§ Sir John Brydges rose for the purpose of objecting to the House then resolving itself into a Committee. The only argument he had heard in support of this fatal measure of Reform was, that the exigency of the time required it. He protested against legislating upon such grounds. There was no proper and statesman-like method of legislating, but on principle; measures founded upon expediency were not likely to be permanent. The folly and mischief of giving way to temporary considerations, was fully exemplified by the example afforded by two measures recently passed, he alluded to Catholic Emancipation and the Game Bills. With regard to the first, he appealed to the House whether it had at all tended to tranquillize Ireland. On the contrary, it was notorious that that unhappy country was more agitated and more demoralized than at any period since the Union. As to the second measure, it was equally notorious that poaching had increased since the bill had passed, and he feared the same effects would follow from the Reform Bill. Instead of the elections being more pure than formerly, they would be more corrupt. The present system worked well, and he looked upon the nomination boroughs as essentially a part of the Constitution. He must equally complain of the intended creation of Peers which was talked so much of. That high prerogative of the Crown he had always understood was limited to the reward of merit and desert, but it was now to be prostituted for the purpose of carrying this most obnoxious measure in another place. He did not apply the term prostitution to the individuals who were to be elevated, but to the principle of the elevation itself, and he believed he was not singular in his opinions, for he had heard of one gentleman who, when offered a coronet, refused it, with the observation, that he had always heard that the honour of the Peerage was granted for services performed, and not for the services to be done. He felt the measure of Reform was pregnant with mischief to the real interests of the country, and he was, therefore, determined to oppose it at every stage and in every shape.981
§ House went into Committee.
The Chairman (Mr. Bernal)
proceeded to read the 14th clause, viz.—"And be it enacted, that each of the counties enumerated in the schedule marked F to this Act annexed shall be divided into two divisions, which divisions shall be settled and described by an Act to be passed for that purpose in this present Parliament, which Act, when passed, shall be deemed and taken to be part of this Act, as fully and effectually as if the same were incorporated herewith, and that in all future Parliaments there shall be 'four' knights of the shire, instead of two, to serve for each division of the said counties; (that is to say) 'two' knights of the shire for each division of the said counties; and that such knights shall be chosen in the same manner and by the same classes and descriptions of voters, and in respect of the same several rights of voting, as if each of the said divisions were a separate county; and that the Court for the election of knights of the shire for each division of the said counties shall be holden at the place to be named for that purpose in the Act so to be passed as aforesaid, for settling and describing the divisions of the said counties."
§ Mr. Croker
objected to the clause, as part of the general machinery of the Bill, besides which, he had a particular objection to the clause on account of the list or counties contained in the schedule attached to it. But, presuming that the noble Lord meant to postpone that part of the clause which related to the schedule, he should reserve his opposition to a future stage. He begged it might be understood that he did not approve of the clause, and, if an opportunity offered, he should record his vote against it.
Sir Robert Peel
wished to offer a suggestion to the noble Lord which he thought would be an improvement in the Bill. He had supported the clause for the division of counties last year, and should give the same vote this year, if the right of voting in counties and in boroughs were to remain as at present constituted by the Bill. But he thought that the right of voting itself might be simplified. He suggested that every right of voting accruing from freehold property situated in boroughs and cities should be exercised within such borough or city, and not be extended to the county. Preserving that right of voting, he would then maintain the integrity of the 982 counties, giving the larger ones four Members. His proposition would simplify the Bill. He would, of course, permit freeholders of such towns as had not a right to send Members to Parliament to continue to vote for the county. On this ground, he entreated the noble Lord to consider whether the plan he proposed would not obviate many difficulties, and prevent much dispute. He would state some of the complicated questions which might arise under the Bill. He would suppose that he was possessed of a freehold garden within a borough of 5l. a-year value. That would give him a vote for the county within which that borough was situated, but no vote for the borough. Suppose he built a house in the garden, and inhabited it himself, and that the value of the two united might be about 10l. per annum; a barrister for the county might say it was worth more than 10l. and reject his vote for the county; while a barrister for the town might say it was worth less than 10l., and not allow him to vote at the borough election. He would then be deprived of voting both for the county and borough. The next year the question might be agitated again, and the barristers might alter their opinion, and he should have a vote both for the county and the borough. If he subsequently let his house to one person, and his garden to another, his tenant might lose a vote for the borough, and he himself might have a vote for the county. Or, suppose that he made his house in the town worth 10l., and let it, the tenant would have a vote for the borough, and the landlord would have a second, for the county, on account of the garden. All these complicated rights would be avoided by requiring that the right of voting accruing from property of any description situate within a city or borough, should be exercised at the election for that city or borough, and not for the county—that is to say, the owner of a 40s. freehold in the town of Warwick should vote for the town and not for the county of Warwick. He knew that objections might be made to the plan—that it would be argued against as calculated to draw a marked line of distinction between the town and county interests. He did not assert that this objection was wholly without force, but he did not think it was by any means conclusive. The freeholders of the towns not returning Members to Parliament would exercise a great influence 983 over county elections, and maintain the connection between town and county interests. But in the case of the large towns now about to acquire a new right of sending Members to Parliament, he saw no reason why those towns should also influence, and perhaps determine, the county election by pouring in a host of small freeholders. He would, then, supposing these views realized, propose that counties should not be divided; that there should be no interference with counties, except that the larger counties should send four Members. He believed that it would give general satisfaction should the counties not be divided, that large counties should possess the power of sending four Members to Parliament under the Bill, and that great towns should be prevented from exercising undue influence in the elections for counties. By leaving the right of voting for cities and towns to those who possessed the necessary qualification there, and excluding them from voting on that right for counties, thousands of questions as to the right of voting for one or for the other, which must arise if that plan were not adopted, would be prevented. He made to the noble Lord, therefore, a double proposition—namely, that the large counties be not divided, and that the towns possessing Representatives of their own should not be allowed to interfere, through the instrumentality of small freeholds, with the county Representation. He trusted that the noble Lord would receive the suggestion in the same spirit in which it was offered, and that due consideration would be given to its value.
Lord John Russell
did not wish to throw any doubt on the right hon. Baronet's wish, or question his desire to make the Bill more simple. If he did not say at once that the suggestions should be taken into consideration, it was because the same proposition—not that for dividing counties, but that suggested by the right hon. Baronet—had been under consideration before the right hon. Baronet alluded to it. The proposition that freeholders in towns, should vote only for those towns had been already two or three times discussed. The great objection to it was, as the hon. Baronet had noticed, that it would produce a division of interests between the inhabitants of towns and counties. When the freeholders of Birmingham assisted to elect a landholder as 984 the Representative for the county of Warwick they became identified in some measure with their Member, who was thus neither the Member of the agricultural nor the manufacturing interest. The Members of that House would represent distinct classes only, were the right hon. Baronet's proposition to be adopted. This was his answer to the suggestions made by the right hon. Baronet; and he was confirmed in his views by the dread which the freeholders of towns entertained at being deprived of their votes for the counties. He should be sorry to destroy their rights which tended to preserve harmony between the different classes of the community, and to soften that division between the landed and trading interest, which was already too strongly marked. Let us beware of separating the Members of this House into two distinct and hostile parties in behalf, the one of agriculture, the other of commerce. Another point was, that a man might exercise his privilege of voting for the county whether he was resident or non-resident in the borough in which his freehold was situated. But the Bill required that borough voters should be resident, and, therefore, if the right hon. Baronet's proposition was entertained of confining freeholders to boroughs the consequence would be that many voters possessing freeholds in boroughs which as the Bill now stood would enable them to vote for counties, would be altogether disfranchised, because they were non-residents. He had a still stronger objection to the suggestion, which he had stated on a former occasion. It was this—a number of boroughs were preserved of no considerable size: if the freeholders of towns were to be confined to them, Parliament would give a great predominance to the landowners over the residents of the boroughs. He would illustrate his meaning by a case: in Tavistock, there were formerly 120 freeholders, but these had been gradually reduced to twenty-seven by the Duke of Bedford buying up their properties. The effect of this Bill would be to give votes to 300 householders; but if they were to give the small freeholders of Tavistock votes for that place, it would be immediately the interest of the proprietor to increase their number, as they would be persons over whom he might possess influence. It was likely the same cause would have the same effect in other places; on the whole, therefore, he did not think the right hon. Baronet's suggestion 985 would be attended with advantages equal to its disadvantages. He must also observe, that to give four Members to a county without dividing it, would only embarrass the freeholders in their choice. If there were so many as four Members to be chosen, the freeholders were not so likely to make a good election.
