§ The Chairman proceeded to read the 32nd Clause. Several verbal amendments were agreed to.
§ On the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill,
§ Sir George Clerk
said, that as this clause disfranchised all persons holding votes upon any other qualification than the occupation of a house, and that they even lost that right if they were two years absent from the place, it was obvious, therefore, that persons being in the army or navy, or absent upon public duty, would be deprived of their right of voting. He begged, therefore, to ask the noble Lord, whether he had taken this case into consideration, and if he was disposed to adopt an amendment to meet the grievance complained of.
§ Lord Althorp
said, if he could possibly adopt the suggestion of the hon. Baronet, consistently with other matters, he would 77 endeavour to make the alteration required.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
understood it was the general impression of the House that an alteration was to be made in favour of persons in the public service, but the whole clause appeared to him very ambiguously worded. He could not understand whether it referred to burgesses and freemen or not; the words were, "provided, nevertheless, that such persons shall for ever cease to enjoy such right of voting for any such city or borough as aforesaid." Who "such person" was, he did not comprehend.
An Hon. Member
observed, that "such person" was the individual mentioned immediately before in that part of the clause which the hon. and learned Member had read, and nothing could be more distinctly explained than his qualification, which was to cease under certain circumstances.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On the 33rd Clause being read,
Lord John Russell
begged to explain, that the sole object of it was, to continue the franchise to the boroughs of Cricklade and Shoreham, as it at present existed. The House would see that the clause was perfectly consistent with other parts of the Bill, because those who were excluded were a different description of persons. An amendment had been suggested to the end of the clause for the purpose of enabling freeholders to be registered, which, he trusted, the House would consent to adopt.
objected to it on the ground of its being inconsistent with a former part of the Bill. The House had already decided that 10l. freeholders in boroughs, resident on their own property, should only possess a single vote; but he believed that the effect of this clause would be to give 10l. freeholders in Horsham, not only a vote for that place, but also one for the Rape of Bramber in which Horsham was situated.
Lord John Russell
said, the object of the clause was, to preserve existing rights in Horsham, and the other places mentioned in the clause, during the lives of the present possessors; and he did not think that it would effect any thing beyond that object. The boroughs of Shoreham and Cricklade were, in point of fact, small counties. In addition to this circumstance, he begged to remind the House that these places had lately been reformed by Parliament, and the scale of franchise, as it ex- 78 isted, was so good as to preclude the expediency of alteration.
requested the noble Lord would inform him on what principle he went when he allowed a freeholder in the Rape of Bramber, and in other places similary situated, to have two votes, when no other freeholder was to have more than one?
§ Lord Althorp
begged the right hon. Gentleman to understand that the clause conferred no new rights; it only confirmed existing rights.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
agreed with his right hon. friend, that the clause was wholly inconsistent with the former part of the Bill; it was absurd, when the limits of a borough were enlarged on account of its gross delinquency, that the freeholders, who were within the enlarged boundaries, were, on that account, to obtain two votes.
Lord John Russell
said, the Bill made no alteration in rights which had been established by previous partial Reforms. The object of the Bill was, to do away with the existing corruption and nomination. The freeholders of Horsham possessed the right of voting for Shoreham, as being within the Rape of Bramber, and that right was to be retained.
§ Sir George Clerk
could not understand why this extraordinary privilege was to be continued to the freeholders of Horsham. He believed the number of persons who would be affected by the clause was not considerable. Still it was a great departure from the other principles of the Bill. He did not think that the omission of the clause would cause any alteration in the constituencies of those boroughs, and, therefore, suggested the propriety of striking it out from the Bill.
Lord John Russell
said, that as the previous clause regulated borough franchise in general, the boroughs of Cricklade and Shoreham would be included in its operation, unless the present clause was enacted.
observed, that the case simply was, that Ministers had laid down a principle that a double right of voting was not to be allowed, and when they came to this particular borough, they granted it an exemption from the general rule which they had applied in all other instances.
Mr. Bonham Carter
said, the object of the clause was, to provide that every person who possessed a freehold in Horsham should retain the right he at present had 79 to vote for Shoreham. If a person occupied a 10l. house at Horsham, this Bill gave him a vote for that place, and that right would affect his claim to vote for the county of Sussex; but a 40s. freeholder at Horsham would have no vote for that place, but would have one for the Rape of Bramber, in which Shoreham was situated, and another for the county of Sussex. These two votes he held at present, and the clause would preserve his rights.
said, if the hon. and learned Gentleman was correct, how could he reconcile his observations with the following words of another part of the Bill: "Provided always that, notwithstanding anything herein before contained, no person shall be entitled to vote for the borough and the county." If these words were contrasted with the words of the present clause, "that any person now having a freehold vote in the borough of Horsham, shall also have a vote for the Rape of Bramber," the departure from principle would be apparent, and this double right of voting was what he objected to.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the only object of the clause was, to prevent voters for the borough from voting for the county of Sussex, precisely in the same way that voters for other boroughs were prevented doing so, and yet to preserve their right of voting for the Rape, as they now possessed it.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, if a man had two rights of voting—one for a borough and another for a county—the Bill extinguished one, generally but this clause allowed a double vote, in consequence of the existence of an accidental right growing out of a corrupt borough, having been disfranchised. This was what the framers of the Bill called acting with consistency.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ The 34th Clause was agreed to.
