§ Lord Leveson brought up the Report of the Address.
§ Mr. Leader
said: Before the Report is adopted, I have a few observations to make on one part of the Address. I abstained from introducing the subject last night, as it would have interfered with the tenour of the debate which then took place. But the very debate of last night has rendered some mention of the subject more necessary than before. By means of the declaration, hostile to further reform in the representative system, made last night by the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, the last hope of obtaining really popular measures from the present Go- 92 vernment has been taken from us. After that ill-timed, and to the present Government fatal, declaration against the only measures which can give to the people their just and proper control over the representation of the country, the noble Lord must not be surprised, if he finds that he has lost the support of the people, on which alone his Administration rested, and that he no longer possesses the confidence of the Representatives of the popular party in this House. With eager joy, the party opposite received his declaration, arid applauded and supported his anti-popular determination. With delight, he was hailed as a partisan by those who consider the Reform Act as a solemn compact, to be for ever held as binding. That compact may, indeed, be binding on the Members of the two aristocratic factions who ratified it; but it is not binding on the people, or on the people's Representatives, who never sanctioned it; who had, indeed, no share in it. When allusions are sneeringly made to the restles desire of change, when the idea of reforming the Reform Act is treated with ridicule, I answer, that people never desire change for the mere sake of change, but because they find their position uneasy. Indeed, people rarely call for a change of system till they find their actual state almost intolerable. As to not reforming the Reform Act, I say that the people are as determined to have a reform of that measure as they were to have the Reform Bill itself. They succeeded then; why should they fail now? When appeals are made to the array of the wealth and intelligence of the upper classes against us, I fearlessly appeal from them to the overwhelming numbers, to the largely developed and rapidly-increasing intelligence, to the steady and improving morality, and to the sound common sense of the commercial, industrious, and working classes of this country. It will be seen, whether they will much longer submit to be mere tools and puppets of the Aristocracy, or whether they will assert their rights, and prove to the aristocratic factions, that there is a power above them—the power of the great majority of the people. The line will soon be drawn between the aristocratic and the popular parties—between those who wish to keep what is called the representation as it now is, and those who wish to see the people, or even the nominal electors, really represented in this 93 House—between those who are determined to stand still, and those who are resolved to advance in the path of Reform. The noble Lord, with sorrow and deep regret I say it, has made common cause with the opponents of Reform; he may now obtain support from them; he can expect no confidence from the popular party. He is no longer the popular Minister nor the Representative of popular opinions; he and his Colleagues now hold office for the purposes, and at the will of the Tories; and they will hold it only until the Tories think proper, on a fit and convenient opportunity, to dismiss them and to take their places for themselves. Such being the case, any declaration of the present Government must be received by the Representatives of the popular party with increased jealousy and distrust. Partly for this reason, and partly because I think that there should be no delay in laying the subject before the public; I think it my imperative duty to advert briefly to that part of the Address to which I shall now call the attention of the House. In so doing, I wish to show to the House and to the country, the disastrous effects of resistance—obstinate, senseless, long-continued resistance—to the just wishes and demands of the majority of a nation. I wish to show the state to which a peaceful, moral, and well-conducted country may be reduced by continued misgovernment, and by perverse opposition to the wishes of the people. May the sad example be a warning to our rulers in this country. The subject to which I allude, and which I consider it my duty not to allow to pass without observation, is the present state of Lower Canada. The part which I took in that question in the last Parliament, and the loss which the Canadians have sustained in this Parliament, render this an imperative duty. The man who ever stood forward as the able, the honest, the fearless advocate of the Canadian people is no longer in a position to defend them in this House. No one regrets his absence more than I do; no one feels more deeply the loss sustained in his defeat by the popular party, not in Canada only, but throughout the empire; and of those who have heard him, I must ask much indulgence while I endeavour, not to fill his place, for that I know would be a vain attempt, but briefly to show the state of that Canadian people whose cause 94 he maintained with unrivalled energy and eloquence. It is right that the House and that the country should know as soon as possible what is the real state of that important colony—it is right that they should know how the British laws and constitution are administered, or rather how they are violated and trampled on by the executive government in a British colony. When the facts are fairly laid before them, they will have to pronounce judgment on the system, and on the men who sanction it. The state of Canada is, indeed, referred to in the Speech, and the noble Lord who moved the Address held out some hope of conciliatory measures; but what sort of conciliatory measures can be reasonably expected by the popular party anywhere, from a Government of which the leader has declared positively against the very measures most anxiously expected and most earnestly demanded by the people of England? If the noble Lord treats with cold indifference the almost unanimous prayer for protection of the constituencies of Great Britain, what chance of