§ On the Order being read,
§ Mr. Trevor
said, that it was not with the slightest hope of being able to say any thing new on the question before the House, or of making one observation deserving of the attention of either side of the House, that he ventured at that moment to offer any observations on the important question that was in that House approaching its termination; but he conceived that he should be discharging his duty neither to his constituents, nor to those hon. Gentlemen who joined with him in opposition to the proposed measure, whose talents and patriotic exertions, although defeated by a packed majority, would always entitle them to the thanks of the well-wishers of the Constitution, and the supporters of good order, if he did not on that, the last, occasion that the measure might be before them, raise his hum- 501 ble voice against it. The present was the second measure which had been proposed on the subject of Reform to that House; but, although it differed from the former Bill, and although that difference was, he must admit, as far as it went, an improvement, he looked upon its tendency to subvert the settled institutions of the country as little, if at all, diminished. It was full of errors and anomalies, which rendered the adoption of it most dangerous. It was not his intention then, however, to detain the House by entering into a lengthened discussion of its numerous details, or to point out how, in several instances, its provisions contradicted those principles on which it was professed to be introduced. He would not trouble the House by endeavouring to discover on what principle it was that Representation was to be given in the one instance, to the manufacturing importance of Birmingham, and, in the second place, to the water-drinking and sea-bathing interests of Brighton and Cheltenham. It was impossible for him to comprehend why Representation was given to places of resort for fashionable loungers, and the rising sea ports of the kingdom were denied them. It would be useless, then, to discuss such parts of the Bill; but he found it impossible to pass over without comment the manner in which it was proposed to treat the existing rights of individuals—rights which, he begged to remark, had been long sanctioned by time, law, and justice. By that destruction of an ancient right, the Legislature was setting a precedent, as fearful as it was irresistible. It was upholding popular delusion, sanctioning the levelling doctrines of the day, and promoting that love of change which led to the fever of revolution. Many and various as were his objections to the Bill, the course which it proposed to adopt respecting ancient rights formed the most prominent and the most insuperable. And what was the benefit which this sacrifice was to give to the people of England? Had they any reason to expect that their condition would be rendered settled and permanent by such a measure? Was it, he begged to ask, possible that any man in his senses could expect the Bill to be a final destruction of those evils under which it was alleged the country, as regarded its representation, suffered? Was it not rather a stepping-stone to greater and more important changes? What had the hon. 502 Member for Preston, to the candour of whose conduct during the whole of the question great credit was due, over and over again told the House? Why, that the people would not be satisfied by the measure which his Majesty's Ministers had introduced, for that they looked to the enactment of the Ballot, Annual Parliaments, and Universal Sufrage, as the sole means of securing for them perfect and adequate representation. Had not the hon. Member for Preston frequently told the House that he, as one of the people, only supported the measure, because he could, by its means, obtain one of a more extended and more sweeping nature? The same language had been held by the hon. Member for Middlesex. Experience, he thought, ought to have pointed out the danger of conceding to a cry for popular reformation; and, if the House was permitted to look to future probable consequences of concession to popular clamour on the present occasion, it was impossible to view with any other feeling than that of alarm the results which might attend the delegation of the power of electing Representatives to persons who were absolutely incapable of making a proper use of such a privilege. Let that' Bill pass, and the House of Commons would cease to be the Representatives of the respectable householders of the country, and would become the delegates of the mob, bound to execute their most dangerous orders, and be the ministers of their most furious passions. It was important to remember, that, to their clamour, the country was indebted for the crisis to which it was then fast hastening. Could it be said that the measure met with the approbation of those who represented the intelligence and respectability of the country? Could it be asserted for a moment that the landowners and the gentry of England were favourable to it? Did not most of those who approved of the general principle of Reform, and who admitted that some degree of change was requisite, recoil with alarm from the precipice which this Bill opened to their view? To whom, then, was this crisis attributable, but to the mob, and to those who had engendered in the minds of the unthinking and illiterate people hopes of an Utopian character. But, above all, it was attributable to the effects of that licentious and revolutionary Press, which dared not only to dic- 503 tate to that and the other House of Parliament the course which ought to be pursued in respect to the measure, but to threaten with the thunder of popular vengeance such Members of either Legislature as thought proper to dissent from the course which the Press chose to lay down. It was said, that the result of the late elections, and of public meetings, was a sufficient indication of the general feeling of the people being in favour of the measure. This he denied. With respect to the general election, he asserted that it offered no indication of the feelings of the people. He would even go so far as to assert that the calm sentiments of the people on the Reform Bill had never been sounded by the elections. There was a great difference between taking the sense of the people at a time when their passions were excited, and at a period when they were in possession of their sober senses. The Members on this side of the House were charged with not attending public meetings, and boldly avowing their opinions on the subject of Reform. Where would have been the good in doing so under the excited state of the public feelings? Of what avail would arguments be against brickbats and bludgeons? There might be defects in the present system of Representation, for no human institution was perfect; but, under that system, censured as it was, the country had arrived at a pitch of power and property unparalleled in the history of the world. They should consider seriously whether it was consistent, he would not say with the prosperity, but with the safety of the country to enter upon so novel an experiment. He should be happy to find that the fears he entertained of the dangers likely to result from the measure might be falsified, but the more he reflected upon the subject the more he was confirmed in those fears and convinced of the danger. He fully concurred in the observation of the hon. member for Rye, who said there was danger in refusing the Bill, and danger in granting it, but of the two he preferred the danger of refusal. The immediate danger of refusal, he believed to be much less than was represented; but admitting it to the fullest extent, he felt convinced that the ultimate dangers of consenting to such a measure more than counterbalanced it. Concession to popular clamour never answered the end for which it was designed. Many looked to 504 this measure as the great panacea for all the evils, real or imaginary, which the country laboured under; but he had no doubt that in no very long time after it was passed, they would confess their error when they saw, too late, that in place of prosperity and content, it produced only anarchy and confusion. He might incur the charge of presumption in thus urging observations upon the House which had been so frequently advanced before, but in a crisis like the present he could not reconcile it to his sense of public duty to give a silent vote upon a question like this. He was sent there by a large and respectable body of constituents. Many of them were friendly to a principle of Reform, but not to so sweeping a measure as this. He felt assured that it must give rise to a continual war of beggary against property, of ignorance against intelligence, of numbers against respectability, and to a perpetual change of established institutions for untried novelties. Under such a system, all who had the real and permanent good of their country at heart must tremble for its future state. However long established its institutions, and however beneficial they might have been found in their operation, this Bill would sweep the whole of them away. He did not oppose the Bill so much on account of its anomalies, its inconveniences, and gross and absurd inconsistencies, as on account of its being a measure calculated to lead on to a state of anarchy, confusion, and ruin, and to inflict the most serious evils upon all classess of society, from the peasant in his cottage to the king on his throne. These were the opinions he conscientiously entertained. God grant, however, that the event might prove them to be erroneous. The system of legislating in these days would seem to imply an opinion that human nature was endowed with perfectibility. Nothing could be more erroneous. Legislation was concerned, not with the perfections, but the imperfections of human nature, and it was the business of the Legislature to devise remedies for these imperfections. It was vain to hope that any thing human could be perfect. How were they, after this measure was passed, to check the progress of reckless innovation? This was the question they ought to put to themselves. It was not his business to answer, it was the business of those who brought the measure forward, and with them let the blame rest of all the 505 evils that might follow from it. Let it not be forgotten that he, and those with whom he had the honour of acting upon this occasion, warned the House and the country of the brink of ruin towards which they were advancing. It was popular outcry, and popular outcry only, goaded on by a revolutionary Press, that gave birth to and urged forward this measure. For his part he would never, by any vote in that House, give his sanction, however humble it might be, to the cause of revolution. If he was in error upon this subject it was a consolation to him that he erred with the most able, the most eloquent, the most experienced statesmen who ever adorned that House. Would that the shades of these great men could appear! Even they would want words to describe their feelings on hearing such a measure propounded. If that great man whose prophetic warnings of the consequences of the French Revolution were so wonderfully verified, if he could now re-appear amongst them, and see what was in progress through that House, his astonishment would be inexpressible. If this Bill should pass into a law, and not produce the evils he apprehended, he would be the first to acknowledge his error and rejoice that he had been mistaken. He feared it was the forerunner of the overthrow of property, of public faith, of the Established Church, and last, though not least, of the Monarchy itself. He was, therefore, determined to oppose it to the last, even though by so doing he might lose the confidence of those by whom he had the honour of being returned to that House, and he did so because he feared it would lead to as bloody and fearful a revolution as ever blotted the annals of the country.
§ Mr. Schonswar
said, that in the exhausted state of the question before the House, he would compress the observations he intended to make into a very brief space. Hon. Gentlemen talked of the danger that would follow the passing of the Bill; for his own part he was of opinion that the danger lay on the other side, namely, in refusing to pass it, and interposing themselves between the general sense of the people of England and this great measure, to which they looked as the means of allaying their uneasiness, and dissipating their anxieties. In his opinion, the debates on this question had gone too much into the question of legal antiquity, for every moment that any improvement 506 was suggested, the question was asked, "And would you really destroy all the institutions of your forefathers?" Now, for himself, he was willing to pay every respect to those great men who had preceded the present age; and he was also willing to admit, that according to the knowledge which they possessed, and the necessities of their times, their forefathers had adopted a wise and admirable course. But what had those men in common with the present generation? They lived in the same country, to be sure; and they spoke something like the same language; and they had even gone the length of laying the first stones of a very useful and praiseworthy Constitution; but, merciful Heaven! what a superstructure had been raised on that foundation since their days! What much better matters had the present generation an opportunity of contemplating! It might, therefore, do very well for lawyers or antiquaries to fix their whole attention on the events and the doctrines of by-gone ages; but for the British House of Commons, the true legislative lesson should be found in the passing events of our own time, and not in the records of days that were passed. If they wanted to have a proper idea of the condition and the necessities: of present England, let them look at her dense population—let them look at her commerce, her manufactures, and her ships! Let them look at the industry and the intelligence of her population—a population which had within it all the elements of good and evil! Let them, he said, look at all these things; and then let them remember that it was not for the ancient inhabitants of the land, but for the present people of England, that they were called upon to perform the delicate and difficult task of framing a Constitution—a Constitution which he was sure (if this Bill were the model) would be a good one, and which he hoped would be a permanent one. In order to make hon. Gentlemen fully appreciate this argument, he would just request them to remember what the people of England had been only twenty years ago, and what they were now. They looked at the population returns, and they were astonished to see the increase of numbers that had taken place within the last twenty years; but how much greater an increase had taken place in intelligence? That increase had been going on with a tenfold rapidity. If any one 507 doubted it, let him look at the domestic arrangements of the people—at their conversation—at the improvements of their manufactures and the helps to their industry—at the letters they wrote—at their power of comprehending difficult and scientific subjects; and then let him who had investigated all these points say, if he could, that the old Constitution, which had done well enough for our former state of ignorance, was sufficiently enlightened for the present people of England. The Bill, however, had, in fact, been scrutinized everywhere, and in everyway; and he, therefore, certainly was not a little astonished to hear hon. Gentlemen get up in that House and doubt whether it possessed the good will and confidence of the people of England. To show that it did, it was only necessary to appeal to the result of the late general election; and, before hon. Members doubted that criterion, let them calculate the number of constituents who had returned the Opposition Members to Parliament, and the number of constituents who had returned the Reform Members to Parliament, and then say, if they could, that the result of that election was not pretty nearly a unanimous polling of the voters of Great Britain in favour of this Ministerial measure. That the Bill must pass through that House no man could doubt. But the great question was—what would be its fate elsewhere? He, however, for himself, would say, that his own mental answer to that question was one of hope, and not of despair, and at all events he would assert this—that if the Bill should be rejected, or sent back to the House of Commons so mangled and mutilated as to be almost as bad as a rejection, there would be the real danger; and not, as the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him seemed to think, from its passing in its present shape into a law.
§ Sir John Brydges.
. Having never missed one day attending the Committee on this Bill during its progress through the House, and having seldom trespassed on its time, I feel, at this eleventh hour, I may make a few observations, as it is probable this may be the last opportunity I may have. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, remarked, upon the former Reform Bill, that no Committee had ever before been so procrastinated. He may be inclined, perhaps, to make a similar observation upon the Committee of the Bill 508 which is now moved to be read a third time. Aware of the noble Lord's remarkable courtesy throughout the progress of this Bill, I feel satisfied he will not charge the hon. Members on this side of the House with useless and vexatious delay. If there has been procrastination, it is obvious this has arisen from a Bill having been introduced of so complicated, so contradictory, and so heterogeneous a nature as I am confident, has not a parallel in the annals of Parliament. If those with whom I sit have delayed this measure, the noble Lord and those who sit around him should feel grateful to us rather than be disposed to blame us, for if they with a breathless haste had passed this Bill without sufficiently sifting its details, they never would have profited by those amendments which have been proposed by this side of the House, and adopted by his Majesty's Ministers. Sir, the present Bill is so full of anomalies, that I do not hesitate to declare they are more numerous, more glaring, and more inconsistent, than any that exist in our present scheme of representation. What, therefore, do we gain by the change proposed? I think nothing; it is a change, but no amendment. But can any one believe that, partial and contradictory as are many of the clauses of disfranchisement and enfranchisement, in consequence of incorrect returns, and different principles of action having been adopted, that should this Bill pass into a law, which God forbid, can any one, I say, believe that it ever can produce a fair and equal Representation of the people in Parliament? I am confident it never can. But, Sir, what it will produce no one can shut his eyes to. Scarcely a night passes but, upon some objectionable motions being rejected, the supporters of them do not hesitate, under defeat, to express their consolation that a Reformed Parliament will, at a future time, give them that which they are now denied. Yes, Sir, the noble Lords and those hon. Members of the present Government who sit around them will live to learn, when it is too late, that a Reformed Parliament, such as they are now desirous of, will overpower them, and will not submit to their dictation, but will take the reins into their own hands; and when in power it will kick down the ladder by which it has ascended; and it will ungratefully turn upon those who, by their measures, have raised these new senators to an eminence which 509 neither birth, education, nor habits of life have qualified them to occupy. Set a beggar on horseback, and we know what will be his career. Sir, I dare not say, I can flatter myself that this measure will be rejected in this House, after what I have witnessed during its progress to this stage, but I do confidently rely upon the high honour and integrity of another branch of the Legislature that, as this measure is in effect the same in principle as the former one, it will not stultify its votes given upon that occasion, but, nobly despising all clamour and unworthy intimidation, it will, in its wisdom, without hesitation, reject a measure which, in my conscience, I am satisfied will, if passed into a law, cause the sun of England to set for ever. Sir, with these feelings, I cordially support the amendment of the noble Lord.
said, he had heard nothing which had the semblance of an argument against the Bill. He hoped this would be the last debate they should hear upon the subject. He was only anxious to rescue his constituents from a sweeping charge of future misconduct, which had been made by some hon. Gentlemen against the people of England. It was said, that the State would be brought into immediate danger, if the Bill passed, in consequence of the increased demands of the disaffected. He must deny that such delusions prevailed in the district with which he was acquainted. Delusion was sent abroad, not, however, by the friends, but the insidious enemies of the measure. The people knew and were convinced, that this measure of Reform must be progressive. They looked to beneficial results from it in every department of the State. They must know little of the people who thought they were influenced by visionary schemes, or were friendly to revolution, or ruin. The Bill was a sweeping measure in one sense, but he was under no apprehension that it would increase the consequence of demagogues or agitators. The same measure which gave the people just rights would sweep into the same insignificance the demagogue and the boroughmongers. Frequent allusions had been made to the French Revolution, but there was one circumstance to which they did not advert, and that was, that in this country the exclusion of the people from their just rights had been long rankling in their breasts, as the privileges of the nobility had in the breasts of the French previous to the Re- 510 volution; and to the protracted refusal of any amelioration in the condition of the people was to be attributed, in a great measure, that convulsion, which was attended with such frightful consequences.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, that he disliked the Bill very much, but did not consider himself justified, considering the circumstances of the country, in voting against its being sent up to the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Pigott
had heard with considerable surprise the assertion of the noble Paymaster of the Forces, that this Bill would give a preponderance to the agricultural interests in a reformed House of Parliament. He was prepared to show, that the reverse was the fact. The arguments stated on the opposition side of the House had been, he admitted, very courteously debated by the noble Lords opposite; but he denied that they had been answered. He was convinced, that by this Bill, the agricultural interest would be materially injured, and if the House would listen to him for a few minutes, he would endeavour to prove that position. It was alleged, that if sixty-eight Members were added to the towns, sixty-four were added to the counties, and that made the balance equal; but he need not observe to the House that the addition of Members to the counties was only an apparent, not a real, addition of Members to the agricultural interest, for it had been completely shown that, whilst the Members for the new boroughs would be returned wholly by the manufacturing interests, many of these assumed county Members would be returned by the freeholders of large towns. In fact, the number of boroughs swept away which were generally represented by gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest, would be equal to adding 100 Members to the towns. The principle of the Bill was to substitute real for virtual representation, and that principle must be carried into execution in all its details. As they were making a new distribution of Members, they were bound to see that all interests were equally and fairly treated. By the Bill, the agricultural interest, taking the Members for the counties as representing that interest, would send 158 Members,—ninety-four which it sent at present, and sixty-four which it was to receive under the Bill. The town interests, comprising, he admitted, all the other interests in the State, however, would send 336 Members, 511 271 remaining of the old system, and sixty-five being added. The town population, then, would be represented in proportion to the agricultural population as two to one. The Bill, as the test of the constituency, adopted the combined criterion of population and property. As regarded the first, the total population (according to the census of 1831) of those towns which were now represented, deducting the fifty-six disfranchised towns in schedule A,
According to the census of 1831, the whole population of England and Wales amounted to about 14,000,000. If, therefore, they estimated the importance of the two great divisions of society by their numbers, they were entitled to an equal share in the Representation. The proportions connected with the other test—that of property—would be more difficult to fix precisely; but, for all purposes of approximation, they had a valuable resource in the calculations of Mr. Colquhoun. That gentleman estimated the value of the whole of the private property in England and Wales at 1,814,900,000l.; the value of that arising from land and agricultural stock, 1,055,900,000l.; of that arising from mines, canals, tolls, timber, specie in circulation, and not belonging strictly to county or towns 250,000,000l.; of every other species of property, dwelling-houses, manufactures, foreign merchandise, shipping, fisheries, 509,000,000l. If property, therefore, were taken to determine the weight in the Legislature to be given to these two interests, the Representatives of the country ought to be to those of the towns as two to one, or precisely in the inverse ratio of the proportion given in the Reform Bill. He knew not by what rule Ministers had been guided in estimating the importance of these rival interests; but he trusted that he should not again hear it asserted, at least without proof, that the interests of agriculture had in this Bill, been sufficiently considered. If it was necessary, that the ancient system should cease to exist, those hon. Members 512 who had been returned to that House by the agricultural interests should at least take care that in the new distribution of Members, that interest received a full measure of justice. If through negligence or party blindness they were led into a betrayal of their trust the consequences might be destructive to their constituents. This, he feared, was no vague apprehension, for it was already openly asserted, that one of the first measures to be proposed to a reformed Parliament would be to establish a free-trade in corn; in other words to ruin the whole existing race of landowners and farmers, and on their downfall to exalt the trading interests. Other levelling principles would be sanctioned, the Church, primogeniture, and the hereditary nobility, would quickly follow the agricultural interest, and an entire new state of society must be the consequence. He must, in conclusion, apologise for having addressed the House, which he would not have done had there been a greater number of Members present, and more practised speakers than he was, ready to deliver their opinions.
amounted to 2,861,000 The amount of the total population of unrepresented towns, having more than 5,000 inhabitants according to a return on the Table 2,893,000 Add for the population of the unrepresented towns under 5,000, and the Welsh towns, 1,250,000 7,004,000 or about seven millions.