§ The Chairman then read Clause 35, which enacts that no person receiving parochial relief shall be entitled to vote at elections.
said, it appeared to him that confusion and disorder might arise at elections, if those who were employed to keep the peace had votes, as they would thereby become partizans. He thought it better, therefore, that such persons should be disfranchised during the time they held office, and he wished to introduce a provision into the clause to that effect. He would, to at- 80 tain his object, propose that the following words be inserted as an amendment, "that no person employed in the metropolitan police, or in any force of a similar nature which might be created in any city or borough, should be entitled to vote for Members of Parliament during his continuance in such employment, or within twelve months afterwards.
On the question that these words be inserted,
Lord John Russell
objected to the amendment, which appeared to him to relate to a question of police regulation, quite unconnected with the subject under discussion. The hon. Member might, if he thought proper, introduce a separate Bill on the subject.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
contended that the proposed amendment was perfectly relevant, but whether it was proper to introduce it or not, was another matter.
An Hon. Member
thought the amendment would be likely to create party spirit rather than allay it. He saw no reason why these persons should be excluded from the franchise, if they were properly qualified, as 10l. householders, to enjoy it.
Mr. Alderman Wood
observed, that at elections, many of the most respectable inhabitants were frequently called upon to act as special constables. All such persons would be wholly disfranchised by the amendment, and the hon. Member who proposed it could scarcely be aware of what he was doing, for the consequence of such a clause would be, that these persons would not act, and riot and disorder might be expected to follow.
said, the worthy Alderman had misunderstood his amendment, he only wished to exclude those persons who received pay for their services.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
recommended the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment as it would occasion much abuse if carried. Parties would contrive to get their opponents sworn in as special constables, and so disfranchise them.
§ The Amendment negatived.
Mr. Edward Bolton Clive
proposed, that, in addition to the words "excluding from the right of voting those who had received parochial relief," there should be added words for extending the exclusion to all others who received any "other charitable relief."
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
feared that the amendment, as it was now worded, would 81 be productive of considerable difficulty, and in some cases would be productive of injustice. There were many persons who received relief from hospitals in cases of illness, or in consequence of sudden accidents. Though the relief thus received was, in the common acceptation of the term, charitable relief, still it was not so in the eyes of the law, and ought not to be made the ground of exclusion.
Lord John Russell
approved of the suggestion of a modified amendment, and would not object to the introduction of the words "or rather alms, which, by the law of Parliament now disqualify a person from voting."
The Attorney General
approved of the words "law of Parliament." If the amendment went further, it would interfere with the question of what was the law, and that would give rise to disputes. There were, and would be, a variety of opinions as to what was the law.
§ Mr. Pollock
said, the reasons urged by the Attorney General were the strongest possible why the clause should be clear and explicit. The law of Parliament changed every Session, and was therefore constantly the subject of doubt. The question of what was relief in the eye of the law was also a matter of some difficulty; but he thought, that by some consideration, they might be able to adopt some expression that would embody the decisions of the law authorities on the question of what was such relief as would disqualify a person from voting at elections. He was not prepared with words at that moment, but if the clause were postponed, he had no doubt some satisfactory words would be found.
§ The Solicitor General
said, the original clause, which confined the disfranchisement to parochial relief, was clear, and he, therefore, must oppose any alteration unless that clearness should be maintained.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, the noble Lord assented to the principle of the modified amendment; and he hoped the suggestion of his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Pollock) would be adopted.
was afraid that the words now proposed to be introduced into the clause would not obviate the difficulty involved in its terms.
