HC Deb 02 February 1841 vol 56 cc220-42
Lord Stanley

said, in bringing forward the present motion, I feel myself relieved from the necessity of trespassing on the time and attention of the House at any length, because the subject is not only not new, but I am afraid somewhat too familiar both within and without these walls, and because I cannot believe that the House will in the present Session refuse me permission to introduce a bill founded upon the same principle, and following very much the same provisions as that which, without division, I was allowed to introduce last year; which obtained the support of a majority on the second reading, which was much discussed in its various stages, and which I am almost warranted in saying, but for the lapse of time and delay, would at this moment have been the law of the land. I shall therefore very briefly remind the House of the main provisions of the measure by which I sought to correct certain abuses. It is not necessary for me now to argue them, because they have been admitted on all hands— because all parties of all political opinions considered it impossible that the registration laws, as regards Ireland, should remain as they are. There exists a universal and unanimous belief and conviction, that the abuses stated over and over again to have arisen out of the registration laws in Ireland, are great and notorious; in fact, that they have become so intolerable, that remedy and regulation are indispensable. The first point to which the provisions of the bill of last Session, which in a great measure obtained the sanction of the House, were directed, was to abolish altogether certificates as evidence of the right of voting. It was considered, that the system of certificates was itself a fertile source of abuse, and of the main evils connected with registration. I proposed in lieu of it no new and untried plan, but to transfer to Ireland the mode adopted in England, by making the right of voting depend upon an annual registration. The lists, we know, are here made out by certain specified officers, and they are revised by barristers, and having been so revised are taken as evidence beyond dispute of the right of the individual claiming. I then proposed to introduce into Ireland another portion of the English system. It was, as in English counties, that any person seeking to obtain the elective franchise should give a certain notice— neither longer nor shorter than in England, and with the same degree of publicity. The simple reason for this was, that objectors, if they thought fit, might come forward to resist the demand of any party claiming to be registered. I sought also, that the registration should not, as now, be confined to what are called quarter-session towns, nor carried on at quarter-sessions, but that the registration should be annual, as with us, and not form a portion of the business of the quarter-sessions. It was not to be carried on before the barristers who now preside in those courts, but was to form the business of a separate circuit. I did not intend to alter the authority, but to change the time, and to afford greater facilities to all parties, by including in the circuits, not only quarter-session towns, but others, and certain assigned districts, according to the discretion of the barristers. But there was also another portion of the bill I brought forward. Conceding, as I am willing to do, to the assistant barristers of Ireland, all competence to discharge their duties, I felt it utterly impossible that the decision of any one individual, however learned and conscientious, ought to be final in determining the right of an individual to exercise the elective franchise. What was the remedy I suggested? The assistant barrister now places on the register the name of any person having the right to vote; and supposing he has been in error, the sole remedy now is most inconvenient, expensive, uncertain— that universally deprecated remedy, a Committee of the House of Commons, and then only in case of a petition after a contested election. I believe, that on every side it was considered desirable to withdraw this highly objectionable remedy. But if you withdraw this, the only existing appeal, it follows almost as a matter of course that you must substitute some other more proper, more impartial, more learned and more certain tribunal by which a remedy can be immediately applied, which would not be costly, and which would not compel the parties to wait until the occurrence of a contested election. I take it to be universally admitted, that some appeal from the assistant-barristers ought to exist. I found a provision in the law, that in case of rejection, the party rejected might go before a judge of assize; and when this question was discussed last year, many arguments were used, to some of which I was not insensible, with reference to the inconvenience and expense to parties in going before a judge of assize. With a view to these arguments, I anxiously endeavoured to find some court equally learned, equally impartial, equally free from suspicion, which at the same time would afford a cheaper remedy; but I confess that my search was vain. I have heard no suggestion of any court to be substituted for that of the judge of assize, which combined advantages to an equal extent, and free from as many inconveniences. Therefore I still propose that the appeal should be to the judge of assize; but that that appeal, instead of being one-sided only in cases of rejection, should be extended also to cases of admission. But in taking this course, I am anxious to afford some protection against vexatious appeals; and I know of no other mode of giving protection but by enabling the judge of assize to use his discretion in imposing limited costs in the event of an appeal on either side being found vexatious and void of any solid foundation. A serious objection was taken, that a person claiming the franchise ought not to be saddled with costs; but I confess I could see no valid ground for that objection. The two parties, the claimant and the objector, are both discharging a public duty: one insists upon his title to the franchise, and the other comes forward on behalf of the public to prevent a legitimate claimant of that right from being deprived of his right. I see no reason why one side should be favoured more than the other, and I feel it necessary that the check arising from costs should be applied equally to the claimant and to the objector. But I was struck with one point, which, however, had not escaped my notice when I originally introduced the bill. It was alleged that it was extremely hard that a person who had obtained the sanction of the assistant barrister for his right to vote, should afterwards be subject to costs, because he affirmed the decision of the barrister. The answer which occurred to my mind was, that costs were only to be awarded by the judge when it appeared that the case was frivolous and vexatious. No judge would give costs against a claimant or an objector, if he came forward not only with a plausible, but a substantial ground for overthrowing or affirming the previous decision; but that there may be no difficulty on the subject, I am perfectly prepared, in the bill I wish to introduce, to place some limitation on the subject of costs, and that limitation is, that the party who comes forward to support the decision of the court below shall not be liable to costs in an appeal to the judge of assize. If that alteration seems to remove any ground for complaining of hardship, I shall be very ready to introduce such a provision. We must remember that we do not now stand on precisely the same footing as last year, and I must be permitted to direct the attention of the House to a society formed since the conclusion of the Session. It includes among its members a great number of names of persons for whom I entertain a sincere respect, and for some of whom I feel strong regard. I find among them Lord Charlemont, Lord Gosford, (the noble Mover of the Address on the first day of our meeting), the hon. Member for Armagh, Lord Clements, Mr. Sharman Crawford, and many other gentlemen, of whom I can only speak with respect. That society was formed for the purpose of entering into the details of the registration question, for the purpose of sifting it to the bottom, establishing grounds of objection, if they could be found, to my bill, and of supporting the views of Government on the subject. I speak of the Liberal Association of Ulster, warm friends of the present Ministers, while at the same time they deprecate the agitation of the question of the repeal of the union. Where I differ from them I wish to speak of their opinions with all respect, and where I agree with them I hope I may consider them valuable supporters. I am not to be told that these are men who are extremely illi- beral— that they profess strong Tory doctrines, because having given some of their names, the House will be aware that such is not the fact. They state in their report that they are in favour of an indefinite extension of the franchise—that they are for vote by ballot, and for shortening the duration of Parliaments; therefore, on points on which I have the good fortune of their concurrence, it cannot be urged as a ground of objection that they are in favour of an illiberal policy. What, then, are the points on which we concur, and what those upon which we differ? Here let me observe that I am anxious to avoid all irritating topics — that I am most desirous of excluding angry feelings from the discussion of this question, but I am desirous also of showing and proving that on the main grounds which were last year made the foundation of imputation and personal acrimony against me, I have, without exception, the concurrence of the Liberal Association of Ulster. My first proposal was to abolish certificates, and the Liberal Association of Ulster express their decided conviction that certificates ought to be abolished. I proposed that the registration should be superintended by the assistant-barristers, and they recommend that precisely that course should be adopted. I proposed that in all cases of claim