Mr. Dominick Browne
rose to move an addition to the county Representation of five Members, and, in order to make room for that addition, he proposed to disfranchise certain small boroughs. He was far from wishing to depreciate the merits of the Bill, and he was determined, in proposing his amendments, to adhere as close as possible 188 to the principles of the Bill, as interpreted by his Majesty's Ministers, and further, he was not anxious to increase the whole number of Members of the House, He thought, however, that the adding five Members to the 105 for Ireland, and two to the number for Scotland, would give general satisfaction. He should propose an additional number of five for Ireland, and, he believed, that would give satisfaction in that country. In Ireland there were ten boroughs which had less than 300 10l. householders—those boroughs were, Portarlington, New Ross, Enniskillen, Athlone, Bandon, Mallow, Coleraine, Dungarvan, Carlow, and Ennis; while in the English Bill there were but three boroughs that had less than 300 10l. voters, and of those, one had 298 and another 299. He meant to propose that the five smallest of these boroughs should be disfranchised, namely, Portarlington (185 voters), Mallow (200 voters), New Ross, Enniskillen, and Bandon, in each of which there were no electors at the present time, Portarlington, really, had now but one voter, New Ross only 20 voters, Enniskillen several resident voters, but one person returned the Member; Bandon was a joint borough between two noblemen, and Mallow was a close borough., His next proposition was, to give a third Member to the county of Mayo, which had a population of 367,000; the county of Donegal had a population of 298,000, and yet in those two counties there were no boroughs, and they only returned two Members each. The third case was that of the city of Dublin, containing a population of 250,000 inhabitants, and yet it returned but two Members. There were not less than 14,000 qualified 10l. householders in that city. It would give great satisfaction if one Member were added to Dublin. He understood that the hon. member for Downpatrick intended to propose the addition of two Members; but he would take on himself to say, that adding one would give great satisfaction to Ireland. The county of Cork contained 700,000 inhabitants, and returned only two county and four borough Members, He thought it better to divide that county into two ridings, each sending two Members, The other boroughs which he intended to disfranchise, were towns in agricultural districts, for the purpose of throwing them into the counties, giving to the persons living in their towns the right of voting for the counties, instead of having a distinct constituency for themselves. The hon. Member concluded by moving the introduction of clauses into the Bill, to disfranchise Portarlington, New 189 Ross, Mallow, Bandon, and Enniskillen, for the purpose of adding to the county Representation, and Athlone, Dungarvan, Coleraine, Ennis, and Carlow, for the purpose of increasing the Representation generally throughout Ireland.
Mr. John Browne
, in support of the Motion, stated, that the county of Mayo Lad 370,000 inhabitants, and was fully entitled to additional Representatives.
could not assent to the, no doubt, disinterested Motion of the hon. member for Mayo. He was ready to admit, that were Ministers about to frame a new system of Representation in Ireland, there were towns at present enjoying the franchise right which it might be expedient to disfranchise, and towns that did not return Members which it might be expedient to enfranchise; but, as that was not their object, and as the present Bill was framed on the principle that there should be no disfranchisement, he saw no reason for adopting the hon. Member's proposition. The hon. Member had made out no case, in the first instance, against the boroughs he would disfranchise; and in the next, his statement with respect to the places to which he would transfer the franchise was very exceptionable. Take, for example, his own county, to which he would—no doubt disinterestedly—add an additional Member or two. It was very true, that Mayo contained a numerous population; but it was equally true that it contained a very limited constituency, as compared with its population. This fact was placed beyond the reach of cavil by the allocation returns of the fund subscribed in July last year, for the relief of the famishing poor in that county. That return showed that, out of 360,000 inhabitants in Mayo, not less than 224,520 sought relief from that fund. He need not say a word more as to the constituency of that county. Then, admitting that Dublin contained upwards of 200,000 inhabitants, it did not follow that it should receive an additional Representative; for that city was situated in a very small county, which returned two Members of its own. Moreover, Lambeth, the Tower Hamlets, Manchester, Glasgow, and other large places, containing a population very nearly equal to that of Dublin, while in the scale of commercial importance they were far higher, would not return more than two Members, and if the claims of Dublin were allowed, they would have an equal claim to a third Representative.
said, he could concur in one part of the proposition, namely, to give 190 an additional Member to populous counties and towns; but, he objected to disfranchise any. His wish was, to have more Members for Ireland; but the temper of the House was such, that he thought he should be excused for not making a motion to that effect.
