteen days; but by the Bill, all the difficulties which might intervene must be left untouched, for nothing could be decided either by the Sheriff or his deputy.
§ The clause read a second time.
§ On the Motion that it be read a third time,
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
stated, that in the supposed case of a dissolution taking place after the two Houses had agreed to the Address, arid before the registry was completed, there would be many difficult questions to be decided by the returning officers. The Bill created new boroughs, and separated them from counties, and the returning officer would have to decide whether a man claiming a vote had a right, in some cases, to vote for a borough or a county.
§ The clause read a third time, and added to the Bill by way of rider.
§ The Speaker
asked, if there were any other clauses to be added?—"No." Were there any Amendments in the body of the Bill?
Mr. Lee Lee
proposed an Amendment in the 22nd clause, reserving the rights of all the freeholders now under age, who would, on coming of age, have a right to vote, if this Bill did not become a law. Such a reservation, he said, was made of the apprentices and sons of freemen, and he saw no reason why the same reservation should not, be made of the rights of freeholders. He could not doubt, as the Amendment he proposed was only fair and equitable, that it would meet, the approbation of the House. The hon. Member moved an Amendment to this effect.
§ Amendment brought up and read.
§ Lord Althorp
said, this clause was to place freeholders on the same footing as freemen. It was to reserve to the sons of freeholders all their present rights. He saw no objection to the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to, and inserted in the Bill.
§ On the Motion of Mr. Briscoe, it was agreed that in clause 44th the words "Saturday and Sunday" should be inserted, instead of "Saturday," Lord John Russell stating that he had no objection.
The Attorney General
had a proviso to propose, giving to parties in whose favour costs should be awarded by Election Committees, the power of recovering them in the same manner as directed by the Act of the 9th of George 4th. A clause to this 151 effect was drawn up and printed; but such was the unexpected turn, with respect, to the question of the third reading, that time was not allowed for engrossing it with the Bill. He had therefore to add it by way of proviso. The hon. and learned Gentleman then moved the following proviso:—"Provided always and be it enacted, that where the Committee appointed to try the merits of any petition complaining of an undue election, or return of a Member or Members to serve in Parliament, shall award costs in any of the cases mentioned in this Act, such costs shall be recovered in the same manner as costs are directed to be recovered by virtue of the Act passed in the ninth year of the reign of King George 4th, entitled 'An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the trial of controverted elections, or returns of Members to serve in Parliament.'"
Mr. James L. Knight
observed, that this said nothing of the taxing of costs, which an Election Committee had not the power to do.
The Attorney General
said, that the power to recover the costs "in the same manner" as by the 9th George 4th would be sufficient with respect to costs.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Lord John Russell
said, it was suggested on a former evening, that the townships of Hensingham and Moresby should be added to Whitehaven. On inquiry, it had been ascertained that such an addition was desirable. He therefore now moved, that this township be added.
§ Agreed to.
§ The Speaker
inquired whether there were any other amendments to be proposed to the body of the Bill. No other amendment being offered,
§ Sir James Scarlett
did not rise at that moment in the hope, or with even the most distant expectation, of being able, by any arguments which he might be able to use, to alter or sway the opinions of any hon. Member, or to influence the vote which any hon. Member had formed a determination to give on the momentous and interesting question now before the House. But, although he was ready to avow the absence of all such hope on his part, still he did feel it to be necessary for 152 him to make some observations, whereby would be placed on record those objections which he had to the passing of the Reform Bill. If he had ever entertained any hopes that he could successfully offer any opposition to the Bill, those hopes had now vanished; and, although he regretted that he had missed the very recent opportunity which had been offered him, on the question that the Bill be read a third time, still, as the majority then obtained showed how fruitless all opposition was, he considered that the objections and observations which he had to make would have just as much weight, and produce an equal effect to that which they would have produced, had he been able to make them at that period. He must, however, own that he had entertained strong, and, as they seemed to him, well-founded expectations, that, on his motion for the third reading of the Bill, his noble friend opposite (Lord John Russell) or some other Gentleman, either in the Government, or allied with it, would have risen, and have afforded the House some opportunity of being able to judge and know how the present Bill would operate upon the Constitution of England, and how it was in contemplation that the present or any future Government of this country should conduct the affairs of Government in conformity to the principles of the Constitution. He confessed, that he expected this the more because, although he had attended in his place from the 1st of March, when the Bill was introduced, and the noble Lord had made his statements respecting its principle, which was then discussed, he had heard nothing since from the noble Lords opposite which could be fairly considered as referring to anything more than the particular clauses, nor was there any general discussion as to how the Bill would act, or how they supposed that it would work. For himself he would have been extremely glad to have received some information of this nature from the noble Lords, or from any hon. Member on the other side of the House—for he must declare himself to be, as indeed he was well known to be, no enemy whatever, but a friend, to a moderate Reform—and he must, therefore, say, that he should have felt rejoiced in the assurance and knowledge that the Reform carried into operation by the present Bill was a reform, and not a revolution; and that instead of being pregnant with that danger to, all the best institutions of the 153 country which he feared would result from it, and which, in his opinion, would be its inevitable result, it was calculated to improve them and promote the happiness of the people. He felt considerable difficulty in making the objections which he conceived it to be his imperative duty to offer, for there never was a Bill introduced into that House containing so vast a variety of subjects—subjects involving the most important considerations, as far as regarded the whole fabric of the British Constitution, or the prosperity of England. The matter contained in the Reform Bill ought to have formed the subject of three or four separate Bills, so as to have allowed a separate discussion for each branch of it; and it was utterly impossible for him, in a speech such as that to which he was limited, to discuss that which it would take any man half a day to go over. He wished it had been divided into several bills, because then the principles upon which it was based could have been discussed independently of the machinery by which those alterations were to be effected; and, had that been the case, a man of moderate capacity, such as himself, could have embraced the whole of each branch at once. It was with deep regret, therefore, that instead of having this plan of Reform divided into parts, as the proposed changes might affect the different branches of the Constitution, he should find the whole jumbled together into one mass, in such a manner as no man could understand. He should, at the present time, therefore, content himself with suggesting, in as few words as might be, the general objections which he took to the Reform Bill, and in doing so he threw himself upon the indulgence of the House, if he commenced by professing his predilection in favour of that machinery of Representation under which England had enjoyed the greatest share of liberty and the largest portion of prosperity, that had ever fallen to the lot of any nation. Was it necessary for him, then, to state more to impress upon the House the vast importance, and mighty interest of the Bill, than that the Bill was clearly experimental? It was simply for them to consider, whether, by a Constitution altogether new, they would be able to preserve that degree of civil liberty and prosperity which, under the old system, England had enjoyed to a greater extent than any other nation, ancient or modern. There had been several 154 revolutions in this country; and without attempting to justify the objects or reasons of all, either in whole or part, he would merely declare, that the constitutional result of all these revolutions had been, to add vigour to the Government—to increase the naval and military glory of the country, and to augment the wealth and prosperity, and the civil and personal liberty of the people. But in the constitutional results of all these revolutions, there had been nothing to affect the just and fitting and proper authority of the Crown, or of the second branch of the Legislature—or nothing to make the popular voice supreme in the State. If the republican form of Government were proposed for this country, he thought it might be considered—although to sanction it, would be, in his opinion, inconsistent with his duty as a Member of that House, and with his oath of allegiance—but still it might be entertained as a speculative question. And then, even if it were so brought forward as a speculative question—if it were, res integra, a question to consider if the republican form of government might not be wisely preferred to that now existing in this country, he would declare it to be his deliberate opinion, that the establishment of a republic, or any thing like it, would not be permanent in duration, nor would it, while it lasted, secure to us that degree of liberty and prosperity which the people now enjoyed. He would not enter into any discussion to prove this position. He stated it—he took for granted—at least he was entitled to take it for granted—that no man who supported this Reform Bill wished to entertain the notion of a republic in that House, whatever might be the private opinion of individuals upon the subject. His own opinion was, that, instead of adding to our liberties, and prosperity, and glory, it would destroy all that which we already possessed. And many were the advantages and blessings, he wished them to remark, which they enjoyed above all other people, ancient or modern. We had the administration of justice in the hands of the people—in matters of judicial trial we did not feel the power of Government upon any political question. The peasant here was not afraid of any man of power who happened to be his neighbour. Never was there in any community so perfect an attainment of all the interests and objects of civil government as in this. He knew that in saying this, he might be speaking 155 that which was highly unpalatable to many hon. Gentlemen opposite; for now-a-days it was considered patriotism to be discontented with our institutions. There was, however, another thing which he would mention as a peculiar advantage, and that was, that the great police of the country was administered by independent gentlemen—by persons of property and respectability, who had a direct and positive interest in maintaining the institutions and promoting the prosperity of the State; and who, above all, did belong themselves to the people. Then the great police, which in other countries was attached to the government, was in this placed under the Magistrates, who, though men of property and station, were yet at the same time men of the people. In stating this, he felt he was saying that which was obnoxious to the opinions and wishes of many supporters of the Bill, who thought that this system ought to be put down. They were likewise hostile to another of our ancient institutions, which had been highly prized, and greatly favoured, and long esteemed one of the noblest rights bequeathed to us by our ancestors—he meant the Trial by Jury. Men were taught to consider it a glorious privilege, and an especial blessing of England, that only a few Judges should be appointed by the Crown, while the rest were appointed by the people, and that every individual accused of any offence should be tried by his peers. But now there were many hon. Members who were of opinion, that the Trial by Jury, at least in civil cases, should be abolished. Both were, in his opinion, of equal and the highest value, though both alike faulty in the estimation of those who made speeches before the multitude, and who fixed their hopes and glory upon the destruction of the institutions of our country. When he looked over this kingdom, he saw a number of small communities exercising privileges, which in other countries belonged to the government alone. First, there were the parishes, which had the power of legislating with respect to the highways, their own charities, and so forth. Again, there was the great number of corporations, having their own local Magistrates, and local authority, and thus being, in fact, to some extent, little republics, wherein public subjects were agitated and discussed, and where local affairs were administered by those most interested in their due administration. Again, in the old 156 division of counties, which this Bill was about to destroy, there were the Grand Juries at the Assizes, and on other occasions, investigating all things relating to the interests of the county; and this, he maintained, might justly be deemed a great advantage in the administration of public affairs, because it was so understood and seen, that they were administered by the people, and not by the court, and the people did not feel the arm of government, as in other countries. Were these things, he asked, worth preserving? And if so, what security had they that they would be preserved hereafter, and under this new Constitution? It would undoubtedly be said by some noble Lords opposite, that they would be better preserved, and more secure, when the measure shall have passed. Were they quite sure of that? Were they sure that the monarchy would be preserved after the Bill passed? Was it certain, that the House of Lords would be preserved? Was it certain, that the same feeling would exist toward the House of Lords, upon the part of the people, and upon the part of the House of Commons? Was it certain that there would be in that House the same moderation, the same wisdom, and the same temper, and the same disposition to blend the liberty of the subject with the rights and privileges of the Crown and Aristocracy? Those who were sure, that none of these results would accrue, might give an honest and conscientious vote for the Bill; and if he were sure of that, he would add his vote to the number. But he hoped the House would forgive him when he declared, that he was not sure of this, and briefly stated the reason wherefore, after the most anxious deliberation, he was led to form and give expression to this opinion. He felt that the Bill was an experiment, that it would of necessity effect a great alteration in the nature and character of that assembly, and endanger every other institution of which Englishmen had reason to be proud, and which it was to be presumed the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) did not wish to destroy. If, then, the Bill were purely experimental, he declared that no person had a right to try an experiment on so large a scale. No person had a right to try an experiment which might be fatal. Nothing but the most positive certainty that some of the great institutions of the country were injured or affected with danger could justify a proposition in making an alteration so extensive. 157 He strenuously objected to any species of Reform from which we could not retrace our steps. He would have supported a moderate and safe plan of Reform, but never would he have supported any Reform from which, if he found it could not be conducted satisfactorily, it would be impossible to go back. When once this Bill passed, it would be impossible for them to retrace their steps. It was intended by the hon. Gentlemen opposite to make a new constitution of the House; he, therefore, opposed it. It would be said, that that House should be a perfect representation of the people; but that was only an assertion—a mere form of words. For himself, he denied that the House had ever been a more perfect representation of the people than it was at that moment. The House was part of the institutions of the country, and it never was—it never was intended to be—a perfect and unmixed representation of the people. He defied the hon. Gentlemen opposite to show any period of our history at which the House of Commons was a perfect and unmixed, representation of the people. If it could be shown, he should be indebted for some information on the subject, for he at present believed, that never was there a period when the influence of the people was so great in that House as it was at present. It was thought necessary to amend the Representation; but what sort of assembly was this they were about to constitute?—what its object?—what its character? If it was the object to make of that House an assembly purely popular—to make it a perfect representative of the people, independent of the influence of the Crown and of the Aristocracy, he declared, that the alteration effecting this would be the first step towards revolution and the overthrowing of the monarchy. He appealed to history and its testimony of the undeviating practice, when he stated, that no purely popular assembly ever did long exist in conjunction with a monarchical form of government. What was it gave the House of Commons its present extraordinary power? It had been ever since the Revolution encroaching on the Executive Government. And yet, at the same time, all this extension and mighty power of the House of Commons had safely grown, because the nature of the Constitution was such as to allow the House of Commons that power which, in a purely popular assembly, never could have been allowed 158 to exist. That a purely popular assembly could be constituted for a great nation like this, he positively denied, if they were anxious to maintain the King and the House of Lords. And if this measure should pass into a law, he should say to the noble Lords who denied the Bill was revolutionary, "Look to the British Constitution—look to the House of Commons." The House of Commons was so constituted, that in its body the weight of the Monarch and of the Aristocracy should have influence to promote the public business, and blend with the popular influences represented by certain parties. Thus might all affairs be conducted safely by it, with due regard to the rights of the Monarch and the privileges of the House of Lords, and they might safely be intrusted with the greatest power. If he were allowed, he would say, look to history; but history and experience were out of fashion, and the time for referring to them was gone by. He would, therefore, say, look to speculation—look to pure reasoning—look to the opinions of learned men—and, looking thus to reason—looking to the general principle, he declared, that if they desired to maintain the Monarch and the House of Lords, they must not look to a purer representation of the people. If they gave the House of Commons the same power which it now possessed, and from which, he presumed, it was not disposed to part, the people would be then oppressed by many tyrants—a more intolerable tyranny than that of the worst despot; and, consequently, a thousand times a worse form of rule than that from which they wished themselves free. Besides, it was natural that the power of the House of Commons should increase. The House of Commons had not, for the last 150 years, had any struggle with the King or the House of Lords; but if they only gave it the popular voice, he maintained, that representing the popular will only, it would often be hurried into discord with the two other branches of the Legislature. Again he begged to remind them, that in any question with the other parts of the Legislature, the House would be urged on by the people; and that the popular opinion, maintained by popular passion, was not the thing to be consulted; but that, if it were so consulted, it would assuredly sweep off all things in its way before it. At present he contended that popular 159 opinion found its way sufficiently into the House—first, by means of the number of Members returned for popular places; and, secondly, from the very fact of the great numbers of the House. It was impossible that in an assembly of 600 persons there should not be a great infusion of popular spirit. And, although it certainly was most desirable that the popular voice should be heard in the Legislature, it was not less desirable that it ought not to be permitted entirely to overpower the expression of the sentiments of the other orders in the State; and, above all, it was desirable that means should be taken for diminishing the danger that would arise from any sudden ebullition of popular feeling leading to measures of precipitation in that House. On these principles he could never approve of converting the House of Commons of England into an assembly of delegates; he could never approve of rendering it an assembly of such a nature that it should merely represent the popular voice; that it should merely represent the opinions of a certain class of voters. Now, in his opinion, the object of the Bill which they were called upon to pass was to do this. Its object was to put an end to the representation of the Monarchy and the Aristocracy; and to convert the House into an Assembly of Delegates; of individuals, not speaking their own sentiments and opinions, but representing what they believed to be the sentiments and opinions of those by whom they were delegated. The object of this Bill was, beyond all question, to put an end to the monarchy and to the aristocracy, and to send individuals into Parliament as the Representatives of districts, who by giving vent to the ebullitions of the public voice, might drown and overpower any accents which might be raised in defence of other branches of the Constitution. He would not detain the House by any dissertations upon the Constitution, he would merely refer to the opinions which had been given on that subject by the