§ Colonel Torrens
not having, during this Session, expressed his sentiments upon the great measure of Reform, trusted that the House would indulge him while he stated the reasons which induced him to give his most cordial support to the third reading of the Bill. He would not follow the hon. Member who had just sat down into any disquisition as to the manner in which the provisions of the Bill affected, in different proportions, the agricultural and commercial interests. He (Colonel Torrens) believed, that these interests were identical. He was persuaded that any measure which injured agriculture would equally injure manufactures and commerce, and every legal provision which was injurious to this branch of industry would be equally injurious to agriculture. This part of the question he would dismiss as altogether unimportant, and as having no bearing upon the great principle of Reform. He had considered the objections to Reform, and particularly those which had been urged so elaborately in the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary of the Admiralty. When he (Colonel Torrens) considered the zeal of that right hon. Member against Reform, his ability, and his great critical acumen, it was really surprising how few and how futile were the objections which 513 that right hon. Gentleman had been able to urge against the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted, that his objects were valueless, in as much as he failed consistently to apply them. He objected that the principle of population was violated, when Gosport and Croydon, with a population of 12,000 each, were not enfranchised; and yet, in mockery of his own objection, he himself violated the principle of population to an infinitely greater extent, by voting against the enfranchisement of the tower Hamlets containing a population of 300,000. The right hon. Gentleman objected that the Reform Bill did not enfranchise Trowbridge, Doncaster, Tunbridge, and Margate, with a population of 10,000 each; and yet, when the metropolitan districts were under consideration, he refused to enfranchise Marylebone and Finsbury, having each a population of upwards of 200,000. The right hon. Gentleman involved himself in other inconsistencies. He complained of the anomalies of the Reform Bill in not enfranchising Gosport and Kingston-upon-Thames, though paying assessed taxes to the amount of 2,000l.; and yet, in derision of himself, he objected to the enfranchisement of Finsbury, paying assessed taxes to the amount of 200,000l. The right hon. Gentleman had so completely refuted by his votes, and set at nought by his conduct, his own objections, that he (Colonel Torrens) had a right to regard them as valueless. He would next direct his attention to the objections urged by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, on the debate of the metropolitan districts. The right hon. Baronet contended, that, in the metropolitan districts, the 10l. franchise was equivalent to universal suffrage, that it completely placed the power of deciding the elections in the hands of the working classes. The right hon. Baronet contended, that though the working classes ought to be represented somewhere, they ought to be represented in small boroughs, and not in the metropolis. He totally dissented from that proposition. The working classes of the metropolis were in a peculiar manner qualified to exercise the elective franchise in a beneficial manner. In a small borough a working man could not be independent of his employer, because the number of employers were so few that there could be little competition. But in the metropolis the number of masters was 514 very great, and, therefore, the working man was not dependent upon the favour of any individual employer. The working classes in the metropolis were, beyond all comparison, more independent than the same class in an inconsiderable town, and were, therefore, in a peculiar manner qualified to exercise the portion of the elective franchise which might be conferred upon the working class. It was frequently urged that there was no necessity to reform the Representation, because the existing system had worked well. But he would ask where it was that the measures of an unreformed Parliament had worked well? Was it in Ireland? Was it in the West Indies? Was it in the amount of the debt, of the taxes, or of the poor-rates? Was it in the agricultural districts, where the rural population were serfs and helots on the soil? Was it in the manufacturing towns, where the system of infant slavery prevailed? It was mockery and insult to say, that an unreformed Parliament had worked well. Throughout all the departments of the national interests it had worked ill, and if its operations were not speedily suspended, it would work destruction. Another objection—an objection which had been repeated a thousand times, and presented under a thousand forms, was, that this extensive measure of Reform would lead to a democratic change amounting to Revolution. That objection had been urged with more or less force by every hon. Member who had spoken against the principle of the Bill. That objection was, indeed, the pivot upon which the whole opposition to Reform turned. He would undertake to show that this objection was groundless. He would undertake to show that those who contended that this measure of Reform would lead to democratic change, inverted the natural order of events, and fell into the error of mistaking the effect for the cause. In the sequence of events Reform was the consequent, not the antecedent. It was not an efficient cause; it was a necessary effect. It would not produce the democratic change which was so much dreaded, because it had itself been produced by that democratic change which the progress of society had already completed. It was, therefore, erroneous and illogical to consider this measure as an original cause of change, when it was itself the effect of that great moral change which the power of knowledge already had brought forth. Whoever 515 would attentively consider the progress of opinions, and the course of events, would arrive at the conclusion, that, before that measure was introduced, or even considered, it had already become impossible any longer to govern this country by means of a nomination Parliament. It was in vain for patrons and for nominees to lament or to resist the inevitable result. It was not for human institutions to be immutable—it was not for human power to be the same yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow. Society was essentially progressive. As our late colonies advanced in wealth and population, a change in the long-established relations between them and the mother country became inevitable. No one would now deny that the object of the Tory war, undertaken to avert this change, was unattainable. Had the Americans failed of success with a population of 3,000,000, they would in a few years have renewed the contest with a population of 6,000,000; and if again unsuccessful, they would now again have renewed the struggle with a population of 12,000,000. No one would now deny that the defeat in the first instance was to England the least calamitous result in which this Tory struggle against change could have terminated. The lapse of half a century had had a most remarkable effect, not only in softening down, but in wholly eradicating, those arbitrary principles of Government upon which the war against American liberty was madly undertaken, and disgracefully pursued. It would now be deemed as rational in a King of England to repeat the attempt of Canute, to give law to the ocean, as to imitate the example of George 3rd, in endeavouring to fix systems of policy and forms of Government suitable to one stage of improvement, but inapplicable to a more advanced one. As nations improved in civilization instances were constantly occurring in which resistance to the progressive movement of society produced disastrous concession, without averting change. The resistance of the Tory party to the rising spirit of liberty in North America occasioned the most calamitous war in which this country ever was engaged. And a too pertinacious resistance of the same party to the nation's demand for Reform, though it should even stay the popular movement, might yet terminate in one of the most terrible revolutions which ever desolated the earth. But surely it was not too much to expect that 516 the intelligent leaders of the Tory party would be enabled to read the signs of the times. If history was philosophy, teaching by example, surely it was not too much to expect that the intelligent leaders of the Tory party would abandon, before it was too late, their unavailing resistance to Reform, as they had already renounced the obsolete principles of Government upon which the first American war was undertaken. An Eldon Tory of the highest water would now be free to confess that the progress of America to the rank of an independent nation could not have been prevented even by our success in that war. But surely it was not merely on the single question of coercing colonies advancing into nations, that the principle of blind and irrational resistance to inevitable change would be abandoned. Time, the despotic innovator, was working on the internal frame and functions of society a great but silent change, which no resistance could arrest, and to which existing institutions must conform, in order to be preserved. Wealth and knowledge were the elements of power. Now, the active members of the Tory party, the merely practical men engaged in public life, however disinclined to speculate upon the progressive character of human society, must see and feel, from all that is passing around them, that the aggregate wealth and knowledge of the middle class now exceeds, in a constantly increasing proportion, the aggregate wealth and knowledge of the upper orders. And though they should be wholly unaware of the latent working of events, and of the changing proportions in which the elements of power were distributed, yet they could not be insensible to the fact, that they encountered from the middle classes a more active competition than formerly, and that they were gradually losing that undisputed lead in the country which they once possessed. The cause of the declining influence of their order they might not have traced, but of the existence of the effect they could not be unaware. The more intelligent Members of the Tory aristocracy, however—those who combined speculative with practical ability—those who could philosophize as well as act, they would not only perceive the effect, but comprehend the cause. They would be impressed with the conviction, that, in a country increasing in wealth, and advancing in knowledge, it was morally impossi- 517 ble to preserve the exclusive influence of an oligarchy from being gradually encroached upon, and ultimately overborne, by the growing power of the community at large. They would not squander their strength in a hopeless struggle, nor continue a game in which the chances against them were constantly increasing. Instead of holding themselves apart, as a distinct and separate order, having interests different from, and opposed to, those of the community, they would unite themselves with the people, and head the forward movements they no longer could resist. In this new sphere of action, their superior wealth, and their leisure for acquiring superior knowledge, would still secure to them important advantages, and they would continue to be the natural leaders of the country by ceasing to be a faction opposed to improvement. May such be the tranquil, the honourable euthanasia of the Tory party! He should give his humble but most cordial support to the third reading of this Bill, wishing that it might, believing that it must, become the law of the land.
§ Mr. Mackinnon
In rising, Sir, on the present occasion, my intention is, to state to the House my reasons for differing from the opinion of the Committee which has passed the several clauses of the Bill. I trust, in so doing, I may not be deemed guilty of presumption. There are so many Gentlemen here, whose talents and experience qualify them better than I am qualified to make any strictures on the several, clauses of the Bill, that some excuse may be necessary to justify my rising to utter my sentiments on this momentous question. No hostility to a moderate Reform—that is, such Reform as will not endanger the Constitution—is entertained by me. I am not personally connected with any close boroughs in schedules A and B; and, as far as any interests of mine are concerned, it is a matter of perfect indifference to me whether these boroughs are partially disfranchised, or entirely swept away. So far, therefore, my opinion cannot be biased by interested motives or personal advantage; nor have I any desire to create delay, or to make an opposition for the purpose of perplexing the framers of this Bill, which might, by some, be styled a factious opposition. Every one, however, must agree, that, on a subject of such importance, the greatest caution is necessary, and 518 the maturest deliberation given to the question that the nature of the subject will admit.
I cannot here refrain from expressing my thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the mild and conciliatory conduct he has pursued throughout; and also for his readily adopting two motions of mine made last year on the subject of this Bill (the only two alterations of importance made)—one for adopting the census and taxation of 1831, instead of 1821; and the other for allowing towns which were to obtain the elective franchise to appoint their own returning officers, instead of those officers being nominated by the Sheriff of the county. Sir, after the sentiments expressed in favour of some Reform from John O'Groat's house to the Land's End—from the Giant's Causeway to the Isle of Thanet—it is impossible to deny that some Reform is called for by the public opinion of the country, and that some change in the Representative system must take place.
On this account it is that I have taken the present opportunity of stating my sentiments, because I am not adverse to the principle of Reform, but to the particular clauses of this Bill, which, by destroying the equipoise between the three constituent parts of the Legislature, must destroy the Constitution. I shall endeavour to avoid the arguments that have so often been repeated against the principle of this measure of Reform, which at this time would proveTedious as a twice-told tale, Vexing the ears of drowsy men;and I shall endeavour to bring forward, if possible, some fresh arguments on the details of the Bill.
On taking a retrospective view of the Representative history of this country, and. looking at the period which preceded the Union of England with Scotland, it appears that the number of Members for England and Wales was 513. From the period of the Union with Scotland to the present hour, the wealth and the population of this portion of the empire (England and Wales) has increased in an extraordinary manner. To enter into any details or statistical accounts would be useless: the fact cannot be denied, and I shall state it generally, to illustrate my argument.
The population has increased nearly three-fold; and the amount of wealth and 519 of capital (which terms may be used indiscriminately on the present occasion) to ten times the amount that it was 125 years ago. Now, with a population three times as great, and an amount of capital ten times greater—to the argument it signifies nothing whether it be little more or a little less—to diminish the number of Members for England and Wales, at the time that you take wealth and population, or rather the compound ratio of both, as your leading principle of Representation, seems rather an absurdity! particularly as not a single argument or reason has been assigned why the number of Representatives for England and Wales should in any manner be decreased.
The noble Lord opposite has been fond of quoting Mr. Pitt's authority, as an advocate, at the early period of his life, for Reform; but what says Mr. Pitt? Why, he distinctly states, in both his speeches on Reform, that it is highly inexpedient to lessen the number of Representatives; and this he does not state on any particular occasion, but gives it as his deliberate opinion on two occasions. In a speech made in 1785, two years after the first statement made on the subject in 1783,—Mr. Pittobserved—'He would not say what number of Members ought to be added to the counties. It was true, he thought the House would be more numerous than he could wish; but still it were better that it should be so. This disfranchising of boroughs (in which corruption had been proved), would be the work of time; it would appear to be what, in fact it would then be—an act of justice, not of whim, party, or caprice; as it would be founded, not on surmise, but on the actual proof of guilt.' Again, By his proposition he meant to lay it down as a first principle that the number of the House ought to remain the same: and that the Reform of decayed boroughs ought not to proceed to disfranchisement.' And also, 'He (Mr. Pitt) confessed there was something plausible in the idea of abolishing those places known by the favourite appellation of close or rotten boroughs, which in some degree disfigured the fabric of the Constitution, but which, he feared, could not be removed without endangering the whole pile. He was afraid to cut up the roots of this influence by disfranchising the boroughs, because he was afraid of doing more harm than good, by using a remedy 520 that might be thought worse than the disease. Gentlemen had undoubtedly read that, of the boroughs which used formerly to send Members to Parliament seventy-two had been disfranchised; that is, the Crown ceased to summon them at a general election. After the Restoration, thirty-six of these petitioned to be restored, and their prayer was granted; but the other thirty-six, not having petitioned, had not recovered their lost franchise.'*
Although the present scheme of selecting towns or districts to return Members to Parliament, according to the compound ratio of wealth and population, appears, at the first glance, plausible, yet, on further reflection, it is liable to many objections: the leading objection is, that sufficient importance in the Representation is not given to property or wealth. A poor man, in a place where there is much wealth and many opulent inhabitants, has as much influence in the election of the Representatives for that place as a rich man, while the rich man has merely one vote in a poor district. Is this according to the fair spirit of representation, or due regard for property? Besides, if you lay down this as a principle for places to elect Representatives, will it be satisfactory to Liverpool, with a population of 140,000, and great wealth, to send only two Members to Parliament, whilst Eversham, or any other borough out of schedule B, with not one-fiftieth part of the population, or one-hundredth part of the wealth, sends the same number? What will Ireland say to such a system? Will she remain satisfied with 105 Members out of 658, while she possesses one-third of the population of England? If this principle, thus laid down, be equitable, it ought to be made general. If not made general, how can it give universal satisfaction? If it does not please, we must leave the population of the empire in a discontented state, or of constant change; this Bill, therefore, instead of quieting the minds of the people, of fostering a kind feeling between the several classes of society, and of restoring confidence, will have a totally different effect.
