§ Mr. Hume
said, that in rising to submit his present motion, he hoped that the House would consider it to be as it appeared to him one of great importance which it was necessary they should soon entertain. He had en- 1049 deavoured, though in vain, in the course of last Session, to obtain an opportunity of introducing this question to the House. It was one which he had been most anxious should have been considered in the last Session, because if the House had then entertained the principle of household suffrage, he was satisfied that the very general demand for universal suffrage which had lately been made by the working classes, might have been avoided; and it was important, for the satisfaction and peace of the country, that the people should now obtain an acknowledgment, on the part of the House, that further reforms in the representation were not only necessary, but would be granted. It was essential to peace and harmony in the country that the people should be satisfied; but, could that be expected under existing circumstances, where millions of the working classes were unrepresented? If her Majesty's Ministers did not now consent to the change which he proposed, and use their best endeavours to effect it, he feared Parliament might be called upon, before long, to give a much larger extent of reform, and in a manner that they would find it difficult to resist. He had no hesitation in stating to the House, that, in bringing forward this motion to extend the suffrage to all householders, and also to all persons occupying parts of houses, who should qualify as rate-payers, he did not go to the full extent of his own opinions. He was prepared to grant to the people more than household suffrage, if he could hope, in the present state of opinion in this House, and in the country, to obtain their sanction to his views; but as he knew, that many honest reformers from unfounded prejudices, and some from equally unfounded fears, were of opinion, that the Constitution could not be preserved, if more than household suffrage were granted, he would only, at present, propose to take that step towards attaining the confidence of the people. He desired to see the present limited monarchy, consisting of King, Lords, and Commons, still preserved; and he was confident that it would be most secure when based on the friendly affections of the great mass of the people, which, he feared, was not the case at the present time. To secure those affections, he submitted to the House, that the best means were to give them a participation in the election of the Representatives in this House, by whom their sentiments, their wishes, and their wants, were to be 1050 expressed. The system of representation was adopted for that express purpose; it was a plan, well suited to afford the people the best security for honest legislation in Parliament. He demanded an extension of the suffrage, because the Constitution of England was based on that representative principle. Before he proceeded to the motion, he begged to offer some general remarks on representation The right of voting for Members of Parliament, according to our ancient and best historians, was exceedingly extended; and, he believed, that no general taxation had taken place in this country in ancient times, until the people had met in districts, and had chosen Representatives to meet in Parliament, to deliberate and to decide upon every question that affected the general interests of the community. By our Constitution taxation and representation were formerly inseparable in this country; they ought to be, but were not so now. Many good authorities could be stated in support of that opinion, but he would only offer that of Lord Camden, who, on the 22nd February, 1766, on the motion for the Stamp Act Repeal, said, "My position is this—I repeat, "and will maintain it to my last hour, "taxation and representation are insepar- "able. This position is founded on the "laws of nature. It is more; it is itself an "eternal law of nature. For, whatever "is a man's own is absolutely his own. No "one has a right to take it from him with "out his consent. Whoever attempts to "do it, commits an injury: whoever does "it, commits a robbery." The existing system of taxation in this country was grinding, and unequal in its bearingss, for it pressed heavily on the poor and lightly on the rich; and its severity was often in proportion to the poverty of the individual. The laws imposing this unequal and unjust system had been passed by the rich, for their own advantage; and he could not be surprised that men, unrepresented in this House where those unequal laws were made, could be satisfied with the existing unjust state of things. Attempts had for many years been made to induce the aristocracy to extend the suffrage; but it was only when the people, by an almost unanimous call, demanded Reform, that the Reform Bill had (in 1832) been introduced. That measure of reform was calculated to give satisfaction to the people, if the original provisions and intentions of the Act had been carried out; and he now contended that as they had not succeeded in sufficiently extending the 1051 suffrage, and in giving that satisfaction to the people which they had promised, it was the duty of the Reform Government to consider, without delay, in what way they could now best promote the objects which they had originally in view. The principal object of the Reform Act was to take away the nomination of Members to this House from the borough-mongers, and to give the election to the people. The practice under the old system was equally injurious to the independence of the Crown, as to the House of Commons; for it was notorious, that the Crown was dependent for a Ministry on those borough-mongers who packed the House of Commons. He should hereafter shew, that the system of nomination, so odious in former years, and so unfair to the people at large, was, at this moment, almost as bad as at any period previous to the passing of the Reform Act. If the object of that Act was, as the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had stated it to be, to procure "a full and fair representation of the people," he would ask any hon. Member, whether he could honestly say that that object had been secured? The noble Lord was reported to have said on the introduction of the Bill in that House on the 24th of June, 1831:—When I propose a reform of Parliament, I propose that the people should send into this House their real Representatives, to deliberate on their wants, and to consult for their interests—to consider their grievances, and attend to their desires. I propose that they should possess, in fact, that which they have hitherto had only in theory—the vast power of holding the purse-strings of the monarch. I feel convinced that I am laying a foundation for the most salutary changes in the comfort and well-being of the people. Laws will no longer be passed in such an assembly for the benefit of Government, or classes, or individuals; they will be no longer passed by men roused at twelve o'clock at night to vote for what they know not, or against that of which they have not heard a single syllable, merely because the leader of their party tells them so to vote. Laws in a reformed Parliament will he cautiously proposed, and seriously and deliberately considered. I say, then, that if we identify this House with the people of the three kingdoms, we may hope, however slowly it may be accomplished, or however impatience or faction may complain of us for not hurrying our steps—we may hope, I say, that by extending to a great and powerful and enlightened people, the rights of having their legitimate Representatives assembled within the walls of Parliament, we furnish the means for the future carrying on unimpaired the Constitution, without 1052 diminishing the prerogatives of the Crown—without injuring the authority of either of the Houses of Parliament, and according to the rights, liberties, and interests of the nation; those rights being duly protected by the faithful Representatives of a free people, and the loyal subjects of a generous Sovereign,That such was the intention of the Cabinet which proposed the Reform Bill, may be also inferred from the words of the noble Earl, (Lord Grey) in his address on introducing the Reform Bill to the House of Lords, on the 3rd of October, 1831. He said,I believe the present to be a measure of peace and conciliation; I believe that on its acceptance or rejection depends, on the one hand, tranquillity, prosperity, and concord on the other, the continuance of a state of political discontentment, from which these feelings must arise, naturally degenerated by such a condition of the public mind." "On one or two different occasions I have originated motions on the subject, believing, as I do, that a change is necessary to infuse new vigour into the Constitution, to unite the estates of the realm in the bonds of a sacred and happy union, and to make the House of Commons that which it was intended to be, and professed to be, and ought to be,—the full, vigorous, and efficient Representative of the people of England.Was this House, he would ask, the full and efficient representation of the people? When, under the provisions of the Reform Bill, so many millions of our adult population, are excluded from participation in the suffrage, how can it represent the wishes of the majority of the people of this country? How can it unite the people in bonds of peace and contentment, when so few were admitted into the pale of the Constitution? This House did, indeed, represent the opinions of the few, which had been so much objected to in the unreformed Parliament; but it, certainly, did not represent the opinions of the millions, as was expected from the Bill. The objects of the Reform Bill were to extend the basis of our elections; to give satisfaction and confidence to the people, and security to the Government. He (Mr. Hume) only sought, by his motion, to obtain those most desirable objects. The people were entitled, by ancient institutions, to a suffrage more extensive than what he now proposed; it was admitted by the most eminent men who had spoken or written upon the subject, that household suffrage was the right of the people, and quite consistent with the ancient constitution of the country. That 1053 opinion was ably expressed by the promoters of the Reform Bill; when it was before the House of Lords on the 9th April, 1832, the noble Earl (Grey) by whom the measure was introduced, quoted a passage from a work of great authority, "Whitelock's book on Government," in order to show the nature and extent of the ancient right of voting. Mr. Whitelock said—Whenever any question about elections was brought before the House, the inclination of the House of Commons always was, to favour popular elections, observing, that the more free they were, the more they w ere for the interests of the community. At this day in many boroughs the election still remains popular, being exercised by all the inhabitants, except alms-men, and such like."I contend, then, said Earl Grey, that the right of voting in inhabitant householders is the ancient right of voting under the constitution of this country. By the present bill this right is re-introduced. The bill confers the right of voting upon the resident householders of the borough; but then it limits that right to resident householders of 10l. a-year. Thus, then the bill, so far from introducing a new right, does, in fact, merely restore, with a limitation, an old acknowledged right. It is, in truth, nothing but the present scot and lot right of voting, limited to householders of 10l. a-year, and with the further limitation of requiring that the rates and taxes of such householders must be paid before they can be qualified to vote." Lord Grey, by the quotation from Whitelock, and the opinion then expressed, admits that the ancient right of the people was what I now seek to restore. The Reform Bill was, in fact, a partial return to the old system of household suffrage, with a limitation to houses of 10l. value. The attempt to give the people their right in that respect, by the Reform Bill had unfortunately failed; it was found that the number of voters in the country, at present, was too small, and so unequally distributed, as not to give satisfaction to the people, or to secure a full, fair, and free representation of them in that House. He (Mr. Hume) therefore submitted his present motion, in order that Parliament might, in justice to the people, make some amends for the failure which had taken place, and restore to them those rights to which they were by justice and sound policy entitled. The noble Earl (Grey), not satisfied with one authority, had, on the same day, quoted the following words 1054 from the report of Mr. Sergeant Glenville, in a committee of the House of Commons, of which Coke, Seldon, Finch, Hay, were Members.There being no certain custom nor prescription who should be electors and who not, we must have recourse to common right, which, to this purpose. was held to be, that more than the freeholders only ought to have voices in the election, viz. all men inhabitant householders resident within the borough.He (Mr. Hume) could produce many Parliamentary authorities; but would only give two instances in which this House had decided that householders generally had the right of voting. In a committee upon the Cirencester Election Petition in 1792 (quoted in 2 Fraser's Election Cases, p. 449–451,) it became necessary for the committee to define what was the right of election; and they gave a general definition, for purposes of enactment as to the right of voting, in the following terms which stated it to extend toEvery male person of full age, and not subject to any legal incapacity, who shall occupy any house or dwelling, the same being bona fide fitted for and applied to purposes of residence, shall, if duly registered, be entitled to vote in the election of Members to serve in Parliament.The case of the Pontefract Petition was also before the House, and a committee then decided that the suffrage should be extended to every person who had lived in the town during six months, and such had continued the law in that borough to this time. The non-payment of rates and taxes formed no objection to voting. Householders resident was the distinguishing term.