theorizers, or, as some might call them, the theorists on the other side of the water. This was the first time on which any Government which had swayed the destinies of a prosperous and contented people had ever thrown down before the people the right of discussing all the principles by which they were governed. The great theorists on the other side of the water, among whom no system of government 160 was certain or stable, among whom no Ministry lasted for three months together, had never carried their views so far as to concede solely to the people the right of instituting laws. Nothing of the kind had occurred in France, in the frequent changes which had taken place both before and after the despotism of Bonaparte, when the people were obliged to consider and decide upon what plan of government it might be expedient to adopt. In England, by the system now proposed, the people were travelling, by rapid strides, to a revolution. The history of Poland was sufficient to show the disastrous effects resulting from such a course of proceeding. If the Bill under consideration were allowed to become law, then the present form of government in this country could not long exist: it must necessarily pass, and that by hasty strides, into a Republic; and the transit would be accompanied with the most calamitous consequences to the country. The advantages derived from the return of Members for certain places by a small constituency, under the influence of individuals of rank and fortune, were, in his opinion, invaluable. A suggestion had indeed been thrown out on this subject. It had been said, that those Members who were thus nominated were not the Representatives of the whole class of the individuals by whom they were so nominated; and that it would be better for individuals of rank and fortune to join together, and vote for their own particular Representatives. This suggestion had a specious appearance; but it had this great defect, that it would fail to secure the proper influence which the Crown ought to possess in that House. A noble friend of his on the other side had, in the course of an argument in favour of the Bill, and with a view to show that the constitution of the House was not calculated to consult the best interests of the public, analysed the majorities by which, at various periods, Ministers had been supported when they were, as his noble friend conceived, in the wrong; and had shown, that for those majorities they were, of all classes of Representatives in that House, least of all indebted to those who were considered as popular Representatives. Now, in the first place, he begged to observe, that it was entirely an assumption on the part of his noble friend, that, in the cases to which he had alluded, and in which Ministers had been supported by majorities, 161 that those majorities were in the wrong. The question was not what any political party had thought of those measures, but what was thought of them generally by the country. It did not follow, that because a Government measure was thought wrong by Gentlemen in opposition to Government, that the country at large must think that measure a wrong one. It was undoubtedly true that, in various cases, many hon. Members, and excellent men too, had voted in support of particular measures of a particular Government, although of those measures they highly disapproved. Take, for instance, the case of the Walcheren expedition. There could be no doubt, that many hon. members voted in support of Ministers on that occasion, who nevertheless strongly condemned that expedition. But they did so on the principle that they should otherwise endanger the existence of an Administration of whom generally they approved, and thereby injure, instead of benefitting the country. He would suppose a case which might easily occur; that of a measure of the greatest wisdom, proposed by an able Cabinet, after the greatest deliberation; and yet against which the current of popular opinion should strongly run. As the House was at present constituted, the Members of counties would be under the necessity, against their own conviction, of voting against such a measure, in order that they might be enabled to keep their seats. He stated this to show how unsafe it would be for any Administration to rely solely upon a popular Representation in that House; as the members of such a Representation would be compelled to vote against their own judgment, for fear of being turned out of their seats. If the 10l. household franchise were established, the Representatives of such a constituency would be nothing but delegates. Under such circumstances what stability could any Administration possess? For instance, there were two great questions—the Corn-laws and the Currency: he took it for granted that the majority of the present Cabinet were determined to maintain the Corn-laws and the laws respecting the Currency; but could they do so if the whole of the Members of that House were as much obliged to attend to the popular voice as the county Members? He apprehended not. It was clear, therefore, that such a system would be pregnant with the most serious danger to the 162 Constitution. A few words on the formation of the Bill under consideration. His Majesty's Government had been blamed by a certain party for having been so tardy in carrying it through the House. He, for one, however, could attach no blame to them on that score. It had been said, that, this Bill had been met with the strangest and most unaccountable delays on the part of the Opposition. For his own part, he would fearlessly assert, that he had never heard of any Constitution that had been formed so soon as this new Constitution for Great Britain. It was brought down by the Minister—it was carried by acclamation both in and out of the House without investigation or deliberation—and all this was done in a space of six weeks. It had been said by Mr. Fox, that if a number of the wisest men were to sit down to form a Constitution, and were to expend much time in the undertaking, it was a hundred to one but that the result would be full of inconsistencies and impracticabilities. A Constitution must be a growth; it must be made by degrees; it must go on step by step—now advancing, now receding. It could never be effected by any one sweeping measure. So far, therefore, was he from blaming the delay of his Majesty's Ministers, he was only astonished at the rapidity with which they had concocted this new Constitution. He must say, however, that when he looked at the machinery of the measure, he was convinced that it was impossible it could work. The theory could not be reduced to practice. There were two neighbouring clauses in the Bill so wholly inconsistent with one another, that he really wondered that their incompatibility could escape the attention of the framers of the Bill. The first related to the clause respecting leaseholders, an objection to which had already been discussed, but which, as it stood, was wholly inconsistent with the clause which immediately followed. There was one clause which gave a leaseholder for sixty years, of lands of the value of 10l. a-year, the right of voting. If he assign that lease to another person, the latter would have a right of voting. And if an under-lease were granted, or a derivative lease, the under-lessee would also have a right of voting, if he were the actual occupier. Hence it followed, that a lease of land of 10l. yearly value could be made the basis of two votes. No man who 163 understood the construction of the clause could doubt the proposition, that, provided the lands or tenements leased be of the yearly value of 10l., the original lessee or his assignee of the whole term, would have a vote—and if the one or the other should grant an under-lease to an occupier, reserving only 10l.and 1s. the occupier would also have a vote, whilst the leaseholder retained his vote for property that was of no value to him beyond the 1s. per annum. But the clause immediately following, which applied to freehold leases for lives, and was intended to raise the qualification of that class of voters from 40s. a year to 10l., provided that no owner of a freehold lease, for the life of himself or any other, shall be allowed to vote hereafter, unless the lease was of the actual value to him of 10l. a year. If lands of the yearly value of 19l. a year should be held under a freehold lease at the reserved rent of 10l. a year, the lessee could not vote, because, though the lands might be worth 19l., yet he paying 10l. to his landlord, the lease was worth no more than 9l. a year to him;—whereas, in the former case, the occupier would vote and the lessee too would vote, though his lease was worth but 1s. a year to him, provided the lands were of the yearly value of 10l. So that, by this ingenious inconsistency, the Bill destroyed an existing right of voting in respect of lands of the value of 19l. a year, and set up two votes in respect of other lands of the value of little more than 10l. a year. This objection, however, applied not to the machinery of the Bill, but to the inconsistency which the mere love of change—for the sake of change only—had introduced into the rights of voting. That which might properly be called the machinery of the Bill, he was satisfied could never be brought into operation. A number of customs and Acts of Parliament, which now regulate both the rights of voting and the modes of election, and which were well understood, would be at once abolished, and in their place was to be introduced a machinery altogether new and studiously complicated. He was at a loss to conceive how the machinery respecting registration by the Overseers of parishes, could be brought into operation. The Overseers of the poor in every parish were to make out a list of all the persons entitled to vote. Had hon. Gentlemen considered who those Overseers of the poor 164 most frequently were. The Act of Parliament required that they should be substantial householders, and in country parishes they were mostly farmers engaged in the pursuits of husbandry. These Overseers were now to be made political agents, and this Bill would make them political agents in all the parishes in England. In towns where the elective franchise depends upon scot-and-lot, these officers were already too much political agents; but this Bill would make them so generally. It would make officers, who were appointed, alio intuitu of a very different description from that for which they were intended. How was the Overseer of the poor to know who was a freeholder who was a copyholder, who a leaseholder, who the holder of a 10l. house, within the district? When the list was formed, the officer would be bound to place it in various conspicuous places. The farmers who were compelled to take upon themselves the office of overseers of the poor were very harshly treated; it was clear that they could seldom be competent to make out the lists, which they were nevertheless required to make out, and stick upon the church door on two successive Mondays after making them out. They must necessarily employ an attorney; and this consideration added to the justice of the observation, that there never was a bill calculated to be more productive to the lawyers. The Overseers were also required to make a copy of the list, to be perused at any time by persons demanding to see it; and they were also to receive notices in writing of objections to persons being comprehended in the list, as well as of omissions in it. Let it be recollected, that in the country, the Overseers of the poor were farmers, who had their agricultural labours to attend to, who were obliged to go to market, and whose time was necessarily occupied in a variety of other ways; and yet this uncongenial task was to be superadded. But what were these Overseers to do further? They were to send the lists to the High Constable, who was to send them to the Clerk of the Peace, who was to arrange them alphabetically. Let it be recollected, too, that the Clerk of the Peace had no pay, and that this was to be done once a-year. The Clerk of the Peace was to send his lists to the Sheriff. The Sheriff was exceedingly ill used: having appointed a Monday for the nomination, if there appeared to be more than two candidates, he was to appoint 165 Wednesday for the election. What had the Sheriff to do in the intermediate single day? To build fifteen booths (it being provided that no voter should have to go more than fifteen miles to the place of election, although how that could be accomplished in various counties, for instance, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, he could hardly conceive), to appoint fifteen Under-sheriffs, and fifteen Poll-clerks, and to cause fifteen copies to be made of the register—all in one day. Take the neighbourhood of Skipton, Settle, and Harrowgate, and wherever they fixed the position of polling places, it must fall out that in some parts of the county, there would be many freeholders more than fifteen miles distant from any polling-booth. Skipton, for example, was twenty miles from Harrowgate, and sixteen from Settle. It would, therefore, not suit either of them. Blubber Houps, a mere village on the moors, might suit both these places, but would not suit Settle; and Gargrave, a small village between Skipton and Settle, might suit these, but was not within fifteen miles either of Ingleton or Clapham, both towns of some population on the borders of the county. If the Sheriff were to make all these preparations before the day of nomination, and it was to turn out that there was no contest, the expense would fall on himself. He begged leave to say a few words of the Barristers to be appointed under the Bill. He confessed that he should be surprised if a sufficient number of Barristers could be found to carry the objects of the Bill into effect. The risk they would run was great. If they acted wrong, or were even suspected of doing wrong, they would be exposed, first to the decision of a Committee of that House, who might award costs and penalties against them; secondly, to an action brought, for damages before a Jury by the party professing to be aggrieved; and thirdly, to a qui tam action by a common informer, who might recover 500l. Thus the Barrister would be subject to three fines. Then as to the appointment of the Barristers; if the younger members of the Bar were what they were when he knew them better, he thought few gentlemen would be found to accept situations under the Bill. Their duties must be performed between the 10th of October and the 25th of November. Now, the Quarter Sessions began early in October, 166 and Term on the 2nd of November. To accept situations under the Bill, Barristers must, therefore, give up the Quarter Sessions and Term. None would do that but those utterly without experience, and utterly unqualified. He therefore thought that it was impossible that the profession could furnish a sufficient number of competent members for the purpose. The Bill appeared to him to be a receipt for stirring up the people, and keeping them in a constant state of agitation. Suppose they could not find a sufficient number of Barristers, how was the Bill to be carried into effect? Let the House also look to the probable elections for large towns. By examining the population returns, it appeared that more than a third of the voters in Manchester to be created by the Bill, would be householders of between 10l. and 20l. The Representatives therefore, of that most important, interesting, and opulent town, would be chosen by the working classes. Such, he conceived, would be the case in all great manufacturing towns. It was a different thing in small towns, not manufacturing. In such a place, for instance, as Richmond, in Yorkshire, a man worth 1,500l. a-year might probably inhabit a house of 10l. a year. But in large manufacturing towns it was clear that the Members would be chosen, and in many cases with mistaken views of their own interest, by the working classes. And when it was considered how much the manufacturing exceeded the agricultural classes in activity and perseverance, they might soon expect, that the Corn-laws would be repealed, and that the first blow to all property, the confiscation of the property of the Church, would soon be given. He had trespassed long upon the patience of the House; but feeling that the proposed measure was pregnant with danger to all those institutions which they had been accustomed to hear spoken of with praise, he should have been guilty of a neglect of his public duty if he had not strongly protested against its adoption.
§ Lord Morpeth
would not trouble the House long; for if he had been unwilling to arrest the progress of the Bill by any observations, he was still less disposed now to retard its triumph. He would, however, make one or two remarks; but would not enter into the details which the hon. and learned Gentleman had treated with that ingenuity of which he was so 167 great a master, although not with that extreme shortness which he complimented himself by anticipating in the early part of his speech. He regretted that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not attended the Committee on the Bill, where the details into which he had that night entered would have been perfectly in place. A new line of assertion and attitude of hostility had been taken by the opponents of the measure;—not, by the hon. and learned Gentleman, he was too able a tactitian; but by those who were more impetuous in their temperament, both in and out of the House. They founded their hopes of annihilating the Bill upon this ground:—Not having been able to strangle it in its cradle, or to change it at nurse; as it had arrived at a state of manhood unaltered, they hit upon the device of asserting that there was a re-action in the country respecting it. From the position which he had the honour to hold, he was brought into contact with large bodies of the people and with divers interests. In the progress of the measure, it had been his effort to discourage, rather than to stir up, the general dissatisfaction which was provoked by the tardiness of the movements of the House; fearing, as he did, that the free discussion which undoubtedly ought to take place on all questions of importance, might be interrupted. But he would take upon himself to say, that the feelings of the people of this country, either in their general desire for Reform, or in their wish for this Bill in particular, had experienced no such re-action. Tired, sated, and worn, the public mind might be, and no wonder, by the eternal repetitions, and by the tautological criticism, which had taken place, not only on the most prominent, but on the most insignificant parts of the Bill; and more on the latter than on the former. Of fatigue there was much—of disgust there was some; but of re-action there was none. Let those who thought the fate of the Peerage wrapt up in the fate of Gallon, or the fate of the Monarchy involved in that of Old Sarum; or who believed that the majority of that House were a band of conspirators whose object was the destruction of the Constitution, continue to think so; but let them not think that the people of England were changed, or that they were disposed to forego their settled purpose to obtain a Reform in Parliament. How inconsistent was the course pursued by their opponents! 168 First, they represented the country as indifferent to Reform, and then they declared that the people were so obstinately attached to it, that they would not be satisfied with the present Bill, but would press for ulterior measures. First, they imputed languor to the people; and then immediately charged them with over-activity and love of mischief. In one breath they asserted that the country viewed the proposed change with indifference, and were quite ready to acquiesce in things remaining as they were; and then they declared that it would be impossible to satisfy the country, even after the abuses complained of had been removed, and the benefits wished for had been conferred. It had become fashionable (and the hon. and learned Gentleman had complied with the mode) to disparage manufacturing and commercial bodies, and to attribute to them undue motives. No classes of men, however, were better capable of estimating the rights of property and the value of order. The congregation of men in large masses was in his opinion, better calculated to elicit truth than error. His hon. and learned friend began with stating, that the manufacturing classes would commence by attacking Church property, and would end by attacking every kind of property. Now, any attempt at such wholesale public robbery would affect the interests of the commercial classes more than those of any other portion of the community. His hon. and learned friend had painted in glowing colours the danger of that House becoming the organ of measures purely popular; but his hon. friend had not adverted to the propriety of allowing any interest to have its due influence in the Slate. This Bill would give Representatives to the towers of Belvoir and the demesnes of Lowther, in conjunction with the looms of Manchester and the forges of Sheffield. He hoped the qualification was high enough to secure due consideration for property and order, and that it was not too high to be attained by the humblest of an industrious population. The Bill would, therefore, give to industry and integrity at once an excitement and a reward. He would not, however, go into the details of the measure which had been so long before the House. He would only express a hope, that the expectations which it had excited would not be disappointed by any fraud, or soured by any unnecessary opposition. He knew that there were 169 some persons blind to the imposing spectacle, and deaf to the harmony of an united people. But he was glad that a majority so disposed was not to be found in that Assembly. He hoped that the same feeling would appear in that ancient and honoured Aristocracy, which had hitherto supported the struggles of freedom; which had contributed to give the people Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, and Catholic Emancipation. He could see no solid ground for any apprehension arising from the adoption of the measure. It would not remove one security for honour; it would not hold out one temptation to vice; it would not destroy one incentive to virtue. What they waged war against was corruption; and by destroying it, he trusted that the Legislature would regain that confidence on the part of the people, which alone could enable them to act in a manner consistent with the happiness and dignity of the country. He would not trespass longer upon the House. He hoped that, under the blessing of Almighty God, they would never rue the hour when, listening to the petitions of the people, they would give their sanction to a measure, the effect of which would be to, unite the kingdom, from one end of it to the other, in one feeling of concord and harmony.