notice should be given, and notice having been given, that the party should, by himself or by other evidence, substantiate his right to vote. The Liberal Association of Ulster prefers the system pursued in English counties requiring public notice to be given; that body also prefers that the claimant, before he is placed on the register, should appear, and, by his own or other evidence, establish his claim to exercise the franchise. I shall take the liberty of quoting one or two paragraphs from the report of the committee of the Liberal Association of Ulster, because they are strong in favour of the plan I recommend. It was prepared with much care and diligence, and it was read to the general committee on the 19th and 20th of November, 1840, Lord Gosford in the chair. The whole subject is there considered in detail, and the report was printed as recommended by the committee. I think no point was more attacked last year than that of the double appeal to the judges, and on this subject what state the committee of the Liberal Association of Ulster? The committee stated that they considered it objectionable in the first instance that there should be no means of appeal, except to a Committee of the House of Commons. They could not approve of the English system, which gave no redress either to the claimant, or the objector, against the erroneous opinions of the revising barrister, nor would they approve of the Irish system which confined the right of appeal to the rejected claimant. They, therefore, recommended the formation of a court of appeal, and that a right of appeal upon points of law (matters of fact being determined) should be conferred both on the claimant and on the objector; and further, that the court of appeal should be so constituted that the appellants should have costs at the discretion of the court. Here, then, are three of the main provisions of my bill approved of. The Ulster Association consider it desirable to avoid the necessity of a reference to a Committee of the House of Commons. They agree that no amendment will be perfect unless an appeal tribunal be constituted, and if we do constitute an appeal tribunal, they state that it will be only just that the appeal should lie both ways, and they say that the Irish system is objectionable, because the right of appeal is given only one way, and that the English system is objectionable, because it gives the right neither one way nor the other I have thus enumerated the points on which I agree with this committee out of the House. We agree upon the abolition of certificates— we agree upon the construction of the court of registry before the assistant-barrister— we agree that there should be an appeal from the decisions of the revising barrister to an appeal tribunal, and that the appeal should lie both ways as a matter of course. We have, then, to all these main points of my bill the assent of the Liberal Association of the province of Ulster. What are the points in which we differ? I have endeavoured to show how much our ground of difference has been narrowed in the present Session. I hope that these differences are a fair matter for calm and temperate discussion, and I trust that they will not cause the imputation to be thrown upon me that I am secretly and coverely destroying the franchise, when I am only desirous of providing a fair and efficient system of registration. The first point of difference between us is, whether the registration should be annual, as it is in England; or quarterly, as it is in Ireland. Upon this point, I confess that I have no hesitation in saying that I have formed a strong opinion that an annual registration is more desirable, and I therefore propose that the registration should be annual and not quarterly. I do not now wish to argue these objections: I only wish to point out what are the topics which are most likely to be discussed. This point, however, was discussed last year. I do not now stand here as the representative of my own opinion alone upon the question— a majority of the House of Commons during the last year upon a division affirmed the opinion, that annual registration was preferable to quarterly. Now, with regard to the form in which the notices of claim should be given; very much has been said on this point. I have carefully looked over the form, and I have endeavoured, as far as I could, consistently with the ends of justice, to simplify it. But I must absolutely require, that certain particulars should be produced, if upon these particulars is to rest the right of a person to be registered, or of an objecter to insist on the removal. Then, as to costs; it is proposed by the Ulster Association, that, in all cases costs should be given wherever the decision is in favour of the party claiming the franchise; it is not limited to objections that may be merely frivolous or vexatious, but it an objection fail, however well-founded it may have been thought by the objector, and from whatever cause it may have failed, it is to be the imperative duty of the magistrate to give the claimant pecuniary costs; not because the objection is frivolous or vexatious, but because it turns out that the objector has formed an erroneous opinion of the law. At the same time, however frivolous or unfounded the claim may be, the claimant may give notice to be registered either at one registration, or at a dozen; however frivolous or ridiculous the claim may he, the claimant is not to be visited with any of the costs to which he has put the objector, who has been obliged to appear over and over again to prove the same case, although the same objector is to be saddled with costs, if he fail, upon any single occasion, to sustain his proofs. Now, I proposed last year that in either case— and my opinion remains unchanged— the claimant or the objector may be fined in costs, not exceeding in the whole 5l., or not exceeding the amount that either party may be actually put to, if less than that sum, if in the opinion of the judge either party shall have given a frivolous or vexatious claim or objection. That provision, I confess, appears to me to be more fair than the proposal of the Ulster Association. There is another important point to which, as it was raised last year, and as it caused a division, I wish to draw the attention of the House, particularly as in regard to this, as upon all others, I am anxious to meet the views and the wishes of the House. The right hon. Gentleman, the Attorney-general for Ireland (Mr. Pigot) upon the very first clause of the bill, moved to insert certain words, by way of an amendment to the clause. The first clause declared, that from and after the first day of November, 1841, no person should have the right of voting for any place unless registered according to the provisions of the bill. By the bill, persons holding certificates under the present law were not to be called upon again to appear and substantiate their right, but they might be objected to. The learned Gentleman, the Attorney-general, thought that the object of this provision, the protection of the existing voter, should be carried to a greater extent; perhaps he meant to extend it to all persons who should at any time obtain a place upon the register, for he moved to insert these words, that— In making the register of votes for any county, city, town, or borough, under the provisions of this Act, the name of every person who, when such register shall be made, shall be registered as a voter for such county, city, town, or borough, shall be placed and retained upon such register, so long as his right of voting as such registered elector would continue under the present law, unless he shall have lost his qualification since he was so registered, or unless he shall have been personally disqualified as such voter or have died; or unless his registry was effected by fraudulent Personation. This amendment was carried by a majority, certainly not a large majority, of 296 to 289. As on the one hand I have come forward to maintain the views of the majority of the House, when they agree with myself, so I am ready, as far as I can do so consistently with the duty which I feel, to bow to the sense of the House, even though expressed by no largo majority, when it is opposed to my own wishes and my own views; but to the extent of what I conceive to be the object of this amendment I cannot concede. By the terms that a party shall be free from objection during the time that he would be entitled under the present law, I know not whether it were the intention of the learned Gentleman, that all parties who should have obtained certificates under the law as it now stands, shall be entitled to vote during the eight years for which the certificates shall have been granted, or whether it were his intention to carry the protection still further, and say, that no one who shall be hereafter registered shall be objected to except in case of some disqualification arising subsequently to the registration. So far as the first provision goes, I can see a good ground for the distinction, that those who have been registered under the law as it now stands, shall have a right to vote for the eight years of their certificates. I am prepared to admit the apparent hardship of subjecting them to re-examination, although at the same time we confer upon them the right for life, unless they shall be rejected on objection; but if the learned gentleman goes so far as to say, that the voter when once registered shall not be liable to be removed for any disqualification which may have existed at the time of registration, but which may not have been urged in the first instance, I cannot conceive why, because upon a had foundation, a party has rested a fraudulent vote, and has been once placed upon the register, he should be immoveable. The evils of the present system would be aggravated, for be would remain on the register for the term of his natural life, not because he had ever proved that he had possessed the right to vote, or that it might not be objected that he never had the right, but because, if he were objected to, he might turn round upon the objector, and answer, "True it is that I possess no