§ Mr. Slaney
felt it to be a deep sense of duty with him to offer a few observations to the House upon this very important subject. He had read the bill of the noble Lord, and also that of the Solicitor-general for Ireland, with great care, and he was sure it was impossible for any one who dispassionately looked into them, not to see that one was drawn up with a view to afford every facility to the claimant, while the other was framed to afford every facility to the objector. Now, if the intention of the noble Lord was to deal fairly with the subject, and he did not at all doubt the noble Lord's assurance that such was his disposition, why, he would ask, was there so great a difference between the two bills? What was the cause of the great difference if the framers of both bills had the same purpose in view? The ambiguity of the franchise constituted the great ground of difficulty. There were hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, who entertained the same opinion as to the difficulty of defining what the franchise really was. Both, however, differed in the interpretation of. 121 its meaning, one viewing it in one light, and another in a different light. Such being the case, was it practicable to form a good bill from the materials of the bill of the noble Lord, or of the Solicitor-general, without ascertaining what the franchise was? No doubt, in the Irish registration, many abuses existed; many unfair and unqualified claimants had sought and obtained the franchise; but many of these claimants had been led astray by the ambiguity of the meaning of the franchise. The assistant-barristers, the landlords, the tenants, the judges, each and all held different opinions with regard to it, and each arrived at different conclusions with respect to it. What, then, must be the condition of a poor and illiterate peasant, who was compelled to give to it that interpretation which his simple and unsophisticated mind suggested, especially when beset with the objectors and abettors of his electoral claim? He would appeal to the noble Lord, not in any hostile sense, and would ask him if it were possible to remedy these abuses in the Irish registration, without the definition recommended by the hon. Member for Mallow? The instruction recommended by that hon. Member was approved of by Gentlemen on both sides of the House. It was right that the qualification of the voter should be such as would carry with it the objects of the promoters of the Reform Bill. Of that measure the noble Lord was the advocate, and in the debates upon that measure in the House of Lords, it was then stated, that the Irish franchise should be a liberal one; while the effect of the noble Lord's bill would be to restrict it. His conviction was, that without the definition of the franchise, the two bills before the House would be perfectly impotent. The noble Lord was aware that the oath taken by voters had been altered at the time of the Reform Bill, and that it then varied from what it was at the time of the Emancipation Act. By these alterations and variations in the oath, he wished to show how difficult it was for an illiterate person to know the exact meaning of the oath. As to the interpretation of the qualification by the judges, these learned personages decided, that a person should say that his holding was worth 10l., and that a solvent tenant would pay 10l. for it. In England, every one acquainted with agricultural subjects knew that the produce was equivalent to three rents—one for the landlord, one for the expense, and the third for the tenant; but upon the tenant in Ireland the judges put 122 a different construction to what had been put upon the claimant of the franchise in England. He did not mean to say that the construction was so clear as to leave no doubt upon the subject; nor did he mean to impugn the motives of the noble Lord, or of hon. Members opposite, who gave a different construction to that which he affixed to it. Why did the bill of the noble Lord place such difficulties in the way of the claimant? So long as the franchise was undefined, the bill would, if successful, have the effect of restricting the franchise; and the noble Lord, and the Solicitor-general constructed their bills, both with reference to the ambiguity of the franchise, one with one view, and the other with a different one, but both coming to the same conclusion, that the words with regard to the franchise were unsatisfactory. Was it not, then, the duty of the House to frame a measure which would make the franchise clear and distinct? The rating in Ireland had progressed to a considerable extent, and should be made the basis of the franchise; and, if that were done, it would take away the objectionable clauses which pervaded both bills. With great humility, but with great sincerity, he would appeal to the noble Lord, and suggest to him the propriety of settling the franchise, which would remove the objectionable portions of his own bill. Hon. Members on his side of the House objected to the noble Lord's bill as too stringent. That was the gist of their objections. Again he would appeal to the prudence of the noble Lord, and ask him, whether, in the event of his bill passing in its present state, without any modifications, any doubt could exist, but that great excitement and irritation would take place in Ireland? Could there be any doubt but that, in such an event, a new and a powerful agitation would be the result? If the friends of the noble Lord were of opinion that in the next, or the subsequent Session, they would succeed to power what would be the first and greatest difficulty they would have to encounter? Their difficulty would be Ireland. Was it prudent then, for them who entertained such hopes to exasperate the Irish people? The course which prudence and policy would suggest to them was, to keep Ireland quiet and tranquil. In the remarks which he offered to the House, he did not refer so much to Ireland as he did to England. The poverty, misery, distress, and destitution which prevailed in the large towns of England were promoted by the 123 constant influx of outcasts from Ireland, and in the event of that country being kept in a state of agitation instead of repose, was it not certain that that influx into England would be increased, and the inevitable consequence would be, that a general paralysis would occur to the efforts of our own people in the populous towns? He spoke for the people of England upon the present occasion, and he felt that one of the best means of improving the condition of this country was, by tranquillizing Ireland—and if ever there were a favourable conjuncture, the present was the time. The hon. and learned Member concluded by expressing a sincere hope that the franchise would be defined before fighting the matter to the last.
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had stated, that he approached the question without any party bias. If to sustain the franchise of Ireland was a party question, he would acknowledge himself a party man, and he wished he could imitate the temper and tone of the hon. Member who had just spoken. He did not, however, mean to quarrel with the arrangements which had been made, or to press immediately upon the House the consideration of defining the franchise, either as to what it was, or what it should be. When he came down to the House, the impression on his mind was, to obtain from the House a declaration upon that subject; and if he did not press it, then it was owing to the rational and conciliatory observations made by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, and the good sense which pervaded his views with regard to the definition of the franchise. It was in the hope that what had fallen from that hon. Member would sink into the minds of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, that he did not press the definition of the franchise as an instruction to the committee. It amounted to a perfect absurdity, and contrary to common sense, to proceed with this bill in its present state. The House was called upon to form a registry, and to settle a mode of registration, without determining what was to be registered. They were called upon to decide upon the form, without determining to what that form should be applied. In his opinion, the House should begin with the beginning, and that was, to ascertain what was to be the Irish franchise. When that was settled, no difficulty could exist as to the fair mode of carrying the principle into effect. Was the House aware that there 124 was a bill in the House for defining the franchise? The proper way, in his opinion, was to take up that bill, and to go through with it. There were but two or three clauses only in that bill which would provoke any discussion, and there was nothing which would occupy much of the time and attention of the House. When that bill was discussed, and the franchise fixed one way or the other, the mode of ascertaining the franchise would not consume much time in the arrangement. Was he to be told that that suggestion proceeded from him for the purpose merely of delaying the present bill? No doubt there was such a thing as a vexatious objection, but there also existed a vexatious perseverance, and was it not a vexatious perseverance on the part of the noble Lord, at present to proceed with a bill which the noble Lord did not intend to come into operation till the year 1841? If the bill for defining the franchise were proceeded with, and considered first, the noble Lord would have time afterwards to bring in his bill. The noble Lord had taken advantage of the former bills introduced by hon. Members on his (Mr. O'Connel's) side of the House, but the noble Lord omitted to state, that in these bills there existed a definition of the franchise; and, so far from any vexatious opposition being given to it, he, and those with whom he acted, were willing to consider them, provided the franchise was defined. If the object of the bill of the noble Lord was merely to prevent fraud, the course which he (Mr. O'Connell) recommended would be adopted. Hon. Gentlemen, on both sides of the House should recollect, that the Irish constituencies were not of that overwhelming nature which they would be, if fraud had been exerted. All the uncertainty that occurred in the registration arose from the ambiguity of the franchise. Hoping that these remarks would be considered by the House, and wishing not to lose the benefit of the good sense of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, he would not press his motion for an instruction to the committee for a definition of the franchise, reserving for himself a future occasion, should the necessity arise.
§ House in Commitee.