§ Mr. Pemberton
said, that if upon this momentous question the most experienced and respected Members of the House found it necessary to apologize for claiming its attention, it was impossible that he could presume to do so without asking for their utmost indulgence. In contemplating the question as it now stood before them, he thought it impossible that any mind could fail to be astonished at the course which had been taken by the proposers and the supporters of this Bill. When such an unexampled change in the institutions of a country was proposed to be made, it appeared to him to be a natural and unavoidable duty of those who proposed it, in the first place, to point out the defects in the old system, which constituted the necessity of the change, and then to shew in what manner the defects of the old system would be corrected and removed by the new one. In the course of the debate upon this measure, they had, indeed, heard much of corruption, of close boroughs, and of the scandal of Peers nominating the Members of that House; but of how those abuses 170 and those scandals were to be remedied by the Bill they had heard just nothing, They were told that there were places with a large number of inhabitants without Representatives, while smaller places with few inhabitants returned Members to Parliament. Now, he could understand this as a grievance if the only object of the Representation was that of numbers, and if property, intelligence, and the common interests of the mass of society were not entitled or intended to be represented in the House of Commons. But if the latter were the legitimate objects of Representation, then he would say, let any man look round that assembly and tell him what class in the community was not represented by some of its Members? Was it the agricultural, the commercial, the manufacturing, the colonial, the military, the naval, or the professional? or were they not all in some way, or through some competent organ or efficient channel, represented or protected? He would ask what individual was there, not only in this country, but in the almost boundless empire which she has extended to the remotest parts of the world—what individual was there, to the lowest bondsman, down to the negro slave, who, if he had a complaint to make, real or imaginary, would not find in that House a hundred tongues ready to give it utterance, and make it heard? If such, then, had been the practical working of the system which had been so long established in the country, if all these good effects had been produced by its operation, was it wise, he would ask, that they should look too curiously into the machine, with a view of detecting imperfections in the construction? And if this had been the result of the old system, what was to be expected from the new? Could it be expected that two systems, one professing to be the opposite to the other, could produce the same effects? Could they reasonably expect that the same varied provision for all the diversified interests and wants of the community which had been found to arise from their system of anomalies, as it had been called, would also arise, as the emergencies or enterprise of the country demanded them, from this system, based on the dullest uniformity? And if a change so extensive, and at least capable of leading to the most disastrous consequences, were to be adopted at all, was it to be at a time when the whole of continental 171 Europe was convulsed, and when the ground was rocking under our feet in our own island? As he understood it, an ostensible principle of the Bill was, that the Representation should be placed in the hands of two opposing classes, and in two only—the manufacturing and the agricultural. He understood it to be the expectation of the movers of the Bill, that in towns as in counties the Members returned should be the Representatives of the places with which they were locally connected. This would have the effect, then, of throwing the Representation into the possession of the landed and manufacturing interests, to the exclusion of all others. Those classes might be satisfied with such a system; but what would be the ultimate feeling of other parties when they found themselves deprived of the benefits which they had derived from the Constitution? He would ask the hon. Alderman, the member for the city of London—and he had a great respect for the members for the City—he would ask the hon. Member, whether even he would think it well that the House of Commons should be composed exclusively of aldermen. It had been said, and in his mind justly, that the tendency of the Bill was to disturb the balance of power in the different branches of the Legislature. Control was the essence of Government; and there was too much reason to doubt that, if the people, merely because it had been suggested strongly to them by particular parties in politics to make a demand for a particular concession, were to be always indulged, any man would be found hereafter to guide with firmness the helm of the State. Little might be anticipated from the labours of any Legislature which, like that to be formed under the Reform Bill, must be so tremblingly alive to the wishes and the will of their constituents. Wretched indeed must be that Government which could not distinguish between the will of the people and the clamour of the mob. It had been well observed—E'en nations sink by darling schemes depressed.But it was said, that the balance of the Constitution had already been destroyed by the increased influence of the aristocracy. This was asserted; but what proof was adduced in support of this assertion? The House would well remember the time when nothing was more common than to hear of the increasing 172 influence of the Crown in that House. Only a few years had passed since they adopted a very memorable resolution upon the subject, and within a very few years it was very much the fashion to attribute many evils to the same cause. But what was the fact now? In the whole of these protracted debates, in the course of which many extreme and exaggerated opinions had, no doubt, been expressed on both sides, not one man had been found bold or extravagant enough to assert, that the influence of the Crown was now increasing. And so it was of the aristocracy. What man would be found to say in the face of the late elections that the aristocratic power in that House was becoming dangerous to the Constitution? He should like to know whether it would be said that the aristocracy of the country were favourable to the measure in the same proportion as the Members of that House? Let that question be answered by the Members for the universities, who might be said, emphatically, to represent the education and the intelligence of the country. Were they, or even a majority of them, in favour of the measure? How then was the aristocracy to have its just influence upon the legislation of the country? Was it in a House of Peers, which was not to be allowed to exercise an unbiassed judgment of its own without being threatened to be borne down by popular violence? He was not blind to some defects—he should perhaps rather call them eye-sores—in the Constitution. But he would rather keep that Constitution, with all its theoretic defects and all its practical blessings, than cast it away to gamble for a new one in the lottery of revolutions. Amongst the means which had been adopted with a view to influence the decision of that House, there was one which he had heard addressed to them with humiliation and shame, and it was this:—They had been told that, be the measure what it might, good or bad, they must pass it, for fear of the danger which would attend its rejection. With shame and humiliation he had known a British House of Commons submit to hear such a proposition. They were told that they must pass a law, even of which their consciences might disapprove, in the terror of what might be done by guilty men capable of committing violence upon the established laws and institutions of 173 the country, or by the far guiltier, who were capable of inciting others to violence which they dared not themselves to commit. But was this all the danger of which they might incur a risk? Were those who called upon them to avoid the danger of rejecting this Bill prepared to guarantee them against the danger that, would arise from the passing of the Bill, after the people had found how cruelly it had disappointed the hopes and expectations which its authors had taught them to cherish? From it they expected to be relieved from the payment of taxes, to have the price of bread much reduced by the repeal of the Corn-laws, and to be released from the burthen of tithes, besides other disagreeable engagements which they might understand according to their own convenience and circumstances. What, then, was to guard the House against a re-action of public feeling when the people found that these things did not happen, and which he knew could not happen, unless all the pledges solemnly given to that House by his Majesty's Government should first be violated? And if those pledges were violated, and the property of the Church suffered to be invaded, then the next step in the career of Reform would be the plunder of the funds. He believed, however, that his Majesty's Ministers would keep their pledges, that they would do their duty, and resist the completion of that which they had begun. But the moment they should stop in their course, what would be the consequence? That moment they would cease to be leaders. That moment those who now swelled the ranks of his Majesty's Ministers, those upon whose support this measure would have been carried, would go forward in the course, of which they had declared the measure to be a step. And then, in the same spirit of terror, the House would be called upon to concede Universal Suffrage, which would then mean universal plunder. Then his Majesty's present Ministers would no doubt exchange places with them (the Opposition), and attempt to stand in the breach which they themselves had made against as desperate a crew as ever rushed to crime and rapine over ruined thrones and desecrated altars. Believing as he did, that these must be the ultimate results of the course on which the Government had embarked, he could not in his conscience consent to the 174 means they had proposed for reforming the Representation in that House; and if in the means he saw objections of so powerful a nature, there was certainly nothing in the times which they had chosen calculated to reconcile the change to his mind. He would not go further into the subject, or enter at all into its details, at that late stage. The fatal decree had gone forth as far as that House had the power to declare it; but there was another place in which the rights and the institutions of the country had ever found their dauntless and unflexible defenders. "And if," continued the hon. and learned Gentleman, "the Barons of England inherit with their titles the spirit of their forefathers—they will dare to tell their Sovereign and the people that they will not have the laws of England changed. Upon that hope we now rely; but if that hope fails us, and this mighty change in the Constitution shall be effected, then, when they shall witness the unhappy accomplishments of their predictions, it will be at least, the consolation of those who have opposed this measure, through a contest of unexampled difficulty, in the face of an overwhelming majority within the walls of this House, and in spite of the taunts and reproaches which have been heaped upon them from without—then it will be their proud and lasting consolation that they stood up for the interests of the Crown and of the people in the last House of Commons that was ever assembled in England."
said, that during the progress of this Bill through the Committee, he for one had too earnestly desired its success to interfere with any observations, except upon the single clause in which he was particularly interested; but now that it had reached its present final stage, he wished to say a few words upon the history of the last eight weeks. Gentlemen, need not be afraid of his troubling them at any length, he should scarcely even allow himself to be tempted to go into the principle of the Bill. What language was it that the supporters of the Bill were met with at the commencement of these proceedings? They were told, that a measure of this momentous character could never be fitly debated, or fairly settled, in a Parliament of which a majority was alleged to have entered this House bound hand and foot to the Bill, and nothing but the Bill. And now were they not told, that these very 175 majorities had so cut down, and changed, and maltreated the measure, that its best friends could scarcely recognize it again? He agreed with neither of these assertions; he utterly dissented from both; but he asked, whether the one did not afford a complete refutation of the other? They were told, that they ought to hear counsel for Appleby, for that otherwise foul wrong would be done to a set of innocent boroughs, if their fate were to depend upon the caprice of the Government, and if such a mass of venerable Representation was suffered to die unheard; had it died unheard—had this supposed caprice of Government carried all blindly before it? or had not nineteen alterations been allowed to be made in the original schedules of A and B? They were told, that in the conduct of the disfranchisement part of the Bill, his Majesty's Government had done a monstrous thing, by taking a census long gone by, and legislating in 1831 upon the standard of 1821. Now, what said the Returns? From them it appeared, that if the census of 1831 had been taken as the guide, seven boroughs might have been saved out of ninety-seven—seven boroughs, whose total amount of assessed taxes in 1830 did not exceed one-seventh of that paid by one single borough in schedule D. They might have saved, then, these seven boroughs. They might have saved them, perhaps, at the expense of seven populous and wealthy towns: but he asked whether, if they had so saved them, they should have gained anything on the score of consistency or expediency? and whether, by so saving them, they should have adhered more closely than they now had to the preamble and spirit of the Bill? They were told, when they came to the question of enfranchisement, that it was monstrous so to adjust the Representation as to overpower the southern division of England with the new and overwhelming weight given to the northern. The House can hardly have forgotten how, at the commencement of schedule B, now some weeks ago, the evening's entertainment was ushered in by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, with a lecture on the map, in which he divided England, with considerable ceremony, into two great portions, and sounded on the map the loud note of alarm to the southern district, and proclaimed to the agricultural interest of England, that, by this Bill, it would be utterly sacrificed to the manufacturing 176 interest. The right hon. Baronet's proposition he well remembered was this—"that this Bill gave an immense preponderance to the northern, or manufacturing district, and greatly and unduly lessened the weight and importance of the southern district, which comprised the chief agricultural counties of England." Now he (Lord Newark) must confess, that the solemnity of the right hon. Baronet's address, and his appeal to the fears and sympathies of the ill-used and soon to be overwhelmed southern district, powerfully arrested his attention. He would not say, that it gave him any qualms for schedule B, upon which they were then on the point of entering; and he could not say, that it excited in his mind any of those regrets for schedule A, with which the speech of the right hon. Baronet himself overflowed; but though it did not produce exactly these effects, still he could not hear this monstrous and undue preponderance asserted by such high authority, without feeling a disposition to inquire a little how the fact really stood, and whether his Majesty's Ministers had indeed so unskilfully trimmed the balance as to sacrifice the southern to the northern district of England. Now, how stood the facts with respect to this terrible preponderance, as proposed by the Bill? He was not going to enter into any details; but he would state to the House, in a few words, how the fact did stand. The right hon. Baronet had divided England, as far as his division goes, fairly enough; in his northern division he had eighteen counties to twenty-two in the southern; and upon a comparison of these two divisions by the three several tests of extent, population, and wealth, it appeared that the northern division was to the southern, in extent, as twenty-four to twenty-six; in population, as about five-and-a-half to six; and in wealth, as about twenty-three to twenty-eight. He (Lord Newark) was aware, that the valuation of 1815, from which the comparison as to wealth had been taken could not be called a very sure guide for 1831; but the House would recollect, that the present question was not one of aggregate amount, but of proportion only—of proportion between these two great divisions of the country; and he thought it would be admitted, either that the increase of wealth in these two great divisions, since 1815, had preserved the same proportion as then existed; or 177 else, that if either of these two divisions had increased in wealth in a greater ratio than the other, it was the northern or manufacturing district which had done so, rather than the southern or agricultural: in which case it would have so much the better title to a preponderance of Members. Here, then, they had the three tests—extent, population, and wealth. In extent, the northern was to the southern as twenty-four to twenty-six; in population, as five-and-a-half to six; and in wealth, as twenty-three to twenty-eight. They had only to apply these facts to the proposed adjustment of the Representation, and they would see what would become of the right hon. Baronet's "terrible preponderance." It appeared, then, that, the Bill gave to the northern division 196 Members—viz. sixty-seven county, and 129 borough Members; and that it gave to the southern 248 Members—viz. seventy-seven county, and 171 borough Members. Now, with these facts before them, he asked, what became of the monstrous preponderance of the northern division? So far from there being any preponderance at all in favour of the north, the fact was, that the southern division had seventeen or eighteen more Members allotted to it than it would be entitled to, either in proportion to its extent, population, or wealth; and, to make the thing perfect, they only wanted some Gentleman to get up on behalf of the northern district, and complain of the undue favour shown to the southern by the allotment, to it of these seventeen Members more than its just and fair proportion. There would be this difference then, that if any Gentleman did so, the facts of the case would bear him out. He begged pardon of the House for having been tempted to enter into these details, but he must plead this as an excuse, that any assertion coming from the right hon. Baronet carried with it such high authority as to make him (Lord Newark) anxious, that those whose attention might not happen to have been directed to this part of the subject, should not be misled by that high authority. Then next came the division of counties, the project for colonial Representation and the motion to admit tenants-at-will to vote. Upon the two former of these questions the cloven foot of opposition peeped out in rather an amusing way. The division of counties—rather a conservative enactment one should have thought—was opposed, might and main, by two 178 great legal authorities, the declared and strenuous advocates of the influence of property and the nomination system; and the project for direct Representation for the colonies was, on the other hand, supported by a long string, not of Reformers, but of the very able and consistent Antireforming advocates of virtual Representation. Now, one word upon this subject of the colonies. He should be glad to know whether it was by schedules A and B that they had been hitherto represented? He believed, upon inquiry, it would be found, certainly not in a great measure—and if so, why then what, became of the great, and serious, and novel difficulty which this Bill was to create in that respect? He had a list of Members connected with the colonies who sat in the last Parliament, which, perhaps, it was better to take than the present, since it could not be said that they were elected under any circumstances of excitement, which might have had the effect of making the return of persons so connected less probable. They had, clear of either schedule, and wholly independent of A or B, the Members for Bucks, Sandwich, Rochester, Cricklade, Dumfries, Bridgewater, Wexford borough, and perhaps they might add Bristol and Kirkcudbright; whilst in A and B together, Hythe, Old Sarum, and Malmesbury, were the only instances, as far as he was aware. He thought this simple fact outweighed a good many of those denunciations against the Bill which were founded upon the supposed forlorn and unprovided condition of the colonies under the proposed system. Of the great features of the Bill, there was one which he had left unnoticed-the 10l. franchise. Did hon. Gentlemen recollect the cry with which this 10l. franchise was received when first brought forward? He perfectly remembered they heard of nothing but its dangerous uniformity, the perils of a centralization of power, and the fatal error of lodging the entire political control of the State in the hands of a single class. This was what they said at a distance, and this did for some time; but when these clauses came to be discussed, what then? Why, the alleged uniformity became a detected fallacy, and with infinite promptitude they gave it up, and turned round upon them (the Reform party) for creating, as they said, Universal Suffrage in one place, and a close corporation of ten-pounders in another. As a looker-on he could not 179 but admire these tactics: as a well-wisher of Reform, he might be permitted to turn them to account. And now, in this eleventh hour, as it had been called, of the struggle, all he would ask of his opponents was, to apply this versatility which they had shown in objecting to the details, to their final consideration of the measure as a whole. Let them acknowledge, though in another form, their own dear conservative principle as the genius that has presided over this Bill; let them point to their victory recently gained (short-sighted as he thought the proposition was, upon which that victory was founded), but let them point to that victory, as a proof that the voice of the landowners was not utterly powerless in that House, and that the power of dictation will not perhaps be quite extinct in the country—let them cease to make common cause with the pot-wallopers; and may that victory revive their sinking hopes of a continuance of the monarchy! But let Reformers recollect, that the great advantage they have gained was, that in meeting henceforward the demands of the unreasonable part of the community, they would be able, if this Bill passed, to appeal to the reasonable. Could they do this before, with such abuses staring them in the face, and forcing as it were, the well-disposed alike and the ill-disposed part of the people into an unnatural combination against a power governing by such means? But now they would be able to make this appeal, for they would have ground to take, that was maintainable by reason; and he trusted they would maintain it. It was this paramount consideration, and no vague desire of change, no love for any set of men, but a wish to get the sound part of society on their side against the unsound—this it was, he could truly say, that had made him a Reformer.