right to vote, and that I never did, but I defy you to prove that the circumstances have altered since I first registered; you ought to have raised the objection when I was first put on I do not deny, nay I concede to you, that I had no right then, I have no right now, but, nevertheless, I defy you to strike me off." That is not an extreme case. I am informed, that it has occurred in Scotland, where the system recommended for Ireland is in existence, where I am informed parties are on the register without a foot of land in the country—who, as all the world know, have not now a foot of land in the country —who, as all the world know, never had a foot of land in the country; and, as they never had any qualification, there could be no change of circumstances since they were registered, so they are now entitled to vote. It is very easy to say, "Yes, but we call upon the voter to prove his claim in the first instance;" one story is good, till another is told. If the person claims in a county where parties are not very closely balanced, or in which there has not been any contest, we all know that the register is not very closely watched; and that, when there is a prospect of a contest, the parties find that there are numbers of bad votes on the register, the wonder is how they ever got there; but the wonder will be still greater if the Legislature, in its wisdom, shall assist in their retention. All these bad votes will be swept away if the right of objection shall be annual as it is in England. I do not mean to give the right of objection even to the same extent that it is in England, for I propose, for the protection of the voter who is once on the register, that he shall remain so for life, unless some other party shall prove, not only a primâ facie case, but an absolute disqualification to the party registered being upon the register, and that the objector not establishing his proof, and appearing to have given his notice frivolously, shall be liable to costs. To this extent I am perfectly willing to give protection to the voter; but I cannot carry the protection so far as to say that under no circumstances shall he be liable to objection, unless for matters that have arisen since his registration. Still I am willing to bow to the decision of the House as expressed on the motion of the right hon. Gentleman, if it be interpreted as applying only to persons who, under the existing law, have obtained certificates, having a right to vote for eight years; and with his limitation, I am willing that these parties should remain on the register for the term their certificates now have to run, provided that at the expiration of that term they shall again come forward in the same manner as new voters to be re-registered. I hope, therefore, that I have been able to show that the grounds of our differences are narrowed to the forms of the notice of objection and of claim, to the question whether the registration shall be annual or quarterly—the House has already decided in favour of its being annual; and to the question whether the voter shall be protected against all future investigation of his original title, and whether the objector shall be liable to costs under all circumstances of failure. On another point I shall be enabled, without any sacrifice of principle, to remove an objection which has been made to my bill —I allude to the notice of objection to be given to the party. In my notice, I have followed the English plan; I have copied the notice from the English bill. The words simply are, Take notice that I object to your name being retained on the register of voters for the county of—, That is the English law at the present moment; but in what I now propose I do not take this general notice of objection to a party who has, in the first instance, established his right to vote: I think, then, that the party objecting should state on the face of his notice the nature of the objection, that the party who shall appear to defend his right, if he shall think fit so to do, may be enabled to know the ground on which he will be assailed. I believe that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in an English bill which he introduced last Session, to a certain extent proposed that the grounds of objection should be specified in the notice, the exact form may be subject for discussion; but the principle of giving the specific grounds of objections, I am prepared to admit. And now, Sir, I have literally stated all the differences between me and the Liberal Association. I adhere to the judges of assize as the tribunal to which the appeal should go; but if any hon. Gentleman will show me any tribunal equally impartial, equally able, and less expensive, that tribunal I shall be ready to take; but knowing of none such, I have taken that which found existing, to which by the law there was an appeal in one case, and which I have extended to both claim and objection; and a tribunal to which it will be recollected Mr. Justice Perrin, then Mr. Perrin, did in this House propose that a double appeal should be given. To another point, it is necessary that I should take this opportunity of adverting, not because it is in the bill, but because it forms no part of the bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dublin, has given notice that, in case I should not declare his intention to introduce a clause to define the franchise, he will divide the House on the motion for leave to bring in my bill. Now, Sir, I have understood that before I came into the House, the hon. and learned Gentleman withdrew that notice, and stated that he would offer no objection to the introduction of the bill, but that he would move the adjournment of the discussion to a future day. I wish, therefore, to state distinctly, that it is not my intention to introduce into this bill any clause defining the parliamentary franchise in Ireland. I stated in the House last year that I was aware of the difficulties and of the inconveniences which have arisen in consequence of the doubts thrown upon the franchise; but I stated also that I was aware of the difficulties I should have to encounter if I added the question of the franchise to a subject which is already sufficiently difficult in itself— the question of the registration; and after the fullest consideration, I am still of the opinion that if I wish to carry this bill, or if I wish to carry any bill, I must separate the two subjects. In the course of the last Session the propriety and the prudence of that determination received the approval of the Members of her Majesty's Government themselves, who introduced not one bill embracing both, but brought forward one bill to amend the registration, but reserved the franchise discussion for the consideration of the House in a separate bill. I have not only the authority of the learned Gentleman and of her Majesty's Government, but also of the House itself, for not mixing the registration with the franchise. The matter was introduced, it was argued, it was decided by the House of Commons itself in the last Session, on the motion of the hon. Member for Dublin himself, that it be an instruction to the committee, and that they have the power of defining the right of voting. After discussion, and on a division, the House agreed with me. Of her Majesty's Ministers, the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, the Attorney-general, and many of her Majesty's Government voting with me, affirming the prudence of the course I had adopted, of not introducing the franchise question into a bill for registration. The number voting in favour of the instruction was 162, and the number declaring that it was inexpedient that the two questions should be mixed being 311, leaving a majority of nearly two to one in favour of the declaration that it is inexpedient to mix the two. I am far from being unaware of the inconveniences and difficulties arising from the decisions of the judges upon the franchise of late years. I regret those difficulties as much as any hon. Member; I regret that the small number of dissentient judges should not have considered themselves, consistently with their oaths, bound by the opinion of a majority of the judges upon a matter that had been fully considered; but with regard to those inconveniences, and to the decisions of the judges — not meaning to impute any but the most conscientious motives to the minority for adhering to their opinion consistently with their oaths— I am convinced that in the present state of the House, and in the present state of parties, if I were to introduce a clause defining the franchise, I should be absolutely and entirely debarred, not only from passing this bill, but any bill, in this or any future Session. If I were to introduce a clause defining the franchise as I believe to be right, I could not proceed: and I am sure that if hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House were to introduce into a bill for registration defining the franchise in any other way than in accordance with that which has hitherto been construed as the law, they would equally fail. I confess, therefore, that I do flinch from the difficulty of dealing with the question of the franchise; for if I did, I might be compelled to postpone a measure already sufficiently surrounded with difficulty. I should but introduce an infinity of additional argument. The Session would pass away as the last did, by the mere efflux of time it would end. I should leave the evils irremediable and unremedied; the abuses of the present system would continue for another year, although they have been admitted in their full extent by all sides of the House, and by men of every shade of political opinion. I, adhering, then, to my first opinion, shall be most willing to discuss the provisions of this bill in the most friendly temper and spirit; I shall respect the arguments of such as may seek to controvert me by argument; I shall readily bow to the decision of the House, if it be not adverse to any great principle of my measure; and, with this declaration, I conclude by moving for leave to bring in a bill to amend the laws relating to the registration of voters in Ireland.