a more favourable or less chilling reception, what hope of justice or protection, have the people of a distant colony? Besides, the resolutions were called conciliatory—perhaps by the conciliatory measures now promised the noble Lord means merely the enforcement of the resolutions, or some equally unsatisfactory enactment. But even if the Government be sincere in their promise of conciliatory measures, it is, I fear, too late to talk now of conciliation, except it be most full and ample, such as the withdrawal of the resolutions, and a prompt acquiescence in the just demands of the Canadians. If the noble Lord who introduced the Canada resolutions in the last Parliament ever for a moment fondly imagined that they would pacify Canada, or produce anything but indignation and a more determined and open opposition, he must now be fully satisfied that he was grievously mistaken in his expectations, and that his estimate of Canadian endurance was sadly erroneous. The resolutions were received in Canada as they deserved to be received, with indignation and bitter animosity. The Assembly, in an address which does them honour, have re-asserted their rights and their just demands, and have denounced the resolutions as unconstitutional and tyrannical. The last hope of justice from England has been dashed from the Cana- 95 dians, and they now in unequivocal terms denounce as foreigners and enemies the Ministers who proposed, and the Parliament which passed, the Canada Coercion Bill. They openly declare, that they have now no hope of good government but in separation from England. This is the effect of the resolutions which were to pacify Canada. But the mischief does not end here. When the resolutions were under discussion, the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, taunted the Ministers with showing their teeth, but with being afraid to bite. The taunt seems to have had its effect; for, in addition to the resolutions, the Government of Canada has been committing acts which, if according to the letter, are certainly against the spirit of the constitution, and which are worthy of the most despotic days of Toryism. When the resolutions became known in Canada, meetings were called in various places to discuss them. In these meetings they were strongly denounced. Amongst other persons, many militia officers and magistrates attended; on this account they were deprived of their commissions. A royal proclamation was torn down by a Canadian in a moment of excitement: for this he was indicted before the grand jury; the bill against him was ignored by the grand jury, and the man was virtually acquitted. In defiance of this decision, the Canadian Attorney-General issued ex officio informations, and proceeded against him. A more imprudent or tyrannical proceeding can scarcely be imagined. What does her Majesty's Attorney-General think of such a proceeding? The two great objects of Government should be to protect the persons and the properties of the governed. In the eyes of the Canadians you attacked their property by your resolutions, and now you attack their persons by the most tyrannical and vexatious law proceedings. The consequence is, that your Government is at an end in Canada for all the purposes for which a government should exist. The people have, in fact, set up a provisional government of their own—the militia officers and magistrates dismissed by your Government have been re-elected by the people—your courts of law are deserted, and the people resort to local provisional courts; and instead of going before your judges, they take their differences to be decided by pacificators, or judges of their own selection. Your very commerce is 96 denounced—non-intercourse is the watchword of the Canadians—they have bound themselves by solemn obligations to use no article of British produce. Should a collision take place, can you depend upon your troops there? Are they not deserting in great numbers; preferring independence in America to the aristocratic system and the corporal punishment of the English service? Are you prepared for an armed collision with the Canadians; and do you think that the other North American colonies would assist you, or that the people of this country would pay additional taxes to enable you to keep up a sufficient force to coerce the Canadians? That the House may see that I have used no exaggeration on the subject of the disturbed state of Canada, I will read a few extracts from some documents on the subject. We are told that it is a mere struggle between French and English. Not so. The English of Upper Canada even sympathise with the French of Lower Canada, for they know that it is a contest of principle—between popular responsible government and aristocratical irresponsible government:—"At a meeting at Markham, in Upper Canada, to which many of the people went armed for self-defence—where the resolutions were discussed—they were 'condemned as the atrocious resolutions moved by Lord John Russell for coercing the Canadians, and governing them by the iron rod of colonial despottism,' and those who 'submitted to such oppression were denounced as unworthy of the name of freemen,' and 'determine to make common cause with Lower Canada.' In the township of Whitchurch, in Upper Canada, at an anti-coercion meeting, 'the resolutions were viewed with hatred and abhorrence,' and the meeting determined, should Lord John Russell enforce his resolutions, to support the Lower Canadians in their struggle for independence.'" At a meeting at Bayham, in Upper Canada, there was a resolution passed, "that the coercing the people of Lower Canada brings them under the yoke of arbitrary power, and serves as a precedent for our subjugation." The governor has become odious to the people. At a meeting of the county of Acadie, it was resolved—"6. That Lord Gosford (by depriving our magistrates and officers of militia of their commissions, &c.) has committed an act of the most crying injustice, and has, as well by his odious 97 system of dismissals as by his general conduct, declared himself the sworn enemy of the people of Canada." "7. That we entertain still less respect for Lord Gosford than we felt for Lord Aylmer of odious memory: the latter was frank, although an enemy of the rights of the Canadian people; Lord Gosford has distinguished himself by deceit and duplicity since he has been at the head of