§ The Speaker put the question—"That I do now leave the Chair?"
Mr. O' Connell
said, his object in then rising was, to propose another instruction to the Committee. There were other material points to which he was anxious to call the attention of the House, but these he should reserve for a future stage of their proceedings. He could not proceed without again adverting to the fact, that his Majesty's Government had furnished no information as to the population of Ireland, except that contained in the boundaries book. The information which this book contained was most vague and unsatisfactory, and he could not but deeply lament that a production so stupid and disgraceful had been brought forward in that House. Not a single charter had been published in that book of information, although the boroughs were to be affected by the Bill, and yet these documents could have been procurred either in the Rolls Office, or at the Birmingham Tower, Dublin—or, if they thought it too troublesome to send to Ireland, they might have obtained charters of a more ancient date in the Tower of London. He had a right to complain of this 770 neglect on the part of those whose duty it was, to have supplied this information. When the House came to consider the boroughs, it was most important that it should have before it the charters under which the boroughs had been enfranchised. He complained the more of this neglect on the part of the Government, when he found them actually fighting the battle of the Beresford family, in that portion of the Bill which had reference to the borough of Coleraine. It was true, that an excuse had been made for the non-production of the charter belonging to the borough of Ennis, namely, that it was pledged for a sum of money to some individual in the county of Galway. In this case, of course, they could not produce the charter, unless they consented to pay off the encumbrance. He thought, however, that all such charters as were not circumstanced in this way should be published, for the information of the House. He confessed that he entertained but little prospect of success in his present Motion. This apprehension was one of the melancholy effects of the contempt in which the affairs of Ireland seemed to be held in this country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite would, no doubt, command a majority upon every point which might limit the constituency of Ireland—he would be ably supported by his new and faithful allies on that side of the House. They would often have to witness, before the termination of those proceedings, such miserable spectacles as had been exhibited in that House a few evenings ago. They would behold men, calling themselves Reformers, marching in, arm-in-arm, with their late opponents, to vote against the men who, through evil report and through good report, had sustained them, and when, without their assistance they must have been prostrated in the dust. These were the men who called themselves Reformers, while they were aiding and abetting the cause of despotism in Ireland. This was Whig gratitude. This was the requital which the Representatives of Ireland were to receive for sleepless nights—for their laborious and unceasing exertions—for the numberless sacrifices they had made in defence of English liberty. He expected this. He was prepared for it. It was in perfect keeping with the policy which the Whig Ministry had pursued towards his country. Well, let them go on. Let them follow up their system of injustice. He firmly believed that all those things were for the best, and that the right hon. Gen- 771 tleman, in spite of his intentions to the contrary, would be the means of effecting the speedy regeneration of Ireland. The events which had taken place in that country justified him in saying this, and the House might rely upon his prediction, that this contemptuous refusal of common justice to Ireland would lead to results which it was then in their power to avert, and which might yet be remembered by them with regret. He did not hope to carry his present Motion, but would, nevertheless, denounce the injustice of the measure—he would reiterate his objections, and if he did not succeed in making an impression upon that House, he would at least expose the conduct of this Whig Ministry in the eyes of the people of England. He would now call the attention of the House to some of the most glaring defects of the present measure. In the former Bill, the same system of registration which existed in this country was provided for Ireland, as a boon. The dissolution of Parliament took place, and Ireland returned to this House Reformers pledged to support this Bill, acting under the compact which it was imagined had been entered into. In the present Bill the registration remained unaltered. The old abuses were preserved in Ireland, while in England a much cheaper, a less inconvenient, and, in every sense of the word, an infinitely better and more effective measure had been adopted. Was not this a gross, a shameful violation of the compact which had been entered into with the Irish nation? For this change he believed they were indebted to the Tory Attorney General for Ireland, and, knowing this fact it did not surprise him. The compact was, however, broken. This was another insult to the Irish nation; it was another specimen of the fidelity and honour with which England had fulfilled her compacts with Ireland. The first question they had to determine in discussing this measure was, whether the constituency of Ireland was as sufficient and extensive as it ought to be. This was the basis of the English Bill—this was the first question they had taken into consideration, and he thought that the extension of the constituency was the greatest benefit conferred upon England by that Bill. In Ireland how did the case stand? That there was an extensive and sufficient constituency in Ireland, up to the year 1829, was not to be doubted, but now, he should be able to show, it would be reduced to a constituency not exceeding 25,000, and that miserably 772 limited. Up to the year 1829 the constituency was nominally 216,000, and really about 200,000; but, by the blow that was struck in that year, it was at once reduced to 25,000. He would give the House a few specimens of the numbers that would have a right to vote according to this measure. In six of the counties of Ireland there would not be so many as 300 10l. voters. In Sligo with a population of 171,508, there would be 299 voters; in Carlow, with a population of 81,576, there would be 193 voters; in Kildare, with a population of 108,400, 191 voters; in Kerry, with a population of 240,000, 178 voters; in Dublin county, with a population of 183,000, 109 voters; and in Donegal, with a population of 298,104, there would be sixty-six voters. Was that a state of things which ought to exist? Hon. Gentlemen whispered he was inaccurate in his statement; but that could not be, for he had copied the figures from the Parliamentary Returns. But he would give the House some other specimens. In seven of the counties of Ireland, the 10l. voters would not amount to 400; in Kilkenny, with a population of 169,000, there would be 383 voters; in Louth, with a population of 108,000, 380 voters; in Westmeath, with a population of 136,000, there would be 366 voters; in Mayo, with a population of 367,000, there would be 335 voters; in King's County, with a population of 144,000, there would be 301 voters; in Queen's County, with a population of 145,000, there would be 302 voters; and in Meath, with a population of 177,000, there would be 308 voters. In five of the counties, the 10l. voters would not amount to 500; in Tipperary, with a population of 402,000, there would be 475 voters; in Roscommon, with a population of 239,000, there would be 470 voters; in Waterford, with a population of 148,000, there would be 483 voters; in Longford, with a population of 112,000, there would be 463 voters; and in Cork county, with a population of 700,000 there would be 477 voters. With respect to the other counties, Wexford, with a population of 172,000, would contain 672 voters; Leitrim, with a population of 141,000, 554 voters; and Wicklow, with a population of 122,000, would contain 533 voters; the other eleven counties, on an average, contained above 700 voters. And here, by-the bye, was a very instructive fact: out of these eleven counties, no less than eight were in the province of Ulster, the other 773 three being Galway, Limerick, and Clare. The Assistant-barristers of Galway and Limerick, were both Catholics, but such was not the case with respect to Clare: and what was the result of this circumstance? The number of voters for Galway was 1,812; for Limerick 1,369; and for Clare only 946; and, from his connexion with that county, he was able to state, that the registration of those 946 cost upwards of 1,500l. No wonder, then, that the Conservatives were all anxious to keep up the system of Assistant barristers, and that the Reformers were all anxious to get rid of it. From these calculations it appeared, that there were 19,000 and odd 10l. voters in Ireland; he would call them 20,000, and then again ask, was this a sufficient constituency for more than 8,000,000 people? But, no doubt, he should be told by the right hon. Gentleman that there were other voters, such as the 50l. voters and the 20l. voters; and, according to his calculation, there were 23,000 of the former, and 9,000 of the latter. Such certainly did appear by the documents to be the fact; but every 50l. voter since the year 1790 had been reckoned, so that they had three generations on the list; and even with respect to the 20l. voters, the same inaccuracy prevailed to a considerable extent. The 20l. rent-chargers were registered every eight years, so that, after the lapse of eight years, they necessarily had the duplicate entry of the same person; therefore, taking all these circumstances into consideration, the right hon. Gentleman's calculation was infinitely too great. He (Mr. O'Connell) had had the experience of three contested elections in Ireland, and on the basis of that experience his calculation was, that the real amount of these voters was not above one-ninth of that stated by the right hon. Gentleman; but lie was content to give him one-sixth, and then that would yield 26,000 voters for the entire constituency. The hon. member for Kilkenny had made a calculation of the returns of the number of persons who polled at contested elections in eighteen of the counties of Ireland; and that number amounted to 15,211: there then remained fourteen counties unpolled. But it should be observed that the contest took place in those counties where there was the greatest number of voters. Now, let any man calculate on these data; and he would fearlessly ask him, whether, in giving a constituency of 26,000 to Ireland, he had not 774 placed the number infinitely too high? He would then ask the House if this state of the elective franchise was to be endured? Were these the advantages which Ireland was to hope for under a Whig Government? Was this an extension of the franchise, or was it to be called Reform? Ireland, it was well known, had always suffered as much, if not more, under a Whig than a Tory Government. It was the Whigs who enacted the penal code, and even in the present Administration there seemed the same determination to use the strong hand of domination over Ireland, as well as to perpetuate all the misdeeds and misrule of their late predecessors in office—and all to gratify petty and contemptible prejudices—prejudices which were by no means confined to the lowest class of the people. Some hon. Gentlemen would say that the franchise had been extended in consequence of the holders of leases, originally granted for sixty years, being entitled to vote. But what were they? Why, he would tell the noble Lord opposite, who seemed to consider them as worthy of attention, that there was no such class of voters known in Leinster, Munster, or Connaught; nor did he believe there were more than fifty or sixty of these voters altogether in Ulster. There might be twenty or thirty in Armagh; but with the exception of Down, in which he understood there were about twenty or twenty-five on one estate, they were not to be found in any other part of this province. The noble Lord had stated that there were a number of Catholics holding leases of this description. Was the noble Lord so ignorant of Irish history as not to know that the Catholics were not permitted to hold property in some of these counties? Did the noble Lord not know that they were turned out of their lands and possessions, and were sent, as was the fashion in that day in this unfortunate district, to "hell or Connaught." "You boast of this miserable addition to the franchise (which, I again repeat, is of no possible advantage to Ireland) while in other respects you reduce the constituency in counties to nearly half its present amount. For instance, in Kerry we have 178 voters at present. By your Bill which you intend as a Reform, you cut off seventy-nine, thus reducing the constituency for such an immense population to the miserable number of ninety-nine." [Lord Althorp left the House.] The noble Lord went away. His observations were not, perhaps, worthy of being 775 listened to, but Ireland formed the subject of deliberation, and this, doubtless, was a very legitimate excuse for the abrupt departure of the noble Lord. He, however, had left the case to one of his underlings. He could not have made a more proper selection than the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He was much better adapted for the task than the noble Lord. He possessed the requisite qualification in acts of domination, and, therefore, he was just the person, of all others, most fit to reply to him. What was the object of the English Reform? To increase the constituency. What was the object of this Bill? To decrease it. Under the present system, a man who had a freehold of the required amount in the towns, was entitled to vote in the county in respect to his freehold, while, if he resided in the town, he was also entitled to a vote for the town, in respect to his residence. That practice was now to be abolished, and no inhabitants of towns that were not counties of themselves were to have the double vote. It might be right enough to refuse the double vote to the inhabitants of towns that were counties of themselves, but why were other towns to be deprived of the advantage? When complaint had been made of this measure upon a former occasion, the answer given was, that such a provision was in perfect accordance with the English Bill; that, in fact, the object was, to assimilate the Irish and English system of voting. True it was, that such was the principle of the English Bill. This argument was always used when the constituency was to be decreased, but it was never applied for the opposite purpose. The regulation of the English Bill was to preserve the agricultural and manufacturing interests, and to prevent the one obtaining an undue preponderance over the other in the Representation. It was on this principle that the constituency was limited in towns whenever it had taken place. But the House must see, that no such distinction existed in Ireland. There was no manufacturing interest in any of her boroughs. Ireland had been long since plundered of these advantages, and, therefore, the principle did not apply; but on what principle was it that the freehold right of voting was to be taken away from cities which were counties of themselves? For his part, he confessed his utter ignorance of any ground upon which such a course could be maintained. Such was the Reform Bill intended for Ireland. 776 Could any single human being be found to say with sincerity that it was a just one? Hon. Members on the other side of the House might join the right hon. Gentleman in voting against him; but he defied them to reconcile to their consciences the justice of the vote. It appeared to him that the object of all parties in that House was to exclude the people of Ireland from all real share in the Representation. He was justified in entertaining the belief, not only by what Government had not done, but by what it had done. Could any man think otherwise when he saw two Members given to the College of Dublin, where it was impossible that there could be a single Catholic voter, and where the present Representative was amply sufficient? What, he would ask, was tins but making a religious difference, and leaving the Catholic Question open as if the Bill of 1829 had never been passed? The right hon. Gentleman, on introducing the former Bill, defended the measure against attacks from this side of the House, upon the ground that the Bill of 1829 abolished all religious distinctions—that Protestant and Catholic were by that measure put upon the same level, and yet they heard the same right hon. Gentleman, a few evenings ago, declare that the additional Member was given to the University because it was a Protestant establishment. How could the right hon. Gentleman reconcile this gross inconsistency? He repeated that the 10l. franchise would diminish the number of voters for Ireland; and he wished to observe, that this franchise had been admitted by the hon. member for Tamworth to be equal to a 20l. franchise in England. That statement was true as far as it went, but it might have gone further, and have been equally true. What was the object of thus restricting the franchise? It could only be to prevent the Catholics from obtaining too much power; and what was that but a revival of a religious question which ought to have been buried in oblivion? Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that this Bill was to be final for Ireland? If he did he, was mistaken; it not only would not be final, but it would not content the country one hour. The measure did not satisfy any party. If it conciliated the hon. member for Dundalk, or the learned member for the University of Dublin, he could understand it; but there was this singularity about the measure; that no human being was satisfied with it. The Ministers, 777 by adopting it, were securing the hatred of the Conservatives, and gratuitously adding thereto the just vengeance of the Liberals. Ministers were doing that which they were accusing him of trying to do, far more rapidly than they imagined. Perhaps they thought they might succeed by playing off one party against another; but they would fail. He would not vote against the Orangemen; and it was surely a gross injustice to take away from the Protestants because they were Protestants, when it was refused to give to the Catholics because they were Catholics. And this was the splendid safety-conciliating Administration! They gave to Ireland a Procession Bill this year; last year they gave a Yeomanry Bill; in short, they would give any bill that should not introduce common sense into Ireland. There was common sense in the Tories; there was common sense in the right hon. Baronet; what he said to the Irish Protestants was, "Assist me in putting down the mass of the population, and I will give you great advantages." That was a comprehensible bargain; and the Protestants served him zealously. But this Government had thrown the Protestants overboard; and after exasperating them to the utmost, it turned round and exasperated the people too. Admirable policy! Most excellent and statesman-like craft! But the House was told that this Bill would be lost elsewhere; after the passing of the English Bill, however, he hardly thought, that was very likely. He might probably be asked what was his remedy for the grievance that he had pointed out. It was a very simple one. Let them give a 5l. instead of a 10l. franchise to Ireland. Let the machinery of the Bill be substantial, but inexpensive. Perhaps it would be said that this was making a new qualification. But were there no new qualifications in the English Bill? And, besides, from his evidence in 1815, it would be perceived that he proposed the same thing; his words were often quoted against him; so, in this instance, let him have the benefit of them in his favour. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that, if he could be shown that there would be a numerous and respectable 10s. constituency, he would consent to that franchise; and then he went on to quote a case in which 800 40s. freeholders were bribed.
did not say, that they were bribed; he had said, that they were so notoriously venal that the four candidates 778 agreed that they could buy them at any price.
liked a good distinction; and this certainly was an excellent one; they were not bought, because they all could be bought; but he should like to know whether other voters had not been bought, and whether there were not Gentlemen in the House who could bear witness to electors having been bought right and left? He remembered hearing of a Frenchman, who, when asked what constituted a respectable man in England, replied, "Un homme qui a des ecus." Now this was just his proposition; instead of 40s. he (Mr. O'Connell) proposed 5l.; a bargain which ought to be met by the right hon. Gentleman, as he was sure it would have been by the French judge of respectability. No one would deny that a 5l. franchise would be the means of greatly adding to the number of voters. He had shown that there were only 20,000 10l. voters; and it was clear that, owing to the reduction of the amount and the encouragement that there would be to landlords to make smaller divisions of their estates, the numbers would amount to 60,000, or even 90,000. Would that be too many for a population of 8,000,000? Scotland with only 1,500,000, was to have an agricultural constituency of 30,000; and, therefore, there would be no danger of the 5l. franchise swamping Ireland; it would encourage the landlord to increase the number of the tenantry; and above all it would only tend to render alike the English and Irish Reform Bills. He was told, that if the Amendments to which he had alluded were insisted upon, the Bill might be lost altogether. Let it be lost. He would prefer an injury to an insult; and this Bill, as it stood, was a gross insult to Ireland. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving an instruction to the Committee to extend the elective franchise to every person seised of a freehold estate, and occupying the same, of the clear yearly value of 5l. at the least, over and above all charges except only public taxes.
said, he had neither the wish nor the right to question the motives of the hon. and learned Member. He doubted not that the hon. and learned Member was, as he professed to be, a sincere and zealous friend of Reform; he doubted not that the hon. Member was sincerely desirous of conciliating the Protestants of Ireland; he doubted not that he was anxious, as he professed to be, of 779 overcoming all prejudices between the two countries and the parties in them, and converting the whole community into one great band of brothers. Yet be must say, that if such were the real objects of the hon. and learned Member, never had any man's public conduct been in more direct opposition to his private wishes than had that of the hon. and learned Member. What had been the conduct of the hon. and learned Member? Even before he had a seat in that House, and before the present Government had come into power, but particularly since the existence of the present Administration, the hon. and learned Gentleman had preached conciliation, and upon every possible occasion practised agitation. The hon. and learned Gentleman had seized upon every occasion of exciting the people to discontent, and poisoning their minds against the Government, while in his professions in that House be had been the friend and supporter of the Government. Every speech of the hon. and learned Member was calculated to induce disobedience to the laws, while he nominally called upon the people to obey them. Himself (Mr. Stanley) and other members of the present Government had been individually the objects of the abuse of the hon. and learned Member. They had had abuse lavished upon them by the hon. and learned Member, which was not disgraceful to them, but utterly disgraceful for any man to utter who claimed the character of a gentleman ["oh, oh!" from Mr. O'Connell]. The hon. and learned Member was extremely sensitive of the slightest interruption; even a smile discomposed him—and therefore the hon. Member would act but decently if he allowed him to proceed. That he (Mr. Stanley) had sometimes used violent language in debate he denied not, but on no one occasion had he used such language as had been deliberately put forth by the hon. and learned Member—language which, had it come from any other person than the hon. and learned Member would have been, but from him it could not be, an insult, for he claimed the privilege of neither giving nor receiving an insult. Throughout his public life he had never attempted to depreciate the private character of an opponent; he had never attacked the learned Gentleman, never questioned his motives, or cast imputations on him. He never accused him either in his public or private capacity; never depreciated his fair fame as a politician, or attempted to injure his 780 private character; he never said of the learned Gentleman, with a view to bring him into hatred and contempt, that "he cared not if the people with whom be lived were starved in this world, and eternally damned in the world to come." If he were capable of uttering such expressions, and had given utterance to them in the course of the debate, he should have been anxious to seize the earliest opportunity to apologize for his misconduct; if he had written thus he should have considered himself degraded in his character of a gentleman; but if he had not only written, but coolly published, such language, he should not envy the apathetic feelings of the man who (the subject of so gross a charge) for a moment hesitated to denounce its author as a malignant libeller. This was the way in which the learned Gentleman proceeded:—with conciliation on his tongue, he scattered abroad the principles of disunion and irritation:—whenever he had occasion to allude to the individual who was then addressing the House, he designated him, not as "an Englishman," but by what he considered the opprobrious epithet of "the Saxon;" and this was the learned Gentleman's mode of conciliating and co-operating with the Government! Was the learned Gentleman's conduct or speeches likely to hasten the progress of the Bill? Did he expect to give satisfaction to any body by his proceedings? If the learned Gentleman wished to improve or alter the Bill, why not go into Committee with that view—the Committee which he nightly delayed by discursive speeches? and in which Committee he would enjoy full opportunity for making every motion that he now proposed in the more inconvenient form of instructions. He wished not to ascribe motives to any man, but the learned Gentleman's conduct was so extraordinary, that he felt justified in saying, the learned Gentleman's intention might be to attain, not national, but personal objects. It was just possible that the hon. and learned Gentleman might have some private object to answer; that he might be desirous of availing himself of every opportunity of making violent speeches; that he might be anxious to excite discontent, jealousy, and anger; that although he had himself termed the Irish Reform Bill a "magnificent measure," a" measure for which Ireland ought to be grateful, as the destruction of the rotten boroughs, and those exclusive corporations," which the hon. and learned Member was 781 now so consistently anxious to preserve—it was just possible, he said, that the hon. and learned Member might, for his own particular objects, be anxious that Ireland should regard the Bill with doubt, discontent, and jealousy, rather than with satisfaction, content, and approval. But the hon. and learned Member now, for some purpose or other, desired to postpone or reject the Bill, and he therefore said, the Bill was at variance with the English Bill, and was infinitely worse than the Bill which preceded it. Upon one point only had the hon. and learned Member offered any reasoning or any facts which appeared to him to be important; and that point had nothing whatever to do with the instruction moved; it was the registration. And the hon. and learned Member said, the alteration in the mode of registration had been made on the suggestion of the Attorney General for Ireland, who was in the Orange interest. Such was not the fact. That the Attorney General for Ireland had his political opinions, which did not always coincide with the Government, was true; but it would be an act of the grossest injustice not to vindicate the character of that learned gentleman from the imputations attempted to be cast upon him by the hon. and learned Member, and not to say, that he had upon all occasions done large and ample justice to the Government. With regard to the registration, the Attorney General had nothing whatever to do with it; but the alteration was recommended by several Irish Members, who stated, that the system proposed in the first Bill, the English system—would not work. The hon. and learned Member might start, but such was the fact. He was coming to the name. Foremost in the list stood the right hon. Baronet the member for the Queen's County (Sir Henry Parnell). He did not feel himself called upon to give more names. The hon. and learned Member had asserted, that the Attorney General for Ireland had suggested the alteration in the registration. He had vindicated the character of his learned friend, and in doing so he had stated, that the alteration was made upon the suggestion, among others, of a right hon. Baronet who was well known to be a friend to Reform, and who had a minute practical acquaintance with Ireland. But there were other alterations which the hon. and learned Member complained of. He was perfectly ready to go into the question of the franchise, but, before he 782 did so he must notice the alterations which had been made respecting leaseholders. The House would perhaps hear with astonishment, after the speech of the hon. and learned Member, that that alteration had been made upon the representation of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Waterford, and the hon. and learned member for Kerry himself. Those hon. Members had come to his noble friend and himself, as deputed by the Irish Members who were friendly to the great principles of the Bill, and they had strongly recommended the alteration; and yet, no sooner was it made than the hon. and learned Member turned short round and exclaimed, "Why, the Bill is every way worse than the other; why don't you act upon the same principle with respect to Ireland as you do with respect to England?" He answered thus:—he was ready to yield to the reasoning of the hon. and learned Member, or to that of any other person, when it was just and sound, but he was not ready to follow the hon. and learned Member through all his doubles and his shifts, and, merely to suit his convenience, to adopt a notion in direct contradiction to that which he had followed upon the arguments and statements of the same authority. Convinced by argument he was ready to be, but he could not be convinced, and convinced back again. The hon. and learned Gentleman had sent forth several letters, addressed to the Reformers of England, upon what he called the wrongs of Ireland. He would not then go into all the points touched upon; but he was quite ready to say, that where alteration could be beneficial, the Government would not be ashamed to adopt it. The acquaintance the hon. and learned Gentleman had with Ireland was doubtless great, and enabled him to make many useful suggestions. With respect to the registration, he must observe, that although he was not prepared to adopt the English system, he was very well aware that the present system required alteration. Some of the defects had already been cured, and other beneficial changes might be made. It must be remembered that the plan in England was but an experiment; it had never been tried, and therefore he said, let it be seen how the two systems worked, and, after three or four years, a just opinion might be formed as to which was the best. Let each country have the benefit of the experience of the other, and if one system was found to be the best, whether in Eng- 783 land or in Ireland, let it be adopted in both. With regard to popular rights, the hon. and learned Member had contended that the Bill would not extend the franchise, and that, the hon. and learned Member asserted, he had proved to demonstration. The hon. and learned Member had calculated the county constituency at 25,000, and how did he arrive at that number? Why, be said, that 15,000 voters polled in eighteen counties, and that, following out the proportion, there would be 25,000 for thirty-two counties. But how did the hon. and learned Member know that the eighteen counties had been polled out? And yet that was what the hon. and learned Gentleman called proving his position to demonstration. Why, it was an absurdity that even a child could not help exposing. But then the county constituency was to be reduced 2,500 on account of the votes for towns. In Ennis, for instance, there were 300 persons, who now had votes for the county, who would lose them.