§ On clause 3,
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, that with respect to this clause, which opened the question of substituting annual registration for the system at present existing, it was his intention to object, and to endeavour to induce 125 the Committee to continue the quarterly-system at present established; and in the event of the noble Lord opposite succeeding in the clause, it was his intention to make other amendments.
could not object to the noble Lord taking what course he thought proper, but he considered annual registration to be an important feature of his bill; and if the noble Lord succeeded in the quarterly registration, he would consider it so direct a condemnation of his own bill, that he would not give the noble Lord or the House any additional trouble. The principle of quarterly registration was so inconsistent with the terms of his bill that he should not be justified in persevering, and he was ready to meet the noble Lord upon the point at once.
said, that he could not allow this clause to pass without making several amendments. The noble Lord must be aware that he would raise eight or ten questions upon the clause. He was ready to take up the debate upon the words "in any year."
said, that he was there to defend his bill against all the objections which could be urged against it, and would give way when the objections were reasonable.
said, that a change of residence vitiated the vote in Ireland, whereas in England permanency was not required, provided the value was retained. The bill of the noble Lord would exact from the claimant not only the previous residence of a year, but in many cases a person occupying premises would not be entitled to vote in fifteen, seventeen, eighteen, and twenty-three months from the time of his occupation. Whereas, by the existing law, the time at the utmost from which an occupying tenant could be excluded was twelve months.
said, that his bill would give a greater advantage to the Irish voter than the English bill gave to the English voter, and a far greater advantage than the bill of the Solicitor-general for Ireland; for the English bill declared, that no one should register until he was twelve months in possession, whereas the bill which he introduced with regard to Irish registration did not exact a residence of twelve months to be placed upon the register. The words were—Provided also that where any such lands, &c, which would so otherwise entitle the holder, &c, to be registered in any year, shall 126 come to any person in any manner, or by any means whatsoever, within such period of twelve calendar months herein before required, but not less than six months next previous to the 20th of July, such person, if continuing to be so otherwise entitled on the said 20th day of July, and being in all other respects duly qualified, shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at the said next ensuing registry,Now, why had he considered it necessary to insert this proviso? Because he did not wish to alter the registry; for, by the law as it stood now, a man had no right to vote in Ireland, any more than another had to be registered in England, until he should have been in possession twelve months. What he proposed was very different from the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who proposed to give the six months before the registry and the six months after the registry as the necessary title for a vote. Now, the effect of that would be that a man coming into possession in September would not be entitled to vote till seventeen months afterwards. According to his bill, the Irish voter would rather gain than lose when compared to the English voter; but the result, he thought, would be the reverse according to the bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
observed, that the noble Lord seemed to think his bill conferred a greater favour on the Irish voter than that of the Solicitor-general, and that if a man came into possession of the property entitling him to the franchise in September or October, the hon. and learned Gentleman's bill would create a delay of more than a twelvemonth before he could vote. But this was impossible; for, by the Solictor-general's bill, it was provided that there should be a registry every four months. The noble Lord said, he did not understand how twenty-three months could interpose under his bill between the tenant coming into possession and his right to exercise the franchise; but if he came in in March, he could not vote until the following October twelvemonths, and then, in case of any mistake arising at the registry, or any other obstacle, he might have his right to vote deferred another six months. He was surprised to hear the noble Lord say that tenants were in the habit of combing into possession in Ireland so late as October, when they would necessarily have to pay rent for a dead half year as it were. The fact was, that tenants almost universally in Ireland came into possession about the month of March. The noble Lord 127 seemed disposed to give to Ireland all that was bad in the English Act.
§ The Attorney-General
said, that the noble Lord seemed to imagine that, in England, in all county qualifications, whether freehold or leasehold, the right to vote was only given by an occupation of twelve months whereas an occupancy of six months only was required by the Act. In England, any man having a freehold occupation for six months before the 20th of July was entitled to vote; and, in Ireland, any man having had a freehold qualification for eleven months three weeks and seven days would be prevented by the bill of the noble Lord. [Lord Stanley: No, no.] He held in his hand the Act of Parliament to bear out what he had said.
admitted, and it was quite clear, that, in the ease of only one annual registry being established, it might happen that a person coming into possession at a particular part of the year—immediately after the registry, for instance—would not be able to register so soon as in a case where there would be four registrations in the year. This was in the nature of things, and unavoidable if they were to have an annual registry.
§ Lord J. Russell
The noble Lord, at all events, seems to admit that there will be this inconvenience attending his bill, namely, that a tenant, having come into possession, would have fewer opportunities of being registered under his bill than under the Irish Reform Bill, or the bill of my hon. and learned Friend, the Solicitor-general. With respect to what the noble Lord says of the English system, if the noble Lord means that the whole of that system should be adopted in Ireland, I can understand it to be a fair proposition. But when he professedly proposes to cause delay in the registration of Irish voters, and tells us that that delay is the same to which we are subject in England, then I say that the noble Lord gives to Ireland nothing, but that which constitutes any hardship there is in the English measure. He gives to Ireland every disadvantage connected with the Irish system, and every English disadvantage into the bargain.
§ Sir E. Sugden
did not at all understand that this bill took all that was bad in the English law and gave it to Ireland, because by the English law there must be a twelve-month's possession, whereas this bill gave the title to vole after a six month's possession. He was not disputing the benefit of a quarterly court of registration, but at 128 any rate a man must have been six months on the registry before he could vote, let him register, under the present system, whenever he would. By the bill of the noble Lord, an annual registration was to be adopted in Ireland, certainly at some cost; but by that bill, a voter would be entitled to exercise the franchise after having been twelve months in possession altogether. It enabled a man to register after six months, and to vote after a twelvemonth's possession.
§ Mr. C. Wood
thought they were discussing a question not then immediately before the House, viz., the time of possession which should entitle a man to register his vote. The hon. Gentleman then read a clause in the English Act, showing that a freeholder in England was entitled to register after a six months' occupation from the 20th of July, and said that, considering that an Irish leaseholder was the same thing almost as an English freeholder, he thought the noble Lord's bill placed the former in a worst position than the latter.
§ Mr. Shaw
observed, that every Irish voter, under the present system, must be six months in possession before the registry, and six months also after the registry, before he was entitled to vote, making in all twelve months; whereas the noble Lord's bill gave him the right to vote, after he should have been twelve months in possession, even if he should not have registered exactly as now required.
§ Sir G. Grey
thought that much of this unnecessary discussion arose from the want of perspicuity in the mode in which this clause was drawn. He thought it would be much better that the noble Lord should insert "six" instead of "twelve'' months for the present, in this clause, and take the discussion on the clause in that shape afterwards, when the other amendments respecting it should have been disposed of—(at least so we understood the hon. Baronet's proposition).
said, that he would at once tell his hon. Friend what had been his object in drawing the clause in the manner he had done. He did desire, when the registry was made, that that registry, and that only, should be conclusive as to the right of the party to vote; and therefore it was that, instead of providing for a twelvemonth's previous possession, he proposed a six month's possession, and that the party should not be entitled to vote until six months after his name had been registered. 129 According to his proposition, the registry would itself show the precise period of the occupation in each case, and, consequently, the day upon which each party would be entitled to vote would appear on the face of the registry. The only effect of introducing the words "six months'' instead of "twelve," would be to render the registry imperfect, on account of the difficulty of ascertaining the exact period of occupation.
said, it was manifest that, instead of removing, the noble Lord was only increasing the difficulties; because, without a special registry, it was impossible that the noble Lord's intention could be carried into effect. No general rule could be laid down under the noble Lord's Bill, and the result would be, that at least half of the parties entitled to claim would be left in uncertainty as to the time when they could register. Their title to register, too, must be ascertained by establishing a preliminary fact which would tend to litigation, and this was enough for him to object to the proposition of the noble Lord. He would ask whether any one could, under this bill, vote unless he could show a twelvemonth's occupation? Yet the noble Lord talked of doing a favour, while, in point of fact, he was inflicting an injury on the Irish constituency, by taking away rights which they possessed under the existing law.
§ Lord Clements
thought that a party in possession of a freehold qualification ought to be entitled to register and vote at any time. He could not see any object to be gained by prolonging the time.
§ Mr. Lynch
said, it appeared to him strange that the noble Lord had not thought of placing the Irish freeholders on the same footing as the English. That was what the noble Lord should have done. He trusted that the amendment would be adopted by the Committee, and in that case he meant to propose, that the proviso should extend to leaseholders and householders as well as freeholders.
said, as the law stood, a party could not be registered without showing a twelvemonth's previous occupation, but he found he was in error in not referring to the difference in the law between England and Ireland with regard to freehold rights. In England a six months' possession conferred the right, and in Ireland it did not; but he could only say, that if the House wished to place the law of both countries on the same footing, he should not object to it, provided the alter- 130 ation was to be made contemporaneously with annual registrations—as in England. Supposing they consented to adopt the principle of annual registration, he for one was ready to concur in the general sense of the House, if such were the case, and allow the words "six months" instead of "twelve" to be inserted in the clause.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, that as the law stood, occupation for twelve months before the registry was sufficient; but what did the noble Lord require? Why, he required a six months' occupation before the 20th of July. He seemed, however, to forget that the registry did not take place until September or October, and that if a party could not vote for six months after he was registered, he must in effect have a thirteen months' occupation. Suppose, for instance, a party came into possession of a qualification in January, he would be entitled to register in July; but not being able to register then, nor until September or October, and having to wait six months from thence before he could vote, it was clear that the time would be extended long beyond twelve months.
