stated, that the question before the Committee was, that Walsall (Staffordshire) should stand part of schedule D.
§ Mr. Croker
hoped the noble Lord (John Russell) would oblige him by stating the grounds on which it was proposed to include Walsall in schedule D.
Lord John Russell
The reason why his Majesty's Ministers proposed to enfranchise Walsall was, that it was a populous town in an important part of the 44 country, and contained a respectable constituency. This place was not in the first Reform Bill, but, in consequence of the representations made to Government on the subject, and as it appeared that an important branch of commerce was carried on in this place, and also because it furnished the elements of a good constituency, the Ministers were induced to give it representation. The right hon. Gentleman had asked a question, and he would endeavour to give the right hon. Gentleman a satisfactory answer. With reference to enfranchisement, he must state, that there were different grounds for giving Representation to different places, and, in some places, a number of reasons combine. These grounds, however, were principally three. One was, to give representation to important seats of trade and manufactures. Another reason was, that it was desirable to bind bodies of people to our institutions, to give them an interest in maintaining them, and to induce them to look to this House as a tribunal where their grievances would be heard and redressed. Another ground for enfranchisement was more general—that this House, as composed of the Representatives of the people, might be improved by the presence of men qualified to bear a part in the discussion of the various questions that might come before the Legislature. He thought it was clear, that those places deserved Representatives, where all those qualifications were combined. There were three places in particular which had these qualifications, and no Member of the House would says that they ought not to be represented—he meant Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham. They had large and intelligent constituencies, and were likely to send Representatives to the Legislature who would add to the respectability of the House, and to the benefit of the country. Some of the new boroughs had only two qualifications—for instance, peculiar trade and the elements of a good constituency. Now, Walsall fell within this class, and he did not see what objection could be urged against its insertion in schedule D.
§ Mr. Croker
was obliged to the noble Lord for his explanation relative to the grounds on which Representation should be conferred, but he must join issue with the noble Lord on this borough, and say, that Walsall had not any one of the qualifications which the noble Lord had stated. Was the noble Lord aware that 45 the new borough of Walsall was contiguous to, and indeed touched, the new borough of Wolverhampton?
Lord John Russell
knew that Walsall was near Wolverhampton, but was not aware that it touched that town. Walsall was entitled to a representative on account of its being a rich, populous, and thriving place.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that if the noble Lord would look to the map of Walsall, he would find, on its western boundary, a bridge, called County Bridge. By looking to the map of Wolverhampton, he would find that this same County Bridge was the extreme eastern point of that borough. The maps were on so small a scale, that he was not able to assert, that the two proposed boroughs did actually touch, nor for what length of space they bounded each other, but it was quite clear that they were contiguous, and that if not absolutely united, they were, for a considerable distance, only a few hundred yards asunder.
§ Mr. Croker
said, the Committee would see the importance of the point as he proceeded. They were forming new boroughs to represent particular interests. Now, it was admitted that the new borough of Dudley adjoined the new borough of Wolverhampton, and it was now admitted that Walsall also touched upon Wolverhampton. There were, therefore, three boroughs created in one particular district, contiguous to each other, all having the same interests, and not—if they were all put together and consolidated into one borough—of so much importance in population, as to be equal to one new borough in the north of Staffordshire, and another in Gloucestershire. If the principle adopted with respect to Stoke-upon-Trent and Stroud had been pursued in the case before the Committee, Walsall, Dudley, and Wolverhampton, ought to have formed one borough. If they had received two Members jointly, that would have been amply sufficient; but, as it was, the borough of Wolverhampton would have two Members, Dudley another Member, and Walsall a fourth, while places larger and more important than all three united, were to have but one. In the case of Stoke-upon-Trent, the borough would be seven miles long, 46 and he would undertake to say, that a parallelogram of that extent would include the whole of the three boroughs he had adverted to. Stoke-upon-Trent, too, was superior to Walsall in wealth and population. Walsall was neither rich, nor populous, nor thriving. The real population of Walsall was but 6,401, and it was by a mere trick and juggle that it was raised to the nominal population which it appeared to have. This he would explain more particularly by-and-by, he would only now observe, that it was by adding to the borough of Walsall proper, a separate township called the Foreign of Walsall—a course which had not been taken in any other instance—that the fictitious amount of population had been obtained. In the population returns, the borough or parish of Walsall, was carefully distinguished from the Foreign of Walsall. In the population returns it was called the parish of Walsall.
§ Mr. Croker
said, then the mistake was most extraordinary, for it occurred in the population returns of 1811, 1821, and 1831. In all of those returns, Walsall properly so called was kept entirely distinct from Walsall Foreign, which was a distinct township, and notwithstanding the hon. Baronet's local connexion, he would venture to assure him, and promise by-and-by to prove that, except for the purposes of the present Bill, the distinction between the two townships had never been confounded. He would, therefore, now assume, and, indeed, he supposed the noble Lord would concede to him that the borough of Walsall was distinct from the township called Walsall Foreign? Bearing in mind that distinction, the borough of Walsall, he again affirmed, had only a population of 6,401, the remainder of the population being made up of the Foreign, which, according to the noble Lord's arguments of the preceding evening, ought not to be included. The right hon. Gentleman then referred to the map of the borough of Walsall, and pointed out an error in the colouring, by which it appeared there was no distinction made between the borough' and the Foreign. The Commissioners, therefore, seemed to have purposely endeavoured to leave this important point in obscurity, though it was clearly for the explanation and elucidation of such points that they had been appointed, 47 Nor was that all: the Ministers had laid on the Table six several documents, or sets of documents, affording the statistical information on which the several boroughs had been selected. Now he had examined all these six sets of returns, and it was equally singular and true, that the six documents on which they had been called to legislate for Walsall were all different from each other. So various appeared to have been the tricks and contrivances to swell the importance of Walsall, that no two of the returns respecting that place agreed with each other. But, in addition to this, a report was called for last year, in which it was required that there should be given the populations of those boroughs which were to have Representatives; and it certainly was a most extraordinary circumstance, that, in that paper, Walsall happened to be the very borough, and the only borough, omitted. Of course this arose purely from accident: he was sure that it did. But, for all that, it certainly was most extraordinary that this unfortunate Walsall should be, as it were, the very seat and strong hold of all the clerical errors of the Bill. Occasional mistakes and confusion in so wide a question, and among so many returns, were, perhaps, excusable; but was it not a strange fatality that every possible mistake and confusion should have concentrated themselves in Walsall? But this case was altogether an anomaly, for it was the only instance in which a large rural district had been added to an ancient borough, containing the whole of the town, for the purpose of bolstering up the importance of the latter!
The district itself was also engaged in the same manufactures as the neighbouring boroughs of Dudley and Wolverhampton. But, if it was desirable to give another Representative to that interest, he contended that the proper spot had not been fixed on. In his opinion, if they must select a district in that neighbourhood for Representation, Walsall, with its Foreign, was not the fittest for selection; and, in order to show that, he begged to call the attention of the Committee to a cluster of towns in that immediate neighbourhood, which seemed to him to have a far prior claim to Representation. The places that he referred to were Darlaston, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, and Tipton, and these altogether did not cover a larger space of ground than the proposed 48 Walsall district, for they were all within one, two, and two and a half miles of each other. He begged leave to state particularly the population of these places, in order that Staffordshire and the country in general might know the—careless, he was about to have said, but perhaps he should better describe it as the careful sort of principle on which this Bill was framed. Darlaston, according to the returns, had a population of 6,647; Wednesbury, a population of 8,437; West Bromwich, a population of 15,327; and Tipton, a population of 14,952, making altogether a population of upwards of 48,000 inhabitants within a circle of five miles in diameter; whereas Walsall, within a wider extent of ground, had only a population of 15,000. Then, with respect to its being a flourishing place, what was the evidence? Walsall had increased only 1,200 inhabitants in thirty years, while Darlaston had doubled itself in the same period. Wednesbury had increased 4,000 in the same time, and Tipton and West Bromwich had both increased 10,000. [Sir John Wrottesley: Give us the two Walsalls together.] He would oblige the honorable Baronet. The two Walsalls together had increased 4,800, but the other places which he had mentioned also to him, together had increased 28,000 in the same time.