There are many Gentlemen amongst those whom I have now the honour of addressing who admire the wisdom of Burke, who, I have reason to think from their* Hansard's Parl. Hist. vol. xxv. Pp. 436–8.521 speeches, study his writings with much attention; on whom his opinions have considerable influence, carrying that authority to which the talents and experience of that distinguished individual fully entitle him. It appears from his writings, however, that, after the first breaking out of the French Revolution, in 1788, the system of representation intended to have been adopted by the Republicans in France was similar to that now proposed in the Reform Bill as its basis. The plan suggested at the time was, that Representatives should be sent by towns or districts in the compound ratio of their wealth and population. On this plan, which was a favourite scheme with the French Revolutionists, Mr. Burke remarks as follows:—The political dogma, which upon the new French system is to unite the factions of different nations, turns on this, That the majority, told by the head of the taxable people in every country, is the perpetual, natural, unceasing, indefeasible sovereign; that this majority is perfectly master of the form, as well as the administration, of the State; and that the Magistrates, under whatever names they are called, are only functionaries to obey the orders (general as laws, or particular as decrees) which that majority may make: that this is the only natural government; that all others are tyranny and usurpation.' In order to reduce this dogma into practice, the Republicans in France, and their associates in other countries, make it always their business, and often their public profession, to destroy all traces of ancient establishments, and to form a new commonwealth in each country upon the basis of the French Rights of men. On the principle of these rights they mean to institute in every country, and, as it were the germe of the whole—parochial governments, for the purpose of what they call equal Representation. From them is to grow, by some mode, a general Council and Representative of all the parochial governments. In that Representative is to be vested the whole national power; totally abolishing hereditary name and office, levelling all conditions of men (except where money must make a difference), breaking all connexion between territory and dignity, and abolishing every species of nobility, gentry, and Church establishments, all their priests and all their Magistrates being only creatures of election, and pensioners at will."*There is no need at present to dwell on the destruction of corporate rights meditated by this Bill, as this must be apparent to all; I will not, therefore, detain the* Thoughts on French Affairs, Burke's works, vol, vii. p. 19, 8vo. edition.522 House by dwelling longer on this subject, and only say, before I proceed to others of great moment, that the same arguments which justify the disfranchisement of Gatton or Old Sarum would equally justify the the abolition of any corporate rights in the kingdom—this would justify the abolition of the title of the Duke of Norfolk, or any other nobleman. I will advert to what the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, in his opening speech, in which he stated, that schedules A and B were the main pillars on which this Bill was supported. I give the noble Lord full credit for his assertion, but will make one in my turn, which is, that, if you take away the right of voting in the boroughs included in schedules A and B, and give the elective franchise to the 10l. voters, which is now adopted by the Committee, you destroy the pillars that support the Church and the House of Lords in these realms. Sir, I can naturally enough enter into the feeling's of those who think it a hard case that the Duke of A. or Mr. B. should nominate Members to this House, whilst populous towns like Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham, are not represented. The natural observation of every man to whom such a case is put, will he, that such an anomaly ought not to exist. Let us, however, penetrate a little beyond the surface, and ascertain how far the Reform Bill, as the clauses have passed the Committee, will have the effect of entirely altering the relative importance or influence of the several constituent parts 'of the Legislature.
For the purpose of making myself clearly understood, I must he allowed to call the attention of the House for a few seconds to the state of this kingdom some centuries ago. In former times, the great bulk of the landed property (and there was then but a small amount of personal property, arts, manufactures, and commerce having made little progress, and steam machinery being unknown, appertained to the Barons, the Church, and the Crown; the property in land of these several parties, at least of the Crown and Barons, gradually melted away, and a middle class rose into existence. At the Reformation also, the property of the Church, as the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, and his family knew full well (not to their cost), was lessened in a very material degree. No power then existed in the State by which the prerogative of 523 the Sovereign could be checked, and Henry 8th, his successors, Mary, Elizabeth, and James, reigned almost without control. As the middle class increase, the Barons lost, their territorial possessions, and the royal authority gradually decreased. After the Revolution, as it is called, of 1688, the power to reject bills sanctioned by the Houses a Parliament was exercised but once by William 3rd; since the House of Brunswick have formed part of our happy Constitution, the use of that power (the King's negative) has been discontinued. The indirect influence of the Crown has been substituted for it in both Houses of Parliament, and whatever has passed both Houses has always received the royal assent. I stated this to show that the direct power of the Crown, as one of the three branches of the Legislature, or of Parliament, has wholly ceased, and influence has superseded the veto exercised by the arbitrary race of the Stuarts, and the despotic Monarchs of former times. The only power, therefore, at present that remains, or is possessed by the Crown, in either House of Parliament, particularly in this House, arises from the influence of the Crown, or Sovereign, over those whose property, or whose rights of corporate or other franchises, enable them in the boroughs to return Members to this House.
Let this indirect control or influence—call it by what name you please—which has been so long exercised, be once annihilated, as it most certainly must be by the present Bill—which influence has been substituted for the despotic sway exercised by the Stuarts, and how, in such a case, is that power which it is for the Crown to possess to be maintained? What possible connexion will there exist between a reformed House of Commons—of individuals sent to obey blindly the dictates of their several constituents—and the House of Peers and the Crown? In such a House, where demagogues only will be Lords of the ascendant, where (I mean no disrespect to) the members for Preston, for Middlesex, and for Kerry, will be in the fulness of their glory, what chance will the Sovereign or the Peers have of being heard or attended to by Members over whom they can have no influence whatever? They must either implicitly register the edicts of such a House of Commons; or, if a refusal be ventured on, what will be the consequence? Up will start one of the new demagogues—I must say, new 524 demagogues, or I shall get into a scrape—and what will some of these worthies assert? What, but that the Throne is a pall of velvet and a chair! What, but that the House of Peers is 400 country gentlemen, many of them with encumbered estates, of from 5,000l. to 20,000l. a-year? And what will be their conclusion? Why this: Let these establishments be voted useless, and abolished! As to the Church of England and its property, that will fall, as a matter of course. Where would be found any power in the Crown or the Peers to oppose the edict for its abolition, coming from the delegates of the 10l. voters, backed by the whole of the lower class and physical force of the country? All the counterbalancing powers now existing in the King and upper House will vanish in a reformed Parliament; and, consequently, the Constitution, which, if I mistake not, consists in a proper equipoise of the three great powers in the State, will be destroyed. It seems to me impossible to elect a Parliament, such as must be elected if this Reform Bill passes, that will not, within a very few years, absorb the entire power in the State, and entirely control, if not dispense with, the authority of the other branches of the Legislature.
A Parliament, constituted as a reformed House of Commons under the provisions of the Bill that has passed the Committee must be, is likely to be influenced by popular clamour more than by public opinion. The Members for the towns or cities will preponderate over the Members for counties, and the 10l. voters will preponderate over the respectable householders; thus the 10l. voters will have the ascendancy. With the indulgence of the House, I will, in a few words, give an illustration of my position. Let me take an hypothetical case, not likely, perhaps, ever to occur, yet, however, in the possibility of human events, let us suppose a prince of the blood rendered unpopular in the country either by incorrect statements made against him from prejudice, or popular clamour, or by other causes over which he had no control, and which might happen to any man; suppose him to become next heir to the throne, and so circumstanced, that a violent outcry was raised against him by the public Press: every one must be aware of the talent, zeal, activity, and perseverance, with which the public Press can forward any favourite object, A violent dislike, by means of the 525 Press, might be excited in the minds of the 10l. voters, and they might return as Members to this House no person unless he gave a pledge to vote for the exclusion of the individual in question from the throne. The well-thinking part of the community might differ in opinion from the 10l. voters; part of the people then would be for the exclusion, the other part against it: the Members of the House of Commons would be mere Representatives of the parties who sent them; a pledge had been given, and it must be redeemed; and they would persevere in voting the exclusion. This may be an extreme case, I admit, but yet it is far from an impossible one. What would be the remedy in such a Parliament, and with such a vote given by the Commons of England? It appears to me that the results might lead to greater inconvenience, and prove more dangerous, than at first may be imagined, The 10l. voters, particularly in large towns, are more liable to be excited, and to be influenced by popular clamour, than any other people. Over such a population artful and designing men can obtain great influence. The learned author of the Esprit des Lois has asserted, that the liberty of the Roman people was gone when the rabble of Italy was admitted to vote for the elections at Rome.
One of the most powerful arguments adduced in favour of the present Bill, at least, one that seems to be much insisted on out of doors, and has, I believe, considerable weight with some Members of this House, is, that, if the present Reform Bill is not conceded to the wishes of the people, a commotion will take place: in short, that if these several clauses are not allowed to pass into a law within the walls of Parliament, it will be carried with a vengeance from without. It is asserted by some, that fearful consequences will ensue. If every species of Reform was withheld from the people, the assertion would probably be realized; but, if the passing of this Bill only be the point at issue, I think I may venture to assert, that its rejection will create little or no disturbance. Public opinion is for a Reform, but popular clamour only is for the several clauses of the present Bill; and if his Majesty's Ministers confound, in the present case, public opinion with popular clamour, they deceive themselves as egregiously as those noble Lords who, last autumn, voted for the bill mistook, when greeted with huzzas, 526 the shouts of the mob for the voice of fame. Let me not be misunderstood: I am one of the most strenuous advocates for public opinion: so far from advising that the voice of the public should not be heeded by the Legislature, I think, and I assert, that it is the first duty of a legislature, in any civilized state, to attend to public opinion: but I cannot imagine that this sentiment in any country can be mistaken for popular clamour by any reasonable person who has not lost the faculty of judgment. Public opinion emanates from the most upright and well-informed individuals in the community, it is based on intelligence and is supported by the middle class: popular clamour arises chiefly from drunken or infuriated mobs, and is confined to the lower classes. These two things are as distinct as light from darkness. By a singular, though not uncommon, perversion of the human intellect, they are often confounded together. The example of the late French Revolution of July, 1830, is triumphantly quoted by the advocates of this Bill, who cry out, "Look at the events in France! see the result of not acceding to the wishes of the people! the Reform Bill must be passed, to avoid a similar state of things in this country!" There is not, however, the slightest similarity between the two cases—they are totally different in every respect. The Revolution of July in France was commenced and accomplished by public opinion. It was a combination of the middle classes assisted by the physical forces of the lower classes. There is scarcely an upper class in France. The peerage has little property and less influence, and is only a name. The resistance to the ordinances of Charles 10th in France was effected by a combination of the wealth, talent, information, population, and mass of the people—it was, in short, public opinion. All the leading bankers and merchants and men of property in Paris, were arrayed in a firm phalanx against the ministers, who had nothing to rely on but the armed force, and the ordinances. M. Lafitte, and a thousand other celebrated men, were in open hostility to the measure. It was public opinion in favour of the charter and the deputies. Is there any similar feeling in the people of this metropolis, or of the country, with regard to the several clauses of the Reform Bill? Look at the declaration of the bankers, merchants, and citizens of London—look at the sentiments 527 of the leading bankers and merchants who are Members of this House—look at the sentiments of the same class in the country! In Great Britain, the case is wholly different; a Reform is expected and desired by public opinion, but the several clauses of this Bill, or rather the cry of "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," is got up and supported by popular clamour only. To argue or to assert that Reform is not demanded by the public voice, would, at the present day, be contrary to the fact; such is, undoubtedly, the case, as appears from the display of public feeling; but, to argue or to assert that the present Reform Bill, with all its clauses, is in any manner sanctioned by public opinion, would be to assert as monstrous an absurdity as can well be imagined. Many of its clauses are most unpopular: the qualification clause is considered too low, and as giving too great a preponderance to the lower classes, to the exclusion of the other classes in the community. By nine out of ten persons in the country this Bill has been misunderstood. It has been imagined to be a sort of nostrum and universal panacea for all evils past, present, and to come, that would heal all the wounds inflicted on the Constitution, and enable it to bear with its increasing infirmities. Should the Legislature yield to popular clamour, and pass this Bill from apprehension of popular tumults being the consequence, they must, on the same principle, be ready to assent at some future period, not far distant, to Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and Election by Ballot, for the lower classes will be much more clamorous, and infinitely more anxious, to procure that species of radical Reform than the present Bill. If this Bill pass into a law, the people in the country who are anxious for the measure will naturally expect great benefit from it, and when they find that no advantages accrue to them in consequence of it, they will naturally think that it is because the Bill does not go far enough, and they will unite themselves to the radical Reformers to obtain a more efficacious system of Representation. In short, if the Legislature yield any thing from apprehension of tumult, it will deserve to lose the respect of the country, and will be more exposed to commotions and threats than before. The usual result arising in almost all circumstances of life, from yielding from apprehension, or giving up 528 from pusillanimity, is only to provoke greater outrages than are prevented by the base submission. Will the population of the country remain satisfied when they find no relief is obtained from that distress at present so complained of? Is there a single act of retrenchment or economy, of amelioration in the laws, to be achieved by a Reformed Parliament that cannot be effected by the present one?
The difficulty which will arise under this Bill, not to say the impossibility for the Ministers of the Crown to secure seats in this House to enable them to carry on the business of the nation, must be apparent to the most superficial observer? How can a Member of the Cabinet—how can a Privy Counsellor, who, by virtue of his oath, is obliged to give his Sovereign the best advice in his power, reconcile it to his conscience to give a pledge to his 10l. voters, on any question of popular excitement, that may, and such questions undoubtedly will occur? Suppose, on the eve of a general election, a popular excitement were to take place amongst the 10l. voters on any subject—are these to obtain a pledge from the Ministers of the Crown, the Members of the Cabinet, who may be in this House, to promote certain measures? In cases of excitement, either such pledges must be given, or the Ministers will not be returned to Parliament. Really, under such circumstances, it seems difficult to say how a Member of the Government is to retain office, unless, indeed, the suggestion is adopted, to give them seats in this House by virtue of their official situation.—[Lord Althorp could assure the hon. Member that there was no such intention on his part, or on that of his colleagues.]—I am glad to hear that for I do not think that the country will, relish such a measure? if his Majesty's Ministers do not intend, then, as it has been reported, to bring in a bill to enable the Members of the Cabinet to have a seat ex officio in this House, the most important consequences will follow. From the state of thraldrom in which the Ministers will be kept by the 10l. voters in this House, the instability of any Government will be the necessary result, and such an instability in the Government must have the worst effect on the public funds, and on all the international relations of the country. How is the public credit to be supported, unless a security be given for the levying of taxes to the amount of the 529 annuities due from the public? Will a reformed Parliament, the Members of which are sent here to represent the 10l. voters, not be directed to lessen one tax after another? First, the assessed taxes, then the Excise, then the Customs, and so on, will be put an end to, until the security for the payment of the dividends on the public funds will be endangered. I do not assert such will be the case, but I cannot help being of opinion that great risk of such an event will be incurred if this Bill pass into a law.
What do the Gentlemen who are so anxious to promote the success of the several clauses that have passed the Committee propose to themselves if the measure is carried and the Constitution is destroyed. Do they anticipate the gratitude of the country?—do they imagine their party will be firmly secured, or themselves raised in public estimation? If they do, they deceive themselves most grossly. Let them look at the gratitude of the Catholics of Ireland to the late Government for the boon of emancipation. If they, the promoters of this Bill, stop short after the Bill is carried, they will be left nearly alone; if they proceed, they must continue to obey the dictates of popular clamour, until nothing of the Constitution remains. Without meaning any disrespect to the Paymaster of the Forces, or making so bad a simile as to liken him to Sampson, or this House to the Philistines, it appears to me that he is pulling down the fabric of the Constitution, and involving himself, his colleagues, and his successors in office, in one common destruction. One of our Poets says—Time's old cottage, battered and decayed, Lets in new light through chinks that time has made.Is not the noble Lord satisfied with the new lights already let into this House; if more lights are let in, the place will become too warm to hold us; it is rather hot already, if more lights come, the House will be in a blaze! Let us, however, look forward to a brighter prospect, the other House has always been considered as the murus aheneus, alike opposed to the encroachments of the prerogative and the insidious designs of the factious and discontented. Let us hope, then, on the present occasion, it will perform its duty, and defend with firmness the citadel of the Constitution intrusted to its care. Let the Members of that House only be firm, and 530 they will be able effectually to counteract the disaffected who would assail them from without, and the pusillanimous who would work upon their fears from within; let them do this, and they will merit the everlasting fame of having preserved inviolate the British Constitution, obtained by the blood and exertions of our ancestors. I conclude by expressing a hope, that this Constitution will continue to exist long after the animosities arising from questions of Reform shall be consigned to oblivion, and the discussion itself become the subject of history.
