Lord John Russell
moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the Reform of Parliament (England) Bill.
said, he rose to ask a question of his noble friend. Some Members, and in particular the noble Marquis, the member for Buckinghamshire, had expressed an intention to propose, that the Amendment respecting the admission to the elective franchise of the yearly tenants of 50l. should be continued in the present Bill; and the noble Marquis had accordingly given notice of his intention to move in Committee that such a clause be introduced into the Bill. By giving this notice the noble Member had raised a doubt in the minds of many of the people of England that such a clause did not exist in the present Bill, and that it did not form any part of its provisions; but, as he himself had read it, he certainly considered the yearly tenants to the amount of 652 50l. a year would be enfranchised by its operation. He was therefore most anxious to learn from his noble friend (Lord John Russell) whether his reading of the new Bill was the correct one, and he begged that his noble friend would state distinctly whether that franchise did form part of the present Bill.
Lord John Russell
said, that the noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire, was perfectly right in the construction which he had put on the present Reform Bill, for it was the intention of Ministers to accord a franchise to yearly tenants of the amount of 50l. In framing the new Bill, the Government was of opinion that the approval of the noble Marquis's amendment in the Committee was so strong an intimation of the wishes of a majority of the House, that it was their duty to accede to so undisguised and so undeniable a proof of their wishes. In case his noble friend, therefore, or any other hon. Member, had any amendment to offer upon that point, he would have an opportunity of doing so during the progress of the Bill in Committee.
§ On the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Croker
expressed his extreme surprise that the noble Lord should have moved the Order of the Day for the Committee on the Reform Bill. He had hoped, after the debate which occurred on the noble Lord giving notice of his intention to move for the Committee on this day, that the noble Lord should have permitted the House to go to the discussion in Committee in the spirit of fairness and impartiality. He very much regretted, therefore, that Ministers still adhered to their determination of forcing on the Bill, before the House had been supplied with the documents necessary for the elucidation of its most important details. He assured the House sincerely, that, however opposed he was to the principles of the Bill itself, and however much he regretted its disastrous introduction to that House, yet there was no one on the other side, not even the noble Lords opposite, themselves, more desirous that its discussion should be brought to as speedy a termination as might be consistent with justice and a full and deliberative consideration. He now rose for the purpose of imploring his Majesty's Ministers not to force the House to-night into a premature consideration of the measure. The noble Lord who had just moved that the House go into a Committee, had himself acknowledged that the papers necessary for 653 an adequate discussion of the details of the Bill were not yet upon the Table. The noble Lord had confessed, that if the House proceeded in Committee, they could not go on with the Bill in its regular course, but that the fundamental and most important parts of the Bill must be postponed, and the clauses of less consequence be in the mean-lime proceeded with. The House therefore, was to consider the machinery provided for the purpose of carrying into effect certain important principles before they had determined what those principles were to be. If this was not a preposterous proceeding he did not know what was. He reminded the House, that on Friday, the 16th of December, he had warned the noble Lords that they could not go into Committee without the information which had been promised, and the noble Lord agreed with him, and said, that the papers should be delivered to Members by the Monday week next following, that was, the 26th December; but not with standing that promise the papers were not even yet before the House. The noble Lord could not, therefore, accuse him of wishing for delay, if he again urged the necessity of being furnished with the information promised, before the Bill was further proceeded with. In order, however, to show that this delay had entirely originated with Ministers, he would state one fact. On the 16th of December the motion for the second reading of the Bill was made; on the morning of the 17th of December, he wrote to the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) to request that, in order that there should be no unnecessary delay, he might be furnished with the amount of houses and taxes in the ten boroughs standing first in Lieutenant Drummond's list, and concerning which no Returns had been printed. This information, however, which it would not have taken live minutes to give, was not furnished until this very morning. He also stated in the letter, which he had privately addressed to the noble Lord on the 17th of December, that it was desirable that the materials upon which Lieutenant Drum-mond founded his calculations should be furnished to the House, as it would be impossible clearly to understand the general frame-work of the Bill unless this was done, and he had thus early, to prevent delay, apprized the noble Lord of his views. He understood from the noble Lord's reply that these papers were to be granted immediately, which might certainly have been easily done, as they were the foundation of the edifice which Lieutenant Drummond 654 had just built. The noble Lord shook his head: perhaps, he meant to imply that Lieutenant Drummond built his edifice without laying any foundation—that he formed his calculations without any proper materials. Certainly, however, it was understood that the House should be furnished, without delay, with the data upon which Lieutenant Drummond made his calculations, but they were now at the 20th of January, and not one of these documents were yet laid on the Table. A new list had that morning, however, been put into their hands, and Mr. Drummond observed upon it in a kind of note, that "a slight change had been made from the lists previously presented;" but certainly no one could have expected that "a slight change," as Mr. Drummond, considered it, could have effected so complete a subversion of the former list. From calculations so laborious and so scientific such a result was not to be expected. Yet it was actually the fact, that the "slight changes" mentioned had altered the positions of forty-eight boroughs out of the 100, which were in the original lists. But that was not all. Mr. Drummond had said, that the first thirty or forty boroughs in the list were not of any considerable importance. He (Mr. Croker) would, for the moment, admit that, and would begin his consideration of the amended list with the forty-first; and he found that in the sixty-nine boroughs intervening between Nos. 41 and 110, there were forty-four changes; that was to say, two-thirds of the whole number were altered in their position in respect to each other. It might be said, these alterations of position were of very little importance, for, after all, the boroughs would all be found in the same schedule, as before, but what he contended for was, that if those lists were furnished for the purpose of enabling the House to come to an accurate judgment, it was of the very utmost importance that the list should be perfectly correct. Nor could he in his common sense understand why Mr. Drummond should have been at the trouble of calculation, and the Ministers of presenting, and the House of printing and studying, a list which on the first revisal was found by its author to contain forty-four errors in sixty-nine items. He would now, however, endeavour to show the House the manner in which Lieutenant Drummond proceeded in making out the lists, which was this:—A list, it seems, of 120 boroughs were furnished to him, and his first operation was—for which he gives no kind of reason—to cut off ten at each end, and to apply himself 655 to consider only the 100 which stand between No. 11 and 110 inclusive. This may or may not he very right, but no reason is given for this arbitrary selection. But, passing that by, Lieutenant Drummond proceeds with these 100 boroughs to add up the houses and the towns, and dividing the whole by 100, finds the average, and comparing the actual amount of houses and towns of each borough with this average, he gives it a relative position in his scale. Now this would be all mighty fair, if the 100 boroughs were engaged in any concern that subjected them to a common, but proportionable, gain or loss; but, in this case, the 24 boroughs at the top of the list, from No. 86 to 110, have nothing to do in the transaction, and yet it is by their influence on the averages that the position of the boroughs really concerned are to be determined.—The details would be intricate and tedious, but any one who should, at last, understand Mr. Drummond's very obscure process, must know that the addition or subtraction of a single borough, though that borough should be far beyond the reach of both schedules, might have the effect of altering the position of all the boroughs which were in the schedules; and the result would be, to disorganize and derange the whole scheme. As the Government intended to disfranchise only fifty-six boroughs, it might have been supposed that sixty would have been, on the outside, a number quite sufficient to subject to the test of their calculation. But by choosing 100 or more, they placed all the boroughs in very different places from those which they would have occupied had sixty only been chosen. Boroughs which, by the arrangement adopted, were marked out for disfranchisement, might have been saved by substituting a narrower or a wider plan, and those which were saved would have been disfranchised. He would give one instance:—If the ten boroughs which Mr. Drummond had chosen to omit from the bottom of the list, but which surely ought rather to have been included in a list which was to affect them, than the twenty-four boroughs at the other end of the list, which could not be affected by it; if, he said, these ten boroughs were included, Calne, which by the present management was placed above Grimsby, would have fallen below it; and had the line of disfranchisement happened to be drawn at No. 80, instead of No. 86, Calne would have been disfranchised and Grimsby saved.
§ But he had further to complain, that, even the scanty information given them 656 was wildly and ludicrously inaccurate. There had been laid upon the Table on Thursday last, a paper. No. 7; and in this, No. 7, the houses of Calne were stated at 996. But in two papers, Nos. 2 and 3, formerly delivered, the number set down was 710. In No. 5 the number was not mentioned at all; but in No. 8, which was put into the hands of the Members that very morning (Friday), 673 houses were given to that borough. Now every one of those alterations not only gave Calne a different intrinsic value in regard to itself, but might alter the position of every borough in the list, even those which had no kind of rivalry or connexion with Calne. In one of these discordant documents, Chippenham was reported to have 648 houses, and in another paper, 788; making a difference of 140 houses. But he had that morning received a paper in which the houses of Chippenham were stated neither at 648 nor at 788, but at 653. Again; in No. 2, Malton was stated to have 1,079 houses. Fortunate Malton!he must once more exclaim; for not only were the number of houses over stated; but in No. 3, Mr. Drummond sets down the amount of taxes at l,300l.,when he ought to have said 1,030l. and by the double blunder, he placed in his original list, in that list which was the "basis of the new Bill," Malton at the head of all the boroughs in England. But in another paper the mistake was corrected; and the number of houses was set down as 787, instead of 1,079. But it seems the correction was again an error, for in the first part of the paper No. 5, they were stated at 849; but again the Amendment is an additional mistake, for we find in the second part of the same paper, this fortunate borough got up again to 1,031 houses. Here one might hope that blunders were exhausted; but no! By the last paper, No. 8—the one which hon. Members had received that morning (Friday)—it was cut down again to 793; being a difference of 300 in the number of houses of the one borough in two papers laid upon the Table within the last twenty-four hours. These variations were in the item of the houses; there were some of the same kind in the amount of taxes, and the result was, that he defied any man alive to guess at the real data on which the fate of that borough ought to be decided. Perhaps, indeed, a fresh return was, the moment he addressed them, ready to issue from the press, giving a sixth return of Malton differing from the five different preceding returns, and exhibiting in a still more forcible 657 point of view the care and accuracy of those returns on which they were about to decide all the corporate and electoral rights of England. These few specimens, and there were fifty of the same kind would show how uncertain were the data upon which the judgment of the Committee was to be formed; and, under such circumstances, he submitted to the House whether it was possible to proceed? Papers which had been promised three weeks ago had not yet been given; and those which had been given, were shamefully—he should rather say, audaciously—erroneous. The delay in affording information, and the complicated errors in the papers when reluctantly given, looked but too like a premeditated design to delude, perplex, and insult the House.
