§ Mr. Duncombe
rose, and begged to apologize to the House for delaying them from at once proceeding to the Order of the Day; but he had to represent to that House a grievance of a very serious kind, which had been sustained by a number of his Majesty's subjects. He had given notice of his intention to present a petition on the subject, but the time of the evening had passed at which he could do so. If the petition had been only a petition in favour of the Reform Bill, he would not have trespassed upon the attention of the House by any observations respecting it, but it was one of a more extensive nature. It related to an address purporting to be from the county of Hertford, and which had been carried down to Brighton with great pomp and ceremony, and presented to his Majesty by two noble individuals—Lords Salisbury and Verulam. That address was doubly insulting, as it was a gross fraud both on his Majesty and the county. He could, if he pleased, speak of the bribes and threats which had been used in order to procure signatures to it; but he would for the present merely refer to what the petitioners on whose behalf he spoke, had said. The petitioners then stated, that last year they had addressed 200 his Majesty in favour of Reform, and that this year another address to the King had been circulated amongst them, and sent to their houses, through one Andrewes, an Attorney, which address congratulated the King on the rejection of the Reform Bill, and thanked his Majesty for not having made Peers to ensure that object. This Andrewes, however, had represented it to the petitioners as an address to his Majesty to pass the Reform Bill, and for a repeal of the assessed taxes. The petitioners further stated, that they were most anxious for the passing of the Reform Bill; that there had been no change in their minds; and that if they were to express any opinion with respect to his Majesty's prerogative, it would be, that it could not be better exercised than in forwarding the Reform Bill now before the House. This was what the petition stated, and he would now, with the permission of the House, shortly advert to the address into which the petitioners had been entrapped. The address bore the usual commencement of Anti-reform documents, and it pretended to come from the nobility, gentry, and clergy of the county of Hertford. It began with the usual jargon of the Anti-reformers calling the Bill a revolutionary measure, and denouncing political unions. To this part of it in particular the petitioners expressly objected, namely, where it stated, "that they offered their humble thanks to his Majesty for resisting the creation of new Peers, for the purpose of passing the Reform Bill, thereby annihilating"—mark this—"that House, and utterly destroying, by such an exercise of the royal prerogative, that happy balance under which this country had so long flourished." "Yes," said the hon. Member, "so long flourished, and finely, indeed, we had flourished!" This was the deception the petitioners complained of, and though the country might have flourished with and for the few real addressers, he would ask, were these few individuals to tell the King not to exercise his prerogative? Were they to ask the King to refuse the creation of new Peers, when the whole country was asking for it? He would beg to ask the Gentlemen opposite, who cheered, whether they would presume to say this would not be a constitutional exercise of the King's prerogative, when it was for the country's welfare; or whether they meant it would only be exercised constitutionally, when it was for the benefit 201 of them and their circle? If this was their opinion, much as he respected some of them in private life, he must nevertheless say, that he looked upon Blackstone and Locke as higher constitutional authorities than the Marquis of Salisbury and Lord Verulam; and believing, that without it the Peers would reject the Bill, he earnestly hoped that his Majesty would exercise his prerogative for the good of the country, and make as many Peers as were necessary for that object. There was precedent for it in the reign of Queen Anne, as advised by the Earl of Oxford. Perhaps he might be told, that Lord Oxford was impeached. But what became of that impeachment? That which must be the fate of all impeachments proceeding from factious motives—Lord Oxford was honourably and unanimously acquitted. In the reign of George 1st, a bill had been brought in to limit the number of Peers. Thank God, that bill was rejected; and now the country would experience the benefit of the rejection. In the address of which the petitioners justly complained, it was stated that "the King had magnanimously withstood the pressing solicitations of his Ministers to create Peers." He (Mr. Duncombe) most emphatically denied that such was the fact. His assertion was at least as good as that of the address, and would, in the sequel, be found to be more correct than hon. Members who cried "Oh" were willing to believe. He repeated that his Majesty had not withstood the opinions of his responsible advisers, that it was necessary to create Peers, for he had armed his Ministers with power to carry into full efficiency the national measure of Reform. And he would tell those Ministers, if they did not exercise that power with prompt energy, they would justly incur the indignation of the country, and deserve impeachment. He had no doubt, however, that, knowing the serious responsibility to which they would otherwise subject themselves, Ministers would do their duty, notwithstanding the pomp and dignity with which the address was presented by Lords Salisbury and Verulam to the King at Brighton—the one noble Lord, he presumed, being necessary to the presentation of the petition, and the other to the expounding its strange doctrines—the petitioners were ready to prove, at the Bar of that House, that never was there a more gross attempt to deceive his Majesty and the public as to the feel- 202 ings of the county of Hertford in reference to Reform, than the address to which their signatures were fraudulently obtained.