The Amendment proposed by Lord John Russell added to the clause, and the clause itself, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 36th having been read, which provides for the establishment of a general system of registration,
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, when a similar clause was introduced in the Reform Bill of last Session, there were reasons put forward in its favour, which did not exist at present. The payment of poor or parochial rates not being then required to entitle a person to vote, it was necessary to establish some other register, in order that the electors might be duly ascertained; but now that the payment of rates was made a qualification, the books containing the names of the rate-payers would be a sufficient registry, if kept under proper regulations. That, too, would facilitate registration and save all the trouble three years out of four. A more expensive machinery than that of the present Bill, or one more difficult to work, could not have been devised. Apart from all party feeling, it was his solemn and sincere belief that few Overseers could be found capable of executing the duties required by this Act. Overseers were generally small farmers or petty shopkeepers, and sometimes gentlemen's bailiffs, and in addition to the difficulty such persons would experience in making out the list of those who had the right of voting, many of them would not have the requisite time, even if they possessed the requisite ability. As these lists were to be open for the inspection of all parties, much jobbing and confusion would arise before they could be completed, and they would be generally got up by some lawyer or partizan in the parish, who would have an interest in their preparation. Where was all this to be done? In the kitchen of the Overseer? That was impossible. The Overseer, too, was to have the power of placing his veto on votes. He requested hon. Members to consider the consequences of giving to overseers the power to object to votes, without assigning a reason, as well as the expenses that would be incurred by parishes, and the inconvenience to voters. If the Overseer objected to a vote, the voter would be compelled to appear before the barrister, 83 and defend it. For this purpose he might be dragged to a distance of fifty miles. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) dissented from this; but surely there could be no doubt upon the point—at least he was certain there could be none with any other Member of that House, except the noble Lord. The whole of the expenses of these complicated proceedings were to be paid out of the Poor-rates; and there appeared to him no sufficient reason for incurring them. The machinery of the Bill was not only unnecessarily costly, it also increased, to an extent much to be deprecated, the patronage of the Lord Chancellor, already too great in consequence of the formation of the new bankruptcy Court. He objected to the clause most strongly on that account. The Bill would call for the employment of 300 barristers at five guineas a day, and their expenses—a rate of remuneration which, he admitted, was not too much; but he conceived that the outlay of the public money ought to be as sparing as possible in the present state of the national finances. The Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench was not to be trusted, he could not nominate one of the barristers, save under the approval of the Lord Chancellor, who was a high political officer, and, through the medium of the new Bankruptcy Court, exercised power over all the attornies in the kingdom. He could not consent to grant any high political officer such a range of patronage as was liable to abuse, nor would he give to overseers the influence in elections which they would inevitably acquire through the operation of the clause before the House. The effect of it would be to create an annual ferment besides much jobbing in the manufacturing of votes; and the whole would fall in so nicely with Political Unions that they would be able to carry everything, with a high hand at the poll, by coming in masses, and voting in bodies.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, that he could not see any force in the objections which had been urged against this clause by his hon. and learned friend. He must particularly deny that the Overseers of parishes would obtain any political influence under this clause, which he considered to have been much improved since it was under the consideration of the House in the last Session of Parliament. According to the present plan, the Overseer's List was not to be made from the 84 List of the rate-payers alone, but any freeholder or other person might claim to have his name inserted in the registry, and if his claim were objected to, he could still go before the Barrister to establish it. The hon. and learned Member might call this a hardship, but it was much less a hardship than calling on every person to make out his claim, instead of reducing the numbers obliged to make out their claim to those who were objected to. In Scotland, before any voter was allowed to poll, he must make out his claim, and therefore, the electors of this country were placed in a better situation then their neighbours. Another great improvement in the clause was, that there was to be a permanent register. By the former Bill, the voter was required to make his claim good every year, but now it was proposed that his name should remain on the list, when once placed there. This arrangement would be the means of sparing much trouble and vexation.
thought that the way in which this clause was now framed justified the objection made to the establishment of a register during the last Session. He had then asserted, that it would be impossible for Overseers to discharge the duties imposed upon them; and, if that Bill had passed into a law, the Overseers would have been called on to make out a list, which the present Bill admitted to be an impossibility. What was the plan now? The Overseer was to place on the door of the church a notification that he was about to make out the register; and on that, all parties, whether resident or non-resident, were to send in their claims. How could a man in London, who had a freehold at Doncaster, know when this requisition was made by the Overseer? or, even supposing that the registers were all made much about the same time, how was the same man to find out that the Overseer had written "objected" against his name? He feared that, when the Bill came into operation, there would be so much trouble and annoyance in being registered, that thousands of persons would neglect to put themselves on the list. Last Session, when he objected to this plan of registration, he had informed the noble Lord that, in the year 1788, an Act was passed, containing even as many clauses as the present, for the purpose of establishing a register of votes all over the kingdom. That bill was repealed in 1789, because it was im- 85 practicable. The noble Lord might allege, "that every one by that bill was obliged to register his own vote; but, by our plan, the Overseers are to do it." The Act for repealing the law of 1788, however, had this preamble. "Whereas, the carrying this Act into effect would be attended with