§ Mr. Grote
then rose and said—"In accordance with the prayer of these and other Petitions, I rise to lay before you the Motion of which I have given notice respecting the mode of taking votes at the election of Members of Parliament. I mean to propose a Resolution to the effect that votes shall henceforward be taken by way of Secret Ballot, and I shall set forth the reasons which induce me to make this proposition as briefly and as intelligibly as I can. It may be in the recollection of the House that I made a similar Motion in the last Parliament, during the Session of 1833, and as my speech was afterwards published, the arguments which I employed on that occasion are on record and before the world. It will be difficult for me to avoid treading over again the same ground and repeating the same sentiments, but I shall do my best to conquer this impediment without abandoning those solid and unalterable arguments on which the Question must finally be determined. It was my intention to have brought this Motion forward at an earlier period, and with this view I gave notice on the first day of the present Session of a Motion for the 2nd of April. Before that day arrived the hon. Baronet, the Member for Devonport, moved for the 370 appointment of a Committee to inquire into the best means of preventing bribery and intimidation; and in making that Motion, while he expressed his strong sense of the evils now prevalent under those two heads, he at the same time intimated his hope that some other adequate remedies might be provided without having recourse to the Ballot. Although I was then of opinion, and had long been of opinion, that no other remedy except the Ballot was at all adequate to the exigency of the case, yet I thought it my duty to postpone my Motion for a certain time, in order to see whether there was any likelihood of an effective substitute being provided. Of the bill brought in by the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, for inflicting penalties for the intimidation of voters, I shall speak presently, but nothing has occurred during this interval, either in that Committee or out of it, to create in me the smallest belief in the possibility of any such substitute. Feeling as I do still a deep and unaltered conviction that the Ballot is the only complete antidote against evils of great magnitude and urgency, I cannot consent to let the present Session pass without submitting the subject to public discussions more especially as some recent occurrences, have brought it impressively into notice. I anticipate little difference of opinion as to the importance of the Question. Every thing connected with the elective franchise, the primary source and security of all popular rights, is an object of first-rate moment. The perfect arrangement and protection of that franchise deserves our most careful attention, and if there are any defects in either of these points, as matters stand at present, this House ought not to rest until it has removed them. I am as ready as any man to acknowledge the great and signal improvement wrought by the Reform Act, and to add my humble voice to the chorus of praise and gratitude which that measure has called forth from my countrymen. But when Gentlemen tell me that it has purged our representative system of all and singular pre-existing defects—that it has placed elections on a footing pure, unexceptionable, and incapable of any further improvement—when Gentlemen tell me this, I dispute the position altogether. It will, I am sure, be in the recollection of the House that there were some very important points appertaining essentially to the perfection of a representative system, which the Reform Act left altogether unnoticed. The noble Lord (now Member for Stroud) who first introduced the Reform Bill to the House, 371 in his Speech of March 1, 1831, expressly Said that, in proposing the Bill, it was not his intention to approach either the Question respecting the best mode of taking votes, whether by open or secret suffrage, or the Question respecting the duration of Parliaments. Therefore, however Gentlemen may argue that the Reform Bill is a final and conclusive measure as to the extent or distribution of the elective franchise—a point on which I do not now wish to touch—still they cannot with any colour of reason pretend that it is final as to topics which the mover expressly put aside, and which were hardly once glanced at during the whole length of the discussion. I contend that the Reform Act neither settled, nor undertook to settle, whether secret suffrage is better or worse than open suffrage; nor do I, in mooting this point, either overstep the limits or overrule the authority of that instrument. But although my proposal is thus independent of the Reform Act, it tends to the same result, and is in perfect harmony with the generous spirit and purposes of that measure in substituting representation in place of nomination. I will add, that it is not at all less important, for a bad manner of taking votes may be just as noxious as a bad qualification or distribution of voters. Having thus endeavoured to show that the most sincere respect and admiration for the Reform Act need not preclude you from entertaining this Question, I proceed to inquire what are the reasons for objecting to open voting, and for preferring the Vote by Ballot. I assume that in conferring upon any man the title and functions of elector, you really intend to invest him with a substantive and independent character; you deal with him as a voluntary and intelligent agent, capable of discharging an office of trust; you place in his hands an important right, which he is to exercise according to his own free conscience, and according to his own best judgment. The law can mean nothing else when it provides and prescribes that electors shall deliver their suffrages "freely and indifferently." You wish to obtain the sincere determination of the voter as to the man whom he chooses for a representative—his sincere determination, at all events, his rational determination, if it be possible. His vote, in order to correspond with the intention of the law, must be the offspring of an unconstrained will, and the expression of his own genuine sentiment. The contrary of this would be a supposition which, whether there be many or few who 372 really hold it in their hearts, few at least will be found to vindicate openly; for it would imply that a voter, though nominally invested with the franchise, is intended only as the passive tool and mouthpiece of another man's commands; it would imply that Parliament, while pretending to bestow a vote upon him, designs, in fact, to bestow underhand a second vote upon somebody else, and that the subordinate voter is thus invested with a trust, the very essence of which consists in a stimulated choice at the hustings. If there be persons who really think that the law intends to play this trick with voters, the sooner it is proclaimed the better, in order that voters may understand the real value of the privilege conferred upon them, and the exact duty which they are required to fulfil. If this be what is really meant by a vote, in justice and in mercy say so; do not entice men of honour and conscience to meddle with so disgraceful a privilege. But I anticipate that any such meaning as this will be generally disavowed. It will be admitted on all hands that the free and indifferent suffrage of the voter, in the plain sense of the words, is the object sought to be obtained whenever a vote is conferred—in other words, the sincere, genuine, determination of the voter, without purchase and without coercion; and if such be indeed the purpose, I entreat you to consider whether it will not be more surely, as well as more easily attained, by voting in secret than by voting in public. Compare calmly the two sides of the alternative, and you will see that there is every reason for declining the open method of voting,—every reason for preferring the secret method. When a man gives his vote in secret, you are perfectly sure to eliminate all constraint—to give full play to his inward thoughts and feelings—to obtain his free, genuine, undissembled determination; of this you cannot be disappointed. The voter may form a wrong judgment—he may be deceived by wrong information, or led astray by unwise reasoning—he may follow blindly emotions of friendship or of antipathy; all or any of these causes may vitiate his last determination, and render it inconsistent with sound and far-sighted reason, but such as the determination is, so it emerges and manifests itself at the poll, provided only the votes be taken secretly. I think that no man who reflects for a moment can dispute what is here advanced. Under secret voting, you are as well assured of 373 bringing out the real and genuine choice of the voter as if you could look into his heart; but are you equally sure of bringing out his real and genuine choice if you require his vote to be given openly? Quite the reverse. A voter's tongue is not necessarily the interpreter of his real mind; it is but too often the slave of his paramount hopes and fears. Whatever may be his real choice, he may have a thousand motives for delivering the contrary at an open polling-place. He may make it the means of conciliating favour or averting enmity. He may be overborne by the solicitations of a friend, or intimidated by the threats of a superior. His vote cannot fail to offend the party whom it contributes to defeat, nor to gratify those whom it assists; his comfort, his station in life, his family tranquillity, may all depend upon his keeping well with one or the other. And who will deny that under these circumstances he will be strongly tempted to give a vote foreign to his heart and conscience? You create under open voting a perpetual and distressing conflict in the mind of an honest elector, between his country and his conscience on one side, and private hopes and fears on the other. Such a conflict, let it end how it may, is evil enough in itself; but when we recollect that it ends in keeping electors out of the register, in deterring them from coming to the poll, and often in overpowering their free choice when they do come there—when we recollect that it thus gives you members not emanating from the spontaneous choice and confidence of the people—sum up this accumulated evil, and it will appear to be of the greatest and most serious magnitude. Now, mischiefs like these are the natural consequence of that publicity of the suffrage which enables intermeddlers from without to work on the hopes and fears of individual electors: they are so in every state of society, but they are infinitely multiplied and exaggerated in a country like this, marked by the greatest inequalities of wealth and station. They are abundantly exemplified in all their shapes in the elections of this kingdom at present; and the traces of them are as well known as they are painfully felt. I might confidently say that there has scarce ever been any remedial measure, on any subject, passed in this House, in which the evil to be remedied was more extensively notorious than it is in the case which I am now submitting to you. The public complaints made to this House in the form of petitions have been 374 neither few nor inconsiderable; and I cannot he surprised that they are not more numerous, when I recollect that the same overpowering influence which controls an elector's vote also deters him from complaining. But, independent of all petitions, I believe I might appeal to nine men out of ten of those who have been active in contested elections, for a confirmation of the truth of my assertion, especially among those who have the misfortune to find themselves opposed to the wishes of the rich and of the great. Sure I am that the newspapers in town and country, during all the course of the last general election (whatever might be their general politics, whether Whig, Tory, or Radical), all abounded with comments and protestations on the subject of undue influence. There was scarcely a single case, amongst the many hotly contested elections, in which this potent weapon was not sorely felt and loudly complained of. Sure I am that in any private conversation without these walls, be the persons concerned whom they may, practices of this sort would be alluded to as the ordinary course of nature, as among the physical laws, if I may so express it, of the electioneering word. Suppose two men speculating or betting on the result of the pending contest in Yorkshire, or Devonshire, or Staffordshire, does any one doubt that in calculating the probable result and determining the odds, the operation of extraneous influences over the hopes and fears of voters would be reckoned upon with perfect confidence and certainty, as one mighty element among the complex forces on which the issue would depend? Does any one doubt that the odds would immediately alter, if great landlords were unexpectedly to declare that they would prohibit every hint or whisper of command or compulsion over the minds of their tenantry? The sway of landlords over their tenants, and of customers over their tradesmen, of manufacturers over their operatives, is assumed as part and parcel of a man's electioneering strength, or of what is technically called his interest; and if a man voluntarily refrains from availing himself of it, he seems like one who foregoes the use of a natural and ordinary weapon. Sometimes a landlord does publicly notify to his tenants that he does not mean to interfere with their votes—a generous and becoming proceeding, which I could wish to see oftener, but it is an edict of manumission which would appear both preposterous and insulting, if the pre- 375 existing dependence were not felt and understood by all parties. It is but too well known to canvassers, how often in the course of their visits they hear from voters sincere and earnest expressions of goodwill to a cause, coupled with the humiliating avowal of overruling influence, which prevents them from supporting it. It is but too well known how often, in the answer of a voter, "I dare not," waits upon "I would;" how many voters there are who manifest their uncomfortable tenure of an unprotected privilege, either by absolutely declining to vote at all, or by keeping back their votes until a case of the strongest necessity arises to save the cause which they espouse from being defeated; and the cases which have occurred within my own knowledge and inquiries, not to take a wider range, of tradesmen whose custom and position in life have grievously suffered from conscientious voting—those cases alone would suffice to convince me how sad and hazardous is the path of strict conscience, how overwhelming the temptation to desert it. I could multiply evidences of this sort of the prevalence of that undue influence over electors to which I have been alluding, and I should so multiply them if I were describing to a stranger in a foreign country the internal working of an English election; but, speaking as I am to an assembly of English Gentlemen, the irksome conviction forces itself upon me that I am dwelling upon what is trite and familiar, and that I might as well labour to prove by evidence the existence of poverty, or of drunkenness, and other immoralities in this vast metropolis—evils about which Gentlemen may differ and dispute as to the more or the less, but the existence of which, and that to a fearful extent, no man in his senses can possibly question. To quote authorities in a matter like this is wholly unnecessary, but I may just mention that more than one Member of the present Cabinet has publicly recognized the existence of those evil influences to which I am now adverting. Lord Palmerston, in the course of his canvass in Hampshire last winter, complained of the employment of such influences against him, and indignantly denounced them in one of his speeches to the electors; and the noble Lord, the present Member for Stroud, was no less explicit during the recent memorable election in Devonshire. When I read that noble Lord's concluding address to the electors, in which he specified the cause of his defeat, and when I call to mind the 376 testimonies which confirm his statement, I cannot but deeply feel the painful lesson which they read to us on the nullity of the elective principle, and on the defenceless state of the present franchise. The noble Lord alluded, in express and pointed language, to the threats and intimidation which had been employed to deter voters from supporting him, and to the effect which those proceedings had produced on the final result. He gave us to understand, and he repeated it still more clearly in his first speech at Stroud, that if the tenantry of Devonshire had voted freely and at their ease, instead of voting under external compulsion and constraint, the majority at the close of the poll would have been doubtful at the least, and probably in his favour instead of against him. This is a weighty testimony, which the people of England will not soon forget, coming as it does from so very eminent a quarter. If in the solemn and conspicuous issue lately tried in Devonshire, in which the eyes of all England were intently fixed on the electors, a true and faithful verdict was not brought out, what guarantee is there for integrity of election anywhere? What presumption can there possibly be that the voice of the electors has not been equally smothered or terror-stricken in other counties or towns? And what approach can we be said to have made towards that great and magnificent end which the Reform Act expressly promised us—a Parliament possessing the full confidence of the people? What the noble Lord may think of the remedy which I propose I pretend not to say; but at least he will not be surprised that I anxiously urge the only adequate remedy which I can discern against a capital evil, the existence of which he himself has so forcibly signalized. And is it really any wonder that this evil should prevail? Is it wonderful that undue influence should be employed at elections when no pains are taken to prevent it? Why, if you took no more pains to prevent robbery on the highway than you have hitherto taken to prevent undue influence at elections, I venture to affirm that no man would be able to carry his purse for one half-hour in safety. When men are strongly interested in an election contest, will they not make their private means of annoying one man and obliging another subservient to their political objects, if your system opens the door for them to do so? The inequality of fortune in this country is well known: the 377 liability of numbers of voters to loss, or privation, or annoyance, at the hands of a small number of wealthy men, is equally well known. What else can we expect but that the rich and powerful should appropriate to themselves the political privileges of the weak, if you leave the electioneering world in a state of nature, without restraints upon the former, without escape or protection for the latter? But this is not all: there are other serious mischiefs besides those arising from dependence of position. Often and often do open elections leave behind them a deplorable train of private feuds and animosities, even amongst equals and independant individuals. Let the voter take ever so small a part—let him simply exercise his suffrage, and no more—he finds himself arrayed in open hostility against friends, and neighbours, and associates. If the contest be sharp and closely run, such hostility often continues far beyond the actual moment, and bitterly interrupts the harmony and comfort of private life: nay, sometimes it begets a reciprocity of unkindness and injury which approaches to a mitigated civil war among neighbours and fellow-townsmen. Now, I know very well that active and leading partisans in an election must take the risk of such enmity as their forwardness, may draw upon them. But active partisans are few in comparison to the whole: and why should the quiet voter, in the simple discharge of his electoral duty, be compelled to embroil himself in altercation with kinsmen and neighbours? He would escape the whole by a secret suffrage; for however neighbours might mutually suspect and guess each other's, votes, want of certainty would take off both the pungency of displeasure, and the ostensible ground of open quarrel. It is an object of first-rate moment to allay those acrimonious political animosities which form the bane of social intercourse, and which so inevitably spring up in contested elections, if the citizens are marshalled in open and undisguised rivalry against each other. I vensure to assert that you will never approach to the solution of this problem without the aid of the ballot. In illustration of the way in which electioneering hostility procreates and multiplies itself, and of the manner in which ill treatment of voters by one side is alleged as the reason or pretence for retaliation on the other, I will take the liberty of reading to you a short document issued during the last general election. It is not often that any formal or authentic 378 record of menaces addressed to voters is ever preserved, for the practice is one which can be made to take effect without any general resolution, and one too, let me add, which prudent men generally like to leave themselves the means of disavowing. But I find that in the election last winter for the city of Dublin, the committee of the Tory candidates came to the following resolution, and advertised it publicly in the newspapers. I read from the Morning Chronicle of January 22nd:—"City of Dublin Election.—At a meeting of the Committee for conducting the election of Messrs. West and Hamilton, it was resolved unanimously, 'That in consequence of the gross system of persecution and intimidation practised against the respectable traders and shopkeepers, Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, by placards and other denunciations, this Committee feel bound to meet the atrocious system of despotism practised at this election, by pledging themselves to furnish to the nobility and gentry resident in the principal squares and streets, and who are the great mass of purchasers and consumers in the metropolis, lists of those engaged in trade who support the views of the sound and respectable portion of the community, as well as with lists of those who decline to act in conformity with such views." This is a curious document, as it indicates in what light Gentlemen who meddle with elections regard the freedom of voters, of those voters whom yet, with a cruel sort of mockery, they address in their formal advertisements by the empty title of "independent electors." The Dublin Committee impute to their opponents the first beginning of gross interference with the freedom of election. How far this imputation is just I do not know, but I take the facts as these Conservative Gentlemen state them. "Our opponents (they say) have begun the war of interference on their side; therefore, we feel both called upon and authorized to retaliate by interference on our side. Our opponents have terrified many voters in voting for them: therefore, we in self-defence resort to exclusive dealing, in order to force voters into voting for us." Now there might be some sense and sufficiency in this reasoning, if an election were like a prize-fight or a horse-race, where nothing was to be studied but a fair start and exact equality of advantages between the two competitors. But is the House disposed to look at an election in this light? In my view, there are two other parties, 379 whose interests in the case greatly outweigh that of the candidates. I mean, first, the public; and secondly, the voters. The public have a deep interest in promoting the choice of good and fit representatives; and what guarantee can they have for this if the business of election is to be a mere conflict of threats against threats, and intimidation against intimidation? The voters have a still deeper interest in the business, and their treatment forms the worst ingredient in the whole compound of mischief. They seem to be considered as lawful prize and prey, mutum ac turpe pecus, belonging of right to that party which can drag them with the greatest violence. Not a thought is wasted either upon their feelings or on their repose, or on their integrity. Consider the situation of a quiet tradesman in Dublin who has customers among both parties; there must, of course, be many tradesmen so circumstanced. Let him vote how he may, he must give offence either to one party or to the other—he must incur some positive and inevitable loss, whichever candidate he may prefer. I ask, whether he does not in this case march up to the poll "injusto sub fasce"—whether the franchise in this case does not carry with it a burden and a curse, rather than honour and satisfaction? I ask, whether it be worthy of a careful and paternal Government to leave electors without any protection against this intrusive tyranny, and to make the exercise of their best political rights a source of constant alarm and occasional ruin? I again press this notice of the Dublin Conservative Committee, not as anything in itself rare and miraculous, but as a striking and formal evidence of practices which I believe to exist more or less, though not formally recorded or chronicled, throughout many other constituencies. If, as these gentlemen affirm, the unjust interference originated with their opponents, I can look upon this plea only as presenting accumulated proof of the magnitude of the evil, and of the necessity for the Ballot as a remedy. Two years ago we were told to wait and see whether the Reform Act, by improving and extending the constituency, would not indirectly extirpate this mischievous interference. There were Gentlemen who prophesied that it would. Let me ask them now whether their prophecies are fulfilled—whether their prophecies are in any course or probability of fulfilment? I think the facts up to this moment are decisively against them; I think the probabilities of the future are still more decisively 380 against them. I am persuaded that undue influence over voters was never more widely spread or more formidable than at the last general election; and it is but too evident that the efforts of the imperative classes of society to subjugate the will of the humbler voters are nowise likely to be suspended or relaxed for the future. It is my full belief, that the ties of dependence, in every form and variety, will be strained tighter and tighter; I doubt not that dictation and resolutions of exclusive dealing among the masses will be brought to bear in the opposite direction, in such places as admit of it, and those despotic influences which carry the voter to the poll without a heart, and without a conscience, will be felt everywhere more violently than ever. Such are the signs of events, as I read them. I should, indeed, despair of the tranquil and efficacious operation of the elective principle for the future, if I did not see in the Ballot the means of rescue and preservation. But are the means of rescue to be found anywhere else? What other methods, besides the Ballot, have ever been suggested to eradicate such very serious evils? There are some Gentlemen who speak of the evils in terms of serious regret and indignant condemnation, but who. seem to think that they have done enough by denouncing the practice of menacing and intimidating voters without any further thought as to the means of prevention, as if political mischiefs were to be charmed away, or shamed away by rhetoric. I have heard of nothing in the way of specific suggestion for preventing the practice here adverted to, except the Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Shaftesbury. That hon. Gentleman proposes to treat all acts of threatening or intimidation, exercised with a view to procure votes, as legally criminal, and to impose upon those who are found guilty of such acts appropriate legal penalties. I doubt not, that this Bill has been framed with good intentions, and I have no wish to oppose its passing, for it will stamp the seal of legal reprobation on a class of acts eminently and extensively noxious. But when I look at the Bill as a measure intended, not merely to condemn, but also to prevent—when I consider not merely the lesson which it inculcates, but the means which it affords of compelling observance of that lesson—when I look at it in this point of view, I am compelled to say that it will prove totally null and inoperative. I shall not deny that if a Bill like this be passed, a very angry, or a very indiscreet man, may occasionally 381 lay himself open to its penalties. But I contend that the general course and prevalence of the evil will not only not be arrested, but will even be nowise lessened by these rare and extraordinary cases. How can you possibly detect and prove by legal evidence, and punish, all the thousand ways in which a man may convey to his tenant, or to his trademan, the apprehension of loss, in case they vote against his wishes? Suppose I go and canvass my grocer, or my tailor, on behalf of one of the candidates at a contested election; I solicit his vote in the most polite manner, but at the same time in terms which show that I take the strongest interest in the result of the election. Is not this quite sufficient to show to the person solicited, that if he votes contrary to my wishes he runs the strongest risk of losing my custom; and is not half the mischief thus done without the employment of one single word which can be construed into a formal threat, or rendered amenable to punishment? Or suppose that after the election, the tradesman having voted against me, I immediately withdraw my custom from him, you cannot punish me for this act, unless you connect it with some previous threat or declaration of intention, and how rarely can this be done? Every one knows that civility of manner and expression in asking for votes is almost universal, whatever may be the disposition of those who canvass, and whatever may be their power as to inflicting ulterior consequences. Now, I assert that all these imperative requests, and all the train of oppressions inflicted on tenants and tradesmen for refusal, may go on with perfect impunity, notwithstanding the Bill of the hon. Gentleman. In so far as that Bill will be operative at all, there will be (I doubt not, without his intending it) some degree of partiality in its operation, which forms to a certain extent, an objection against it. Whenever the poorer classes meddle at all with the freedom of other men's votes, each of them individually is of little weight or importance, and it is only as a combined mass that they can interfere with effect. Now, the steps requisite to bring about concert and co-operation in a numerous body are liable to be more or less public, and the interference thus becomes cognizable by law. But the interference of the same kind and for the same purpose exercised by rich men individually needs no public notification, no joint declaration or resolution, to render it effective, and it therefore escapes legal cognizance 382 altogether. This is, in my opinion, an example of partial and unequal operation, though doubtless not intended, in the hon. Gentleman's Bill; the more so, as the cases of individual interference by rich men outnumber a thousandfold the cases of proclaimed collective interference by numerous masses. The species of dictation which is the most widespread and the most injurious—subtle and untracetible in its course, but fearfully ruinous in its effects—is precisely that which the hon. Gentleman's Bill leaves untouched and unmolested. Such is the only substitute which I have yet heard proposed by those who admit the existence of those evils which the Ballot is intended to avert. If there be any other substitutes, of