Oh, a letter! Well, he had a great respect for the correspondents of the hon. and learned Member, but a greater for the official documents before the House, and furnished by the Clerks of the Peace. From those documents it appeared, that in twenty-one towns the number of freeholders who would now poll for the county, and, under the Bill poll for towns, was 1,270, and that in the whole of the cities and towns in Ireland the number would be between 1,400 and 1,500. But it must be remembered, that from that gross number considerable deductions were to be made. In cases of non-occupancy the vote would be retained; and also, when the occupiers had other property, for that property they would have votes. The hon. and learned Member talked of a diminution of the county constituency, but not one voter was struck off that constituency who did not receive compensation, by a vote somewhere else. It might be said, the compensation in some cases was not adequate, but in all the exercise of the elective franchise was preserved to the individual. And as the hon. and learned Member was so fond of comparing the treatment of Ireland with the treatment of England, let him do so in this case. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that in England the exclusion of the town freeholders from the county constituency arose from a desire in the Government to keep 784 the agricultural and the manufacturing interests distinct. The Government had no such desire; no such intention actuated it; on the contrary, the Government had been, and was, anxious to remove all feelings of jealousy from both of these great interests, and to blend them in harmony together. The hon. and learned Member remarked upon the arrangement proposed with respect to the boundaries of Dungarvan and Mallow. The objections taken might be good ones. He was aware that cases were peculiar; and he was ready to say, that if on discussion it should be the opinion of the Committee that a better arrangement could be made, he should be ready to bow to that decision. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in speaking of the number of leaseholders, had paid a very bad compliment to the landlords of Ireland. He had said, that in the whole of Ireland there were not above 1,200 persons who had leases for twenty one years, of the value of 50l. He (Mr. Stanley) could not believe that such was the fact. But how would the Bill operate with respect to the extinction or diminution of the constituency? The hon. and learned Member had characterised the Bill as an insult to Ireland, as a disfranchising measure, and as a degradation. At present there were in the counties of cities, 17,711 voters, and under the Bill there would be 32,544 voters. In that number, certainly, were included the voters whose rights were preserved merely for their lives, but, after all reductions upon that account, the number would be about 26,000, and that the hon. and learned Member called an insult. Then what was the case with respect to the boroughs? There were twenty-one boroughs. At present their constituency amounted to 1,945, upwards of 1,000 of whom were non-residents. Under the Reform Bill at first it would be 9,216, and, after all deductions, 8,703; and that too was the effect of a Bill which the hon. and learned Member said was an insult to Ireland, a disfranchising Bill, and a degradation—a Bill to uphold the Orange ascendancy, and to keep alive discord and disunion. He could conceive, indeed, that there were persons who were desirous that the Bill should not pass; that there were individuals who wished to see the Bill rejected, for the purposes of keeping alive agitation; but he was quite sure that every real friend to Reform must be anxious to see the Bill pass, and must acknowledge that, if it did not go so far as they could have 785 wished, it was a great and a beneficial change. The attacks of the hon. and learned Member upon the Government were indeed unbounded. When his noble friend (Lord Althorp) happened to be absent for a minute or two, during one of the long and discursive harangues of the hon. and learned Member, he complained that the interests of Ireland were neglected by the Government. And so, if this Bill should be rejected in either House, the hon. and learned Member would exclaim, "Oh, this is the way in which Ireland is treated by a British Parliament." But the hon. and learned Member said, give Ireland the same measure as England. Let the House see how that would operate. In England, a leasehold for twenty-one years, of the value of 50l. a year, was necessary to give a county vote. In Ireland, a leasehold for fourteen years, of 20l., gave a county vote. The hon. and learned Member knew well why the time was reduced to fourteen years in Ireland. It was on account of the Church lands. In speaking of the conduct of the Government, the hon. and learned Member had indulged in some of his usual abuse. Of that, however, he should take no further notice. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that when the Tories were in power they supported the Orange party, and the Orange party supported them in return, but that the present Government had the support of no party. That the hon. and learned Member did not like, but he said to the Government, "Throw yourselves at once into the hands of myself and my friends, and we will assist you in keeping down the Tories." To that he said no. He would do no such thing; and if the hon. and learned Member expected any such conduct, he must look for it from others than the present Government. The hon. and learned Member did not attach much importance to the instruction, and indeed he concluded his speech, which applied as much to one point as to another, by proposing a different amendment from that which he had intended. The fact was, that the object the hon. and learned Member had in view was to find fault. If the franchise had been fixed at 5l. he would have asked for one of 40s.; if fixed at 20s. he would have asked for one at 20s. The object of the hon. and learned Member was not to render the measure perfect, but to unsettle men's minds, and to keep up agitation. He could not avoid, as the subject was forced 786 on him by the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman, taking that opportunity to contrast the conduct of the Scotch Members, when discussing the details of the Bill introduced for the effecting of Reform in that country, with that of the Irish Members on the measure for Ireland. If there was any injustice in any of the three Reform Bills, it was to be found in the Scotch Bill, and yet it was received by the Members from that country, if not with satisfaction, at least with the utmost desire to render those details as beneficial as was, considering their principle, possible. But the object of the hon. and learned Gentleman was palpable. He desired to separate the two countries, and therefore indulged in inflammatory language. In this he (Mr. Stanley) would not follow him, for his wish on that subject did not coincide with that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. In conclusion he begged to say, he would firmly oppose the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
was sorry to hear that House made the theatre for the exhibition of so much ill will, and for the expression of so much personal abuse, as had fallen from the hon. Member and the right hon. Member. Such language was not consistent with the dignified character of that House. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to statements made by the hon. Member elsewhere, and he regretted to say, that it had become too much the practice to take Members to task in that House, for opinions not littered there. He would tell the right hon. Baronet who cheered him, that to do so was not parliamentary. The right hon. Gentleman had charged the hon. member for Kerry with agitating the country, and seeking to attain his objects by abuse of the Government. His hon. and learned friend stood forward in that House to redress his country's wrongs; and how was that to be done? How could it be done but by agitating and by abusing the Government? How could it be done but by agitation and the exhibition of physical force? ["oh, oh!" and cheers.] Hon. Members might cheer ironically if they pleased, but in no country had abuses ever been corrected, or concessions to popular rights ever been extorted from corrupt Governments, except by the expression of discontent, and the demonstration of physical force on the part of the people. By that means, and by that means only, had Catholic emancipation been obtained. In fact, it was by such 787 means alone that a people could obtain from the hands of power any extension of constitutional liberty. Agitation by some was termed unconstitutional, but it was only by those who would rule with a rod of iron. Would the people of England have secured the passing of the Reform Bill without displaying a readiness for the exertion of physical force? Certainly not. On every principle of the English Bill and of Reform, the people of Ireland were entitled to a larger share of Representation than the Bill for that country went to give. The population was in proportion greater; but, independent of that consideration, he thought the support which the Irish Members gave to the principles of the English Bill, entitled them in justice to the full benefit of the intention with which the whole nation claimed Reform in their Constitution. He warned the existing Government of England to pause before they persisted in carrying such a mockery of Reform for Ireland, as was comprised in the Bill then under their consideration. He warned them to consider of the support which that Bill was deriving from the declared opponents of all Reform, while, on the other hand, it was opposed by those who had throughout supported the English Bill, and who were anxious to support any thing that would produce a beneficial Reform in Ireland. But the Irish Members felt that the measure now proposed to them could not be satisfactory to their country, and they felt that it would not remove the grievances of which they had so much cause to complain. How, indeed, could a measure be satisfactory, which, in effect, would reduce the counties of Ireland to the condition of close boroughs—which would diminish the constituency to a mere nothing—which would change, but not extend, the elective franchise—which would pretend to do much, but, in fact, would do nothing? He called upon the House, therefore, to pause before it rejected the motion which his hon. and learned friend, the member for Kerry, had that night submitted to their attention. He hoped never to see the union between the two countries dissolved. Upon that point he differed entirely from his hon. and learned friend, the member for Kerry. He thought that his hon. and learned friend's views upon that subject were erroneously founded. But, if England withheld from Ireland those measures of justice which were undoubtedly due to her—if she refused to concede when concession was 788 only justice, then indeed a repeal of the Union would become inevitable. He regretted the course lately pursued by the Government, and more particularly by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, because it was in direct opposition to what the Ministers had formerly professed. It was, in fact, favouring one party at the expense of another. Look only at one clause of the Bill—that which gave two Members to the University of Dublin. It was an insult to Scotland to give the College of Dublin two Members, whilst the Scotch Colleges were not to have one: that was not supporting the principle of giving equal rights to all, but an evident desire to uphold one party against another. With regard to the qualification, the noble Lord, the member for Devon, said, on introducing the Bill, that his principle was not to give the franchise to any number of constituents below 300. How was that upholding the principle of the Bill? So far from upholding the principle, it was reducing the Representation in Ireland to the old Scotch scale. Was it fit that 8,000,000 people should only have 30,000 electors? Why, the county of Donegal with 230,000 people, would only have sixty-three electors. [Mr. Stanley: That is the present number of electors.] It was the number given by parliamentary returns; however, not to enter into details, he would ask, was even 100,000 electors enough for Ireland? Now, what he contended for, both on the noble Lord's principle and on the principle of justice, was, a sufficient number of voters to put an end to nomination of all descriptions. If there were not enough of 10l. freeholders to create a proper constituency, then reduce the qualification to 5l., or even to 2l. Let Ireland be treated as the other two countries had been treated, and then agitation would cease. Let them do justice, and remove the cause of agitation. All he wanted was, to take the power of agitating the people out of the hands of his hon. and learned friend, and that could not be done but by granting the same redress to Ireland that had been granted to England. But that was not the case now, for the Attorney General for Ireland had, by his alteration in the Bill, supported the enemies of the people. It was with great reluctance that he opposed the noble Lord opposite, but he did it on conscientious principles, and he trusted the Government would not resist the prayer of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but grant 789 equal justice to all. He felt persuaded that the Bill would not give satisfaction to the people of Ireland, and when the amendments were so trifling, he could not understand upon what ground the right hon. Gentleman opposite would refuse to concede what would conciliate the population of that country. All he was anxious for was, that the Bill should extend and diffuse the suffrages, so that there should be no longer any close boroughs, and so that the popular voice should be heard in that country. He was desirous that some means should be adopted to improve the Bill, and he should support the opinions he had uttered by his vote, if the House divided upon the subject.