Perhaps it might be said, that Walsall was rich, and paid largely to the assessed taxes; and, as wealth and population must be taken together in deciding on the claims of a town, Walsall should be considered in that double view. To set, therefore, that point at rest, and in order to see what really was the fair condition and station of Walsall, he had taken a list of twenty-six boroughs, and made a calculation upon their population and assessed taxes, according to the plan of Lieutenant Drummond—the plan which the Ministers themselves considered as the best and fairest of all possible tests. And now he really thought the Committee would have some difficulty in believing him, that, of these twenty-six towns, it turned out that Walsall and Whitby held the lowest places of all. The fact was so surprising, that he would substantiate it by some explanation of the details, and would state the relative number that these twenty-six boroughs would hold in the scale, according to Lieutenant Drummond's plan, though he would not (as Lieutenant Drummond had thought proper to do) omit the lowest bo- 49 roughs, as not worthy of mention. No; he would begin with the very Old Sarum of the twenty-six,—the Old Sarum of the Reform Bill—Walsall? He begged further to say, that, in these calculations, he had proceeded upon the documents which had been furnished to the House by the noble Lords themselves, and, therefore, of course, there could be no doubt but that they were perfectly correct. This was the order in which they would stand, together with the numbers expressing Drummondice, their relative value:
This, then, was the situation which was held by Walsall, as compared with this list of towns.
Walsall 1,299 Mansfield 1,713 Whitby 1,314 Chelmsford 1,736 Ely 1,320 Trowbridge 1,759 Yeovil 1,365 Barnsley 1,902 Stourbridge 1,409 Kingston-on-Thames 2,021 Warminster 1,428 Alnwick 1,474 Loughborough 2,100 South Shields 1,487 Ramsgate 2,519 Newbury 1,497 Tunbridge 2,736 Congleton 1,535 Gosport 2,826 Bromsgrove 1,661 Doncaster 2,860 Penzance 1,679 Leamington 3,400 Stockton-on-Tees 1,707 Margate 3,508 Croydon 4,729
But the noble Lord would, perhaps, reply, that the neighbourhood had been added to Walsall; and, therefore, it was not fair to take the borough alone in this calculation. But, if so, he would ask, whether none of the places in the list he had just read had neighbourhoods? He had looked a little into that question, too, and he found, that if the neighbourhood of Croydon was taken, the population would amount to 20,000; if Margate and Ramsgate were united (and they were only two miles apart), the population would be 20,000; and, if the neighbourhood of Kingston-on-Thames was taken, the population would amount to 18,000, and so on, of almost every town in the list; add on both sides an equal extent of neighbourhood, and Walsall and Whitby will still remain at the bottom of the list.
But, he was now prepared to prove, as he had already stated, that, according to all the principles and practice of the Ministers themselves, this neighbourhood had no title whatsoever to be included in Walsall; and, if he did not prove to the satisfaction of the House, that the Foreign of Walsall ought not to be added to the borough, he was very 50 much deceived, and would, indeed, admit, if he failed in that, his case was altogether invalidated. Now, it happened that there were two other boroughs mentioned in these schedules which had Foreigns as well as Walsall; and they were Reigate and Kidderminster. Reigate, it was curious enough, had actually undergone disfranchisement, because the noble Lords refused to join the Foreign with the borough, and yet such a junction now was the very pretence alleged for giving a Member to Walsall. This fact had distinctly come before the House, by means of a right hon. friend of his having moved the addition of the Foreign to the borough of Reigate; and in answer to that motion, the noble Lord then contended that the addition ought not to be allowed, because the two districts were separate townships which had separate parish officers and separate poor's-rates. Now, this was exactly his statement with respect to the two townships of Walsall; and yet the Ministers found out, in this instance, that their own favourite position was unjust and untenable. According to the official return which he held in his hand, the borough and town of Reigate contained a population of 1,545 souls; and the Foreign contained a further population of 1,978; so that it was evident, that, had the union been allowed, Reigate could never have been placed as it had been, in schedule A; nor, if the same impartial rule had been applied, could Walsall have ever appeared in schedule D. He would now call the attention of the Committee to Kidderminster. According to the return made by the Commissioners, the old borough of Kidderminster, with a part only of the Foreign, was to constitute the new borough; so that, in this case, the Government clearly recognized the distinction between the borough and the Foreign, and did not lump the whole under one common denomination, as in the case of Walsall. But the case did not end here. Let them look at Doncaster; that town, according to the return, contained 10,893 inhabitants; but, in addition to the town of Doncaster, there was a place called the Soke of Doncaster, which was certainly quite as much a part of Doncaster as the Foreign was in the cases of Walsall, Reigate, and Kidderminster—being a sort of outlying district, over which the borough, he believed, exercised some sort of jurisdiction; the Soke of Doncaster 51 contained a population of from 1,300 to 1,700 inhabitants; but it had been excluded—and that exclusion afforded the only reason he could imagine—why Doncaster had not been selected as one of the boroughs to be enfranchised. So Riegate had been disfranchised, and Doncaster had been denied Representatives, on a rule which was broken through for the single purpose of giving a Member to Walsall. But, if the matter was merely taken as a parochial question, and if Ministers should pretend to say, that although Walsall was indeed divided into two townships, it was still but one parish, he could cite numerous towns where portions of the parish had been deemed inadmissible—such as Frome, Clithero, Guildford, and others, but perhaps the strongest of all these cases was Chatham, to which a portion of the parish of Gillingham was annexed, while another portion—for no reason in the world that he could understand—was discarded; and yet, with all these examples of their own making staring them in the face, the Ministers still insisted, in the case of Walsall, on infringing all their own rides, for the sake of extending the franchise to a place, the claim of which was infinitely inferior to that of many of the places which he had already specified.
But he had still more specific evidence to show that the borough and the Foreign of Walsall were distinct places, and he would prove it by reference to a book very well known in Staffordshire—he meant Shaw's history of that county. In the church-yard of one of the parishes in Walsall was an epitaph on a person of the name of Samuel Wilks, who appeared, like other persons of his name, to be a great stickler for the rights of the people. That epitaph was copied into Mr. Shaw's history, and was as follows:—"Reader, if though art an inhabitant of the Foreign of Walsall, know that the dust beneath thy feet was imprisoned in thy cause, because he refused to incorporate the Foreign of Walsall with the borough of Walsall. His resistance was successful. Reader, the benefit is thine." This epitaph onA village Hampden, who with dauntless breast The little tyrant of his fields withstood,placed beyond all doubt the separation between the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. Shaw went on to talk about the history of the place, and said, "the parish is large, but distinguished by two names—the 52 town part being called the Borough, and the county part the Foreign—each of which maintains its own poor, under its own parish officers"—the very point, be it remembered, which the noble Lord opposite dwelt upon as unanswerable in the case of Reigate. Shaw went on to state (what the Commissioners had chosen to omit) that the Foreign was a very large, rural district, containing, Bloxwick, Walsall Wood, and several other places, which, on looking at the map, he found contained six-sevenths of the whole united parish. He could not understand why, when in all the maps of other places there was a line distinguishing the boundaries of the town from those of the Foreign, there was not this distinction marked in the map of Walsall.
The noble Lord had said, that his third reason for giving Walsall a Representative was, that it was a rich and thriving place—that it possessed the materials of a most respectable constituency, and that there could be no doubt of its sending an able and weighty Representative to the great council of the nation. Now he remembered the time when Gatton and Old Sarum both returned able and weighty Members to that House, and when Mr. Wilberforce, fatigued with the Representation of Yorkshire, and Mr. Canning, overpowered with that of Liverpool, sought refuge, the one in the close borough of Bramber, and the other in that of Harwich. And yet these boroughs were to be disfranchised, notwithstanding the very able and weighty Representatives whom they had returned to Parliament. It would be ludicrous, if indignation did not suppress all lighter feelings, to observe that there is not, by a strange coincidence, one excuse for enfranchising Walsall, which might not be with truth alleged in favour of other places most partially and unjustly either disfranchised, or denied representation. But let the Committee see whether the historian of Staffordshire gave to Walsall the same flourishing character which the noble Lord had given it. Shaw, the historian of Staffordshire, who published his work in 1801, speaks thus kindly and affectionately of this most wealthy, thriving, and respectable place:—"Being tinged with the smoke of manufacturing industry, this town has been looked upon with ignominy and contempt, and though it has been improperly decried and little noticed," (it has at last got notice enough, and a crown of glory that 53 will long be remembered) "it surely deserves to be better known. For"—and he would give every Member of the House leave to guess what the for was,—"for, as we have seen in its history, some of the most eminent men in the kingdom were Lords of the Manor." That was all that the historian—the friend and favourer of Walsall, could say in its behalf—the reason, the sole reason, that the defender of Walsall could give, why it should not be treated with utter "ignominy and contempt—" namely, that it was not utterly to be despised, because George Duke of Clarence had been five hundred years ago, in possession of the Manor. He could not but suspect that it was to its Lords of the Manor, that Walsall was in all times destined to owe the consideration it received. Did a place, which had been described in these terms in 1801, and which had only received an increase of 1,200 inhabitants since that time—which was looked upon with ignominy and contempt thirty years ago, and which now only paid 1,100l. assessed taxes—did such a place, he asked, require to have a Representative, when there were many more respectable places with infinitely higher claims to the elective franchise all around it? If they gave a Representative to Walsall, the claims of twenty other places—Ramsgate and Margate, Doncaster, Croydon, Ely, for instance—for a similar privilege would be irresistible; not to mention the very superior claims of Toxteth Park, and Merthyr Tydvil. He would say, then, let Walsall be omitted from this schedule, and let the franchise be given to that one of the towns he had mentioned, which might appear the most deserving of it, by having in the highest degree those various claims, none of which—except, perhaps, the interest of the Lord of the Manor—Walsall possessed.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, that he had resided in Staffordshire all his life, and had hitherto believed that he knew the county well: but the description which the right hon. Gentleman had given on that and a former night, of different places in Staffordshire with which he (Mr. Croker) professed himself particularly well acquainted, appeared to him (Sir John Wrottesley) so extraordinary, that he scarcely knew whether he was in his senses or not. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman talk of the deserted village of Bilston—
§ Sir John Wrottesley.
