The Lord Advocate
said, that in moving that this Bill should be now read a second time, it was not his intention to enter at all into the clauses of the Bill, as it had been in the hands of Members for many months. But it appeared to him advisable to remind the House that this Bill, following up the principles of the English Reform Bill, had been carried to a second reading in the last Session of Parliament, by a larger majority than any other question during the Session. He should, therefore, feel that he was doing very wrong if he detained the House by any repetition of the arguments in favour of the measure, or by any observations on its necessity. Reserving to himself the privilege of reply to any objections which might be urged, or in explanation in case of any inquiries, which Gentlemen were, of course, at full liberty to make if they thought proper, he should confine himself at present to mentioning in a very few words the changes which the parties to whom the care of the Bill was confided had thought it would be right to introduce into it, and he trusted, that after the second reading the House would have no objection to allow the Bill to be committed pro forma, in order that those alterations might be made in it. The first change which it was necessary for him to mention was the separation of the county of Argyle from the isle of Bute. In the next place in order to meet other objections, a slight change was proposed with regard to the proprietors of 10l. tenements in boroughs. The only other material alteration, except verbal alterations was one which related to the machinery of registering votes, which was to be transferred from the Sheriff's clerks to the town clerks. There were some minor changes, with which he did not feel it necessary to take up the time of the House. He should, therefore, conclude by moving that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Sir George Clerk
said, that after the protracted discussions which had taken place upon the general question of Reform, and as the working of the Scotch Reform Bill was but part and parcel of the greater measure which had already received the sanction of the House, he should feel himself guilty of an unpardonable waste of time if he were to repeat the arguments 1176 which had been urged with much greater force by many of his hon. friends. But it was impossible for him to allow this motion for reading the Bill a second time to pass, without declaring, in a few words, his unchanged opinions with regard to the whole question of Reform. The hon. member for Winchilsea had complained of the excitement of the country, which he attributed to the opponents of the measure. After the declarations which had been made by his Majesty's Ministers, of their having security for carrying the Bill, he felt that any thing that he could say would be of little avail; but yet he could not, even at the risk of being charged by the hon. member for Winchilsea with offensive perseverance, refrain from expressing his opinions of the evil effects which the measure would produce to the country. After what had been said by the learned Lord Advocate, he was not disposed to give the House the trouble of dividing upon this question. He should only enter his protest against the measure, and say, that no man would rejoice more than he should, if the learned Lord could use any arguments which would remove his apprehensions of the great and serious evils which were likely to result from this fearful experiment. There were three great principles in the English Bill of Reform; disfranchisement, enfranchisement, and an extension of the suffrage. The third of these more particularly applied itself to Scotland. With regard to the principle of disfranchisement, with the solitary exceptions of the two county towns of Peebles and Selkirk—which exceptions would, he hoped, disappear in Committee—there was no place at present enjoying the franchise which it was proposed to deprive of it altogether. With regard to the principle of enfranchisement, he was not aware that the most violent Anti-Reformer connected with Scotland objected to additional Representatives being given to the large manufacturing towns of that country. On the contrary, it was contended that, from change of circumstances since the Union, the proportion of Representation then given to Scotland, as also the proportion given to it under this Bill, was not large enough, especially when the practical effects which would be produced by the annihilation of those small boroughs in England were considered, through which, by means, perhaps, not the most regular, persons connected with Scotland had hi- 1177 therto been enabled to come into the House. He had no doubt that the hon. member for Perth, who had given notice of his intention to submit a motion upon this subject in Committee, would be able to make out such a case as would satisfy the House of the reasonableness of the expectations entertained by Scotland with respect to it. As to the extension of the suffrage, if it had been thought right to extend it in England, where it was already popular, there could be no doubt that it should also be extended in Scotland, where it had never been contended that the Representation was popular. Perhaps, if Parliament had decided that the occupation of a house of a certain value, in an English borough, should be a sufficient qualification for a party's voting for a Member of Parliament, he saw nothing so peculiar in the constitution of large cities in Scotland, as to render that which Parliament had deemed fit for London, Bath, Manchester, and Liverpool, unfit for Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. The greatest objection he should have to urge in Committee was to the nature of the franchise which it was intended to establish in the counties of Scotland. He did not wish to retain the present qualification for counties, and should be willing to put an end to all merely nominal qualifications; but if the learned Lord had wished to give facility to the creation of nominal and occasional votes, it would hardly have been possible for him to devise a phraseology which could more completely accomplish that object than the words of the Bill would do. In his opinion, all must agree that any right of franchise in the counties of Scotland, however small it might be, should be derivable from land. One of the great arguments urged in favour of the English Bill was, the increased influence given to the agricultural interest in the increase of county Members. Now, the practical effect of the change proposed to be introduced into Scotland would be nearly to annihilate the agricultural interest, and to give undue weight to the owners of houses in large towns, which were not royal boroughs. Indeed, the number of persons who would vote in respect of house property, without having any permanent interest in land, would be so great that the Members returned for the Scotch counties would rather represent the commercial and manufacturing than the agricultural interest. Those in- 1178 terests, rightly considered, ought not to be placed in opposition; but questions would arise in legislation, the decision of which, one way or the other, it was thought by the people, would benefit one interest and not the other. And as, under this new system, the House would be more liable to be acted upon by popular impressions, taken up without due information, it became doubly necessary that there should be persons representing those separate interests. On a former occasion, when presenting a petition from a number of persons possessed of freeholds, who would by the Bill be deprived of the right of voting, he had stated, that a further effect of it would be, to introduce confusion into the titles of small proprietors in Scotland. He would not then go into technical details, but when in Committee, he hoped to be able to show, that a sweeping change of this kind had to overcome many difficulties. He could not expect the Lord Advocate, or the noble Lord near him, to look with a favourable eye upon suggestions which came from one who described himself then, as formerly, an uncompromising opposer of the measure, but he trusted they would apply for advice to those who supported them all through this question, and they would doubtless find, that it was generally thought, even among the Reformers of Scotland, that no great degree of prudence had been shown in the selection of the qualification for county voters. He might state, without fear of contradiction, that the excitement in favour of Reform, which was appealed to as prevailing in Scotland, rather regarded the state of the borough Representatives to large towns than the peculiar qualification which it was proposed to establish with respect to counties. If the noble Lord opposite would agree to the proposed amendment of the right hon. member for Perth, to allow the large counties of Scotland to return two Members instead of one, his (Sir George Clerk's) objection would be in part obviated, for if the commercial and agricultural interests were almost equally divided, the latter would at any rate return one Member. There was another mode in which a part of this objection might be obviated, though the suggestion of it might not be received with favour by English Members, namely, that those who were to vote in respect to house property should be thrown into the constituency of the borough near to which that property was 1179 situated—a plan something analogous to the system of contributory boroughs prevailing in Wales and Scotland. It could not be denied, that a man who derived an income of 10l. per annum from land, had a more valuable property than one who derived the same amount of income from a house, for the former was of permanent value, whilst the latter was liable to continual fluctuations and constant deterioration. The average price of land was about thirty years' purchase, whilst the average price of a house was about twelve or fifteen years' purchase; so that it was a moderate calculation to say, that house property, producing the same amount of income as property in land, was only half the value of the latter. The qualification for voting for counties should, therefore, be confined to persons who had a freehold, giving to all persons, however, who had inferior rights of property, power of going to the persons who held superiorities over them, and requiring them to sell their superiorities at fixed prices. A similar principle was followed with regard to tithes a century and a half ago. It might be said, that this would involve proprietors in considerable expense in making out their titles, but he had already stated, that the practical effect of the Bill would be, to render it necessary for all proprietors to renew their titles. He had ventured to make these suggestions, not with any view of throwing unnecessary difficulties in the way of the Bill; for, however much he might regret its passing, he looked upon it, as far as this House was concerned, as practically carried. His wish, therefore, was, as far as possible to obviate, in some degree, a few of the evils which must, at any rate, attend its passing. Such being his object, he sincerely hoped that the Lord Advocate, and the noble Lord opposite, would take into their councils, not Anti-Reformers, but some of the most zealous Reformers in Scotland; as he was certain they would then have pointed out to them the inconveniences that must attend the system they had adopted with regard to counties, and would, for the sake of the agricultural interest, make some alteration in it. No person would be more delighted than himself to find that the evils he anticipated from the passing of this measure did not take place. He hoped that that Providence which had so long made this country more prosperous than any other portion of the civilized world, would, in its 1180 goodness, avert from the country those mischiefs which, he feared, they were about to bring upon it.
