§ Order of the Day for the third reading of the Boundaries, &c. Bill read.
§ Mr. Moreton
moved, in conformity to previous notice, that an Amendment be made in that clause of the Bill which related to the appointment of a polling place for the western division of the county of Gloucester. The place selected (Thornbury) was not only an insignificant, but an inconvenient situation for the voters in that division; the Severn passed through the county, and the great majority of the electors would have to cross that river to reach the place. Originally, Wootton-under-Edge was the place fixed upon, but it had been altered at the suggestion of the noble Lord, the member for Monmouthshire, when he was not in the House. He wished to have the Bill restored to its former state; and he therefore moved, that the town of Wootton-under-Edge be inserted in place of Thornbury, for the purpose of polling the electors.
seconded the Amendment. Thornbury was, in all respects, an inconvenient place. It was difficult of access; the passage across the Severn, near Thornbury, was difficult and dangerous, and he wondered at the noble Lord exposing the freeholders to this danger, particularly as many of them were his father's tenants. The accommodation, too, at Thornbury was quite inadequate. At Wootton-under-Edge the accommodation was very good; it was easy of access, and was in all respects the most convenient place.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
opposed the Amendment. That the hon. Member was not in his place when he proposed to substitute Thornbury for Wootton-under-Edge, was the hon. Member's fault. He made that proposal to accommodate the freemen of the western division of Gloucester, and had no personal motives whatever for recommending the change. The Ministers assented to his motion because they thought it reasonable. He was still 962 convinced that it was the best place. With respect to the ferries across the river, they were good, and it appeared from the Post Office returns, that of 262 mails, 114 had passed over in less than thirty minutes. With respect to the accommodation at Thornbury, it was better than that at Wootton-under-Edge, and the town had more people. Wootton was a manufacturing town, and therefore, unfit as the place of nomination for an agricultural district.
§ Mr. Henry Howard
believed, that Thornbury was the more convenient place of the two for the electors to resort to on those occasions.
§ Sir William Guise
thought that Thornbury was quite an improper place to hold the nomination at. At Wootton-under-Edge there was a good Town Hall, and other necessary accommodation, which was not to be found at Thornbury.
Lord John Russell
should vote for Thornbury, as he had done in a previous stage of the Bill. The arguments which the noble Lord had adduced on a former occasion seemed quite satisfactory to him, and he should abide by the former decision.
§ The House divided on the Amendment:— Ayes 54; Noes 83—Majority 29.
Sir Robert Peel
moved, that the poll for the southern division of Staffordshire be taken at the ancient city of Lichfield, in lieu of Walsall, as more convenient to the voters for that part of Staffordshire.
§ Several verbal Amendments were agreed to.
§ Mr. Blamire
rose to move an Amendment relative to the boundaries of the town of Whitehaven. As those boundaries were proposed to be fixed by the present Bill, there were certain rural districts which were to be thrown into the borough of Whitehaven, but which would only add thirty members to the constituency of that borough. It appeared, from the Report of the Commissioners, that there were 500 voters for the borough, and the number, therefore, to be added by the rural districts would be very small, while the lands which formed these districts were all the property of a noble Earl, and might, therefore, at a subsequent period, be made the means of giving him an overwhelming influence in the borough. He should recommend to the House, that the boundaries of the borough should be confined to those limits which were described in the local Acts of Parliament relative to that place. He 963 called the attention of the Government to this subject, as there were reports abroad in the town of Whitehaven, that this scheme of the boundary of the borough was the result of a compromise with the other side, and that the borough had been thrown over as a sop to that party. He felt himself called on to make this Motion, in order to satisfy his constituents, and he thought the noble Lord would not regret the opportunity thus afforded him of explaining a matter which was thus subject, he was sure, to be misrepresented. The hon. Member moved, that the boundaries of the borough of Whitehaven should be those fixed by the Local Act, 56 Geo. 3rd, and the statutes to which that Act related.