the administration." Such is one of the effects of the weak, and vacillating, and temporising policy which the present Government has pursued towards Canada. The Canadians have lost all hope of justice from England, as the following passage from an address of the Sons of Liberty of Montreal to the young men of the North American colonies would convince the House:—"The present degraded position of our country being the result of three quarters of a century of warm devotion to British connection, and of mistaken reliance on British honour, it would be slavish and criminal to confine our resistance hereafter to simple remonstrance. The wicked designs of British authorities have severed all ties of sympathy for an unfeeling mother country. A separation has commenced between parties which will never be cemented, but which will go on increasing until one of those sudden, those unforeseen events that attend the march of time affords us a fitting opportunity for assuming our rank among the independent sovereignties of America. Two splendid opportunities have been lost—let us not be unprepared for the third." The Canadians, I assure the House, are preparing for open hostilities. At the permanent committee of the county of Two Mountains, it was resolved, "That the Reformers who have begun to drill, shall form themselves in each parish in volunteer companies of militia, under the command of officers elected by the militia men, and shall be drilled in the management of firearms, and in light infantry evolutions and movements." There are constant allusions to the manner in which the American farmers fought, and to Burgoyne's disastrous defeat, and to the various defeats of the British in the American war of Independence. In The Vindicator of the 6th of October, there is the following passage:—"The 83rd regiment, it is reported, is to be stationed at three rivers, and along the Richelieu river, through the winter. 98 Where will they be in the spring?" This warning, if it may be so called, is repeated on several other occasions. In speaking of a purchase of horses for the artillery, the sentence is finished in the same words: "Where will they be in the spring?" These words seem ominous of the fate of the oppressors of Canada; they may also be most aptly applied—I grieve to say it—to the present Government here, if they pursue their present course: where will they be in the spring? Such is the state of Canada, produced by an obstinate resistance of Government to the demands of the people. The Canadians are a people, who were formerly renowned for a love of peace and order; they were prosperous and flourishing; devoted to England, and pre-eminently loyal; bad government has driven them into a state bordering on open revolt. Does the noble Lord suppose that the people of England will be more patient of bad government—that they will more quietly submit to have their demands obstinately refused, and their prayer for redress of grievances treated with cold indifference? If the rest of the Ministers have resolved to act on the noble Lord's declaration, and to resist all reform of the Reform Act, their fate is decided—their tenure of office can last but for a short time longer. I lament this for the sake of Ministers themselves. I hoped better things of them. I lament it for the temporary interruption which it must cause to the calm and peaceable progress of Reform; but, above all, I lament it for the sake of Ireland—the only part of the empire on which the possession of power by the present Government has conferred much benefit, and might, if continued, have conferred much more. But, whatever may be the results of the loss of power by the present Government, nothing can keep them in office as a Liberal Ministry, if they be determined to abide by the noble Lord's declaration against all reform of the Reform Act.
Mr. C. Bullet
said, that as a Reformer and a friend of the present Government he could not help feeling great regret at the declarations made last night by the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, respecting the present state of the representation of the people in this country. In the few remarks he should make he wished to call the attention of the House, not so much to the Speech delivered from the Throne as to the unfortunate debate which 99 ensued upon it. He certainly disapproved of the course adopted by the hon. Member for Finsbury: that hon. Member had brought forward the question of Parliamentary Reform against the wishes of some of its most sincere friends, at a most un-seasonable and most inopportune occasion, and at a time particularly detrimental to the interests of that question. By the vote which he (Mr. Buller) gave, against the amendment, he showed pretty clearly what were his sentiments with respect to the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury, but he must say that he differed no less from the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord than from those of the hon. Member near him. In the race of absurdity it was difficult to determine who was entitled to the palm. His usual test failed here, for he was in the habit of thinking that when any Member on the Ministerial side of the House received the cheers of the Opposition, he must have committed a great blunder; and on the present occasion it was no easy matter to determine whether the hon. Gentleman or the noble Lord had found most favour in the eyes of Gentlemen opposite. This was rather unfortunate, for the noble Lord occupied a position which made his speeches of greater weight and importance than those which proceeded from any other Member of that House, and therefore the least imprudence of which he might be guilty could not fail to produce greater injury to the cause of Reform, and greater disappointment to the hopes of the people, than if similar sentiments proceeded from any other quarter. He differed from many of the opinions expressed by the noble Lord, but none of them did he deprecate so much as the tone and temper in which he was pleased to express himself of the motion of the Member for Finsbury, for the purpose of declaring his unalterable determination not to reform the Reform Bill; and to him (Mr. Buller) it appeared that the noble Lord only wanted a pretext for quarrelling with the great mass of his supporters in that House. He confessed that he felt sorry to be obliged to say any