which I am not aware, Gentlemen will no doubt state them in the course of this night's debate, and the House will then be able to judge of their efficacy. But I must say, with reference to the Bill of the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, that if that Bill were passed tomorrow, the necessity for the Ballot would scarcely be a whit diminished by it. It is my firm belief that all those who now employ undue power over voters would still persevere in doing so, without the smallest apprehension of incurring the penalties provided by the hon. Gentleman's Bill; and if by accident one persecutor out of 10,000 should be convicted under it, his fate would be ascribed by the remainder, not to the natural consequences of the Act, but to his folly in omitting the easy precaution of disguising a menace in the form of a request. Now, if the Bill of the hon. Member for Shaftesbury be thus inadequate to its purpose, are there any invincible objections which should deter you from accepting my proposition of the Ballot? I contend that there are no such invincible objections; and I will endeavour briefly to exhibit the real worth of the exceptions commonly taken against it. You hear some object to it as being what they call un-English, and thus much is indeed true, that bribery and intimidation of voters are ancient, homebred, and established English practices, and that the antidote to them has not yet been naturalized to our electoral institutions. But if the evil be great, and there can be no other way of correcting it, shall we reject the only applicable remedy because, though employed in France and the United States of America, it has never yet obtained legal sanction in England? Do we act on such a principle in other cases out of the sphere of politics? Do we refuse to profit by an useful discovery be- 383 cause it may have taken its rise on the other side of the channel? Do we disdain wholesome medicines because they are not the growth of the English climate? The English, in our province of Upper Canada, do not think the Ballot un-English; for the House of Assembly in that province have, during this very spring, passed a resolution for its adoption. But the objection, futile as it is, has not even the merit of being accurate in point of fact. The Vote by Ballot is not un-English; for of the thousand private associations and clubs which exist everywhere throughout the country, whenever the members are called on to perform the process of election, the votes are uniformly taken by Ballot. This is the mode of voting spontaneously resorted to by Englishmen when they are left to themselves in their private associations, and when they desire to call for a free and unconstrained expression of opinion from each individual member. Surely a practice which Englishmen of all ranks, from the vast London clubs to the trades' unions and the humble benefit societies, thus naturally and uniformly fall into, is not to be denounced as uncongenial to the feelings and habits of the nation. If the Vote by Ballot be necessary and available to cure a grievous political evil, we ought rather to rejoice that the remedy is to be found so near at hand, and so familiar to the dealings of all classes of Englishmen. Some persons will tell me that undue interference with the liberty of voting will still continue, even in spite of the Ballot, because the Ballot will not produce entire and effectual secrecy. A landlord, they contend, diposed to act oppressively, though he cannot watch his tenant during the express act of voting, may yet find out by indirect and collateral evidence how he has actually voted, and may punish him accordingly. I shall admit, Sir, that with or without the Ballot, an oppressive landlord may deal harshly by his tenant. He may do so on the most frivolous grounds, or on no grounds at all, he may do so on the mere suspicion that a vote has been given which he does not like. But let him do this, or abstain from doing it, as he pleases, still he cannot make the infliction of loss conditional on the way in which the vote is given—he cannot make his oppression the means of controlling or perverting an unseen vote. If the tenant voter be an object of suspicion, he will not discharge himself from that suspicion by falsifying his vote at the poll because it can be made evident to 384 any one else that he has actually done so. He may be a sufferer—he may be a sufferer wrongfully and undeservedly—but he cannot be in any case worse off on account of conscientious voting, so long as he votes in secret. Therefore he can have no motive to give his vote contrary to the dictates of his conscience, and thus to forfeit his duty towards the public. No one has ever pretended that the Ballot will shield voters from all sorts and causes of oppression. It is proposed as a means of relieving them from the conflict of private risk and public duty on the specific occasion of voting. This relief it cannot fail to impart, and directly it imparts no more. But indirectly, and in its collateral effects, it reaches much farther; for the vote is the sole and exclusive object which intermeddlers aim at, and when they cannot grasp the vote by means of terror and coercion, they will have no motive to employ these nefarious methods at all. Nay, they will even have a positive inducement to exchange menace for conciliation; for the voters whom they cannot force may yet be freely enlisted on their side by persuasion and gentle dealing. Sir, if you contemplate even the most abject and disconsolate of all human conditions—the life of a negro slave under a savage white master—still if there be in the life of this poor being any one act which he must perform in secrecy, and which leaves no trace behind it, to that act the power of his master cannot be made to reach. With reference to secret acts all human power is a nullity; Omnipotence alone can detect and deal with them. An unseen vote must go both unrewarded and unpunished; and wishing as I do, to put every elector's vote out of the reach both of reward and punishment, I know no other method except to put it out of sight. But then there are Gentlemen who tell us that secret voting is base and unmanly, a cloak for hypocrisy and deceit. Surely it is almost a sufficient answer to this allegation to notice that secret voting is the habitual practice in all clubs and associations; for it would be indeed preposterous to pretend that members of clubs are guilty of a base and unmanly act whenever they go through the process of balloting, or that they are greater hypocrites and deceivers than other men. You bestow the elective franchise upon a man for the purpose of eliciting his inward judgment and opinion, on the choice of a representative—a matter of supreme moment to the State. If, on full deliberation, you command him to transmit this 385 opinion to you confidentially, what can there be base and unmanly in his obeying you? If there be reasons, as regards the public interest, for preferring secrecy of voting, there can be no reason as regards the voter himself for deciding otherwise. But we are told, that if a man votes secretly, he may promise his vote to one candidate, and give it to another; he may assure me that he has voted for me, or will vote for me, while in reality he votes for my rival. I ask, in reply, why should we suppose this to be likely? Why should not a man who has promised his vote perform the promise just as much when he votes secretly as when he votes openly? Secrecy puts no fresh difficulty in his way: it gives him no new motive to break his promises; it simply enables him to do so with impunity if he pleases; and the question still remains—why should he please to break his promise? There can be only one reason, because the promise is not conformable to his own natural inclinations, and has been extorted from him by a force upon his free will. This is the only case in which promise-breaking can possibly arise; the free and voluntary promise will be observed as surely in the darkness as in the light; but the voter who has been bullied into a reluctant promise may perhaps take advantage of secrecy to elude the performance of it. Now, Sir, I am not the man to speak lightly of a breach of promise, but I venture to ask whether it is possible to imagine any promise less binding, and more unjustifiable, than that which a voter has been constrained to give, in reference to the exercise of his trust, against his free will, and against his conscience? Is this a promise which any man is entitled to ask of a voter? Is it a promise which any voter is justified in giving, let him be ever so much solicited, or ever so much threatened? I say no. A voter has no right to enter into any engagement to vote against his own free choice and conscience, because by so doing he expressly contravenes the trust which his country reposes in him. The sole intent and purpose of investing him with the elective franchise is, that he may deliver his free and indifferent suffrage at the poll. A promise to deliver a suffrage which is neither free nor indifferent is, in point of fact, a promise to commit wrong—a promise to be guilty of a deliberate breach of trust. A promise extorted by fear of evil is just as insincere and just as unlawful as a promise suborned by the present of a bribe. Let me again impress upon you, Sir, that 386 these wrongful promises constitute the whole of what is involved in the present argument—they are the only promises which are in any danger of being broken when votes are taken by ballot. But is it any great mischief that wrongful promises of this kind should be broken? Is it not rather a greater mischief that they should be observed? Suppose a man has entered into a solemn promise to commit any other wrong—suppose he has engaged to bear false witness in a court of justice—to give a partial verdict in the jury-box—to become an accomplice in any breach of trust, private or public—will any one tell me that a man who has entered into such a criminal engagement would be right in performing the act of criminality to which he has bound himself? Assuredly not. He has already done great wrong by the mere promise to commit a crime: he would do still greater wrong if he went on to perform such a promise, and to commit the crime in reality. The case is similar with a voter who has been induced to promise to vote against his conscience, and thus to break his trust to his country. While I am on the subject of these promises, Sir, extorted from a voter against his will and against his conscience, I could say much on the conduct of those who extort them; for assuredly, if there be guilt in the voter, when he his cajoled or terrified into the giving of such a pledge, there is far greater guilt in the party by whose threats or seductions the voter's conscience is overawed or perverted. The time may come when such subornation of votes will be appreciated as it deserves. At present my object is to let you see distinctly the utmost extent of duplicity and promise-breaking which the Ballot can by possibility let in upon you. Take it at the worst, those promises only will be broken which ought never to have been asked and never to have been made. All promises which can be legitimately asked, or innocently given, will be just as sure of observance under secret as under open suffrage. This is the true way of stating the argument, and I ask whether it does not prove in favour of the Ballot, not against it? I contend that under secret suffrage, there will be far less duplicity than there is at present, because men will cease to press for unrighteous and compulsory promises when they lose their power of compelling performance; they will be content to receive the voter's promise when he his willing to give it, and when he will be equally willing to perform it, let per- 387 formance be secret or open. Under the existing system of terrorism, the great object which men strive for is to tie down the voter by a solemn promise, whether his conscience goes along with it or not; and duplicity of one kind or other thus becomes unavoidable. If the voter keeps his promise, he lies to his conscience and his country by giving an insincere vote; if he breaks his promise, he lies to the individual who extorted it from him. Such is the dilemma which this guilty encroachment on the freedom of the electoral conscience inevitably creates. Open voting is the indispensable condition to its exercise; secret voting would extinguish it at once. With respect to bribery, Sir, the inefficacy of your existing prohibitory laws is but too well ascertained. I know, indeed, that they admit of several material improvements, and I trust that those improvements will not be much longer postponed. But improve them as you may in other respects, you will still find that among the checks and obstructions to bribery, the Vote by Ballot will prove the most valuable and effective. It will annihilate the confidence between the two contracting parties in this unlawful covenant; it will deprive the bribegiver of all certainty or assurance that he receives the stipulated return for his money. Who will reward an individual for his vote, when that very vote may, for aught he knows, be given in favour of his opponent? But then, it may be said, may not the candidate engage to distribute a certain sum of money among the electors on condition of being returned, and not until after he his returned? I shall not affirm, Sir, that such a proceeding will be altogether impracticable under the Ballot. But I do affirm that it would be far more costly, more uncertain, and more liable to detection than bribery is at present. The voter, instead of making a separate bargain, as he does now for his own individual vote, would have to give his vote under an uncertainty of receiving anything at all; and the candidate, after being returned, would have to pay every voter who applied for payment, having no means of distinguishing friends from opponents. This would multiply both the cost and the hazard of detection; nor would it be possible under the Ballot to carry on bribery with anything like the same certainty and facility, or to the same extent as it is at present. While, therefore, by means of the Ballot you pluck up intimidation by the roots, you at the same time greatly embarrass and re- 388 strain the practice of bribery. But the former of these two effects separately, even if the latter did not accompany it, would be enough, land more than enough to make out my case. If it be difficult to devise adequate means for preventing dishonest voters from taking bribes, is not that the strongest of all reasons for guarding the virtue of honest voters with peculiar solicitude? If there are dishonest voters, whom you cannot either correct or curb, the more ought you to cherish the willing virtue of the remainder, as presenting the only chance of tolerable purity at elections. And surely, Sir, it is not very consistent or creditable, if while you impose severe penalties for the purpose of forcing dishonest voters into the path of honesty, you withhold from those voters who would be honest of themselves the common blessing of safety. I have already touched, Sir, on the imputations of deceit, hypocrisy, and immorality, which hasty observers have advanced against the Ballot. Another objection, however, is sometimes taken, founded on a totally different view of the case. It is contended that the elector ought to give his vote under a feeling of responsibility to the public: that for this reason the public ought to know and see how he votes, in order that they may praise or censure him accordingly. I think, Sir, that this argument is founded on an inaccurate view of the elector's position, as well as of his duty. The law presumes him to be qualified to give a sound opinion respecting the fitness of a representative, and therefore he is invited to indicate the man whom he prefers. All that is required of him, as I have before stated, is to deliver a free and indifferent opinion; not an opinion suborned either by hopes or fears from without. Now, Sir, I maintain that the performance of this duty cannot be at all assisted, but is, on the contrary, greatly embarrassed by the presence and supervision of the external public. The voter ought to deliver his own conscientious opinion, whether he may agree or differ with those around him. He ought to vote for a Tory, if such be his conscientious preference, though all his neighbours may be voting for a Whig or a Radical. He is no more accountable to them for his conscience than they are accountable to him for theirs. Two electors, who vote for opposite candidates will each discharge his duty with equal rectitude and fidelity, provided he expresses his own genuine opinion. Dictation to the voter is the thing which ought to be carefully excluded, come 389 from what quarter it may—from the many or from the one. In point of fact, there is no such thing as an impartial public, in reference to an election proceeding; the public are divided into partizans on the one side; and partizans on the other; and responsibility to the public, if it means any thing, means responsibility to the majority. But it would be the most fatal of all principles to recognise in the majority any right to supersede, or over-rate, or silence, the conscientious persuasion of a dissentient minority. Sir, I repeat, that the great business of the legislature is to protect the voter against perverting or disturbing causes—to exclude both corruption and intimidation. When this is done, all is done, which the case admits of. The man will then give a sincere opinion of his own accord; and, indeed, if it were possible to imagine that he were disposed gratuitously to give an insincere vote, no supervision from without could ever prevent him from doing so. In endeavouring to provide an artificial check and tutelage for the voter's conscience, you only lay it open to every species of external attack. The very means by which you seek to render a voter responsible to an imaginary public, render him really and fatally responsible to those private individuals who have power over his hopes and fears. Publicity of the suffrage opens the door to the corruptor and to the tyrant, and thus drives your honest voters into dishonesty against their own will and consent. Let it never be forgotten, Sir, that the voters have no interest in giving dishonest votes, and that, if the system be such as to exclude individual corruption and intimidation from without, each voter will do his duty to the public spontaneously and of his own accord. It has been attempted to compare his position with that of a Member of Parliament; but the cases are altogether destitute of analogy. A Member of Parliament is one of a select and conspicuous few, chosen by the people—his interests do not naturally point in the track of his duty, and his conduct must be made known, in order that the people may judge whether he is worthy of re-election. If he would prove his fitness to be re-elected, he must act, not only according to the dictates of his own conscience, but also in such a manner as to give satisfaction to his constituents. The voters are different in all these respects—they are an untraceable and unassignable multitude—their interests if left to themselves, lead them to vote sincerely and con- 390 scientiously—and their duty consists simply and exclusively in giving expression to their own judgment and determination, without any reference to the opinion of any one else. All these circumstances sever the condition of a voter from that of a Member of Parliament, and render the idea of responsibility, which is essential as regards the latter, both useless and inapplicable as regards the former. Unwilling, as I am, Sir, to detain you longer, I think it imperatively necessary to notice one other argument which is often employed against the Ballot. We are told, that it will annihilate the legitimate influence of property—that it will take away from rich men a salutary and beneficial guidance which they now exercise over poor and humble electors. I do not despair of showing, that the very reverse of this is the truth; that not a fragment or atom of the legitimate influence of property will be impaired by the Ballot. It is, indeed, necessary that we should understand what Gentlemen mean by the legitimate influence of property, and how far they are pleased to extend it. Do they mean that the rich are entitled to appropriate to themselves that elective franchise which the law has conferred upon the poor? Is it contended, that a tenant is under obligation, moral, or social, or political, to vote for the person whom his landlord may espouse, whatever may be his own feelings or judgment. Shall he be condemned to transfer his suffrage from Whig to Tory, according as his landlord may change his politics, or according as the farm which he occupies may change proprietors, as if he were pars domus non pars reipublicœ—as if a political conscience (to use the words of Paley) were a luxury which he could not afford to keep? Is the legitimate influence of the rich understood to imply the entire extinction of freewill and independent judgment on the part of poor electors? If this be what is meant by legitimate influence, I stretch my imagination in vain to discover what influence can possibly be illegitimate; for the most barefaced bribery could not produce worse political effects than this degrading vassalage. It were far better that the poor man should possess no vote at all, than that he should possess a vote subject to such unmeasured interference, which disguises the most servile constraint under the hollow forms of citizenship. In my view of the case, Sir, no influence can be legitimate which is inconsistent with the rights and 391 station of a freeman—no such influence can be even tolerated, according to English ideas and rules of action. And it is idle to call a man a free man, if he be not at liberty to exercise those rights, civil, social, and political, which the law confers upon him, according to his own free choice and conscience, without let or hindrance. No rich man, be his wealth ever so great, can pretend lawfully or righteously to trample down this boundary. The influence which he exercises, must be an influence over freemen, not over slaves, or clients, or vassals—an influence, sealed, and sanctioned, and ensured by their own concurrence and free will. Legitimate influence supposes willing followers, and an honourable obedience; it excludes all abject submission springing from constraint and fear. Now, Sir, I hold that this legitimate influence will be preserved just as much under the Ballot as under open suffrage, without counteraction or abatement. Exercised as it is over none but willing subjects, it will be just as complete and as effective in secret as in public. The men who obey such guidance feel no hardship in it, nor any disposition to elude or renounce it. They follow a leader whom they esteem and honour, whose social position they look up to, and whose character and behaviour they charge with affection and reverence. A man of wealth and rank, unless he miserably neglect the duties appertaining to his station, is sure to possess a powerful influence of this kind; his political voice and opinion will be often asked, and always attentively listened to, by his neighbours; he need not fear a rival in the hearts of those around him, if he takes even the commonest pains to win and retain them. Let no man fear that the moral ascendancy fairly deserved by the rich will be eradicated along with the publicity of the suffrage. The disposition to hearken to the rich will assuredly continue, though its causes and its nature are altered; it will be a willing homage paid to the union of personal merit with conspicuous social station, instead of a sudden compliance with unjust requisition and encroachment. If, Sir, you desire to retain this legitimate influence of property pure, unalloyed, and in full vigour and vitality, while at the same time you effectually disarm that brute force of wealth which now presses down the poor voter's free will and conscience—if you seriously desire to ensure these great and valuable ends, you will adopt the Vote by Ballot. It is in vain to 392 argue that many voters are so ignorant and unthinking as to be unable to judge for themselves. Assume this to be true, and it may be a specious reason for taking away the right of suffrage from them; but it never can be a reason for giving them a suffrage in name, and then withholding from them the means of exercising it in safety. The way to cure their intellectual defects is by multiplying wholesome advice and instruction; by so arraying the system, as that others shall have a motive to tender to the elector judicious counsel, and that the elector shall have no motive to prevent him from listening to it. Now, by means of the Ballot, you attain this end as complete as human affairs admit; you open the elector's mind to the influence of truth and reason, come from what quarter it may; and you banish all that tyrannical ascendancy which would overrule the gentler voice of persuasion. If you wish to make a voter judge reasonably, you must first enable him to judge freely; the very idea of rational judgment is excluded, if he be a mere puppet under extraneous command, and if the goodness of his vote depends upon the character of the man under whose dependence accident has placed him. I shall not believe, Sir, until I hear it actually advanced, that any Gentleman in this House will brand the Ballot as an innovation on the Constitution, and as belonging only to democracy. How can the Ballot alter your Constitution? Is there a man in the country whose legal rights and privileges the Ballot will either extend or curtail, even by a single hair? Will it confer any new political right, or impose any new civil disabilities? Sir, the Ballot will do none of these things; and how then can it alter the form of your Constitution, either for better or for worse? What is your Constitution except an aggregate of legal and political rights and obligations, distributed in a certain manner among your citizens; and if all these remain the same, severally as well as collectively, how can your Constitution be anything different from what it was before? Again, let me compare my propositions with that of the hon. Member for Shaftesbury. Is there any one who will tell him that his Bill alters the land-marks of the Constitution—that in trying to suppress coercive influence over votes he is guilty of a piece of odious democracy? And what is the difference between his proposition and mine except that I fully accomplish that which he sincerely, but ineffectually aims at; He aims at the very same end that I do? 393 and if his Bill were to be executed by omniscient and omnipresent judges—by men who could dive into every one's heart and intention, and inflict instantaneous penalty wherever it was deserved, without the necessity of complaint or evidence; if, I say, these things could be, there would be little to choose between his proposition and mine. But these things cannot be;—we live and move amidst the informalities of earth; our judicature is, and ever must be, lame and short-sighted, and comparatively powerless; and therefore it is that the hon. Gentleman's Bill will prove only a benevolent nullity. Like the impotent dart of Priam, it will scarcely pierce even the outermost rim of the persecutor's shield. Let me again ask, Sir, what is that same end and object which the Bill of the hon. Member for Shaftesbury does but fondly promise, but which my proposition both promises and effectually guarantees? That end is, free and conscientious voting; the genuine and unadulterated opinion of the qualified electors. The Ballot will give you nothing less than this; but at the same time it cannot give you anything more, or anything worse. Vindex tacita libertatis. Is this a purpose foreign to the Constitution? If it be, then I affirm that your Constitution is an assemblage, not of checks and balances, but of cheats and fictions. You call the House of Commons a Representative Assembly, and you qualify certain persons as electors; but what are they, after all, when you have so qualified them? They are distinguished from their countrymen by a peculiar badge of servitude and legalized dependence. It is not they who elect Members; it is the Aristocracy who elect by and through their voices. Your register of Voters become nothing better than a register of men liable to electoral impressment—liable to be called on to do compulsory voting duty whenever it pleases their commander to issue warrants for their attendance. And is this, after all, the real heart and kernel of the Constitution—is this the arcanum imperii which Gentlemen take so much delight in holding forth to public view, when they tell us that the purpose of the Ballot is unconstitutional and democratical? I venture to say that the fiercest and most seditious of all the decried newspapers has never put forth a more deadly libel against the Constitution than this allegation of its extreme panegyrists—the allegation that it repudiates free and independent voting, as a dangerous novelty, foreign to its genius and spirit. 394 Sir, I affirm, and I defy contradiction, that free and independent voting is the most constitutional of all constitutional things, and that all the means necessary for such an end must be constitutional also. Well, but, some Gentlemen may say, we admit all this; but we contend that you have free and independent voting, as things stand at present. Is this, indeed, so? Then, I ask, what can you possibly have to fear from the Ballot? If, under the present system, every voter be a free and self-determining agent, altogether unembarrassed by any apprehension from without, how can the Ballot alter our Government, either for the better or for the worse? Reasoning on this assumption, the Ballot will no more vary the course of our political affairs than it will vary the orbits of the planets. But are you sure that the facts are as you state, and that we really do enjoy the blessing of a free suffrage? You never can be sure of it without adopting the Ballot. That alone can give you firm assurance that the result which you seek, and which you profess to have attained, is no fiction or chimera, but entire and unquestionable reality. So much, Sir, on the assumption that we even now enjoy a free suffrage. But such an assumption is not for a moment to be tolerated—it is not true—it is not even an approximation to the truth. There is the amplest proof that your suffrage is the very reverse of free; and, therefore, the Measure which emancipates it will work a salutary and important change. But it is a change the extent of which every man can see and measure—a change which can only land you in the true and natural haven of a representative assembly, the undisturbed manifestation of real electoral feelings. Let me remind you, Sir, that the dignity, the usefulness the moral ascendancy, of this House depends upon its possessing the entire and unqualified confidence of the people; and that of this there is no other constitutional test, except the free and unbiassed choice of the electors. Let me remind you that the first and greatest interests of the State—the tie of affectionate reverence which binds a nation to its elective Legislature—the inducements for the rich to respect the conscience, to cultivate the attachment, and to improve the understandings of the poor—all these inestimable objects are at stake in the integrity and independence of the suffrage. You ensure them, beyond suspicion or contest, by 395 granting the Ballot: you never can ensure them without it. I therefore beg to move—"That it is the opinion of this House that the votes at elections for Members of Parliament should be taken by way o Secret Ballot."