If further proof were necessary of the original intention of the promoters of the Reform Bill to give a fair representation of the people in this House, he held in his hand an extract from a speech of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), in the present Session. He (Mr. Hume) observed, with great regret, that the speeches of the noble Lord on reform were very inconsistent—at one time he had boldly maintained the importance of extended suffrage, while, at other times, he refused to act upon that principle. On the 6th February, 1839, the noble Lord said,With respect to the original intention of the Reform Bill, he was speaking then in the presence of many before whom he had introduced that bill, and who were present at its formation, and he thought he should be corro- 1055 borated by them when he said, that his intention was to give a fair representation to all parts of the country. They wished to give a preponderance to no part over the other, and he had more than once stated that they had taken a certain number of counties, and an equal number of manufacturing towns to share in the representation.'That speech was made by the noble Lord, in answer to a charge, that the noble Lord had originally professed and held out expectations of a fair and full representation, and now defended a preponderance of the landed interest in this House. It was matter of deep regret to all Reformers, that the noble Lord now refused to lend his aid to make this House a fair representation of all interests of the country as he had promised. He (Mr. Hume) supported the Reform Bill, when first introduced, with all its defects, because he believed it would effect very important reforms, and because the Government could not have carried out, at that time, any greater extent of reform; he consented willingly to give the bill a fair trial, before any further demands for reform should be made. But he, at the same time, distinctly stated, that if the bill did not effect the promised advantages, he should demand further changes. The lamentable results of that Act soon appeared, and every week, and every month served to give additional proofs of the insufficiency of the measure to produce a popular House of Commons. A fair trial had been given to the bill, and the number of electors was found to be greatly below that which was originally proposed; and, consequently, the fair voice of the people could not be obtained. He repeated, that the electors were, in many boroughs, reduced below 300, the minimum number fixed for the smallest borough in the United Kingdom; and he was, therefore, warranted in stating that there had been a failure, to a very great extent, in the objects which were promised to the people. It seemed, therefore, impossible that the noble Lord could, consistent with the sentiments expressed by him on former occasions, believe that the Reform Bill had answered the expectations held out by him and his colleagues. The noble Lord, (Lord J. Russell) in fact, went farther in the extension of suffrage than was now proposed: the noble Lord advocated almost universal suffrage. He said, in this House, on the 1st March 1831:—In the first place, then, the ancient constitution of our country declares, that no man shall be taxed for the support Of the State who 1056 has not consented, by himself or his representative, to the imposition of these taxes. The well-known statute, 'De Tallagio non concedendo,' repeats the same language; and, although some historical doubts have been thrown upon it, its legal meaning has never been disputed. It includes all freemen of the land.After this broad and comprehensive declaration, when introducing the Reform Bill, he begged the noble Lord to act now in conformity to these speeches, because, if he (Lord J. Russell) had forgotten them, he (Mr. Hume) could assure him that others had not; and he conceived that these speeches afforded him ample grounds to call upon the noble Lord now to fulfil his promises, and assist in extending the suffrage. When the noble Lord addressed the House in the terms quoted, did he mean that freemen should not be taxed, without having any representative? If he did mean that, how was it that the people were taxed when so few of them had a voice, or could give their sanction, by their Representatives, to the proceedings of the House? He would ask, whether the millions of active and industrious men, now unrepresented, who were heavily taxed without their sanction, had not a just right to complain:—they did in fact complain loudly and generally, and the noble Lord was bound with those colleagues, who assisted in passing the Reform Bill, to make good their promises to the people, of a full and fair representation in this House. He did not undervalue the reforms and advantages to the people which had been effected by the Reform Bill, because every increase of representation in Parliament, secured for even a small proportion of the people, was an important advantage. Before showing what was the actual state of the elective franchise under the Reform Bill, he would refer to one more authority, of the position which he had already taken, that all householders had of ancient times the right of electors. Mr. H. W. Tapered, M.P., of Lincoln's-inn—(the hon. Gentleman who sat near him) in a publication in 1831, "on the origin of the system of representation," affirmed, the proposition, that every person of full age, who was not subject to any legal incapacity, and who should occupy, within any city or borough, any dwelling-house, &c., should be entitled to vote in the election of a Member of Parliament, provided that such person should be rated in respect of his premises. He observes, that, 1057At all events, this appears certain that if any qualification of property were required, in the earliest Parliaments, only the tenure of the property was regarded; and no limitation of value was imposed; but that every freeholder, as suitor of the county court was entitled to vote, however small might be the estate.He further states,—In the commencement of representation, no borough contained freemen made such by admission, but only freemen made such by residences, and by sharing in the burdens and privileges of the place.This opinion was confirmed by the researches and writings of Mr. Hallam; and, therefore, by the present motion he (Mr. Hume) was only proposing to restore the ancient privileges of the people of this country. By the best authorities, that right of suffrage was fully established; and we ought not, as we now do, to shut out from the representation the large class, on whom, in fact, the prosperity of the country mainly depended—he alluded to the artisans and working men. The ignorance of the poorer orders of the community was the plea commonly used for excluding them from the exercise of the franchise, although little means had been taken, by the Government to instruct them; but, there was another class of men—viz., physicians, surgeons, clergymen, lawyers, school masters, &c., who, if literary, and scientific knowledge, were to be the criterion of political sufficiency, were surely fit to be endowed with the elective privilege. By the present system, many members of the legal, medical, and clerical professions, although fit men, were shut out from the exercise of the franchise. He was prepared, further, to assert, that the justice of the claim for household suffrage, founded on ancient right and practice, was not the only recommendation; it was a wise policy to concede to the very general demand now made for an extension of the suffrage; and such concession, if made at this time, would be considered a boon, and would afford satisfaction to a very large portion of the community; and give encreased security to the Throne. During the last year, when a notice for a motion similar to that which he was now submiting to the House was on the paper, many petitions from the working classes, praying for household suffrage, were presented from different parts of the country; indeed he might say, that, if the sentiments entertained, and expressed almost universally, 1058 at public meetings, on the necessity of further reform in the representation of the people, were to be taken as representing public opinion, then had public opinion been most unequivocally expressed in favour of an extension of the suffrage. He would read only part of one of these petitions to the House to show what the result of granting household suffrage some years ago might have been. A petition, agreed to at a public meeting held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on the 13th of March, 1837, the mayor in the chair, stated, that "although they considered universal suffrage as the right of every man, yet they were prepared to give up their claim to it for a time if household suffrage were granted." The petition stated,That, in the present state of the representation, the great mass of the people are entirely excluded from all share in the government of the country, and that, contrary to the first maxims of justice, and the very principles of constitutional liberty, they are called upon to obey laws, and to pay taxes, to the framing and imposition of which, they have never given their consent.—That the elective franchise is the great badge and mark of political freedom, and that the citizen who is excluded from the possession of this grand privilege of freemen, is degraded by the laws of his country, and held to the condition of a slave.—And that the meeting are, for the present, ready to forego the demand for universal suffrage, and to content themselves with petitioning for an extension of the elective franchise to every householder in Great Britain and Ireland.What, he would ask, had been the consequence of denying timely reform to the people? Unions of the most extensive nature in every manufacturing town in Great Britain, and containing millions of the working classes, were now forming, under the title of Chartists, to demand Universal Suffrage, Ballot, Annual Parliaments, and electoral districts, with equal representation. He (Mr. Hume) conceived, that the most just and simple mode, by which the Legislature could put an end to these demands of the Chartists would be to grant household suffrage on an extensive scale. That there was a gross disparity between the numbers of the population and their Representatives, not only in each of the three kingdoms, but also in the boroughs and counties of each, as would appear from statements which he had prepared with care, and which he would now submit to the 1059 House, to prove his assertion. He would first read a statement of the population
|Population census of 1831.||Electors Qualified to Vote in 1831.||Males of 20 years and upwards, in 1831.||No. of Electors in every 100 of the gross Population||No. of Electors in every 100 of male population above 20 years.|
|per Cent.||per Cent.|
§ This gave the proportion of electors to males of 20 years and upwards of 1 in 5 for England and Wales; for Scotland, 1 in 8; or for Great Britain, 1 in 5½; for Ireland, 1 in 20; for the United Kingdom, 1 in 7. That was the state of the representation after the first registration, in 1831–2; and he would now compare it with 1835–6.
|Counties.||Boroughs.||Total Electors.||Counties.||Boroughs.||Total Electors,|
|The numbers marked with an asterick, are taken for the year 1834–5, no return having been made for 1835–6.|
§ He also read an estimate of the actual state of the representation in 1837, in the United Kingdom. The population was
* Report of Select Committee in 1834 on Election Expenses.1060
§ and representation of the United Kingdom in 1831–2*:—
§ The hon. Member then read a statement of the comparative number of persons qualified to vote as electors in the counties and boroughs, in the different parts of the United Kingdom, in 1832 and in 1835–6, shewing an increase of electors enrolled since 1832 of 143,360, or seventeen per cent.