seconded the Motion, and observed, that the rural district at present contained but a small number of voters, but might at some future time be made the means of throwing an immense influence into the hands of the Earl of Lonsdale, who would be able, if he chose, to put his coach horses into nomination for the borough. There was also a matter to which he wished to call the attention of the Government, and that was, that it was reported at Whitehaven that the settlement of the boundaries, as they now stood, had been drawn up by an agent of the noble Earl, and had been signed in his Colliery Office. So at least it was stated in a printed paper which had been sent up to him. He asserted that the present settlement of the boundaries would, in fact, make Whitehaven a close borough; and he therefore pressed upon the Ministers the adoption of the proposed alteration.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he apprehended it was not necessary for him to give any proof that the Government had entered into no compromise with Lord Lonsdale and the opposite party; for no one, who knew at all what was the state of parties, could possibly believe that any such compromise had taken place. The hon. Member should at once be informed what were the grounds on which the Government had changed their intentions with regard to these boundaries. It had been urged upon them, that in adopting the boundaries they originally proposed, they should be creating an anomaly in this particular instance; and deviating from what they had laid down as the principle of the Bill. They had at first been informed that the whole of Whitehaven was the property of Lord Lonsdale, but they subsequently found that 964 that information was not correct, and that the influence he would possess there was no more than what property was on all hands agreed to be fairly entitled to. The objection which they felt to fixing the boundaries according to these Local Acts to which the hon. Member had referred, was, that these Acts laid down certain limits, subject to be altered by subsequent circumstances; so that boundaries adopted by them would be perpetually shifting, as other places, under the particular circumstances stated in those Acts, came within their operation. With respect to the statement which the hon. member for Carlisle said he had received in a printed paper from Whitehaven, he (Lord Althorp) begged to observe, that it was impossible to be correct, for the boundaries were never decided on by the Commissioners, or at least, their decision was never known till they came to London. He repeated, therefore, that the reports alluded to by the hon. Member were without foundation, and he expressed himself satisfied that the boundaries decided on by the Commissioners were the best that the circumstances presented for their adoption.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 82—Majority 59.
|List of the AYES.|
|Ellis, W.||Rider, T.|
|Evans, Col. De Lacy||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Evans, W.||Strickland, G.|
|Gillon, W.||Tennyson, Rt. Hon.C.|
|Guise, Sir W. B.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Hoskins, K.||Warburton, H.|
|Howard, H.||Wilks, J.|
|Howard, P.||Williams, A. W.|
|Hume J.||Wood, Alderman|
|M'Namara, Major||Wood, J.|
|O'Connell, D.||Blamire, W.|
|Paget, T.||James, W.|
§ Mr. George Bankes
objected to the proposed boundary of the new borough of Dorchester. He thought that it should not be limited to the river rome on the north. That river was, in fact, but a very small stream, and intersected a parish, the whole of which he conceived ought to be included within the boundary line. He should therefore propose, that the whole of the parish of Trinity, instead of that portion of it only which lay on the south of the Frome, be included within the limits of the borough.
§ Mr. Portman
thought that such an amendment would be quite unnecessary, as he believed that only one house would be 965 added to the borough by the extension of the boundary line, as the hon. Member proposed.
§ Mr. Portman
thought that, even if there were so many as three considerable farmhouses in that part of the parish which lay on the northern bank of the river, still the river itself was the most natural and definite boundary that could be adopted for the borough.
Lord John Russell
thought, that the fact of there being some houses on the north of the river, was not a sufficient reason to warrant such an extension of the boundary as the hon. Gentleman wished. For his own part, he thought that the river was a well-marked boundary, and the best that could have been proposed,
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Best
objected to the proposed boundaries of Wareham. They seemed to him to have been laid down with singular infelicity, and, if adopted by the House, would certainly make the constituency of Wareham so small as to endanger the continuance of its franchise for any length of time. This, he confessed, he was very anxious to prevent, on account of the great importance of Wareham as an agricultural town. The Commissioners, in drawing the boundary of the borough, had included all those parishes in the vicinity of the town which were least populous, instead of those which were most populous. Thus the constituency of the borough would be less than 200. To remedy this defect, and to give to the borough a permanence and a stability which he feared it would not otherwise possess, he begged to propose that the Isle of Purbeck be added to Wareham.
§ Mr. Portman
had only to observe, that the inhabitants of Wareham were perfectly satisfied with the present boundary, and their present amount of constituency. He had himself suggested the propriety of increasing its amount, by adding Corfe Castle on the one side, and Bere Regis on the other, as he thought it desirable that the constituency of every borough should be made as numerous as local circumstances permitted. Indeed, he should not object to Purbeck being made an electoral district, with Wareham for its centre, as the commercial importance of the former entitled it to a more direct Representation, perhaps, than could be afforded it by the additional Member to the county. If Purbeck, however, were added, according to the letter 966 of the hon. Member's amendment, to Wareham, it, and not Wareham, would actually return the Representatives, its constituency being so much more numerous.
§ Mr. Robinson
protested against the doctrine just laid down by the hon. member for Dorsetshire; namely, that because the electors of a borough were themselves satisfied with their present locality and number, that therefore Parliament should not add to either. From his knowledge of Wareham, he could take it upon him to declare, that unless Corfe Castle be added to it, its constituency would not be as numerous as he was confident the authors of the Reform contemplated. He would, therefore, propose an Amendment to that effect.
§ Mr. William Bankes
thought that the Isle of Purbeck would be a very natural addition to Wareham. A local and municipal connexion already existed between the two places, and he thought that it would tend to the advantage of both if they were united for the purposes of Representation.
