§ Sir Robert Peel
wished to put a question to the noble Lord upon the operation of Clause six as it had been altered. The effect of that alteration was, as he understood it, that the overseers, in making out the list of those who should be entitled to vote, should only insert the names of those who should have paid their rates at the time of the overseers making out such list. Now, he thought this was very fair, because it was in exact conformity with the Reform Bill, and because it would simplify the registration, and put a check upon the 1055 confusion and abuse that might otherwise He believed that the alteration arise made by the noble Lord superseded the necessity of the amendment which he had himself intended to propose with a view to the same object. He thought it was a great improvement in the Bill, as it would tend greatly to simplify the process of registration, and he wished, therefore, to ask whether he was right in understanding this to be the operation of the Clause?
§ Lord J. Russell
concurred in the interpretation put upon the Clause by the right hon. Gentleman. A day was now fixed by which the inhabitants must have paid their rates, or they would not be inserted on the burgess roll.
§ Sir Robert Peel
suggested that the time for payment of the rates should be fixed a few days previously to the last day of August. In the Amendment which he had intended to propose, he meant to have proposed the 20th of August, but the exact time was not material; but he would put it to the noble Lord, whether four or five days at least, previously to the day to which the overseer was bound to make up the list, should not be allotted to the overseer for the performance of this duty. It was a matter of no importance to him, but if some time were not allowed him, a host of people would be pouring in to pay their rates on the last day allowed by the act, and he ought to have a few days to prepare the list.
§ Sir Robert Peel
remarked, that there was a slight variation between the words respecting the payment of rates in this Clause and the corresponding Clause in the Reform Bill. Here the words were, "shall have been made or become due," but in the Reform Bill the words were "become payable," unless he was mistaken. Now, a particular construction had been put upon these words by the revising Barristers, and he thought that in a matter which was precisely the same the words ought to be the same, particularly as a judicial construction had been put upon them.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that this construction was very injurious to the electors. In the borough of Salford more than 200 persons, whose rates had been raised and subsequently reduced by the overseers, 1056 would be disfranchised this year by that decision.
§ The question was then put, that Clause six stand part of the Bill.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that the House would recollect that at the close of the debate last night he had expressed his opinion that there should be another qualification as the test of the right to vote besides that provided by the Bill. The purport of his proposition was, that in all cases where a borough-rate should be made by the council appointed under the Bill, payment of that borough-rate should be required equally with the payment of the poor-rate, and thus the qualification would rest on a sound basis. He had heard no valid objection made to that proposition. It probably would operate in a slight degree in diminishing the number of electors, but the House was about to make an immense experiment, which he sincerely hoped might be successful—a most momentous experiment with respect to the good government of towns; and it was of the highest importance that the greatest circumspection should be employed. He would take the case of the town of Manchester, which was under the control of a body appointed by a local Act. The Commissioners were obliged to possess a very high qualification, and the electing body were subject to a very severe test. No person had a vote unless he was rated at 16l., and no publican but who was rated at 32l., and he believed this Act was passed with the general concurrence of the people of Manchester. They were about to qualify every man who should have paid the poor-rate to vote at the elections. He believed that in Manchester and its townships there were no less than 37,000 assessments this year; to what extent they might be diminished by requiring three years' residence, and three years' payment of rates, he was not prepared to say; but he wished only for that constitutional system to be adopted which should most consult the peace, tranquillity, and satisfaction of the people. He knew it must necessarily be a popular franchise, but the franchise might be much more capable of extension hereafter than diminution. The effect, therefore, of his proposition should be in the first instance, to limit the number of electors, and in that way to try the experiment gradually. In this he was not making a proposition hostile to the spirit of the measure. Apart from that, he could 1057 see nothing more sound in principle than that those who imposed the rate should be payers of it. The Bill not only enabled but obliged the council to impose a Borough-rate. In several Corporations which were possessed of property it might not be necessary to exercise that power; but many others were incumbered with debt, and many which were nominally rich, were far from being so. In many of the old, and in all the new Corporations, therefore, a Borough-rate must be imposed; and those who imposed that rate ought certainly, not only to contribute to the payment of it, but to pay up their arrears. Improvident expenditure would be best prevented by making this qualification. The party raising the rate by this means, would have a direct interest in it, and in controlling unnecessary expenditure. There were proposals in the Bill for providing for compensations and salaries, for town clerks, and others; and the most salutary check that could be imposed against making improper compensations would be to compel those who made the compensations to pay a fair share to the fund out of which the salaries and so on were to be raised. That was a qualification which ought to be imposed in addition to the payment of the Poor-rate, and would be better than payment of the Poor-rate only. In extra-parochial places, where there might be no poor, there would have to be a Borough-rate, and those who raised the rate ought to contribute their share in the payment of it. He rested his proposition on this great principle, that by the measure a power of taxation was given; not only that, but an obligation to tax the inhabitants for certain purposes was imposed; that in many of the old and in all the new boroughs there would be no corporate funds; and that the new Borough-rate ought to be levied by those on whom the payment of it would fall in certain proportions as being the best test of qualification that could be obtained. It was urged as an objection to this, that it was taking a double qualification; that first it was taking the Poor-rate, and next a contribution to the Borough-rate. He would retreat again to the principle of the Reform Bill, and there it would be found that three qualifications were required:—first, that the voter should be a 10l. householder; that he should have contributed to the Poor-rate; and next, that he should have paid up his Assessed-taxes.
1058 By the Reform Bill, therefore, a double pecuniary qualification was required. Contribution to the Borough-rate would be an infinitely better test than the payment of the Assessed-taxes, which was a payment due to the Crown. It had been said, too, that this would bear unequally on different towns. In Manchester, for instance, where there were no corporate funds, there would have to be a Borough-rate, therefore the inhabitants of Manchester would have a heavier burthen imposed upon them than the inhabitants of Liverpool, where there were corporate funds. But it was impossible to go upon such a proposition as that. In one town the Poor-rates were much heavier than they were in others; in one they were 5s. in the pound, while in others they were not 8d., yet no alteration could be adopted on account of such variation. Upon the whole, the Bill seemed to him, upon further consideration, to be drawn up in precise conformity with the excellent principle for which he contended last night; therefore there appeared to him to be now no necessity for moving as an Amendment that which he proposed. The Act required that the town council in every borough should impose a Borough-rate. How was that to be done? The Act pointed out the mode. It was to be a Borough-rate in the nature of a County-rate. The County-rate was levied on that description of property which contributed to the Poor-rate, and, in point of fact, formed a part of the Poor-rate. Those who contended that the council would have the dangerous power of making exemptions would find they were entirely wrong, and nothing could have been more dangerous and improper than that certain persons in a town should have had the power, according to their discretion, of superseding in certain cases the distinct enactments of the law. The new Borough-rate, as the Bill now stood, would have to be levied on all descriptions of property which contributed to the County-rate; or, what was the same thing, it formed part of the Poor-rate levied on the same description of property. He was afraid that when the noble Lord came to word the 79th Clause he would find great difficulty in it; but he should not enter into that just now, nor mix up any question arising on the 6th Clause with the 79th; he understood that the 6th Clause, as the Bill now stood, would effect the object he had 1059 at present in view; and finding that the Bill had adopted the principle he had contended for, he should not disturb the further consideration of it by proposing any Amendment to this Clause, but should reserve any further discussion upon this part till hereafter. As the Bill now stood, the Borough-rate would be taken out of the Poor-rate, and a party would be bound to contribute to the Borough-rate before he could exercise his privilege of voting.
§ Lord John Russell
thought that a discussion of the present views of the right hon. Baronet ought to be reserved till the discussion of the 79th Clause. The Bill provided that if there was a Borough-rate levied by the council in the nature of a County-rate, then the persons who paid the Poor-rate in the borough would pay an additional sum, which sum would not come in the shape of a separate rate, but in the nature of a Poor-rate.
§ Mr. Poulett Thomson
said, the right hon. Baronet had stated that it would be a dangerous experiment to increase the constituency in such a town as Manchester, where by a local Act the constituency was restricted to all parties occupying premises rated to the amount of 16l. He would, however, remind the right hon. Baronet, that in the year 1831, an Act was passed under which all rate-pavers in the borough of Salford, a borough that might be considered a part of the town of Manchester were qualified. Now it was a fact, that the Act to which he alluded gave the greatest satisfaction in Salford, while the Act which applied to Manchester, and which limited the franchise, had caused the greatest dissatisfaction.
§ Mr. Brotherton
corroborated the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester as to the satisfaction which the Act for the regulation of the borough of Salford afforded the inhabitants. The Manchester Act, though the town contained 140,000 inhabitants, gave only 2,400 electors in the first year, and he believed that at the present moment the number did not much exceed 3,000. When the Salford Bill was brought forward, with a view to avoid the heart-burnings which prevailed in Manchester, a provision was inserted giving the right to vote to every rate-payer. He must confess he agreed with the right hon. Baronet as to the propriety of those persons contributing to the rate who imposed it.
§ Mr. Baines
thought it would be improper to mix Borough-rates and Poor-rates together, because different townships were under different regulations.
§ Mr. Estcourt
said, that a parish might be partly within and partly without a borough, and care ought to be taken that only those premises that were within the borough should be liable to the Borough-rate.
Mr. Bonham Carter
observed that individuals were disqualified by receiving alms, and the words were so general that he feared they would have a more extensive application than was intended. He thought it would be better to confine the disqualification to such persons as received alms given by the trustees of the town.
§ Mr. Jervis
said, the proposition of the hon. Gentleman would give to trustees not belonging to the town the power of influencing elections, which was denied to the trustees who did belong to the town.
§ Mr. Hogg
suggested that all the words after "parochial relief" should be omitted. He stated, that as the Clause now stood, freemen taking under specific bequests would be disfranchised. That he was sure could not have been the intention of the noble Lord. He said, that in the borough which he had the honour to represent, and he believed in many others, there were charitable bequests vested in the corporation as trustees, where the funds were distributed among freemen exclusively, under the will of a testator. He admitted the expediency of excluding paupers receiving parochial relief, but trusted that the noble Lord would see the propriety of limiting the Clause accordingly, and of not inserting such words as would deprive of their political rights parties taking not as paupers, but as specific legatees.
Sir Matthew White Ridley
suggested the omission of the words "after parochial relief" which would remove the whole difficulty.
§ Lord John Russell
admitted there was a difficulty on the question, but he was of opinion, that the Clause should remain unaltered, at least, till after the Clause relating to the disposition of charities or trusts was passed.
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, he was anxious, before this Clause passed the Committee, to ask a question of the hon. and learned Attorney-General. He held in his hand a list of twenty-two charitable bequests for the benefit of freemen of the city he had the honour to represent, many of which were in the nature of loans for the advancement of young freemen in the world; as, for instance, 500l. left by Edward Prince, to be lent out in sums of 100l. each to five poor freemen of the Company of Mercers and Grocers of Oxford, for seven years without interest. Now he wished to be informed whether a loan under such a bequest would come under the words of this Clause, "alms, or any pension, or charitable allowance from any fund intrusted to the charitable trustees of such borough," and so disqualify the party enjoying it from being enrolled as a burgess under this Clause during the time he should hold it, and for twelve months afterwards.
was of the same opinion. He thought that too enlarged a sense was given to the word "alms." If all charities were alms, he questioned whether the Bill would not deprive himself, and several other hon. Members, who, as Fellows of Colleges, were benefited by funds which, in one sense, might be considered eleemosynary. What was intended by the Clause was, that persons should not be allowed to vote who were dependent on charity for their support, being in a state of poverty or pauperism.
§ Lord John Russell
repeated that it would be better for hon. Gentlemen to reserve their observations on this subject, till the Committee had gone through the Clauses relating to Charities and Trusts.
§ Clause 6, as amended, was ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 7 was also agreed to.
§ On Clause 8 being put,
§ Lord John Russell
then proposed to substitute the amended Clause which had been printed, and for some time in the hands of Members, to the effect "That burgesses who have been enrolled, but are afterwards omitted from the roll, may be 1062 restored during two years, if then inhabitant householders and occupiers as aforesaid."
said, that, according to the proposed Clause, any person might be struck off the burgess-roll for non-payment of rates, and he might then, provided that next year he occupied a house—whether he had ceased to occupy it in the mean time or not—simply by the payment of the rates for alternate years, be admitted as a burgess, just in the same manner as if he had paid the rates for the three years. If his noble Friend meant to say, that the person who, from accidental circumstances, was omitted from the burgess-roll, or because he had for a short time left the borough and returned again, and who should pay the whole amount of rates due in the interval of the three years, and then continue to occupy, that his intermediate absence should not be taken into account, to disqualify him from being admitted, he (Lord Stanley), for one, should not say one word in opposition. But if he meant to say, that the person who, in the year 1833, had not paid the rates necessary to qualify him to vote in 1835, should, if he paid in 1834 not the rates of 1833 and 1834, but the rates of 1834 alone, be entitled to vote in 1835, he (Lord Stanley) did think that such an arrangement would do away with the whole object of the portion of the Bill in question, which was that of producing a continuous rate-paying. He had no object beyond taking care that the rights and privileges conferred by the Bill were given to the permanent occupiers and rate-payers of the boroughs. While he was speaking, he would mention one case which he thought deserving of attention, in the way of extending the right of freedom. He would suggest that where a person should succeed to property in a borough, by will or inheritance, the person to whom he succeeded having paid the rates for the three years, a provision might be made, under which the person so succeeding should be placed in the situation of the person whom he had succeeded, and enjoy the benefit of the continuous rate-paying. He wished, however, to have a distinct explanation from his noble Friend on the subject of the first point to which he had alluded. If the intention of the clause were that a person paying the rates in alternate years, and refusing, from fraud or other causes, to pay at all, should be entitled to be put in the burgess-roll, he (Lord Stanley) should 1063 regard it as most objectionable, and should wish to have the sense of the House in some measure taken upon the matter.
