§ Viscount Morpeth
then moved the order of the day for the second reading of the Registration of Voters (Ireland), Bill No. 2.
said, that if the objections which those who sat on his side of the House entertained against the Bill introduced by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had been confined to matters of mere detail or arrangement, if, agreeing in the main objects of the bill, or in the principles sought to be carried out, they differed from the noble Lord as to the mode and machinery by which those principles were to be carried into effect, or even in the subordinate provisions of the bill, he, for his own part, however wide that difference might be, or however important the points on which they differed, notwithstanding the opposition which had been offered to his own bill during the last Session, would have been content on the present occasion to have reserved all discussion to a subsequent stage. He should have offered no opposition to the second reading, but have felt it his duty to have taken the discussion seriatim on 779 the different amendments which he should have to propose on the House going into committee on the bill. But the course which the noble Lord had pursued rendered it impossible for those who thought with him, and he hoped also for those who habitually voted with the noble Lord himself, to give their assent to the second reading of a bill which tacked to the question of registration, by way of postcript, a subject important enough in itself to form a separate measure, and of infinitely more importance than even the system of registration, and which tended to alter the representative system settled so recently as the year 1832—a bill which did not aim at any slight modification of the machinery of the Reform Act, but applied principles altogether new to Ireland, and to Ireland alone, and differing from those established in any other part of the kingdom. As regarded the details of the bills brought in by the noble Lord and himself on this subject, with the exception of the tack to which he had alluded, the points in which they materially differed were not very numerous. They were of more or less importance; but though there was still considerable difference between the two bills, it was with great satisfaction that he found in the bill brought in by the noble Lord this year that he had approximated in no small degree to the principles which he had introduced to the House during the last Session—principles which had been the subject of so much vituperation from the other side of the House. In the course of last year the principal objection taken by the hon. Member the Attorney-general for Ireland, was stated by him to be, that he frankly and plainly objected to an annual revision at all. The noble Lord, however, had this year consented to an annual revision of votes; but the noble Lord had, at the same time, coupled the annual revision with what he (Lord Stanley) had proposed, an annual registration. The noble Lord also coupled with that annual revision a quarterly registration. The noble Lord, while he consented to purge the registry of names which had no right to remain on it, instead of applying the system which prevailed in England and in Scotland to Ireland, while he allowed the annual opportunity of revising the registry, kept up the quarterly machinery for registration, thus rendering it impossible that a perfect 780 system of registration should exist from year to year, mixing up the business of the registry in a most inconvenient way with the ordinary business of the quarter-sessions; and by introducing for their consideration the perpetual notices of claims and of objections, would, with the attendance necessary to substantiate these claims and objections, make the whole year one continued scene of registration and election. It would leave not a month, hardly a week of breathing time between Session and Session, but would keep the country perpetually engaged in election disputes. The noble Lord said, that he had consented to annual revision. No doubt the noble Lord had done so, but he had clogged the condition with such restrictions as would open a wide door to fraudulent and fictitious voters: for, though the noble Lord had told them that he would permit annual revision—though he permitted objections to be made to a voter on the ground that he no longer possessed the qualification, yet, if a voter should at any time succeed in getting his name on the registry, the noble Lord told them that it would not be sufficient for the objector to prove that the voter possessed no qualification; he would not be allowed even to raise an objection on that ground, or to make any other objection, but he would be bound to prove that the person had that qualification when put upon the registry, and that a change of circumstances had occurred by which he had lost it. The consequence would be, to give a person perpetual immunity from fraud when his name was once upon the registry. On this point, then, there was a difference between the present bill and his own. He had proposed last year that an appeal should be allowed against a claimant admitted, as well as in favour of a claimant rejected, and this, in the first instance, was deemed to be a great hardship. It was said, that this would be throwing great obstacles in the way of persons acquiring political rights, yet the principle had been adopted; for, by the bill of the noble Lord, an appeal would lie to the appellate tribunal against the admission as well as against the rejection of a voter. The appellate tribunal suggested by the noble Lord, differed from that which he had proposed, which confided the appellate power to the judges of the land. The noble Lord thought it expedient to take away the power from 781 the judges, and to confide it to a tribunal to consist of three barristers selected from the bar of Ireland, without check or control, by the individual who happened at the time to fill the chair of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Now, on this point, he felt fully the force of the objections urged by the hon. Member for Ripon the other night, and the greater his respect for the personal character of the hon. individual who now filled that chair, the more he felt thankful to him for the manner in which he had invariably performed the duties of that situation to which he had been elected by one side of the House, but in which, by the dignified and impartial conduct he had pursued, he had succeeded in earning the esteem of both sides—the more unfeigned his sentiments were, and he was sure they were also the sentiments of the House in this respect, the more strong, and powerful, and irresistible were his objections to conferring on the Speaker a duty which, however impartially performed, would always subject him to misconception, misrepresentation, and suspicion, in which his motives would certainly be misconstrued by the disappointment arising from the feelings of party: for, however wisely and justly he might act, it was impossible that he could hold the dignified office which he now so worthily filled, without being subjected to a species of suspicion, which he for one would not consent to cast upon the Gentleman who happened to fill that chair. The noble Lord said, that he had great objections to the provisions which had been introduced in his (Lord Stanley's) bill, in regard to the costs to be awarded by the appellate tribunal, as well against the voter seeking to substantiate, as against the objector wishing to overthrow the franchise. There was nothing to which stronger objections were taken than to this provision; and he recollected well the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, when he represented on one occasion that the appellate tribunal were bound to give costs against the party claiming the franchise, being corrected from that side of the House, and told such a point was left to their discretion, and that it was only in certain cases they were to do so—he recollected the hon. and learned Gentleman taking up the answer thus given, and saying, "Yes; you mean to confine it to the discretion—or rather let me say 782 the caprice—of the judges whether they will give costs or not." He did not see that right hon. and learned Gentleman in his place, but he hoped that he had turned his attention to the two clauses on this subject in the bill of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, because he would find that by the bill which he (Lord Stanley) had introduced the costs of the appellate tribunal were restricted to 10l., or to the amount of the costs which the party had actually incurred; and whereas he had imposed the obligation on the judges to give costs only in the case of frivolous claims, yet had the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, adopted in the present bill the very same principles which last year the right hon. Gentleman had so much repudiated. The noble Lord adopted the plan which he (Lord Stanley) had proposed of giving costs to the plaintiff, whether he were a successful claimant or a successful objector, but he had removed all the restrictions as to the amount which he had imposed on the appellate tribunal, and the noble Lord after specifying in the 60th clause that the barrister shall endorse the name of the party appealing, and the party against whom the appeal is entered, provides, by the 67th clause,That it shall be lawful for the said court of appeal to make such order respecting the payment of the costs of the respondent in any appeal, or of any part of such costs, as to the said court shall seem meet.The principle of costs against the claimant, which was one of the great objections taken to his bill, was now affirmed in the present measure, but without any of those restrictions by which he had sought to protect the right from abuse. And besides that power which the noble Lord had refused to intrust to the judges appointed by the Crown, and holding their office for life, he did not hesitate to intrust even ampler powers, and without the restrictions which he had proposed, to three barristers, who were to be appointed under the authority of the Speaker of the House of Commons. He was not surprised, therefore, that the noble Lord had not noticed the question of costs in his opening speech. In dealing with the subject of registration, the noble Lord had never mentioned the question of costs at all, and on looking at the bill, he thought the clause itself would explain the omission. On looking at the marginal abstracts which had so much disturbed the noble Lord the 783 Secretary for the Colonies, the other night, he found that the marginal note of the 42nd clause provided that double costs should be given in cases of unfounded charges of fraud, but the clause has been altered, and no double costs are now proposed to be given. He had contented himself with enumerating the points of difference between the two bills; he would call the attention of the House, next to a point on which he hoped to receive some explanation, for it was one which he confessed he did not understand, although he had given the bill his careful consideration. He had hoped that the abolition of granting certificates would have been absolute, as there was not a Member on either side of the House, who wished to retain a system which all confessed to be the fruitful parent of fraud. The noble Lord said, that he had abolished the certificates as tests of qualification before the returning officer; but, by the 47th clause of the bill, the clerk of the peace was bound to furnish the voter with a certified copy of his entry; and it also provided, that.Such a certified copy shall be conclusive evidence of the voter's right to be registered in any proceedings by the clerk of the peace.He did not understand this, such certificates might be conclusive evidence of the registry as against the clerk of the peace—for he was not authorised to alter it—but it would be no conclusive proof that the party named in the certificate so given had a right to be there, or that he had not lost his right to be on the registry. He had gone shortly through the points without any argument, but merely noticing the difference between the bill of the noble Lord opposite and his own. He had not argued them, because, as he had already stated, if the objections which he felt had rested against the system of registration only, he would not have offered any opposition to the bill; but he would now proceed to consider another and more important branch of the measure—that tack which had been affixed to a bill for the better registration of voters—affixed with what intention he did not presume to say, but which so affixed would have the effect, if he was not very much mistaken, of postponing, perhaps defeating the attempt of both sides of the House, in their desire to remedy the evils of the existing registry. Without meaning any disrespect to the noble Lord who had brought forward the measure, he 784 must say, that his first and not his smallest objection to it was, that it had been introduced under false colours and under false pretences. He saw in the bill another step of that line of policy which had been so peculiar to the present administration—a policy which had never been adopted, and he trusted would never be adopted, by any other government—but which the present Government had steadily pursued from the first moment down to the latest period, at whatever time that period might be, of their political existence. In the year 1835 the right hon. baronet the Member for Tamworth had been thrown out of office, not because there was any difference as to the measure which he had introduced for the purpose of settling the tithe question in Ireland, for on that subject both sides of the House were agreed even to the minutest details of the bill; but he was thrown out because he refused to affix a tack to that measure, to which as an honest man, he declared he could not accede. That tack was declared a sine qua non by the Government, without carrying out which they stated that they could not as honest men retain their situations. Then commenced that system which he traced to the present bill, brought in for the purpose of bolstering up their credit, and not for the purpose of achieving any practical good, but merely that they might be enabled to prolong a strugling- existence for a certain number of years. If the same results which followed in their endeavours to remedy the abuses and grievances of the tithe question should also follow on the present question of registration—if the practices were as successful in the one case as they had been in the other, and the remedy delayed from year to year, what plausible language would such a course enable the Government to hold towards their more ardent supporters. "See how anxious we are to yield you the measure you desire;" while, to another part of the community, they might excuse themselves for not following out their measures by saying "We were compelled to abandon them by the factious spirit of the opposition." These were the pretexts held out. What was the result on the tithe question? What happened then, he trusted, would happen in regard to the present bill. The Government at last found themselves compelled to abandon their sine qua non in the tithe question, 785 and adopt the very measure which, but for the difficulties and obstacles thrown in the way of it by Government themselves, would have been carried years previously. He asked, then, what was the history of the registry business? How far had it differed from the policy pursued by Government on the tithe and appropriation question? For four years had the evils of the present system been so apparent, that from Session to Session the Government had introduced bills for the avowed purpose of remedying them, but which have had no other effect than to prevent the efforts of other Members attempting to remove what all felt to be an intolerable grievance. Not one of the bills so brought forward had met with the opposition of even a single Member. One of them had passed that House, and been sent up to the House of Lords, but at what period of the Session did that take place? On the 29th of August, it having been introduced on the 11th of August for the first time. That was the mode in which Government had proceeded in regard to the Registration Bills—they were kept hanging on from the commencement to the end of the Session, without a symptom of opposition from either side of the House, until the Government finally abandoned them. In so far as he himself was concerned, he was determined that last Session should not pass without an effort to remedy those great grievances; and, accordingly, at an early period he had asked the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland a question relating to the subject. He was then told in answer by the noble Lord, that Government had no intention of bringing forward any measure for improving the system of registration. He had introduced a bill which appeared to him, and which had also appeared to several majorities of that House, calculated to remedy the grievances of the existing system. How was it met by the noble Lord? The noble Lord objected to nothing included in that measure, and it was not until the House had affirmed the principle of the bill, that a determined opposition was taken to it, on the ground that it contained no definition of the franchise. In regard to that objection, he recollected the right hon. Member, then the Solicitor-general for Ireland, on the second reading of the bill, objected to an insertion of the word acts, instead of act, which he said was not defining the franchise, but introducing an expression 786 which tended to influence the judgment of other parties as to what ought to be the definition of the franchise as it stood at the present moment; but when the second reading was carried, he then, for the first time heard of the necessity of defining the franchise in the bill which he had introduced for the purpose of amending a defective system of registration. In the bill introduced last year by the right hon. Gentleman the Solicitor-general for Ireland, there was a clause for the purpose of removing the obscurities which hung around the definition of the franchise in Ireland. It was entitled:—A bill to remove doubts with respect to the qualification of voters, and to create a tribunal of appeal on matters of law relating to the registration of voters in Ireland.And this was the definition suggested for the purpose of removing the possibility of a doubt as to the actual franchise: —Be it enacted, &c, that in determining whether any person who shall claim to be allowed to register as a voter has a beneficial interest to the amount in value required by law to entitle such person to register as a voter in respect of any freehold or leasehold premises, the tribunal determining upon such a claim shall estimate such value according to the beneficial interest which such premises actually yield, or are capable of yielding, to the person so claiming to register, calculating such interest to be the profit or advantage derived or derivable by such claimant out of such premises, after deducting the rent, tithes, rent-charge (if payable by such claimant), and expenses, if any, of cultivating the same, and not according to the rent which a solvent tenant could afford to pay for the same, over and above the rent which the person so claiming to register is liable to pay.This was the very lucid definition of the franchise introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, the Solicitor-general for Ireland. The real object of the enactments of the bill was not to define the franchise. The noble Lord abandoned that definition altogether, and on the most meagre statement he had ever heard from a Cabinet Minister, had proposed in the present bill not a definition, but a total alteration of the franchise in Ireland. He knew not how long the noble Viscount had entertained the opinions he now professed; but this he knew, that in 1838, the noble Viscount professed to entertain very different views on the subject, and upon the policy of making so great an inroad upon the existing system. In 1839 the hon. and learned Member for Dublin intro- 787 duced a motion for leave to bring in a bill to assimilate the franchise in Great Britain and Ireland. By whom was that motion resisted? By the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland. He resisted it, indeed,—With hesitating voice,With faltering tone, and visage uncomposed;And after listening to the grateful cheers on the benches opposite to him, indicative of the cordial spirit by which resistance would be received by his political adversaries, the noble Lord did screw up his courage to meet the proposition by a decided negative, and at last wound up and closed his speech with the following expressions:—Thinking that the Legislature ought not thus lightly to disturb the arrangements which had accompanied statutes of such vast importance and of so recent a date; and believing that encouraging any endeavour to do so would only lead to protracted