§ Mr. Mackinnon
was not acquainted with the noble Marquis whom the hon. Member had just gone out of his way to asperse; and he was persuaded the House would not take their estimate of that nobleman's character from the representations of the hon. Gentleman; but it so happened that he was acquainted with some facts connected with the petition from Hertford, which he begged leave to state to the House, as they completely exonerated Lord Salisbury from any participation in the conduct complained of. The hon. Member said, that the address was couched "in the usual jargon of the Anti-reformers;" but he would tell the hon. Member, in return to that remark, that the "usual jargon" of the advocates of the Reform Bill was to abuse, and, if possible, intimidate every nobleman, gentleman, and other respectable individuals who had the manliness to state his opinions. In order to exculpate the respectable solicitor whose name had been mentioned, he would read a letter which he had that day received from that Gentleman, whose character would bear the strictest investigation; and that letter would show that neither Lord Salisbury nor Mr. Andrewes was liable to the imputations which had been cast upon them. The letter was as follows:—My dear Sir,—Mr. Duncombe, the member for Hertford, has given notice of his intention to present, this evening, a petition from certain freeholders of Herts, in favour of the Reform Bill and complaining that their signatures were fraudulently obtained to an address lately presented to his Majesty against Reform and a creation of Peers. I understand that I am one of the persons said to have improperly obtained signatures (at Barnet), and I shall feel much obliged by your making the following statement to the House of Commons on the presentation of such petition. Some short time since I procured signatures at Barnet to an Address to his Majesty, against Political Unions, for a constitutional Reform, and against the creation of new Peers. Several persons signed the Address. Six of them—namely, Mereweather, an ironmonger; Rolph, a baker: Thimbleby, a pawnbroker; Salmon, a coach master; Weslake, a watch maker; and Mr. Thomas Sears, a butcher—have now, at the instance of a person of the name of Dell, signed a paper, stating that I deceived them as to the purport of the Address, and told them that it was to get the Assessed Taxes taken off. Now, I do most solemnly declare (and am ready to do so upon oath), that I distinctly acquainted the five first 203 named persons with the real nature and purport of the Address; and that I never mentioned or alluded to the Assessed Taxes in my interview with those persons. With respect to Mr. Sears, the following circumstances occurred:—Mr. Sears is almost a next-door neighbour, and a very excellent client and well-wisher of mine. I called upon him with the Address, and, in joke, asked him, if he would like the Assessed Taxes taken off. I then asked him to sign the parchment which I had in my hand. He was about to do so, when I told him he had better read it. He replied, that 'He didn't care what it was, that he would sign any-thing, and particularly if it was to hang the lawyers.' Mr. Sears will state that what passed in regard to the Assessed Taxes, was in joke, and not for the purpose of deceiving him. Dell is a political enthusiast; and has, from his assailing, jeering, and annoying the six mentioned individuals, and taking advantage of the occurrence with Sears, obtained their signatures to the paper repudiating the address. I can prove, by the testimony of a respectable person, that one of the six persons who now states he was deceived, actually acknowledged that he had read part of the address; and I beg to hand you testimonials from several highly respectable individuals of the town and vicinity in which I reside, as to the respectability of my character, and stating that they do not believe I would be guilty of any act derogatory to the character of a man of honour and a gentleman. Had I been aware a few hours sooner of this matter being brought forward, I would have procured testimonials from every gentleman in the neighbourhood, which, I am confident, they would have readily given to me. I remain, my dear Sir, your very obedient humble servant,AUGUSTUS THOS. ANDREWES.To W. A. Mackinnon, Esq.In corroboration of this letter, he held in his hand a testimonial to the excellence of Mr. Andrewes's character, signed by from twenty-five to thirty of the most respectable gentlemen in Hertford. But Mr. Andrewes's vindication did not rest on this alone. There was a letter from the very individual, Sears, who now complained of him, and who, he might observe, cared nothing about Reform, and who feigned a zeal for it, because the hon. member for Middlesex (Byng) was one of his employers, in which Sears states—"It is true, when you requested me to sign the Address to the King, you did not explain to me its purport; at the same time, I am free to admit, that when you mentioned the Assessed Taxes, you did it jocosely, and without any intention to deceiving me. I might have read the Address, but I declined doing so." These letters, he took it, abundantly disproved the hon. Member's 204 statement, founded on the complaint of Messrs. Sears and Co. The truth was, these persons cared very little about the Reform Bill, while the intelligence and property of the county of Hertford were decidedly opposed to it.