§ Sir John Malcolm
If they who are in the frequent habit of addressing the House with so much eloquence feel it necessary, on rising on such an occasion, to appeal to its indulgence in discussing this subject, how much more necessary must it be for me to do so, who am unpractised in debate, and little in the habit of addressing this or any other public assembly. I present myself to the House, therefore, with no other recommendation than that which attaches to one who endeavours in plain words to express what he feels deeply and sincerely. Art and eloquence form no 180 part of my oratory; but notwithstanding, I shall never hesitate to address the House whenever the interests of those with whom I have been connected during the greater part of an active life, are involved in any question before it. The subject of the Representation of India, has been frequently mentioned by me in the course of the debate on this question of Reform, and I had it in contemplation to have brought forward a specific motion upon it, and should have done so had I not clearly seen there was no hope of success—and I am not one of those who, in the absence of all prospect of attaining their object, can derive any gratification from embarrassing the House or creating delay. But I must be anxious to express, and to place on record at this moment, my sentiments upon points which possess, in my mind, an importance not inferior to any that have engaged the attention of this House. Sir, the effect of the demolition of the present system of Representation, will be, in many respects, injurious to the great empire of India. It cannot be doubted, that when the change which Ministers propose has been effected, it will be next to impossible for those who have attained a knowledge of that empire, by actual residence in it, to find a way into this House as they have done hitherto: conceiving, however, from what occurred on a former occasion, that it is useless to make any attempt to induce Ministers to supply the defect at this period, I can only recommend it to their future and most serious attention. I intended to trouble the House with few, if any, observations upon the character of the great measure it is now proposed to pass. But the observations of the noble Lord, the member for Yorkshire, and some others, on the present occasion, require me to say something on the part I have taken in the discussions on this Bill. I have had no desire—nor have I seen any desire in others—to create delay by an eternity of debate. I assure the House that, from first to last, I have acted upon grounds which I honestly and conscientiously felt to be just; and I must say, that the opinions which I formerly expressed upon the measure have been confirmed by all that I have heard during its progress. I admit that change in the existing system of our Representation, in some degree, is required; but I tremble—I can use no other word—at the extent to which this change is proposed to be carried. The experience of 181 my life has made me fear to speculate with the destinies of any country—and above all, with the destinies of my own, on the condition of which, at this epoch, the fate of Europe depends. I cannot but think that the warmest advocates of this measure must be of opinion with me, that if ever there was a period in the history of England, or of the civilized world, at which it was necessary to avoid any proceedings calculated to diminish the security, or withdraw the protection, necessary to guard the various interests of the State, the present is that period. The accumulation of property in this country, which, though greater here than in any other in the world, is also more widely and more generally distributed, comes not from the favour of Sovereigns, and is not gained by means that injure others. Those means by which individuals in England are enriched benefit the State. Wealth, and great wealth, is attained by inventive genius—by talent—by superior industry and perseverance—and by commercial enterprise. With regard to the Aristocracy of England—against which, as well as masses of property, as a misleading Press terms them, I am sorry to see that a feeling of hostility exists in some quarters—it is unlike that of any country in the world. It is of no caste—men of all ranks, even the lowest, may fairly aspire to enter this high grade through services in the navy or army, through the law or other channels, or by the attainment of property to an amount that gives them a consequence in the community which entitles them to be so elevated. At present, Sir, all the institutions of the country are framed to protect this order of things. In short, as there is no man in the country by whom property and rank may not be attained, so there is no man to whom they are not secured. What more can be desired in any civilized nation in the universe? That defects exist, which it may be possible to remedy, no one can attempt to deny; but I maintain that, if ever there was a moment at which it was necessary to make the remedy for those defects as moderate as possible, lest it should endanger that to which it professes to give additional security, this is that moment, for all the civilized world is convulsed, and danger threatens in every quarter. These are the sentiments and impressions by which I have been actuated throughout the whole of the discussion on this Bill, and which have induced me— 182 although I admit that many of its provisions may be good—to resist it, on the whole, as a measure which I think most hazardous to the peace and prosperity of my country. The prevailing discontent which, in the course of the debates on this question, has been so frequently alluded to, has, in my opinion, been directed to objects which it is the duty of those in power to defend and uphold, not for their own sakes only, but for the sake of the people themselves; and, when I say the people, I mean all ranks and classes of the people, high and low. Should this Bill be carried, that discontent will not, I am convinced, be diminished, because it will disappoint the hopes which it has raised, and which I am sure it can never realize. The noble Lord, the member for Yorkshire, has commented strongly on the fallacious hope entertained on this side of the House, of a re-action of opinion among the people regarding this Bill, I am not one of those who build much on such a feeling. The re-action I expect and dread is, when this Bill comes into operation-when all the excited and cherished anticipations of those who have so loudly clamoured for its adoption will end in disappointment. Why will the people be disappointed? Because the Bill will bring with it none of those benefits which a great proportion of them anticipated. Besides, they cannot understand the Bill in its various details; and these in so large a measure, and one so dependent for success on working well, are more important than the principle. No man can understand this Bill; the most eminent lawyers in the House have differed upon the meaning, as well as probable operation, of its details every night. Ministers themselves, seem, from their frequent alterations and amendments, not clearly to comprehend them; and, as for myself, I fairly confess my own utter incapacity to understand many points of this Bill. That a change, and a great change, will be effected by it, every one must perceive; but it is precisely that change which I fear. My hon. and learned friend who opened this debate spoke of sects. This Bill, in my opinion, besides other aids, has that of a sect, which I must denominate "political puritans," who expect, that this measure will work a miraculous change, among other wonders, in the nature and character of those for whose benefit it is intended—that a constituency of 20,000, including voters paying only 3s. 10d. 183 a-week for lodgings, will be free, independent and virtuous; and that, on giving their votes, the good of their country will be the leading motive. They who maintain such opinions make no allowance for the interests, the feelings, and the passions of men; but I must state, in opposition to such a creed, my firm conviction, that this and every measure must fail where these are not made a primary consideration. The noble Lord, the member for Yorkshire, has said, that this Bill has one remarkable feature—that it provides well for the Representation of all the large and leading interests of the country. Now, I deny that fact. There is not a larger or a more leading interest connected with this country, than that of the great empire of India, and yet this Bill does not provide for its Representation by one single individual competent to the task. However, I do not now wish to press the subject of Indian Representation in such a manner as to assume the appearance of an attack upon this Bill. My only object, in coming forward on this occasion, is, to discharge the duty which I feel I owe, not only to the large body of people with whom I have been so long connected in our eastern dominions, but to my country; for in advocating the interests of India, I advocate many of the largest and most substantial interests of England. In order to obtain aid in the protection of these interests, I must say, that if this Bill should pass into a law, a measure must hereafter be proposed for the purpose of giving to this House some Members who are competent to give it information, opinions, and aid, on all subjects connected with India. I am, Sir, one of those Anti-reform Members who have been alluded to as supporting the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex, for giving Representatives to the colonies; but although I concurred with him in the principle of his motion, I differed entirely from him (so far as our eastern possessions were concerned) with respect to its details. India cannot be classified with the colonies—it has not one feature in common with them—it is a subject empire—it stands alone; and its unequalled extent, wealth, and population, demand for it the most serious, and the most careful consideration, on its own distinct grounds. Viewing the character and condition of this empire as I do, I consider it impossible that a constituent body can, in any shape whatever, be formed—at 184 least within any probable period of time—to return Members to this House; and principally for this reason—that its population have not freedom, nor are they yet in a state, moral or political, to understand or enjoy its benefits. A proposition of the nature of that brought forward by the hon. member for Middlesex, is not, therefore, applicable to India; because it would have the effect of giving the elective franchise to a portion of 1,000,000 only out of 80,000,000, and would leave the remaining 79,000,000 in the same situation as at present, without any voice in the British Legislature. But I shall not dwell upon this proposition. When the inhabitants of India are in a state to claim freedom, its first exercise will be to dispense with their foreign rulers; and with regard to any plan for the constituency at the Presidencies, I have shown before how separated their inhabitants are in habits, character, and opinions, from those of the interior provinces whose sentiments they could never speak, and whose interests they could never represent. The hon. Member for Middlesex, on a former occasion, made some observations well worthy of the most serious consideration of this House, and the more so as being the sentiments of a sincere friend to this Bill of Reform. I consider the hon. Member to have stated in effect:—"One of the greatest and most striking objections to this Bill is, that when it comes into operation, the same means will not exist for enabling gentlemen connected with the colonies to obtain seats." The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before admitted the force of this objection as relating to India. I must, before I offer any suggestion to his Majesty's Ministers, state the data upon which my plan is grounded. There are employed in the public service in India—
The whole of the civil branch of this immense country is administered by less than 1,000 public officers. The annual export of mind, if I may use such a term to an empire governed through a commercial company, is, of all classes, nearly 500. These are all liberally educated, 185 and some are obliged to undergo very strict examinations before they proceed to India, and the regulations of the service abroad compel them to attain competence before they can succeed to high stations. The cases of return of all the classes I have named from India, is, on an average, between forty and fifty annually. Civil and military officers seldom return under a period of twenty-two years (during which they are allowed three years' furlough), as they are then entitled to their pensions, on which, and the small additional means they may have acquired (for I have before said, the race of nabobs is extinct), they settle themselves in their own country in the enjoyment of competence: but almost all, including those of the highest talent, and most active and enlightened minds, seeing the doors of ambition closed upon them, will lapse into idleness, and the country will lose the benefit of that information and ability which are essential to the good Government of India. This remark applies to all classes in India, but more particularly to those persons whose high duties have protracted their residence abroad, till they have lost that connexion and influence in their native country which might entitle them to enter into public life here, on their return. Of public officers in India, it may be asserted, that there are at least 100 filling the highest situations of confidence and authority in the civil, political, and judicial lines of the service—some aiding in the councils, if they do not hold the reins of government—others having the sole administration, I will not say of provinces, but of kingdoms. These possess all the information which could be required as to the state of our eastern empire; many of them are endowed with a large share of talent, knowledge, and judgment; and, as individuals, when they return to England, are qualified beyond all others, to aid in promoting the true interests of their country, by pointing out the mode in which the feelings of affection and confidence in the minds of the people of India may be best cherished and preserved. But unless the rays of royal favour reach those who have distinguished themselves in India, as they have done with the happiest effect since the Order of the Bath was instituted—unless able men, who distinguish themselves in the civil and political line, be rewarded, as well as 186 the military—ambition will not be excited: and unless persons of superior character and attainments are stimulated by every motive to keep alive in a distant land their love of their country, and to cherish hopes of future distinction, you will destroy a spirit to which you must be indebted for most efficient aid, if you desire to continue in prosperity the vast possessions subject to British rule in India. It is sometimes said, that there are not in India men qualified to become the Representatives of that empire in the British Parliament. I say, search the market, and you will have a supply—and, I will add, an ample and a rich supply;—but there are other considerations at the present moment that require every care and notice. You must give encouragement to the public servants in India:—measures of economy recently adopted have greatly diminished their prospects of acquiring fortune. When one powerful motive to action is taken away from the human mind, another must be given, if we expect to stimulate men to useful and great exertions. I myself was an instrument in carrying into effect some of the recent reductions which have been made—I willingly sacrificed my local popularity at the shrine of my duty;—but at that very time I gave the suffering parties the hope that their case would meet with attention; and I told them, that if ever I obtained a seat in the British Parliament I would become their advocate. This promise I shall faithfully fulfil, and while I have a seat in this House (which may not be long) I shall lose no opportunity in bringing their claims under notice. Sir, I regret much that no Indian budget is now brought forward: except on the occurrence of war, or some such other great event, India is never mentioned in this House: nothing can be more depressing to those who have served their country abroad. The plan I mean to suggest will, in some degree, remedy this evil. Representatives of the Indian interests in this House will give and collect information: they will be at times an aid, and at others a proper and constitutional check upon his Majesty's Ministers and the Court of Directors. An hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, on a former occasion when this subject was mentioned, spoke of the nabob of Arcot's Members sitting in this House. Had the hon. Baronet, whom I am glad to see in his place, followed the 187 history of India with the same attention that he doubtless has that of his own country, he would have been aware, that he might as well have recurred to the times of Queen Elizabeth for precedents upon which to frame the Bill of Reform; for certainly England has not changed more within the last 200 years than, I am happy to say, India has within the last fifty. I should have deemed the measure I mean to suggest expedient, had the present Bill not been brought forward;—for, the recent increase of our dominions in India, the rapid intercourse which is likely to be established with that country, combined with other causes, demand our employment of every possible means for its good government; but I should have hesitated, lest I might be accused of injuring by innovation the long-established fabric of the Constitution—but now, when the mansion is cast down, and a new one is to be built of raw and untried materials, and of which the frame is so constructed, that the door of entrance for Members who have a knowledge of India, which was before sufficiently narrow, is now almost wholly closed,—what was expedient has become urgent:—but I shall now request the attention of the House to some details. [Calls of "Question, question!"] I am not surprised that those who cry "question," and who have shewn, by similar impatience on former occasions, how little interest they take in the concerns of their own country, should be indifferent to those of India. But as it is probable that they, even, may have relations and friends who must be deeply interested in anything that we do upon such a subject as that now under our consideration, I think upon that ground, if upon no other, it would be becoming these Gentlemen at least to favour us with their silence if not with their attention. My friend, the hon. Baronet, the member for Malmesbury (Sir Charles Forbes) said justly, that when five months were given to discussions about what he deemed a dangerous change in the Representation of the counties, the towns, and the boroughs of England, it was hard not to give five minutes to questions involving the peace and prosperity of the empire of India:—but I shall proceed, and I trust without further interruption, to recommend, for I do not intend to submit any motion, a plan to the consideration of his Majesty's Ministers for the representation of the interests 188 of India. I should deem twelve years' residence in India a necessary qualification to entitle an individual to exercise the functions of a Representative, because, after that period he is, if a civil servant, by law eligible to be of the council, and consequently, maybe supposed to have had sufficient opportunity of acquiring competent information and knowledge of India. This period may appear long, when applied to lawyers and commercial men of eminence who might be candidates, but the object is specific, and the qualification is adapted to it;—such persons, if in India for a shorter period, would not have broken those ties of family interests and links of connexion with friends which would enable them to enter Parliament through other channels. I would recommend that the constituency should be formed of the proprietors of the East India Company, the male part of which (I am sorry to exclude the ladies) consists of about 2,000 individuals, none of whom can possibly have less than 100l. a year, and who, I believe, on the whole, would be found to average at least from 400l. to 500l. a year. This, too, I will venture to say, that a more independent class of men, or a body more generally free from party and prejudiced feelings could not be found. The stake they have in the prosperity of India is a pledge of their honest performance of this duty. Their election of gentlemen as Directors of the India Company affords a proof of their competence to this duty; and I can affirm on my own observation, that with scarcely a single exception, those who have been distinguished by their personal knowledge of India, from long residence in that country, and by the character they have established, have always, when they came forward to stand for the direction, been welcomed and elected in preference to any others. Within the last twenty-five years I have, indeed, known four or five instances in which persons of the highest respectability have canvassed for the office of a Director of the East-India Company; and, although their general qualifications were admitted by every one, still, on the return of individuals from India who had filled high and responsible situations there, and who, by their conduct, had gained the confidence of the people of that country, the proprietors have elected them to the exclusion of those who, as far as respectability, wealth, and general intelligence 189 could go, were eminently qualified for the situation which it was their ambition to attain. If I state, that there is, generally speaking, in this House considerable ignorance of Indian affairs, I mean that term neither in an offensive nor reproachful sense. It cannot be otherwise, for it is quite impossible to expect that many Members should devote so much of their time as is necessary to a thorough knowledge of such a subject;—the obstructions at the very door of which are sufficient to deter most persons from entering upon its study;—but this ignorance has, I fear, led to an erroneous impression in many, that Members brought into Parliament in this way would become the invariable supporters, either of the Government of the day, or of this or that particular political party. I can assure the House, from the most perfect knowledge of the general character of those who would be candidates, that there never was a greater mistake. If a doubt exists upon the point, let the House refer to the printed documents which have been published by some of the able servants of the Company, and they will find, that men of greater talent or higher independence could not be produced, as Members of the British Parliament. My hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, proposed that four Members should be elected for all India, and I should deem that number sufficient. It would not be a question of Members which would determine the merits of this plan; for it is a proposition unconnected with party objects. It would, while it preserved the public interests, animate and stimulate to exertion a great body of individuals, who, though often exiles for a long period from their country, are as warmly attached to it as those who have never quitted its shores. I put it to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a suggestion worthy of his attention, and the more so, when we consider the increased power and the greater action of popular influence on the House of Commons, which must ensue should this Bill pass into a law. The present rapid and easier intercourse between this country and her possessions in India, will, in many respects, be beneficial:—but I regret to say, we may, through the same means, expect more frequent misrepresentation of men and measures from that part of the empire than we have hitherto had; and it is, in my view, absolutely necessary, that persons 190 of knowledge and character, connected with that country, should have an honourable path to this House, in order that we may have one essential means, beyond what we at present possess, to defend the rights and interests of either the governments or the inhabitants of India, should one or other of them be assailed. I should propose, in addition to what I have stated, that the qualification of a candidate should be limited to seven years' residence here, after the return of the individual from India; because that period, I imagine, would be amply sufficient, unless he were indifferent to the matter; and then, besides losing that freshness of knowledge which recommended him, he would probably have settled in England, formed his own connexions, and attained a seat, if he engaged in politics, through means that so long a period would have enabled him to create. There is another consideration, which, in my opinion, calls for particular attention. The moment that the Reform Bill passes, a stimulant will be given to that passion for rash interference with the details of the administration of India, which, from the petitions that have been laid on the Table of this House; from the evidence which has been adduced before its Committees; from all that I have seen and known, for the last twenty-five years of my life—it is obvious is growing up in this country, and which will, when allied to a growing spirit in the Presidencies, be found most difficult to check or control. Schemes of change of system, and innovations on actual establishments will be brought forward; and while honourable and able men, through this Bill, will be denied an open and plain path, another road, more crooked, but leading to the same object, will be within the reach of those, who, from real conviction of personal views, delude cities and towns with crude statements, and deceive them, being perhaps deceived themselves, with promises and hopes of golden harvests in the rich field of India beyond what can ever be realized. This party will of necessity, from the nature of its objects, carry on a party war with the existing Government. I have not the least doubt but that Ministers will be perfectly disposed, perfectly willing, not only now, but hereafter, to defend India as a portion of the empire; but I do doubt, and I must continue to doubt, their power to do so, unless they avail themselves of every aid, and 191 among others I know none more essential than the having in this House a few persons of high and established character, who are acquainted with the history, the government, and the general interests of India, and can speak with the confidence of personal knowledge and observation upon all subjects connected with it. I shall conclude, therefore, with stating, that if this Bill should pass into a law, I do hope this defect will be remedied: if not, I shall deem it a duty to continue to press upon his Majesty's Ministers the necessity of a measure, which, while it will constitute a salutary check on abuses, may, in its consequences, produce that essential ingredient of publicity, without which there can be no good government, and least of all such a government as British India. It will force men who exercise power and influence in Indian affairs to make more frequent statements, and give more explanations than they now do to this House and the public; and this result will entirely remedy that neglect, and almost looked-for indifference with which every question relating to our eastern empire is now treated; but, above all, it will call into action the energy, the intelligence, information, and talent of gentlemen returning from that empire. If these no longer bring gold, as formerly, from that far-famed land, they bring a practised virtue and ability that will prove more beneficial to their country. Open the field to their ambition, and you will have a rich harvest;—close it—and, under the operation of this Bill, you have added to the dangers with which we are threatened at home, a very serious one to the future prosperity of British India.
