HC Deb 12 April 1836 vol 32 cc897-913
Mr. Ewart

, being called upon by the Speaker, said, he understood that the hon. Member for Truro intended to oppose the Bill which he was about to ask leave to bring in; if so, he hoped the hon. Member would avow his intention openly at once, and not reserve himself to overturn it in some subsequent stage by a side-wind.

Mr. Tooke

certainly was prepared to object to the principle of the Bill which the hon. and learned Member wished to bring in. He should leave the hon. and learned Member, however, to adopt whatever course he thought fit on the subject, merely suggesting to him that, in the present thin state of the House, it was hardly convenient to enter upon the discussion of so important a principle as that which his Bill embraced.

Mr. Williams Wynn

hoped the hon. Member would not discuss in so thin a House a subject which involved an alteration in all the principles of our law concerning property.

Mr. Ewart

trusted the House would allow him to state his reasons for the motion he intended to make. He rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill providing that (in cases of intestacy and in the absence of any settlement to the contrary) landed property should, like personal property, be equally divided among the children or other next of kin of the deceased. His object was twofold; first, simply to assert the principle that, when the deceased had been silent as to the distribution of his landed property, the law should not unjustly, in his opinion, and even cruelly, presume in favour of unequal distribution. His next object was to make the executor the channel for the conveyance of real, as he is now of personal property. In France, in Prussia, in Italy, even in Austria and in other European countries, the presumption in favour of equal partition almost universally prevailed. He need not remind the House that the United States of America had also shaken off this unjust feudal principle. He was aware that some of the opponents of his measure would say, "that the change proposed would produce little or no effect." If so, why maintain any longer a principle the injustice of which was not denied; especially when he could show that, merely in a legal point of view, the measure he suggested would be attended with considerable advantage? Another class of opponents of the measure would resist it on general principles. One of their favourite arguments was this: that the existing law, by bestowing all the property on the eldest son, threw the rest of the family into the mass of the people; that thus the younger branches of the aristocracy became a portion of the people, and were again implanted in the soil from which they originally sprung. This he conceived was a fallacy, unsupported by theory and contradicted by experience. He would put it to this test. Let the public only look to those professions which require industry and talent for the certainty of advancement; let them look to the eminent profession of medicine, to the courts of law, to the judicial benches; let them turn towards the mercantile profession; in all these laborious occupations they would find the appearance of even a single member of an aristocratical family the exception, not the rule. But in professions where patronage was the principal means of advancement, in the army, the navy, the Church, they would find the appearance of aristocratic names infinitely more frequent than where merit and toil were the ways to fortune. This objection, therefore, he held to be fallacious. The next objection sprung from a portion of the political economists. He had, however, on his side, the more philosophic writers, among them Adam Smith, Say, Simondi, while his principal modern opponent was, he believed, Mr. M'Culloch. The main argument of this class of opponents was, that the law of primogeniture favoured the distribution of property into large masses, and thus encouraged the reproduction of wealth. But he apprehended that this also was an error. Even in France, a country where not only property was equally divided in cases of intestacy, but where a testator was restricted from making an arbitrary distribution of it, even there the effect of such a law had been in many cases not infinite partition, but increased accumulation. The fact was stated by M. de Cazes (among others) in the celebrated debate on the Droit d'Ainisse; and it appeared from the tables (of unquestionable authority) in the work of Mr. Henry Bulwer, who had ably treated this subject, that the general result in France for many years past had only been a slight increase of subdivision. On the other hand, in Ireland, where (as in this country) the law of unequal distribution continues to prevail, the land was infinitely subdivided. The fact was, that in civilized times and in civilized countries, the division of accumulation of landed property, like that of personal property, would follow the interests of the community. The best thing they could do for it was to leave it free; not interposing artificial obstacles, which were fraught with mischief as well as with injustice. For his (Mr. Ewart's) part he could conceive no class so beneficial to a country as a class of resident proprietors. If long leases were favourable to good cultivation, much more so must be the personal proprietorship of an individual. Enormous masses of property partook necessarily, more or less, of the character of absenteeship. It was for the interests of society that the proprietor should be himself professionally engaged in the pursuit with which his welfare was identified. In his opinion, this partial presumption of the law in behalf of one favoured individual, was a source of domestic evil. It was a premium on the selfish passions of human nature. He believed that many who, like himself, had been behind the scenes at our places of aristocratical education, could testify to the unnatural feelings which this law or custom had engendered. He would draw a veil over such feelings, and say, in language far more expressive than any other he could use, that under the influence of such an usage, — —Gaudebant fraterno funere fratres, Destitit extinctos natus lugere parentes. The measure which he proposed, would also have the advantage of simplifying, cheapening, and expediting legal proceedings. Under it the executor or the administrator would become the channel through which real or personal property might be distributed. Instead of a long and expensive inquiry after the parties to the succession, application might at once be made to the personal representative of the deceased. This measure would also be a remedy for acts of injustice, such as the following: Under the existing law, for instance, if a man purchased a freehold estate, and raised half the purchase-money by mortgage of half the purchased estate, and died intestate, his heir would have a right to claim the discharge of this mortgage out of the personal estate of the deceased. So that the grandson of such a person (if he were the heir) might absorb in the liquidation of the claim upon the landed property, the whole of the personal property, and take it all away from the very children of the deceased. Evils such as these would be obviated by the measure which he (Mr. Ewart) proposed. Some might be of opinion that it did not proceed far enough. In his opinion entails also would eventually be deemed contrary to public policy. On this point opinions might vary; but the principles on which his measure was founded, were those of justice, and deserved consideration. He thought that the time was not distant when such principles would be, as they deserved to be, dear to the middle class and the democracy of England.