thing of this sort, and he hoped that the noble Lord would give them reason to say the contrary; but most certainly, if the noble Lord felt tired of the support which he received from the decided Reformers, he was perfectly right in saying so candidly and at once—if after he had sucked the orange he felt disposed to 100 throw it away, the sooner they knew that the better. If the noble Lord desired to throw them off, and to remain in office rather through the sufferance of the Opposition, than the cordial support of those whose aid had hitherto been acceptable to her Majesty's Government, let the country understand that. Most assuredly, if such were the feelings and the wishes of the noble Lord, it was advantageous that he should candidly avow them, and leave the public to judge between the Ministers and the Representatives of the people; he only hoped that the noble Lord was well "on with his new love" on the other side of the House, "before he was off with his old" one on the Ministerial side. He repeated, that he wished the public to judge between them, and he doubted not that the Reformers of England would feel deep indignation when they came to know that the Reform Ministry were in danger of being broken up; he therefore was anxious that the public should clearly understand that the fault was not with him or with the Friends of the Ballot, but with the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud. He must say, that the language of the noble Lord, did surprise him, because he could hardly reconcile it with the good faith which he had expected. The noble Lord held very different language indeed when he sought to carry the Reform Bill through the House of Commons from that which they had heard from him in the course of the present discussion. The language of the noble Lord was upon record, and he could not shrink from it; he obtained the assistance of the Radical Reformers, without which he could not have carried the measure, by giving them a full assurance that Ballot and the Septennial Act were matters with which the Reform Bill did not interfere, still less affect to settle; and now his language was of a totally different character. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, were very fond of talking of the Ballot as a new measure of the Reformers, and of alleging that they were not satisfied with the Reform Bill now that they had got it, but sought to make it a battery, from behind which to attack the constitution. Why, their language was very different at the time of the Reform Bill. Their taunt then was, that the Reform Bill was not enough for the expressed desires of the people, and that the people wanted 101 vote by Ballot as well. He was only taking advantage of the confession which the right hon. Baronet and his Friends then made. It was found, too, that of the reform petitions ten to one were for the Ballot also. He was quite sure that since that time nothing had passed to render the Ballot less desirable for the people of England. He was now about to say a thing which had before offended some Members on both sides, and might offend them again. He maintained that the Reform Bill, as it had worked at the last three general elections, was quite as inadequate a test of public opinion as the old system was; that there was far more of irritation and corruption, more heartburn and excitement, than there was before, and that it was impossible that civilization could much longer exist under so barbarous a system. That on which he stood was the principle of the Reform Bill, and he desired to see that carried into effect. Their demands were called unreasonable. Let that be proved. The sum of them was, that they required to have the Reform Bill carried out to its legitimate results; but they required to have it carried out in the spirit, and not merely according to the letter. Did they think that schedule A, or B, or any such devices, were what Reformers looked for in the Reform Bill? No; in supporting Lord Grey, they rallied round his declaration, that the object of the Bill was the substitution of representation instead of nomination. They had not got it; nomination now existed in a worse form than ever,—worse, because it was not now in hands accustomed to its exercise, but in those which would exercise without the control of the people, and who were not subject to the responsibility which lay on the former possessors of boroughs. The working of the Reform Bill had been to take the nomination out of the hands which formerly held it, and to place it in the hands of a somewhat larger number of people with less responsibility. The present system was not such a one as would allow the voice of the people to be heard. Bad and gross as the old system was, its corruption was modified in some degree by the force of public opinion over every proprietor of a rotten borough. He was quite willing to leave it to the country to judge whether the Reformers were what the right hon. Baronet (the Member for Tamworth) 102 would represent. Indeed, he had never placed any value on the opinion of the right hon. Baronet, because he had observed that never, on any important occasion, had he been able to judge rightly of public feeling. And he knew of no position the right hon. Baronet had ever taken up from which he had not been driven by the voice of the people. Least of all should he be driven from seeking the reform of the Reform Bill by the opinion of a man who once said that the Reform Bill itself was not the wish of the people. He was sorry on the present occasion to be compelled to say anything which might have the effect of embarrassing her Majesty's Ministers, but he felt obliged to give expression to a feeling which he could assure the House was very strong in the breasts of many who voted for Ministers last night. He would not let the impression go abroad that the twenty who voted for the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury last night were all who desired that the exercise of the suffrage should be protected. If the noble Lord, imitating the blunder committed by the Duke of Wellington in 1830, told the people that they could not be protected in the legal exercise of that franchise which the Reform Bill conferred upon them, then would it be evident to all men that the noble Lord had departed from the ground which he occupied when that great measure was under discussion.