§ The most important information to guide them would be the reports of the Commissioners, and the maps which were to accompany them. In the absence of such information they would be legislating in the dark without any thing to guide them. Ministers, it appeared, would empanel them without any indictment being placed before them; and in that situation would call on them to record a verdict—a verdict without evidence. They might if they pleased disfranchise these boroughs, but they could not now say that they were convicted on proof.
§ He had no desire for delay—he had personally taken great pains to prevent the necessity for delay. He had a month ago apprized his Majesty's Ministers, both in public and in private, of what he had this night only repeated. He was ready to go into the Committee; but before he did so, he required of Ministers that they should give to him—and, what was of much greater importance, that they should give to the House and to the country—such information as might enable them to proceed with anything like satisfaction to themselves, and justice to the parties whose dearest political rights were at stake. He, therefore, in the same candour which he trustee it would be admitted he had evinced in the Committee upon the former Bill, implored the noble Lord not to force on the discussion, before they possessed the information, without which it was impossible in common sense or common justice, to take even the first step.
Lord John Russell
said, that the question before the House was, whether it possessed sufficient information to resolve itself into a Committee, and proceed with the consideration of the Reform Bill, which had been 658 read a second time, and which was appointed n the Order of the Day to be taken into Committee. He would not deny that, in order to investigate the claims of particular boroughs, it might be, necessary that Gentlemen should consider, as attentively as possible, the numbers given, as indicating the relative value, in houses and taxes, of the boroughs to be placed in the schedules of the Bill; and he would again say, that the parts of the Bill contained in those schedules might be postponed until the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and others who were concerned in opposing the disfranchisement of those boroughs, should have examined the voluminous papers before the House. But that any reason had been adduced which ought to influence the House towards postponing the Committee upon the Bill itself, or that there had not been laid before them ample information to enable them to consider other parts of the Bill, he must deny. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the papers had been promised in a week from the day on which they were applied for. Certainly neither he nor his noble friend had in public made such a promise. In public they had only said, that the papers would be ready by the 17th of January. But in private, and to the right hon. Gentleman himself, they had said that they thought a considerable part would be ready by the time they had promised. But it had been found that some particulars in the lists which had been furnished required revision and correction, and he thought that it was not expedient to present them until the House should meet again, and those corrected lists, he stated at the time. would be ready by the 17th of January. And, in fact, they were ready last night, although not on the 17th, and they would be presented as soon as they could be stitched. He put it to the House, therefore, whether they ought to postpone the Committee, because an inquiry was yet pending respecting some details, not necessary to the consideration of the principal parts. Besides, he could assure hon. Gentlemen, that although the Report of the Commissioners was not ready to be laid upon the Table, yet, in whatever respects it might differ from that of Mr. Drummond, the difference was not such that a single place would be altered in its position. He meant, that no place which had stood in either schedule on the 12th of December, would be either omitted altogether, or transferred from one schedule to another. The particulars which depended on calculations 659 not yet laid before them, were not such as to require that the Committee should be postponed; they had already determined that fifty-six should be the number of boroughs to be totally disfranchised, and thirty-eight partially: thus ninety-four boroughs were affected by the Bill; if, therefore, they had taken the number of sixty boroughs as the foundation of their calculations, they must have applied one rule to schedule A and another to schedule B, which it was obvious would lead to great and serious inconvenience. He denied that the calculations were so uncertain as the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to represent them. The difference between the reports of the Commissioners and those of the returning officer arose from the surveyors employed by the Commissioners having returned the total number of houses in the town, while the returning officer had confined his account to the limits of the borough. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, and the Gentlemen around him, had objected that, in the former Bill, his Majesty's Ministers had taken the census of 1821 for their guide as to the population, instead of looking minutely into the relative value of the boroughs. Now he had always contended, that it would be a matter of the greatest difficulty to ascertain accurately that relative value. But Ministers had, however, undertaken that difficult inquiry, and the right hon. Gentleman turned round and made the difficulty a matter of objection against their course of proceeding, when they did that which he had before demanded. No doubt changes had been made in the lists, as, for instance, in respect to Appleby. The returning officer sent in at first an account coinciding with that of the Commissioner. But he afterwards wrote a letter containing quite a different return, which was sent to the Commissioners for their consideration. Again with respect to Malton, 1,300 was inserted in the place of 1,030, and the town had thus been placed in a wrong column, but subsequent inquiries had rectified the mistake, and it was now placed in its proper position. When Mr. Drummond sent in his calculations, on the 12th of December, it was explained that there were some particulars in them which required further consideration; but it had since been found that only one borough was changed from its place, and that was done by the error which he had already explained. He hoped, therefore, that the House would go into the Committee to consider the question 660 of the disfranchisement of fifty-six boroughs, the principles of the two schedules, and the other parts of the Bill, not depending on the returns, which had not yet been completed. When those returns should have been sufficiently long before the House, the Committee would consider whether the lists had been properly made, and whether the boroughs contained in the schedules were those that should be disfranchised. Every thing had been done to make the estimate of the relative value of the boroughs as accurate as possible. The calculations had been founded on the census of 1831, the accounts of the returning officer on each place, the reports of the Commissioners of Taxes, and the inquiries of the Special Commission upon the spot. By this means the Committee would have before them the fullest possible information before they came to consider the details to which these lists referred; and in the meantime the other parts of the Bill could be discussed.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that the noble Lord appeared to have greatly misunderstood the observations of his right hon. friend. The objection of his right hon. friend went to this—that the information on this subject which Ministers themselves considered material, not having been yet supplied, it was improper, without that information, to go into the Committee, which ought, therefore, to be postponed until the necessary documents were laid before the House. He entirely coincided in the sentiments of his right hon. friend, and he would say, that if the House of Commons had any respect for its own privileges and dignity, if it had any respect for the rights of the people, it would adopt the proposition of his right hon. friend, and would refuse to proceed further until they had this important information regularly placed before them. Before they proceeded to determine that fifty-six boroughs should be disfranchised, he would demand, in the name of justice, that there should be submitted to the House that information which formed the professed basis and ground-work of so great an alteration in the Constitution. On the 6th of December, his Majesty called their attention to the measures which would be proposed to them for a reform in the Commons House of Parliament. They were recommended to take those measures into their most serious consideration. And what did the noble Lord propose? His proposition was, the principle of the Bill being affirmed by the House, to go into a Committee 661 on its details this night, in the absence of that information which even the noble Lord himself admitted to he necessary. And what was his statement with respect to that information? Did lie say, that it was not prepared—or being prepared, not in a lit state for production, or that it was so voluminous that there had not been time to print it? No. It was prepared—it was producible, nay, it was printed—but says the noble Lord, "The sheets are not yet stitched, and we cannot wait for the stitching." There was something equally absurd and mischievous in such blind and hurried legislation. The question on which the House was called on to decide, was no less than this—Whether it was fitting to disfranchise fifty-six boroughs? Against such a proceeding, in the absence of the necessary information, he would most strenuously protest. The noble Lord said, it was a matter of indifference in what order the boroughs were placed; but was it a thing of trifling importance, to deal with a subject which might deprive a large class of persons of their rights in the absence of the necessary information, or at least of time to examine that which had been furnished, as it was only that morning a paper had been distributed, which gave a final report of the places assigned to the various boroughs. To show the anomalous situation in which they were placed, he would call the attention of the House to page 9 of the document No. 8, and he begged of them to look to the places between 77 and 87, and the notes appended to them. The first was Horsham; the statement of the number of houses in the borough, and that of the Commissioner had been adopted, but then came a note, "but see report and plan," while, in point of fact, there was neither report nor plan: 76 was Great Grimsby, to which a note was appended, that there had been a mistake in the amount of taxes: 77was Calne, to which a note was attached, "for explanation of the numbers now adopted, see note to Commissioners' report," but the report had not yet been furnished: 78, Arundel, the returns agree as to the number of houses: 79 Dartmouth, to which it is stated that the Commissioner's return of houses was adopted, which differed twenty-five from that of the returning officer; but then it was again added, "see report and plan," and "for explanation of the numbers now adopted, see the note to Commissioner's report:" 80, St. Ives, the statement of the returning officer and the Commissioners correspond, 662 and such was also the case with the two following boroughs, Rye and Clitheroe, but to No. 83, Morpeth, this note was appended, "the statement of the Commissioner has been adopted; it is probably correct, but cannot be considered definite until a further inquiry, now in progress, is completed;" and then they were again referred to the "Commissioner's report:" 84, Helleston, the statement of the returning officer and the Commissioner correspond: 85, Northallerton, to which the same notes were appended as to No.83. Then came 86, Wallingford. It was said the returning officer and the Commissioners agreed as to the number of houses, but differed as to the amount of taxes, but the report of the former was adopted, as it was supported by the parliamentary returns, and then they were again referred to the "report and plan," neither of which had been furnished. Thus in a list of twelve boroughs, there were to nine of them notes appended, implying the necessity of further inquiry, and all these places were on the boundary of partial disfranchisement—that is to say, the forfeiture or the continuance of their rights depended upon a very accurate balance of their relative importance. They were constantly referred to a document—viz., the Commissioners' Report, without which it was impossible to understand the Table, and this document was not yet in the hands of Members. It ought to have been presented last night, but as that had not been the case, he supposed it would be delivered as soon as it could be stitched. In the mean time, however, they were called upon to proceed with disfranchisement. Now he would ask if, in the absence of such information, it was fair, it was decent, to call upon a deliberative assembly to go on with a measure respecting which they had not received such information as the noble Lord himself considered necessary to a right understanding of it. He did not mean to attach undue importance to this matter, but important it undoubtedly was. In the first letter of the Secretary of State to Lieutenant Drummond, he said, "the Government have determined to found the Reform Bill on a new basis." As that was admitted, was it not necessary that this new basis should be submitted to the House? Ought they not to know the peculiar circumstance, of each borough, and the nature of its claims, before they decided on the loss or maintenance of an ancient privilege? Surely they ought, when they were sitting in a judicial capacity. They might 663 rate the privileges of those boroughs as of little worth; but they must see that it was not a matter of small moment to those places on which they were about to inflict disfranchisement; and it became a monstrous and oppressive evil, if, in effecting that object, they proceeded with carelessness, and the disregard of facts within their reach. What possible inconvenience, he would ask, could there be in postponing the first clause? It was too important to decide in the absence of information. From the concluding part of the noble Lord's speech, he supposed that the noble Lord meant to press the question to a division. Whatever the feelings or sentiments of Gentlemen might be on the principle of Reform, he hoped that they would, on the division, resist this attempt to carry an important question in the absence of information. He cared not for the number that might divide with him, but so strongly did he feel the necessity of having proper information before the House, or rather, he should say, of having time to read the documents which were actually presented and printed, that if he stood alone he would divide against the proposition of the noble Lord.