§ Lord Stormont
said, that those who vented their tirades against the opponents of the Bill, for causing delay, must admit, that, in this, as in several other instances, they were themselves the great offenders on that point. It appeared to him most ridiculous, that the hon. Member should present a petition from a man who acknowledged he had signed a petition which he had never read. Had the petitioners read the petition which they now presented? As to the charge against Mr. Andrewes, of going from house to house to obtain signatures to an address under false pretences—it was perfectly incredible. A more respectable gentleman could not be found; he was well acquainted with him, and could take it upon him to say, that a more respectable man did not belong to his profession. That gentleman was ready to meet the hon. member for Hertford at the Bar of that House, and to bring forward evidence which would completely destroy the hon. Gentleman's statement. The fact was, the petition on which that statement was founded, was got up by a person named Dell. Its allegations had, however, been so completely disproved by the letter just read by the hon. member for Lymirigton, that he need not dwell upon them. The statement of Mr. Sear showed that there was no intention to deceive on the part of Mr. Andrewes. He had never said that the address was for the repeal of the Assessed Taxes; but had only asked jocosely if Mr. Sear would like to see them repealed. It was really a very unusual course for that House to enter into any discussion respecting an Address to the King. It was a matter of which it had no cognizance. The motive, in the present instance, was the impression which the Address had made, not only on the country, but in a very high quarter. It had been received by the King with a condescension which would not have been shown had it contained anything disrespectful to the Sovereign. He would only add, that a petition less entitled to credit, or more despicable, as considered with re- 205 ference either to its motives, or to the individuals from whom it had proceeded, had never been brought under the consideration of the House.
§ Mr. Byng,
in answer to the assertion made by the hon. member for Lymington, that the intelligence, property, and majority of the inhabitants of Hertford, were opposed to the Reform Bill, could take it upon him to state, that few freeholders or inhabitants of that county would willingly sign a petition against that Bill. He was persuaded not one in twenty were opposed to it generally. He knew that was the case in that district of the county in which Barnet was situated. With respect to the petitioner, Sears, of whom mention had been made, he thought it right to state, that, according to that person's version of the interview between him and Andrewes, the conduct of the latter was not altogether sans reproche. Sears told him, that as he was in his shop on a Saturday, busy attending to his customers, Andrewes came in, and exclaimed, "Pray, Sears, do you wish to see the Assessed Taxes repealed?" "Oh, certainly," answered Sears, "by all means." "Then you have only to put your name to this petition, which, however, you had better read first." To this Sears replied, "I am now, as you see, very busy, and cannot spare time to read the paper; but I am sure you would not deceive me as to its import, and therefore I'll sign it at once." Another of the petitioners, Mr. Westlake, a watch-maker, told him that Andrewes played the same trick with him.
§ Mr. Mackinnon
was sure the House would see, that Seare's own letter was a direct contradiction to the statement just made by the hon, member for Middlesex.