Mr. Fysche Palmer
said, it ought to excite no surprise that he took part in this discussion, since he had, on a former occasion, submitted a Motion to the House for the Reform of the Scotch Representation. He very well remembered the trial and imprisonment of Mr. Muir and Mr. Palmer, for having promoted Reform in Scotland. They encouraged the people of Scotland to petition for their rights, and for this they were punished. The words they used were—"to claim for themselves a full, fair, and free Representation of the people in Parliament." These very words were now ringing from one end of Scotland to the other, and for using them were Muir and Palmer sent to Botany Bay. They were sentenced to be transported for using words that were now idolised throughout Scotland. They were treated as if they had been guilty of highway robbery. They were sent to the hulks, where he had visited Mr. Palmer, and found him loaded with irons, and placed amidst housebreakers, footpads, and highwaymen. These men were punished for saying that Scotland was entitled to a full and fair Representation. That was forty years ago. What a change had now taken place! The actions for which men were then punished were now idolised throughout the country. What had brought about this change? Had not persecution tried to prevent it? Banishment had been tried; other punishments had been tried; but they had not prevented the effect of those principles which were calculated to benefit society. The measure of Reform was now beyond the power of man to stop it, and he was convinced that it was calculated to add to the happiness of the people. What was the cause of this great change? For forty years the Government had opposed it. Had it been brought about by the Whigs and Radicals out of office? Was it the fruit of Whig or Tory councils? Gentlemen had talked of reaction; but those who looked upon the events of the last ten days would never talk of re-action again. There was scarcely a town in England and Scotland which had not come forward in favour of the Bill. He had taken the pains to inquire after those which had opposed it, and he had scarcely found one. There was no re-action, and he should be glad now to 1181 hear any man assert in that House that there was. The whole people were in favour of Reform, and that showed a great change in the opinion of the country. Was that the result of the misrule of the last forty years? Did it arise from the pressure of enormous taxation? Was it caused by that change of the currency which had at once doubled the amount of the taxes paid by the industrious classes, though it did not come into full operation till 1825? Whether arising from these or other causes, there now was a general feeling in favour of Reform, and when that Bill which had been so well fought in that House became the law, he did not doubt that the Members who had stood by it and done their duty, would receive, what they were well entitled to—the thanks of the country.
§ Colonel Lindsay
said, he should be happy if the results which the honourable Gentleman predicted were to come to pass. After the course which things had taken, he felt that it would be useless for him to oppose the measure, and his object, therefore, was, to make it productive of as little mischief as possible. The great change which was now about to be made was not a restoration, or a correction of abuses. It was a clear and distinct new Constitution. He would show this by the learned Lord's own words, on moving that the former Bill be read a second time. 'He would then at once declare that the object of the Bill was, not to take away any part of the system, but to take down the whole of it—to take it down altogether, for the whole principle was bad. He gloried in making the avowal that no shred or rag, no jot or tittle of it was to be left.'* These words were certainly delivered in the set phrase of speech, but the sentiments were the sentiments of Jack Cade, the first English Reformer. He said, "I've thought upon it: it shall be so. Away, burn all the records of the realm; my month shall be the Parliament of England." Such, too, were the sentiments of the learned Lord; his were precisely the sentiments of Jack Cade. The learned Lord argued that a great change was necessary, and he said, if he understood the learned Lord right, that by greatly extending the franchise, the people would be satisfied, and the means of their prosperity provided.* Hansard, (third series) vol. vii. p. 536.1182 But in Ireland the franchise was much more extensive than it had ever been in Scotland, and he had yet to learn that the people of that country were either satisfied or prosperous. He had always understood that they were discontented and miserable. Other causes were assigned for this, but certainly the extent of the Representation had not saved Ireland from being more wretched than Scotland. Turning to England, he begged leave to ask, whether the advantages possessed by this country were so great that Scotland ought to be anxious to change her own institutions for those of England? He saw no such difference in the prosperity of the two countries. The Bill would effect a total change in all the existing institutions under which Scotland had so long thriven—a change, too, which would, in his opinion, be anything but beneficial. It was, however, argued on the other side, that if those ancient institutions were so valuable, why were not the Gentlemen from Scotland a little more strenuous in their defence of them? He, however, thought that an ample apology had been on many occasions offered on their behalf, which, though it might not be so wittily or so eloquently urged as it might have been had any of the hon. Members from Ireland been their advocates, sprung from as ardent a feeling of patriotism as any defence of their own rights. The change in the character of the electors might change the description of Representatives who would be sent to that House; but though they might be more eloquent—though they might be able to address a large and popular assembly with greater effect, yet the interests of the country would not be better taken care of than they were at present. The principles of the Bill being admitted, he had a right to call upon them to apply those principles impartially. To show the injustice with which Scotland was treated in the appointment of her Representation, he should refer to the same data by which the English Representation had been guided, in order to show how differently the former country had been treated in this respect. The census of 1821 states the population of England and Wales to amount to 11,978,875, that of Scotland is stated to be about 2,093,000, which is considerably above one-sixth of that of England. The revenue contributed by England amounted at the same epoch to 40,900,280l.; 1183 that derived from Scotland to 5,113,353l.; the proportion which the latter country bore in this respect to England, was about one-eighth. Now, compare the relative proportion between the number of Representatives sent by the two countries, and let the House answer whether Scotland had justice done her, and whether it was fair to lay down certain principles upon which the extent of Representation was supplied in England, and to show so total a disregard to those principles, when the Representation of Scotland came under their consideration, as to deny their application to the situation of that country. He could not help expressing a strong hope, that the suggestion which had just been thrown out by the hon. member for Edinburgh (Sir George Clerk) would meet with the consideration which, in his opinion, it so well merited. The Bill as at present constructed would tend to make all the Judges and the clergy in Scotland political partisans, and it would have the effect also of inducing the gentry there to lavish their property in contested elections. Unless the modifications of the franchise which had been recommended, and the other alterations which had been suggested, were to be carried into effect before the Bill left that House, he was convinced it would prove, not that benefit which the people so ardently expected from it, but as great a curse as was ever inflicted on them.