Civilians 930 Military 5,562 Total, without the Officers of his Majesty's regiments, 6,492 Lawyers, Merchants, and European inhabitants 2077
§ Mr. John Williams
said, the hon. member for Cockermouth(Sir James Scarlett), and the hon. member for Rye (Mr. Pemberton), had entered into very comprehensive panegyrics upon the British Constitution in all its parts—its jurisprudence, its representative system, and he knew not what. His hon. friend, the member for Cockermouth, had asked, where was the precedent upon which they could lay their finger, and what part of the Constitution of our ancestors was it that justified the present measure? But he would ask, amongst all the panegyrics the hon. Member had selected, and amongst the historical writers and foreign jurists to whom he had appealed, where was the writer who had said, that the British 192 Constitution had carefully provided for the return of Members to Parliament from places where there were no constituents, and had avoided places where there was an abundant population? Where was it stated, as an ingredient in the praise bestowed by Blackstone, Montesquieu, and De Lolme, upon the British Constitution, that it carefully provided for the exclusion of Representatives for places having an abundant population? on the contrary, their recommendation of the system of returning the House of Commons was, that it was the express image of the people, and that it spoke the feelings and very voice of the Commons of England. Had his hon. friend forgotten what was said by Mr. Pitt, when a Minister, upon this subject? "Those Gentlemen," said he, "who dwell so much upon the theory and principle of the Constitution, would do well to bear in mind that the excellence of the English Constitution is, that it has been a continued series of changes." What was the stationary point upon which his hon. friend would rely? To what period could he refer for that beautiful state of the Constitution when it required no change? To suppose that there ever was such a time, was to satirize the wisdom of our ancestors, and to make blockheads of them. His hon. and learned friends might be enamoured of the present state of the British Constitution; but what was the opinion of the people? It was contended, indeed, that the enthusiasm of the people for this measure was worn away; he could, however, assure his hon. and learned friend, that the better part of that enthusiasm still existed, and that the country had in nowise flagged in its desire to see the provisions of that Bill the authorized law of the land. It might be very true that his hon. and learned friends were in love with the Constitution of England as it stood; but, at least, they should not take upon themselves to pronounce the opinion of the people of England to be the same, till they were ready to bring forward their proofs in support of that asseveration. When they assumed that this was the case, they were begging the whole question—a question which he thought would, upon proper investigation, turn out to be exactly the opposite way. If this was a change merely for the sake of change—if his Majesty's Ministers had had the option of 193 the time at which they would bring forward this Reform measure, the question would have been different; but this was not so; they had, on coming into power, found, that Reform was the general demand of the country, and that no Administration could hope to stand for a day, that was not ready to concede to that demand. But again, it was said, that less might have been done in answer to that demand. This again he denied. To propose a plan that would give satisfaction to all was out of the power of any human being; and, as, on the one hand, the Anti-reformers were dissatisfied with this measure, because it went too far, so, on the other, those that inclined to republican institutions would find fault with it for not going far enough. He thought that he saw in this measure sufficient to meet the expectations of the people of England; while, if a less measure of Reform had been offered, discontent would have continued, and the granting of any portion would only have been the signal for demanding more. Then the question was, whether Government had not adopted the right course? If they had only disfranchised one borough, the principle of the Constitution, as laid down by the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge, would have been equally violated; and, therefore, having gone so far, were they not right in proceeding to that extent which should make the nation perceive that they were in earnest? That the Government could not, on coming into office, have stood still, must be evident to all; and it was worth while remembering, that what would satisfy the people now, would probably not be deemed sufficient only a twelvemonth hence. It was for these reasons that he thought, that the arguments which had been urged by his hon. and learned friends had no right to be entertained as just ones, and that the Government, in giving this measure to the country, had acted a wise, judicious, and prudent part.
§ Mr. Hawkins
said, that if in the few observations he was about to offer to the House, he should dwell rather on the manner in which this measure had been opposed, and on the objections with which it had been met, than on the intrinsic merits of the measure itself, he hoped the House would attribute such a manner of handling the topic to the protracted length of the debates, which had exhausted the subject, 194 and rendered every observation, at that stage of the proceedings, a reply to something that had gone before—rather than to any inclination to make a great constitutional question a field for party conflict, or a vehicle for personal attack. Among other causes to which the success of this Bill had been attributed by its adversaries, was popular clamour, which had been so much dwelt upon by the hon. member for Rye, but concerning which much misapprehension was abroad, from a careless use of this expression. In the ultimate sense of the expression, every measure of political improvement was a concession to popular clamour. That Members of Parliament no longer received money-bribes from the Minister in the lobby of the House, was a concession to popular clamour. The present measure was a concession to popular clamour, like other great political improvements which had preceded it. It was not half so much a concession to popular clamour as the Catholic Relief Bill; for that was a concession to popular resistance. No Legislature bestirred itself in the work of improvement until public clamour was so loud that it could no longer close its ears to the public demands. But did it follow, that public clamour was servilely obeyed? By no means. It was obeyed thus far; that an indolent Legislature was compelled to discuss diligently and a selfish Legislature impartially a question which it had before succeeded in staving off; and if the discussions of that Legislature proved the public to be wrong, the clamour was silenced. That was, in practice, the course of all political improvement. The public discussed and formed various opinions on a subject. As soon as any one opinion was embraced by a sufficient majority to allow it to be dignified with the title of "public opinion," the Legislature was compelled to entertain the subject; and if the Legislature could not convince the public of error, it was obliged, sooner or later, to effect the improvement demanded by the public. Another of the causes to which the progress of the measure had been attributed was an abstract being, which the terrified imaginations of the Anti-reformers embodied under the name of Journalism—as if the Power of the press were not, like all other powers, dependent, for any real and lasting strength, upon the number and obedience of its willing subjects—as if the Press were not, as far as its influence was 195 concerned, precisely in the situation of the popular orator, who, if he wished to lead his audience a step, must submit to be led by them a mile. Among the defenders of our present institutions were some who admitted the inefficacy of our Representative system, as a check in the hands of the people upon their governors; but asserted that its deficiencies in this respect were compensated by the power of the Press—by the publicity of debates—by the liberty which the Press arrogated to itself of canvassing the proceedings of Parliament, and by the rapid circulation of opinions among all classes of the community. But if that were so (and he readily allowed that it was), why should not public opinion exercise the same control over the actions of the future members for Birmingham and Manchester as over those of the members for Gatton and Old Sarum? If the power of public opinion was a defence against the errors of the members for Gatton and Old Sarum, à fortiori, it was a defence against those of the members for Birmingham and Manchester. Why should those men alone be supposed beyond the control of public opinion, who would owe their elevation to its suffrage; while those who had obtained their seats independent of, if not in opposition to, the voice of the people, were admitted to owe to the influence of that voice alone, whatever sympathy with the public their parliamentary conduct exhibited. Of those oft-refuted arguments which have survived the wear-and-tear of a three-months' discussion, the most vivacious certainly was the objection to the anomalies of this Bill. But the hon. Members who made the objection, had, since the commencement of these discussions, furnished an additional defence against it. It was formerly answered, that a defence against such an attack could hardly be needed against those who were advocating, in preference, a system which itself was liable to the same objection in a tenfold degree. To this reply a rejoinder had been put in. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, and others, said, that they were willing to bear with the anomalies of the old system, for the sake of the stability it had acquired by prescription. Good! so long as the question was—whether there should be any change or not?—the argument, as far as it went, was good against any change whatever. But the right hon. Baronet and his friends having made up 196 their minds that some change must take place, it was too late to put forth an argument which was worthless so soon as the necessity of any change was admitted. When an hon. Member admitted the necessity or propriety of some alteration, it was incompetent for him to oppose the change proposed by his Majesty's Ministers, on the plea of its retaining anomalies, unless he does so for the purpose of recommending a plan of his own which shall contain fewer. Hon. Members had abandoned any advantage they might claim from this plea of prescription, by confessing the necessity of violating it. Some were bit-by-bit Reformers—others moderate—many constitutional—some few even efficient Reformers. And the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge was the only individual who, in this nicely-graduated scale, was content to remain at the zero of political improvement. Sarcasm had been used, about the facility of pulling down, as compared with the difficulty of building up; and so some of the objections heard in Committee, appeared to him to present much more conclusive proof of the facility of finding fault, than of the capability of suggesting a remedy. Among the mass of objections made in Committee to the principle on which Schedules A and B were constructed—only two propositions of amendment were, as far as he could recollect, suggested; and they were identical in principle. One was, to take the census of 1831 in preference to that of 1821; the other was, to correct the census of 1821 by evidence at the bar. But on what did the accuracy of the population returns depend, but on the testimony of the resident inhabitants? And what did hon. Members opposite propose to do?—distrusting the evidence of these inhabitants, given at the time, carelessly, perhaps, but under no temptations to intentional falsehood—they invited the House to take, in preference, the evidence of these same inhabitants, given at a time when they were under manifest temptation to falsify the returns. The census of 1821, in all probability, contained errors of negligence. With the same probability, and for the same reasons, the census of 1831 would probably contain an equal amount of errors of negligence, with the addition of errors of intention. And what sort of corrective was it to call for evidence at the bar? They were, in reality, asking for the testimony 197 of the surviving population of 1821, to correct the testimony of the whole population of that period! They were asking to correct the evidence of the whole given at the time, by the evidence of a part given from memory, ten years afterwards. He would not venture into those nice disquisitions which had been set on foot by the legal ingenuity of the opposite benches, touching the exact result, in each individual instance, of the proposed qualification; if they required an answer, it must be given by more acute reasoners than he was. It would be sufficient for him if the extent of the constituency contemplated by his Majesty's Ministers were not materially curtailed. He had no apprehension that any immoderate extension would result from the practical working of the present Bill. The favourite mode of assault upon this part of the Bill was a species of cross-fire, to which it was exposed from the opposite benches. Some hon. Member complained of the uniformity of our qualification. "I liked the old system," says he, "on account of the variety of franchise which it embraced. There was a picturesque irregularity about it—a number of venerable anomalies, which softened down the harshness of the transition from the class of electors to that of non-electors; whereas you are proposing to establish in its place an uniform line of fence, over which the excluded may feed their envy by peeping at the lucky ones within." No sooner had the cheers with which this objection was hailed, subsided, than some near neighbour of the last speaker proceeded to say, that the uniformity of the Bill was all moonshine—a mere verbal uniformity—that it would be anything but uniform in practice; that the 10l. householder of a great manufacturing city was a very different personage from the 10l. householder of a small town in a remote agricultural district; that in some places we should establish a species of select vestry constituency, and in others something bordering on Universal Suffrage. That mode of opposition had been so frequent in the course of these debates, that it would only be necessary to cut out from the newspaper reports all the arguments of hon. Members opposite, and pair off, by twos, and twos, those which exactly answered each other, and the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, would find a scarcity of subject matter for his reply 198 when he rose to make his concluding speech. In such a case the noble Lord's opponents might settle the difference between themselves; and sit down with the reflection of a certain gallant Captain;—How happy could I be with either,Were t'other dear charmer away;But since you thus tease me together,To neither a word will I say.Of these two alternatives, he would embrace one, and admit, that the qualification would be by no means uniform in practice; nay, that all due allowance being made for a little parliamentary exaggeration, that the working of it would be pretty much as was predicted; and however the assertion might startle hon. Members opposite, this proposed qualification appeared to him, in its probable working, one of the happiest of political contrivances for producing a required result; one of the simplest of means by which a complex end was ever accomplished. For, what were the conditions which a qualification was required to fulfil? In the first place, a fixed, intelligible line was wanted, to serve as a standard of registration, for purposes of legal decision, and at the same time to embrace the greatest possible number of those, in whatever station of life, who possessed sufficient intelligence to exercise the franchise. In a country where no public provision was made for the education of the people, it necessarily happened that a certain amount of income was the only general and practical criterion of a required degree of intelligence—and this standard, if taken in a way which admitted of being easily estimated, fulfilled the first condition. Then came the difficulty, that an equal amount of income was not in all cases a presumption of an equal degree of intelligence; and the way in which the proposed qualification obviated this difficulty constituted its peculiar beauty and merit. It adapts itself insensibly to the various degrees of intelligence possessed by different persons in the same station and rank of life—the boundary line was drawn through a variety of individual wealth, but by no means a corresponding variety of individual intelligence. Says some hon. Member, "your 10l. qualification will embrace persons of a much humbler calling in the great manufacturing towns, than in the smaller towns of the agricultural districts." Just so, and that was required. The 10l. householder of Manchester was a person in a lower station of life, than the 10l. householder 199 of Conway; but then, the commerce, and wealth, and population, which surround the mechanic of Manchester, and compelled him to pay this high rent for his house, ensured to him, at the same time, a degree of political intelligence, superior to that possessed by persons of a similar calling and station, in situations of less commercial activity and less variety of personal intercourse. His argument was—that the proposed qualification, though it admitted in this place, and excluded in that, persons in a similar rank of life, yet by no means admitted a corresponding variation in the degree of intelligence which it embraced. If he had succeeded in making himself intelligible, it must be obvious, that this inequality of franchise was a very different thing from that chance-medley inequality produced by the anomalies of the old system. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth said, that the Opposition liked the inequalities of the old system, because they wished all classes to have a share in the representation. But if that argument was good for anything, it was good for much more than the right hon. Baronet wished—it was good for Universal Suffrage. If that class which the right hon. Baronet once defined, as lying above the line of pauperism, and below the line of 10l. householders, required a direct Representation to take care of its interests, and was qualified to choose that Representation, why should it not be at once, and without hesitation, included in the franchise? If that class did not require a direct Representation to take care of its interests, why expose it to the temptation of corrupt influence, which must be the natural result of a privilege which is of no use to it, and an object of purchase to others? That was a difficulty which required a more precise reply than vague metaphorical eulogiums on time-honoured anomalies, and that difficulty the proposed franchise entirely escaped. It had been said, also, that the proposed qualification was a step to Universal Suffrage, or, as the hon. and learned member for Boroughbridge described it, a sort of political Hownslow or Brentford on the high road to the Land's End of democracy—a baiting place—a temporary intermediate stage. But would the hon. and learned Gentleman describe that position between democracy and despotism, which was not an intermediate stage? The old system was an intermediate position; but it was a 200 position on the sand, and the Bill was a position on the rock. Undoubtedly it might be a temporary position, but, removed from that there would still be ground to stand upon, while if we remained on the sand, we should be sure to be overwhelmed. He did not close his senses to the apprehensions which wise men entertained of untried changes in the complicated machinery of political institutions; but slow, indeed, would be the advance of mankind in the career of improvement were such apprehensions to fright them into inactivity. But said hon. Members, "think of the vast constituencies—the mob constituencies that you will have to deal with! Why, Manchester will have 12,000 electors, and Liverpool 14,000! Only think of representing 12,000 Manchester operatives." And why not? Were 12,000 electors more open to corruption than 1,200? Until hon. Members opposite discovered a few nights ago, that the facilities of bribery increased with the number of recipients, he had thought that the political experience of mankind had unanimously pronounced a contrary opinion. He would not, however, set up the vague plea of general opinion in such matters, against the practical experience of some who had asserted the contrary; but they might have afforded the House some theoretical reasons for their—he would not say, paradox—but discovery. They had adduced, as a particular and practical example, the case of Dublin, as if it were any prospective operation of this Bill which had crowded the tally-pens of the Dublin hustings with herds of fictitious freeholders; as if that noble franchise of raspberry beds and gooseberry bushes, of which a Committee of this House had heard so much, were not part and parcel of that good old system, which was the special object of Tory adoration! But, said the hon. Members opposite, "It may be true that you will no longer be able to exercise any undue control over those numerous constituencies; but then we will turn your own arguments against yourself, by asserting that those numerous constituencies will exercise an undue control over you. You will be a mere set of delegates, sent here to do the will of the people—not, as you ought to be, a set of deputies, to consult for their interests." But what were they now? That House might be under the present system, divided generally and with few exceptions, into two bodies—one, more or less dependent 201 upon the will of their constituents; the other, and that the largest, almost entirely independent of popular control. Did the hon. Member who cried "No," forget that evidence had been tendered at the bar of the House, to prove, that a numerical majority of the Members was returned by a few score of individuals—Peers and Commoners? Nobody would contend that the conduct of the Representative should not conform, more or less, to the opinions of his constituents. But then, that happy medium to which they were told to look—that undefined and undefinable mixture of independence with responsibility, existed in so few individual