Lord John Russell
said, that Wareham was, without doubt, the most difficult case with which the Commissioners had had to deal. As the hon. Member had stated, its constituency, if the boundaries were limited as was proposed in the Bill, would be extremely small: but it became a matter of considerable difficulty to determine how an extension should take place. To the addition of Purbeck he should decidedly object, because its superior population would completely drown the constituency of Wareham. That objection did not apply to Corfe Castle; and, if it should seem to be the opinion of the House that that place should be joined to Wareham, he did not know that he should oppose it.
§ Mr. George Bankes
said, the hon. Member had objected to the addition of Corfe Castle and Bere Regis, because it would give a preponderance to a particular political influence in the borough. Now, he thought such an argument most unjust. The object of the Bill was, to create a large constituency; and as the addition of Corfe Castle would have that effect, he was sure most of the Members on his side of the House, and all good Reformers, would support it.
§ Mr. Portman
did not oppose the addition of Purbeck to Wareham, but if Corfe Castle were added, he should propose to add Bere Regis.
§ Mr. George Bankes
would recommend his hon. friend to divide the House on his Amendment, if the bon, member for Dor- 967 setshire should not oppose the union of Purbeck and Wareham, for he was sure that the proposition for the addition of Purbeck to the constituency of Wareham would have the support of the hon. member for Middlesex, because it would render the Representation more popular. It was a strange objection to that proposition, to say that Purbeck was under the control of the Tories.
§ Lord Althorp
would not consider, in such a question, what particular interest might have an accession of influence; but he would object to the addition of Purbeck to Wareham, as creating too extended a constituency. He did not think that the addition of Corfe Castle was liable to the same objection.
was understood to say, that the addition of Corfe Castle to the constituency of Wareham would be advantageous.
§ Mr. Baring Wall
was more convinced by the discussion upon the present question than he had ever before been, of the advantage which would have accrued from the sending of the Boundaries Bill to a Committee up-stairs. The questions which it embraced were too complicated to be adequately investigated in a Committee of the whole House. But, as that had not been done, he would not consent to the addition of Purbeck to Wareham, because he thought it was inexpedient and unjust to enlarge the constituency of any borough, and he thought that no borough ought to have a larger number of constituents than was necessary to secure its respectability. Indeed, he would say, that he thought the constituency of a borough ought to be as small as possible. The truth was, the Whigs had divided the counties in such a way, as to give to the Whig families a preponderating influence.
Lord John Russell
was understood to say, that he had no objection to the addition of Corfe Castle to Wareham.
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, that having just come into the House, he was not aware of the arguments that had been brought forward in support of the Amendment. Whatever he should say, therefore, would be merely the expression of his individual opinion. He thought that the addition of Corfe Castle would destroy the independence of the new borough, and would preserve to the late proprietors of Corfe Castle—to the 968 proprietors, he would say, of the late borough of Corfe Castle—the nomination, which it was the object of the Reform Bill to destroy. If that proposition were acceded to, a considerable portion of the other part of the county ought to be thrown in, to give the Whig proprietors their fair share of influence.
§ Mr. Wrangham
said, that it was unfair to the Tories to say that the proposition came from any Member belonging to that party. The member for Worcester, who suggested the Amendment, was a constant and consistent supporter of the Whigs.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
said, that the gentleman who had last offered himself as a candidate for Wareham, was proprietor of Bere Regis.
§ Mr. Portman
believed, that the statement of the noble Lord was correct; and he thought, therefore, that the boundary of the new borough ought to be left as the Commissioners had settled it.
§ Mr. Robinson
was disgusted with the exhibition of family and party polemics to which his proposition had given rise. In giving his support to the proposition for adding Corfe Castle to Wareham, he had not been influenced by any desire to support any party, or to give new influence to any family, Whig or Tory. The only object which he had in view was, to render the constituency of the new borough such as should exclude either family or party influence.
§ Mr. Best withdrew his Amendment, and on the Amendment that Corfe Castle be added to Wareham, the House divided:—Ayes 55; Noes 122—Majority 67.