Sir Charles Wethcrell
was sure that the House could not have a second opinion as to the object of the present discussion. He must say, without meaning the slightest disrespect to the hon. member for Hertford, that this was one of the most extraordinary petitions that had ever been introduced to the notice of the House. Indeed it could not have been admitted at all, if the individuals from whom it proceeded had not contrived to insert a few words in it on the subject of Reform. Availing themselves of that stratagem, they had endeavoured to cast obloquy on two of the most respectable men in the country—Lord Verulam and Lord Salisbury. Further, it was also perfectly evi- 206 dent that, the litera, scripti of Sears, the reforming butcher, was a complete refutation of his statement to the hon. member for Middlesex. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. member for Hertford, in reference to the policy of forcing the Reform Bill through the House of Lords by a coup de main creation of Peers, he should shortly have occasion to state his views of the subject to the House, having an important motion with respect to Peerage creations on the Order List, and would endeavour to show that such a creation would be as illegal as it would be unconstitutional, and destructive of the legislative independence of the House of Lords. Lord Oxford's creation of Peers, and subsequent impeachment, did not apply to the present case. The House of Lords at that time was equally divided, and, therefore, required only a casting voice to give a majority on the measure which that Minister was anxious to carry, and had not pledged itself by a vote; but, in the present instance, a large majority had recorded its emphatic rejection of the revolutionary Bill of the Whig Cabinet of 1831. It was not his intention to raise any objection to the reception of the petition, but this he did not hesitate to affirm, it had been brought forward principally for the purpose of casting a stigma upon two noblemen of unimpeachable honour and unbending integrity.
The Marquis of Chandos
bore testimony to the good character of the gentleman (Mr. Andrewes) to whom the hon. member for Hertford had made what he considered rather a discourteous allusion. The individual whose name had been somewhat invidiously introduced, had resided for a considerable period in Buckinghamshire, and from his knowledge of his character he could undertake to say, that he would be entirely incapable of the dishonourable conduct ascribed to him.
An. Hon. Member
said, there were other individuals who had been imposed upon in a belief that they were signing a petition against the Assessed Taxes, besides those whose names had been mentioned. He held in his hand a letter from a person of the name of Willatt, couched in these terms, "Mr. Andrewes applied to me to sign an Address to his Majesty; being very much engaged in business, I entirely forgot to read it at the time, but I was told by that gentleman, that it prayed the House of Commons to pass the Reform 207 Bill into a law without delay." The only ground on which the House was called upon to doubt the assertions of the petitioners was, that the character of Mr. Andrewes was above suspicion, but here was another statement of a respectable individual opposed to his, and the balance of testimony was certainly against him, But, to leave that part of the question, he must observe, that it was high time for Ministers to advise the King to exercise his royal prerogative by an immediate creation of such a number of Peers as might be found necessary. This constitutional power was happily vested in the Crown for the security of the public peace, and the prevention of a dangerous collision between the two Houses of Parliament.
§ Mr. Croker
did not rise to offer any observations on the latter part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman, although the advice he had given could not but come with great weight from an individual whom, he had no doubt, the Government held in very high esteem and respect. It was, however, something new, to hear such advice given by a Gentleman who stood in so peculiar a situation with respect to his Majesty's Ministers as the hon. Member; and it certainly did seem to him somewhat extraordinary that he should take upon himself to advise them, in such strong terms as he had used, with respect to the very highest and most important exercise of their Ministerial duty. He did not, however, rise for the purpose of entering into that part of the discussion. The argument, such as it was, had been so completely answered by his hon. friend, that it was perfectly unnecessary to dwell any longer upon the subject. It was, no doubt, a prerogative of the Crown to create Peers; but that, like every other prerogative which was given to the several Members of the Constitution, was liable to abuse, if it be pushed to a dangerous extent, or in furtherance of improper or unconstitutional, or mere temporary purposes. He asserted that there was no extremity to which the exercise of this prerogative could be carried, which would be so dangerous, or so unconstitutional, as the creation of Peers to an extent like that proposed, and with the direct object of overwhelming and overpowering the matured and well-considered opinions of a deliberative assembly, and of rendering it utterly subservient to a mob clamour. Supposing, 208 in the course of political events—or, more correctly speaking, in the changing tide of public opinion—that, after the creation of these new Peers shall have been made, there should arise some new feeling, or some "re-action" in the public mind on this very question of Reform, which should coincide with that under which the Lords thought proper to reject the last Reform Bill; suppose that the House of Commons, under such an altered state of circumstances, should find itself again opposed, in opinion, to the other House of Parliament—enlarged, as that would be, by