§ Sir R. Peel
—The right hon. and learned Gentleman has taken a case, and he says, that if a voter be in possession of his qualification in January, he cannot vote under my noble Friend's bill, for six months after he has registered. Now, this is not the fact, because I am prepared to show that the voter under this bill will be entitled to vote precisely as he would under the existing law. The time of his occupation will appear on the registry, and consequently if he have been in possession nine months at the period he is registered, he will be entitled to vote in three months from that day.
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, that although the right hon. Baronet seemed to give a triumphant answer to the objection of his right hon. and learned Friend, he had forgotten that if a party came into possession on the 21st of January, he would not be entitled to register on the 20th of July. Now, what would be the consequence of this law? Why, that he could not vote for seventeen months after that period.
§ Mr. C. Buller
said, that although they had been favoured with six speeches, he thought it had been agreed that the words "six months" should be substituted for "twelve." If so, where was the good of so much discussion?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, he was now quite ready to raise the question with respect to annual or quarterly registrations, and he would move that the words "his registry" be inserted, instead of the words "the 20th of July," with which it was proposed to fill up the blank in the clause.
thought the noble Lord had not treated him fairly by not having given him notice of the amendment which he intended to propose. The noble Lord ought to know that in carrying a bill of this kind, it was impossible at a moment to see the effect of an amendment: but he absolved the noble Lord from all blame, because it was now evident that he had not himself the least idea of the effect of his amendment. It was quite obvious to the House, from his consultation with the noble Lord the Sscretary for the Colonies, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-general, that the noble Lord had not made up his mind to the last moment as to what he was going to propose. The object of the noble Lord, it was clear, was, not to amend the clause, but to mangle the bill, and he was only sorry, that the noble Lord was not now prepared to carry his intentions into effect.
§ Viscount Morpeth
The noble Lord has exhibited a happy specimen of the temper in which he proposes to carry on the discussions on this bill from the commencement, but I shall not attempt to retaliate. I shall remind the House, and not the noble Lord, that I stated, when we first came to consider the clause, that I thought it would be convenient to discuss the question of annual registration before we proceeded further, as I objected to the clause in toto. I did this to save the time of the House, and with a view to consult the general convenience; and I was only endeavouring to see if I could raise the question in the case of the clause when the noble Lord rose. What I said was, that if we could come to an understanding, I was ready to raise the question; and I shall now persevere, although it is my intention, when we dispose of the remainder of the clause, to move that it be struck out of the bill.
§ Mr. Slaney
would support quarterly registrations, although he should like annual registrations if they were practicable. He feared the only effect which the noble Lord's bill could produce was that of throwing fresh difficulties in the way of rightful claimants. Why should the claimant to vote be sent before judges 132 who would have had already, to a certain extent, made up their minds as to that construction of the law which most narrowed the franchise? Why should that be done, at the same time that he was deprived of the advantage which he before possessed of claiming his franchise four times a-year? He also thought that the noble Lord ought to define the franchise more clearly before he passed such provisions as that bill contained. They ought, in justice to the claimant, to take away all ambiguity from the franchise; it should be clearly defined, that a poor man who wished to establish his right could not misunderstand it.
§ Mr. Ingham
said, that if there were any provision in the bill the effect of which would be to place an unfair restriction upon the man who honestly sought to establish his vote from a bona fide qualification, he was confident that the nobler Lord would be one of the first to agree to the omission of that provision from the bill. If the hon. Member who spoke last had objections to other details of the bill, as it would appear he had, there would be opportunities afforded of suggesting alterations in the Committee, with a view to carry out any alterations in the details of the bill. If the hon. Member thought the appeal to the judge objectionable, it was open to him to suggest another tribunal. The hon. Member supported the clause.
§ Viscount Howick
regretted that his noble Friend did not state more fully the ground of his amendment. Before he voted he trusted the House would permit him to make one or two observations with respect to his views of the subject. It appeared to him that the claimants to register ought to be afforded every possible facility for obtaining the right to vote which the law intended they should possess. But the greatest care ought to be taken that none but those who had a real and bona fide right to register should be placed on the list of voters. With respect to the objections, it was quite clear that if those objections were to be repeated four times a-year it would have the effect of placing a heavy burden upon the counties and parishes in Ireland where such lists would be made out under the provisions of the bill, and they would have just right to complain of that burden. In the bill of the hon. Solicitor-general for Ireland it was provided that when the re- 133 vision took place it should only apply to cases which had arisen since the establishment of the right to vote on the part of the voter, so that it followed, the same revision could not take place under that bill after the name of the voter was originally placed on the list. It was quite evident, therefore, that before the name was placed on the list there ought to be a most strict and searching investigation, and that every opportunity ought to be afforded to ascertain the real value of the property from the possession of which the person sought to establish his claim, and to ascertain that the person so claiming to vote was the real bona fide possessor of the property; for when the claimant was not to be harassed by having that question repeatedly opened it was clear that the original investigation ought to be the more searching, and the proof required the more satisfactory. He repeated, that he did not see how it was possible to revise the list four times a-year without its being burthensome in its operation. With regard to the inconvenience arising to the claimant for the registry, as the clause now stood it was next to nothing, for the person so claiming could not by any possible circumstances be kept without his vote for a longer period than fifteen months.
wished to direct the attention of the House to the difference between his bill and the bill of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire. The bill which he brought in proposed to leave the law with respect to registration as it stood at present. Abuses had been alleged to arise from the system of registry which at present prevailed in Ireland. Abuses were admitted to exist from that system which had been in operation in that country for upwards of one hundred years. It had occurred under that system that persons in some cases remained on the registry when they ought not so to be placed. His object was to remove those abuses, and that could be attained solely by revision, for there was no necessary connection between the admission of votes and the removal from the list of names which ought not to be there. The noble Lord's bill, however, went further, and, instead of revision, it provided a new system of registration. To that he (Mr. Pigot) objected, for there was no necessity for superadding one upon the other; and if he could show to the House a system which would leave 134 the law as it was—which would leave that law to exist that the people of Ireland were used to, which was allowed to stand by the Reform Bill, and which would permit a remedy of the abuses that now existed—he thought it would afford strong reason to the House why it should not adopt the system proposed by the noble Lord. The law as it now existed was interwoven with the habits of the Irish people, and he always heard that it was wise to adapt legislation, as far as such was possible, not only to the institutions, but to the habits of the people for whom it was intended. What course had been pursued in Ireland with respect to the registry? In the last century a system of registration was adopted which was extremely defective. The freeholder appeared before the magistrates at quarter sessions, and having sworn an affidavit, was thereupon registered. In 1829 the right hon. Baronet introduced his bill. He found local courts existing which had been in use since 1796, and in them discovering every quality for the administration of justice, he trusted to them the care of the registry. In 1832 the noble Lord found that this jurisdiction had been tried successfully, he selected it again for this bill; and now, at the end of eight years, he asked hon. Members how and upon what ground he intended to deprive the people of Ireland of the benefit of that jurisdiction? And why he selected an annual system of registry, because he selected an annual system of revision? Was it not an advantage to have a court sitting frequently, and having always a staff of professional men, who usually attended, instead of bringing them specially to attend an annual court, at an expense which those who were acquainted with the English system could tell? The professional men usually attending the present courts were employed by the farmers in their civil business, and they were also engaged by the landlords to manage their ejectments and other civil affairs, so that they could attend perfectly well to the registration of the farmer, and of the landlord's tenants, and were a ready staff without any additional expense. Was not the House, then, called upon to say that nothing but the strongest, nay, almost an irresistible necessity should be proved before they would take away from the Irish a system with which they were well acquainted, and in which they ever found, at a cheap rate, 135 professional men to defend the right? Upon what ground did the noble Lord intend to make this change? If there was any objection to a quarterly registration, could it not be remedied? But it was most important that if the good claimant came forward, and failed on a point of form, or from the accidental absence of a witness, he might come three months afterwards and obtain the franchise to which he was entitled. He proposed to leave the law precisely as it now stood; as to the publication of the name of the claimant, the notice to be given to the clerk of the peace, subject to the same responsibility as now existed, subject to the same stringent inquiry, obliging the party to produce his lease to prove his right, upon his own oath and by witnesses, he left all the stringent inquiries and investigation which at present existed, and which the noble Lord opposite had not been able to increase by his bill. What he proposed was, to adopt the simple course, not adopt change where it was quite unnecessary, and to stand by what existed till it absolutely required alteration. All he proposed was, to superadd one more jurisdiction to that which already existed. The assistant-barrister was not withdrawn by the noble Lord, neither did he propose to withdraw him; the system of giving a claim was not withdrawn by the noble Lord, nor did he withdraw it; the places of registry in the noble Lord's bill were the quarter sessions; they were the same in his bill; in short, the noble Lord proposed the same tribunal as he did, the same places, the same persons who were to claim, the same districts. Why, then, did the noble Lord wish to deprive parties of the frequent chance of establishing the franchise? At present, in some towns, sessions were held four times a year, in some twice, and in others once. Where a repetition of many applications was likely to occur, the sessions were held more frequently than in others where the requirement was less. The tribunals, therefore, were just accommodated to the wants of the people. Again, in some places and towns, the quarter-sessions were held near each other, so that assuming the sessions were held once in some places, and in others twice, the voter would have the advantage of six opportunities in the course of a year to acquire the franchise, and that advantage the noble Lord sought to take away. And 136 what did he substitute? A tribunal, which was to sit at a very busy time, during the months of September and October, just when the peasantry were most engaged. If by any fatality there should be an absence of a witness, arising from his occupation, if the tenants should be independent enough to resist the importunities of their landlords, which might not at every session be continued, was it not harsh to remove that facility which enabled the party to indemnify himself for the fatalities of one period by the conveniences of another? When the House of Commons, therefore, was engaged in a discussion of the greatest importance to the people of Ireland, he appealed to them, and he asked them whether for every step that was taken, the strongest necessity ought not to be shown, and whether they would lightly abolish those institutions which accorded with the habits of the people?