and resultless debates, he must give his decided, though reluctant, negative to the motion.This was a declaration to resist not only the assimilation of the franchise in ^England and Ireland, but any material or wide departure from the principles of the Reform Act. It was made in 1839, repeated in 1840, and repudiated in 1841. It was a favourite expression of the noble Lord, that since that time he had received some new impressions. He (Lord Stanley) knew not from what source these new impressions were derived; they might arise out of the independent exercise of the reflective powers of the mind of the noble Lord; but it was a singular coincidence, that in 1839 the following was the view of the subject taken by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin:—He might be told (he said) that the English franchise was unjust as well as that of Ireland, and should be extended. Be it so: give the people of Ireland an extended franchise, and he would join them in regulating the English franchise. He had once thought of altering the present form of his motion, which included both the assimilation and extension of the franchise in the two countries, but he considered it better to take the sense of the House on it in the terms in which it now stood on the paper, as he should most assuredly once every fortnight or three weeks while the Session lasted take the sense of the House on a motion somewhat similar. He might be called on to declare what extension of the franchise he proposed. The 10l. franchise now existing in Ireland was equivalent 788 to a 20l. franchise in this country, and he would be glad if the House would lower it to the level of the English; but he proposed, further, to diminish the qualification in both countries to 5l. He now called on the House to decide this question.Such were the words of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and as he (Lord Stanley) had before said, although the coincidence was striking he did not suppose that the noble Lord had been influenced by the suggestions of the hon. and learned Member on bringing forward a proposition which the noble Lord resisted in 1839. He was bound, however, to say, that the change was not the less alarming, when he saw, on independent grounds, so close an approximation between the views of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, in 1839, and the opinions of the noble Lord, the representative of the Irish Government in this House, in 1841. He would ask the noble Lord plainly, whether he really had abandoned the views he stated in 1839? Had he determined to relinquish the ground he persevered in holding even in 1840? If he had, why did not the noble Lord and the Government to which he belonged come boldly and broadly forward and state at once the nature and extent of their present views, and the facts and arguments upon which they vindicated the change? Why did not the noble Lord, if such were his opinions, avow in the face of the House that it had been unjust, inexpedient, and impolitic, to deprive the forty-shilling freeholders of Ireland of their franchise? Why did he not declare that he was ready to restore to that ill-used and independent class of voters the rights of which they had been so unfairly and improperly deprived in 1829? By the bill before the House, the noble Lord was going (and before he sat down he, Lord Stanley, would prove it, or at all events go far to prove it) to introduce a class of voters who had less interest, were more dependent, more subject to influence, more numerous, and in every respect inferior to the forty shilling freeholders who were deprived of their rights in 1829. Did the noble Lord propose to extend the franchise in Ireland? If he did, on what grounds did he propose it? He was well aware that the leasehold franchise was granted on a lower amount of profit, and on a shorter term of years, than the corresponding franchise was granted to the 789 people of England and Scotland, and he trusted that the noble Lord would be compelled, in the course of the night, to stale frankly the course he meant to pursue, and his reasons for pursuing it. Did he mean to make the franchise the same in England, Scotland, and Ireland, or to grant a more extended franchise to Ireland than to any other portion of the empire? If the noble Lord were prepared to extend the franchise, he ought also to be prepared to state the grounds on which he vindicated his intention to give to Ireland that which he withheld from England and Scotland. The noble Lord's reasons ought to have appeared on the face of the bill; but what was there said? The preamble ran thus:—Whereas doubts and difficulties have prevailed with respect to the mode of ascertaining the qualification of persons in actual occupation, claiming to be entitled to be registered and to vote as Parliamentary electors in Ireland, in respect of freehold and leasehold property.That was the averment on the face of the preamble. What was to be expected from the preamble? that the contents and purport of the bill would remove those doubts and difficulties; but instead of this, a franchise was introduced to which no profit at all was necessary; and because doubts and difficulties had arisen as to the freehold and leasehold franchise of Ireland, "be it enacted (said the bill in effect) that the amount of household franchise, respecting which there is neither doubt nor difficulty, shall be reduced in Ireland." He asked, whether the enactments of the bill were or were not at variance with the averments of the preamble? He had said, that for a measure of this kind, effecting an important change in and involving the character of the constituency of Ireland, never was evidence so unsatisfactory or arguments so meagre—so utterly inconclusive, and so totally and decidedly in opposition to the proposal, as those which the noble Lord had advanced. The other night he had told the House, that shortly after the close of the law session the now Attorney and Solicitor-general for Ireland had put himself in communication with two learned friends of his, members of the Irish bar, Messrs. Haig and Deasy. He (Lord Stanley) had nothing to say against those learned Gentlemen, inasmuch as he knew nothing of them: 790 he had not happened to have heard their names before; but with these two learned friends of his the Attorney-general for Ireland had put himself in communication, and had desired them to make certain inquiries in reference to the franchise, and to ascertain the valuation under the Poor-law. Such were said to have been the instructions, but he (Lord Stanley) would much like to have known what the instructions really were—the points Messrs. Haig and Deasy were directed to investigate and elucidate, and the other matters submitted to them by the noble Lord and the Attorney-general for Ireland. It was too offensive to the House of Commons to suppose, that the instructions were merely verbal; the thing seemed impossible; it would not have been left to a personal communication between the Attorney-general and his two learned friends. The Attorney-general could not have said to them, "Go both of you into the country, —visit what unions you like,—report to me what you think proper: you know our views on the subject, and that may be your guide in the information you transmit. Whatever you obtain that you think will answer our purpose, that send to me, and afterwards I myself can make such a selection from your reports as I think ought to be submitted to Parliament." Such could not have been the instructions given to Messrs. Haig and Deasy; but it was known, that they had been told to be careful to conceal their arrival and objects, especially from guardians of Poor-law unions, and in fact from every human being but the assistant Poor-law commissioners. The noble Lord said, that these two Gentlemen visited ten unions; but how were the unions selected, and why were they selected, the noble Lord had not condescended to inform the House. He turned to the report of the Poor-law commissioners for 1840, and he found, that a rate had actually been levied, and a valuation had been made in two important towns, which certainly ought not to be altogether omitted in a consideration of the question of franchise—Dublin and Cork. In those towns, and in those only, the Poor-law could be said to be in progress; and the Poor-law commissioners, in their report of 1840, stated, that they were waiting with the greatest anxiety to see the effect of the rate and of the valuation. It was remarkable, however, that neither Dublin nor Cork were included in 791 the visitation of the two learned friends of the Irish Attorney-general; and where they did go the House might see, upon their own evidence, that their examination was performed in a most hasty and cursory manner. By the papers, delivered only this day, it appeared, that Mr. Deasy when he visited the union of Carrick-on-Suir, was in such haste that he had been unable to make a few extracts from the minutes of the board of guardians. True it was, as the noble Lord said, that these Gentlemen visited ten unions, and on Wednesday the House had been furnished (on what authority did not at all appear) with five out often of the reports they were said to have made. This very morning also another document of a similar kind had been put into the hands of Members, and upon such evidence, so obtained and so delivered, the House was now called upon to adopt such a sweeping and startling proposition as that contained in the bill upon the table. Where the five reports came from nobody could tell; they had not been sent down by command of her Majesty; they had not been moved for in the House; they were not ordered to be printed by the House; they had no official stamp, and all that was known was, that they were printed by William Clowes and Son, Stamford-street, for her Majesty's stationery-office. This was all that the noble Lord could offer on moving for leave to bring in the bill. He (Lord Stanley) was, however, quite satisfied to take the evidence as he found it—he was willing to believe that the reports contained a fair representation of the facts, as connected with the five unions which had been selected (how and why nobody could tell) out of the 140 unions into which Ireland had been divided. He was contented to take the cursory and hasty report of these two unauthorised commissioners, and the House from that alone would see how weak and inconclusive was all that supported the views of the noble Lord, and how strong and incontrovertible was the evidence against the present proposal of Government. To base the elective franchise on the principle proposed by the noble Lord, was to base it on that which could by possibility afford no fair criterion. He was not prepared to deny, that a just and impartial valuation, for the purposes of taxation, might be of great importance in; removing doubts as to qualification, and 792 in affording a test for the possession of the elective right. He admitted that, frankly and at once; but, then, the examination and valuation must have been impartial, it must have been free from the suspicion of political motives, it must have been carefully framed; it must have been founded upon a precise accordance in the principles laid down in the law; it must have been in uniformity with the various unions in different parts of the country; and, above all, it must contain an accurate and bonâ fide description of the amount of properly of the person claiming to be admitted to the register. In every one of these particulars, impartiality, absence of political motives, accordance with the law, and uniformity of proceeding, the valuation now taking place under the Poor-law was singularly, lamentably, and avowedly deficient. The very fact that it was now going on was conclusive against it, on the grounds of partiality and political bias. The valuation was actually in progress, and the bill of the noble Lord had told every valuer in Ireland, in language that could not be misunderstood, that he was, according to his choice, to screw up or down the measure of qualification, so as to give to or withhold the elective franchise from whole classes of her Majesty's subjects. How, then, could he suppose it impartial or free from the suspicion of political influence? He entreated the House to consider, that even apart from the false basis upon which it was proposed to put the franchise, there was an evil of no common magnitude to be avoided in the valuation. If there were one course more desirable than another for every well-wisher to Ireland to pursue, it was to withdraw from the valuation under the Poor-law, the possibility of political suspicion and party motives. The bill had to encounter enormous difficulties, from the novelty of the process, from the poverty of the parties, and from other causes; and if to these was added the curse of political bias and partisanship, the difficulties and hazards would be so enormously multiplied, that all hopes of its working well must be at an end. He would not press the point whether there was or was not, at present, mixed up with the election of guardians, any political feeling. Allegations to that effect had been made; but this he would say, that the course Government was now pursuing, must inevitably give to those proceedings a character of partisanship 793 which it was most desirable to avoid. He was aware that he had already asked much from the forbearance of the House, but he could not promise that it would not be necessary for him still to tax its patience to a considerable extent. In the course of the arguments he was about to address to hon. Members, he must necessarily read documents which, to some, might appear troublesome; but he hoped it would be borne in mind that he was arguing a question of vital and fundamental importance, and while he argued it fairly and candidly, he did not doubt that he should be allowed a due share of indulgence. After freedom from political motives, the second qualification he should require in a valuation was, that it should be in strict accordance with the principles laid down in the law under which it was made. Nothing could be more conclusive and clear than the injunctions of the law upon parties who were to enter upon the task of valuation; and the following were the instructions of the commissioners to the valuators in Ireland:—It is delared by the 64th section of the act, that the rate 'shall be a poundage rate, made upon an estimate of the net annual value of the several hereditaments;' and the estimate of value is required to be,' the rent at which, one year with another, the hereditaments might, in their actual state, be reasonably expected to let from year to year—the probable annual average cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain the hereditaments in their actual state—and all rates, taxes, and public charges, if any, except tithes, being paid by the tenant.' A valuator must therefore estimate the rent at which each tenement or holding would be likely to let, at the time when viewed by him, and in the state in which he shall then find it—the tenant undertaking repairs, with all expenses of maintaining the premises, and all public charges, except tithes and ministers' money.The commissioners then go on to argue against the rent actually paid being taken as a criterion of value; they say,'It has been recommended by some persons, that the rent paid by the occupier to his immediate landlord, should be assumed in all cases to be the real annual value of the property; but the rent payable to a landlord is never conclusive as to the rateable value of the property. The net rent received by the landlord may, from various causes, exceed ' the annual value,' and it is frequently brought much below it, by the payment of a fine, or by an improvement in the value of the pro- 794 perty, subsequent to the lease under which it is held, or to the last adjustment of the rent. There is, therefore, no sure criterion for valuators, except that which a careful adherence to the principle set forth in the act affords, Rating according to the actual rent would throw upon the occupiers of highly-rented properties an undue share of the burden; for an occupier liable to pay a rent beyond the fair letting value, would only be entitled to deduct one-half of the amount levied on him, while the law provides that, under such circumstances, he shall bear less than one-half, by enabling him to deduct half the rate from every pound of his rent. The intention of the law can only be attained by estimating all properly at its fair average annual letting value and this the act requires strictly to be done in every case.In the report furnished this morning from the unauthorized commissioners, Messrs. Haig and Deasy, they told the noble Lord opposite (for to him it was addressed) that they had inspected the rate-books of five unions, and they found, that the proceedings bore some traces of uniformity in all the unions; but where was that uniformity to be found? In strict adherence to the provisions of the act? Certainly not; but in utterly disregarding and setting at nought the directions of the act by the valuators,In general (said Messrs. Haig and Deasy) the persons appointed were not surveyors by profession, but respectable farmers of the district, who in some instances had been employed as rural surveyors. In many cases, they had never before attempted a survey or valuation. The guardians do not appear to have generally insisted on professional knowledge, nor do the valuators in general lay claim to any; in some unions, however, professional persons have been employed.What, he would ask, were the tests to which the valuators resorted, in forming a valuation? Mr. Morris, in the union of Balrothery, said:—We did not take the price at which the tenement would let in the market, because that is raised by competition for land, but took what a solvent, steady man would be reasonably able to pay for it. We did not take the rackrent as a criterion, although a man might continue to pay it; we assumed the value to be rent which a person might pay for it, supposing him to have a reasonable remuneration for his labour, time, and capital.But what said Mr. Hugh Moran, for the same union? HeThinks the valuation for the division of swords is higher than the rent received by the landlord, and he estimates the value at what 795 a solvent tenant could afford to pay for it, and live like a Christian, eating animal food sometimes.Mr. Corbally, his colleague in the same union, made this pithy report. "I think Mr. Moran is mistaken." He would next advert to the union of Longford, and to the evidence of Mr. Wallace, who said:—He did not make any valuation of what a farm would be likely to produce: his only rule was, what a solvent tenant could pay with ease, applying himself industriously to the cultivation of the soil. He supposed him to be able to meet all his demands, to be able to give himself and his family milk, butter, and potatoes, and meat occasionally (say twice a week), and keep himself and family decently clad, and keep a comfortable house.What said the gentlemen who formed the estimate in the union of Parsonstown? They judged of the quality of the soil only from inspection, and they made very easy work of it; for they stated, that the fences were composed of the soil, and walking along by the side of the fences, they were able thence to form an opinion of the soil. They formed their valuation from certain model farms, with which they compared the others: —There is very good competition (they said) for land in this country, and you cannot get it for the value. They mean by value what a tenant could afford to pay living decently—living decently, they consider having potatoes and milk, and butter, and bacon occasionally for self and family, and warm, comfortable, clothing, and a comfortable house.Having made these extracts regarding other districts, he hoped the House would excuse him for reading a passage relative to the union of Lurgan. Land there, said the valuator, would let for 2l. or 2l. 2s. per acre, and plenty of people would be willing to take it at that rent. He thought, that a tenant ought to be able to lay by 10s. per acre, beyond the maintenance of his family; but many pieces of land in the neighbourhood of towns would bear a fine of 10l. per acre. At what, then, did he value such land? At 2l. 12s. or 2l. 14s. per acre? No such thing; but at only 1l. 7s. 6d. per acre. Being asked, why he so estimated its value, he answered:That he valued the land at from 8s. to 12s. under 2l. (the rent paid), because he considered, that the landlord would derive that sum too much, and beyond what he ought to receive between landlord and tenant.Such were the the criteria on which the 796 House was called upon to base the legislative franchise of Ireland, as tested by the amount of valuation. He had forgotten to mention, that in every single instance, after the valuator had taken upon himself to value the union according to his own notions, the board of guardians refused his estimate and raised or lowered it according to their will and pleasure. How, then, (he