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that the hon. Member who had spoken last had referred to the surprise which he had expressed at the doctrines the hon. Member had uttered in that House at the beginning of his speech but he begged most strongly to assure the hon. member for Middlesex, that he had expressed no surprise whatever at his doctrines, for they were precisely the doctrines which he had expected to hear from such a quarter. He never had expressed his surprise, but he had expressed his indignation, his strongest indignation, at the intolerant and tyrannical doctrines which the hon. Member had advocated. What! was a public character at liberty to convey to the people out of doors, sentiments entirely different from those which he maintained in that House? Did the hon. Member mean that he, or any man, was entitled to use terms in addressing his constituents, and maintain principles with reference to the public transactions and Government of the country, which were exempt from observation within the walls of Parliament? He protested against any such doctrine. There was no principle, there were no opinions, relating to public affairs, which any public man could publicly maintain, that were not liable to be questioned in that House. He would merely cite the case of Mr. Burke, with reference to his publications upon the French Revolution. He would ask, if a Member who differed from Mr. Burke would have been irregular, or unjustifiable, in calling in question the written and published opinions on public affairs of a man so prominent as Mr. Burke? If that were not to be done, according to the hon. member for Middlesex, he would beg him to lay down at once his new forms for regulating the proceedings of Parliament. The hon. 790 Member's notion was, that he might come down to the House with oily professions of peace and moderation, whilst he was agitating the multitude out of doors with inflammatory statements and evil counsels, for which he must not be questioned in Parliament. He protested in the strongest manner against such an assumption of impunity. He would tell the member for Middlesex, that if he maintained at Brent-ford doctrines by which the peace or interests of the country were injured, he (Sir Robert Peel) would insist on the right to notice them in the House of Commons. What was the language which the hon. Gentleman used to that House?—"You have passed the English Reform Bill, you have consented to the principles of the Irish Reform Bill, but there is a trifling question about a particular franchise on which you refuse to give way." This was the language of the hon. member for Middlesex; and then he had the audacity, the unparalleled audacity, to tell the House, that if it did not give way upon this trifling point, he would control its deliberations by physical force. He would tell the hon. Member, that he for one never would submit to this menace of physical force. As long as he could, he would use every effort to resist its influence, feeble and ineffectual as those efforts might be. What! was physical force to be used against the House of Commons to compel it to pass a 5l. franchise clause? Why should not the holders of a 2l. franchise equally appeal to physical force; and when they had succeeded why should not the more powerful party, who had no franchise at all, wield the successful instrument of physical force? The hon. Member had said, that the learned member for Kerry had used physical force in carrying the Catholic Question. The hon. Member was a most clumsy advocate of the cause which he wished to defend; for the member for Kerry's chief boast was, that without the exercise of physical force, the Irish extorted from a reluctant Government the Emancipation Bill, and that equally by legal means had the people of England carried the measure of Reform. But the hon. member for Middlesex had asserted that the present Ministers had carried the Reform Bill by physical force and violence. He was astonished that the hon. Member could pronounce such a libel upon his friends and supporters out of doors, who all gloried in what they called a bloodless revolution, effected only by the force of reason and jus- 791 tice. To subject the House on any occasion to the threat of physical force, was nothing less than a vile and degrading tyranny, and it would be better at once to constitute a mob-committee, to sit (he would not say to deliberate) from day to day, and to issue its mandates to be executed by the Ministers of its choice, than that the House of Commons should permit itself to be influenced by the menaces of force and violence. He (Sir Robert Peel) would not sit in that House to hear its functions thus treated, particularly now that the House had consented to the measure, which, it had been told, was to be the end and extinction of all such doctrines. He would never sit there calmly to hear principles asserted that were fatal to all government, and utterly subversive of the peace of society. If the people of England believed that the doctrine of compelling the decisions of the Legislature by force could ever be for their interest, they were wretchedly deceived. Let them look to other countries, and see in what triumphs did physical force terminate. Let them see if it promoted the interests of the people, or if it conduced either to personal liberty or to the liberty of the Press. Let them ascertain whether, in a neighbouring nation, an appeal to physical force, even in a just cause, had led to any beneficial results. Could any man sit and hear it maintained, that in England the House of Commons was not competent to decide a question of the nature of that now before it, without being overpowered by physical force—such physical force, he supposed, as that which had just insulted the Duke of Wellington. Were the deliberations of this House to be thus controlled, he for one would never consent to participate in the mockery of legislation, when he knew himself to be under the influence of such a tyranny as that with which they had been menaced by the member for Middlesex.
explained. The hon. Baronet had entirely mistaken him, all he had said was, that no government had ever yielded anything to the people without the dread of physical force, and this he would repeat. He would tell the right hon. Baronet, that he had audacity enough—
§ The Speaker
wished the hon. Member would confine himself strictly to his privilege of explanation.
had never made use of any expression out of that House which he was not prepared and willing to repeat within it. He had alluded only to the practice of 792 bringing forward private disputes and quarrels.
§ Sir John Newport
regretted these intemperate discussions, and meant to take no part in them. He certainly objected to the registration, but he had reason to hope that every facility would in future be given to the registration of freeholders. In his view, the great merit of the Bill before the House was, that it destroyed nomination boroughs, and had it contained no other provision, he should have gladly embraced it; but it seemed to him that the communications of the right of voting on account of a 10l. chattel interest, was of itself a considerable gain. He earnestly hoped that the Bill would not be procrastinated by useless discussions, until its effects in Ireland were materially injured. If it did not go the whole length that he wished, it went a considerable way on the right road. He had now passed half a century in the public service, thirty years of it in the United Parliament, and it rejoiced him to think that he had never done an act, or given a vote, that did not show he had the interests of Ireland at heart. His retirement from public life would now be speedy, and as his last declaration, he might perhaps, be allowed to say, that now, as on every other occasion, he had the peace and tranquillity of his country only in view.
§ Mr. Crampton
begged to assure the House that it was not his intention to touch upon any other subject than that strictly before it—the motion for an instruction to the Committee. On that instruction he should trouble the House with but one argument, and address that distinctly and emphatically to the hon. member for Middlesex, who was on many subjects a great luminary in the House, but who shone, on that occasion, with only a borrowed lustre. He had taken his information, his calculations, and his deductions entirely from the hon. and learned member for Kerry. But a Bill was introduced by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, on the 24th of March, 1831: and that Bill was, with respect to the qualification of the freeholders in counties in Ireland, precisely the same as that which was then before the House. He would pledge himself to the fact. On the 24th of March, 1831, the hon. and learned member for Kerry rose in his place, and expressed to the House his satisfaction at the Bill, which, he was sure, would give great pleasure to the 793 people of Ireland. The freehold franchise contained in that Bill was precisely the same as that which was to be established—10l. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, 'There were some of the details of the Bill to which perhaps, he should not assent, and which, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman would make no objection to alter in the Committee, if they did not interfere with the principle of the Bill. He was happy to hear, that non-resi-dents were to be disfranchised.'* The hon. and learned Gentleman had changed his mind upon that point. [Mr. O'Connell: No.] The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded thus:—'He was happy also, to hear that the Corporations were no longer to return the Members; and he wished that the disfranchisement had been extended further, and that the right of electing the Corporation officers had been extended to all the inhabitants.' Then came the passage to which he wished to call the attention of the hon. member for Middlesex. 'As he understood the present measure, the 40s. freeholders, being resident in towns, were not to be deprived of the franchise during their lives. He was glad of that, and approved of the plan laid down for voting 'in the counties.' What was that plan? The 10l. franchise. [Mr. O'Connell No! no!] The hon. and learned Gentleman said, no. He would not venture to contradict the hon. and learned Gentleman, but by repeating his own words—but his own words gave a flat and direct contradiction to his "No, no!" Well, the hon. and learned Gentleman approved of the plan, because, be said, there was a prospect of forming a better class of freeholders and of voters. He approved, said the hon. and learned Gentleman "of the sum of 10l. being chosen as the point of exclusion." And why? "Being of opinion that freeholds under that sum should not entitle the owners to a vote."† There were other parts of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman upon that occasion which were deserving of the consideration of the hon. member for Middlesex; and he would find in this speech materials for changing his opinions upon this subject. What was the present opinion of the hon. and learned member for Kerry? That the 10l. freehold qualification was too high, and that it ought to be reduced to 5l. He asked*Hansard (third series) vol. iii. p. 868.† Ibid.794 the hon. and learned Gentleman, what was his opinion on the 24th of March, 1831? Had the hon. and learned Member been misrepresented. [Mr. O'Connell—Entirely.] Would the hon. and learned Gentleman say that he had been misreported in the Mirror of Parliament, as well as in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates? Had he been misreported in every record of the debates of that House? Had he been misreported in the recollection of hon. Gentlemen who heard him make the speech in question? He heard the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he would freely own, that his impression, corroborated by the records he had referred to, was the same. The hon. and learned Gentleman could not deny this statement; and he hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman would explain why he had so completely changed his opinions—why he then applauded the 10l. franchise, and now proposed that it should be reduced to 5l? Let the hon. and learned Gentleman answer himself; and reconcile "the glorious inconsistency, as he perhaps might call it, if he could. All the arguments of the hon. member for Middlesex had been founded upon the confusion which the hon. member for Kerry had made between the number of freeholders and the number of registered freeholders, for he had stated that the number of registered freeholders was the total number in Ireland, whereas, it did not amount to one-tenth. In 1825, the hon. and learned Gentleman had deemed it right to sacrifice the 40s. freeholders, for the sake of carrying a great measure. In 1829 he was in favour of the 40s. freeholders, and in 1831 once more against them. He contended that it had of late years been the policy of landlords in Ireland, not to allow freeholders on their estates to register, and the effect had been, that at the present moment not more than perhaps one-tenth of the freeholders were registered. Notwithstanding all that had been said of the greater favour shown to Scotland, the fact was, that, after the passing of the two Reform bills, Scotland would have, in proportion to her wealth and population, a much less extensive constituency than Ireland.