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
concurred with his learned Friend in the opinion that alterations ought not to be made without absolute necessity; he only wished that this rule had been more generally acted upon in later times. He thought it desirable also that all facilities should be given to the bonâ fide claimants; but it was incumbent on the House not to give facilities to placing upon the registry, and retaining there, fictitious votes. Did the law in Ireland at present afford sufficient powers against frivolous and bad claims? He contended that it did not. Only ten days were allowed to investigate the claim before it came to the assistant barrister; if they had ten times ten days they would not have sufficient time. If any one would examine the multitude of claims, they would see that the law must be altered, and he maintained that the alteration proposed by the noble Lord was what was right, and that there ought to be an annual registration. It was just and fair, and presented every facility for honest claimants, whilst it enabled all claims to be sifted and enquired into. He would give one example of the number of claims compared with the number registered. He would take a return of the number of claims made in the city of Dublin, during the last two years. In 1838 there were no fewer than 16,624 notices of claim served on the clerk of the peace. In 1839 there were no fewer than 21,429 notices of claim served upon the clerk of 137 the peace, making the total number in two years of 38,053 claimants. How many parties did the House think were registered out of that number of claimants. As the law now stood there were only bonâ fide claimants to the number of 4,721. As the law now stood there was not even a parochial arrangement of names; and supposing a contingency which was against probability, that an objector was enabled to find the party that had made the claim, the latter might go to one quarter sessions and find that he was there watched, he might not then press his claim, he might post to the next place for holding quarter sessions, and if he was there watched, he might once more put off the claim, and bring it on a subsequent quarter sessions, when no one might attend. If the vigilance of the party opposing the claim were at all relaxed, the party at once got upon the register. As the hon. Member for Mallow had said, he knew persons who had been opposed in one place post off forty miles, and get on the registry there. The registry in the city of Dublin occupied half the year to examine these, unsubstantiated claims. That being the case he maintained that an annual revision and registry were necessary, not only for the purpose of taking the machinery proposed by the noble Lord, but as it was necessary for the peace and tranquillity of the country, and the saving of expense, that they should bring down the registration within a reasonable period of time. He had only one other point that he need mention. He denied that the law as to the beneficial interest was ambiguous or doubtful; it had been clearly decided by a majority of ten judges to two that the beneficial interest meant 10l. over and above what a solvent tenant could afford to pay for the premises. On the grounds that he had stated, he would vote against the amendment that had been proposed.
did not mean to follow the learned Gentleman into his legal argument; he could dispose of it in a few words. The registry in Ireland was under the Reform Act. The value was to be taken under that act, and it must be admitted that the beneficial interest was the value. The judges had it was said, decided the point, but no appeal was given by the Reform Act to the judges. The judges of Ireland had met, they had excluded counsel, they might have consulted to satisfy themselves; but was he to be 138 told that the rights of the people were to be bound by any private consultation of the judges held without argument and with counsel excluded? Every man had a right to be heard by himself or by his counsel; the people could not be affected without it. A right was never settled in this country without appeal; what appeal was there from this opinion in consultation. There was no appeal to the House of Lords. And this was the state of what they called a settled question, it being admitted that several assistant barristers decided the beneficial interest differently from the judges, deciding by the same test as those barristers. So much for the legal point. The learned Gentleman said, that there ought to be a longer notice to enable parties to dispute the claimant's right, that there ought to be a longer time to enable inquiry to be made into the right. It seemed that the learned Gentleman addressed himself to persons as if the case was the same as in England. Here a party was registered, unless objection was made to him. It was not so in Ireland. Here the claimant must prove his case upon every point; he must come to the table to swear to his qualification; he must bring forward his witnesses; he must produce his title deeds, or account for their non-production. So that in Ireland it was not necessary for a claimant to give more than an intimation that he meant to come up to register; by the law this notice must be generally twenty-one days; it could not be less than ten; and even if there was no objection to him, he must go into evidence on his claim; he must prove his entire case; the barrister could not register him unless the claimant proved his right. The opposite party, therefore, has nothing to do but to cross-examine the claimant's witnesses if there was a dispute about the right. The notice of claim must be inserted in the newspapers, the police had set up notice boards, and on them must it be exhibited, so that every one had fair notice that the claim was to be made, and the examination was full and ample. Then there was an immense number of notices; why, many notices were necessary. Every claimant must secure several notices to make himself safe in point of form; if he usually wrote his Christian name with initials, he must serve one notice, signed with the initials, and another with the Christian name at full length, and thus to save mere 139 matters of form many notices were necessary. Still every claimant's surname and Christian name was put to every one of the notices posted up, and there was every facility for the discovery of the party. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, also, that half the year was consumed in the city of Dublin by the registry. Would not the difficulties of the registry and the time required be increased by the noble Lord's bill? There were to be added to the notices of claim the notices of persons to be struck off, so that one fourth would be added to the number of cases to be decided; and if they took the half-year that was now said to be taken up, and added one quarter that would be required by the new regulation, they would only have one-fourth part of the year in which they would have any peace. Did not this of itself show the impracticability of the noble Lord's bill? As to the present system, he would have asked the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland, whether he would vole for depriving the Irish people of the frequent opportunities of registration they now enjoyed? They had now au opportunity of registering at every quarter sessions: it was given to them before the union, it was the law of Ireland at the time of the union; nay, they might then register at every adjournment of a quarter sessions, and at every adjournment of an adjournment, and at that time the magistrates had merely to swear the affidavit, to mark their initials, and hand it to the clerk of the peace; the magistrates' duties were merely mechanical. Up to 1829, that was the method of registration. By the Emancipation Act, they raised the franchise to 10l., but the right of frequent registration was continued. The Reform Act maintained it. Would the noble Lord, the Member for Northumberland, take away this provision of the Reform Act? It was, he understood, the principle of the noble Lord to stand by the Reform Act —would he stand by it only where it inflicted an injury, and put it aside where it conferred a benefit? When the hon. Gentleman talked of the claimant going from one sessions to another, the complaint was, that he was obliged so to do; yet if he did it, he met the same judge, and the shifting of the place of examination did not shift the necessity of the proof. Wherever he was registered he was obliged to make an affi- 140 davit, which remained as a record, leaving him liable to an indictment for perjury if he forswore himself. At the quarter sessions all the law business of the middle classes and of the farmers, was transacted; there ejectments were tried, actions of debt were disposed of, and every species of trespass tried; they had their confidential attorney attending that session, the man who was best acquainted with the voter's title was present; would they take away from the claimant the advantage of employing so easily his own attorney? They required the production of the deeds; would they deprive the claimant of the benefit of his own confidential attorney, and compel the production of the deeds to allow the landlord's agent to find a blot or forfeiture? If the noble Lord's bill were carried, it would deprive the claimant of this advantage; he must specially carry an attorney to the annual registration; at the quarter session he had to pay nothing for the attendance. But the noble Lord wanted a public investigation. Would it not be at the sessions in which the fewest were registered that the fullest investigation could be had? Whereas if there was only one registry for the whole year, there would be more notices served, and more business to be gone through. If the assistant barrister had thirty or forty or fifty cases to determine, he could give full time to each case, but if he had three or four thousand, he must necessarily give less time to each. If the revision were left to one town, all those who were upon the list, must come into town on the first day, they must remain from that day. The most that had been registered in one day was forty claimants, the average was not above twenty; but, suppose they had forty registered, let them see what a number of days most parties must remain; if he turned his back for a moment, he might be called on, and lose his right, so that he must attend from the first moment of the session to the very last. And all this for what? Manifestly, to prevent the people from registering. But after all, the tenant would choose the session, when he was not in the power of the landlord—when he had paid the rent. There was no such thing as a regular rent-day in Ireland, but if the tenant did not pay his rent in proper time, the landlord would allow him time up to the time of the session, when in the event of his attempting to register, he would, immediately pounce 141 upon him. He believed, that few cases could be mentioned, where the fullest investigation did not take place before the assistant-barrister, but at every session there is a regular staff kept by those in the Conservative cause, and opposing every man who they were not sure would vote with them; and he believed that there was not the slightest reason to suppose that a better investigation could take place at any particular session. It was manifest that, by taking both revision and registration at the same session, the effect would be, to give to the wealthy the power of keeping their votes, and, having the advantage of a regular staff, and the first counsel in the country attending at every session, it would enable them to put, to an enormous expense all those individuals who, being desirous of registering their votes, would appear at the session, but would be compelled to wait during the whole of the period occupied by the registration. They talked of extending the agitation which would be produced by party con tests, but they would find that it was, infinitely worse to condense it to any particular time, for it might explode upon them all at once, and produce all the heat and anger of a contested election. Experience had shown the utter impossibility of working out the system of annual registration in England, with advantage, and he believed that it was infinitely better to stand by that which the Reform Bill had given, than to adopt any new system.