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
hoped the clause would be postponed, as he believed it was universally felt by the House that it was of great importance, and he, for one, wished to have time to consider the probable effects likely to acrue from its adoption.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
hoped the noble Lord, out of deference to the opinion of the House, would assent to the postponement of the schedule. The noble Lord might now, from the sample of last night, perceive he was not so strong in numbers as, perhaps, he had flattered himself he was on divisions where the views of Government clashed with the feelings of independent men in that House. The Bill proposed to cut up and anatomize the country, to which he would not consent. He considered the present clause as "burking," in effect, the whole system of county Representation, and he should oppose it.
§ Mr. Gore Langton
expressed himself grateful to the Ministers for what they proposed to do—to Reform the Representation, and as an independent Member of that House, and the Representative of a large county, he held it right to express his opinion on any of the provisions of the Bill, which, he thought, admitted of improvement. To the clause at present before the Committee he had considerable objections on several grounds, the first was, that the small independent freeholders who were at once the honour and security of the country would lose their comparative weight, while the influence of the large landed proprietor would be increased. Suppose a landed proprietor of sufficient influence to command 100 freehold votes—and there were many such—if to these were added his leasehold tenants and tenants-at-will, it was evident this additional power, working upon a divided county, would command an immense additional influence, and the inevitable result would be, the utter extinction of the influence of the small freeholders and gentlemen of moderate landed possessions. But, in addition to this ground of objection, he did not think the division of counties proceeded on a 986 fair principle. The larger counties were to have four Members, the smaller ones three each, freeholders of the smaller counties—Dorsetshire for example—would have three votes, while in Somersetshire they would have but two, although the constituency of the latter formed a part of the more important county, Under these circumstances, although he was a sincere and steady Reformer, he felt it imperative to move as an Amendment upon the clause, that all the words after "that" be left out for the purpose of introducing these words, "that in all future Parliaments there shall be four Knights of the Shire returned to serve in Parliament for each of the counties in schedule F." The object of his Amendment was to do away with that part of the clause which provides for the division of counties.
Lord John Russell
observed, that it was thought right in framing the Bill to preserve the existing rights of the freeholders of the counties of cities, other large towns to be enfranchised had no such claims.
thought the division of counties was an evil; but he was afraid it was an evil inseparable from the Bill proposed by Ministers. In fact, if an addition of Members was given to counties, it would be necessary to divide them. The evils of electing four Members at once would be very great, as had been stated by his noble friend. The hon. member for Somersetshire had complained, that while each freeholder of Dorsetshire and other counties, similarly circumstanced, were to have three votes, the freeholders of Somersetshire and the larger counties generally would be practically disfranchised by being divided into two bodies. The hon. Member had further argued, that the influence of the great landed proprietors would be increased, and that of the smaller freeholders reduced, but he thought their votes, as far as freeholders alone went, would hold the same proportion as at present; and he considered, therefore, that the fears of the hon. Member were visionary. The divisions to be established would be of such large extent that the result contemplated by the hon. Member was not likely to arise. Though he was far from saying, that the division of counties was not an evil, he did not ascribe it to the cause stated by the hon. Member; the evil he lamented was the destruction the measure would occasion to those feelings and associations which had existed so 987 many centuries, and which it would be mischievous now to attempt to extinguish. He disliked to have ancient customs abrogated. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had remarked, that unless the small freeholders of towns and boroughs were excluded from the county Representation, the allowing four Members to counties would increase their influence in the return of Members for such counties. He did not understand, however, how this operation was to be effected. He would take the county of Warwick for an example, that county had three large towns Birmingham, Coventry, and Warwick. If the whole county was to elect its four Members generally, the three towns united must have immense influence. But he would assume, that in the division, Birmingham would be placed in one district, and Warwick and Coventry in the other, their influence must be reduced in consequence, for there would be no common bond of combination. If hon. Members objected to the division of their counties, they must content themselves with having fewer Representatives. He did not think the proposed increase was too great, but of that increase the division was a necessary consequence. He should, therefore, oppose the Amendment.
was of opinion, that the Committee was not prepared to decide on the clause, for want of sufficient information as to the mode in which each county was to be divided, Till they had that information, they could not argue the question, nor decide what effect the clause would have. It was said, that the landed proprietor who could influence a great number of votes would have more power by the proposed division of counties than he would have had, had they remained entire, but how was it ascertained that the whole of the voters he could influence would reside in one and the same, division? If they were divided between two districts his influence would be nugatory, and he had heard many complaints on this head. It was feared that the influence of the landed interest generally would be weakened by such means. Many leading properties in particular counties would be entirely cut up. It was necessary that the Government should lay a plan for the division of counties on the Table, before the Committee could, with any propriety, vote on the clause. He required to know if the counties were to be divided according 988 to their geographical features, or according to the situation of the great towns they contained. If the former mode of dividing the counties were to be adopted, he thought it probable that in some districts the agricultural interests would be left without any Member whatever to represent them. Suppose, for instance, in the county already cited by the noble Lord, Warwickshire, the towns of Birmingham and Coventry were to come within the same division, would not such a scheme entirely overwhelm the agricultural voters? The proposition of his right hon. friend (Sir Robert Peel) was well calculated to remove these difficulties, by confining the town and borough voters to their own places of residence, and excluding them from the county Representation.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, he had strong objections to the division of counties, though, when first proposed, his objections to it were not equally strong as at present. On the contrary, he was disposed to give it his support, as he considered the franchise was only to be given to independent leaseholders, who would be able to resist any undue influence attempted to be exerted by the great landed proprietors, although aided and promoted by the division of counties. But since the change had been made in the Bill, which was necessarily consequent upon the adoption of the motion of the noble Lord, the member for Buckinghamshire, which gave the right of voting to tenants-at-will, that change had effected so great an alteration in the character of the constituency of the country, that it was impossible to get over the repugnance he felt to agree to the division of counties, as proposed under the Bill. The admission of tenants-at-will, combined with the division of the counties, could not fail to have the effect of materially impairing the independence of the elective body. Two or three great families, by combining together, would generally carry an election. Who could doubt, for example, that such a family as that of which the noble Marquis, whose motion he had just alluded to, formed a member, would possess far more influence on a division of a county than if the whole body of the freeholders and voters within it were allowed to vote for the four Members at once. He would not go further into the question of tenants-at-will, although, if that question was brought before the House, he would certainly oppose it; but, 989 with regard to the present amendment, he felt it his duty to give it his hearty support.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that one objection urged by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (.Mr. Goulburn) against the consideration of this clause at present was, that the House was not in proper state to enter upon it, in consequence of not having any account of the mode by which the counties were to be divided, and the other information connected with the subject, laid before it. Now if the House would just revert for a moment to the situation in which it was last Session, when this question was under discussion, it would be seen that it was at least in as good a state for considering it now as it was then. True it was that the right hon. Gentleman then raised similar objections to the discussion of the clause; but the House at the time proceeded with the clause, though it was then proposed that the counties should be divided without knowing how that was to be done. In fact the determination of the division was left to the Commissioners. There was no doubt that the information required by the right hon. Gentleman was not before the House, but when the Commissioners had agreed upon their report, that report would be made the subject of an address to both Houses of Parliament, and the whole matter would then be finally settled and determined by an act of the Legislature. The objection of the right, hon. Gentleman, therefore, as far as the Committee was concerned, was done away with, and the Committee was just as able to decide now, as it was last year. It was, in fact, quite prepared for the consideration of this question. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, and who had voted for this clause in the last Session, now objected to it, because it appeared to him that, as the Bill at present stood, such a division would be calculated to throw the influence at elections into the hands of a few great landed proprietors. The hon. Member however, might, perhaps, find that there was some inconsistency in the arguments which were urged against, and in the effects which were anticipated from, the division of counties. It would appear, for instance, by the suggestion that had been offered by the right hon. member for Tamworth—for depriving freeholders in boroughs of the right of voting for counties, and for not dividing counties—if that suggestion were adopted, were adopted, that while some hon. Members thought 990 the division of counties would augment the influence of the great towns, others were of opinion that it would increase the influence of the great landed proprietors. There was no doubt that both the influence of towns and of great landed proprietors respectively would be increased by the division of counties; but he could not see how that would operate exclusively one way or the other, either as regarded the landed or the commercial interest. But the hon. Member said, that after the change which had been made in the Bill, with respect to tenants-at-will, this division of counties would have the effect of giving increased power and influence to the large landed proprietors. The Bill did, certainly, increase that influence, and such would be the operation of it whether the counties were divided or not; but it would not increase, their relative importance, as compared with the towns, whether the counties were or were not divided. Suppose that a large landed proprietor in a county could command 100 votes, and that there were 100 voters in the adjoining town—here was a similar increase of power—communicated pari passu to both interests, and in that way the balance between them would be fairly preserved. He did not see how, if this clause were carried, the influence either of the landed proprietors or of the towns would be overwhelmed by that of one or two great families in the county. It was on these grounds that he thought that no undue influence would be given to either party by the clause. His principal reason for supporting it, as essential to the Bill, was, because he was satisfied that, by effecting a division of the counties, they would thereby diminish the expense at elections. It would diminish the expense by diminishing the area of the canvass, and every man who knew any thing of elections was aware that the more enlarged that area was, the greater was the expense in proportion, The hon. member for Somersetshire had said, that the division of counties would wholly destroy the influence hitherto possessed by the independent freeholders and gentlemen of small property, and that their relative importance would be altogether overpowered and overwhelmed by that of the great leading families in each county, It appeared to him that the operation of this clause would be quite the reverse of that anticipated from it by the hon. Member. One objection urged by the hon. Gentlemen 991 opposite to the consideration of this clause now was, that they might have, in the first instance, a description of the proposed divisions before them, in order to judge of their effects, and they spoke of the possibility of large properties being so divided as to destroy the influence of the holders altogether. It was certainly more probable, that, in effecting the division of counties, a large property would be so divided than a small one, and in that case the gentlemen of small property stood a greater chance of having their influence in the county increased. With regard, for example, to the county which he represented, he could state that there was no mode of dividing that county, without dividing and, therefore, diminishing the influence of that property with which he was connected. In that respect, therefore, the clause would have an advantageous operation for the interests of the smaller proprietors. On the grounds he had stated, he hoped that the Committee would agree to this clause. He did not regard the proposition as one involving any of the principles of the Bill, but he looked upon it as materially calculated to promote many of its best objects, and in that light he trusted it would meet with the support of the Committee.
§ Mr. Praed
did not object to give the franchise to every freeholder, but he objected to increasing the number of Representatives for popular places, if, with that increase of Members, each voter was also to have an additional share in the election of Members. By the operation of the clause before them, each voter in certain counties would be entitled to a third vote. He was of opinion that it was an error in the original construction of the Representative Assembly of this country to allow any person to have more than one vote, for by the present system it was frequently the case that the same persons, constituting, perhaps, a bare majority of the electors, returned both Members. As an illustration of this point he would take Northamptonshire. At present the two noble Members who represented that county were returned by a majority of votes. This was certainly an evil of itself, but how much was it increased when it was considered that the large minority of the county was totally unrepresented. In the present case if large counties were not divided, each freeholder might have four voters; he wished to restrict them to 992 two, and he thought this object might be attained even without the division of counties, by allowing each freeholder to only vote for two Members, although four were to be the number returned. This was a new principle, and he threw it out for the consideration of the House, and would not further press it at present; but, as he understood the object of a Representative Assembly was to allow all classes to be heard, it frequently happened, as in the case he had stated, that a bare majority returned both Members. He was therefore of opinion some measures should be taken to make the voice and views of a large minority known in the Legislature.
§ Mr. Wilbraham
said, the bill was chiefly popular out of doors, from its tendency to overthrow an oligarchy, which had usurped the rights of Representation in a great degree, to the injury of the majority of the people. This clause was, however, defended by the noble Lord and his supporters, on the ground of its being especially calculated to diminish the expense of elections, but there was other machinery provided by the Bill sufficient for that purpose, and which would reduce the expense of elections to one-tenth of what it was at present. He alluded to that part of the bill which allowed the poll to be held at several places, and which provided, also, that no freeholder should travel more than fifteen-miles to the place of election. He considered that the proposed division of counties would be injurious, because it went to overturn all old associations—because it would detract from the dignity of county Representation—and because, by increasing the power of the great landowners, it was altogether against the main principle of the Bill itself, which was putting an end to the influence of the oligarchy throughout the country. He had voted for this clause in the last Session, but was now opposed to it for the same reason as that assigned by the hon. and learned member for Kirkcudbright—namely, the introduction of the tenants at will franchise into the Bill. The great power that the adoption of this principle would give to wealthy and powerful landowners would materially affect the independence of many counties, and, dividing them, would increase this influence so much, that a few landowners joining together would control the election of Members for the division 993 of the county in winch their respective properties were situated. Another very objectionable point in the clause was, allowing the small freeholders of towns returning Members to vote for the counties and not for the place in which their freeholds were situated, although they had common interest with the towns, and none with the counties. He knew that the number of such freeholders already was so great (and there would be great facilities and temptations held out by this clause to make more) as to give them power to return Members for the division of a county, although their influence would not be so great if the counties were kept entire. In the county he had the honour to represent, in consequence of the manner in which it was proposed to divide it, the mercantile and commercial interests would be able to return the Members for one of the divisions. There could be no doubt on his mind that the effects of the clause would operate in this manner against the interests of the landowners. On these grounds he would support the Motion of the hon. member for Somersetshire.
§ Mr. William Peel
was surprised that the noble Lord opposite would not adopt the reasonable proposition that had been made by his right hon. relative. He thought it was only fair that the votes of town freeholders should be confined to the places in which they resided. It was possible that a man might own the greater part of a town, and, if he was not resident in it, he could have no vote for the place although he was so materially interested, but he was thrown into the mass of the county Representation, with which he could have no object in common. This was an anomaly that ought not to exist. With regard to the division of counties he wished to press this one fact upon the House, that Birmingham was said to contain 2,000 freeholders, who would have the power to return both Members for that division of Warwickshire in which it was situated, although they only had influence sufficient to return one by the present system. He feared other instances of the same kind would be proved, and, therefore, he should support the amendment.
§ Mr. John Campbell
had no hesitation in saying, that he would support the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Somersetshire. This division of counties appeared to him to be a most unnecessary and wanton interference with the 994 ancient institutions of the country. He was an unflinching Reformer, and whatever went to give a full and fair Representation of the people, should have his support; but the division of counties was not necessary for such an object, and was actually inconsistent with it. Counties, as they now exist in this country, are more ancient than any divisions of a similar nature to be found in any country in Europe. Even in the time of the Conqueror, when Doomsday was compiled, they were considered as of great antiquity, and they probably subsisted long before the time of Alfred their reputed author. The people, in general, were vehemently opposed to this part of the Bill, as he had had an opportunity of observing during the last circuit. All the persons with whom he was brought in contact exclaimed against it, as a wanton and unnecessary interference, and all agreed that it would materially increase the influence of the great landed proprietors. This clause was defended chiefly from its tendency to decrease the expense of county elections; but there was already other, and sufficient machinery provided in the Bill to effect that object. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had defended the clause by a most extraordinary reason. He had assigned, as one cause of the necessity of the division, that he did not consider, that the bulk of the persons who would be called upon to vote, would be able to judge accurately of the merits of more than two candidates. It was a pretty compliment to the noble Lord's own constituents, as well as to the intelligent constituency of the country in general, to tell them, they were incapable of forming an accurate judgment of the qualifications of four persons to represent them in that House. The noble Lord had the merit of first discovering this incapacity, for Cromwell, in his scheme of Reform—when he allotted many Members to several counties, giving to one as many as fourteen—had no intention to divide them. It was obvious, that this proposition would add very much to the influence of the landed aristocracy. The noble Lord (Althorp) compared 100 voters in a town with 100 voters on a landed property, and spoke of the influence of the one balancing that of the other. But did the noble Lord not consider, that the 100 voters on the estate of the landed proprietor were under his power, and might be made to vote as he pleased; whereas, the 100 voters in 995 the town were scattered and divided, and were not subject to any particular influence. The result would be, that, in many instances, the landed proprietors would possess so much influence, that other means must be taken to guard against it. He would not conceal from the Committee, that he thought one of the inevitable evils which would result from this clause, would be the introduction of the Vote by Ballot. He had no wish to see the influence of the landlord destroyed, neither did he wish to see it unbounded; and, to open the nomination districts which this clause would create, he was sure that the Ballot would be demanded. The Ballot he abhorred; but it might become necessary as a palliative for a still greater evil.