Viscount Morpeth said

My noble Friend has shown that he is so much enamoured of the subject to which he devoted so large a portion of his energy in the last Session of Parliament, that he has not been enabled to resist the temptation, although her Majesty's Ministers have given notice, in the very first week of the Session, of their intention to being forward a bill upon this subject, yet my noble Friend is so enamoured of his success, and so pleased with the reception which his project obtained in the last Session— so delighted with the majorities he obtained — so charmed with carrying twelve clauses in the course of four months, that determined not to be forestalled this year, he rejoices in the pleasure of having the first word. I am not disposed, Sir, to dispute with him that priority. The extremely temperate and moderate observations with which he has introduced his motion, would not tempt me to do so, and I hone that I should not fail in courtesy towards any Member in this House, and certainly not towards the noble Lord. Considering then that the bill of last Session undoubtedly obtained possession of the House, that it met with what even the noble Lord himself would deem unexpected success, that it drew overflowing Houses, and brought down overwhelming plaudits, I am not now disposed to oppose the motion of the noble Lord for leave to bring in this bill; and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, and that those who support him, will be disposed to make the same concession to me when I shall, on Thursday, move for leave to bring in the measure of the Government. Believing, that I shall then have the fullest opportunity of explaining the views of her Majesty's Government on the subject of registration in Ireland, I do not consider it necessary upon the present occasion to enter into any observations upon that subject. There are only two things arising out of the speech of the noble Lord which I will mention for the sake of obviating any misunderstanding. From the statement of the noble Lord I collect, that although he admits of some alterations and amendments, the main features of his present bill are the same as in the bill of last year. He includes the provision, that the voter should be annually called upon to prove his right to be upon the register, and also the appeal to a judge of assize, both ways, from the decision of the assistant barrister; and he fortifies himself by a coincidence of opinion which he discovers in these particulars with the Liberal Association of Ulster, from the report of whose proceedings, the noble Lord has largely quoted. But I imagine, that upon a closer examination, it will appear, that between the opinions of the noble Lord, and the recorded sentiments of the Ulster Association, there will be by no means found that similarity of view upon which the noble Lord relies. The Association of Ulster do not recommend an appeal both ways, upon matters of fact, as well as upon matters of law; and, above all, they do not recommend a double appeal, without a clear definition of the franchise. If it should so happen that the noble Lord is prepared to take the recommendations of the association of Ulster, there will be less ground of difficulty and dispute between us than we might have been led to suppose. The one other point I wish to observe, is, that in conformity with the notice which I gave in the early part of the evening, I shall, in the measure which I shall propose on Thursday, ask the House to concur in a bill to determine the qualification as well as the mode of registering the voter, and I hope, that upon that occasion, I shall have it in my power to show to the I House, and to show to the noble Lord, in perfect consistency with what I have al-i ways said and done before upon this branch of the subject, that we cannot expect any alteration to be satisfactorily complete, not even that which the noble Lord has recommended, and especially not the appointment of any new appellate tribunal, without, in the first instance, defining the franchise. Having slated thus much by way of precaution, and reserving to myself and to my colleagues the fullest right to object to and oppose the noble Lord's measure, I shall not now divide against leave being given to bring in his bill.