§ Mr. Tennyson
rose to submit to the House an amendment respecting the boundaries of Stamford. The electors of that borough had much reason to complain, for they had endured much persecution for maintaining their independence. The objection he had to the arrangement proposed by the Commissioners was, that they had added to the old borough of Stamford, which was in Lincolnshire, the parish of St. Martin, Stamford Baron, which was in the county of Northampton, and divided from the borough of Stamford by the river Welland. It was totally distinct from Old Stamford, which had its own Magistrate and its own Corporation. The two, therefore, were as distinct as possible, and ought not to be united. He would begin by referring to a petition which he had 969 presented some time ago. The petitioners, after deprecating the application of the 10l. franchise to scot and lot boroughs, in which he cordially joined with them, and after stating that many of them had been turned out of their houses, and otherwise cruelly treated, went on to pray, that the parish of St. Martin be not added to the borough, for not only was the greater portion of it the property of the Marquess of Exeter, but his influence by such an addition would overwhelm the whole of the independent interest in Stamford. The petitioners also stated, that the inhabitants of the borough would rather that it should be disfranchised altogether, than that such an arrangement should be made, tending to increase the influence of the Marquess of Exeter. He had indulged a hope that his noble friends would have listened to the representations of these petitioners, and would have abstained from doing an act by which the freedom of their borough would be entirely and for ever destroyed. He would impute no sinister views, no improper motives, to his noble friends; it could not be their object to offer any sacrifice of this kind to a nobleman who was totally opposed to them in political opinions. They could have no object but to discharge their duty, according to the best of their judgment, and in the most conscientious manner; any more than the Commissioners, who no doubt intended to discharge the duties imposed upon them according to the best of their ability; but notwithstanding these admissions, it was fully open to the House—nay more, it was the duty of the House—if they should find, that any of these arrangements did in fact counteract the purposes of the Reform Bill, which was to amend the representation of the people, and not to destroy it—to correct any erroneous arrangement which might have such effect, and he trusted to be enabled to do so on the present occasion. The borough of Old Stamford contained about 6,000 inhabitants, and from 400 to 500 10l. houses. The real number of 10l. houses was 496; however, he would let the number be as stated by the Commissioners 400. It had in either case, an ample constituency, considerably exceeding the number required. The township of St. Martin, which the House would always remember was in the county of Northampton on the opposite side of the river, and in every respect totally distinct from Stamford, contained only 1,200 inhabitants, and, according to the Commissioners' Report, sixty 10l. 970 houses. Now, when it was considered that by far the greater number of these houses—indeed, the whole of the parish, with the exception of some five and twenty acres—belong to the Marquess of Exeter—when it was recollected, that after two severe contests, which excited great interest and attention throughout the country at the time, he (Mr. Tennyson) only obtained a majority of fifty voters—and if his opponent had not resigned, and the whole of the voters had been polled out, that majority would have been reduced to about thirty or thirty-five—when the House considered these circumstances, he hoped it would, at least, pause before it consented to the addition of the parish of St. Martin. It was quite unnecessary to observe that the addition of this village—for it really was nothing more than a well-built village in Northamptonshire—was superfluous for the objects of the Bill, for there was a sufficiently large constituency already existing. It was equally obvious, that if such addition were made, the Marquess of Exeter might hereafter choose—as he had heretofore, in all times past, chosen, until the election of 1831—the members for Stamford. The interests of St. Martin's were not such, individually, as to require any representation beyond that which it obtained as a portion of the county of Northampton; but even if it did, they would not procure for it, adding it to Stamford, such Representation, for the inhabitants being chiefly Lord Exeter's tenants, they had not, and would not be permitted to exercise, any will of their own. But, by thus adding it to Stamford, they would deprive that town of the power—the ancient right—lately, at the price of so much suffering to the inhabitants, recovered—of sending its own representatives to Parliament. Under the pretext of giving Representation to St. Martin's, which would not be achieved, Stamford would be robbed of the Representation it possessed. He understood, that his noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, if he (Mr. Tennyson) should fail in excluding the entire parish of St. Martin, proposed to contract the boundary, so as to include only that portion of it which had been pointed out by the Commissioners for the option of the Government, who, in the first instance, determined to add the whole parish. The whole parish contained 776 acres, including a great portion of the park of the Marquess of Exeter, and other ground belonging to him. This park and 971 some other territory was to be omitted, but still the whole of that part of the parish which was now built upon was to be included and a considerable district of ground also which the Commissioners stated would leave space for a much larger and more populous community than the parish of St. Martin's now contained. So, my Lord Exeter would not only have the benefit of the buildings which now existed, but might, add to their number at his pleasure, and might also raise the small tenements in St. Martin's to 10l. holdings, by means of 600 or 700 acres of land which he possessed in Stamford; thus he might increase his interest to an immense extent, if it were necessary. But it was unnecessary—for