§ Lord John Russell
said: Sir, I think it necessary, after the observations which have fallen from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, to answer those parts of the hon. Member's remarks which had reference to myself, as well as to the important subject which last night was brought under the consideration of the House. With respect to the part connected with myself, I very much regret that the hon. Gentleman, who, in the latter part of his speech, made an admission that what I said must be taken with qualification, should have been led to attribute to me in the early part of his speech an intention of seeking for a pretext for quarrelling with my supporters, and as ready to throw away the orange which I had sucked. The hon. Member said, that he hoped that I had found some ground for placing my future reliance on the opposite party. I must say, that an imputation of conduct more base or dishonourable, as it affects the motives and character of a public 103 man, could not be made, and, in the face of the House and the country, I feel myself bound to declare those imputations to be utterly unfounded. When I spoke last night, it is true, I did not speak altogether from the impulse of the moment. I had considered beforehand the course which I should take in the debate on the Address. I had determined that if the debate should be confined to the topics contained in the Speech or the Address, I would not throw out any allusion to topics upon which there might exist any difference of opinion between her Majesty's Government and those who had accorded to the Government their most honourable and disinterested support during the time that we have had the honour of holding the seals of office. But my determination also was, that if topics were introduced with respect to which I could not fail to have a strong opinion—if topics were put forward which I utterly disapproved of—if, for instance, a topic was proposed to the House which I thought could not be favourably entertained without inflicting a deep injury on the public interests of the country, holding the situation which I do, and being a leading party as I was to the Reform Bill, then it was my intention, as it was my duty, whatever obloquy or whatever imputations might be cast upon me by the hon. Member, or by other hon. Gentlemen, not to withhold from the House the solemn and decided expression of my opinion. I know not whether the House will agree with me; but certainly, as far as my impression went, I did think that the speeches of the hon. Member for Finsbury, of the hon. Member for Leeds, and also the speech of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, were as offensive and insulting to the Administration, to which they profess to wish well, as could well be made by any Gentleman under such circumstances and pretending to that character. I think likewise—and as far as my inclination was concerned I can answer for it—that in my reply to them I did not intermix anything of personal hostility or bitterness, but confined myself to points which partook of public and general interest, and which did not in any way involve personal considerations. It seems, however, that these opinions which I so expressed are such as the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and other hon. Members who spoke last night, think will be fatal to the continuance of the Govern- 104 ment. I cannot say that I am satisfied with the tone which persons professing to be friendly to the Government frequently adopt, by urging that the course of policy which they recommend would be favourable to the continuance of the Administration in office. I do not pretend to say that I am indifferent to the continuance of the Government in office. I will not make any pretence of having a wish to resign office and retire into private life; I do not affect to be devoid of ambition; but I do hope that if the question between my continuance in office and my being forced and pressed into opinions which I do not avow, and supporting measures which I think would be injurious, if not destructive, to the country, I hope I am at least above the imputation that I should make a dishonourable choice. Why were those topics introduced into the debate of last night—wantonly introduced, I will say? I repeat, the subject was forced on wantonly; for those topics were by no means materially connected with the topics in the Speech from the Throne, or the Address in reply to it. I say this because the subjects which I have adverted to may be brought forward in the shape of Bills or notices of motion, and they then might be dispassionately discussed; but as they were brought forward last night I did not conceal my views on the subject, for I believed I was bound to enter on the discussion. The hon. Member for Liskeard seemed to think that the sentiments I uttered last night were inconsistent, and disagreed with the opinions I expressed with reference to the Septennial Act and the Ballot when the Reform Bill was before the House. I said at that time that the questions of the Ballot or of the Septennial Act were not treated of in the Bill which I proposed for the reform of the Representative system, but that they would be always open for either the Government or any hon. Member of that House to bring forward as they might think fit. I said then that I hoped the House would pause before it sanctioned any measure calculated to give irresponsible power to voters, or so to shorten the duration of Parliaments as to prove inconvenient in the transaction of public business, or disadvantageous in the exercise of the franchise. The whole of my observations having reference to those measures during the discussions on the Reform Act were calculated rather to discourage than 105 to encourage their introduction. I thought, however, at the time the Reform Bill was under consideration, that some of its results might possibly render necessary either the repeal of the Septennial Act or the introduction of the practice of voting by Ballot. I determined accordingly to preserve my mind on those subjects as much disengaged as possible, and vigilantly to watch the progress of events, in order to promote what might appear to me the true interests of the people. I am now ready to express my opinion with respect to the duration of Parliament. The time always named by those who advocate short Parliaments is three years. I think that period too short, and I also think that seven years may be inconveniently long. The question really is between seven years and five, which does not seem to me one of much importance. As to the question of taking votes by Ballot, I do not attach so much importance to it as others seem to do. I admit that it is a question of some importance, but I think that one of the chief objections to it is, that it would prove inefficacious as a system of secret voting, and therefore it cannot afford that species of security sought for by its advocates. But if it disappointed the country in its operation, must it not lead to other changes? Almost all the advocates of vote by Ballot say at the same time that the suffrage should be extended, they say that it should be extended at least so as to have household suffrage; but if it were extended so far, many persons agree that it would lead to the most extensive bribery and corruption in the smaller boroughs which now exist. One gentleman of great experience on subjects of this kind, who was examined before the intimidation Committee, and who is also a person of much sagacity and intelligence—I mean Mr. Parkes—said, that in the smaller boroughs with the Ballot