§ Sir William Molesworth
rose, he said with great pleasure, to second the Motion If there was one fact more clearly established than another by the unanimous testimony of men of all parties, it was this—that during the late election the grosses intimidation had prevailed. Each defeated candidate invariably ascribed the loss of his election to intimidation: complaints of intimidation were to be found in every election petition. There was the undoubted most explicit, and most valuable testimony of the noble Lord at the head of the Home Department, that he had lost his election for South Devon solely through the continued and systematic intimidation of the Tory landlords and parsons. Intimidation had, within the last few weeks, been resolutely carried on in Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Inverness-shire. Meanwhile, the people were the sufferers; and to protect them in the exercise of the electoral franchise which had been bestowed upon them—not to give the predominance to any particular party—was the motive which induced him to support the Motion of his hon. Friend and Member for London. He did not care whether the Ballot had an aristocratic or a democratic tendency; all he contended was, that the Ballot was by far the best, the only means, of ensuring freedom of election; and all who acknowledged the theory of a representative Government, must necessarily acknowledge that freedom of election was all important. According to that theory, the electoral body should be a body so numerous, that their interest must necessarily coincide with the interest of the whole community. The electoral body ought, likewise, to be a body so selected, as to be better acquainted with what those interests are, than any other body of men. If these positions were denied with regard to our present electoral system, the system was faulty, and ought to be altered. If they were affirmed, the expression of the real wishes of the electors was the best expression of the real interests of the community. In order to secure those interests—in order to insure the best Government—freedom of election was absolutely requisite. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that intimidation could be prevented by penal 396 enactments. Those hon. Gentlemen must be but slightly acquainted with the common modes of intimidation. Landlords seldom directly informed their tenants that punishment would follow disobedience. They merely solicited the votes of their tenants, and left the evils consequent upon a refusal to be inferred, and this was in most cases quite sufficient. He knew an instance of a case at the late Devon election, of a body of tenantry, almost all of whom had at a former contested election voted for the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, but who, without the slightest change in their political sentiments, then voted against him. He inquired the reason, and was informed that, at the first election, the landlord had abstained from all interference, but that on this occasion he had written a letter, which was taken to each of the tenantry by an opponent of the noble Lord, wherein he stated, that though he did not wish to compel his tenantry to vote contrary to their inclinations, yet if any of them had not made up their minds, he should feel much obliged by their voting for his candidate, Mr. Parker. Some of the tenants abstained from going to the poll at all—the remainder voted against the noble Lord. Could any penal enactments prevent this, the commonest and most effective species of intimidation. The tenants reasoned thus:—"Many are the favours we have to beg of our landlord from time to time—we solicit a reduction of our rent, or a short delay in the payment of it—we want wood to repair our buildings, or for fuel—we want permission to make a road, a fence, or a drain—in short, we want a thousand things. If we act in opposition to our landlord, neither he nor his agents will have the same kindly feeling towards us as they would have if we had gratified their wishes; and we see what happens to others in similar circumstances." Even where a tenant has voted against his landlord, and then made some unreasonable and improper request, which was refused, he had invariably found that the tenant assigned this refusal solely to the vote he had given; and this opinion being promulgated to all around him, inspired terror and created the belief in the minds of the tenants of other landlords, that they likewise would be liable to suffer in similar circumstances. He (Sir William Molesworth) had known many respectable and honorable men who had told him that they considered they had a right to control the rotes of their tenants, 397 and that they would not retain as tenants men who would dare to vote against them. "For," said they, "by making them our tenants we have given them the elective franchise, and surely we ought to have a control over that which is our own gift." Thus at the late election in Devonshire, Gentlemen who once held liberal opinions suddenly were found to have apostatised; and along with them whole bands of tenantry seemed, as it were, miraculously to have changed their opinions. It had been falsely asserted that it was the cry of of "No popery," which had influenced the electors of Devon. Some of them had, no doubt, feigned it as the only means of concealing their real slavery; but though he could not from his own personal knowledge speak highly either of the intelligence or education of the electors of that county in general, yet he could not allow that they were so beastly stupid, so brutally ignorant, as to have credited the falsehoods which were so industriously circulated on this subject, or to have believed the assertions of the clergyman, who told his parishioners, when assembled in the vestry, that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin had appointed a Catholic priest to each parish in the county. The noble Lord was most correct when in his parting address to his supporters in Devon he attributed his defeat to intimidation and undue influence. That election was lost through the exertions of the nobles and of the landed gentry, and through the undue influence of the clergy, who, as tithe proprietors, were in a certain degree the landlords of each parish in the county. Freedom of election was the only means of obtaining pure representation, and of ensuring good government, and therefore every obstacle which opposed itself to that freedom of election ought at every risk to be removed. With open voting the control of the landlord over the tenant was an obstacle. Those, therefore, who supported open voting, must devise some means of removing that obstacle. The objections to the ballot were twofold—that it would be inefficacious, and that it was immoral. His hon. Friend had so admirably refuted these objections, that he would not trespass upon the House by following his hon. Friend in his most able exposition. It was demonstrated beyond a doubt, not only that with the Ballot all intimidation would be quite useless, but that open voting was much more likely to produce immorality than secret voting. In the open system, the 398 elector who promised to vote contrary to his inclination and opinion, and adhered to that promise, committed both the immoral act of promising, and the still more immoral act of keeping his promise. If there were wickedness in making the promise, there was tenfold wickedness in extorting it. The promise was given by the trembling dependent to save himself and family from the worst of evils. The giving the promise was so far innocent that it injured no one. The extorting it tended to very great evils. If they could not get good voting without a promise, which was broken without injury to any one, they must be content to get good voting on these terms, and be glad that things were not worse. There was an argument which had been much employed by the antagonists of the Ballot, and on which the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, placed especial reliance. The elective franchise, it was said, was a trust reposed in the hands of the elector for the advantage of the community; and the elector was responsible for the manner in which he exercised that trust. Secret suffrage would destroy that responsibility, and, therefore, it was argued it would be an evil. Now, if the electoral system were what it ought to be, the interests of the electors would coincide with the interests of the community, and the real wishes of the electors would be the best expression of the real interests of the community. If this responsibility of the elector to the non-elector acted in the same direction as the wishes of the elector, then evidently it was superfluous; if this responsibility acted in a contrary direction, it was pernicious; but what was the price they now paid for this useless responsibility? To obtain it, the elector was exposed to all the influence which wealth possessed over poverty. They created for the elector two responsibilities—a responsibility to the non-electors, and a responsibility to the rich and the powerful. Who did not see that the responsibility of the poor man to the poor class of men was as nothing, whilst the responsibility to the rich man was all powerful. Those who laid such stress upon the responsibility to the non-elector, themselves proclaimed the worthlessness of it, for they said, that with secret suffrage tenants would stay away from the poll at the command of their landlords. What did this proclaim in the loudest manner? What but this—that the motive created by the power of good or evil in the hands of the poor multitude was as nothing—that 399 the motive created by the same power in the hands of the rich few was irresistible. Could there be a stronger argument in favour of the Ballot than this? Could there be a more pointed satire on the pretence, that the knowledge by the poor of the manner in which the elector votes, is a security for honest voting? The elector who staid away from the poll made proclamation of the fact. He said to those around him, "The opinion which you may hold of my conduct is of small importance compared with what I have to hope or fear from the wealthy and powerful. My responsibility to you is something in name, my responsibility to them is something in terrible reality." Of these positions (the hon. Baronet continued) the noble Lord, the ex-Member for Devon, ought now to be well aware. He would recal to that noble Lord's recollection his enthusiastic reception in the south of Devon—the scene in the Castle-yard in Exeter—the assembled thousands who there greeted him with loudest acclamations, and three-fourths of whom held up their hands in his favour. Where he would ask that noble Lord, was his much vaunted responsibility of the elector to the non-elector, when a few days afterwards, in that same city, an enormous majority recorded their votes against him. The noble Lord had experienced the effects of the responsibility of the elector to the wealthy and powerful;—he had found it irresistible. It was said, that men who abstained from registering their votes, or who voted contrary to their real wishes, were traitors to their country. Undoubtedly they were so. But he would contend that men who, by acting in a contrary manner, exposed themselves to the anger and evil offices of their powerful superiors, were tenfold traitors to themselves, to their families, and to their dearest dependents. Men could not be expected, nor would they year after year sacrifice themselves—year after year sacrifice their families and their best interests, in order to gratify the ambition, to secure the return, of those who would not listen to their complaints, or grant them the much needed, the only efficacious protection of the Ballot. Let the noble Lord and those who thought with him, reflect and ponder well upon these facts. They ought now to be aware of the fact—to them undoubtedly a most mortifying fact, that amongst the gentry of England their party was decidedly in the minority; they ought now to be aware, that the vast majority of the aristocracy, of the landed gentry, and all. 400 the clergy, to a man, were their determined and irreconcileable foes, who would spare no efforts, who would use every species of intimidation and undue influence, to compass their destruction. They could not with the same weapons successfully contend against their too powerful antagonists. If they could not protect their friends—and they were too weak to do so without the aid of the Ballot—if they left their supporters exposed to the tender mercies of the Tory party, they would by degrees be ejected, like the noble Lord, from the representation of all the counties of England. Did they remember their fatal losses in the counties during the last general election? Did they remember that their friends were ejected and replaced by their antagonists, in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridg shire, Denbighshire, Derbyshire south, Devonshire south, Essex south, Gloucestershire west, Hampshire south, Lancashire south, Leicestershire south, Lincolnshire Norfolk east, Northamptonshire south, Shropshire north, Suffolk east, Suffolk west, Surrey east, Surrey west, Warwickshire south? That within the few last weeks they had been again dismissed from Devonshire, Inverness-shire, and Staffordshire? They had themselves proclaimed to the people of the United Kingdom the causes of their defeat, in the Address of their own Reform Association. They there told the people that their defeat was not caused by "any change or reaction in the public opinion," "but by various means either out of the reach or repugnant to the principles of Reformers—by the unprecedented canvas by a large body of the clergy, by bribery and intimidation, by the corrupting influence of close corporations, by the unscrupulous perversion by Tory authorities for party purposes of powers confined to them for the maintenance of order and the ends of justice." These, the hon. Baronet concluded with saying, were their own words, and by them they were called upon to abide. Did they require stronger arguments in favour of the Ballot than these? Was this list not a sufficient proof to them of the absolute necessity of the Ballot? Did they prefer to be utterly annihilated as a party in that House, rather than have the Ballot? If so their fate was nigh at hand, and they would well merit it.
§ Mr. Gisborne
had listened to the speech of his hon. Friend, the Member for the City of London, with the greatest attention, and, he would say, with the utmost 401 admiration; and there were so few sentiments expressed by his hon. Friend, from which he dissented, that he was almost surprised to find himself rising to move the Previous Question. His hon. Friend had placed in the strongest view the advantages to be derived from—the advantages to be expected from—the system of secret voting; and, if the only question at issue was simply whether the advantages pointed out by him, in the system of secret voting, were real, he would not find him (Mr. Gisborne) now among the opponents to his Motion. But, fortunately, his hon. Friend had saved him the trouble of searching for an argument in favour of open voting, when he said that the elective franchise was a trust placed in the hands of the electors for the general good. Admitting that it was so, surely his hon. Friend would not say that that trust should be exercised in darkness, and that darkness so inscrutable, that even the person who voted was unable to bring any evidence of the manner in which he had exercised his trust. He confessed, however, that what he had seen during the late elections had, to a great extent, overcome his scruples as to the Ballot, and if he could be persuaded that the advantages of secret voting were such as to overbalance the advantages of open voting, he would willingly give up the advantages of open voting. But no one had yet been able to convince him that any means could be devised, by which protection against intimidation could be afforded to the poor voter. With these feelings, be had at the commencement of the Session advised his hon. Friend to alter his Motion, and to move rather for the appointment of a Select Committee, to consider what plan might be adopted by which votes at elections might henceforth be taken by way of secret voting, and so that protection might be afforded to the voter. Till some machinery, by which the voter could be protected, was devised, and till it was made very apparent to him that the advantages to be derived from the system of secret voting, were greater than those which they possessed under the system of open voting, he could not give his support to his hon. Friend's Motion. His hon. Friend might bring forward strong arguments to show that flying was better than walking; but he would require excellent evidence to show that he should be able to acquire the power of flying, before 402 he gave up the power of walking. He could show a thousand ways in which the supposed secrecy of this mode of voting, could be evaded. He repeated, that he was satisfied that they could not devise means of secret voting, that could not be obviated. His hon. Friend had denied that the adoption of the Ballot, would tend to destroy the present Constitution of the country. He did not know whether his hon. Friend was or was not in favour of a greater extension of the suffrage, than now existed. For his own part, he was not; for he thought that the Reform Bill gave a very fair share in the Representation to the popular voice; but the adoption of the Ballot would tend to prevent the success of any measure for that purpose. Supposing that there was a strong popular feeling in favour of the extension of the franchise, by open voting, as the House was now constituted, such an opinion would probably be effectual; but if there was secret voting, he did not believe that the great body of the present voters would think that the classes below them should possess the franchise. Few persons possessed of monopolies, were willing to give them up, and that feeling would operate with the present class of voters. On these grounds, he did not think that the Ballot would give any great extent to the popular feeling. This, however, was no disrecommendation to him, as he thought, under the Reform Bill, all the interests of the country were fully and fairly represented. There was another point he would advert to. He was perfectly satisfied that his hon. Friend did not, by bringing forward this Motion at the present time, wish to embarrass the Government; but he could not help reminding him that the Motion could hardly be introduced to the House, without, producing this result, as it was well known that the opinions of the Members of the Government were not uniform on this subject. His hon. Friend must, in bringing forward this subject, be anxious to convince those Members of the Government who were formerly opposed to the Ballot, of the propriety of granting it, and, above all, the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud. Certainly at the present moment, after what had taken place in Devonshire, the noble Lord might take a more favourable view of the case, than he would allow himself to do at other times; but this was a reason why his hon. Friend should not have brought 403 forward the Motion at the present moment, and this also was an inducement with him to move the Previous Question. The chief reason, however, that induced him to pursue this course was, that his hon. Friend had not demonstrated to his mind the advantage of secret over open voting, and he did not think that they should abandon the benefits of the latter, until they were convinced of the superior advantage of the former. If his hon. Friend had moved for a Committee to inquire into the subject, he would have voted for his Motion; but at the present moment he thought that he should best consult the interest of all parties—and for the final success even of the Ballot itself—by moving the Previous Question.
§ Dr. Bowring
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had stated, that if satisfactory evidence could be given to him that secret voting could be made effectual, he would give his support to the Motion before the House, On that ground he hoped the support of the hon. Gentleman would be no longer withheld; for he could tell the hon. Gentleman, that he had had the privilege of seeing the experiment successfully made in many countries, and he had no doubt, that if once the power was given of introducing it fairly into this country, it would prove to be possessed of all the advantages which its advocates were disposed to attribute to it. He had seen the ballot applied in some countries where the suffrage was narrow, and it had completely answered its end there. He had also seen it applied to other countries where the suffrage was almost universal, and with equal success; and he had never heard it objected in those countries that it could not be made effectual, or that the votes could, after all, be denounced or discovered. He believed, on the contrary, wherever the experiment had been made, it had been found completely efficient; and sure he was, that there was no individual who had witnessed the misery caused in this country by the system of open voting—no individual who had seen the despotic influence and oppression which were exercised on the one hand, and the corruption and profligacy which were brought into action on the other—who would not earnestly desire to find some security for the honest voter in the conscientious discharge of that duty which he owed to himself, to his country, and mankind. What was the system of open 404 voting, but machinery by which fraudulent contracts, entered into by individuals to obtain dishonest votes, and then to betray their country, could be rendered effectual?—and what was the system of Ballot, but a simple and effectual instrument which would defeat the dishonest contract, detach the dishonest contractors from one another, and thus re-establish for every individual the power of exercising his suffrage according to his own conscientious opinion—a power which the system of open voting had enabled him to surrender to the corrupter or the oppressor. In the case to which the hon. Member for Cornwall had alluded—the election for South Devon—he had seen instances which would never be erased from his memory. Individuals representing large numbers of tenants, came and declared that their votes were coerced, and that they dared not make the sacrifices which would be demanded of them if they followed their own wishes and their honest convictions. Others there were who felt themselves strong enough and bold enough to make the required sacrifices to their political creed. They did it once,—but how could perpetual sacrifices be demanded—how could Parliament consent to entail upon honest men renewed and repeated sufferings? They wisely thought—that means should be found to enable them to give their votes, without being exposed to evil consequences, as the punishment of what—of their sincerity—of their desire to assist the causes of good government by their individual support. He only knew two ways of operating upon the mind of man—by hope and fear: they could be induced to do wrong only by one of these instruments. Bribery, in the shape of promises, appealed to a man's hopes—menaces, in the shape of punishment, to his fears. Why should he be led astray by either if security could be found against both? The Ballot offered a protection against them: it destroyed the baneful effects of those promises by which he might be seduced from the path of right into the path of error,—and equally powerful was it to release him from threatenings of despotism. The system of secret voting struck out of the hand of the tyrants the instrument of tyranny, and left the individual to act as his judgment dictated. He had often heard the terms of honour and credit and reputation applied to the character of the man heroic 405 enough to sacrifice himself to the good of the community, who did his duty in spite of every temptation and every threat; but however much he might respect the martyr, he would put an end to the martyrdom. He could honour those who suffered cheerfully for their country's sake, but it was the duty of the House to prevent the suffering if possible. The Ballot was not a thing of modem invention—it existed in ancient times—it was practised among the Greeks and Romans—it was one of their great political discoveries. Forgotten in days of barbarism, it was re-produced when philosophy and knowledge became the handmaids of political emancipation. It seemed to accompany every progress in the path of political experience, and to associate as it were of necessity with popular influence. It was introduced into the provinces of the United States one by one, after duly weighing its value and its efficacy, and now it prevailed in almost all of them, because it had been found successful. It formed a part of the representative code of France; and it was found—he could say so from his own knowledge,—practicable and efficient there; and he doubted whether ten men in the Chamber of Deputies would be found to deny its benefit, or whether one would be found to deny its practicability. It was introduced into Spain with a suffrage almost universal—into Portugal, and into Italy, and it existed in Belgium. It had been adopted in almost every country where there was a representative government, and had never been abandoned when once firmly established. Why? Because it had been discovered to afford an undenied and undoubted protection to the elector. It was the result of the widest observation—the most extensive experience. It was recognised everywhere but here (with few exceptions) as a necessary protection and security for honest and rational representation, and it would infallibly be ultimately established here. Such being his views, he should have great pleasure in supporting the motion of the hon. Member for the city of London.