§ Lord John Russell
was not of opinion that the difficulty contemplated by his noble Friend would arise under the Clause, or that any case of fraud was likely to occur. In the case of non-payment of rates, he did not think that it was possible to frame any Clause which should provide for the refusal to pay, or for absence caused by a fraudulent disposition, or some other circumstance. It was necessary to frame the Clause with regard to the general probability of the case. If a man did not pay his rates, it was to be supposed generally that he was absent at the time; that he had been called away to go to sea, or to visit some distant part of the country in consequence of commercial business, and that because of attending to that business he had omitted to do that which he had done constantly for perhaps five, six, or ten years before, viz. pay the rates necessary to qualify him to become a burgess. In that case, which ought to be looked on as the general one, a hardship would arise, if it were not permitted to the individual, under such circumstances, to be again admitted, without passing through the whole three years. His noble Friend said, "Let him pay the rates during the whole intermediate time of his absence;" but he (Lord John Russell) did not think it necessary to require that. Having been previously for three years an inhabitant of the borough, and having paid his rates for that period, he ought to be allowed to obtain re-admission by simply continuing again to pay from the time that he returned to the borough.
said, that his noble Friend did not appear to see the whole force of his objection. The Clause, as it originally stood, was very imperative. It said, "that if any person who shall have been enrolled a burgess of any body corporate within any borough, according to the provisions of this Act, shall at any time thereafter cease to occupy any house, warehouse, counting-house, or shop within the borough"—that referred to the case of absence—"or," continued the Clause, "neglect or refuse to pay such rates as aforesaid due from him at the time of the revision of the burgess-roll, except as hereinbefore is excepted, his name shall at the next revision of the burgess-roll be struck out from the said burgess-roll, and he shall 1064 thereupon cease to be a burgess and member of the said body corporate." Then came the proviso, stating that under certain circumstances he should be restored. Those two causes of omission mentioned in the original Clause—absence and refusal to pay—had been sedulously left out in the Clause as amended, which simply said, "If any person, &c. shall at any time hereafter be omitted from the said burgess-roll." He did not contend against the case of an occasional absence and return, supposing always that it was of a bona fide nature; but he did contend against the case of a man who ceased to pay rates and continued his occupancy, who never left the borough, but every alternate year neglected or refused to pay his rates.
§ Viscount Howick
thought that he could show his noble Friend that the Bill as it stood guarded against the inconvenience which he apprehended. The objection was, he understood, taken to the admission of a man who one year refused or neglected to pay his rates, but who the next year should pay them without paying the arrear of the intermediate period. The Clause said, that "he shall be entitled to claim as hereinafter provided, and, upon such claim, again to be enrolled a burgess and member of the said body corporate, provided that on the last-mentioned last day of August, he shall be otherwise qualified as herein provided, except in respect of the length of his continuous inhabitancy and occupation as aforesaid." In the sixth Clause one of these qualifications, the possession of which was stated in the eighth as necessary to re-admission, was declared to be the payment of all rates. It was there distinctly stated, that "no person shall be enrolled in any year unless he shall have been rated in respect of such premises so occupied by him, &c. or unless he shall have paid, during the time of his occupation as aforesaid, all such rates due from him in respect of the said premises, except such as shall have been made or become due within six calendar months next before the said last day of August." It was, therefore, quite clear that no person would be entitled to vote until he had paid all rates due from him.
was satisfied by the explanation of his noble Friend as to what were the opinions of the Government; but knowing that the Clause had excited doubts in the minds of many, he thought it worth 1065 while considering whether words might not be introduced for the purpose of rendering it more clear.
§ The Attorney-General
said, that the object of the Clause was merely to meet the bona fide case of a person ceasing to occupy for a time, though he might have been for a considerable period previous an occupier and a rate-payer.
would ask his hon. and learned Friend, then, whether he would have any objection to limit the means of re-admission to that case, by inserting words such as would bring the Clause into some such shape as the following:—"That if any person who shall have been enrolled a burgess of any body corporate within any borough, according to the provisions of this Act, shall, at any time thereafter, by reason of the interruption of such occupancy, be omitted," &c.
§ The Attorney-General
said, that if he could have a little conversation with his noble Friend, he should either convince him that the alteration was unnecessary, or agree to have it introduced.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
trusted that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would not agree to any amendment of the kind.
§ Mr. Jervis
said, that the effect of altering the Clause would be to deprive any person who, from some technical informality, had been omitted from the burgess-roll, of the means of re-admission, except by passing again through three years, although he had been still a continuous occupier and rate-payer.
§ Sir William Follett
said, that the addition of a few words stating the necessity of paying up arrears of rates, would much improve the Clause. The noble Lord, (Lord Stanley) had made a suggestion in reference to persons coming into the occupancy of premises through the acquisition of property by will or inheritance—
§ The Attorney-General
interrupted the hon. and learned Gentleman by saying, that that suggestion would be adopted.
§ Mr. Scarlett
said, that as there was still some doubt about the point which had just been discussed, perhaps the noble 1066 Lord would consent to insert the words which had been proposed.
§ The Amendment of Lord Stanley was moved, pro formà,
§ Lord John Russell
remarking, that the Clause would in all probability receive alteration in one or two particulars, and promising that words of the same meaning (because the words of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) were not perhaps the best that might be used) as those proposed, would be used in the framing of the Clause before it was submitted for the final decision of the House.
§ The Clause, as amended, was agreed to.
§ On the Question that Clause 9th stand part of the Bill being put,
§ Mr. Arthur Trevor
rose to call the attention of the House to the whole Clause. He did not hesitate to say, that a more unjust Clause had never been inserted in any measure of legislation. At one fell swoop, a sentence of condemnation, the most unjust and most unfounded that it was well possible to conceive, was passed against an unoffending body of men. He would ask upon what grounds of common sense, or upon what principle of justice, were a body of men such as the freemen of England, to be excluded from those rights which they had enjoyed from time immemorial? They had yet to learn that they had ever disgraced their freedom. He was well aware that it was much the fashion among Gentlemen on the other side to point at the freemen as a very "corrupt" body of men. "Oh!" exclaimed the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, "the freemen! what a set they are." But, though, if he were asked the question whether there were to be found, among an extensive body, such as the freemen, some who were open to bribery and corruption, he should, of course, not attempt to deny that such was the case; he would ask, however, were those corrupt practices, and was that bribery, confined to that body? Was there not, in the lanes and alleys of London, and other places there to be found, as much bribery, intimidation, and corruption, as in any corporation? He certainly, in the name of common sense, and common justice, protested against the insertion of such a Clause as that now under consideration. He should not feel that he was doing his duty towards a very numerous body of men whom he had the honour of representing in that House, if he did not do his utmost 1067 to defeat that Clause. He knew that amendments were to be moved by persons more able to do justice to the subject than the humble individual who was addressing the Committee, but he should not do his justice to a body who had over and over again given him their independent, and honest, and ungratified support, if he did not stand by them, and do his utmost to oppose a Clause which he did not hesitate to denounce as most iniquitous. But, if the freemen were really guilty, (as the hon. Member for Newcastle observed last night) why was not a Bill brought in for their disfranchisement? Why were they not brought to the bar of the House, and sentenced? But no! they were to be taken as it were by a side-wind, and without a hearing, pronounced guilty. He confessed he was somewhat astonished to hear the Ministers, who professed themselves the friends of popular rights, and the advocates of an equal distribution of political power, propose the Clause. It would be in the recollection of many hon. Members, that in the discussion on the first introduction of the Reform Bill, the case of the freemen was particularly pointed out, as incurring disapprobation from the manner in which they used their franchise, and the noble Lord, the Home Secretary, had told them, that in the second Bill, the justice which was done them, though denied them in the first, was done simply because there would have been greater difficulties in the way of the Bill without it. But now, the noble Lord, having obtained, by means of allowing those freemen to retain their rights, the passing of that Bill granted them the retention of their privileges, and by that means attained his ends. Now the noble Lord, by what was nothing else than a side blow, sought to deprive them of those rights to which they had been so long entitled. If that were common sense—if that were justice—if that were indicative of the feelings of the Government, and of hon. Members of the other side, who professed to be anxious to uphold the rights of all classes of his Majesty's subjects—then, indeed, he would say, that justice was nothing more than an empty name. He repeated his wish, that the advocacy of that class of men had fallen into abler hands; and should his Motion be negatived, he would support any other Motions which might be brought forward, having a similar object in view, But he should feel it his 1068 duty, if he stood alone in it, to take the sense of the Committee upon it. He never could, for a moment, think of standing up before such a body of men, if, when they were in difficulty and distress, and most unjustifiably persecuted, he had deserted them. Again, he protested against the introduction of that Clause in the Bill in the strongest terms, and he could venture unhesitatingly to assert, that it would gain for its supporters anything but the popularity and applause of the people. He would move "That Clause nine be omitted in this Bill."
§ Mr. John Fielden
considered the interests of his constituents so much interested in the Clause, that he must do his duty to them, by offering some observations on the injustice of the Clause. It would be in the recollection of hon. Gentlemen, that when the Reform Bill was first introduced to discussion, a Motion was brought forward which had for its object the perpetuation of the rights of the freemen. The Motion was opposed by the Government of the day, but he was happy to say that they agreed ultimately to retain the burgesses, and recognize their claims; for, shortly after, they brought in the second Reform Bill, in which a Clause was introduced, which had for its object the preservation of the rights of the freemen. It appeared to him, that the Clause before them went to destroy the rights which were secured to them by the Reform Bill, and the tenth Clause destroyed the rights of property. He would not detain the Committee by attempting to renew the argument advanced in favour of the freemen, but he wished to call their attention to a particular case, of those who, subsequent to the passing of the Bill, had entered into servitude, and became freed, having paid a consideration, in order that they might enjoy the privileges which were secured to them by the Reform Bill. There were many privileges pertaining to them in different places:—he would mention one where they had partaken of great tracts of land of 205 acres, granted to the poor freemen: that was a most important right.
said, the question was that the Clause be omitted. The object proposed by the hon. Member would, however, be much better answered by waiting 1069 until the Amendments proposed regarding it should be disposed of, and he might simply move that it be negatived.
§ Sir William Follett
observed, that in rising to move an Amendment of the Clause then submitted to the House, he wished to be understood as offering no opposition to the general principles involved in the Bill, and as desiring no alterations which could impair its efficacy, nor would he in that Committee resist the adoption of any of the details of the measure which would have the effect of improving our corporations, or adapting and moulding them to the altered circumstances of the times. He would offer no opposition to any detail of the Bill, which if agreed to, would have the effect of furthering or securing the object which the Bill in its preamble professed, namely, "To render corporations better and more efficient instruments of local government." The House, however, was now called on to consider a Clause which had no reference whatever to the principles involved in the Bill. It was a Clause which had no relation to the improvement of the municipal government of corporate towns—one of the details of the measure which had not the slightest connexion with the principles, the establishment of which the Bill was said to have in view. The Clause professed to have two objects to accomplish; and he was not quite sure whether it did not include a third, which was not quite so apparent. He apprehended that it was the intention of those who brought forward this measure, that the ninth Clause as it at present stood, should have the effect of destroying the legal rights of freemen, particularly as regarded apprentices, and abolishing their privilege of voting for Members of Parliament. He supposed that another effect of it would be to extinguish the inchoate rights of freemen—the rights of property, and the various privileges to which they were entitled; and he was not quite satisfied whether the Clause would not have the further effect of preventing all existing freemen from voting for Members of Parliament. Now, if he were wrong in attributing the last effect to this provision of the Bill, he hoped that even though his amendment were lost, the noble Lord would take care and secure beyond doubt the right of existing freemen to have a share in the choice of Members of that House. [Lord John Russell; They are 1070 secured by the next Clause.] He referred to the right of freemen to vote for Members of Parliament, and the next Clause related exclusively to rights of property. He was anxious that the most valuable privilege which the freemen possessed—namely, that of a right to choose representatives in that House, should be preserved, at all events, for the benefit of existing freemen. It might not be the intention of his Majesty's Government that the rights of existing freemen to vote for Members of Parliament should be interfered with; but as the Bill then stood, a certain mode was prescribed, by which the burgesses under the new corporate body should be enrolled. Now, the freemen being admitted to vote for Members of Parliament because they were members of the corporate body of the town to which they belonged, it became a question whether the right to which he had alluded was reserved when the constitution of those bodies was changed, and the freemen as originally appointed were, in fact, no longer members of them. He did not wish to impute to his Majesty's Government any such intention as that which he had supposed; but he trusted that the noble Lord or his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General would, as soon as possible, clear up all doubts on the point. [The Attorney-General: The rights of existing freemen are preserved by the Bill.] If that were so, he was satisfied. He was satisfied with his hon. and learned Friend's assertion, that such was the intention of the Bill, for he was sure it would be so construed. He should now call the attention of the House to the admitted objects of the Clause. It was acknowledged, in the first place, that persons now in existence having an inchoate right to take out their freedom, were to be deprived by this Clause of that right, as well as of the rights of property and the privileges to which, as freemen, they were entitled. It was farther admitted that the effect of the Clause would be, that every freeman having now an inchoate right, so far as regarded the privilege of voting for Members of Parliament, would be deprived of that privilege by being prevented from becoming freemen of the town to which they belonged. It was certainly true that these two descriptions of right were different; but he did not agree that they stood on different grounds. They ought, perhaps, to be discussed separately.