bribery would exist in a greater extent than at present. The hon. Member for Kilkenny is the advocate for extending the suffrage to house-holders as a step to universal suffrage. The late Member for Liverpool, Mr. Ewart, in a pamphlet which he has addressed to the country on the subject of the Reform Bill, recommends a great extension of the suffrage. The hon. Member for Westminster is also an advocate for a great addition to the franchise, and in the changes which he recommends, the 106 Ballot only forms a part. It appears to me, taking all the circumstances together, that even if I were disposed to think that the opinion in favour of the Ballot was a right opinion, I am obliged to stop and consider, supposing Parliament were to enact the Ballot, whether the Ballot would be the end of those alterations in the Parliamentary constitution of the country which the hon. Members demand. The hon. Member for Liskeard says it is desirable, when we settle questions of this kind, that there should not be a perpetual recurrence to them. This is the doctrine of common sense; and if the time of Parliament is occupied in continual constitutional changes a great portion must be lost which might be better employed in useful, effectual, and practical reform. Then, agreeing with the hon. Gentleman that such a course is not desirable, I come to the conclusion that if the Ballot were adopted alone, or that if the shortening of the duration of Parliament were adopted alone, at the present time, they would not so far either satisfy hon. Members with regard to the Reform Bill, or make it appear to them a complete Act, as that we should not be immediately required to grant further changes. With respect to the question of the Ballot itself, I very much apprehend that if the voting were secret it would be said "we who have no votes are in a worse condition than before. We now have neither votes nor influence over those who have. You were right in establishing secret suffrage, but the franchise ought to be far more extended." I must say that is a rational observation. Then I can hardly be prepared to enter upon this course without being prepared to pursue it. I recollect lately reading an account in a newspaper of the proceedings at a meeting which was convened in favour of the Ballot, which ended by another taking the chair, and the passing of a general resolution that the Ballot would be useless unless there be a further extension of the suffrage. These measures then go together in the minds of the people, and in order to adopt them we must entirely re-construct the Reform Act, we must extend the suffrage, we must abolish, according to some Gentlemen, many of the smaller boroughs, and we must disturb what at the time of passing the Reform, Bill we deliberately considered a fair balance between the agricultural, the 107 manufacturing, and the other interests of the country. I may be mistaken on the subject—my views may be quite erroneous; but my opinion is, that great as the evil of much of the present system undoubtedly is, though I hardly think even this deserves the epithet bestowed upon it by the hon. Member, it is my opinion that it will be far better for us to endeavour to improve the system in its details, and carry on the business of the country under the Reform Act, than attempt any new plan of suffrage on theories which had been propounded in the course of the discussion of last night. Some hon. Gentlemen called upon the Government not to shut our eyes to the peculiarity of our situation in this House, reminding us that there is but a small majority on our side, and that it requires the adoption of some measures like those which have been pointed out in order to awaken public enthusiasm; nevertheless, I for one, must say, I am not prepared to adopt any such plans for an such purpose. It is our duty to consider only what are the interests of the country; and I must beg of hon. Gentlemen to remember that while they are telling us not to be blind to our situation in the House, we hold it our duty not to forget what is the situation of the country. Sir, at the time the Reform Bill passed, I stated my belief that it must necessarily give a preponderance to the landed interest; and, although it may be deemed that such preponderance has been somewhat unduly given, I still think that a preponderance in favour of that interest tends to the stability of the general institutions of the country. It is my opinion that to frame a plan of reform which should give weight only to the large towns, to the exclusion of the great body of the landed interest, meaning by the term not merely the landlords, but the farmers and tenants of the country, would be to introduce the elements of general disorder; and I cannot suppose but that those who would be thus unjustly deprived of their franchise would never rest quiet under that plan of government until they had, by every means, endeavoured to reinstate themselves in their due position in the country. With respect to a large portion of the interest to which I am alluding, I am well aware that the opinions both of the hon. Member for Kilkenny and my own are unpopular with them, and, there- 108 fore, when I look at the great strength arrayed on the other side of the House, although I fully believe that many unfair means have in a number of cases been resorted to in the recent elections, I can account for much of the force opposed to us from the prevalence, particularly in many of the counties of England, of opinions, conscientious opinions, hostile to the measures which we have brought forward. Such being the sum of my opinions, and looking to this side of the House, the present and future interests of the country, I must say that I for one am assuredly not prepared to go into those general questions, which I consider would render an entirely new Reform Bill necessary. But the hon. Member really mistook or misrepresented me in stating that I had declared I would have no alterations whatever made in the Reform Act, as if I thought the Reform Bill "one entire and perfect chrysolite"—without flaws or impurities. Far from it; on the contrary, I stated last night, that in many respects, and particularly with regard to the registration clauses, many amendments might be made. Indeed, I do not think any party can justly say they can stand entirely on the Reform Bill without any alteration. The alteration made two years ago, which empowered an increase in the number of polling places, an important alteration in its regulations, render it obvious that no determination had been come to which will prevent amendments in the provisions of the Act. Sir I might go further into this and other matters; but my intention in rising was merely to state to the House the reason which induced me to speak last night, to explain the grounds of my conduct. Sir, I am seeking no coalition with any opposite party, but I do feel that in the situation which I hold, and in the present state of the country, if I had entirely withheld my opinions last night, I should not have been acting as became that situation, and that I might fairly have been reproached with a culpable evasion of a difficult question. "Be we or be we not, the Ministers of this country, I trust, that having proposed great measures, and having carried many of them, we shall not behave so ungratefully, so unfaithfully, so basely to the country, which has hitherto supported us, as to refuse our fair expression of opinion, and our fair vote on the great interests of the country, whenever those great interests are placed in 109 jeopardy by propositions of any kind whatever."