§ Amendment negatived, as was an amendment also moved by Mr. Dominick Browne to give four Members to the county of Cork.
Mr. Dominick Browne
next moved, that three knights for the future be returned for the counties of Mayo, Donegal, Roscommon, Londonderry, Tyrone, Tipperary, and flare, and three burgesses for the city of Dublin.
§ Amendment negatived.
moved, that in all counties of cities, when persons were joint occupants of the same premises, each should have a vote, provided, on the amount of the whole property being divided amongst them, each occupant should hold property of the yearly value of 10l. That was the law now in England, and it was only just to extend it to Ireland.
concurred in the proposition; but thought it might be improved by an additional clause, to enable persons who sublet part of their farms to have a vote for that part, whenever they derived from it a clear profit of 10l. annually.
said, there was a great difference between England and Ireland on that point. In England there were assessed taxes and rates, and the payment of these formed grounds for ascertaining whether the occupant was a bona fide householder. That criterion, however, could not be applied to Ireland, there being no assessed taxes or rates in that country.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, the division of leaseholds had given rise to great fraud, and the proposition of the hon. Member ought not to be acceded to but on mature deliberation.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the Amendment was a matter which required consideration, and if, on inquiry, it should be found proper to accede to it, he thought it would be only just that the clause should extend not only to counties of cities, but to all towns.
§ Mr. Croker
admitted that England and Scotland differed from Ireland with regard to assessed taxes and rates; but it ought to be borne in mind, that in Ireland there were cess-rates fixed by the Grand Juries. These, he thought, might form a criterion.
§ Lord Althorp
doubted if the cess rates could form any just criterion, because no man was bound by law to be assessed to the county cess in Ireland. There was no analogy, indeed, between the two cases.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ On clause 54, which had been postponed, being put,
rose and said, in the Motion which he now felt it his duty to submit, he was aware that the ground was cleared of much of the difficulty which, under other circumstances, he might have had to contend against. The question which the House was called upon to decide was simply this—whether the elective franchise in Trinity College should be confined to a few young men, or whether the constituency should embrace a large class of persons, many of whom had obtained high distinctions, and who, certainly, from their station in society, were justly entitled to the privileges which he claimed on their behalf. He meant to propose that the right of voting should be transferred from the Scholars to the Masters of Arts of the Dublin University, and also, that all persons who had taken the degree of Bachelor of Arts should be allowed to replace their names upon the books of that University. He did not know how the Government felt disposed upon this question, but he was quite sure, that after having given them his support upon a recent occasion, in overturning the monopoly of the corporation of Dublin, they would not now turn round upon him, and by opposing his proposition, uphold an equally corrupt monopoly in the corporation of Trinity College. The question, as he had before stated, simply was, in whose hands ought the franchise to be intrusted? He decidedly objected to confining it to the scholars, and upon two grounds—first, because Roman Catholics were excluded by the charter from being scholars, and consequently men (many of whom he saw around him) of the highest attainments, and who had obtained honours and distinctions, were deprived of the power of voting for the Representative for the Dublin University. This kind of constituency was, therefore, objectionable, because it was sectarian. There was another ground which he also deemed of great importance, and to which he begged the particular attention of the House. Fellow Commoners could not be elected Scholars. Thus, young men of the highest respectability, and equal in talent and acquirements to the Scholars, were, by the charter of the University, excluded from that body. He had said equal talents 192 and acquirements, because it required equal capabilities to obtain the honours of the University. A Scholar must, from necessity, be a young man without property, because the Fellows are bound by a solemn oath to elect persons of the poorer classes; therefore, the emoluments of the College must be an object to him. Besides, the Scholars were mostly intended for the Church or for the Bar, and if the right of voting was left exclusively in their hands, they would elect either a stickler for ecclesiastical abuses, or a lawyer; and, though he had the greatest respect for the latter class of persons, he must say, that he thought there was enough of them in the House already, and he did not believe them to possess, in any eminent degree, those qualities which were so essential in a Member of Parliament—industry and common sense. The great objection which he understood existed among some hon. Members to his proposition was, that an immense number of clergymen would be added to the constituency, and that the clerical interest would, in consequence, be likely to preponderate. If, however, hon. Members who entertained this opinion, would refer to the returns which had been made to that House, they would find at once the answer to that objection. By these returns it appeared, that the average number of students who took out their degrees annually did not exceed 300, and of these 120 were intended for the church, so that the clerical interest did not even amount to one-half. Besides, there were great numbers who did not go to the expense of taking out their degree. In the church this was not so much the case, because it was necessary that a clergyman should have the degree of Master, to entitle him to hold two livings; but, notwithstanding this, they found by the returns, that the amount of clerical degrees was less by thirty. In Dublin, residence in the college was not necessary to obtain a degree; it could be taken out merely at the expense of the college fees and the coach hire from the part of the country where the student resided. It was not, therefore, to be apprehended that there would be any danger of swamping the constituency of the Dublin University. He thought that the payment of an annual sum, say 1l., might be made necessary for keeping the names on the books, and that this might be constituted into a fund for establishing some lay professorships. In addition to the other advantages which would result from his proposition, Dublin University would, by his Amendment, as regarded its constituency, be completely 193 assimilated to those of Oxford and Cambridge.