Mr. Hume

rose to second the Motion which had just been so ably advocated by his hon. Friend; and he should be very happy to hear those who differed from his hon. Friend's arguments take the trouble to answer them if they could. He (Mr. Hume) had always considered the present state of the law unfair; putting, as it did, the power into a father's hands of leaving a portion of his family totally unprovided for. By the law of nature, a man was bound to provide for the children which he had brought into the world. He was sorry to find that his hon. Friend, the Member for Truro, was so desirous to oppose that which appeared; to him so very excellent a measure. At the same time he hoped his hon. Friend would favour the House with the reasons why he opposed it. He hoped he would look at the general principles of justice upon which all our laws were founded, and hold himself prepared to sacrifice any individual advantage he might derive from the present state of the law to the general interests of the community at large. For his own part, he could only say, that from one end of the country to the other, except only by those whose interests would be immediately affected; by it, a measure like this would be hailed; as one of justice and expediency.

Mr. Tooke

said, he had no personal interest against the principle of the present motion, for he was himself a younger brother; but he would oppose the principle, however, most strenuously, because he thought it was one which, in a House like the present, it was highly inconvenient to discuss at all. He did not think, that a question of this kind ought to be brought forward without some inquiry on the part of Parliament; but the hon. Member had suddenly brought it without preparation or notice. Such a proposition would not meet the support of that House, nor the support of the public at large. He was sure that the law officers of the Crown, the Attorney and Solicitor General, would net come forward as the advocates of such a measure. It might have a few supporters, many of whom perhaps entertained ulterior views, but he did not think that it would find much support amongst the sound and well-thinking part of the English people. This was a question involving one of the fundamental bulwarks of the constitution and stability of property, extending to the total destruction of that fair and reasonable influence which the property and aristocracy of the country was allowed to possess. He called upon the House, therefore, to interpose against the very initiatory step of such a measure as the present, and not allow it to be brought even to a second reading.