the buildings already included, even in the contracted boundary, would, as effectually as the addition of the whole parish, enable the noble Marquess to command the Representation of the borough of Stamford in all future times. It should be observed, that this was the only side of Stamford on which any new buildings could be erected; for Stamford was girt round on all other sides by open fields and commons, over which the Marquess of Exeter was Lord of the Manor; and he had contrary to the anxiously-repeated wishes of the inhabitants constantly refused to consent to an enclosure, lest, by the creation of separate property, other parties should build houses there in opposition to his interest, and thus the borough be emancipated. Now the addition proposed on the other side of the borough was given to the Marquess of Exeter alone, and he could build houses to a great and overwhelming extent. He believed his noble friends imagined that in adhering to this arrangement, they were following up and acting upon some general rule which they had established. He had looked through the instructions to the Commissioners with some anxiety, but had been unable to discover any such general rule, as applied to boroughs having more than 300 10l. houses. It was true such a rule might be a good one—it might be wise and reasonable and expedient to proceed upon the general principle of adding districts of towns adjacent to old boroughs, even if situated in another county: but yet if the application of such general rule to a particular case, instead of promoting the independence of the whole constituency, and contributing to the freedom of election, should, on the contrary, altogether destroy both, and thus counteract 972 the express object and design of the Reform Bill—then an exception ought to be made in such a case. But, he could find no case whatever—perhaps, if there was one his noble friends would point it out. He was not aware of any case in which, for the sake of adding to a borough with a sufficient, or even an insufficient, constituency, his Majesty's Ministers had crossed a river, and gone into another county. The only case in which the circumstances were analogous to this, the only case which formed a parallel to it, which he had been able to discover, was that of Windsor. Windsor contained 7,000 inhabitants; it was joined to Eton by a bridge over the river Thames, which separated the two towns; and, that the parallel might be complete, Windsor was in the county of Berks, and Eton in the county of Buckingham. The township of Eton, which was as much connected with Windsor as that of St. Martin was with Stamford, contained 3,500 inhabitants; whereas the number of inhabitants in St. Martin was only 1,200. How had his Majesty's Ministers acted with regard to this parallel case of Windsor and Eton. Had they united the two places for the purpose of Representation? No such thing; and why not? He should like to hear from his noble friends, why, when upon the general rule or principle which they assumed they added St. Martin to Stamford, they had not also added Eton, with more than double the population of St. Martin, to Windsor? He was totally at a loss to discover any reason for the different treatment of these two cases. The reason given by the Commissioners, indeed, appeared substantively and substantially to be a very good one. They said, 'The respectable character and appearance of the town of Eton, and the very natural similarity of interests which arises from the continuity of two such towns, are reasons why it might, under some circumstances, be considered advisable to extend to Eton the privilege of 'the elective franchise; now here is the reason; but as Windsor has, without such addition, 778 houses worth 10l., the boundary line proposed does not include Eton.' Why did not his noble friends say the same thing in the case of Stamford; and when they found that it contained 400 or 500 10l. houses, equally decide that the boundary line should not include the township of St. Martin? If Eton had been added to the town of Windsor, there would have been no in- 973 terest introduced by such a proceeding that would have crushed the independence of the electors of Windsor. On the contrary, such an addition would have thrown into that town a body of independent voters, who might possibly have relieved them from the operation of certain influences to which they might be exposed. His right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland and member for Windsor, might perhaps be able to give some information on this point. But in the case of Stamford, the addition was made in direct contradiction to the principle upon which the addition was avoided in the case of Windsor; and moreover, the addition of the township of St. Martin must for ever crush and absolutely annihilate the independence of the electors of Stamford—that independence, for which its patriotic and noble-minded inhabitants had fought so magnanimously, and at sacrifices which in a peculiar manner entitled them to justice, at least, if not to favour. He could not avoid remarking upon the extreme absurdity, that in a Bill which professed "to amend the Representation of the people"—in a measure which affected to retain certain boroughs, because they were fit to enjoy Representation—any borough so retained should, by the new arrangements effected in the measure itself, be gratuitously and wilfully placed in such a situation as to be deprived of the Representation it before enjoyed, and become a nomination borough! If such an effect in the present case, formed a single exception to the general operation of the Reform Bills, the House ought to prevent any such exception, by abandoning the new boundary now proposed. If there were more of such cases—the result of new boundaries and arrangements—then the country would very soon require a new Reform Bill, and a new schedule A. He trusted, however, that there would be no case so preposterous as this—no case where an open borough—especially one where the inhabitants had conquered its own freedom, after an admirable and arduous struggle, under circumstances of terror and persecution, and at a period when the effect was of even more importance to the kingdom at large than to themselves locally, would by the Reform which they had contributed to accomplish, be transformed into a complete