1071 He should, however, with the permission of the Committee, call their attention to the infringement of the rights of property effected by this Clause. But whilst upon this part of the subject, he begged to remind the House of a question which was put by his hon. Friend, the Member for Oxford, last night, to the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), as to the intention of the Government with respect to the property held by corporations for specific purposes. The noble Lord at first answered that it was not the intention of Government to interfere with this species of property, but to place it in the hands of the new corporate bodies or trustees, to be applied to the purposes for which it was held by the existing corporations. The noble Lord, however, afterwards, in an answer to a question put by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, qualified his first answer, and stated, if he understood the noble Lord correctly, that property which had been left for specific purposes, should be devoted to objects connected with charitable uses. If he was right in taking the last as the deliberate and decisive opinion of the noble Lord, and one in which he presumed his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General acquiesced, then he must be permitted to say, with all due deference, that this Bill had been introduced without due inquiry, and without proper examination into details which endangered the existence of property held by various corporations for distinct and specific purposes. He said this, because he was satified that as the Bill then stood it would not even effect the object which the noble Lord, in answer to the question of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, seemed desirous of attaining. With respect to the inchoate rights to which he had before referred, they were possessed, he contended, by certain persons who, on becoming of age, were entitled to their freedom, not as a matter of grace, favour, or purchase, but as the effect of a legal vested interest, the enjoyment of which they had a right to claim. Now, he would bring under the attention of the House a statement which he had received with reference to the rights and privileges of freemen in one town (Coventry), which he thought might be taken as a sample of the mode in which property was held and disposed of by corporations in the different towns throughout the 1072 country. In that town the first species of property held by the corporation was of that description which he admitted did not escape the attention of the noble Lord—he meant the right of common which was enjoyed by freemen of this town to the extent of each being allowed to place their cattle on the common. That was one of the privileges of the freemen of Coventry. The next was, that every freeman was entitled, on commencing business, to the use of 50l. out of Sir Thomas White's charity, to be repaid in nine years. Besides that, every freeman decidedly in want, had a right to demand out of the funds of the same charity the sum of 4l. Again, there was an endowed grammar school, supported by the rents of estates, yielding 900l. a-year, to which every freeman had the right of sending his son, where he was educated free of expense. There were, too, estates left for the purpose of binding out as apprentices, the children of freemen. Now, let the House consider what they were doing when they determined to take away from the inhabitants of such towns the inchoate rights to which they were entitled. The apprentices of Coventry had a right to every one of the privileges which he had enumerated. Was it the intention of the House to abolish these rights? Was the Government going to deprive these persons of them? He should not stop to inquire at any length into that question; but he could not help asking the noble Lord, and his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, what, under the provisions of the Bill, they meant to do with this species of property; to what purpose did they intend to apply the money derived from the sources which he had mentioned? He could find no provision of the Bill—no enacting Clause in it—nothing in the answer of the noble Lord which enabled him clearly to ascertain the views of the Government on this part of the Question involved in the Bill. He must repeat the question—what did they mean to do with the property of corporations? They meant to abolish freemen altogether, and destroy the rights which belonged to them? In what way, then, would they dispose of these charitable funds possessed by almost all the corporate towns throughout the kingdom which were directed by will to be applied specifically for the benefit of freemen, and to be reserved to their wives, widows, 1073 and children? It was because he could find no clue whatever to the determination of the Government in any of the details of the Bill, or in any remarks of the noble Lord, that he felt it his duty to assert that the Bill had been introduced without proper inquiry. Was it proposed that the property which he had already alluded to should revert to the donor, or was it intended to apply it to the general purposes of the corporation? Had they a right to adopt such a course. This property was not left on some occasions to the corporations at all. It was in some instances left in trust to individuals for the benefit of freemen, their children, wives, or widows. He might be told, however, that though it was resolved to abolish the old corporations and the freemen, still that it was the wish of Government that these charitable funds which had been left in trust should be taken from the freemen and placed under the superintendence and control of the new burgesses. If this was the resolution of his Majesty's Government there was no Clause in the Bill to that effect. Indeed, no such disposition of this property seemed to have been contemplated by the framers of the Bill; for by the sixth Clause all persons were prevented from becoming burgesses who received any relief from the charitable funds of the corporation. The difficulties which encompassed tins question, appeared to have been totally overlooked by those who drew up the Bill. But supposing that they had considered the point, and provision were made for disposing of these funds, he would ask the House whether it was expedient, fair, or proper to deprive these persons, who were now entitled to it, of this property. Had they any right to do so. The property which the apprentices of Coventry possessed in the in choate rights and privileges of common, of the power to get a certain sum from Sir Thomas White's charity, to have their children sent to a free school, to bind out their children without expense, was as valuable to them as any estate which might belong to any hon. Member of that House. Now, let the Committee try the Clause by that test. If a Bill were introduced into that House to deprive any hon. Member of the vested interest which he had in any estate, would they listen to such a proposition for a moment? Upon what principle, then, could they deprive those persons of the existing generation, who had 1074 entered on their apprenticeships, with the well-founded hope of becoming freemen, and who had paid a premium for that privilege which they expected to enjoy, of that property to the possession of which they had a right to look forward. The next point which he would submit for the consideration of the House was, why was a question of property introduced at all into the Clauses of the Bill—what had it to do with the municipal government of corporate towns. The amendment which he meant to propose did not go to throw out the proposed Clause: it was not framed for the purpose of at all thwarting the noble Lord in the formation of the constituent body under the Municipal Bill, or changing the qualification from that of payment of rates; what it was his intention to submit to the Committee was, that no person should vote for any Member of the governing body appointed by this measure, or receive any privilege conferred by the Bill, except those who were qualified under its provisions. He did not wish that the rights of freemen should be allowed to interfere with the privileges conferred by this Bill; but he was certainly most desirous that those persons who had inchoate rights should be allowed to hold the property to which they were entitled, and that these rights should be protected. This Amendment would not interfere with the due administration of the municipal government of the towns, but merely pledged the House to the preservation of the rights, privileges, and property of the freemen. There was another point to which he wished to advert—the right of freemen to vote for representatives in Parliament. There was a provision in the Reform Bill introduced by the noble Lord which expressly secured to them that right. Why was that provision to be altered; and if altered at all, why was it not altered directly, not indirectly? The noble Lord might perhaps say, that at the time of the passing of the Reform Bill, he was not acquainted with all the facts which rendered it undesirable that freemen should retain the elective franchise. If so, why, when the noble Lord became acquainted with those facts, did he not bring in a Bill to alter the Reform Bill in that respect, founded on an allegation of the misconduct of the freemen? Having given a privilege to any set of persons, was it justifiable to take that privilege 1075 away, except upon proof of misconduct? The noble Lord said, that freemen had been guilty of receiving bribes; if so, let those freemen be disfranchised, but do not disfranchise freemen who were innocent of any such practices. But were freemen the only class of electors who had been guilty of bribery? The noble Lord was too well read in the history of the country, and in the history of elections, not to know that the very class of constituency which he now preferred to freemen, namely, the scot and lot voters, were of all classes of the constituency, the most corrupt. It was not fair, therefore, on the part of the noble Lord, to confine the charge of bribery to one class. The case of Shoreham was a case of scot and lot voters; the cases of Warwick, and of other places, were cases of scot and lot voters. The Report on the Stafford case showed that the housekeepers were bribed. Under such circumstances, it was unjust on the part of the noble Lord to come down, and, by a side wind, deprive freemen of their elective franchise when it was found that other classes of the constituency were quite as open to bribery as they were. He was desirous that the Bill under the consideration of the Committee should be strictly confined to the object for which it was professed to be introduced, viz.,—for the improvement of Municipal Corporations; and that no Clause should be introduced into it not having any bearing on that object. The effect, however, of the Clause now under consideration would be to get rid of a compact which was concluded at the time of the passing of the Reform Act. At that time, freemen were not told, "Your children shall not have the right to vote for Members of Parliament, nor shall they enjoy the property which you now possess." On the contrary, they had reason to believe that the rights secured to them by the Reform Act would be secured to their posterity. This was the first time that any attempt had been made to interfere with those rights. He hoped the noble Lord would see the propriety of not pressing the Clause. If he did, however, he (Sir William Follet) should feel it to be his duty to press his Amendment; and he trusted the House of Commons would not consent, in a Bill of this description, to allow of the insertion of Clauses which had even the appearance of being founded on a violation of faith; 1076 and which were, in fact, an interference with the rights, privileges, and the property, of a large proportion of the inhabitants of this country. The hon. and Learned Gentleman concluded by moving an amendment to the effect described in his speech.
§ The Attorney-General
said, that he felt it his duty to oppose the Amendment of his learned and hon. friend, as, in his opinion, it would, if adopted, tend very much to defeat the great object of the Bill. He would contend that the existence of freemen in Corporations, as distinct from residence or occupation, was an usurpation, that the system as it now stood was a curse to the country, and the sooner they were got rid of the better. If there were any peculiar cases where estates had been devised for any particular purposes it would be easy to think of a proviso; but until these purposes were distinctly proved he thought there should be no interference. He would ask the Committee, what would be the effect of the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend if it were carried? It would be to perpetuate the present race of freemen for ever—in secula seculorum—and that, as long as England was England, they should enjoy the privileges they at present possess, however obnoxious they might be to the public welfare. Instead of the Bill being a blessing it would be a curse if this Amendment were adopted. And then, what a new and anomalous race of beings it would create! Freemen were now corporators—they had a right under the existing system of voting for mayors, aldermen, common-council-men, and recorders. His hon. and learned Friend did not propose that they should become burgesses, or common-councillors, under the system sought to be established by the present Bill. To what purpose were those powers continued in them when they would have no object to exercise them on? It was an effort to perpetuate abuses which should never exist, and to continue rights which were manifest usurpations. He—as a lawyer and an antiquary—who had, as a matter of necessity, given some degree of attention to the ancient history of corporations, insisted and asserted that freedom unconnected with inhabitancy of a place was an usurpation. When the charters under which most of the present corporations claimed were granted by the former Kings of England, the only freemen recognised by law were the re- 1077 sident inhabitants, and all freemen were corporators, It was, therefore, an usurpation when corporations refused to admit inhabitant householders to the freedom of any city or borough claiming to be incorporated under such charter, as well as a violation of the charter itfelf; and it was the same in both instances, when they admitted individuals to the freedom who did not possess the necessary qualification, which was occupancy. The consequence of these usurpations, which had become general in the course of time, was, that in most cities and boroughs in England the great mass of the inhabitant householders were excluded from the privileges of the freedom, while the corporations, in consequence of the admission of unqualified persons, consisted in most cases of mean, wretched, beggarly, and exceptionable individuals, who should never have been admitted to their freedom. His hon. and learned Friend had proposed the admission of all who, by birth or servitude, were entitled to their freedom; but his hon. and learned Friend surely knew that in the former case the determination of the limits of the corporate jurisdiction was necessary, while in the latter proper vouchers of servitude, as well as enrolment, according to the forms of the extinct corporation, were imperative. But the Bill before the Committee went to extinguish the ancient corporations, and to create others in their stead. Who were to admit these individuals to the freedom of the city or borough in which they were born, or had served their time, in that case? To be valid the admission should be formal, and effected in the mode and manner prescribed by the charter. When, however, the charter prescribed admission through the mayor, aldermen, and common council, and where no such body should be found to exist, how could the act of admission be made or performed? When these bodies were gone, who were to exercise their functions in that respect? Again, in the matter of servitude, or rather the performance of certain conditions, which, being performed, entitled the party to his freedom and all the immunities and privileges consequent on it, who was to ascertain that these conditions had been fulfilled? At present the Court of King's Bench would grant a quo warranto to ascertain the fact, because the law of corporations was defined, and the right to do so was determined in that Court. By the Bill 1078 before the House corporations were extinguished, and in that case therefore the jurisdiction of the Court of King's Bench was at an end. It would not interfere with what was not in existence; what then became of redress? It was highly necessary to put an end to the present system. It could not be longer borne that two classes of individuals should exist in the same borough or city, one of which, without any reasonable cause, was more privileged than the other. One of the most valuable privileges of freemen was exemption from toll. Did his hon. and learned Friend mean that from henceforward and for ever freemen, many of whom had no property, most of whom had no character, should possess that immunity? His hon. and learned Friend had inveighed against encroachments on corporate possessions, and asserted the rights of property, which existed in corporate bodies. But his hon. and learned friend should have remembered that these possessions were usurped in most instances; and that the corporations divided amongst themselves, in a majority of cases, those funds which had been intrusted to them for public purposes. The abuse was so glaring and so indefensible that the sooner some change was made the better for the country. His hon. and learned Friend had seemed to say that there would be a hardship inflicted on that class of persons by depriving them of the right of voting in the election of Members of Parliament; and he had urged on the consideration of the Committee that the Reform Act was final as to the several component parts of the constituency for that purpose, and that the clause before them would be an infraction of its provision. But there was no such compact expressed or implied in the Reform Act. It did not affect to deal with the question of the rights of freemen. It simply stated that while freemen were suffered to exist they should have permission to exercise the elective franchise. Nobody would be so insane as to say that because a thing was, it should always continue to be; or that the hands of Parliament should for ever be tied up in that or in any other particular instance. It was essential to the success of the Bill before the Committee that the power should be taken away from that class of freemen, and that their hands should be tied up, to prevent them doing further mischief. In a majority of cases they paid no rates—had no pro- 1079 perty—did not even discharge scot or bear lot—and the time of many of them was passed in workhouses the greater part of the year, whence they were withdrawn on the approach of an election Municipal or Parliamentary, for the purpose of giving their vote for a bribe of some description or other. In almost every election of either kind the freemen of the several constituencies were notorious for bribery. His hon. and learned Friend had asserted, that their infamy was participated in by the o her classes of voters, and he (the Attorney-General) was not disposed to deny it, to some extent. But he, too, was prepared to say that he believed the infamy of the freemen was the original cause, and that the corruption of their example extended itself to those who were not so vicious as themselves. Until they were eradicated from the constituencies of the kingdom, and the system under which they had flourished was put an end to, there could be no hope of purity of election for Municipal Officers or Members of Parliament. When this should have been done bribery and corruption, he believed, would be at an end. With respect to the rights of property, asserted by his hon, and learned Friend to exist in corporations he should offer one word. With respect to the hardships pointed out by his hon. and learned Friend—no man could regret more than he did, any infringement on individual interest even for public good. But he felt himself compelled, on principle, to sanction this measure, because he believed the public good paramount to all other considerations, merely private or personal. The Clauses objected to, were framed with great tenderness to those who were to be affected by them. According to the precedent of the Irish forty-shilling freeholders set by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, all existing freemen might at once have been disfranchised. But the rights of all existing freemen were sacredly preserved. To the end of their days, all of them would continue to vote for Members of Parliament, and to enjoy all the rights of property which they might now claim by custom, without any strict legal title. All the children of freemen now born, and all who are now bound apprentices, were to enjoy the exemptions, and to be entitled to the advantages which they might have claimed had this Bill not been introduced. The full advantages of the Bill were thus postponed for another 1080 generation: and the error to be imputed to the ministers was, that they had shown too much respect for rights which had their origin in usurpation and misapplication of the property held by the Corporations in trust for the public good. He felt it impossible for him to agree to the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Harvey
complained that the hon. and learned Attorney-General had shown so little kindness for the corporate constituencies, when he classed them all as denizens of gaols, and mean, wretched persons. He had been returned to that House for a space of upwards of eighteen years by the burgesses of Colchester, and he certainly could, from his own knowledge, as far as that borough was concerned, disprove the unkind assertion of the hon. Attorney-General. In place of finding them worse in proportion as they were necessitous, he had always, on the contrary, found that the poorer they were the more virtuously they acted. There was one observation which might be made by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, who omitted it in his valuable dissection of the clause before the Committee; but as it was without the range of that hon. and learned Member's principles he (Mr. H.) could easily excuse him for the neglect of it. It was this: the effect of the Clause as it stood would be to destroy, almost immediately, no inconsiderable portion of the constituency of the country, in as far as cities and boroughs were in question, and eventually to annihilate more than half of the whole. He would take a case in point, Colchester, for instance, which he knew from his own experience. In that borough there was a constituency of from 1,000 to 1,200 voters, he would say 1,150, of which about one half were freemen or burgesses. Of this half one moiety would be immediately extinguished; that was about a quarter of the whole constituency, inasmuch as at least that number of the class in question were not rated to the poor rate or in the payment of local taxation. In about twenty years the entire six hundred would become extinct; inasmuch as by the Clause in debate there was no power of keeping them up permitted. Thus the town of Colchester would have a constituency of only 600, in place of nearly double that number. In other boroughs, where the population was less, and the elective fran- 1081 chise consequently in fewer hands; for instance, in some boroughs where the electors did not amount to move than five or six hundred—if the same proportion were permitted as the basis of calculation, and it was not by any means an unreasonable one—what would become of the intention of the Reform Act? Close boroughs would be as prevalent as ever, unless some remedy were devised for the disease. For his own part, he confessed he was not at all sorry for the circumstance, nor did he much fear the consequences. Out of evil, however, would come good. He saw in the provisions of the Clause before the Committee enough to assure him that in the process of a very short period of time the Bill which they were about to pass would compel a more extended constituency all over the kingdom, inasmuch as it was only natural that those who were to be intrusted with the power of governing themselves in their municipal affairs should turn round, and require the power of electing their Representatives in Parliament. Those who could wisely choose a Mayor and Common Council could not easily be refused an extension of their privilege to the choice of Members of the Legislature. He was, therefore, favourable to the principle of the clause, for the reason, that he believed its result would be to establish a system in which the Parliamentary and the Municipal Representation of cities and boroughs should be co-equal. The hon. and learned Attorney-General had passed rather lightly over those observations, respecting the rights of property in schools and charities vested in corporate bodies as they at present existed, made by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter; notwithstanding that there was much in them deserving of notice. There was a school, for instance, in Colchester—he should take the place most familiar and best known to him—in which by the terms of the charter or grant, it was expressly stated that the boys educated there should be the sons of burgesses or freemen, for both names were of the same signification. Now, if the Clause, were agreed to, in five-and-twenty years the burgesses would be swept away. [No, freemen.] But freemen were burgesses. Now, after the passing of this Bill no person would be admitted on the roll of burgesses. In schools, therefore, the charters of which declared that the boys should be the sons of burgesses, if 1082 the burgesses were destroyed, the qualification would be destroyed. He did not say that this might not be remedied. But when there was a race of amity with reference to the Bill, he thought it desirable to throw into the common stock of information whatever suggestions might occur to him. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had somewhat overstated the case of the charity of Sir Thomas White; although he (Mr. Harvey) was sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman had no intention of overstating it. This property was to be placed at interest, and divided amongst the twenty-four named Corporations, amongst which were Bristol, Oxford, and Coventry. A small sum per annum was allowed to the Mayor of Bristol for going round and attending to the distribution of the money amongst the corporate bodies entitled to it. The Corporation of Bristol, however, invested the money (2,000l.) in the purchase of land which now produced 2,000l. a-year, but the Bristol Corporation contrived to keep to themselves that amount, with the exception of some trifling disbursements to others. Oxford city, which was never backward in asserting its claim to every thing which to it considered itself entitled, claimed its right to have 2,000l. once in every twenty-four years, but the claim was resisted. Coventry, instead of its twenty-fourth share of the 2,000l. a-year came in only for 100l. every twenty-four years; and this he supposed, was one of the rights of property to which the hon. and learned Member for Exeter adverted, which he could not but look upon as an over-statement. He was glad to hear from the hon. and learned Attorney-General that the chartered schools were to be thrown open, not only to burgesses but to all others. This would be especially advantageous to Colchester; for at present, although there was a considerable endowed school there, the master received all the money, and there were no boys in it.