§ Sir George Murray
said, the principle under discussion was of a novel kind, and which might apply to Scotland as well as England. The noble Lord (Althorp) in arguing against the objections that were made to the clause on account of its increasing the influence of great landed proprietors said, it would have, in many instances, the contrary effect and had illustrated his case by a division of his own property in Northamptonshire. The noble Lord thence assumed that the measure would not increase the influence of the first landed proprietors. But the hon. member for Cheshire (Mr. Wilbraham) had shewn that, in his county, one of the divisions would be represented by the commercial and manufacturing interest, which would preponderate over the agricultural class altogether. The same was said to be the case in Warwickshire, therefore, it appeared that one of two things would follow from the division of counties—either the placing the Representation of a county in the hands of some great family, or of some great town. Now, though he (Sir G. Murray) might consider it desirable that family influence, such as now existed in different parts of the country, should be retained, he was not for extending it, creating it, and raising it up all over the country, as this Bill with this clause assuredly would do. It had been truly said by the hon. member for Somersetshire, that this clause would destroy the influence of the small gentry, and small landed proprietors in counties—the most independent class that could be found in them. It was in the small counties in Scotland that the influence of the great families more peculiarly prevailed; and 996 he thought that a similar result would follow in England, if this proposed division of counties should be effected. This clause went to convert the country into a series of departments, and they had already seen a departmental constitution tried in France, where it had failed. He trusted that they should not behold such an example imitated in this country. He thought the suggestion of his right hon. friend, (the member for Tamworth) for separating the constituency of towns from that of the counties, should have been adopted. In conclusion, he objected to this division of counties as being wholly contrary to the wishes of the people generally, and as affording some kind of precedent for the cutting up of the counties in Scotland, as proposed in the Scotch Reform Bill.
Sir Edward Stanley
said, that nothing would tend more to diminish the expense of election than this division of counties. It was notorious that the expense of a contested election was in proportion to the size of a county, and this was the chief cause of the monopoly that existed in the return of Members, and deterred many independent men of moderate fortunes from engaging in a contest. In this respect the division would operate most beneficially, it would enlarge the class from which Members could be chosen, and he thought by these means great families were likely to find their influence diminished. The hon. member for Cheshire had said, that he feared if a division took place, the manufacturers would return two Members for one of the divisions of that county, but he (Sir E. Stanley) feared, if the county remained entire, and had its Representatives increased to four, the manufacturers would return, not only the two, but ultimately the four Members. If the county was divided, there might, and and probably would be, a compromise, as happened in other places; in Yorkshire for example, the manufacturing interests returned two Members, and the agricultural the other two. On every consideration he could give the subject, he thought it was better that large counties containing 200,000 or 300,000 inhabitants should he divided, and that each division should return its own separate Representatives. There were at present fifteen counties out in the Bill, each of which was to continue to return two Members. He could not suppose the division of a large county, 997 which contained as great an arrear and population as those small ones, would be under the influence of large proprietors any more than the existing small counties were. If that should happen, the same cause would operate with another sort of influence; a town situated in one of the divisions might have a predominating influence. The advantages of a diminution of expense were so great in contested elections, that any other inconveniences resulting from the division were of trifling importance. He thought the arrangement generally would increase the influence of the landed interest, and diminish the control of the great families; and he should object to the proposition made by the hon. member for Somerset for the reasons he had stated.
felt it is duty to say a very few words, as he had before pronounced an opinion against the division of comities. The last time the subject was before the House, he had yielded to the arguments brought forward to convince him that the oligarchical power would be increased by such a division. It now, however, appeared to him, that if no division took place, it would be easier for any four great proprietors in a county, to subject it to their own views, than if a division took place, and thus the present state of things would have a greater tendency to make counties like close boroughs; as, however, proprietors might differ in politics, they could each be easily satisfied by nominating one Member. If then, as he conceived would be the case, the popular power were increased by dividing counties, the power of the oligarchy must decrease in proportion, and the anomaly was not to be tolerated of having large and small counties. Warwick and Rutland, for instance, return an equal number of Members. For these reasons he should support the clause as it stood in the Bill.
said, if the hon. and learned member for Kerry's argument was true, that the principle landowners could combine in the counties as they now existed, it must follow as a matter of course that the chances of combination would be greater when the counties were divided. The numbers to combine would be fewer, the temptation greater, and success easier to be calculated upon. The hon. member for Perthshire (Sir George Murray) had compared the proposed divisions of counties to the departmental divisions of France, 998 and had inferred, that, as that plan was unsuccessful, the same would be the consequence with this country; but that right hon. Gentleman had not noticed one material fact which bore upon that view of the subject, The common statistical computation gave to France 4,000,000 of small proprietors, and to England about 400,000 great and small. That country had besides, no leviathans with possessions which spread over nearly a whole county, therefore the chances of control were infinitely greater in England than in France. The principal argument urged in favour of the clause was its tendency to reduce expense, but that might be obviated by local arrangement. Power and influence were wrong in principle, and the spirit and essence of Reform alike required they should be controlled. He, therefore, would vote in favour of the system, as it stood at present, as tending most to preserve the freedom of the people and the security of free election. In the various plans of Reform proposed by Mr. Pitt and others, although an increase of county Members was projected, there never had been any division of counties proposed.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that, as regarded the mere theory of the case, he certainly could not make up his mind as to whether any great difference would result from the division of counties into two electoral districts, or the allowing the four Representatives to be elected by the whole body of the county, as the two Members were at present. In practice, however, he thought, that the question of the entirety or division of counties for the purposes of Representation, would be found to be one of considerable importance. But as it was impossible at the present moment to examine the question upon practical grounds—for none of the details of the mode by which it was to be carried into operation were before them—it could only be discussed theoretically; and as a mere theory. He repeated, that he was not one of those who set any great store by the manner in which it should be decided. He thought it no more than fair, however, to apprise the noble Lords opposite, as well as the House generally, that there appeared to him to be a difficulty in the way of the proposed division which had not yet been observed. That difficulty arose out of the clause then under their consideration, taken in connection with that which followed. 999 He assured the noble Lords, that the observations which he was about to make originated in a spirit of candour, not in a desire to oppose the measure, or to throw unnecessary difficulties in its way. He was about to point out to them a difficulty which he really thought so serious, that it would be impossible to allow it to remain as a part of the Bill. At all events, if it were allowed to remain, he would undertake to say, that it would not last to any second election. The experience of a first would demonstrate the necessity of a remedy. When the Bill was first brought in, it was proposed, that certain great counties, having a larger population than 150,000 souls, should have four Members; and as a corollary upon that proposition, proceeding upon the principle of arithmetical proportion, was framed the second clause, to which he had alluded, and by which it was proposed to give to all counties having a population of more than 100,000 souls, three Members; while seven or eight inferior counties, which had less than a population of 100,000 souls were to retain the old number of two Members. If the old Constitution were to be changed, and a new system adopted upon a scale of arithmetical proportions, nothing certainly could be fairer than such a distribution of county Representation. But Ministers, since the introduction of the Bill, had been induced to alter their proposition with regard to the first class of counties, and instead of having twenty-five counties of a large size, returning four Members each, they had determined to divide those twenty-five large counties into fifty small counties, returning two Members each.