cases, so large a part of this Assembly was beyond the reach of popular control, and so free to consult their own interests, that the people were obliged, in self-defence, as their only means of exercising any influence over the decisions of the whole body, to keep that small part whom they themselves elected, in a state of servitude, which perhaps, too nearly resembled the situation of a delegate. Give the people that control over the actions of their Representatives which would arise from a free choice at moderate intervals, and they would allow those Representatives a fair discretionary power during the term of their service. The steed was never curbed so tight as when his rider felt that he had not a due control over him. Let the people feel that they had the power in their hands, and he mistook the sobriety of the English political character, if they did not allow their Representatives an extent of discretion and of liberty proportionate to their means of checking its excesses. When hon. Members complained of the undue proportion of Representation to be given to the metropolitan districts—a proportion, by the way, only one-fifth of that enjoyed on the average by any other equal number of Englishmen—their chief objection was the control which the constituencies of those districts would exercise over their Representatives. It was stated at the time, that such control could only differ from that exercised by the constituencies of any other town, in being subjected to a delay of a few hours' postage. Upon this hint hon. Members opposite had since come forward and complained of the control which the constituencies of towns in general would exercise over their Representatives. To the general complaint of undue control 202 exercised by constituencies over their Members, he had already replied; to this particular complaint of the control which town constituencies would exercise, he would reply, by asking whether the constituencies of counties were in the habit of exercising a less efficient control over their Representatives? There were some hon. Members opposite who could tell a different tale. Did the county hustings, at the late elections, witness no political catechisms? Did county Members never learn the elements of legislation by the method of question and answer? How many conservatives were now sitting for English counties, and how many were sitting here before the dissolution? The hon. member for Thetford, in looking round him for some protection against the innovating propensities of our mercantile constituencies, discovered a subject of congratulation and eulogy in the conservative principles of our agricultural Representation; but then he proceeded to say, almost in the same breath, that these county Representatives had neither spirit nor intelligence, to carry their principles into effect. But of what use were conservative principles without conservative talent? It would be more to the purpose of those who entertained these opinions, at least it would be more candid, if they said at once, "We believe, that the middle classes of our town populations entertain destructive principles; and we will be no parties to the furtherance of such principles by admitting their professors within the temple of the Constitution." If those Gentlemen could shut the door in the face of the people, why did they not do it at once? If they were not able, why exasperate them by arguments which only proved the reluctance with which the admission was granted? But suppose the character which the hon. member for Thetford and others, had given of the county Representatives were true; suppose these spiritless and talentless conservatives returned to this House, in sufficient numbers, to calm the apprehensions of hon. Members opposite, how long did they suppose that the people of England would endure this incubus on the bosom of their Legislature? How long would they bear to see the Representatives of the national intelligence borne down, night after night, by the dead-weight of these Representatives of the national dullness? It must have struck an observer of the Debates, that in a length of discussion unprecedented in 203 our parliamentary annals, scarcely a word had been said on either side, upon that which was, in former times, a standing objection to all proposals for disfranchisement—namely, the right to pecuniary compensation. In the present instance, it belonged to the opposite side of the House to originate such a claim, if to them it seemed fit; but not only had they been almost silent on the subject; but, on the one or two occasions on which it had accidentally fallen in their way, they had alluded to it with an apparent anxiety to disclaim any intention of putting in such a claim. Whether or not that would have availed them anything, had they done so, he did not decide—but was it not obvious, that by giving up the claim for compensation, while they maintained the personal right, they had broached this startling constitutional doctrine—that there may exist certain personal privileges with which the united Legislature could not interfere even upon compensation given? If their doctrine was true, Reform was hopeless? If it was true that the Legislature was incompetent to correct that House, how could they persuade the people that a Government which was unable, however willing, to correct itself, might not be corrected from without, by those from whom it emanated, and for whose benefit it existed? If the progressive decay of ancient towns could not be, from time to time, compensated by transferring the franchise to their successors in wealth and industry, what would be the state of the Representation should Appleby become a green mound, and York an inconsiderable borough? If the borough constituency was subject to accidental and intentional diminution, but was not susceptible of increase—if individual interests might exert a perverse ingenuity in narrowing the basis of our Representation, and there existed no power of checking their excesses, what would be the annual amount of pensions and places which the Minister of half a century hence would require, to enable him to persuade the parliamentary majority of that day to concur with him in some line of policy which might just steer clear of popular resistance? If that which the King, Lords, and Commons, willed, could not be effected because of the dissent of a few score of individuals, would the logic of hon. Members opposite, however unanswerable in words, persuade the people to abstain from answering it by 204 deeds? He was aware that physical force ought not to intervene in political arguments; but he need not remind hon. Members opposite, that it was the ultima ratio, the real though hidden foundation, of all political argument; and if they would persist in maintaining abstract principles, whose practical and not very remote result he had hinted at, would their theoretical reductio ad absurdum save the country from a practical reductio ad periculosum? He did not marvel at the reluctance of his opponents to rest their case on this claim of compensation; he saw clearly the difficulty of proving a right to compensation for that which positive Statutes, the Resolutions of that House, and the voice of the public, had proclaimed to be a crime to apply to one's own profit; he felt the uncomfortable dilemma in which his opponents were placed; but had they not, in abandoning this old claim, dangerous though it be, been guilty of that over-caution which defeats its own purpose? They talked of a power possessed by individuals, which could not be the subject of compensation. Had they not given a definition of a trust? They spoke of a right which could not be abolished legally, even though the three branches of the Legislature concur! Was not the concurrence of the three branches of the Legislature the practical criterion of constitutional legality? He would not stop to dispute about terms; let the opponents of the Bill call it a Revolution if they pleased; they were fond of the word; but if the three branches of the Legislature concur, and the people applaud, a Revolution let it be. "Roast mutton, I dare say it is," said one in the Tale of a Tub, "but to me it tastes very like brown bread." A Revolution by Act of Parliament, without bloodshed or disturbance, sounded very like a constitutional Reform. Perhaps he should be answered, that although the franchise of the close corporations might not be forfeited, it might be extended to any number of additional electors; and even those who would hesitate about this, would admit (what comes to precisely the same thing—for the purpose of his argument) that any number of new constituencies might be created, by adding to the number of this House, without any violation of existing right. But if political power might be thus indefinitely diminished, by being shared with others, what became of 205 the right? If the elector of Old Sarum, who enjoyed the consideration and power of creating the half or the third of a Member of Parliament, was liable to find that power reduced, by dilution, to the choice of only a ten-thousandth part, what was the value of the privilege? If any hon. Member chose to stand up and say that his Majesty's Ministers ought, for the sake of preserving this abstract right—this ghost of a privilege—to have tacked Old Sarum to Manchester, and drowned the constituency of Gallon in the electoral ocean of Birmingham, he was content, to leave the hon. Member in possession of what remained of the argument. Had Old Sarum and Gallon thought such a privilege worth the parchment of a petition, his Majesty's Ministers would have done right to gratify them, could they, by such a compromise, have saved the House from the profitless discussions to which it had been compelled to listen. There had been some cavilling on an expression of the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, to this effect—"That we are restoring the principles of the Constitution," "that we are bringing back the Constitution to its original principles." And what was the objection to this? Why, that nomination had always existed, that some small places had always possessed the franchise to the exclusion of others that were larger; and that some of these small places were now as large as when they were first endowed with the privilege of Representation; that the Representation, in short, was the same as ever, and was not less extensive and free. Were he to grant it so in form, he must deny it in spirit. Did hon. Members make no allowance for the change in our social life? Did they mean to maintain, that the representative of a close corporation of a dozen individuals was as much the representative of all England now, as he was three centuries ago? Did they mean to say, that the sixty boroughs in schedule A (even granting the greatest increase of their population, and wealth, and consequence that could possibly be claimed for them) represented as great a proportion of the population and wealth of England now, as they did then? The old principles of the Constitution were, that the wealth and population of the country should be represented, though not precisely in arithmetical proportion either to population or property, but such was the broad purpose of the franchise. Rude in its construction, and unequal in 206 its operation, as was the machinery which our ancestors erected for the purpose, this was the result intended. The rudeness of structure remains, perhaps, no worse than it was—but the inequality of result had been increased, and was increasing. It was increasing with every increase of our decennial census—with every street put forth by the metropolis—with every common broken up by the plough—with every mile added to our roads and our canals—with every new sail that entered our docks—with every additional chimney that waved its sable pennon over the roofs of Birmingham and Manchester. That had often in substance been said before; and never, in his opinion, been answered. He wanted it not for the sake of his argument—he would give his opponents the benefit of it. He was willing to suppose, for argument's sake, that no increase of wealth or population had taken place in England for several centuries; and still he would say, that the boroughs in schedule A would not represent now as great an amount of the wealth and population of England as they did then; and he said so for these reasons: The feudal system had been abandoned in private life, as well as in matters of government. Clans were broken up into families, and families into individuals. The elector who went up to the hustings three centuries ago, voted as the representative of a household, whose opinions and interests were so closely identified with his own, that he might be fairly intrusted with the choice of a Member to represent the whole household in Parliament. The elector of the present day represented, at most, his wife and children, frequently not even his sons. Now a father and son might live together on such terms as father and son should—perhaps under the same roof—and yet vote for different candidates at the hustings; an act of filial disobedience, which, three centuries ago, would have been an outrage on public opinion and private morality. When the son was servant, as well as heir, his political opinions, as well as his political interests, were identified with those of his master and parent. When the domestic was a follower and dependent, his, opinions were identified with those of his leader and patron. Had it been ever so desirable, the servant could not have exercised any free will in the use of the elective franchise, under a social system in which the loss of a master was the loss of a 207 chieftain, and the loss of a place the loss of protection. The servant and dependent of that day had become the independent labourer of this; and that very change compelled an extension of the franchise. It was obvious, that the opinions of a given population might be collected by a much smaller number of votes under the old system, than would be required to collect the opinions of the same amount of population at present. These dry disquisitions were fitter subjects, perhaps, for the closet than the debate; but after the iteration of oft-refuted arguments, it seemed necessary to explain, in this imperfect way, or rather to hint at the reasons, why a system which was the same in form, was no longer the same in spirit—why a machine, of which the construction was unaltered, under different circumstances produced very different results—why the same form of Representation which expressed the opinions of England formerly, expressed only the will of a narrow section of her aristocracy now. It was not then necessary for him to inquire whether this change were for the better or worse; he was merely asserting, with the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, that a change had taken place, and that by this Bill, in spirit, if not in form, the House was returning to a former state of things, from which, he might at least assert that we had deviated. Of course he should not be so far misunderstood as to be asked, whether he seriously believed, that public opinion exercised an increased and increasing control over the actions of the Government; whether public opinion was not both louder and better attended to than at any former period. He had no doubt, that public opinion was more powerful now than at any former period—for example, in the reign of Elizabeth; but he doubted whether it was as well represented within those walls, in proportion to its power. At the former time, the voice of public opinion was feeble; few men troubled their heads with politics—still fewer of those who had any opinions ventured to express them; but those opinions, such as they were, and so far as they were expressed, were more accurately and directly represented in the Legislature of that day, than the public opinion which now exists is in the Legislature of this. The government of Elizabeth was undoubtedly more in harmony with the public opinion of her day, than was the government of George 208 the 4th, with the public opinion of his. Of course, he was not maintaining that the government of that day was better or more liberal than the government of this. Nobody denied, that the government had marched since the reign of Elizabeth; but it had not marched in proportion to the advance of public opinion; and, though better governed, we were more discontented, because the difference between the governors and governed was greater than ever. How could it be otherwise? Was it not obvious that the boast of the Antire-formers, that our Legislature was now in form what it anciently was—was tantamount to saying that it was different in spirit? Under very altered circumstances, was not a correspondence of machinery synonymous with a difference of result? He had thus far given his adversaries the benefit of their own assumption; but, even on the ground of "form," he was ready to meet them. If they contented themselves by saying that our Representation was now in form what it was a century ago (sinking the Irish and Scotch Unions), or even two centuries ago (sinking the reign of Cromwell), he would grant it, but he must contend that the absence of change, during this limited period, was a conclusive reason for a great change now. But almost up to the commencement of that period, what was the history of our Parliament but a succession of changes? He was not going to assume any of those doubtful facts which obscured the early history of our representative system. Whatever was the origin of that House—whatever was the nature of its first advances towards independent existence, thus much was certain: that there was a time when Parliament consisted only of the King and Barons, spiritual and temporal; the whole property of the country being then possessed by the King and Barons, spiritual and temporal; that there was a time when the representatives of the Commons sat in the same House with the Barons, possessing a very small share of political power, and interfering only in the granting of supplies; which was when the Commons had just began to exist as an independent body possessed of property; and that there came a time, as early as the 5th of Edward the 3rd, when the Commons sat and acted as a separate and independent body in the Legislature; and this, and every successive augmentation of their legislative power, whatever was its 209 immediate cause, was concomitant with a corresponding augmentation of their property and importance as a component part of the community. Was it credible, that with these things staring them in the face, persons should venture to refer to history for arguments against innovation? If the latter half of our parliamentary existence had been a long and painful maintenance of the same position, in opposition to the torrent of social improvement that was sweeping by, was it not equally certain that the former half of its existence was a series of successive adaptations of its form, and therefore of its spirit, to the successive changes of our habits and opinions? He set little value on the argument of historical precedent; not that he denied its value in default of other reasons—still less was he ignorant, that it was a favourite and prevailing argument to the minds of the generality of mankind; but it was the last argument which the anti-reformers should adopt in the question of Parliamentary Reform (at least, unless they were quite sure that the power was on their side); for if anything was certain, as a general rule, in the history of our Parliament, it was this—that whatever power the Commons had possessed at any given time, had been the aggregate result of a series of successive extortions from the necessities of the governing powers. At one moment the Commons extorted from the Aristocracy and the Crown—at another, the Crown from the Aristocracy and the Commons; again, the Aristocracy and the Commons from the Crown; and if, in the demands which the Crown and the Commons were now making upon the Aristocracy, they were to recur toThe good old rule, the simple plan,That they should take who have the power,And they should keep who can,"—it was easy to foresee what would be the result. He was also perfectly aware, when he said, that a representation of wealth and numbers was the ancient principle of our Constitution—that an exception might be set up in the case of certain close boroughs in Cornwall and elsewhere, enfranchised by the Crown, nominally upon the plea of gratitude for services performed—in reality, for the purpose of increasing, by nomination, either the power of the Crown, or, as it appears in some few cases, that of certain favoured and powerful individuals. As an exception 210 to his principle, he granted it; but as an objection to his reasoning, he answered it by the same arguments which he had applied to the general rule. These cases of intentional nomination were established at a time when the nominee of one or a few individuals, more accurately represented the people of England, than the nominee of the same small number of individuals did now; and even if the population and wealth of the country had remained the same, such a nominee was a more correct Representative of a population under the patriarchal habits of the feudal system, than of the same population under those habits of individual independence and family separation in which the community now delights. And nothing but a recurrence to those habits of family dependence and domestic obedience, which have spread a veil of romance over the harsher features of the feudal system, could save the country from that complete and manifest separation between the interests of the represented few, and the unrepresented many, which had been for some time past rapidly approaching. Who had not foreseen and trembled at its approach? The authority of long experience in the ways of office was not necessary to convince "that the service of his King had ceased to be an object of desire to a man of equal and consistent mind." Who could doubt it, that had witnessed, of late years, the situation of each successive Minister of England? Slave, on the one hand, of that handful of dealers in parliamentary power whose zealous and faithful support he had no longer the adequate means of purchasing—hated, on the other hand, by the people, whose rights he would fain have granted, perhaps even at the sacrifice of his own interest, could such sacrifice have availed—too liberal in his opinions to secure the support of the boroughmongers—too illiberal in his actions to win the affections of the people—cursing, in his heart, that fiendish power, without which he could not perform his nightly task, but which no longer served him with the same obsequiousness, because he could no longer pay it with former profusion—such was the yoke to which even a Canning was obliged to stoop, when he bent his proud spirit to the degrading task of purchasing with the sweat of a people's toil, the support of that dealer in legislative power, by whose assistance alone he could 211 hope to work out that people's welfare. Such was the crooked path which all were obliged to tread—the patriotic equally as the selfish Minister—a Fox equally as a Pitt—a Canning as a Castlereagh. He would not stop to enter into the details of these abominations. As a parting glance at this expiring system, let him call to the recollection of hon. Members, some of those trite observations which have been, from time to time, in every one's mouth—referred to by men of different opinions for the sake of different inferences, but admitted by all as matters of fact and observation; such, for instance, as the common saying, "that it was becoming, from day to day, more and more difficult to carry on the Government." What was meant by those assertions, common alike to the Ministerial and the Opposition journals—to the aristocratic, equally as the radical Press—"that for some years past, the Ministry for the time being, had invariably been more liberal in its wishes and opinions than the dominant party in Parliament?" or this, for instance—"that the Ministry was now a check upon the Parliament, not the Parliament upon the Ministry?" What was the meaning of such sayings?