§ The Solicitor-General
contended that it would be impossible—not merely difficult, but impossible—that any good or any tolerable system could go on if the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter were adopted. He would call on his hon. and learned Friend to say what would be the constitution of corporations in a few years if his Amendment should pass? The Members of them would consist of two classes—one 1083 the rate-payers, the useful and industrious party, who would have to pay all the burthens, and the other the aristocracy of freemen, who would derive all the benefits but who would have to pay nothing. He did not say that this would continue, but as long as it did last it was human nature that it should beget incessant heart burnings. He thought that by the line of argument which had been pursued by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, the hon. and learned Member had been completely begging the question. The case of Sir Thomas White's charity, which had been alluded to, had led to interminable discussions in the Courts of Law, of which his hon. and learned Friend was doubtless aware; and though it sometimes occurred in the Court of Chancery that difficulties presented themselves as to the definition of what constituted a charity and what a Corporate Fund, yet in the case of Sir Thomas White's bequests he had no such difficulty. But, supposing his hon. and learned Friend's statement respecting it to be correct, what did it make for his argument? It was in proof that the fund known as Sir T. White's was a mere charitable trust—it was plain that no fund of this nature would be invaded by the Bill before them, and as to its administration it would be transferred into the hands of the Mayor and Common Council, the successors of the old Corporation. With respect to the fund itself and its appropriation, if any doubts were entertained on that head they could be easily resolved by the Court of Chancery, who could direct its appropriation to other purposes, as had been done in the case of a charity for the release of Algerine Christian captives by Lord Eldon, when there were no longer any Christian captives to be released, on the destruction of that Power. The principle was the same in both cases; and if the Court had jurisdiction in one it should have it also in the other. If, then, there was no difficulty in depriving freemen of their rights in property there could surely be none in depriving them of the exercise of the elective franchise for Members of Parliament, because it never was intended to confer that privilege on any individual as a mere right attached to his person alone and unconnected with any circumstances of property or any condition of public service. The moment the existence of privileges in any body of 1084 men was discovered to be incompatible with the interests of the country that moment they should be unhesitatingly swept away for ever. He could not conceive anything less likely to serve and more likely to injure the stability of the State than that a class of individuals possessing no property should have an interest in the election of Corporate officers in the Government of a town—such persons who might be careless of the well-being of the country should not have the power either of electing Corporate officers or of sending Members to Parliament. He felt bound, therefore, to oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Charles Barclay
wished to make a few observations. He had always thought, though not in Parliament at the time of the Reform Bill, that property and representation went hand-in-hand; and considered it as a great blot in that Bill, the continuing the freemen, and giving them the right to vote; he was convinced that the 10l. franchise was sufficient in some of the towns, it was not sufficient for the larger towns of the kingdom, and had he been in the House at the time of the Reform Bill he certainly should have proposed a higher qualification for those towns. Having that opinion he wished to carry the Clause as it then stood, because he considered that it would be better that the representation both for the Mayor and Common Council and for Members of Parliament should be placed upon property. He therefore felt satisfied with the basis of the qualification for constituents who were to elect the Mayor and Council; and if Parliament had not decided that the freemen should have the right of voting for Members of Parliament, he would not have voted for their having the right even now of voting for the Mayor and Corporation. He had paid great attention to the arguments of the Attorney-General, and all he had heard of him was, that that body of persons were anomalous, and were holding their rights by usurpation; and he referred to ancient times to prove that those individuals had no right to complain, because now those rights and privileges were to be taken from them. Why, a possession of thirty, or sixty years ago, perhaps, gave hon. Members the right to that property, which they held as a qualification for their seat in Parliament, and when so short a period as that gave 1085 possession of those properties, it was rather hard to state that freemen had no further claim upon our consideration, because they had held them for 200 years. But again, it was said, that those individuals were ready on all occasions to commit bribery. Did not the House think that there was temptation for bribery in the election for Mayor; and Gentlemen, he thought, would not be less likely to expend their money for obtaining those offices than obtaining any other. But it had been proved that bribery was not confined to that individual class of freemen who held the elective franchise: now, the 10l. householders, had been bribed as much as the former parties [No, no,]. Hon. Members might say No? But he believed there was a learned Gentleman (Sir W. M. Rolfe) knew something about a certain borough, in the Western part of the country (Penryn), which had been before the House once or twice since the Reform Act passed, and therefore, he had not been much benefited by that measure; and he thought an adjoining borough to that had caught a little of the infection, [Sir W. M. Rolfe said, the hon. Member was quite mistaken.] If he were mistaken, he spoke on the evidence of a most respectable individual resident in the town, who declared that such a system of bribery had gone on for the last two elections. [Sir W. M. Rolfe gave a positive denial to the statement.] Well, if not so, he was sure no hon. Gentleman would get up and say, that there had been no bribery in the new boroughs. He would not have mentioned the case had he not been cheered from the other side; there were plenty of other instances well known to hon. Members. What object could they have in disfranchising those freemen? He did not quite agree with the proposition of the hon. Member for Exeter. He thought it was not an Amendment of the original Clause, for if there were to be Members of Parliament let them be elected by men of influence residing in the neighbourhood who would be above petty bribery. In his opinion, there was more likely to be bribery the in election of the Corporate Officers, than the in election of Members of Parliament, for the Reform Bill had increased the supply of electors, and lessened the demand for seats, for those towns and boroughs. If they were disfranchised, a great number of individuals by this Clause would throw 1086 these towns open to bribery and corruption of every description, and instead of having a reformed House of Commons, representing (as it seemed to him that it did) the opinions of the respectable people of this country, as the division of this House had then shown, if they passed this Clause, and now threw away freemen altogether, they would introduce a greater system of bribery and corruption into the boroughs than could be set aside by any alteration they could make in the Reform Bill.
Mr. William Williams
said, that he admired and had supported the principle of the present Bill, yet he should feel it his duty to vote for the Amendment which had been proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter. He should do so, because he thought the Clause, as it now stood, was a great infringement of the principles and provisions of the Act of Parliamentary Reform. By that great measure the rights and privileges of freemen had been preserved and maintained, and of that body in the city he had the honour to represent (Coventry) he could state, that a more virtuous constituency did not exist in this country. ["No, no."] Despite those tokens of dissent, he challenged any hon. Member to controvert that assertion, or disprove the fact that a greater portion of that class of the constituency had voted for him in contravention of the feelings of the corporation than had ever voted for any candidate on any former occasion. The effect of this Clause would be, to reduce the class of his constituents, denominated freemen, from about 2,500 to 1,500. This he took to be a serious attack upon the provisions of the Reform Bill, and a very great and extensive infringement upon the elective franchise. It was most unjust, inasmuch as the attack was confined to a body of electors who were equally as independent and honest as any other body to whom the elective franchise had been by the Legislature intrusted. A great deal had been said, too, about some large property belonging to the city; and reference had been made to Sir Thomas White's charity, but the Attorney and Solicitor General had not, in his opinion, answered the question of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Sir William Follett), viz. what was to be done with that immense mass of property, it was indeed divided in various ways but there was one amounting to 800l., which had been settled by the Court 1087 of Chancery to belong to and to be divided among the freemen of the city; 185 of them received 4l. annually, though not the same men permanently; they were changed every year so that the same person received it once in ten years, and a body of 1800 received that money among them. He should like to know what the Attorney and Solicitor General meant to do with that property; from the nature of their occupation the freemen brought up their children as a matter of course to the same trade with themselves who in point of fact, could assist them at an early age; and here was the reason, perhaps, why they were not educated, the children looked to that sum of money as a right—a right which belonged to them, and he (Mr. Williams) could not understand the principle of justice upon which, by this Bill, they were deprived of their rights and privileges. Then, again, there was the right of the "Lammas-land;" there were 200 acres about the city in which the freemen had the right of pasturage, during about half the year. He should be glad to know what was to become of that great mass of property, which had descended from father to son, in recognition of their rights as freemen, which were not as in other places conferred on persons by favour or acquired by gifts, but acquired by seven years servitude; and he would ask could they find a body of men more deserving of the trust of freedom than those who had acquired it by having served an apprenticeship of seven years? Did not the man, by the very circumstance of applying so much time to acquire an art, place himself in the situation to become an independent man, and might he not have as much independence both of character and conduct, as any of the richer class of the community. He had acquired a great deal of experience in elections at Coventry, the class of electors there was generally artizans, and he had seen more independence of character, and less improper influence over those mechanics, than there was in the citizens of London; he knew that their votes were not so easy to be influenced as those of the electors of that city. Now the Attorney General had talked of those freemen being a "new and an anomalous race." Why the freemen of the City of London had exercised their right for the last 500, or 600 years, and yet he called them "new and anoma- 1088 lous." He certainly did not know whether the learned Attorney-General had not spoken of his being somewhat versed as an antiquary; but he certainly, thought he was not versed in those corporations, else he would never have spoken of those corporations as "new and anomalous." He should give his most perfect concurrence in the Amendment.
Mr. Vernon Smith
considered the Clause now under consideration was one of the most valuable in the whole Bill, both in its direct and in its indirect effects. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had, by a reference to the case of Sir Thomas White's charity, got himself into a bit of a scrape. For though much of his speech had turned upon the situation of Coventry in reference to that charity, the borough which he had the honour to represent was interested in that charity, as being one of the twenty-four boroughs which were benefitted by the bequest; and he would show the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the Committee, how and in what manner the loans under the charity were brought to bear for certain purposes. A portion of that charity was distributable in loans, as had already been stated, to individuals selected by the corporation, and the mode of distribution thus appeared in the Report of the Commissioners.—"A witness of the name of Jeffery, a baker, deposed that he had petitioned several times, but always unsuccessfully, for the loan, which it was an object to him in his business to obtain. He had always voted at the elections on the Whig side, but had never taken an active part. On one occasion, when canvassing he had called upon an alderman of Northampton. The alderman, when applied to, said, 'I almost forgot—how did you vote at the election?' On the other 'answering that he always voted on the Whig side' the alderman replied, 'How then can you expect any favour to be shown you by the corporation?' On another occasion a common-councilman said to him, 'It was of no use trying for the loan, for he should not have it,' and asked him 'how he was such a fool as to vote against the corporation.'"
§ Sir William Follett
said, the hon. Member would excuse him if he interrupted him. The hon. Member had said, that he (Sir W. Follett) had got himself into a scrape by naming Sir Thomas White's charity; but he doubted whether the hon.
1089 Member was not premature in that supposition. He had stated to the Committee that he spoke upon information which he had received, and on the same information he now repeated that there was a charity called Sir Thomas White's Charity, in Coventry, yielding 800l. per annum, which was peculiar to that city, and participated in by no other corporation whatever. In other charities from the same donor no less than twenty-four towns participated, but of these Coventry was not one.