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the right hon. Gentleman had entirely mistaken the view entertained of this question by his noble friend. His noble friend had not expressed himself unwilling to grant information, nor said, that the information which would be laid on the Table of the House was necessary before they proceeded further. His noble friend said, that the information called for was unnecessary in deciding on the first clause, which respected the number of boroughs to be disfranchised; but he admitted, that when they came to the schedule, that information would be necessary, in order to see whether the boroughs designated ought to be retained there or not. It had been insinuated that Ministers wished to exclude certain boroughs from the operation of the Bill, and to include others, from private personal feelings. Such an insinuation was unfounded, and the fact would appear, when, at the proper time, they came to discuss the schedules, with the information that was in the progress of preparation before the House. That observation, therefore could form no ground for postponing the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman had read the names of different places, and the notes appended to them, as contained in page 9 of one of the papers. Now, if the question were as 664 to the relative claims of the boroughs contained in the schedule, it would be necessary that they should have the Commissioners' report before them; but it was of no importance at all in deciding on the number of boroughs that should be placed in schedule A. They were not determining whether Horsham, Calne, or Great Grimsby, or any of the other places mentioned in page 9, should stand in schedule B; but the question was as to the broad principle of disfranchisement, without reference to the particular cases. He admitted the information alluded to was positively necessary before they proceeded with the case of each particular borough, but that was not the question they were now called upon to consider. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Croker) objected to the principle upon which Lieutenant Drummond's list proceeded, and observed, that the alteration in a few boroughs altered the relative value of others, with which they were not connected. This was a necessary consequence when they proceeded on a general principle, but it was not an unjust one. For his own part, he did not think that they were doing any thing unworthy of a deliberative assembly, in discussing the first clause in the absence of information which did not affect it. That information did not apply in the slightest degree, to the question, which simply was, whether a certain number of boroughs should be disfranchised or not. The information called for did not apply to this point—namely, whether such and such boroughs, according to the principle laid down, ought to be included in schedule A. For these reasons, he saw no grounds for postponing the Committee this evening. They might employ themelves most usefully in proceeding with other clauses of the Bill, until they came to the schedules.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
was convinced, from what had fallen from the noble Lord, that there must be some misunderstanding when he endeavoured to force the House into a Committee in the absence of the necessary information. The question really before them was, not whether fifty-six or eighty-six boroughs were to be wholly or in part disfranchised; but whether fifty-six boroughs in schedule A, and another number in schedule B, were to be disfranchised at the beck and bidding of his Majesty's Ministers. It was of little consequence probably to some hon. Gentlemen whether between eighty or ninety on the one side, and fifty or sixty boroughs on the 665 other, were to be deprived of their rights; but it was of material importance, if the character of a deliberative assembly was to be kept up, that the House should know upon what grounds the boroughs to be sacrificed had been selected. If the question was to be decided by the number of houses and the amount of taxes paid, let them at least have the means of obtaining correct information to guide them in forming a just judgment. As yet they had no sufficient information on which to form a correct opinion; and it was on that account that himself and his hon. friends complained of the extraordinary haste with which Government had sought to force the House of Commons into Committee on this Bill. The noble Lord seemed to have determined that fifty-six boroughs were to be totally disfranchised; but he thought that it was rather going too great lengths to call upon the House of Commons to declare that this or that was a nomination borough, because it fell within the line of fifty-six; they ought rather to decide each case on its peculiar merits. They were, however, called upon to determine that fifty-six should be taken on the one side, and thirty on the other; the one class to be totally disfranchised, the other to be partially so, without any definite reason having been stated. The Government upon this occasion were acting upon an entirely different principle to that which they acted upon before; and if they intended to deal fairly by the House and the public, they ought to afford all the information which was necessary to a full and deliberate discussion of the subject. Had the House of Commons ceased to be a deliberative assembly, and was it at once to be forced into a Committee to condemn boroughs, before hon. Members had an opportunity to make any inquiry into their respective cases, merely because Ministers had determined that a certain number of places were to be disfranchised? It was matter of little consequence to speak of the minorities in the former discussions on the Reform Bill—it was of comparatively little importance whether a few more or a few less votes were obtained —but he felt assured, it would be found a matter of great consequence, when the people of England observed that no examination was permitted before the House decided that the majority of the House of Commons voted at the beck and bidding of Ministers, without reference to the justice of the case. The question simply was, whether the house would consent 666 that justice should be denied, by determining upon a number of cases without deliberation. If this Bill were passed, in two years more they would have the same cry raised as they now heard on all sides, so little contentment would it yield. At the same time, when the Ministers of the King brought forward a proposition to disfranchise nomination boroughs, and explained that notion to mean fifty-six boroughs having the smallest amount of population, and paying the least sum to the public revenue, they must abide by that explanation, or the House must believe that it was their intention to set even the appearance of justice at defiance. This was not the occasion for enlarging on the questions connected with the first one or two clauses; for the simple proposition was—is the new Bill to be founded upon justice or injustice?
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that it was a fallacy to assume that any blame had been cast from that side of the House either upon Lieutenant Drummond or upon his Majesty's Government for not having the required information ready to be laid before the House. Owing to the complicated nature of the documents, it was quite possible that they might not be ready, without any blame being attributable to any individual whatever; but what he and his right hon. friends complained of was, that it was now required of them to go into Committee on this Bill, without having that information before them which was absolutely necessary to enable them to come to a decision upon the very first clause it contained. It appeared that Lieutenant Drummond had been called upon between the 24th of November and the 12th of December, to sketch out a new Constitution for the country—a period that seemed to him much too short for the completion of a work of such important magnitude. Lieutenant Drummond had himself acknowledged, that in making out his list, the most difficult part of his task was to obtain correct data and accurate information whereupon to found it. Now, if the House went into Committee this, evening, without the information which had been promised, and which, of course, would be soon forthcoming, it would place itself in a still worse predicament, for it would proceed to legislate, without having even the data possessed by Lieutenant Drummond on which to ground its decisions. If his Majesty's Ministers forced them into a Committee forthwith, they would be called 667 upon to disfranchise a number of boroughs, without having the local limits of those boroughs before them, whereby they might be enabled to ascertain with any thing like precision, the amount of their taxes, houses, and population. Could any thing be more unjust—could any thing be less businesslike—than such a course of proceeding? They were called upon to go into Committee with something promised to them that they could not yet have—with something to guide them, that they were not now to look at—and with something which was to be on the Table, but which they were not at present to be permitted to see. When they were called on to disfranchise fifty-six boroughs on the evidence of facts, was it not consistent with common justice and common sense, that they should have those facts before them? Lieutenant Drummond's list consisted both of arithmetic and geography, and they were now told, that his arithmetic was correct; and they were requested to wait awhile, and that by-and-by they would see that his geography was also accurate. If he were arguing a case of this nature under an Enclosure Act, would it not be a gross absurdity on his part not to have a map of the ground before him? Or, to descend still lower in the grade of legislation, would it not be equally absurd, if at a parish vestry, when a parcel of land was about to be parcelled out to A, B, and C, they should not have the plan before them, according to which the allotments were to be made? These familiar illustrations served, he thought, in some degree to exhibit the absurdity of their present proposed course of proceeding. Such a species of legislation might suit very well those who belonged to political unions, or those persons who were for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill;" but as legislation proceeding from the members of a well-constituted and deliberative assembly, it was an entire and perfect piece of unredeemed mockery. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Althorp) had told them, that, in going into Committee, they would have only to declare, that fifty-six boroughs were to be disfranchised, and that hereafter, when they came to the specific case of each individual borough, they would then have the information before them necessary to enable them to decide upon each case. He, however, must assert, that their first step in going into Committee would be, to disfranchise specifically, and by name, fifty-six boroughs, without having a single fact before them to warrant any such proceeding. 668 It was a most monstrous thing, that that House should be compelled, either under the domination of an influence out of doors that deprived it of its deliberative character, or under the equally odious domination of his Majesty's Ministers, to come to a vote with regard to a case that altogether depended upon facts, without having a single one of those facts submitted to them. If the House of Commons, operated upon by such an influence, whether within those walls or without those walls, were to act in such an absurd, unjust, and inconsistent manner, he, Anti-reformer as he was, would not scruple to lend his aid to reform that House; and he would do so, because, in his opinion, it would in such case have forfeited the character that belonged to a British Parliament. A greater insult could not be offered to the understandings of any set of men—a greater inroad could not he made upon the freedom of deliberation, than thus to force the Members of that House to come to a vote upon a most important question, without having before them any of the facts according to which that question was to be decided. Such a proceeding as that of disfranchising fifty-six boroughs at a sweep, without a single fact to warrant such disfranchisement, might be a fit and proper one on the part of the delegated Representatives of political unions and political conventions, but it was one that was utterly unworthy of a British House of Commons. Since he had had the honour of being a Member of that House, he had never seen such a blow aimed at its independence as was now aimed at it by his Majesty's Ministers within those walls, and by an odious and intolerant domination out of doors. Against the pressure either of the influence of his Majesty's Ministers who might have their object, and who, no doubt, had an object in view, or of that external influence to which he had alluded, out of doors, he, as an independent Member of Parliament, begged leave to enter his most solemn protest; and he still hoped, that the House of Commons would not exhibit such a departure from decency and justice as to proceed to vote upon such a subject as this, without having the necessary information before it. He trusted that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, would not risk their credit and their character in the country by so ill-advised and precipitate a measure as this. Why, the very political unions themselves would not recommend such an 669 indecent proceeding. They would at least allow that it was but fair that the printed papers should be in the hands of Members, and that they should have sufficient time given them to read them over. Indeed, he did not believe, that the most tumultuous and ill-constituted body of men in the kingdom would be prepared to insist, as his Majesty's Ministers were prepared to do, upon such a proceeding on the part of that House, and under such circumstances. For his own part, he would declare, that since he had been a Member of that House, he had never felt so thoroughly convinced as he did on this occasion, that it was the duty of every independent Member to protest against so gross an inroad upon the freedom of deliberation—so glaring an infringement of the rights of that House; and he did hope and trust, that a British House of Commons would not exhibit the humiliating spectacle of being thus trailed through the dirt and mire, at the chariot wheels of Ministerial domination.