Mr. Andrew Johnstone
contended, that the Scottish people had expressed an intense desire for Reform, and that they had also expressed their wishes to be in favour of even so large a Reform as that which it was proposed to effect by the Bill before the House. Hon. Members had been pleased to say, that Scotland had derived the chief of her present advantages, both in wealth and other respects, from the benefits which were conferred on her since her union with England; but those benefits were, in his opinion, chiefly the result of her own industry; nor did the chief of her popular institutions—namely, her Church, arise from her connexion with England. The Church of Scotland had stood the test of time, and had thereby proved the excellence of the principles upon which that structure was based, and moreover he asserted, that the very reason why the Church of Scotland had proved so excellent an institution was, that it was founded on such popular principles, 1184 and not on any legislative proceedings. It was sufficiently notorious to all that the Church of Scotland was reared in despite of the strenuous exertions of the reigning prince to extinguish its growth, and to put it down altogether; and that prince was assisted in no small degree by the Members of the Legislature, who, in their eagerness to appropriate the Church property, had shown themselves, during that struggle, much more ready to assist than to resist the endeavours which were then made to quell the growth of that Church, which was now so great a blessing to the land, and which now proved to be the most valuable institution possessed by Scotland. It was not, either, an unknown circumstance that the majority of forty-five who sat in that House, and of the sixteen who sat in another place, as Representatives of Scotland, had ever been celebrated for paying more attention to their own interests than to those of their nominal constituents, the public; and, with very few exceptions, those hon. and noble Representatives would be found to have voted constantly in the Treasury majorities, for which they did not go unrewarded, nor did they neglect the frequent opportunities which occurred to remit the proceeds of their gains to Scotland. Generally speaking, the county Representatives in Scotland were chosen, under the present system, by the nomination of several noble Lords; and they would be found, with very few exceptions, to be selected with a view to give support to the Ministers. The hon. Member opposite (Colonel Lindsay) was certainly an exception to this remark; for he was chosen as Representative for the county, solely because of his Anti-Ministerial opinions. It was, however, useless to enter into any lengthened argument upon the necessity of granting Reform to Scotland, for it was only necessary to show the House the miserable state in which that country had for years been in that respect, to convince them that the present Bill was a mere measure of justice, and that it ought to be conceded without any material modifications, or any further delay. Under the present system of Representation, the Members from Scotland had enjoyed for a series of years an uninterrupted career of prosperity, both in great and in small things; although, in many cases, the trifling and inferior posts in the Customs and Excise, were not personally available 1185 to them, yet such small blessings were highly acceptable to their friends in the borough. But this system ought to be put an end to, and neither Scotland nor her Representatives ought any longer to be degraded by such a traffic, or to be subjected to the reproach which was justly cast upon her people on that account. With respect to the future extension of the franchise, he was desirous to see that privilege conferred wherever the claims of education gave a title, and he thought that it ought to be bounded by that condition. There was one most important feature in connexion with this subject, which he could not pass over, and with which he should conclude his observations. He would entreat the learned Lord to keep the clergy of Scotland perfectly unconnected with political matters. He implored the Government to do so, because the influence which the Scotch clergy exercised over the people was well known; and if there was the least chance of the clergy being converted into political agents, or of even a portion of them being so converted, no idea could be formed of the miserable results which might arise. He hoped and trusted—believing, as he did, that the sentiments of a large majority of Scotch Members, on both sides of the House, were in favour of this view of the case that his Majesty's Ministers would be pleased to take this matter into their most serious consideration. The case might be widely different with regard to England. He drew no parallel between the cases of the two countries, for it was well known, that the constitution of the Church of Scotland stood on a perfectly different footing from that of the Church of England. At present, he believed, that not above twenty Scotch clergymen were entitled to exercise the franchise. The hon. member for Edinburgh said, he anticipated great evils from the Bill, and, though he was not one of those persons who fell under the description of the hon. Baronet, the member for Edinburgh, as golden dreamers—persons who expected the Reform Bill to work miracles in Scotland, and to remove all the difficulties and burthens under which they laboured in that country—he was still one of those who believed, that after the mature and lengthened consideration which the subject had received from the Legislature, the Bill before them could not fail of producing the effects which it was intended to bring 1186 about, and he certainly participated in the hopes which had been expressed by hon. Members who supported the Bill, of its ultimately being attended with the best results.
§ Mr. J. T. Hope
concurred in the observations which had been made by the hon. Baronet, the member for Edinburgh; at the same time he must observe, that whilst he was ready to admit the necessity which existed for some change in the Representative system of Scotland, he could not but look upon those which were contemplated by the present Bill, as not only of too sweeping a nature, but as tending to produce the most alarming consequences to that country. He did not deny the existence of a strong feeling throughout Scotland in favour of Reform, but he could not help noticing, that very great difference of opinion existed amongst the Members who advocated Reform and supported the Bill: the learned Lord Advocate asserted that the cry for Reform arose from the increased intelligence amongst the Scottish people; whilst another hon. Member declared it to have originated in the tyranny of a Tory Government. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. Johnstone) had been pleased to cast the stigma of interest over the conduct of the forty-five Representatives of Scotland in that House. He must, however, deny that those Representatives had been actuated by personal motives, or that they had only sought to serve their own interests in voting with the Ministers. He contended that in their parliamentary conduct they had ever acted for the benefit of that country on behalf of which they sat there, and the imputation cast upon them by the hon. Member was wholly undeserved by them.
§ Sir George Warrender
expressed a strong wish that the present Bill should prove a final measure with respect to Reform in Scotland, which, in its present condition, he feared it would not be. It was on this account that he had felt extremely glad to hear from the Lord Advocate, that it was his intention to extend the 10l. franchise in Scotland, in the way that had been explained to the House; and he could not, for these reasons, follow the right hon. member for Edinburgh in the counsel which he gave the House, to shorten instead of widening the extent of the franchise, because it was his opinion, that such a course would render it necessary at some future period to pass 1187 another measure, granting that which he now proposed to refuse. For himself, also, in his condition as a country gentleman, and as such interested in the agriculturists of Scotland, he must confess, that he did not participate in the fears which were entertained by the right hon. Baronet, that the operation of the Bill would have an unfavourable effect upon the agricultural portion of the population of Scotland.