would ask) could such modes of taking a valuation be looked upon as a fair test for fixing the franchise, even without taking into account suspicion or political motives, or any other extraneous causes that might operate against its accuracy? What said Messrs. Haig and Deasy upon this subject?The test of value enjoined by the Poor-relief Act, is, 'the rent at which, one year with another, the tenement in its actual state might be reasonably expected to let for from year to year; the probable annual average cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expences, if any, necessary to maintain it in its actual state; and all rates, taxes, and public charges, except tithe, being paid by the tenant.' The construction put upon this clause by valuators, the mode in which they have applied it, in setting a value on the tenements of each union, and the result of a comparison of their valuation, with the rents actually paid, and with the lists of registered electors have been the chief objects of our inquiries. The evidence of the valuators, and the results of these comparisons in the unions which we visited, will be found in detail in our separate reports. In all the unions, however various the forms of language adopted by the valuators in their evidence, we found, that the test of value which had been in fact adopted in valuing a tenement, was the rent at which a good landlord ought, in their opinion, to let it. And in applying this test, the valuators have almost universally reduced their valuations below the rents even of the most indulgent landlords in Ireland.They, then, gave it as their decided opinion, that a valuation so prepared, could not be the test of the net annual value of any farm in the union. This was what the noble Lord proposed to take as the basis and criterion of the Parliamentary franchise in Ireland. In the face of his own report—of the report made by the two learned friends of the Attorney-general for Ireland, the noble Lord proposed in his bill to enact, that the amount in the rate-book should be deemed and taken as conclusive evidence of net annual value. He appealed to the House of Commons of the British empire, whether it were even safe to 797 proceed upon such evidence as the report this day produced, showed to be utterly worthless. But the noble Lord had said, that the valuation was in all cases lower than the real amount of value. He would take it so for argument's sake, and certain it was, that there were many motives for making the valuation lower than the value. To learn what they were, the House had only to turn to the union of Scariff, he believed in the county of Clare. The valuator was a respectable farmer, who knew the worth of land, and when he had done his work, he went home, and at one stroke of his pen, he blotted out 2s. per acre, over the whole union, and this without any reason assigned. It was brought before the board of guardians for revision, and they said, that even thus reduced, it was too high, and must be further lowered to the extent of 1s. 6d. per acre. In consistency with this decision, they subsequently passed a resolution, that no land throughout the union should be valued at more than 25s. per Irish acre. That, they said, was the value, and that the noble Lord would adopt as a basis for his bill. The valuer was perplexed. He applied to the Poor-law commissioners for instructions; they gave instructions; they said, that it was contrary to the Act of Parliament to assume any fixed value; they said, that the value taken must be what the property would reasonably let for from year to year, and that if any other course were adopted, it would lead to increased litigation and expense. On receiving that letter, did the House suppose, that the board of guardians rescinded their resolution, and acted upon the law as it was laid down by the Poor-law commissioners, the authorized interpreters of the law? Not a bit of it. The commissioners wrote to the board, the board also received a communication from Mr. Hawley, the assistant-commissioner. He attended to explain the act, but he did not convince the majority. No resolution upon the point was then come to, but they afterwards made a reduction of one-sixth from the whole valuation. And here he must explain the mode in which the poor-rate was assessed in Ireland, in order that the reasons which operated upon the boards of guardians, and induced them to make the valuation for the poor-rates as low as possible, might be distinguished. As between one farmer and another, it 798 was a matter of perfect indifference, whether the valuation were high or low; so that the valuation inter se were taken uniformly, it mattered not whether the property were rated at 10l. or at 5l.; a 6d. rate in the one case, or a 1s. in the other, would cause each farmer to pay precisely the same sum; but as between the landlord and the tenant a very material difference was established by the Poor-law Act; and the act differed in this respect from the English act. According to the Irish act, the occupier was made liable to the rate, but he was authorised to deduct from the landlord a poundage, not upon the rate for which he was liable, but upon the rent which he paid equivalent to one-half of the poundage of the rate with which he was charged. The consequence of this provision was, that if the occupier were rated at the rack-rent, the provision was equivalent to throwing one-half the burden of the rate upon the landlord; but if by rating the property nominally high or nominally low, they could alter the proportion between the rent demanded by the landlord and the rate paid by the tenant; the tenant might throw more of the burden on the landlord; thus if the rating were sunk to the lowest point, and the tenant had to pay 1s. on a 10l. rating, he might deduct 6d. in the pound on the 20l. rent demanded by the landlord; that is, he was authorised to deduct from the landlord's rent not one-half but the whole of the rate. Therefore, the tenants had a direct interest in fixing the rating so much below the real rent of the laud as would throw the burden of the rates as largely as possible upon the landlords. He found that principle distinctly avowed in the union of Scariff. He there found, that Maurice O'Connell, Esq., an ex officio guardian, he presumed not the hon. Gentleman, a Member of that House. [Mr. O'Connell: No; a relative] That gentleman, as ex officio guardian, when asked why he consented to a lower rating than the actual value, avowed, that he—Considered the valuation a fair one, because it put about two-thirds of the rate upon the landlord which he thought fair. The reduction of one-sixth was merely arbitrary—it was solely to throw the burthen of the rate on the landlord. He approved, however, of the present valuation, because upon reflection, he thought that the valuation ought to be considerably under the rent; and the people were notable to bear any additional taxation.799 When, therefore, they found the boards of guardians proceeding upon these principles, and instead of establishing the value at what land would let for by the year, and at which value it ought to be rated, but placing it considerably below the rent that was actually paid, it did not become very extraordinary that they should rind what the noble Lord had stated the other night to be true, that the adoption of the solvent tenant's test, and the value upon amount of the tenant's interest, over and above the rent that he paid, would extinguish the constituencies of Ireland; not because the solvent tenant's test was wrong, but because the valuation under the law, taken upon a construction that was contrary to the law, rendered it impossible that the rate should not be below the rent, and that consequently the amount of a 10l. rent, taken from this valuation, would exclude from the franchise many persons who possessed property, in which they had the required beneficial interest. He had stated the grounds on which this rate would be made low. He knew that the noble Lord would turn round upon him and say, "Observe, here are many rated at 5l., who ought to be rated at 10l. and consequently here is a perfect vindication for our taking a 5l. rate as a measure that the franchise will be to some extent, we do not know how much above the value of 5l." He (Lord Stanley) admitted the fact, and he gave the noble Lord all the benefit of the admission; but should the real value of the property rated at 5l. be 10l., or even 15l, still it did not remove his objection to the principle of the bill. Although he was satisfied that a 5l. rating would be below the value, yet he was not furnished with the slightest means of conjecturing how much it would be below the value; it might be 5 per cent, in one place, 20 per cent, in another, 100 per cent, in a third, or 200 per cent, in a fourth; in short, it wanted the principle of uniformity and of accuracy so completely, that he for one could not consent to take it as the basis of the franchise. But he objected to the principle of the bill, even supposing the valuation to be accurate, to be uniform and to be true; still he objected to the principle which was sought to be applied in this bill, because they were called upon to adopt a principle that had not been introduced into any other bill for any other part of the country—to adopt a principle 800 that was wholly repugnant to that which had hitherto been adopted in this country, to adopt a principle never yet applied, that the franchise was to be given according to the rent that was charged, and not according to the amount or value of property possessed by the voter. The only point on which there had been a difference of opinion as to the construction of the Reform Act was, not whether the voter was to or was not to have a profit out of the land, but as to the mode in which this profit was to be ascertained. How this question could have led to any difference of opinion among the judges in Ireland he confessed he was at a loss to understand. He thought it inexplicable that any party, or at least that any legal authority should raise a doubt as to the franchise in Ireland, which had never been the cause of any doubt, although the same words had been used, with respect to the franchise of England and the franchise of Scotland. What were the words on which the doubt had arisen? First, with respect to the franchise in fee, the words "of the clear yearly value of 10l." The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Pigot) would not, he thought, contend that any mention was made in the Irish Reform Bill of the freehold franchise in fee, or that from one end of the Irish Reform Bill to the other there was anything about it. The franchise was not granted by that bill, it was not altered by that bill, and there was not one clause about it. The franchise in fee depended upon the act 10 George 4th, and the qualification was, that the voter should be in possession of a freehold of the clear yearly value of 10l. The oath which the voter took at the poll was, "I swear that I am a freeholder, and that I possess a freehold of the clear yearly value of 10l." That was the oath and the only oath; that was the qualification, and the only qualification; and the Irish Reform Act made no mention whatever of it, except in one clause, where it stated that, in addition to the persons then entitled to vote, others should have the right. The words of the English Reform Act were borrowed precisely from the words of the Irish franchise. The enacting clause of the English Reform Act was precisely in the same words as the definition of the Irish right; the enacting clause of the Scotch Reform Act was precisely the same as the words conferring the franchise in England and in Ireland, and yet neither 801 in Scotland nor in England had he ever heard that any lawyer had got up and said that he ever entertained in his own mind any doubt, or that he had ever heard any doubt raised as to the legal construction of a term which was precisely identical with the term used in the Irish act. The term "beneficial interest" applied not to the freehold itself, but to the derivative—the term for years. Now let them see where the doubt hung upon this point. He was not going into the history of the introduction of these words, it had been already often referred to. These were the three qualifications in England, in Ireland, and in Scotland. The leaseholders in England where such lessees as were possessed of any term originally granted for such a period of "the clear yearly value" of such an amount. In Ireland the words were "having a beneficial interest therein of the clear yearly value of" so much; and in Scotland the right was in every tenant "where the clear yearly value of such tenant's interest, after the payment of the rent, should be 10l." Such was the franchise in England, in Ireland, and in Scotland; and he thought that it would require something more than legal arguments to find the difference. But from whatever cause, a difference of opinion had arisen, it was not upon the point of a profit accruing to the tenant, but whether that profit was to be calculated by the solvent tenant test, or by what a person employing his own capital and using his own labour could probably make of the land he cultivated. In Ireland, the Reform Bill, the first time it was brought forward, proposed to confer the franchise upon all parties having a lease for twenty-one years, and paying a yearly rent of 10l. These were the objections which were taken to this proposal, and in deference to which objections the Reform Bill was subsequently altered. The objection to this franchise for counties was, that it was based on the rent that was paid rather than on the profits derived.Now with respect to counties, I cannot but think, that in giving the franchise to the amount of rent paid, rather than profits made, you act on a wrong principle; you give it to the burden which makes the man poor, and not to the profit which makes him rich. A man might on a lease have to pay 50l. a year for what was not worth 40l. That man has a vote without profit, while the man with a large 802 profit out of a smaller rent gets no vote. This principle is, I think, wrong.That was the argument made use of in 1831 against the proposed lest, and that argument fell from the lips of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin. In the second session of the same Parliament an argument was raised as to the propriety of requiring a larger amount of property from leaseholders than from freeholders, and then the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the county of Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) complained that the constituencies would be of the smallest kind, and said, that surely their object ought to be to let in a large and valuable constituency, which derived a profit of 10l. rather than confine it to those who held 20l. leaseholds.The constituency of the Irish counties," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "consisting already of freeholders of 10l. profit (profit, observe) above their rent, is, of necessity, small, far smaller than in England, where the forty-shilling freeholder is to be preserved. The Government then rate the leaseholder's qualification so high as 10l. profit above his rent. Surely the object ought to be to let in as large a constituency as possible. It was anomalous to make the 10l. profit the qualification of the freeholders, and 20l. that of the leaseholders.He (Lord Stanley) cited these to show that in the course of the discussions on the Reform Bill the amount of profit accruing to the occupier over and above the rent, and not the amount of the rent, was made the criterion of the franchise. The noble Lord's bill departed from that principle; it required no amount of profit on the part of the voter, it required of the voter no individual interest, it required no stake in the country, he might be burdened with an exorbitant rent, he might be borne down by loads of debt, which would place him more directly under the power of his landlord; yet the noble Lord gave to the voter the franchise in proportion to the rent, and not according to the amount of the income or the profit. What was the argument made use of by hon. Gentlemen opposite in support of this bill?Can it be fairly argued that those who are subject to the burdens should not have the right of the franchise? Do you intend to throw upon them the burden of taxation, and will you do them the injustice of withholding from them the franchise?Now, they did not throw upon these 803 parties the burdens of taxation. The act did not require the party to pay the rate; because, if the rating were only put at one half of the real rent, the occupier would not pay one shilling of the rate. They would give the franchise, but they did not impose the liability to the tax. But did they stop here? No. They proposed, in addition, that if at any time the property should be rated at 5l., yet that if it afterwards fell out of the rate-book for deficiency in value or for any other cause, the voter should remain on the register so long as he or any one else on his behalf should say that they were willing to pay the rate. In fact, the noble Lord put up the franchise to auction at 6d. a year. If property which had been liable to a rate of 5l. fell to 4l., the landlord had only to send word to the voter to say he would be responsible for half the rate—that was sixpence, for the other half would fall on the landlord as a matter of course, and thus for sixpence a year the landlord might instruct his agent to buy up as many votes as he could. Was that all? It was not. He was aware that he was trespassing for a long time upon the patience of the House, but he had still his duty to discharge. The act did not require that the voter should be rated—it did not require that he should pay the rate—it did not require that he should be liable to the payment—it did not even require that the land which he occupied should be valuable land at all. He was sure that this provision had escaped the observation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-general, who rested his case upon the fact that the rateability of the property and the franchise would go together, that there would be thus a self-acting check, because the occupier would desire his property to be rated us low as possible, to escape the payment of the tax, and that this would operate as a check upon the desire to obtain the franchise, whilst the wish to have the franchise would cause the property to be rated at what was considered a fair sum. What if the party was not required to be rated at all? There was a proviso in the bill that when a certain description of property should be exempt from the rates, the boards of guardians should make a supplementary valuation of the property not rateable. Those boards of guardians would have no motive to fix the value at one shilling, or at 100l, except the motive which the noble Lord gave by this 804 bill, the motive of extending to them, or of withholding from them, the franchise. He had thought, upon a general perusal of the bill, that the right hon. Gentleman had not given any effect to his proviso. The supplemental valuation was mentioned in the 7th section of the bill; it was there put forth.Whereas it is expedient that for the purposes of this act all such property, although not rateable, should be valued in like manner, and upon the same scale, as that which is rateable or rated.And the act then required that at the registry sessions the rate-books and the supplementary valuation should be produced. The right hon. Gentleman had said himself that this was for the purpose of conferring the franchise. Now he had looked at the franchise required by the rating of property, although throughout the bill he did not find it absolutely insisted on as an element of the franchise that the property should be absolutely rated to confer the qualification, yet he thought the right honourable Gentleman had failed to give any effect to this seventh clause, till his attention was drawn to a clause in which the House of Commons would least of all expect to find the grant of a franchise, in violation not only of every principle on which they had hitherto gone, but a franchise which not till now had ever been avowed. This franchise was conferred in the midst of a formal and technical interpretation clause. In that, almost the last, clause of the bill, amidst declarations that the masculine gender should be construed to include the feminine gender, and that the word Lord-lieutenant should be construed to mean lords justices, in the midst of terms explained only to avoid technical difficulties, he found it enacted that the "rate and rate-books shall be construed to include supplemental valuation and supplemental rate-books," and by this mere interpretation in this formal clause, the noble Lord professed to give an entirely new definition of the franchise upon a new, and hitherto unexplained, principle. This proceeding was very like the bill which followed the preamble; and he must say, that both one and the other were alike unworthy the talents and