.—Well, be it so. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman talking of the village of Bilston and the rural district of Sedgeley, he was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman must have travelled over that part of the country without gaining much knowledge respecting it. In Bilston he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would find nothing that would give any idea of "sweet Auburn," however fond of poetry the right hon. Gentleman might be. In place of a deserted village, he would find a large market-town, in the parish of Wolverhampton, with which it was to be connected in the new Representative system, filled, not with trees and waving foliage, but with long chimnies and smoking steam-engines. The time was also beyond his memory, when Sedgeley was a rural district. The right hon. Gentleman would find there no mossy fountains, no bubbling brooks; the only thing at all like them which he would find there would be the torrents of boiling water which the steam-engines perpetually discharged. The right hon. Gentleman had founded the whole of his argument upon the idea that the foreign and the town of Walsill were distinct. Now they were contiguous, and indeed united with each other, for the brook which ran through the centre of the town divided the borough from the foreign of Walsall. The population of the borough and the foreign, when taken together, amounted to more than 15,000 souls, and that was, in his opinion, a sufficient reason for giving that place a Representative. The right hon. Gentleman had said, astutely enough, that if it could be proved that the borough and foreign of Walsall were united, he would admit that his argument was invalidated. Now if the right hon. Gentleman could show that the borough and foreign of Walsall were distinct, he (Sir John Wrottesley) would immediately give up the claim of Walsall to a Representative; for he would not claim the franchise for a population of 6,000 persons, when there were so many boroughs with a larger population still unrepresented. The town and foreign of Walsall was an ancient jurisdiction; and the Commissioners distinctly stated, that wherever they found an ancient jurisdiction, they did not interfere with it. It was also a corporate town: it had its mayor, aldermen, and recorder— 55 the last office being filled by a gentleman who was formerly the leader on his circuit, and who would not have accepted the office, if Walsall had been an inconsiderable place. The charter itself must have been a very old one, for it was renewed as long since as the reign of Charles 1st; and though the two divisions were made distinct some years ago, for the purpose of having separate poor-rates, he took it that it was in commemoration of that one point of separation only that this monument had been raised to the right hon. Gentleman's "village Hampden." But the right hon. Gentleman said, that Darlaston, and the other three towns that he had connected with it, had a better claim to Representation, on account of the increase in their population. But those places had not so good a claim as Walsall, for they were chiefly mining districts, and it might be said that nearly the whole distance from Birmingham to Wolverhampton—a line of thirteen miles—was one continuous town; and with respect to West Bromwich, on which the right hon. Gentleman had so much relied, it was not even so much as a market-town, but, from its situation, had chiefly become the site of many villa residences for the inhabitants of Birmingham. The principal question, however, for consideration was, what sort of a constituency would Walsall yield. He was convinced that it would be a highly respectable one; as from the Returns of the Commissioners, it appeared that it contained 800 10l. houses,—Schedule D containing only two other boroughs with 800 10l. houses, and seven with a smaller number. He knew the place so well, that he was prepared to contend that it was both a thriving and populous place, and that more respectable houses had been built within it during the last few years than in any borough of the same magnitude. Further he could by no means agree with the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, that Wolverhampton, Walsall, and Dudley, ought to have been formed into one district of boroughs, as the towns in the potteries were, he would maintain that the relative importance of those districts fairly entitled them to separate franchise; besides which, it was notorious that Wolverhampton, Walsall, and Dudley, from manufacturing different articles of iron, had different interests to promote; whereas the towns in the potteries were all engaged in the 56 same manufacture, and had therefore a community of interests. Then, again, with regard to the population of Staffordshire. The population of Staffordshire, by the last census, was 410,000. The number of Members which it was to return was sixteen, that was to say, eight for the northern and eight for the southern division of the county. This gave one Member to every 25,000 persons in the county, whilst in Dorsetshire, to which the hon. Member for Corfe Castle wished to add another Representative by transferring the franchise from Walsall to the Isle of Purbeck, there was already one Member to every 11,000 persons. That appeared to him to be another strong reason why Walsall should enjoy the elective franchise. He would not follow the right hon. Gentleman further through his hour-and-a-half speech—a speech which had touched upon almost every subject except that in debate, and of which the argument, if not the substance, might have been compressed into a quarter of an hour with ease. He had merely risen to vindicate the claims of Walsall to one Representative, and having done that, he hoped, he should sit down.
§ Mr. Croker
said, there appeared, after all, no further difference between the hon. Baronet and himself, than whether the foreign and borough of Walsall were distinct or connected places. The hon. Baronet had not disproved a single argument he had advanced, and the hon. Baronet, in order to find matter for censure, had been obliged to refer to a speech of his delivered on a former occasion. He was, however, quite prepared to justify the language which he had used on a former evening, when he called Bilston a village. He knew that Bilston contained a large population, but still, as it was not a continuous town, and had no corporation, no local limits, no separate magistracy, it was, properly speaking, only a village. He had called Bilston a village in the same manner as people spoke of the Hague, as being the largest village in Europe. In speaking of the district of Sedgley as a rural district and a scattered population, he only followed the example of the boundary Commissioners themselves, who admitted that such was its precise character. It was densely inhabited no doubt, as all the coalition districts were, but it did not comprise anything that could truly be called a town. He now begged 57 to call the attention of the House to the declaration of the hon. Baronet, that if he (Mr. Croker) could prove that the town and foreign of Walsall were distinct, he (Sir John Wrottesley) would withdraw his support from the proposition then before the Committee. Now, he (Mr. Croker) had it luckily in his power to produce a solemn decision of the Court of King's Bench, to show that such a distinction between them existed in law; and that solemn decision was to be found in 2 Barnwall and Alderson. It was the case of "the King v. the Inhabitants of Walsall." He would not trouble the Committee with reading the argument in this case; but the judgment of the Court was as follows:—The Court is called upon to unite the two townships of Walsall and Walsall foreign, which, as far back as human memory could go, have been in all respects, and for all purposes, separate and distinct; and, indeed, the documentary evidence carries the separation back for a century and a half. Every circumstance that could possibly exist to show that these were distinct townships for all purposes is found in this case."—If this was not an unanswerable proof; he knew not what was—and he accordingly expected the hon. Baronet would, agreeably to his recent pledge, withdraw his advocacy of the new borough of Walsall. He, Mr. Croker, had performed his part of the contract, by proving the distinction to have existed at least for a century and a half, and as he thought the argument of the Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, was better than anything he could say, he should not acid one word to recommend it.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
said, they were only separate townships for the purpose of the poor-rates, and that they were not otherwise distinct.
§ Mr. Croker
admitted, that the question on which the decision he had just read was given, rose in the course of a dispute about the poor-rates. But be it recollected, that in the case of Reigate, the foreign was excluded, on the very ground as urged by the noble Lord opposite, that the townships were separate for the purpose of poor-rates. But the case did not rest there: for the Lord Chief Justice said, that the two townships were distinct "in all respects" and "for all purposes."