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, that there was one point which had been adverted to, not belonging exactly to this clause, by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, but he might be permitted to say a word upon a point of fact. There was a difference of opinion upon this subject. Hon. Gentlemen said, that the opinion of the judges was conclusive. Two of them said it was not. He was informed at least, that two of the judges differed upon the point. Let them see what followed. If there was to be an appeal to the judge of assize, the judge going the circuit would be watched, and the decisions would depend upon the mere accident of the judge's opinion. The consequence would be, that great differences would be found to be created in the system of registration. The minority of the judges, it was said, held themselves to be bound by the opinion of the majority. It was not so. There was no Act of Parliament to compel them to 142 hold themselves so bound, and the noble Lord did not venture to introduce into this bill a clause to produce that effect. There was no such clause, and he said, that two of the judges, at all events, did not agree in yielding to the opinion of the rest. Observe again. It was provided by this bill, that if a person was rejected at one session he might endeavour to register at the next. So that if Mr. Baron Pennefather rejected him at Cork in 1841, in 1842 the person rejected might try again before the assistant barrister, and being again rejected might secure his right before Mr. Baron Richards. Was not that monstrous? Hon. Gentlemen opposite were called upon to remove these evils, but they would not do it. With respect to the point raised with regard to the quarterly registration, it appeared to him, that there was one consideration which had not yet been suggested, but which deserved some attention. At present, if in the month of January an assistant-barrister rejected a claimant, in the month of March at the Spring assizes the question might be tried on appeal. According to the plan of the noble Lord, the registration was to take place on the 12th September, and the appeal was to be in March; six months, therefore, would elapse before the claim could be determined. Was there no difference, then, between these two plans? The quarterly registration would give an opportunity of appeal in two months—an annual registration would only allow it to be made after a lapse of six months. The relation of landlord and tenant was already bad enough, but it would be trifling in its evil effects compared with a case in which the relation of appellant and respondent during those six months was superadded to it. But supposing he applied to be registered on the 20th of July, 1842. The registry was to take place in September, and the appeal could not be tried until March, 1843. Supposing, then, there should be a dissolution of Parliament in the intermediate November, would he be entitled to vote? He would not, and notwithstanding a provision at the end of the bill with regard to the dissolution of Parliament, the same difficulty would arise. Then there was another point to which he would shortly refer. He thought that the bill of the noble Lord would, in its effects, give an undue advantage to the 50l. freeholder, and to the clergyman, and in this way;— 143 It was provided, that their cases should be unaffected by the bill. So they might swear their affidavits four times a year, while other voters could make their claim but once. He observed hon. Gentlemen opposite express their dissent. The registration was not complete, he knew, until the affidavits were lodged with the clerk of the peace; but the absolute recognition of the right to vote was made at the time of swearing the affidavit. In this respect, therefore, the quarterly registration was preferable to the annual registration, and he was sure, that those who had heard the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, must feel, that the annual excitement, which might last for five or six weeks in every county, was infinitely more pernicious than that system which now prevailed. There was nothing now at the quarter sessions at all like strong excitement, but the effect of this measure would be to produce constant struggles between the proprietors of the soil on the one hand, and the tenantry on the other.
said, that as it seemed to be the general understanding of the House, which he was quite willing to agree to, that on the question of retaining the 20th of July in the clause should virtually depend the question of the annual or quarterly registration, he rose to say, without going further, that he should not feel he was dealing fairly with the Committee if he did not state, that on the decision of this question depended the possibility of his continuing the bill before the House. If the House should think, that the quarterly was better than the annual system of registration, then they would show, that they preferred the bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman, as regarded an enactment so incompatible with the principles of his, and with the machinery which he had provided for carrying out those principles, that he should not feel himself justified if he were further to waste the time of the House. The hon and learned Solicitor-general had gone through a history of what had been the state of Ireland, and the system of registration in use there from the beginning of the last century down to the present time. He (Lord Stanley) would not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through that history, but when the hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by saying, that he had advised, that in the Reform Bill a quarterly registration should 144 be retained in preference to an annual one, he begged to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, who, not having had a seat in the House at the time in question, had spoken in ignorance of the facts of the case, for he was sure, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was incapable of misrepresentation, he begged to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he had repeated, as he had thought ad nauseam, that he had again and again distinctly stated that his view, and that of the Government, on whose part and behalf he was then acting, had been, that as there was an existing system of registration in Ireland, and no existing system in England, it was unadvisable to stir and disturb the system in use in Ireland until they should have had experience of the working of the system which they had established in England. That was the understanding on which he had acted, and that it was known to be so at the time, no Gentleman, he thought, would be inclined to dispute who had been then a Member of the House. But the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, as he had allowed, was then favourable to annual instead of quarterly registration, and the hon. and learned Gentleman used to say, that the English system was the only common sense system, and his objection was, that that system was not given to Ireland, Then again the noble Lord had frequently proposed an annual system for Ireland, he had introduced a bill containing an annual system under the auspices of Mr. O'Loghlen in 1835, he had introduced a similar measure under the auspices of Mr. Perrin in 1836, he had introduced a third similar measure under the auspices of Mr. Woulfe in 1838, and when the noble Lord told him when it was that he had changed his opinion on this point, he would ask the noble when it was that those high legal authorities on whom the noble Lord was so much in the habit of relying had altered their minds also? For anything the House knew, those high legal authorities were still in favour of annual, and opposed to quarterly, registration. If there were any country in the world in which a small minority of the judges of the land did not hold themseves bound by the opinion of the majority, then he would say, there was there no certainty for the law. Let them frame their Acts of Parliament as they pleased, let them labour to make their bills indisputable, 145 lawyers and others knew how difficult it was to avoid dispute, and if the practice of the judges differed in Ireland so far from the practice of the judges of England as for the minority to persevere in opinion against the majority, then they could not avoid contrary decisions and uncertainty of the law. The hon. and learned Gentleman said,Look at the advantage of the quarterly over an annual registration. Suppose I come forward in July, 1842, and suppose I seek to register and be rejected in September, and I appeal against the decision, that appeal can-not come on till the month of March; whereas formerly persons applying to register in the January following, might have an appeal decided in March following.Now, what was the object of appeal? Was it to increase the franchise? Let the hon. and learned Member turn to the 44th clause of the bill, and he would find it provided,That any person whose name shall have been omitted from any register of voters in consequence of the decision of the assistant-barrister, who shall have revised and signed the lists from which such register shall have been formed, and who shall have appealed against such decision, which appeal shall be at the time of such election pending and undecided, may tender his vote at any election at which such register shall be in force, stating at the time the name or names of the candidate or candidates for whom he tenders such vote, and the returning officer or his deputy shall enter upon the poll-book every vote so tendered, distinguishing the same from the votes admitted and allowed at such election, but he shall not include the votes of such persons in casting up the number of votes as they appear upon the several poll books, for the purpose of making the return.But supposing the person's vote having been tendered, though rejected by the revising barrister, by the 45th clause, upon a subsequent petition on the election, the candidate for whom he voted would have the advantage of that vote, provided that ultimately the judge should have decided in his favour. Now, that was the provision which he had made in this bill, and he asked the hon. Gentleman whether he could go further in defence of a vote which primâ facie they must admit to be bad, because the revising barrister had rejected it? The next point was with regard to the 50l. freeholders and the clergy, who the hon. Gentleman said would have a great advantage in being able four times a year to swear their affi- 146 davit before the judges of their right to vote.