§ Mr. Pigott
said, it was most absurd to think of going into Committee on the present occasion, before the necessary information had been produced to the House. He should certainly resist the proposition to die utmost of his power.
observed, that the sole and simple question before the House was, whether or not it would resolve itself into a Committee on the Reform Bill, and he apprehended that the question which had been incidentally raised, as to whether the necessary information had or had not been laid before them, had nothing whatever to do with the motion which they had to decide. "Shall we go into Committee or not, on the Reform Bill?" That was the question, he repeated, which they had to decide, and he trusted they would proceed to decide it with firmness and coolness. He would ask whether there was any man prepared to say they ought not to proceed with their task, and ought not to go into a Committee? No doubt the Anti-reformers would be prepared to give their negative to such a motion; but if his Majesty's Ministers would be advised by him, they would not pay the least attention to those Gentlemen, who would never let them go into Committee on the Bill at all, if they could by any possibility prevent it. He would call upon the House not to be carried away by the artifices of hon. Gentlemen, but to decide this matter according to reason and common sense. Were they prepared, or were they not, to consider the Bill in Committee? 670 That was the question, and let any man who was against their doing so say "No." [cries of "No, no," from several members on the Opposition benches.] That was his appeal to the House—that was the question which the House had that evening, in the face of the people of England, to decide—namely, whether it would consider the Bill in Committee, or whether it would not do so. He would appeal to the common sense of every man in that House, and he would fearlessly appeal to the common sense of Englishmen out of doors, whether it was not right that they should forthwith go into Committee and consider the Bill, it being understood that, with regard to the details of it, all the necessary information would be furnished hereafter as they went along. Let them then, in God's name, take the first step and go into Committee, where alone that information could be used by them in considering the details of the Bill. He trusted that the House would not be prevented from taking that step on this occasion by any of the devices practised by hon. Gentlemen below him. Suppose, after they went into Committee, the disfranchisement of only one or two boroughs by name were proposed, the rest, being postponed till the information with regard to them had been furnished, was any man prepared to say that Old Sarum ought not to be disfranchised? Let them go into Committee, and suppose the disfranchisement of Old Sarum, in which there were no houses, should be proposed, was there any man prepared to say that the decision of the House could not be taken with regard to that borough? There was another borough—Newtown, in the Isle of Wight—with only fourteen houses in it. Would any man say that such a borough as that did not deserve disfranchisement? In that way he would say they were prepared to go into Committee at the present moment, and to take the boroughs one by one; and if it should be thought necessary, with regard to any particular borough, to have more information respecting it laid before the House, he, for one, would be ready to acquiesce in having the vote as to that borough postponed until such information could be produced. He trusted that the House would persevere ingoing into Committee on the Bill that evening.
said, that the hon. member for Middlesex did not comprehend the effect of the arguments urged against the present motion. There was no objection to the going into Committee on this subject; nor had 671 a single syllable fallen from any individual who had spoken against the motion that warranted such an interpretation. All that they had contended for was, that if they were to go into Committee, to disfranchise fifty-six boroughs, it was necessary that they should have the grounds laid before them on which it was proposed to deprive these boroughs of their right of Representation. The hon. Member had recommended them to discuss this question with coolness; and he himself, no doubt, was cool. Indeed, he believed that in the cause of Reform, no injustice, however gross, would call forth that hon. Member's warmth; and that no extent of injury, however undeserved, would disturb his phlegm. Was it just, he would ask, that they were now to be called upon to disfranchise, in a wholesale manner, fifty-six boroughs, without being acquainted with the circumstances appertaining to each of them, and without being put in possession of that information with regard to them which had been collected by the persons appointed by Government for the purpose? It was not his desire, nor that of his right hon. friends with whom he had the honour to act, to impute to his Majesty's Government any species of partiality in the selection of those boroughs, but he would say, that if it was intended to act with partiality in the cases of disfranchisement, the course which the two noble Lords opposite had adopted on this occasion, was exactly that which it would be their interest under such circumstances to pursue. For what was the language of those noble Lords? "Let us," said those noble Lords, "pledge the House first to the disfranchisement of those fifty-six boroughs, and then we shall apply to each individual case the rule according to which the whole are to be disfranchised." Now that rule was so flexible—so extremely pliable—that, let that number of boroughs be given to him, he would engage, under that rule, to bring into either of the two schedules (A and B) five boroughs that were not at present included in them. The course which his Majesty's Ministers were now forcing on the adoption of the House was one that was founded neither on justice nor reason, and as the information which was wanted would be laid before the House in a few days, and therefore as the postponement of the Committee until that period would not materially retard the progress of the Bill, he did hope that Ministers would not persevere in pressing this motion.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that the real question before the House could not be misunderstood. The division which was about to take place, would be upon the question, whether or not the House was to go into Committee on the Reform Bill. If the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) were worth any thing, they were called upon by him to go through the discussion of every single borough in schedule A before they agreed to the first clause in the Bill. The taunts and sarcasms which had been thrown out by the hon. and learned Gentleman against the supporters of the Bill, had certainly not the merit of novelty to recommend them; their repetition now only recalled to mind their frequent use on the part of that hon. Gentleman during the last session of Parliament. While he felt that he was not one of those who, according to the assertion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, would suffer themselves to be dragged through the mire by his Majesty's Ministers, and while he was as little inclined as the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Vyvyan) to give his vote "at the beck or bidding" of any Minister, he was determined to support the present motion. The object of those who opposed this motion was the defeat of Reform altogether. Looking at the course which had been pursued in the last session of Parliament, he did not see the necessity of going into the discussion of the case of every single borough before they had voted the general disfranchisement clauses of the Bill. The arguments which had been employed on that side of the House against this motion might be more appropriately urged when the House had gone into Committee, either for postponing the case of any individual borough, or for having it omitted altogether out of the number of those proposed to be disfranchised. The present opposition to the motion now before the House reminded him of the attempt which was made in the last session of Parliament to prevent the House from going into Committee at all, and which vexatious attempt was continued until past seven o'clock in the morning. The simple question before the House was, whether they were prepared to go into Committee to consider the Reform Bill, and as he (Mr. Robinson) conceived that the whole principle of Reform was involved in the questions of disfranchisement and enfranchisement, he was ready to vote for the disfranchisement of fifty-six boroughs, leaving the case of each individual borough to be argued and adjudicated hereafter when the 673 schedules were discussed. When the House voted the disfranchisement of fifty-six boroughs, it would merely vote, that fifty-six of the most inconsiderable of the boroughs were to be disfranchised, and when in Committee, they would apply the rule to those boroughs individually, so as to ascertain that they came within the description of the most insignificant boroughs in the kingdom. Now, for his part, he saw nothing of injustice in such a course of proceeding, and though he might wish that the principle of disfranchisement had been extended to a greater number, he should at all events give his cordial vote for the amount of disfranchisement contemplated by the present Bill. He could not sit down without observing, that the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, after referring to the words in his Majesty's Speech, and insisting upon the necessity of considering this subject with coolness and calmness, had not in his own instance set a very notable example of that calmness and moderation which he had so forcibly preached, but had so little practised on this occasion.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
said, that he was determined on this occasion to vote as became an independent Member of the Legislature, unswayed by any influence either in or out of that House. He might have a prejudice with respect to one borough, and others might have the same with respect to others. It would therefore be trilling with the feelings of the House to go into the consideration of schedule A, including as it did fifty-six boroughs, without full information regarding them all.
§ Sir Charles Forbes
heartily approved of the opposition which was given to the proposition for going into Committee at that time. The course it was proposed to pursue was as flagrantly unjust as could well be imagined. Suppose 100 prisoners were brought up for trial, all more or less guilty, but that fifty-six of them had been guilty of crimes for which they deserved capital punishment, what would be thought of the Judge who said "here take the first fifty-six and convict them of the capital offence, and the remainder of the minor offences, and afterwards we can examine evidence to ascertain if we have acted justly." It was monstrous in any body of men to propose that a number of boroughs—some of them the most ancient in the kingdom—should be deprived of their franchise until the evidence upon which their disfranchisement was to be founded 674 had been laid before the House. Upon this ground he hoped that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) would persevere in his plan of dividing the House upon the question, and, though the right hon. Baronet should be kept there until seven o'clock in the morning, he would remain to support him.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that as he intended to vote against Ministers upon the present occasion, he wished to state the grounds upon which that vote would be given. Although his name had not appeared in the lists of the majority and minority which were printed in the newspapers, it was well known that he had voted for the second reading of the Bill, and as he had supported Ministers on that occasion, it might seem the more extraordinary that he should oppose them now. His reason was this; were the question which was about to be submitted to them in the Committee to determine whether fifty-six, or even 106 small and comparatively insignificant boroughs should be disfranchised, he should not hesitate to vote in the affirmative; but when he was called upon to vote for the separate disfranchisement of such, he felt it necessary that the evidence upon which that disfranchisement was to take place should be laid before the House. He thought, indeed, that men of common sense, or even common decency, would not ask the House to determine a point upon particular grounds until those grounds had been rendered clear and manifest by the best information that could be procured. That information, it was said, would speedily be ready. He thought, therefore, for the credit of the House, as a deliberative assembly, it ought not to proceed to the consideration of the first clause of the Bill until the documents which related to the condemned boroughs had been produced.
Lord John Russell
thought, that the hon. member for Preston had not properly understood what he had originally meant to express. In the first clause of the Bill it was only intended that the House should vote for the disfranchisement of fifty-six boroughs, without specifying what particular boroughs should be included in that number. In the former Bill the House was called upon to vote for the first clause and the disfranchising schedule together. In the present Bill it was only called upon to vote the first clause, declaring that a particular number of boroughs should he disfranchised, but not determining which those boroughs should be
§ Mr. Croker
said, that he should not object to the question then before the House, which was only that "the Order of the Day for the House resolving itself into a Committee be read;" but on the question "that the Speaker do now leave the Chair," he should, upon the grounds which he had previously stated, and which, he thought, remained unanswered, move that the word "now'' be omitted, leaving the noble Lord to fill up the blank with any day that he might think proper within a reasonable time after the information had been produced.
§ The Order of the Day read.
Lord John Russell
, in rising to move "that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," begged leave to state, that he thought far more time would be allowed
|List of the AYES|
|Of 152 who voted for going into a Committee on the Reform Bill, on the 20th of January, 1832.|
|ADEANE, Henry John||Cambridgeshire|
|ANSON, sir George||Lichfield|
|ASTLEY, sir J. Dugdale, bt.||Wiltshire|
|BARING, F. T.||Portsmouth|
|BAYNTUN, S. A.||York|
|BLAKE, sir Francis, bt.||Berwick|
|BURDETT, sir F., bt.||Westminster|
|CALCRAFT, Granby H.||Wareham|
|CARTER, J. B.||Portsmouth|
|CAVENDISH, Henry F. C.||Derby|
|CHAYTOR, W. R. C.||Durham|
|CHICHESTER, John P. B.||Barnstaple|
|COCKERELL, sir C., bt.||Evesham|
|CRAMPTON, P. C.||Milborne Port|
|CURTEIS, Herbert B.||Sussex|
|DENMAN, sir Thomas||Nottingham|
|DUNCOMBE, Thomas S.||Hertford|
|DUNDAS, hon. Thomas||York|
|DUNDAS, hon. John C.||Richmond|
§ to hon. Gentlemen to gain any information that they might wish to acquire by suffering the House to go into Committee then, than by postponing it to a future day.