§ Sir John Wrottesley
In making that assertion, the right hon. Gentleman has 58 defeated his own object by endeavouring to prove too much. The two townships are not distinct for all purposes, for the jurisdiction of the borough of Walsall extends over the foreign of Walsall.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that the hon. Baronet in endeavouring to escape from the pledge he had so rashly given, was forced to make some unfortunate assertions. In the first place, it was not he (Mr. Croker) who "proved too much," but the Lord Chief Justice of England whose words he had literally quoted; but in the next place, the question of jurisdiction, under which the hon. Baronet was now endeavouring to shelter himself, proved nothing at all; for nothing was so common in almost every corporate town in England, as to have separate parishes under one jurisdiction. Would the hon. Baronet pretend, that the fifty or hundred parishes of which London consisted, were not separate parishes, because they were under the same municipal jurisdiction? And he must, moreover, remind the hon. Baronet, that in the case of Appleby it had been distinctly laid down, not only by the noble Lords, the framers of the measure, but by the hon. Baronet himself, that the law of jurisdiction should not regulate the law of boundary, and he protested against a departure, in the case of Walsall, from that principle which the Ministers had so obstinately maintained on every other occasion.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, the borough of Appleby was below the scale by 200 or 300 in the line of population, in consequence of the rule being applied to it, that a co-existing jurisdiction was to have no weight, but that rule was clearly violated in the present case, for the borough and foreign of Walsall were distinct for all but municipal purposes; and, therefore, he should, in consistency, support the proposition of his right hon. friend. He was of opinion Walsall had no claims to be inserted in schedule D.
§ Mr. George Bankes
expressed his intention of persevering in the Amendment, of which he had given notice—to substitute the Isle of Purbeck for Walsall, and he hoped to succeed in satisfying the House that it had some claims to a favourable consideration. There was not one of the reasons which he had that night heard given which did not appear to him strong in favour of the claims of Purbeck, and weak and insufficient for those of Walsall. If 59 they drew a circle in the neighbourhood of Walsall, the radius of which was nine miles, they would find that it included seven places returning Members to Parliament; whereas if a circle of ten miles radius were drawn around Purbeck, there would not be found within its limits one place returning Members to that House. It was understood to be one of the principles of the Bill, that counties which contained a population of 150,000 should have four Members. Now, by the census of 1831, Dorsetshire was shown to contain 3,400 more than Cumberland; yet four Members were given to that county, and refused to Dorsetshire, though now there were twenty-three Members more to be disposed of than under the former Bill. He was aware that it might be objected to his proposition that it went to augment the influence of an agricultural district; but that he would answer by saying, that the place was not without somewhat of a manufacturing character; at least its clay pits and its quarries afforded extensive employment to capital and labour distinct from the mere cultivation of the soil. Purbeck was twelve miles long, and seven broad. It was like the Isle of Wight, though not so large. To give it a Member would be strictly conformable to the principles of the Bill, which had in several cases added places to boroughs to enable them to keep their Members. He could speak particularly of Pool, which had received several districts on both sides of it to make it worthy of retaining its Members. The additions to Pool would give one individual, he had heard, great influence in the elections for that place. Wareham, by including three or four parishes, could only raise 164 electors. He felt gratified that he had, on a former occasion, stood up for Wareham and Dorchester, when the Members for the former had given it up, and both of which were now preserved, though both had formerly been excluded, against his representations, by large Ministerial majorities. The peculiar interests of Purbeck which required representation, were a large export trade of fine clay, which was useful in the potteries and its stone quarries. It was the great magazine, of the stone peculiar to this region, in the transport of which not less than 1,000 ships were annually employed, with a tonnage of 50,000 tons, navigated by 5,000 seamen constantly engaged both in the winter and summer months in that species 60 of coast navigation which was so eminently desirable to keep up in contemplation of the possibility of a war. Compare this with the borough of Tavistock, and the latter must shrink into insignificance, for Tavistock was not to the extent of one half the borough district. Upon the whole of the case, he would contend that this was a district which ought, in right of its population, its staple, and its support of the navigation of the country, to have a Representative. Comparing the case of Curie Castle to the favoured borough of Tavistock, he would observe, the former possessed 278 constituents, Tavistock but 37. Yet the noble Lord proposed to disfranchise the 278, in preference to the 37, on the vague grounds of charge that Corfe Castle was a nomination borough, withdrawing also his attention altogether from the controlling influence so effectually exercised by a particular family in almost all elections for the borough of Tavistock. To effect these objects, the noble Lord at one time included within the district the old walls of a borough, and at another time excluded the living population of the place. By giving a Member to Purbeck, the noble Lord would only do justice, and establish a better balance than at present between the manufacturing and agricultural interests. The population of Purbeck was nearly 7,000, which was more than several places, which under the Bill, would return two Members. He was encouraged by the examples of Wareham and Dorchester, to hope, in the third or fifth edition of the Bill that Purbeck be included. He was sure that it deserved a Member more than Walsall. He should move that Purbeck be substituted for Walsall.
§ Mr. Croker
stated, that it was his intention to move that either Merthyr Tydvil, Toxteth Park, or Croyden, which were all or each of them, in right of their population or importance, as well entitled as many boroughs in the excepted schedule to Representatives, should receive a Member, and Walsall not be placed in the schedule. They had better take the question of Walsall first, and it would be open to his hon. friend to move a different appropriation of the Member after he had been taken away from Walsall.
§ Mr. George Bankes
said, be should leave the matter to the discretion of his right hon. friend, as the Committee might hereafter take into consideration the case of these claimants.
§ Mr. Littleton
expressed his surprise that it should be proposed to take a Member from Walsall and give it to a place in a county more gorged with Members than any other, Dorsetshire would have one Member to 11,000 inhabitants, while Yorkshire had only one to 36,000, and Chester only one to 33,000. He never heard any mistake during the progress of this Bill greater than that committed by his right hon. friend (Mr. Croker). The foreign of Walsall was as completely part of the borough as the town itself. The district in which it was situated contained a population of 300,000. The Assessed Taxes were not large, but the importance of a place of this kind ought to be calculated in the inverse ratio of the Assessed Taxes. Walsall was said to have only 6,000 people, but, in fact, it was considerably more. Including the foreign of Walsall, which was as much part of Walsall as the town north of Oxford-street was part of the metropolis, it contained 15,000 inhabitants. In point of population it was superior to Ashton and Whitby; but, in respect to 10l. houses, it was superior to Bury, and several other towns. In fact, it was a thriving, flourishing, and wealthy town.
§ Mr. Cressett Pelham
did not see why the population of the county of Essex should not be represented as well as the population of the county of Stafford.
§ Lord Granville Somerset
said, the arguments of the hon. member for Staffordshire would have had much more force if applied to other places. He must be permitted to remind him, that he was silent when the claims of Merthyr Tydvil were advocated, although that place had a much larger population than he claimed for Walsal, including the foreign of Walsall. Glamorganshire had only one Member to every 31,000 inhabitants, while Staffordshire had one to about 24,000. Walsall, too, was surrounded by places sending Members to Parliament, while Merthyr Tydvil was at a distance from any other borough. All the tests which proved the prosperity and thriving condition of a town applied much more forcibly to Merthyr Tydvil. Merthyr Tydvil was as important, from the species of nails manufactured there, as Walsall was for saddlery.
§ Mr. Littleton
assured his noble friend that the nail trade in Staffordshire gave employment to 40,000 persons.
§ Walsall, was accordingly placed, in the schedule.
§ The next question was, that Whitby stand part of schedule D.
§ Mr. Croker
observed, that the town of Whitby was an exception to the general rule. Neither on account of its population or its taxes was it entitled to a Member; and he might, therefore, ask with some surprise, upon what ground it was that his Majesty's Ministers proposed to make Whitby an exception? As he understood the case, the only ground of exception was, that Whitby had peculiar shipping interests which it was desirable should be represented. He was not ignorant that Whitby was a shipping port, and, as he stated the other night, he lamented that its shipping was not greater than it actually was, for that shipping was employed in a very useful trade, both as respected commerce and the increase of our commercial power. The shipping interest was amply represented by the Members for the Tyne and Wear, and the Members for Bristol, Liverpool, Hull, and Scarborough, &c. As a place of great intrinsic consequence, it was still less entitled to a Member; for, in the first place, though the tonnage of the ships was greater than the tonnage of the ships of Dartmouth, yet Dartmouth had a greater number of ships at sea than the port of Whitby. Every other place that he had examined, every other town or district had been following the general advance of the country, and was now in a superior situation with regard to population than it was ten years ago. But what was the case as to Whitby? He was sorry for it, he wished it were otherwise, but the truth was, Whitby was rather in a state of decay than otherwise. He found, by the population returns of 1821, that Whitby and the two towns added to make the borough, had then a population of 11,249. The present population of Whitby, and the other two boroughs, was 10,299 only, being 1,011 less than it was ten years ago. No other borough had come under the consideration of the House in which there had not been a considerable increase. However, after the recent decision of the House, he would not again give them the trouble to divide. This appeared to him to be a strong case; he saw no reason why it should be made an exception to the general rule.