was quite sure that the hon. Gentleman had mistaken the provisions of the bill. The 50l. freeholders and the clergy might come forward and tender their affidavit, and on having taken their affidavit, they were no longer to be questioned as the law stood at present. But how was the law as he proposed to alter it? True it was, that the 50l. freeholder might appear in the courts and tender his affidavit; but when he had done so, was he entitled to vote? No. Was he entitled to be placed on the register? No. But he was entitled, after having tendered that affidavit to the clerk of the peace, to be placed in the condition of any other claimant, and was liable as such to be objected to. Consequently, though they took their affidavit in January, they could not be placed on the registry till the subsequent revision sessions in September, and their having taken an affidavit gave them no further advantage over other registered voters at that time. Now with regard to the period of registration. They had not heard it objected to annual registration in England, at any time, that it did not take place frequently enough. The objections had been that it took place too frequently; that once a year was a great deal too much; that the country ought not to be kept in such a state of excitement once a year. The hon. Member for Wicklow said, "For God's sake, do give us some breathing time in. Ireland." The hon Member for Wicklow objected to quarterly voting. He proposed to give them time; and he considered that it was a very material object that they should have a little "breathing time" between registration and registration, and that they should not go on in a perpetual course of serving notices and registering claims, and not be always struggling to get votes on, and to keep a few votes off, the registers. He asked English gentlemen how they would wish to have such a system as the Solicitor-general's for Ireland applied to England? Did hon. Gentlemen think the county 147 quarter sessions the most fit place for doing the election business, and that the mixing up of the election business with the civil and criminal business of a county quarter sessions was an improvement? Did they consider it an improvement on the annual system of registration, that before the permanent chairman of the quarter sessions, the whole of the registration business of the county should be done before the civil and criminal business? The hon. and learned Member the Solicitor-general, and the Member for Dublin, had talked of mixing up the business of the sessions with the registration business. He had heard this talked of as a crying evil in Ireland. The election business as the law stood, must be done before the civil and criminal business. Me had seen the other day, himself, in the town of Nenagh, in the county of Tipperary, 1,200 and odd notices of claimants, and they were to take precedence over all the civil and criminal business of the county quarter sessions. Plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, counsel, attornies—all parties engaged in the civil and criminal business of the county, must be in attendance at these sessions, in utter ignorance how long this registration might take, and unable to proceed to the other business of the session till the registration business should terminate. This, for convenience of business, was a great disadvantage. But he asked if this system was very much improved when the hon. and learned Gentleman told them that there was a power given to assign districts in which the registration sessions should be held? And in whose power was that left? Not in the hands of the barrister, as in England, but in the hands of the Lord-lieutenant. He would ask English gentlemen how they would like to have it left to the Secretary of State to say at what place and at what time the registering sessions should be held, and that he should have it in his power to alter that time and that place from year to year? There was no period of the year fixed in which they were to be held. They might be held in January, March, June, or November. What was another provision that the hon. Gentleman made?No person shall be objected to that has not been more than one year on the registry.That was, a person admitted on a wrong or a fraudulent qualification, could not be removed at the next revising ses- 148 sion. More than a year must have elapsed since his registration. Therefore by this clause of the Solicitor-general's bill, they secured, that if a person once got registered he could not be objected to till he had been registered more than a year. The Lord-lieutenant might make that as near two years as he thought fit, by fixing when the registering sessions should be held. He did not wish to detain the House upon these points, but surely it was of material importance, that if all these difficulties were to be thrown in he way of revision, they should at all events secure that their original registration should be conducted under the most solemn circumstances, and the best consideration that could be given to the case; and, moreover, they should provide that reasonable facilities should be given. He did not complain that reasonable facilities should be given to claimants, but they should be given to objectors also. They must give reasonable facilities to objectors as well as to claimants, particularly when they gave to the claimants the right at each successive registration of coming forward again and again, and on their registration excluded them from further objection. In what way did the Solicitor-general deal with objectors? He would ask if they believed that persons who had no personal object but the cause of justice to serve, would ever be induced to make objections to persons to be put on the registration under the difficulties to be thrown in their way? The voter had a personal interest to put himself on the register, the objector had no personal interest to keep him off. What was an objector to do? A person who intended to object, must swear an affidavit of his objections before the magistrate in petty sessions; he must then forward a duplicate of the affidavit so sworn to the clerk of the peace; he must then again at the quarter sessions argue his case before the assistant-barrister, in order to obtain permission to go home again and appear at the next quarter sessions, and he must then appear again, under various penalties, for not coming forward. Did any man believe that any one would go through all this labour?" The bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman said this:—No objector shall come forward; votes shall be put upon the register upon such examination as they shall obtain in the first instance, and, being so put on the register, 149 there they shall remain for the lives of the parties.The hon. Gentleman said the assistant-barristers examined into the case; that was, they had the case proved before them so far as a primâ facie case could be proved in the absence of objections; but it was a very different thing to prove a case so, to proving one that was sifted by an opposing party. The voter by repeated notices of claim might thus weary out the objector and get put on the register, and then, once on the register, there he must remain. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Northumberland, that this lent great force to the argument, that they must watch carefully that objectors had a fair opportunity of examining the votes at the time, and that fraudulent persons should not be able to get on the register. It was exceedingly convenient that the register should be conclusive of the right of persons to poll. The register was made out by the Solicitor-general's bill, and was ordered to be printed by the 1st of February in every year. He provided, that it should be made out by the 1st of November, immediately after the revising session, which was in his bill to take place in October, and till the next year this was the test of the person's right to vote. The hon. Gentleman's bill provided, that the revising sessions should be held at any period of the year the Lord-lieutenant should think fit—in January, March, July, or October, and that votes should be admitted on giving ten days' notice of the revising session. Now, what became of the printed register, which was printed on the 1st of February, and which was the register for the general information of the county? Was it a test of the right to vote? Not at all, for there came the registry in March, and those voters inserted then, and in July and October, were all to be examined, that objections might be raised, because those voters were not to be found on the registry printed in February, and parties might say, on having their right to vote tested by the printed registry of voters, "We are not in the printed registry, but have had our votes introduced afterwards." But, more than that, the hon. Gentleman provided that no person should be entitled to vote till he had been registered for a period of six months; therefore, for six months after it was printed the registry was null and void, and they must go back 150 to the last registry to see whether a voter had been registered for six months. If he knew anything of the value of a register, it was that it should be final as to the right of persons to poll, and that it should be as complete as possible. In England two months' notice was given of revising the lists of voters; in Ireland they proposed to give ten days' notice without any classification whatever. He proposed in his bill to follow the English plan of notices and registry. Upon these grounds he trusted that the House would support him in maintaining his bill against the hon. Gentleman's opposite, and he would frankly tell them again that his intention of going on with this bill would depend on the Committee giving its support to the annual, instead of to the quarterly registration.