§ Mr. Croker
I differ from the noble Lord; and, therefore, I beg leave to move, that all the words of the question after the word "that" be omitted, and that there be substituted, "the House resolve itself into Committee on Tuesday next." That, in my opinion, will be the shortest way of proceeding, as well as the justest.
§ The question was put, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question, and the House divided, when there appeared—Ayes 152; Noes 99—Majority 53.
|EVANS, de Lacy||Rye|
|EVANS, William B.||Leominster|
|FOLKES, sir W. J. H. B., bt.||Norfolk|
|GODSON, Richard||St. Alban's|
|GRAHAM, rt. hon. sir J. R.G.||Cumberland|
|HAWKINS, J. H.||Tavistock|
|HERON, sir Robert, bt.||Peterborough|
|HODGES, Thomas L.||Kent|
|HORNE, sir W.||Newtown.|
|HUGHES, William H.||Oxford,|
|INGILBY, sir W. A., bt.||Lincolnshire|
|JOHNSTONE, sir J. V. B.||Yorkshire|
|KNIGHT, Henry G.||Malton|
|LEIGH, T. C.||Wallingford|
|LEFEVRE, Charles S.||Hampshire|
|LEMON, sir Charles||Cornwall|
|LITTLETON, Edward John||Staffordshire|
|LOPEZ, sir R. F., bt.||Westbury|
|MACAULAY, Thomas B.||Calne|
|MACDONALD, sir James, bt.||Hampshire|
|NEWARK, lord||East Retford|
|PAINE, sir Peter, bt.||Bedfordshire|
|PELHAM, hon. C. A. W||Lincolnshire|
|PENLEAZE, John S.||Southampton|
|PETIT, Louis H||Ripon|
|PHILLIPPS, sir R. B., bt.||Haverfordwest|
|PHILLIPS, Charles M.||Leicestershire|
|ROBARTS, Abraham W.||Maidstone|
|ROBINSON, George R.||Worcester|
|ROOPER, John B.||Huntingdonshire|
|RUSSELL, lord John||Devonshire|
|SANFORD, E. A.||Somersetshire|
|SCOTT, sir Edward D.||Lichfield|
|SEBRIGHT, sir J. S., bt.||Hertfordshire|
|SKIPWITH, sir Gray||Warwickshire|
|SMITH, John Abel||Chichester|
|STANHOPE, R. H.||Dover|
|STANLEY, hon. Edw. G. S.||Windsor|
|STAUNTON, sir T. G., bt.||Heytesbury|
|STEPHENSON, H. F.||Westbury|
|STEWART, P. M.||Lancaster|
|STUART, ld. Pat. J. H. C.||Cardiff|
|STUART, lord Dudley C.||Arundel|
|THOMSON, rt. hon. Charles P.||Dover|
|TUFTON, hon. H.||Appleby|
|VERE, Jas. J. Hope||Newport, I. of W.|
|VILLIERS, T. H.||Bletchingly|
|VINCENT, sir Francis, bt.||St. Alban's|
|LIST OF THE NOES.|
|ALEXANDER, J. Dupré||Old Sarum|
|WARRE, John A.||Hastings|
|WATSON, hon. Richard||Canterbury|
|WESTERN, Charles Callis||Essex|
|WEYLAND, major R.||Oxfordshire,|
|WHITBREAD, Wm. Henry||Bedford|
|WILDE, Mr. Serjeant||Newark|
|WILLIAMS, William A.||Monmouthshire,|
|WILLIAMS, sir Jas. bt.||Carmarthenshire|
|WILLOUGHBY, sir H.||Yarmouth, I, of W.|
|WROTTESLEY, sir J., bt.||Staffordshire|
|FERGUSSON, R. C.||Kirkcudbright.|
|GILLON, William D.||Selkirk, &c.|
|JEFFREY, rt. hon. F.||Perth, &c.|
|KENNEDY, Thomas Francis||Rothsay, &c.|
|LOCH, J||Tain, &c.|
|MACKENZIE, J. A. S.||Ross-shire|
|STEWART, sir Mich. S. bt.||Renfrewsh.|
|BELFAST, earl of||Antrimshire|
|BOYLE, hon. John||Cork.|
|BROWNE, J. D.||Mayo|
|CHAPMAN, Montague L.||Westmeath|
|COOTE, sir Chas. H., bt.||Queens County|
|DOYLE, sir J. M.||Carlowshire|
|LAMB, hon. George||Dungarvon|
|LAMBERT James S.||Galwayshire|
|LEADER, Nicholas P.||Kilkenny|
|MULLINS, Frederick W.||Kerry|
|PONSONBY, hon. George||Youghall|
|RUTHVEN, Edward S.||Downpatrick|
|SHEIL, R. L.||Louthshire|
|WALKER, Charles A.||Wexford|
|RICE, rt. hon. T. S.||Limerick.|
|BECKETT, sir John, bt.||Haslemere|
|BEST, hon. William S.||St. Michael|
|CHANDOS, marquis of.||Buckinghamshire|
|CHOLMONDELEY, lord H.||Castle Rising|
|CLINTON, Clinton J. F.||Aldborough|
|CLIVE, hon. Robert H.||Ludlow|
|COCKBURN, sir G.||Plymouth|
|CONSTABLE, sir Thos. A. C.||Hedon|
|COOKE, sir Henry F.||Orford|
|COURTENAY, rt. hon. T. P.||Totness|
|DAWSON, rt. hon. J. W.||Harwich|
|DOMVILLE, sir C.||Plympton|
|DRAKE, Thomas T.||Agmondesham|
|EAST, James B.||Winchester|
|FANE, hon. Henry S.||Lyme Regis|
|FOLEY, Edward T.||Ludgershall|
|FORBES, sir Chas., bt.||Malmesbury|
|FORESTER, hon. G. C. W.||Wenlock|
|GOULBURN, rt. hon. H.||Cambridge Univ.|
|GRAHAM, marquis of||Cambridge|
|GRANT, sir Colq.||Queenborough|
|HARDINGE, sir H.||Newport, Cornw.|
|HERRIES, rt. hon. John C.||Harwich|
|HILL, sir Rowland, bt.||Salop|
|HOPE, John T.||Okehampton|
|HULSE, sir Charles, bt.||West Looe|
|INGLIS, sir R. H. bt.||Oxford Univers.|
|JERMYN, earl||Bury St. Edmund's|
|KEARSLEY, J. H.||Wigan|
|KENYON, hon. Lloyd||St. Michael|
|KERRISON, sir Edward, bt.||Eye|
|LASCELLES, hon. W. S.||Northallerton|
|LEWIS, rt. hon. T. F.||Radnorshire|
|LOUGHBOROUGH, lord||Great Grimsby|
|LUTTRELL, John Fownes||Minehead|
|MACKINNON, William A.||Lymington|
|MAHON, visct||Wootton Basset|
|MALCOLM, sir J.||Launceston|
|MILLER, W. H.||Newcastle-under-Line|
|NUGENT, sir George, bt.||Buckingham|
|PEEL, right hon. sir Robt.||Tamworth|
§ The House then went into Committee, Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
§ On the first clause being read,
§ Mr. Croker
said, that the House would, no doubt, be glad to hear from his Majesty's Ministers their reason for adopting the peculiar
|PEEL, William Yates||Cambridge Univ.|
|PELHAM, John Cresset||Shropshire|
|PIGOTT, George G. W.||St. Mawes|
|PORCHESTER, lord||Wootton Basset|
|PRAED, W. M.||St. Germain's|
|Ross, Charles||St. Germain's|
|SADLER, Michael T.||Aldborough|
|TAYLOR, George Watson||Devizes|
|TOWNSHEND, hon. Col.||Whitchurch|
|TRENCH, Fred. William||Cambridge|
|TUNNO, Edward R.||Bossiney|
|WALSH, sir John||Sudbury|
|WEST, Frederick R.||East Grinstead|
|WETHERELL, sir Chas.||Boroughbridge|
|WRANGHAM, Digby C.||Sudbury|
|WYNN, rt. hn. C. W. W.||Montgomerysh.|
|WYNNE, Charles W. G.||Carnarvonshire|
|ARBUTHNOT, hon. H.||Kincardineshire|
|BRUCE, Charles C. L.||Fortrose, &c.|
|DALRYMPLE, sir A.||Jedburgh, &c.|
|DOUGLAS, Wm. R. K.||Dumfries, &c.|
|GRANT, hon. Francis W.||Elginshire|
|HAY, sir J.||Peebleshire|
|MAITLAND, hon. Anthony||Berwickshire|
|MURRAY, rt. hon. sir Geo.||Perthshire|
|OGILVY, hon. D.||Forfarshire|
|SCOTT, Henry F.||Roxburghshire|
|BRYDGES, sir J. W. H., bt.||Armagh|
|CLEMENTS, John M.||Leitrimshire|
|JONES, Theobald||Londonderry shire|
|WIGRAM, William||New Ross|
|CROKER, rt. hon. J. W.||Aldeburgh|
|VYVYAST, sir R. R.||Okehampton|
§ number fifty-six. He could not discover what reason there was for this, or what talismanic power the number fifty-six possessed that should induce the House to agree to it.