Mr. Roebuck

Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman, who has just sat down, in rising to oppose the motion of my hon. Friend, the Member for Liverpool, has in an off hand way, in the short space of a five minutes speech, taken upon himself to decide a question which has long occupied the attention and engaged the investigation of men, profound, intelligent, and philosophical: men learned in the law—not in that subordinate branch of it only to which the hon. Gentleman belongs, but in those higher branches of the study which are founded on science. The whole of the argumentation of the hon. Member (and I do him great honour in calling it argumentation) consisted in this, that this measure was not brought forward by the Government. Why, Sir, nothing is ever brought forward by the Government, until they are compelled to it by the people: some hon. Member, like my hon. Friend in this instance, brings the subject before the consideration of the House; public attention is directed to it, and though for the first time, perhaps the motion may be rejected, the period arrives when the people come forward and compel the Government to take the matter up. Then, Sir, the hon. Gentleman says this is a question not fit to be discussed. What is the question, Sir? It is this, that whereas, by the English law, contrary to all systems of jurisprudence, a distinction is made in the manner in which property is devolved, between.; the two species of property called real and personal by the English law. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Liverpool, in common with every jurist in Europe, thinks this is a distinction which ought not to exist; and considers it is a fair subject for deliberation in this House, 'whether or not it is an erroneous distinction; and this, Sir, is the question on which the hon. Member for Truro gets up and says, "It is a question of such great public importance; it is one involving so tremendous an amount of private interest and personal consideration; in short it is so serious a matter, that you are not to be permitted to discuss it." That is the reasoning of the hon. | Gentleman: well then, Sir, what does the; hon. Member for Truro say further? He seemed to consider the law of primogeniture the great basis of the constitution; he seemed to think that the existence of the aristocracy of this country was bound up with the law of primogeni- ture. Why, Sir, if he means, that the aristocracy of this country cannot exist without the "influence," derived from large masses of property, which are accumulated under the present system in their hands, I say the sooner you get rid of the aristocracy the better. If they desire to influence their fellow countrymen, let them obtain that influence by intelligence and moral worth: the influence derived from those great masses of property which are accumulated in their hands by the present system, is injurious to the State. If the hon. Member for Truro means to say, that the House of Lords cannot exist without those masses of property, then the sooner that House is got rid of the better. [Oh, from Mr. Trevor.] The hon. Member opposite seems surprised at that; but I tell him, that before he descends into that grave, into which all must descend, (and I hope it will not be for many long years) he will hear much more extravagant declarations; and if I am not mistaken, he will see those principles carried into full operation. The time will inevitably come, when horrible and terrifying as the prospect of it may seem, when large masses of property will no longer enable a man to clog and control the course of justice; and when a man will be regarded, and have influence on personal considerations alone. On these grounds I give my cordial support to the motion of my hon. Friend.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was of opinion, that the present was not a fit time to entertain a question of such magnitude, as that involved in the motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool. Dealing with the question, even on the basis of the arguments of the hon. Member for Liverpool), he did not concur in the opinion, that the present law of descent impeded the improvement of the country. He was satisfied, that if a comparison were instituted between the relative condition of this country to that of France and America, that test was one which would not prove the superiority of those nations in this respect over this empire. But when he perceived the view which the hon. Member for Bath took of this motion, he felt the more strongly impressed with the necessity of opposing it. Let that hon. Member, instead of introducing the momentous question of the abolition of hereditary distinctions and the power of the House of Lords, as incidental to this matter, bring forward a distinct proposition on the subject, and he would be prepared to grapple with it; and he trusted, to prove that, however the hon. Member might flatter himself that there was a party in the country which coincided with him on this subject, his sentiments were not supported by the mass of its inhabitants, as they were represented in that House. It was, in his opinion, a false hypothesis—it was an arrant mistake to suppose that a case was made out for the destruction of one branch of the Legislature, solely because it occasionally caused irregularity or inconvenience, consequences which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had often deplored as resulting from the conduct of that branch of the Legislature, but which were not to be fixed on as peculiar to that institution alone, but rather to be regarded as an incident to which every human institution was subject. On those grounds, if the House went to a division, he was prepared to oppose the introduction of the Bill.

Mr. Aglionby

I rise to rescue the hon. Member for Liverpool, from the unfair speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Every sentence of that speech is, not an answer to the motion of my honorable Friend, but to the hon. Member for Bath. Now, Sir, I for one beg to say, that I support the motion on far different grounds from those which appear to influence that hon. and learned Member, and I protest on my own part, and on the part of my hon. Friend, the Member for Liverpool, against being bound by any thing that has fallen from the hon. and learned Member. Reference has been made to the thin attendance of Members on the present occasion as an argument against bringing forward the motion. Why, Sir, whose fault is it that we have a thin House? And if hon. Gentlemen will not attend and do their duty, are other hon. Members to be prevented from voting according to their conscientious convictions? And as to the time of the Session also, to which the hon. Member for Truro alluded, what is there in that? I am quite sure we shall have time amply sufficient to discuss this measure. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, referred to the Real Property Commission, and said, that they had not recommended the alteration proposed by the hon. Member for Liverpool. That would be a strong argument certainly, if founded in truth; but the fact is, that that Commission had no power to propose new laws; their powers were expressly limited to revising the laws which | already existed. This is the only argument which has been brought against my hon. Friend's motion, worth considering: there is no foundation in it, as I think the House will see, and I shall, therefore, give him my strenuous support.