§ Mr. Croker
had always advocated the assimilation of the Dublin University with those of Oxford and Cambridge, as far as that assimilation could consistently be carried into effect. He did not rise, therefore, for the purpose of opposing the whole of the hon. Gentleman's proposition. There was part of it he highly approved of; but there was a difference in the constitution of the Dublin University from that of Oxford and Cambridge, which rendered it impossible that this assimilation could lake place without violating the provisions of its charter. By that charter the constituency of Trinity College was vested in seventy Scholars and twenty-five Fellows, while in Oxford and Cambridge it was vested in the Masters; so that, to take away their right of voting from the Scholars was to violate their chartered rights, and introduce a nonresident constituency, which had no direct interest in the management of the affairs of the college. In Oxford and Cambridge there was a sufficient number of electors resident, which formed a kind of staff, round which the non-residents could rally; but, by the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, the resident electors of Trinity College would only amount to twenty-five, while the nonresidents would be thousands. In fact, by this plan the University would be converted into a mere polling place, and the persons who took an interest in the management of its affairs would be like a drop of water to the ocean, when compared with the influx of non-residents who would be let in to swallow them up, according to the proposition now before the House. Let them assimilate as much as they could without violating charters or destroying vested rights. He had no objection to that portion of the hon. Gentleman's proposition which conferred the elective franchise upon the Masters; he thought that was exceedingly proper. But he protested against taking away the right of voting from the Scholars. They had but one college in the Dublin University, while in Oxford and Cambridge they had many. The Staff, consisting of twenty-five Fellows, added to which seventy Scholars, would be a far more effective body than a numerous class scattered over a large space of country. To this plan, however, there might be some degree of exception made—the Ex-scholars would be found valuable auxiliaries, interchanging good offices between the Fellows and the Scholars, and they would be more 194 inclined than any other body or order to side with the resident electors, livery Ex-scholar was entitled to be a Master of Arts; he did not always take out his degree, because he had no object to gain by it; but he was, nevertheless, entitled to do so, and, therefore, in point of fact, when they gave the elective franchise to Ex-scholars, they gave it to Masters of Arts. The Scholars were men of great learning; they had to undergo a most severe examination, and they must be persons of great classical attainments; they must be also skilled in other important branches of science and literature. Therefore, by admitting the Ex-scholars, they could make an admirable constituency. But if the proposition, as it stood at present, were acceded to, it would be much better that the University should be without a Representative at all, for it would, as he said before, be reduced to a mere polling place. He thought it would answer every useful purpose, if words were added to the clause in the Bill, which would extend the franchise to all persons who obtained the degree of Master of Arts, or any higher degree.
would withdraw his Amendment, and move the insertion of the words suggested by the right hon. Member.