§ Mr. Croker
continued. That was by no means so understood; and, indeed, up to a very late period, it would seem, that the Ministers had not finally decided that point. But whatever might have been their original intention, their present resolution to divide the large counties, but not to divide the middling class of counties, which were to have three Members each, was the point to which he was about to call the attention of the House. Upon that point he believed he was not mistaken. Then if that were so—if the large counties were divided, and the middling sized counties were not—it would absurdly happen 1000 that, in a great many instances, the smaller counties would return the greater number of Members. He would first notice the absurdity arising in the case of some of the counties which were to be divided, Cumberland, for instance, was one of those counties which was to return four Members. It contained 171,000 inhabitants. Equally divided then, each half called, he would suppose, the one East and the other West Cumberland—for under the clause of the Bill, they must be considered as separate and individual counties—each half, he said, would contain about 85,000 inhabitants, returning two Members to Parliament. But the county of Devon, which was also to be divided, contained 494,000 inhabitants, so that each half would contain about 247,000, being nearly double the amount of the whole population of the undivided county of Cumberland. The same disproportion existed between the counties of Kent and Northampton. Kent had 478,000 inhabitants. Northamptonshire only 179,000: yet they were to be equally divided for the purposes of Representation, although the whole population of the one did not equal half the population of the other. He confessed he could not conceive upon what principle it was, that Ministers proposed to give only one Representative to every 120,000 in habitants in Devon and Kent, while in Cumberland and Northamptonshire they gave one to every 42,000 or 43,000. If ancient limits and existing customs were to be thrown aside, then the new system to be built up ought not to contain such anomalies as these, and the inhabitants of the larger counties would have a right to complain of the injustice done them in the new distribution. But the anomaly of this arrangement of Ministers appeared in a still stronger light when the degree of Representation given to the divided counties was contrasted with that which it was proposed to give to the middling counties. Dorset, Hertford, Hereford, Cambridge, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Monmouth, each having a less population than the half of either Devonshire or Kent, were to return three Members. It was not his intention to found any motion upon the statement which he had just made; but why, he would ask, was Monmouth, which contained only 98,000 inhabitants, to have three Members, and thus receive a larger share of Representation than East or 1001 West Devon, or East or West Kent, with 240,000 inhabitants; than Lanarkshire, with 317,000 inhabitants; or than Cork, with 800,000 inhabitants? It was a curious coincidence that the county of Cork had very nearly as many inhabitants as the whole principality of Wales. By the last returns it appeared that Cork, including the city, contained 805,000: Wales, 807,000; yet Cork, including its county, city, and borough Members had only seven or eight Representatives, while Wales had twenty-eight. He did not mean by that statement to complain, that Wales had too much Representation, but that Cork had too little; that was to say, if disturbing all the ancient arrangements of the country, they adopted the principle of proportion upon which Ministers professed to proceed. As far as regarded himself, he was glad that Monmouth was to have three Members, but, at the same time, it was impossible to reconcile the anomaly of such a county returning three Members, when the more populous divisions of Lancashire, York, Somerset, Devon and Kent were to have but two. He would only further observe, that the amount of taxes paid by each county, and by each division of a county, differed very nearly in the same proportion as their population. For instance, South Devon annually paid 44,000l. while one of the divisions of Cumberland paid only 10,500l. One other observation, and he had done. It was his firm belief, that if Ministers did not separate the Representation of districts from that of counties, their Bill would be found, in practice, totally inefficacious for the objects for which it was intended; and they would find that, before two or three elections were passed, the agricultural districts would call loudly upon them to protect them from the inroad of town voters, by whom their voices in the election of Representatives would be drowned. It would then be too late to remedy the mischief. The advantage, once given to the towns, it would be impossible to withdraw it—it must be continued; whereas, if the noble Lords were to limit every man's right of voting to the place in which the right of voting accrued, no harm could possibly come from it. If, afterwards, it should appear necessary to extend the franchise, it could be easily done; but if it were unduly extended now it could never be withdrawn. Under these circumstances, he really hoped 1002 that the Ministers would reconsider these two points, and remove the third Member from these eight counties, and, what he thought still more important, relieve the counties at large from the influence of the borough freeholders, who ought, on every principle of the Bill, to vote on their own localities. He would take the opportunity of observing that he intended, at the proper time, to propose that Oxfordshire and Dorsetshire should be added to the number of the counties which were to return four Members, as they appeared, by the census of 1831, to contain as many inhabitants as Cumberland did when it was added to the list of those which were to return four Members but if either of the Members connected with those counties would undertake the task, he should be happy to resign it into their hands.
Lord John Russell
observed, that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have taken up a notion that this Bill was founded upon some regular arithmetical proportion of population. It had never been so laid down by those who supported it; so that the whole of the argument constructed by the right hon. Gentleman on that hypothesis fell to the ground. All the arguments that the right hon. Gentleman had adduced at various times, and in various ways, had no reference whatever to the principle of the Bill. All his statements, therefore, as to Devonshire and Cumberland were not applicable to the Bill, and could not enter into the present question. The reason, shortly, why he (Lord John Russell) should support the division of counties were these—our county Representation, although extremely good in many respects, was accompanied with this drawback, that it was attended with too great an expense to gentlemen of small fortunes. First, there was the expense of agency, in itself very great; then that of conveying the voters to the place of election, and third, though it was against law, but it must to a certain extent be tolerated, the expense of finding refreshment for the voters. If large counties remained entire, the expense of agency would be doubled, so was the distance which the voters had to be conveyed, and of course the measure of refreshment to be afforded them. He therefore thought the effect of the division of counties would be much, to lessen the expense of elections, to throw them more open to men of small fortunes, and that the power of control and the monopoly 1003 now possessed by large fortunes would be put an end to. He also believed, that men were much more likely to make a good election when they had to choose two Members than when they were called upon to select four.
§ Mr. Croker
The noble Lord had accused him of assuming, that Ministers proposed to extend and diminish Representation in proportion to population. He therefore begged to remind the House, that when the noble Lord brought forward his measure, he proposed that counties having upwards of 100,000 inhabitants should have one additional Member, making three; and that counties having upwards of 150,000 inhabitants should have two additional Members—making four. He thought that, when such reasons were laid down by the noble Lord for increasing the Representation of counties, he was not very wrong in the argument which he had just submitted to the House.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
had entertained doubts with respect to this clause, but now he was in favour of it. He knew that in London, where there were four Members there was often a compromise, and so it would be in counties, where one or two individuals with great power might combine or bring in two others who were not known in the county. He regretted to observe so much stress laid upon the different classes of electors who were to return Members. There could be no real distinction between town and county voters, for their interests were identified, and they mutally subsisted by each other. It was also wrong to distinguish between commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural Members, and to apportion the number to each, but if there were fears that the commercial interest would predominate in particular counties, they were certain that agricultural gentlemen were sometimes returned for towns. All these distinctions, therefore, he considered futile, as the various classes had but one common interest, and depended on each other. The great question was, whether we were not getting rid of a great number of anomalies, and whether, on the whole, a great portion of the property and intelligence of the country were not admitted into the Constitution by the Bill now before the House.
An Hon. Member
begged leave to ask the noble Lord, how it was that when the principle of population was given up with regard to boroughs, and that the numbers 1004 of houses and the amount of assessed taxes were taken instead, why the same rule was not applied to counties? He had made some calculations with reference to that subject, and he found, if the principle of the number of 10l. houses, and the amount of assessed taxes had been applied to Cumberland, that county would have had no right whatever to any augmentation of Members.
Lord John Russell
replied, that it was considered that the amount of the assessed taxes, and the number of houses applied to small boroughs would be a test of their relative importance, but the rule if applied to counties, would not shew the same results.