The Attorney General

observed, that the question which the House had to determine was, whether or not it was expedient that this Bill should be introduced? Now, without entering into the question of the law of primogeniture, on which he had bestowed much attention, and on which he had expressed opinions to which he still adhered, he was prepared to maintain, that the public time might be much better employed, in the present state of the business of the House and the public feeling of the country, than in discussing a speculative question such as that which had been brought forward. As far as the argument of the hon. Member for Bath was concerned, he should only remind him, that to effect the object which he seemed desirous of seeing attained, it would be necessary to go further than he proposed, namely, to destroy the power of making marriage settlements and wills, because whilst that subsisted, there was no means of preventing property from being accumulated, and by a certain portion of the community, and transmitted to their heirs. With respect to the object of this Bill, as stated by the hon. Member for Liverpool, it would, in his opinion, produce no effect. What was proposed by it? To have the real property of a man who died intestate divided amongst his heirs equally. But in ninety-nine cases out of every l00.real property was disposed of either by settlement or will. As to the example of France, with regard to primogeniture, he trusted it was one which would never be followed by this country. As he had already said, this was a very inopportune occasion for discussing the principle of primogeniture, when so many subjects of pressing importance claimed the attention of Parliament. He was lately asked by several hon. Members, when he meant to introduce a measure for doing away with the defects to which the franchise of the country, in its present state, was subject. He hoped, with the assistance of his noble Friend near him (Lord John Russell), soon to be able to do so; and that was an improvement which it was much more desirable to endeavour to effect, than to spend the public time in the discussion of an abstract question such as that now before the House.

Sir Robert Inglis

was happy, after the speech of the hon. Member for Bath, to hear the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney-General. It was not the speech of the hon. Member for Bath, but the cheers with which it was received, that made it right that it should be replied to by a Member of the Government, and the law advisers of the Crown. The hon. Member for Bath had left no doubt either of his wish, or of his object, should his life be prolonged. One object was the practical annihilation of one branch of the Legislature. He saw the hon. Member for Bath nodded assent. Then the present question was not whether they would agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, but whether they would follow the hon. Member for Bath? The commentator was of equal authority with the author. The real question was, whether the House of Lords was to be overthrown and destroyed? The hon. Member for Bath must go further than the proposed Bill, and he meant to go further, because if he did not, how could he prevent the accumulation of property in the hands of eldest sons? When he entered the House, he thought it scarcely possible that such a question should be discussed in such a House, He trusted the House would reject the motion.

Colonel Thompson

said, the mention of the House of Lords originated with the hon. Member for Truro, though they now sought to turn it to the disadvantage of his side of the House. He thought he could prove that this question was not unimportant in the public opinion of the people of England. He was lately in a large assembly of the intelligent citizens of a populous commercial town, who called on him to discourse to them on a political subject; and when the subject was announced, what was it but this of primogeniture. He did so, and he found a per-suasion in their minds that the effect of the system of primogeniture was to concentrate power in the eldest branches of families, to enable them to support the junior branches at the public expense. It was supposed that great peril and danger might arise from the portioning of landed properly. He had given the subject the best consideration in his power, and could not see any cause of alarm. If the division of landed property was carried on, as in some: parts of France, till some of the proprietors were as poor as the cotters in Ireland, the only result would be, that these proprietors would be poor without hard work, while the Irish were poor with hard work.

Mr. Arthur Trevor

the hon. and learned Member for Bath was pleased to wish me lengthened days, for which I am extremely obliged to him; but I must say, that long as my life may be, I hope I shall, never sit on the same benches with the hon. Gentleman. I shall certainly most strongly oppose the present motion, for, though I am scarcely surprised at any thing which emanates from the opposite side, yet I own I was not prepared for so monstrous and extravagant a proposition as this; and one which would involve the whole lauded property of the country in chaos and confusion.