great and continued expense, and be productive of many hardships and inconveniences to the freeholders and others, and the said Act is not adequate to the performance of the purposes intended." When he mentioned this subject last Session, the Chairman apprised him of another reason for that repeal. By the bill of 1788, the King's printer was to furnish blank registers for the whole of the parishes, and Mr. Pitt, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, found himself compelled to object to the public incurring the large expense of paying for them. It was true, this bill did not impose the expense of blank registers on the public, but it imposed the tenfold greater expense of three or four hundred Barristers, who were to have their five guineas a-day, and their travelling expenses besides—which would be very large, considering that they would probably go out of town at the beginning of September, and not find their way back till November. He was sure that the taking a lower amount of rent, and thus making the whole matter depend at once on the rating, would be better than this plan, for then they would be able to dispense with all the register clauses, and at once pass the Bill, which was now so far advanced, that, if it were not for the thirty-five clauses which had reference to the register, the House might go to the schedules, and settle the remainder of the question. He was aware, however, that some gentlemen were fascinated with this plan of a register, because they thought it would be the means of saving their own pockets. But they would be mistaken; and he would venture to predict, that the week of election under this Bill would prove just as expensive as the three weeks that were now allowed for the duration of a county election; and, although it was true that there were some objections to popular elections, yet, on the whole, they had always appeared to him to act as safety-valves, for the feelings of the people, and, by carrying these elections into corners, they would be injudiciously altering their character. Another mode of election which he was afraid, that this register would facili- 86 tate, though the noble Lord did not intend it should have that effect, was the election by ballot; and he would never lend himself to that un-English, unconstitutional, and cowardly mode of proceeding. For these reasons, he had endeavoured shortly to state to the Committee the objections which he entertained to the present plan. He regretted that, when a point of such importance was under discussion, the House was so thin. It was not creditable cither to the friends or the opponents of the measure that so few should be in attendance when the question went so materially to alter the Constitution of the country.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, though no friend to this Bill, which he should oppose to the last, he was never hostile to any rational or practicable mode, if such could be devised, of facilitating the mode of taking the poll, of saving expense, and shortening the duration of election contests; but, in his opinion, the plan now proposed, so far from effecting these objects, would give rise to more circuity, labour, expense, and loss of time, than that which it was to supplant. In the first place, he disapproved of the powers given to Overseers. Overseers were generally jobbers on one side or the other; and he could not consent to vest them with judicial powers, or delegate to them the authority hitherto exercised by that House. He might be told that an appeal lay to the tribunal of the Barristers from the Overseers. This did not mend the matter at all, for the Barristers would virtually and operatively be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. This was breaking in completely and entirely upon the independence of Parliament, and making the Lord Chancellor in fact the only returning officer for the whole of the United Kingdom. If the Sheriff, or any other returning officer, was now guilty of misconduct, he might be called to the Bar of the House; but could they call the Lord Chancellor to their Bar?—a person beyond the reach and control of the House. He did not make this objection pro re nata, merely to meet present circumstances. It was equally applicable to all times and all Cabinets.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
Yes, the Judges might give in a list of names, but then the Lord Chancellor would have the power of picking out those whom he wished to ap- 87 point; so that, in fact, he would have the sole appointment of this new tribunal. This clause, besides, exposed the constituents to expense and inconvenience. The lists were to be made out by Overseers—the least competent persons who could be found to make out lists of voters, as they in general had neither the qualifications nor the materials by which a list could be made. It was most oppressive to call upon the freeholders to attend in a certain place, and give in their claim of voting. This, in many instances, would be attended with expense which the candidate would be called on to pay. At the same time, it appeared that if the freeholder did not attend, he lost his right of voting, unless he afterwards appealed to the Court of Barristers. With respect to those persons, he supposed he must use submissive, respectful, and deferential language, considering who was to have the appointment of them. Those Judges, however, would be nothing more than nominees—that sort of character of late so much exposed to censure. The House of Commons never before allowed of such delegations in cases in which their rights were concerned. They would by this Bill have a yearly return of those mischiefs which before were of rare occurrence. He wished to know, out of what sums these two tribunals, the Overseer and the Barrister, were to be paid. He should much prefer leaving the thing as it was to introducing such a system as this. The expense of a contested vote was now paid by the Member: in future it must be paid by the voter. This was a dirty and shabby saving. He had no objection to a compromise that would divide the expense between both. Ministers seemed to him to be worshipping the idol of Lord Brougham or some other Lord Chancellor in thus making him the sole returning officer. It was a gross delusion to call this a Reform in Parliament. He never would treat the Commons of England with such gross injustice.