Lord John Russell
said, that it was not 681 from any peculiar quality in that particular number, for he should quite as well have liked fifty or fifty-five, or sixty or sixty-six, and there was no motive for choosing fifty-six except this, that that number would include most of the inconsiderable boroughs of the kingdom. The line being in any case arbitrary, it was thought best to take the number which had been sanctioned by the last Bill. If Ministers had taken sixty or sixty-six, they would have done so on their own responsibility, but, as the case stood, the number in the present Bill was the same as that in the Bill which had passed that House, and been sent to the House of Lords. It also, in point of fact, contained the greater number of the boroughs in the former schedule A. The reason why some of these had been left out he had already explained; it was occasioned by considering parishes or districts as well as boroughs. For his own part, he should have had no objection to go further with disfranchisement; but, under the circumstances, it was not deemed advisable to include a greater number in this Bill than in the last. These were the only reasons for choosing this number, and if the various plans of Reform heretofore submitted to the House were examined, it would be found that some arbitrary number of 100 or 150 Members had always been fixed upon to be changed, and for which no satisfactory reason could be given. One hon. Gentleman had spoken of these fifty-six as if they were all nomination boroughs. He would not say they were so, but he believed that, on examining the schedule, by far the greater proportion of them would be found to be of that character.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that the noble Lord appeared to make a total and radical mistake in the assertion which he ventured to make—namely, that the House had by the former Bill agreed to the disfranchisement of fifty-six boroughs. The House had done no such thing. It had agreed to the disfranchisement of particular boroughs which appeared to it to be decayed and inconsiderable places, and, after many changes and substitutions, at the end of the proceedings the number of these happened to amount to fifty-six. Up to a late period in the last Bill, fifty-seven was the number which they had by various alterations arrived at; after which Saltash was removed to schedule B, though it now came back again to its original position, so that he must be permitted to say, that the noble Lords assertion was a downright mis-statement of the fact. But 682 as he had got no information from the noble Lord, he would ask the House why should the number fifty-six be chosen? The noble Lord seemed to think the number indifferent, although he said that the present schedule A included nearly the whole of the last. This, again, however, was a mistake, as there were in the present only fifty-one out of the former fifty-six. The reasons, therefore, which the noble Lord had attempted to give amounted to nothing more than mere pretences, because the House had only pledged itself with respect to fifty-one of those boroughs, which was now converted to the magical number of fifty-six. He did not deny that if other boroughs could be shown to be similarly circumstanced, then the noble Lord had a right, and it was his duty, to add them, but it was a previous duty, he thought, to prove that they were so. There was a great peculiarity in this case, for the original proposition was, the total disfranchisement of sixty boroughs, and the partial disfranchisement of forty-six others, and he asked, if we were to be guided, not by reason or justice but by the precedent, why not adhere to the same numbers at present? The changes in the present Bill from that formerly under discussion were purely arbitrary; Ministers had not condescended to assign a single reason for them, though it was but fair to presume they were not without some cogent ones. Why, for example, was the borough of Westbury, which was in schedule B of the last Bill, now to retain its two Members? Was the change at all connected with the circumstance, that a gentleman employed by the Government with reference to the framing of the present Bill had since been returned for that borough.
§ Mr. Croker
had then been misinformed; but it certainly was rather a curious fact, that, when the Government determined to deviate from the number of boroughs in schedule B, the very borough that stood within the formerly fatal, but now preservative line was Westbury. He presumed it could not be denied, that schedule B was, in a great measure, dependent on schedule A; and yet the number now adopted for B was thirty. He should like to know whether that, too, was in consequence of the number agreed upon in the late Bill? He did not mean to assert that Ministers had, in every instance, been, 683 instigated by partial or improper motives; but he did say, that their motive had at best been arbitrary, and that they had done things over and over again for which they could give no reason whatever, and which, therefore, in the absence of all just and reasonable motives, it was not extraordinary that the world should attribute to causes which the Ministers were afraid or ashamed to avow. The noble Lord had remarked, that for any thing he knew, fifty was as good a number as fifty-six; and he should therefore take him at his word, and move an amendment to that effect. There was another borough, however, to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee, and that was Amersham. All the other boroughs contained in A had a gradual and almost imperceptible approximation to each other as to their population; but in the borough of Amersham there was all at once a leap in the numbers, designating the importance of the places, of 200; and he therefore had a right to assume that it was one which ought not to be confounded with the other boroughs of schedule A. He appealed to the candour of the House, whether, on the system that the Ministers professed to adopt, a borough so distinguished ought to be confounded with others so much inferior to it in the elements on which the Bill professed to proceed? Ought it not rather to be removed to the class to which it more naturally belonged, and with which it connected itself by a series of smaller gradations? He was not merely talking of the borough of Amersham, of which, individually, he knew nothing, and with which he had no connexion, he was speaking on a general principle. He concluded by begging leave to move, as an amendment, that fifty be inserted in this clause instead of fifty-six; not that he approved of the disfranchisement of any number of these boroughs, but to bring the sincerity of the noble Lord, who had said that fifty was as good a number as fifty-six, to a practical test.
Sir Ralph F. Lopez,
as one of the Representatives and the proprietor of the borough of Westbury, just insidiously alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, begged leave to state, for the satisfaction and information of the House and the right hon. Gentleman, that after the present Bill should have passed into a law, he should have no more control over the elections of Westbury, than had the member for Westminster over the election of that city. 684 At present, however, it was entirely under his control. He could and did nominate whom he pleased for it, but if the Reform Bill were passed into a law, he should have no direct influence over ten of the electors. From his first entry into public life he had been the consistent and uncompromising advocate of Reform, though if he looked to motives of mere personal aggrandizement, he should be opposed to a measure which went to destroy his borough patronage. Without professing more patriotism than any other supporter of the present Bill, he would add, that he cheerfully sacrificed all rights of borough proprietorship, at what he conscientiously believed was the shrine of his country's good. For the satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman, he would state why Westbury, which was set down in schedule B of the former Bill, was permitted under the present Bill to retain its two Members. The facts were simply these—a petition was presented from the inhabitants of that borough, through the county Member, to his Majesty's Ministers, pointing out and offering to prove several errors adopted by them, with respect to its population and wealth. The petitioners were heard, and made good their case. Hence the borough was allowed to retain its two Members.
§ Mr. Stephenson
was the member for Westbury who had been so pointedly alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman: he therefore begged leave to offer one word in explanation. The right hon. Gentleman had represented him as having been engaged by Ministers in framing the present Bill. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour, whether his statement were merely historical or inventive, to be more correct. He had not been employed by Ministers, or was he in any way whatever connected with the present Bill. He had through life been a friend to Reform, and had come there to support the measure of Ministers, as one calculated to promote the interests of the country by the destruction of a detestable system of nomineeship. He stood there as independent as any man in that House, and he appealed to his hon. colleague, the proprietor of Westbury, whether he held his seat upon any condition save that of voting for the present Bill. He had for twenty-five years been the advocate of the liberal measures which had been propounded by the party now for the first time officially enabled to carry them into effect, some of which had been reluctantly 685 adopted by the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues at the eleventh hour, and he now gave a cheerful support to those men who had the honesty and courage to bring forward their last and greatest measure.
§ Mr. Croker
had made no reference to the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Lopez) which amounted to a charge of improperly using his borough patronage. He did not at all complain of the way in which the hon. Baronet had exercised his choice; but what he said was this, that it had so happened that when the hon. Gentleman had nominated an Anti-reformer, Westbury was placed in schedule A; and when he had nominated a Reformer, Westbury was removed into schedule B; and with respect to the other hon. member for Westbury, he regretted that he should have been in error with respect to his connexion with the framing of the present Bill, though, surely, it could be no imputation against any honorable Reformer to say that he had had a share in framing so admirable a Bill. He, however, was not alone in his error, having heard the same statement more than once in that House and elsewhere.
Sir Ralph Lopez,
had only to add to his former explanation, that he had not only himself been a friend of Reform, but had nominated none but Reformers for his boroughs. The late Chairman of that House had sat for Westbury, but having voted against the Reform Bill, he would not consent to his being again returned one of its Representatives.
§ Mr. Praed
thought that it would be mischievously absurd to have any particular number fixed upon as part of the present clause, and that it would be much better to take the several boroughs seriatim, without any pledged number beforehand, as was the case in the former Bill. He therefore would suggest to his right hon. friend to withdraw his amendment in its present form, and substitute one to the effect, that the number fifty-six be left out altogether—that is, that there should be no particular number fixed upon in the first instance.
§ Mr. Croker
would act upon the well timed suggestion of his hon. friend, and begged leave, therefore, to withdraw his first amendment, and to substitute for it that the number "fifty-six" be omitted altogether.
remarked, that he considered Ministers had acted prudently in confining the number of boroughs to be disfranchised to fifty-six as that was the exact number to which the House had ultimately 686 agreed by the late Bill. He, therefore, must vote against the amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman.
Sir Robert Peel
thought, the better course to pursue would be, to adopt his right hon. friend's amendment, and omit specifying any number whatever. As fifty-six was the number inserted in the late Bill, and as the Government now admitted some of the boroughs therein placed did not deserve to be totally disfranchised, it was manifest that the number now chosen might be equally ill-chosen. By omitting to specify any particular number at present, therefore, they would avoid blindly pledging themselves in the absence of the information or data on which their pledge ought to be founded. When he said this, he did not mean to deny that, under any circumstances, the number must in some degree be arbitrary, but he desired only to protest against their being called upon to pledge themselves to the selection of a given number as a preliminary step, in the absence of due information. It was important that they should be in possession of every information in the power of Ministers to bestow with respect to the basis of the present schedules A and B; as that founded on Lieutenant Drummond's calculations was, to say the least, extremely vague and unsatisfactory. That officer told them he founded his average on the relative importance of a borough on a combined calculation of the number of houses contained in it, with the amount of its assessed taxes. Now the geographical limits of a borough being once defined, it was easy to ascertain the number of houses; and, in his opinion, the number of houses, combined with their average rental, would be a much better test of the relative importance of towns than the number of houses combined with the amount of assessed taxes. In fact, no more vague criterion existed than the amount of assessed taxes paid in a borough—though it was that adopted, at the instance of Ministers, by Lieutenant Drummond. Take, for example, the cases of Milborne Port and Midhurst; the former in schedule A and the latter in schedule B. Milborne Port contained 383 houses, and was to lose its two Members; while Midhurst—a by-word last session—with but 254 houses, was to retain one. And why was this? Because, according to Lieutenant Drummond's returns, Midhurst paid more assessed taxes than the other borough ["hear, hear."] Hon. Members cried "hear," but it would be easy to show that no more uncertain 687 and vague standard of the relative importance of a borough could be devised, than its contribution to the assessed taxes, nor one, too, more liable to be abused for elective purposes. Let them suppose—he knew not whether the supposition would be agreeable to the fact—that the proprietor of Midhurst kept up a large establishment in its immediate vicinage, and that he followed the usual course of paying for his servants, carriages, &c. in the country. The assessed taxes payable by Midhurst, would be proportionally increased, and thus a nomination borough would be preserved through the accident of its patron paying his assessed taxes to the collector for the borough. In the cases of the other boroughs the wealthy proprietors in the neighbourhood might have compounded for their taxes, and have paid the composition in London. Where was the justice of making the loss or preservation of elective rights depend upon such accidental circumstances? There were not less than six places in schedule B whose privilege might depend on those circumstances. This showed that no more uncertain criterion for judging of the real importance of a place could exist than taking the whole of the assessed taxes. The house-tax alone might be a just criterion, but taking the whole assessed taxes, including those for servants, &c. it was not a just one. At any rate, he saw no reason whatever for binding down the House to any particular number of boroughs. They could gain nothing by fettering their own discretion by an arbitrary and irrational rule.