this infusion of a large body of new Peers—what would be the result? Why, the hon. Gentleman must see that it would be again necessary for the Ministers of the day to come down here and announce a new creation of Peers, in order to restore the House of Lords to its original state—to the tone and condition in which it was before this first experiment on increasing its numbers; and thus we should go on, from one majority to another, proceeding ad infinitum, until the House of Lords would itself become a mere subservient mob—losing all respect with the people—losing all that weight in the Constitution—and losing all that authority with public opinion, which at present they possess, and which they derive only from their peculiar situation, as possessing a wholesome, well-balanced, and independant power and control, which is exercised as between the Crown on the one hand, and the people, on the other. He contended, that if the principle were once laid down, that a majority should be created in the House of Lords with a view to carry any great Ministerial measure, for the success of which it might be required, the House of Lords would, in effect, be reduced to anything else but an independent legislative assembly. That House instead of being—as it always had been, and as he hoped and trusted it ever would be—the best and wisest check upon the Commons House of Parliament, would become neither more nor less than a nuisance, and would be the very worst instrument that a tyrannical Government could wield, in order to forward its own views of policy, or promote its own particular interests. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last read a letter, from which he inferred, that the statements of the petitioners were true. Now, that letter led him to a directly contrary inference, 209 namely, that the statements of the petitioners were likely to be false; for if those gentlemen did, to one person, distinctly state that the petition was for Reform, and expressly for Reform, and procured the signature of the writer by that first application, was it to be believed that they did not pursue the same course in other instances? and the letter itself contained no statement of the kind alleged by the hon. Gentleman; the only allegation was, Mr. Andrewes talked about assessed taxes, and induced the petitioners to sign a petition, of the contents of which they were totally ignorant. This was all matter of inference, he admitted, but the letter had satisfied his mind, most decidedly, that if it went to prove anything at all, it went, pro tanto, to contradict what they had heard of the petition which was read by the hon. member for Hertford. It was true, that the petition presented by the hon. Member concluded by expressing the wish of the six petitioners for the adoption of a measure of Parliamentary Reform, and might be very properly received at the proper time as a petition for that object. But he must say, that it seemed to him rather singular, that the hon. Gentleman should have thought fit to offer this petition to the notice of the House, at a time when it could not, with propriety, be received; and he has raised thereby a debate, on the question of the Speaker leaving the Chair for the purpose of the House going into Committee on the Reform Bill. He must take the liberty of saying, that although part of the petition relating to Reform might be received at the proper season, the main body of it was most improperly, unnecessarily, and futilely addressed to this House, because it complained of the signatures of some persons being improperly obtained—not to an address to the House, but to an address to the Crown. The natural course to be adopted, therefore, by these petitioners, if they really wished to set themselves right, would have been to draw, up an address to his Majesty, and to have had it presented by the proper authorities (who, he had no doubt, would have carried it forward with great readiness, an application being made to them for that purpose). But was it matter of such extraordinary surprise, that four, five, or six persons should have signed a petition, either by accident or not, without knowing its contents? Why, there 210 never was a petition, numerously signed, presented to the House, in which some such mistakes had not been made. An hon. Gentleman stated the other evening, with respect to a petition he presented, that there were signatures appended to it which were not those of any person who resided in the town; and was it not known to the House, that, in numerous instances of voluminous petitions, it had been discovered that there were hundreds of names in the same hand-writing, and, of course, all irregular or fictitious? yet no one pretended to say, that those great petitions did not contain the signatures of a large number of people entitled to the greatest weight and consideration, merely because some few names were less respectable, and, therefore, even granting to the hon. Gentleman, that there were some signatures to this petition which were not intended by the parties to be there, was that circumstance a sufficient reason for the severe comments made in this case? It was inevitable that mistakes of this kind must sometimes be made in large petitions, partly from the impossibility of explaining to so great a number of people the nature of all the details of the document they sign, and partly from the ignorance and negligence of the parties themselves, who sign petitions without making any inquiry as to what matters or allegations they contain. But it certainly seemed to him a most unusual and unfair mode of proceeding, that the very individuals who were guilty of this culpable carelessness, should be the parties to complain, and confessing themselves to be either very ignorant or very negligent, should erect themselves into censors on the conduct of their neighbours, and endeavour to throw upon other men's character, blame which really belonged to their own.