§ estimated at the rates of increase of from 1821 to 1831; the electors are taken from the parliamentary returns of 1836, by 1061 which the apparent proportion of electors in the male population is increased; but, as many of the electors are registered three or four times in several counties and
|Estimated Population in 1837.||Estimated Population of Males above 20 in 1837.||Electors in 1835–36.||Proportion of Electors to gross Population||Proportion of Electors to Males of 20 years.|
§ These statements exhibited neither a full or a fair distribution of the elective franchise in the three kingdoms; and the proportion of the male population who had the elective franchise, to the whole of the males of twenty years and upwards, was so small and limited as to create just dissatisfaction, and raise the general demand of the Chartists for more extensive reforms? Was it not time, therefore, for the Legislature to interfere; and put an end to so unjust and impolitic a state of things?
§ The injustice was not, however, confined to the inequality of voters in
|There were under||200||8||10|
|Above 200 and under||500||61||89|
|Above 500 and under||1,000||76||120|
|Shewing that 219 Members were returned by constituencies not exceeding 1,000 electors|
|And in boroughs above 1,000, and below||5,000||66||117|
§ boroughs, and often under different qualifications in the same, the actual number of electors must be considerably less than these numbers registered.
§ proportion to the population. The same disparity existed in the apportionment to the several counties and towns, of Members, in proportion to their population and electors. The inequality in the representation of the three kingdoms was thus clearly proved. The extent of the inequality between different cities and boroughs, in regard to the number of voters returning a Member in each, appears by the following general abstract of the borough representation of Great Britain in 1835–6.1063
§ This inequality he would show, more decidedly, by comparisons of particular boroughs and cities; and first, by a comparison between six of the smallest constituencies and three of the largest consti-
|Boroughs.||No. of M. Ps.||Electors, 1835–36, Qualified.||Boroughs,||No. of M. Ps.||Electors, 1835–36, Qualified.|
§ It appeared from this statement, that in the first class of boroughs there was one Member for every 210 electors; and in the second class one Member to every 6,977 electors. So that 1,259 electors in some parts of the country had all the privileges of 41,865 in other parts of the country. Again, Cheltenham, which returns one Member, had 1,249 electors; Salford, which returns one Member, had 2,335 electors. Thus shewing that the 3,584 electors of these two places return only
|Boroughs.||Electors in 1835–6.||Gross Populalation||Boroughs.||Electors in 1835–6.||Gross Population|
|20 Members to||2,438||47,471||20 Members to||103,414||1,776,794|
§ Thus, in the small constituencies, 122 electors returned one Member on the average, whilst in the large constituencies 5,170 return, only, one Member. The twenty1064
§ tuencies in England, each class returning an equal number of Members to Parliament. The hon. Member read the following statement:—
§ two Members, while in the six small boroughs, as above stated, 1,259 (or about one-third that number of electors), returned six Members.
§ To show in another form this disparity in the number of electors and population, he (Mr. Hume) submitted a comparison between ten of the smallest, and ten of the largest, constituencies in the boroughs of England, returning each two Members to Parliament.
§ Members in the small boroughs represent only 47,471 of gross population, whilst the twenty Members in the large boroughs represent 1,776,794 of gross population,1065
§ The inequality of the suffrage was further illustrated by the following comparison of seven boroughs returning one Member
|—||Members.||Electors in 1835–6.||Males of 20 yrs. and above.||—||Members.||Electors.||Males of 20 years and above.|
§ From this, it appeared, that while 7,900 electors in a male population of 38,839, of twenty years of age and upwards, returned only seven Members; 1,576 electors in a male population of 8,109, of twenty years and upwards, returned fourteen. In the first case there was one Member to every 1,143 electors; in the other case, there was one Member to every 112 electors. Can such a state of representation be by any person, considered either a fair or a full representation? He would
|Comparison (In Ireland) of six small with three large boroughs, as number of Electors and Representatives.|
|Boroughs.||No. of Members.||Electors in 1834–5.||Boroughs.||No. of Members.||Electors in 1834–5.|
§ Thus, in the six small boroughs, one Member was returned by an average of 183 electors; and in the three larger boroughs, one Member by an average of
* See General Table of Borough at the end.1066
§ each, and seven returning two Members each.
§ not trouble the House with further examples of the inequality of the suffrage in the boroughs in England; but he would add that these examples, and a reference to the general table in his hand,* proved the absurdity and injustice of such a state of the suffrage, when the promoters of the Reform Bill promised it should give a full and fair representation. The anomaly, however, was not confined to England, and in proof of this the hon. Member instanced the following:—
§ 2,423 electors. Could any man gravely maintain, that a state of representation such as this, ought to be allowed to continue?1067
§ The same inequalities in the suffrage existed in the representation of the counties, as would be seen by the following
|Members.||In England.||No. of Males above 20 Years.||No. of Electors in 1835–6.|
§ Thus, it appeared, that in England 5 of the smallest counties had 10 Members to a male population of 51,516 and 16,296 electors; whilst 5 other counties had 10 Members to a male population of 424,292 and 80,676 electors. Such instances might be multiplied in England.
|Member||Counties.||Males of 20 years.||Number of Electors in 1835–6.||Members.||Counties.||Males of 20 years.||Number of Electors in 1835–6.|
|5||Members for||21,336||3,474||5||Members for||240,240||16,066|
§ statement of the population and representation of certain counties in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
§ He would state only one example in the counties in Scotland, where nearly the same inequality occurred as in the Scotch burghs. But that single statement would sufficiently show the unequal state of the representation in counties of Scotland in 1835 and 1836:—1069
§ Thus a male population of 21,336 and 3,476 electors in 5 counties, return 5 Representatives, whilst other 5 counties, with a male population of 240,240, and with 16,066, return only the same number of representatives. That the same disparity
|Members.||Counties||Males of 20 years and upwards in 1832.||Electors in 1834–5.||Members.||Counties.||Males of 20 years and up wards in 1832.||Electors in 1834–5.|
|10||Members for||231,747||5,322||10||Members for||426,264||18,467|
§ It there appeared, that in the 5 smallest county constituencies there were on the average 532 electors and 23,174 males of 20 years and upwards to one Member; while in the 5 largest county constituencies there were 1,846 electors and 42,626 males of 20 years and upwards to one Member, The electors of the small counties were only one-third the number of those in the larger counties, but they returned the same number of Members. He had prepared, in the same forms as he had done for England, a variety of statements of the inequality of the suffrage in Irelands but, as his hon. Friend, the Member for Dublin, had so lately made a full exposition to the House of the Suffrage of that kingdom, he (Mr. Hume) would not state any others.