hoped, although not quite regular in rising, that the House would allow him to trespass on its attention one moment, for the purpose of explanation; for no man ever yet misrepresented another so completely and entirely 795 as the hon. and learned Gentleman had misrepresented him. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the people of Ireland ought to be made acquainted with the change which had taken place in his opinions. He would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that he would put in the Irish newspapers the hon. and learned Gentleman's assertion, and his contradiction. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, be remembered what he (Mr. O'Connell) said, but the report to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred was entirely a mistake. There was not one word in the Bill to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred about a 10l. freehold franchise—not a word—not one single word of the pre-existing 10l. franchise. It was entirely impossible that he could have said what the hon. and learned Gentleman imputed to him. No one could be more perfectly a false witness against him than the hon. and learned Gentleman had been. He was ready to declare upon oath, that be had never used the words attributed to him. Had he done so, he would have retracted his own retractation. He should be able to show, from the letters which he had written to Ireland, and which had been published, that the charge was brought against him in an entire abandonment of truth.
§ The Speaker
said, that nothing was parliamentary which gave personal offence to any Member of that House.
Mr. O' Connell
would only say, then, that the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had made a mistake.
§ The Speaker
trusted that the hon. and learned Gentleman would see the necessity of making a more satisfactory explanation of the language which he had used.
Mr. O' Connell
said, that the reporters to whose accounts of his speech the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Crampton) had referred, had, through mistake, represented him to speak of 10l. freeholders, when, in fact, he was speaking of the 10l. chattel franchise.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, that the hon. and learned member for Kerry had charged him with saying that which was false.
§ Mr. Crampton
had made his assertion 796 upon the faith of a public record, confirmed by other records, and by his own recollection. Now, however, the hon. and learned Gentleman was pleased to contradict him. He would always be willing to defer his confidence in his memory to the assertions of an hon. Gentleman who wished to correct its inaccuracy, but in the present instance he did not feel that be ought to do anything of the sort. He would appeal to the House against the language which had been used by the hon. and learned Member. The hon. and learned Member stood in a position which would prevent him (Mr. Crampton) from applying to him for a satisfactory explanation of his language, in the manner in which applications were generally made by gentlemen to whom language so offensive had been addressed. He wished not to be mistaken. He did not mean to say, that if the hon. and learned Member had not placed himself in the position to which he had alluded, he would have noticed the words applied to him, any further than to protest against the violation of the order of Parliament, and the common usages of society, by the use of ungentlemanly language.
was understood to say, that he had no intention to give personal offence by anything which he had said. He had understood the hon. Member not to refer to the records of the House, but to state his own impressions; he was glad to find that he was mistaken.
An Hon. Member
said, that the statement which had been made by the hon. and learned member for Kerry, respecting the number of the freeholders in one county of Ireland, was inaccurate. A much greater number than that stated by the hon. Member had polled at the last election.
had taken the numbers which he stated from returns which lay upon the Table of the House.
§ Mr. Leader
thought it was quite unworthy of those who chose to enter the lists with his hon. friend, the member for Kerry, to endeavour to divert the Debate from the great question he so justly raised on the amount of the qualification of the future constituency, to some supposed error in official returns, for which his hon. friend was not in the smallest degree responsible. Of what importance was it whether his hon. friend was right or wrong in his enumeration of the electors who were qualified to vote in Donegal? If his hon. friend was mistaken in the numbers, the error 797 was in the official returns; but, on the main question of the miserable state to which Ireland was reduced, and the wretched constituency which it now had, and was certain of retaining under the present Bill, the observations of the hon. member for Kerry were not only unanswered, but unanswerable. It had been objected to his hon. friend, that he entertained very different opinions with regard to the qualification of the Irish constituency on this night to what he expressed in a former debate. His hon. friend had fully explained the error of the book from which the extract was read, and it was quite obvious that the Solicitor General for Ireland was deceived, as well as the hon. member for Kerry, in supposing him to allude to freehold qualification, when he was only referring to chattel interests. He, for one, protested against those differences, which appeared to him of very minor importance. He would turn from them to the great question now before the House, and to what he had every right to refer; namely, the preamble of the Bill, now that the first section of the Irish Reform Bill was the immediate subject of debate. The preamble of the Bill consisted of three recitals—that it was expedient, 1st, to extend the elective franchise in Ireland; 2nd, to increase the number of Representatives for certain cities and boroughs; 3rd, to diminish the expenses of elections. Undoubtedly, with this most important preamble, every one would be led to suppose that great advantages were about to be conferred on Ireland, and that, in return for the many injuries she had sustained from British misrule, Ireland was at length about to obtain a signal benefit from British wisdom and liberality. Unfortunately, however, the enactments of the Bill fell lamentably short of the expectations raised by the pompous recital with which it was introduced to public consideration and attention. With the indulgence of the House, he should make a very few observations on the last two subjects in the preamble, and detain it very shortly in stating what occurred to him as proper for observation on the first object of the preamble, and under which the motion of the hon. member for Kerry properly fell. He denied that the Bill even proposed to guard the candidate from the great expenses attendant on elections—he saw in it no new economical arrangement whatever: there was a limitation as to the time of polling, but he doubted whether 798 this limitation of time might not lead to redoubled exertion to bring up voters, and to an increase, instead of the smallest reduction, of expense. He had no reason to complain of election extortion—but would any one deny that public officers and other persons had not an unjust dominion over candidates, and that the entire conduct of returning officers, assessors, &c. &c. was not such as to require revision, and a reform which was not contemplated by the present Act? So much for that part of the preamble which alluded to the diminution of expense at elections, and he came next to the increase of the number of Representatives. Instead of a delusive expectation, he should prefer a recital of the fact, that an additional Representative was to be given to Limerick, Waterford, Belfast, Galway, and the University of Dublin. On the ground of additional Representatives, the hope which the preamble excited had fallen miserably short of the expectation which the greatest enemy to Ireland could have imagined or supposed; and the Bill, in this respect, fell very far below what the people of Ireland had a right to expect at the hands of a Government which had received from that people, and from their Representatives in Parliament, an honest, a laborious, and an efficient support, to carry that measure of Reform which had given great satisfaction to the people of England. He knew that, if the Government had overlooked the value and importance of that support, it never would or could be overlooked or forgotten by the people of England. Whatever indecision or balancing of interests was to be found in any other quarter, would any Gentleman rise in his place and say, that a single Irish Member, on a single occasion, whilst the English and Scotch Reform Bills were in progress, murmured a sentiment, or was guilty of a single act, which exposed those measures to the smallest danger in their ultimate success? He had always contended that an immense portion, particularly of the south and west parts of Ireland, had no Representation, but a mere county Representation—that it was the advantage of England, as well as Ireland, that Representation should shoot its branches into great districts of the country where its importance was never known, and where the introduction would be unquestionably attended with the most beneficial results. An hon. Gentleman, the member for St. Germains, had that night 799 engaged in what he might have supposed mathematical demonstrations of what he termed the imperfect deductions of his hon. friend, the member for Kerry, with respect to the right of Ireland to a greater number of Representatives: the hon. Gentleman objected to the data of his hon. friend; he had furnished nothing of his own. Did the hon. Gentleman deny the facts; did he dispute the amount of population, revenue, trade, or any of the data on which the conclusions were drawn? It was quite consistent, not only in that hon. Gentleman, but in those hon. Gentlemen of both sides of the House who would admit everything to be a fair subject for ratiocination as applicable to different parts of England, to refuse it the smallest consideration when the same test was applied to England and Ireland—every test was right which tried relative interests of different parts of England; but every test was wrong, positively wrong, in which an attempt was made to represent the elements on which the relative interests of Great Britain and Ireland ought to be judged. In all the former Debates, when the principle of the Irish Reform Bill was before the House, he had contributed his humble assistance in support of the expediency as well as the justice of a further increase in the Irish Representation. It was idle for the Representatives of Ireland to endeavour to stand forward as the supporters of an existing connexion in that House, if the acts of the House were not such as to convince the people of Ireland of its value and importance. Whilst there were twenty-six Members in bank undisposed of he admitted that there was every inducement to support, by argument and by proof, the justice of the claim of Ireland for a portion of those Members: many thought that the concession of additional Members would be the means of detaching from the anti-Unionists a great portion of their present supporters. It was idle for the Representatives of a country, when they had no influence or weight in the councils of the country, and when in the House they experienced neither sympathy nor support, to be expected to oppose a feeble barrier to the overwhelming tide of public opinion. His opinion was unchanged on the subject of additional Members, and he should support every proposition for an increase, or for taking the Representation from places where it ought not to exist, on account of the smallness of the constituency, and transferring it to places of greater commercial 800 importance, population and wealth: and having disposed of these recitals in the preamble of the Bill, and exposed the arguments and the facts which were brought forward in support of them, he came to the most important part of the preamble—the expediency of extending the elective franchise to many of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland. It was known that the elective franchise was heretofore confined to freeholders of different degrees, in counties to 50l., and 20l., and freeholders in occupation to the value of 10l., and