The Hon. Member
who had already spoken, denied that he stood in any peculiar relation towards Government which should preclude his offering them any suggestions he thought proper.
§ Mr. Croker
replied, that he had merely meant that it would have been more accordant with good taste, if so new a Member, and so very warm a friend of Government, had been less dictatorial and dogmatic in the expression of his sentiments on so important a subject.
The Hon. Member
felt surprised that he should have been taken to task by the hon. member for Aldborough.
deprecated the incidental discussion of a question of so much delicacy and importance, on the mere announcement that a petition was to be presented by an hon. Member.
§ Lord Ebrington
objected to the course which hon. Gentlemen opposite had given to this debate, and quite agreed with the hon. member for Hertford as to the duty imposed on Ministers at a juncture like the present. An extensive creation of Peers—a larger creation than usual in amount—he freely allowed to be a dangerous proceeding, but the defeat of the measure of Reform was an evil of much greater magnitude, and, therefore, Ministers in his opinion, would not have been justified in bringing a Reform Bill again into that House, after one of a similar kind had already been defeated by the Peers, if they did not feel that they had power also to pass it through the House of Lords. He trusted they would exercise that power. He was not anxious to establish such a precedent, but when a measure had been brought forward with the approbation of the King, and with the good wishes of the people, and which had once passed that House by a great majority, he did feel that it ought not to be in any danger of being crushed a second time. He was certain that a creation would not only cause no danger of an impeachment of Ministers, but that it would be received with approbation and gratitude by the House of Commons. That approbation and that gratitude would likewise prevail out of doors, not with the mere mob and rabble, but amongst those who—he said it with all respect for that House—were as capable of forming sound opinions as any who then heard him.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
wondered that the noble Lord, who talked so feelingly of the delays which desultory discussions by the Tories had opposed to the Reform Bill, that he, of all men, should have prolonged an irregular conversation like the present, on a petition from six individuals in Hertfordshire. The subject he believed in his conscience, had been thus needlessly obtruded upon them for no other purpose than to procure some strong expression of feeling on the question of the creation of Peers from those Members who were habitual supporters of the present Government. With respect to what had been stated as to Lord Oxford's impeachment, let the House bear in mind that the 212 Peers which he had recommended to be created were created under a Tory Administration, and the impeachment was conducted by the Whigs, and that statesman admitted the act by the very terms of his plea to his impeachment, to have been a high crime and misdemeanour. He trusted also when this precedent was spoken of, that the Ministers who advised it would be remembered as an enemy to the succession of the House of Brunswick, and it was one of his objects by that creation to bring back the Pretender. The King, he allowed, could even double the House of Lords by his prerogative, but the responsibility for the undue or extreme exercise of that prerogative would rest on the heads of Ministers. When hon. Gentlemen advocated Peer-making, let them look to what had occurred on the other side of the channel. Let them look to what had taken place in France during the last two years, with reference to this very subject. Let hon. Gentlemen recollect that it might be necessary to turn out, as it were, the very Peers one year, who had been made in the preceding year. When Louis Phillippe came to the throne of France, it was found, that, unless the very peers who had been made but a very short time before by Villèle and his predecessors, were turned out, he could not carry on his Government for a single day. Accordingly, notwithstanding these peers had been made by the just and reasonable exercise of an undoubted prerogative of the Crown, they were turned out, and according to the new Constitution of 1830, ceased to be Peers of France. And yet the present Administration of that country was unable, only the other day, to carry a question in the French House of Peers, notwithstanding it had already pursued this extreme course; and soon afterwards the very same government created another batch of Peers, which batch of Peers produced a majority that actually decided against the existence of an hereditary Peerage in France altogether. Now could right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, who were looking up to the Peerage suppose that if such a change were to take place, their dignity would be permanent? Were they blind to the fact that, in the very year in which we were now debating, a case in point had occurred? Did they not know that the hereditary Peerage of France had been abolished by the votes of a batch of Peers made for the occasion? 