§ Mr. Strickland
also supported the proposition for the division of counties. With respect to large counties, he thought there could hardly be a difference of opinion. The plan must work well. It must give satisfaction to all parties—to all classes—and to all interests. With respect to the smaller counties, although they were undoubtedly more open to objection, he trusted that the division would have good effects because it would prevent unnecessary contests and unsatisfactory compromises. He was not such an admirer of the wisdom of our ancestors as to yield implicitly to the propriety of continuing in our own times a state of things, which might have been applicable enough to the circumstances of the nation some centuries ago, but which was no longer tenable. Because Alfred the Great had so divided the kingdom into counties as to leave one much larger than another, and because, subsequently, other kings had allotted to each county, without distinction of size, two Representatives, he did not, in the present day, feel himself prevented from supporting a measure which had for its object the greater equalization of the Representation of the whole kingdom. With regard to the division of counties giving increased influence to certain families and great proprietors in particular districts, he would suppose the fact would be so, and that certain individuals would influence the return of Members who had not previously done so; still as there was to be a large infusion of popular opinion at the same time into the House, the value of the power would be proportionally diminished, and it would be worth no Ministers while, to make bargains with persons who could influence the return of one or two Members 1005 only. For these reasons he should vote for the clause as it stood.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
declared it as his opinion that the expense of county elections would not be diminished if the provision giving four Members to counties was not accompanied by another, tending to lessen the frequency of contests. When there were but two Members for a county, either of these Members, who conducted himself to the satisfaction of his constituents, would in ordinary times be quite sure of his return, without incurring the expense of a contested election; but if there were four Members for a county, he would be placed in a very different position, for every unpopular act of any one of the other three Members would be likely to produce an opposition which would subject him to all the expense of a contested election. The expense of a contest for the county of York, as it stood at present, was such, that no man of common sense would venture to enter into it, even with the fairest chance of success. That expense induced men of honour, ability, and character to shun the attempt to be elected as the Representatives of their respective counties in Parliament. He regretted to see a spirit existing which inferred that a seat in Parliament would not be so much sought after, when there was not much to be got by it but labour and fatigue, but he hoped he should never see the day when a seat in that House ceased to be an object of honourable ambition. He thought that the giving four Members to one county, while another had but two, would be a cause of jealousy to the inhabitants of the county where only two Members were returned. He approved of the division on that account, and he was further satisfied that the possession of four votes by electors would lead to collusion and jobbing. The evil of that system was likely to be somewhat diminished by the present clause, which went to divide the large counties, and he should therefore vote for it.
said, this was no party question, but one of general importance as it was defended on the score of the diminution of expense it would cause at county elections. He was happy to observe that the Irish Reform Bill contained an improved method of taking the votes at county elections, which was not found in the English Bill. In that Bill the certificate of the registration of the freeholder, when supported 1006 by the affidavit of the freeholder himself, was conclusive, to all intents and purposes on the question of the right of voting. The production of it was sufficient to establish his right; and what would be the consequence? why that the delay and expense of elections would be much reduced. That was an improvement which he much hoped to see introduced into the English Reform Bill. By the present system much delay and litigation would be occasioned, because every vote that was brought up to the hustings might be made the subject of dispute, and its validity there contested. The Irish registry system was adopted as the ground work, but the machinery of the English Bill was much more complicated, and would be found more expensive in operation. According to the improved method of voting for Ireland, eight questions might be put to an elector, the purport of each of which was prescribed by a formula; but in England the necessary questions might be put by the Sheriff in any way, which his caprice folly or ignorance dictated. He thought, therefore, the mere division of the countries would not do much towards diminishing the expense of elections, unless it was accompanied with the expedient he had mentioned.
§ Lord Althorp
did not mean to deny, that there might be something advantageous in the proposition of the hon. and learned Member; but he did not well see how it could be adopted at the present moment: and as the clause for the division of the counties had a general tendency to diminish the expenses of elections, he trusted that it would have the support of the hon. and learned Member whose object in saving expense would be so far answered.
§ Mr. Cresset Pelham
said, the Ministers had failed to show any sufficient grounds for what they were now recommending to the House, and therefore, he should vote for the amendment. The argument relied on for the division of counties was, that it would reduce the expenses of elections, but that evil was not confined to counties. Borough elections were sometimes as expensive and contests more frequent. At Liverpool each election was attended with an enormous outlay, while Mr. Wilberforce had been returned for Yorkshire free of all charge.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that the question was so wound up with the Reform Bill itself, that he thought, if this clause was lost, the 1007 Bill might as well be given up altogether, he repeated, that if this clause was lost, the Bill might as well be given up altogether. He said so, because, if it was lost, what would become of the cry of, "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill?" He had before voted with the Ministers on this clause, and should vote with them again now; for no arguments that he had yet heard had had the effect of changing his opinion on the subject. He thought that the giving any man four votes was an evil. In his opinion, the Members for the counties had always been sent into that House by the Aristocracy, and he believed they would continue to be so sent. See how they had voted last night. Why, he had heard one of them say, that the Ministers had a——bad case, but that he must vote with them to help them out.
§ Mr. John Weyland
intended to support the clause for the division of counties, because as the law now stood, it placed the Representation of a county in the hands of the most opulent men in it, for they alone could command the means of bearing the expense of a contested election. He thought it probable that by dividing counties some of the divisions might be exempt from their influence, particularly if the expenses of elections were at the same time reduced. He believed that this clause would be the best means of emancipating candidates from this overwhelming expense, and counties from the influence which, if they were not divided, might be exercised over them by a few wealthy individuals. With respect to towns, as they were to receive Members on the principle of their relative importance, the same measure ought to be adopted with counties. Norfolk had an agricultural constituency of 300,000 persons, and Wiltshire had but 230,000, yet the former, so far as agriculture was concerned, was to return but five Members, and the latter thirteen. This inequality was contrary to the principle of the Bill, and he, therefore, hoped it would be amended previous to the third reading, or he must oppose it.
§ The Committee divided on the clause Ayes, 215; Noes 89—Majority 126.
§ The first part of the fifteenth clause was then read, and it was moved that the blank words between the words, "there shall be," and "Knights of the Shire," be filled up with the word "three."
objected to the proposition. All the inconveniences which had been 1008 described as likely to attend the election of four Members, he thought, would also belong, in a minor degree, to the election of three; and the selection of counties, in his opinion, was monstrous, and unjustifiable on any principle of fairness or common equity. The names of the counties selected were Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Herefordshire, Herefordshire, Monmouthshire, and Oxfordshire. The allotment of three Members to these counties appeared to him decidedly opposed to the principles which pointed out two as the most desirable number of members for any place to have. Two was sanctioned by ancient custom, and seemed to insure to each of the political parties into which all societies in this county divided themselves to elect their chief or Representative. It appeared to him that three Members as well as four would lead to cross voting, against which they were secure when there was two Members to be elected. He would ask his hon. friend near him, who represented Cambridgeshire, on what ground could that county lay claim to three Representatives when Bedford and Huntingdon were to be given only two? The counties included in this clause would also have an unreasonable advantage over the others in Committees above stairs, where they would have three agents, while many, with equal pretensions, would be allowed but two. In the case of Norfolk, the section which adjoined Cambridge would have a greater population than the latter county; but in any dispute between them relative to bridges or roads, the latter would have the advantage of an additional Member. If there must be such changes, the West Riding of Yorkshire, the half of Lancashire, Devon, and Kent would be better entitled to three Members than the counties on which that privilege was to be conferred. After the division of counties came into operation, each division, he conceived, would be a separate county to all intents and purposes; but he had always looked upon these divisions as a necessary evil. He disapproved of this clause, and thus entered his protest against it; but he did not intend to divide the Committee, although, should any other hon. Member do so, he should certainly vote with him.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
was glad to see any thing like division among hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House. For his own part his objections were as great 1009 as ever to this detestable Bill—he would not use a stronger epithet, but it amused him to hear the noble Lord talk of the division of counties as being contrary to ancient custom. This came with a good grace from those who were knocking down all chartered rights and uprooting all corporations. Ministers were putting up the manufacturers and kicking down the agriculturists, and it was even thought they had paid but little attention to the Church and the Sovereign. One hon. Member had thought proper to tell his constituents, that the Aristocracy was "knocked on the head," that the Peerage was a "cypher." He rejoiced, however, to know, that the House of Peers had boldly done their duty, notwithstanding the pitiful menaces thrown out against them on a former occasion, and he believed they would exercise a similar regard for the true interests and liberties of the country when the present measure was before them. His objection was not confined to an additional Member being given, which the clause contemplated, he also objected to the selection of counties made by Ministers, some of which compared in point of importance to others which were worse treated, instead of receiving an additional of member, deserved to be put in schedule B. He should most heartily give his vote against the clause, and, indeed, against every part of the whole Bill.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
considered the clause a needless departure from the customary mode of representation, and he feared that no beneficial results were likely to flow from adopting it. In no instance was there a triple-representation in the early periods of our Parlimentary history, and the only cases in which single representation had taken place were of modern origin. The same object which Ministers had in view by the mode of representation now proposed, might have been obtained by quadruple representation of certain counties, leaving the other counties as they were at present represented. The anomalies throughout the Bill were preposterous It contained no tangible principles whatever. Justice was set at nought by this plan—the West Riding of Yorkshire, containing, as it did, a population of about 800,000, was to have only two Members allotted to it, whilst the counties of Buckingham and Dorset, with an inferior population, were to have three Members each. There were other absurdities of the same 1010 description throughout the Bill; but he did not rise so much to expose these as to press upon the noble Lord the necessity that the whole of the details should be before the Committee, ere they were called upon to give their sanction to the clause. Places mentioned in the schedules had been postponed until the proper information relating to the places named in them could be furnished, and a similar precautionary course ought to be pursued with regard to the counties named in this clause, if they intended to proceed fairly and impartially. The schedule was now embodied in the clause, so that they were called upon to say, not only that they were prepared to give additional Representatives to certain counties, but to go further, and select the particular counties that were to have them, while they had not named the most important counties throughout the kingdom which were to have four Representatives. It must be obvious that there were important points to be considered in the selection of counties, particularly as to the amount of town population contained within them, and already represented. Unless this was attended to in the allotment of Members to divisions of counties, they might be only increasing the commercial or manufacturing interests, instead of allotting members to represent the agriculturists. He considered that the fairest method would be to describe those counties by a scale after subtracting the several portions of their town population already represented. These objections involved considerations of much importance. He neither approved of the principle of the clause, nor did he think the counties named in it, were entitled to the distinction conferred upon them, tried either by the tests of population or property, or of both combined. He, therefore, trusted, that if the clause was passed, the noble Lord would leave a blank for the names of the counties to be filled up on a future occasion.