§ Mr. Leader
said, he would undoubtedly vote for enlarging the constituency of Dublin University to the greatest possible extent, and take his chance for the use which might be made of it. He did not despair that liberality would, some time or other, find its admirers and friends in the University. He knew that several individuals, and men much attached to the importance of the purity of election, and the propriety of the right of franchise being bestowed on the most qualified individuals, thought that the Motion of his friend, the member for Mallow, ought to be more restricted; and that the University ought not to be swamped by men who never distinguished themselves in their collegiate course, and never resided within the walls of the University. He feared it would be difficult to decide, if they began to draw distinctions, where enfranchisement was to begin and exclusion to end. He rested his support of the proposition of the hon. Gentleman on two distinct grounds; the first ground, that as great efforts had been used to narrow the constituency under the Irish Reform Bill, he would leave no possible effort untried to enlarge it in every instance. It was on this principle that he supported the leasehold qualification; it 195 was on this principle he would oppose the narrowing old boundaries in boroughs, and would also oppose in towns the raising the qualification beyond 5l. His course was a clear one; it was to enlarge the constituency, to abandon corporate monopoly, and the old borough exclusion; to make as many as possible feel an interest in their country, and begin to perceive that private interest was inseparable from the public good. The next ground was, the desire of assimilating the right of franchise and qualification, in the Dublin University, to that of Oxford and Cambridge. He saw no just reason for invidious distinctions. He understood that the different members of the University had expressed opinions on the subject of the proposed franchise and qualification. He knew nothing of them, but he considered that he took a sound view, and acted on a safe principle, by voting for the extension and enlargement of the constituency, and for assimilating the University of Dublin to the Universities of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Crampton
thought the arrangement proposed by his Majesty's Government was, under the circumstances, the best that could be adopted. By the return, it appeared that the average number of new Scholars admitted annually amounted to fourteen. This in itself would, in a great measure, prevent corruption in the constituency. If the Representation of the University be literary, surely those who were to be intrusted with the franchise should have some literary talents. The Scholars undergo a most rigid—a most difficult examination. They are examined by eight Fellows upon their oaths, and they must be resident for five years within the walls of the college. He had received a petition on this subject, signed by 170 most respectable persons, who had been Scholars; and he would compare them to the new constituency with which his right hon. friend proposed to swamp the Scholars. The proposed constituency, taking the number annually admitted to Master's degree to be 250, and calculating according to the average length of human life, would amount to 6,000 ["no, no," from Mr. Croker]. He maintained that it would amount to 6,000, according to his estimate. Now, with respect to the qualification of a Master, any person could acquire the degree of Master of Arts of Trinity College, upon payment of the sum of 10l., and attending three examinations in the course of the year. As to the degree of Bachelor of Arts he never knew a dunce who could not arrive at it.
§ Mr. Crampton
His hon. friend knew many. He was glad they were not acquaintances of his, and he was sure that, whoever these dunces were, their acquaintance was no acquisition to his right hon. friend. The use in taking out Master's degree, by those intended for the Church, was, to entitle clergymen to hold two benefices; and every person who had taken out Bachelor's degree, could obtain a Master's on paying 10l. The Masters of Arts never could be so eligible a constituency as the present, because they were widely scattered over the country; and he fully agreed with his right hon. friend, that if the franchise were extended to this class of persons. Trinity College would be converted into a complete polling-place, and it would be most injurious to the discipline of the college. There was, certainly, one objection to the present constituency—its sectarian character. He deprecated this, but he thought the evils which might arise from the change would more than counterbalance this inconvenience. There was no reason why the charter of the college should be repealed; and, if this proposition were acceded to, it would be tantamount to a repeal. There was another objection to this proposition, to which he called the attention of his right hon. friend. The Board of the Dublin University had the power of granting degrees to any one they thought proper. He was sure that the high-minded and respectable individuals who constitute the present Board, would not make an improper use of this power. But look at the danger there would be in adopting this principle. He had received a letter from Dr. Sadlier, who entertained precisely the same opinions which he had expressed. He must, therefore, oppose the proposition, not as a member of the Government, but in his individual capacity, as a Member of that House.