Mr. O'Connell

I am in no way bound by any compromise between my noble Friend and the noble Lord. I stand here belonging to no party upon this question. I stand here representing the people of Ireland. I think that the House and the country ought to be somewhat surprised that the noble Lord, in a prepared speech which he had delivered, to make out the strongest case for himself, in order to gain what he said was his end—the prevention of the multiplication of fraudulent voters in Ireland—that was the noble Lord's object —yet that the noble Lord who alleged this has not given the House any evidence, has not adduced any instance, of the wholesale multiplication of votes. The noble Lord did not give any statistics of Irish counties; he did not say that in a county having only 100,000 inhabitants there were 2.5,000 voters, or 10,000, or 4,000; he did not contrast the overwhelming number of the Irish people who are entitled to the franchise, with the aggregate number of voters; that would have been the way fairly to investigate the subject. The county of Cork for instance has 713,000 inhabitants; there has been a multiplicity of fraudulent voters put upon the register. How many are there? There are 713,000 inhabitants, there are 3,800 voters. The utmost number that can vote is 3,800. Does the noble Lord grudge 3,800 voters to 713,000 inhabitants? Is that his plan? Is this his enormous multiplication of fraudulent votes? Oh, remedy it. Yes, there is an overwhelming amount; there must be fraud; there must be "villainous perjury" that was the word the noble Lord used last year. [No, no!] Perhaps the noble Lord did not say so. The report is not to be believed, then; somebody else said so for him. What is meant by interrupting me? I had beastly bellowings last year— are they to be renewed now? I was proceeding to show what is the state of the registration. The aggregate population of Wales is 710,000; Wales has upwards of 30,000 voters. The population of Cork is larger than Wales, Cork has not more than 3,800 voters, and that is the system of registration that is to be closely watched over. Make the comparison. Tell me after that, whether there is a union, between the two countries. I'll not mock you by asking. I call the attention of the House to what has been the noble Lord's sole care by day, sole thought by night; it ends in a miserable abortion. He has completely swindled the people of Ireland out of their votes by the kind of franchise he gave, because it was he who gave it. The mode of registration in Ireland is complained of. To be sure it is. Was not he the author of it? He resisted me when I asked to have the English system introduced. His plan has worked badly. Why? Because we want a definition of the franchise. The moment you define the franchise, that moment you take away two-thirds of the difficulty. Too few now are admitted to that franchise. I shall have an opportunity, and I will go through the counties, and will show the contraction since 1832–33. There were then not registered in Ireland 5 per cent, of the male adult population; in England there were registered 20 per cent. The registry in England has since increased 10 per cent. When we have the returns from Ireland, and they ought to have been sooner produced, they will give a diminution of 20 per cent. Probably, as has been suggested to me by a Friend near me, of 30 per cent. Under such circumstances, the noble Lord presses forward with a dexterity that is more conspicuous for its cunning than its fairness. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, gave notice of a bill to amend the English system of registration, which would have been brought on yesterday, except for the accident of their being no House. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland has given notice of a bill to amend the registration in Ireland. That stands in the notice paper for to-morrow. The noble Lord had some gentlemen lurching for him, and the moment they saw the probability of those bills being brought forward, they anticipated them. Why not have given the House and the country fair play, in seeing what the measures were which were to be proposed by the Ministers of the Crown? That would not answer the purpose of the noble Lord. He had his pocket pistol— the report of the proceedings of the Ulster Association, which he used in favour of his own measure. How little did that association know that they were to be met with a total want of candour? They offered suggestions, which I do not think were well considered, and the noble Lord being inimical to the extension of the franchise, threw over the points in reference to the amelioration, as he called it, of the franchise, and met their candour with the full extent of his dexterity. I think that the inhabitants of Ulster did not know the noble Lord quite so well as the inhabitants of other parts of Ireland do, or they would not have enabled him to take advantage of their simplicity. I think it was highly improper to have brought forward the motion in the manner in which it has been placed before the House. We are entitled to have the Government measure fairly before the House, but the noble Lord obstructs the fair consideration of that proposition by the introduction of his bill. For my own part, if I am at all displeased, or feel sorry for any view of the case, it is for the multitudinous attendance on the other side of the House to night. I congratulate the noble Lord on the enthusiasm of his followers, for so he called their attachment last Session. [Cheers.] I am glad that I promoted that shout, because it will mark still better to the people of Ireland how little they have to expect. They must rely on themselves and their own exertions, and every act and every exertion to lessen their franchise is a new argument to show that the connection between the two countries is not founded in justice. I think the House should pause, and should not allow the noble Lord to bring in his bill until that of the Government has been laid upon the Table; and I protest against the vexation produced by the measure of the noble Lord, and demand of the House that if we are to be bound by the union, they will give us the full benefit of it. I say, let them not give us the worst part only of the English registration, but give it to us as it is; and, whether for good or for bad, I am ready to stand by the English system, considering that the union is a binding measure, and that we are entitled under it to English rights and English liberties. I say, do not suffer the noble Lord's vexatious legislation to affect one part of the country and not another. Again I ask, why he does not bring in a bill for amending the system of registration in England? Is not that complained of; and is it not nearer home? Oh! no; the object of the noble Lord is not to amend the registration, but to give a blow to the liberties of Ireland. I am determined to meet him foot to loot, and I move that this debate be adjourned until after the 4th instant.

