§ Question put "that the Speaker do leave the Chair."
suggested, that as it had been agreed on the part of Government to introduce certain alterations into the registration clauses, it would be as well to have the Bill committed to-night, pro formâ, for the purpose of having the amendments printed, and with a view to take the whole, and he hoped conclusive, discussion, on Monday.
said, the alterations were neither so numerous nor material as to render it necessary to recommit the Bill; he, therefore, thought it better to proceed with the Committee.
§ House went into Committee.
§ The Chairman having put the question on that part of the 4th clause which renders the payment of Grand Jury and Municipal cesses, rates, and taxes, a condition of registration,
rose to move, that the words requiring, that not more than half a-year's cess and taxes be due at the time of registration be omitted. Such assessments were frequently matter of dispute, and the provision would hold out to Corporations an additional inducement to spend other people's money, at the same time that it armed them with an oppressive power of enforcing excessive and arbitrary assessments. The Corporation of Cork, for example, spent 70,000l. a-year of the people's money, and they would be encouraged to double their expenses if this 1168 clause, indirectly enforcing the payment, were allowed to remain unaltered. The clause would actually place the people at the mercy of the Corporations. He should move the omission of the words rendering the payment of Grand Jury and Municipal assessments a necessary qualification for registration.
denied, that there existed sufficient grounds for the alteration proposed by the hon. and learned Member. The restrictions adopted in Ireland, with a view to prove the solvency of voters, were less than in England, and the obstacles to registration fewer. In fact, in Ireland it was not necessary, as in England, that the person claiming to be registered, should have occupied his house more than a twelvemonth. In Ireland six months residence before the time of registration was all that was required, which was a great advantage.
§ Mr. Lefroy
thought the hon. and learned Member's objection to the clause perfectly unfounded. He would rather propose as an amendment, to substitute twelve calender months for six, as in the English Bill.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, the Irish voter stood in a more favourable situation than the English voter. He thought it by no means desirable to do away with this condition of registration; if it were abolished, they would have in many towns in Ireland, what would amount to Universal Suffrage. Corporations had no direct power of taxation: it was true they might obliquely tax through the instrumentality of Grand Juries, but to effect that, there must be a regular presentment, and fiat by a Judge, so that there existed sufficient obstacles against the abuses which the learned Member appeared to apprehend—add to which, the assessments were trifling in amount.
was aware Corporations could not legally impose assessments; but means might be found to lay on rates illegally, and the non-payment of such illegal rates would prevent registration.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, the words of the clause were, "cesses, rates, and taxes, due and payable," and the plain meaning of the expressions was "legally due."
§ Agreed to, and the clause amended accordingly.
moved, that the words after the word "all" in the clause he omitted. His object, he said, was, to guard against useless litigation, and prevent bribery, by letting the 10l. voters exercise their franchise, independent of the fact of their having paid municipal taxes. By the clause as it stood, they could not vote, unless they proved that they had paid "all municipal taxes;" and unless those taxes be specified, there would be no end to the disputes as to the taxes which were or were not municipal; and in the smaller boroughs Dungarvan, for example, with its 167 voters, there would be great temptations to bribery on the part of the candidate.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, no difficulty was imposed on the Irish voter which was not imposed on the English voter. The proof of having paid the municipal taxes would be the same in both cases. He should oppose the Amendment.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 21; Noes 59—Majority 38.