§ Mr. Barlow Hoy
was ready to admit, that in moving for the adoption of the Ballot, the hon. Gentleman had done so from the purest and most conscientious motives, and that he sincerely believed it would be the means of doing away with bribery, corruption, and intimidation in the return of Members to that House; in 406 consequence of which the representation of the people would be better, purer, and more likely to protect the liberties of the people and property of the empire. But he could not but be surprised to see those who had been foremost in exclaiming against corporations, on account of the secrecy of their proceedings, and the irresponsibility of their members, now coming forward as the advocates of a measure, the whole object of which was to secure the most complete secrecy, and the most perfect irresponsibility. He considered the elective franchise as a trust for the exercise of which the electors were responsible, not only to their fellow-townsmen but to the country at large; and he could not conceive, if public opinion were thought a necessary restraint on Members of that House, and a useful control upon the actions of all men, as far as regards the public welfare, why it should be less necessary in voting for Members, nor could he understand why, if so much light were thought necessary for the superstructure, the foundation could safely be laid in darkness. The whole case of the Ballot mainly rested on two assumptions—first, that every one who asked for a vote must of necessity be tyrannical and oppressive, and at the same time less patriotic, less pure, and worse informed than the electors; and on the other hand, that the electors must be more pure, patriotic, and well-informed, yet servile and cowardly. There was no ground for either of these assertions. Both France and America had been mentioned to shew that the Ballot had worked well—but how had it worked well in France, when no less than sixty changes of Government had taken place in that country in sixteen years? There was no analogy in the circumstances of the electors of the two countries, for the proportion of the electors to the population in France was 1 in 182, while in England it was 1 in 24—the electors in France were required to pay 200 francs annually of direct taxation, as their qualification, a sum equivalent at least to 12l. in this country—while in England it was merely required that they should have promised to pay 10l. a-year in rent. This shewed that there was no similarity whatever between the circumstances of England and France. And then, as to America, the greatest instances of bribery and corruption are on record as having existed there. He alluded more 407 especially to the distribution of 28,000,000 of dollars by the bank of the United States, for the purpose of influencing the election against General Jackson. Gentlemen seemed to dread the influence of the Crown; but the days had long gone by since it was said in this House, "that the influence of the Crown had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished." At present its influence had been very much diminished: first, by the reduction of 30,000,000l. of expenditure; and, secondly, by the Reform Bill; and as long as it was in the power of one individual to return forty or fifty Members to that House, as long as the 10l. franchise existed in London, and as long as there was great difficulty in finding seats for the Members of his Majesty's Government, so long he promised hon. Gentlemen that there never could be a strong, a steady, or a permanent government in this country. Then Gentlemen need not be afraid of the influence of property. Much had been said about the legitimate influence of property; but he contended, that if a person who only promised to pay 10l. a-year, and one possessing 10,000l. a-year, were put upon the same footing, the security of property must be greatly diminished. He should be more readily induced to assent to the scheme if it afforded any representation of property, as was the case of shareholders in the Bank, India Company, and other joint-stock companies, who had votes according to the stake they respectively held. One strong objection to the Ballot was, that it represented population, but did not represent property. The advocates of the plan seemed to dread the influence of a kind master over his servant, and of a good landlord over his tenant, of employers over those employed; but he could hardly believe it would have any beneficial effect, that an elector, at the moment of going to poll, should find himself free from all those associations by which men were usually guided in the ordinary circumstances of life; for there were such things as evil passions,—such things as envy, hatred, and malice;—and it was fair to suppose that under the Ballot those passions would have full scope. The hon. Member for Cornwall alluded to Corporations. There was one close Corporation with which he was acquainted,—a Whig Corporation,—which had always returned Whig Members to this House, being mostly under one family. He had 408 seen instances of intimidation, though not exactly of the kind that had been alluded to. It was his lot to stand a poll of four days at the time of the Reform Bill, because he could not conscientiously vote for the second reading of that Bill. During those four days, intimidation was resorted to, and there was one memorable instance of it which he would mention. A gallant Admiral, highly respected, formerly a Member of this House, and one whose memory would be long dear to it, came forward to vote; but he was so treated on going to poll, and such opprobrious epithets were applied to him, that he was obliged to retreat. The gallant Admiral advised him immediately to close the poll, and to present a petition to the House. He, however, wished to give the electors of the town a fair trial, and not to abridge any freedom of election, short of personal violence. He could neither reconcile the opinions of the hon. and learned Member for the city of Dublin, nor those contained in the early part of the speech of the hon. Member for the city of London, with the words of Lord Althorp, in this House, that, "as far as regards the representation of the people, the Reform Bill must be considered as a final measure;" nor with those of lord Grey in the other House—that, "something being to be done in the way of Reform, it should be done in such a way as to give a resting-place on which the Constitution may repose free from further discussion and agitation;" by which it appeared that it never was in the contemplation of the leading promoters of the Reform Bill, either in the House of Commons or Lords, to adopt the Ballot; because, according to the opinion of the hon. Members themselves who proposed it, it would make a great change in the representation. By an extract which he had made from the American papers, relative to the representation in America, it appeared that the people there were as discontented with the representation under the Ballot as any person in that House could possibly be. That extract said, "the Congress has now met four months, and yet no measure of real national utility has been contemplated." He had attended to the speech of the hon. Gentleman with a wish perfectly to understand his view of the subject; and, after having done so, the feeling of his mind was, that it would be his duty on this, as on all occasions, to oppose such a Motion.
§ Mr. Strutt
observed, that he had received complaints of the evils produced by the present system from all classes of society, he therefore felt himself called upon to address a few observations to the House; this, however, appeared to be almost unnecessary, after the conclusive speech of his hon. Friend, the Member for London. Excellent, however, as this speech was, it appeared to him that it did not attract so much attention as its merits deserved; for if it had been strictly listened to by the hon. Member for Southampton, he would have found an answer in it to any objection that he had urged to the Ballot in the course of his speech. The hon. Gentleman seemed mainly to rely on the objection that the franchise was a trust, and if the Ballot was granted, the electors would cease to be responsible to the non-electors. But the question was, whether the electors should be rendered thus responsible, and whether any advantage would arise from such responsibility? It was clear that the check by means of this species of responsibility, would be seldom operative, and only in periods of great excitement. He did not believe that the electors would in this country ever form a species of oligarchy, and exercise their franchise at the expense of all others. This however, was an argument, if worth anything, in favour of the Ballot. The argument for the Ballot was not that the electors were responsible to the non-electors, but that it would protect the electors from the influence of other classes of persons having interests different from those of both non-electors and electors. The secret voting protected the electors against tyrannical landlords and tyrannical masters, and that was the real answer to the argument which was so often used, and which had been so strongly urged by the hon. Member. He contended that the object was not attained by open voting. The hon. Gentleman had also said that the system of Ballot could not be adopted without being detrimental to the security of property. Now the only reason that he could imagine for such a conclusion was, the assumption that the possessor of 10,000l. a year would not have a greater influence than the possessor of a 10l. franchise. But if this was the case, he did not feel that it would interfere with the security of property. The franchise was only held by persons possessed of property, although he admitted of small property; but still they had the same interest in supporting the rights of property as men of large property in the country. He had 410 not heard any argument to lead him to suppose that persons possessed of small property would do that which would be as injurious to themselves as to the holders of large property. It was not true, however, that the owners of large property would have less influence than at present, provided they were intelligent, and were anxious to promote the well-being of those they were connected with. Superior intelligence, integrity, and benevolence, combined with great wealth, would always continue to have great influence, under any form of Government. The hon. Gentleman said, that the Ballot would destroy the influence of the good landlord and good master: one reason which induced him now to support the measure was. because he was convinced that it would increase the influence of the good landlord and master, and destroy that of the bad landlord and master. It would destroy that species of influence which only existed in compelling men to do that which they believed to be wrong and injurious to the country. There was another argument which appeared to have some plausibility—namely, that the Ballot was immoral, inasmuch as it induced persons to break their promises. He would only refer to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for London on this point, in which he clearly showed that a promise extorted, which would lead a man to the improper exercise of a trust imposed on him, ought not to be binding. What regard to morality could those have who extorted promises from persons to perform public duties in a way the latter believed to be injurious to the country. Those alone ought to be charged with immorality who extorted promises under threats and coercion. It was an offence to make a promise to commit an offence; but to commit the offence was a greater offence still. The most criminal, however, was he by whom such a promise was extorted, and by whom the commission of the offence was compelled. His hon. Friend, the Member for Derbyshire mentioned an objection which he did not expect to hear from him; he said, that much difficulty would be found in the construction of the machinery by which the Ballot would be carried into effect. Now, this might be true, or it might not. It did happen, however, that such a description of machinery was already in existence; therefore the difficulty would, probably, not be so great as his hon. Friend had supposed. But what he complained of was, that his hon. Friend should mix the two questions up together, 411 when the only question now before them for discussion was, whether secret voting could be advantageously adopted in this country. The other question was quite distinct, and he would say merely mechanical, if he might be allowed so to express himself. Let them only determine in favour of the Ballot, and he had no doubt they would find the machinery. But suppose it were otherwise—suppose they did not succeed in finding machinery that would enable them to carry the principle into complete effect—suppose it were not in their power to obtain absolute secrecy, the only result in that case would be, that to the extent that the Ballot was ineffectual the system would remain as it was at present. The failure would hardly be complained of by those who were opposed to the Ballot. If, then, he admitted the possibility of not succeeding fully, still such success as did result from their attempts would put them in possession of all the advantages to be derived from secret suffrage. Such being his opinion, he should give his cordial support to the motion of his hon. Friend. He was aware that on the present occasion they were not likely to be successful; he was aware that there was a large body on both sides of the House who were prepared to oppose the motion; but when he reflected on the immense progress the question had made—when he saw the deep interest which that great political body, the middle classes, took in this question—and the middle classes took an interest in it because they beheld in the Ballot the means of doing their duty to their country, and of being protected in the expression of their opinion; when he called to mind these considerations, he felt that though the motion might be defeated tonight, success would ultimately attend it. He supported the Motion in the fullest conviction that the time would come, and it was not far distant, when they would be able to obtain for the people of this country this great and necessary protection.
said, he had long considered it necessary to adopt the Ballot at elections. He would briefly allude to some arguments advanced by an hon. Member in the course of the debate. First, then, as to the alleged expenditure of twenty-eight millions in America by the Bank, for the purpose of bribing the electors to oppose the return of General Jackson; the fact was, the money was spent to bribe the press to influence public opinion in their own favour, and notwithstanding the power 412 raised against him, he was returned by a large majority because of the Ballot. The hon. Members for Southampton and Derbyshire had spoken of the franchise as a trust: did not a trust mean a power given to act faithfully, truly, and justly? and was it not well known that men were constantly obliged to vote contrary to their feeling and their opinion of what was right? He had, in the course of his very general inquiries, learned from every hon. Member who had had to do with contested elections that they knew of various cases in which parties entitled to vote had, by influence or apprehension, been induced to give their vote contrary to their conscience. To such persons the Ballot would be fraught with that protection which they now so eagerly desired, and which, in fact, was become so indispensable. The principle of Ballot had been long approved and adopted by vast numbers of the middle classes of society. Elections were determined by it in charitable institutions, in hospitals, in most of the scientific institutions, in the Bank of England, and in the East-India Company. The Ballot was also to be found in the clubs—the members of which were generally men of wealth, intelligence, and high character; they adopted it—their experience having assured them of the benefits resulting from it. He trusted that, guided by so safe a precedent, the opinion of that House would, on a division, be found in favour of the Ballot at elections for Members of Parliament. He was prepared to maintain that the extension of the franchise by the Reform Bill had proved, and would continue to be a great evil, to those enfranchised and to the public. The only way of remedying the inconvenience and mischief was, in his opinion, by the introduction of the Ballot. Could there be any thing more degrading than that a man who had been given by the Constitution a right of voting for a representative should be controlled in the exercise of that right by a master or a tyrant of a landlord, and compelled to sacrifice his principle to his interest.
Mr. Charles Russell
said, he felt it to be his duty to resist the proposition of the hon. Member for the City of London for further extensive changes in the mode of constituting the House of Commons, while they were as yet only in the third Session of that Parliament which was assembled together under the denomination, and if the proposition of the hon. Member deserved any favour in that House, he might say the somewhat taunting denomination 413 of the Reformed Parliament. He should resist the proposition on every principle of common prudence and good faith. They had but just accomplished the largest measure of change short of revolution that any nation had ever been bold enough to undertake; and on every principle of common prudence, therefore, he called upon the House to pause and carefully, vigilantly, and anxiously to watch the workings of new proportions which they had thought fit to assign to the elements of our mixed constitution. During the progress of that great question, no argument was more insisted upon in justification of what was called its sweeping character, than that it was rendered so extensive, in order that it might be received as a final measure. On every principle of common prudence, consequently, he called upon all those who had advocated that measure upon that distinct understanding—he called more especially upon the King's Ministers, who had placed that argument prominently forward, not to consent to sanction further extensive changes before that so-called final measure had itself been brought to the test of experience. But although he resisted the proposition upon those specific grounds, he was not unwilling to enter the list with the hon. Member for the City of London on the merits of the question itself—upon its utter insufficiency to answer any of the ends proposed, its incompatibility with every habit and feeling of the English people, and its incongruity with every principle of the English Constitution. The hon. Member had said the practice of the Ballot was no infraction of the English Constitution. If there was any one principle which more than another pervaded every branch of our national institutions and operated as the purest check upon public men and public measures, it was publicity. Whatever temptations men might encounter to betray their trust, he was satisfied they were far more likely to be deterred from doing so by the ill opinions of their neighbours than by any artificial check which ingenuity could devise. Once allow men to act in secret, and the House would invite them to act in fraud. What was it that secured to us the equal administration of our laws, and placed the judgments of our Courts of Justice above suspicion? It was, that our juries acted under the eye of a vigilant and enlightened bar, and the constant control of public opinion. What was it that 414 imparted its real value to our Trial by Jury? It was the opinion of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, that the real excellence of that institution consisted not so much in the direct functions of the juror, as in the obligation which he imposed upon the judge to state publicly his view of the law and of the facts of the case under adjudication. What was it that imparted its vigour and efficiency to the great organ of public opinion—the press? It was that it held up to public scrutiny all the great events in which the country was interested, and threw a constant and steady light upon public men and public measures. And why did they in that House vote openly in the face of one another? While they were at present actually engaged in devising the means of rendering their own votes more public, why should they not vote as it was now required their constituents should vote, by Ballot? The great end and object of all those instances was to cast around the institutions of our country the great sanction of publicity. Taking it for granted, then, and he thought it could scarcely be denied, that the Ballot was not only an anomaly, an innovation—that it was not only unknown to the practice, but that it was totally at variance with the spirit, of the English Constitution—the advocates of the Ballot must be prepared to defend it upon its merits alone, and its being calculated to produce such an amelioration in our system that, even as an anomaly and an innovation, it was imperative upon the House of Commons to adopt it. He would utterly deny that the Ballot would produce any one of those advantages. On what ground could the hon. Member hope that it would put an end to the practice of canvassing? As long as the voter had that to give which the candidate was solicitous to obtain, he would be the object of importunity under every form importunity could assume. Some few persons there still might be who, as at present, might refuse to pledge themselves; but as to the great majority of them, promise they would when they were pressed, be their moral character or their political opinions what they might. The promise once given, if the voter was an honest man he would keep it, whether he gave his vote by Ballot or openly, and concealment would be of no use save to the knave, for whom assuredly an upright Legislature would not increase his facilities of disgracing himself, and of 415 deceiving his neighbour. As long as there were candidates, so long would there be persuasion; as long as there were voters, so long would they receive solicitation; and it was absurd to expect that the Ballot would put an end to canvassing. If it operated at all, it would step in, not between solicitation and promise, but between promise and performance; and instead of protecting a voter from persuasion to pledge his word, it would only absolve him from the necessity of keeping it. It would make him a freer man only at the expense of his integrity, and would vitiate his moral character under the pretext of preserving his political independence. Whether or not it would release him from the influence of superior wealth or superior power, it would, at all events, absolve him from the obligations of fidelity, and it would debase even the corruption of receiving a bribe by the turpitude of violating a promise; but though candidates might use persuasion, what man, it was asked, would give a bribe when from the secrecy of the Ballot, he was uncertain he should obtain the vote for which he had paid? The advocates of the Ballot did not appear agreed among themselves respecting the extent and nature of the secrecy. As regarded this part of the Question, it might not be uninstructive to recur to the progress of the ballot in the French constitution. By the French constitution of the year 1791, the electors were permitted to name the candidate, as were the electors at present in England. By the constitutution of 1793, the option was first given to them of voting by ballot or openly, an scrutin ou á haute voix; and it is somewhat singular that Danton and the strictest of the Republicans defended the practice of open voting, contending that publicity and the light of day were the natural elements of liberty. But by the constitution of 1795, only two years later, some progress having then been made in the science of revolution and Republicanism, the mode of election was confined to secret ballot, au scrutin secret; and he should like to know which of those republican states the advocates for the ballot proposed to adopt. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin in the very earliest debates that occurred on this subject, stated that he would not prevent any voter, English, Scotch, or Irish, from voting as openly as he pleased, To which 416 the right hon. Baronet now at the head of the Board of Control replied. "Ay, but if the ballot be not secret, it is not the Ballot I mean." Unquestionably that right hon. Baronet was right, because if the voter were to be permitted to give his vote openly, what would there be to prevent parties from entering into any bargain they pleased, and giving and receiving the proof of its fulfilment? It had always appeared to him, that it would be extremely difficult to devise any mode of secrecy so impenetrable, as that by collusion it might not be defeated at the poll. But assuming that that secrecy was obtained at the poll, what chance was there that it would be preserved afterwards? It was for voters in the humble walks of life that this mode of secrecy was devised, and when the House considered what were the habits of such persons, was it probable that, on an occasion of such general interest and excitement as an election, a man should not tell for whom he had voted, and thus expose himself, if not to constraint before the election, to what would be equally annoying to him—vengeance and resentment afterwards? But to go a step further, and admitting that this secrecy might be secured both at the poll and afterwards, he would contend that candidates who would not scruple to resort to bribery, would not be deterred by any such considerations, and that if they could obtain no other security, they would rely upon the word of the voter. There was amongst persons of the humbler condition, and sometimes even of the worst character, a species of honour which was more binding upon them than obligations of a higher sanction, and if they could but once be induced to look upon the party with whom they were engaged in the sacred light of an accomplice, their word might be implicitly relied upon. He believed it would be found as an universal axiom that in those objects which men's interests prompt them to pursue, against which the law has offered no protection, or which are in contravention of the law, the necessity of mutual confidence would raise a species of honour, a spurious place-borne honour, but still a species of honour, which would operate more upon such persons than higher obligations. In those instances the self-enacting, self-protecting law would be more efficacious than the public law of the land. Again, what universal suspicion and mistrust would be the 417 almost inevitable consequence of the Ballot. Suppose a man to have received 600 promises, and only 400 votes, he would feel that 200 of the electors, had betrayed him, and in his uncertainty on whom to fix the stigma, he would spread the blame over the whole, and impute turpitude to many who had not deserved it. He heard it stated, that under the administration of one of the French Ministers—he believed De Cazes—he had received a number of promises to insure him a majority of from sixty to seventy votes upon an important question. He saw all who had promised him give their votes, and yet when the Ballot glasses were opened, his majority did not exceed four. He (Mr. Charles Russell) was perfectly aware of the advantage which the advocates of the Ballot might draw from this fact in support of their argument, that it enabled a man to prefer the obligations of public duty to those of personal pledge; and he would give them the full benefit of the inference, but at the same time they must be prepared to take with it this consequence—they must be prepared to uphold the most odious doctrine which the world was ever deluged by, a false and corrupt philosophy, that private vice might prove public benefit. In the event of any doubt arising as to the validity of votes, the Ballot afforded no means of scrutiny; and in spite of every exertion, every one knew that bad votes would occasionally be admitted. In short, there was no end to the difficulties and inconveniences that would result from the secret practice of the Ballot. The advocates of that practice, however, had attempted to defend it, not on the ground of argument only, but of experience also, and had referred the House to examples both in our own and in other countries, in the present and in remote times. As regarded our own country, the practice had hitherto been confined to such bodies as the East-India Company, charitable institutions, and clubs. What benefit the East-India Company promised to themselves by electing their directors by Ballot he had never been able to understand. Did it insure secrecy? Certainly not. No man hesitated to say for whom he intended to vote, and the strength of every candidate could be as well ascertained before as after the Ballot was taken. Did it preclude the necessity of canvassing? Certainly not, because a canvass for a seat in the East-India 418 direction was just as laborious and almost as expensive as a canvass for a seat in the House of Commons. It did not prevent the exercise of influence, for when a candidate offered himself for a seat in the East-India direction, no inquiries were made as to what he knew of East-India affairs, but only as to what interest he stood in—whether in the city interest, in the House interest, or in the Indian interest; and if direct bribery did not prevail, as unquestionably it did not in the election of the honorable body, the exemption from it was to be ascribed to the condition of the electors; and though that might be a very good argument for raising the qualification to the level of the trust, it was no argument for debasing the trust, to the level of the qualification. Between this kind of election and the election at clubs there was this broad distinction—in one case the question was, whether a man should be elected to a given office, and though he might be disappointed, there was no disgrace in the defeat; on the other hand, the question was, whether a man should be admitted into a society with every member of which he probably considered himself an equal, and rejection was considered, at least used to be considered, a personal affront: the secrecy of the ballot certainly operated very beneficially in such instances in preventing personal quarrels. He should not be considered as guilty of pedantry in following the hon. Member if he said a very few words on the examples which hon. Members had adduced from ancient states. What advantage the Greeks had derived from the Ballot the hon. Member for Dumbarton had not informed the House, but this, at least, no schoolboy could forget that they made use of it to get rid of almost the only honest man they ever had among them. There was a striking passage bearing on this part of the subject in the history of Bishop Burnett. In speaking of an Act passed in the Scottish Parliament, in 1662, by which twelve Peers were rendered incapable of serving the King, and their names, though selected by corrupt influence were nominally chosen by Ballot, he very justly and emphatically denominated the Ballot" the factious practice of a jealous common wealth, never to be set up as a precedent under a Monarchy." Even the Athenians were ashamed of it when Aristides, the justest man among them, fell under its censure, and they laid it aside 419 not long afterwards. Of this practice, as it prevailed among the Romans, he would confine himself to one single authority, but that the authority of Cicero, not the only example of an orator and a statesman, who had acknowledged that he had taken a view of the same question at a later period of his life different to that which he had taken in the rashness of his youth. Cicero, in one of his early orations, denominated the Ballot no less than "principium justissimœ libertatis;" but it was not in the orations of the orator, but in the treatises of the philosopher—in his treatises "De Amicitiâ and de Legibus," that persons were to search for his mature and deliberate opinion. He there spoke with no great respect of those by whom the Ballot was introduced among themselves. "Neque lator quisquam est inventus neque auctor unquam bonus." He inveighed against the Ballot as calculated to destroy the legitimate influence of the higher class, as operating as a shelter to corrupt votes, as raising the populace against the Aristocracy, and as consigning the most important affairs of State to the guidance of a mob. He gloried expressly in this circumstance, that he himself had been elected to the office of consul by a vivâ voce, and not by Ballot, election, and suggested as a mode by which it should be rendered beneficial, that it should become a nota optimatibus. This very quality of secrecy, therefore, for which the English House of Commons was so earnestly contending, was, upon the authority of Cicero, found by the practical experience of the Romans to be a vice of which the system of ballot required to be purged. America formed the first example of the extensive use of the Ballot among modern states, and was consequently most frequently insisted upon. The opinions respecting the effect of the practice there were so various, that it was almost impossible to reconcile them. For his own opinion, he thought that all the evils of a contested election existed in America to as great an extent as in England, probably with the exception of bribery. The American newspapers were full of all the bitterness and acrimony of electioneering hostilities, and all the tricks and manœuvres of electioneering tactics. The noble Lord (the Member for Lancashire), who had had the advantage of some local observation, informed the House in an early debate on this subject, that 420 the effects of the Ballot in America were at least doubtful. The right hon. Member for Essex, now a Peer, had said that the Ballot had been actually rejected in Virginia, and the hon. Member for Old-ham, who probably knew as much of America as any other Member, had said with a very significant nod of his head, in the last debate upon this Question, that if he pleased he could disclose some secrets about the Ballot. Was this then the experience upon which hon. Members were to be called to adopt the Ballot? Was its failure in America to be prognostic of its success in England; and were they so enamoured of strange fashions that nothing would suit them, but that they should deck themselves out in the worn-out garments of the Americans? But what analogy was there between the state of England and the state of America? The Government of America was wholly and essentially republican, and if once the House of Commons were to admit the principle of adapting the American republican form to our monarchical institution, where could the imitation be expected to end? They might as well take, and probably, if they once entered upon the course, it would not be long ere they were called upon to take, the example of the American President, and render the Sovereignty itself periodical and elected by Ballot. It was somewhat singular, he trusted not ominous, that almost all the examples of the extensive use of the Ballot were to be found among Republican states, France forming the most striking exception. France did not form an exception when the Ballot was introduced there, and how long she might continue to form an exception who would be bold enough to predict? Since hon. Members had laid some stress upon the example of France, it might be well to consider for a moment to what that example was entitled. Though France was now free, she had only just escaped from the trammels of the most galling despotism under which a nation had ever languished. In other countries the power of the Grown had been measured or controlled by some other power—by the power of the Church, by the power of a future liability, or by the power of the people; but in France, from a very early to the latest time—from the reign of Louis 11th, at all events, until the close of the reign of Bonaparte, with one short interval of anarchy, the 421 power of the Monarch had been sole and supreme—undivided and uncontrolled. Accordingly, as might be expected, almost all the recent institutions of France were directed against the power of the Crown. It was not personal influence nor pecuniary corruption against which the Ballot was directed, but it was the power of the Crown; and if there was any value in the analogy, hon Members must be prepared to advocate the use of the Ballot, not only at elections, but in that House. He would ask any hon. Member, whatever his political opinions, if there was danger proceeding from any quarter in this country from the excess of power while that danger proceeded from the direction of the Crown? And did it at all follow, that because the Ballot might be found to answer among the French, while they were yet in the very bud of their liberty, that it should have the same effect upon the ancient and long established institutions of England? He had heard that the French were emulous of our constitution, and it would be new to him to learn that England should copy France. Much as he admired the manliness, and more, if possible, the moderation with which the French had in later days vindicated and asserted their free institutions, he for one, in seeking to repair our own institutions, was not willing to look for an example in a country, in the earlier pages of whose revolutionary history he was of opinion this country might take a salutary warning against the extravagancies of political speculation and the excesses of political frenzy. And in the latter pages of the same history, down to this very day, he thought we might study with equal advantage the effect of a King struggling to sustain a tottering and equivocal throne, of a Peerage without permanency, property, or independence, and a House of Commons without consistency, steadiness, or discretion. This was the view he had taken of the various arguments that had been adduced in support of the Ballot, and for the reasons he had assigned he must at all times vole against it. If it would prevent bribery, if it would remedy intimidation, if it would even mitigate many of the evils by which the present system was unquestionably attended, then it might be beneficial but that, or anything approaching to it, he did not believe would be the effect. His firm conviction was, that instead of 422 mitigating it would aggravate many of the evils that were at present experienced, and also introduce many new evils proper to itself. They who objected to these inroads upon the institutions of our country were not to be called upon to show they ought not to be made: it was not for those who were in possession to prove a good title, but it was for those who impugned that title to make out that theirs was better. He did not believe that this experiment would afford any such proof. This proposed practice of the Ballot would be an innovation of our National Institutions and a violation of our national feelings, to which he trusted the House of Commons would not readily be brought to submit. Publicity had hitherto proved the life and soul of English Institutions, English character, and English habits. We never had done, and God forbid we ever should do, things as if we were ashamed of them and obliged to perform them in a corner. The character of the nation was at stake. As long as voting continued open, as it was at present, we had at least some security in the value which every man placed in the good opinion of his neighbour, and in the maintenance of his own character for consistency and truth. Let the House of Commons take away the great sanction of safety and publicity, and it took away one of the strongest ties by which men were bound to the discharge of their public duties. He dreaded as a national calamity, and deprecated as a national disgrace, underhanded, clandestine proceedings; and he should not be frightened from the propriety of that by the un-English prejudice, and what to some persons might seem the charm of novelty. He trusted that in this instance hon. Members would be found staunch to the example of their forefathers, and that they would spare their memories and themselves the degradation of selecting to do that in the dark which their forefathers had done, and inculcated upon them to do, openly and manfully in the face of day.