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the first question was, whether there was to be a registry or not; and, secondly, whether that which was now proposed was the best that could be adopted. The first question was decided last Session. He thought it impossible to take the poll in several places, or to shorten the duration of elections, without a registry of voters, by which the right of a person offering himself at the poll might be decided at once. It was also of 88 importance, that the decision upon that right should be given impartially, and with a cooler judgment than could be exercised at the time of an election. Both those objects would be accomplished by a system of registration, which would allow of a correct sifting of votes at the time it was made. Then came the question, whether the plan proposed would effect this? To say that any system of registration could be framed, to which it would not be possible to make objections, would be absurd; but were the objections urged against this sufficient to show that it was impracticable, or had any better plan been suggested? The hon. member for Brecon said, that if a different right of voting were adopted, no registry would be necessary; and he suggested the payment of the Poor-rate, for that purpose; but he (Lord Althorp) did not suppose that hon. Member was prepared to admit of Universal Suffrage, which the adoption of the Poor-rate would nearly approach to. If, however, there was to be any qualification, some inquiry must be instituted, to ascertain whether the person claiming to vote, had that qualification; no doubt, that inquiry could be best made previous to the election. To follow this out, it was proposed, that, in counties, on a fixed day in every year, a notice be given to persons claiming to vote in any parish, to make their claim to the Overseer within a certain time. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the parties making the claim must be all present in the parish; but that was not at all necessary under the provisions of the Bill—all that was required being, that they should send in their claim to the Overseer. That individual would merely be a Ministerial officer; he would be required to put down every name sent him, only retaining the power common to any one else in the parish-to write the word "objected" against any given name. That power was given to him with a view to put a stop to absurd and ridiculous claims, having no foundation, which might otherwise place men upon the list, who had no business there whatever, and which, even with that precaution, might still, in many instances, take place. It was said, that the Overseer would have immense power; and both the hon. member for Brecon, and the hon. and learned Member who last addressed the House, spoke as if Overseers were generally persons of no respectability or 89 character; but that opinion was quite contrary to experience, and, in country parishes, Overseers were generally persons of a character and situation that rendered it improbable that they would causelessly object to a person who, in the opinion of all his neighbours, had a right to vote. The hon. member for Brecon said, that the necessity of maintaining his objection, by calling witnesses before the Barrister, was thrown upon the Overseer; but such was not the case. He might be asked why he Objected; but he would not be under the necessity of going to any expense whatever to maintain his objection—all the effect of it being, that the Barrister would call upon the voter to establish a primâ, facie right. The plan of proceeding would be this; after the list had been made up, it would be published through the parish, which would give an opportunity to all those interested to state their objections to particular names. It would then be forwarded to the Barrister (who was to be appointed by the Judges on circuit, and not the Lord Chancellor, as had been asserted by the hon. and learned Gentleman), who would proceed to inquire into the cases of disputed votes, of which, after the first registration, there would be few cases to decide, as the persons in each parish could generally know whether the lists remitted to him were correct. Then it was said, the plan of a registry had been before tried, and failed. That failure, however, was mainly owing to persons being at that time indifferent to the right of voting—a feeling that was very materially altered at present. This statement regarded counties only. In boroughs there was no necessity to impose upon the voter the establishment of his claim, because, there the Overseers would be competent to judge of it, from the right being more simple. It was further remarked, that this difference of plan would cause confusion, but he saw no proof of the assertion; and, on the whole, as no better plan had been proposed than that contained in the clause, he must adhere to that; and he trusted it would also receive the support of the House.
wished the noble Lord to understand that he was quite ready to give the vote to every man in counties who could take the freeholder's oath, and was rated at 40s, and, in boroughs, to every man rated at 10l. If these were Universal Suffrage, he was not opposed to it.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
observed, that suffi- 90 cient provision did not appear to be made to guard against erroneous registration. Where there were two Overseers, which was generally the case, who was to decide between them, if they differed? They were not, generally speaking, persons of sufficient qualifications to decide upon disputed votes. He was aware that the noble Lord was in some difficulty as the adoption of a mode of registration, and he was not prepared to suggest any other. Undoubtedly a well-considered system, which would save expense and facilitate the establishment of the right of voting, was most desirable, but there was a great difficulty in creating it. He was, however, of opinion, that the List prepared by the Overseer should be submitted to the parish Vestry, in the first place, for approval. His chief objection, however, applied rather to the Barristers, who were to decide, in almost every instance, in the last resort; for the only appeal from their decision would be the expensive one of an election petition to that House. As the law stood, the Sheriff appointed an Assessor to decide upon questions of disputed votes; and this Assessor was already an officer recognized by the Constitution. He did not see why his functions should be transferred to the Barrister, who was to be appointed by the Judges; or, as his learned friend said, more properly, by the Lord Chancellor. The Barrister might, or might not, be a political partizan, but would he be a better Judge than the Sheriff, or the Sheriff's Assessor? Would he be a less expensive Judge? Would he be less prejudiced than the Sheriff, who had the eyes of the whole county upon him? or the Sheriff's Assessor who might have the eyes of the whole county brought upon him by the public Press? The chief trouble in establishing a general registration would be experienced in the first year: afterwards there would be little or none. In the first year, when all the business would really have to be done, and the whole registration nearly settled for a number of years, both the Overseers and Barristers must partake of the excited feelings existing throughout the country; they must have a bias towards those who were considered to entertain liberal sentiments, and some feeling against those of opposite opinions. On that ground, he objected to this Barrister, who would be appointed by a Cabinet Minister, being the judge of all the disputed votes in the county. Would 91 it not be possible, if the Sheriff and his Assessor did not satisfy the noble Lord, to throw this duty upon the Magistrates assembled in Petty Sessions? His object was, not to find fault with the registration (for of that he approved), nor with the Overseers, though he thought they should not have the power given them by the clause; but to object to the appointment of Barristers, when their functions might be performed by a cheap, constitutional, and unobjectionable tribunal.