said, that having failed in his endeavours to speak upon the question in the last Session until just at the close, and in an almost empty House, he was anxious to address it once more upon the subject; insomuch that he still viewed it in a different light from all who had spoken in the debate, and above all the right hon. Baronet, the leader of the opposition, whose strong objections to the Bill he hoped to answer to the satisfaction of the House and country. He must first observe, that the coalition of parties in the present Ministry had exposed them to the attacks of their opponents, who had not failed to take the advantage of it. For instance, the most severe and effective speech of the right hon. Baronet against them had been in answer to the noble Lord, his former colleague, who, in the debate in the last Session, had charged him with inconsistency of conduct, when the right hon. Gentleman with great warmth and eloquence, complained of the injustice of the attack by those who, having hitherto with himself opposed all Reform whatever, had suddenly been made converts to the revolutionary measure of the Whigs. But, however plausible the argument, what was the fact? The noble Lord and others, in becoming parties to the Bill, had proved the sincerity of their conversion, and redeemed the errors of their former policy; but where was the consistency of the right hon. Baronet, in cutting the throat of the Tory party upon the Catholic question, and crying murder at his own act, in his speeches against the Reform Bill? For, whether it was the necessity of the Catholic emancipation, or of agreeing in opinion with the Duke of Wellington, the noble Duke and himself, in carrying that measure, had opened the door to Reform, by thus breaking the tie betwixt the Tories and the people, which had so long ex- 531 cluded the Whigs from office, and prevented the adoption of the liberal system of which Catholic emancipation was a vital part; but still, the right hon. Gentleman might have saved both his character and place, and have justified the warm defence of his conduct by the Whigs against the reproaches of the Tories, had he only followed the course which his abandonment of their cause had called for, viz. in persuading the Duke to bring forward the measure of Reform, or leaving him to the consequences of his own declaration against it; when, consistently with his vote on the Catholic question, he might have followed the example of his former colleagues in becoming a Member of the present Government, and continuing to take the lead in that House for which his talents and practice had so well fitted him. But, instead of this, what was the fact? The noble Duke and the right hon. Baronet were sent for by the late King to form a new Ministry, and accordingly undertook the Government betwixt them, without the aid of either party or the people; when, having been soundly beaten by the Whigs upon the great question of their policy—the repeal of the Test Act, instead of resigning office, and leaving the field to their opponents, according to the practice in political warfare, they turned the tables on the Whigs by stepping into their shoes, and carrying their own question of Catholic relief against the Tories; and here, if the noble Duke, who had thus taken up the cause of the people, had only stood by it, the Whigs, who had proved their forgiveness of the march he had stolen on them, by their zeal on the Catholic question, would have enabled him to carry Reform in the same triumphant manner; but, for whatever reasons, the noble Duke and right hon. Gentleman determined to retrace their steps, and to win back the hearts, or at least stop the mouths of the Tories, by their sweeping declaration against Reform; when, having soon discovered their mistake, they as soon changed their minds again, and had now become half Reformers, in the hope of returning to office upon the backs of the party no longer able to carry them. Hitherto the Tories, being consistent in their conduct, had obtained credit for the honesty of their feelings, and a real apprehension of that danger to the Protestant religion which the people had so long believed in. But the noble Duke and right hon. Baronet, in carrying the Catholic ques- 532 tion without abandoning their Tory principles, had thereby dropped the mask, and opened the eyes of the people to the fallacy of the system they had so long supported; for having at last removed all the unjust and invidious distinctions between the Catholic and Protestant people, what reason could they give for withholding the same justice between their respective Churches, either in restoring the Catholic Church to her former rank and property, or placing both upon the same footing by that Reform of the Established Church, which the necessity of the case and the voice of the people of both religions had so loudly called for? For, did they not all know that the origin of tithes was for the maintenance of the poor, and that the long existence of an abuse was no ground for its continuance, however natural in the members of the Established Church to defend the property they had so long enjoyed; the fact being, that when they turned Reformers, and abandoned the mother Church, in getting rid of her restraints they held fast to her honours and emoluments? And this was the root of the evil; for, as the Catholic priests were precluded marriage, and, thus shut out from human ties, and the consideration of worldly objects, their wealth was expended in the charitable purposes for which it was intended; and it was to their abandonment of the religious obligation which the Catholic Church had wisely imposed as the only check against the misapplication of her wealth, that the general dislike of the people to the Established Church of England was to be ascribed. Let those who doubted it look at Scotland. There, the Established Church had no enemy in the people, because she was not their enemy by her subservience to the Crown and Government; her Ministers were respected, because their habits, conduct, and stations in life were consistent with the duties of their calling—because they were no more than fairly paid for their labour, and because the moderate preferment which they looked to was the result of merit, and not of birth, connexion, nor political intrigue; but, lastly, and above all, because their Church had neither burthened the people with tithes on one hand, nor poor-rates on the other: whereas in England, the whole wealth of the Catholic Church, which all other sects of Protestants had abandoned with her restraints, had ever since remained in the hands of the Crown, 533 or the Aristocracy, for the provision of its younger branches, who, with only a life interest in their preferment, and with wives and families to provide for, saved all they could, naturally, for themselves, but unhappily for the country; insomuch that their wealth, which formerly maintained the poor, no longer supported them, and their charity, that once supplied the wants of others, now began and ended at home. This was the true cause of that continual increase of Dissenters which, under the same system, would soon reduce England to the state of Ireland, where the people were burthened with an immense Church establishment, which might be almost said to have none to pray for but itself. Thus far upon the question he hoped he had answered the argument by fact, and had shown, that whatever the fears of the right hon. Baronet in behalf of religion or the Constitution, it was too late to tell the people that a reform in the Church establishment would at all endanger either. He now came to the main argument against the Bill, wherein, to speak the truth, he believed the majority of the House so far agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that they had gone the whole length with Ministers more from necessity than choice, and to prevent the greater danger, under all circumstances, from a less radical measure. Indeed, as much had been stated in the last Session by hon. Members as old and sincere friends of the people as he hoped he had been himself, and he mentioned the fact, because, if such were their feelings, could the people be surprised at the stronger fears of the body who were not their Representatives, but, according to the intention of the Constitution, the check and control upon them; and whose conduct, however to be regretted, had been consistent with the system which the people had supported for more than fifty years, and would have supported still had they not found out the necessity for that radical change which the majority of the said body, however unwisely, dangerously, and unconstitutionally, had still conscientiously opposed. And he said unconstitutionally, with reference to the opinion he had stated in his former speech: to which he must now add, that if the House of Commons stood justified in its own standing resolution, declaring the interference of Peers in Parliament with the election of its Members to be a high infringement of 534 its liberties, their rejection of the Bill at once, in the teeth of such resolution, was a conduct not to be permitted, and he hoped the answer to be given it would prevent the renewal of the offence. On the other hand, whatever the expectation, or even certainty, of the rejection of the late Bill, and however lamentable the consequences of the delay throughout the country, in his opinion the Ministers had done their duty by the Constitution in making the attempt, and would have been as open to censure in the first instance, as they would stand acquitted now, in adopting the strong but necessary measure they had resolved on. But, as good came out of evil, so in this case, the happy issue of the country out of all the danger of the delay was the proof of the safety of the measure. To return to the right hon. Baronet, who still maintained that the Bill would destroy the Constitution, and establish a republican government, he would now ask the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, in answer to their late speeches, if such had been the real object of the political unions, and those meetings of 150,000 men, whom they declared to be the dictators and masters of the Government? was it to be believed they would have lost the golden opportunity which the Lords had given them, and have stood forward at that awful moment in defence of the Constitution against its only real danger from the enemies of the Bill? In melancholy proof, let them only look at Bristol, and ask themselves whether the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Recorder of the city, who, by his own statement, had been told that the civil power was unable to protect him, and, therefore, knew, or ought to have known, the extreme danger of a visit which might have been dispensed with, had not been the sole cause of all the melancholy consequences. And, looking to the example of Bristol, could they deny the fact, that whatever the danger of these unions in themselves, they had, both in their existence and in the exercise of that power and influence wherein their danger consisted, protected the country at large from the dreadful effects which the rejection of the Bill and the excitement of the feelings of the people had in that instance produced? As to the real object of these unions, to meet that question fairly he would take the speech of the Chairman of the Birmingham Union at their great meeting, upon which so much 535 had been said elsewhere. That speech he had read throughout, and whatever the question of Mr. Attwood's politics or judgment, he believed there had been no question of the sincerity of his praise of the Crown and Ministers, his attachment to the Constitution, and his honest belief that justice might be done the people without endangering it. What that justice meant he had plainly stated, by declaring that every honest labourer had as good a right to a reasonable maintenance for himself and family, in exchange for his labour, as the King to the crown on his head; and however strong the language, who could deny the truth of it? And even more, for the right of the King was derived from the people, who made it the law; but the right of every man to the profit of his labour, the right to resist the taxation of ti without his own consent, was the right of nature, which no human law: could supersede. To win back that right was the object of the Political Unions, and the main question of the present Bill, which, as the right hon. Baronet and others had truly said, could not stop where it stood, but on its own principle must lead to that only real Representation of the people by which every man who contributed to support the Government, either in his person, property, or labour, was entitled to a vote; and according to which there was no honest means of preventing universal suffrage, other than to relieve labour from taxation. How this could be done, he had yet to answer to the right hon. Baronet, and would now state, in as few words as the subject would permit, the grounds of his conviction, that the present glorious measure, for which the people were so deeply indebted to the Crown and Ministers, would enable them to relieve the labour of the country from taxation, without danger or injury to property or the Constitution. It was a melancholy truth in the history of the nation, that in proportion to the increase of its wealth, so had been the decrease of the wealth of the labouring classes; and the reason had been shortly this—when first the Government was established, the whole expense of it was defrayed by property, whilst labour, being free, lived on its own earnings; but as property increased, power came with it, and as power creates abuse, so property began with shifting by degrees the burthen of its own protection upon labour's back. Thus taxation commenced, and continued to increase from time to 536 time, as labour was found able to bear it and thus the hand of industry was turned against itself in strengthening the power that oppressed it. To pass over the intermediate history of the increase of taxation, and to come at once to the cause of the present state of the country, it had been the funding system—the foundation of all its wealth and misery—but which, from having been the source of its distress, had become the means to remove it; for what but the funding system, in mortgaging labour instead of capital, to pay the interest of the public debt, had acted like the steam-engine, in multiplying the powers of both to that degree which, to repeat the emphatic close of the right hon. Baronet's late speech, "had made and preserved this the proudest nation in the annals of the world?" But which assertion, he must beg leave to say, contained more fallacy than truth; for, however true that the combined powers of the capital and labour of England exceeded all the world besides, it was no less true, that the powers of both, for want of combination, had long since been dormant, and that the real situation of the country, both at home and abroad, was the reverse of that which the right hon. Baronet had described. But this had been the necessary consequence of the funding system, which, in mortgaging the labour of the people, who had all along been paying the interest of the increasing debt, whilst capital was left to accumulate, had thus enabled the right hon. Baronet to draw the flattering picture on his own side, where property, in climbing all the while the ladder of its wealth, had now arrived at the top, and might well boast of the high ground it stood on. But what was the picture on the other side? During the progress of this cruel system, which, after so many years, had brought the nation to its two extremes of poverty and wealth, whole generations of hard-worked, ill-fed, short-lived, and even half-grown labourers, had been swept away; and such was their present state, that Ministers were now sending them abroad to prevent their starving at home. And this, the labour of England, to which her rich men owed all their wealth, and which, having once given her ' that proud weight in the scale of nations stated by the right hon. Baronet, might not only do the same again, but render her far happier, and more truly great in peace than ever she had been in war, All that was wanting 537 to restore her power was simply for property to untie labour's hands, and thus enable it to work again, but not, as before, to the sole advantage of its employer, at the expense of its health and strength, its morals, character, and welfare, and all the comforts and enjoyments of life to which honest industry was entitled, but for their mutual benefit by obtaining for mere property the fair profit on its capital, and for itself the just remuneration for its toil. And now to say how this was to be done. Let property be made at once responsible for the burthen of the public debt, by which it would relieve both labour and itself. But first he must state the value of the whole property of the country, which, according to the estimate in Dr. Colquhoun's work, published in 1812, then amounted to 2,738,000,000l., to which ought to be added, the great increase of property during the last twenty years; but he would leave this out, that he might adopt the estimate of Mr. Richard Heath-field, in his plan for the liquidation of the public debt, first published in 1819, and which he begged to state very shortly to the House, in justice to the author, and in defence of the opinion of so humble an individual as himself. In this plan Mr. Heathfield estimated the value of the property of the kingdom at 2,800,000,000; to which he added the 800,000,000l. of public debt, making in the whole 3,600,000,000l. Upon this sum he proposed to levy an assessment of twenty per cent, amounting to the sum of 720,000,000l.; with which to liquidate the debt to that amount, and thus at once relieve labour from 30,000,000l. of taxation. Of this 720,000,000l. of the debt, 160,000,000l. being the amount of the assessment of the fundholders, would be at once cancelled; the landholders and other proprietors requiring time, being taxed with the interest due upon their assessments until the whole was paid off. He would not trouble the House with the details of this plan, which would speak for itself to all who would take the trouble to read it; but to show at once that property, in thus relieving labour, would increase its own income—meaning, by property, the great body of proprietors throughout the country, great and small, and of all descriptions, who, by spending their whole income in it, most wanted and deserved relief—the case proved itself. Insomuch, that the absentees, and still more the 538 accumulators of income at home, who escaped from present taxation to a very large amount, would, in supporting equally the burthen of the debt, relieve the general body from taxation in the degree which they (the absentees and accumulators) would then have to bear it. Thus all but the absentees and accumulators would be relieved; but above all the landholders, and especially the unhappy mortgagor, who was now burthened with the whole taxation on the estate of which he had mortgaged the income; whereas the transfer of the debt would shift 30,000,000l. of the burthen to the back of his mortgagee, who in justice ought to bear the whole taxation on the property, in proportion to his capital invested in it. If, then, property, in thus far relieving labour from taxation would benefit itself, could there be a question that in bearing the whole expenditure of the Government it would derive increased advantage from it? For, in fact, the depression of labour which had commenced with the peace, and had ever since been increasing, had already burthened property to the full amount of taxation, and with aggravated weight. During the war (as he had stated in his former speech), the enormous loans raised for its support being expended in the country were the sources of its increased wealth, by increasing trade and commerce, and which, in giving full employment and high wages to labour, enabled it to bear the taxes to pay the interest of the debt; and so long as high rents, high prices, and high wages could be maintained, all went smoothly on; but the return of peace, in reducing rents, prices, and the wages of labour, without reducing taxation, and followed by that ruinous measure to every landed proprietor who had neither funded property nor other income to assist him—namely, the return to cash payments—was the short history of that general distress which nothing but the removal of the cause could remedy. But the whole question of the present system of taxation, and its cruel effects on capital and labour, in having rendered both unable to benefit each other and the country, were fully explained in Mr. Heathfield's publications on the subject, wherein he had shown that in raising the revenue by taxes on consumption, instead of a tax on property, the necessary effect of high duties in multiplying prices by the action and reaction of price on price, so increased the amount, 539 that the annual tax of 1l. on any article of consumption required at least 6l.. in the general prices to distribute the burthen of the 1l. paid to the Treasury; and consequently, that the sum of 40,000,000l. now paid annually in duties of excise and customs, to effect a distribution of the burthen over the mass of consumers, required an increase in the sum of the prices of all the articles sold in the United Kingdom during the year to the amount of 240,000,000l. more than the consumers would have to pay if the said 40,000,000l. of duties were not imposed. Such being the effect of the present system of taxation, which every hon. Member might learn by reading Mr. Heathfield's book, he would no longer detain the House than to state his humble but firm conviction, that the adoption of Mr. Heathfield's plan would, in again combining the gigantic powers of the capital and labour of England, at once raise her out of all her difficulties, and not only restore and increase her trade and commerce to a boundless extent, by giving her the command of all markets in the cheapness of her produce, but in compelling France and other Governments, in their own defence, to adopt the same just principles and to relieve the distresses of the people by setting labour free—carry into effect the principle of free trade, establish a general and lasting peace, and thus verify the words of the right hon. Baronet, in "making and preserving this the proudest nation in the annals of the world."