nomination borough. Such however would be the effect at Stamford, if the House should not agree to his Motion, as must be perfectly clear to any man at all acquainted 974 with the town, and the circumstances connected with it. The electors of Stamford nobly exerted themselves on behalf of their country; they not only encountered personal oppressions, but it should be recollected that, being scot-and-lot voters, they consented, for the general cause of Reform, to return him to Parliament, although they knew he proposed to support a Reform Bill, by which the class to which the majority of them belonged would be deprived of their elective rights. They trusted that, at least, the constituency to be substituted in their places would be left an independent constituency: little did they dream that this magnificent promise of Reform, to which they were so largely sacrificing, would establish the new constituency under circumstances which would render its perpetual condition more abject than that from which they were then redeeming themselves. It was with feelings of grief, but not of despair—for they still looked with confidence to this House, that they found, after all they had undergone, after all the afflictions they had been compelled to endure—that their borough was to be eternally consigned to that same domination from which they naturally imagined they were for ever emancipated. Others had sacrificed to this great cause; private individuals had made large surrenders on the altar of their country; yet little did those who made sacrifices of this hind imagine, when they cheerfully, joyfully offered up boroughs over which they possessed the power of nomination, that the names, situations, and patrons of such boroughs would alone be changed! That other nomination boroughs, much more objectionable in principle than those which had been abolished, would be constituted—more objectionable because they were not paltry villages, or green mounds, but communities assumed to deserve and require Representation, and therefore retained for that purpose. He was aware that lie might appear to be an interested advocate, when stating his impression, that it would hereafter be impossible for himself, or any other independent man, to represent the borough of Stamford, if he failed in his present Motion. But he assured the House he was exclusively actuated now, as when he headed the electors of Stamford ill their successful struggle, by an anxiety to rescue for the people a portion of their inheritance; and that neither then, nor on any other occasion in the course of his public life, had he ever suffered himself to be influenced by private views, by personal 975 feelings, or self-interested motives. If the result should be, that the means by which he sat in that House should fail, and, no other offer to him, he should, at the dissolution of Parliament, retire from the political world into private life, and carry with him the sweet and lasting consolation, that, during his public career, he had done all in his humble power, and according to the best of his feeble judgment, to advance, and to establish upon a permanent foundation, the liberties and happiness of his country. Thanking the House for the indulgence which he had ventured to bespeak on behalf of his constituents, lie should move to leave out all the words after the word "Stamford" in the description of the boundary of that borough.
had been requested to second the Motion, but if he had not been requested, he should have done it most cheerfully on behalf of all the constituency of England. He would resist to the utmost of his power, an attempt like this, to frustrate the triumph of Reform. He opposed with reluctance those he was in the habit of supporting; but in this instance they appeared to oppose themselves. In the Borough, of Stamford there was a sufficient number of independent voters to entitle that place to retain its Members without adding St. Martin's to it, which would only expose them to a repetition of those harassing and degrading contests to which they had been long subject, and from which they had almost emancipated themselves. The proposed union was only calculated to deprive the electors of Stamford of the privileges they had long enjoyed, and most honourably exercised. He cordially supported the Amendment.
§ Lord Althorp
thought it was impossible that the committee could have acted otherwise than they had done with respect to Stamford. The rule upon which they had always acted was this—that whenever the bounds of the town extended beyond the limits of the borough, the whole town should be included in the borough. If they had done otherwise in this case, they would have done so only because the Marquess of Exeter had influence in the parish of St. Martin. To admit that as a reason would be contrary to every principle on which they had acted, or ought to act. The right hon. member would recollect, that in the course of some conversation last year, relative to the appointment of the commissioners, he suggested that those 976 gentlemen should not add St. Martin to Stamford, on account of the influence which the Marquess of Exeter possessed in that place, to which he (Lord Althorp) replied that it was totally impossible that the commissioners could take that circumstance into their consideration. No one who was acquainted with Stamford could pretend that St. Martin was not a part of the town. It was a trifling circumstance, perhaps, to mention, but the Inn at which persons changed horses in travelling through Stamford was actually in St. Martin. As he said before, the only ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman could pretend to justify the exclusion of St. Martin, was the influence possessed by the Marquess of Exeter in that parish; but that argument was so contrary to every principle of impartiality and justice, that he could not bring himself to support it. Upon these grounds, he thought that the House would come to a wrong decision if they should agree to the Motion. He would take care not to be a particeps criminis, and therefore should vote against it.
said, the Commissioners had departed from the principle to which the noble Lord had alluded, and he would vote in favour of the Motion, because he thought the electors of Stamford were hardly and unjustly treated by the arrangement made by the Commissioners.