said, the question had often been asked—whence arose the cry for Reform? and answers as contradictory as various had been given to that question. In his opinion, the demand for Reform originated in the distress which pervaded all classes. Whether that distress had resulted from the changes in the currency, the introduction of the free trade system, or from the other assigned causes, he knew not; but he must say, that the commerce and manufactures of the kingdom were in a state of deep distress and depression, and it was to Reform, that all people were taught to look for relief from the condition in which they found themselves. The only answer, in fact, which was now made to their demand for relief was, that Reform should be granted to them, and they would find relief from that; relief, not only from taxation, but also from the other burthens under which they groaned. The several classes of people accordingly framed to themselves the species of relief which they were to derive from the Bill: the agriculturist looked to it as a sure means of lessening the poor-rate, and of raising the price of his labour: the manufacturer looked to it as the means of again reviving the prohibition on the importation of rival manufactures from foreign lands: the merchant as a means of securing to his ships that share of employment, of which they had been deprived by the interposition of the ships of foreign nations under the new system; and the disappointment which each and all of those classes would experience in the failure of the Reform Bill to produce these expected effects, would equal the excitement which had been raised in its favour throughout the country. The people generally, also, looked forward to the attainment of the small share of political power which they would gain under the Bill as a means of personal advantage, and if such did not prove to be the case, they would wreak the effects of their disappointment on the heads of those hon. 1188 Gentlemen who had taught them to expect such results. It was, however, not the Question of Reform or no Reform which they were that co evening called upon to discuss; that Question had already been decided, he was sorry to say, by the delegated authorities in that House; but with respect to the Bill before them, he was ready to admit, that if it could be shown by the Act of Union, that the people of Scotland were entitled even to a much larger measure of Reform than that, he should be very ready to grant it. He did not conceive that the Bill was such a measure of Reform as the people of Scotland had a right to expect. It seemed inconsistent with the principles of that Bill which they had already passed, and if he could establish that, he should have a right to call upon them not to satisfy themselves with a blind adherence to any measure, simply because it was the measure of the Administration of the day. He had a right to call upon the House to adopt a measure similar in principle to the English Bill; and he had a right, if he could prove that this which was before them, was contrary to the articles of the Union, to call upon the House to pass a Bill in conformity with those articles. If he could show, that this Bill was inconsistent with the other, or with the principle that hon. Members themselves were so bent upon establishing, that the people had a right to claim what they considered they wanted, and not what the Legislature might consider that they required, then this was not the Bill that should have been brought forward. If he looked to the preamble of the English Bill, and read it aright, he found it to run thus:—that all decayed and inconsiderable boroughs were to be disfranchised—that the elective franchise was to be extended to larger and more considerable towns, at present unrepresented—and the franchise, generally extended, by reducing the scale of qualification. The original object in establishing the return of Knights of the Shire was, to counteract the democratical influence which would be created in Parliament by adding to the Representation of large towns, and reducing that of inconsiderable boroughs. This latter, however, was the same principle as that applied in the English Bill. But upon what principle did Ministers act with regard to Scotland? Why, they not only did not increase the number of Scottish knights of the shire, but 1189 took away some of those which she returned already, and gave Scotland, under the new system, not Representatives of the people, but Representatives of the Barons or others holding their lands by tenure from the Crown. The power of returning thirty Members was taken from the landed interest to confer it upon the manufacturing interest. In the preamble of the Scotch Bill, the laws for returning Members to Parliament, as settled at the time of the Union, were stated to be defective; however, the laws for electing Members of Parliament, as settled at the time of the Union, were not defective, and therefore he maintained, that the preamble stated that which was not the fact. The learned Lord opposite had stated the object of this Bill; but he (Lord Loughborough) would ask him—why was it not founded on the same principle as the English Bill? In the Articles of the Union it was expressly stated, that the law relating to the civil government should be the same throughout the kingdom; and that the law relative to private right should be altered by the Parliament of Great Britain alone. Perhaps the noble Lords opposite might argue the question in this manner:—they might tell the House, that the Representation of Scotland was a matter of private right, but if it were, then the Representation of England was equally so. It was either a matter of public right, or of mere arbitrary legislation. The ten largest counties in Scotland returned in all ten Representatives. He would take no undue advantage, and therefore referred to the ten largest counties in Scotland, and on comparing these with ten counties in England, he found that the latter returned thirty-four Representatives. In Scotland the proportion which Representation bore to population was about one Member to 94,000 inhabitants. In England it was in the proportion of one Member to 64,000 odd. Now, on what principle of justice—on what principle of fairness—on what principle known to the Constitution of this country—was such gross injustice (he could call it by no other name) tolerated? It was not his intention to offer any opposition to the principle of this Bill specifically, for he must beg to enter his protest against the measure as founded on any principle whatever. He considered it contrary to all rule and practice; contrary to the Articles of the Union, and to every principle of equity and justice. 1190 He could not conclude without expressing a hope that the noble Lords opposite would not object to submit (as they had already done in the case of the English Bill) to any amelioration or alteration. He trusted the noble Lord would not forget the special nature of the various tenures by which land was held in Scotland. He assured the noble Lords, that if they objected to any alteration, they would subject the people of Scotland to a very heavy tax. Many people held their lands under Charters, and this description of tenure, taken in connexion with the rights of superiority, would be materially affected, in many cases, by the operation of this Bill, since the Bill, as it at present stood, would often be productive of great injustice. He would not, however, offer any opposition to the Motion, perceiving it would be nugatory, but would content himself with entering his protest against it, the Bill being at once unconstitutional and unnecessary; and he trusted to the generosity of the noble and learned Lord to allow of such amendments and alterations as might be found necessary.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
denied, that the question of Reform had been decided by a delegated majority, in any improper sense of those words, but by an uncorrupted and independent Parliament—independent alike in their principles and in their circumstances—independent of the Crown and of the Administration—but not of the country. He thought the noble Lord might have spared that observation, the more especially as none of those who preceded him in the discussion of that night, cast any reflection upon the decision which the majority of the House had come to on the Bill which had already passed. Judging from what he had heard of it, he should say, that there was nothing new in this Bill; but he would shortly advert to the observation which was made by the hon. member for Edinburghshire, with respect to one great change it introduced—he meant the qualification. When this measure was originally introduced, he thought that the 10l. qualification, or vote, being introduced, was such a species of revolution, that it was some time before his mind could be reconciled to it. He had found, however, that there was a disposition—a very proper one—to introduce into the Representation the tenantry of the country; at the same time to prevent any dangerous 1191 results arising from establishing too low a franchise in the towns. Under all the circumstances, it appeared to him that they could not hope to have an independent tenantry if the Representation were withheld from them. On this ground, and on this ground alone, he now expressed a hope that his Majesty's Ministers would not be induced to make any alteration in the qualification they had established, but that they would allow the 10l. qualification in counties to remain as it now was. He had always objected to there being a provision in the Bill which allowed the introduction of those who had votes in populous burghs, or other places, into counties. This Bill, he was aware, did not enable the person who voted in right of certain property in an ancient borough, or in a place which was made a borough, to vote also for the county. If it contained such a provision, he should object to the principle. It was idle to say, that there was no difference between borough and county interests. Perhaps indeed, there was not in reality; but, at all events, it was plain that it was generally considered that their respective interests were not alike. If the votes of the borough Members and the county Representatives were compared, it would be found, that they differed materially on many most important questions. There was one objection which he certainly still entertained to this Bill. He should be disposed to say, that the landed interest had not been sufficiently attended to. The existing proportions of borough and county Members ought to have been altered, it was true; but not to the immense extent in which it had been. On looking over the proposed alteration, it appeared to him that the Representation of counties in Scotland was decidedly not what it ought to be. He did not know whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite meant to bring forward any motion relative to this part of the subject; if such a motion were brought forward he should certainly vote in favour of it; at the same time, he should adhere to the proposed aggregate number of Scotch Members. The noble Lord (Loughborough) had said, that if Reform was to be given to Scotland, he wished it to be of the same description as that