213 This fact proved that when once the constitution of so great a branch as the House of Lords was touched, the checks were deranged which had been provided for the due regulation of the Legislature; and the prerogative of the Crown was endangered; and, at any rate they interfered with the proper balance of the Constitution. Be it remembered, by every Prince of the House of Brunswick that that very Administration which made the large batch of Peers, that had been cited in the nature of a precedent for their guidance, was more than suspected to be connected with a project that had for its object the exclusion from the succession to the Crown of England of that very family. Be it always remembered too, that some Members of Lord Oxford's Government were hostile to the interests of the House of Brunswick; and supposing it had happened, that, instead of the Members of that illustrious House, succeeding to the throne of these realms, the son of James 2nd,commonly called the Pretender, had succeeded Queen Anne (which, very probably, would have been his fortune, if those doctrines which were now advocated had been, at that time, acted upon to the fullest extent)—would not in such a case, the House of Brunswick at that moment, have been small Sovereigns in Germany instead of being placed on the throne of one of the greatest countries of the world? The question now before the House was of great importance. If it were introduced to the House of Commons, with a view of obtaining an expression of opinion, and of getting at the decided sentiments of the House on this subject, he would entreat the attention of all who heard him to an important historical fact. It would be recollected, that the first Prince of the House of Brunswick declared, through his Ministers, that he was willing to give up that prerogative; but his Ministers, instead of acting up to the principle which he himself had expressed his willingness to observe, came down to Parliament with a Bill, which did not simply give the King the power of making Peers, but gave him the power of altering the Scotch Peerage—of nominating acertain number of Scotch noblemen to the hereditary Peerage. On that ground it was, that the Bill was lost. If the House was to discuss a subject of this importance, let it be done fairly. Let a regular notice be given and let it come properly under consideration, but let it not be introduced incidentally, as it had 214 been to-night, in the course of the observations which the hon. member for Hertford so eloquently addressed to the House, and which he had no doubt the hon. Member intended should answer another purpose besides convincing that House.
said, that the hon. Baronet had begun and ended his speech by accusing his hon. friend and the Ministers of making an experiment to ascertain the sense of the House respecting the creation of Peers. But there was no occasion to do so, as the sentiments of the nation had been expressed at every public meeting that had been held lately throughout the country. If ever there was a period when the King's Prerogative ought to be exercised, it was at this moment. The House of Commons ought to be composed of the Representatives of the people; but the House of Lords had usurped the rights of the people, and sent Representatives of their own into that House. The King and the people were opposed to this usurpation, and the King was willing that the wish of the people for the abolition of this usurpation should take effect; but then, said some hon. Members, that would be a violation of the Constitution. It was fine indeed to hear hon. Members talk of a violation of the Constitution, when they themselves would not be Members of that House, but for a violation of the Constitution. The King was willing to assist in restoring the rights of his people, and the House of Commons joined in the wish; but the House of Lords interposed to prevent that. How was the difference between the two Houses to be reconciled? Not by force, not by violence. How then, but by the exercise of the Royal prerogative which would enable the people to succeed in destroying the present unconstitutional system of nomination. It had been said, that Ministers had the power to advise that exercise of the Royal prerogative. He almost began to doubt that, for he looked at The Gazette, day by day, to try whether he could see but one of The Gazettes with twenty-five new Peers for a beginning. If the people only saw that, they would be satisfied that the question was set at rest; they would return to their business or speculations; trade would revive; and many of the present complaints about distress would cease. He knew that a little talk would be made of the matter in that House and elsewhere, but it would be well received all over the 215 kingdom. An army never looked for the appearance of The Gazette with more anxiety than did the people at that moment. Thirty might be made in the first place. He thought that, probably the making of them would be sufficient, but if it was not—if there were, as they had been threatened, sixty-one still determined to withhold the rights of the people, why, let one hundred and twenty-two be made, and be secure. They were told, that that was making Peers for party purposes. Why, there had been the Tories for the last sixty years making Peers for party purposes. How many had got into the House of Lords in that time, in consequence of having been able to usurp the elective rights of a borough? and, taking them altogether, how many had got in there for being serviceable to the Tories against the people—how many more than for other sorts of service? Considering that, he did not think there could be any valid objection to introduce a few now, to be of service to the people.