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, the noble Lord had at last allowed the question to be raised as to his bill on the point of annual or quarterly registration. The noble Lord in the course of his observations had adverted to the principal provisions of the measure of his hon. and learned Friend; he thought, on a fair comparison of the measure of his hon. Friend with that of the noble Lord, that he should not be at a loss to make out good and substantial reasons for the preference of the measure of his hon. Friend. But he was content to deal with the measure absolutely before them, and should be happy on a future occasion, when the bill of his hon. Friend was in Committee, to go into it. In the course of the discussion on the bill of the noble Lord many harsh epithets had been used. He trusted the noble Lord opposite would believe, that no such language was intended to be applied by him to the noble Lord. He admitted at once that no harsh or ungracious epithets could fairly be applied to the clause now under discussion or to the principle which it involved—namely, that of annual registration. Because, as the noble Lord had reminded the Committee, and as he had expected to be reminded by the noble Lord, the Government, in bringing in bills on the subject now under consideration every year previous to the present year, when they had departed from that practice, had adopted the principle of annual registration, and consequently, so far, to supersede the practice of quarterly registration. The present Chief Baron Woulfe, when he, as Attorney-general for Ireland, introduced 151 his bill on the subject of registration, had, however, expressly stated his preference to quarterly registration. The noble Lord had asked him whether he was authorised to announce any change in the opinion of Chief Baron Woulfe. Now, knowing the importance that had of late been attached in the House to the opinion of the judges, he would not take on himself to communicate their present impression without a distinct authority from them. But he had no reason to believe, that on a fair consideration of the case, those learned judges would not adopt the same views as those which they had avowed while they were the responsible advisers of the Government. He hoped still, that the same principles which guided them in their intercourse at that time with the Government, would continue to actuate them, and that they would still entertain the same sympathy for Irish feelings and interests. The Government, however, after a fair and mature consideration of the whole subject of registration—of the principle upon which it ought to rest—of the practice which hitherto had prevailed, of the mode in which it was carried on, and of the difficulties by which it was beset—after all this consideration it had seemed to the Government that while called upon to guard against any plain and distinct fault, yet in every case it was most desirable to make all registration as easy of access as possible, and not to put it out of the reach of any person who had a right to claim, and above all not to withdraw those facilities which the present system presented. And how, he begged to ask, did this view of the case bear upon the question, as between quarterly and annual registrations? It seemed to him, that all the inconveniences connected with quarterly registration to which allusion had been made by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, would, supposing all of those inconveniences so pointed out to be founded on fact, be fully met by two very small provisions—the one as to the time during which the notices ought to be given, and the other circumscribing the district. This, he thought, would be a far less cumbrous mode of meeting the difficulty than the proposition of the noble Lord opposite to change the present system of a quarterly to an annual registration. He did not mean to follow his hon. and learned Friend, the Solicitor-general for Ireland, through all the details into which his hon. 152 and learned Friend had gone, but he thought his hon. and learned Friend had proved, that for upwards of 100 years the practice of registering votes at Quarter Sessions had prevailed in Ireland. Up to the year 1829 his hon. and learned Friend had shown, that the office of registering voters was carried on by the magistrates at Quarter Sessions, and that, in 1829, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, when he introduced the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill and the bill for the disfranchisement of the 40s.freeholders, invested the assistant barristers with the authority for registering voters previously discharged by the magistrates four times a year. The noble Lord opposite had correctly stated that a discretion had been reserved by the Legislature to alter the mode of registration in Ireland after an experience of the system of registration adopted for England. This had been so stated by Lord Althorp, the present Earl Spencer, who had introduced the bill. But the question for the Committee was, whether it was so enamoured of the mode of English registration—of the facilities which it gave to the admission of the legitimate franchise as now to be induced to give a corresponding advantage to Ireland? It had been proved to the Committee that there existed a prescriptive right for above a century in favour of quarterly registration, and it was for the Committee to decide whether it would retain the long established and settled usage of a quarterly registration, or adopt the innovation proposed by the noble Lord as an annual revision. The noble Lord had asked English Members whether they would not object to mix up the ordinary business of the quarter sessions with the business of registration. Let it, however, be remembered, that the minds of the people of Ireland had grown up with, and were accustomed to the system of quarterly registration. But if the noble Lord opposite objected to mix up the business of registration with the ordinary business of the quarter session, what did he say to the mixing it up with the business of the assizes. If the registration could disturb the ordinary business of the assistant barrister, how much more must it interfere with the more solemn duties of the judges of assize. On the ground, however, of prescriptive claim and long-established usage, he thought that balance leaned in favour of quarterly registration. It was 153 obvious that a registration four times a-year gave the claimants for the elective franchise a much greater facility of obtaining their rights. It had been said, that the hon. Member for Bridport had himself complained of the frequency of the revision of the list of voters in this country, but he thought the observations of the hon. Member went to complain of the frequency of the investigation of the claims to the franchise, and not to the frequency of the opportunity to make those clauses. But he objected to the period of the year at which the noble Lord opposite proposed the annual registration should be made —namely, the months of September and October. This was precisely the season at which the persons of that class of life most affected by this bill would be occupied by other engagements. He repeated, that the period he had mentioned was extremely inconvenient. But what still remained? In England the personal attendance of the claimant at the registration court was not necessary, his admission to the registry was secured on the mere service of the notice of claim, whereas in Ireland, whether the claimant was or was not objected to, he must attend the court, produce his lease, or prove the value of his holding. But he (Lord Morpeth) looked upon the court of quarter sessions as peculiarly the court of the farmer, the yeoman, and the poor man. It was the court he was in the habit of attending as juror, prosecutor, witness, or as plaintiff in civil matters —it was, therefore, the court which of all others presented to him the facility of securing his right to the elective franchise. He, therefore, contended, that these quarterly sessions gave to the poor man those facilities of acquiring his right which the bill of the noble Lord would tend to take away and destroy, and expose him to great expense, inconvenience, and embarrassment. At the quarter sessions he would have the certainty of the attendance of competent professional persons to urge and defend his rights, whereas at the registration court all his rights would be thrown into the hands of rich associations formed to meet such cases. He maintained, that the period for registration ought to be changed, but he could not consent to change the authorities by whom the registration was to be made. It was not to the rich associations that the Legislature ought to have regard, but 154 to the interests of those independent voters upon whom it had intended to confer the franchise. On the score of convenience annual registration ought to be avoided. He would not trouble the Committee with the details, but a return moved for and obtained by the hon. Member for Belfast, showed, that in one year in the city of Dublin alone there had been no less than 7,750 notices of claims, and what, he begged to ask, would have been the state of things if those claims, instead of coming on at one court, had not been disposed of at the quarter sessions? The right hon. and learned Member for Ripon (Sir E. Sugden), on a former occasion, and the noble Lord opposite to-night had asked for some time to be allowed to the people of Ireland for breathing and repose. He desired repose for them whose right to vote had been solemnly adjudicated upon. The effect of the present clause would be to put four or five months between the time of a man entering into possession of his property and the period of his attaining the right to vote in respect of that property. He objected to the clause, on the still larger grounds of the expense, the embarrassment, and the in-Convenience to which the voter under it would be exposed, and he trusted the Committee would retain the quarterly registration, and resist that innovation upon the system the people of Ireland now enjoyed, which the clause proposed.
§ The Committee divided on the original question, that blank be filled with the words, 20th of July:—Ayes 275; Noes 271:—Majority 4.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Baring, hon. F.|
|Acland, T. D.||Baring, hon. W. B.|
|A'Court, Captain||Basset, J,|
|Ainsworth, P.||Bateson, Sir R.|
|Alford, Viscount||Bell, M.|
|Alsager, Captain||Bentinck, Lord G.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Bethell, R.|
|Archdall, M.||Blackburne, I.|
|Ashley, Lord||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Ashley, hon. H.||Blair, J.|
|Attwood, W.||Blackmore, R.|
|Attwood, M.||Blennerhassett, A.|
|Bagge, W.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Bolling, W.|
|Bailey, J.||Botfield, B.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Bradshaw, J.|
|Baillie, Colonel||Bramston, T. W.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Broadley, H.|
|Baker, E.||Broadwood, H.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Brooke, Sir A. B.|
|Brownrigg, S.||Gladstone, W.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Glynne, Sir S. R.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Goddard, A.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||Gore, O. J. R.|
|Buck, L. W.||Gore, O. W.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Goring, H. D.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Grant, Sir A. C.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Greene, T.|
|Canning, rt. hn. Sir S.||Grimston, Viscount|
|Cantalupe, Viscount||Grimston, hon. E. H.|