§ Clause agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Blackney, W.||O'Connell, D.|
|Browne, D.||O'Connor, Don|
|Chapman, M. L.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Godson, R.||Parnell, Sir H.|
|Grattan, H.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Grattan, J.||Tomes, J.|
|Hume, J.||Walker, C. A.|
|Hunt, H.||Wallace, T.|
|Hort, Sir J. W.||Warburton, H.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.|
|Leader, N. P.||TELLER|
|Mullins, F. W.||Sheil, R. L.|
§ On the fifth clause being read,
§ Mr. Dawson
moved, that persons possessing freeholds of 40s. in boroughs, and in cities that were counties of towns, should not have the liberty of voting as freeholders for the counties in which those towns and cities were situated. This alteration would but slightly affect any towns that were not counties of themselves, except those of Dungarvan and Mallow. The injustice, therefore, if there was any in the proposition, would be but small, while he thought it would be an act of justice to the counties, and would be but a fair set-off to the disfranchisement which had taken place with regard to non-resident voters in boroughs. If these voters were not disfranchised, he could tell the House, that fictitious votes would 1170 be easily created for the purposes of county elections. An instance of this was to be found in the town of Galway, where by one lease there were 200 freehold tenants created. The lease was a lease of what was stated to be 200 acres of ground, but it was so rocky and so stony, that when one of these 200 persons was asked if he thought his share was fairly worth 40s. a-year, he said, he believed that his share of ground that could be applied to tillage, would not be sufficient to form him a grave. There was another instance of the creation of fictitious freeholders in the same place, where Mr. Blake had, by a joint lease, created a number of tenants of some land of his, adjoining his residence, and had registered these tenants as freeholders. Of course there was not one of these persons who would not vote exactly as Mr. Blake might desire. In this manner there were no less than 921 persons in Galway who were what he might call fictitious freeholders. The whole constituency there was not more than 1,600, composed of 40s. freeholders and 10l. householders. From this statement it was plain that nomination boroughs were not entirely destroyed. If the hon. member for Mayo pleased—and he was sure the hon. Member would not please to do so—but if he did, he might make Galway as close a nomination borough as ever Old Sarum or Gatton had been; and yet, at this moment, Galway was about to receive the privilege of returning two Members to Parliament. Under these circumstances he should move, that the end of clause 5, by which the 40s. freeholders in towns were to have the right of voting in counties, should be omitted.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, he should oppose the proposition. He believed, that instead of the system being what the right hon. Gentleman had represented it to be, those instances which he had quoted were—if the right hon. Gentleman was not misinformed as to them; instances of abuse and exceptions to the system. If the right hon. Gentleman sought to get rid of the possibility of these abuses, and would propose a clause to destroy these votes if they were created, or to take away all the means of creating them, he (Mr. Rice) should most heartily support the proposition. He believed, however, that even that would be unnecessary; for there had been a Bill passed by an hon. friend of his, some years since, by which such a 1171 creation of votes was rendered illegal; and if a clear case of that sort were brought before him, he should know how to deal with it. The abolition of 40s. freeholders in counties had been the condition of granting Catholic Emancipation, and it ought not to be forgotten, that if this measure were extended to towns, it would abolish 1,000 electors in Cork, and more than 900 in Galway. The whole principle of the Bill before the House was to save existing rights, whereas the Amendment had for its object to destroy them. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson) on the strong and sudden horror he felt at the existence of nomination boroughs.
§ Mr. Dawson
begged to remind his hon. friend, that he had given up the rotten borough system ever since the first introduction of the Reform Bill.
Mr. Dominick Browne
concurred in all the observations which had been made by the right hon. member for Harwich (Mr. Dawson), respecting the unsoundness of the constituency of the town of Galway. He was sorry to say, that the independent electors of that town were swamped by the lowest rabble that existed on the face of the earth: but it was but fair to state, that these fictitious votes had been created as a balance to the non-resident freemen. As the franchise of the non-resident freemen was now taken away, he thought it high time to exclude the 40s. freeholders in towns from the right of voting.
§ Mr. Dawson
expressed his willingness to withdraw the Amendment provided some provision was introduced into the Bill for the purpose of guarding against the creation of fictitious votes.
did not consider such a clause necessary, because the Bill expressly declared, that only those legally entitled could vote. In Galway he knew the grossest frauds were practised, but he thought they might be put down by extending the Act introduced by the hon. member for Mayo to towns as well as counties. He was as much against fictitious votes as any man, and was ready to support any motion which would do away with them without injuring the bona fide voter. No one could complain of the 40s. freeholder in many parts of Ireland. The hon. member for Limerick knew, that many of them refused 5l. each, which they could have received from another, and voted for him without any remuneration.
thought it desirable to make a broad distinction between bona fide and fictitious voters; but he did not well see how the distinction was to be drawn. He had, therefore, thought it preferable to incur the inconvenience of allowing even fictitious voters to exercise the elective franchise during the lives of the present possessors, than to run the risk of taking away the right from bona fide proprietors. Still, if any provision should be proposed with the view of drawing a distinction between these two kinds of voters, he should be most happy to give it his fullest attention.
Sir John Bourke
would be glad to see the whole of the 40s. freeholders registered anew; and he thought, that after what had passed in that House, Magistrates would be upon their guard against permitting the registration of fictitious votes.
§ Mr. Lefroy
was in favour of the Amendment. It had been so amply proved by the hon. member for Kerry, and other Gentlemen, that the 40s. freeholders could not be independent, that he thought it was as gross an abuse to preserve them in towns as in counties.
§ Mr. Dawson
said, that after the proofs that had been adduced of the fictitiousness of the votes in question, he felt persuaded that the right hon. Secretary could not fairly object to giving those freeholders the opportunity of proving their competency to exercise the elective right.
was of opinion, that the manner in which the clause had been framed was sufficient to prevent the abuses anticipated by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Dawson
would withdraw his Motion; but hoped that the Solicitor General for Ireland would take the subject into consideration.
§ Amendment withdrawn—Clause agreed to.
§ House resumed, Committee to sit again.