§ Lord Althorp
stated, that there was some truth in the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, with respect to the principle of the clause being first agreed upon by the Committee, before the counties were named. That he readily admitted, would be more in accordance with their usual course of proceedings. He should, therefore, move that the clause be passed, leaving the names of the counties subject to its provisions to be hereafter 1011 inserted. He would now go to the question as the principle of the clause itself, which was, whether second-rate counties not considered of importance enough under this Bill to return four Members, should have three allotted to them. It was contended by his noble colleague, that the number of Representatives for those counties ought not to have been increased, because there were more important districts which were to have only two Members, and he had instanced the West Riding of Yorkshire. If the principle of giving three Members was objectionable in the case of any one county, the same principles would apply to all the counties, whatever was their relative wealth or importance; so that the only question for the Committee to decide was, whether it was fit and proper for any place or county to return three Members. If four Members were to be given to those counties, the districts would be too small, and there would be an unequal Representation thus introduced. The case of one Member to represent a place which the Constitution now recognised, he admitted, was a mode of Representation comparatively modern, yet it had been found to be beneficial; and the triple Representation now proposed was of an analogous character; and there was certainly an intermediate class of counties between the largest and the least. It had been further objected to the principle, that it would produce discord and frequent contests, because, as there would be an odd Member to be elected, the different interests would be desirous to obtain that Member; but he was not aware that the towns which returned only one Member, had greater contests than those which returned two. Indeed, he was rather inclined to believe, that where interests were nearly balanced, compromises would be more readily come to about the third man. Another objection was, that some freeholders would have three votes, and others but two, and that this would be a source of jealousy; but, in applying the plan, the interests of the class of freeholders generally had been attended to, rather than the interests of particular voters; and he trusted that the Committee would agree with him, that the clause was one which was calculated to prove advantageous to the country.
felt assured that, if three Members were given to any counties, in all those counties there would be a perpetual 1012 struggle at elections. The third Representative would entail upon the people local dissentients and heart burnings, which it would be impossible to eradicate. His chief objection to the clause was this—that it introduced a totally new principle into the Representation. If it were necessary that the agricultural interest should be represented in a fuller manner, this might be most easily effected by retaining some of the places now included in schedule B, which had a large rural population. This was a mode which he ventured to suggest for the adoption of the noble Lord; and it would get rid of the objections which had been urged as to the likelihood of causing continual struggles at elections.
§ Mr. Adeane
said, it appeared to him that the agricultural interests had not been sufficiently considered in the Bill. Indeed, he believed that interest had been less attended to in the present than in the former Bill, because, by the late Bill, the smaller towns were to have a constituency of 310 householders, and if they had not that number within themselves, they were to be made up from the adjacent rural districts. He did not presume, at present, to say whether such a plan would, on the whole, have been desirable; but the probable result would have been, that the Members returned by partly rural constituents would not be adverse to agricultural interests. If, therefore, the landed interest was not sufficiently represented by the present Bill, the proper method would be to increase the number of county Members—and he laid claim to an additional Representative for the county he had the honour to represent. Cambridge was as well entitled to a third member, as Cumberland was to four; and he should hereafter return to this subject at the proper time.
Sir John Walsh
considered that the clause, if adopted, would lead to an increase of election expenses in those counties affected by it, from the exposition of interests, and clashing of parties it would introduce. Besides this evil, it would assuredly not tend to the tranquillity of the country, from the party feuds and heats it would occasion; and, as he suspected that there would be constant contests for the third man, there would be no time for the angry passions, generated by constant opposition, to cool.
§ Mr. Hunt
remarked, that as Ministers 1013 could say nothing for themselves, he would say something in their behalf, and in defence of the clause by which it was intended to give three Members to some counties. They were aware that a third interest had grown up of late. There was now a Whig, a Tory, and a Radical interest to be represented, and the third Member was for the Radicals. Thus the three Members would form a sort of unicorn team, and it was easy to settle how they were to be harnessed. The Whig and Tory must be next the wheel, because, being habitual jibbers, they needed the double thong, and it was very clear, that the Radical would insist upon taking the lead. He did not see, however, why Buckingham was to have three members, while the west Riding of Yorkshire was to have only two. If no better reason could be given for the clause than the noble Lord had assigned, he should vote against it.
§ Mr. Praed
did not think the clause would cause an increase of election expenses. His objection to it was, that it increased the number of votes which each elector was to give. He had no objection to the increased number of Representatives, but he wished the electors to be confined to two votes. This proposition appeared to him reasonable and easily to be effected, and he would submit it to the House at the proper time.
§ Mr. Croker
would postpone the observations he had to make on this question until it was again before the House; but he must say now, he conceived two would be a much safer number to fill up the blank with than three. He wished just to remark to the House, that they had constituted fifty-five new counties, that was, they had doubled twenty-five counties, added two Members to Yorkshire, and two to Lincolnshire, and one to the Isle of Wight. And it was a curious fact, that thirty out of these fifty-five counties having but two Members each, were superior in population to the eight counties to which they were about to give three Representatives.
also objected to the filling up the blank with the word "Three." He agreed with the noble Lord in the propriety of preserving the agricultural interest, as much as possible, in the counties; for the purpose of balancing the Representation of the towns; but he apprehended that, after the Bill came into operation, the contests in the counties would be 1014 solely carried on by the town and the country parties, for the purpose of securing the third Member. This would be the effect of giving three Members to the counties; and, he thought, instead of increasing their Representation, it would be much better to confine the voters in the vicinity of the towns to the exercise of their privilege in those towns.
Mr. Fyshe Palmer
could assure the House, that, so far as the county of Berks was concerned, no objection was felt to the triple Representation. On the contrary, he had every reason to believe that this part of the measure met with the greatest approbation in that county. An hon. Baronet (Sir J. Walsh) had said, that county Members would not be easy in their seats, if there were a triple Representation. Good God! was the Representation to be arranged for the convenience of the Members of that House, or for the advantage of the people? He thought that, under the provisions of this Bill, the counties would no longer be obliged to look out for men of large property to be their Representatives, but would be enabled to choose gentlemen whose talents and services would be devoted to the good of their country.
Sir John Walsh,
in explanation, stated, that he had only said, that the triple Representation would give rise to great expense and contests in the different counties.
§ Viscount Palmerston
recommended the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) to look at the list of counties which were to have three Members, and he would find that they were counties the most agricultural of any in England, that they had the smallest number of large towns, and that those towns were of a description the most under the influence of the great landed proprietors. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think, that the number of contests would be increased by having three Members, instead of two; but there were obvious reasons why the possession of the right to return three Members would diminish contests. It would be seen that there were always three parties, and where there was a third Member, they would naturally settle the dispute by a compromise.
denied the statement of the noble Lord with respect to the preponderance of the agricultural interest in those counties. He must instance Cam- 1015 bridgeshire, where the power of the town of Cambridge throughout the county was so great, that it must always return one of the Members.