§ Mr. Schonswar
said, he was prepared to maintain that Ministers acted wisely in giving this place a Member, in consequence of its shipping interest. It was peculiarly a shipping port, the only manufacture being that of ships, which, during the war, were employed in the transport service. He was sorry to say, that, during peace it declined. Still, however, it contained a large capital, and there was a great deal of shipping built there. Though a little depressed now, that was no reason why it might not revive hereafter.
also contended, that the importance of the shipping trade of Whitby, although it was not so great as formerly, entitled it to a Representative. It had above 10,000 inhabitants, and he believed there were between three and four hundred 10l. houses, so that there could be no complaint of a want of a sufficient constituency. Some hon. Members had urged that the interests of Whitby would be adequately represented by the places in its vicinity, but they would find that there was no represented place nearer than Malton or Scarborough, and their interests were very different.
certainly did not expect, among the many inconsistencies and anomalies he had heard of in connection with the Bill, to find it at last argued that a place was entitled to a Representative because its commerce and population were declining, and yet this was precisely the argument of the two hon. Members who had just spoken in favour of the enfranchisement of Whitby. There was not, however, a single point urged in favour of the enfranchisement of Whitby, which did not apply in the strongest manner against the disfranchisement of Dartmouth. In this case, the town on both sides of the river were taken in, while, in the case of Dartmouth, the town on one side of the river was entirely excluded. What could be more unfair in such a case, than to take away one of the Representatives of Dartmouth to give it to Whitby, when Dartmouth paid treble the amount of the duties paid by Whitby? He was the more persuaded that Dartmouth should not have been deprived of its Member, because its intimate connection with the fisheries of Newfoundland, rendered it the peculiar representative of that most important branch of our trade. At the time, too, when they were making an arrangement which precluded the colonies from enjoy- 64 ing the privileges of having a Representative in the Legislature, it was imperative on the House to take care that those places which were connected with them should not be wantonly or unnecessarily deprived of their privileges.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, the argument of his hon. friend had not been fairly represented by the right hon. Gentleman. The claim made by him on behalf of Whitby did not rest upon the declining state of the place, but upon its possessing great local importance, as connected with the shipping and commercial interests. He admitted that it had, from causes of a temporary nature, undergone a diminution of prosperity, but that temporary depression was no reason for depriving it of the advantage of being represented.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
said, if he were not acquainted with the subject before the House, he should have imagined, from what the noble Lord had said, that this question was, whether Whitby should be disfranchised. The noble Lord said, the House ought to take the melancholy situation of Whitby into consideration; and to consider that she would soon rise from her present depression, and, therefore, she ought not to be deprived of Representation. But was she now in a situation to receive the boon to be granted her. How the noble Lord, who had voted so frequently for disfranchisement under circumstances so exactly similar to those of this particular case, without inquiring whether or not the disfranchisement proceeded on just grounds, could come to the vote which he intended to give on this occasion, he was at a loss to conceive. Numerous places had been disfranchised in the census of 1821, without inquiring whether, since that period, they had increased in wealth and prosperity; and now, at the very last moment, the noble Lord had found out that a place ought to be enfranchised, because, though it was now in a state of decay, it might, hereafter, return to a state of prosperity. This case afforded as good an illustration of the consistency of the arguments which were advanced in favour of Reform as any that had yet come under the consideration of the House. The Bill disfranchised Dartmouth upon the very same ground, in every respect, as that on which it was proposed to enfranchise Whitby. Was there a single argument urged in favour of enfranchising Whitby, which had not been previously ad- 65 vanced in favour of disfranchising Dartmouth? Had not Dartmouth ships, and commerce, and great interests? Did she not represent the marine of England? Would not the shipping interests be represented by her Representatives? Had she not been, and was she not now, in a flourishing and prosperous condition? And yet, under all these circumstances, the noble Lord, finding Dartmouth in actual possession of Representation, would not allow those reasons to weigh in favour of its retaining its Representation, which he would advance and act upon for the purpose of giving Whitby a Member. The same reasons too, were urged for the disfranchisement of Reigate, as for the enfranchisement of Walsall. Some reason ought to be given for the mode of proceeding which his Majesty's Ministers had adopted with regard to disfranchisement. Nobody had, throughout these discussions, abstained more from accusations of this description than he had, but he could not help noticing the absurdity of these proceedings, though he was not in possession of any facts which would justify the charge of partiality. [Hear! hear!] The right hon. Secretary (Mr. Stanley) cheered that observation. He would advise the right hon. Gentleman, whenever a fair admission was made by an opponent, to meet it with derision. Members would not make such admissions in future. A reformed House of Commons would not be afraid of making an accusation against the Ministry? The Government, in a reformed House, would be obliged to hear accusations made against them. He would say, then, that he had a right to suppose that there was some reason for this disfranchisement which was not intended to meet the public view. If such principles as these were established in conceding to a popular cry and a popular clamour, how could it be expected that this would be a final or a satisfactory measure, disturbing, as it did, all the institutions of the country, and endangering all the rights of property. Those who were at the present moment in possession of property, knew that passing events were such as to endanger its security, and, therefore, the whole system of the Representation should not be altered on doubtful principles for the mere purpose of change.
Lord John Russell
thought his right hon. friend near him was perfectly justified 66 in meeting the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite in the way he did—with a cheer. What did the hon. and learned Gentleman do? He said, "It is very clear there must be some unfairness and partiality—some undue ground of proceeding in this case; but it is very true I cannot prove that there is anything wrong; it is very true that I had no ground whatever for saying what I did; I had not, in short, the least reason to imagine anything of the kind: but I will throw out the accusation, and take the chance of its success; if it does not make an impression here, it may somewhere else; and, being unable to prove it, I cannot be called upon to go further." If any man had proof to bring forward, he was perfectly right to make an insinuation of this kind, or if he had a case which, prima facie, was so strong and so extraordinary as to justify the supposition that undue partiality had been exercised, he might be justified in adopting the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded upon. What were the facts here? There were two places, one containing between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals, and the other about 9,000 or 10,000, and the one paying three times the amount of the assessed taxes of the other. The one having, certainly, considerable shipping interests, and the other having been, until very lately, the eighth port in the kingdom in point of tonnage. The small place was put on a par with other small places, by depriving it of one Member, and that Member was given to a larger place. So that the place which was nearly double the size and importance of the other, would be about as well represented as some small inconsiderable place. And this was the sort of case which the hon. and learned Gentleman considered to be so unfair, that, for his own part, he could not conceive how Government could have done this without displaying undue partiality. There certainly was nothing more easy than to make an assertion of this description, but it was not quite so easy to establish it when proof was called for. He perfectly recollected that the hon. member for Aldborough, in the course of the last Parliament, was very loud in his accusations against the former Bill, because Whitby was not included in the schedule. The hon. Gentleman came down to the House, and said, "In your second Bill you have repaired a notorious 67 blunder, for so ignorant were you of the shipping interests of this country, that you left out of your former scheme of Representation the important town of Whitby." The hon. Gentleman did not go quite as far as the hon. and learned Member opposite; he did not accuse Ministers of partiality—he only imputed it to their ignorance. And now the hon. and learned Gentleman turned round and said, "You have displayed such gross partiality in giving Whitby Representation, that nothing can justify such a proceeding." The only objection which had been made to Whitby was its declining condition. This, however, might happen to the most important towns in this country. At the cessation of a war, Plymouth, or Portsmouth, or Dover, or Leeds, or any other place, might be for a time in a declining state. If there were to be a sudden cessation in the demand for arms, it might cause a temporary change in the situation of Birmingham. But, according to the report of the Commissioners, Whitby was a substantial sea-port town. It was true, it had diminished since 1821; so had the population of the very next borough—Whitehaven. In the year 1821, that place contained 14,000 inhabitants, but it was not said that it should not be represented because at present it only contained 12,000. The conduct of Ministers, then, with regard to Whitby, had been the same as in the case of Whitehaven. He was astonished the hon. and learned Gentleman did not say, that Whitehaven was so completely under the dominion of some person connected with Government, that on that account it had received a Member. He could not see how Ministers could be accused of partiality in the case of Whitby, sinless a similar charge were made against them in the case of Whitehaven, which was one of the most important and wealthy of our shipping towns.