§ As there might be some Members who
|COUNTY VOTERS' QUALIFICATION BY THE REFORM ACT.|
|1. Freeholders||40 shilling freeholds for life or lives.|
|40 shilling freeholds for life or lives.|
|10l. life freeholds.|
|2. Copyholders||10l. Copyholds.|
|3. Tenants in Ancient Demesne||Holding by custom of Manor.|
|4. Leaseholders||10l. per annum, for term of sixty years.|
|50l. per annum, for term of twenty years.|
|5. Occupying tenants at will (without any reference to length of term.||12 months' occupation and paying 50l.rem|
|6. Mortgagee or trustee in possession of the rents and profits of sufficient qualification.|
§ existed in Ireland as in the counties in Scotland and in England would appear from the following statement of the representation in 5 of the smallest and 5 of the largest county constituencies in Ireland in 1834–5 from Porter's tables:—
§ objected to alter the Reform Bill, and to make household suffrage the leading qualification, for fear of rendering the suffrage more intricate, he (Mr. Hume) had taken from the Reform Bill some of the many kinds of qualification which already existed, to show that there was already so much variety, that the extension of the household suffrage could produce no difficulty. There were actually eighty-five different varieties of qualification for the suffrage in England, of which the following appeared to be the chief; but, if the simple qualification of a resident householder, (which, as I have shown, was the ancient qualification of this country), rated to the poor and to the local taxes of the county, or borough was adopted, it would be a simpler and better qualification than all the others:1071
|BOROUGH VOTERS QUALIFICATION IN ENGLAND BY REFORM ACT.|
|1. Occupying a House, Shop &c. of the clear annual value of 10l.|
|2. Old rights reserved in perpetuity||1. Freeholders and burgage tenants in cities, and cities of counties.|
|In Exeter, Norwich, &c., freeholders without distinction vote.|
|In Bristol and Nottingham 40s. freeholders only.|
|In Lichfield 40s. freeholders and burgage tenants.|
|In London, continued in perpetuity||2. Burgesses and freemen, and freemen and liverymen.|
|Rights reserved for a time||3. Paying Scot and Lot, Potwollopers, Servitude, &c.|
§ In order to satisfy the House that the Reform Bill had not answered the purpose intended, he would now show what was the state of the representation of the United Kingdom in 1793, which was so much complained of, and compare it with the present state of the representation. His opinion was, that the evil of nomination existed quite as much now as it did then. The only difference was, that where, before the Reform Bill, a few individuals nominated a majority of the Representatives, the same thing was now done by a small constituency, or by the landed aristocracy of the district, who by undue influences of different kinds carried the elections. The following account is taken from the Petition of the Friends of the People, presented to Parliament by Mr. (now Earl) Grey, May 6, 1793. The petitioners affirmed, that of 249 members returned for England, 70 were returned by places without virtual representation; 90 more by places with less than 50 voters; 37 more by places none exceeding 100 voters; and 52 by 26 places, none exceeding 200 voters: that, of 30 members for counties in Scotland, 20 were returned by less than 100 electors each; and 10 by less than 250 each; and that, of 15 members returned by Scotch burghs and districts, 13 were by places not containing 100 voters each, and 2 by places of less than 125 each. The petitioners having thus made out, that 294 members (a majority of the whole House) were chosen in this manner, proceeded to state, that 84 individuals, or borough mongers, sent to Parliament by their own authority 157 members, and 150 more were returned by the recommendation of 70 powerful individuals; together, making 307 members, chosen by the influence of only 154 patrons. So much for the constituency in 1793, which produced so much general discontent in the country, and was productive of so 1072 much evil to the country by its corrupt acts!
What was the present state of the constituency under the Reform Act? By an analysis, carefully made, of the constituency of the United Kingdom, it appeared that 347 members, a majority of the House of Commons, were elected by 180,603 electors, being, on the average, 520 electors for every member.* Thus, somewhat more than one-fifth of the whole of 956,272 of registered electors, or one fortieth of the whole male population of 6,148,468 of 20 years and upwards; or 1–141th of the gross population of the United Kingdom, returned a majority of Representatives to the House of Commons, at this time. After this statement, and the details which he (Mr. Hume) had given of the inequality of the electors, population, and representation, he maintained that, essentially, the evils of nomination and the want of representation remained nearly as great as ever: and the influence of power, and of property, was so exercised, that individual voters could not possibly, from the want of proper protection, give effect to their honest opinions. But, even admitting, that the electors could all fairly express their opinions, by their suffrage, their number was so few that they could not be said to represent the opinions or interests of the people generally. Surely, therefore, after the fair trial that had been made, it was time for the House to reconsider this subject, and no longer to disregard the loud and urgent claims of the unrepresented millions. The people would be less than men if they did not, under such circumstances, clamour for their rights; and he hoped they would not cease to demand their rights until they obtained them. It may be asked, what addition was proposed to be made by
* See Tables at page 1080.
household suffrage to the electors? It was very difficult to form a correct estimate of the increase that would be made in the franchise, if the scheme which he had proposed was adopted, whereby every householder, and every person occupying part of a house, and rated to the poor-rate and local taxes, was authorised to vote; the effect, undoubtedly, would be to more than double the number of voters. The number of electors by occupying houses of 10l. value would be a bad criterion of the number of voters that would be created if
|TWELVE BOROUGHS.||Population in 1831.||Number of Electors in 1834.||Inhabited Houses in 1831.||Number in 1831 of 10l. Houses.|
§ From this it appears, that, by the impediments thrown in the way of householders becoming electors, by rate-paying clauses and other difficulties, only one-half of the inhabited houses are enrolled as 10l. houses, and scarcely two-thirds of their inhabitants are enrolled as electors. In these twelve boroughs, containing a population in 1831 of 2,111,560 souls, there were 349,413 inhabited houses; but only 174,872 houses of the value of 10l. and upwards, and only 101,719 registered electors in that number. Can such results be satisfactory, either to householders generally, or to those of 10l. value, when it was held out, that every 10l. householder was, by the Reform Bill, to have a vote? There was no recent return of the total number of houses in the United Kingdom, to enable him to be very accurate. He found, however, in the population returns, that an attempt had been made to give a return of the number of houses in Great Britain and Ireland, and the following was the statement 1074 every inhabitant householder had the suffrage, as the proportion of houses and of electors varied in every town. He would only state one example in proof of what he advanced. To elucidate this, he had prepared a statement of the existing numbers of their population in 1831; of the number of electors in 1834; of the number of inhabited houses; and of 10l. houses and upwards in twelve of the principal boroughs in England as taken from the boundary reports and plans of 1832:—
§ which he found in the returns for 1821 and 1831:—*
He believed, that if household suffrage rated to the poor was adopted, the number of voters that would be added to the existing number would be 1,250,000 and upwards; making the total number of electors in the United Kingdom amount to upwards of two millions and a quarter. This number, though large, would only be a little more than the third part of the six millions of males above the age of twenty: but the addition would, in his opinion, give great satisfaction in the present state of public opinion, and promote peace in the country. It would still shut out many persons well qualified to be entrusted with the elective franchise. For his own part, he had no fears from an extension of the suffrage; and on the principle, "that taxation and representation should go together," he would include all the adult part of the
* See Table in following page.
male population not tainted with crime: but he was willing to wait and see how far the general discontent could be allayed by household suffrage. There was at present much discontent; arising from the want and privations to Which the labouring classes were exposed; by heavy taxation and unequal laws; and they justly demanded, that they should have the right of suffrage, in order that they might have the choice of their Representatives in this House to attend to their interests and make laws for them. Many of the unrepresented had become Chartists, and had raised objections to many very important measures which they thought less material and important than that of universal suffrage. They objected, as is generally known, to petition even for a repeal of the Corn-laws, that their attention might not be diverted from universal suffrage, which they believed, would enable them to obtain the administrative reforms of the Corn and other laws; he thought the Chartists were wrong in this respect, because, in the opinion of their best friends they should endeavour to get cheap food as soon as they could, to enable them the better to continue their struggle for their more extended rights. He was sure that if they looked at this matter a little more attentively than they had done, they would see that it was for their interest to get a repeal of the Corn-laws as soon as possible, whether universal suffrage was obtained or not; and they might reasonably expect that when the corn monopoly was abolished, other classes in the community would join with them to get an extension of the suffrage. Although, by altering the
|Great Britain:||Inhabited Houses||2,429,630||2,850,937|
|Total No. of houses||3,241,450||3,010,898|
|Total No. of houses||1,179,203||1,295,778|
old representative system, many beneficial reforms had been effected, yet it was evident that much more was required to be done to accomplish the promises held out to the people by the Government. It was notorious, that the elections in many places were retained in the hands of a few persons, and the elections were made under their nomination, and the general interests of the country were disregarded and sacrificed to selfish interests. As long as this state of nomination lasted it was impossible that the working classes could be satisfied; particularly when the amount of the national debt, and of the taxation requisite to carry on the Government, which exceeded fifty millions a year, were considered—that burden pressed on the means of every poor man in the community, and prevented millions from getting the means even of a comfortable subsistence. He (Mr. Hume) could not define what the objects of Parliamentary Reform were, so well as a journalist in 1833 had very ably done. In the Times of the 14th of December of that year, he found the following paragraph:—
Parliamentary Reform means, in substance, a security lodged in the hands of the people for the redress of whatever they conceive to be a national grievance, whether authorised, or not prevented by the existing law. But the right and power to redress all grievances which afflict the people collectively, involves the duty of legislating for the redress of whatever grievances affect a particular portion of the people, otherwise the most precious of all all rights, viz.: that of equal justice might be altogether excluded from our idea of upright government and of civil liberty.