Mr. W. S. O'Brien

thought that the amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin was fully justified by the course which had been taken by the noble Lord, because he deemed that course to be factious. As a matter of prudence, however, he recommended the hon. and learned Member not to press his motion to a division. Seeing the array of hon. Members opposite, he thought it would answer no useful purpose to divide the House, and he besides deemed it of the highest importance that a question of this magnitude and consequence should be discussed with as much calmness as possible.

Lord John Russell

said, I confess that my objections to the measure of the noble Lord of last year have been very little diminished by the statement which he has made upon the subject of his measure of the present Session. It seems to me that, with the exception of some particulars, the main features of the bill are the same, and that they will produce the same calamitous consequences which it appeared to me would result from the bill of last year. I must own, although the noble Lord stated the case very fairly, and I do not mean to impute to him anything but a desire to reform the abuses of Irish registration— it is certainly somewhat singular, considering the abuses which exist in the mode of registration and of voting, and the practice of elections, in England, Scotland and Ireland, and upon one of which in Scotland the noble Lord dwelt in the course of his speech this evening, that he should pass by and neglect all these, and that it should be the abuses which exist in Ireland alone, which should have called for his especial attention, and should make him so anxious, at the very first moment of the Session, to bring a measure before the House. I must say also, that although there may be many abuses in the system of registration in Ireland, although I cannot deny the statements which have been made as well on this as on the other side of the House, yet that I do view with considerable jealousy and alarm a measure to reform those abuses, which acts entirely by way of restriction. It is to be remembered that the bill of 1829, brought in as a counterpoise to the Roman Catholic claims, was in itself a restrictive measure of disqualification; and it is to be recollected that the noble Lord in 1832, with a view to remedying the existing abuses, brought in a bill granting such additional franchise as he thought necessary, but not altering the restrictions of 1829. And now, after those two measures, comes again a measure of restriction, narrowing the franchise originally granted fifty years ago to the whole people of Ireland. Now, it may or may not be quite proper to make this restriction upon the franchise, and to introduce a bill for the purpose; but it certainly behaves the House to look most narrowly into the provisions of the bill, and so ascertain the general effect of them when taken together. I remember my noble Friend, the late Lord Durham, in discussing some of the restrictions on the franchise of England, which he thought too numerous, and apt to be vexatious, said, by way of illustration, "You may say that every 10l. householder shall have a vote, but you may also say that he shall only have such vote on condition of his being able to construe the first book of Homer." This is merely an illustration of the manner in which you may limit what at first would appear a large and liberal measure, and it equally applies to the present question. Now the noble Lord who has introduced this measure proposes to retain the franchise as it exists according to law, but he also proposes that that franchise shall be ultimately determined by a court of law. The ordinary practice, however, of courts of law, according to ray observation (and I say this without wishing to impute to the judges any political bias or partiality), but the ordinary practice and tendency of courts of law, and of the highest and most learned amongst them, is generally to restrict the franchise by technical definitions and distinctions which exist either by the common law or the statute law. Thus, with regard to the largest words and those of the most extended meaning in our charters, such as the words "community," "burgesses," and, as is the case of the "community" of the city of Bath, their meaning has been restricted in the course of time to mean the elective rights of some twelve or thirteen people only. Now, if we are to part with all control in this matter— to pass a bill with the consent of the other House of Parliament, and which can never be repealed without the consent of that House— by which the whole franchise is in future to be denned and settled by the judgments of a court of law, and upon the doctrine of settling the law according to the opinion of a majority of the judges, I can very well imagine that in a short time that, franchise would be further limited, until it came to be enjoyed by a very small number of persons. It is very well to say, when a man is not legally entitled to vote, because he has not the estate which the law requires he should have in order to entitle him to vote, and when he has, therefore, been fraudulently placed on the register, that you should provide, by legislative and statutory enactments, that he should no longer continue to hold such a vote; but you should also take care that in raising up a barrier against the fraudulent voter, that you do not also at the same time raise up one against the real and honest voter. Now there is many a voter in Ireland, not happening to be dependent upon or connected with any strong, wealthy, or powerful landlord, but having his own independent property, who. on reading the acts of 1829 and 1832, conceives himself to have a vote, and goes to the assistant barrister, who allows his claim. He is however, appealed against, and he is then put to considerable expense in going before the judge of assize, who may happen to be one of those judges whose opinion is favourable to the nature of the qualification on which his claim is based. So far all would be well. But next year the same process is repeated, and the assistant-barrister may, on this second occasion, still entertain his claim and allow him his vote. On being appealed against this time, however, he may find at the assize-town a judge whose opinion is that he has no vote, and after considerable loss he finds himself deprived of the power of voting. What is the effect of these facts upon others? The neighbours of the voter in question, when they gee that a man well known to have suffi- cient properly to entitle him to vote has been caused much trouble and loss of time, and put to considerable expense, by being sent before three or perhaps six, seven, or eight judges, whose decisions have only led to the loss of his vote, his time, his money, and his trouble. These neighbours, although their votes might be excellent in law, and exactly the description of votes which you designed by your law to protect, would become discouraged, and abstain altogether from enforcing their claims. This, I fear, would be the effect of some of the provisions of the noble Lord's bill, and although I do not say that certain cases of fraud do not exist which ought to be corrected, yet I say that you effect nothing by that bill which you might not equally well effect by more simple machinery; and that if you do mean to settle the whole question, I believe it will be impossible to settle it thoroughly, and, above all, to do justice to the people of Ireland, unless you take into your consideration the question of the franchise. Now is it not a great evil that there should be a Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas establishing the franchise according to one view of the law, and a Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer establishing it according to another? And when the noble Lord, entirely pretermitting the case of England and Scotland, has given his whole attention to Ireland, is it too much to ask that he should, in some other bill, if not in this, but especially after what we heard last Session from the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Lucas), who so strongly stated the evils of which I now complain; is it too much, I say, to ask the noble Lord to include the subject of the franchise in his consideration of the question? The noble Lord said last year, that the two questions might very well be separated. I agree with him that it may be a very right course to pursue; it was the course we ourselves pursued last year. But what I say is that you ought not to assume that you are remedying all evils, that you are doing all that is required to be done; whereas the only thing you are doing is to set up a very complex and incomplete system of registration, which will only narrow the franchise to those only who feel the power of a protector who are prepared, as dependents and connections, to go before the registration courts, assured that their costs will be paid, and which will leave no franchise for those who are prudent enough to take care not to ruin their families for the sake of attaining that which you will have made as difficult of attainment as if they had no claim on the representation of Ireland whatsoever. With regard to the immediate question before the House, I think the noble Lord is quite justified in the course he has taken to-night. If he chose to bring the measure forward, he had a perfect right, according to the forms of Parliament, to give notice of his intention. After the sanction which the House gave to the general principle of the bill last year, I do not think there is any parliamentary ground for opposing his bringing it in, and I shall therefore vote for the motion of the noble Lord, and against any motion in opposition to it.