§ The word "Three" inserted in the blank.
§ Upon the question that the clause stand part of the Bill,
§ Mr. Robert Adam Dundas
said, he was desirous of knowing, when he saw that additional Members were to be given to some of the English, and to the Welch counties also, why it was, that counties in Scotland, possessed of still greater populations, were still to be left with only one Representative?
§ Lord Althorp
said, the hon. Member should remember that, if the Scotch county Members were not increased, yet eight additional borough Members were to be given to that country, and these additional Representatives to Scotland were not to be taken from other Scotch boroughs, but from English boroughs. He should also remember, that the additional Members to the counties in Wales, and in England also, were to be taken from English boroughs only, and not from Scottish boroughs, so that the latter country ought rather to be gratified than displeased at a measure which would give her eight additional Representatives. He did not, upon that occasion, think it at all necessary to enter into the comparative Representation of both countries.
§ Mr. Robert Adam Dundas
said, he really thought that, in adopting this sweeping measure of Reform, equal justice should have been done to all counties. He felt very confident that the measure would create great dissatisfaction in Scotland, amongst even all those persons who were zealous in the cause of Reform.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
thought the statement of the noble Lord by no means satisfactory. If the existing proportions between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland had been preserved, he would have had some ground to stand upon. But the noble Lord, when he added eight members to Scotland, and five to Ireland, had abandoned the principle of the proportionate Representation settled at the time of the Unions, and this was an admission that Scotland and Ireland were not adequately represented. The noble Lord was therefore bound to provide fully for this inadequacy of Representation; and the proper mode would have been, not 1016 to have looked at the three kingdoms as distinct and separate countries, but to have considered them as one whole united kingdom. The noble Paymaster of the Forces had said of the Anti-reformers, that, in giving up Gatton or Old Sarum they had given up the whole principle—using the language adopted by Cromwell, in respect to the Scotch army at Dunbar, he said the Lord has delivered them into his hands. On the same principle, the moment the Government admitted that Scotland was not adequately represented, it was placed in the situation of the Anti-reformers. And he (Mr. Fergusson) must say, that admitting, as the noble Lord had done, the principle was bound to do complete justice to Scotland, and give to it as many members, in proportion to its wealth and population, as to England.
Lord John Russell
would not deny that Ministers had, perhaps, been guilty of some imprudence, in venturing beyond the lines marked out at the time of the union of Scotland; but he put it to the hon. Member, as a Reformer, whether, when Ministers had made a departure from the proportion of Representation fixed at the time of the Union, because they thought it would be beneficial to Scotland, it was right for him to make Ministers repent their liberality, and show them that their generosity had been misplaced? Such an attack he might have expected from the Anti-reformers: but it was not just on the part of those who were engaged in the same work of Reform with Ministers, and who approved of the changes already made. Hon. Members who wished well to the cause of Reform ought to consider the situation in which Ministers were placed, not entirely with reference to what their own opinions might be of what was just and right to be given to this or that particular county, but with the intention of doing what they possibly could to promote the welfare and success of the cause to which they were mutually and reciprocally engaged. It was true, that no additional members were given to the county Representation in Scotland, as in Wales, but at the same time it ought also to be borne in mind, that eight Members were given to great Scottish towns.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, it was the distribution of the additional members of which he complained; for he found that the agricultural interest in Scotland had been entirely neglected, With respect to 1017 the observations which the noble Lord had thought proper to indulge in, he must say, that he considered them wholly uncalled for. He would allow no one to dictate the line of conduct he was to pursue. His constituents and that House alone had a right to decide whether he acted properly or otherwise. Though he thought Scotland was not fairly treated, he would not, however, desist on that account, to give his cordial support to the English Reform Bill.
§ Mr. Dixon
agreed with the hon. Member, that Scotland was not fairly treated. He would beg to ask whether Lanarkshire was not better entitled to additional Representation than Gateshead? The noble Lord was, in fact, forming a new Constitution for the country. He was no longer bound by what was done at the Union, and he ought to have consulted only justice. He had the honour to represent a commercial town, but he must say, that the agricultural interest of Scotland was neglected. He trusted, therefore, that additional Representation would yet be given to the large Scotch counties. He hoped that the Representation of three or four of the larger counties would be increased.
agreed in the observations made by the two hon. Members who spoke last. All parts of the empire ought to be placed on one footing. Scotland was rapidly increasing in wealth and population; the people of Scotland were looking most anxiously to this change, and he did hope that Ministers would do his country justice.
An Hon. Member
wished the Scotch Members to recollect that a great boon had been conferred on Scotland by the annihilation of the system of self-election, and the establishment of an independent constituency.
§ Sir George Clerk
said, the present occasion was the proper time for putting in the claims of Scotland for additional Members, because, if this Bill passed without such a claim being made, the Members for that country would lose the only opportunity for making their pretensions heard. The Members for Scotland wanted nothing from the generosity of his Majesty's Ministers; but they boldly threw themselves on the justice of the House. There was a general feeling in Scotland that that country was not fairly treated by that Bill.
§ Mr. Gillon
deprecated this discussion, 1018 and declared that the people of Scotland were pleased, not only with the additional Members, but still more with the alterations that were to be made in the franchise. The hon. Gentleman opposite, he believed in his conscience, only made these remarks with a view to defeat this Bill.
§ Sir George Murray
maintained that the word "liberality," used by the noble Lord opposite, was not at all applicable to Scotland. It was only right, when a great change of this kind was to be brought forward, that the interests of all parts of the empire should be consulted. Before the discussion on the Scotch Bill was brought forward, it was the duty of the Members for that country to obtain from the Ministers some pledge that justice should be done to it. Different principles ought not to be applied to the different portions of the United Kingdom. Every part of it ought to be treated equally and fairly, when the Ministers undertook to make a new Constitution. He claimed, in particular, an increase of Representation for the agricultural population of Scotland; and insisted that justice would not be done to that country, unless it received an additional Member for each of the large counties. Ireland, too, he believed would not have justice done to her unless her Members now insisted on it.
said, that the arguments of the hon. Members opposite upon this occasion were strangely inconsistent with the whole of their previous conduct with respect to the question of Reform. They who had given the most unqualified opposition to the Reform Bill in all its details, were now coming forward as the advocates of equal Representation and the extension of popular rights. In the course of this inopportune discussion, however, an important admission had been made by the hon. Gentlemen opposite—namely, that the people of Scotland were favourable to Reform. He would now entreat hon. Members who were friendly to Reform not to allow their desire to obtain additional Representatives for Scotland to impede the progress of the great measure. He could not sit down without once more expressing his astonishment at the inconsistency of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. 1019 They now talked of taking one Member from this county, and another from that county in England, to add to the Representatives of Scotland, after having, by their votes in support of General Gascoyne's Motion, pledged themselves not to alter the number of the Representatives for England. He called upon them to reconcile their conduct now with their conduct then.
hoped, that those who complained of unnecessary discussion and irritating debate, would remember the speech which had just been delivered by the right hon. Secretary. Was it just to taunt Members on that side of the House with inconsistency, because, having originally opposed the principle of the measure, they afterwards endeavoured to improve its details? The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had profited by the suggestions which had proceeded from that side of the House, in order to correct their blunders.
§ Mr. George Sinclair
said, that the people of Scotland would be called into political existence by the measure which had been brought forward by Ministers. It gave Scotland an increased constituency, which was of more importance than an increase of Representatives.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
thought it not at all surprising that Ministers should be peevish after the division which took place at four o'clock that morning. The lectures which the noble Lord and the right hon. Secretary had thought proper to read the House were the most unprovoked he had ever heard. Unless the right hon. Secretary was more successful in putting down agitation in Ireland, than he was in putting down agitation in the House of Commons, the less he was in that country the better. As to inconsistency, he thought that the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill-men, were more obnoxious to that charge than the hon. Members amongst whom he sat. In conclusion, he entreated hon. Members, however great their admiration might be of what he had thought it necessary to address to them, they would abstain from expressing approbation in the usual manner, lest they should disturb the repose of the hon. Gentleman in the Chair. [Mr. Bernal was at that time fast asleep. The allusion to his situation produced a general roar of laughter, which roused him from his slumber.]
§ Clause agreed to.1020
§ The Chairman reported progress, and the House resumed.