which had been given to England. Did the noble Lord wish, then, to reduce the 10l. franchise? What would be the necessary consequence of assimilating the system of Representation in Scot- 1192 land to that of England? If the same system of Representation were given to Scotland as was established in England, the franchise must be reduced, in some parts of Scotland, to 40s. The noble Lord, he presumed, was not prepared to reduce that which was already a low-enough qualification—namely 10l. to 40s. The people of Scotland, he thought, would have been dissatisfied with the 40s. freeholders. In point of fact, the county Representation had been as pure as it could be; and he believed the people would not have been satisfied if they had been told, that he would give them the elective franchise, but that they should have it in this particular way. Upon these grounds, he felt it quite impossible to support any alteration of the kind which the noble Lord seemed to contemplate. The hon. member for Edinburghshire said, that he objected to the introduction of voters in towns. He (Mr. Cutlar Fergusson) also objected to the introduction of town voters, if they were of that description that they could not, of necessity, have the same interests as the other class of voters; but this he contended, that the immense population introduced into the Representation of Scotland was a population composed, in a considerable degree, of persons connected, more or less, with the landed interest. The interests of the voters in these boroughs were not in the least degree at variance with those of the land owners; on the contrary, their habits of association and connexion with the gentlemen of the neighbouring counties seemed to afford about the best counterpoise that could well be devised. He believed, therefore, that the landed interest of Scotland would still preserve that great and honourable place which he hoped and trusted it always would retain in the Representation of that country. He had already stated, that he objected to the introduction of the inhabitants of populous places into the Representation of counties. As an instance of the effect of this system he would cite the cases of Greenock and Port Glasgow; in the former Bill they were joined together—by the present measure Port Glasgow alone was taken, and some of the voters of Greenock were, in fact, disfranchised, while a large number was thrown into the county. He should, at the proper time, submit a proposition to the House upon that point. That the Scotch Members returned under the present system paid every attention to 1193 local interests he admitted, but he could not say so much for their endeavours to amend and improve the institutions of their country. Their principal use was, to swell the Ministerial majorities. When the question of the American war was under consideration, the Scotch Members voted in favour of its continuance; and that war would have been put an end to long before the protracted period of its termination, had the Scotch Members given a just and proper vote. At the same time, it would be difficult to find men more independent than the Scotch Members. He did not believe that they had sought for "jobs" a bit more than the English Members. He trusted, however, that hereafter we should have better times; not that he expected corruption in Parliament would be altogether got rid of in his lifetime; still less did he expect, that Reform would bring with it that abundance of good, and that extinction of evil, which some persons believed it would immediately produce. He was not one of those Reformers who entertained such a doctrine; on the contrary, he had always told the people that they would not derive such vast improvement as they expected from Reform. The people of Scotland, however, did not take up the question in that light—they considered themselves degraded by being shut out from the Representation of the people. The noble Lord said, that he considered the present system of Representation to be perfect; that was strange, for it was universally allowed to be defective. Could it be necessary to prove that, when powerful individuals could influence the return for a whole county, and a self-elected junta returned the Members for each borough? He believed no one would concur on this point with the noble Lord. The Representation of Scotland was universally condemned. No one would stand up for it in either House of Parliament. Even a certain noble Duke had so far acceded to the principles of plain common sense as to admit, that property ought to be, in some degree, connected with Representation. He would only add, that this measure of Reform was at no period so popular in Scotland as at present. There had been no time, from the 1st of March, 1831—on which day the noble Lord brought forward the Reform of Parliament Bill—up to the present moment, in which that spirit, that desire, that determination, so universally 1194 expressed to obtain Reform, had not continued to increase. He rejoiced that the people of Scotland were quiet and peaceable. That the feeling in favour of Reform was most determined in that country he knew and admitted; but he knew, also, that if, pending the final decision of the great question, a spirit of outrage or violence should arise, it would be put down by the same, better and yet more powerful spirit which obtained for Scotland its civil and religious liberty.
§ Mr. Robert A. Dundas
did not rise to prolong the debate, but merely to enter his protest against the Bill. There could be no doubt that the Parliament was now placed in a situation very different from that in which it formerly stood. At that time the House of Peers had not agreed to the second reading of the English Reform Bill; but having now done so he concurred with his hon. friend (the member for Edinburgh) that it was quite impossible to withhold from Scotland Reform altogether; and, though he was as convinced as ever, that this measure would be destructive to the essential interests of that country—not only in a political point of view, but with respect to the manner in which titles were made to property—that if he were certain, even now, that by any means in his power, he could retard the progress of the measure, he would do so without hesitation: but as the other House of Parliament had already agreed to an extensive Reform in England, and as this House, on a former occasion, agreed to a Bill nearly similar to that, he should consider himself trespassing most unnecessarily on the time of the House, were he to offer an ineffectual and hopeless opposition.
§ Sir Charles Forbes
expressed his most unqualified dissent from, and opposition to, this measure. With regard to the manner in which it had now been introduced to the notice of the House, he could not forbear expressing his astonishment. They had been told that there was no reaction; and the hon. Gentlemen opposite—trusting, no doubt, to the strength of their majority on that side of the House, had not condescended to offer any argument whatever in favour of the Bill. They had heard no sort of description of the nature or objects of the Bill, or of its probable tendency or consequences. He could not forbear from expressing his regret, that those who were able, and ought to be willing, to give 1195 a full explanation upon this subject, had not thought proper to afford it. He regretted that an hon. Gentleman, so well qualified as his hon. friend, to give an account of the probable consequences of his measure, had not done so; but he trusted that he would be induced to do it before the House came to a decision. However his Majesty's Ministers, backed by the mob, might coerce the House—however they might coerce the votes of its Members—they should not coerce him. He was well aware that his individual vote was of very little importance on this occasion to any party in the House; but it was of some importance to him that he should preserve his own consistency; and he should be ashamed of himself if he could sit in that House and allow this Bill to pass without giving it his most decided opposition. This could only be done by dividing the House upon this question. His opposition was principally directed against that part of the Bill which related to the county Representation. With regard to the boroughs, he should not oppose the principle of the Bill, although, perhaps, some of the details might require amendment. He would not trouble the House further, but he could not sit down without expressing his regret, that the hon. and learned member for Kirkcudbright should have withdrawn his opposition to this Bill, and departed from those principles with respect to it which he formerly entertained.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, his hon. friend had totally misunderstood him, in supposing that he had departed from any ground he ever took up on this subject. He stated to the House, that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would bring forward a motion for increasing the number of Representatives for Scotland, he would vote in favour of such a Motion. With regard to his present vote, he would remind his hon. friend, that he had voted in favour of the second reading of the former Bill, and therefore he had not changed his opinion, by voting for the second reading of this Bill.
said, that he was as anxious to preserve his consistency as the hon. Baronet was his. The hon. Baronet, however, who had hitherto objected to the Bill entirely, now had no objection to the borough Reform. That principle comprised one-half of the Bill, and he congratulated his countrymen with the utmost sincerity on their having thus acquired the 1196 support of the hon. Baronet to the borough Reform, somewhat at the expense of the hon. Baronet's consistency. As the hon. Baronet had so far changed his opinions in the lapse of a few short months, he (Mr. Hume) did not despair of finding him altogether on the side of Reform in a short time. There was only one part of his speech on which he wished to make any observation. The hon. Member had said, that his Majesty's Ministers had been overawed by the mob; instead of the mob, he should have said the whole community. The hon. Gentleman proceeded on a mistake; he supposed that none but a limited number of the lower classes were anxious for this Bill, and therefore he opposed it. But the fact was, that it was the people of Scotland who called for this measure; for it was in vain to deny, that the people of Scotland were to a man in favour of this Bill. He would make one other remark before he sat down. It appeared to him that the hon. Gentleman did great injustice to the learned Lord, who had displayed great good sense and sound judgment in not pressing upon the House any argument to prove that Reform was wanting in Scotland. Reform had been so long required in Scotland, that no man could refuse it, except him who, for "consistency's" sake, happened to be opposed to it. In conclusion, he would only observe, that he hoped this measure would conciliate the whole of the people of Scotland: it would tend to raise them in their own estimation, and to make them even better citizens than they had hitherto been. He was satisfied that no measure was ever proposed which was hailed with greater satisfaction throughout the country than this.