said that, after the length of time to which the discussions on the question of Reform had extended, it was not a matter of wonder that the House should have become thoroughly tired of the subject. Of this the gallant Officer who had just addressed them seemed to be thoroughly aware; for, throughout the whole of his speech, he had not offered a single observation which bore upon the question. It was his (Colonel Wood's) intention to pursue a different course, and to confine himself as closely as possible to those details of the Bill to which he objected, and which would induce him to vote against the third reading. He felt it necessary to intrude to such an extent upon the indulgence of the House, because he had voted for the second reading of the Bill, and, therefore, was anxious to explain why, in its present stage, he had made up his mind to oppose it. He voted for the second reading of the Bill, not because he 540 approved of it as it then stood, but because he hoped that, in its subsequent stages, several material alterations would be made, which would render it, if not unobjectionable, at least less subversive of existing institutions. In that hope he had been disappointed. By dint of numbers on the Ministerial side, the Bill had gone through the Committee without any alteration of consequence, and was now proposed to be read a third time in nearly its original form. In that form he, for one, would never support it. His objection to the Bill did not rest upon the first clause. He should have been content that all the boroughs enumerated in schedule A should be disfranchised. But to the second clause he had the strongest objection. He could easily understand why fifty-six boroughs should be totally disfranchised, but he could not understand why thirty should be partially disfranchised. He knew of no test by which it could be said, that particular boroughs were worthy of returning but one Member each. It was a perfectly new principle in the Representative system. From the earliest times the smallest boroughs had always returned two Members, and many of them, particularly the burgage tenure boroughs, which it was now proposed to half disfranchise, could never have been of greater importance than at present. He, therefore, protested against this alteration of the Constitution of Parliament. If any of the boroughs in schedule B were close or corrupt, let them be placed in schedule A, and totally disfranchised, but let them not hereafter, in the exercise of a mutilated privilege, become the sanctioned violators of one of the best principles of the Representative system. With these observations on the disfranchising provisions of the Bill, he now came to its enfranchising clauses. Without wishing to revive the discussion on the metropolitan districts, he could not but say, that, to give them the right of returning Members to Parliament was, in his opinion, one of the most objectionable provisions of the Bill. It amounted, in fact, to the establishment of Universal Suffrage almost at their own doors. The electors for those districts would amount to 100,000, who, from their immediate proximity to the House, would sit in daily judgment upon the conduct of their Representatives, and thus deprive them of that which every Member ought to possess—the free and unshackled 541 power of speaking and voting as his conscience and judgment might direct. This, in his opinion, was most objectionable—because, when the immediate influence of the constituency over the conduct of the Representative was felt in the metropolis, it would soon extend to the other large towns of the kingdom; and thus, as Paris was said to be France, so with equal truth might London be said to be England. Upon every political question the tone of the metropolis would be adopted throughout the country. The danger which would result from our ever arriving at such a state of things must be obvious to every one. Although he had voted against the late proposition for taking the third Member from the county of Monmouth, he still thought that the original proposition for giving a third Member to any county was bad. That proposition, however, having been agreed to by a majority of the House, and consequently engrafted in the Bill, he objected to the taking of the third Member from Monmouth, because he conceived that it would unsettle the balance which ought to be preserved between the agricultural and manufacturing interests of the country. He objected to the means by which Ministers proposed to preserve that balance. To continue to agriculture its due share of Representation, he thought, instead of giving additional Members to counties, it would have been better and wiser not to have broken down those rural boroughs through which the agricultural interests had hitherto, to a great extent been represented. Another objection in his mind to the Bill, as it now stood, was the diminution of the number of' English Members. If the Members for Ireland could make out a good claim for additional Representation to that country, which he did not believe they could, he would say, let them have it. If Scotland could make out a claim, which he believed she could, he would say, let her have twenty additional Members, but let it not be at the expense of England. He had thus, with as much brevity as possible, gone through the objections which he felt to the details of the measure. If he could bring himself to believe that they would be removed by amendments, when the Bill came to be discussed in the other House of Parliament, he should not hesitate to vote for its being now read a third time. But as he could receive no assurance upon that point, he felt bound to oppose it. It was 542 said by the hon. member for Calne last night that the question was now "or" a compromise. "The latter the hon. and learned Gentleman held up to obloquy, as a thing unworthy of the Representatives of the people. He did not know why a compromise should be so viewed. He thought that the public out of doors were looking for a compromise—were anxiously hoping that the two great parties in Parliament would meet, and that an amicable settlement of the question would take place. Believing that the Bill in its present shape would effect an inroad in the Constitution of which no man living could judge of the consequences, he should decidedly oppose the third reading.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, it was his intention to vote for the third reading of the Bill. He had expressed his hostility to same of its details, but when he saw the situation in which the House and the country were placed by hon. Gentlemen below him, when they were at the head of Government—when he recollected that they had then refused all measures of Reform, however moderate—when he was thus driven to the alternative of having no Reform at all, or of having the Bill then before the House with whatever imperfections he might suppose belonged to it—he conceived it to be his duty to support the present proposition. He repeated, that he felt himself called upon to support the measure of Reform brought forward by his Majesty's Government, in opposition to the feeling evinced by their opponents, who were anxious that there should be no Reform at all. On a former occasion, when two boroughs, convicted of delinquency, were disfranchised, it was proposed that the right which they had forfeited should be divided between a large manufacturing town, and a place connected with the agricultural interests. But even this moderate proposition was refused. It was then said, that if that point were not given up, the Reform question would be pressed upon the Government in such a way, as would oblige them to concede a much more considerable measure: and circumstances had justified that prediction. It was clear that the late Ministers had not retired in consequence of the vote on the Civil List, but because the call for Reform had become universal. He had never heard from the hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, who opposed this Bill, what degree of Reform they were 543 disposed to give, though none of them would deny that some degree of Reform was now absolutely necessary. The hon. member for Brecon said, that he would agree to the disfranchisement of the boroughs in schedule A; but that he thought the boroughs in schedule B were most unjustly treated. Now, the treatment of the boroughs in both those schedules was justifiable on the broad principle of public expediency—that principle on which the whole measure was itself founded. Would any hon. Member be bold enough to say, that the great interests which had grown up within this last half century, ought not to be directly represented. One of the objections urged against this measure was, that it would destroy the balance which it was said at present existed between the agricultural and manufacturing interests. Now, he would maintain, that it would do no such thing, and he, for one, could not bring himself to think that that which would promote the good of the whole community would be productive of injury to any particular class in the state. Indeed, if he were inclined to attach any weight to this antiquated talk about the balance of interests which were essentially and necessarily bound up together, he would say, that even under the Reform Bill the manufacturing interests would not be sufficiently represented in that House. The great merit of the Bill was, that it was calculated to give to the people that to which they were entitled—a full and fair Representation in the Commons House of Parliament, and to place that House in a proper position before the country. It was said by some hon. Members, that if this Bill should be passed, the abolition of the House of Peers would be sure to follow as a necessary consequence. He knew not in what quarter or district of the country the hon. Members who made such an assertion had gathered the opinions of the people, but as far as he had been able to ascertain their sentiments, he did not believe that, on the part of the great body of the people, there was any disposition to alter the main principles of the Constitution of the country. The great point at issue was, whether a measure like this should not be passed, which gave to the people their just influence in that House, and restored to them those long-withheld rights to which they felt themselves justly entitled, under the Constitution of the country, and which from 544 all he could see they were determined to obtain; when they had fully recovered their own rights they had no intention he believed to interfere with others. Another objection raised against this Bill was, that it would take away the power of having the colonial interests represented in Parliament, by disfranchising the close boroughs, through the means of which alone Members connected with the colonies had hitherto obtained seats in that House. Now, he conceived that the colonies must be always represented indirectly; and the greatest portion of that Representation they must derive from the conviction of every Member of that House, that the interests of the colonies were identified with the interests of the country at large. To speak of any other Representation on the part of the colonies was absurd; for if Members even were given to the colonies, as had been proposed on a former occasion by the hon. member for Middlesex, their number would be so small that they would possess no weight or influence in that House as a body having separate interests. If the present Bill should be rejected, the country would be thereby placed in a most perilous position; and if the Sovereign should be obliged as he then would be, to form a new Government, that Government, he would assert, would be unable to carry on the affairs of this country, without at once bringing forward a measure of Reform fully as comprehensive and extensive as that now under consideration. Let not the opponents of this Bill delude themselves by supposing, that if they should throw it out, they could propose to the people a nominal Reform, which would, in substance and reality, continue to preserve the power of the aristocracy and the influence of the boroughmongers to their present extent. The people would never endure such a measure as that. He was ready to admit, that he feared that this Bill would not work as well as some of its most sanguine supporters represented; but, looking at it as a boon to the country—viewing it as a measure which was anxiously expected and desired by the people, and feeling certain that some such measure was absolutely required in order to satisfy the wants and meet the wishes of the sober-thinking, influential, and industrious portion of the community, without whose concurrence and support no Government could possibly maintain itself in this 545 country, he should give his vote for the third reading of this Bill.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said, the reasoning adopted by the hon. member for Worcester could not be considered very convincing, when he had declared, that he felt strong objections to the present measure, but that he voted for it because no better plan of Reform had been proposed. The hon. Member admitted that there were many defects in this Bill, and yet he expressed his intentions of voting for it, knowing, at the same time, that if once passed, it could never be recalled. The only reason which the hon. Member had assigned for supporting what he called an objectionable measure, and feared would not work well was, that no other scheme of Reform would be brought forward. But how could he know that there would be no other plan introduced? If the hon. Member disapproved of this measure, and thought Reform necessary, it was his duty to have produced a plan of his own. With regard to the measure itself, they were now arrived at a stage in which it was perfectly clear that, whether this Bill was allowed to pass the other House with considerable alterations, or whether it should be again rejected, his Majesty's Ministers could not proceed with the same Bill, but must come forward with some new measure of a more moderate character, such as was likely to conciliate and satisfy the minds of the country at large. Unless his Majesty's Ministers were prepared to witness a repetition of the scenes at Bristol and Nottingham, they could not venture to produce this plan for a third time. Should this Bill be again rejected by the other House, there could be no precedent for again bringing it forward in the history of the country. The boldest coalition of parties which had taken place for the last half century—that between Lord North and Mr. Fox—did not attempt to re-introduce the India Bill, when it had been fairly defeated by the House of Lords; and it was, therefore, extremely improbable that the present Government could entertain the idea of originating a third Bill, if the second was defeated. He was fully disposed to admit that the country had arrived at such a state that the question must be speedily settled in one way or another: the fever must be allayed, and the natural health and vigour of the nation restored, before it be too late. Acting under the advice of his Mi- 546 nisters, the King dissolved the Parliament, and appealed to the nation on the question of Parliamentary Reform. The country had given its decision, and that decision was for Reform. There must, therefore, be a Reform. But what Reform? Upon what principles, and how were they to be applied? Such was the matter at issue between his Majesty's Ministers and their opponents. Was it to be a wise and wholesome adaptation of gentle alteration to a change of circumstances, or a Reform which would lead to havoc and destruction. That was the real state of the question? He had hitherto abstained from offering his sentiments upon the general merits of the Bill. Neither during the present Session nor the last had he addressed the House upon the subject, and he had remained silent, both because it had been discussed with great ability, and because, in his arguments, he might have trammelled his own future proceedings. He had been willing to hear the matter fully debated, and to weigh all the arguments, however specious, which might be advanced in favour of the Bill. He had done this, and the result was, that the arguments might, to use the words of the hon. and learned member for Caine, be summed up in this—this Bill, or anarchy. Was that an argument to address to a British House of Commons? It might be very well to use it to frighten a timid assembly, but it was not worthy of being adduced to influence reasonable men. He could not avoid taking that opportunity of making some allusion to those who had been ejected from seats in that House at the Reform elections; and he must say, without intending insult or slight to those who had succeeded them, that the places were not better filled by their present occupiers than they were by the predecessors of those Gentlemen. Many of those Gentlemen had supported the Resolution which he had moved as an Amendment on the second reading of the first Bill. It was true, that Resolution proposed no detailed plan, nor could it; but it did propose general principles, which might easily have been followed out, and which, if followed out, accordingly would ultimately have given satisfaction to the country. His opinion with respect to that Resolution was unaltered, and, indeed, it had been even strengthened, by what he had heard since he proposed it. The parliament ought not to 547 be called upon to pledge itself to more than principles; the details ought to be left open to discussion. If that were not the proper and constitutional mode of proceeding, then Parliament was but an assembly to register the edicts of Ministers. What had been the case with the Bill before the House? Were hon. Members, who had voted for the second reading, and had in Committee opposed and voted against several clauses, to be considered as bound to support the Motion for the third reading, although the alterations they wished had not been made? In justice, they could not; but in truth, by the present Ministers they were. But if they were told that the House of Commons was returned by the people for a specific purpose, how would that argument apply to the House of Peers. The hereditary Peerage could be controlled by no such reasoning. Such was his view, and, whatever might be now attempted, such was the genuine and true practice of the Constitution. Then, with respect to the second Bill: that Bill was supported by a pledged majority, and he must admit it was, in many instances, opposed by a pledged minority. Such was, of necessity, the fact. For, with the proscribed boroughs, it was a question of life and death: it was annihilation or preservation. The minority felt that and acted upon that feeling. The majority contended, in many instances, merely for change, and in some, for advantage; but the minority fought for existence. Many Members who voted for the second reading, did so, as a fulfilment of the wish of the country that there should be a Reform; but when those Members found that, in Committee, no alteration in the Bill was allowed, it was monstrous to say, that they, by their vote on the second reading, were bound to support the third reading. That, however, was assumed by the Ministers and their supporters. As a proof that such was the fact, let the House turn to the papers of the day. 'In those papers they would find a report promulgated by the Political Union of Liverpool. That report was drawn up with as much ceremony as a report of that House; and, after noticing that a noble Lord, who had been elected a Representative of the borough of Liverpool, had not voted upon one occasion, and upon another had voted against the Ministers, it declared, that in consequence of such conduct, that noble Lord had forfeited the confidence and respect of the electors who returned him. 548 Why, if that principle was acted upon, it was idle to talk of the House of Commons being a deliberative assembly. It was not a principle that could be acted upon, or even tolerated, without converting the House of Commons into a most slavish assembly. If a Member, for exercising his reason, was to be held up to odium or to hatred, there was an end of independence. And who were those people who took upon themselves to exercise this baleful authority? They were but a very small portion of the country, and had no manner of right to exercise the functions they took upon themselves. And what were the grounds upon which the last Parliament had been dissolved? A majority of that House had agreed to General Gascoyne's Motion for maintaining the number of English Members in that House. For voting in favour of that Motion many of them lost their seats, and, therefore, they had a right at least, to expect that the principle they opposed unsuccessfully would be adhered to by their opponents. Was it adhered to?