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that all this discussion had arisen out of a combination of worthy Gentlemen, who had signed a petition they had never read, and who, in consequence of doing so, had provoked a discussion on all the mysteries and arcana of Peer-making, which would postpone, for some small portion of the evening, the discussion of the Reform Bill. What he rose to protest against was, that these persons who had signed this petition without reading it, and who had thus unnecessarily introduced a debate, should still take it on themselves to press the House not to allow of further delay in the discussion of the Bill. The delay was not with them; it was with those persons who caused these unnecessary discussions, and he humbly expostulated with Messrs. Sears, Weslake, and Thimbleby against such uncalled-for proceedings. He hoped, after this, that the noble Lord would not think of calling upon them to sit upon Saturday. He should not say anything at present on the other part of the question; he would not assume the possibility of a Whig Government overpowering in this way the sense of the House of Peers; he should wait till he saw that attempt made, before he said a word upon it; but if Peers were to be created for the purpose, he must say, that he thought the six petitioners had as good a right to be selected for the honours of The Gazette as any other. The hon. 216 and learned Member for Kerry said, that week by week he had examined The Gazette, to see the announcement of the new creations. If this violence should be done to the Constitution, he hoped that the same Gazette which contained the 122 Peers desired by the hon. and learned Member, would include among the numbers the name of Baron Thimbleby, of Barnet.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that whether forty new Peers, as some said, or sixty as some required, or 122, according to the hon. and learned member for Kerry, were created, he cared not, so that the thing was done, for the people were tired of hearing of Reform. He did not say that the people did not want some Reform—he believed they did; but they were tired of hearing of this Reform day after day, in this way. He must solemnly say that it was the common sense of the thing, that if they made it a precedent to create a number of Peers to carry what they considered a good and constitutional measure, it would be used against them as a precedent for carrying an unconstitutional measure.
Sir Andrew Agnew
was anxious to say a few words in consequence of the remark made by the noble Lord the member for Devonshire, who had assumed that all the Members in that House who supported Reform, were desirous to see a creation of Peers. He must, therefore, guard himself against being supposed to be one of that number. He had supported the principle of Reform hitherto, because he thought Reform in that House was necessary; but if, as the hon. and learned member for Kerry said, 122 Peers were to be created to make a majority in the House of Lords on this particular question, he should cease to support Reform. He had supported Reform upon principle, as he wished to bring that House back to the principle of the Constitution; but he wished, at the same time, to maintain the principle of the other House, and he should not, therefore, give his support to an Act that would so far put an end to the Constitution as to destroy the union of Kings, Lords, and Commons.
§ Mr. Currie
was ignorant to what class of the people the hon. member for Preston had alluded, when he said they were indifferent to Reform. He could undertake to say, that the electors of Hertford were as anxious for it as ever.
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
said, they had 217 heard a good deal upon this occasion, as well as many others, upon the supposed influence exercised by the House of Lords in that House, but he trusted their interference was not always odious in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen on the other side, when they considered that the Septennial Bill originated in the other House, and was brought forward by the Whigs. With regard to nominees, he believed they possessed their full share of influence in that respect.
wished to take that opportunity of saying, that, as far as his knowledge went, the people were far from being indifferent on the question of Reform. Indeed, he believed they were fully as anxious as ever about it. He had that day received a letter from his constituents, who, in public meeting assembled, had called him pretty sharply to account, because he had been absent on one occasion from a division. That did not look like indifference to Reform; at least there was no symptom of it at Carlisle. An hon. Baronet had said, that he was in favour of Reform, and had hitherto supported it, but that if Peers were made to carry the Reform Bill, he should support it no longer. That declaration amounted to this—that the hon. Baronet was in favour of Reform, when it was not likely to be carried, but no longer: he ceased to be in its favour when it was likely to be carried. He himself hoped that the Peers might be made: he believed that the peace and safety of the country depended on the measure. The hon. member for Preston had said, that if Peers were created on this, a good occasion, it would be a precedent for their creation on a bad occasion. He thought that was not likely, for a future Minister could not make Peers to carry a bad measure, since the House of Commons would not pass a bad measure at his desire.