§ Lord Althorp
was sure the House would see that the supposititious objections raised by the right hon. Baronet against the assessed taxes standard, would equally apply to any other rule they might fix upon. The amount of rental could be no safe criterion, as it might be increased by connivance or accidental circumstances which gave an artificial value to the dwellings. The suppositions were the more strange from the right hon. Baronet, as it might be in the recollection of the House, that the reiterated objections of hon. Gentlemen opposite last session to the disfranchisement of each favourite borough was the "amount of its contribution to the assessed taxes." And yet, when Ministers took them at their word, forsooth, the right hon. Baronet rose in his place and told them, that no standard could be more fallacious, vague, and uncertain. Ministers, however, did not rest their Bill on the amount of assessed 688 taxes levied in a borough alone. Generally speaking, it was a pretty fair criterion of the relative importance of a place, and when taken in conjunction with the number of bonâ fide houses of a certain value, to entitle the occupant to vote, as was done in the present Bill, a double test was afforded as valid and unobjectionable as the nature of the thing could admit of. With respect to the amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Croker,) to omit specifying any particular number of boroughs to be inserted in the schedule beforehand, all he need say was, that it could not have the effect of saving any of the boroughs in whose favour he had brought it forward; because the clause as it stood left each borough in schedules A and B to stand on its own merits, as if no number had been previously fixed upon. The former Bill, with precisely the same number, fifty-six, of disfranchised boroughs in schedule A, was, as they all knew, rejected in another place. It appeared, therefore, of great importance to Ministers, that as little risk as possible should be run in incurring its being again rejected. At the same time, they felt that it was of equal importance to satisfy the country that the great disfranchising principle of the former measure was to be preserved entire in the present one. The number necessarily was, as the right hon. Baronet had admitted, somewhat arbitrarily fixed at fifty-six, but their reasons for adopting that particular number were, that they thereby hoped to preserve the disfranchising principle of the former Bill entire, while it would leave the consideration of each particular borough to be included in that number open to discussion. The number to be disfranchised being agreed to, and, he repeated, Ministers could not go further, that is, send up to the House of Lords a Bill containing a larger number of disfranchised boroughs than that which they had already rejected, without risking its success in the other branch of the Legislature, while they could not adopt a lower number with satisfaction to the country, they could take no other course than adopt the number of the last Bill. At the same time, particular boroughs were open to discussion, and the integrity of the general measure would not be impaired by a difference of opinion as to their claims. For these reasons he trusted that the House would see the expediency of supporting the clause as it stood.
Sir Robert Peel
begged leave, in corroboration of his argument against their taking the amount of assessed taxes as the basis of 689 schedules A and B, to cite the case of Gatton. That borough, containing twenty-three houses, six of which paid 20l. assessed taxes, being more than was paid by any of the first thirty boroughs set down in schedule A. This proved that the amount of assessed taxes paid could not be a safe criterion. But the noble Lord had gone on to assert, that the amount of rental was equally fallacious. This was somewhat extraordinary in the noble Lord, for he had frequently heard the noble Lord and his colleagues declare, that the whole of the franchise to be formed by the Bill, was to be based upon houses of 10l. annual value, so that rent was a principal criterion in the enfranchising clauses, but was admitted to be worth no consideration in disfranchisement. He left the noble Lord to account for this inconsistency.
§ Lord Althorp
had to inform the right hon. Baronet, that the subject of the assessed taxes standard was still under official consideration, and that it was proposed to have some certain means to ascertain the value of houses by authority of an Act of Parliament for the purposes of this Act.
Mr. John Abel Smith
declared, that the principal proprietor of Midhurst employed no undue means to swell the amount of assessed taxes levied on that borough.
concurred with his right hon. friend in thinking that the amount of assessed taxes was a very unfair mode of calculation, for he fully believed that the noble Lord, the proprietor of Gatton, might, if he had been aware of the manner in which the cases of the various boroughs was to be calculated, by charging all his own establishment on the assessed taxes of that place, have had it inserted, by paying such taxes, in schedule B. This, however, was not the particular question before the House: they were now to consider whether, without any information, they were to proceed to condemn fifty-six boroughs? It was a preposterous proposition. If the House were to form its judgment from the papers before it of the point where disfranchisement ought to cease, how would the question stand? It appeared that Amersham, which stood at No. 54 in the schedule, was rated as possessing a population of 1,353; the next borough to it, namely, No. 55, had a population of 1,3,90; and the last borough, namely, No. 56, had a population of 1,584, being nearly 200 over No. 55—a difference greater than existed between any other two numbers in schedule A. If, therefore, any number at all were to be 690 fixed upon as the proper point at which disfranchisement ought to cease, 55 should be that point; for there was a marked difference between its population and the population of all those preceding it in the schedule, when compared with No. 56; and this latter number had been chosen by Ministers, instead of leaving the clause open without stating any number at all. What objection, he would ask, was there, to leaving the question as to the number undecided? None whatever. That it was not left an open question rendered it impossible not to suspect that there was something concealed behind. For the credit of the noble Lords, and of the House also, he hoped that the proposition of his right hon. friend might be adopted.
said, he believed that the number fifty-six was to be the minimum only, and not the maximum, of the boroughs to be disfranchised. He should be glad to know if he was right in his supposition, for if it was to be the maximum he should object to it; because, in that case, he could not move that, Petersfield and four other boroughs should be added to the schedule. He had spoken to the Speaker on the subject, and from him he understood that it did not follow from the clause, that no more than fifty-six should be disfranchised. He should like to know from the noble Lord if that was the case.
said, that the Motion was, that the fifty-six boroughs named in schedule A should be disfranchised, to which an Amendment had been moved, to the effect that the words fifty-six be left out.
trusted, that Ministers would not oppose his subsequently moving that the number of boroughs be increased to sixty-one.
Lord John Russell
said, he understood it was the intention of the hon. and learned Member to move that an additional number of boroughs should be disfranchised. This he might do in two ways, either by moving to increase the number in the schedule, or else by moving the other boroughs in a separate schedule.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that the noble Lord's explanation clearly shewed that they were actually doing nothing by retaining the number fifty-six in the clause, for it appeared that, notwithstanding the number, it would be in the power of any one to move to add to that number.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the more regular way would be, for the hon. and learned Member for Louth to move that sixty-one 691 be the number to be disfranchised, instead of fifty-six, which he might do by moving the insertion of sixty-one instead of fifty-six in the clause as it now stood. There was also another mode—namely, proposing the disfranchisement of those boroughs in another schedule.
said, that the question before the House was, whether the number fifty-six should remain, or whether a blank should be left? If the number fifty-six were suffered to remain, it would be absolute; but if there was to be a blank, then any other number might be proposed in order to fill it.
said, he was anxious not to make his motion until after schedule A should have been gone through. The words of the clause were not that fifty-six boroughs should be disfranchised; but that each of the fifty-six boroughs named in schedule A should cease to send Members to Parliament. This being the case, even if the clause were agreed to, there could be no inconsistency should the House afterwards add other boroughs to the schedule.
Lord John Russell
said, that if the hon. and learned Member meant to increase the number of boroughs to be disfranchised, his more regular way would be, to move that each of the sixty-one boroughs be disfranchised, or otherwise to move a separate clause, disfranchising them by name.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
was prepared to support the clause as it stood. They were given to understand that there were five boroughs in schedule A which were not in that schedule in the last Bill. But how did those boroughs stand? In the case of two of them, he had voted against the Government during the last Session, because, according to the principle on which schedules A and B were founded in that Bill, all places with less than 2,000 inhabitants were put into the former, and all those with less than 4,000 in the latter. It was because he recognised this principle that he had voted for Downton being in schedule B, when he found that it had more than the number of inhabitants for excluding it from schedule A. But in the present Bill a different principle had been adopted; and he had now to ask himself, on other grounds, whether these were places which ought any longer to be allowed to send Members to Parliament? Fifty out of the fifty-six boroughs proposed for schedule A had a population under 2,000, and that was enough to convince him that they were not worthy of 692 enjoying the elective franchise, especially when he found that they were also inconsiderable in their number of houses and the amount of assessed taxes paid. The principal objection that he had to the Bill was, that it took too many boroughs out of schedule B, without their being removed, as ought to have been the case, into schedule A. He said this, because the principle of Reform had taken root in every part of the empire, and every town of consideration was anxiously awaiting for its due share in the Representation of the country, which could not be awarded so long as these mean and insignificant places were allowed to retain their franchise. With respect to the borough of Saltash, he voted against the Government in the last Bill; and he, therefore, was naturally glad to find that it was at length placed where it ought before to have been. The other boroughs in the schedule were Downton, Aldborough, Amersham, East Grinstead, and Oakhampton; all of which, he was satisfied, ought to be wholly disfranchised. He thought that fifty-six was the minimum of the boroughs that ought to be placed in schedule A, and, therefore, if the hon. and learned member for Louth brought forward his motion, with respect to the other five boroughs, he reserved to himself the liberty of increasing that number, because he was thoroughly convinced, that by far the most useful principle of the whole Bill was the disfranchisement of small boroughs; and indeed so convinced was he of that fact, that rather than sacrifice such disfranchisement, he would prefer giving up the whole of the other important provisions of the measure, much as he valued them.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
saw no reason whatever for the adoption of the number fifty-six, unless, indeed, the noble Lords opposite reasoned thus:—"Because the number in the former Bill was fatal to it in another place, we will not now try our hands with a smaller number, but calculate them upon another principle." And did the noble Lords really expect their new principle would be more palatable than their former one? He hoped it would not, for he saw no virtue in the talismanic number fifty-six, and he was sure it had not been borne out by reasoning. As he understood, the principle of the present Bill was Lieutenant Drummond's rule; and that rule was a combination of the number of houses and the amount of taxation. Though the number of 10l. houses was part of the principle, yet Lieutenant Drummond did 693 not state how many houses there were. His calculations might be correct, but the House had no materials to shew that they were so. He would refer to No. 56 in the schedule, which was the pivot on which disfranchisement turned, and he looked in vain to know how the compound rule applied to that case. He found that Amersham had 360 houses, while Midhurst had only 254, and yet the latter was to return one Member, while the former was to be placed in schedule A. He was totally ignorant in what way the rule was applied, and upon that point he thought that the House should require further information. He was content to take this one case of Amersham alone; and he would ask the noble Lords opposite to explain what was the real operation of their new rule with regard to that borough? It was possible that there might be some mixture of taxes and houses in such a way that the minus of taxes reduced the plus of houses; and that rule might be a very just one. But what he complained of was, that they were called upon to vote in entire ignorance of the subject. He thought that the position in which the noble Lords were at present placed was a most extraordinary one; they seemed to be aware of that fact, and therefore desired to place the House in exactly the same predicament. The hon. and learned Member for Kirkcudbright, who generally argued so logically, had, on this occasion, not used his usual perspicuity; for he says, that he should vote for fifty-six boroughs being placed in schedule A, because it was formerly made out that fifty of those had not a sufficiently large population to entitle them to the continuance of their elective franchise; but how this argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman applied was beyond his perception, now that the principle of population was abandoned, and the principle of disfranchisement rested upon the number of houses and the amount of the assessed taxes. But there was another view of the subject. There had been a change in the identical borough list of the former schedule A and the present schedule A, and this change having taken place, he could not vote for the disfranchisement of any borough till he was satisfied that the specific case of that borough was brought within the rule laid down. He would never consent to disfranchise all those boroughs en masse. He remembered that the former Member for Midhurst, when he heard the first statement of the noble Lord opposite, said that he was so delighted that 694 it had taken away his breath. But if that hon. Gentleman was present now, he would congratulate him, not only on having his own breath left in his body, but on the breath being still left in the borough of Midhurst, since one of the lungs of that respectable place was to be preserved.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the arguments of the hon. and learned Member would be applicable if the question was one of comparison as to the importance of Amersham and Midhurst, but that question would not come under their consideration until they came to discuss the merits of each individual borough. The hon. and learned Member desired to know the principle on which Lieutenant Drummond founded his calculations. It was merely to ascertain the relative value of a certain number of houses, and the sum paid on account of taxation by one general rule; and he had done this in the most scientific and creditable manner. Then, as to the question before the House, it was merely whether there should or should not be fifty-six boroughs in schedule A? It was stated, as the reason why there should be no more than that number in schedule A, that if the Bill contained a greater number it would most likely cause its rejection in the other House of Parliament; and he might state, that a less number would not give satisfaction to the country.