—No. The Ministers themselves had given it up, after they had dissolved the Parliament for opposing it, and the majority that voted with General Gascoyne had been avenged. One of Lord Grey's projects about Reform was, the diminution of the number of Members of that House, but he had now practically admitted that the Members of the House of Commons was not too great for the proper discharge of the public business. On the question of Merthyr Tydvil, the Government was compelled to disfranchise the county of Monmouth, so completely had they deserted the argument about the House being too numerous; and, although they had dissolved upon this point, they thought it expedient to induce a majority of this House to support them in destroying their Monmouth bantling before it saw the light of the House of Lords. Where, then, was the principle of the "whole Bill and nothing but the Bill," which many Gentlemen had been called upon to pledge themselves to by their constituents? It was impossible for those who had a regard for consistency to approve of this change; their supporters must be ashamed of this dodging backwards and forwards—this marching and counter-marching in legislation. Upon that the third reading of the Bill, he thought it right to state the objections which bound him to vote against the measure. By the preamble of the 549 Bill it appeared that it had five objects:—in the first place, it was to deprive small and inadequate boroughs of the right of returning Members; in the second place, it was to give to large towns and interests the right of returning Members; in the third place, it was to increase the number of county Members; in the fourth place, it was to extend the elective franchise; and, in the fifth place, it was to diminish election expenses. These were the five objects which this Bill proposed to have in view, and he would call the attention of the House to the manner in which they were accomplished. With respect to disfranchisement, it proposed, at one blow, to destroy those boroughs which had hitherto survived all changes—which had outlived the great rebellion, the time of Oliver Cromwell, and the Revolution of 1688. At one blow this Bill was to destroy all charters, and that, simply because, in the opinions of the Ministers, such ought to be the case. In speaking thus, however, he spoke of the Bill in its original state. In its present shape it had a different aspect. Suggestions from the side of the House on which he sat had been adopted, in so far that the franchise of freemen was preserved. The charters were no longer aimed at merely as charters, but they fell before expediency. Looking at the places to be enfranchised, the Government decided that fifty-six boroughs must be disfranchised altogether, and thirty partially. He complained of the unsatisfactory nature of the test adopted. An hon. Member had asked, what other test could have been adopted than assessed taxes, number of houses, or both of these conjointly? Why, the number of electors actually in the different boroughs. And that was the fair and just test—the test which best showed whether the boroughs were decayed, as boroughs, or not. This test, also, was in accordance with the principle laid down by his Majesty's Government in the preamble of the Bill, viz., that it is desirable to take away from those boroughs which have too small a constituency the right of returning Members to Parliament. This was the test laid down in the preamble of the Bill; and yet the Ministers took the assessed taxes at one time, and a population, having nothing to do with election matters, at another, forgetting that their preamble might apply to five only, out of a thousand inhabitants. It was of the utmost importance, in making changes, to 550 adhere, as nearly as possible, to precedent. Hitherto, total disfranchisement had been only resorted to in cases of proved corruption in Great Britain, and the forfeited franchise had been transferred either to a distant place of importance, or the corrupt constituency had been purified by admitting fresh voters. But, as yet, Parliament had never destroyed a borough without crime being alleged and proved; and the claims of ancient usage could not be spurned without weakening the security for all rights which depended on prescription. He would pause before he swept away the smallest right; and that cautious course had been sanctioned by Ministers themselves, for they had partially adopted it with regard to schedule B. Suppose 100 electors were taken as the number necessary to constitute an efficient constituency, and to entitle a borough to return a Member, adopting that criterion, there would have been sixty boroughs open to disfranchisement. But the plan of the Ministers was directly and plainly to assail the corporations; to infringe upon and destroy charters; to violate the rights they conferred—rights as good and as well founded as those to any property or any privileges. The rights conferred by the charters now struck at were as valid as the rights of expectant heirs to peerages, as the rights of the Church, as the rights of any property whatever held upon descent—aye, as the rights of the descendants of the House of Hanover (and he flinched not from saying it) to the throne. Let those who were willing to inflict the blow pause before they struck. Let them remember that they themselves, if they did destroy these charters, would be making a precedent which might be quoted against themselves at no distant period. Then, with respect to the Constitution: How was that affected by this destruction of rights? When the first Bill was introduced, he heard much of the inherent and prescriptive rights of the Constitution; but, as the subject came to be discussed, the Ministers found themselves perplexed and beaten upon that point, and they attempted to shelter themselves under the argument of expediency. What was the origin of the basis of the Constitution? The sword of William the Conqueror. If they were to go back to the origin or beginning of property and rights, they must refer to the Doomsday Book. That would be the great and only source of title. For many years 551 the Norman princes had governed altogether without a Parliament. It was not until the reign of Henry 3rd that Parliaments were known to the Constitution of the country, nor until the reign of Richard 2nd that it was known what boroughs would be summoned to return Members. Another alteration took place, in the reign of Henry 6th, with regard to the right of freeholders; and during the wars of the Roses and of the reigns of the Tudors, and of the first of the Stuarts, he would ask, in what light was the Constitution then considered, with respect to Parliament, though so much was now said of its freedom? There was the Star Chamber, greater than Parliament: men endured long imprisonment on suspicion—sometimes they tortured on examination. The Parliament attainted any victim pointed out by the King. They came, at last, to the time of Charles 2nd. During the reign of that Monarch, the last creation of new boroughs took place. Newark, the city of Durham, and the county of Durham, were authorised to return Members. The regulation of the authority of the Crown gave independence to Parliament, and when James 2nd made his wild, wicked, and tyrannical 'attempt to thrust a religion on the country in opposition to its dearest wishes, the value of an independent Parliament fully appeared. The settlement of the Constitution, and its power, and its good, were then made apparent. Liberty was secured to the country, and a line was drawn which at once checked and protected both the Sovereign and the people. That line was now to be broken; but he contended that the Ministers were bound to make out a far stronger case than they had, before they would be entitled to pursue such a course. For a century and a-half the country had known liberty and happiness under the Constitution then established, and it would be madness and wickedness now to destroy it without sufficient cause. No such cause had been shown. He was one of those, however unpopular the declaration might be, who would never consent to the annihilation of one charter, and, therefore, he should to the last oppose schedule A. Suppose that schedule passed, how could the House suppose the country would regard it as binding? He was ready to ex. tend the elective franchise; he was ready to take one Member from as many boroughs as might be requisite for enfranchisement, but he would never consent to the 552 entire annihilation of a charter. Suppose it was proposed that, in the House of Peers a certain number of Peers should not be allowed to vote, because they were poor, what would be thought of such a proposition? And yet it was in precise keeping with the disfranchisement proposed. What extent of privileges the smaller boroughs should enjoy it was not necessary for him then to argue, but he entreated the House to pause, and to consider well before it sanctioned a measure which might prove a fearful precedent—a precedent which would lead to a disfranchisement many then thought it madness to expect, and which most could contemplate only with dread. There was but one abstract right of voting which could be brought forward by pure theorists, and that was Universal Suffrage. He was no advocate for that mad scheme; but still that only proved the abstract principle, and everything differing from it was a modification of it. The 10l. franchise, for instance, was arbitrary. The possessor under 10l. had as much right to complain of the adoption of the 10l. franchise as the holder of 10l. would have to complain of the adoption of a 20l. franchise. Disguise the fact as theoretical Reformers might, it was evident that the 10l. voters under the new Bill would not be voting for themselves but for the mass of the people, sinless the House consented to Universal Suffrage; it was only a question of degree; the electors in all other cases were virtual Representatives of the public, and they stood between the mass of the people and the House of Commons. And he must say that, in his opinion the poor would suffer much more under the 10l. franchise than they would under a considerably higher one. The great objection he had to the Bill, then, was, that it would violate all charters, and endanger all property. He knew it might be said an attempt to predict was dangerous, but still he had no hesitation in asserting it as his belief, that if the injustice contemplated was executed, it would lead, and shortly, too, to consequences now held in ridicule. His second objection was, that a vicious test had been applied to the boroughs to be disfranchised. He did not like meddling with the rights of the poor, and the Bill did, in many instances abrogate those rights. His third objection was, to the 10l. clause, and to the mode of applying it. He thought the giving Members to 553 the metropolitan districts most unnecessary and objectionable. The metropolis was already amply represented and protected, and enjoyed immense advantages. London was the seat of Government, the great emporium of fashion—deriving every advantage from the residence of the Court, and virtually represented by nearly half the House. The hon. member for Middlesex was as much the member for Mary-le-bone when he sat for Aberdeen, as he would be if he represented the new constituency of that district. The confusion of a general election must be attended with all the disgusting tumult which for the peace of the metropolis was now only confined to Covent-garden; and it was his belief that every general election, under such circumstances, must be attended with serious riots in all parts of the metropolis. So much for his general objections to the application of the principles of the Government with regard to the Bill before the House. The hon. and learned member for Caine had alluded to some opinions of his with regard to the cause of the outcry for Reform, and stated, that he believed the country was far from being in a prosperous state, and that he agreed with him in thinking that the distress in different classes had much to do with the outcry for Reform. The hon. and learned Member seemed to think that every Member was inconsistent who, after complaining of the distress of the country, refused to vote for the Bill now before the House. How did the hon. and learned Member vote on the motion for a Committee on the glove trade? He did not know how the hon. and learned Member voted, but he supposed, of course, for inquiry. How did the hon. and learned Member vote upon any of those questions upon which inquiry was, Claimed in consequence of distress, and upon which inquiry had been refused by a Reforming Government? He was justified in concluding, from the silence of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he, the grand advocate of the interests of the people, had supported his Majesty's Government, and refused the destitute operatives of the glove trade an opportunity of inquiring into their distress. Was the country to be deluded by such statements as that of the hon. and learned Member? His Majesty's Ministers having upon every occasion voted against inquiry into the distress complained of, their advocates now came forward and called upon the House to pass 554 the Reform Bill, as a means of removing that distress, although they themselves, by refusing all inquiry, had declared it to be beyond the reach of Parliament. And then the hon. and learned Member had alluded to his hon. friend, the member for Boroughbridge, who had attributed much of the prevailing distress to the alteration in the currency; and he had objected to his hon. friend for always introducing that subject for the last ten years. Why, the Reformers said, they had introduced Reform for the last thirty years, and claimed merit for having done so. Why, then, was his hon. friend to be censured? He agreed with much of the argument of his hon. friend with respect to the currency. He attributed much of the distress to the Bill of 1826—the Bill of Mr. Huskisson and of Lord Goderich—a member of the present Cabinet. The hon. Gentleman last night talked of Government as an experimental matter, and supposed that the principles of Government and Constitution had been improved upon within the last 200 years, because the scientific knowledge of the public had been increased. The hon. and learned Gentleman was surely acquainted with writings 2,000 years old, in which every argument of theories of Government had been brought forward, and speculation upon speculation had been advanced. Constitution must have reference to the feelings and passions of mankind, and however learned the present generation might be in the arts and sciences, the passions of ambitious, or mean and servile men were the same at present as they had been in the earliest stages of society; it was to guard against these that constitutions had been formed; it was to guard against the despotism of the Throne in this country and in all countries, that the various devices of legislators had been brought forward. This was a new argument on the part of the member for Caine, for he had heretofore talked of the public will as the only rule to be followed. But, after all, the hon. and learned member for Caine had but one argument in support of the Bill. That argument was, "Do it, or you will be obliged to do it." It was during the present debate that the hon. and learned member had, for the first time attacked those who talked of' blood. Why, the hon. and learned Member's own arguments, from the first, were the most bloody. Who was it that had threatened the House of Peers, and 555 bade them take warning by the fate of the Peerage of France? And what was the course the hon. Member recommended? Why, to give way to clamour—to attend, not to the voice of reason, but to the shouts of licence. And in support of his view, the hon. and learned Member had referred to Spain, to Constantinople, and to almost every city. But had he read the facts truly? No; violence in all the instances the hon. and learned Member had adverted to, and indeed, throughout the page of history, had been invariably followed by a chilling coldness far more prejudicial to the cause of liberty than corruption itself. Violence soon exhausted itself, and those who yielded to its influence soon became the passive slaves of despotism. Such was the lesson to be learned from the page of history, and happy would it be for this country if that lesson were not disregarded. There was one subject he could not leave unnoticed—the language used respecting the House of Peers. It would be useless to deny that both in the public Press and in private conversation, the rights of the House of Peers were threatened with destruction. Even in that House hints were thrown out which would seem to glance at the exercise of a most unconstitutional power for the purpose of controlling the House of Peers. For the last fortnight Lord Grey bad been called upon to create Peers to secure the second reading of the Bill, and had been told that his existence as a Minister depended upon his doing so. Why, was it not idle to talk of the Constitution, and to tolerate such language? But then it was said, the second reading would be agreed to. Let that branch of the Legislature take care how it gave way from intimidation, and let the country take care how it permitted the destruction of its independence. If the independence of the House of Lords was crushed with respect to this Bill, how could the country expect it would again revive? The same threat had been held out to that House, The Attorney General had said, that the King had the power to issue writs for new boroughs, or to suspend those for existing boroughs; and such a threat might have had its influence. On this subject he must again refer to the impeachment of Lord Oxford, and his answer to the article respecting the unconstitutional creation of Peers, in which he admitted that it was unconstitutional 556 to create Peers for the purpose of carrying any particular question. With such a precedent before them, he could hardly conceive any Ministers willing to incur the risk of creating Peers, to destroy the independence of the other branch of the legislature. But a contrary opinion was abroad, and, therefore, he would entreat those Peers who, in consequence of the threat, were inclined to vote for the second reading of the Bill, to consider well what they were about, for the same threats would be repeated to ensure the third reading. Let the House of Lords look to the conduct of the House of Commons. All those who voted for the second reading would vote for the third, although many of them had supported material alterations in the Committee, which had been proposed in vain. The Government had rejected every important alteration suggested; and therefore, those who, in the House of Peers, voted for the second reading might calculate upon the course that would be pursued with respect to the Committee and the third reading. If the threat of making Peers was held out upon the second reading, the same moral mode of intimidation would be exercised before the third. The reasoning applied to both Houses: there was the Bill, let hon. Members exercise their judgments honestly and independently; and let the Attorney General do his worst. Let Ministers advise the King to issue new writs, or to suspend old ones, but let them also have the full responsibility of their conduct. Let not threats induce compliance, and so take from the Minister, in appearance, much of his burthen. The country was deeply indebted to the House of Peers for having rejected the Bill last year. Abused and attacked as the House of Peers had been, still the country owed it a deep debt of gratitude; and he firmly believed that, if the Bill was rejected at once, the sensation produced would be as nothing compared with that occasioned by the same proceeding last year. The Political Unions, encouraged by the Government might strive to create some ferment, but the shopkeepers, the farmers, and all persons engaged in commerce or manufactures, were suffering greatly from the chilling effects of agitation, uncertainty, and change, and would rejoice at the restoration of peace, union, and confidence. These were what the country required, and his Majesty's Ministers had not been 557 able to prove that they would result from the passing of the Reform Bill. There were three or four parties, it was true, who supported the Bill, and the House would do well to consider what those parties were. One of them advocated the mutation of taxation. They required the taxes to be laid upon property instead of being imposed as they were. He was convinced a tax of twenty per cent would be an injury instead of a benefit to commerce. Another party approved of the Bill as preliminary to an attack upon, or rather a confiscation of, Church property; a third looked upon it as a prelude to the repeal of the Corn-laws; and the fourth advocated it preparatory to a revision of property in general. Hon. Members might laugh, but that which at present appeared absurd would soon come to pass if the Bill was not again dismissed. Mirabeau, at the beginning of the French Revolution, never dreamed of the manner in which it would end, and even the utilitarians of France were utterly mistaken in their calculations. They never thought, in the beginning of the French Revolution that it would overturn the monarchy, destroy the nobility, and lead, through a frightful anarchy to military despotism. He knew well that nothing then said in that House would have any effect in altering opinions of hon. Members on the other side; but he still hoped that, notwithstanding all that had been said, the Bill would again come before them in a revised form, and, probably, as the excitement had abated, with the consent of Government. He trusted if Ministers had again to witness the rejection of the Bill, that they would remember Bristol, and the consequences of their own excitement; that they would desist from corresponding with Political Unions, and never again demean themselves by calling the honest decisions of the House of Lords, the "whisper of a faction." In conclusion, he must repeat what he had before observed, and that was, that he was not hostile to Reform, but he was opposed to the Bill, because he solemnly believed it to be destructive of the Constitution. He wished for a safe plan of Reform; he thought that might be easily accomplished—the dissolution of Parliament had settled the question between Reform and no Reform, but he did not conceive that the Ministers would fancy themselves in sincerity to be such perfect legislators, such Solons and Ly- 558 curguses, as to imagine that this Bill was perfect and complete. It was practicable to devise a plan of Reform which would prove safe, and give satisfaction to the country. He thought that Members might be given to the large unrepresented towns without the entire disfranchisement of any boroughs, and that the annihilation of the charters might be avoided, that every borough might be still allowed to participate in the election of Members. In short, he protested against schedule A, as much because it might become a precedent for more important spoliation, as for the sake of the boroughs themselves; and he was of opinion, that, in the partial disfranchisement of a sufficient number of boroughs, the glaring injustice of violent spoliation might be obviated, while the new constituencies in towns and counties would be provided for. It might be said, that, in this case, he was anxious to perpetuate the close system, with regard to the boroughs with small constituencies; but he was willing to see the rights of voting in that instance extended in a safer manner than in the Bill. He said this more particularly, because schedule A was stated to be the principle of the Bill, and he maintained he was perfectly consistent in offering to vote for one schedule only, in which boroughs might be arranged in the order pointed out by the relative number of their voters at present entitled to the franchise. The grand principle of preserving the charters would be maintained by such a partial disfranchisement, while a large Reform might be effected by admitting new towns and counties, on one hand, and extending the constituencies, on the other. He believed that the country at large would be contented with such a basis, as regarded disfranchisement. An hon. Member last night talked with great exultation of an infusion of 200 new Members, men of business, who would devote their time assiduously to the business of the country. He feared that the hon. Member was falling into an error about the advantage to be derived from a popular assembly, consisting, for the most part, of men with new ideas, unaccustomed to the business of the House, honestly intending to persevere in the proposal of various schemes and alterations. Nothing could appear more plausible in theory than such a change, nothing could be more dangerous in practice than the continued fever which the efforts of such a corps would keep up, 559 and the uncertainty under which every branch of trade would labour from the dread of a capricious and ricketty legislation. At present he thought his Majesty's Ministers had enough upon their hands—something very like rebellion in Ireland—an avowed rebellion in the West Indies—discontent in our other colonies—stagnation and want of confidence at home, and an uncertain, but, he feared, a subservient course of policy with regard to foreign affairs; there was not one head of a department, whose time, as a Member of the Executive Government, ought not to be fully occupied, and surely this was not the moment for increasing doubt, and unsettling the institutions of the country. He implored the Government, for the sake of peace, to lay aside all party considerations. He believed they were blindly pursuing party objects, and that they were not aware, in their own hurry and excitement, and in their attempt to enjoy a long tenure of office, through the means of the Bill, that they and the Aristocracy of their own party were committing an act of suicide. It had been remarked by Madame de Staël, in her "History of the French Revolution"—[a laugh]—he concluded that the hon. Member who was amused at his quoting that most powerful authoress had read the work, and, if not, he would advise him to read it, for Madame de Staël was as liberal as he could be, and possibly quite as wise—it was remarked by Madame de Staël, that no great revolution, which ended in the annihilation of the aristocracy, and the ruin of the upper classes of a nation, could be effected, if the government and the aristocracy were true to themselves, and to the great interests of the nation. Before sitting down, he must repeat, that, if there had been proposed a moderate and safe Reform, it should have his support; but, to obtain his vote, it must be a Reform, not a revolution, a Reform that would preserve, not endanger, the Constitution, and one that would afford protection and security to life and property.