the station of the noble Lord. He had now stated his objections to taking the valuation as any test or criterion of the value of the property; and even if it were certain, he 805 would object to take it as a groundwork for the franchise, because the act did not impose the burden, and did not afford any proof that the party was liable to the payment. He would ask, then, on what ground was to be based this great extension of the franchise in Ireland? The noble Lord did not deny, that it would lead to an extension. He said the other night,I do not conceal from myself that there will be some—although I do not think there will be a great—yet there will be some extension of the suffrage; whilst it will at the same time exclude a considerable number of persons who are actually now in possession of the franchise; but who, under a rateing of five pounds, will not be qualified to vote.Now among the papers with which hon. Members had been furnished that morning, he found one which related to the number of persons registered under the present elective franchise, and all the knowledge he could get from the commissioners with regard to the number of registered electors, and to the probable effect of the present bill was, that they could give little or no information. In Balrothery union, in consequence of the want of maps, and the inaccuracy of the lists as to the definition of the site of the qualifying property, the commissioners were unable to say, how many of the registered electors were resident in the union, and even then there had been no inquiry except in one barony forming about a tenth of the whole union. In Lurgan union they inquired into about one half; but with regard to the resident ten-pound electors already registered, or as to the number that a five-pound rating franchise would give, the commissioners were quite unable to afford any information. That was the satisfactory evidence on which they were called upon to proceed to make an alteration in the principle, and to change entirely the nature of the franchise in Ireland. There had been no statement with regard to the true state of the franchise—there was no statement of the diminution of the number of registered electors—there was no statement of the probable number of voters in future years; but the noble Lord, following the argument of the learned Gentleman the Member for the city of Dublin, told them that the proportion of the constituency of the county of Mayo, to the population of the county of Mayo, was smaller than the 806 proportion of the constituency of the county of Kent, to the population of Kent, and so forth with regard to the different counties in Ireland and in England. Now he (Lord Stanley) repudiated that argument altogether as the basis for an alteration of the franchise. They did not apply to the different parts of the same portion of the empire this principle, and he objected to the application to any distinct portion of the empire a principle that they did not adopt between the integral parts. In the municipal acts in England they had wards in which there was a large population and great wealth, and where, of course, a large proportion of the population was intrusted with the municipal franchise, and they had in another city, or perhaps in the same city, other wards where the population might be much larger, but where there was not so much wealth, and where they found a smaller number of persons entitled to vote in municipal matters; yet did any human being come forward and contend that there ought to be a difference in these different wards? Did any one say, that in the parish of St. George's there ought to be a 50l. franchise and that in St. Giles it should be reduced to 5l., because a great part of the population of St. Giles was not of sufficient wealth, and were thereby excluded from the right to vote? Was there ever such a principle laid down as the basis of a representative system, that there should be a certain proportion between the population and the constituency by which the franchise was to be measured, and by which it should be determined whether the qualification should go down to 5l., or whether it should rise to 50l,? If, then, they never thought of applying such a principle here, he did not see any reason why they should apply it to Ireland; because, either from its position, the circumstances of its population, or the state of its wealth, some indiscriminate change might be thought to be desirable. He came now to a question which he was aware was to be approached with considerable difficulty and delicacy, and which he would wish to discuss with the least possible feeling, but looking at the bill itself, looking at the effect which it was proposed to attain by the alteration, and looking at the whole state of the case, he felt bound not to shrink from the discussion. The state of society in Ireland, in reference to the exercise of the elective 807 franchise, and the causes of that state materially influenced the constituency, and accounted for the smallness of the proportion which in Ireland exercised the franchise, and that without any injustice in the law itself, or in the qualification for the franchise. This arose, in the first place, from the great subdivision of land in Ireland, and the competition that existed, which made the agricultural body in Ireland—he meant not to impugn, in any manner, the respectability of their general character—but it made them inferior in property, in solvency, and in independence, to the agricultural classes in England. He did not wish to rest upon any vague or loose reports; but he would turn to documents illustrating the state of society in Ireland, prepared without any reference to any political feeling or party object. He found among the returns on the table of the House a report of Mr. Stanley upon the Poor-law in 1838, an analysis of the population returns of 1831 for Great Britain and Ireland, and also an analysis of the state of the agricultural population in the two. It appeared that the area of Ireland was 14 millions or 14½ millions of acres, whilst, in Great Britain, there were 34,250,000 acres, or, in other words, the area of land in Ireland was as 2–5ths of the area of England and Scotland. Among how many persons, as landholders, was that area in Great Britain divided? It appeared that there were 355,800 persons occupying 34,000,000 of acres, whilst in Ireland, occupying 2–5ths of the same area, there were 659,600 landholders; or there were in Ireland, occupying 2–5ths of the area of England, nearly double the number of the landholders in Great Britain. Nothing showed more clearly the difference between the state of the agricultural population in the two countries. The necessary result of this multiplication of tenants occupying a smaller area of the soil was to lead to a reduction in the number of those capable of exercising the elective franchise. Where the holdings were more divided, the lower would be the number of persons entitled to vote: thus it would be, and thus, in his opinion, it ought to be. Again, the landholders in the two countries were respectively distinguished into two classes, those who do, and those who do not, employ the labour of other persons; and the difference was very material. In Great Britain, out of 355,000 landholders, there were 187,000, 808 or rather more than one-half, that did employ labourers on their farms; but in Ireland, out of 659,000 holders of land, only 95,000, or less than one-fifth of the whole, employed any other labour on their land except their own. There were 564,000 who had the assistance of no extraneous labour whatever. Could any thing better mark the difference between the two classes in the two countries, leading necessarily and naturally to a disproportion between the numbers of the voters. There was, however, another cause for the difference between the two countries. There was a general disinclination among the landlords in Ireland to granting qualifying leases to the tenants, leading necessarily to a further and considerable reduction in the number of the persons entitled to the franchise. In the report which had been put into the hands of Members this morning, the commissioners, Messrs. Haig and Deasey, stated,In every part of Ireland which we visited," —but what those parts were they did not condescend to mention,—"the number of existing leases seem more likely to diminish than to increase. An indisposition to grant leases prevails to a remarkable extent among landed proprietors. Leases expire, and they are not renewed. Landlords have ceased to wish that their tenants should possess the franchise. Whole districts are everywhere to be found, the tenantry of which are unrepresented.That was the statement of the Gentleman whose report had been that day submitted to Members of Parliament. He did not deny that, to a certain extent, what these Gentlemen had stated would be found to be correct, and he was free to admit, that he regretted that such should be the fact, but at the same time he was bound to say, that he was not surprised at it. He wished to touch upon this topic without causing any warmth, and as gently as possible; but he believed, that there was no man on either side of that House who did not know, that there was a remarkable difference between the state described by these Gentlemen and the state in this country. There was not in England this remarkable objection on the part of the landlords to the granting of leases; they had not the same aversion to the exercise of the franchise by their tenants, because, taking one with another, be they Whig or be they Tory, be they Gentlemen on one side of that House or Gentlemen on the other, it was a matter of pride and satisfaction to the landlords of England 809 that their tenants usually felt a desire to comply with their landlords' wishes. He neither sought to deny nor to apologise for it, while he condemned the exorbitant or undue exercise of the power; for if it were pushed to an extreme, it was known, that when any man attempted to estimate the probable result of a county election, it was ascertained by calculating the number of the great landed proprietors in the county, and weighing the number of occupiers under them [Cheers]. Nay, those who cheered were quite willing to take advantage of the fact. Even the noble Lord himself (Lord J. Russell), in introducing the Reform Bill, insisted, that it was his wish, as it was his expectation, that the bill should maintain among the county constituencies, the legitimate influence of the landed proprietors. He asked, then, the House, to consider the condition of the English landlord: if he found one, or two, or three, of his tenants exercising their own independent judgment, and, in consequence of the difference in their political views, taking an adverse course, it was understood and created no ill-will; but if the English landlord found upon his estate a system of influence habitually exerted, by which all his tenants were prevailed upon in a body, and in every instance, to set themselves in opposition to his political views, an influence which he could neither avert nor control—he would ask, what would be the not improbable course which, under such circumstances, the English landlords would take? How could they blame the landlord, or how could they say it was unnatural in him to seek to obtain tenants under him whose influence, would have no effect? He did not think that there could be any great animadversion on the landlord, who said, "I must have tenants who are not habitually subject to influence and interest habitually exercised." But the landlord might not go this length; he might be restrained by motives of humanity or of justice, or by considerations for his tenants, from taking this step, and substituting tenants who concurred with him in opinion for those who did not. He might say, "I have no quarrel with yon as regards our respective positions of landlord and tenant; you are satisfied with me as a liberal landlord, and I am equally satisfied with you as an industrious and respectable tenant; but there is one source of irritation between us, winch 810 must exist so long as I perceive that upon all political occasions you are led to take a course opposed to that which I lake; but this is the only point of difference between us—let it not interfere to produce any misunderstanding between landlord and tenant, but so long as it exists there must be irritation, and an interruption of the good will which is now maintained. You may feel confident in me, and you know that I shall not dispossess a tenant who does his duty in an agricultural point of view; let us get rid of this franchise, therefore, and let us remove from between us this bone of contention." He asked, whether in England this would not be considered to be a fair and liberal course to adopt—whether it would not be considered that any landlord was justified in neutralising the influence of his property altogether, rather than submitting to the employment of that influence against himself—and whether he might not say, that he would not of his own free will be an instrument in the hands of others, for the purpose of effecting their purposes. He contended that that was the natural course, and one to which very little exception would be taken in England. He said that that was the state of society in England to a certain extent. There were those tendencies afloat between landlord and tenant, which had led much to a diminution of the number of electors, from an indisposition on the part of the landlord to put into the hands of his tenant a political weapon, to be wielded, in time of political warfare, against himself. He regretted this state of things; he regretted that this should be the result of it; he regretted that the diminution of the constituency should arise from these causes, and he said, therefore, that when he had been shown that such a course had produced a recurrence of the old system, and had led to the representation of the Irish counties being placed in the hands of a few monopolists, or in the hands of a limited constituency, and that this species of monopoly existed in opposition to the provisions of the Irish Reform Act, the object of which was to extend the franchise, he would admit, that then he should be ready to say, "I am prepared to discuss with you this subject, with a view to remedy that which I admit to be an evil, and to devise the best means of remedying those mischiefs, which I conceive to be inconsistent with the Reform Bill." But he 811 told the House as frankly, that before he adopted that course, he must be shown distinctly that the effects which were alleged had been produced. And when he had been shown this, and that the constituencies had been practically narrowed into a smaller number as compared with what they had been, and by the operation of this cause, and this cause only, then he should be ready to discuss the remedy by which they might meet the case, and avoid the injuries which were said to have arisen. But the remedy which was now proposed, he could tell the House, would be a dangerous one. It was a subject which was not to be treated lightly, or with indifference, because it was in effect an exertion on the part of the Legislature against the struggles of property. That it might be required by circumstances he did not deny, but they would find that property would resist this interference, and he warned them to be prepared against the event. But before be should be prepared to apply a remedy, the grievance must be satisfactorily proved. He would turn to the county constituency of Ireland, and would refer to a paper which had been laid on the Table of the House, under the authority of the House itself. That paper was ordered to be produced in the course of the last Session, on the motion of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. He would turn first to the state of things at the time of the passing of the Irish Reform Bill. At that time he calculated that the county constituency amounted to 52,000, and the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dublin, told him, that in making that calculation, he was going far beyond the mark,—indeed he was not sure that he did not say one-half beyond the point to which he ought to go; but he told him, that if he would consent to take the 5l. franchise, instead of the 10l. franchise, he did not despair, that within a limited time the constituency of Ireland might amount to 60,000, or even 90,000, on the registry. He turned now to the stale of the constituency at the present time, and to the supposed evidence which had been produced by the Government, of the progressive decrease of the county constituency, owing to this holding back of leases, which was complained of. In the years 1831 and 1832, as he had already said, the number of the constituency was 50,000. Now, what was the number of the county 812 electors?—99,157. He found, that in ten of the counties there had been an increase, not since 1832 only, but since 1835, and that in two of them—and twoonly—there had been a diminution of the number of constituents since 1835. The augmentation and net increase in the county constituency of Ireland since 1835 had been 10,419, and that since 1832, taking the most limited calculation, there had been an increase of more that cent, per cent, in the county constituency. He would turn now to the borough constituency, and he found that in almost every borough in Ireland there had been an increase since 1835. As to ten of the boroughs, there had been no account, and in one there had been a decrease, which was that of a single individual only. In Dublin, now, there were no fewer than 17,347 voters, and of these there were 10,585 10l. householders, a class newly introduced. In Cork there were 8,164; in Belfast 5,400; and the total number of electors in the thirty-two boroughs of Ireland, Limerick being excepted, was 55,530. Of these there were 37,000 10l. householders, and there was no borough in Ireland which had a new constituency of less than 200 at the least. This was the result of the paper which had been laid upon the Table. [An hon. Member: It is not to be depended upon.] Those who quarrelled with this paper were the very persons who had been so anxious for its production, and for whom it had been laid upon the Table of the House; but now, finding that it did not bear out their arguments, they turned round on him and said, "This paper is good for nothing; if it had shown ad -crease, we should have acted upon it, but, as it proves a great and striking increase, we repudiate it altogether, and say that it is totally unworthy of belief." And why did they seek to withdraw it from the attention of the House? He had no doubt at all that there were in this registry a considerable number of double registrations. What deduction should they make on account of these double registrations? There were, no doubt, also fraudulent and fictitious votes upon the registry. What should they take off for the whole? He would say 20,000; and if he allowed that large number, the returns still proved that there had been an increase to 79,000, as compared with 52,000, but when he stated that there were 52,000 on the registry, at the time of the passing of the Reform Bill, 813 it was to be observed, that that register had existed for thirty, or forty, or fifty years, and the number of bad votes upon it, whether they were dead votes or fictitious votes, must have been even greater than that of the new votes which were subsequently added to it. He certainly had not been prepared to hear it said, that the paper which had been produced by the Government, at the desire of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, was so utterly worthless as it was suggested, as affording evidence of the present state of the franchise. [Lord John Russell: It is not a return given by the Government.] The Government, at all events, had offered no objection to its production, and it ought to be taken to be a valid return. But, admitting that there were double entries on the register, and that the return gave no actual test of the existing state of the constituency, then what did he say? That before they proceeded to alter the constituency, and to act on the assumption of a diminution, they should see, that the diminution had actually taken place, in order that the new law which they proposed to introduce should, in reality, have the effect of remedying an existing evil. But, "No," said the noble Lord, "you shall not have the means of doing so; we tell you that the constituency of Ireland has diminished materially, and before we will allow you to get evidence upon the point, we call upon you to alter the qualification of the constituency, and we refuse you the means of purging the register." But he felt that he was detaining the House at an unusual, and he feared troublesome length upon this subject, and he rejoiced to say, that he had come very nearly to the end of the objections which he entertained to this measure. He objected to the bill, as he had already said, upon the principle on which it was founded; he objected to the qualification being