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
concurred in the opinion, that the system of registration introduced by this clause of the Bill would tend to shorten the duration of elections; yet, at the same time, it would have the effect of increasing the litigiousness of the people in cases which might come before the House, of controverted elections.
considered the clause of great importance, and particularly deserving of consideration, because all parties agreed in the principle, for all were desirous of diminishing the expense of elections. His objection was less to the machinery, though to that he objected, than to the complicated right of voting which the Bill introduced into our county Representation. The Overseers would be authorized to object to claims founded on freehold, leasehold, copyhold, and other rights, of most of which they might be profoundly ignorant. If any man had set to work to invent the most complicated right of voting, and to establish a court of judicature least calculated to adjudicate upon that right of voting, he could not have accomplished it so completely and perfectly as was done by this clause of the Bill. Any person in a parish besides the Overseer could object to the voters; that quiet respectable people would not do, but troublesome meddling persons would, and the end of the matter would be, that the List would be prepared by some lawyer for his own purposes. He would be met by the lawyers of the opposite party, and the collision that would take place would prolong the contests from one year to another without intermission, and those contests would be of the most annoying description. By one of the late constitutions of France, though they had changed so frequently of late years that he hardly knew which, it was arranged that one-fifth of the Representation should be renewed every year; and the consequence was, that every depart- 92 ment of France was kept in a constant state of irritation and confusion. His noble friend, the member for Northampton shire, would, no doubt, after an election, be glad to forget and forgive for five or six years afterwards all the squabbles, and to live amicably with his neighbours, but if these registration clauses were to pass, the whole country would be kept in a constant state of irritation. With respect to another point he had a single remark to offer, and that regarded the appointment of the Barrister by the Lord Chancellor. If he was to interfere at all with the appointment, the proposition would be open to all the objections urged by his hon. friends; and if he was not to interfere, why introduce his name? He allowed that his noble friend at the head of the law would conscientiously discharge his duty; but he must necessarily be a political partizan. The whole difficulty in this matter appeared to arise from the complexity in the proposed right of voting. If the right were made simple, the Overseers would be competent judges of it. The question, then, was, whether it would be possible to have a more simple right of voting. The noble Lord opposite said, that, to take the Poor-rates at all as a test, would lead almost to Universal Suffrage; but the amount of the rate, which should be a qualification, might be limited. It was not necessary to take as voters all who were rated to the support of the poor; but the scale might be graduated on the principle of property. The nature of the present county qualification opposed no objection; for the principle of the Bill being to give the people the entire power of electing this House, it was right to obtain that object by the simplest method. He felt perfectly convinced that the Legislature must do with the registration clauses what was done with the measure of 1788, namely, repeal them, for the difficulties which then existed had been increased.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
denied that there was any complication, as insisted upon by the hon. Members opposite, in the right of voting as introduced by the Bill. With respect to the system of ascertaining the right by rating, the Overseers would be guided by former rates, which had been made long antecedent to an election. There was one advantage in the clause, which was, that candidates would be saved the expenses of lawyers and 93 assessors to discuss and adjudicate on votes, and thus enable a candidate, if time was required, to procrastinate the election. He could see no solid objection to the clause.
said, a distinction was made in this clause between the county and borough voters, which was of no use, and for which he could see no occasion. The county voter was compelled to apply to the Overseer in a given form, claiming his right; the borough voter, where the means of obtaining information were greater and where voters might have been left more reasonably to take the initiative, the matter was left entirely in the hands of the Overseer, without any trouble to the voter whatever. He felt confident that, in rural parishes, unless some person was interested in putting the names of the parties upon the Register, only a small portion of those entitled to vote would be able to comply with the provisions of the Act. He would not go into the general argument of registration, for to all the arguments that had hitherto been urged against it, no satisfactory answer had been given. He did not wish to agitate this question as one of controversy between the two sides of the House, but his belief was, that if these provisions were not yielded up as impracticable, the country would be thrown into the greatest confusion. The attempt at registration had been tried before, upon principles not different from those under consideration; but the Act was repealed in the succeeding year, with the specific acknowledgement that it was given up because it, was impracticable, and led to great expense. At that time it must be remembered the right of voting for counties was simple and clear, compared with what it would be under the Bill.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that giving men in rural districts a form of application must rather afford them a facility than otherwise to obtain their right; and so far from there being that want of information which the right hon. Gentleman supposed to exist in rural parishes, there was not a man in them unacquainted with his right.
said, he begged to call the noble Lord's attention to the following proviso in clause 36—"Provided always, that, after the formation of the Register to be made in each year, as hereinafter mentioned, no person whose name shall be upon such Register for the time being, 94 shall be required thereafter to make any such claim as aforesaid, unless such person shall, since the formation of such Register for the time being, have ceased to have the qualification or place of abode described in such Register for the time being." By that was meant, he supposed, that if an individual changed his qualification, he should have a right to make this claim; but, as the proviso stood, it would enable a man to make a claim who had no qualification at all. He begged, therefore, to suggest to the noble Lord the expediency of making this proviso more clear.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the meaning was sufficiently clear; it was, that if a party ceased to have the qualification described in the Register, he must, in order to be entitled to vote, make a new application.
must suppose that the Solicitor General for Ireland drew up this clause; for, as it stood, it certainly said to an individual, who had sold his qulfication, that he, upon application, might be again put upon the Register.
said, by the terms of the clause, if a person was registered, and afterwards parted with his freehold, there was no provision made that his name should be expunged, so that it might happen that two persons might be registered for the same qualification.