§ Mr. Grote
readily gave the noble Lord credit for the candour he had displayed in his speech, although he was sorry he could not award him any higher commendation. He complained that the noble Lord, both last night, and in the speech he had just delivered, had treated the question of the ballot with the greatest injustice, regarding it as identified with, and inseparable from, the two other questions of an extension of the suffrage, and the repeal of the Septennial Act. He with many other hon. Members, was favourable to the adoption of the two latter measures of reform, but he maintained they had no necessary connexion with the ballot. Each question should stand or fall on its own merits. He had given notice for a future day, of a motion on the subject of the ballot, and he would then introduce it, as he always had done, on its own merits, and unconnected with the extension of the suffrage, or any other matter. At the same time, he would give to those questions his cordial support. He hoped that when the noble Lord opposed his motion he would be prepared with arguments against that motion, and not seek to derive an unfair advantage by dragging in any other proposition. If such arguments as were now used by the noble Lord had been allowed to prevail on a former occasion, the Reform Bill itself would never have passed. He felt deeply sorry for the declamations the noble Lord had made on that and the preceding night—they would diffuse sadness through the bosoms of all Reformers. The hopes which they entertained of his Lordship's Government would be destroyed by that declaration. They all remembered the celebrated declaration of the Duke of Wellington against the Reform Bill; but he (Mr. Grote) believed that the declaration of the noble Lord would produce a greater and much more painful sensation. He had good grounds for believing that the noble Lord had mistaken public feeling if he thought it would bear him out in thus refusing to the holders of the suffrage, the protection to which they were entitled.
§ Mr. Borthwick
wished to call the attention of the House to the paragraph in the Speech from the Throne in which it was said that the engagements of this country with Spain, according to the stipulations of the Quadruple Alliance, were 110 persevered in. The terms of the Quadruple Alliance were strictly these—that measures which would tend to the establishment of peace in the Peninsula should be adopted, and that England should lend a naval force for that purpose. Her Majesty's present Ministers introduced a foreign force there, contrary to the letter and spirit of that Alliance. Four years ago, Don Carlos had declared his pretensions to the Throne of Spain. The truth of those pretensions, and the credence which they obtained in the minds of Spaniards, and the extent of the assistance which the majority of the nation had afforded him in asserting his right to that Throne, had best been proved by the sure gradation of successes which had attended his arms and shaken to its recesses, the power supported by England, France, Portugal, and (if they were to believe his enemies, and the advocates of the policy of interference,) by three-fourths of the Spanish nation also. These successes proved to the utmost the necessity of upholding the original policy of the Quadruple Alliance, to which he (Mr. Borthwick) gave his sincere adherence—a policy which he was anxious to distinguish from that now pursued by those who had warped that Alliance to the prolongation of a cruel war and the prevention of an adjustment of the claims to the Throne by the Spaniards themselves. A more disgraceful contest than that which we were now abetting in Spain had never existed—disgraceful not only to England, but to human nature. What could be more atrocious than the cruelties perpetrated by Mina and Nogueras—the foster children of Radicalism?—the latter of whom had dragged from her house and consigned to public execution, an old woman, from no other cause than that her son was a brave soldier, who fought zealously and honourably, according to his conviction, in support of his Prince, whom he believed to be the rightful heir to the Throne of his country. Bad as Mina might have been, execrable as Nogueras had proved himself capable of being, they were still worse, who, under pretence of executing the spirit of the treaty of the Quadruple Alliance, gave protection and assistance to such monsters in the indulgence of their barbarities. [Interruption.] He assured the House that he was doing all he possibly could to make his voice extend to the opposite benches, and overcome the buz of 111 conversation. He treated the opinions of hon. Members at both sides of the House respecting the rival claims of Carlos and Christina with all possible deference, but he must say, that he believed that the conduct of her present Majesty's Ministers, with respect to the Quadruple Alliance, instead of following up and supporting its provisions, was actually in contravention of the spirit of that treaty. How had they attempted to effect the pacification of Spain? The walls of London not long since were covered with placards, promising to deluded crowds a glorious opportunity of sharing in the deliverance of Spain from the foes of liberty, and picturing-, when they had pacified and freed it, the happiness they would enjoy on their return in telling their tales of the share they had taken in that work of glory. All knew the result of those ridiculous boastings. The Legion, seduced from home, was sacrificed and almost annihilated abroad. The poor fraction that escaped, returned to tell a tale of betrayal and beggary. They had no right to interfere in the purely national quarrel for the Spanish Crown. It was useless to appeal to the precedent in the time of Philip V. There existed no resemblance between the two cases, except this, that Don Carlos would soon, in all probability, become King de facto as well as de jure, despite of all the efforts of his enemies. There was