based upon the rating, and not upon the profit; he objected to the valuation upon which it was proposed to form a franchise, as being insufficient to give a fair test of the actual value; but if all these objections could be got over, he objected, in the very strongest terms, to the amount of the value which was proposed. He asked for a reason why the household franchise should be lowered from 10l. to 5l.? Was there a restrictive franchise? Where would they produce a document to show it? It lay upon those 814 who proposed the alteration to prove the necessity for it, and why should they introduce in Ireland a qualification wholly different from that which existed in England? Let them take the county constituency, and on what ground was it that the noble Lord hoped to induce the House of Commons to say, that every man, whether liable to pay rates or not, whether charged with a rent ten times the real value of the land which he occupied—every man who occupied lands which at any time had been inserted in any rate-book, or supplemental valuation, should be entitled to the franchise? On what ground was it that the noble Lord called on the House of Commons to introduce this class of voters? What class would this be in England? The noble Lord had years ago refused his assent to a proposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for Preston, for the purpose of extending to the 10l. householders the right of exercising the franchise in counties. On what ground was it, that he was going to extend the franchise in Ireland? Did he suppose that 5l householders in Ireland were a class less liable to influence, better educated, more independent, and more thrifty and economical than 10l. householders in England and Scotland. Was that the ground on which he was going to make this distinction? What was the class of persons to whom he was going to give the franchise? Every unfortunate man, who, under the denomination of a grinding landlord, might occupy a cabin and an acre or two acres of land, for which he was charged a rent higher than he could afford to pay, or his holding was worth, would be entitled to it. It would be given to a class of persons below that of the labourer of England—to individuals of a rank and station infinitely more degraded (he did not mean as regarded their character, but their education and general habits), infinitely lower than the labourer of England, who procured his livelihood by the work of his own hands. A report had been laid before the House, not long ago, from the Poor-law commissioners, in reference to emigration; and what did they say on that subject? They said that in Ireland there was practically no difference between the lower class of farmers and the labouring men; and that the lower class of agricultural tenants in Ireland was as much entitled to compassion and relief, by their being aided to 815 emigrate, as the labourer. The noble Lord, by his bill, said that any man who was rated at 5l. should be called upon to exercise the elective franchise; but, in reference to such a proposition, there was one passage which he trusted the House would allow him to read, and which, as it came from a source which could not be suspected, was entitled to consideration. It was the evidence which had been taken before the Irish Tithe Committee in 1838, and which had been given by Mr. Walsh, a magistrate of Kilkenny, and he gave this description of the smaller farmers of that county, with reference to the possibility of the collection from them of tithes, which was the subject under consideration, He was asked—What are the description of persons from whom arrear is due?—of what description are the persons called farmers from whom arrears are due?—I should say the majority of persons under the class of farmers in the county of Kilkenny are persons holding from ten to fifteen acres of land. What is their situation from about the month of April to the month of September?—They are generally in those months in the greatest state of destitution. Farmers in that class have no means of meeting the demands made upon them but by their crop, and from the time the sale of the crop takes place till the next crop they are destitute of every means of obtaining money. What is the description of their living?—Potatoes generally, without either milk or meat, and they consider themselves very lucky if they have enough of them. Did you not state that the people considered themselves well off if they made two rents out of the crop?—I consider a farmer may, by converting the land to the best purpose, make double the rent; but I do not think that the small farmers in general make any thing like that, nor has it, I dare say, come into their heads to calculate. They have no means now of paying their arrears, except by wretched cattle: some have one, some have none. Such a farmer has seldom a second cow—they generally try to have one; a horse and car, they have not advanced to a cart yet; and he joins with the next farmer, and by working their horses together, so they do their ploughing. If there was a power to enforce the arrear of tithe by distraining the cow, what would be the situation of that description of tenant? He would then be very wretched, as it is his only stock, except he may have pigs. Is he living for these four or five months on dry potatoes? He will live on these dry potatoes until he gets milk from that cow. Do you mean to represent this as the general picture of the state of farmers in the county of Kilkenny? I do mean to represent it as the state of farmers of ten or fifteen acres in the county of Kilkenny. Are 816 there not farmers of a more comfortable class? I do not mean to say that there are not several, but I think that the greater proportion are of the sort that I describe. What proportion of the land is divided into farms of ten or fifteen acres? It would be a difficult thing to make a calculation of that kind; I never made such a calculation, but in point of numbers of individuals I know that they are more than half; the greater proportion certainly.Now this was the state of men paying 30s. an acre for their land, and this was the description of persons, who were rated at three times the amount of their produce, to whom the noble Lord proposed to give the franchise. Why, then, for God's sake, let them not make such a mockery of the franchise; let them, if they could, alleviate the distresses of these poor people by establishing such a system of emigration or of poor-laws as might place them in a better situation; let them alleviate their physical wants, but when they were told that for four or five months in the year they were in this wretched condition, scarcely able to keep penury from their doors or their families from ruin, let them not mock the misery of these men by tendering to them as a boon the elective franchise. Let them not, I above all, go to the absurdity of saying, that while in their virtuous horror they withheld the franchise from the fifty-pounds tenant-at-will in England on account of his dependent position, they would nevertheless confer the right of voting upon men rated at 5l. a year, hardly able to find dry potatoes for the support of their families from year to year, and without reference to the amount of his rent, which might, and perhaps did, keep him in absolute dependence on his landlord. The reason for doing away with the forty-shilling freehold right of voting was, not that it was a Catholic constituency, but that it was a dependent constituency—that from their position in society they were dependent either on the landlord or on the priests. This was the statement made by Lord Plunket, and by most of those who sanctioned the alteration. This was the ground on which Parliament had acquiesced in their disfranchisement, believing that the whole class was incapable of exercising independently the franchise of which they were sought to be deprived, and that in taking it away from them they removed nothing which was to be considered in the nature of a boon, but that they took out of the 817 hands of the needy and aspiring landlord the wretched means of enforcing his own views with a total disregard of the feelings of the tenant. The forty-shilling voter, at all events, was required to possess a beneficial interest above the rent. The present bill called for no such qualification. It required that the land should be rated at 5l., and it took no security that there should be any further interest. The effect of it would be to establish a set of men on the register whom their landlord might expel from house and home so soon as they should exercise the franchise in a manner opposed to his wishes; it took a! class of men, whose houses were not secured against violence; who dared not face the consequences to themselves or their families of giving a vote which might be unpopular to the majority of the people. The noble Lord would say, however, that there was a restriction. He would say, "I impose still the restriction that the voter must have a fourteen years' lease," and this he seemed to think was a sufficient restriction in the case of a 5l. franchise. It was undoubtedly a restriction, but it was placed just in the wrong sense; just on that point on which it was not required. What was the advantage of a lease? The man who held a lease had for a term of years a property of his own—a stake over and above all demands, of which no man could dispossess him; from which he was enabled to maintain himself and his family, and to obtain a profit which no man could take out of his hands. But the nominal amount of rent was charged above that which the man could pay, and to extort more than the man could afford to pay, afforded no restriction at all. If the landlord meant to exercise his power tyrannically, he would grant a lease for fourteen years—a lease which the tenant could not afford to accept, and he would thus keep the tenant in a perpetual arrear of rent, and then take him up under the bill of the noble Lord, and say, "Vote according to my desire, or else—"But the noble Lord said that the cause of the great diminution of the constituency was that the landlord might withhold leases. Why should he not? But the noble Lord stated one thing to be the reason of the diminution of the numbers of voters, and then he provided for the extension of the franchise by a means which he knew would be inefficient. There could be no greater temptation to 818 landlords to grant leases to men at 5l. than at 30l., and the effect of such leases being granted, would be to place at the disposition of the landlords persons of an inferior rank, over whom they might exercise their influence. Supposing, therefore, that all the other objections which he had urged should fail, the objection which he now suggested to the remedy which the noble Lord proposed to the difficulty which he pointed out, the extent of which he did not know himself, and the existence of which was, in fact, in a great degree problematical to the House, he thought must weigh strongly with the House. In conclusion, he begged to express himself deeply sensible of the kindness of the House in listening to the objections which he had urged, and which he had laid before the House in such a manner as to have occupied no inconsiderable period of time. He had felt, however, that, in justice to this great question, it was impossible that he could go into it at any less length, because his arguments had been directed, not against the details of the bill alone, but against the whole of the principles upon which it was founded. He called upon the House not now to examine those details, but to reject the bill upon the general principles upon which it was brought forward, as founded upon ambiguous and false evidence. He would not press upon the House the argument how impossible it was to sanction the application of those principles to Ireland alone, because that was an argument which would readily suggest itself to the mind of every one who heard him, and how impossible it would be to withhold the same extension of the elective franchise to the other parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had in succession given his services to all three portions of the empire, and he, therefore, looked with an impartial eye upon all of them. He would naturally say, "What is good for Ireland is good for England, and what is good for England is good for Scotland." He had been in succession the representative for Dundee, for Middlesex, and for Kilkenny, and he would say, "If you seek to give this franchise to Ireland, I grant it is a most desirable franchise, and that Ireland should obtain it;" but as soon as it was granted to Ireland, he would call upon the House for "Justice to England," and demand the extension of the same principle to that portion of the empire. 819 The noble Lord, he thought, must look with some amusement on the way in which some of his successive supporters had fallen into the seductive lures of his propositions, but he called upon the noble Lord to tell the House to what length he intended to go with this measure. He called upon him to say, whether he meant to introduce the 5l. franchise in England in reference to the county constituency, and he was bound to answer that question before the conclusion of this debate, that the House and the country might know what England had to expect. He was firmly of opinion, that although the noble Lord might for a time succeed in postponing the effects of the great abuses of the registry, by tacking to it this bill, the only real result would be again to unsettle the minds of the whole of the constituency upon the subject, not of any minute alteration in the details of the system, but of the alteration of the franchise itself which was introduced by the Reform Bill. Although the noble Lord might succeed, and probably would to a certain extent, in throwing together all these elements of discord in the cauldron of political mischief—that cauldron which was so eloquently and so emphatically denounced by the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) in his address to the electors of Stroud, he trusted that it would be rendered impossible for the noble Lord to pass this bill, even through this branch of the Legislature. He entertained a hope, an ardent and an anxious hope, that even this House would, upon this occasion, reject the consideration of the noble Lord's bill on the principles on which it had been brought forward. He was confident, that a large part of the Members of that House—whether the majority or not, he did not know—would be opposed to its principles, and that a considerable portion of the people out of doors would be of the same opinion, but even if he did not entertain that hope, if he felt that he should be left in the smallest conceivable minority on this occasion, if he stood alone in the position which he had taken, so decided was he in the feeling and opinion which he entertained, that he should record his opposition to the second reading of the bill. He moved that the bill be a read a second time that day six months.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, that he was aware 820 of the disadvantages to which he subjected himself in rising after the noble Lord who had just sat down; but, at the same time, he was anxious to avail himself of the first opportunity to express his entire concurrence in the course which her Majesty's Government had pursued upon this subject this year; and his approval—he would not say of all the details, but of the general principle of both branches of his noble Friend's bill. He was the more anxious to say this, because it had been his painful duty, last year, to differ from the course which the Government had taken. A great evil had been admitted. The Government had, as the noble Lord had reminded them, declined to provide any remedy, and he could not reconcile himself to join them in refusing to consider the details of the noble Lord's remedy, the principles of which had been sanctioned by this House. But this self-same consideration—his anxiety to see this evil remedied, seemed to him to render it impossible to join in the vote of opposition to the second reading of the bill. He was left as much in the dark by the noble Lord as to the precise grounds on which he opposed this bill, as he had been before the noble Lord had commenced the speech which he had delivered. He could not see in what, except mere matters of detail, the objection of the noble Lord opposite, to the bill of his noble Friend, consisted. As regarded the subject of certificates, his objection was entirely unfounded. The bill of his noble Friend seemed to him as completely to extinguish the existing rights of county voters as did the bill of the noble Lord opposite; both, indeed, gave to the holder of a certificate, a primâ facie right to be placed on the register from the moment the register was completed; from the moment the bill came into operation, he could no longer vote in virtue of his certificate, but only by right of his name being on the register. The bill of his noble Friend did not, however, materially differ from that of the noble Lord opposite in its main features. It provided for annual revision which had been last year contended against. It was true that the voter was protected from re-investigation except in cases of fraud, but the appeal was given both ways, and the costs both ways. The only other point in which there was a difference between the two bills was, that the appeal was not to the judges, which he considered a decided improvement on the bill of last year. It was of the utmost importance that 821 the Judges should be apart from political considerations, and neither justly nor unjustly liable to the imputation that they were swayed by party bias. While the bill of his noble Friend provided a remedy for the defects in the existing system of registration, it deprived him of no advantage to which he was legitimately entitled. This part of the bill, however, only got rid of one-half of the evil, and that by far the lesser half. For it appeared by the reports and papers on the Table, that of the frauds that had taken place, the principal portion had arisen, not from personation or falsification of certificates, but almost exclusively on questions arising out of the uncertainty which exists as to the definition of the value—an uncertainty which neither the bill of the noble Lord opposite, nor the first half of the bill of his noble Friend grappled with. The latter half of his noble Friend's bill, however, did meet this difficulty; and thus the bill dealt, not alone with the lesser evil of the registration, but also with the greater one of the franchise. It removed not only the mote but the beam also. Hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, had argued last Session, with some appearance of consistency, though he had not agreed with them, that it was useless to attempt to legislate for the lesser evil, without at the same time legislating for the greater. This measure did so legislate for the greater; and the argument used on the other side, that they should refuse to legislate at all, because it did so legislate for the greater evil, appeared to him perfectly absurd and monstrous. Because the measure was perfect—because it attempted to remedy the whole of the evil—they would not suffer it to be taken into consideration. The noble Lord opposite, though not venturing to deny the existence of doubt and uncertainty as to the definition of the franchise, had not, in the whole course of his bill, suggested a single remedy for a state of things which he could not but deplore. He (Mr. C. Wood) would at once grant, that the doubts which prevailed in Ireland as to the value of freeholds could never have existed in this country. The value of a 40s. freehold was here understood to be a freehold that would let for 40s. Under the old poor-law a 10l. tenement was a tenement that would let for 10l. The doubt would never have arisen in England; but was the case mended by that? The doubt had existed in Ireland; the doubt did exist in Ireland. It existed in every class, from the peasant 822 to the judge. The voter on claiming the franchise took an oath to the effect that he was entitled to it according to a particular construction of the words of the Reform Act. This was a construction maintained by judges on the bench; and was it matter of surprise, that when such decisions were come to by the judges, the peasant should go before the assistant barrister, and, without incurring the charge of perjury year after year, and day after day, swear to his possession of the franchise according to his belief of the proper construction of the act? He (Mr. Wood) did regret, that such a doubt should exist. Hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House might regret, that such a doubt should exist; and that learned judges had decided on different ways, but the fact remained unaltered, and it was their duty as legislators to deal with the existing state of things. Remove that doubt, which affected the whole franchise, and they would remove the opportunity for such disgraceful swearing and