Lord John Russell
said, that the reply which was given to his right hon. friend in the last Session of Parliament, and to which his noble friend had referred, was a sufficient answer to the insinuation contained in the latter portion of the hon. and gallant Member's speech. If the Government had acted upon the principle of inquiring what particular influence prevailed in boroughs, with a view of making it preponderate in some cases, and of weakening it in others, the Boundary Bill, instead of being a measure which they could recommend, would be a measure of as gross partiality as ever was proposed in Parliament. Putting aside the question of the Marquess of Exeter's influence, let them examine whether it were proper that the proposed addition should be made to Stamford. The rule upon which the Commissioners had acted was this, that all parts of a town, extending beyond the limits of the borough, should be added to the borough. The Commissioners found that the parish of St. Martin, though not under the municipal jurisdiction, was, in fact, 977 part of the town of Stamford, and was under the same regulations with respect to assessed taxes and militia. In Sudbury, and in many other cases, the Commissioners acted upon the principle which it was proposed to apply to Stamford. It was said that they had departed from this rule by not uniting Eton to Windsor. The case of Eton was anxiously considered by his hon. friend (Mr. Littleton) and Lieutenant Drummond, and they felt much difficulty as to what ought to be determined in this case; upon the whole, however, seeing that the constituency of Windsor was very numerous, and that Eton was a town of itself, and applied to the particular purpose of a College, it was thought better to make that an exception to the general rule. That was a satisfactory explanation of what appeared at first to 'be a discrepancy in these arrangements. If the House should agree to the Amendment, in order to counteract the influence of the Marquess of Exeter in the borough of Stamford, they would act upon a principle which he should be sorry to see introduced. He should certainly feel regret, if the arrangement proposed by the Bill should operate prejudicially to the interests of a body of men, whose independent conduct had acquired for them the respect of all the friends of liberty. This, however, was a consideration which they could not entertain, and, although he might lament the consequences, lie must adhere to the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. Wrangham
opposed the Amendment. He expressed his surprise at the new-born zeal of those who now objected to the influence of a Tory nobleman, though they had never found fault with the influence of a man of property when he was a Whig. The case of Sudbury was a case in point, and he thanked the noble Lord for admitting that the hamlet of Ballingdou was a part of Sudbury—a fact which he had in vain endeavoured to urge upon the noble Lords formerly, to prevent the unjust disfranchisement of Sudbury. He was sure that such discussions as the present were not very creditable to the House. He would support the arrangement made by the Commissioners, and vote for uniting St. Martin's with Stamford, because he thought they were more competent to effect a proper one than the House was.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 172—Majority 153.
|List of the AYES.|
|Blamire, W.||Paget, T.|
|Davies, Colonel||Rider, T.|
|Ellis, W.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Heneage, G. F.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Hoskins, K.||Tomes, J.|
|Howard, H.||Warburton, H.|
|Hunt, H.||Wood, J.|
|James, W.||Williams, W. A.|
|Moreton, Hon. H. G. F.||TELLERS.|
|Noel, Sir G.||Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C.|
|O'Connell, D.||Wilks, J.|
§ Mr. William Miles
could not allow the last opportunity which this debate afforded, to pass without pointing out to his Majesty's Government the hardship that would be inflicted upon the freeholders of that district which it was proposed to include within the boundaries of the city of Bristol for election purposes. If he should succeed in distinctly stating the case, he was convinced that his Majesty's Government would see the propriety of not disturbing the boundaries of Bristol at present well known and defined. The right of voting therein was very varied and extensive. Freeholds, however, situated in Bristol, gave only franchises for the city. By the Reform Bill which was last year rejected by the Lords, it was proposed to increase these freehold rights, and to permit the possessors to vote for the county of Gloucester or Somerset, according to the relative situation of their freeholds on either side of the river Avon, at present forming the geographical and natural division of the counties. That Bill, however, which had now become law, confined the freeholders to their ancient rights; and, although they had just cause to complain of the omission of that clause by which they would have been so greatly benefited, still no injustice had been committed, as, though the House had thought it advisable not to extend to them any additional privilege, yet it had not abstracted from them any possessed right. The case, however, assumed a very different aspect, when by this Bill a district of country, containing 33,304 inhabitants, was taken from the county of Gloucester, and a population of 12,032 persons from the parish of Bedminster, in the county of Somerset, and placed within the boundaries of the city of Bristol for election purposes. The freeholders of this extensive district, amounting, as stated on a former occasion by his hon. friend, the member for Bristol, to 2,000, would then become subject to the same election-law as was applicable to the freeholders of Bristol, and would be re- 979 stricted to the exercise of their franchise for the city alone. They could not, however, grant an equal participation in the elective rights for the city to the 45,336 persons thus abstracted from the county constituency as was enjoyed by the 59,034 persons now composing the population of Bristol, as of the former number, the freeholders and 10l. householders would alone possess the right of voting; whilst of the latter, in addition to these classes, freemen by birth and servitude, in perpetuity, and those by marriage, for life, if resident, at present forming by far the greatest portion of the constituency, would still participate in the electoral privilege. Thus the large body of inhabitants resident in the suburbs of Bristol would be deprived of a participation in county elections, which, with other freeholders, copyholders, and leaseholders, they would have equally shared, without granting to them equal privileges and rights with the constituency of that city to which it was thought necessary to transfer them. Whether or no it was politic as far as regarded the agricultural interest, that freeholders of large towns and their suburbs should participate in the