Mr. Warburton

said, it was most unwarrantable to oppose the introduction of a measure solely on the ground of the good or evil effects which an hon. Member might anticipate from its being carried into a law. On the same principle that this measure was opposed—namely, the opinion of the hon. Member for Bath that it would have the effect of dividing the wealth and diminishing the power of the aristocracy—the change in the law when fines and recoveries were first allowed, might have been resisted. No alteration was better calculated than that to spread the wealth of the aristocracy; and surely no measure could be devised which was more likely to have the effect of lessening their power than the Reform Bill. These changes were, however, effected, notwithstanding the prophecies which some expressed of their injurious consequences. So in like manner should Parliament sanction the present motion if it were considered likely to prove beneficial.

The Solicitor General

quite agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last, that the House should not be deterred from entertaining the consideration of a measure of salutary reform, solely on the ground that some hon. Members presaged that evils would result from its passing. But he was unprepared to sanction a measure which would be inefficient and mischievous, by giving it the name of a reform. The measure would, in his opinion, be perfectly nugatory. [Hear, hear]. He understood the meaning of that cheer, which was this—"if the measure be nugatory, why not allow it to pass?" That was certainly a crude system of legislation which the hon. Member seemed anxious to have adopted, and which was grounded on this argument, "because this measure is not likely to have any effect, therefore you are bound to vote for it." It was unquestionable, that, in ninety-nine cases out of every one hundred, property was not regulated by the law of the land, but by a law of the individual's own creation, in the disposal of his property either by will, by lease, or bond, or by some such process, by which he distributed his property. It was said that in Kent, where this equal partition of landed property existed, the distribution was smaller than in Northumberland. So it was; but not smaller than in Surrey, where there was an influx of small capital, which was employed in the purchase of small estates. It was said, that the measure was required, but to show how little the public thought of the subject generally, he might mention that there was at the moment a Bill on the table for the total annihilation of gavel-kind throughout the kingdom (not even excepting the county of Kent, in which the system of participation now exclusively prevailed), and up to the present hour, not one petition had been presented against it. Upon every consideration of the question he felt called upon to resist the motion.

Mr. William Smith O'Brien

thought the best course would be to meet the Motion with an amendment of the previous question, which he accordingly proposed.

Mr. Jervis

seconded the amendment.

On the question being put from the Chair,

Mr. Grote

said, he could not help thinking that by far the greater portion of the observations made by the hon. Member for Truro were totally unconnected with the question at issue. If the discussion had been diverted from the intention of its originator into a question as to the bearings and inferences, whether favourable or unfavourable, of the contemplated measure upon the aristocracy of the country, it was the hon. Member to whom he alluded, and not the hon. Member for Bath, who first set that example. From the supposition that the hon. Member for Liverpool contemplated any such discussion as likely to originate from his motion he entirely acquitted him, and he could not refrain from observing, that much injustice had been done him by the attributing an expectation of the kind. Having said so much, in justice to his hon. Friend, he had to beg the attention of the House while he said a word or two upon the general question thus brought under notice. Had he any hope that the subject would be again brought under notice during the Session, he would not now have troubled the House, but as the observations which had fallen from the Members of the Government held out no such prospect, he felt called upon to take the opportunity now offered of expressing his cordial acquiescence in the principle upon which the proposed measure was founded. That the law of the land should be made closely to follow those principles which accorded best with justice, was a self-evident proposition. Now he must say, that if, by the operation of any law, the whole of a man's property was handed over to one child to the exclusion of others, that law was altogether irreconcileable with any view of either justice or equity. This was the principle upon which he supported the motion, and although, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, it might prove inoperative, if from no other motive than an unwillingness to suffer so glaring an infringement of domestic justice to have the sanction of the law, he would continue to do so upon every occasion, and in whatever shape the subject might be brought under the notice of the House. But it was not to intestate cases alone that he intended his observations to apply. He was anxious that in all cases an equal participation of property should take place, and he derived an additional inducement to support his hon. Friend's Bill, in the expectation that its enactments might set an example to all fathers in the disposal of their effects. Where a preference was given in any degree by a testator, the family invariably became divided by domestic feuds and bickerings. If for no other reason, he would be inclined certainly to support any measure calculated to discontinue, if not prohibit, the continuance of that practice. Such being his opinion, as to the principle upon which his hon. Friend's motion was based, it was scarcely necessary for him in conclusion to observe, that it had his entire acquiescence, and in the event of a division, should meet with his support.