§ Mr. Duncombe
said, the hon. Baronet had complained that no arguments of a satisfactory nature had been urged by those who were friendly to the Bill. He might tell the hon. Baronet, that no reasons had been offered by him and those other Members who had spoken on the same side, to show that the Bill ought not to pass. The hon. Baronet had al- 560 luded to what he had said on a former evening as to the creation of Peers. The question that now arose was, not as to the fate of the Bill in that House, but in the other House of Parliament. The hon. Baronet had spoken of revolutions, and had wandered into different parts of the world, where he would not follow him, and had brought forward much historical lore on the subject; but the hon. Baronet seemed to forget that a revolution in the minds of men had taken place in this country. The people had now awoke from their dream, and were no longer to be imposed upon. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been glad if the people had still remained ignorant, but they could no longer impose upon the people. Hon. Members might sneer and taunt the people [cries of "No!"]—he would repeat, they might sneer and taunt ["No, no!]—he would repeat the sneers and taunts of hon. Members directed against the people ["No, no!"]—he would repeat the sneers and taunts offered by hon. Members opposite to the people [cries of "No!"]—he supposed that the sneers and taunts came from that side of the House—from those hon. Members who conceived that the middle and lower classes of society had no right to have a voice in political affairs. But, assuredly, the middle and lower classes would feel that a constitution in which hon. Gentlemen would not suffer them to participate was not a constitution calculated for them. He had been accused of alluding unnecessarily to the formation of the other House of Parliament, and of recommending a creation of Peers. Whatever were his opinions on that subject, it was not he, but the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who had introduced it. In that quarter it was said, that, if Peers were to be created, at least sixty would be necessary to carry the Reform Bill. Now, he did not agree in the opinion, because he did not believe there was so much insanity in the other House. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) had every reason to complain of the hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Vyvyan) having anticipated his most cogent arguments on that subject. Why had the hon. and learned Gentleman withdrawn his Motion? The hon. and learned Gentleman had deprecated all allusion to its subject—matter previous to his bringing it substantively forward, and yet had, for reasons best known to 561 himself, carefully precluded the opportunity of discussion. He, for one, was anxious to express his opinion on the necessity and constitutional propriety of such an augmentation to the peerage as would secure the triumph of the national cause, and he was anxious that that House should, by its decision, enforce upon Ministers the conviction of that necessity and constitutional right. If the public weal required a Reform in the House of Commons—and who could deny that it did—it was equally important that such a Reform should also be effected in the House of Lords as the sane public weal demanded; and it was the solemn duty of Ministers to take care that the constitutional prerogative of the Crown should be so exercised, that the country would be saved from the dire consequences of a second rejection of the great measure on which the heart of the people was set. That House and Ministers had done their duty, and the King was staunch and ready to do his; it only remained for the House of Lords not to neglect theirs. Let their Lordships remember, that it would be ruin to attempt to resist a united people, headed by a wise and beloved Monarch. In conclusion, he would say, that the Lords would do well to recollect the words of Burke, who had said, that the people would no longer submit to bad government because their ancestors had suffered worse, and that a time was coming when they would no longer tolerate hoary-headed and inveterate abuses, which could neither inspire reverence nor obtain respect.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
could not refrain from making a few observations, after the allusion which had just been made to him, or rather the attack which had just been made upon his opinions—opinions which he had asserted deliberately, and which he was prepared to maintain. He had been asked, why it was he had not proceeded with his Motion respecting the creation of Peers? In reply, he had to say, that he every day saw less and less likelihood that such a gross violation of the Constitution would take place; and certainly a greater violation could not be committed than that which had been referred to. It had been stated, that the creation would come with the Ides of March, but that appeared to have been a false prophecy. For his part, he thought, and hoped, the creation and the Greek kalends would come together, He would 562 undertake to convince, not the hon. Member for Hertford, for that would be a hopeless task, but the other Members of that House, that a more gross violation of the Constitution, that a more gross exercise of the royal prerogative, could not be made, than that of creating Peers—a proceeding which the hon. Member appeared to think was correct and proper. They had heard of schedule A and of schedule B in that House until they were sick of both one and the other of them, and he should not, therefore, press those schedules upon their attention, but he would give them a schedule of the Peers created already by the present Government—the Gentlemen who had been, he would not say, transported to the House of Lords, but who had gone from their seats in the House of Commons to take their places in the House of Peers. He should only premise that he had not made this schedule himself. That list he would call the Lords' schedule C, and it would be found to contain twenty-three Barons bold, who had been created for the express purpose of voting for the present Bill. There was Lord Saumarez, Lord Cloncurry. If hon. Members would use pencils, they might ticket them as he went along. Lords Dinorben, Templemore, Segrave, Mostyn, Wenlock, Poltimore, Panmure, Oakley, Howden, Hamilton, Ludlow, Dunmore, Chaworth, Kenlis, Dover, Rossie, Clements, Sefton, Fingal, and Kilmarnock. If these creations were not enough for the hon. Member, his appetite for creations must be great indeed. In his enumeration he had forgotten, or rather omitted, another name, which, though last, was not, and he spoke this in great sincerity, the least in importance: that was Lord Brougham and Vaux; who, though the baronies were conjunct, was individually distinct from both. When he recollected that several of those Peers had done what they considered their duty in that House, by voting there for Reform, he could scarcely think that they went to another place for the purpose of giving, in ermined robes, their votes for the same measure there. Perhaps, however, because they had voted as they thought conscientiously in the House of Commons, they might think it a righteous act to be turned over for a similar use to another place. He had been charged with stating conjectural numbers, in which he might have been wrong; and, indeed, it was scarcely possible for him to be otherwise, 563 for who could tell the much-desired number? He felt great difficulty in describing the awkward transitions which had taken place, and it was, of course, impossible for him to tell what other, or if any more, were to take place. It was said, however, that Ministers had not created a sufficient number of Peers for their revolutionary purposes, and were called upon to bring out a wholesale batch of Reform creations. He regretted he did not possess the power of metaphor of the hon. member for Calne, or he might be able to show up such a creation in classical language, but being a plain man, was, therefore, compelled to illustrate his meaning with a rather homely simile. Hon. Members must betimes have observed their grooms or servants in the dignified and useful act of pitching hay with a stable-fork into the hay-loft, He had himself witnessed the curious operation that morning, and was struck by the marvellous dexterity with which the numerous trusses were pitched up from the hay-cart; and it struck him that the creation of Peers, which Ministers were urged to effect, might be likened to the operation of casting up the hay. His sentence, or metaphor, was not as perfect as he could wish, but what he meant was, that to cast up forty or fifty Peers to the House of Lords, for the purpose of carrying a particular measure, would be a far less dignified act than that he had attempted to describe. He did not mean to say, that the twenty-three creations to which he had just referred had been thus ignominiously pitched up (though there could be no doubt they were, to all intents and purposes, reform Peers); it might be rather a disagreeable and inconvenient task to toss up on the end of a pitch-fork such substantial Reformers as Lords Panmure or Poltimore; but he would say, that to act on the hon. Member's recommendation would be to lower the Peerage of England to the worst state of the peerage of France—that is, reduce them from their present lofty and constitutional position, to the condition of the mere tools and vassals of despotism—to the condition of the vile, degraded, pauper "nobles!" of France, who basely assisted to destroy their own monarchy. And was it for this purpose that Ministers were called upon to add some sixty Runnymede heroes to their twenty-three Barons bold of the coronation? Was it for this purpose that they 564 were taunted by the great Reform journal, The Times, as sluggish jades, requiring spurs to be stuck in their sides. Now, he could not take it upon him to say, whether Ministers would or would not obey the command of their "approved good masters:" their friends said they would—their opponents said not. He was inclined to think they would not create any Peers; had he thought otherwise, nothing could have induced him to postpone his Motion. But this he would maintain—and he challenged the Attorney General, and every Member of the Government to boot, to maintain the negative—that, to create Peers for the purpose of carrying a particular question to which the House of Lords was hostile, would be a gross breach of constitutional law He defied the whole Cabinet to gainsay this declaration. He defied any man, read in the history of England to deny, that the acts which led to the just expulsion of James 2nd from the throne of these realms, were as tyrannical in principle as for the King now to exercise his prerogative for the purpose of destroying the free agency of the House of Lords. The Bill of Rights, which guarded them against the recurrence of the unconstitutional acts of James 2nd, would be violated by the creation of Peers just now recommended to Ministers. For what, said the Bill of Rights, with reference to the expelled monarch? Simply, that James 2nd, by "suspending the laws, and unconstitutionally interfering with their execution," had forfeited his right to the Throne. He should like to know whether swamping the House of Peers, so as to destroy its free agency, would not be a repetition of this conduct—whether, in fact, destroying the free agency of one estate or branch of the Legislature, was not "suspending the laws?" Then it was justly alleged against the last of the Stuart monarchs, that he had forfeited his Throne, because he had endeavoured, through the agency of corrupt Sheriffs, to "pack" the House of Commons, as well as Juries in the Courts below. This was a grave offence, for which James paid a heavy penalty; but was it an offence to pack a House of Commons or a Jury, and no offence against constitutional law to pack the House of Lords? He should like to hear his hon. friend, the Attorney General, who had broached the monstrous doctrine that the King might, by his mere prerogative, withhold writs from any bo- 565 roughs he pleased, answer the question; and he should like to meet him and all his Ministerial allies on the main question, whether, to create Peers for the mere purpose of carrying the present Bill, would not be an act destructive of the free agency of a branch of the Legislature—and thence a violation of the Bill of Rights—and thence an act calling for the impeachment of its authors. The case of Lord Oxford would not avail Ministers if they adopted such a fatal policy, for that Minister owned the criminality of the Peerage creation of his time, but denied that it was the result of his personal counsel. If Earl Grey should be impeached for swamping the House of Lords by new creations, would he endeavour to escape, as Lord Oxford did, by saying that he was not the adviser of the Crown? If he were not the adviser, who was, then? Perhaps the odium of the proceeding would be cast upon the Lord Privy Seal; or it might be, that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would take the whole responsibility on himself, and step forward and say, "In me convertite pœnam." But he concluded, from the complacent smile which was at that moment playing on the noble Lord's countenance, that he would not be the person to propose a creation of new Peers. Was Lord Brougham and Vaux to be charged with the crime of advising the Crown to such a measure? He was sure, that, if the noble and learned Lord imagined that an accusation of that kind was made against him, he would fall back aghast, The noble and learned Lord would, he was convinced, be confounded with astonishment at the bare supposition that he could be the person to affix the white wax, the blue wax, or the red wax, or the tricoloured wax, to the patents of twenty or thirty new Peerages. The noble and learned Lord had a double duty to perform—he was the keeper of the King's conscience and of his own also, and he had to see that neither was violated. With reference to this part of the case, he had read a very able and spirited article in the Edinburgh Review, which was understood to be written by the noble and learned Lord, and which asserted, that it was by the means of that very borough influence which it was now proposed to remove, that collisions between the two Houses of Parliament were avoided. How, then, could the noble and learned Lord ever consent 566 to put the King's seal to patents of creations, intended to swamp the House of Peers, and to carry a measure, the object of which was, to destroy those nomination boroughs of which the noble and learned Lord had expressed his approval? But it was not only in this article that the noble and learned Lord had stated his opinion of the utility of these boroughs. On a late occasion the noble and learned Lord asserted, in another place, in terms very little short of being explicit, that the borough demolition was not that part of the plan to which he was particularly partial. He supposed, therefore, that the noble Lord would not retract what he had written and spoken, and abuse the conscience of his master, and the conscience and judgment of himself, by consenting to the introduction into the House of Lords of a number of individuals, for the purpose of carrying into operation a plan which had received his denunciation. But he would ask the advocates of Peer-making, whether they had forgotten the case of Lord Middlesex? He begged to call the attention of the House to this important subject; because the friends of the Ministers were dragooning them—they were driving the Minister on at the point of the bayonet—the "spur" was not enough for them. Though it was clear that the House of Commons had the right to expel any of its Members for the commission of a crime, yet he would not go so far as positively to assert that the other House constitutionally possessed the same right. Many writers on the Constitution, however, maintained that the House of Lords had a constitutional right to expel any of its Members for crime. He would, however, content himself with calling the attention of the House to a case which actually occurred—he alluded to the case of the Lord High Treasurer of Middlesex, who was expelled from the House of Peers in the reign of James 1st, upon being convicted of certain malpractices in his office. It was true that Lord Oxford did not get expelled from the House of Lords for extinguishing the independence of that branch of the Legislature; but it might happen, that if any Minister should be bold enough to follow that precedent in the present time, he might be visited with the same punishment which was inflicted on the Lord Treasurer of Middlesex. If sixty Peers were to be thrown into the House of Lords by a sort of pell- 567 mell creation, he would have the individuals who were to be selected for that opprobrious distinction, recollect that the sixty Peers made by Charles 10th, were thrust out of the French House of Peers as soon as the revolution came. Could any man doubt that if any number of persons should degrade themselves so far as to permit themselves to be thrust into the House of Lords, for the purpose of carrying a particular measure, they would be treated as the servile vassals and ignominious tools of the Minister who sent them there; and would, in course of time, meet with the same fate as the Peers of Charles 10th? And who were the persons who clamoured for the creation of new Peers? The declaimers against nomination boroughs. The hon. and learned member for Caine had described the nomination boroughs as being as bad or worse than the Cholera Morbus; and yet it was the objectors to those boroughs who considered it quite legitimate to inundate the other House with any number of nomination Peers, sent up, some of them, perhaps, under a written obligation—all of them under the virtual obligation—of a promise to carry the Reform Bill; for that was the only means by which they could earn unenviable distinction. Could any Gentleman on the other side of the House—could any Reformer in that House or out of that House, without violating common decency, denounce that influence which exists in nomination boroughs, and, at the same time, consent to arm the Minister with a much more direct nomination? There were, undoubtedly, many individuals on the other side of the House who, at other times, and under other circumstances, would not be unfitted to be pitch-forked into the House of Peers; but if they were to permit themselves to be placed at the present moment, and for a particular purpose, in the new schedule of Peers, they would degrade their consciences and judgment, stigmatize themselves as Gentlemen, and carry with them everlasting opprobrium and disgrace, for having lent themselves to the commission of a most violently-unconstitutional act. But where were all the new Peers to come from? He could not say whether the Benches opposite constituted the arsenal from which the whole of the aristocratical ammunition was to be drawn; but this he did know, that if any Gentleman on the ether side of the House, who acted an in- 568 dependent part, and stood well with the community, consented to be made Peers, they would exchange the invaluable merit of being estimable Members of Parliament, for the ignominious distinction of being degraded "Barons bold." But from what quarter, if not from the other side of the House, were these Runnymede heroes to come? The Times newspaper had called the Minister who was to make the new Peers a "jade"—a word which was synonymous with old woman. He, however, should rather compare him to Tarquin violating the chastity of Lucretia, and he, therefore, supposed that the author of the odious deed would be some young Cabinet Minister, and not an old woman. But he would venture to say, that no person would attempt to overwhelm the independence of the House of Lords, except such men as were prepared to bring the King into that dilemma in which the Bill of Rights placed James 2nd; for it would be as great an act of injustice and tyranny, and as extravagant an infringement of the constitutional law and liberty of the realm, as any act committed by that Sovereign. If such a proceeding should be attempted, base and recreant would be the present House, or any future House of Commons, which should neglect to take the subject into its most serious and grave consideration. He would now leave this part of the case, and proceed to draw the attention of the House to a subject intimately connected with the Reform Bill—he alluded to the recent landing of the French at Ancona. He would soon show the Gentlemen on the other side of the House the connexion which existed between the two things. Did they recollect the recommendation made by the Prime Minister to the Bishops of a Protestant Church, in order to influence their votes? Did they remember that he told them in the House of Lords "to set their house in order?"
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was violating the Orders of the House by alluding to what took place in the House of Peers.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
admitted that he did wrong to name the place; he should have said elsewhere. He would, in the few observations which he had yet to deliver, endeavour to satisfy the noble Lord,' by keeping himself strictly within the Orders of the House. He would, therefore, not designate the place in which the recommendation he had alluded 569 to was made, but he would say, that in some place, no matter where, the Prime Minister of a country, in which there were a Parliament and a Protestant Church, gave the Bishops of that Church to understand that it was time to set their houses in order. History also related that the admonition was followed, and that the house of one of the Protestant Bishops was, indeed, set in an odd kind of order—an order which consisted in the demolition of his house, and, what was worse than all, the destruction of his valuable manuscript sermons. The precedent was soon followed by the minister of another country, who thought that as the Premier of this country had recommended to the Protestant Bishops to keep their houses in order, he might as well send some men to keep the house of the Catholic Bishop of Rome (the Pope) in order. He was neither an eulogist nor apologist of Casimir Perier; but it appeared to him that Casimir Perier had done no more in Italy than some persons had done in England. The French availed themselves of the opportunity which agitation in England, encouraged, if not produced by Ministers, afforded them for doing that which they never would have ventured to have done had they not seen that the British Government had been tampering with the internal state and Constitution of the country. It was the Reform Bill, therefore, which had excited the French to take a step, which Casimir Perier never would have ventured, had this country been governed by any other Administration tan the present. There were other evils to which he might allude as growing out of the agitation produced by this Bill. He might say the colonies of this country were melting away. It was a curious fact, but not less true, that those who contended for universal Representation had resolved that the colonies, the sources of our wealth in the East and West Indies, should remain unrepresented. The unhappy Ganges, whose waters conveyed millions annually to this country, and whose banks abounded with the treasures of commerce, the Ganges which flowed through a space of 100 leagues, and had an immense population on its borders, was to be left without a single Representative; while the Tyne—happy Tyne—was blessed with eight or ten Members. But did any man imagine that Great Britain could preserve her colonies, unless they had in the Legislature persons 570 who, being acquainted with their interests and wants, might be their protectors and conservators? Was a population of so many millions—was so much wealth, and were commercial interests of such magnitude to be henceforth contented with the Legislature in which there would be not one person connected with them, or capable of making their wishes understood there? They would not be contented. That Bill would, therefore, reduce Britain to the state of geographical separation, in which it was described to be by Virgil in his Eclogues:—Penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos.He would not trespass further on the House. He had briefly touched on the topics involving the most danger from this Bill [laughter]. He regretted that he could not satisfy the Gentlemen in the Ministerial gallery. There were some galleries in which persons obtained seats at a cheap rate—a single shilling—and so elevated that for that small sum people arrived at their apotheosis. He could not suppose such galleries were found in that House, or that Gentlemen came there to; enjoy the amusements of the gods. Those Gentlemen were not concerned in the colonies. They had no plantations to be burnt down in Jamaica; no property in the East Indies. Returning to the question, he should say the Reform Bill would, abstract England from herself, and all the world. Their foreign territories were in danger. Their colonists were in search of new protectors, because they could not find British protection. He had spoken of the adverse and unsocial policy which; grew out of the Reform Bill, under a firm conviction that the advocates of that measure were destroying the best interests of the country.