counter-swearing as existed in Ireland. Many attempts had already been made to define the meaning of the words, "beneficial interest." A bill went up to the other House, in which a clause containing a definition had been introduced by his late lamented Friend, Lord Clements; and the bill last year of the Attorney-general for Ireland left the matter in as doubtful a state as before. What, then, was to be done, if the franchise was to be defined? Were they prepared to return to the solvent tenant test, as it existed before the Reform Bill? A great argument used by a noble Lord in the other House of Parliament was, that by the alteration proposed in the Reform Bill, the temptation to perjury which formerly existed would be removed. Was it not avowed at that period, that some relaxation was intended from the strictness of the test which existed before its passing? He would not repeat the words which had been used by Lord Lansdowne and the Duke of Richmond, but it was clear, that the framers of the Reform Act considered, that the test as it existed before the Reform Act was too stringent. Yet the decision of the Irish judges would bring into force again that precise test, which the framers of the Reform Act had stated it to be their intention to relax. It was clearly intended, that some kinds of voters were to be included that were not previously included. This he conceived rendered it impossible for them to go back to the test exacted before the 823 passing of the Reform Act. When a doubt existed on the construction of an act involving the people's rights, he would scarcely bring himself to believe, that this the popular branch of the constitution could decide against the people. It being impossible to define the meaning of the term beneficial interest, or to return to the principle of the solvent test, as applied before the Reform Bill, what other test could be so safe as the rated value under the Poor-law? For his part he saw no mode of approaching the difficulty so satisfactory as a rated test. The qualification according to this test was not a Radical suggestion; he was not quite sure, that it did not originate on the other side of the House, at any rate the hon. Member for Mallow and the hon. Member for Monaghan introduced a bill with this express object, and he found from the report of the Fictitious Votes Committee, which formed the very foundation of the bill the noble Lord opposite introduced last year, that this very test of rating was suggested by an Irish barrister of Conservative politics, and very high character. He alluded to Mr. Fosberry, the resident barrister of the county of Longford, who was appointed by his noble Friend opposite. In answer to questions from Dr. Lefroy, Mr. Fosberry stated—That he had always been of opinion, that it would be preferable to take the payment of the county cess rather than the 10l. value; that the county cess, though not a good test, would be much better than the existing one; and that he would decidedly prefer a certain pecuniary test arising from tenure, which would prevent a great deal of false swearing and uncertainty.It was thus made perfectly clear, that the rating test was not the suggestion of his (Mr. Wood's) side of the House for the purpose of extending the franchise; it was the opinion of a person who had received his appointment from the noble Lord opposite, whose politics were conservative, and whose character irreproachable. He had not heard throughout the whole of the noble Lord's speech, one conclusive reason against the adoption of a rated test. With regard to the precise amount of the rating, that was not now before the House. It was a question of detail, and for the committee which must necessarily decide upon it. All that the House were called upon to assent to now, was, to define the value of the qualification by a rating test; and if they thought it necessary, in committee, to make it 10l. or 20l., it was open to them to do so. The 824 noble Lord would take some profitable interest beyond the rent paid. To see what would be the practical effect of this plan, he would refer the House to the actual state of the union of Longford, where the least abuses existed, and where the valuation had proceeded much upon the principle that prevailed in this country. In the report it is stated, that Mr. Wallace, the valuator, was well accustomed to value, and that the rated value in that union was about one-fourth or one-fifth less than the rent paid. Now, suppose 10l above the rent paid was the amount of value fixed upon —a valuation not lower in proportion to the rents paid than that which exists in England, what would be the effect on the constituents? Mr. Wallace gave a statement of 130 voters, freeholders, and leaseholders indiscriminately on both sides, as a fair specimen of the constituency in Longford. How many of these 130 would remain on the list, did the House suppose, if the 10l. test were adopted? One hundred and twenty-six out of the 130 had not the 10l. rated value above the rent. Thus 126 would, by the operation of the principle of the noble Lord, be disfranchised out of 130; but to go further, suppose the test was a 5l. value above the rent, eighty-three would be disfranchised out of the 130, or-sixty-six per cent, on the whole constituency. This was the statement of Mr. Wallace, and it was borne out by the opinion in the report of the commissioners, that, framed as the valuation had been, if the law were to require any excess of rating, it would exclude the tenants of even the most indulgent landlords. The case of Longford proved, that there were many on the register who would not be on it in England; but it also proved that if they applied the test of the noble Lord opposite, they would altogether destroy the constituency. He was not prepared to go that length. He was not prepared to diminish the constituencies in Ireland. In the return quoted by the noble Lord, there was evidence enough that the constituencies in Ireland were already so low as to afford grounds for some just apprehensions. He did not think it unfair to compare the Irish constituencies with those of this country. He did not say, that the analogy should be pushed so far as the noble Lord had intimated. The noble Lord had urged it to an undue extent. But the comparative population of the English and Irish counties was very much in favour of the latter. 825 With the exception of one or two cases, comparing the large counties in England with the large Irish counties, and the small in England with the small in Ireland, the population of the Irish counties would be found considerably greater. But how stood the Irish constituencies in the counties? There were three counties in England where the constituencies were under 3,000. In Ireland there were nineteen. Of counties with constituencies above 5,000, there were in Ireland three, and in England thirty-five. The highest constituency in Ireland, was 5,850, while there were no less than twenty-five counties in England with constituencies larger than that. But when the noble Lord talked of the return in question giving a fair representation of the constituency in Ireland, he seemed to have overlooked the notes appended to the bottom. For instance, the constituency of Cavan was stated at 3,800, but the return staled also, in a note, that, out of these upwards of 500, or more than one-seventh, were to be deducted for double entries. The county of Longford, again, appeared to contain 1,900 voters; the report from the Longford union stated them at only 1,500. But even from these a considerable portion would have to be deducted for double entries and deaths; so that the 1,900 in fact dwindled down to considerably below 1,500. The county of Wick-low was stated to have a constituency of 2,300; but a note stated that, judging from the last election four years ago, not more than 1,300 were actually voters. The constituency of the county of Mayo, was stated at 2,100, a less number than that of any county in England except Rutland, yet the voters did not actually exceed 700. Now would any one, with these facts before him, state that the constituencies of the counties in Ireland bore a fair proportion to the population? He admitted, that the numbers of the constituency ought not to depend entirely on the number of the population. It was an important element in the Reform Bill, that property and numbers should go together in determining the constituency. If they were to come to a constituency based entirely on property, they might as well have left the old constituencies as they were before the Reform Bill, with the burgage tenures. He did not advocate the unlimited extension of the franchise; on the contrary, he thought it 826 would be an evil and an obstacle to liberal and enlightened legislation. Had a much larger constituency existed in the country at the time, there was no reason to think that the Catholic Relief Bill would ever have been carried. In a controversy which had been carried on as to a considerable extension of the franchise, by the editor of a newspaper with which his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, was connected, they had shown good reason for thinking that if the parties urging that extension succeeded in obtaining it, they would defeat those measures of useful legislation, which were in fact, their ultimate object. In opposing, however, an indefinite extension of the constituencies; it surely was not too much to ask, that their numbers should be such as to ensure a general identity of feeling and community of interest, between the great body of the people, and those to whom was deputed the trust of choosing their representatives. The noble Lord opposite had said, that if it could be shown to him that the Irish constituencies were considerably reduced, and the exclusive domination of one class restored, he would then take into his consideration how such an evil might be remedied. He, (Mr. Wood) thought it far better and wiser to anticipate and prevent so dangerous a state of things; and could anybody say, that it was even now impossible or improbable. He would take one instance—the county of Mayo. The population of Mayo was 360,000, and in that part of the country nine-tenths of the population were of the Roman Catholic religion, and the actual constituency had been ascertained not to exceed 700. They had been told at the time of the Tithe Bill, that the major part of the landed property in Ireland was in the hands of Protestant landlords, and the House had heard of Protestant landlords refusing to renew leases to Roman Catholic tenants. Suppose this system should go on very little beyond what had taken place already, was it so impossible that the Members for the county of Mayo, representing 360,000 persons, almost exclusively Roman Catholic, should be returned by a constituency as exclusively Protestant, not exceeding 700 in number? And this in a county where every question is more or less connected with religious opinions. Could there be an identity of feeling between the repre- 827 sentatives and constituency? Could the population feel much confidence in their representatives, or in the Legislature which had produced such an anomalous state of things? With regard to Leasehold tenures, the noble Lord had compared the state of Ireland with that of England. But the amount of the Leasehold constituency in England was small, and mostly in mining counties; not more than thirty, forty, or fifty leaseholders in some of the agricultural counties; whereas, in Ireland, the number of voters, in right of a leasehold franchise, was much greater, and there seemed great reason to apprehend a serious diminution of their numbers. The noble Lord had stated the grounds on which he believed that the landlords were unwilling to renew leases, and he must say he had heard with great regret the sentiments to which the noble Lord had given utterance, as to the relation between landlords and tenants in political matters. He had always understood that the tenure of land and the relation of landlord and tenant were founded upon their mutual interest; and that how the tenant might vote, and what his political opinions might be, had no more connection with that relation than if they were not known to exist at all. Whether his vote was known to the landlord or not, that it should form a matter of consideration between the landlord and tenant, he confessed had been to him (Mr. Wood) a matter of no little surprise. But it appeared from the reports, that leases were not renewed from considerations affecting only the tenure of land quite apart from politics. In the Parsons-town union, land was said to let higher when let from year to year. No law could prevent landlords from declining to renew leases in such cases, and yet by such a practice numbers of voters might be disfranchised. Against such a diminution of voters his noble Friend's bill provided no remedy; and though he spoke with great diffidence on any subject connected with Ireland, it seemed to him that it might be better to omit altogether the leasehold tenure, and fix the franchise simply on rating, of course at the same time raising the amount. The only objection to this, was, that such voters would be unduly influenced by their landlords, and the example of the 50l. occupiers in this country was quoted. With reference to the coercion said to be exercised on the 50l. tenants in this country, he did not mean to 828 say, that there were not individual instances in which undue influence had been used, but he did not believe it to be common. There was no need of it, for he believed, that in most instances in this country the opinions of the 50l. tenants on the register were in perfect accordance with those of their landlords. He also did not believe, from all that he had seen or heard, that there was a less coercion with the leaseholders than with the 50l. tenants-at-will. In Ireland, where there were so many complaints of the proceedings of the landlords, the tenants were always leaseholders. He believed, also, that in some of the places in Scotland, from which the greatest complaints had been heard of the exercise of the influence of the landlord—he had been told, that it had chiefly been shown in the case of leaseholders. But in whatever way the fact may prove to be, the House was bound to take care that the constituency of Ireland should not be reduced. He thought there could not be any better test than the rated value of the premises. If the amount of rating in the returns of valuations be any test, there would be in the Parsons town, with a population of 71,000, at a rated value of 10l. independent of tenure, 2,200 voters. The noble Lord had objected to this bill as setting aside the principles of the Reform Act. If he could concur in that opinion, he should join the noble Lord in opposing it. He was opposed to any change of the Reform Act, for the purpose of producing a re-distribution of political power. He considered the Reform Bill to be a settlement of a great national question, and which should not be lightly disturbed. He thought that it had effected a revolution in the popular branch of the constitution as great as the revolution of 1688 had produced in the monarchial estate. It had been attended with great hazard, and we had reason to be thankful that it had been peaceably and tranquilly accomplished. In proportion as we had reason to be thankful, so ought we to be cautious, he would even say timid, in incurring such a risk again. To any re-opening of the question of the Reform Bill, he was as much opposed as the noble Lord himself. Nor was there any reason to apprehend the necessity of such a measure as this in respect to England. Was there any doubt as to the franchise in England? Was it necessary to deal with it at all? 829 He believed not. He thought that the Reform Bill had produced in England a fair representation of the people; he found parties as equally divided in the House as in the country, and he had no reason to believe that (unless something unforeseen should take place) an appeal to the people at the present moment could produce a materially different result. But whilst he adhered to the main features of the Reform Bill, he would not consent to be pinned down to its four corners, and be tied to every paragraph. Did the noble Lord mean to say that when we had a franchise in Ireland avowedly undefined, we were to be bound by the words of the Reform Bill and leave it untouched? Was it not the real principle of the Reform Bill to extend the franchise, and to include more persons within the pale of the Constitution? What was the avowed object of the framers of that measure? What had the noble Lord himself avowed tonight? That if a case was made out to his satisfaction of an undue restriction of the franchise, he would deal with it. In his opinion the case was made out at present. If, then, such were the case, it would be taking a most dangerous course to say, that they would adhere to the letter, but would not do anything which would support or carry out the principle and spirit of the Reform Act. It would be a course the most likely to prevent its being a permanent settlement. He was still more surprised at the noble Lord's opposition to this stage of the bill, to this running his own bill against that of the Government. What had been the opinion of the noble Lord last year? That this measure ought to be introduced by the Government. He said he had abstained from bringing in a bill till he had ascertained it was not the intention of Government to do it. He (Mr. Wood) had thought last year that the noble Lord was right, and this rendered him (Mr. Wood) less disinclined to support his bill last year. Consistently with the noble Lord's principle, he ought, at least not to oppose the present bill in this stage, whatever he might do in a future stage. But there was one important consideration he must mention. The noble Lord avowed that his only object was to remedy the defects in the system of registration in Ireland. The noble Lord was accused of another object in his bill—that of diminishing the franchise in Ireland. He (Mr. Wood) 830 would not say that he acquitted the noble Lord of such a design, because that would seem to imply that there might be ground for suspecting him of it; he thought that no man in that House was so little obnoxious to the charge of endeavouring to obtain that indirectly which he feared openly to attempt; he therefore stated without hesitation that he believed that the noble Lord was sincere when he declared that his intention was to amend and protect the registration, and not to destroy the franchise. But admitting this sincere and anxious desire on the part of the noble Lord, he (Mr. C. Wood) would put it to him whether he believed that, as matters stood in Ireland, he possibly could pass his bill in such a shape as to give satisfaction to the people of that country. He had no hesitation in declaring that he never recollected a bill that had been brought forward in that House which had excited such a feeling of opposition to it in Ireland as had been manifested against this measure; and he said this with perfect confidence, notwithstanding the weighty petition which the noble Lord had presented that night in its favour. Even last year he had been staggered at the unanimity of feeling against it amongst the party to which he belonged; but he thought the noble Lord's bill had been unfairly mis-represented, and the best proof of this was the adoption by his noble Friend of so many of its principles in his bill of this year. He had hoped that the excited feeling might subside; and he had endeavoured, though in vain, to interpose between this, and the consideration of the bill, the question of the English registration bill. He had done all he could to promote a temperate discussion of the bill, without which he saw that the measure could not undergo a fair consideration. But did not the noble Lord feel that the excitement against it was as strong as ever in Ireland, and that it had united all classes of the Liberal party in that country against it? The opposition was not confined to the hon. Member for Dublin, but embraced even the most moderate men of the liberal party, and many of those who were the strongest supporters of his own government in Ireland. He (Mr. C. Wood) thought that it was most unwise, unless compelled by stringent circumstances, to attempt to pass enactments against the general feeling of the people of a country. In times of emergency the House of Com- 831 mons had done its duty in passing measures which, although opposed to popular feelings, the peculiar circumstances of the day might render necessary; but was it prepared to do so when no such necessity existed? then the only question was, which of the two bills should form the ground work of their future legislation? This, then, was the simple question, and however strong the feelings hon. Gentlemen might entertain on the subject, he would ask them whether they were prepared in such a case to legislate in direct contradiction to the unanimous feeling which appeared to prevail from one end of Ireland to the other.