Mr. Vernon Smith
said, that the interruption did not make the distribution of the charities elsewhere less discreditable than it appeared from the Report which he had read. He contended that, after what he had stated to the Committee, as well as upon principle, it would be a mutilation of the Bill to omit the Clause now under discussion, and to such a mutilation he could not consent, even though it was sought on behalf of the freemen of the city of Coventry, and he would urge the noble Lord (Russell) not to leave a vestige of those ancient rights of freemen, so anomalously apparent. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had said, that the present Bill had been introduced without inquiry. He (Mr. Smith) contended that the fullest investigation had been gone into, and he only doubted whether or not many of the principles of this measure might safely have been embodied long since in a Bill without any evidence, for, in his opinion, they were in necessity and justice self-evident. He denied that it had been any part of the bargain for the passing of the Reform Bill that the rights of freemen should be retained, or that any contract had been made in that respect from which the Legislature ought not to depart. He perfectly agreed in what had fallen from his noble Friend who introduced the Bill, that of all the evils of the present corporation system, the greatest was that which gave power to the few by the corruption of the many, and that although hereditary Legislators might be beneficial to a State, hereditary electors, such as those whose privileges it was now sought to maintain inviolate, were not to be justified. He hoped, therefore, that the Committee would not hesitate in agreeing to the Clause as it at present stood in the Bill.
§ Sir James Graham
addressed the Com- 1090 mittee. The right hon. Baronet said, that it was not his intention to occupy the valuable time of the Committee, and he should not have risen if he had not felt very anxious to offer to the consideration of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter a suggestion which he felt would conduce to the ultimate justice of the decision of that House. He was not about to allude to the most extraordinary purity of the freemen of Coventry, nor had he any intention of joining in the vituperation which hon. Members had indulged in against freemen in general, and still further was it from his intention to argue against his Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor General upon the propriety of annihilating the whole body of freemen, en masse. But it was a matter of very great importance that the Committee should discuss two points distinctly, and which the hon. and learned Member for Exeter had raised conjointly, and the latter of which, in his opinion, had not been raised appositely upon the present Clause. Under the 9th and 10th Clauses of the Bill, directly in one case, and indirectly in the other, were involved two inchoate rights of freemen; the first was raised indirectly, and it was the inchoate right of the sons of freemen to vote hereafter on the return of Members to that House. This point fairly came under the 9th Clause of the present Bill. It was, in fact, a very important point. But the hon. and learned Member for Exeter had unfortunately combined with this point the inchoate right of freemen to certain benefits of property reserved in the 10th Clause. Now, what he would suggest was, that the latter point could be more satisfactorily postponed until the 10th Clause of the Bill was in its due course before the Committee. If the hon. and learned Member for Exeter would agree to take the first point separately, he would find that a great many Gentlemen in that House would vote for him on that point who could not vote for him on the second, and who would rather vote against the first than involve themselves in an approbation of the second; whilst many hon. Members were disposed to do directly the reverse. He therefore hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman would separate the two points, which really were in themselves essentially distinct. Upon the first point he trusted that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not wish to extend the privilege of voting further than to those who 1091 were in boroughs already apprenticed or already born. He was bound in candour to admit that it was with the very greatest reluctance that he, as a Member of Lord Grey's Government, had consented to the change effected by the Reform Bill, and it had been his urgent wish to extend the right of voting beyond the line of persons who now enjoyed it under that Bill. Still would he maintain that the existing arrangement, having been made under the Bill, it ought to be preserved as a sort of national compact. He did not mean to say that the arrangement could, beyond a certain extent, be permanently binding on the Legislature; but when he heard the hon. Member for Southwark exclaim, as he had done that night, "Reformers be comforted, for in this Clause I see the seeds of future changes, for those who are to vote for mayors and councils of boroughs will soon assert their competency to vote for Members of Parliament"—when he heard the hon. Member use such language he did call upon the Members of Earl Grey's Government to preserve inviolate the compact of the Reform Bill. He would say to those who had been his colleagues in the Government of Earl Grey, "Beware! If you are desirous of resisting further change, adhere to the compact which, as Members of Earl Grey's Administration, you readily acquiesced in;" acquiesced in, he should ever consider, honestly, because it smoothed the passage of a great measure which it would otherwise have been difficult, if not impossible, to carry. He called upon them to beware not to set the example of a premature or hasty departure from the provisions of the Reform Act. He held this Clause of the Bill then before them to contain an unnecessary departure from the provisions of the Reform Act. He had a still stronger objection to it; he considered it not only an unnecessary departure, but there was this which was a damning vice in it, it was an indirect departure from it. If the Question were raised at all, let it be raised directly—let it be raised manfully—let it be raised openly and avowedly in the shape of a Bill to amend and correct the measure passed two years since for reforming the representation of the people. If the thing were to be done at all, let it be done openly—let it be done in a manner which should afford to those whose franchise they proposed to destroy, or, as the hon. and learned Solicitor-General had 1092 said, "to annihilate," an opportunity to be heard. He (Sir J. Graham) denied that since the passing of the Reform Bill any material new facts had arisen which could now warrant the introduction of a change which was then resisted. If such facts had arisen, if they were notorious, let them be brought to light; if any convincing reasons existed, let them be brought forward in an avowed shape—let them be introduced in the form of a direct and positive measure. But he (Sir J. Graham) said, especially after the warning which had been held out by the hon. Member for Southwark, that there were in this Clause the seeds of further change in the representation of the people, that he should pause before he consented to the adoption of such a provision as that contained in the Clause then under the consideration of the Committee. If his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Exeter, would adopt the suggestion which he (Sir J. Graham) had ventured to throw out, he should have great pleasure in supporting his Amendment.
§ Lord John Russell
thought it necessary, in the first place, after the warning which his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham) had had the goodness to give him and those who had enjoyed the good fortune of being Members of Lord Grey's Administration, to say that he thanked his right hon. Friend for his advice; and, in the second place, to tell him the reason and the motive upon which he was not disposed to act upon that advice. He owned he was the less disposed to follow that advice because it was not the first time on which he had observed that his right hon. Friend, who with him (Lord J. Russell) and with others encountered so boldly the dangers and obstacles which were placed in the way of the Reform Bill—dangers and obstacles as great perhaps as any Government ever encountered—had appeared since that period, he knew not why, to allow certain fears and apprehensions to enter his mind, which seemed rather to betoken that his right hon. Friend in concurring with his colleagues in bringing forward the Reform Bill, had not duly weighed those consequences which must necessarily and unavoidably result from it. He had observed, rather with amusement than otherwise, that it was quite sufficient for the hon. Member for Southwark, or the hon. Member for Middlesex, or any other Gentleman who 1093 professed extreme opinions, to speak of further and greater reforms—reforms which they considered to be wise in themselves, and which hereafter must necessarily be carried into effect—it was sufficient for those Gentlemen to mention any one of those subjects, at once to fill his right hon. Friend's mind with dismay and terror, lest every thing that was valuable in the constitution should suddenly and for ever be swept away, and the country involved in a series of perpetual and rapid changes, under which there would be no security whatever. He knew not the meaning of that cheer; his opinions were directly the reverse of the opinions which that cheer was intended to mark; his opinion was, that the people of this country were indeed bent upon reforms, but there never was a country in which the opinions in favour of reform were weighed more carefully, in which every step was taken with greater care, or in which there was a greater indisposition to precipitate any measure tending to endanger the institutions of the country, or to impair the security of property. Every measure of that description caused a strong public feeling against it; and whilst an opinion prevailed in favour of wholesome and even great reforms, there was not in this country any violent enthusiasm for measures which could in any respect be dangerous to the peace or to the ancient institutions of the country. Then his right hon. Friend said, "If you are disposed to change, do it directly." The present was not only, he said, a measure of great change, but it was indirect and hidden in its operations. When his right hon. Friend spoke in that manner, he must ask him, whether he meant to say that his Majesty's Government were not bringing forward their Bill for Municipal Reform honestly and fairly. He might ask his right hon. Friend, whether he meant to say that all this machinery with respect to corporations was only a mask to conceal some sinister change in the Reform Act? If his right hon. Friend did not mean that, why did his right hon. Friend talk of their doing that indirectly which ought to be done directly? The Clause then under consideration, to which his right hon. Friend had taken so strong an objection, was a necessary consequence of the principle of Municipal Reform. The new franchise to which his right hon. Friend objected, was not introduced for 1094 the purpose of altering the Reform Act, but for the sake of amending and reforming the different corporations throughout the kingdom. It certainly did make an alteration, and he did not deny, a great alteration in the provisions of the Reform Act. That, however, was a consequence which it was difficult, if not altogether impossible to avoid, when they came to consider the right of voting as applied to Municipal Reform. Let the House consider what was the nature of the proposition submitted by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had thought that the Government were bringing forward a measure which they had not sufficiently considered—if he thought they were bringing forward a Bill, the consequences of which they had not sufficiently weighed—he must declare in opposition to that assertion, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had submitted a proposition, by way of amendment, the consequences of which, as a lawyer and a statesman, he could not have sufficiently examined. What was the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition? He was inclined to put to the hon. and learned Gentleman the difficulty which the hon. and learned Gentleman had put to him; for it certainly applied much more to the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition than it did to his. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, "If you propose to do away with the freemen—if you think them worthy of punishment—if they have not conducted themselves in a manner to be entitled to the elective franchise—deprive them of it at once; but if you do not mean to do that, preserve to them their privileges." Such was the argument—such the dilemma in which the hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to place the Government. But he (Lord J. Russell) said, with respect to this Question, "If these freemen are worthy to exercise the right of freemen—if they are burgesses and members of the body corporate—keep them as the body corporate." If the freemen were fit to exercise all the privileges attaching to the character of a freeman, why did the hon. and learned Gentleman admit the first part of the Clause, which deprived them altogether of the possibility of being members of the body corporate—which deprived them of any voice in the election of the mayor or town council, and created them into a body for a separate purpose, exer- 1095 cising their rights for separate ends, but with this peculiar mark of degradation upon them, that having exercised for many hundred years the rights of freemen for Corporation purposes, they were now to continue the name of freemen, under Corporations from the benefits of which, and the management and control of which, they were to be wholly excluded. If in the place of these freemen, the House had, by adopting the 6th Clause of the Bill, obtained a better body of constituents, to whom should be intrusted the power of electing the governing bodies in all corporate towns? For what purpose was it that they were to preserve the freemen who existed solely by corporate rights, but who would then exist for purposes totally separate from the new Corporations. With that view let the Committee look at the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter. It provided that nothing contained in the Act should extend to prevent admission to the freedom of the town of all such persons as, under the laws now in force, were entitled to be admitted, or in any way to affect the rights, privileges, &c. of such persons. He supposed that there were two separate ends, for which it was proposed that this right of freedom should be preserved, and for neither of which he thought it ought to be continued; first, the general right which they had long enjoyed, and which was still preserved to them by the Reform Bill, of electing Members to serve in Parliament. He was far from saying that the House ought to introduce a special provision, or to pass a special Act for the disfranchisement of the freemen; but he said that if the House preserved the franchise of the freemen only for the purpose of allowing them to vote for Members to serve in Parliament, it would be doing a thing calculated to have a very prejudicial effect upon the Parliamentary right, as well as upon the interests of the Municipal Corporations. He thought it had been well put by his hon. and learned Friend, the Solicitor-General, that the effect of preserving to the freemen their Parliamentary rights alone, must in a great degree tend to prevent the good government of the corporate towns. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Exeter, had quoted the case of Coventry, and although he, in consequence of that quotation, felt it necessary for a moment to allude to the 1096 case, still, after all that had been said upon it in the course of the Debate, he should not think of detaining the House, and giving his opinion at length upon it. It appeared to him that the case of Coventry was one of those very cases which showed the mischief of preserving the rights of freemen for these purposes. There was a charity in that town called the 4l. charity, of which it was stated that one of the rights of admission to it was derived from a person's voting in such a way for Members of Parliament as was approved by the Corporation; and that it was a reason for the non-admission of a person if he did not vote in the way that the Corporation approved, or if, to use the local and familiar phrase, he did not bring money into their well. It was stated that out of the 1,273 freemen of Coventry, 936 belonged to the Corporation side, and 337 only to the other. Then what did the hon. and learned Gentleman propose to do? He proposed to keep up the right of the freemen to vote in municipal elections as well as in elections for Members of Parliament, and, at the same time, of course, to keep up their right to the 4l. charity, leaving to the Corporation the power of distributing that charity, as it had always hitherto done, for Parliamentary purposes. By his Amendment the hon. and learned Gentleman would preserve the briber and the bribee. But then the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment went on to say, that the rights, privileges, and property, to which the freemen were now by law entitled, should not in any way be affected by the present measure. Now many of those rights and privileges were of a description most hurtful to the towns in which they were allowed to exist. To a small body of freemen, for instance, was given a complete monopoly of trade, and an exemption from all the tolls imposed upon those who had not obtained the freedom of the town. And why were the freemen picked out from among their fellow-citizens for the enjoyment of these exclusive rights and privileges? He did not wish to say anything disrespectful towards that class of persons; but he must say that they were not selected on account of any peculiar merit that they possessed. They had been chosen as from out of the rest of the inhabitants, and were vested with monopolies and privileges which were originally intended for all the inhabitants of the 1097 towns. These monopolies and privileges the hon. and learned Gentleman now proposed to preserve; but in preserving, let the hon. and learned Gentleman notice what he would preserve. Not the corporate franchise, which might be of some use—not the corporate rights which they had long enjoyed—not a monopoly of exemptions, but the Parliamentary franchise alone; which Parliamentary franchise, as the House well knew, had given to them a means of struggling to maintain their monopoly, and of keeping to themselves benefits that to make them valuable required to be shared by all. Therefore he was not much inclined to agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. Indeed he did not know how the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition was to be carried into effect. Government proposed certain machinery for the correction of corporate abuses, and by which the Mayor and town council were in future to be elected. But how were they to contrive that those freemen who belonged to no Corporation, and whose rights only were preserved to give them a title to corporate charities and to the exercise of the Parliamentary franchise—how they were to devise a machinery by which persons possessing such anomalous rights were to have all those rights confirmed, he confessed he was utterly at a loss to conceive. He would ask the Committee would there not be the greatest danger, if on the one side they were to create a municipal body having the rights and privileges which municipal bodies by this Bill were to possess, and at the same time to place by the side of them another body possessing a monopoly of charities and a monopoly of trade? Would there not, he asked, be the greatest danger, if such a state of things were allowed to exist, of exciting a constant rivalry in corporate towns, of depriving the corporate government of the authority and influence it ought to possess, and of giving rise to continual struggles between the old corporators and old freemen, to set up their influence against the corporate government established under the new law, thus endangering the good order, quiet, and peace of the town, which it ought to be the first object of the House to secure in legislating on a subject of this kind. He would not now enter into the separate question of how far the pecuniary rights preserved by the tenth clause should be extended; notice of a Motion upon that 1098 point had been given by an hon. Gentleman then in the House, and he (Lord John Russell) would reserve his opinion upon it until that Motion was brought forward. He would merely state that the wish of the Government was to preserve all existing pecuniary rights. That was the principle of the tenth Clause; but if it could be shown that that principle ought to be extended beyond the provisions of that Clause, he should be ready to yield to conviction, and should think that instead of injuring he was rather improving that part of the Bill. The present, however, was a different proposition; it was a proposition to maintain—and to maintain for purposes most injurious—those old freemen whose rights, as a corporate body, were proposed to be abolished by this Bill. For his own part he acknowledged he should be disposed to say that the proposition made by the hon. Member for Newcastle in the early part of the Debate, to preserve the freemen for corporate purposes, would be the better proposition of the two. He thought the present proposition was one which would mutilate, if not destroy, the efficiency of the Bill; and he should, therefore, give it his most strenuous opposition. He felt quite sure that if the House were to consent to it, it would afterwards have reason to repent its not availing itself of so fair an opportunity of obtaining a full and efficient reform of Corporation abuses.