§ On the question that the clause as amended stand part of the Bill, a division was called for—Ayes 168; Noes 65—Majority 103.
§ List of the AYES.
§ [It appears that 188 were actually in the House, and voted on this division, although the Tellers only reported 168. The manner in which the numbers are counted in Committee is so inconvenient, that it leads often to mistakes, as on this evening must have been the ease.]
|Althorp, Lord||Briscoe, J. I.|
|Ashley, Sir J.||Brougham, J.|
|Baring, F. T.||Brougham, W.|
|Barnett, C. J.||Buck, Lewis W.|
|Benett, John||Calvert, N.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Carter, J. B.|
|Berkeley, Captain||Cavendish, Colonel|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Chicester, J. P. B.|
|Blamire, w.||Clive, E. B.|
|Blunt, sir C.||Cradock, Colonel|
|Bouverie, Hon. P.||Creevey, T.|
|Cunliffe, O.||Penleaze, J. S.|
|Davies, Colonel||Petit, L. H.|
|Denison, W. J.||Petre, Hon. E.|
|Denman, Sir T.||Phillipps, C. M.|
|Duncombe, T. S.||Philips, G. R.|
|Dundas, Sir R.||Ponsonby, J. B.|
|Dundas, J. C.||Pucey, P.|
|Dundas, Hon. T.||Poyntz, W.S.|
|Easthorpe, J.||Ramsden, J.C.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Rider, T.|
|Ellice, E.||Robarts, A. W.|
|Ellis, W.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Etwall, R.||Rooper, J. B.|
|Evans, W.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Ewart, W.||Russell, Lt. Col.|
|Fazakerley, J. N.||Russell, W.|
|Fellowes, H. A.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Foley, Hon. T.||Sanford, E. A.|
|Folkes, Sir W.||Scott, Sir E. D.|
|Godson, R.||Sebright, Sir J. S.|
|Greene, T. G.||Skipwith, Sir G.|
|Harcourt, G. V.||Smith, Hon. R. J.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Smith, J.|
|Heathcote, Sir J.||Smith, M. T.|
|Heneage, G. F.||Smith, R. V.|
|Heywood, B.||Spence, G.|
|Hodgson, J.||Spencer, Hon. Captain|
|Horne, Sir W.||Stanhope, Cap in|
|Hoskins, K.||Stephenson, H. F.|
|Howard, H.||Strickland, G.|
|Howick, Viscount||Strutt, E.|
|Hughes, Colonel||Stuart, Lord D. C.|
|Hume, J.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Ingilby, Sir W.||Talbot, C. R.|
|James, W.||Tennyson, C.|
|Jerningham, H.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Kemp, T. R.||Thompson, P. B.|
|King, E. B.||Thompson, W.|
|Knight, R.||Tomes, J.|
|Labouchere, H.||Townley, R. G.|
|Langston, J. H.||Townshend, Lord C.|
|Langton, Colonel G.||Tracy, C.|
|Lawley, F.||Troubridge, Sir E.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Tynte, C. K. K.|
|Leigh, T. C.||Venables, W.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Vernon, G. J.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Vernon, Hon. G. H.|
|Lumley, S.||Villiers, T.H.|
|Maberly, Colonel||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Macdonald, Sir J.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Mangles, J.||Waithman, R.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Walrond, B.|
|Mayhew, W.||Warburton, H.|
|Moreton, H.||Wason, W. R.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Webb, Colonel E.|
|Noel, Sir G.||Wellesley, Hon. W.|
|North, F.||Western, C. C,|
|Norton, C. F.||Weyland, Major|
|Nowell, A.||Whitmore, W.|
|Nugent, Lord||Wilbraham, G.|
|Ord, W.||Wilde, T.|
|Paget, Sir C.||Williams, J.|
|Paget, T.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Wood, C.|
|Pelham, Hon. C.||Wood, J.|
|Pendarves, E. W.||Wrightson, W.|
|Wrottesley Sir J||Browne, D.|
|Adam, Admiral||Burke, Sir J.|
|Dixon, J.||Carew, R. S.|
|Fergusson, R.||Chichester, Sir A.|
|Gillon, W. D.||French, A.|
|Halliburton, Hon.||Leader, N. P.|
|Jeffrey, Rt. Hon. F||O'Connor, Don.|
|Johnston, A.||Ponsonby, Hon. G.|
|Johnstone, J.||Power, R.|
|Johnstone, J. J.||Rice, Right Hon. T.|
|Mackenzie, S.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|M'Leod, R.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Sinclair, G.||Walker, C. A.|
|Stewart. E,||Westernra, Hon, H.|
|Belfast, Earl of||TELLER.|
|Bodkin, J. J. H.||Duncannon, Viscount|
§ The Chairman read the 37th Clause, relative to the making out of lists of electors by the Overseers.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
opposed the clause. He thought it better that the list should be forwarded by the Overseer to some other person to be remitted to the Barrister, then to the Clerk of the Peace, as they had no other duties in common.