§ Mr. Litton
intended to vote against the second reading of this bill, because the government by it, under the pretence of amending the registration in Ireland, intended to alter the qualification of the electors, and revoke the best provisions of the Reform Act in Ireland. He was satisfied that the bill was nothing more nor less than an attempt to repeal the Irish Reform Act and open the register to a body of men which should never be allowed to have the franchise, as they were incapable of exercising it with advantage to themselves or the country. It had been stated repeatedly in former discussions on this subject in that House, that under the present system the grossest frauds and perjuries had been perpetrated, and those who had asserted this had been stigmatised as libellers and slanderers of Ireland; but the examinations before the committees of that House, and the investigations of commissioners had shown that those who entertained that opinion were fully justified. So clearly had this been made out, that he believed all impartial persons would admit that within the last few years the fair and honest constituency contemplated under the Reform Act in Ireland had been swamped by a body of persons who had been placed on the register by the perpetration of the grossest frauds. During this state of things, the Government had been called upon from month to month and from year to year, not only in that House but by the country, to give a remedy to evils which were so extensive and so pernicious in their effects. Two or three bills had been introduced on the subject by successive Attorney-generals for Ireland, but they had always been brought forward at such a late period of the Session as to make it clear that there 832 was no serious intention to legislate on the subject. In consequence of this the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire brought in his bill last year, and in every division on it the majority of the House affirmed the necessity of the measure, and it was not until then that the Government took the matter up seriously, and, compelled by public opinion, brought forward a bill somewhat in conformity with that of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire. As an adjunct, however, to that bill, they also brought forward one for the nominal purpose of defining the franchise, in consequence of doubts which it was alleged existed on the subject. On that occasion it was admitted that the bill to define the franchise should be kept separate and distinct from the measure for preventing perjury and frauds at elections; so that it was clear that the Government then thought that the subject should be dealt with separately, and that if any alteration of the franchise was to be proposed, it should be in a distinct measure. It was then admitted, that two objects so entirely distinct should not be mixed up together. It appeared, however, that the bill which had been brought forward, purporting to remove doubts as to the franchise in Ireland, was in direct contradiction to the opinions often out of twelve of the judges of Ireland. In the present case the two bills brought in by the Government last year had been incorporated. Under these circumstances, he would ask whether it were not clear that it was not the wish nor intention of the Government to clear the register of fraudulent voters without at the same time getting an alteration of the Reform Act. In point of fact they virtually declared that they would not prevent the system of perjury and fraud on the registration—unless they obtained a quid pro quo in the shape of an alteration of the Reform Act. He considered that it was most disgraceful on the part of the Government, under the pretence of defining the franchise, to alter the law as it had been declared to exist by all the judges in Ireland except two. Until the end of last Session there had been no intention expressed on the part of the Government to alter or extend the franchise in Ireland, and none of the parties who called for a change in the system asked for an alteration of the Reform Act, but merely that steps should be taken to se- 833 cure the due administration of it. When the Government saw that the people of England would no longer submit to the system of fraud which existed in the Irish registration, and that they must adopt either the bill of the noble Lord or one of their own, they, under the latter pretence, brought forward a measure in direct violation of the Reform Act, and containing matters which had nothing whatever to do with the registration. The truth was, that if the bill of the Government passed, it would do much both to demoralize and democratize Ireland. It would tend to perpetuate all the evils the country now complained of with regard to the registration, and, in addition, larger bodies of persons, wholly disqualified both from their situation in life and their want of intelligence, would be placed on the register to the swamping the legal and legitimate constituency of that country. He should oppose the bill because the qualification proposed was so low that it clearly showed that Government did not mean fairly, and he should oppose it on the ground that the principle of the bill, irrespective as it was of rent and outgoing, could not be corrected in committee. He looked upon the measure as a direct violation of that Reform Act which the Government affected to hold sacred. The petitions in favour of the plan of the noble Member for North Lancashire had been most numerously and respectably signed, and this without any agitation; he would venture to say, that, in point of station, fortune, and character, the signatures were a hundred to one, as compared with those which had been got up in favour of the Government measure, under the coercion of the priests—a coercion which the peasantry would be most glad to be relieved from. When the bill of the noble Lord near him was before the House last year, the noble Lord opposite predicted that the second reading of that bill would produce a confusion and excitement which would shake the empire from one end of it to the other—but no such result had followed. The Government was manifestly guilty of encouraging agitation in Ireland, of which there could not be a clearer proof than the circumstance that the gentleman who had taken the lead in the contemptible repeal agitation, was still continued in the commission of the peace. There was no one who thought for a moment that a bill of this sort, with a 5l. franchise, could pass 834 the Legislature; and he therefore arraigned the Government for introducing a measure like this, when they could have no other object in view than the giving encouragement to agitation and excitement.
§ Mr. Fitzpatrick
said: I cannot allow myself to give a silent vote on a question of so much importance, and of such vital interest to the country with which I am connected. No one seems to deny, that there are very many and vast evils attendant on the present Registration Act of Ireland. The sole point then we have to determine is, how we may best check these evils, punishing the fictitious claimant without obstructing the bonâ fide voter in the attainment of the franchise. I am confident there is no one more anxious than myself to correct such abuses; and believing that nothing can be more demoralizing, more disgusting than the present system of registration in Ireland, I hail with unfeigned satisfaction the measure introduced by my noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland, as it will grapple with this most difficult question, and offer such a remedy as will effectually check the worst of all the evils complained of. That important part of my noble Friend's bill, affecting the qualification of voters, goes at once to the real root of the evil, as I look upon the question of the franchise as a preparatory and indispensable step to enable us to amend the law of registration in Ireland. Leave the franchise untouched, and I firmly believe our efforts will be unavailing; for though we may offer some check to the fictitious claimants by environing the franchise with numerous difficulties, yet they will also act as impediments in the way of the bonâ fide voter, thus making an undoubted right a constant source of annoyance to its possessor. I maintain that it is the test by which the franchise is at present ascertained in Ireland that invites fraud and holds out temptation to perjury. It matters little, in a moral point of view, whether you decide in favour of what is generally understood by the term beneficial interest, or in favour of the solvent tenant test; the result of such a decision would be merely an extension or limit of the franchise, for the test would still be dependent on opinion, and not on facts, and those scenes of rancour and strife, at present too prevalent in the registration courts, would be as rife as ever. I cannot understand any one acquainted with these 835 scenes, to whatever party he may belong, being anxious to retain such an uncertain and vexatious test, better calculated to engender strife and to incite to fraud, than adapted to protect right and elicit truth. On the second reading of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire's bill last Session, I expressed myself in favour of a franchise based on the valuation under the poor-law; but I heartily thank the Government for giving me an opportunity of recording my vote in favour of a principle plain, simple, but Just in itself; which bill places the franchise on clear and intelligible grounds, affording in itself an effectual check against abuse, and which, I conscientiously believe, will confer a sound and lasting benefit on the Irish people. It may be difficult, nay, impossible, to fix on any amount of rating, which would constitute an exact equivalent for the present qualification pie-scribed by the Reform Act: however, when this question comes before me, I shall certainly take into consideration the very low valuation under the poor-law, and have some regard to the amount of population. Indeed, I have no hesitation in saying, that I would infinitely rather consent to extend than agree to narrow the already very limited constituencies of Ireland. The Government are taunted with introducing a measure which partakes somewhat of the character of a new Reform Bill, but such accusation might also be applicable to them, if their measure merely proposed to define the existing franchise, as the hon. and learned Member for Coleraine tells us that this question has been set at rest by a majority of the judges, and that Parliament has no further right to interfere in the matter, even though the framers of the Reform Act themselves may be divided on the question. I ask them, ought such a lamentable state of things to continue? Will this House pass the bill of the noble Lord opposite, affording no remedy to the worst of the evils, whose pervading principle is that of discouragement to registration; or will it support the Government in their manly and straightforward course of grappling at once with the true cause of the evil, and give to Ireland a franchise based on such a principle as will neither foster fraud nor tempt to perjury?
§ Mr. Lucas
said, that the noble Secretary for the Colonies, on a former occasion, had most illogically and unjustly made use of some expressions which had 836 fallen from him (Mr. Lucas) to attach a reproach to the noble Member for North Lancashire, that he had not adopted some suggestions of his, with reference to the introduction of a bill for defining the franchise in Ireland. Now the words he had used in no way imputed to the noble Lord that he had been wrong in the matter. Had he (Mr. Lucas) been in that noble Lord's position, the introduction of a measure such as had been referred to would have been the last thing in his thoughts. What he had said, and would repeat, was, that the franchise should be placed on some ground different from, and independent of, the oath of the claimant; and his desire was, that the substitute he suggested might be used to establish the value of the land claimed in respect of it, in the opinion of an indifferent person. As to the bill introduced last year by the hon. Member for Mallow, and to which his (Mr. Lucas's) name was affixed, it could not be made use of as implying his consent to the principle of the measure before the House. What was the principle of that bill with regard to the franchise? It provided that where the annual value of the holding, as assessed to the poor-rate, exceeded the rent to which it was liable by the sum of eight pounds, the party should be entitled to the franchise. Thus the bill provided, that not only the value of the rent should be deducted from the given value, but also those charges which were deducted in the poor-law valuation. He would read part of a letter from his hon. Friend on the occasion of the introduction of the bill on which his (Mr. Lucas's) name was placed. The hon. Gentleman then read part of a letter in which the writer said, he hoped Mr. Lucas would forgive the forgery of his name, though committed with the usual object of forgery—to give the bill currency. He had put it on the bill with the concurrence of a friend to both parties, who had no doubt of Mr. Lucas's assent, and because it expressed no more than that he (Mr. Lucas) was favourable to a certain principle without binding him to any details. The writer went on to say, that he put the amount of rates paid out of the question as a basis for the franchise. With such a basis as this the greater would be the number of persons qualified for the franchise and vice versa. The only two principles which could be considered were, 1st, the value of the property as assessed for the purpose of rating; and, 2d, 837 the difference between the assessed value of the property and the amount of rent: paid, the latter being, to the writer's mind, the true beneficial interest. Both principles were brought into action in the bill, and cither might be adopted. The difference between the franchise proposed by the bill on which his name had been placed and the franchise of the Government bill was too glaring to make it necessary to dwell upon it. The noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, had left his friends on that side of the House in a state of great difficulty, for he had exposed so completely the defects of the measure of the Government, as to leave little to be said by those who followed him. There was one topic referred to by the hon. Member for Halifax, on which he (Mr. Lucas) might make a few observations. He meant the argument that the number of electors in Ireland was too few in proportion to the population—an argument which, as it appeared to him, was based on a totally false ground. The object of the Legislature in giving the franchise was not to make those entitled to it bear a certain proportion to the numbers of the population, but to bestow it in such a manner that Members sent to Parliament might be safely, wisely, and independently, elected. The question remained, whether that object could be best attained by a small or a large number of electors, and that would always be a matter of contest. But the abstract proposition, that because Ireland contained a great population with a small constituency, its constituency should be increased in proportion to that of England, was a proposition to which he could not give his assent. It had been urged, that, owing to many causes, such as the termination of leases, and the unwillingness of landlords to grant others, the number of electors was diminishing. But he did not find that to be the case in the county with which he was particularly interested. It was very well known that in that country many leases had expired, and yet the constituency had increased since 1834. In 1834 the number on the register was 2,400, while the number in 1841 was 4,221. It was true that the latter number included double registries; but deducting the double registries, there remained 3,421 electors on the registry at present, showing an increase of 50 per cent, on the constituency of 1834. With these facts 838 before him, he could not assent to the general assertion that the Irish constituencies were diminishing. He believed that they were increasing, and in the way which was most valuable, though the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, paid little attention to it in his bill—from the increasing industry, economy, and independence of the population. There was another point which deserved attention, and that was the condition of the present electors. At present, it was a matter of pride to possess the franchise. Was it fair to swamp the constituency who now enjoyed it by a mass of voters of a totally different character? For it bad been clearly proved, that this measure would produce a much worse class of voters than the forty-shilling freeholders. The forty-shilling freeholders were obliged to have something of an independence, but the proposed constituency need not have one shilling of an independent interest. He thought that the proposed principle would altogether pervert the test of independence, and, therefore, he never gave a vote with a clearer conviction of its justice than he should in opposition to the present measure.
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, that among the many objections which the noble Lord opposite, the Member for North Lancashire, had urged against the details of the bill which he had the honour of introducing to the attention of the House, there were two charges which the noble Lord had brought forward as against her Majesty's Ministers, and which rather partook of a personal character. The noble Lord, had accused them, in the first instance, of having, in their proposal of this measure, and in the policy they had pursued upon the questions of the elective franchise and the law of registration in; Ireland, unsettled men's minds, and produced disturbance with respect to the working of the elective franchise. He must own he thought, that in that particular they had still something to learn from the noble Lord; for whatever other eminent qualities the noble Lord might possess, it was certainly not as a settler of disturbances, or a peace-maker, that he was particularly distinguished. He talked of the Government having made the cauldron boil out, but it seemed to him (Lord Morpeth) that, on this occasion, the noble; Lord's was the hand which had thrown in the most noxious ingredients, and evoked 839 the busiest and most potent phantoms of mischief. The noble Lord next charged them with having brought forward the bill on false pretences. That was a harsh assertion, which he hoped, by their adherence to the main provisions and principles of this measure, and by their successful pursuit of them, they should do their best to disprove. The noble Lord had constantly talked of their proposition with respect to the settlement of the qualification for the elective franchise being a mere tack and postscript to the rest of the measure. He considered it a main and essential ingredient in the measure, which constituted the only hope of bringing the questions involved in it to a satisfactory and final settlement. He believed that while the electoral franchise was left as it was at present, any interference with the subject of registration must be a mere delusion and a mockery, and a greater fraud upon the public than any which it professed to remove. The noble Lord had said, that, until his own bill had been carried through a second reading last year, neither he, nor any of those who sat opposite, had heard of any definition of the franchise. [Lord Stanley did not say so.] He had taken down the words. The noble Lord had said it was not until after the second reading of the bill of last year, that he had first heard of the definition of the franchise.