Sir Robert Peel
despaired of doing anything with Whitby; the case was so very bad a one, and judging from the past, the worse the case—the larger the majority in its support. He should imagine that the noble Lord opposite would admit, that, even if he were successful in negativing the charge of undue partiality towards local interests, his success in refuting that charge would not be conclusive as to the propriety of selecting this place. During the course of these lengthened discussions no one had abstained more than he had 68 from making accusations of partiality against his Majesty's Ministers. He wished to argue on the reason of each case, on that which was evident and notorious to all, because it was impossible for him to dive into the secret motives of the Government. But he must contend, that his Majesty's Government, when they were establishing an entirely new franchise, were under a positive obligation to put the House in possession of the grounds on which they selected one town in preference to another. They had a great privilege to bestow, and no one could doubt that, where there were various and nicely balanced claims for that privilege, the decision upon such claims ought to be carefully and deliberately made, and upon principles of impartial justice. It had been truly observed, that this was a most important consideration in another point of view. The noble Lords opposite had told the House, that it was their wish that this measure should be so far final as, at least, not to be subject to continual and annual change. It was of importance, then, that the Parliaments which succeeded the present one should be enabled to say, "we will resist the innovations which are now proposed, because, in the year 1832, an arrangement was made which was founded on the principles of equity and justice, and they shall endure at least for a time." But if the decision was made upon unjust or erroneous grounds, it was utterly impossible that the arrangement could endure for a single Session, because the new Parliament would have a right to repudiate the decision of the present, if they could show that decision to be contrary to reason or to equity. The noble Lord said, supposing towns had declined in population, there could be no reason why important interests should not be represented. This might be just with respect to such places as Portsmouth, or Plymouth, or Leeds. In an immense place, which had contained a population of 70,000, he would admit that, a small decrease in that amount was no reason why it should be unrepresented. He would admit to the noble Lord, that supposing it had decreased 10,000, the remaining 60,000 would be sufficient to induce the House to give the place Representation, conformably to the principles of this Bill; but a place which contained no more than 7,000 inhabitants, ought not to acquire a new right in preference to other places, much more populous and flourish- 69 ing. Would the noble Lord have the goodness to look to the return of the population of Whitby for the year 1831. The population of Whitby at that period was 7,765, and the amount of assessed taxes paid by it 869l. That was the claim the town of Whitby had to Representation. It was no answer to say—"Oh, I am going to include a great district in the neighbourhood, which will swell the population up to 10,000." The question was, what claim the town of Whitby had, not the adjoining parish or district? How could this case be defended on any one assignable principle? How was it to be reconciled with the case of Dartmouth? If it was really of consequence to define the comparative importance of the places on which disfranchisement should fall, why should not the same principle be applied to the places which were to be enfranchised? Apply Lieut. Drummond's calculation to towns that will remain unrepresented; take their population and the amount of their assessed taxes, and many will be found with claims superior to those of either Whitby or Walsall. On what principle was Whitby to have a Member? Was population the test? How did that agree with Merthyr Tydvil? Were the shipping interests the test? The House were about to give two Members to Liverpool, two only to Toxteth Park and Liverpool united. Would any man deny that the shipping interests would be better represented by three Members to Liverpool, than by a separate one to Whitby? But, supposing he was told, "We think it right that Yorkshire should have another Member. We will compare the number of Members for the county of York, with the population, and on this ground we will exclude Merthyr Tydvil and Toxteth Park, and provide an additional Representative for Yorkshire." If he was met with this assertion, he would ask, why then was Whitby chosen, in preference to Doncaster? Whitby had a population of 7,765, and paid 869l. in assessed taxes. Doncaster had 10,801 inhabitants, and paid 3,520l. in assessed taxes, just four times as much as Whitby; and if you were to act by Doncaster as you did by Whitby, and incorporated with it the neighbouring villages, he would undertake to make it ten fines the size of Whitby. On any one of the tests which had been established, he could discover no claim Whitby had to 70 Representation. But the House was told it had fishing interests. The fishing interest was to have a Member. This accounted for the boundary assigned to the new borough of Whitby. He entreated Members to refer to the volume of boundaries. They would find the boundary of the borough of Whitby a great curiosity; it included a large slice of the German ocean, which might abound with fish, but could have no 10l. householders. The boundary was unintelligible to him before, but the fishing interest explained it all. But the noble Lord asked "Why will you bear so hard on this unfortunate place, why will you aggravate its misfortunes, why refuse to enfranchise it when it is suffering under a decrease of its trade and population? When did the title of Whitby to be thus represented arise? Had the noble Lord such respect for prescription as to advocate the cause of Whitby because it had stood in this Bill for some six months? Was this the ground upon which the House was asked not to bear hard upon this place when it was suffering under a state of decay? Why, this might be a good argument if the title of the place were as ancient as that of the noble Lord; but not a word about prescription was heard in favour of Dartmouth. The actual possession of centuries was disregarded, in the case of Dartmouth, but Whitby with its imperfect title of six months, must be protected in this instance. There really never was a case so utterly destitute of any foundation whatever as this one of Whitby. To sue on behalf of a place in forma pauperis, to claim Representation for it, because its trade and assessed taxes had decreased, appeared to him so inconsistent with the principles of this Bill, but above all, so well calculated to cause an alteration in the Bill in the very first Session of the next Parliament, that he hoped the noble Lords would consent to select Toxteth Park or Merthyr Tydvil, and allow the borough of Whitby to retire with a good grace, and with that general sympathy which was due to its decaying trade and decreasing population.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it certainly was right to ask why Whitby was to have an additional Representative, and it would be in the recollection of the House, that, in the last Session, great objection was taken to the omission of Whitby by the hon. Gentleman, the member for Aldborough, 71 who had accused Ministers of having been guilty of an oversight in neglecting its claims. The grounds upon which it was proposed to enfranchise Whitby were these: 1st, the amount of its shipping interests; 2ndly, the fact of its not being near any enfranchised place; and, 3rdly, because it was thought desirable to increase the Representation of that part of the county of York. With respect to the objection in the case of Doncaster and others, he contended, that in manufacturing and commercial towns mere payments of assessed taxes were not always to be taken as a fair criterion of their relative importance. For example, Brighton and Cheltenham paid large sums in assessed taxes, and, though their size made them of importance, it was objected that the taxes they paid did not prove them to be of either manufacturing or commercial importance. With respect to the comparative importance of Dartmouth and Whitby, it should be remembered, that the former stood 12th on the list in point of shipping, while the latter stood the 9th. It was, therefore, superior to Dartmouth, and it ought to be represented, because no other port in that part of Yorkshire was represented.
contended, that Ministers having sturdily refused to take the population of both sides of the Dart to save Dartmouth, were guilty of an egregious inconsistency, when they included the population of both sides of the Esk to enfranchise Whitby. But the noble Lord said, the amount of assessed taxes was a fallacious criterion in manufacturing and commercial towns. Perhaps it might be so, but in enfranchising or disfranchising places, the relative importance of the peculiar interests attached to them must, undoubtedly, according to the noble Lord's own principles, be considered. Looking to this test, in the cases of Whitby and Dartmouth, he found that the former possessed 250 ships, the latter 370. He would admit, that the smaller number contained the greatest tonnage, but then they had been built in the war time for a particular purpose, and were now no longer used. As to the building of vessels and the employment of them in the whale fishery, both these branches of trade had left Whitby; the building had departed to Sunderland, and the fishery to other parts; then as to the revenue contributed 72 to the purposes of the State. Dartmouth paid treble the amount, arising from Customs contributed by the town of Whitby. If, therefore, Dartmouth was to be disfranchised, and Whitby to be enfranchised, it would give rise to the idea that there was some other motive for giving the preference to the latter, besides that of its comparative importance.
said, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman might be worth something, if Dartmouth was to be wholly disfranchised, which, however, was not the case, for it was to retain one Member. He contended, that Whitby was a port of as much importance as Dartmouth, and equally deserved a Member; it would be a most unjust proceeding, if, on account of a temporary depression in the profits of the ship-builders of Whitby, that town was to be left unrepresented.
§ Mr. Croker
could not help noticing the inconsistency of the arguments used by those who were favourable to the Bill. One day a river was to be an impassable boundary between two parts of a town, and the next day it was a most complete medium of communication, according as the argument suited the proposition before the House. Taking it from the noble Lord's own statements, founded on Lieutenant Drummond's calculations, they had the extraordinary fact that, of twenty-six towns not enfranchised, the two lowest should be selected by Ministers for the purpose of receiving the elective franchise.
§ Mr. Strickland
repelled the accusation of favouritism towards Yorkshire, which was under-represented in comparison with Durham and other counties. It could only be the fear of making too great a change that prevented Ministers from giving more Members to Yorkshire.
§ The Committee divided, on the question that Whitby stand part of schedule D: Ayes 221; Noes 120—Majority 101.
§ Schedule D agreed to.
