presented a Petition from Dartmouth, praying for an inquiry into the state of the 118 Corporation. They stated that by a charter of King Edward 3rd. the burgessses were invested with the right of choosing the Mayor. They conceived burgesses meant inhabitant householders, but their privileges had been usurped by a select few. The corporate body were forty in number, and self-elected; they possessed considerable property in the borough, and they gave no public account of the management of their funds, although, by the records of the Corporation it appeared, that accounts were formerly made up annually. The petitioners described the importance of the harbour of Dartmouth to commerce, and asserted that it was the most safe of any on that coast, between Portsmouth and Plymouth. They prayed the House to incorporate the inhabitant householders within the district which by the great measure of Reform was constituted the borough for the purpose of electing Members of Parliament, giving them a full share in the election of the officers of the Corporation. They were of opinion that they were all justly entitled to the rights and privileges which were now enjoyed by the existing Corporation. He was instructed to say, that the inhabitants felt the greatest gratitude to Ministers for the great measure of Reform, by which they considered that an act of justice had been done to them; but they assured the House that that great measure would not be complete, unless the franchise in Corporations were extended to all municipal elections.
§ On the Petition being read,
§ Mr. Bulteel
stated, that he was requested by a numerous body of the inhabitants of Dartmouth, to support its prayer. He trusted the petitioners would fully participate in the advantages that had been promised them by the Reform Bill. The inhabitants had hitherto been divided into two parties, and he assured the House that any alteration would benefit the town, and could not make it worse.
§ Lord John Russell
said, he had been requested to support the prayer of the petition. After what had already been said upon the subject, he would say no more than that he fully concurred in its prayer.
An Hon. Member
well acquainted with the Corporation of Dartmouth, had no hesitation in saying, that it was one of the most corrupt in Britain; and that a very strong feeling prevailed among the inhabitants against the system: so much so, that were a riot unfortunately to arise in that town, they would not go out with the 119 corporate officers. He cordially supported the prayer of the petition, and hoped soon to see a Bill introduced which would put an end to a system so odious.
Petition referred to the Committee on Corporations.