Mr. Villiers

observed, that settlements generally followed the law. The law declared, that land should descend to the eldest sons, and that personal property should he distributed equally amongst all the children. That this was the manner in which property was generally settled the Solicitor General could not deny. This proved, that the law influenced public opinion in matters of settlement, and therefore he did not consider it wholly inoperative. In case of a division, the motion should have his vote.

Lord John Russell

rose chiefly in consequence of the amendment of the hon. Member for Clare, and the observations subsequently made by the hon. Member for London, to address a few observations to the House. He thought it was already clearly proved by the law officers of the Crown, that if they fairly considered the Bill which the hon. Member proposed to bring in, it would be found inoperative in ninety-nine out of 100 of the cases it was intended to meet. Now, this fact he looked upon as being in itself quite sufficient to justify his opposition to the proposition. He could not, however, so meet the hon. Member for London. That hon. Member's argument, if he understood it rightly, was to the effect, that although the Bill might be found inoperative, it would be advisable to have a legislative declaration, that the law of the land as it now stood, with respect to the succession of property, was unjust. Now, that was the very conclusion to which he did not wish to come. There were now two propositions before the House. There was in the first place the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool to bring in a Bill which it was proved would be inoperative, and there was the further proposition for making a declaration which, without in any way remedying the defect, would, ipso facto, proclaim the present law relating to successions to be an unjust one. Now could the Government stop at such a point-could the Legislature stop at such a point? In his opinion, if the House agreed with the hon. Member for London, in declaring the existing law of descent of property to the eldest son an injustice, it would be obliged, as a consequence, to do that which the French people had compelled the French Chamber of Deputies to do-namely, to pass a law taking from the father of a family the power of committing such injustice; or, in other words, to determine, that where a man had a certain number of children, and a certain amount of property, he should not give a larger portion to one than another, but distribute equally according to the laws of justice. Such being his opinion, as the consequence of the proposed Bill, he should vote against it; and he desired it should be understood, that this opposition was occasioned not by the circumstance of the motion having been brought forward in a thin House, but a disinclination to give any encouragement to the principle upon which it was founded. He had only in conclusion to observe, that thinking it would be better to meet the motion with a direct negative, it was his intention to oppose the amendment of the hon. Member for Clare.

Mr. Pease

thought, that they ought not to refuse to apply a first principle in a particular instance, because the principle which more generally prevailed was an unjust one. The present case merely applied to intestate persons, and he thought the State ought to interfere in a manner strictly in accordance with the principles of justice. From the law, as it at present existed, many inconveniences resulted. It was the custom with persons who, in trade, accumulated money, to invest it in landed property, and to apportion their property equally among their children; they had to mate their wills once a-year, as they increased their investments. They sometimes, on an average, had to make their wills five times every six years—a necessity created by the existing law, which was exceedingly inconvenient.