§ Mr. Croker
could assure the hon. and learned Member, that he was entirely mistaken with respect to the examinations at the Dublin University. For the rank of Bachelor of Arts, he could assure the House, that not only were the examinations in Dublin very severe, but equally severe with those which took place at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, unless, indeed, the latter University had recently become more strict. It was true that in the University of Dublin, not many persons were rejected at their examinations for the Bachelor's degree; but what was the reason of this? The cause was obvious and well 197 known. A deficient person, during his early examinations got what was termed plucked, and knowing the certainty, or, at least, the great chance, of his experiencing the disgrace of a rejection at the final examination, he did not venture to incur defeat by presenting himself at the ordeal. By confining the franchise of Dublin University to the Scholars and Ex-scholars, Ministers would exclude from the franchise all Roman Catholics, all Dissenters of every denomination, and the great body of the gentry of Ireland, for the scholars were all selected from the poorer class of persons, and, so much was this the case, that the possession of any independent property or income whatever was an effectual bar to the selection. He believed that there were only two instances of any Members in that House having been selected as Scholars on that foundation. He believed that, if the improvement which was suggested in the Amendment were not adopted by his Majesty's Ministers, the University of Dublin would much rather that the constituency or franchise should remain without any alteration whatever. There was no reason whatever, that he could conceive why the Masters of Arts should not vote at the elections for the University of Dublin, that did not equally apply to the two English Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
§ Mr. Lefroy
had been charged with three Petitions from the constituency of the University of Dublin, and he had deferred acquainting the House with their contents until the present opportunity should present itself. The petitions all concurred in one object. The first of the petitions was from the senior and junior Fellows and Scholars of the University. The second was signed by 700 Graduates, and they likewise concurred in the wish to assimilate the Irish University to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, with respect to conferring the elective franchise on the Masters. Another Petition he held in his hand was signed by seventy Scholars, who prayed for the franchise being continued to them, and that it might be preserved to all Scholars after they might cease to enjoy the benefits of the scholarships. He had stood two severely-contested elections at the University of Dublin, and he had succeeded on both occasions, although he had each time been opposed strongly by his Majesty's Government for the time being, It could not, therefore, be otherwise than that he should feel deeply impressed by the kindness he had received from the constituency of 198 the University, and he could never take any part in any measure which could lead to any disappointment of the views entertained by a single branch of that constituency. It had often been contended that the Masters already possessed the right of voting, and he had heard gentlemen on the hustings pledge themselves to try that right if the University should elect them as their Representatives in Parliament. By such professions they had succeeded in very hard contests, and when the majorities were but very small, and yet they had never thought fit to ascertain the right.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
thought that the Amendment involved much more than the right of voting, for it would decide a question, whether it was expedient, in the Reform Bill of 1832, to preserve a constituency exclusive in its nature. He was solicitous to support the proposition to the extent of preserving the connexion between those who had been educated at the University, and the University itself, but that the proposed Amendment would do great injury to the University appeared to him to be evident, and he should oppose it.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
said, that when the present Amendment was disposed of, he should propose one with a view to give the franchise to those Masters who had obtained honours.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the general feeling of the House appeared to be in favour of extending the franchise to the Masters, and he thought it would be better, therefore, to assimilate the right of voting at the Dublin University to the rights exercised in the English Colleges. He should, therefore, assent to the extension of the franchise to the Masters of Arts, but he did not think it advisable to include the honorary degrees.
Sir Robert Bateson
thought it would be advantageous to the University to include the Masters of Arts in the Representation.
was disposed to vote for an extension of the franchise, as being the surest way to prevent undue political influence.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
approved of the Amendment, as tending to take away the exclusive character of the franchise.
§ Mr. O'Connell
must again protest against the principle of adding only five Members to the Representation of Ireland, and giving one of them to the University of Dublin. This was nothing less than a direct insult to the people of Ireland. He was in favour of the Amendment, and deprecated the ex- 199 pense of contested elections for the University. He had heard that no less a sum than 500l. was offered for a vote at the last election.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, it was true that the bribe had been offered, but then the hon. and learned Member forgot to state that it was indignantly rejected.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Agreed to, and Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ The 55th Clause was agreed to.
§ The various schedules of the Bill, and the Preamble, were agreed to, with several verbal amendments.
§ On the question that the Bill be reported to the House,
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, that in the English Bill there was a penalty of 500l. fixed for the infringement of the provisions of the Act. There was no such penalty in the Irish Bill, and he should, therefore, move a clause to the effect of that in the English Bill.
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, that what he objected to was, that the penalty in the Irish Bill was given to the Crown informer, and the Constables of the borough, and Barristers were not made liable to the penalties.
§ The House resumed, and the Report was received.