county franchise, it would be useless now to inquire. It was determined to retain them all, and he therefore required only equal justice to all. Let it be recollected that very many of the freeholders to be added to Bristol, already possessed, by freedom, a right of voting for that city; so that such persons were actually deprived of a right possessed, without any equivalent, whilst to the freeholders of Manchester, Birmingham, and other favoured towns, should they occupy a 10l. house in addition to their freeholds, a participation in both town and county Representation was given. Whence this anomaly? Was the electoral body so small—were the qualifying tenements so few—in the city of Bristol, as to call for this large annexation of territory? By reference to the number of electors that polled at the contested election in 1830, it was ascertained that 6,338 exercised their rights on that occasion; if from this number the non-residents, stated as 1,200, were deducted, 5,138 would remain. Many persons had acquired their freedom since that period; and the Sheriff's return stated, that many freemen did not vote at that election: setting, however, these aside, as it was impossible with accuracy to ascertain the numbers, if to the 5,138 present electors were added the 10l. householders—and there were 550 qualifying tenements in 980 Bristol—henceforward, even in the city as at present constituted, there would be a sufficiently large electoral body to meet even with the approbation of the hon. member for Preston. The proposed enlargement of boundaries could not but prove, in the highest degree, prejudicial to the interests of Bristol, as, from the influence that the freeholders in the suburbs at present possessed in the elections of the adjoining counties, whenever a question affecting the welfare of the city was agitated in the House, the attendance of these county Members was generally insured, and thus was greater weight given to the opinions and representations of the city Members. Nothing was added to the independence of Bristol by this addition to the boundaries, whilst the western division of Gloucestershire was converted into nearly a close borough. The population of that division consisted of 119,513 persons; so that, by taking away the elective power from the 33,304 persons who were to be added to Bristol, between a fourth and fifth of the population was abstracted from the county constituency: the inevitable effect of this would be, to throw such great weight into the hands of a noble friend of his, as to give him an almost complete ascendency in the return of Members for that county. Not an inhabitant of the district that it was proposed to include within the boundaries of Bristol was qualified by the possession of his property either to share in the civic privileges, or to discharge any corporate office within the city. As parishes they maintained their own poor, paid county-rates to, and served as Jurors in, the counties of Gloucester and Somerset. In every way they were disconnected from the city to which they were to be allied; but civilly, criminally, and, in the case of Bedminster, ecclesiastically, connected with the two counties from which the Bill dissevered them. That the 10l. householders resident in the district to be added who neither now enjoyed, by freehold tenure, a vote for tile county, nor, by the possession of a freedom, one for the city—that they should be anxious for this annexation he could readily believe, as by such a proceeding they could alone be made participators in any election; but that the freeholders in a body were, and must be, opposed to the proposed boundaries, he was thoroughly convinced; indeed, the only evidence produced in the Report of the Commissioners of the desire of any body of persons for the connexion was this 981 —"That the inhabitants of the above enumerated parishes are said to be, in general, desirous of being considered as belonging to Bristol." But did it become the House, on mere hearsay evidence, upon a question of such deep interest to so large a body of freeholders, to come to a decision analogous to the report? He intreated the House to pause ere it sanctioned it with its approbation. All he asked was, that the freeholders should retain in those parishes, thus joined to Bristol, their present rights. He required no increase whatever to those rights, but called upon the Government—and in this case with confidence, as his appeal was alone to their feelings of justice—by assenting to his proposition, namely, that of allowing the present boundaries to remain unaltered, to confirm the privileges at present possessed by this large body of freeholders.
§ Mr. Littleton
could only say, that the same principle which had been applied with respect to the city of Bristol, had been applied much more extensively with regard to other places. He did not think, however, that it was a matter of importance what the nature of the franchise was in this instance, because the parties lose nothing. He knew that one of the Members for Bristol highly approved of the incorporation of these districts with that city. Certainly, it might be true that some dissatisfaction existed on the part of individuals; but this House had not any cognizance of that fact. The new population which it was now proposed to include within the boundaries of the city of Bristol was certainly identified in interest with the inhabitants of the old city, and it would have been extremely injudicious to lose this opportunity of combining them together in the Representation.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
said, it was very doubtful whether the arrangement was at all judiciously made. They were to take a population out of the county of Gloucester, and out of the county of Somerset, and connect them with the city of Bristol, with which they appeared to have no natural alliance. It was perfectly true that many of the persons in those districts were connected with Bristol in the way of trade; but to tell the House that they should, therefore, be united with that city in the Representation, was as reasonable as to say that all the inhabitants of the adjacent hundreds of Surrey should be thrown into the constituency for the county of Middlesex, simply because a great many 982 persons residing in those hundreds derived their means of subsistence from the county of Middlesex. This did not appear to be an argument at all satisfactory in support of the proposition. A great proportion of the persons connected with Bristol were decidedly opposed to the arrangement; and if this plan had been proposed with a view to conciliate their feelings, then the noble Lord and the lion. Gentleman had completely failed. But after the decided manner in which the noble Lord, on a firmer occasion, expressed his opinion upon it, it could not be worth while to divide the House upon the question.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Several verbal Amendments were agreed to, and the Bill passed.