in cities to 40s., and 5l. in towns. The extension which was proposed was, first, to any person who should be entitled as lessee, or assignee, for the unexpired residue of any term, not less than sixty years, of the clear yearly value of 10l.; secondly, for the unexpired residue of any term, originally created for a period of not less than fourteen years, of the clear yearly value of 20l. As to the first class, this extension was nothing short of a delusion—a delusion which would induce the House to suppose, that what might be called a constituency would be created, when in truth, with the exception of, probably, 100 or 200 electors in one or two counties, no such tenure existed, or ever did exist in Ireland, to such an extent as to deserve the pompous announcement in the preamble of the Bill, of the expediency of extending the elective franchise to his Majesty's subjects in Ireland. He denied that this franchise was of importance to Ireland; and, in his opinion, it was caught at for the purpose of giving colour to the preamble, and as an after-thought, and, with the exception of one of the hon. members for Armagh, was never looked for by any Irish Representative. As to the leaseholders for the residue of a fourteen years term, the qualification was too high. He defied any man, acquainted with the state of Ireland, to produce a class of occupying tenants of the clear yearly value of not less than 20l., over and above all rent and charges. Would any one say that the holders of church lands gave such encouraging profits on their discouraging leases? Would any man say, that middlemen, ruined by the reduction of prices, could afford such a profit to their tenantry? Would any one allege that the neglected and unreclaimed nature of the entire mass of church property, and chattel property, be it church, collegiate, corporate, or anything else, would admit of so high a rate of profit? This proposed qualification would never admit the creation of a constituency, 801 and the fancied benefit would be just as delusive in the instance of leaseholders of fourteen years for 20l., as of 10l. in the instances of leaseholders for towns, originally created for sixty years. Now, what were the facts, and why was it that he had not a particle of doubt in supporting every motion which was made, or might be made, for extending the elective franchise in Ireland, and reducing the present amount of the qualification of the voters? Every one knew that the Act passed in the Irish Parliament, in the 33rd of Henry 8th, provided that every elector within counties should have lands or tenements at least to the yearly value of 40s., above all charges; and that this law, so enacted, remained the law of election in Ireland, and that, under its provisions, the Members for counties were returned for a period of 277 years, at the end of which time, in 1829, an Act was passed, raising the qualification of freeholders in counties from 40s. to 10l.; would any one say, that such a constituency was created under the 10l. qualification as deserved the name of a constituency? It was admitted on all hands, that 20,000 10l. electors were now the substitute for 191,000 disfranchised freeholders; and why was this the case? It was because the collectors of the produce of the lands in Ireland were not the distributors of wealth in Ireland; it was because they collected the hard earnings of Irish peasants, and distributed them in Great Britain; it was because no stock of national wealth was allowed to accumulate; because the entire country exhibited a melancholy picture of rack-rent, and greedy and remorseless cupidity. The indigent circumstances of the producers of income in Ireland—the tenantry—spewed the minimum of distribution from the cultivation of the land, and the production of rents; and the absentee system, as far as it extended, gave the minimum of distribution arising out of the receipt of them. Taking these circumstances into consideration, it was soon discovered, that when the absentee left the country, he could leave nothing behind him to stimulate industry, or animate improvement. Nothing else was wanting to account for the small number of qualified freeholders of 10l., but the misery which was induced by the enormous aggregate of exported income, and the slender resources of the agricultural population: on those grounds he had voted for the extension of the franchise to 40s. freeholders in fee, and on those grounds be should give his hearty 802 assent to the reducing the franchise to 5l., and for every measure calculated to extend the constituency, whether the peasantry derived under freehold property or chattel interests. His sole motive was, to make them shareholders in the connexion with this country; and he must leave to time to decide whether, in pursuing this course, he was not more likely to prove a better friend to the Church and the absentee landed proprietor, than if he supported a rancorous spirit of jealousy to the people, or was the unflinching defender of monopoly in everything which regarded rights of mankind. Having shown that the elective franchise was not extended—that the increase of Representation was inadequate—and that no abuses in elections were corrected by the Bill, the present was the time in which he was called on to deliver a few words on the other parts of the Bill. He had heard his right hon. friend, the member for Waterford, with that delight and respect with which he heard every sentiment that hon. Gentleman expressed towards his country, declare that it was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to make some change in the registry of the freeholders. If his Majesty's Ministers were attached to this Irish registry being carried on by the instrumentality of Assistant Barristers, what was there to prevent the having the Irish registry carried on before these gentlemen in the same manner as was proposed for registering voters in England? Was it prudent or wise to leave a subject open for petition and debate in the next, which might be satisfactorily settled in the present Session? His hon. friend, the member for Kerry, had not left a word to be said on this part of the Bill; those who knew the state of parties in Ireland, and the state of the country, knew the vast importance of this power of registry being intrusted to discreet hands, and to persons responsible, as in England, for every abuse of their authority. There was only one other topic to which he should refer, and which he considered of great magnitude and importance—he meant this question of the boundary of boroughs. He objected to the entire system; be never could look with patience to handing over the settlement of questions of local franchises to navy officers and officers of engineers. It was a constant habit of his to be guided, as much as he could by the wisdom and experience of qualified persons or public bodies on the spot, and to be governed as 803 much as possible by their opinions and suggestions. On the 4th of March, 1794, the late Lord Ponsonby, seconded by Mr. Connolly, brought forward, in the Irish Parliament, "a Bill for amending and improving the state of the Representation of the people in Parliament." In that Bill it was stated, that the enlarging the districts of the several cities and boroughs in Ireland would tend to render the elections of citizens and burgesses more free and independent; and it then enacted that a space, or distance, of four miles should be drawn to be measured by a line to be drawn from some one place within the city, or borough, or town, as near the centre of the present site as possible, and to extend in every direction, to a distance of four miles from the said place; it provided that where a city, borough, or town, should be so situate, as that a line of four miles could not be conveniently drawn, by reason of another city or borough, or by reason of the proximity of the sea, then a district should be measured from the most central place, so as to have a district equal to twenty-four miles in circumference. The Bill then proceeded to show the manner in which this arrangement was to be carried into immediate execution by the Sheriff and a Jury of freeholders, furnished every requisite in a few paragraphs, and the compensation for the completing the work. In this system of the Irish Parliament, neither the Navy Board or Ordnance were consulted; there were no mathematics—no subtleties—no inquiring whether the creation of this boundary would serve my Lord Duke, or another line my Lord Marquess; the simple consideration was, how an honest and independent constituency was to be created in the cities, boroughs, and towns, and how it was most likely to extract out of this mass of the people of Ireland 300 honest and capable Representatives, who should know what was best to be done in the Irish Parliament for the people, and what would content and satisfy the people. Under all these circumstances he was very much indisposed to entertain the new reformed theories of narrowing and contracting the limits of open towns or nomination boroughs. Our ancestors were not so absurd. Wealth and population originally chose Representatives; and close boroughs originated not in our ancient Constitution, but in subsequent provisions of it, in the decay of time and the abuses of prerogative. A small extension of franchise in these towns would be idle 804 and unavailing, and—as was well said by the proposer of the Bill to which he had alluded—would be an innovation without effect, and a mere transfer of influence without an extension of freedom. He had thought it his duty to make these observations on the Bill, and, as he was entitled to do, he had availed himself of the debate which had been created on the first clause of the Bill, for not only stating his objections to the amount of the qualification of the voters—which he was convinced was too high to give satisfaction to the people of Ireland—but also to lay before the House such an opinion as, founded on local knowledge and experience, he conscientiously entertained on the whole of this important measure.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that he had been hooted and ridiculed in that House for declaring the Reform Bills for England, Scotland, and Ireland, would fall short of giving satisfaction to the people. But now, the very persons who had taxed him with inconsistency came forward denouncing the Irish Bill as a delusion. If the hon. and learned member for Kerry chose to divide the House upon the question of the 40s. franchise, he (Mr. Hunt) would again divide with him; it would be very inconsistent if he, an advocate for Universal Suffrage, should not support the proposed amendment.
§ The House divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 44; Noes 177; Majority 133.
|List of the AYES.|
|Bainbridge, T.||Lambert, J.|
|Blackney, W.||Macnamara, W.|
|Bodkin, W.||Musgrove, Sir E.|
|Brooke, Sir J.||Mullins, F.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||O'Connor, Don|
|Callaghan, D.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Chapman, J.||Payne, Sir P.|
|Davies, Colonel||Phillips C. M.|
|Doyle, Sir J. M.||Power, R.|
|Ellis, W.||Ruthven, E.|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. R.||Sheil, R. L.|
|French, A.||Tomes, J.|
|Godson, R.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Gisborne, R.||Wallace, T.|
|Grattan, J.||Walker, R. R.|
|Grattan, H.||Williams, A. W.|
|Harvey, D. W.||White, H.|
|Howard, P.||Wilks, J.|
|Hume, J.||Wood, Alderman|
|Hunt, H.||Wyse, T.|
|Jephson, D. O.||TELLERS.|
|King, E. K.||O'Connell, D.|
|Lambert, H.||Leader, N. P.|
§ House in Committee.805
§ On the first clause of the Bill being read, relative to the right of voting in counties,
moved an amendment, for the purpose of substituting the words "ten pounds" for "twenty pounds;" so as to give the franchise to persons possessed of a term of years, with a clear profit of 10l. per annum. As he was upon his legs, he would take that opportunity of telling the right hon. Secretary opposite, that the language which he (Mr. O'Connell) had used was not unprovoked. The right hon. Gentleman should recollect, that he was Secretary for Ireland when common thief-takers were sent to his (Mr. O'Connell's) house, to drag him from the bosom of his family; a discourtesy, which, he would venture to say, was never before shown to any gentleman in his situation, charged only with a bail-able offence; and the right hon. Gentleman should also remember that pains were taken to pack the Jury who had to try him.