§ Sir George Murray
said, though he could not concur in the view of this subject that seemed to be recommended by the learned Lord, of allowing the present question to pass without discussion, he would not trespass on the time of the House at any very great length; but still he considered the question of far too much importance to his country to suffer this Bill to pass a second reading without briefly expressing his sentiments upon it. Before he proceeded further, he would beg to notice one remark which had fallen from the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Forbes), with regard to his consistency. In his opinion, that hon. Baronet's consistency would be better consulted by his dividing 1197 on that Motion of which he (Sir George Murray) had given notice, with respect to an addition of Members to the Scotch counties, than by dividing the House on the second reading of the Bill; because it was quite clear that his hon. friend did not object to the general principle of the Bill, so far as it went to make an alteration in the system of borough Representation; and it would, perhaps, be better to pospone dividing until the particular part of the Bill to which he had alluded came before them. He concurred in the sentiment expressed by the hon. Baronet with respect to the borough Representation; and he believed that few persons connected with Scotland, or acquainted with that country, but must admit, that the borough Representation there required great alteration. It appeared the more necessary that he should be permitted to occupy some portion of the time of the House on the present occasion, because he stood in a position different from that of some of those hon. Gentlemen, of whose judgment and character he entertained the highest opinion, but from whom he differed in this respect, that he had never been at any time an uncompromising enemy of the principle of Reform: all that he had ever required had been, that the measure of Reform to be introduced should be moderate and temperate in its principle—that it should not be effected by sudden and violent changes—and that those changes in our political system should not be pushed at once to too great an extent. The chief ground of objection which he entertained to the plan of his Majesty's Government was, that the changes proposed were too extensive and too general, and too hastily to be carried into effect. He had never been able to separate in his view of it, the measure of Reform into three distinct parts, and, indeed, the whole ought to be considered as one great measure. He was convinced that great inconvenience had already arisen, and also that more would arise, in consequence of the measure having been divided into three separate parts for the three different portions of the United Kingdom. It was greatly owing to this that the measure was so extremely unjust to Scotland, and that the people of that part of the empire had not been treated in the way they had a right to expect. It was not treating Scotland and Ireland fairly, to separate their interests 1198 from those of England. In former times, when there existed three independent Legislatures, and they negotiated for the purpose of uniting into one, each did the best they could for their own interests; and in these unions the preponderance of England in wealth, power, and patronage, gave her somewhat of an undue advantage; but in the present day, England, Scotland, and Ireland, stood in a different situation. The union of Scotland with England, and the subsequent union of Ireland with Great Britain, altered the relation of the countries. They had not now separate Legislatures, adjusting separate interests, but a united Legislature, consulting together for the common interests of a United Kingdom; and, therefore, they should not legislate separately for these parts of the United Kingdom, but alike for the whole; and all parts of the United Kingdom should be treated in the same manner, and placed on the same footing with respect to any advantages which were to result from a general measure. In his opinion, what was due to one part of the United Kingdom was clue to the others, and in legislating they ought not to make a distinction injurious to any part. Whatever advantage England proposed to attain by the Reform Bill, Scotland and Ireland had equal claims with England to participate in those advantages. Upon what ground had the demand been made for Reform? The excitement which had been raised, and which still prevailed on this subject, had been chiefly owing to the great number of nomination boroughs which existed in England, and also from a number of boroughs having become decayed, and having fallen below that standard which it was thought should authorize them to return two Members each to that House. The existence of this state of things had excited considerable discussion and dissatisfaction, and the consequence had been, that the House had passed a Bill to disfranchise fifty-six boroughs, which, it was contended, fell under the character of nomination boroughs; and to take away one Member each from thirty other places, besides two Members also from Weymouth. Now, the deficiency occasioned in the House, in consequence of this large disfranchisement, had been filled up by conferring the franchise on a large number of English towns, and on several English counties; but he would contend, that these seats did not belong 1199 exclusively to the people of England. The pretext for taking them away was, that they belonged, in part, very improperly, to individuals, and were, in part, superfluities. On these grounds they were made disposable for the benefit of the people by a united Parliament; and the advantage of the whole United Kingdom should be equally consulted in the allotment of them. He would contend that any deficiency that might exist in the Representation of the people, in any part of the United Kingdom, should be supplied by means of these disposable seats. By means of them, Gentlemen, connected with any distinct interest, not adequately represented, had found their way into that House, and the paucity of the Representatives for Scotland was not so much felt, as it would otherwise have been, because Gentlemen, connected with that part of the empire, were enabled, by means of these boroughs, to obtain a voice in the Legislature. The Legislature, therefore, on depriving these places of their right to return Members, should have made these seats disposable, without partiality, for all parts of the United Kingdom. In the enfranchising clauses of the measure of Reform, a direct voice in the Legislature had very properly been given to those places which, in the course of time, had risen into importance and wealth in the country, and which, from peculiar interests connected with them, appeared to require a direct share in the Representation. This principle had been applied to counties as well as towns, as regarded England, and it should have been made equally applicable to the whole United Kingdom. A due share of the disfranchised seats should have been given to all parts of the Kingdom. But how had the allotment been actually made? The whole number of seats which were to be filled up in consequence of this disfranchisement was 144. The great mass of Representation taken from these disfranchised places was still to be retained for England; for Scotland was to have only eight, and Ireland only five additional Members—a portion small, indeed, when compared with the 131 Members given to the towns and counties of England. He did not mean to say that there might not be particular circumstances which might prevent the application of the principle to the full extent in some parts of the United Kingdom; but, in point of principle, he could admit of no 1200 distinction. In regard to Scotland, he would maintain, that there existed no circumstances either to impair or to postpone her claims. Scotland should have been treated in the same manner as England, and should have had an equal proportionate share in the disposable Representation. When he compared the amount of the population of several cities and towns in Scotland with places in England to which Representatives had been assigned, he could not imagine on what ground they could be withheld from the former. Again, he had never heard any reasonable ground assigned for excluding the popular and wealthy counties of Scotland from an increased number of Members. In point of population, the claims of Scotland were undoubted; but he could mention other grounds also—the commercial wealth and enterprise of the people, their ingenuity and industry in manufactures, and their well-known and distinguished skill in agricultural pursuits. Indeed, there was no people who had a fairer claim to full Representation than the people of Scotland. No nation had improved so much during the last century, and had increased more in wealth and prosperity. He might also advance another claim, founded on the intelligence, and on the high moral and religious character of the people of that country, which was universally acknowledged. As, however, an opportunity would occur in the Committee of urging the claims of Scotland to an additional number of Representatives, he would not trespass further on the time of the House then. He must, however, say a very few words with regard to Ireland. It had been urged by some hon. Gentlemen, that Ireland was not in a condition to receive the full share in the Representation to which that country would otherwise be entitled, in consequence of the agitation which prevailed there, and of the turbulence of the people, which rendered it unsafe to give a greater share in the Representation to the people: but this turbulence could not justly be imputed to Ireland, nor made a matter of charge against the people of that country; but rather, it should be charged to the conduct of the Government. It should be recollected what a system of misgovernment had long