—What was the indignant exclamation of the right hon. member for Tamworth, but a faithful comment on that bitter text of the late Lord Liverpool, "This is too bad?" Well might a Minister declare, that he meant not to govern by patronage! It was too late to do so: and to that Minister be the praise, not of having announced a necessity which had long been evident to reflecting minds, but of having himself been foremost in that abolition of patronage which was the real cause of placing the Government of England in the hands of men who had had the courage to try that newest and noblest of political experiments, a Government by public opinion. And to this complexion must we come at last. Whether this Bill would pass he knew not; but he knew and felt, that the power was in the hands of those from whom political power was derived. Whether it be better that it should be in such hands, or in the hands of those who had shewn neither the courage to keep it by force, nor the wit to purchase it by conciliation, nor the generosity to confer it as a boon—was now a question for the political philosopher rather than the practical Statesman, It was too late to bandy 212 recriminations. This was, at bottom, no work either of Whig or Tory hands. The narrow resting-place, on which the old system yet stood—which the current of passing events had long been loosening, was pushed from its base by last winter's torrent. The Ministers had but undertaken to guide that into a safer harbour which their adversaries confessed themselves unable to keep where it was, but would not attempt to pilot into another haven. It was too late to look back. It might be, as they asserted, that rocks and breakers were a head;—shame be to those whose obstinate delay had kept the useful idly at anchor until the winds were high and the streams were swollen!—but it was now the part of a wise man to trim his craft as best he might, instead of stretching forth his hands with unavailing regret to that shore on which he loitered, until the summer's breeze which courted his sails had been changed to the winter's hurricane which had driven him precipitately from the land. And what else but lamentation and complaint had they tried, to save the country from that precipice of revolution to which, as they said, it was hurrying? "Some Reform," said the member for Tamworth, "must be." "O yes, we now see the necessity of some Reform," echoed in ill-tuned chorus his disorderly followers; "but this Bill is revolution." Well, then, if a Reform must be, and this Reform must not be, where was their Reform? What, silent? Not even a string of resolutions to save the country? A Bill of his own might hereafter prove an awkward pledge to any hon. Member opposite and a set of resolutions might compromise—the future Ministry. Was England however so fallen from her high estate, that no one of those who had guided her destinies so long, would now risk a fraction of his future political reputation to save her? Who, that heard the greeting with which this Bill was first met, and the admission which hon. Members opposite soon after made could do otherwise than imagine that as many Reform Bills would have been brought in as there had been amendments proposed, and as many resolutions as there had been speeches? And what had these foreboders of Revolution done? They had cried aloud to their false gods, but they had shrunk from putting their shoulders to the wheel. How they could reconcile this inaction to a sincere belief of the dangers which they foretold, he left 213 to themselves to explain; nor could he imagine what credit they proposed to themselves by dwelling upon evils which, if they came to pass, would be a practical reproof of their own bigotry, holding up the consequences of their own obstinacy as a warning to mankind. He would not trespass on the patience of the House further, but for one other topic, and he would allude to that with the brevity which befitted the delicacy of the subject. Many hon. Members on the opposite side had taken occasion, in the course of these debates, to express their hopes and wishes as to the reception which this measure might meet with elsewhere. As hon. Members had, this evening, again referred to the subject, he would say thus much:—If it were indecent to remind certain exalted personages in another place of the dangers and calamities which a rejection of this Bill might inflict upon their fellow countrymen, how much more indecent was it to suggest to them, as an argument against it, the consequences which its acceptance might entail upon themselves? The friends of the Bill had prayed them to pass it for the sake of their country—its adversaries had appealed to their personal fears and private interests as motives for rejecting it["No, no".] Such an appeal had been made; and those noble personages had been told, by the opposite side of the House, that the consequences of passing this Bill would be the destruction of their own political power, and, perhaps, political existence. From the conduct of that assembly on former occasions he would not infer what on this occasion it ought to be; but, without disrespect, he might draw there from some grateful augury of what it probably would be. He was aware of no great measure of political improvement, in the acceptance of which the hereditary branch of our Legislature had not shewn that hesitation which, in the theory of the Constitution, was given out as their peculiar duty and virtue; but neither was he aware of any great measure of political improvement which they had not ultimately accepted. Those who called themselves the especial friends of the Peerage, had recommended the present as a fitting occasion for a first exception to this long rule of patriotic sympathy with public opinion. He had no great apprehension that their advice would be followed; but he was at a loss to discover what features in the aspect of the times had induced them to recommend 214 the present moment for such an experiment. He for one saw no vision of scaffolds or revolutionary tribunals; if he did, this were no time to withhold the prophesy. He foresaw no violence cither to the persons or property of those in whose hands the future happiness of England would, in a few hours more, be placed; if he did, he should ill discharge his duty by a respectful silence. But he had read with little attention the share they had borne in the perils and the triumphs of the British Constitution, if they should refuse, from the motives with which their pretended friends had supplied them—the vulgar motives of personal fear and private interests, to save the capitol.
complained of the hon. Member who spoke last having liberally dealt out sarcasms and censure on all the Anti-reformers. They came with a very bad grace from so young a man. The hon. Member ought to be more careful; for he sat for a borough which might still return him after the Bill was passed. He trusted the House would indulge him while he made a very few observations upon the Bill, which had now reached its last stage. He pledged himself that those observations should be brief; but he could not bring his mind to allow this Bill, which he considered to be a most dangerous and destructive measure, to pass without bestowing upon it his most hearty malediction. To the details of the Bill, as respected the difficulty of its working, objections occurred from the beginning to the end; but, great as those defects were, when compared with the dangers of the principle of the Bill, they sunk into insignificance. Besides, they had been so ably and so powerfully exposed by his hon. and learned friend, that it must be unnecessary for him to allude to them at any length. But respecting the working of this Bill he must say, with reference to its details, that if the wit of man had been employed in contriving a dangerous, difficult, unsatisfactory, and impracticable scheme of Representation and constituency, it could not have hit upon a more perfect model than this Bill furnished. His hon. and learned friend had happily remarked upon the difficulties which must arise in consequence of the duties imposed upon the Overseers, and the duties devolved upon the electioneering Barristers—and his hon. and learned friend might have added to the catalogue of difficulties 215 he had pointed out, the difficulty a country Overseer would have in understanding the Bill itself. Under any circumstances, it would be difficult for an Overseer to decide upon the votes, and to make out the register; but how was it to be expected such a person should be able to do so upon an understanding of this Bill, when hon. and learned Members, who had debated the measure over and over again, confessed their inability to comprehend it; and even its very managers were at issue as to its meaning upon various points. But even supposing the country Overseer did understand this most confused and unintelligible measure—supposing he could form a registry of votes in accordance with its directions—in order to do so he must dive and ferret into all the private affairs of his parish. Nor was that the only evil to be apprehended. Every one who knew the state of the country, must know, that the quiet and the peaceable people—that those who disliked publicity—would soon give way to those who did not, and that the country attorney would in reality soon become the keeper of the registers. This must inevitably be the case, unless a county was to be contested every year, and even then the attorneys would possess the greatest part of the influence. He, therefore, repeated that it was impossible to conceive a more mischievous or unsatisfactory mode of registering the votes, than that proposed by the Bill. But it was upon the principle of the Bill, upon the great and dangerous and overwhelming change that was to be effected in the balance of power and of influence, that he wished to offer a very few observations. He had not heard any one of the supporters of the Bill, state or explain how the balance of power, acknowledged by the Constitution, was to be maintained. He wanted to know how the Crown was to be enabled to exercise its unquestioned functions? They all knew perfectly well, that, according to the spirit, as well as the uniform practice of the Constitution, the Crown had an undoubted right to name its own servants, and those servants had hitherto found their way into that House, but how that was now to be provided for, no one had even attempted to explain. The right of the Crown was beyond dispute, but no one had attempted to explain how its exercise could take place under the new Constitution. The supporters of the Bill bad admitted the difficulty, but 216 not one of them had attempted to explain how it was to be met. If, indeed, the remedy was, that the Bill left some few close boroughs, or close places, which the Crown might command, through the corruption of 10l. householders, or of an individual, what, he asked, became of the principle of the Bill, or the professions with which the Bill was given to the people? Suppose the Crown wanted a fresh Attorney or Solicitor General, or a Secretary to the Treasury, how were those persons to find their way into that House? A person might be a very great lawyer, and possess a mind highly accomplished, and well stored with learning, but he might, nevertheless, be totally unfit to take an active part upon the hustings at a popular election. The very qualities which rendered such a person estimable as a legal adviser to his Sovereign, and an ornament and honour to the choice of his Sovereign, might incapacitate him from succeeding at a democratic election. A man of such a mind could not stoop to the exaggerations and the artifices so essential towards success on a democratic hustings; and, if he did, the forgetfulness of his own character, and the prostitution of his talents, which such conduct would argue, would utterly unfit him for the confidence of the Crown. Nor was that all. How could an Attorney-General, returned by a democratic constituency, and holding his place in that House upon the voice of that constituency, venture to engage upon, or to pursue, an unpopular, although just and necessary prosecution? They had all heard that evening, and been delighted with the polished, manly, and graceful eloquence, and luminous learning, of the hon. and learned member for Rye (Mr. Pemberton)—but who must not have felt, even while he listened and admired, that the strain which delighted, was not fitted for triumph on a democratic hustings? Such an individual might be chosen by the Crown, and wisely, as being, from his mind and acquirements, the best calculated to support the just dignity of the Monarch, and the legal privileges of the public, but how he could obtain a seat under this Bill in the House of Commons, was an enigma that still remained to be solved. If they were to depart from the ancient Constitution of the country; if that fabric was to be destroyed, they had a right to look at the modern structures which were about them, if not with a view of criticising, at 217 least with a view of enjoying their advantages. In France, the difficulty of the point he had just alluded to, had been felt, and provided for. It was most desirable, and to the democracy among others, that the Ministers of the Crown should have seats in that House, in order that they might answer such questions as might be properly proposed to them. The inconvenience of a different arrangement was very much felt and complained of in America, where a sort of long shot was kept up between the Congress and the public functionaries. If such a course was to be adopted in this country, it would be found to be excessively annoying. It would never answer, to keep up a long shot between Downing-street and that House, for incalculable inconvenience and dissatisfaction would be the result. What, then, he asked, was to be done? How was that difficulty to be overcome? It was perfectly true, that if the Bill passed, there would still remain a few close boroughs; boroughs made by the Bill more close even than they were at present, but they would be in the possession of about four individuals, and if they were to be viewed as essential to the Sovereign, for the purpose of returning his servants to that House, their proprietors would soon become a great power in the State, constituting a real oligarchy of the most dangerous character, a body small but powerful, and so necessary to the Crown, that it and its descendants would stick like leeches to the Sovereign, and command a share in the regal power, sharing amongst its members the highest places, and the most lucrative emoluments. Therefore, to advance it as an argument in favour of the Bill, that a few close boroughs, thus circumstanced, would be allowed to remain, was monstrous, and not to be listened to but in derision. He did not object to the existence of close boroughs, but he did object to the manner and the circumstances in which they were to be allowed to exist. Better would it be that the scheme should be bared at once, and in its full deformity allowed to meet the eye, than that it should be bolstered up by subterfuge and deceit. The form of government that the country was to have under the Constitution, was this:—There was to be a King, there was so be a nominal Peerage, and there was to be a House of Commons, exclusive of the small oligarchy he had adverted to, completely dependent upon 218 the will and voice of the people. Such was confessed to be the new Constitution, and all experience brought him to this conclusion, that the popular body would swallow up the other two. This was the view he took of the matter, and he defied anyone who supported the Bill, to adduce a single instance from the whole volume of history, in which similar results to those which he now predicted, had not sprung from similar causes. When it was stated on the hustings that the Peers and the Crown nominated Members to that House, and that that proceeding was to be entirely done away with, he could readily conceive that there was much shouting and casting of caps into the air; but, he would ask, was this now so much deprecated proceeding one of novel introduction? Had it not always existed under the Constitution, and was it not, in fact, a practical part of the working of that Constitution? The Crown and the Peerage had, for the exercise of influence, allowed, whether properly or not, the House of Commons to become the arena upon which a variety of most important questions were discussed, and virtually decided; and if the system was now to be changed, let it be shown by some intelligible reasoning, how the Crown and the Peerage were to maintain their privileges, nay, even their existence. The power which they now possessed was in that House, and not out of that House. But it was said, that the thing had not worked well; that the system was not only bad in theory, but bad also in practice. Why, what then became of all the boasts in the excellence of the British Constitution? Were they all worse than futile, and mere absurdities? Had the nation, and the whole world, too, been dreaming all this time, that the British Constitution gave more of public liberty, of happiness, and of security, than any other human mode of government in existence, or that ever had existed? If the nation had been so cajoled and deceived, as the new Constitution philosophers would have it believed, from whence had its civilization sprung, and from whence its progress in the arts and sciences? It was his sincere conviction, that never, upon the face of the globe, had there lived a people who had attained so high a degree of civilization as the British nation had under the Constitution, now to be discarded for a thing of anomalies, of vain pretension, and of absolute imbecility. He could not 219 conceive that in any community a greater degree of wealth, of liberty, of security, or of happiness, could be enjoyed, than had been known in this country; and if that were the situation in which England was placed, he must be an egregious fool or hypocrite, who would characterize the Constitution, which had produced so many blessings, as corrupt and bad. If they were to give up the old Constitution, there was one thing that he would ask: he would require that an inventory should be taken by the new comers of what they found on the premises; and to that he would only further add, that they should be bound and compelled, on giving up possession, to restore the premises in as good a state of repair as they were when they entered upon them. Let that condition be fulfilled, and he should indeed be happy. Looking at the forms of the Government, he was not desirous of upholding them further than from their having proved, during a long series of years, to be in strict accordance with the feelings and the wants of the country. That ought to be the object of every Government. All forms of Government might, in themselves, be good, but the object to be inquired into was, whether the form of Government adopted by, or imposed upon a nation, was in consonance with its wants, its feelings, and its wishes. It was necessary that the Government of a country should be in harmony with its property, and in that respect he feared the new Constitution would prove to be but sadly defective. For a few years old Associations might ward off destruction, but year after year some new inroad would be made, till at last the whole social edifice of the country would be undermined and fall. He could perfectly understand that the Americans were ardently attached to their form of government, and that arose from the fact of all their political institutions being in harmony with the feelings of the people, and the state of property. He had lived for several years in the State of Connecticut, and he had paid some attention to the proceedings in that State, which was one of the most Republican of the whole united Provinces. Inquiring how a perfect system of Republicanism could exist, he had spoken to one of the leading men, who had remarked to him that he (the person interrogated) was the only one in the whole State who kept a four-wheel carriage, but that all the rest kept 220 their buggies, and consequently, one was as well off as another. That answer solved the difficulty. He immediately saw that that was a country fitted for Republicanism. But how different would the case be in England. Here there were a great many persons who lived upon charity, and some few who lived in splendor; and let democracy be once instituted, and there would be a continual conflict between numbers and property. The Church would tall first, and year after year some fresh inroad would be made upon property, till all was levelled. There would be no peace because no security, and there would be a dire and discontented scramble for the fragments of whatever was attacked. He had troubled the House so repeatedly on all the stages of the Bill, that he did not feel himself justified in any longer intruding upon its indulgence. In conclusion, he declared most conscientiously, that he had done his duty. He had opposed it steadily and heartily, and it would be a consolation to him, for the few remaining years he had to live, to be able to reflect that he had offered to this dangerous and destructive measure, all the opposition that his humble abilities permitted him to exert.