Mr. Dominick Browne
conceived the object of the Bill to be, the establishment of an independent constituency in Ireland, which object would certainly be effected in a great degree by the details of the measure. The county constituency of Ireland was much more independent than the House would suppose it to be from the statement of the hon. and learned member for Kerry. When the 40s. freeholders possessed the franchise, the county of Mayo contained 25,000 voters, and now contained only 900. Under the former system, four individuals could, by combination, return the two Members, but at the present moment he believed it to be impossible for any combination of men to procure the return of a single Member against the wish of the freeholders. At the same time he wished it to be understood, that he desired to extend the number of freeholders in Ireland as much as possible, according to the principle of the English Bill. In a subsequent stage of the proceedings he would propose that no lease should constitute a freehold, of which the life at the time of the granting of the lease should not be under sixty years old. This would secure to the freeholder a lease of about seven or eight years' value. He was perfectly satisfied, that a lease of seven years value would be found to be the best tenure for the tenant.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ The Committee having reached the 16th line of the clause,
rose to move the following Amendment:—"That persons possessed of an estate in lands or tenements, whether for a freehold term or a term of years not less than nineteen from the commencement, who are subject, bona fide, to a rent of at least 30l. per annum for said lands or tenements, and occupy the same, shall be entitled to vote at the election of Members for counties;" secondly, the substitution of the word "ten" for "twenty;" and thirdly, the addition to said clause, of a proviso to the following effect:—"That the lessee claiming to register shall not be disqualified by reason of any abatement made by the lessor, of the amount of rent payable by said lessee for the lands or tenements out of which he shall so claim to register, provided such abatement be granted by written agreement, for a term of not less than seven years, and that said lands or tenements shall be to said lessee, after such abatement as aforesaid, of the clear yearly value of 10l. at the least, over and above all rent and charges, except as before excepted, payable out of the same." He assured the House, that he would trespass as shortly as possible on their time and attention. He might say with truth, that he had devoted much consideration to the various provisions of the Irish Reform measure, and the more he considered these provisions, the more had he been struck by their utter inadequacy to meet the wants and wishes of the Irish people, as well as by their insufficiency to answer the professed objects of efficient Parliamentary Reform, which he understood to be the destruction of all undue influence, wherever exercised—together with the extension of the elective franchise to a sufficient number of those whose interests, whether commercial, agricultural, or manufacturing, the Commons House of Parliament ought fully and faithfully to represent. That these important objects would be attained by the great measure that had lately passed into a law, no person acquainted with its details for one moment entertained a doubt, but he would ask, what had Ireland done to render her unworthy of similar advantages? Why was it that her equality with England was recognised on all hands in theory, and denied in practice? for he would as- 807 sert, without fear of contradiction, that that equality was denied the moment that, in the extension of Reform, or any other general and beneficial measure, Ireland was refused advantages as ample and conciliatory as those conferred upon the sister country. It was the full conviction he entertained of the great injustice with which Ireland was threatened on the present occasion that induced him to make this Motion. In doing so, he was actuated alone by a sincere desire to see his countrymen in possession of as great advantages from their Reform measure as he confidently anticipated from the English one—more than these advantages he did not desire—more, it would be unjust and unfair to demand—but if Ireland was really and bone fide a portion of the British empire—if she was acknowledged by every man to be that which he was proud to say she ever had been, and ever would be, the right arm of England, whether in times of war or peace, in periods of difficulty or hours of danger, surely no man in that House would be so unwise, he would say so prejudiced, as to assert that such a country was not entitled to advantages and benefits fully equal to those of which the smallest county in Great Britain partook in common with the largest. Acting upon such principles, when he came to consider the Bill before the House he perceived, amidst its various imperfections and inconsistencies, this leading one, that in the extension of the franchise in counties, Ireland was treated most unfairly when compared with England, for in English counties he saw thousands enfranchised, who at no previous period had enjoyed such a privilege, whereas in Irish counties the extension was little better than a name—nay, in many instances, it had the very opposite effect to that proposed by the English measure, inasmuch as it positively diminished the independent and popular portion of the present county constituency, whereas in this country the same class was enormously increased. This glaring injustice he was anxious to obviate in some degree, and thus prevent the unpleasant consequences which he could not but anticipate from the disappointment likely to be experienced by the Irish people, should this Bill pass into a law without any material amendment. He was desirous, therefore, of obtaining a class of voters for counties, whose qualification should be as nearly as possible 808 equivalent to that of two enfranchised classes in England, the 10l. freeholder and the 50l. tenant-at-will. With this view he assumed that a rent of 30l. a-year, with occupation, and upon a lease of at least nineteen years from the commencement, would produce as independent and substantial a voter as the first of the classes to which he had alluded, and an equally substantial, and much more independent, voter than the second. The proceeds of this assumption he would now, as briefly as possible, detail to the House; but before doing so he trusted hon. Members would bear in mind, that in seeking such an extension of the franchise in Irish counties, he only sought in part, that which a large majority of Irish Members secured for England by their undeviating attendance on every division connected with that question. He only sought that which the registered opinions of a vast majority of English Members pronounced indispensable for efficient and satisfactory Reform. He would now call the right hon. Secretary's attention to what he was sure would be acknowledged by every hon. Member in that House, who was in any degree acquainted with the value of land in Ireland, and which formed the groundwork of his first argument in favour of the proposed qualification—namely, that the average annual rent per acre in that country did not exceed 1l. 10s.; a tenant, therefore, paying a bona fide rent of 30l. a-year would be in possession of twenty acres of land; in which he was sure it would be readily conceded that such tenant had a beneficial interest of 7l. a-year at the very lowest calculation. But 7l. in Ireland, considering the great difference in value of the various articles of consumption, was fully equivalent to 10l. in England; he claimed, therefore, the proposed qualification for Irish counties, on the principle, that for the reason assigned, a 30l. occupier, rent-payer, on a lease of nineteen years at least, was as fully entitled to the elective franchise in Ireland as the 10l. freeholder in England, who was not obliged to occupy. But, strong as this argument was, he claimed the proposed qualification on still higher grounds; he claimed it because he would assert, without fear of contradiction, that it was far superior to the 50l. qualification of the tenant-at-will; for in the one case, though the annual rent was greater, the certainty of the term in the other more than coun- 809 terbalanced the actual difference between the two rents, which was in reality not more than 5l. a-year; 35l. in this case bearing the same proportion to 50l. that 7l. did to 10l. in the former, and it must be allowed to be much more respectable when the independence of the leaseholder of nineteen years, together with his freedom from undue influence on the part of the landlord, was contrasted with the dependence and crouching servility of the tenant-at-will. But the right hon. Gentleman had himself furnished him with an excellent argument and precedent in favour of the claim now made, for if hon. Members would refer to the copy of the Irish Bill, ordered to be printed on the 30th of June, 1831, they would find in the first clause "that leaseholders for a term not less than nineteen years from the commencement, and who were bona fide rent-payers of 50l. a-year, or who could make the rent, through the instrumentality of a fine equivalent to 50l." were proposed to be enfranchised. The principle on which he went was here recognised. It might be said, that in this case the qualification was much higher than that now proposed; but it should be remembered, that the clause which gave this franchise imposed no necessity of occupation, therefore, there was but little real difference between the right hon. Secretary's former proposition and the present proposition. It might be asserted, that such a qualification had not been admitted into the present Bill, but such an objection could not affect his argument. He could not answer for the right hon. Gentleman's inconsistency. It sufficed for his purpose, that the principle had been at one period acknowledged, and apparently after much deliberation and reflection. The edition in which it appeared was the second of the Irish Bill; here it was well worthy of remark, that instead of treading in the footsteps of the great measure that preceded it, which it was natural to conclude it would, the Irish measure retrograded as the other advanced, and in proportion as the one gained in efficiency, the other lost. In fact, the plan that appeared to him to be now adopted was this—to give the Irish provisional equality, where that equality had the effect of limiting the franchise, and denying it where the franchise was likely to be extended. He really could not conceive, and he called upon the right hon. Secretary to 810 inform him, why, acting upon any principle of equity or justice, if, in the Irish measure equalization was preserved on points where it tended to narrow the privileges of the people? Ireland should not be made equal on points where that equalization tended to extend them. In proof of the existence of the former principle, he would just cite a few examples, which he thought would convince the House, that there existed just grounds of complaint. In the following ten places the number of electors would be considerably diminished;—namely, Carrickfergus, Drogheda, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Wexford, Downpatrick, Newry, Dungarvan, and Mallow. Under all these circumstances, he felt no hesitation in asserting, in the first place, that great injustice was meditated against Ireland; and, secondly, that the qualification he proposed, for the purpose of, in in some degree, remedying the evil was as just in principle as any of the leading provisions of the English measure, and demanded the unqualified approbation and. support of every man who had given his opinion in favour of the several English qualifications. On no one just ground could his proposition be rejected, for whatever arguments might be urged against the proposed qualification in Irish counties, the same, it would be admitted, must apply with much greater force and effect to the 50l. qualification in England. But the almost unanimous opinion of this House pronounced these arguments to be superficial and untenable in the one case and he sincerely trusted that, for the sake of consistency and justice, the same opinion would now be repeated in the other. He felt confident that in proposing and advocating this extension, he did not wander one step beyond the precedent, and proposed advantages of the English measure—less than these advantages he could not advise his country or his constituents to accept, feeling, as he did, that in legislation there should be no partialities exercised, or distinctions made between the two countries. That if the promises given and the professed advantages of the Legislative Union were acted up to at the present period, which he trusted under a Reforming Government they would he, the acts of an united Parliament should be directed as much to the prosperity and advantage of one country as they unquestionably were to that of the other. He repeated, he could not recommend his 811 countrymen to be contented with a less beneficial measure of Reform; and when he considered that at a future period it might be found exceedingly difficult, perhaps impossible, to obtain such improvements in the Irish measure as would place it, in some degree on a par with the English, he conceived it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the Irish Members were they to permit the present favourable opportunity to escape without endeavouring to secure for Ireland such a measure as would be received with gratitude and satisfaction by the Irish people. It might be objected to him by certain hon. Members at that side of the House, whose zeal for what they denominated the "cause," sometimes outran their discretion; that the greatest dangers were to be apprehended from the vast power and influence which a further extension of the elective franchise would throw into the hands of the Catholic body in Ireland; which influence would necessarily be exercised in the election of Representatives in their interest, and in a consequent endeavour to upset all the established institutions of that country. He was convinced no impartial person could for one moment harbour such antiquated and superficial assumptions. He for one did not; but granting, for the sake of argument, that such apprehensions were just, did the hon. Gentlemen, in their sober senses, believe, that the danger could be averted by refusing a measure of equal justice to the Irish people? He told these hon. Gentlemen, that unless they were fully prepared to demonstrate the practicability of quelling agitation and dissatisfaction by a denial of that which was sought on grounds of reason and justice alone, they must not object to go the full length of his opinions, that timely concession to the just demands of the people was the surest and safest method of preserving the affections of the people, and establishing and maintaining the tranquillity of the country. It would, he was sure, be admitted by all, that tumultuary violence could not succeed, nor agitation triumph, were justice dealt out with an even hand—were the people made to understand that their interests were best consulted by a full confidence in, and a steady adherence to, a Government that had evinced its disposition to confer equal advantages and grant redress; and he would say, that it was not very difficult to assure any people of such 812 a disposition. Such conduct on the part of those in authority, carried with it the double advantage of cementing and consolidating their own power, and enabling them, by the firm hold it gave them on the affections of the people, to extract the poison from the serpent's tongue, and demolish the strongholds of disaffection and anarchy, while it afforded them the enviable gratification of being able to diffuse all the blessings of harmony and good fellowship throughout the land; and thus to secure the tranquillity, the happiness, and consequent prosperity, of the people. The hon. Member concluded by moving his amendment.
admitted, that the amendment of the hon. Member was similar to a provision which appeared in a former Bill, but he must object to the proposition, because he considered it likely to lead to fraud and collusion: in fact, that objection had been made to the former provision by the learned member for Kerry, and the right hon. member for Waterford. They said also, that it was impossible to ascertain the amount of rent, and that making a qualification depend upon the amount would place the tenant wholly in the power of the landlord. The higher the amount of rent paid, said the hon. and learned Member, the less would there be of profit, and, therefore, the most dependent men would be the electors. No injustice was done to Ireland, for there the qualification was a term of fourteen years and a beneficial interest of 20l., while in England the term was twenty years, and the beneficial interest 20l.
objected to the Bill because it narrowed the number of electors too much. He wished to ask what number of electors there would be in the counties of Ireland.
said, it was quite impossible for him to tell, because the number of leaseholders was wholly unknown.