begged leave to explain, for the benefit of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the returns of Lieutenant Drummond were founded upon the specific calculation of the number of houses and the amount of taxation; and it was according to the relative value of those items taken together, and not by any arbitrary rule by which one principle was allowed to predominate in any particular case. The decision of Government was formed on an impartial consideration of the two taken together.
said, the calculations were made upon matters of fact, or they were of no value whatever. It was, therefore, quite necessary they should have the whole data on which the calculations were founded before them, in order to judge of their accuracy; and as various results had been given with regard to particular boroughs, this made the call more necessary; he therefore imagined, from the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright, that he was totally ignorant of the situation in which the House was placed with respect to the borough of Downton, 695 No less than five different returns had been made of the number of houses in that borough. By the first return the number of Houses was stated to be 316—by the second, 326—by the third, 590—by the fourth, 890—and by the fifth,715. Now if the fourth return was assumed to be the right one, Downton ought to be excluded from the fifty-six condemned boroughs. He had mentioned these particulars to the House for the purpose of showing the propriety of delaying to legislate until correct information was laid on the Table.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, that he should vote for including Downton in schedule A, because he thought its relative importance did not entitle it to Representation. His determination on this subject was made up, without reference to Lieutenant Drummond's calculations.
Nevertheless, if Downton should be found to contain 890 houses, the hon. Member must, according to the principle now adopted in the Bill, consent to exclude that borough from schedule A.
Lord John Russell
said, that even supposing a case could be made out for excluding Downton from schedule A, the number fifty-six could be made up by taking the borough next in order—namely, No. 57. The question before the House did not particularly point at the exclusion of one borough more than another; it only went so far as to say, that there were fifty-six boroughs which ought to be disfranchised, and they were to be taken according to their relative importance in houses and assessed taxes. He would explain to the House the reason why Ministers had determined to take the number of houses and the amount of assessed taxes as the test of disfranchisement. During the discussion on the last Reform Bill, they were constantly reproached for having taken population as a basis, to the exclusion of all other principles. It was objected that this did not offer so fair a test as taxation and population united, and that it would inevitably lead by the rule-of-three to ulterior changes. To remove these objections, Ministers determined to take the amount of houses and assessed taxes as the test of disfranchisement; but, notwithstanding this, those who before found fault with population, now complained that the number of houses alone was not taken as the test. He put it to hon. Gentlemen whether it would not be better at once fairly to say that they objected to disfranchisement altogether, rather than continually to cavil about the adoption of this 696 or that particular rule? Ministers had taken into their calculation, not only the assessed taxes on houses and windows, which they found varied considerably in the different boroughs, but the whole of the assessed taxes in each borough. By these means they considered that a fair judgment might be formed of the comparative importance of the different boroughs.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
was well aware that the assessed taxes on houses and windows were very irregularly levied in some boroughs, but he also observed that the other assessed taxes were equally subject to much irregularity. He objected to binding down the House to the disfranchisement of the precise number of fifty-six boroughs. He was of opinion that disfranchisement and enfranchisement ought to proceed together; and there existed the same argument for pledging the House to the exact number of the places to be enfranchised as of those which were to be disfranchised. On referring to the Bill, he found that all the enfranchising clauses commenced in the following manner—"Be it enacted, that each of the places enumerated in the respective schedules, &c.;"the exact number of those places not being specified. Suppose, for instance, the House should be of opinion, that the metropolitan districts ought not to have so large an increase of Members; in that case, would it not be proper to reduce the number of boroughs to be disfranchised? but they would prevent themselves from doing this if they declared that an arbitrary number were to lose their right of Representation before the other question was determined.
§ Mr. Croker,
in answer to the observations made by the noble Lord, stated, that the noble Lord was in error as to the objection which he and the Gentlemen with whom he acted had made to the population test. They had never said that population was not the fairest single basis on which Representation could be founded, but they stated that it was a dangerous principle to begin to act upon, because its universal application would be demanded, and must, by the rule-of-three, produce a system of change still more extensive than what was even now proposed; that objection they urged on the second reading of the Bill as a point of general reasoning and legislative principle. In fact, it was used rather as a general warning against systematic change than as an objection to its individual applicability, if change they must have. But they left that general objection at the door 697 of the Committee, and when they were canvassing the details of the Bill, never questioned the propriety of estimating the relative importance of places by their relative population, but they only wished to see it strictly and fairly applied, and not be made to bend to suit particular places and circumstances. They objected that the lines of 2000 and 4000 were drawn so as to favour individual interests, and that the population of different places was in some so extended, and in others so limited, as to evince partiality and operate injustice. The noble Lord himself was the first to introduce the subject of the assessed taxes; but at that time he (Mr. Croker) had undoubtedly stated, that the union of population and taxation would form the best test. He was still of the same opinion, and therefore, did not now object to that test, but he wished to see it calculated fairly, and applied impartially, and he thought the Scotch and Irish Members would also insist on its application to their respective countries.
§ Lord Eastnor
said, he was prepared to go a considerable length in the disfranchisement 698 of boroughs, but he wished to know at the same time the extent to which enfranchisement would be carried. He, therefore, objected to binding the House down to the precise number of fifty-six. If the House came to a division he should vote for the Amendment.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, that the principle of disfranchisement had been so mixed up with the question of the number of the boroughs, that he wished to know, previous to the division, whether it was merely a question of numbers or one of principle? If it was not a question of numbers, would another opportunity be offered of taking the sense of the House on the principle of disfranchisement?
Lord John Russell
said, that the question before the Committee related only to the number of the boroughs to be disfranchised, but that it would be competent for the hon. Member to divide the House on a future occasion upon the principle of the clause.
§ The Committee then divided on the Original Question; Ayes 198; Noes 123—Majority 75—House resumed.
|Life of77 AYES to be added to the List in page 675, to make up the 198 AYES on this Division.|
|BAILLIE, John Evan||Bristol|
|BAINBRIDGE, Edward T.||Taunton|
|BARING, sir T. B., bt.||Wycombe|
|BEAUMONT, Thomas W.||Northumberland|
|BLUNT, sir R. Charles, bt.||Lewes|
|BOUVERIE, hon. Dune. P.||New Sarum|
|BRISCOE, John I.||Surrey|
|BULWER, E. L.||St. Ives|
|BYNG, captain||Milborne Port|
|BYNG, sir J.||Poole|
|CAVENDISH, Chas. C.||Yarmouth, I. Of W.|
|CLIVE, Edward B.||Hereford|
|DUNDAS, sir R. L., bt.||Richmond|
|FAZAKERLEY, J. N.||Peterborough|
|FERGUSON, sir R. C. bt.||Nottingham|
|GURNEY, Richard H.||Norwich|
|HARVEY, Daniel W.||Colchester|
|HEATHCOTE, sir G., bt.||Rutlandshire|
|INGLIS, sir R||Oxford Univ.|
|KEMP, Thos. Read||Lewes|
|LENNOX, lord William P||King's Lynn|
|LESTER, Benjamin Lester||Poole|
|LUMLEY, John S.||Nottinghamshire|
|MABERLY, W. L||Shaftesbury|
|MACKINTOSH, sir J.||Knaresborough|
|NORTON, hon. Charles F.||Guildford|
|PAG ET, sir Charles||Caernarvon|
|PENDARVIS, Edw. W. W||Cornwall|
|PEPYS, C. C.||Malton|
|PONSONBY, hon. J. B||Higham Ferrars|
|POYNTZ, W. S||Ashburton|
§ N. B. Either the tellers made a mistake, or 31 of those who voted on the first majority had paired off or left the House, to account for the difference.
|ROBINSON, sir George, bt.||Northampton|
|SMITH, George R||Midhurst|
|SPENCER, hon. F||Worcestershire|
|TALBOT, Christ. R. M||Glamorganshire|
|TOWNLEY, R. G.||Cambridgeshire|
|TOWNSHEND, lord C. V. F||Tamworth|
|TROUBRIDGE, sir E. bt.||Sandwich|
|TYNTE, Chas. K. K.||Bridgewater|
|UXBRIDGE, earl of||Anglesey|
|VERNON, hon. George J.||Derbyshire|
|WELLESLEY, hon. Will. P. T. L||Essex|
|WESTERN, C. C||Essex|
|ADAM, admiral||Kinross, &c.|
|AGNEW, sir Andrew, bt.||Wigtonshire|
|GRANT, rt. hon. C.||Invernessshire|
|BURKE, sir John, bt.||Galwayshire|
|DUNCANNON, visc||Kilkenny Co.|
|HILL, lord Arthur||Downshtire|
|KING, hon. Robert||Corkshire|
|MACNAMARA, William N.||Clare|
|O'NEIL, hon. J. Rd. B.||Antrimshire|
|OSSORY, earl of||Kilkenny shire|
|PARNELL, sir H. B., bt.||Queen's County|
|WESTENRA, hon. H. R.||Monaghansh.|