HC Deb 22 August 1835 vol 30 cc866-9
Mr. Thomas Attwood

said, he had to present a Petition adopted at a public meeting in Birmingham, signed by Mr. James, the Chairman, on behalf of the meeting. It was on the subject of the Municipal Corporations' Bill, and it had been adopted at a meeting equally distinguished for its numbers and for the firmness with which it gave utterance to its opinions. The petitioners approached the House with increased confidence—a confidence in which he participated—in consequence of having a Ministry that warranted good opinions and expectations. Previously to presenting this petition, in order that the House might duly estimate its value, he wished to give an instance of the sort of feeling that characterized those who constituted this meeting. There had been a desire, seeing what was passing, to revive the Political Union. Of the former Poli- tical Union of Birmingham it was unnecessary for him to say any thing. Its history and its acts were before the world. With respect to the contemplated revival of that Union, he had taken the liberty to express an opinion against the policy of such a proceeding. He did so on account of the improved state of the representation—and of their having an Administration of such a liberal character as to justify great confidence. He further took the liberty most decidedly to urge that if the Municipal Corporations' Bill became the law, it would more effectually accomplish the good object now sought than Political Unions. The Town Councils which the Bill would give, would protect and promote the people's best interests. He was happy to say, that his representations had not been without their effect. The idea of proposing the revival of the Political Union was abandoned; but he must state, in order that the House might judge of the character of the meeting, and of the opinions that were abroad in society, that the parties present at the meeting had been prepared to surpass him in Radicalism, He deplored quite as much as the meeting could do the proceedings that had taken place in the House of Lords on this Bill; but he nevertheless could not be unmindful of the great and able exertions of the patriotic minority of Lords who had so manfully, with so much ability, and with such great sacrifices, resisted the several mutilations of the Bill. Their conduct deserved the lasting gratitude of the country, and displayed a moral elevation of character that not merely redeemed the particular individuals, but justified the proudest hopes for the future, be the fate of the Bill what it might. Still it was his duty, from the knowledge of facts which he possessed, to state, that if justice were not done, or if the granting of useful measures were impeded, the opinions which now engaged the great mass of society were pregnant with much danger to the State. Let it be remembered, that the people had the hoarded injuries of many years to impel them to use that power which they now possessed; that they had been subjected to the severest laws, and one in particular, that had operated extensively in confiscating their property, and it was vain to expect that they would rest, possessing the ability and the firmness that they did, until wrongs were redressed and security obtained for future good Government. He admitted, that workmen were better off, that prosperity with particular classes had increased, but these advantages had resulted from the sacrifice of capital rather than from universal improvement. And so clearly was this seen, that if this and other measures of amelioration were resisted elsewhere, he knew there was such a spirit abroad as would inevitably lead to the revival of the Political Unions. As for himself, and he believed that he spoke the sentiments of the meeting at Birmingham, he had no confidence in any power, except in that House, and in the Ministers. He was quite sure, that the Bill could not be mutilated with safety to the tranquillity and best interests of this country. There existed a most determined feeling—the Ministers might guard against it if they liked; but if they were not firm in resisting the mutilations, the people would cease to have confidence in them. The petition was in favour of the Municipal Corporations' Bill, and it prayed the House to resist all mutilations in that measure.

Lord John Russell

was glad to hear from the hon. Member, that his friends in Birmingham had adopted his very judicious advice in two instances—first, in not renewing the Political Unions; and secondly, in softening the terms in which they spoke, in their petition, of the House of Lords, into terms of proper respect. The hon. Gentleman had acted with great judgment in both these cases. He had been always of opinion, that the people had better abstain from forming Political Unions. With regard to the other point, he quite agreed with the hon. Member, that the House of Lords should be treated with due and becoming respect.

Mr. Shaw

also agreed in the propriety of the advice that had been given by the hon. Member for Birmingham against any proposed revival of Political Unions. Both the hon. Member and the noble Lord must have learned long since that it was easier to set a going the wheel of Radicalism than to stop it. He trusted, however, than the parties had been restrained by a sense of duty rather than by any other motive.

Mr. Wakley

said, he could not but remember the great benefit that had been derived from Political Unions; that to those Unions, alone, they owed the Reform Bill; and that if an emergency again arose the people were not without precedents. It was clear to all, or it ought to be, that there was now proceeding a violent conflict between two principles—that of hereditary power, and that of representative legislation. He was satisfied that the re- presentative power would gain the ascendancy. Hitherto the hereditary branch had had complete control of the Legislature; and the people, until the Reform Bill, had in reality no control; but now the people having a House of real representatives could no longer endure the power of the hereditary branch. The truth that he uttered, ought to be universally known. But be that fact as it might, the Lords would soon be convinced, that the people would not be satisfied with what they had now obtained; that the people viewed the Municipal Corporations' Bill as only the first result of the Reform Bill, and that the passing of the Bill now before the Lords was expected, and would be urged by the nation.

Mr. Ruthven

most sincerely wished to see a good and sound understanding restored between that and the other House. He hoped that House would pursue a calm and cautious course, to prevent any dangerous collision between the millions of the United Kingdom and a small party in the other House; but, at the same time, he hoped that this House would not degrade itself by any concession of the just rights of the people, which would only precipitate the calamity they were all anxious to prevent.

Mr. Scholefield

said, that the meeting alluded to by his hon. Colleague had been characterized by the greatest firmness of purpose, combined with the greatest moderation. He would not have alluded to it at all, if it had not been for the uncalled-for observations of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin. His hon. Colleague had used the power and confidence reposed in him by the people with the greatest moderation and sound judgment, and had conducted himself with the highest credit and in the most exemplary manner.

Petition to lie upon the Table.

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