The Attorney General
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House had alluded to places of amusement in which the spectators paid, 2s., or 1s. for their seat, according to their height of the gallery in which they sat; but surely in none of those places were the entertainments more amusing than that which had just been afforded to the House by the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. He had travelled from Thebes to Athens, from the Tyne to the Ganges, and from the House of Lords to Ancona, and the had discoursed somewhat upon the principle of non-intervention, and upon the Representation of the colonies, but he had 571 studiously avoided the subject under the consideration of the House. Considering that the hon. member for Hertford had started the hare in the thickets of his own neighbourhood, and had introduced the subject of the Peerage quite unexpectedly, it was fortunate that his hon. and learned friend, who could not have foreseen the allusion, had been led to prepare himself for it by some active instinct, in obedience to which, he furnished himself with the names of the persons who had been last raised to the Peerage. He would not follow his hon. and learned friend into the remarks with which he accompanied his mention of those names. With respect to the noble Lord now sitting upon the Woolsack, towards whom his hon. and learned friend professed to entertain the most kindly feelings, whilst he alluded with great good humour to an article in The Edinburgh Review, of which he first doubted, and afterwards assumed that noble and learned Lord to be the author, he would say nothing, because that noble and learned Lord needed neither defender nor advocate. But this he must say, that if his hon. friend could persuade himself, even with all the excitement which the thought of schedule A might occasion, that anything which was at that time in contemplation by his Majesty's Government called for articles of impeachment, let the Ministers of the Crown bear all the responsibility; but let not the Crown be endangered by language such as had been lately heard in that House. Much had been said of threats and menaces, and many miserable complaints had been heard that the people called on their Representatives to do their duty. But what was to be said of the threats and menaces, which had been used for the purposes of deterring, from that which he regarded as his duty to his people, the illustrious Person——"quem non potuêre phalanges Sternere"—The Earl of Oxford stood the brunt of an impeachment, and so would the Ministers of the present day, if their opponents were prepared to bring it forward. But the Earl of Oxford made a mean and disgraceful defence—he sacrificed his Queen whose fault was, that she was too partial to him. But no such defence would be made on this occasion by those against whom the hon. and learned Gentleman had threatened to bring forward such a charge. This was not the first time that that noble in- 572 dividual—noble for his steadiness and firmness, as for his elevated character—had been assailed by language which no gentleman ought to have applied to him. He had heard it said, that if this Bill passed—if the King gave his consent to the Reform Bill—his Crown would pass away. No; it would be more firmly bound by the attachment of the people. He had heard it said, with reference to the language of Scripture, that on the day when the King gave his final assent to the Reform Bill, he would see the hand-writing on the wall, and would cease to reign. Was that, he asked, not a menace? And was it in that House that such accusations as these were to be made for the sake of wounding the feelings of his Majesty with impunity. Into the question of the Bill of Rights, he (the Attorney General) would not enter. Could any Gentleman, could any Member for any disfranchised borough in schedule A, undertake to say, that the discussion of the Bill of Rights had anything to do with the question of the third reading of this Bill? Neither should he enter into any discussion about the making of Peers. It was the Crown's prerogative to make Peers, and it must be done under the advice of responsible Ministers; and, therefore, to bring the matter forward in the House of Commons before any such measure had been taken, was unexampled, indecent, unconstitutional, and highly disorderly. A more perfectly futile argument he had never heard than that which had fallen from his hon. and learned friend. To say, that the Bill of Rights had anything to do with the question before the House was absurd; nor could he (the Attorney General) see for what reason it was brought forward, except for the invidious purpose of introducing the name of an abdicated King. What was the amount of the argument against the third reading of the Bill? That there had been delay and suspense—and no doubt there had been—and that it was a great inconvenience to the country. He was not going to inquire from whom the delay and suspense originated, or on whom they were to be charged. But if suspense were a matter of complaint, why not put an end to it, either by adopting the Bill or rejecting it? In the course of his long speech, his hon. and learned friend did not devote more than fifteen minutes to the consideration of the Bill before the House. He now complained that the 573 colonies were left unrepresented; but it was somewhat extraordinary that he had never before, during the course of the last thirteen months, said a word upon this subject. The hon. member for Middlesex was the only person who ever brought forward a proposition for giving Representatives to the colonies, and he repented of his Motion the day after he had submitted it to the House. A new light, therefore, had been thrown in on his hon. and learned friend (Sir Charles Wetherell) on this point. It appeared to have been quite forgotten by those who argued for the expediency of colonial Representation, that under the admirable and perfect system which had hitherto existed, and which the opponents of this Bill were so anxious should continue unaltered, the colonies had nothing but virtual Representation. It also appeared to be forgotten that it was during the existence of that excellent system of virtual Representation that the American colonies were lost to this country. Having thus briefly alluded to the various topics of which the argument of his hon. and learned friend was corn-posed, he left it to the House to form its own judgment as to how far it was right of his hon. and learned friend to enter upon the discussions of those topics, at this stage of the Bill. For his own part, he owned he was quite surprised at the course which the debate had taken. After all the discussions which had taken place—after the principle had been discussed on three several occasions upon Motions for a second reading—after the protest of the right hon. member for Aldeburgh (Mr. Croker), comprehending all the objections of that right hon. Gentleman and his friends to the principle and details of the Bill, he did expect that the discussion on the third reading would have taken a very different turn. He had expected that hon. Members who were opposed to the measure would have argued that, although the Bill had been read a second time, it ought not to be read a third time. He had heard no such arguments, however, from any Gentleman who bad addressed the House. He did not say, that the Bill was perfect—no measure of the kind could be perfect; but the objections were quite wonderful for their paucity and trivial character. With all the desire which the authors of this measure had to render it perfect, and with all the eagerness which the opponents of the measure 574 had to suggest objections, it was quite wonderful how little alteration had been made in the Bill from its first introduction. The Bill was not so much the Bill of Ministers as of the House of Commons. After the appeal to the constituent body on the question of Reform, and the manner in which that appeal had been answered, the House became the parent of the Bill; but when it was asserted that the majority came in pledged blindly to support the Bill, he must be allowed to dissent from that proposition. The Ministers were outvoted on the tenant-at-will clause, and he was glad they were, for he considered that the country Gentlemen now stood pledged not to interfere with the conscientious votes of their tenants by ejecting them. The majority had not blindly supported the Ministry on this Bill; and he repeated, that any one who compared it at first, and at the last, must be surprised how little essential alteration had been made in it. That view of the question, however, he admitted was comparatively unimportant. The principal consideration was whether the Bill in its present shape, would effect the great objects for which it was intended? He was prepared to argue that the Bill would effect those objects, but he had heard no arguments to show that it would not. It was said in the course of the debate that it would be a severe reflection on our ancestors to say, that corrupt sales of seats in that House, had been made by borough proprietors. The Catholic Relief Bill, and the Repeal of the Test Acts, according to this doctrine, were also reflections on our ancestors, and on our near ancestors too. In fact, no improvement could be made in any of the existing institutions which did not convey such a reflection on those who had gone before; and the right hon. Baronet the member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), had rendered himself liable to such an imputation by his amendments of the criminal law. There were some objections made in the course of the debate, which were equally applicable to any proposition for Reform, and which he confessed he had not expected to hear. It was said, that the Nabob of Arcot ought to have Members in that House to represent him. If seats were to be sold, there was no reason, certainly, why the Nabob of Arcot might not have his Representatives; and, on the same principle, Don Miguel, the beloved Ferdinand, and all the other potentates in the world, might 575 be represented in that House, and the Ganges might be better represented than the Tyne. Some regret would probably be by and by expressed that the religion of Bramah was not represented; and he supposed that, according to this liberal doctrine, the humane practice of burning widows should have an advocate in that House, and the use of the scourge in the West Indies should be considered as the symbol of freedom, whilst the Orders of Council were treated as a Russian ukase. He had merely alluded to these matte's, to show the sentiments entertained with respect to freedom by those who opposed the Reform Bill, and without wishing it to be understood that he considered them as bearing on the principle of this great measure. But then it was said, that the Reform Bill should not be discussed in a time of excitement. To this he answered, that the discussion of this very subject produced excitement; and that, if it were not to be discussed in a time of excitement, it could never be discussed at all. He denied, however, that the principle of Reform had brought on the excitement. Before any measure of Reform was introduced, the 'public mind was in a state of great turbulence and excitement, and that excitement was tranquillized by the introduction of the Reform Bill, which acted like a charm. It was the Opposition which produced the excitement on this question—an opposition on the part of those who were considered by the people as interested judges deciding in their own cause. Another objection to the Bill had been, that it was an untried scheme, and, therefore, should not be passed; but that was one of the objections, which applied equally to every measure of Reform. But then it was said, that the Reform might have been gradual. He put it to any reasonable man, however, if the peace of the country would have been better secured if Reform had been doled out piecemeal? What would this be but to leave the question for ever unsettled? It was said the country would have been satisfied with a less measure; but those who used that argument had never described the measure they were prepared to bring forward in lieu of the present. It was impossible, therefore, to adopt a measure the principle of which they could not know, and were at a loss to conceive, as a substitute for one which had met with the universal approbation of the people of 576 England. That this measure had obtained the approbation of a great majority of the people of England he had expected would not now be denied. Those who opposed the Bill said that House already represented the people of England. Of the Members of that House then (deducting those who were interested for places affected by the Bill, and which they defended) how large a majority had voted in favour of the measure. As to its probable effect he had no doubt that, in every fair and reasonable sense of the word, it would be a final measure. He did not think that popular feeling would come, as had been said, with a force like that of the waves of the sea, and make further encroachments on our existing institutions. Such a result would be prevented by a generous concession in the first instance. When it was said, that the measure would not be final, he wished to ask why it should not be final? He who wore the Crown, could not be anxious that it should not be final. Ministers who exercised the power of the Crown must be anxious that it should be final; and the middle and the working classes, having seen the effects in other countries of even the most justifiable revolution, had been taught a lesson which they were intelligent enough to learn and could not easily forget, and which must make them desire that this measure should be final. He believed that much of the opposition to this measure had proceeded from ignorance of the feelings of the people, and that this ignorance of the higher classes was to be ascribed to the state of the Representation. The only knowledge the higher classes possessed, as to the feelings of the lower classes, was that obtained by contact with those voters, who were ready to barter their privileges for the basest consideration. In his opinion the measure would not only satisfy the people, but establish the Constitution on a permanent basis. It only remained now for the House of Commons to read it a third time, and send it up to the other House with a majority which would show how much the Representatives of the people appreciated the measure. The majority, he repeated, had not acted blindly on this occasion, for they had improved the Bill in many respects since it was first introduced. By passing it he was convinced that the law would be more respected and the Constitution better secured. The Legislature, by adopting this measure, 577 would act on the only real conservative principle—the benefit of the people: and, if it was carried, he hoped and trusted it would tend to establish and preserve the Constitution of this country in grandeur and strength to the most remote period.
In whose name do you sit here? In whose name do you sit here? In his name, at the mention of whom, with bitter taunts [cries of "Question"]; and think ye, for one moment, that sitting here, in that forgetfulness of Him from whom alone all counsel, wisdom, and might proceed—think ye—think ye—think ye—[cries of "Question," "Go on," "Divide."]
§ Lord Althorp
I apprehend it is the intention of the hon. Member to move an adjournment. If that is his object I shall not oppose it [cries of "Go on," "Adjourn."]
Do you expect His blessing on this nation; do you expect His blessing on your counsels, whilst you are employed in the greatest of all works, establishing the basis of a Constitution—the greatest work of human counsel and human wisdom, which man is called on to perform? Do you believe for one instant, that you will experience that blessing, whilst in utter forgetfulness of Him who ought most to be borne in mind? Think ye, if that thing be true which is written, "except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain," think ye, if that Scripture be true, that this your work can be blessed, or that the fruits which ye expect from it can come to good? How standeth the account of the House with its God at this time? Twice have ye, the Commons of England, been called upon, but twice have ye been called upon in vain, to humble yourselves before your God, and to seek his blessing in contrition and repentance [loud cries of "Question," amidst considerable confusion, occasioned by a number of Members leaving the House.] Ye depart, do ye, when the name of your God is mentioned? Ye would have sat till five o'clock, and till six o'clock in the morning, had not his name been mentioned, listening to the tongues of men tinkling like idle cymbals.
Sir, it is not my intention to move an adjournment. Ye would sit here till five in the morning in idle dissertations on this Bill. Will ye not listen for a few moments to one who speaketh in the name of the Lord? I stand here to warn you of the righteous judgment of God, which is coming on you, and which is now near at hand. Do ye think that I stand here relying on my own strength to keep ye attentive, or that I have power of myself to force 500 of ye to listen to my trembling accents? Would I stand here alone, as it seemeth to me, among men, if I stood not in the reliance of that God by whose despised love I entreat ye to listen to my appeal? Ye may cast off that appeal—ye may despise me for making it—but, strong in the cause of my God, make it I will. I stand here in the strength of one who puts his whole hope in Jehovah. Twice have ye, the Commons of England, refused to humble yourselves before your God. Mark, mark, mark, how your God hath caused ye to show your contempt of him. Ye have in the midst of you a scourge of pestilence, which has crossed the world to reach ye. Ye brought a bill into the House to retard its approaches, and ye refused in that bill to insert a recognition of your God—ye would not make an acknowledgment of his providence, and ye cast his name out of your book. I told Ministers it was not God they worshipped. The people is the god before whom they bow down in absurd and degraded worship. [Several Members surrounded Mr. Perceval, and apparently professing the great respect which they felt for him, requested him to desist from his extraordinary mode of proceeding; but Mr. Perceval proceeded nearly as follows.] "What I am now saying is most fitting to be considered on this your question. I am endeavouring to point out to ye the reasons why ye can expect no blessing from God on this your work. In the English bill the name of God was omitted; and why? Because the people of England called for its omission. In the Scotch Bill the name of God was inserted: and why? Because the people of Scotland—alas! that they should be more religious than my countrymen—called for its insertion: and, therefore, is 579 it proved that it was riot for the recognition of the power of God, but for the recognition of the power of the people, that the insertion was made in the Scotch bill. I have shown God to this House, I have shown the House how its account standeth before the God whom it ought to serve—I have shown how it hath twice offended against God, and twice deserved exemplary punishment. Ye have appointed a fast; but I tell ye that that fast is, in the eye of God, a solemn mockery, which he will not away with. I tell ye that it was not in the heart of the King's Council to humble themselves before God, and I tell them that he is not a God to be mocked at. He searched' the heart of man—and this House knows full well that it was not in the Council of the King to humble themselves before God. They were not approaching him in the spirit of contrition, repentance, and humiliation. They had not sought him either by day or by night; and it has not been for a voluntary humiliation before God—it has not been because they feel ashamed of their iniquities—it has not been because they tremble at their offences—it has not been because they see in the cholera a scourge which is hanging over the land, or the disturbances of the country signs of God's approaching judgments, that they reluctantly determined to appoint a fast; and, therefore, it is that I tell them that this mockery of religion God will not away with, he will bring on them fasting and humiliation, woe and sorrow, weeping and lamentation, flame and confusion, which, if they had turned in right earnest from the wickedness of their path, he would have averted from them. But, Commons of England, ye have cast God of your own accord from you, and I tell you that in consequence this work which ye have now in hand cannot be blest—the curse of God is upon it. It hath been hanging over the country as a curse from the first day on which the Bill was introduced, and a curse it hath been upon the country from that time to this. [Cries of "Adjourn."] I told the House that I rose to address it not in strength' of my own. I have committed myself to this task with much prayer and after much meditation, and I will not be turned from it by the solicitations of men. I tell ye that this land will soon be desolate; a little time and ye shall howl one and all in your streets. I tell ye that the pestilence, which God is 580 now holding in, will be let loose among ye, and that the sword will follow it. I tell ye these things; they are the words of your God. I tell the House more than this: the Church of the land shall be laid low, for she bath corrupted her way before God. She bath played the harlot with the stranger; and she has leant on the arm of flesh for her support. Wherefore, when the hour of retribution arrived', she shall be punished by the arm of God. These things of which I have spoken to ye, your eyes will see. Therefore, trouble yourselves not with this Bill; for this which I have told ye is your doom. Ye may think me mad, and ridicule me as a man beside himself; but an hour is coming, and that shortly, when ye shall see whether what I speak cometh from myself or from God. I tell ye, who are rulers of this land, more. Ye have sworn to be faithful servants of your King. God looketh into your hearts, and seeth that ye care not for him. He seeth that ye think that ye have got your Sovereign into a net, but—
§ Mr. Shaw
rose and said, perhaps his hon. friend would allow him, in a spirit of the most entire admiration of his own motives, to entreat that he would not himself make the House act contrary to the spirit in which he was anxious that the debate should conclude. He assured his hon. friend that he would not leave the House from the motive which he would attribute to him, namely because he wished not to hear the name of God mentioned within these walls, or because it had been mentioned; but because he thought it to be his duty now to leave the House, and he entreated his hon. friend to allow every Member to retire who wished to keep the day in the manner in which his hon. friend was desirous it should be kept.
proceeded. I tell ye that the rulers of the land think that their Sovereign is in the net. But they deceive themselves. He is the Lord's anointed, and they shall not hold, though they now encircle him. There are men who on this fast day will fast in earnest, and humble themselves in contrition and repentance; and I tell ye that as scorn and mockery will fall on the mockers, so the blessings of Heaven will come down in an abundant shower upon those who present to the throne of grace humble supplications; and I now call upon ye to flee from your present system of forgetting your God; and from that storm which will soon rage around ye, I call upon ye 581 to take shelter in the arms of that God who yearns to save ye. Where is his honour? Where is the respect due to his name? Does his son Jesus, who let his blood fall upon the ground for ye like water, in order that ye might have eternal life and glory, receive from ye that respect which ye ought in gratitude to pay him? I pray ye to turn to his love before it is too late; for be ye assured that the storm is coming, and that he is nigh, who is at once your God, your Saviour, and your Judge.
§ The Speaker ordered strangers to withdraw, and Mr. Perceval instantly ceased, and left the House.
§ Debate adjourned to Thursday.
§ [Indescribable confusion prevailed during great part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. The Members stood grouped on the floor, or in the galleries eagerly observing him, and the cries of "Order," and Adjourn," together with the noise caused by Gentlemen retiring, occasioned frequent interruptions, and rendered some of the hon. Gentleman's observations inaudible in the gallery.]