said, that the total numbers of the county constituency, including the chattel interests, would amount, under the Bill, to no more than 30,000. In five counties the number of 10l. freeholders was less than 300; in seven, it was less than 400; in five counties it was less than 500; in three counties it was less than 700; and in twelve counties it was above 700. Amongst those twelve counties which had upwards of 700 freeholders, 813 eight were in the province of Ulster. Thus, the number of 10l. freeholders might be taken, in round numbers, to be 18, 000. It remained to ascertain the number of 50l. and 20l. freeholders; and, in all his experience at contested elections, he had never known these freeholders amount to more than one-sixth of the number of 10l. freeholders. However, to make the case as strong as possible against himself, he would take it to be one-sixth, which would give 6,000 voters more. Add the voters for the 20l. chattel interest, and suppose them (a most exaggerated calculation) to be equally numerous with the 50l. and 20l. freeholders, and that calculation would give 6,000 more voters, making the whole county constituency of Ireland amount to 30,000. It was impossible that it could exceed that number. He had stated the case as strongly as he could against himself. He desired nothing but fair play; prove that he was wrong, and he would acknowledge his error. He desired agitation only to correct injustice; and he was ready and willing to correct injustice by agitation, if the House would not correct it by the only legitimate way—that was, by giving to him a 10l. chattel vote. With respect to this Motion, he should have preferred it in another shape; but having been taunted that, when he endeavoured to get an enlargement of the franchise, he got only a diminution of it, he should support the Motion. Every man who voted for giving, in the case of England, the franchise to persons having leases of not less than twenty years, with 50l. yearly rent, had, in fact, sanctioned the Motion, for they were identical. He, therefore, in the name of consistency, as well as of justice, called upon those who supported the proposition, in the English Bill to support the present Motion. The reproach that had been thrown out against him was in effect this:—"You are a most admirable advocate, and have ably discharged your duty to the people; you waited on the noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire, and the noble Lord, the member for Devonshire, and the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, to obtain the insertion of a clause to extend the franchise, and you succeeded to this extent—that though you did not get your own clause inserted, you got one struck out, by the omission of which the franchise was made still more limited." That taunt placed him in such a pre- 814 dicament, that, if it had occurred in his own profession, it would not have contributed to his success in life. He thought the diminution he recommended a good one, provided he could get the increase he desired; but that was refused him, and therefore he was bound to support the Motion.
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think that there could be no difficulty in answering the question put by the hon. member for Middlesex, and yet, when the hon. and learned Gentleman came to speak of the number of leasehold voters under this Bill, he could not tell whether they would amount to 1,500 or 6,000. [Mr. O'Connell: The maximum was 6,000.] The maximum, said the hon. Gentleman, was 6,000; but upon what a strange position did he found his arguments. A grant might be made to as many persons as you please, but there could not according to the hon. Gentleman, be more than one voter, because you have struck out all the intermediate lessees or grantees and have given the right of voting only to the person possessing the original beneficial interest. But though the original possessor of the beneficial interest might be only one, as to the freehold or the fee, yet the derivative interests might be a hundred, five hundred, or even a thousand, which would come within the provisions of the Bill, as entitled to vote. The argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to him manifestly absurd. The hon. Gentleman knew that a great body of the leaseholders who would come under the description of this Act held leases under the Church. The original lessee would acquire the right of voting by virtue of the beneficial interest he had in the property; while the occupying tenants who held under him as lessee (whether mediately or immediately), would also be entitled to vote; so that for each portion of land there might be two distinct votes; not, indeed, a cumulation of votes on account of the primary interest; but as the original beneficial owner would have a vote for the whole of his estate, so all the occupants of that estate, provided they had sufficient interest in the portions they respectively occupied, would also acquire a vote. The Church property extended over 700,000 or 800,000 acres, and the argument of the hon. and learned Gentle- 815 man was this—that as there were only thirty-two Bishops in Ireland, therefore there could only be thirty-two persons entitled to vote in respect of this property, besides those that had the original beneficial freehold interest, because all the intermediate interests were struck out of the Bill. That was too glaring an error to deserve further remark, and the absurdity of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument was too manifest to need further refutation.
The absurdity of the argument was the right hon. Gentleman's own—because, according to him, there were no such things as derivative freeholds. Could not a man make 5,000 freehold leases as well as chattel interests? What, then, became of the right hon. Gentleman's charge of absurdity? The primary and original interests in the freehold, which extended all over Ireland, besides the original beneficial estate in fee, had all been struck out. When they contrasted the derivative freeholds with the derivative chattel interests of that class which was recognized by the Bill, the former would be found considerably to predominate. Was his argument untenable, then, when he offered to give you up these chattel interests for as many votes as could be obtained from the derivative freeholds? The maximum of those chattel interests would be 6,000, a fact he had deduced from the experience of eighteen contested elections. But that maximum was more than would be obtained. If the amendment were not carried, gross injustice would be done to Ireland, for the Bill would confine in a few hands the elective franchise of that country. The right hon. Gentleman had excluded the people; or, as the Conservatives called them, the lower orders. When had Ireland been so much disturbed in any three years during its whole history, as since she had been deprived of the 40s. franchise? The more the people were separated from the legal modes of expressing their political opinions and feelings, the more they were disgusted with the institutions of the country, and driven into improper courses. Such policy was wicked; it maddened the people of Ireland, and then he was charged with agitating them. On this subject he had been explicit; he had written and published his opinions in the newspapers, and had always said, that the constituency under this Bill was an injustice and a 816 mockery. Why was not the right hon. Secretary prepared to make some estimate as to what would be the probable number of the constituents under this clause? Let him compare the chattel votes which he proposed to give with the freeholds; by those means he might, at least, form some notion of the number of votes he was about to create, because there must be more freeholds than chattel interests: but, taking it for granted that there were as many chattel leases as freehold leases, then, when he came to compare them with the number of freehold votes at eighteen county elections, and make the necessarily average calculation, the result was, that there would be about 30,000 voters for all Ireland:—it ought not to be so.
begged to inform the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he had made inquiries. He had applied to the Clerks of the Peace, to ascertain whether they could give him an approximation as to the number of leaseholders of 20l.; and the answer he received was, almost without exception, that it was absolutely impossible to come to any approximation.
If the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to increase the constituency, and to refute the arguments which had been advanced against his measure, and he had communicated this to the Clerks of the Peace, would they not have told him, that although they could not ascertain the exact number, yet they were numerous. It happened to be his lot to be so professionally circumstanced, and in other ways so intimately acquainted with at least three of the provinces of that country, that he could not but be informed upon this matter; and he ventured to assert, that the right hon. Gentleman would not make 1,000 votes by this part of the Bill; but he had conceded them to be 6,000; and yet there would not be more than 30,000 voters for all Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, said, that he had attempted in vain to ascertain the probable amount of votes to be created by this part of the clause; if that was the case, why had the sum of 20l. been taken in preference to 10l.? By this Bill it was provided, that every leaseholder of 20l. a-year, for a term originally not less than fourteen years, should have a vote. Why was not a 10l. rental taken? The right hon. Gentleman might say, "because the 20l. qualification would give a greater 817 constituency;" but he had just said, that he could not tell what the constituency would be. He could, therefore, have no test of what the number of voters would be, as an inducement for him to adopt the 20l. instead of a 10l. qualification. The right hon. Secretary also said, Church lands were principally leaseholds; so that, where there were Church lands, there would be no other than a leasehold constituency. There ought to be some ground laid for their proceedings; but here was a clause containing a specific pecuniary qualification, and no reason was given for the selection of that particular sum.
said, if the number of electors in Ireland would not be numerrous, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself was to blame. The agitation that hon. and learned Gentleman kept up, produced a reluctance among landlords to grant leases. He himself was the great cause of the smallness of the constituency. Many landlords would not grant leases when they knew the votes of those who obtained them would be influenced by the hon. and learned member for Kerry. The intestine war to which he gave rise in Ireland, produced a corresponding exertion on the part of landlords. The Irish counties with 10l. freeholders, were now far more independent than they were under the 40s. freeholds. It gave him sincere pleasure to see the perjury and degradation brought upon the country by the class of 40s. voters removed. They were driven like so many sheep to the poll, and were as unconscious for whom they voted, as any flock of sheep would be.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that all which Ministers could do either in England or Ireland, was, to fix the qualification. They could not ascertain what number of electors would be created by it. All the leases on Church lands were chattel leases, and there would be at least that clear addition to the constituency.
said, the hon. Member (Colonel Conolly), in place of answering his argument as to the smallness of the constituency, had confirmed it. The hon. Member admitted that landlords in Ireland were unwilling to grant leases, and why? Because they were apprehensive they could not make the tenants vote just as they pleased. This was a strong argument for reducing the quali- 818 fication; it was not he who caused the agitation. It was produced by those who wanted to retain their former domination, and it required all his efforts to prevent the agitation their conduct was calculated to produce.
§ Mr. Ruthven
contended, that a person paying 30l. a year rent for a farm, with a lease of nineteen years, was a more independent person than a leaseholder at will, paying 50l. rent. He should support the motion of his hon. friend.
stated, in reply, that the observations of the right hon. Secretary did not contain one syllable subversive of his argument; on the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged his former recognition of the principle on which his claim was founded—namely, that of a rent qualification; but he stated that he would never have proposed such a qualification as an annual rent of 50l., did he not believe that a tenant, paying such a rent, had likewise a beneficial interest in his holding, of at least 20l. If the right hon. Gentleman's assumption were correct, it followed that a rent-payer of 30l. must have a beneficial interest of more than 10l.; and surely no man who had voted for the 50l. tenant-at-will qualification in England would deny the justice of his Motion; but the right hon. Gentleman opposed him on the ground that such a franchise would be liable to fraud and collusion. This position he could not admit; there could be no greater difficulty in providing against fraud in this case than in 'any other. If he had reason to believe there existed in his proposed qualification any such defects as the right hon. Gentleman had insinuated, he should be the last to advocate its adoption; but he asserted, without fear of disproval, that it was such a qualification as might be safely admitted, and ought, if justice was intended towards Ireland, to be received without opposition. Such being his conviction, he felt himself justified in taking the sense of the Committee upon his proposition.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 9 Noes 161—Majority 152.
|List of the Ayes:|
|Blackney, W.||Musgrave, Sir R.|
|Bodkin, J.||O'Connell, D.|
|Doyle, Sir J. M.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Leader, N. P.||TELLER.|
|Macnamara, W. N.||Mullins, F. W.|
§ Lord Althorp
said, he would postpone the further consideration of this Bill in Committee until Monday next.
opposed so long an adjournment. He was most anxious to proceed, especially as they had now arrived at that stage of the measure at which the claims of the 10l. copyholders might be brought under consideration. He was in hopes of inducing the noble Lord to concur in a proposition for the enfranchisement of that class.
supported the view taken by the noble Lord. These copyholders were so only in name. In reality they were freeholders, for their tenure was in every respect as good as the holding by fee simple.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
hoped the noble Lord would not propose so long a postponement as he had named. He had been frequently to and fro between England and Ireland in his attendance upon this Bill, and it would be exceedingly inconvenient if further delay were to take place.
§ Lord Althorp
was equally as anxious as the hon. Member to proceed with the Bill, but there were so many amendments that it was not likely it would speedily be concluded. He thought, therefore, that it was not advisable to delay other bills which had but a stage to go through. It would be better to postpone the Bill until Monday, and, in the interim, despatch the other Bills which were necessary to complete the machinery of the English and Scotch Bills.
§ House resumed,—the Committee to sit again.