§ Sir Henry Bunbury
said, it was not his intention to waste the time of the House by dwelling on the general subject of Parliamentary Reform. Probably, every argument that could be employed to any useful purpose, had been urged in some or other of the innumerable writings and speeches which this exciting question had called forth in the course of the last fifty years. He should con fine himself to matters which belonged properly to the present Bill: still it was difficult to argue on its necessity, its justice, or its fitness, without taking some review of the state of this kingdom before the present measure had been proposed, or without adverting to some circumstances which had attended its progress. Those few consistent Gentlemen who still contended that Parliamentary Reform was altogether unnecessary—that Reform, in any degree, ought to be resisted—appeared to him to have started from a fallacy: they assumed that the condition of the kingdom was safe and prosperous at the time when the present Ministers entered into office—accepting office under a distinct, though voluntary, pledge, that they would promote a Reform in the Representation of 221 the people. Was it possible that these Gentlemen could have so soon forgotten what was the condition of England and of Ireland no longer ago than last November? The apprehensions of the country were very great at that time. Who would then have ventured to rise in that House, and say, that there was content or confidence in the country—that our condition was prosperous—that it was then safe? It was not that the fears of the people were thus excited by the atrocities of a few obscure incendiaries, or by the thoughtless excesses of mobs. In ordinary times, such excesses would have been crushed at once; the middle classes would have been as eager as the more wealthy to arrest the first blows aimed at the security of property; and the Government, strong in the union and sympathy of the enlightened and influential classes, might have lamented these outrages, but they would not have feared them. But the outrages of last winter were the symptoms of a disease, not the disease itself. The wretched condition of the farming labourers was the immediate cause, or, at least the occasion of those tumults. The inquirer was struck with the reluctance shown to act against, these mobs. There was a pity approaching nearly to sympathy even among those whose property was the immediate object of attack; and as the inquiries extended, a wide-spread discontent might be traced through the middle classes—a spirit hostile to the executive Government, and deeply distrustful of the House of Commons. Misery had thrown the poor under the influence of demagogues, and had armed them against the rich; the middle classes, disgusted by long years of public extravagance, and by a neglect of their petitions, had begun to regard revolution with indifference, because Reform appeared to be unattainable. A great measure of conciliation, of wisdom, and of justice, was necessary to save the kingdom from anarchy, and its institutions from destruction. The late Cabinet was adverse to Reform; but it found, that the new House of Commons was inclined to favour some measure of that tendency, and it resigned. Their successors pledged themselves to Reform and retrenchment; and he avowed that they had won his confidence by the promptitude with which they had proceeded to redeem their pledges. Then came the present Bill, or, at least, one which was the same in its great principles. 222 That first measure was frustrated by a motion, concocted with much ingenuity, and calculated at once to insult the Irish, and to deceive the English people. The consequence was a dissolution of the Parliament, an appeal to the sense of the nation; and his confidence in Ministers was greatly strengthened by the decided course they pursued when the trial of strength on General Gascoyne's motion had proved the impracticability of carrying through the House of Commons, as it was then composed, such a Reform as might be satisfactory and durable. When the present Parliament was assembled, and its thanks were voted to the Throne, he certainly gave his humble support, to that vote on wider grounds than those of compliment or etiquette. He felt that their thanks were due to his Majesty, not merely for his gracious speech, but for the wise and beneficent tenor of his Government. He was grateful for the sanction which his Majesty had given to measures necessary for the present safety and the future welfare of the kingdom. He was grateful for that inflexible constancy of purpose, which was not to be turned aside by intrigues, and which proved, beyond all cavil, what were the sentiments of the British people on the question of Parliamentary Reform. When he had heard Gentlemen speak of that dissolution as of a measure not called for by circumstances, as a wanton exhibition of the royal prerogative, he had been astonished at the audacity of the censure. What! when his Majesty's Ministers had been defeated in that House—by a very small and vacillating majority, it was true, but still defeated—on the great question to which they had pledged themselves, and on which depended all their credit with the people, and all their power of rendering service to the King: what course was left open to them? Their only alternative was the resignation of their offices. But why were they to resign? Why were they to abandon their post, and betray their cause, enjoying, as they did, the confidence of their Sovereign, and backed, as they were, by the universal sentiments of the people? Were they to crouch before the clamour of parties, or prejudices, or private interests? Were they to earn for themselves contempt and remorse, by disappointing the dearest hopes of the people, and plunging their Sovereign into irremediable difficulties? He said, "irremediable difficulties," for who 223 was bold enough to predict—who could contemplate without shuddering, what might have been the condition of this kingdom, if the Crown had been forced into an unnatural union with the interests of the few opposed to the interests of the many—into a coalition with parties in opposition to the fixed opinions and the intent desires of the British people? Who would venture on such a prediction? Yet predictions were not wanting. There were prophets in abundance—prophets of evil to spring out of rendering the practice of the Constitution consistent with its theory. Happily, these Gentlemen did not confine their predictions to those far-distant dangers which they fancied they descried through the long dim vista of their fears. They tried their infant art on events which were more near to their accomplishment. They foretold how the funds would crumble away, if this revolutionary scheme were even to be agitated—how public credit would wither before the blighting advent of Reform. And now, he asked, what was the value of funded property compared with what it had been immediately before Ministers showed that they were determined to persevere with their great measure? These prophets said next (but here some allowance ought to be made, for here "the wish was father to the thought") that the king would never consent to a dissolution of the Parliament. The answer was heard in the echoes of rage and disappointment which still hung upon those walls. Then the prophets foreboded, that if there were to be a dissolution, it would throw the whole country into the most dangerous disorder, that every election would be disgraced by riots, and by the out breaking of that revolutionary spirit which their distempered fancy conjured up in every quarter. Were these forebodings verified by the events? What were the circumstances attending the elections? He would not speak of Scotland, for there the very rarity of any thing like a contest for popular rights seemed to have given occasion to a few disgraceful excesses, though no where of a revolutionary character, nor bespeaking a spirit hostile to the Constitution. But in England and in Ireland, had there been any unusual degree of turbulence? Were there any threatening movements of large bodies of the populace? Were the freeholders overawed by licentious mobs, or prevented from giving their suffrages freely and 224 conscientiously? The appeal had been made, not to the populace, not even to that large body of men, in more easy circumstances, whom the Reform Bill would call into political efficiency—the appeal had been made, according to constitutional usage, to the ancient body of electors; and how did the freeholders answer the appeal? That the copyholders and householders should be anxious for the success of a measure, which would give them a share in the election of those by whom taxes were imposed would surprise no one; but why should the freeholders, who already possess the right of choosing their Representatives—why should they be anxious to admit other men to share in the privileges which they enjoy? Why, but because they had found that the old system had ceased to work well for the nation at large. They felt, that without a House of Commons which should truly and fairly represent the great mass of intelligent and independent men in this kingdom, there could be no security that financial or judicial, or any other Reform, would be allowed to endure, even after they might have been introduced by those very rare personages, reforming Ministers of the Crown. But it was hardly worth while now to argue on the necessity and propriety of some Reform, since so large a proportion of the Gentlemen opposite had come to admit that some Reform must be granted; and, between them all, there was now only a question of degree. The Gentlemen opposite would dole out the minimum; his party would give at once such a liberal portion as might satisfy the great majority of reasonable men. The large admissions which were now made, that some Reform must be conceded, were not very consistent with the oft-repeated assertion that the recent call for Reform was not real, that it did not spring from any rooted desire in the hearts of the people; that it was an ephemeral, a factitious cry, provoked by the present Ministers for a selfish purpose, or, stranger still, proceeding from a sudden freak of the contented Commons of England, to imitate the over-goaded people of Paris. And then they were told, there had been a cessation of petitions for Reform during several years; and that in the petitions of last year, the prevailing prayer was not so much for a Reform in the Representation, as for certain other objects with which that was coupled. 225 Why, even when it was pretended, that the petitioners had asked for a reduction of taxes, an alteration in the tithe-laws, and so forth, instead of asking solely for an amendment in the constitution of this House, what did this show, but that the petitioners had felt the pinching, some of one oppressive circumstance, some of another, but that, they had all concentrated their hopes in Parliamentary Reform, as believing that a Reformed Parliament would remove or mitigate the evil of which each class of petitioners complained in particular? And now a few words on the argument founded on a temporary cessation of petitions. Did the right hon. Gentleman, with whom that argument originated, remember at what period it was, that the petitions ceased? It was when Mr. Canning succeeded to the power which had been exercised by Lord Castlereagh; when his right hon. friend opposite, the member for Tamworth, emptied the gaols which his predecessor, Lord Sidmouth, had left full of persons charged with political offences; when Mr. Canning burst asunder the shackles of the Holy Alliance; then it was, that the people of England caught a new hope, and believing that the Government was inspired by a more pure and more liberal spirit, they at once reposed on that hope, and they gave a large degree of confidence to the new Ministers. The Reform meetings ceased throughout the country; the public excitement, which had been lashed up to a very dangerous height, subsided; petitions and remonstrances were no longer addressed to Parliament, because the people had acquired fresh hope and fresh confidence. And this conduct on the part of the people, afforded a happy proof of their placability, their justice, their moderation; it afforded the strongest grounds for believing that the additional power which would be conferred on the people by the present Bill, would be received with gratitude, and exercised with discretion. He now came to the leading principles of the present Bill. In the first place it disfranchised a number of corrupt or dependent boroughs, at which the finger of public scorn had long been pointed, and it deprived certain wealthy individuals of the power of sending whom they pleased into that House to check or neutralize the will of the Commons of the realm. In the place of these nominees, it gave real representatives to the most wealthy towns, and the most populous 226 parts of the country; it greatly enlarged the elective franchise, while it raised gradually the scale of qualification; it gave political weight to the various species of property which were diffused through this great kingdom; it gave political rights to every man of independent circumstances and presumed education; and it gave the guarantee of a million of voters for the future maintenance of good order and constitutional liberty. Gentlemen might call this a revolution if they pleased; for the oligarchist it might be revolution, for the nation it was a Reform. He admitted that it was a great and a most important change; but it was a change in unison with that which time had operated in the condition of society, and of this kingdom in particular; it was a change effected without shocks, and without disturbing the movement or weakening the springs of the Government; it was a change without the violation of any acknowledged principle. Several Members had professed the deepest alarm at the practical effects which they anticipated from this Bill. They talked loosely of its overturning the Church, of its extinguishing the Peerage, and rending the Crown from the brows of the Sovereign. Some of these gentlemen were grand assertors: it was as easy to predict the bursting of a world as of a bubble. Of course, when future events formed the subject of dispute, there could be no proofs; Gentlemen could argue only from precedents or analogies; but in the present case these also were wanting; and when they came to a mere conflict of conjectural opinions, the hon. Gentleman would permit him to observe, that at least they were in a minority; and when they charged their opponents in such bitter terms with departing wantonly from a shore of safety to plunge into a sea of dangers, they were bound to shew, not only that the sea on which they embarked was dangerous, but that the shore they left was safe. The principal argument that he had heard from the alarmists was nearly this: they said, that the degree of power which the Reform Bill conferred on the Commons, would be found in practice to be incompatible with the privileges of the Peers, and the salutary influence of the Crown. They argued that that House must outweigh and crush the other branches of the Constitution, because public opinion, running counter to the claims of the Aristocracy and of the Crown, would give 227 continued impulse and irresistible weight to that branch of the Legislature. But here the whole question was assumed, and assumed without reasonable grounds. He might admit, that the current of public opinion had of late years taken a course adverse to many Administrations, and still more adverse to the pretensions, not of the Aristocracy, but of a small part of the Aristocracy—and why, but because those pretensions had encroached on the rights, and had injured the interests of the people? But why were they to conclude that public opinion would flow in the same channel when these encroachments were stayed, and these injuries redressed? What was public opinion? He presumed that Gentlemen did not mean to confound it with a mere popular cry. Was not public opinion an abstract of the sentiments which prevailed through the intelligent, educated, observant, reflecting classes of the community? And were Gentlemen prepared to pronounce these classes to be rash, unjust and unreasonable? Would they say that these classes were not only hostile to their political tenets, but hostile also to the principles of the Constitution? This would be indeed a fearful creed; but it was a creed which would leave no hope of safety even as they were now. But when they were looking forward to the practical effects of this Bill, it must not be forgotten that it gave to the intelligent and educated classes a share, an interest in the political welfare of the State; and that the practical effect must be, to attach all those valuable classes to the Constitution, and to the legislative body, whose constituents they would have become. It was pretended that this Bill was levelled at the Aristocracy; but it required no great discernment to see, that this wilful confounding of the Aristocracy with the owners of boroughs, was made not so much with the view of strengthening an argument in this House, as for the purpose of operating on fears and prejudices elsewhere. Ingenuity was racked to imagine possible results, which might affright the timid or irritate the proud. Even that eternal bugbear the first revolution of France, was not disdained as an auxiliary. But surely Gentlemen must have seen, even if they refused to the people of England all credit for good sense or public virtue, they must have seen in the more recent revolutions in Spain and Naples—aye, and in France itself—that the first French revolution 228 was not regarded by the nations of Europe as an example for imitation. It had served, and it still served, as a dismal sea-mark, which warned men of dangers, and taught them to steer a safer course. But he asked, what would the hon. Gentlemen who laboured so zealously to defeat this Bill, what would they do if they were unhappily to succeed in obtaining so fearful a result? Did they fancy that it would be in their power to prop up an Anti-reform Cabinet? Or would they try to put forward one of those shadowy schemes of reluctant concession which had been darkly hinted at in the earlier part of these debates? Did they imagine that they could endow one of these bottled-up babes with life, and strength, and usefulness, and send it forth to be accepted by the people as the tutelary genius of Britain? Had they not learned from the last elections, that the nation was bent on obtaining a substanial, an effectual Reform; and that the nation already possessed, and was determined to exercise the power, of sending to that House so large a body of real representatives as must make it impossible for any Cabinet to carry on the machinery of Government while it denied effectual Reform to the nation. Whoever might be the Ministers of the Crown, the people would persevere—and they ought to persevere—in demanding a substantial Reform in the Representation. The longer their just demands were denied or evaded, the more general, the louder, and the more angry would be the voice of the people. He knew that it had been the fashion and the craft of modern times to affect to confound the people with the populace; to misrepresent those as hallooing with the mob who stood forward to advocate the rights of the people. He trusted that Parliament would never yield one iota to the clamours of a mob; but he trusted equally that no branch of the Legislature would ever venture to shut its ears to the just demands of the people. A concession to the opinions and the interests of the nation had become necessary; a timely concession would avert the dangers which might spring from despair, and the disgrace which would attend compulsion. At present Reform would be accepted with gratitude; hereafter it might be wrung from their reluctant hands with contempt. Holding these opinions, he thought that the course pursued by his Majesty's Ministers had been wise and prudent; and he believed 229 that this great measure would in its results (for he dared not contemplate the possibility of its rejection either there or elsewhere) re-establish confidence, content, and good order through the land; that it would give stability to the Throne, and redeem for the two Houses of Parliament the affection of the people.
§ Debate adjourned until next day.