§ Sir James Graham
would not detain the House one moment longer than was positively necessary; but, as his noble Friend had alluded so pointedly and personally to him, it was absolutely incumbent on him to say a few words. His noble Friend had rather insinuated that his advice would not be very agreeable to him (Sir James Graham). He could not return the compliment. He was, at all times, not only anxious to receive advice from his noble Friend, but he had been so long associated with him, and he esteemed him so sincerely, that even reproof from his noble Friend would never be received unkindly by him. His noble Friend said, he had observed, with surprise, his recent conduct, and the view which he had taken of public affairs since the passing of the Reform Bill. He thought his noble Friend would do him justice, when he said that, to the best of his ability, no colleague who sat by his side on the Treasury Bench during that eventful 1099 period supported the measure of Reform more strenuously, more firmly, more constantly than he did. He did so on principle well known to his noble Friend—a principle avowed by the head of the Government under whom he and his noble Friend had served. The principle enunciated by Lord Grey on more than on occasion, was this—that he and his colleagues brought forward the measure of Reform in the representation of the people—extensive as he admitted it to be, great as even the supporters of it admitted it to be beyond their expectations—for one reason, and that reason was this, that because it was so extensive he sought to find a resting-place, whereon he might resist stedfastly, manfully, and constantly, all further change. He did not presume to say, that that understanding was binding on Parliament. He did not presume to say, that it was binding on that House but on himself, as a man of honour whilst he continued to take any part in the public affairs, he did consider it as binding as any obligation that a public man could take upon himself in the face of the nation. Those who had been his colleagues in Lord Grey's Government might take a different view of the subject, but upon that he had nothing to say. It was enough for him to be the guardian of his own honour and consistency, and thus he had been led to avow, distinctly and plainly, what was his view on the subject. His noble Friend had also stated, that he was astonished at the degree of alarm which he seemed to feel when certain Gentlemen, who were the noble Lord's opponents as well as his own, rose to express certain opinions. He admitted, that when he was a party to the introduction of the large measure of Reform to which he had referred, he did anticipate other changes as a natural consequence of it. For instance, he considered a Reform of the Church, as its necessary consequence; he still regarded it as such; but he did not anticipate then, nor would he support now, as a Reform of the Ecclesiastical Establishment, the alienation of the property of the Church, or the separation of the Church Establishment from the State. So, also, he had anticipated the necessity of Municipal Reform, and in the spirit of that anticipation had supported the second reading of the Bill then under consideration. Indeed, he was most anxious to give effect, 1100 not only to the principle, but to all the necessary details of that Bill. His noble Friend had asked him, if he considered this to be an indirect measure of Corporate Reform. He certainly was not so disposed to regard it. He looked upon it as a direct and complete measure of Municipal Reform, and it was on that ground that he had supported its principle; but he maintained, that there was one passage in it which had an indirect tendency, and that passage was contained in the Clause then under consideration. He maintained, that that part of the Clause was not germane to the Bill, and was not necessarily connected with it; in fact, that it was unnecessary, tending only to tamper indirectly with the representation of the people, as fixed by the Reform Bill. It was for this reason that he opposed it. The noble Lord had also said, he was rather astonished at his timid caution, when he heard the bold propositions made by their common opponents, the hon. Members for Southwark and Middlesex. He must confess, it was not the caution but the boldness of his noble Friend that astonished him, when he saw the measures into which he was hurried, not by his opponents, but by his supporters.
§ Sir William Follett
expressed his readiness to acquiesce in the suggestion made by his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham). Therefore, with the permission of the Committee, he would withdraw the amendment in the terms in which it then stood, for the purpose of introducing another amendment, embodying his right hon. Friend's suggestion.
§ Lord John Russell
thought, that the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman now proposed to take, afforded a direct answer to the charge of indirectness which had been made by his right hon. Friend.
§ Lord Sandon
defended the rights of the freemen, and contended that they were not the poor, wretched, degraded, demoralized set of beings which the hon. and earned Attorney-General had described them, nor were they persons whose rights he same learned authority had asserted to be a usurpation. He should like to know how that could be called a usurpation, the origin of which no lawyer could race. The Attorney-General had said, hat freemen were a class of voters who lad been constantly guilty of corrupt 1101 practices, and that until they were entirely done away, there was no chance of getting rid of such practices. He appealed to any Gentleman in the House, who had a constituency of freemen, whether he was prepared to sanction this description of the character of freemen? He had himself seen something of that class of society, and although he knew that, under very strong temptation, they had been led astray—yet he also knew, that for the three last elections they had resisted every species of temptation, and had acted honestly. He looked with regret at the hard line that Gentlemen were inclined to draw between different classes in society. He should regret that men should feel that the mere possession of property would entitle them to share in municipal rights. It had always been the practice in this country for poor men to enjoy the privilege of municipal freedom. The Poor-law Bill had already been a severe blow on the feelings of the poorer classes. They could not, therefore, help looking with some degree of jealousy on the Legislature withholding from them that right which they had hitherto enjoyed for a long series of years. They would see that this House was becoming more and more the exclusive possession of the middle classes of society, while the rights and feelings of the lower classes would eventually altogether cease being represented in it. It was remarked, that the whole stress of the arguments adduced in support of the present Clause was, that it would be an improvement of the Reform Bill, and would correct the error formerly committed in prolonging the right of the freemen to vote for Members of Parliament. The Clause, therefore, was not proposed merely as being incidental to Corporation Reform, but with a view to destroy the rights which the freemen enjoyed under the Reform Bill. He hoped the House would not be induced to make this first invasion of that measure, which was declared to be a final measure by the very men who were now endeavouring to invade it.
§ Mr. Robinson
rose amidst loud cries of "Divide, divide!" He was the representative of a large body of those freemen whose interests were attempted to be invaded by this Bill in a manner to which he felt himself bound to offer the most decided opposition. He ventured to assert, that the noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government would not dare 1102 to attempt to do by a direct measure, that which he was attempting to do indirectly by a proposition to reform the Municipal Corporations of this country. The noble Lord proposed, in a measure ostensibly having for its object the reform of Municipal Corporations, to deprive persons of the privilege which they now enjoyed of returning Members to this House. Now, he asked the noble Lord, who was a party to the Parliamentary Reform Act, which the Government of Lord Grey declared to be a final measure, whether he would venture to come forward, in the face of his House and of the country, to propose a measure for disfranchising existing freemen of the right of voting for Members of Parliament.
§ Lord John Russell
begged to say, in answer to the question put to him by the hon. Gentleman, that the hon. Gentleman did not seem to understand the object of this Clause. Its object was not to deprive existing freemen of the right of voting for Members of Parliament. He thought the clause was already sufficiently clear upon this point; otherwise he would propose the insertion of words that should expressly say, that all existing rights of freemen to vote for Members of Parliament should be preserved. But according to his construction of the Clause, the insertion of any such words would be totally unnecessary. The House would permit him to explain what the nature of the Clause really was. The proposal of his Majesty's Ministers was this:—that all Corporate bodies should in future consist of burgesses who were rate-payers, according to the 6th section of this Bill; and that there should be no other burgesses or freemen whatsoever. Therefore, after the existing lives of freemen were extinct, there certainly would not be any freemen in any borough who would have a right to vote for Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Robinson
understood the object of the Bill perfectly well. He was not complaining that existing freemen would be deprived of the right of voting for Members of Parliament; but what he complained of was, that the descendants of those freemen having inchoate rights to be freemen, were attempted to be deprived of that right of voting. He considered it a most disingenuous course of proceeding on the part of any Minister, or any Cabinet whatever, to do that which the noble Lord and his colleagues were now doing, The 1103 noble Lord himself just now admitted, that he and his colleagues of Earl Grey's Government assented somewhat reluctantly to the admission of the rights of freemen under the Reform Bill, and that they did so because he considered it would smooth the passage of that Bill through Parliament. The House was to understand, then, that the noble Lord's political morality consisted in this—that a Minister might state that he was willing to consent that certain rights should be preserved in order to get a Bill through both Houses of Parliament, and then having obtained that object, he might two years afterwards, come down to this House and endeavour to throw those very rights overboard. He cared not to what misrepresentations his conduct might subject him, but he never would be a party to proceedings that were alike disingenuous and dishonourable. He should like to have asked the learned Attorney-General, if he had been in his place, whether those acts of usurpation, of which he had so loudly complained, were not known at the time of passing the Reform Bill as well as they were now? He denied altogether the corruption attributed solely to the freemen. He believed it was proved before the Ipswich Committee, that the larger portion of persons bribed were 10l. householders, and not freemen. But he should like to ask the noble Lord, upon what principle it was that he was so earnest in preserving the rights of another set of persons, whose claims could not be put in competition with those of the freemen of Corporations—he meant the rights of those persons whose names were on the Pension-list. How tender were the feelings exhibited by the noble Lord for the rights of individuals on that occasion. In conclusion, he thought that this clause would do more to shake public confidence in the proceedings of this House than any other measure that had been brought forward since he had had the honour of a seat in Parliament.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
said, some Gentlemen had complained that this Question was not brought forward in a proper and direct manner; but, for his part, he could not understand how there could possibly be any equivocation in the course adopted. Was there any reason why his Majesty's Ministers should endeavour to carry their object in an indirect manner; and even if they desired to do so, what possible hope 1104 was there that they would escape the vigilance of those alert advocates whom they now saw so earnestly vindicating the poor man's rights—rights so justly dear to him? There could be no motive, then, for Ministers to make such an attempt; and, certainly, the discussion which they had this night heard, proved that such an attempt would have been most monstrous indeed. These freemen were the worst features of our Representative system, and were a curse upon the new constituency. He could not refrain from expressing his surprise at the doctrines which had been advanced by noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen on the other side. He must confess that he began to feel great alarm for the stability of the Monarchical institutions of this country, when he observed the democratic tone which those noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen sometimes took. He thought that if the limited Monarchy of this empire should be superseded by a democratic Republic, it would be occasioned by the bidding which those noble Lords and hon. Gentleman seemed so much disposed to make for the sake of a little temporary popularity. When he heard the noble Lord (the Member for Liverpool) speaking of the rights of the poor man, he was reminded of the time when he first had the honour of a seat in Parliament. He used then to hear Mr. Hunt (the Member for Preston) advocate the poor man's rights. That hon. Member sat where the noble Lord was now seated; and the language which the noble Lord had this night used, when claiming for these poor men the right to vote, was exactly the language which Mr. Henry Hunt was wont to use in support of Universal Suffrage. Freemen were more open to corruption than any other class of voters; and he would refer to the evidence taken before the Municipal Corporation Commissioners in support of this proposition. In one borough it had been the usual practice to chalk up the price of a vote on the shutters of the Committee-rooms. In another place the candidates used openly to give 15l. and a pig for a vote; and the pig was paraded in the streets, decorated with the colours of the candidates who gave it. ["Name, name!"] He was exceedingly sorry to disappoint hon. Gentlemen by not naming the places; but he begged to refer them to the four volumes of evidence which were accessible to all 1105 ["Name, name!"]. If he were obliged to name the places, he would say that one of them was Nottingham and the other Maidstone. But while he mentioned these two names, he begged to say that there were three other instances of corrupt practices, of a much more remarkable character; he alluded to Norwich, Ipswich, and Oxford. [The hon. Member quoted from the Report of the Corporation Commissioners several specimens of the misbehaviour of the freemen, and then continued.] Were these men, he would ask, to be intrusted with the franchise? Could it be said that this House would be infringing on the purity of the constitution by touching the rights of such voters as these? He called upon the House to take away this franchise, even on account of the freemen themselves, whom it degraded, demoralized, and impoverished. But it was said, that a compact had been made at the passing of the Reform Bill, by which the rights of freemen were to be preserved. If any such compact had been made, let the parties with whom it was made come forward and claim their bond. Let the House of Lords, if the compact were with them, state that the only condition on which they agreed to the Reform Bill was, that a particular class of voters should be kept up, who could be corrupted by the money of the aristocracy. Yes; he would repeat, corrupted by the money of the aristocracy. Let not the House suppose that this zeal to preserve the rights of freemen sprung purely out of regard to the poor man's rights. No; this House—the country at large—could perceive that the only reason this cry was raised was, that the aristocracy might preserve the rights of men whose franchise they could purchase.
was bound to say on behalf of those whom he represented, that if the Clause were carried, one half of his constituents would be at once disfranchised, they being too the very class of persons on whom the franchise was conferred only two years ago. He should vote for the Amendment for the very reason which had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for Stroud, Lord John Russell—namely, that these freemen were allowed to retain their franchise under the Reform Bill for the mere purpose of enabling the then Government to conciliate, and to bring that Reform Bill to a successful termination. As this argument was urged 1106 when the Reform Bill was introduced, and as he saw no reason for depriving the very same class of persons of their franchise now, he should support the Amendment.
said, that his right hon. Friend, the Member for Cumberland (Sir James Graham) had been charged with unfairness, in stating that the Clause indirectly accomplished an object which it sought to conceal. He (Lord Stanley) complained of it as an indirect mode of proceeding, for this reason, that the Bil now before the House professed to be a measure for the regulation of the Municipal Corporations of England and Wales. An hon. Gentleman who had just now spoken, following the example of other hon. Members of that House, had calumniated, he would venture to say, the great body of the freemen of this country. Now he did not mean to contend that the freemen, as a class, had been or perhaps were either pure or immaculate, but then he believed that no body of electors in the world was absolutely so; and this he would say, that be they as pure as perfection itself, or be they as foul and as base as they were represented to be even by the hon. and learned Attorney-General—be they altogether and exclusively fit to exercise electoral functions, or be they wholly and utterly incapable to exercise even the lowest of those functions, to those functions the present measure did not propose to admit them; from those functions it did not propose to exclude them. They were not now called upon to discuss the propriety of admitting them to exercise political functions. The question merely was, their fitness as a Municipal body. Then what became of the great and grave objection which had been urged against the class of voters coming under the denomination of freemen? Why, the objection after all merely amounted to this—that they were unfit to exercise a franchise which was not sought to be conferred upon them by this Bill for political purposes, but a franchise they were permitted to retain by another Bill for other purposes; that other measures forming no part of the present discussion. He stood upon the plain and simple ground that the rights of the freemen were solemnly guaranteed, as his noble Friend had said, to secure the passing of the Reform Bill. If that measure of Reform were now sought to be rescinded, the fair and manly course was 1107 to come down to that House and move its being rescinded by a separate and definite measure; not for the ostensible purpose of conceding or taking away Municipal rights but avowedly for the purpose of again dealing with the franchise. His grounds of objection to the Clause as it stood, and his reasons for adopting in preference the Amendment which had been moved, were simply these—that what his Majesty's Government proposed to do was unnecessary for the object they professed to have in view; that it was unjust, inasmuch as it was in direct opposition to their own solemn guarantee given two years ago, and if they sought to do away with that guarantee they ought to have done so directly by a political measure—not indirectly and by a municipal one.