|Cartwright, W. R.||Hale, R. B.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Halford, H.|
|Chapman, A.||Hamilton, C. J. B.|
|Cholmondeley, hn. H.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Harcourt, G. S.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hawkes, T.|
|Cochrane, Sir T. J.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Codrington, C. W.||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Cole, hon. A. H.||Heneage, G. W.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Henniker, Lord|
|Compton, H. C.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Conolly, E;||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Corry, hon. H.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Courtenay, P.||Hill, Sir R.|
|Cresswell, C.||Hillsborough, Earl of|
|Cripps, J.||Hinde, J. H.|
|Dalrymple, Sir A.||Hodgson, F.|
|Damer, hon. D.||Hodgson, R.|
|Darby, G,||Hogg, J. W.|
|Darlington, Earl of||Holmes, hon. W. A.|
|De Horsey, S. H.||Holmes, W.|
|Dick, Q.||Hope, hon. C.|
|D'Israeli, B.||Hope, H. T.|
|Dottin, A. R.||Hope, G, W.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Hotham, Lord|
|Douro, Marquess of||Houldsworth, T.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Houston, G.|
|Drummond, H. H,||Howick, Lord|
|Duffield, T.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Hurt, F.|
|Dunbar, G.||Ingestrie, Viscount|
|Duncombe, hon. A,||Ingham, R.|
|Dungannon, Viscount||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Du Pre, G.||Irton, S.|
|East, J. B.||Irving, J.|
|Eastnor, Viscount||Jackson, Sergeant|
|Eaton, R. J.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Jenkins, Sir R.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Eliot, Lord||Jones, J.|
|Ellis, J.||Jones, Captain|
|Estcourt, T.||Kelly, F.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Kemble, H.|
|Feilden, W.||Kerrison, Sir E.|
|Fellows, E.||Kelburne, Viscount|
|Filmer.Sir E.||Knight, H. G.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Knightly, Sir C.|
|Fleming, J.||Lascelles, hn. W.S.|
|Foley, E. T;||Lefroy, rt. hon. T.|
|Follett, Sir W.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Forrester, hon. G.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Fox, S. L.||Litton, E.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Lockhart, A. M.|
|Long, W.||Rolleston, L.|
|Lowther, hn. Colonel||Round, C. G.|
|Lowther, Viscount||Round, J.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Rushbrooke, Colonel|
|Lygon, hon. General||Rushout, G.|
|Mackenzie, T.||St. Paul, H.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Sanderson, R.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Maclean, D.||Scarlett, hon. J. Y.|
|Mahon, Viscount||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Sheppard, T.|
|Marsland, T.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Marton, G.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Mathew, G. B.||Smith, A.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Smyth, Sir G. H.|
|Meynell, Captain||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Sotheron, T. E.|
|Miller, W. H.||Spry, Sir S. T.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Stanley, E.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Neeld, J.||Stewart, J.|
|Neeld, J.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Nicholl, J.||Sugden, rt. hon. Sir E.|
|Norreys, Lord||Teigmnouth, Lord|
|Northland, Lord||Tennent, J. E.|
|O'Neill, hon. J. B. R,||Thesiger, F.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Thomas, Colonel|
|Owen, Sir J.||Thornhill, G.|
|Packe, C. W.||Tollemache, F. J.|
|Pakington, J. S.||Tomline, G.|
|Palmer, R.||Trench, Sir F.|
|Palmer, G.||Trevor, hon. G. R,|
|Parker, M.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Patten, J. W.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Peel, right hon. Sir R.||Verner, Colonel|
|Peel, J.||Vernon, G.|
|Pemberton, T.||Villiers, Viscount|
|Perceval, Colonel||Vivian, J. E.|
|Perceval, hon. G. J.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Pigot, R.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Planta, right hon. J.||Welby, G. E.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Williams, R.|
|Polhill, F.||Williams, T. P.|
|Pollen, Sir J. W.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Powell, Colonel||Wood, Colonel|
|Powerscourt, Viscount||Wood, Colonel T,|
|Praed, W. T.||Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.|
|Pringle, A.||Young, J.|
|Pusey, P.||Young, Sir W.|
|Rea, rt. hon. Sir W.||TELLERS.|
|Reid, Sir J. R.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Richards, R.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abercromby, hn. G. R.||Barnard, E. G.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Barron, H. W.|
|Adam, Admiral||Barry, G. S.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Beamish, F. B.|
|Alston, R.||Berkeley, hon. H.|
|Andover, Viscount||Berkeley, hon. G.|
|Anson, hon. Colonel||Berkeley, hon. C.|
|Archbold, R.||Bernal, R.|
|Bainbridge, E. T.||Bewes, T.|
|Baines, E.||Blackett, C.|
|Bannerman, A.||Blake, M. J.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Blake, J. W.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Fitzpatrick, J. W.|
|Bowes, J.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Brabazon, Lord||Fleetwood, Sir P. H.|
|Brabazon, Sir W.||Gillon, W. D.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Grattan, H,|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Grattan, J.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Greenaway, C.|
|Brodie, W. B.||Greg, R. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Browne, R. D.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bryan, G.||Grote, G.|
|Buller, C.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Buller, E.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Bulwer, Sir L.||Handley, H.|
|Busfield, W.||Harland, W. C.|
|Byng, G.||Hastie, A.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Hawes, B.|
|Callaghan, D.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Cave, R. O.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Hector, C. J.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Heneage, E.|
|Chalmers, P.||Hill, Lord A. M. C,|
|Chapman, Sir M. L. C.||Hindley, C.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir.J.|
|Childers, J. W.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Clay, W.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Clayton, Sir W. R.||Hollond, R.|
|Clements, Lord||Horsman, E.|
|Clive, E. B.||Hoskins, K.|
|Collier, J.||Howard, hn. E. G. G.|
|Collins, W.||Howard, F. J.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Howard, P. H.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Hume, J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Hutchins, E. J.|
|Currie, R.||Hutt, W|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Hutton, R.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||James, W.|
|Denison, W. J.||Jervis, J.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Jervis, S.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.||Johnson, General|
|Divett, E.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Duff, J.||Langdale, hon. C.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Duncombe, Viscount||Lennox, Lord G.|
|Duncombe, T.||Lister, E.C.|
|Dundas, C. W. D.||Loch, J.|
|Dundas, D,||Lushington, C.|
|Dundas, F.||Lushington, rt. hon. S.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||Lynch, A. H.|
|Dundas, Sir R.||Macauley, rt. hn. T. B.|
|Easthope, J.||Macnamara, Major|
|Edwards, Sir J.||M'Taggart, J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Maher, J.|
|Ellice, Captain A.||Marshall, W.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Marsland, H.|
|Ellice, E.||Martin, J.|
|Ellis, W.||Martin, T. B.|
|Erle, W.||Maule, hon. F.|
|Etwall, R.||Melgund, Viscount|
|Euston, Earl of||Mildmay, P. S. J.|
|Evans, G.||Milton, Viscount|
|Evans, W.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Ewart, W.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Fenton, J.||Morris, D.|
|Finch, F.||Murray, A.|
|Fitzalan, Lord||Muskett, G. A.|
|Nagle, Sir R.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Noel, hon. C. G.||Stanley, M.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|O'Brien, C.||Stansfleld, W. R. C.|
|O'Brien, W. S.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|O'Callaghan, hon. C.||Steuart, R.|
|O'Connell, D.||Stewart, J.|
|O'Connell, J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Stuart, W. V.|
|O'Connell, M.||Stock, Dr.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Strangways, hon. J.|
|Ord, W.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Oswald, J.||Strutt, E.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Style, Sir C.|
|Paget, F.||Surrey, Earl of|
|Palmerston, Viscount||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Pattison, J.||Talfourd, Sergeant|
|Pechell, Captain||Tancred, H. W.|
|Pendarves, E. W. W.||Tavistock, Marquess of|
|Philipps, Sir R.||Thornley, T.|
|Philips, G. R.||Townley, R. G.|
|Phillpotts, J.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Pigot, D. R.||Tuffnell, H.|
|Pinney, W.||Turner, E.|
|Ponsonby, C. F. A. C,||Turner, W.|
|Ponsonby, hon. J.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Power, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Power, J.||Villiers, hon. C. P.|
|Price, Sir R.||Vivian, Major C.|
|Protheroe, E.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Pryme, G.||Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R.|
|Ramsbottom, J.||Wakley, T.|
|Rawdon, Colonel J. D.||Walker, R.|
|Redington, T. N.||Wall, C. B,|
|Rice, E. R.||Wallace, R.|
|Rich, H.||Warburton, H.|
|Roche, E. R.||Ward, H. G.|
|Roche, W.||Westenra, hon. H. R.|
|Roche, Sir D.||Westenra, hon. J. C.|
|Rumbold, C. E.||White, A.|
|Rundle, J.||White, H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Russell, Lord C.||Williams, W.|
|Rutherford, rt. hon. A.||Williams, W. A.|
|Salwey, Colonel||Wilshere, W.|
|Sanford, E. A.||Winnington, Sir T. E|
|Scolefield, J.||Winnington, H. J.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Wood, C.|
|Seale, Sir J. H.||Wood, Sir M.|
|Seymour, Lord||Wood, G. W.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||Wood, B.|
|Shelbourne, Earl of||Worsley, Lord|
|Slaney, R. A.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Smith, J. A.||Wyse, T.|
|Smith, B.||Yates, J. A.|
|Smith, G. R.||TELLERS.|
|Smith, R.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Somers, J. P.||Parker, J.|
§ Several verbal amendments having been agreed to, the clause was ordered to stand part of the bill.
§ Mr. O'Connell moved, "that the Chairman report progress,"
said, that although it was rather earlier than the House, when in 159 Committee was accustomed to adjourn, he would not after the division, proceed further with the bill that night.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
observed, that as he perceived the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies was anxiously expecting him to say something on the present occasion, he felt it his duty not to disappoint the noble Lord or the House. He would, however, be very brief. He wished simply to observe, that the noble Lord would be acting with more decency in the eyes of the country, if, after the repeated defeats which he had recently sustained in that House, and seeing how futile it was for him to attempt any longer to conduct the affairs of the country—that it would be much more decent for him at once to resign. If the noble Lord possessed not a political virtue, let him for once in his life assume it.
§ House resumed.—Chairman reported progress.—Committee to sit again.