§ The Chairman then read schedule E. The propositions for Amlych, Holyhead, and Llangefni sharing with Beaumaris; 73 Aberystwith, Lampeter, and Adpar, sharing with Cardigan; Llanelly sharing with Caermarthen; Pwllheli, Nevin, Conway, Bangor, and Cricceith sharing with Caernarvon; Ruthin, Holt, and Town of Wrexham sharing with Denbigh; Rhyddlan, Overton, Caerwis, Caergwrley, St. Asaph, Holywell, and Mold sharing with Flint—were agreed to without any observation.
§ On the Motion for Cowbridge, Merthyr Tydvil, Aberdare, and Llantrissent sharing with Cardiff,
Lord James Stuart
said, that he could, by no means, reconcile this union with the other principles of the Bill, for he had observed, that places of much inferior importance to either Merthyr Tydvil or Cardiff had Representatives to themselves. The only reason assigned for this difference was, that they were situated in the principality of Wales. He did hope, however, the case of Merthyr Tydvil, at all events, would be re-considered.
Mr. James L. Knight
said, if some alteration was not made with regard to this union, he should certainly move an Amendment to it when the Report was brought up.
agreed with the hon. Member, that justice was not completely dealt out to Merthyr Tydvil, and, therefore, he did trust that some arrangement would be made by which that place would have a Member exclusively allotted to it.
§ Question agreed to, and schedule E agreed to.
§ On schedule F, relating to the division of counties, being read,
§ Mr. Pigott
said, he believed this was the proper moment for moving the Amendment of which he had given notice; and, if he had previously any doubt on the propriety of pressing it on the Committee, that doubt would have been removed by the remark of the hon. member for Staffordshire, who had said, that the importance of certain places might be in the inverse ratio of the amount of their taxation. He had a high opinion of the ingenuity and statistical information of that hon. Member; but still he must say, he looked with some curiosity for his explanation of this paradox. The amendment he intended to propose was, "that in determining the relative importance of the counties which were to have an addition to their Representation, the test of houses and assessed taxes should be taken in lieu of 74 that of population adopted by the Government." His reasons for proposing this change were—first, that he considered houses and taxes a more just test of the importance of a county, than mere population, and next, that Government had recognized its superiority in the case of the disfranchised boroughs. In the parliamentary paper laid on the Table of the House on the 15th of December last, Lord Melbourne informed Lieutenant Drummond, that the Government had determined to found the Reform Bill on a new basis; and this basis he wished to see universally applied. By it, however, schedules A and B were reconstructed, and boroughs were subjected to disfranchisement, which, under the former Bill, escaped; whilst, on the other hand, some boroughs, which had been condemned, were now omitted. He was aware, that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had modified this basis, when he declared, what, indeed, was sufficiently obvious, that this rule was not regarded in enfranchising large towns. He should certainly not undertake to reconcile the inconsistencies of the Bill, or of the noble Lord, nor to explain why that which was a good test of the importance of a town of 4,000 inhabitants, was a bad one of that of 10,000. It was sufficient for his argument, that in an essential part of their Bill, the Government had recognized the superiority of the test he was now advocating, by substituting it for that which, in two previous Bills, they had adopted; he moreover asserted, that if there was any one of the schedules to which it ought preferably to have been applied, it was that which they were about to enter upon. He had the authority of the two noble Lords opposite themselves for his assertion, who, during the whole course of these discussions, had repeatedly declared, that it was their object to make the Representation of towns a Representation of population, and give to that of counties the character of a Representation of property. He was, therefore, wholly at a loss to conjecture what substantial objection could be made to a proposal, so entirely consistent with the principle of the Bill. It could not be opposed on the plea of delay, or expense, for nothing further would be required than a calculation, which might be made in an hour. Neither could it be said that the change was unnecessary, because the result would not be the same as 75 that now produced; for he was prepared to show, that if his amendment was adopted, several counties would change their places upon the list; that, on the verge, Durham and Cumberland would respectively rank below Berks and Hefts, and that Cumberland would be entirely excluded from schedule F. With respect to that county, the last in that schedule even on the score of population, it was certain that if its importance was measured by any other test, it must be altogether excluded from it. If the test which he now proposed was adopted in that county, instead of being 25th in the list of English counties, it would stand the 30th; if the amount of its assessed taxes alone, was the 32nd; if the number of its 10l. houses, the 29th, if real property as assessed in 1815, the 26th; if they applied Lieutenant Drumniond's rule to 10l. houses and assessed taxes, the result would be, that the counties of Durham, Cumberland, and Northampton, in place of four would have three Members, and that Herts, Berks, and Oxon, three agricultural counties, would take their places. He was fully of opinion, this last would have been the most fitting test, the justest measure of the real relative importance of the counties of England; but he was deterred from proposing it by the consciousness that a Member of so little weight as himself could only hope to succeed by showing that his proposal was in strict conformity with the principle of the Bill. He would now come to the most important point of this question, and he thought he should be able to show, that if, on the ground of reason and consistency, his Amendment ought to be adopted, on that of expediency its adoption was more loudly called for. As they were about to destroy the proportions of the Representation of the three kingdoms as established at the two Unions, to abolish the distinctive Representation of Scotland, and recast the Representative system of the whole empire generally, so long as population was made the sole test by which the claim of counties to additional Representation was decided, he did not see how it was possible, by any just reasoning, to disprove the right of Ireland to additional Representatives. If Cumberland was to have four Members, and Berkshire only three, simply because the population of Cumberland a little exceeded that of Berks, although it could be shown, that by every other test of importance, Berk- 76 shire ought to have the preference, how could the claims of Tipperary, with twice, and of Cork, with four times the population of either, be disregarded? There were no less than nineteen Irish counties with a greater population than Cumberland, and he saw no method of evading the difficulty which they must create, but by adopting some other test than that of population. If Cumberland was the only obstacle in the way of his Amendment, if the test of population was to be retained with the sole view of keeping that county in schedule F, he was prepared to show, that even on the score of population, it ought to have no place there. One of the alterations in the old system, effected by the Reform Bill, which he entirely approved of, was, that by which no individual could vote twice in virtue of the same tenement. Departing from this principle, it would be obviously a gross inconsistency in estimating the claim of any particular county to additional Representatives (on the score of its population), to take into calculation a population already represented. Accordingly it appeared, that, in dividing the counties which were to have four Representatives, the Government Commissioners had proceeded upon this principle; and in the Report of Mr. Shaw Lefevre, laid upon the Table of this House, that Gentleman said, "I wished to divide each county into two parts, equal in extent, equal in population, and equal in the number of voters contained in them;" and further on—"I have set down what may be considered the county population of each district, that is, the population, exclusive of the population of the towns which are to send, or to continue to send, Representatives under the provisions of the Reform Bill, and which towns for convenience sake, I have styled Representative towns." The total population of Cumberland was 168,697; represented population, 42,825; unrepresented population, 125,872; whilst the unrepresented population of Hertfordshire and Dorsetshire exceeded 133,000 and and 132,000. He therefore moved, that in determining the counties which are to send three or four Members respectively to Parliament, the number of houses, and the amount of assessed taxes for the year ending April, 1831, be taken as the test of their relative importance.
§ Mr. Littleton
was at issue with the hon. Member on the principal point to which his remarks had been directed; he had 77 frequently maintained before, and he did so now, that though it was impossible to discover any better test of the relative importance of towns than the compound test of houses and assessed taxes, this criterion was utterly inapplicable to counties. The counties of England differed as much in character as it was possible to conceive. Some had a rural population; others a manufacturing population; and in others, again, the population was of a mixed character. If the test of houses and assessed taxes were to be applied to counties, the importance of the manufacturing counties would be underrated, and that of the agricultural ones would be exaggerated. He would endeavour to illustrate his argument by reference to certain counties. The population of Berkshire, which was an agricultural county, was 145,289, and it paid in assessed taxes the sum of 51,448l. The population of Sussex, which was also agricultural, and notoriously one of the poorest counties in England, was 272,328, and it paid in assessed taxes 95,625l. The population of Hertfordshire, was 143,34l, and it paid in assessed taxes, 47,141l. He would now turn to some of the manufacturing and mining counties, such as Derby, Durham, Cumberland, Stafford, Leicester, and Chester. The population of Cumberland, was 169,000, and its assessed taxes, 21,807l.; the population of Derbyshire, was 237,170, assessed taxes, 34,590l.; the population of Durham, was 253,827, assessed taxes 32,178l.; the population of Leicestershire, was 197,000, assessed taxes 40,727l.; the population of Staffordshire, was 410,485, assessed taxes 60,732l. He would not occupy the time of the Committee by entering into any further details; he trusted that he had already done enough to establish his position, that if the relative importance of the counties to Representation, was to be decided by the amount of assessed taxes which they paid, then the poor county of Sussex would obtain a superiority over Staffordshire, which, besides its mines and manufactures, possessed canal interests to the amount of 3,000,000l., and iron interests to nearly the same amount. The compound list of houses and assessed taxes would be equally inapplicable to the enfranchised boroughs. If they took twelve persons in Wolverhampton and Sheffield, and compared the amount of assessed taxes paid by them, with the amount paid by twelve 78 other persons in Chichester, the last place tried by that test would appear to have the superiority: but nobody would seriously think of maintaining, that Chichester was better entitled to representation than Wolverhampton or Sheffield. The result of the calculations he had made by applying the test of houses and assessed taxes to counties, was not the same as that at which the hon. Member had arrived. According to his calculation, Monmouthshire would lose three Members, and Bedfordshire would gain one. He must say that, of all counties, Bedfordshire was the most hardly used. It was superior to Monmouthshire in population, and in the amount of property and assessed taxes: it was inferior only in respect of the number of houses. He thought the manner in which Bedfordshire was treated by the Bill, afforded a striking proof of the disinterestedness of the noble Paymaster of the Forces. Cumberland was inferior to Berkshire only as to the amount of assessed taxes. In every other element of Representation Cumberland was greatly superior to Berkshire. The hon. Member had not at all alluded to one important auxiliary test, by which the relative importance of counties, and their fitness for Representation, ought to be estimated—he alluded to the poor-rates. The poor-rates of Cumberland were 44,000l., whilst those of Berkshire amounted to 105,000l. Upon the whole, he was of opinion that no better test could have been taken than that which the Government had adopted, and to which he trusted they would continue to adhere. If the documents to which he had referred were correct, as he fully believed them to be, full justice had been done to every county included in the Bill.