§ He asked for no other reforms. But it appeared to him that that class which possessed the advantages which wealth and power gave them as legislators, did not act With equal justice to the many; but endeavoured to support the abuses of the system for the benefit of the few. Was it possible, then, that the millions who were not represented, and constantly plundered by unequal legislation, could be satisfied with the present state of things? He thought, that the people were entitled to obtain, in a quiet manner, that change in the repesentation which was their right, and if this House did not immediately adopt some such plan as he had now proposed, he feared some serious calamity. He repeated, that the suffrage might with perfect safety be extended more than he had proposed; but he had abstained at this time from proposing more than household suffrage, in conformity with, and in deference to, the opinions of many excellent persons. Although he was convinced that the Government could not be on a safer basis than when it rested on the affections, and possessed the confidence of the people. The differences which, unhappily, existed so generally between workmen and their employers, and the state of discontent of the millions at being unrepresented in this House, had been made objections against the extension of the suffrage to workmen generally. But he (Mr. Hume) teas confident, that no measure could be adopted which was better calculated to promote harmony and good feeling between masters and their workmen than giving the men the right of suffrage. At present the relative situations of these parties were very dissimilar in the eye of the law. The one party was represented, and a law-maker; the other party was unrepresented, and, in many respects, no better than a slave. The possession of the right of suffrage by the men would raise them in the scale of society, and their employers would then act towards them with more forbearance and attention than they now did. The effects of that change would be a better feeling and greater harmony in every manufactory in the country, which he considered, a most desirable result. With respect to the fears entertained by many of universal suffrage, he would only observe, that there was no such thing as universal suffrage. He would have as extended a franchise as possible: the exceptions should be few, and only such as it was evident would be injurious to the 1078 peace and to the general interests of the community. The suffrage was by the Reform Bill given on the qualification of property almost exclusively;—he thought that the personal tights of persons ought to be attended to and represented, as Well as the rights of property: But he Would not enter on that subject at present. His first motion was, that the House should resolve into a Committee of the whole House, for a re-consideration of the Reform Bill; and every person who thought the Reform Bill ought to be amended should vote with him. The bill to be amended was the 2d Will. 4th, c. 45, intituled "An Act to amend the Representation of the people of England and Wales."*
§ Lord John Russell
said, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny had certainly made an extensive motion on an important subject. He had gone through all the changes which had been made in the state of the representation in the year 1832, and had proposed upon those changes a large extension of the suffrage; and yet, with all these recommendations to the notice of the House, his motion, if he might judge from the languid state of the House, had excited little interest and attention. He could not wonder at the inattention which prevailed, when he looked at the proposition which the hon. Member for Kilkenny had put upon the votes, but had declined to put into the Speaker's hands; for that proposition was not, that, finding faults in the Reform Act, we should make a new scheme of representation, on which we should be prepared to rest, but that we should establish a certain intermediate step to be changed again, whenever it was deemed advisable to give still further extension to the suffrage, The hon. Member had shown that, under the present system, one in every five adult males in England and Wales had the right of suffrage, and his proposition was, that one out of every three should be qualified, to vote. At present, four out of every five adults were excluded from voting; according to the hon. Member's proposition two out of every three would be excluded. Why, if his proposition were carried, we should have fresh applications the next day to change a constituency so narrowed, and we should have as many applications then from the two that were excluded as* See Tables referred to in this Speech in the following page.
|Abstract of the Parliamentary Boroughs of the United Kingdom, classified according to the number of Registered Electors in 1834.|
|Classification.||England.||Wales.||Scotland.||Ireland.||Totals.||Each Total added to the proceeding.|
|Above||200||and not exceeding||300||23||5,961||32||1||218||1||6||1,462||6||30||7,641||39||42||9,734||53|
|Above||300||and not exceeding||400||23||7,982||35||1||309||1||1||362||1||6||2,339||6||31||10,692||43||73||20,426||96|
|Above||400||and not exceeding||500||12||5,413||19||1||474||1||13||5,887||20||86||26,313||116|
|Above||500||and not exceeding||600||17||9,135||26||3||1,616||3||2||1,110||2||3||1,665||3||25||13,526||34||111||39,839||150|
|Above||600||and not exceeding||700||16||10,504||29||1||672||3||2||1,290||2||2||1,345||2||21||13,811||34||132||53,650||184|
|Above||700||and not exceeding||800||9||6,950||15||1||773||1||1||785||1||3||2,186||3||14||10,697||20||146||64,347||204|
|Above||800||and not exceeding||900||6||5,160||12||2||1,798||2||3||2,534||3||1||805||1||12||10,297||18||158||74,644||222|
|Above||900||and not exceeding||1,000||11||10,471||21||1||987||1||1||991||1||13||12,449||23||171||87,093||245|
|Above||1,000||and not exceeding||1,100||4||4,161||7||1||1,069||1||2||2,206||2||7||7,346||10||178||94,439||255|
|Above||1,100||and not exceeding||1,300||12||14,521||24||2||2,385||2||2||2,431||2||16||19,337||28||194||113,776||283|
|Above||1,300||and not exceeding||1,500||6||8,331||12||1||1,303||1||2||2,904||3||9||12,538||16||203||126,314||299|
|Above||1,500||and not exceeding||2,000||10||16,334||20||4||6,650||4||14||22,984||24||217||149,298||323|
|Above||2,000||and not exceeding||3,000||9||22,032||17||1||2,098||1||3||7,175||6||13||31,305||24||230||180,603||347|
|Above||3,000||and not exceeding||4,000||6||20,837||12||6||20,837||12||236||201,440||359|
|Above||4,000||and not exceeding||5,000||6||26,063||12||1||4,461||2||7||30,524||14||243||231,964||373|
|Total Borough Representation.||187||270,628||323||14||11,130||14||21||35,582||23||33||32,291||39||255||349,541||399|
|Total of Representatives.||471||29||53||105||658|
§ Parliamentary Representation of the Boroughs of the United Kingdom and the registered voters at the last General Election of 1835, classed in Tables.
|(From Parliamentary Papers, Session 1836, Nos. 199 and)|
|Boroughs.||No. of Electors.||4,000 and upwards.||Representatives.|
|Under 300.||300 to 500||500 to 800||800 to 1000||1000 to 2000||2000 to 4000|
|Bury St. Edmund's||633||2|
|Boroughs.||No. of Electors.||4000 and upwards.||Representatives.|
|Under 300||300 to 500||500 to 800||800 to 1000||1000 to 2000||2000 to 4000|
|Stoke on Trent||1266||2|
|Total Eng. Bors.||30||35||42||16||32||15||15||323|
§ we had now from the four. He saw at present no demand for household suffrage; but there was a demand for universal suffrage from a number of persons who were eager to effect a change in the basis of our representation. The real question, then, for the House that evening was, whether it would adhere to the system of representation as it then stood, or whether it would adopt universal suffrage. Each of those propositions had its followers; but the notion of going through all the agitation and all the contest which must be gone through to carry household suffrage, and then to begin a new agitation and a new contest, as the hon. Member for Kilkenny proposed, for a still more extensive right of suffrage was little likely to meet the approbation of many Members in that House. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had said, "Hon. Gentlemen may seek to put this question off, but in spite of their manœuvres, all the people counted by heads will ultimately obtain the right of voting." Now, he would tell the hon. Member for Kilkenny that it was not he but the hon. Member himself who was putting off the settlement of that question. It was not likely that the hon. Member's proposition could ever give satisfaction to the people. He would not give universal suffrage because all the operatives were not yet sufficiently enlightened; he would only give household suffrage, Why, would not the inevitable result of this be, that the universal suffrage men would ask the hon. Member how he knew that they had not acquired that knowledge which he deemed sufficient to entitle them to that suffrage which he (Mr. Hume) admitted must ultimately be granted to them? He would now go in detail through the points which the hon. Member had raised in his speech. The hon. Member had called upon those members of the Government who had proposed the Reform Bill, if they valued their consistency, to support the change which he now recommended. In other words, the hon. Member called upon those who had proposed a great and extensive change in the representation with a view of settling it upon grounds that were reasonable and fair, to abandon that change and to make a further change upon grounds that were neither fair, fixed, nor certain. Now, on the ground of consistency, be contended that the Government could not undo what it had already done, or oppose the system 1086 of which it had been the author. The hon. Member had also stated various reasons why he was dissatisfied with the operation of the Reform Act. When the hon. Member showed that one out of every five adult males in England and Wales, and that one out of every eight adult males in Scotland, and that one out of every twenty adult males in Ireland was an elector, he showed that the basis of our representation was not narrow, but large and comprehensive, The hon. Member had then entered upon the question of inequality, and had gone into a great mass of statistical details to prove that places with a small number of electors returned as many Members as places with a much larger number of electors. Now, if that was an evil, it was an evil apparent on the face of the Reform Bill. In the first Reform Bill it was proposed to disfranchise sixty, and in the last fifty-six such boroughs; but it was well known that many boroughs were left with the right of representation which had a population very little above 5,000 souls. As the hon. Member had spoken to him of consistency, he would just read to the House an extract from a speech of the hon. Member containing his observations in praise of this system which he now denounced as founded on inequality and as full of anomalies. The noble Lord then read the passage in which Mr. Hume said, that "The plan of the noble Lord far exceeded his expectations; that he knew that any change in the representation must be accompanied with difficulties; which he trusted that the noble Lord would not be discouraged by the difficulties which surrounded him, but that he would persist in his own project; and that he had great pleasure in informing him that every person with whom he had conversed that morning had expressed their satisfaction at the plan proposed to the House." The hon. Member had also stated, on another occasion, that the plan proposed by the Government had elicited the almost universal approbation of the country; and yet he now came forward to find fault with it because it contained defects, which, if they were defects, were as palpable when they were first proposed as at the present minute. He had great doubts whether, if the House were of opinion that another change should be made in our system of representation, the plan now proposed by the hon. Member would give satisfaction to