remarked, that the list was to be transmitted by the Overseer to the High Constable, from him to the Clerk of the Peace, from him to the Barrister, and from him, when completed, to the High Sheriff.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
was of opinion, that some remuneration should be granted to Overseers, whose labours under the clause would be very considerable.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
complained that, upon the last division, the time of the House had been trifled with by the Members on the opposite side, who were conscious of being the majority. The cry of "divide" had proceeded from a knot of hon. Members who, just on the point of the division, entered the House to vote upon the question, which they knew nothing of; and although they heard none of the arguments made use of by the opposers of the clause, they came trooping in to swell the majority for Ministers. Certainly such conduct was extremely irregular, and sufficiently indicated the animus with which they gave their indiscriminate support to the Ministerial framers of the Bill.
observed, that the charge now made against some individuals on his side of the House was of a very grave nature. It was a most unparliamentary charge to assert, that Members had called for a division when they knew they 97 were in a majority, and he thought the learned Gentleman was bound to substantiate it against the individual or individuals whom he intended to inculpate.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, that the cry came from a mass of persons on that side, where there was a stimultaneous rush. He could not point out any particular individual. It was after the question had been put a second time that the "No" had come from the quarter he had alluded to, and he hoped the Member who had caused the division would have the candour to avow it.
said, that the hon. Gentleman had made a most unfair attack upon Members on that side of the House. The rush of persons who had not heard the debate was greater on the hon. Member's side of the House, and he most distinctly heard the hon. Member for the University of Oxford cry out "No."
did not deny that the noes came first from his side of the House, but he put it to hon. Gentlemen whether a discussion like the present was not unadvisable.
Sir George Rose
said, that he was the person who pointed out to the Chairman from whence the "No" came, which was the immediate cause of the division. He, however, fully agreed that a conversation like the present was anything but useful.
The reading of the clause was then proceeded in by the Chairman to the effect, that extra parochial places having no overseers, should be deemed for the purpose of the Act, to be within the adjoining townships.
said, this provision would cast an immense deal of additional labour upon the overseers of the adjacent parishes, for which they were to receive no remuneration. It, therefore, was not very likely the work would be well performed.
§ Mr. Strickland
was also of opinion, that so much of the overseer's time would be taken up by carrying the Act into execution, that some moderate provision ought to be allowed him as a compensation for labour.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, the great objection to the clause was, that persons 98 would be called upon to pay for that in which they had no interest. The rates were collected, not from the electors only, but from the parish at large, many persons in which might have nothing to do with the votes for the county; and yet these persons were required to pay for ascertaining the votes of other persons.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
wished to call the attention of the hon. member for Yorkshire (Mr. Strickland) and of the noble Lord, to a subsequent clause in the Bill, relative to the expenses of the overseer. The words of the clause were: "And be it enacted, that the expenses incurred by the overseers of any parish or township in making out, printing and publishing the lists and notices directed by this Act, and all other expenses incurred by them in carrying into effect the provisions of this Act, shall be defrayed out of the money collected or to be collected for the relief of the poor in such parish or township." The question therefore was, whether under this clause, the overseer would not be entitled to compensation for labour, as well as to have his expenses defrayed. The probability was that, in practice, such compensation would be made. If it was the intention of the noble Lord that no remuneration for labour was to be specifically allowed by this Bill while, in practice, such an allowance would be made, the inconsistency of the two provisions would be very objectionable.
§ Lord Althorp
did not consider that the clause to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred, authorised any remuneration to be given to the overseers, for the labour they might be called upon to perform, in carrying the provisions of this Bill into effect; nor did he think that it was the intention of the law generally that such officers should be entitled to remuneration for labour.
§ Mr. Weyland
remarked, that it must also be understood, that by this law the parish authorities had no power to make any remuneration to the overseer; and the overseer no right to claim any out of the Poor-rates for whatever services he might have to perform under this Act.
Mr. Fyshe Palmer
had always understood that the vestry had the power to defray the expenses of the overseer. In many cases the overseer had little or nothing to do, as another person was appointed who really did the principal part of the duty, and was always paid for his labour.
§ Mr. John Campbell
said, it was to be regretted that public officers should have any very expensive or troublesome duties imposed upon them; but, in this case, the duty cast upon the overseer would not be great. Some persons had been obliged to attend at the Court of King's Bench from day to day, for the last fortnight, awaiting the trial of some causes before my Lord Tenterden; and who would not have a shilling a day for their protracted attendance. That was a case ten times harder and more troublesome than that of making out the list of voters, which would be cast upon overseers by this Bill. He did not think two whole days in the year would be occupied by such labour. But as the duty must be performed, it was much better that it should be done at their own cost, than open such a door to the appropriation of a part of the Poor-rates.
§ Clause agreed to, and the House resumed.