Mr. Lucas

wished to say a few words merely in reference to the observation which the noble Lord (Russell) had made respecting himself. He certainly did state last year, and was ready to state again, that he did think it was desirable for all parties in Ireland, that the truth of the franchise in that country should be placed on some more satisfactory basis than the mere oath of the voter. But if the noble Lord imagined that he had intended to express an opinion that his noble Friend would have acted more justly if he had coupled the question of the franchise with this bill, be distinctly disavowed such an opinion. He had never said so; and he certainly was of opinion that, if the noble Lord had done so, he would have opened a Pandora's box, from which discord would have spread on all sides, and at the bottom of which not even hope would have been found to remain. He could, indeed, have taken no course which would have produced so much confusion. It was true his name had appeared to a bill respecting the franchise, in conjunction with t hose of Sir D. Norreys and Sir Rober Ferguson; but, though he did not complain of its having been placed there, his name was added to that bill when he had left town. Indeed, one of those hon. Gentlemen, in writing to acquaint him with the fact of his name having been annexed to the bill, had jocu[...]rly told him that it was a forgery.

Colonel Rawdon

said, that the noble Lord took great credit to himself for agreeing so much, with reference to the provisions of his bill, with the Ulster Association. He begged to inform the noble Lord, however, that the origin of that association was the noble Lord's bill itself — an origin not founded, too, in any agreement with that bill, but in opposition to it. He must say that he considered it somewhat disingenuous on the part of the noble Lord to claim this agreement with the opinions of the Ulster Association. A report of that association showed that its opinions, especially with reference lo the right of appeal as given in the noble Lord's bill were opposed to his. The association contended that they would grant a right of appeal as to matters of law, but not as to matters of fact; and they were particular in staling, with respect to the question of the franchise, that it should depend on a more simple and uniform test than at present. With regard to these and some other points, the noble Lord was, then, not quite correct as to the opinions of the Ulster Association. By the way, he could not refrain, before he sat down, from congratulating the noble Lord on his new love for associations. He could assure him, however, that the Ulster Liberal Association was decidedly opposed to the noble Lord and his bill.

The House divided on the question of adjourning the Debate:— Ayes 71; Noes 261:— Majority 190.