the classes which 1087 still remained unrepresented. The hon. Member had not made out that, under his plan, all our artisans, whose talents, natural and acquired, he willingly acknowledged and whom the House ought always to treat with the greatest respect would be entitled to vote. If the hon. Member had shown that all those persons would enter into his scheme of representation, then supposing that an extensive alteration in the representation were determined upon, his scheme might, perhaps, be one worthy of adoption. But if he had understood the hon. Member rightly, he had confined his plan to those artizans who occupied parts of houses and were rated. Very often those persons were lodgers and were not rated. The householder who let them part of his house was rated, and acquired in consequence the right to vote. But the hon. Member complained of the inequalities of the Reform Bill. Now, it was notorious, when the Reform Bill was first proposed, that it did not establish equal divisions. If the Government had intended anything of that sort, it would not have been difficult, by referring to maps and statistical details, to have divided the country into parcels, and to have allotted a certain number of Members to certain districts with a certain amount of population. But he did not think that such a plan would have given satisfaction to the country. The plan which he had on a former occasion brought forward was based, as he thought every plan of representation for the country ought to he based, on numbers, property, and intelligence. He did not think that any plan of representation for this country, based on mere numbers, would be satisfactory. He did not think we could adopt in this country the rule that prevailed in the United States of America, that the majority should be supreme, and that the basis of the representation should rest on numbers alone. But if that rule could not be adopted, and if we must look on intelligence as well as numbers, he thought it absolutely necessary that some of those smaller boroughs should exist, where the stream of property, running very much in one direction, would enable persons of great talent and standing to be returned to Parliament. That was the course of things which occurred in the first elections under the Reform Bill. At that time, in consequence of the strong opposition made to the bill, there was a very strong popular cry against the authors of 1088 that opposition. Now, when the first elections under the Reform Bill occurred, they had seen, entering that House,—not, certainly, a very great number of persons professing those political principles—not an unfair representation of the country in that respect—but men of great personal eminence in their vocations, whether members of the legal, military, or other professions. If ever this question came to be fully argued, he should be able to show, he thought, the superiority of the Reform Act over any plan which would go to divide the country into districts. But the hon. Gentleman had, in fact, not stated that he meant to divide the country into districts; he had not stated anything more than that he meant to have household suffrage. If that was all, there were some of the smaller boroughs which were very corrupt, and into which they would only be introducing bribery on a very extensive scale. Such were some of those which the hon. Member had enumerated, Pontefract for instance, were the scot and lot franchise of the potwallopers had existed, which had been notorious for constant and repeated acts of bribery. Therefore, he said, the hon. Gentleman's plan was totally incomplete. If the hon. Member proposed to enact household sufferage with the present division into counties and boroughs he would only give room for increased bribery and corruption. If he proposed to divide the country into districts, they must have a totally new plan; the hon. Member must state to the House what he had now omitted to state, and must submit fairly its various advantages and disadvantages. Let it not be forgotten that when that was proposed, it was proposed that all boroughs under 10,000 or 20,000 inhabitants should be disfranchised. By that act the greatest number of the boroughs of the country would be deprived of the right of returning a Member. He should make but one more remark with respect to what the hon. Gentleman had said of the great burdens borne by the people of this country, and the large amount of taxation. That large amount of taxation, as the hon. Gentleman well knew, was chiefly required to defray the charge of a debt to which the faith of this country was pledged. It was not absorbed in maintaining establishments which this country could spare, and which had certainly rendered the greatest service to its interests. Taxation could not be very greatly reduced 1089 without reducing that to which the faith of the country was engaged. His belief was, that—not by the hon. Gentleman and those who in this House advocated the extension of the suffrage, but by those who would be returned to a Parliament elected by universal suffrage—one of the means adopted of relieving the people would be a refusal to fulfil the engagements entered into between the people and the public creditor. Now, he believed, that if they were now to alter the representation, and accede to the proposal of conferring the suffrage on all householders, a demand would then be immediately set up for universal suffrage, and that that demand would be based upon the belief that the Parliament so elected would not keep the faith of the country, and that taxation would be reduced, perhaps 5,000,000l. or 6,000,000l. so as merely to maintain some necessary establishments, and prevent the public creditor from receiving what was his due. That was one among many reasons why he thought it most dangerous now to make any change in the representation of the country. He had always said, on bringing forward a plan of reform, which he had frequently done unsuccessfully, that he did not wish to propose it as affecting the state of public distress or prosperity, that he could hold out no prospect of great or immediate relief of the burdens which the people had to bear, and that the question ought not to be considered under any such aspect. He had always expressed these sentiments both when in the Government and in opposition, and when some parties who supported reform encouraged such expectations, but at the same time he had always believed that, not being able to grant any extensive relief from taxation, a time would come when numbers of the people would proclaim that they were discontented with the Reform Act, would say that it had not given the relief they expected, and would demand further changes. But he would suggest to those hon. Members who favoured this demand, and particularly the hon. Member for Kilkenny and the hon. Member for London, who, he saw, did him the honour to pay particular attention to what he was saying, that if after effecting a great change in the representative system, after passing through a mighty struggle, and almost convulsing the country from one end to the other by the proposal and the resistance, they were in a 1090 few years to attempt a further alteration, they would shake the confidence of the people in the institutions of the country, and in the engagements made with the public creditor, while those who raised the cry would not be satisfied with household suffrage, would not be satisfied with what the hon. Member styled a fair and equal representation, would not be satisfied with seeing the electors distributed in the proportion of 5,000 to each Member, would not be satisfied with changes which they would regard as mere theoretical improvements; but, step by step, would proceed to exact what they considered a substantial benefit, namely, such a reduction of the taxes as would be incompatible with the settlements to which the faith of the public was pledged. Entertaining these views with respect to the motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, he certainly should give a direct negative to his proposition, as he should to any proposition founded on similar principles, and tending to repeal altogether the Reform Act of 1832.
§ Mr. Grote
said, that in spite of the great want of interest and attention in the House to which the noble Lord had alluded, he hoped they would be good enough to listen to him while making a few remarks on what had fallen from the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had, he thought, rendered great service by setting forth so many important facts, which were in all probability little known to the public, and which, when placed before them, were calculated to open their eyes to the real state of the representation, and to lead to such improvements as might make it a sound and efficient index to the real state of public feeling. He would leave it to the noble Lord to say whether such an exposure of the real state of the representation was or was not calculated to raise it in the estimation of the public. The noble Lord had dwelt very much on the mischiefs of the future changes, and the danger of unsettling the principles established in 1832 by the Reform Act; and he must say, that it had seemed to him, in following the noble Lord's observations, that the noble Lord had borrowed a great number of them from the speeches made by the opponents of his own bill in 1831 and 1832. Sure he was, that almost every one of the topics urged by the noble Lord this evening had been urged long before, and certainly not less forcibly, by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, 1091 and those who opposed the noble Lord's views; and sure he was, that if the noble Lord had taken the same line then as he now took, he would have gone out against the Reform Bill. When the noble Lord talked of settling important questions, he must reckon upon a singular want of progression in the public mind, a delusion which he was astonished any one so deeply read in English history as the noble Lord should entertain. Were not the same arguments used against those who brought forward any motion for making any change in the state of things at present existing? In the course of the discussion on the Corn-laws, had they not been told by hon. Gentlemen on the other side that nothing could be so monstrous as to unsettle or disturb the existing system, which worked so admirably well? The noble Lord, the Member for Northamptonshire (Lord Maidstone), had even said, that the motion made regarding those laws ought to have been rejected without a discussion. If the principle of finality were to be adopted on any important question, it ought, in consistency, to be urged as conclusive against entertaining every other question. He did not see, for instance, why his hon. Friend and himself, who were averse to any alteration in the beer laws, should not urge the doctrine of finality in bar to any proposal to change them. He knew that more substantial arguments against that change might be drawn from the amount of capital engaged in that trade, and the disturbances which it would produce. He could not think the noble Lord would carry the public with him by simply telling them they had got the Reform Bill, and must be content to take it for better or worse. What one argument had the noble Lord advanced to show that the persons whom the hon. Member for Kilkenny wished to intrust with the elective franchise were unfit to exercise it? That was the only argument relevant to the proposal of his hon. Friend; for if these persons were worthy of the privilege, and were yet debarred from it, surely they had just grounds of complaint. The noble Lord had said they were worthy to exercise it, and yet refused to permit them. If the noble Lord could offer no proof that the persons of whom his hon. Friend spoke were unworthy of this privilege, they had a right to say, that there was no ground for excluding them. He could not consent to treat the Reform Act as a kind of canon of scrip- 1092 ture, which was to have nothing added and nothing taken away. He might respect that statute for the rights which it conferred, but he could not respect it for those which it withheld. He never could admit because the Reform Act was a measure in itself good and proper to be proposed—because it had done good so far as it went, mutilated though it had been in its progress through the House. That therefore, the hon. Member for Kilkenny, or any other hon. Member, was to be precluded from proposing any measure based on the same principles and tending to realise the same results. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had enumerated many defects of the Reform Bill, and, so far as he could follow the noble Lord, the noble Lord had not disputed the statements as to the inequality of the present scheme of representation. The noble Lord said, that that feature of the Reform Bill was front the first apparent on the face of the measure and that it had never been intended to rectify that inequality; but to leave it untouched. If the noble Lord admitted this to be a defect existing before the Reform Act, and left unredressed by it, that was surely a good reason for having that act remodelled and altered according to the better and more enlarged views that now prevailed. He could have wished to hear the noble Lord enter more fully into the main alteration proposed by his hon. Friend, which he understood to be the extension of the suffrage to all householders. He saw no valid reason for withholding the elective suffrage from any man, unless it could be proved, or a strong presumption could be raised, that he was unfit to exercise it. That view he conceived to be in accordance with the theory of representative government in every nation which had possessed one. He believed the principle universally assumed was, that it was desirable to have the representative body coincident, as nearly as possible, with the body of males of mature age in the community; there must be exceptions, but these must be defined by some rule founded on ascertained or probable conditions. The franchise was not to be withheld from a man merely on caprice, or without any solid grounds. Was there any probability that the householders under 10l., to whom his hon. Friend wished to extend the franchise, were more unworthy to exercise it than those who now possessed it? They were 1093 men who laboured assiduously every day,—who discharged faithfully all the obligations of private life—who had the greatest possible interest in the inviolability of those laws, which ensured the stability of property, and the security of the earnings of industry. Instead of having that interest which the noble Lord imputed to them of defrauding the public creditor, he maintained, that such a measure would do the working classes the greatest possible injury, and he should feel the most perfect confidence that it would meet with no approbation or acceptance from any body composed of. such men as those to whom his hon. Friend wished to extend the right of suffrage. Was there any ground for accusing those persons of a want of knowledge or ability? The noble Lord had himself admitted the great ability of many of the artisans, and the general respectable character of the class, which possessed many who had acquired much knowledge both from books and by experience. He believed the noble Lord to have given a perfectly true account, and therefore he desired to see these men admitted to the elective franchise. He would remind the noble Lord that but a very small proportion of the members of the mechanics' institutes, and other seminaries for instruction were now in possession of that right, and no men could be more worthy of the privilege than those who, under heavy toils and other serious disadvantages, took so much pains to cultivate their minds, maintaining so many mechanics' institutes, and profiting by the knowledge there communicated. It was not to be supposed, that profound knowledge or a learned education was required to qualify a man for the exercise of this right. The elective franchise was at present very contracted, and it was impossible to draw any tangible line of demarcation between the competency, moral or intellectual, of the tenants of 5l. houses, and the tenants of 10l. houses. He was anxious that both limitation and extension of the franchise should be based on some reasonable principle, and that it should not be determined on vague and inadequate grounds. The representative system, as settled in 1832, was disfigured by anomalies which the noble Lord himself could not venture to defend. How did it happen, for instance, that 10l. householders in small boroughs, had no vote for the county in which their house was situate? Was a householder in a little town which 1094 was not a Parliamentary borough, and returned no Member, less intelligent or respectable than a 10l. householder in a large town like London or York, who possessed a vote? There were 1,000 such anomalies in the Reform Act, and when, in the face of all these they were told that the measure was to be as enduring as the solar system, to last in sœula sœculorum, he thought it would have become the noble Lord to take a little more pains to expunge these anomalies. Into the question of universal suffrage he would not now enter. He understood his hon. Friend desired the admission of all householders under 10l. to the elective franchise; and the noble Lord, if he wished to sustain his refusal to admit them, and his resolution to take his stand on the integrity of the Reform Act, must make some more convincing reply to the powerful arguments of his hon. Friend. The hon. Member concluded by saying, that he should lend his support to the motion of his hon. Friend.
said, that a fallacy ran through the whole of the ingenious speech of the hon. Gentleman. The constitution of England consisted of the estates of the realm. The Commons of England in Parliament, were one of those estates. If the elective body in the country were to be an estate of the realm, it was absurd to have a House of Commons to represent the volition of the nation. When the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Kilkenny, talked of the people, he should give some definition of what he meant by the term "people." We knew what a nation was, but what did he mean by a people? The hon. Member's notion of a people was the electors of Kilkenny; that of the hon. Member for the city of London those who hallooed him on the hustings. He (Mr. D'Israeli) said, that that House, an estate of the realm, was the only representative of the Commons of England. The gentlemen who smiled or sneered at this, were sneering at the English constitution. The hon. Member for Kilkenny said, that the theory of the constitution was, that taxation and representation should go hand in hand. Where did he find that principle? In what part of the constitution did he find it? In Magna Charta—in the Bill of Rights—or in that famous Reform Bill which the hon. Member once welcomed with so much enthusiasm, and now attacked with so much causticity? The hon. Member had 1095 no definite idea of representation. He (Mr. D'Israeli) took it for granted, that the hon. Member supposed, that the principle of representation was the principle of popular election, but the principle of representation did not necessarily include election, as there might be representation without election. The Church of England was represented in the House of Lords—there was representation without election, for the bishops were not elected by the clergy. The House of Lords was quite as much a representative body as the House of Commons—as much an estate of the realm as the House of Commons, and that House was not elected. He should like, too, to have a definition of taxation by the hon. Member. If this dogma of taxation and representation going hand in hand were true, he hoped the hon. Member would not deny, that indirect taxation gave as good a claim to representation as direct taxation. If taxation was a qualification for the elective franchise, he wished to know whether indirect taxation was not, and why they should stop at household suffrage. It would be desirable also to know what the hon. Member meant by the "fundamental foundation" of his scheme. The hon. Member took a sentimental view of the politics of the country, and supposed that education would qualify persons for being electors, he would soon find, that when they got household suffrage, they would was universal suffrage, and then they would have no suffrage whatever.
§ Mr. Ward
said, that the hon. Member had supposed that a fallacy had run through the very ingenious speech of his hon. friend. This was clear; that the hon. Member had pointed out a great truism, that the House of Commons is not the house of the people. This was not the only truism; he had stated another, that election and representation were not synonymous and reciprocal; which he admitted. With respect to the motion of his hon. Friend, if he had confined his notice to the first part of the resolution which he had placed on the votes, he was convinced there would have been a fuller House. Many Members had been prepared to go with his hon. Friend in his speech as to the extension of the franchise, who were not prepared to go with him as to that part which related to household suffrage. He was prepared to go with him as to household suffrage, leaving the 1096 committee to say how far that principle should extend. The noble Lord took the same ground now that he had occupied for the last five years—resolved to adhere to the finality of the measure of 1833. The noble Lord had created a new school of politicians—the finality school. He held, that the reform bill, though not to be tampered with unnecessarily or lightly, had created a tribunal, before which all measures affecting the country could be properly discussed. Before, there was a packed jury to deal with; now, there was a jury before whom there was a chance of a fair verdict. The noble Lord considered that the changes must come within the competency of the tribunal, and must not diverge from the line prescribed in 1833. But the reform bill as we now had it was not the reform bill which the noble Lord had introduced. It had been mutilated in some of its most essential parts by the amendments of the noble Lord's opponents. We had the bill with all its defects, and were told that it must be considered as a final measure; and this objection went to all matters connected with the bill, in anything relating to the reform bill, the finality principle was brought to play against them. The noble Lord had alluded to universal suffrage. He (Mr. Ward) did see grounds which ought to induce the noble Lord to pour in his hostility to this principle. He had looked pretty closely to the state of feeling in the country amongst those who were excluded from the franchise, and he saw the worst spirit amongst them, which was assuming a shape it was difficult to control, except by agreeing to a resolution like that proposed by his hon. Friend, that the House would concede to that class a share in the constituency of the country. He knew that this spirit could be kept down by physical force; but he could not look forward without apprehensions of evil to the possible violent explosion of feeling on this point. He hoped that the motion of his hon. Friend would receive the consideration to which it was so fully entitled, and he was sure that the time must come soon when the House would be forced to a consideration and an acceptance of the measure.
§ Mr. P. Howard
considered that upon the whole, the Reform Act had been successful. In this great commercial country he was anxious to spare the merchants and 1097 traders a renewal of the agitation which they were subject to during the Reform Bill. He thought that any great increase of suffrage would produce still more anxiety for further extension among the non-electors. They would see themselves still nearer the goal, and they would become still more restless and dissatisfied. He believed that the desire for change had no deep root among the constituent body generally. If their opinions were taken, there would be found a very large majority in favour of the law as it at present stood.