a cry of "The faction" raised in reference to the Spanish quarrel. Yes, there was a faction in Spain which was rapidly ruining its resources and degrading its character—a faction which had commenced its career in gratuitous cruelty, and still continued to indulge in reckless barbarities—a faction whose claims and career were based on injustice and pursued in iniquity—a faction which assumed the semblance of liberty to shield its tyranny, and the cover of English bravery to hide its cowardice and disgrace. Englishmen were, of course, by nature brave, but he must say that the character of the faction to which they had allied themselves in Spain was such as necessarily to communicate a portion of the disgrace which their conduct so thoroughly involved them in. Was it not possible for England to oppose Don Carlos without misrepresenting him? What torrents of contemptible cant had been poured forth respecting the "odious Durango decree" and "the cruelty of Don. Carlos" by those who knew better all 112 the time—who knew that the Durango decree was the law of England at the present moment—that it was enacted in Biscay long before Don Carlos was born—and that it was, at the urgent request of the inhabitants, put forth by him in mercy, to meet the case of a crowd of reckless outcasts, who were, at the instigation of his enemies, preparing to throw themselves on the coast of the Basque provinces, and carry desolation amongst their inhabitants—it was to check, and, if possible, arrest, the course of this devoted expedition that this ancient national law of the Basque people was promulgated in mercy. And when the Legion dropped on their shores, as if from the sky, in despite of all prudential considerations, appearing, not as English, but as a horde of barbarous invaders, to take part against a nation in whose quarrel they had no right to interfere, what did Don Carlos do? As far as depended on him, he did not enforce the decree in a single instance. The enemies of Don Carlos in this country surely ought not to misrepresent a decree intended for their protection and benefit. How much better for the honour of England had its Ministry imitated the conduct of the King of the French, who declared that he would only peril the blood of Frenchmen in the cause of France. But the noble Lord had said that Don Carlos was entirely defeated, and that the failure of his recent expedition to Madrid showed that they might now soon expect a termination to the struggle. But it appeared that the noble Lord had yet to learn that the cause which England was attempting to oppose was not the cause of Don Carlos, but the cause of the people of Spain. The proof was easy to exhibit. In June and July last he had, with an army of 8,000 men, traversed two-thirds of Spain, in the face of three armies, none of which ever dared to oppose him in force face to face, but only encountered him by accident, as it were, and were then defeated. Don Carlos had been blamed for not entering Madrid, but he was now nearer to the throne than if he had entered his capital under the circumstances. At a Council of War, held at its gates, everything had been considered, and in conclusion it was the determination of this wise Prince not to enter his capital by storm and thereby expose it to the destruction of life and property that would necessarily ensue, but await till the united 113 voice of his people should invite him with overwhelming effect. All he now asked was, that Ministers would allow Spain to end its own quarrels, which England might prolong indefinitely but could never hope to end without exterminating the adherents of Don Carlos. He would appeal to the true English spirit which upheld liberty at home, and beseech it not to lend itself to the attempt to crush it abroad, to serve the private purposes of any faction, foreign or domestic. In conclusion, he would warn Ministers that if they persevered in their present policy he would steadily oppose whatever measures they might propose with which to follow up their most mistaken views of the objects of the Quadruple Alliance.
§ Mr. Charles Buller,
in explanation, said, that he ought not to have accused the noble Lord of "seeking a pretext" to quarrel with his supporters for the sake of forming a coalition with the other side of the House. That was language which he ought not to have employed.
said, since his return to England he had been most anxious for an opportunity to explain and disabuse the House and the country of many erroneous impressions, which had been the result of a number of unfounded statements that had passed current owing to the accident of his not being here to answer them; but though he was thus anxious to go into the subject, he was aware that this was not the moment at which, in his opinion, the House would be disposed to admit the discussion. He, however, was entirely in the hands of the House. Whatever was the pleasure of the House with respect to this matter, he was willing to obey it. He would only say that many hon. Gentlemen had requested him not to go into the subject at this time, and if he did not, he hoped that neither his hon. Friends around him nor his Friends out of the House, who were disposed to support the cause in which he had been engaged, and to which he felt himself most deeply attached, nor the hon. Gentlemen opposite—he hoped that no man would attribute his abstaining from the discussion to any want of confidence in the statements which he had it in his power to make. In deferring to the wish of this House, which he thought he could not mistake, and which he understood to be an anxious desire to avoid any unnecessary difference or unpleasantness in con- 114 curring with the Address in reply to her Majesty's most gracious Speech, he hoped that hon. Gentlemen, seeing the reason that influenced him, would have the kindness to afford him an early opportunity of meeting the question.
§ Report agreed to, and the Address ordered to be presented to her Majesty by the whole House.