§ Mr. Ward
was anxious not to give a silent vote on the present occasion. Hitherto he had voted against the introduction of the Vote by Ballot into the electoral system, not because he disapproved of it, but in consequence of his mind not having been made up on the subject. The arguments against that 423 system which had been so ably concentrated, and brilliantly enforced by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down were applied chiefly against the utility of adopting the principle of secresy when that of publicity was the recognised spirit throughout the range of our institutions. He admitted that it did appear to be an anomaly that just at the time we had been extending the franchise—which was to give the very essence of publicity to representation—a measure should be proposed calculated to make the voting secret. The strangeness of this, however, disappeared when it was remembered the danger under which the voter laboured of suffering from coercion. Voters were in the same situation as the subjects of an arbitrary Monarch. Did the hon. Gentleman mean to tell them that if they were in another country, with the unfriendly region of Siberia in the background, that the Ballot might not give protection to a voter and to his family, and shield them from the effects of despotic power? Just in such a situation was the present constituency of this country. The case in favour of the Ballot was not made out by looking at the working of the present system. It was said by the hon. Gentleman that the theory of free representation was the right of every Englishman to give his vote fearlessly in the face of God and his country. But the question arose, can this be done? In the late elections he was convinced that in half the cases where the elective franchise was exercised the voters could not give a conscientious vote without entailing upon themselves and families consequences the most fearful, the voters being equally under control with the serfs in Siberia. With regard to the advantages of open voting, he would first take the situation of those who were tenants at will, created under that clause in the Reform Bill which bore the name of the noble Marquess opposite (Marquess of Chandos). Now in the nature of things as they at present existed, taking into consideration the precarious value of agricultural produce, was it likely the influence possessed by the landlord over the tenant would decrease? But as it was, he would ask any hon. Gentleman acquainted with this class of voters where there could be a set of men more entirely subservient to their landlords than the tenants at will? They were not only dependent, but they were 424 almost the property of the landlord, and to such an extent did this belief obtain that it had been considered highly improper for one landlord of a neighbouring estate to canvass the tenantry of another. This was reducing the people to the level of the villains of the Saxon and Norman times, instead of maintaining them in the sturdy independent state so justly eulogised by the hon. Gentleman opposite. Independence under such circumstances was a mere name, a complete mockery, just as if the Reform Bill had intended to give the great proprietors a number of votes exactly proportioned to the number of their acres, and contemplating that one voter should be a Reformer, because he held property of the Duke of Bedford; and another a Tory, because a tenant of Lord Rolle. To go from the land, and to look at the effects of the same system in the towns and boroughs of the empire, it would be found equally prejudicial. What effect had the open voting on the tradesmen and 10l. householders of those places? He had seen it in fifty instances. The candidate proceeded from house to house, generally in the company of some influential Gentleman in the neighbourhood, who, if the voter proved at all refractory, gently hinted that his custom was worth having, and that if he (the tradesman) did not vote as he (the Gentleman) wished he should have no more of his custom, and that there were other tradesmen more accommodating in the neighbourhood. The Ballot would effectually put an end to that, besides, it would gradually put an end to the system of canvassing, which he thought most desirable. The hon. Member for Derbyshire (Mr. Gisborne) objected to the time at which this Motion was brought forward, but on a question like the present, which was only gradually though surely making its way and acquiring most respectable and influential converts, it was impossible all at once to expect that any Government could be completely united with respect to it. Naturally reluctant to depart from the ancient system many might be, and he had yielded only to conviction. The Ballot might be called an un-English system, but he considered it one by which alone the virtues of Englishmen could be protected and their liberties secured. He wanted to know whether there was not also something substantially un-English and mean in the present system of espionnage 425 which was known to be resorted to even in this city by hired agents, for the purpose of prying into the manner in which individuals may have voted? He had witnessed so much of disgusting coercion in the present system, that, apprehending none of those evils fancied by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House likely to result from the adoption of the Ballot, he was prepared to give his hearty and earnest support to the original motion.
§ Viscount Howick
agreed in thinking it unnecessary to notice most of the arguments, which had been used, and in stating the reasons which induced him to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for the city of London, he should not think it necessary to dwell on the practice of the Ballot being un-English, and of its being immoral; still less should he speak of the legitimate influence, as it was called, of property. He was not one of those who under the name of legitimate influence of property wished to maintain that which he thought a degrading and oppressive tyranny on the electors of the country. With respect to the object said to be aimed at, there could be no possible dispute. What they all wanted was the fairest, the freest, and the most impartial system of election which all things considered, it was in their power to attain. That was so plain that he thought no words were required to prove it though the hon. Member for the city of London had wasted on it many refined and metaphysical arguments. But though the hon. Member had laboured that part of his case much, it was not so with the means of carrying the proposition into effect. In truth, he had been greatly disappointed in the means by which the hon. Member for the city of London proposed to carry into effect the system of secret voting, so as to accomplish the important ends he had in view. The hon. Member seemed altogether to have passed over what formed the whole difficulty of the Question. The hon. Member merely brought forward his resolution in favour of the Ballot, without stating one word as to the machinery by which that system of voting was to be carried into execution; still less had he said one word as to the manner in which the secret voting which he recommended was to prevent fraud and the admission of improper voters. He had sat on many Election Committees, 426 and he must say, if intimidation had existed, the utmost partiality and unfairness had to, at least, as great an extent been complained of on the part of returning officers. The hon. Gentleman had not in the slightest degree provided against that evil. Perhaps it might be said that on the introduction of his Bill, the hon. Member would be prepared with machinery which would prevent fraud, and by which secresy would be effectively enforced; but, apart from that preliminary objection, how was the system of secret voting to prevent all those evils to which so much allusion had been made? The hon. Member had divided his subject into two parts. First, as to intimidation, and, secondly, as to bribery. Intimidation was no doubt carried on at present to a great extent, and particularly among tenants at will. But was it not obvious that if secret voting were established the landlord would exercise all his remaining influence to ascertain the way his tenant voted? And landlords who had now no scruple in having recourse to intimidation would go subsequently to the election, and ask the tenant upon his honour did he, or did he not, vote in such or such a way. He would put a case where a landlord had fifty tenants, and, with strong interest in favour of a candidate, was determined to carry the election. He might give out, and he had the power, that he would punish all those who would not give a positive promise in favour of this candidate. How was it possible to prevent the landlord, subsequent to the election, going round among his tenants and asking them which way they voted. Could they prevent the landlord from adopting such a course if he chose? Perhaps, some might say that there would be no fault in giving a false answer. He would not, however, go into the dangerous metaphysical question whether such a line of conduct would be justifiable or not; but he would say that it would be bad to trust to such a declaration, and it would be a dangerous example to the children and other members of a family if it ever should become the practice for a voter to give a false answer to such a question. Besides, while the Ballot professed to protect the vote, it would deprive the elector of that legitimate influence of character and respectability which was most important of all, and which his openly taking part in an election invariably secured. 427 Much had been said about the intimidation practised during the last election; but he would venture to say that in 1826 the tenant was just as much under the influence of the landlord as at present, and intimidation was carried to as great an extent. But even admitting that intimidation had been practised to a great extent during former elections, he would say that a corrective to the evil was daily gaining ground—namely, public opinion, and candidates were so convinced that it was dangerous and invidious to have recourse to such a practice, that they often found it advantageous to refrain from exercising the power which their property gave them. For himself he could say, that when he had contested the county he had the honour to represent, he had more votes by giving up all influence than others had obtained by undue means, and he was quite convinced, that when that opinion became prevalent, as he had no doubt it would, there would be no occasion for the Ballot. The system of espionage to which the hon. Member for St. Alban's had alluded as connected with the present system, would, in his opinion, be the certain inevitable consequence of the introduction of the Ballot. Its very first effect would infallibly be an organized system of spies to ascertain whether persons voted according to their promises, which would create heart-burnings and jealousies among the lower classes, that must put an end to all social peace and comfort. The hon. Member for Cornwall stated, in support of the Ballot that the party with which he (Lord Howick) acted were, in general, very much worsted at the late election. It was impossible to deny the melancholy fact, that they were so in a great number of cases; but he did not attribute it to the same cause as the hon. Member. It was much more owing to the effect of delusion practised on the minds of the voters than to compulsion. It was the effect of the cry that had been raised—that nothing had been done by the Whig Government for the agricultural interests; and Gentlemen were returned who promised that they would procure the repeal of the Malt-tax. That circumstance went further to explain those defeats than the want of the Ballot. He believed the Ballot would not have made the difference which some Gentlemen seemed to anticipate. The hon. Member for the City of London 428 stated that the Ballot would not only pluck up intimidation by the roots, but throw great embarrassment in the way of those who wished to corrupt the electors. That was an extraordinary argument.
§ Viscount Howick
did not think the Ballot would throw great embarrassment in the way of those who wished to corrupt the electors. So far, indeed, from its having that effect it would tend in a great measure to secure impunity to those who were guilty of bribery. The hon. Member said, that nobody would think of purchasing a vote which he did not know would be given in his favour. But that was not the manner in which bribery to a large extent was carried on. When bribery was to be practised on an extensive scale, it was almost invariably carried on in this manner:—A voter was told, provided such a candidate was returned, he should receive a present fourteen days after the meeting of Parliament, so as to run no risk of a petition being presented: and accordingly a certain number of blank covers with 10l. or 5l. were regularly directed to the electors, for having used their virtuous influence in procuring the return of so incorruptible a Member. Bribery was conditional on the success of the candidate for the most part; and, instead of the Ballot being an obstacle to its practice, it would, in his opinion, very much furnish facilities for it. The House would now probably think that he had dwelt at sufficient length upon the greater and more important effects which the Ballot, if unfortunately it should ever be agreed to, would be likely to produce on the social condition and moral character of the country; he should, therefore, now request their attention to one of the minor advantages which were expected to result from the change contemplated by the hon. Member for the city of London. It was the opinion of that hon. Member that the use of the Ballot would allay political animosity, and that open voting had the effect of exciting private feuds. Its probable efficacy in suppressing those feuds he very much doubted; of its insufficiency to do so for any great length of time he felt pretty nearly assured; but even admitting that there did continue 429 any great degree of animosity after contested elections, he would maintain that even those unpleasant results had much better be encountered than the more dangerous consequences that must ensue from a suppression of opinion. It was notorious that in America the Ballot did not prevent such feuds, and he, therefore, saw none of the advantages which the hon. Member described as its results. It was not without some regret he observed that the opposition of those who with himself differed from the hon. Mover assumed the form which it had done in a Motion of the previous Question. If it had remained with him to decide the way in which it should have been dealt with, he should greatly have preferred to meet it by a direct negative; but, at the same time, he was perfectly ready to acknowledge that, in the reasons urged by the hon. Gentleman who had moved the previous Question, there was considerable weight. There was much force in the remark, that many Gentlemen who fully felt the existing evils would rather wait for a little, and, before they pronounced a decided opinion, make themselves acquainted with the view taken of this subject by the Committee to whose consideration intimidation at elections and bribery were, amongst other subjects, connected with the conduct of elections, referred. That was certainly not an unreasonable wish, and yet he could not help regretting that the previous Question had been moved; and were it not on account of its having the effect of putting the House to the unnecessary trouble of two divisions, instead of one, he should be induced to divide the House first against the Amendment, and afterwards on the main question. The noble Lord concluded by emphatically declaring, that he was decidedly opposed to the plan of voting which had been recommended for their adoption by the hon. Member for the city of London.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
began by adverting to the argument which, by an hon. Member on the other side, had been founded upon the assumption that the Reform Act constituted a final and conclusive measure, that the Government proposing that measure, and the Members of the Legislature by whose votes it had been carried, were bound irrevocably to consider it as a complete and perfect decision, which was never afterwards to be disturbed. Against being 430 so restricted he begged, most unequivocally, to protest. So far from considering the measure of reform a final measure, in that sense of the word, he wished distinctly to declare that he did not, in the least, consider himself bound by it. He had always held, that he remained perfectly at liberty, after having obtained an extension of the franchise, to demand that further privilege, which could alone secure the free exercise of those enlarged elective rights. There were some arguments used on the other side, to which, if any reply were expected, he might undertake to say, that, so far as he was concerned, that expectation would be disappointed. He could scarcely bring himself to think that it would be otherwise than an abuse of the patience and indulgence of the House, if he were to occupy their time with very minutely discussing the arguments, which, in the course of the debate, rested mainly for their value upon quotations, or upon names and dates: he had had experience enough of that House not to put the most implicit confidence in the sort of history which sometimes occupied a prominent part in the discussions of that House. He was not inclined to make an exception from this rule in favour of the quotations of the hon. Member for Reading. He, therefore, should pass by without further notice the emphatic nod which had been referred to, of the hon. Member for Oldham, a quotation from a dialogue of Cicero, with the names of the speakers in which they had not been favoured; and he should take equally little notice of certain passages from American papers, penned amidst all the heat and acrimony of a contested election. The hon. Member for Reading, with that zeal for the Reform Act which now characterized its former opponents, protested against altering it. The hon. Member said, that the Reform Act was a sufficient guarantee for the independence and rights of the electors of England. The hon. Member had asked, what had occurred since the passing of the Reform Act to render necessary any additional guarantee in the shape of the Ballot. He replied,—the experience of two general elections. The result of those two elections showed that the Reform Act was only efficient as a general guarantee for the people against wholesale tyranny on the part of their rulers, but that it was totally unavailing against the influence of intimidation at elections. Were they now to be called on to rest contented with the Reform Act, and to view it as the completion and 431 perfection of legislative wisdom. What! were they so to consider it after two general elections had proved that, without the Ballot, Reform was worse than nothing, or if good for anything, could only operate in times of great excitement, when it might be too late to remedy encroachments upon public liberty and property, which previous intervals of apathy might have facilitated and when the other advantages derivable from an extended suffrage were, at least, problematical? It was the steady, uniform, and equable action of the popular will that they desired, and not those occasional bursts that might sometimes frustrate the very purposes which they were intended to promote. The noble Lord who spoke last, in order (with, he must say, indiscreet zeal) to get up an argument against the Ballot, gave up the popularity of the Ministers. The noble Lord said, that the result of the last election had not been obtained by means of intimidation used by the opponents of the Ministers, but through a species of delusion which happened to prevail throughout the country. Now, in his humble opinion, this was purely an old Tory doctrine which the noble Lord had advanced. "It was not because intimidation was used by the candidates against us that we were beaten," said the noble Lord, "but because we were represented as despoilers of the Church and the friends of Popery." This was the delusion which was kept up, according to the noble Lord's theory. Did he not see, that, by admitting this, he was admitting, with the Tories, that the change at the elections was caused by an expression of the genuine sentiments of the electors, which, however unwise and absurd, must be allowed to be an evidence of public opinion. The noble Lord used the very language of his opponents, not perceiving, what he thought was obvious to all the world, that "delusion" and "sound Conservative feeling" were absolutely convertible terms. The noble Lord had, in particular, referred to the delusion practised in reference to the Malt-tax. What was the real state of the case? It was not that liberal Members were rejected in counties on the occasion of those elections to which the late change in the Administration gave rise, on account of those Members having voted in favour of the Malt-tax, contrary to the expectations of their constituents—that was not the cause of their rejection, but the direct and strenuous exertion of influence possessed by Tory landlords and parsons. Many calling 432 themselves Conservative, had voted for that tax, and, in that respect, they had but little to boast of, but they were re-elected when the clergy and the aristocracy were on their side. It was not against the displeasure of the people, whatever delusions might have been practised, that the liberal candidates had to contend, but against the influence of a portion of the landed aristocracy and the power of the clergy, for whenever the voting proved adverse to popular principles, the cry was, that it proceeded entirely from a sound Conservative feeling; whereas, when it went the other way, the observation made was, that the change arose from the practice of delusion having been detected. If that delusion really existed in the manner in which they had been told it existed, it could not have been so limited in extent; it would have been more generally and uniformly diffused. How would the noble Lord account for the very partial effect of that delusion in Norfolk? How did it occur that whilst the eastern division of the county returned two Tories, the western division returned its old Liberal Members? The solution of the mystery was simply this; that the landed proprietors of the eastern division were chiefly Tories, and that the land of the western division is divided between two very great Whig proprietors. How did it happen that the Members for the northern division of Devon were Whigs, while in the southern division a Whig was replaced by a Tory? The noble Lord could not suppose that the election in the northern division was influenced by the result of the subsequent vote upon the Malt-tax, or by a wise foreknowledge which led the electors to avoid running the risk of being honoured by the services of any representative who was likely to fall a victim to the effects of "inspiration." The result of the two elections shewed that in that county, as has been the case in many others throughout the United Kingdom, the influence of property was omnipotent. If the delusion ever existed, nothing had then occurred to dispel it. It ought to have been as potent in the north as in the south of Devon. He did not know how the noble Lord could account for the difference between districts so near and bodies of men so similar. He would explain it by the fact, that the mass of property in the south of Devon is in the hands of the Tories, and that of the north is in the possession of Reformers; and however convenient inspiration might be in that House, the 433 greatest care seemed to have been taken to prevent tenants from being inspired otherwise than as their landlords might wish. How did the noble Lord, even admitting that delusion prevailed on the subject of the Malt-tax before the last general election, account for the result of the three late elections for three counties of Great Britain? Had any new delusions sprung up which misled the people? Did not the noble Lord know that neither the miserable "No Popery" cry, nor the vote upon the Malt-tax had influenced the minds of the electors on the occasions to which he referred? Had the noble Lord not learned, bitter as might be the mortification of acknowledging it, that the result was produced by the general enmity of the gentry and higher classes to the present Government? And had he not yet learned, too, that the only efficacious means by which the corrupt and sordid influence which had been exercised against that Government could be counteracted, was by giving the people, who were friendly to the Ministry, that protection which would enable them to exercise their franchise with freedom and independence? How did the noble Lord account for these delusions on questions of general politics having prevailed comparatively so little among the more independent electors of our towns, and so generally among those agricultural voters who were subjected to aristocratic influence? The way in which that operated had been curiously exemplified during the late election for South Devon, and an analysis which he had procured of the mode in which the suffrages had been recently given in that place might not be undeserving the attention of the House, from which analysis he trusted it would be sufficiently apparent that it was not the fear of the Pope, but of the landlord and the parson, that influenced the electors. The measure of Reform introduced by the Government of Lord Grey enlarged the franchise in the towns, and gave increased power to the independent voters throughout the country; but there was another great Reformer who about that period stood forward in the Legislature, no less a person than the noble Lord, the Member for Buckinghamshire. He, too, was resolved to try his hand at Reform, and thereupon he was received with the warmest applause by all who had been theretofore considered the most implacable foes of all or any reform. The noble Lord declared himself determined to vindicate the rights of the 50l. leaseholders, and 434 came forward in the noblest manner for that purpose, sustained by the cordial approbation of all the friends with whom he had been in the habit of acting. The statements to which he should now proceed to call the attention of the House contained evidence of the most conclusive and satisfactory kind, to show that the noble Lord opposite, recently a candidate for South Devon, had been rejected by the dependent, and not the independent, portion of the electors: he was rejected by a majority of 627. He was aware that that circumstance would be referred to as a proof that a reaction had taken place in the public mind, and as evidence that a material approach to Toryism had been made throughout the country since the last general election, but he entreated attention to facts. In counties, the persons principally independent of the higher classes and. the parsons were the freeholders. Now, the numbers of the freeholders polled for both candidates were within three of each other, those for the noble Lord being 1,894, while the numbers for the hon. Gentleman were 1,897. The former polled 1,237 leaseholders, while the latter had as many as 1,840; thus the House would see that the sitting Member gained his majority solely by leaseholders. But the analysis was more curious if they looked to particular districts. In the Plymouth district the hon. Gentleman had a majority of fifteen over the noble Lord; but for the latter 340 freeholders polled in this district, and only 246 freeholders supported his opponent; while the noble Lord received but 302 leasehold votes, and the hon. Gentleman 404. Here the majority of independent voters obtained by the noble Lord was beat down by a dependent majority for his opponent. He would next mention Tavistock.—[Cheers.]