§ Lord J. Russell
was anxious to refer to two remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for London and the hon. Member for Sheffield. The hon. Member for London had said, that he (Lord John Russell) had stated, that the inequality of representation was a defect of the Reform Bill. He certainly did not state, that it was a defect in the Reform Bill; but he had expressed his opinion, that no fair representation of the numbers, property, and intelligence of a country could be secured by the alteration proposed. The hon. Member for Sheffield had said, that he (Lord John Russell) had denied the competency of Parliament to entertain the present question. Now he had by no means denied the competency of Parliament to entertain the question, but he had said, that it would not be wise to entertain it.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
thought, that the present question lay between the two parties on the other side of the House, and he had no wish to interfere between them. They were pulling against each other on the brink of a precipice, and it was a matter of perfect indifference to him which pulled the other over. As for the existing suffrage, he was rather disposed to complain that the 10l. qualification was general. He thought there ought rather to have been a 5l. qualification for some of the smaller places, and a qualification varying from 15l. to 20l., in other places, in order to ensure a fair representation.
was sorry to observe the air of ridicule which had been attempted to be thrown on this important question by some of the speeches which he had heard. The hon. Members for Carlisle and Maidstone seem disposed to treat it in a tone of grave mockery. They might attempt to treat it with ridicule, but the public at large could not be made to treat 1098 it in that way. Before the Reform Bill, as was admitted by the hon. Member for Maidstone, the people had no representation. Seats were sold in the market. Gatton was bought for 70,000l., and old Sarum for 125,000l. Stalls in Smithfield-market were not more regularly sold than seats in that House. The intention of the Reform Bill was to transfer the power of legislating from the nominees of individuals to the representatives of the people. He hoped the hon. Member for Maidstone would not be offended with him for talking of representatives of the people. The hon. Gentleman did not choose to assume that capacity. He rather chose to take upon himself some imaginary dignity, as one of the estate of the commons, and not as a representative. He would leave the hon. Member in the undisturbed enjoyment of his new dignity. The principle of the Reform Bill gave up the nomination of a certain class of the people, and gave the power professedly to the nation at large. But how? In a most capricious and absurd way. It gave the elective franchise to persons occupying a house of 10l. yearly value, though such persons might really have no property, or be involved in debt or difficulties. It gave the franchise to freeholders having a particular profit, and left it with freemen by birth or servitude, though they might have no property at all. They gave it to men having this right depending on the mere accident of birth. They left it to scot and lot voters in some towns. They gave it to persons who, instead of having property belonged to the class of paupers. They refused it to persons of independence, and gave it to tenants at will, who were dependant on the breath of their landlords. They had introduced no distinct principle; while they had admitted a portion of the people for some fantastic reason, they had for reasons equally capricious excluded others. Did not the people at large know, and say now, that there was a master class which had votes, and a slave class which had not votes? Talk of property indeed! What property was more sacred than a man's physical powers and his intellect? The artisan by the exercise of these powers must earn more than 10l. or 20l. a year, or he would starve. What could be more sacred than the property which God and nature gave? Yet they excluded the intelligence of the artisan from the franchise, and while upon some imaginary and 1099 preconceived notions they admitted others, they told the working man, that he was to be excluded. Such a system could not last. Common sense and common honesty were against it. The hon. Member for Carlisle had talked of a compromise. But had there been any compromise? Who were parties to it? The Radical reformers, of whom he (Mr. O'Connell) reckoned himself one, had determined at the time of the Reform Bill to make an experiment, and see whether they could get popular government by that experiment. The moment they ascertained the failure of that experiment, they were hound to carry their principles further—and was not that failure ascertained? Look at the boroughs and counties. What were the means by which the returns were influenced. If it had not been for an absurd cry in support of the Corn-laws, and a bigot cry on religious subjects, would the Gentlemen opposite crowd the benches as at present. If the boroughs were not reduced to nearly their old state of slavery, would the opposite benches be crowded as they were with borough mongers. It was true, they were sustained by the folly of a portion of the people. The wild ravings of the Chartists had fortified them in their abuses; but the popular sentiment could not be excluded. If those misguided men had not proclaimed principles which every honest man must abhor, which no man of conscience could do other than reprobate—If they had not used threats of physical force—if they had not become like them (the opposition) exclusionists and opponents of the rights of the middle classes, the sober, steady voice of the people of England would, before this time, have been heard proclaiming that the present plan of representation should not be continued. It excluded too many of the people; it excluded those who were as deserving of confidence, and as distinguished by integrity and intelligence, as any other in the constituent body or the legislature. For he (Mr. O'Connell) could not yield to the hon. Member for Maidstone's assumption of peculiar dignity for what he called the third estate of the realm. He saw nothing either in the hon. Member or his colleagues of that mens divinior which might give them a natural right to legislate for others. There was no reason why an honest and intelligent workman, who gave his leisure moments to the improvement of his mind and the increase of 1100 his intelligence, should not enjoy political power. Until that was the case, he would tell them that their Commons estate was not safe, and more even than they now refused must ultimately be yielded to pressure. When common sense and common honesty became the maxims of the masses, not only those who were now attempting to mislead them, but they (the Opposition) would be driven from the position which they had usurped and abused. The hon. Member for Maidstone seemed to be above learning the meaning of the principle of representation. He would tell the hon. Member to look into a book which was familiar to him (Mr. O'Connell), he meant "Blackstone's Commentaries," where he would find it stated, that it was robbery to levy taxes in England, unless the people of England consented to these taxes by their representatives. Blackstone talked of a virtual representation, but that was a phrase to account for the want of a real one. You struck (continued the hon. and learned Member) by the Reform Bill, the idea for a virtual representation, but you have not given a real representation. When you tax now, you rob. When you create a capital felony, you are guilty of the blood you shed, because you are not the representatives, as the hon. Member for Maidstone has candidly confessed, of the people of England. The mass of the people must have power, and their common sense and common honesty are the best securities against any robbery, either of the public creditor or of private individuals. They have an interest in it. In the artificial society of England, the great interest in maintaining the social state as it exists in the millions who depend from week to week for the subsistence of their families on their wages, they have a more deep and immediate interest in the preservation of the order, peace, and security of society, than the haughtiest aristocrat in the land, or the proudest landowner among you. The people of England are entitled to representation. Their day of delusion must shortly cease, and your day of delusion will end with it.
§ Mr. T. Attwood
quite agreed with his hon. and learned Friend behind him, that very improper language had been used in many parts of England; but he was perfectly certain that the masses of English labourers were not interested in anything unjust or illegal. He was sure that they were determined to accomplish a great 1101 change, and he would stand by them and support them in effecting that change; and it would be brought about, not by any illegal measures, but peacefully, before that House continued much longer. It was true that much mischief had been done, as his hon. and learned Friend said by violent and improper language. That language had alarmed the timid and offended the upright, the prudent, and the patriotic; but it had not discouraged the bold, the generous, and the brave. There was one thing, at all events, settled, that the Reform Bill was not a finality bill; it could not he a finality bill. He did not mean to say, that universal suffrage was absolutely certain; but he did say, that it was every year making a larger advance in the public mind. But for the intemperance of some parties, he believed that the demand for universal suffrage would be now all but universal. He must say, that if he were to decide whether we should go on as we are now, or abolish the Reform Bill, as an honest man he should vote for abolishing the Reform Bill. He thought they would be better under the borough mongers than under that blouse. He knew of no good which that House had done—no generous or humane feeling which they had ever entertained towards the masses of the people of England. Perhaps that House was a representative of the aristocracy, or of the richer classes, in the sense of the hon. Member for Maidstone. He knew nothing of that; but it was no more the representative of the working classes—of the Commons of England, than it was a representative of the commons of China.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 85—Majority 35.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Grote, G.|
|Attwood, T.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Hawes, B.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hector, C. J.|
|Butler, hon. Col.||Hollond, R.|
|Chalmers, P.||Humphrey, J.|
|Codrington, Admiral||Hutt, W.|
|Currie, R.||James, W.|
|Denistoun, J.||Leader, J. T.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Lushington, C.|
|Duncombe, T.||Muskett, G. A.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||O'Connell, D.|
|Easthope, J.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Fielden, J.||O'Connor, Don.|
|Fenton, J.||Pattison, J.|
|Finch, F.||Power, J.|
|Protheroe, E.||Ward, H. G.|
|Rundle, J.||White, A.|
|Salwey, Col.||Wilde, Sergeant|
|Somers, J. P.||Williams, W.|
|Style, Sir C.||Wood, Sir M.|
|Tancred, H. W.||Yates, J. A.|
|Villiers, hon. C. P.||TELLERS.|
|Wallace, R.||Hume, J.|
|Warburton, H.||Johnson, General|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abercromby, hn. G. R.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Lefroy, rt. hon. T.|
|Baillie, Colonel||Lockhart, A. M.|
|Baring, F. T.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Barrington Viscount||Mackenzie, T.|
|Barry, G. S.||Maule, hon. F.|
|Blair, J.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Blennerhassett, A.||Mordaunt, Sir J.|
|Broadley, H.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Bruges, W. H.||Murray, A.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Norreys, Lord|
|Canning, rt. hn. Sir S.||Packe, C. W.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Palmer, G.|
|Copeland, Alderman||Parker, R. T.|
|Courtenay, P.||Pease, J.|
|Curry, W.||Perceval, Colonel|
|D'Israeli, B.||Perceval, hon. G. J.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Pinney, W.|
|East, J. B.||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Richards, R.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Ellis, J.||Round, C. G.|
|Forester, hon. G.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Fremantle, Sir T.||Sandon Viscount|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Shaw, right hon. F.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Smith, R. V.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Gordon, R.||Stanley, Lord|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Stuart, V.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Stock, Dr.|
|Halford, H.||Teignmouth, Lord|
|Hastie, A.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Heneage, G. W.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Hodgson, R.||Tollemache, F. J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Hope, G. W.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Hotham, Lord||Vivian, J. E.|
|Howard, P. H.||Wood, C.|
|Howick, Lord||Wood, T.|
|Jones, J.||Young, J.|
|Kemble, H.||Seymour, Lord|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Parker, J.|