prevailed in Ireland, and he was sorry to say that, so far from that hopeless mismanagement having been diminished by the present Government, it had, on the contrary, been greatly in- 1201 creased. It was the anxious wish, and the sound policy of the Government to which he had the honour to belong, to seek to remove the calamities which misgovernment had brought upon Ireland, by endeavouring to extinguish those flames of religious dissension which had burned with so much fury; but, unhappily, since the passing of that great measure which had that object in view, those religious flames had been re-lighted, and other causes of dissension had been added, which had raised so much discontent, and spread so much agitation throughout the country, that it might not be proper nor safe to extend to Ireland, immediately, that increase in the number of her Representatives, to which otherwise she would have been fairly entitled. Among the first causes of dissension which had been introduced into that country, had been the new plan which had been proposed with regard to the maintenance of the Church, and a new system of national education, which the Government had brought forward for the children of the great body of the people. Under these circumstances, it might be proper, perhaps, to defer giving more Representatives to Ireland; but nothing could be more unjust than to impute the agitation which prevailed in that country to the people, or to charge it against them as a crime, when the evils which prevailed there were mainly to be attributed to the Government itself. Let the claims of Ireland be postponed, if necessary, until that country was more fit to profit by them, but let not the doors be wholly shut against her. The same objection, however, did not apply to Scotland; and he must say, that that part of the empire had been treated with the greatest injustice. Much had been said, and many disputes had arisen, with regard to the true principles of the English Bill. It had been said, that it united the principles of enfranchisement, disfranchisement, and extension of the elective franchise. He had no objection to the disfranchisement going to the extent that it did in the English Bill; at the same time, it would have been advisable that enfranchisement should have preceded disfranchisement—for, in his opinion, this would have been the more safe mode of proceeding; for, by disfranchising first, they should have thereby avoided laying down the abstract principle, that there should be no such thing as nomination in the system. He 1202 was no uncompromising advocate of nomination, but where would this abstract principle lead to?—every borough in which there was a dominant interest would, by the application of that principle, be deprived of the right of Representation. He was aware that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had endeavoured to draw a line between nomination and that which he called the legitimate influence of property; but it would be found very difficult to make the distinction sufficiently understood and sufficiently respected, and by having laid down the principle of destroying all nomination in the first place, they would be speedily involved in a question as to the legitimacy of the influence of property where it had an entire preponderance. If he was not much mistaken, already, some few months ago, a petition had been presented to that House from the borough of Ripon, complaining of the undue influence which a large property in the neighbourhood gave to the owner of it in the election of Members for that borough. And since then, the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Stamford, had presented a petition from that town, nearly of a similar character, and which stated, that in consequence of the line drawn by the Commissioners for the limits of the borough, including within it a large portion of the property of a neighbouring Peer, the elective franchise would be rendered so dependant on that family as not to be worth possessing. Similar complaints would, no doubt, arise relative to the influence of other properties in other quarters, and this would become a continued source of dissension, and a ground to demand further changes. But whatever disputes might have arisen respecting the real principles of the English Bill, there could be no difficulty in making out the principle of the Scotch Bill, even from the statement of the learned Lord himself. That principle was undoubtedly subversive. The learned Lord Advocate for Scotland had stated in bringing forward his Bill, that the old political system of the country was to be wholly overturned and destroyed. He had heard hon. Gentlemen complained of for representing the English Bill as revolutionary. He was unwilling, at all times, to make use of terms which might be displeasing to any hon. Gentleman, but he believed that imputation to be true. However, he was by no means alarmed by the sound of a word, for a 1203 revolution might be productive of good, as it might also of evil, to the community. In its proper signification it merely meant a change. There was a time, and that by no means remote, when the people of this country justly gloried in the term revolution, because it marked the period of the adjustment of our Constitution upon wise and prudent principles. But the events which had more recently taken place in a neighbouring country had given a new meaning to the term, and that word was now generally used to imply a restless succession of changes productive of no permanent advantage to the State, and communicating discontent and alarm to surrounding nations. Whether, however, this Bill for Scotland were for good or evil, it was confessedly a revolution. He admitted, that there were great defects in the present political system of Scotland, but he should have been better satisfied with the changes proposed to be introduced by the learned Lord, had he adhered more than he had done to the basis on which the present system had so long rested. The extension of that basis should have had his (Sir George Murray's) full concurrence and cordial support, but its total subversion he could not but consider as a dangerous experiment. He must repeat that he had never made the least objection to altering the present system in Scotland, for any one acquainted with that country must admit that it abounded in anomalous imperfections. But such improvements might have been easily and safely introduced into the old system, as would have removed the objections to it without at once resorting to the hazardous measure of completely destroying it. He had heard the hon. and learned member for Calne contend, that a great change was a great evil; and, if he was not much mistaken, he had also heard the same opinion expressed more than once in another place by a noble and distinguished individual, with whom that learned Gentleman was politically connected, and for whose character he (Sir George Murray) had long entertained the greatest respect. He would not, however, go so far as the learned Gentleman, but he might safely assert, that a great change was always attended with a great risk. If this risk from a great change were incurred without a great probability, or almost a certainty, of deriving great and permanent advantages from it, he for one should feel himself 1204 bound to oppose it. But what had been the condition of Scotland under its present political system? No country in the world had, during the last century, advanced more rapidly and more steadily in a course of prosperity. Everything connected with that country had gone on in a progressive improvement most gratifying to witness. This improvement had not been limited to any particular branch, or to any particular portion of the country—it had diffused itself universally throughout every department of commerce, of manufacture, and of agriculture, and had spread itself over the whole surface of the country. But to what did the learned Lord attribute this extraordinary, this happy improvement of his native country? The learned Lord had said, that Scotland derived all these advantages from her good fortune in being united to a country under a better system than her own, in short from her connexion with England. But was this a satisfactory argument? Was this bad compliment of the learned Lord to his country to be received as sound doctrine, when it had been over and over again broadly asserted, that the system of Representation in England had been a system of corruption and of misgovernment for the last 150 years. Yet this had been urged by several Members connected with the Government, and had been the great argument for the measure that had been introduced by his Majesty's Ministers. How Scotland could owe the advantages she possessed to her connexion with a country in which such a defective system existed, and called so loudly for Reform, the paradoxes of the learned Lord had not satisfactorily explained. But it might be asked, what advantage was Scotland to derive from the complete abandonment of the old political system of the country? All that the learned Lord had stated amounted to this—that he promised that Scotland should become ten times more free, and ten times more prosperous; but he was sorry to say, that this did not appear to him to present a very substantial security against all those risks and dangers which must ever accompany a sudden, violent, and general alteration of the institutions of a country. With regard to the extension of Representation given to the towns in Scotland, he agreed entirely with the Bill as far as it went. It was most desirable and just to extend the right of Representation to the large towns of the country, He entirely 1205 concurred in the propriety of giving two Members to the capital, and also the same number to that great emporium of trade, the city of Glasgow. It was with the most perfect propriety also that a separate Member had been given to each of the towns of