—He was glad to hear those cheers; they proved that the remarks he had made were not without some force. Hon. Members might think that Tavistock would display facts adverse to liberal principles, while it was exactly the case which best suited the purposes of his argument. He was aiming to establish this truth, that the effect of the Reform Bill was to extend and consolidate the influence of property, and the statements which he held in his hand proved incontrovertibly that it was only where the influence of property came in to the aid of the noble Lord that he could obtain the support of the leaseholders. The state of things in the Tavistock district proved this and nothing less, that the leaseholders that were 435 as dependent as they were elsewhere, for there the noble Lord could command 180 leaseholds, while the hon. Gentleman had only sixty-six. But there were four town parishes in that division of the county which formed a striking contrast to the condition of the rural districts, for there the numbers for the noble Lord were 277, while those for the hon. Gentleman were only 128. In the Exeter district, where Lord Rolle, Sir Thomas Acland, and the dean and chapter possessed great influence—he hoped he might be allowed to call the last mentioned body great Tory landlords—the noble Lord could command only thirty-four leaseholders, yet his opponent had the suffrages of 249. In the district of Honiton, in a parish where the principal landowner was an old and known supporter of the noble Lord's party, every freeholder except one, and that was a clergyman of the parish, voted for the noble Lord. It might, perhaps, be said that Lord John Russell lost his election because he was supposed to be unfavourable to the claims of the agriculturists. Now, it was remarkable that the distresses of the agricultural interests were never so much as mentioned during the election. Besides, their distresses and their claims had too recently been disposed of in the House, and by the Conservative Ministry. Certain it was that the Gentlemen who had so recently been returned to the House for the southern division of the county of Devon never appeared under the engaging and amiable character of the "farmers' friend." The strictly agricultural voters when independent voted for the noble Lord, as in the parishes between Plymouth and Tavistock, where all the voters polled for him, in opposition to the landlords. A very curious case appeared of two parishes in South Devon, which perfectly illustrated the position he had taken in reference to this point. Both these parishes were chiefly inhabited by farmers, who had always been of the same political opinion; and had, consequently, always voted for the same candidate at Elections. One of these parishes was the property of a landlord, and the voters were his tenants; the other was occupied by yeomen, living on their own property, by right of which they Voted. Now, in the first of these parishes at the Election of 1832, every elector voted for the Liberal candidate; but at the last election, the landowner having turned round to Conservatism, all his tenants very obligingly turned with him, and voted for the Tory candidate. In the se- 436 cond parish, on the contrary, all the yeomen voted, as they had been accustomed to do, for the Liberal candidate. After these statements, he thought it was not too much to say that the voters were not sufficiently free according to the present state of the law; for it appeared that when the landlord was a Liberal, they generally supported the Liberal candidate, but when the landlord was a Tory they also voted for the Tory, and if the landlord were to change tomorrow they would, doubtless, change with him. This result could not be said in many cases to arise from any peculiar feeling of fondness or sympathy which existed between the landlord and his tenantry. To illustrate that, he would merely allude to one nobleman, whose name he would not mention, who had resided a great many years abroad, and who had recently died. Under these circumstances it could hardly be said that it was on account of any feeling of sympathy, or any high regard for his virtues on the part of his tenantry, that this nobleman's tenantry all went round with him at the last election. No. The fact was simply this, that the noble landowner was one who did not grant leases to his tenantry, and, therefore, had them effectually under his control. He must confess that he thought the principle of the Ballot had exceedingly good prospects at the present moment. He did not mean to say that the majority of the House was yet in its favour; though it had met with some recruits amongst its Members. The hon. Member for St. Alban's, for one, had that night given the Question his support. He could only say that they were proud of such support. The noble Lord opposite was not yet a convert it was true; but he hoped that the day of his conversion was not far distant. The noble Lord had hemmed the Question round within the narrowest possible limits. He had thrown over all the old Tory dogmas of the legitimate influence of property, and such like, and merely confined himself to the hypothesis that, in practice, the Ballot would not be effective. That was a matter, however, which certainly could not be proved until it had been fairly tried in the country. One of the noble Lord's objections to the Ballot was, that the voter, after all, would not be able to keep his secret—that he would reveal his vote to his wife, or to some pot-house companions, or even that there would be spies set upon him, to discover how he had voted It had even been suggested by the noble Lord that the landlord would boldly de- 437 mand of him how he had voted, and construe his silence, if he refused to reply, into a confession of having voted contrary to his wishes. Now he (Mr. C. Buller) could not believe that the landlords of England would he so base and tyrannical as the noble Lord had pictured them. No doubt, under existing circumstances, the landlord would be willing to use the influence which he found placed in his hands to forward his political views; and, would, if he was thwarted by his tenant, feel inclined to vindicate his wounded dignity. But he could not believe that if the law was altered, and this direct influence taken out of the hands of the landlord, that he would be so base as to employ spies over his tenantry, and listen to the title tattle of a man's wife to find out how he had voted. Now, with respect to bribery, he admitted that the Ballot would not entirely do away with this evil; but he believed that except in cases where candidates were enormously rich or powerful, the Ballot would go a great way towards remedying bribery. No human precaution could prevent the existence of evil, and he should be content with the Ballot if it rendered bribery uncommon by making it enormously expensive. The hon. Member for Reading had referred to the experience of France against the Ballot; but, in his opinion, that was entirely in favour of the Ballot. It was true that during the early period of the Revolution Danton and Robespierre had expressed an opinion against the Ballot. But why? Briefly because the demagogues who tyrannised over the people did not choose the voice of the country to be heard. In 1795, however, the Ballot was adopted, not from any improvement in the two men he had mentioned in the arts of revolution, for they had been dead for two years, but from the progress of improvement, and it told much in favour of the Ballot that France immediately afterwards made a rapid advance towards a tolerable system of representative government. Again, as to the supposition that the landlord would wring the truth from the tenant as to how he had voted, he should be told he knew that the tenant would have no other refuge against the landlords questions than falsehood. Admitting that it brought him to the question of the immorality of the Ballot, and he apprehended no more danger to public morals from giving the tenant a power to save himself by an untruth, than there now was from indulging in any of those harmless evasions which might be 438 traced in every part of society. He believed that if it were to be established by law that a lie in such a case should be justifiable, no more fault would attach to the man who uttered it, in reply to an impertinent or tyrannical question, than to the servant who, by custom of society, says that his master is not at home, when in reality he is in the house. He did not suppose that the dependant voter would be so garrulous as some Gentlemen expected. Electors had in many instances been known to keep their own secret before their votes were given, there was little danger of their indiscretion afterwards, when so much would depend upon their silence. He had known several instances of a man, whose mind appeared to have been thoroughly made up all the time, from the readiness with which he subsequently gave his vote, yet, nevertheless, so cautious of precipitating a discovery which might momentarily compromise him, that it was utterly impossible, up to the very day of polling, for anybody to make out on which side he meant to vote. He could not, therefore, conceive, that the same class of men would be guilty of indiscretion, when so much might depend on their silence. He believed that the landlord who should endeavour to extort promises or information from such persons, would run great risk of being deceived; and he said again, that falsehoods uttered with the necessary and justifiable purpose of enabling a voter to discharge his duty to the public, would not diminish the own self-esteem of that voter, or degrade him in the eyes of his fellow men. But the question was not settled by establishing, that certain immoralities would be the consequence of secret voting; the question was, from which of the two do the worst evils result; from open voting, or from concealment? The advocates of open voting could not endure these modes of viewing the subject; their hearts always rose at the glorious prospects which the practice of open voting presented; when they saw electors drunk and rioting, they laid their hands on their hearts and said, that was English freedom, that proved the proud superiority of Britain, and how one Englishman was able to beat ten Frenchmen. He would now come to some of the advantages of the Ballot; it would, in the first place, be incompatible with Tory domination; it would free the voter from the double intimidation to which he was at present subjected, for he was generally threatened and solicited by both parties. He remembered 439 in the small borough which he had the honour to represent, having on one occasion devoted half an hour in endeavouring to persuade an elector to vote against him (Mr. C. Buller) fearing the man might vote for him, in consequence of any influence he might have over him. [Laughter] He did not understand that laugh. He supposed the hon. Gentleman who uttered it thought it to be an impossibility that a man should be so conscientious, or have a disinterested regard for the feelings of another. But he would reduce the whole matter quite to their level, and render it perfectly intelligible to them. The fact was, he was already assured of a majority of 200, and therefore the House would not overrate his magnanimity. He must add that it was an occasion on which forbearance, or, perhaps, generosity, was necessary. Intimidation before, and persecution after, had been practised by the vanquished party; and had not his friends forborne to exercise retaliation, in consequence of the good humour natural to victory, that town would have been in a state which it would be terrible to think of. The same was, he was convinced, the condition of all the other towns similarly circumstanced in England. There was one other great recommendation of the Vote by Ballot. If it were adopted elections would be less under the influence of popular excitement and public agitation than at present. He was not favourable to agitation when carried beyond the necessary limits. The liberal party in that House, and in the Government, knew that a great majority of the property and station of the country was against them, and that they had an active and zealous clergy to contend with also. To counteract this double influence they were obliged to have recourse to agitation, and to excite the people to the highest pitch for the purpose of inducing them to preserve their political rights. If the Ballot existed there would be nothing of this. The party in the State which felt most secure, in a consciousness of its purity, and the consequent support of the people, would refrain from all agitation and excitement, and thus these dangerous political intruments would come to be disused altogether. His hon. Friend had been taunted with bringing forward his Motion in the present state of public feeling; but his hon. Friend had a much truer perception of the great importance of the question it involved, as well as a much more proper appreciation of public feeling 440 on the subject than those who taunted him. He was perfectly convinced of the great magnitude of the evil, and the perfect character of the remedy proposed by his hon. Friend; and he also believed that, notwithstanding everything that had been done in the way of Reform, the public would hail this guarantee against oppression as the greatest boon of all. No man who hated persecution, who felt disgusted with the profligacy daily witnessed at elections, who wished, well to the institutions of the country, and who desired their improvement rather than their destruction, could do otherwise than wish well to this question, and give his every effort to free this popular arm of freedom from the chains with which it was now shackled. Give the people the Ballot, and he did not believe they would feel uneasy about anything else. However luscious the fruits which any Ministers might spread before their gaze, they had sense enough to prefer to all of them the key of the garden-gate, and the power of helping themselves.
§ Mr. Barlow Hoy
rose to explain. In reference to some expressions which had fallen from an hon. Member respecting the power which the Government would acquire by the Ballot, he begged to state that so long as individuals could return thirty or forty Members to that House, and as long as the 10l. franchise existed in towns, there was nothing to dread from the power of the Government.
Mr. Milnes Gaskell
said, that he should have been perfectly content to leave this Question in the hands of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Russell) and of the noble Lord (Lord Howick) if he had not felt it to be one upon which every man that was possessed of honourable feelings was fully competent both to form and express an opinion, inasmuch as, notwithstanding all that had fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for London (Mr. Grote), notwithstanding all the ingenuity and ability which had been shown by his hon. Friend, the Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller,) he could not remove from his mind the impression under which he had entered the House, and under which he was prepared to vote against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, that there was something in the very act of voting by ballot, which was inconsistent with the habits of manliness and fair-dealing which had hitherto characterised the people of this country. Now, 441 the first part of the speech of his hon. Friend, who had just sat down, (Mr. C. Buller,) he would altogether pass by; he agreed with him that an immense majority of the wealth and property of the country was opposed to the present Administration: upon that point they were entirely agreed, although they differed as to the causes of its unpopularity, and differed also in regretting it. The arguments which his hon. Friend had subsequently advanced, as well as those of the Member for London, appeared to him to resolve themselves into these: first, that the Vote by Ballot would operate as a check upon bribery, and secondly, that it would prevent intimidation. Now, first with respect to bribery. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that an open and undisguised traffic in votes could not be carried on with as much facility under the proposed system, as it was under the present one; but he was not prepared to admit that the gross amount of bribery would be at all diminished. The hon. Gentleman had himself admitted that wholesale and irresponsible bribery would not only remain practicable, but entirely unaffected by his Bill: his Mr. (Gaskell's) belief was, that it would be greatly increased, because the receipt of the bribe would be made conditional on the return of the candidate, and rendered, by that very circumstance, much more difficult of detection. His own belief was, that though there might not be so many positive sales and purchases of votes as there were now, the power of money would exercise a more dangerous, and a more destructive influence, than it had ever done, when Parliament had consented to supersede every better feeling and principle which was founded on the relation of landlord and tenant. But even if the hon. Gentleman's object could partially be attained, and the substitution of secret for open voting would tend to operate as a check against bribery, still surely it would not follow that the substitution should take place, unless the hon. Gentleman could also show that it would not be attended with a moral degradation, baser and more demoralising than bribery, and with the organization and extension of a system of fraud and duplicity, which would be more than sufficient to countervail every advantage that he proposed to derive from this change. Then, with respect to intimidation. He hoped that 442 he was as little disposed as any man in that House, to say a single word in favour of the oppressive exercise of power, or to contend that the abuse of so high, and so important a trust, as that of property, was one which should be lightly passed over: but the hon. Gentleman could not check the disposition to use power oppressively: that remained unchecked by his Bill; and as long as it did remain unchecked, surely it was in vain to suppose that he could prevent the power from being exercised. The only difference would be, that ejectments would take place upon suspicion, instead of upon proof, and then not only would the individual cases of hardship be far more severe than they were now, but the moral evil arising from ejectment, beyond computation greater, from the constant jealousy and irritation which a system, founded upon distrust, must engender. Under the present system, an independent voter was sustained by the whole weight of public opinion; but the hon. Gentleman was going to suppress public opinion altogether—for how was it possible that public opinion could exist under a system in which men were afraid to discuss the fulfilment of their public duties, and afraid to avow the motives which had governed them in the execution of a public trust? He knew it was often said, that a landlord had no right to exercise irresponsible power: but if he had not, what more right had a voter? Both the vote and the property were trusts, and he had yet to learn that the elective franchise was a trust of less importance, or of less responsibility than property; and if it was a trust, surely it was conferred for the public benefit, and the public had a right to know how it was exercised; they had a right to know whether a trust which had been conferred for their advantage, had been exercised for their advantage too. He ventured, also, to claim for the Members of that House, the right to know by whom their public conduct was approved, and by whom it was disapproved. He claimed, also, for himself the right to know whether, in the event of an unsuccessful contest, he remained supported by the wealth, the independence, and the intelligence of the constituency which had sent him to that House. If the elective franchise was not a trust, then he should be glad to know upon what principle Parliament had consented to pass so many Bills of disfranchisement during the 443 last few Sessions?—upon what ground they had consented to suspend the writ for Stafford the other day?—upon what ground had the 40s. freeholders of Ireland been disfranchised in 1829?—and, above all, upon what possible principle had the Reform Bill itself been passed? Surely, upon the admitted principle that the elective franchise was a trust—and if men were to be enabled to exercise this trust in secret—if the protection of secrecy was to be added to the possession of power—and every voter throughout the land was to be invested with an authority which was not only absolute, but irresponsible—why, Gentlemen might say what they pleased about the harshness and the tyranny which prevailed now, but he must venture to think that, under the system which they recommended, we should be living under a tyranny of a much more debasing and much more dangerous description. Certainly, if all voters were free from the operation of human motives, as some Gentlemen seemed to imagine, and if all landlords were monsters of cruelty, the Ballot might be desirable. If the gentlemen of England were the tyrants which the hon. Baronet, the Member for Cornwall (Sir William Molesworth) had represented them, and it was necessary that they should be hunted down as men that were incapable of appreciating the civil institutions of their country, he could understand the argument on which their debasement was sought for; but if Gentlemen disclaimed the inference, they should renounce the argument. The hon. Gentleman, he thought, had taken a very prudent course in declining to quote any authorities in support of his proposition. With authorities, the hon. Gentleman himself had told them, that he would have nothing to do. He would, perhaps, however, allow him (Mr. Gaskell), to remind him of Mr. Canning's definition of tyranny, and to ask him, whether he did not think that the Ballot would secure its prevalence? "Tyranny," Mr. Canning said, "was irresponsible power, and this definition of it was equally true, whether the power was lodged in the hands of one or of many. Idle, therefore, and absurd to talk of freedom, where a mob domineered!" It was the opinion of Mr. Burke, that private honour was the best foundation of public trust, and that the adequate discharge of social duties was in itself no mean step towards patriotism. Mr. Burke, therefore, 444 must have been one of the foremost opponents of a change which took away so many incentives to the discharge of those duties, and made public trust a thing altogether apart from private considerations. He was not aware that the subject had been much canvassed till within of late years, but he felt sure that if it had, there would have been no end to the reprobation that would have been cast upon it by the great men of our own times, and by those who had gone before them—at least they had the advantage of knowing that all the great authorities of ancient times were arrayed against it: the hon. Member for Reading had truly told them, that Cicero had dated the downfall of the Roman empire from the introduction of the Ballot, and he, (Mr. Gaskell) could further inform the worthy Doctor who represented Kilmarnock (Dr. Bowring), that Pliny also had held a similar opinion. He knew that there was another argument in support of the Ballot, which was derived from the practice of other countries, and that France and the United States were instanced as examples of what this country might become under the proposed system. Now, he was not going to inquire whether the Ballot worked well in those countries or did not—the hon. Member for Reading, he thought, had very conclusively shown, that it did not; but in his (Mr. Gaskell's) opinion, there was a much shorter and a much simpler answer to this argument than any which could be founded on an inquiry into the practice of other countries. That answer was, that they were not legislating for a Republic. There might be some Gentlemen who were prepared so to legislate, but, thank God, the people of England were not yet ripe for a Republic, and not prepared to borrow their electoral code from Republican institutions. If they looked to the history of the past, they would find, that wherever the Vote by Ballot had prevailed there, bribery and intimidation had prevailed also; that in Rome, for example, no sooner was the Ballot introduced, than bribery and intimidation became extended and systematized; and that in the secret conclaves of Venice, fraudulent Balloting prevailed to so enormous an extent, that it was found necessary to punish a first offence with six years' imprisonment, and a second offence with death. They would remember, too, what was of much more importance than this—that their present system of open 445 voting, which the hon. Member for London had called upon the House to discard, had secured to them through a long series of years, a better and an abler Representative body than any country in the world ever enjoyed—that it had ensured both safety to property, and freedom to discussion—that under this calumniated system, power had been met at every turn by right—arbitrary will kept in check by habits and customs—by a spirit of resistance always active and vigilant—and by that inherent jealousy of encroachments, which was at once the natural result of our freedom, and the best preservative of our independence and our power.
§ Mr. Richards
congratulated the hon. Member who had sat down on the eloquence of his observations, and stated that he had never heard such a promising speech from so young a Member during his experience of that House. He should explain briefly why he meant to give his vote against, instead of for, the Motion of the hon. Member for London. At the election for Knaresborough, he was himself a severe sufferer from the want of the protection which the Ballot would afford against intimidation and persecution of all kinds. Letters had been sent from London to the Whig nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood to vote and influence the votes of their tradespeople and dependants in favour of the Whig candidate and against him. Their servants were in consequence sent out in all directions, and many electors of the town were from that reason prevented from giving him their votes. The tradesmen were especially obnoxious to that influence. All which he could have verified upon oath, if necessary.—Smarting under the effects of this course of conduct on the part of his opponents, he confessed that, in the moment of soreness and irritation he had leaned to the opinion that a protection was necessary; and he had therefore promised his friends to give the subject his best consideration. He had, however given them no promise; because, as he then alleged, he was afraid he might commit him self rashly, while his better judgment was under the influence of a natural feeling of resentment. So much he felt bound to say in explanation of the vote he was about to give upon this question. He should next offer his reasons for that vote. It was quite impossible not to give the utmost credit for good, intentions to his hon. 446 Friend, the Member for London, in bringing forward the Question before the House, and to believe otherwise that he did it from a most pure and philosophic conviction of its probable utility. The Motion before the House, however, divested of all its extraneous matter, appeared to him, (Mr. Richards) to resolve itself into the simple question—was it right or safe to take away the political influence at present possessed and exercised by property, and confer it on the democracy? He thought answering it in the affirmative would be dangerous in the last degree to property—to the social institutions of the country—and even to the democracy itself. It would be the fertile and certain source of violation of all law and order—of anarchy—of destruction of life and property—and lead most decidedly and directly to bloodshed and plunder. Scenes would be enacted in the country such as men shuddered to read of elsewhere. These consequences had been overlooked by the hon. Member for London. There was one argument which might be strongly urged against the Question, the absence of all necessity for it.—Twenty years since he(Mr. Richards)might have willingly adopted the Utopian notions of his hon. Friend, the Member for London; but the experience of that period of time had made him desirous of leaving well alone. Twenty years' experience of the blessings and prosperity of the country under those institutions, made him look with great jealousy upon any attempt to alter them; and he was convinced that in their protection every individual might enjoy all the liberty,—political, commercial, and social—which a reasonable man could desire. The effect of innovation in established institutions was dreadful. In France the first act of the Convention was extending the franchise to all who paid taxes. What was the consequence? Why, that the highest promise and most reckless daring obtained the representation of the country, and that ultimately the poissardes of Paris came to be the dictators of all constituencies within their influence or reach. This became so obvious to the French people, that after the lapse of a long period, when in 1822 they remodelled the Electoral colleges, to provide against the too general diffusion of the franchise they devised the mode of the double vote. But even that, too, they found ineffectual. With respect to the United States of America, he should say, 447 that if ever there was a country in the world in which it might be safe to give supreme power to the democracy it was in that. Yet what was the fact? The interference of the democracy was found to be so troublesome, not alone in elections, but to the Legislative Assembly, that a Member of the Legislature, Dr. Woollaston, a Counsellor and a Secretary of State, had stated broadly that there was the greatest danger; that it would ultimately subvert the Government, endanger life, and destroy all order and stability in the State. If that was like to be the result in America what might not England expect if the democracy obtained the ascendancy. The history of the proceedings of the mob at Bristol—the dreadful recital of the conflagration—the murders and the robberies of that melancholy period answered the Question, and proved what was to be expected if the mob again acquired power.