§ Mr. Best
could not agree with the last remark of the hon. Member: he thought that justice had not been done to Dorset-shire. That county was not 10,000 less in population than Cumberland, and paid more than double the amount of assessed taxes. He did not wish to deprive Cumberland of the additional Member; but he would maintain that Dorsetshire had as good a claim to one. When the next schedule came under consideration, he would call the attention of the Committee more particularly to the point.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
said, the hon. member for Staffordshire, in replying to the observations of the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment, had spoken 79 only of assessed taxes; whereas the hon. mover advocated a compound test of houses and assessed taxes. The hon. member for Staffordshire said, that it would be improper to apply the test of houses and assessed taxes to the enfranchised boroughs; and, to illustrate his argument, he referred to the towns of Wolverhampton and Chichester, in order to prove that the test would act unequally upon them; but there was quite as much inconsistency in applying the test for enfranchisement generally to the boroughs in schedules C and D: he thought that Berkshire was treated very unfairly. The hon. member for Staffordshire did not reply to the argument of the hon. mover of the Amendment, that, upon the principle of unrepresented population, even Berkshire was superior to Cumberland. In calculating the county population, the represented population of towns ought to be omitted: if that was done, the unrepresented population of Berkshire was greater than that of Cumberland. There was another remark applicable to the mode in which the hon. Member managed his argument: he had compared the amount of assessed taxes paid by the poor county of Sussex to those of the rich county of Stafford. It seemed, by his own showing, that the poor county paid by far the largest sum. Did it not, therefore, strike the hon. Member that the burthen of assessed taxes was very unequally imposed? Surely the mines and canals of the richer county ought to be assessed, as well as the houses of the poorer, when the property invested in such mines and canals was made use of as an argument for giving it additional Representation. Under these circumstances, he really thought that it would be much fairer to adopt the test proposed by the hon. Member.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, that, throughout the Bill there was nothing but inconsistency—provisions founded on neither justice nor reason. He wanted to see it proved quite satisfactorily on what grounds the Government proceeded: he, therefore, thought the discussion ought to be postponed. Such a measure ought not to be decided by the House at that late hour, when it was principally composed of Members who merely dropped in and decided the question, without having heard a single observation upon it. He observed the House was very impatient, and would, therefore, conclude by stating that, under 80 all the circumstances, he would proceed no further; but, with regard to the conduct of the hon. Members who had given utterance to their dissent from his opinions, he must observe, thatWant of decency is want of sense.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that, considering all the circumstances of the case, population appeared to afford the best test for ascertaining the importance of the counties. He was quite certain that no other could be applied with any degree of fairness and propriety, so far as the English counties were concerned.
§ Mr. Pigott
would only remark, that the noble Lord had left a large opening for the Irish Members to urge their claim to additional Representatives for these counties, by his having openly asserted that it was the sole test to be applied to the English counties, to entitle them to additional Representation. Under all the circumstances, however, he would beg leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ The question was then put, "that Cheshire stand part of schedule F."
§ Mr. Croker
said, that he should take another opportunity of speaking on the points of this schedule.
§ The following counties were then ordered to stand part of schedule F 1—that is, each to return four Members:—
§ Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Durham, Devonshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Hampshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northumberland, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Somersetshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire.
§ Schedule F 2—Counties to return three Members each.
§ It was agreed to, without opposition, that the following counties should stand part of schedule F 2:—
§ Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorsetshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Monmouthshire, and Oxfordshire.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that, besides the fact of Cumberland's containing upwards of 150,000 inhabitants, Dorsetshire at large would return more Members, there being more boroughs in it, than Cumberland.
§ Mr. William Bankes
looked upon the argument of the noble Lord as a proof confirmative of the necessity of adding to the County Representation of Dorsetshire; for, if the Town Representation was so strong in that county, the stronger was the necessity of strengthening the agricultural Representation.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, that although he had allowed this schedule to pass without observation, he was as much opposed to its principle as to the principle of schedule B.
§ Mr. Croker
had objections arising not only out of this principle, but also to its application, which he should state at another opportunity.
§ On the Motion that Schedule G, relating to cities and towns and counties at large, in which cities and towns thereof are to be included, stand part of the Bill,
§ Mr. Croker
begged leave to take advantage of that occasion, to, once for all, protest against the clause under which town and borough freeholders were to have a vote for the county Representatives, as the most mischievously objectionable of the whole Bill, and as that which every sober Reformer must disapprove of.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the effect of this arrangement would tend to diminish the number of voters for counties, because those who got a vote in right of their borough freeholds would not, at the same time, have a claim for their county freeholds. It would effect a diminution of the voters for counties, and tend to reduce the influence of towns in the election.
§ Mr. Croker
said, if the boroughs were to be left just as they stood, and there were no other freeholds in possession of the party, then the noble Lord would be perfectly right; but when a right to vote for 10l. dwelling-houses was given, there were few people in those towns who would not contrive to have a 40s. freehold. A man would have a vote for his House in the town, and, by having a stable, or some other 40l. freehold, he would obtain a vote for the county. When this was brought into practice, therefore, particularly in towns, where there was a large circle of 82 rural population (for it would be the object of all persons connected with a town returning Members of its own, to throw as many of their population into the county to vote for it as possible) its ill effects would be seen. He was convinced, that these provisions would do more injury than any other part of the Bill.
said, the Bill endeavoured to exclude these freeholders from voting for the county; but the right hon. Gentleman said, that, by living in a house, a party would obtain his right of voting from that house, and would also possess himself of a barn, or stable, which he would get registered as for the county, and, by this, also have a vote for the county. There was really nothing new in that: it was the case at present. Many persons had a vote for the house in which they lived, as a freeholder of the county, and in a town where they resided, as a scotand-lot voter. The effect of this provision would be, to confine his vote for the freehold within the borough, provided he was resident.
said, the noble Lord did not seem to understand the case. The complaint was, that the Bill allowed all freeholders under 10l. per annum, resident in boroughs, not to vote for those places, but for the counties in which they were situated, and the effect of that would be to cause the greater part of the populace of those towns, by the means of nominal freeholds, to vote for the county, by which they would overpower the rural freeholders.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
said, if any one of the larger towns was taken, the argument would be clearly good. For instance, the freeholders of Birmingham would have sufficient influence to return one of the Representatives for the county of Warwick, besides which, they would have votes for the Representatives of Birmingham as 10l. householders; thus having a share in the return of three Representatives. He was perfectly satisfied that, by giving freeholders the right of voting for counties, they having, at the same time, their right to vote for towns, would allow them to obtain a double right.
§ Mr. Wrangham
also looked upon this as a question of great importance, and inferior to none in the Bill.
§ The following places ordered to stand part of schedule G:—Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire; Chester, Cheshire; Coventry, Warwickshire; Gloucester, Glouces- 83 shire; Kingston-on-Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire; Lincoln, Lincolnshire; London, Middlesex; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland; Worcester, Worcestershire; York and Ainstey, North Riding of Yorkshire.
§ House resumed—Committee to sit again.