§ Colonel Sibthorp,
amid confusion, expressed his opinion that hon. Gentlemen opposite were afraid to hear the truth. He should be wanting in his duty to his constituents, if he could hear the Attorney-General abuse the freemen, as the curse of the country, and denounce the body corporate as a degraded and wretched race of people, without declaring the astonishment as well as the disgust, with which he had heard such a declaration from an individual holding a high and important station in the House, and one whose transactions were always marked by liberality, candour, and decency. The hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller) had looked upon that side of the House, and talked about the noble Lord (Sandon) being favourable to democracy. How came hon. Members upon that side of the House? Did they not vote against the rotten boroughs, as being an aristocratical part of the constitution? It was to the democracy they looked for their seats; and he thought that, to be consistent, those Gentlemen ought to be the very last to deprive that body of their rights to vote [great confusion; loud cries of Divide, Adjourn, Oh! Oh!] hon. Members would only detain themselves the longer. He was aware that that was the system of many Members on that side of the House, he had no desire to strain his voice to the wind; he rose merely for the purpose of protesting against the propriety of those observations of the Attorney-General; he considered they were unworthy of his dignity and his station, and proved the obligation of the people to the Ministry of the Reform Bill, who came against them with 1108 such a Clause as that which had just been decided, and declared that such a course as the present would never reconcile the people to a Reforming Admnistration.
§ Mr. Winthrop Praed
said, that although in fact this Amendment upon which the Committee were about to divide, was precisely similar to one of which he had given notice, he had not yet addressed to the House one single observation in reference to it. He did not then mean to trespass upon the patience of the House, and he should only claim the privilege of asking the noble Lord one question. The House would bear hardly upon him if this privilege were denied him, considering that on the Amendment which he first introduced into the Committee on the preceding night he had hitherto been prevented from speaking. The hon. Member for Derbyshire (Mr. Gisborne) was in a great measure the cause of this, as he had held out a threat that upon his Amendment he should ground a Motion relative to the freemen in Yarmouth. The question which he wished to put was, whether the names of the freemen whose rights it was proposed to continue, so far as regarded the election of Members of Parliament, were to be entered in the burgess roll, or in a separate list?
§ Lord John Russell
replied, that with respect to the existing freemen, it was only necessary that their names should be enrolled upon a register, and continued upon it as long as they lived, according to the precedent of the first Reform Act. No new names would be entered on the register, and no difficulty, he imagined, could arise.
§ Mr. Winthrop Praed
suggested, that in that case the same machinery which was used with respect to the existing freemen might be applied to more remote rights.
§ Lord John Russell
was of opinion that the same machinery could not be applied to them, inasmuch as they could not be so easily ascertained.
§ Mr. Gisborne
rose to explain the circumstances upon which the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Praed) had referred. A petition from Yarmouth having been put into his hands for presentation, he, according to the rules of courtesy, informed the hon. Member of his intention to present it, and at the same time to make a statement in reference to certain transactions in the late elections for that 1109 borough. When he did present the petition the Speaker said there could be no discussion, and, therefore, he withheld his statement rather than make it without giving the hon. Member an opportunity to reply. He then gave notice that he should make the statement when the hon. Member for Yarmouth brought forward his Amendment. That the hon. Member never introduced, but delivered it over to the care of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Sir W. Follett). As the petition had nothing to do with the constituents of the late Solicitor-General he again refrained from making his statement. The Motion of the hon. and learned Member (Sir W. Follett) was, however, quite different to that of the hon. Member for Yarmouth. [Mr. Praed:It is expressed in the very same terms.] It certainly was not so in the first instance, and he did not feel called upon to intrude on the debate. He never made a threat, but merely, out of courtesy, gave notice to the hon. Member of his intention to make a statement relative to his borough.
§ Mr. Winthrop Praed
felt it necessary to give a further explanation, as the hon. Member had not stated the whole of the circumstance. The hon. Member did announce to him that he intended to make a statement respecting the Yarmouth election, but when he presented his petition he postponed his statement till the House went into Committee. Finding that his hon. Friend, the Member for Exeter, had on the notice paper a Motion precisely the same as his he gave him precedence, and he fully expected that the hon. Member for Derbyshire would afterwards make his statement. He never conceived that the hon. Member was waiting for him personally; it was he Mr. Praed, undoubtedly, who was the waiting party.
§ Mr. Arthur Trevor
expressed his disgust at the foul charges which had been made against a body of men, who were condemned without a hearing.
hoped he might also express his belief, without the appearance of egotism, that he was a true prophet. He had declared his conviction on the preceding night, that so much affection had been expressed for the principle of the Bill as would ultimately very nearly destroy its most valuable provisions; and he really thought his prophecy would be pretty well accomplished if the Amendment were agreed to. He was really 1110 astonished at what had fallen from the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire, and from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland. Before the passing of the Reform Bill there existed two species of franchise; that arising from property, and that arising from municipal rights. By the first Reform Bill the franchise arising from municipal rights was considered so inconsistent with the principles of Reform, that it was entirely abolished. To that first Reform Bill the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet were both parties, and yet these were most valuable rights—most solemn privileges now; and they heard talk of disfranchising a considerable portion of the people of England. Why, what had been the improvement in these freemen since the introduction of the first Reform Bill?—what increase of knowledge had they displayed, or what greater sense of the importance of the function vested in them had they evinced? They had not done themselves any very great honour before Committees of that House, and in addition, the Report of the Corporation Commission, distinctly charged them with having been guilty of the grossest and vilest corruption. The right hon. Baronet had said, that the ground on which the provisions of the Reform Bill were made so extensive was, that it should not be necessary to increase or extend those provisions at a future period, When was this declaration made to which the right hon. Baronet adverted? When, but at the time of the opening speech on the first Reform Bill—when, but at the very time when these rights were absolutely annihilated. [Lord Stanley: It was said by Lord Grey in 1834.] It was said in this House in 1831, and the Minister who brought forward the Reform Bill expressly stated that the Ballot and the shortening the duration of Parliaments were open questions. The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, had talked in most patriotic and sympathizing terms of the rights of the poor. Would the noble Lord who was so anxious to preserve those rights unimpaired consent to diminish the amount of the elective qualification from 10l. to 5l. If the noble Lord would do this, he would be content to give him some credit for his sincerity; but knowing, as he did, how convenient it was, not of course to the noble Lord, but to others, that freemen should be bought and 1111 sold, he could not give him any very great credit for his wish to preserve the poor freemen. In fact he considered the support of such men was no evidence of a desire to extend the franchise. [Lord Sandon: I never expressed any such desire.] He had never accused the noble Lord of any such desire, because a large addition to the number of voters would defeat the ends for which a small body of freemen were stickling. Now, let him ask, what was to be the nature of this franchise? Not a municipal franchise, for it was excluded from the corporation, and it was certainly not a franchise of property. It was a nondescript kind of manufacture fashioned by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham), probably for the purpose of perpetuating the Reform Bill. It was once excluded from the Reform Bill as something foreign to the Constitution. Were they to keep up this anomaly—to protect men who confessedly were beings of bargain and sale. He insinuated no motives—he charged no purposes. Why? Because it was not necessary for him to do so. They had heard of a bargain. A bargain! With whom? Was that bargain made with the other House—was it a bargain with the House of Peers? What had the House of Peers to do with the representation of the people in that House? Talk to him of preserving the Constitution, and of constitutional principles; and tell him, in the same breath, of a bargain made with the House of Peers! They extorted from that House their nomination boroughs, in order to give the people the right of representation; and what were they told now? Why, it seemed a bargain had been made with that same House of Peers, that they should retain a portion of their power through the instrumentality of those very freemen; and the object and effect of the Amendment was to give the Peers—not a direct power of nomination—but an indirect power of nomination by means of the grossest bribery and the worst corruption. The object of retaining these freemen was, to have nomination boroughs indirectly. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite thought he had got over a great difficulty, but he had altogether failed. He alluded to the situation in which those voters would be whose rights were preserved. These were not to be members of the corporate body in future, and there was 1112 no arrangement for ascertaining their right of freedom, their servitude, or their right of marriage. The hon. and learned Gentleman fancied he had drawn the noble Lord into a dilemma, by asking him how he meant to keep up the rights of the present freemen. The answer was obvious—by going before the Barrister, and showing their right of continuing it. But how could those who were to be entitled only to vote for Members of Parliament show their right? It was said, that this was an indirect mode of getting rid of the freemen, although the great complaint was, that it was direct enough. But they who really acted indirectly were the professed lovers of the Bill, who resorted to this method of getting rid of the best parts of the Bill—of weakening its provisions—of degrading it in the eyes of the community—and converting a harbinger of peace into a fruitful source of dissension. The hon. Member for South-wark had had more than one argument raised by others on what he stated as to the effect of the Amendment being to create a new species of Corporate right, which would hold out an incitement to the people to make it a basis of Parliamentary Representation. The House was told to retain the freemen on account of his having used that argument. But let hon. Gentlemen, on the opposite side, consider that the preservation of this right to the freemen would act as a stimulant to every burgess paying taxes to demand the right to vote, and thus the necessity for a further reform would be increased. The hon. Member concluded, by calling on the House to reject the Amendment.