List of the AYES.
Baines, E. Holland, R.
Barry, G. S. Howard, F. J.
Berkeley, hon. H. Hutton, R.
Bewes, T. James, W.
Blake, M. Leader, J. T.
Bodkin, J. J. Lynch, A. H.
Bridgeman, H. Macnamara, Major
Brodie, W. B. Martin, J.
Brotherton, J. Muntz, G. F.
Busfeild, W. Murray, A.
Carew, hon. R. S. Nagle, Sir R.
Chapman, Sir M. L. C. O'Brien, C.
Chichester, Sir B. O'Brien, W. S.
Clements, Viscount O'Connell, J.
Collier, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Corbally, M. E. O'Connell, M.
Dashwood, G. H. O'Conor, D.
Duke, Sir J. Oswald, J.
Duncombe, T. Power, J.
Dundas, hon. J. C. Rawdon, Col. J. D.
Ellis, W. Redington, T. N.
Evans, Sir de L. Roche, E. B.
Evans, W. Salwey, Colonel
Ewart, W. Scholefield, J.
Ferguson, Colonel Somers, J. P.
French, F. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Gisborne, T. Stock, Dr.
Hastie, A. Strickland, Sir G.
Hawes, B. Tancred, H. W.
Heathcoat, J. Thornely T.
Hector, C. J. Villiers, hon. C. P.
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Wakley, T.
Hobhouse, T. B, Wallace, R.
Warburton, H. Wood, B.
White, H. TELLERS.
White S. O'Connell, D.
Williams, W. Hume, J.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Currie, R.
A'Court, Captain Damer, hon. D.
Adam, Admiral Darby, G.
Ainsworth, P. De Horsey, S. H.
Alford, Visc. D'Israeli, B.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Divett, E.
Archdall, M. Dottin, A. R.
Ashley, Lord Douglas, Sir C. E,
Attwood, W. Dugdale, W. S.
Bagge, W. Dunbar, G.
Bagot, hon. W. Duncombe, hon. W.
Bailey, J. jun. Duncombe, hon. A.
Baillie, Colonel Du Pre, G.
Baker, E. East, J. B.
Baldwin, C. B. Eaton, R. J.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Egerton, W. T.
Baring, hon. W. B. Egerton, Lord F.
Barrington, Viscount Eliot, Lord
Basset, J. Estcourt, T.
Bateson, Sir R. Farnham, E. B.
Bellew, R. M. Feilden, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Fector, J. M.
Bernal, R. Fellowes, E.
Blair, J. Filmer, Sir E.
Blakemore, R. Fitzroy, hon. H.
Blennerhassett, A. Fleming, J.
Boldeio, H. G. Forester, hon. G.
Bolling, W. Fort, J.
Botfield, B. Fortescue, T.
Bowes, J. Fox, S. L.
Bradshaw, J. Freshfield, J. W.
Bramston, T. W. Gaskell, J. M.
Broadley, H. Gladstone, W. E.
Broadwood, H. Glynne, Sir S. R.
Brocklehurst, J. Gordon, R.
Brownrigg, S. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Bruce, Lord E. Gore, O. J. R.
Bruen, Colonel Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Bruges, W. H. L. Graham, rt. hn. Sir. J.
Buck, L. W. Granby, Marquess of
Buller, Sir J. Y. Grant, Sir A. C.
Bulwer, Sir L. Greene, T.
Burdett, Sir F. Grimsditch, T.
Burr, H. Grimston, Viscount
Campbell, Sir H. Grimston, hon. E. H.
Campbell, Sir J. Hale, R. B.
Canning rt. hn. Sir S. Halford, H.
Cantilupe, Viscount Hamilton, Lord C.
Chalmers, P. Handley, H.
Childers, J. W. Harcourt, G. G.
Cholmondely, hon. H. Harcourt, G. S.
Chute, W. L. W. Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.
Clay, W. Hawkes, T.
Clive, hon. R. H. Hawkins, J. H.
Cochrane, Sir T. J. Hayter, W. G.
Cole, hon, A. H. Heathcote, Sir W.
Colquhoun, J. C. Heneage, G. W.
Coote, Sir C. H. Herbert, hon. S.
Corry, hon. H. Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Courtenay, P. Hill, Sir R.
Cresswell, C. Hinde, J. H.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Hodgson, F. Patten, J. W.
Hodgson, R. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Hogg, J. W. Peel, J.
Holmes, hn. W. A. C. Pemberton, T.
Holmes, W. Perceval, Colonel
Hope, hon. C. Philips, M.
Hope, G. W. Pigot, rt. hon. D.
Hoskins, K. Pigot, R.
Hotham, Lord Planta, R. H. J.
Howard, hn. E. G. G. Plumptre, J. P.
Howard, hn. C. W. G. Polhill, F.
Howick, Viscount Pollen, Sir J. W.
Hughes, W. B. Pollock, Sir F.
Humphrey J. Powell, Colonel
Hurt, F. Praed, W. T.
Hutt, W. Pringle, A.
Ingham, R. Pryme, G.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Pusey, P.
Irton, S. Reid, Sir J. R.
Irving, J. Richards, R.
Jackson, Mr. Serjeant Rickford, W.
Jermyn, Earl Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.
Jones, Captain Rushbrooke, Colonel
Kelly, F. Rushout, G.
Kemble, H. Russell, Lord J.
Kelburne, Viscount St. Paul, H.
Kuatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E Sandon, Visc.
Knight, H. G. Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Knightley, Sir C. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Labouchere, rt. hn. H. Sheppard, T.
Law, hon. C. E. Shirley, E. J.
Lefroy, rt. hon. T. Smith, A.
Liddell, hon. H. T. Smith, R. V.
Lincoln, Earl of Smyth, Sir G. H.
Litton, E. Somerset, Lord G.
Loch, J. Sotheron, T. E.
Lockhart, A. M. Spry, Sir S. T.
Lowther, J. H. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Lucas, E. Stanley, Lord
Lygon, hon. General Sturt, H. C
Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B. Sugden, rt. Hon. E.
Mackenzie, W. F. Surrey, Earl of
Maclean, D. Talfourd, Mr. Serjeant
Mahon, Visct. Teignmouth, Lord
Manners, Lord C. S. Tennent, J. E.
Marton, G. Thesiger, F.
Master, T. W. C. Thompson, Alderman
Mathew, G. B. Thornhill, G.
Maunsell, T. P. Tollemache, F. J.
Melgund, Viscount Townley, R. G.
Meynell, Captain Trench, Sir F.
Mordaunt, Sir J. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Morpeth, Viscount Trotter, J.
Morris, D. Turner, W.
Muskett, G. A. Tyiell, Sir J. T.
Neeld, J. Vere, Sir C. B.
Nicholl, J. Verner, Colonel
Norreys, Lord Villiers, Viscount
O'Ferrall, R. M. Vivian, J. E.
Ossulston, Lord Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R. H.
Owen, Sir J. Waddington, H. S.
Packe, C. W. Walsh, Sir J.
Pakington, J. S. Wilde, Sir T.
Palmer, G. Williams, T. P.
Parker, M. Wilshere, W.
Parker, T. A. W. Wood, Colonel
Wood, Colonel T. Young, Sir W.
Wrightson, W. B. TELLERS.
Yorke, hon. E. T. Fremantle, Sir T.
Young, J. Baring, H.

Original Motion agreed to, Bill to be brought in.— Adjourned.