§ Lord John Russell
promised the House that he would not imitate the example of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Richards), who, in his unconsciousness that the subject was to be brought under the notice of the House that night, had resorted to America and France for topics of discussion, the noble Lord then proceeded to the following effect:—I shall not enter, Sir, into all those subjects to which the hon. Gentleman has adverted; but what I shall feel it my duty to address to the House I shall address as directly as possible to the question now before it, and I will in the first place notice what my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Buller) stated in the commencement of his very able and argumentative speech—namely, that he did not conceive himself bound, in voting for the Reform Bill, o refrain from voting at any subsequent period in favour of the adoption of Vote by Ballot. Sir, I have only to say upon that subject, that in bringing forward the Question of Reform, I stated to the House that I considered the Questions of Vote by Ballot and the duration of Parliaments should be entirely distinct and separate subjects, upon which either those who brought forward the Reform Bill, or those who gave that measure their support, must subsequently take such a line of conduct, as upon consideration, might seem to them the best and the most proper to be pursued. But I added, with reference to the Vote by Ballot, that I hoped Parliament would long pause be- 448 fore they vested in any set of persons an irresponsible power; lest, while by introducing a system of secret voting, they prevented bad influence over the good they might, at the same time, prevent the exercise of good influence over the bad. Now, Sir, the sentiments I expressed at that time are very little different from the sentiments I entertain at the present moment—sentiments which I must say have not been at all changed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for London (Mr. Grote); for my hon. Friend having pointed out the method by which Vote by Ballot might be secured, and having endeavoured to obviate the objections raised by my noble Friend the Member for Northumberland (Lord Howick), as to complete secrecy being ensured by any mode or machinery that might be adopted, applied himself to an argument which has been frequently urged against this mode of voting—namely, that after all, the landlords, and those who wished to exert influence over the voters, would be able to find out the way in which their tenants and dependents intended to vote, and consequently be enabled to exert the same influence as heretofore. To this argument my hon. Friend gave two answers, and two answers which, I think, show that we have not yet sufficient grounds to abandon the old method of voting, and to adopt one that is entirely new. "I own," so said my hon. Friend "we must trust to the forbearance of the landlords." Why, Sir, what is it we trust to at present. To what do we trust at present for the preservation to tenants and dependents of their right of voting? We trust to nothing else than to the forbearance of the landlords. It would seem, indeed, that we were content with taking very bad precautions, if we were to adopt this new line, this untried measure, when the only security we are to obtain after all, is the security we have at present—the confident expectation that the landlords would not be tyrannical; that they would not endeavour to search and seek out the mode in which their tenants voted; that they would not attempt, in short, to exercise any tyrannical or undue influence over them. Now, Sir, I am not one of those who are disposed to deny that there is at present in many places an undue—I will say in some cases a tyrannical—influence exercised over voters; and am not one of those who agree with the hon. Member 449 who has just sat down (the Member for Knaresborough), that it is proper, in order to prevent the influence of demagogues, that the rights of property should extend so far as to constrain a man to give his vote, which he ought to give fairly and impartially, in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience, according to the opinions of another. But, Sir, I entertain a considerable degree of confidence that the influence which is, as I say, sometimes tyrannically exercised, will not, in the course of time and with the progress of opinion, be so exerted. I trust now to the remedy which the hon. Gentleman still proposes to trust to, even after the Ballot shall be established. I trust to a certain degree of forbearance; I trust to a certain degree of shame on the part of those who have the power to exercise influence over voters; and as he says they will not endeavour to find out the way in which a man has voted when he has given his vote secretly, so I say that now the probability is, that as public opinion gains ground, and the people of England have the power of choosing their representatives generally, the exercise of that power in particular instances will become odious and will be generally abhorred. My hon. Friend has stated, and stated most truly, that considerable influence was exercised at the late Devonshire election; and I must say, that, in many instances, that exercise was most painful to me, both on behalf of the men who voted for and against me: knowing as I did, that many persons voted in my favour at a very great sacrifice, at a very great risk of their own personal interests, and under direct threats of intimidation. But, Sir, the question is, whether this is a power which is generally exercised. I will only mention, on the other hand, that at the former Devonshire election, although I was opposed, and very warmly opposed, the same degree of influence was not exercised. There were persons who had even served on my committee at the former election, who were obliged at this late election, after serving on my committee again for some days, to turn against me just previous to the day of nomination. Sir, this shows that the influence exercised upon the occasion was no ordinary degree of influence; it was not that ordinary degree of influence which is generally used at elections, but it was thought that it was an occasion on which a great triumph might 450 be obtained. An exaggerated importance was attached by the party opposed to me in gaining the victory. There were many who thought that the gaining that victory would be a triumph to the cause in which they were all embarked; there were many who supposed that sinecures in the Irish Church ought to be preserved, in which some of their friends were interested. There were many who were so sanguine as to think that all the abuses of the Church and of the Corporations would be kept up if they were but successful in gaining a triumph on that occasion. They undoubtedly attached a very false and exaggerated importance to that election, but it is to the existence of that exaggerated importance that I attribute their using that degree of influence which never had been used at any former Devonshire election within my knowledge—a degree of influence which I will say the landlords are not accustomed to use in elections generally throughout the kingdom. I will further acknowledge my belief to be, that if the Reform Bill be allowed to go on without any great change being made in its provisions, its tendency is to establish freedom of election. I believe that cases of the exercise of this undue influence will be rare and unfrequent after a few years; and although I am far from saying, that after passing that Reform Bill we should never pass any other measure having reference to elections, yet I do think it is not too much, to ask that after a great change of that description—a very great constitutional change—we should pause for a time and see whether it does not produce the effects which we originally anticipated from it, and which I must say it has to a very great extent already conferred. But there was another argument used by my hon. Friend, which appeared to me deserving of some notice. My hon. Friend said, that although the landlords might endeavour to find out how their tenants and dependants voted, the latter would have no difficulty, and feel no scruple in uttering a falsehood to screen themselves, and that the landlords would be thus foiled in their object. Now, Sir, I cannot say, without speaking with very false cant upon the subject, that the question of the adoption of vote by ballot comes recommended to me very highly when I find its first and steadiest advocate telling me and the House that the consequence of its adoption will be that a 451 great portion of the voters throughout the country, in reply to a question connected with the election of their reprefentatives in Parliament, will return for answer a direct falsehood. But, Sir, my belief is, I will fairly say, that the electors of this country will return no such answer. I believe that the Ballot will have no such effect. My opinion is that in every village in the country inquiry will be made how a man has voted, and that the voters will have very little difficulty or hesitation in stating the truth; as I believe that this will be their disposition and inclination, so I believe that they will have very nearly the same sphere in which to give a vote in opposition to the opinion of their landlords as they have now. But, Sir, there is another point of view touched upon by my hon. Friend, the Member for Northumberland, in which I think the Vote by Ballot is likely to produce injurious effects, I mean with respect to bribery. I cannot but think that it will be far more easy, when there can be no scrutiny into votes, and when you will have no right to inquire how this man voted or how that man voted, to practise bribery wholesale; and that a man who would be inclined to take a bribe now, but would be restrained by the fear of doing so, would not feel the same fear when he had an opportunity of receiving a bribe with impunity. But, Sir, while I thus think that the mode of voting by Ballot does not come so strongly recommended to the House as to induce me to adopt so very great a change, I must at the same time consider that it is a change which is at variance with all our common habits and with all our political and constitutional system. In all other institutions a different course is adopted. Take our Courts of Justice for example. The Judge pronounces his opinion in open Court; the deliberations of the Jury, to be sure, are secret, but then they are obliged to be unanimous; so that it cannot be said that there is any great difference of opinion among them. Then if you look to Parliament, you will find that although there be meetings of party, still the deliberations of Parliament, when we come to discuss great questions, are open and public, and the conduct of the Representatives of the people is known to them. It is the same thing with regard to the Executive Ministers of the Crown; they may deliberate in secret; but if they have 452 any measure to propose, or any act to do, that act or that measure is openly known and openly opposed, and they stand, and must stand or fall by the result of the discussion of its merits. Well, then, Sir, it is the practice, the general practice, and I will say, the wholesome practice of this country, that all persons exercising authority—whether they are exercising it in trials over the life and liberty of their fellow-subjects—whether they are exercising it with regard to great legislative measures—or whether they are exercising it with reference to great legislative authority—do all act under the responsibility of the vigilant control of public opinion. They are all acting in the public sight, in the broad daylight, and before all the world; and this circumstance, I believe, affords the best check upon all their actions—the best defence for the good government of this country,—and the best security for its good order and well-being. It is proposed, then, in this instance alone,—in the solitary instance of the election of Members of Parliament,—that, the act of voting should be one of secrecy—one which should be hidden, from the the world and human observation—one for the exercise of which no man should be responsible, and into the exercise of which no man should have a right to inquire. I must say, that without the fullest proof of necessity,—unless I am forced to it by necessity,—unless I am convinced that there is no other mode by which men can give their votes fairly and deliberately,—I am not disposed to adopt this plan of secrecy; I would rather leave the voters of this country—to whom I believe their high and important trust is most properly confided—like persons exercising other powers of a similar description, to vote before the world; and I do believe that, in the end, the result must be, that there will be a free election of Members of Parliament. I do believe that, even at present, imperfect as the result of the Reform Bill may be in some instances, this House is now the fair Representative of the people of this country. Sir, entertaining these opinions, I shall undoubtedly vote for the previous Question, which has been moved by the hon. Member; and even if he had submitted no such Motion to the House, I must say, I should most undoubtedly have voted for negativing the Motion of my hon. Friend.
said, he would not trouble 453 the House with more than a few observations upon a subject that had been discussed over and over again, until it had been worn threadbare. He could not but confess that he rejoiced at the declaration he had just heard from the noble Lord, for the speech the noble Lord had just delivered had afforded to his mind the satisfactory assurance that it was the settled purpose of the present Government of Lord Melbourne, as it had been the determination of the Government of Earl Grey, to resist the introduction into that House of any measure establishing the Vote by Ballot at elections. If he were satisfied with the tone of the speech of his noble Friend, he must confess that he was the more surprised at the course which the noble Lord had adopted on this occasion. He should have thought that the noble Lord, having made up his mind consistently with the pledges that had been given upon the subject by Earl Grey, and in accordance with those pledges that had been given by Lord Althorp on the introduction of the Reform Bill—that the noble Lord having made up his mind to resist all future encroachments upon the Constitution, he would have pursued a course more consistent with the greatness of the subject, and have deemed it more expedient to set the Question at once at rest by a direct negative. This would have been more eligible than, by moving the previous Question, to induce the House to come to a decision inconsistent with the grounds on which the case was really resisted. In the year 1833, in the year 1834, there had been no such hesitation in meeting this Question. Immediately after he had felt it his painful duty to quit the Government of which Earl Grey was the head, his Lordship had thought it necessary in the House of Lords to express broadly and decidedly his sentiments with respect to the general policy he had pursued, and especially with respect to the great measure of Parliamentary Reform. He had said that in introducing the Reform Bill he had thought it right to make the measure extensive, in order that he might take his stand on it, and consider it as a final measure. This was not the first time that the Question of the Ballot had been introduced into the discussions of that House, and by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for the City of London. But how was the measure met by Earl Grey in 1833—by the previous question? No; he met it on by a far 454 higher principle of consistency and honour. Did he meet it upon the ground of the pledges that had been given by one side of the House, and received by the other—on the ground that those who had supported and those who had opposed Reform had reserved to themselves the Question of the Ballot? No; Earl Grey met the Question on a higher principle of, honour. He did not resort to the previous Question; he met it by the direct negative, and was supported by a great majority of the House, by a majority of more than two to one. He would refer to Lord Althorp's words on that occasion, and then let the House consider the determined manner in which he had met the Question. Lord Althorp had said, and he appealed to every Gentleman who heard it. And he begged the House to recollect that Lord Althorp said, that when the Motion in favour of the Ballot was brought forward by the hon. Member for the City of London, who had made the Motion now pending before the House, and on that occasion the leader in that House of Earl Grey's Government, the leader of the first Reformed Parliament, said, that although his private opinion was in favour of the Ballot, he felt that, in point of honour and duty, he was bound to meet the Motion, not with the previous Question, but with the direct negative. Lord Althorp then said, "He (Lord Althorp) appealed to every Gentleman who was in the last Parliament, and who knew the whole proceedings whilst the Question of Reform was going on, whether the promoters of that measure did not contend that as far as the representation of the people was concerned, it was to be considered, and was proposed, as a final measure."* He (Lord Stanley) might be told that this pledge did not include the Ballot, but he would reply that Lord Althorp's speech was delivered in opposition to the Motion in favour of the Vote by Ballot. The noble Lord then added, "But if he were now to vote with the hon. Member for the City of London, he should be acting more inconsistently with every thing he had stated during the whole progress of the measure of Reform." The pledge given by Earl Grey's Government, in his opinion, was not less in force because two short Sessions had elapsed since it had been given. He knew that his noble Friend* Hansard (third series) vol. xvii. p. 657.455 (Lord John Russell) felt the objection not less strong upon him, than it had been on Lord Grey and Lord Althorp, although he had been deluded into adopting a mode of proceeding which was certainly not the most high-minded. Why, he asked, was not the present a fit time for discussing the Question of the Ballot? When could the time be fitter? The previous Question, according to Parliamentary forms, was only moved when it was not deemed expedient to bring into discussion some great principle of important consequences; but the present Question had been duly gone into, and he was unwilling that the country should be kept in suspense upon the subject. The House might at that moment go into all the facts and merits of the case, as well as it had done in 1833, or as it could by any possibility do in 1837. He had great doubts how far he could accede to any proposition, which implied that circumstances did not allow the Question to be settled at the present instant. The Question was deemed most important to all county voters; it gave rise to great anxiety and it was a Question, moreover, on which his noble Friend told the House that his mind, and the minds of his Colleagues, were most distinctly made up. Why then was not the question met with the direct negative? If his noble Friend were a convert to the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, he could then understand his shrinking from coming to a discussion; but if it were true that he remained unconvinced, let him at once declare to the House his mind, and let the country know what were the feelings of the Ministers. For his part, he (Lord Stanley) would not enter into the Question of the South-Devon Election. The learned Member for Liskeard had entered pretty elaborately into an analysis of the votes, and had told the House, that of the householders and freeholders, the majority of the householders had voted for his noble Friend, but that the scale had been turned by Tory magistrates, Tory landlords, and the Tory clergy. He was certain that the hon. and learned Gentleman had said that the result of the election did not speak the opinions and principles of the inhabitants of Devon—that it did not speak the real opinions of the people—but that it spoke only the influence exercised over the people by Tory magistrates, Tory landlords, and a Tory clergy. If this were the fact, all he (Lord Stanley) wanted to know was, 456 how all these people had been so changed since the previous election. There were at the last election the same landlords, the same clergy, the same magistrates, that there had been at the election that had taken place only a year before. ["No, no, no!"] Did Gentlemen cry "No, no?" What, then, in the interval had there been such great transfers of landed property in the county of Devon? He believed that there had been at both elections, the same clergy—the same incumbents of the same livings—the same persons in the Commission of the peace—and the same landlords, holding the same properties. Surely the different results of the two elections must have been occasioned by some change in the conduct, some alteration of policy in his noble Friend—for the clergy, landlords, and magistrates, possessed no more influence at the last election than they had done at the preceding election. He apprehended that something had occurred in the interval of the two elections, which operated upon the feelings of all those who were masters of that influence over electors, which had been the topic of discussion. The hon. and learned Member for Liskeard had said that it was desirable at elections, to do away with the influence of property, and that the Ballot would effect that object. He (Lord Stanley) would meet the learned and hon. Gentleman on both of those points. He would maintain that it was not desirable to do away with the influence of property at elections—very far from it; and if it were desirable, he would maintain that the Ballot would not effect that object. His noble Friend, the Member for Northumberland, had answered all the grounds upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman had discussed the Question. He (Lord Stanley) would throw overboard all that had been said about the Ballot being un-English, and he would consider the Question in its consistency and relation to the practice and spirit of the Constitution, and to the Reform Bill of Lord Grey, who, in discussing that Bill, had laid down the principle that wealth and landed property should have, and ought to have, their due influence. In elections, the electors doubly represent the non electors as well as themselves, and the constituency, as well as the Member returned, have equal and ascertained duties, and he as a Representative had as much right to know who his constituency were, and whether they approved or dis- 457 approved of his conduct, as they had a right to know of him what his conduct had been in that House. He thought it not only a trust but a duty—he considered it not only a privilege but a duty; and that it was essential to him as a public man to point out to the country and the people, those electors who had changed their opinions, whether from private, public, or other motives. He claimed a right to that publicity as a Member of Parliament, as well as his constituency did to know his public conduct, and how he had represented them and the country at large. He had never disguised those views of the Question from his constituents. Whether he had sat for places, as he had done, where such opinions were popular, or where they were unpopular, he had always stated openly that it was best for the Constitution that publicity should be given to the conduct of every man who had a voice in the State whether he belonged to the higher or less humble classes. It was said, that Vote by Ballot was un-English; it was so with respect to the way public duties were discharged. America had been mentioned. Let them look to America, to which country he had paid a short visit; and, from what he saw of the Ballot, he must say, that he did not consider it an efficient preventive against bribery and corrupt practices at elections. At all elections in America, the votes, though taken by Ballot, were as public, as notorious, and as much jobbed for as they were in this country. He happened lately to receive a letter from a young friend now travelling in America, who was a gentleman of a liberal family, and educated on liberal principles. As the letter was a private one he had no right to mention the name of the author, but he would read an extract from it containing the opinions of the writer on the Ballot and Universal Suffrage. "What a pity," says the writer, "you cannot ostracise one of the followers of the doctrines of Mr.—(he would say Mr. Blank, as he did not wish to mention names), and let him see the working of the Ballot and Universal Suffrage in this country. Treating, bribery, and jobbing, are the consequences of the former, and scenes of tumult and violence arise out of the latter. I have not" continued the writer "found one eminent lawyer or Statesman in this country who does not, as regards England, lean to the Conservative side more or less. Federalists, 458 Nullifiers, Whigs, and Jacksonians, all agree in saying, for Heaven's sake take care of what you are about in England. We know the practical effects of Vote by Ballot, Universal Suffrage, Annual Elections, and mob force. I send you this information, having been brought up a good Whig, but I verily believe, had I come here a radical I should have returned to England a Tory." He had received this letter from Washington; the writer had been present at the sittings of Congress, and the above was the view he took of the working of the Ballot, and of Universal Suffrage. With respect to having the votes kept secret, the Ballot would be a simple and easy remedy, provided all parties were agreed on observing secrecy. But the moment you had the Ballot the elector would have set in against him all the influence and scrutiny of family and other private connexions; he would have to contend against Conservative Clubs, and the prying of Reform associations, all of whom would be inclined to discover how he had voted. Set all this against the Ballot and the elector, and, moreover, set all the violence of party at contested elections, and then tell him whether the vote would be as secret as it was, or more so than it was, in America. Such an opinion he would laugh to scorn. In America before the elections there were everywhere associations formed with the express view of discovering how every elector voted. That was the first step usually resorted to to do away with the secrecy proposed by voting by Ballot. The next step was, an urn, for the purpose of balloting, was placed in a small room, beside the door of which agents for each candidate stood with green or blue tickets, and the voter received from the agents a green or blue ticket, according to the particular candidate he meant to vote for. ["No, no."] No! Why, he saw this mode of taking votes practised a thousand times over. He saw that that was the practical working of the Ballot in America; but it was true, as his hon. Friend stated, that such a method might be easily evaded. He would now come back to what his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) said about trusting in the forbearance of landlords, and upon that point he agreed with his noble Friend. If they had the Ballot he would say, as a landlord, that he would not only see whether the elector dependent on him voted, but he would see him put the 459 ticket into the balloting urn. He did not mean to say, that that was a desirable course of proceeding, or a course that ought to be adopted by landlords unless forced to it by expediency; but he, as a landlord, would be driven to that expediency if the Ballot were employed, in order to satisfy himself. He would not trouble the House at that late hour by entering further into the merits of the Question. He was strongly of opinion that he was bound, as having had the honour of being a Member of Lord Grey's Government, a Government pledged against this question, as well as by his own conviction, to resist the introduction of the Ballot, as a dangerous innovation. He also felt that a different course from that adopted ought to be pursued, and that they ought to come to a direct vote on the question—yes or no. They ought, by so doing, to have trusted to the feelings of the people, and see how far, with respect to this Question, they represented, or did not represent, the opinions of the people of England. His hon. Friend seemed inclined to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for North Derbyshire; but, as he knew there was always much misrepresentation out of doors as to putting or not putting the previous question, he was rather in favour of meeting the Motion by a direct negative. On the previous Question he would prefer having an Amendment for a direct negative moved, and perhaps he would have moved that, did not a feeling of prudence restrain him from increasing the numbers of the minority. He would, therefore, acquiesce in the previous Question, and vote for it, inasmuch as it seemed to be supported by his Majesty's Ministers.