Aberdeen, Paisley, Dundee, and Greenock, and to the city of Perth. No places had juster claims to Representatives than these towns; but there were others, also, which had extremely strong claims, and, as it appeared to him, one stronger than some places in England to which Members had been given, but these Scotch towns had been passed over: he would only detain the House by mentioning the town of Inverness, which was a place of great and rising importance, and which was situated in a part of the country from which comparatively few Representatives were returned to Parliament. He trusted that, on consideration, the learned Lord would still use his influence to obtain a Representative for that town. The greatest injustice of the present measure would fall upon the agricultural interests of Scotland. This interest did not only gain nothing, but it suffered a great diminution of weight by the change which the Bill introduced. He regretted extremely that it was not proposed by Ministers to give to that interest in Scotland the additional share in the Representation to which it was most justly entitled. Great as was the industry and intelligence of the manufacturing interests in Scotland, those interests had not improved more rapidly, nor were they of greater importance than the agricultural interests of that country. Undoubtedly, the extended franchise in the counties was to be conferred on a class of persons very respectable; but it ought not to be forgotten, that a very large portion of those persons who were hereafter to vote for the county Representatives had no connexion whatever with the agricultural interests. And he greatly feared, that the number of those voters would, in some counties, completely overwhelm the agricultural interests, which undoubtedly had, at present, a predominant influence in the election of the county Members. He might be told, perhaps, that this was completely compensated by giving the right of voting to the farmers. No man could entertain a higher respect for any body of men than he did for the farmers of Scotland. A more respectable, intelligent, and excellent class of persons, a class more at- 1206 tached to their country, or more desirous of promoting its best interests, did not exist. He feared, however, that the arrangement which had been proposed, so far from being beneficial to the class of farmers, would turn out to be injurious to them, and would tend considerably to destroy, or at least to diminish, their independence. He had not a sufficiently accurate and extensive knowledge of the farmers of England to speak with confidence, but he believed that the great portion of the farmers of Scotland were more independent of their landlords than those of England; and he feared, if this Bill should pass in its present form, many landlords would be gradually tempted to look to attaining political influence, rather than to the well-being of the farmers, and that electioneering ambition, and strong political feelings, would lead to collision between landlord and tenant, and to arrangements affecting the distribution and the extent of farms, and the nature of leases, which might prove by no means conducive to the agricultural prosperity of the country. There was one part in the former Bill which he was happy to find, that the learned Lord had consented to strike out, in one instance at least, in the present—he alluded to that part which mutilated some of the counties. He did not see what possible advantage could be derived from that plan, and he was convinced that much mischief would result from it; he, therefore, rejoiced that it had been in part abandoned. He was happy to hear the learned Lord state, that the district of Cowall was not to be dismembered from the county of Argyle. But on what principle, or upon what pretext, was a portion of Perthshire still doomed to be disunited from that county, for the purpose of being added to two neighbouring counties? Nothing could be more unreasonable or more unjust. The immediate result would be, the placing the return of Members for these two counties under the control of certain families, for whom he entertained personally the most sincere respect; but when the people were told, that the object of this measure was to destroy nomination, to break down the power of an oligarchy, and to give greater freedom to elections, it was a gross deception to introduce a clause into the Bill, the sole result of which would be, in as far as it could be understood, to place the counties, for 1207 whose increase Perthshire was to be mutilated, under the influence of the families of Lord Abercrombie and of the hon. member for Kinross and their connexions. It was not merely his opinion, but the general opinion in Scotland, that the predominant interest already enjoyed by these two families in the two counties of Kinross and Clackmannan would be increased by the dismemberments of the county of Perth. He had not the least doubt that it was known to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to other members of his Majesty's Government, that there was a county in the north of Scotland as completely under the influence of a patron, as were ever Gatton and Old Sarum. He did not complain of a family possessing that influence—he did not object to the fair influence of property—but when Ministers told the people of England and of Scotland, that one great object in passing the Reform Bill was to destroy nomination, and break down oligarchical influence, they ought not to dismember one county to place two others under an oligarchy of two families, and maintain in the hands of another family the absolute nomination of a county Representation. He was not opposed to the liberties of the people—God forbid; and his objection to this Bill had always been—not that it increased the liberty of the people—not that it tended to lessen influence—but that it went to concentrate power in one branch of the Legislature, which must inevitably be injurious to the liberties of the people. The great principle to which the prosperity of this country was owing, was to be found in the separation of power, and the distribution of it among the different branches of the Legislature. If, then, a measure were adopted which would concentrate power in any one quarter, the liberties of the people would be endangered, and the principle of the Constitution destroyed; and he would go so far as to say, that if all power were placed in the hands of the people, it would soon be found that this arrangement was the most disadvantageous possible for the people themselves. If an irresistible control was placed in that House—the prerogatives of the Crown infringed, and the independence of the House of Peers destroyed—and if, at the same time, that House was made wholly dependent on the varying will of the people—everything would have been done which was in the power of the Legislature 1208 towards preparing the way for the future destruction of the liberties of the people. He would only further allude to the means that had been employed to uphold and carry forward the great measure projected by his Majesty's Ministers. In the first place, the people had been deluded into the expectation of blessings which no reasonable man anticipated could possibly result from this Bill—more, indeed, than any reasonable man could expect would result from any measure whatsoever. Next, whilst under the influence of this delusion as to the consequences of the measure, the people had been industriously kept in a constant state of violent excitement, and had been unhappily led to acts of riot and of outrage, which had assumed the character, and produced the effect of intimidation, in many places. And in addition to this excitement—and to this intimidation effected by means of the delusion of the people—the Crown had been placed in such a situation that it hardly seemed to possess any longer the power of acting independently for itself; and the Crown being no longer in a condition of constitutional independence, its prerogatives were to be made use of for the destruction of the independence of another branch of the Legislature. He could only express his regret that such means should have been resorted to, and that his Majesty's Ministers should have deemed it necessary to bring forward a measure for the improvement of the Constitution of the State, founded on such principles, carried to such an extent, and formed by such means, as those which he had stated.
could not support the measure, because he considered it likely to be productive of great injury to the country.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that while he still entertained as strong objections as ever to the whole principle of the Reform Bill, he still must admit that that principle was decided by the result which the House had come to on the second reading of the Bill. He contended that the whole character of Scotch Representation, so far as practical utility was concerned, afforded the strongest argument that could be urged against that decision. He would not now oppose what appeared to be the general feeling of the House, but would acquiesce in the second reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Cumming Bruce
protested against the Bill as uncalled for by the state of the Representation in Scotland.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
wished it should go forth to the public, by means of the Press—if the Press were not sold to the Government—that the advocates of this measure presented an extraordinary disparity as compared with its opponents. He wished to know, out of a number of 658 Members, how many now sat upon that (the Ministerial) side, and upon this (the Opposition)? If the people and their Representatives knew each other's feelings on the question of Reform, the Bill would never have passed: they might bully a King, but they could not bully a subject.
§ Bill read a second time, and ordered to be committed to-morrow.