Mr. Williams Wynn

concurred with the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), that this was a motion which ought not to be got rid of by the previous question. He objected to it, not only on the ground that it would be nugatory, but that the principle would be mischievous. The law and practice, which gives the preference to Primogeniture in the disposition of property, were so interwoven with our habits and customs, that they ought not to be changed on light grounds; and he had yet heard no ground sufficiently strong to induce him to consent to the proposition. If Parliament were to declare this law unjust, it would be impossible to prevent the consequences, and they would be subversive of the constitution of the House of Lords. The succession of property must go in the peerage to the eldest son, and it would be impossible to keep up the principle of such succession if there were to be an equal division of property in other cases. If the nobility of England were a separate caste, as in some nations, the rank descending equally to all the children, there might be some ground for dividing the property equally among them; but where the succession was to be kept up only in the person of one, and all the rest was merged in the mass of the people, it would be impossible to make an equal division of the property. The great mass of it must descend with and support the rank. If the property were subdivided, what was to become of the title, which must descend to one, and could not, like the property, be divided amongst all? In fact, hereditary nobility and the disposition of property were so blended together, that it was not possible to disturb the one without endangering the other. They could not change this part of the law without endangering the whole system of hereditary succession. For that step, he was not prepared; and, therefore, was most anxious that the proposition should be met by a direct negative. He was convinced, that the present law was more conducive to the happiness of the State at large, and to individuals in general, than if a more equal division of landed property were to prevail. Where had any country attained to greater prosperity under the enforcement of the law of equal distribution, than this country had attained under the law of Primogeniture? Although the ancient law of France, like the present, restrained the parent from giving more than a certain portion of his property to his eldest son, a portion which varied in many of the provinces, yet the practice was brought much nearer to the law prevailing in England; but that was done by means of persecution and injustice; for the younger children were left by their parents to starve, unless they would renounce their share of the future estate to which they might be entitled. No argument had been adduced, to show that this would be an improvement, of the law of England, or that it would tend to make the country happy. The United States of America had been referred to; but the circumstances of England and the United States of America were widely different. The one country was a republic—the other, a hereditary monarchy. The one was a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy —the other was a pure democracy, without any admixture of aristocracy. If he supposed it desirable to get rid of the aristocracy and monarchy, he should feel that the measure of the hon. Gentleman was one great step towards the accomplishment of that object. But it would not stop there; for the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Bath went much further. He said, that he hoped those masses of property which now exist in this country would finally be dispersed; and, according to his view, we ought to have an agrarian law. [Mr. Roebuck: No! No!] Nothing else could be the consequence of the principle which the hon. Gentleman advocated; possibly, indeed, not in the course of one life; but that principle, if adopted, would ultimately lead to such a result. If this measure were fit to be sanctioned by the House, it must be maintained on much stronger, and much more forcible, grounds than any that had as yet been urged; but believing that it would, if passed into a law, produce those consequences which he had described and deprecated, though it did not necessarily bear on its face any such ulterior objects, he should rote decidedly against it.

Mr. William Smith O'Brien

consented to withdraw his amendment, but in case the House went to a division, he should be compelled to vote in favour of the Bill.

Mr. Ewart

said, in reply, that he did not consider he had been generously dealt with by the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. Although he felt the honour of being supported by the talents of his hon. Friend, the Member for Bath, he did not think it fair, that he should be bound by all he said. He should not, and never had intended to withdraw his motion.

The House divided on the original motion: Ayes 29; Noes 45:—Majority 16.

Leave to bring in the Bill refused.

Aglionby, H. A. Jervis, J.
Barnard, E. G. Leader, J. T.
Beauclerk, Major Molesworth, Sir W.
Bish, T. O'Brien, W. S.
Bowring, Dr. Pease, J.
Brodie, W. B. Roebuck, J. A.
Buckingham, J. S. Scholefield, J.
Butler, hon. P. Strutt, E.
Chichester, J. Thompson, Colonel
Elphinstone, H. Thornely, T.
Grote, G. Tulk, C. A.
Hastie, A. Wakley, T.
Hawes, B. Warburton, H.
Hawkins, J. H. TELLERS.
Hector, C. J. Ewart, W.
Hume, J. Villiers, C. P.
Adam, Sir C. Macleod, R.
Agnew, Sir A. Mangles, J.
Angerstein, J. Pechell, Captain
Archdall, M. Peel, rt. hon. W. Y.
Baines, E. Pelham, hon. C.
Baring, F. T. Pollington, Lord Vist.
Baring T. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Bonham, R. F. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Campbell, Sir J. Russell, Lord J.
Chapman, A. Sandford, E. A.
Clerk, Sir G. Steuart, R.
Cripps, J. Stuart, Lord D.
Dick, Q. Talfourd, Sergeant
Dundas, hon. T. Tancred, H. W.
Follet, Sir W. Trelawney, Sir W.
Forster, C. S. Trevor, hon. A.
French, F. Twiss, H.
Hay, Sir J. Vere, Sir C.
Hay, Sir A. L. Wigney, I. N.
Hobhouse, right hon. Sir J. Wilson, H.
Wynn, rt. hn. C. W.
Howick, Lord Visct. TELLERS.
Inglis, Sir R.
Lambton, H. Tooke, W.
Lushington, Dr. Stanley, J.