§ The Committee divided on the original Clause; Ayes 278, Noes 232: Majority 46.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Barnard, E. G.|
|Adam, Admiral||Barron, H. W.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Barry, G. S.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Beauclerk, Major|
|Alston, Rowland||Bellew, R. M.|
|Andover, Lord||Bellew, Sir. P. Bart.|
|Angerstein, John||Baldwin, Dr.|
|Attwood, Thomas||Biddulph, Robert|
|Bagshaw, John||Bish, Thomas|
|Baines, Edward||Blackburne, John|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Blake, M. J.|
|Bannerman, A.||Blamire, W.|
|Barclay, David||Blunt, Sir C. R.|
|Barham, John||Bodkin, John James|
|Baring, F. T.||Bowring, Dr.|
|Brabazon, Sir W. J.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Brady, D. C.||Gisborne, T.|
|Bridgman, H.||Gordon, R.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Goring, H. D.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grattan, J.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Grey, Hon. Charles|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B.W.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Buller, E.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Buller, C.||Grote, G.|
|Burdett, Sir Francis||Guest, J. J.|
|Butler, Hon. Pierce||Gully, John|
|Buxton, T. F.||Hall, B.|
|Byng, G.||Hallyburton, Hn. D.G.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Harland, W. C.|
|Carter, J. B.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Cavendish, Hon. C.||Hawes, B.|
|Callaghan, D.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hay, Col. Leith|
|Chalmers, P.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Heathcote, R. E.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Hector, C.|
|Clay, William||Heneage, Edward|
|Clements, Viscount||Hindley, C.|
|Clive, E. B.||Hobhouse, Rt. H. Sir J.|
|Cockerell, Sir C. Bart.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Codrington, Sir E.||Hoskins, K.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Howard, P. H.|
|Cowper, Hon. W. F.||Howard, R.|
|Crawford, W.||Howick, Viscount|
|Crawford, W. S.||Humphery, J.|
|Crawley, S.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Crompton, S.||Hutt, W.|
|Curteis, Herbert B.||Johnston, A.|
|Curteis, Edward B.||Kemp, T. R.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Kerry, Earl of|
|Denison, J. E.||King, E. B.|
|Denison, W. J.||Labouchere, H.|
|Dennistoun, A.||Lambton, H.|
|Divett, Edward||Langton, W. G.|
|Dobbin, L.||Leader, J. T.|
|Donkin, Sir R. S.||Lefevre, C. S.|
|Duncombe, T. S.||Loch, J.|
|Dundas, Hon. J. C.||Locke, W.|
|Dundas, Hon. T.||Long, W.|
|Dunlop, Colin||Lushington, C.|
|Dykes, F. L. B.||Lushington, Dr.|
|Ebrington, Lord||Lynch, A. H. S.|
|Edwards, Col.||Mackenzie, J. A. S.|
|Ellice, E.||Macleod, R.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Macnamara, Major|
|Euston, Lord||M'Cance, John|
|Evans, Col.||M'Taggart, J.|
|Evans, G.||Maher, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Mangles, J.|
|Fazakerley, J. N.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Fellowes, Hon. N.||Marshall, W.|
|Fergus, J.||Martin, T. B.|
|Ferguson, R.||Maule, Hon. Fox|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hon. C.||Maxwell, J.|
|Finn, W. F.||Methuen, P.|
|Fitzsimon, Christopher||Milton, Viscount|
|Fitzsimon, Nicholas||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Folkes, Sir W.J.H.B.||Moreton, Hon. A. H.|
|Forster, C. S.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Fort, J.||Morrison, J.|
|French, F.||Mostyn, Hon. E. L.|
|Gaskell, D.||Murray, J. A.|
|Musgrave, Sir R.||Seymour, Lord|
|Nagle, Sir R.||Sharpe, General|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Sheil, R. L.|
|O'Brien, Cornelius||Sheldon, E. R. C.|
|O'Conor Don||Smith, Benjamin|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Smith, J. A.|
|O'Connell, Daniel||Smith, R. V.|
|O'Connell, Morgan||Smith, Hon. R.|
|O'Connell, Maurice||Speirs, A. G.|
|O'Connell, John||Speirs, Alexander|
|O'Dwyer, A. C.||Steuart, R.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Strickland, Sir George|
|Oliphant, L.||Strutt, E.|
|Ord, W. H.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Oswald, J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Paget, F.||Sullivan, R.|
|Palmer, General||Surrey, Earl of|
|Palmerston, Lord||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Parker, J.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Parnell, Sir H. B.||Talfourd, T. N.|
|Parrott, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Pattison, J.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Pease, Joseph||Thorneley, T.|
|Pendarves, E. W.||Tooke, W.|
|Pepys, Sir Charles C.||Townley, R. G.|
|Perrin, L.||Tracey, C. H.|
|Phillips, G. R.||Trelawney, Sir W. L.|
|Phillips, M.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Phillipps, C. M.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Pinney, W.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Ponsonby, W.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Ponsonby, Hn. J.G.B.||Vivian, Major|
|Potter, R.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Poulter, J, S.||Walker, C. A.|
|Power, P.||Walker, R.|
|Power, J.||Wallace, Robert|
|Poyntz, W. S.||Walter, John|
|Price, Sir Robert||Warburton, H.|
|Pryme, G.||Ward, H. G.|
|Pryse, Pryse||Wemyss, J.|
|Ramsbottom, J.||Westenra, Hon. H.R.|
|Ramsden, J. C.||Westenra, Hon. Col.|
|Rice, Rt. Hon. T. S.||Whalley, Sir Samuel|
|Rippon, C.||White, S.|
|Robarts, A. W.||Wigney, Isaac N.|
|Roche, William||Wilbraham, G.|
|Roche, David||Wilde, Sergeant|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Wason, R.|
|Rolfe, R. M.||Wilks, J.|
|Ronayne, D.||Williams, Sir John|
|Rundle, John||Williams, W. A.|
|Russell, Lord||Winnington, Sir T.|
|Russell, Lord John||Winnington, Capt. H.|
|Russell, Lord C. J.||Wood, C.|
|Ruthven, E. S.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Ruthven, Edward||Wrottesley, Sir John|
|Scholefield, J.||Wyse, Thomas|
|Scrope, G. P.||TELLER.|
|Seale, Col.||Stanley, E. J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Alford, Lord||Baillie, Col. H.|
|Arbuthnot, Hon. H.||Balfour, J.|
|Ashley, Lord||Barclay, Charles|
|Ashley, Hon. A.||Baring, Thomas|
|Bagot, Hon. William||Baring, H. Bingham|
|Bailey, J.||Baring, W. B.|
|Baring, Francis||Forester, Hon. G.C.W.|
|Barneby, John||Freshfield, J. W.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Beckett, Sir J.||Gladstone, Thomas|
|Bell, Matthew||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Gordon, W.|
|Berkeley, Hon. C. F.||Gore, Wm. Ormsby|
|Bethell, Richard||Goulburn, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Blackburne, J. J.||Graham, Sir J. R. G.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Greene, T.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Greisley, Sir R.|
|Bolling, W.||Greville, Sir C. J.|
|Bonham, F. R.||Grimston, Viscount|
|Borthwick, Peter||Grimston, Hon. H. E.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Halford, H.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Halse, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.A.C.B.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Hanmer, Henry|
|Buller, Sir J. B. Y.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Burton, H. P.||Hardinge, Sir H.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Hardy, J.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Hawkes, Thomas|
|Canning, Sir S.||Hay, Sir J. Bart.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hayes, Sir E. S. Bart.|
|Chandos, Marquess of||Herbert, Hon. Sidney|
|Chaplin, Thomas||Herries, Rt. Hon. J.C.|
|Charlton, E. L.||Hill, Lord Arthur|
|Chichester, A.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Chisholm, Alexander||Hope, Hon. James|
|Clive, Hon. R. H.||Hope, H. T.|
|Cole, Hon. A. H.||Hotham, Lord|
|Compton, H. C.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Cooper, E. J.||Hoy, J. B.|
|Coote, Sir C.C. Bart.||Hughes, Hughes|
|Corbett, T. G.||Inglis, Sir R. H. Bart.|
|Corry, Hon. H. T. L.||Ingram, R.|
|Crewe, Sir G. Bart.||Irton, S.|
|Dalbiac, Sir C.||Jackson, J. D.|
|Damer, G. L.||Jermyn, Earl of|
|Darlington, Earl of||Jervis, John|
|Davenport, John||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Dick, Quintin||Johnstone, J. J. H.|
|Dottin, A. R.||Jones, T.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Jones, W.|
|Duffield, T.||Kearsley, J. H.|
|Dugdale, D. S.||Kerrison, Sir Edward|
|Duncombe, Hon. A.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Knight, H. G.|
|Durham, Sir P. C. H.||Lawson, Andrew|
|East, J. B.||Lefroy, Anthony|
|Eastnor, Viscount||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Lewis, Wyndham|
|Egerton, Sir P. de M.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Egerton, Lord Francis||Longfield, R.|
|Elley, Sir J.||Lopes, Sir Ralph|
|Elwes, J.||Lowther, Lord|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Lowther, J.|
|Fancourt, C. St. John||Lowther, Hon. H. C.|
|Fector, J. M.||Lushington, S.|
|Ferguson, G.||Lygon, Hon. Col. H. B.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. C.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Finch, G.||Maclean, Donald|
|Fleetwood, P. H.||Mahon, Lord|
|Fleming, J.||Mandeville, Viscount|
|Foley, E. T.||Manners, Lord Robert|
|Follett, Sir W. Webb||Marsland, T.|
|Forbes, W.||Martin, J.|
|Mathew, Captain||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Maxwell, H.||Sinclair, G.|
|Meynell, Henry||Smith, A.|
|Miles, W.||Smyth, Sir G. H. Bart.|
|Miles, P. J.||Somerset, Lord E.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J. Bart.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Neeld, Joseph||Stanley, E.|
|Neeld, J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Norreys, Lord||Stewart, Sir M. S. Bt.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Stewart, P. M.|
|Owen, Hugh||Stormont, Lord|
|Palmer, R.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Parker, M. N.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Patten, J. W.||Thomas, Col.|
|Peel, Sir R. Bart.||Thompson, Col.|
|Peel, Col.||Thompson, W.|
|Peel, Rt. Hon. W. Y.||Trench, Sir Frederick|
|Peel, Edmund||Trevor, Hon. G. R.|
|Pelham, J. C.||Trevor, Hon. Arthur|
|Pemberton, T.||Twiss, H.|
|Perceval, Col.||Tyrrell, Sir J. T. Bart.|
|Pigot, R.||Vere, Sir C. B. Bart.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Verner, Col.|
|Polhill, Frederick||Vernon, Granville H.|
|Pollen, Sir J. Bart.||Vesey, Hon. Thomas|
|Pollington, Viscount||Vivian, J. E.|
|Praed, J. B.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Praed, W. M.||Wakley, T.|
|Price, S. G.||Wall, C. B.|
|Price, R.||Walpole, Lord|
|Pringle, A.||Welby, G. E.|
|Pusey, Philip||Weyland, R.|
|Rae, Sir Wm. Bart.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Reid, Sir J. Rae||Wilbraham, Hon. R.|
|Richards, J.||Williams, William|
|Rickford, W.||Williams, Robert|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Williams, T. P.|
|Robinson, G. R.||Wodehouse, H.|
|Ross, Charles||Wood, Thomas|
|Rushbrook, R.||Wortley, Hon. J. S.|
|Russell, Charles||Wyndham, Wadham|
|Sanderson, R.||Wynn, C. W.|
|Sandon, Lord||Yorke, E. T.|
|Scarlett, Hon. R. C.||Young, J.|
|Scott, Sir E.||Young, G. F.|
|Scourfield, W. H.||Young, Sir W. L.|
|Sheppard, T.||Clerk, Sir G. Bart.|
|Archdall, Mervyn||Fremantle, Sir T. F.|
|Berkeley, Hon. G. C.||Geary, Sir W. R. P.|
|Browne, Dominick||Hume, Joseph|
|Brudenell, Lord||Knatchbull, Sir E.|
|Campbell, W. F.||Owen, H.|
|Cole, Viscount||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Eaton, J.||Tynte, Col.|
§ Amendment rejected.
§ The question being put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill,
§ Mr. Arthur Trevor,
amidst loud manifestations of impatience, rose to address the House. He could not help thinking that the decision which the Committee 1117 had just come to, was one which could not fail to carry with it a very powerful effect throughout the country. [Loud Cheers from the Ministerial side.] Hon. Members opposite might cheer, but he wanted to know whether their cheers would be redoubled when he told them that the Clause would show the country what the professed friends of Reform were capable of, show them in their true colours, and show it that those who professed to uphold the rights of the people were the very persons who, in a most confounded and unfair manner, invaded the rights of a body of men, whose origin even the antiquarian researches of the Attorney-General, had not enabled him to trace. [Uproar, and cries of "Adjourn," "Spoke."] Gentlemen might be assured that he was not to be put down by noise and clamour. He was doing his duty as an independent Member, and he would explain his vote. He would not detain the House longer than necessary, but he protested against the system of putting down Gentlemen merely because they differed from hon. Gentlemen opposite in their opinions. In any vote he gave in that House, he was as much accountable to his constituents as any hon. Member opposite, and he would never see the right of a body of men who had never done aught to render them deserving of the imputations which had been fixed upon them by that decision taken away without to the utmost of his power resisting. Let him ask hon. Members opposite what had that body which it was too much the fashion to decry—what had they done? Why did not the noble Lord, the Home Secretary, come down with a Bill to amend that part of the Reform Act which related to the freemen with this preamble. "Whereas certain gross corruptions have been proved against this body of men, therefore they shall no longer retain their franchise at all." Let him ask hon. Members opposite, could they hope to retain that popularity, aye, and mob popularity of which they had always been so proud. ["Oh, oh!" and great interruption.] Clamour might prevail for awhile, but the public would show that there was such a thing as common sense and common justice, and a feeling that there ought to be those there who would protect the rights of the poor as well as the rich, and let hon. Members know in what light they were viewed 1118 throughout the country. He had the honour to present a petition yesterday, signed by numbers of his constituents, deprecating that invasion of their rights, not one of whom would not, if necessary, appear before the House, and court the strictest investigation. Were they to be brought round by the pitiful arguments of the bribery which had been discovered at Ipswich, Norwich, and other place, foreign to every principle of justice? Were not equal excesses to be found among other classes of persons which hon. Members on that side took good care to suppress? All he could say was, that if that Clause passed the Committee, there was an end to all security for property, and the success of that Clause would constitute that House the executioners of fraud and violence. [Uproar.] Hon. Members would only be detained longer: he was determined not to be put down. Hon. Members could not establish the facts which they pretended to believe, that the freemen were that wretched race of beings which his Majesty's Attorney-General represented them to be. He hoped he was not the representative of such a large body of freemen, as he could not force them under such circumstances, and he hoped for their sakes, that there were not many hon. Members opposite similarly situated. The proceedings of the House that night would not pass unheeded. Let him add, that it was nothing more nor less than as great a measure of spoliation, as if a decree from the House was to take the tithes from the lay-impropriator of Woburn Abbey. He should always deem the Clause as most unjustifiable. It was taking away the rights of a body of men merely because they were unfortunate, and if it were to pass finally into a law, it would be positively a disgrace to jurisprudence. They were nominally the guardians of the public, but they were acting little better than plunderers. [Great confusion.] If he had strength equal to his feelings, he would goon much longer, but he would not trespass longer on the House. Whatever might be the result of his effort, if he stood alone, he would quit the House with the proud satisfaction of having done his duty; of having pleaded the cause of justice and of truth, the cause which it was the bounden duty of British Senators to uphold. He begged to move, "That the Clause be expunged."
§ Mr. Hughes Hughes
said, that at that late hour, and after so lengthened a discussion on this Clause, he might not have troubled the Committee but for some observations of the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller) upon the freemen of the city which he had had the honour of representing in that House for four succeeding Parliaments. But he conceived he should be altogether unworthy of the honourable station in which his constituents had placed him, if he omitted to declare that the attack of the hon. and learned Gentleman was altogether unjustifiable; and that, returned to that House as he (Mr. Hughes Hughes) was at the last election by a number of votes considerably greater than ever before polled for a candidate at any election of Members for Oxford, he was also returned at a less expense than any former Representative of that city after a contested election. The freemen of Oxford were entitled in themselves, and to hand down unimpaired to their posterity, many valuable privileges; among others, he might mention rights of Common and pasture upon a track of land adjoining the city, 476 acres in extent, upon which the poorer class of freemen were in the habit of grazing cattle—rights of fishing of considerable advantage—freedom from toll throughout all England—and a variety of charitable bequests, to be distributed by way of gift or loan in favour of freemen, their children, and widows, to some of which he had already that evening taken occasion to allude. Now, of all these, after a hard and successful struggle for their preservation, in which he (Mr. Hughes Hughes) took an active part during the discussions under the Reform Bill, together with the still more valuable privilege of the elective franchise, considered to have been perpetuated by it, this iniquitous clause sought to deprive all but the present holders, and that, too, without establishing any charge whatever of corruption against them. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had indeed told the House, that when the evidence taken before the Ipswich Election Committee should be laid upon the Table (and it was promised to-morrow) that such an exposure of bribery and corruption, on the part of freemen, would be made as fully to justify their disfranchisement, or at any rate the extinction of that class of voters for the future; and the hon. and learned 1120 Member for Liskeard had also adverted to the case of the freemen of Ipswich. Now it had been his misfortune to sit for forty-one days on that Committee, of which, he believed, he had not been an inattentive or inactive Member, and he would boldly challenge the noble Lord, and the hon. and learned Gentleman, to make good their statements from the printed evidence. To almost every witness who appeared before the Committee to establish a case of bribery, he had himself put the question whether the party charged with that offence voted as a freeman or a 10l. householder, and he was sure the evidence would bear him out in the assertion, that if there were six of the one class there were half a dozen of the other, so that even the Ipswich case would not furnish an argument in favour of the proposed enactment, which he did not hesitate to denounce as one of spoliation and robbery.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that the Committee had been the whole night discussing this and another Clause, and he thought it had been quite sufficiently considered. The only question then before them was, whether they should adopt the Clause or not? He should, for his part, consider it his duty to press the Committee to dispose of it.
§ Mr. Winthrop Praed
would put it to his hon. Friend whether he could hope for a reversal of the decision to which the Committee had already come?
§ The Clause was agreed to.
§ The House resumed, the Committee to sit again to-morrow.