§ Sir Francis Burdett
said, that after the eloquent speech of the noble Lord who had last spoken, he would not occupy the attention of the House for one moment were it not for the few things that fell from the noble Lord respecting following up, on this Question, a point of honour. For his own part he knew that his feelings had never varied on this Question. He did not concur in the anticipations of good or evil that hon. Members on both sides of the House, interested in the Question, expected from it. His opinion was, that the Ballot would cause none of the dangers those persons who opposed it said it would. At the same time that he made this avowal he did not see that it 460 would be attended by all the advantages expected from it by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, and by those hon. Members who took the same view of the Question. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) seemed to think that there was some understanding between the Ministers who carried the Reform Bill, and the party who enabled them to carry that measure—that it was understood between them that it was to be a final measure; and that, therefore, it was discreditable and dishonourable to propose any alteration in a question that was to be considered finally settled. But the noble Lord was mistaken, for the Vote by Ballot and the question of Triennial Parliaments were especially excepted, and left open to future consideration. If that was true, there was nothing to prevent him now from giving an unbiassed vote on the Question. The noble Lord truly said, there was no better time for disposing of the Question than now, and if there was no bar of honour—no infringement of pledges—he thought that an argument for the mode the Question was now met in. He was struck with the eloquence the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) displayed on all subjects, but the determination he had come to that night did away with all the cogent arguments urged by the noble Lord in the beginning of his speech. When the noble Lord referred to America he begged to say, that he (Sir Francis Burdett) was not one who looked to America or to any other country for its institutions; but, looking to America with reference to this Question, the way the Ballot was considered in this country and America was not the same, and the adoption of it here would not, of course, produce the same results. The mode adopted in America was nothing more than a simple manner of taking votes without any view to concealment. When the noble Lord said, that persons were placed in the election room on each side the door, for the purpose of giving tickets for the urn, that mode as a simple way of taking votes was very well; but if secrecy was the object, it was a very inefficient mode. If we had the Ballot in. this country good care would be taken that there should be no persons at the doors to give or receive coloured tickets. He confessed that the Ballot was not generally liked in this country, though some individuals, like the hon. and learned' Member for Liskeard, set a high price on 461 it; but they were totally mistaken if they thought that the working of it would be exposed to no difficulties. The great objection to it was the habits and the feelings of the people of this country, who, if they had the Ballot, would not suppress their feelings, and conceal how they had voted. He who concealed his feelings and his vote would be considered to have acted disreputably, while, on the other hand, he who did not conceal them would be thought to act a manly part. The whole thing would work badly, and would be defeated by the people themselves. To prevent deceit, and the breaking up of all social converse, if the Ballot were adopted it should be also enacted that there should be no discovery made of the vote by the voter, or otherwise. In his mind the Ballot would practically be of no avail; but if it would, there could be no danger or inconvenience from it, and if a large body of the people thought it would be a benefit to them, why let them have it? He looked upon it only as a mode of voting which he thought as simple and as easy as the present mode, and less troublesome than any other that could be adopted. He would vote for the Motion, because if the measure should turn out not to be effectual it would serve to take away the delusions under which the people laboured respecting it.
said, that he intended to detain the House only for a few minutes. He begged to protest against several things that he had lately heard. In the first place, he would protest against the assertion that there was any pledge of honour given on this subject by the Government which carried the Reform Bill, or by the individuals who voted for that Bill, that would now exclude them from Voting in favour of the Ballot. There was no pledge given by them that the Question of the Ballot should not be introduced. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had quoted a speech delivered by Lord Althorp, but that speech was made after the passing of the Reform Bill, and not whilst it was under discussion or before it. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had given no pledge that the ballot should not be introduced. On the contrary, it was understood that measures for shortening the duration of Parliament and for the Ballot should be Introduced, if found necessary. It was for that that the Radical Reformers voted for the Reform Bill. They intended to give 462 that Bill a fair experiment, butsaid they would have the Ballot if that experiment failed; and the Tories showed by their conduct that it had failed. If that Bill only took power out of the hands of one oligarchy to bestow it on another; if it only took power from the aristocracy of birth to give it to the oligarchy of wealth, it failed. If no pledge had been given, why should they now hear of the honour of Government and of the noble Lord (Russell) being committed on this Question? If that noble Lord was bound by honour not to entertain the Question, why did he not say that he acknowledged that he was? Why, he heard that noble Lord say, that the Question remained open, and whilst the noble Lord declared his opinions to be unfavourable to the Ballot, he allowed that it was a Question open to the future consideration of Parliament. The noble lord had produced an anonymous letter from America. Why if a copy of that letter had originally gone from this country to America, which of course was not the case, it could not have come back more à propos to the Ballot, or arrived in England at a better time. But what was the authority of an anonymous letter? It appeared that there was one State of America in which there existed a kind of Ballot, which certainly was not the Ballot that the reformers sought, for it set aside secrecy. However, out of thirty States, Vote by Ballot had been adopted in all but three; and with respect to the greater part of those states, the mode of voting was secret. They were told by the noble Lord that the Americans had no faith in the experiment, and that they were all Conservatives in America, and that there was no country in which the democratic spirit was more tyrannical. The letter the noble Lord had read contained nothing but a sneer against the institutions of America. If they were what that letter represented, then they were the most degraded of beings. He owned that the Americans deserved severe reprehension for continuing that most odious traffic in human slaves. The Americans Conservatives indeed! They had not persevered in keeping up the national debt. They had, at any rate, got rid of that portion of conservatism, for they had paid the debt to the last farthing. The Americans last year had made the power of France bow before them. And yet those were the people whose institutions were 463 sneered at in the letter read by the noble Lord. The Jacksons and such men as he, were made light of, but he thought that there was something in the name of Jackson that ought to make him be treated with respect by the English. He protested against taking any history of America from anonymous correspondence, and he protested against the statement which he had made as to the nature of the elective franchise. The noble Lord called it a trust, and he (Mr. O'Connell) called it a right given to an individual, who was not responsible to any man for its exercise, and accountable only to his conscience and his God. The trust was placed in the Members of that House, who were supposed to be selected for those qualities on account of which the trust was given. The Members of that House were servants, while those who elected them were their masters. As masters they were entitled to know what their servants' did; but what right had any one to call upon masters to give an account of their proceedings? The noble Lord had also stated that voters ought to be influenced in the discharge of their duty by public opinion. He would grant that, supposing public opinion to be right; but who was unacquainted with the fact that, at present not only public opinion, but bribery and intimidation, influenced the voter? Now if they intended that a man should have his vote as his property, he called upon them to allow him to vote as he pleased, the only way in which he could do that, being to vote by Ballot. But if they did intend that it should be a property, let them affix a settled price to its exercise, or else at once transfer the vote from the tenant to the landlord. It had further been alleged that voting tended to a more easy discovery of bribery, while secret voting, though it might abolish bribery by detail, would leave bribery by wholesale and render its detection almost next to impossible. But how could that be when, if you bribed 500 persons by wholesale, each and every one must be acquainted with the bribery, and when from the secret being in the possession of so many the corruption was so much the more likely to transpire, and so much the more easy to be proved? Having made these observations in reply to the most material remarks of the noble Lord, he should not further detain the House.
§ Mr. E. L. Charlton
complained that the hon. Baronet and the hon. and learned Gentleman had entirely mistaken the purport of the observations made by the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire. The noble Lord showed that the Ballot had been tried in America, and had failed. [The cries of "Divide" completely drowned the remaining observations of the hon. Member. After claiming a hearing, and attempting to pursue his argument, the hon. Member addressed some remarks to Mr. Hume who was seated just below the hon. Member.)
§ Mr. Roebuck
The hon. Member has applied language to the hon. Member for Middlesex such as I never before heard made use of in this House. It is quite unpardonable.
§ Mr. Charlton
Sir, I beg your pardon. I heard the hon. Gentleman below me contradictwhat I said—[An Hon. Member: No.]—I put it to the hon. Member himself whether it was not so, and I then asked him to be good enough to hold his tongue. ["Order" and laughter with much confusion.]
§ The Speaker
said, that before this proceeded further it would be for hon. Members to reflect upon the serious interruption which such disorderly scenes occasioned, and especially at that hour, to the despatch of business.
§ Mr. Charlton
renewed his attempt to gain a hearing. He said it was rather hard that he should be prevented from replying to the remarks of a preceding speaker. If he had seen any symptoms of reluctance to hear him in the body of the House—if those signs of impatience had proceeded from the respectable part of the; House, he would at once have desisted; and now, rather than continue such a scene of confusion, and cause the character of the House to be lowered, he should resume his seat.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I shall detain the House but a very short time, it not being my wish to trespass on what I think is the very natural impatience of hon. Members. After the utter exhaustion of argument, I think I should be the last person to protract the discussion by any attempt to go over the same beaten course. I have recently heard the very able speech made on the principle of this measure, by the noble Lord, the Member for Devonshire—the noble Lord, the MemberforStroud,—which to my mind carried complete conviction. To 465 that speech I attach particular importance, because from his recent experience in a popular election, the noble Lord must have gained such information as to enable him to pronounce a judgment well entitled to the consideration of the House, and that speech accordingly, followed by the able and argumentative address of the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, completed the conviction which I entertained upon the principle of the Ballot. At the same time, that my conviction was derived from the able arguments of two noble Lords, who took the same view of the question, it was, if possible, strengthened by the utterly abortive attempts of two subsequent speakers to weaken any one of their conclusions. One of those Gentlemen who directed his attention to the subject, attaches great importance to it, and possesses considerable powers in debate, and sure I am that if the noble Lord had taken up a false position, there is no man more competent than the hon. and learned Gentleman to discover its weakness. Now, I ask any impartial man, whether the hon. and learned Gentleman did succeed in shaking any one of his positions? I must say, that on this subject, I should have been disposed to attach considerable weight to what fell from the hon. Baronet. I pay him a sincere compliment, when I say that I am sure he delivered upon this question an opinion perfectly unbiassed by any party consideration, and his observations are peculiarly valuable, because he has, perhaps, had the longest experience of any man living in popular elections. Now, what did the hon. Baronet admit? Why, that the speech of the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, had nearly convinced him, and that he had consequently been on the point of taking a different course to what he at first proposed. The hon. Baronet further stated, that the anticipations of the advantages which would ensue from the introduction of the Ballot, and the apprehensions as to the evils, were equally delusive, and that, in point of fact, we can neither gain nor lose anything by its establishment. Then, Sir, I ask why should we adopt a measure which is perfectly delusive? If, after all his experience of popular elections, it be his deliberate judgment that we have nothing to hope or fear from the Ballot, does he not also see the great evil of adopting securities, which he admits to be delusive? 466 As to the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin in reply to the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, what, he would ask, did it amount to? Why, in the first place, the hon. and learned Member asserted, that no pledge was ever given on the subject of the Ballot during the discussion of the Reform Bill, that no such pledge could be quoted from the speeches of Lord Althorp, and that there was no pledge of honour on the part of those who supported Lord Grey's Ministry in carrying Reform, to prevent the Legislature from now agreeing to establish the Ballot. But did not the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, prove beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the Government which brought forward the Reform Bill, considered it as a final measure, and was determined to resist all further changes in the representative system? Could he bring forward a more cogent proof than that unanswerable extract from the speech of Lord Althorp, the leader of the House of Commons, and a witness the more unexceptionable, inasmuch as the opinions of the noble Lord in an unreformed Parliament, were in favour of the Ballot? The next objection of the hon. and learned Gentleman was levelled at the quotation which the noble Lord read from a letter in reference to America, and the operation of the Ballot system. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, that in that case the Ballot was not secret, but open. But what is the conclusion which we draw? That human nature overlooks all restrictions, and that the intention was to have a secret Ballot, but that the influence of party was stronger than the operation of the law, and that parties became so deeply interested in the result of the election, as to render all concealment impossible, and to put it to an end. The hon. Gentleman has certainly, I must admit, brought forward his Motion in the spirit which has been so justly characterised by the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, and delivered the speech, introducing it not only with great ability, but with exemplary temper. The hon. Gentleman has, however, in the course of his able and eloquent speech, made one admission which, in my opinion, must prove fatal to the success of his proposition, for the hon. Gentleman says, that he would not—that it forms no part of the intention of his Motion—exclude that which he designates as the really legal influence of 467 property. He says that he thinks a man of property—a man of character—a man in whom confidence can be placed—will exercise, and ought to exercise, the influence which his position gives him over those who are his own neighbours, tenants, or dependents, even though the Ballot should be in operation; but, if the hon. Member thinks so, I ask him whether that is not directly contrary to the principle which is meant to be laid down by this Motion. [Mr. Grote: "No, no."] Yes, but I contend that it is. By the introduction of the Ballot, it must be intended, or the argument of the hon. Gentleman is worth nothing, that every individual voter shall take his own view of public affairs, and, having formed his own opinion, he must deliver his vote apart from influence or persuasion of any kind. If, then, the Ballot be efficacious at all, it must exclude that influence of property, which the hon. Gentleman says be desires to retain; would it not, then, be better to let voting remain, as at present, under the control of public opinion, than resort to secret voting, which must defeat the acknowledged efficacy of public opinion, as well as destroy the influence of property. The advocates of the Ballot propose to confine that to the constituency, but why I know not. What is the difference in point of principle between the functions of the constituent body, and the functions which the Representatives of that constituent body, are called upon to exercise? Are we inaccessible to the force of influence, or do we never on many of the questions which come before us, act rather in conformity with party connexion than upon abstract principle, in reference to their individual merits. Will it be said by any one Member of this House, that, upon every question that comes before us, we act in accordance with the abstract merits of that question, without any view to party or the existence of the Ministers we wish to see in power. If we are to try every question by its abstract merits, I, for my own part, can see no reason why, if the Ballot be considered good for the constituents, it should not also be good for the Representatives, and why the Ballot should to be introduced into the House of Commons. No doubt a vote by Ballot might be given on purer principles than an open vote, but then you must, at the same time, take human nature into consideration, and make due allowance for its proneness to 468 err. For my own part I must say that I think the Ballot would be, to say the least of it, inconvenient; and that it would not afford as much security for the proper exercise of the elective franchise, as is given by acting in the face of day, subject to the control of public opinion. The influence of public opinion is the greatest security the country can have for the conduct of the Representative body, and why it should not have an equally beneficial effect in the constituent body I certainly have yet to learn. But the hon. Gentleman admits, if I apprehend him rightly, that in certain cases the Ballot would be inefficacious. [Mr. Grote: No.] In my view the advantage of the Ballot could at best be only partial, and the partial protection it would afford to a few, would be nothing as compared to the influence of public opinion over the great body of voters. I agree Sir, with the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire that we should not exclude the influence which property ought to possess, and I do not believe that the Ballot would answer the expectations of its proposers if it were adopted. We cannot indeed exclude the influence of property, consistently with the principles on which alone a Monarchical Government can be maintained; for if the opinion of every man is to be considered as of equal weight, without reference to the influence of property, the result must be that the 40s. freeholder will have just as much influence over public affairs as the man who possesses ten, aye, a hundred, times his property and intelligence, and is infinitely more interested in the preservation of order. But, do what you will, I tell you that it is not in your power to exclude the influence of property; and I therefore, am desirous that it should be exercised in the light of day, and under the control of public opinion. Now, Sir, with respect to the manner in which it is proposed to meet this Motion I shall offer only a very few remarks. The noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, is on principle opposed to the Ballot. His Majesty's Government intends to resist the Motion, and where, then, is the necessity of not coming to a, decision upon it at once? This is not a question which requires that we should wait for further information than we at present possess; and if we have experience enough to enable us to decide the matter now, where is the advantage of leaving it unsettled? By that course we preclude 469 ourselves from nothing; for if new events should arise hereafter to induce us to alter our opinions we shall be just as competent to deal with the question as if no discussion and no decision had ever taken place. If, then, we are opposed to the principle, what is the consequence of meeting it with a direct negative? By a direct negative all we affirm is that our minds are unconvinced, and that instead of adopting a new experiment we think proper to adhere to the present system; and this, I confess, appears to me to be the course which we ought to take. I come to the same conclusion as the noble Lord; and feel averse from doing that which is calculated to delude the public into supposing that our opinion on this subject is not made up. We have, without allowing this question to remain unsettled, enough business on hand to occupy us for a long period, and am I unreasonable when I ask the House to dispose of this Motion at the present moment, and not to adopt a vote which must lead to an impression on the part of the public that we are undecided—that our minds are not yet made up about the matter. Under these circumstances I hope the noble Lord will act upon the impression with which he came down to his place this evening; that he will as leader of his Majesty's Government in that House, so far set an example as openly to avow the opinion of the Government, that he will concur with us, who wish to meet the question with a direct negative, rather than agree to so inconvenient a proposition as that brought forward by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Derbyshire. I do. Sir, hope that the noble Lord, sensible of the inconvenience of assenting to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Derbyshire, will now come to a negative or affirmative decision of the main question. Instead of voting for the previous Question, I hope we shall give the Motion a decided negative, and that the noble Lord will add his authority to the decision, by voting with me at once against the proposition of the hon. Member for the City of London.
§ Lord John Russell
had already stated to the House that if the Motion came before them as a substantive Motion he should give it a decided negative. The noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, and the right hon. Baronet opposite, seemed to wish that the Question should be met by a direct negative rather than the previous 470 Question, but for his (Lord John Russell's) part he must say that the hon. Member for Derbyshire moved the previous Question without his knowledge. He should be glad if his hon. Friend would withdraw his Amendment; but certainly if he did not do so he (Lord John Russell) must adhere to the intention which he had expressed of supporting that Amendment, although at the same time he should prefer deciding the Question by a direct negative to voting for his hon. Friend's Motion.
§ Mr. Gisborne
begged to confirm the statement of the noble Lord, that his Amendment was proposed without any concert with either the noble Lord or any other Member of his Majesty's Government. At present he was unfavourable to the Question of the Ballot, and certainly unless he could be convinced that secret voting was more advantageous than open voting, he must give the resistance of his vote to the Motion of the hon. Member for the city of London. If, however, he should be called upon to vote aye or no upon the Motion as brought forward by the hon. Member for London he must say that he should support that Motion. As the noble Lord seemed to wish him to withdraw his Amendment, all he could say was, that he was perfectly ready to adopt that course.
§ The Amendment was withdrawn.
§ Mr. Grote
rose to say a few words in reply: at that late hour he would not detain the House long, particularly as the objections of the right hon. Baronet admitted, he thought of a very simple and easy answer. It was the undue influence, and not the proper influence, which would be prevented by the Ballot. Now every one had admitted, to a certain degree, that English landlords had improperly interfered with the freedom of election, and yet the noble Lord (Russell) told them, it was to the forbearance of those very landlords to whom the tenants were to look for protection in voting in, future. If they had no better protection than that, God help them for the future! He thought there were no other means, at least none had been started by hon. Gentlemen who opposed the Motion of protecting the voters, in the absence of the Ballot, in the exercise of their franchise, freely and independently. The Legislature was bound to give them protection during the consideration of that Question, and 471 he did say, they never would have fulfilled their duty till they had granted that protection. He rejoiced in the voice of the people when it was against him, as well as when it was for him; but he never would accede to any arrangement which did not take the sense of the electoral body freely and fully. He knew of none other than the Ballot: none had been suggested and, till he received more conclusive evidence that there was, it would be his duty to persevere in his Motion at every convenient season.
§ The House divided on the original Motion—the numbers were:—Ayes 144; Noes 317; Majority 173.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Ferguson, Sir R.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Fielden, J.|
|Attwood, T.||Finn, W. F.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Fitzsimon, N.|
|Baines, E.||Fitzsimon, C.|
|Baldwin, H.||Gaskell, D.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Barron, H. W.||Gisborne, T.|
|Barry, G. S.||Guest, J. J.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Gully, J.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Bewes, T.||Hawes, B.|
|Biddulph, R.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Bish, T.||Hector, C. J.|
|Blackburne, J.||Heathcote, R. E.|
|Blunt, Sir Charles||Hindley, C.|
|Bodkin, John James.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Humphery, John|
|Brady, D. C.||Hutt, W.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Johnston, A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Kemp, T. R.|
|Browne, Dominick||King, Bolton|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Langton, Col. G.|
|Buller, C.||Leader, J. T.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Lister, E. C.|
|Burdett, Sir Francis||Lushington, Dr.|
|Callaghan, D.||Lushington, C.|
|Chalmers, Patrick||Lynch, A. H.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Mac Cance, J.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Macnamara, Major|
|Clay, W.||Maher, J.|
|Codrington, Sir E.||Marshall, W.|
|Conyngham, Lord A.||Marsland, H.|
|Collier, John||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Crawford, S.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Crawley, S.||Musgrave, Sir R.|
|Dennistoun, A.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Divett, E.||O'Brien, C.|
|Dundas, Hon. J. C.||O'Connell, J.|
|Duncombe, T. S.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Dunlop, C.||O'Connell, Daniel|
|Dykes, E. L. B.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Elphinstone, H.||O'Connell, Maurice|
|Evans, George||O'Connor, Don|
|Evans, Col.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Ewart, W.||Parrott, J.|
|Fellowes, Hon. N.||Pattison, J.|
|Pease, J.||Thompson, W.|
|Philips, Mark||Thornely, T.|
|Ponsonby, Hon. J||Tooke, W.|
|Potter, R.||Trelawny, Sir W. S.|
|Power, P.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Power, J.||Turner, W,|
|Rippon, C.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Roche, W.||Villiers, C.|
|Roche, D.||Wakley, T.|
|Ronayne, D.||Walker, C. A.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Walker, R.|
|Russell, Lord C.||Wallace, R.|
|Rundle, J.||Warburton, H.|
|Russell, Lord||Ward, H. G.|
|Ruthven, E.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|Ruthven, E. S.||Wigney, J. N.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Wilde, Serjeant|
|Sheldon, E. B. C.||Wilks, J.|
|Seale, J. H.||Williams, W. A.|
|Speirs, A. G.||Williams, W.|
|Sharpe, General||Wood, Alderman|
|Scholefield, J.||Wyse, T.|
|Talbot, J.||Hume, J.|
|Talfourd, T. N.||Grote, G.|
|Tancred, H. W.|
|Simeon, Sir R.||Egerton, Lord F.|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Ossulston, Lord.|