§ Viscount Morpeth
had, he repeated, taken down the words at the time. The noble Lord might have wished to convey a different sense to his words, or these words did not express what he meant; but of this he was perfectly confident, that the noble Lord had said, that it was not until after his own bills had been carried through a second reading, that he had heard of a definition of the franchise; whereas it was notorious, that in every one of the bills in previous years that had been introduced by his right hon. and learned friends—in every one of them without exception, a definition of the franchise was specifically included, and that, too, as an essential part of the measure, without which there could not be proper nor just legislation. When, too, they made their proposition of last year, so far was it from being considered as a tack or a mere postscript to the measure itself, that he had stated, and that too with the cordial approbation of those who supported his bill, 840 that without a definition of the franchise, the appeal against the franchise could not be conceded. The noble Lord had indeed asked them why they did not bring forward this matter in a manly manner. The hon. and learned Member for Coleraine(Mr. Litton) had repeated that taunt—and he, too, had also asked the Government that question. Now, he must own, that whatever objections might be urged against them, he did not think that they would fairly be liable to objections on that ground. Whatever might be the errors that could be imputed to their measure, he did think, that at least they could say that theirs was a distinct proposition, unambiguous, open, and of a manly character. It was quite consistent with the noble Lord's ingenuity—an ingenuity that he was sure to exercise in criticising this measure—to bring forward, as connected with this bill, the question of the English and Scotch Reform Bills, and the franchise as defined by them. He did not feel called upon to enter into the discussion, that the noble Lord provoked as to the English and Scotch franchise. In his opinion, the subject then before him was quite sufficient. But if he wanted a precedent for addressing himself to the Irish part of the question exclusively, and leaving untouched the English and Scotch part of the question, then he found the precedent set to him by the noble Lord himself, and in the very bill which the noble Lord had himself introduced. Whereas it was notorious, that there were many imperfections and considerable abuses in the system of registration as established in England and Scotland, which were things that had been quoted, that were still used by hon. Gentlemen opposite in illustration of their own arguments, yet the noble Lord addressed himself to the question of Irish registration exclusively, leaving the English and Scotch systems, with all their imperfections on their heads, to shift for themselves. It was plain that there was no material ambiguity in the construction attached to the interpretation of the beneficial interest qualification in England, while it was in Ireland, and in Ireland alone, that the practical ambiguity prevailed; and the attempt now made was to put an end to that which pervaded, perplexed, complicated, and embarrassed the whole system of registration. But was there no difference between the English and the Irish qualifications for the franchise? The noble Lord had represented the Government, as being guilty of monstrous par- 841 tiality towards Ireland. The noble Lord had accused them of giving to that country qualifications that were unknown to any country, and that exceeded the notions, that the most visionary Radicals had ever ventured to form. In this representation of their conduct the noble Lord had been followed by the hon. and learned Member for Coleraine; but when it was said, that they were about to confer a large franchise on Ireland, that was not enjoyed by the people of this country, those who put forward the accusation must leave out of their consideration the 40s. franchise now enjoyed by the people of England, and that had once been enjoyed by the people of Ireland. But when it was said, that this was a partial measure—when they were accused of giving to Ireland a more expansive and liberal measure than that which was now possessed by England, he believed that there was not a Liberal on his side of the House—there was not a partisan of the Irish party, who, in lieu of this measure, if offered the English franchise, with all its restrictions in point of value and tenure —there was not one of them who, if he had such an offer made to him by the noble Lord, would not gladly accept the proposition in lieu of this measure; and in that case, he believed the noble Lord would be looked upon as a much more liberal statesman —a much more promising disciple of the movement than any one of the Ministers. He believed, that the noble Lord and hon. Gentleman opposite, by a course of that description, would outbid him in the market; and knowing this, he could not give them credit for believing, that he proposed better or more advantageous terms to the people of Ireland than those that were now enjoyed by the people of this country. The noble Lord had alluded to the superior advantages, that, under the Irish Reform Act, leaseholders in Ireland had over those of England; but the noble Lord had omitted out of his view the proportion of freeholders that had been disfranchised in Ireland. In the very first measure of conciliation that had been proposed—that measure with which the name of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) was so honourably identified—they found, as its concomitant, the disfranchisement of 191,000 voters. This, then, was an ingredient that ought not to be omitted. The noble Lord had quoted some expressions of a speech of his when the proposition was made in 1839, for bringing in a 842 bill to assimilate the franchise between the two countries. It Was true that he had opposed that proposition, and he did not conceive, that in bringing forward this motion his course was at all inconsistent with the refusal that he had then given to effect an identity between the elective franchises of the two countries. He might add, that his language on the occasion referred to any impression that his subsequent proceedings could have a tendency to falsify. It was to him then some consolation to find, that he did not give rise to any expectation, that he was not prepared to realise and to carry into effect. The noble Lord had said—and it was that, he owned, which could be urged most plausibly against them—that they were now calling on the House to legislate, without giving them full and satisfactory information. He could say, that he was most anxious to give them all the information, of which he was in possession; and this he did, whether it were thought to bear against him or not. Whatever it was, it was laid on the Table of the House, so as to be brought within the cognizance of hon. Gentlemen. When this subject had been mooted before, he had referred to the opinions of the hon. Member for Monaghan, whom it certainly seemed difficult to please in so doing. He had read the speech of that hon. Gentleman without gloss or comment, as it seemed fully to bear out the object for which he had quoted it, namely, that the hon. Gentleman approved of the principle of founding the elective franchise on some footing independent of the oath of the elector. That hon. Gentleman bad also referred to the proceedings of the hon. Member for Mallow (Sir D. Norreys), as not being in his favour more than the hon. Gentleman's own principle. The bill of the hon. Member for Mallow adopted the principle of making the test of qualification independent of the oath of the voter; and doing the same thing, he considered that he had the sanction of those two high authorities. The hon. Member for Monaghan said, that he would take the test here proposed, subject to the deduction for rent; he might consider the result of that condition hereafter, but whatever might be the other means employed, it was plain that the adoption of a rated test was a proposition that had been urged upon them by others before they brought it forward themselves. He had himself always distinctly notified his assent to the principle, he had said, that he cordially approved of 843 this; that the test of qualification should be grounded on the Poor-law. He had also heretofore expressed his opinion, that the time was not yet ripe for the application of this principle until the Poor-law had been universally applied, and that until it was so applied, and the rates levied, and appeals decided, they could not legislate with full 'advantage on the subject. But then the noble Lord came forward, and said why did the Government now call upon the House to assent to this proposition? He would like to know at whose door did this charge mainly lie? To whom was the necessity of present legislation mainly to be attributable? He had said in previous years that the time was not fully come for this—that the Poor-law ought to be for a longer time enacted, and more widely diffused throughout Ireland, and the effect of the valuation more fully known. This statement had been before made, but it had been disregarded. It was said by those opposite that the existing system was a system of fraud and perjury, and that the Ministry profited by it, and had no desire to remedy it. But hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the noble Lord particularly, were not content with accusing them of a want of alacrity in bringing their measures forward; but they must have in addition to this a measure of their own. The noble Lord was tired of his long period of inaction: —No joys for him pacific sceptres yield, War sounds the trump—he rushes to the field.The noble Lord sighed over the recollections of his Arms Bill, and his Coercion Bill. The noble Lord challenged them to this fight—he made it impossible for them to remain longer passive spectators of his forays and incursions in the demesne of legislation, and his ravages on the national franchise. As the noble Lord had thrown down the gauntlet, they did not shrink from taking it up. Fraud, and trick, and artifice, and every sort of perjury were the favourite terms and frequent charges urged against them on the opposite benches. These were the charges most frequent in the mouths of those Purists on the opposite side, for the notion, that a Parliamentary seat could be unfairly obtained, seemed to sit heavily on their souls. What was it then that happened? He brought forward a bill, which, putting out of view the nature of that proposition that referred to the franchise itself, was to rid them for ever of trick, and fraud, and perjury; or, in 844 the words of the hon. and learned Member for Coleraine, that he found to be graphic upon this occasion, under which—"fraud, personation and perjury should be no more." This was the principle of a bill thus described that was tendered for the acceptance of hon. Gentlemen opposite. This was the principle which had been upheld and wished for, whatever else might be their views, by those who professed in the country the same principles as hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was the principle sanctioned and approved by the witnesses that hon. Gentlemen opposite had themselves brought before the committee on fictitious votes. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. C. Wood) had already quoted the evidence of Mr. Fosberry, a barrister-at-law, employed by the noble Lord to superintend the Irish Registration Act, and who was stated to be a Conservative in politics. This was the opinion he gave on the matter:—Then from what you observed in the course of that long inquiry, you conceive that it would be desirable to have some other test of value besides that of the oath of the party, or the oath of other witnesses? Unquestionably; I was always of that opinion, and said that it would be preferable to take the payment of the county cess as a test, than the 10l. value.—The payment of county cess, though not a good test, would be much better than the other mode—that is, any self-controlling check; a check by which the interest of the party, in reference to the value, is set against the interest of obtaining the franchise, would be the most satisfactory test? Yes; a certain pecuniary test of payment arising from his tenure,—Then if any uniform rate was established throughout the country for a certain purpose, such as the Poor-law, should you consider that would be a desirable criterion by which to ascertain the value? Certainly it would be a fair test to judge by, and it would prevent a great deal of false swearing.—And a great deal of uncertainty? Yes.The same thing was said by Mr. Courtney, the agent of Lord Lorton, and a near relative to the hon. Member for the University of Dublin.Mr. Courtney does not think that taking the man's own oath is a good or politic system, either to the prevention of perjury, or to the obtaining a sound constituency; and in the place of it he proposes that the holding, out of which the claimant seeks to register, should be viewed and valued by the county-cess collector, and that the voter himself should not be tested as to the value of it. Nor his neighbours, who swear for each other. And put a value upon land outrageously beyond anything that could be obtained for it; double the rent, and beyond double the rent that could be obtained for it.845 It was in pursuance of these opinions, and using the experience that had been acquired in Ireland on the present working if the system, that they had brought forward this bill for effectually removing these evils. This was done by those who were said to be the suborners of perjury; but what had they on the opposite side—they who vaunted to be the enemies of perjury—what had they done? The noble Lord had brought in a bill which, besides other objections, besides being a bill of a most arbitrary character, and containing some most arbitrary restrictions, besides being encumbered with operose and cumbersome machinery, was so far from going to the main sources of the evils that existed, from shutting the door against perjury, fraud, doubt and dispute, and thus effecting the specific object which it professed to aim at, that he truly and unaffectedly believed the real practical effect of the bill would be to increase and aggravate those very evils which it was ostentatiously brought forward to remedy. In the first place, the bill of the noble Lord left the main point of doubt and dispute wholly untouched. All the disputes that occurred in every registry court in Ireland—all those matters that were subjects of protracted and painful inquiry before committees of that House, whatever might be the allegations of the petitions, almost uniformly turned upon the subject of value, a subject which had not only divided Parliament, the bench, and the bar, but had made itself felt in every registry court in Ireland, and before every parliamentary committee that had sat to inquire into the complaints of petitions from Ireland. It was impossible to take up a newspaper without perceiving the lamentable difficulty, the dead lock in the administration of the system that had occurred since those disputes had arisen. Since he had laid his bill on the Table of the House, a speech had been made by a learned judge, which was in effect an answer and attack upon the judges for their opinions and conduct with reference to the same subject, and he would ask the House, was that a satisfactory state of things? But the bill of the noble Lord would leave this state of things utterly untouched and unremedied. The noble Lord having an uncertain thing to establish, made the mode of establishing it subject to all the abuses, doubts, and uncertainties, that had hitherto been so loudly and justly complained of. The franchise proposed by the noble Lord, uncertain in itself, was to be established by the oath 846 of the party interested, and by the conflicting testimony of adverse witnesses upon the subject of value, a subject in itself of the most delicate and difficult character, even when there was no intentional fraud or deliberate perjury. This might be illustrated by a thousand passages, but he Mould only read one from the report of the fictitious votes committee of 1837. It was taken from the evidence of a registering barrister, and was as follows:—There were a great number of persons produced as witnesses—so many, that in many cases the contrariety of swearing was so great, that it depended more upon the probability of what was sworn than any actual test of truth; they started up from all sides if you discredited a voter, and said you did not think he had sufficiently proved his value. It is necessary to state I first examined the claimant myself, and if I was satisfied of what he swore, I said, 'I was satisfied with the person.' Then the counsel cross-examined him, and afterwards evidence was brought up in every case in which it was necessary to support his vote, and a great number of persons very often came forward from both sides of the court, saying, 'I will give 10l. for his freehold, I will give 10l. for his freehold,' and jumped upon the table, when they swore to the value. I have had in some cases ten or twelve witnesses, and the greatest contradiction between them, so that in many cases I was obliged to decide upon the probability of what was true rather than upon the swearing on either side. There was the most direct contradictory swearing. In many cases I tried, a great many of the claimants themselves came forward under the impression, and you could never divest them of the idea, that the actual value was what it was worth to the individual himself. The man thought the farm upon which he lived was worth a great deal to him.He did not think that all these proceedings necessarily involved perjury, but it showed the endless conflicts and differences that existed on the subject of value, and these the bill of the noble Lord took no steps to remedy. It was true that the noble Lord's bill imposed many restrictions, and conjured up many difficulties, in the way of obtaining the franchise, either fairly or unfairly; and what he complained of was, that the bill, in a great many instances, would effectually drive away from the registry many an honest and bonâ fide claimant, as well as the unqualified person, and he would go further and say, although it might appear paradoxical, that in many instances the bill of the noble Lord, encumbered and complicated as it was, would deter and disfranchise the good and fair claimant, 847 even far more the dishonest and pretended claimant. He said so for this reason, that persons of the latter description, either from a hope of gain, a love of speculation, or a brazen disregard of consequences, would encounter the risk of the ordeal proposed, but a host of honest, well-intentioned people, although perfectly qualified, preferring an easy life, would not run the gauntlet through all the snares and pitfalls which the noble Lord's bill would establish. The noble Lord in his speech seemed to impeach the rating which he (Viscount Morpeth) proposed even as the basis of qualification, and the noble Lord contended that some of the documents furnished by him invalidated the authority of the Poor-law valuation. If that valuation pretended to establish one exact uniform scale of taxation, he admitted, that in that light it would be liable to some such exception. Human legislation seldom arrived at exact precision and uniformity. He did not conceive that an uniform and unerring scale of precision was necessary to establish a rating as the basis of qualification. What was wanted as the basis of qualification was that which would present on the face of it some fixed and staple sum, uniform, certainly, in its effect, over a large, contiguous district, and not materially differing over any part of the country in its effect, something that should present on the face of it a fixed and ascertained sum, settled upon distinct and independent grounds, uninfluenced either by the caprice of the landlord or the breeze of popular favour. Such a basis, upon the whole, he thought, would be found in the Poor-law valuation. He did not contend that it was free from exception. He did not contend that it would satisfy all conditions. He knew that many plausible objections might be urged against any proposition that could be brought forward, but, upon the whole, he did not believe that they could take any test that would prove more effectually than the Poor-law valuation the existence of a certain stake in the country, whilst it prevented the possibility of doubt as to the person of the voter, and thus utterly excluded personation, false testimony, and perjury. It must also be remembered that any incorrectness, informality, or departure from the spirit and letter of the Poor-law in the valuation seemed uniformly to have had the tendency of raising, not lowering the qualification. It was said, that by coupling the franchise with the rating, they would be giving a motive to parties 848 to submit to excessive rating; but he believed that the desire to escape taxation would be found to operate almost invariably far more strongly upon human nature, and more especially upon the nature of tax-payers. Respecting the rating of 5l., it was quite plain that, whether a period of ten or five years was proposed in the Poor-law Continuance Bill, or whether the qualification was to be 10l. or 5l. in a franchise bill, the committee, and not the second reading, was the fitting stage at which definitively to fix such points as either the duration or amount; but he had no wish to conceal the reasons that had induced him to adopt the sum of 5l., nor had he yet heard any reasons that disposed him to recede from that proposition. Having, as he stated, made up his mind that it was expedient and proper, with a view to obviate and render impossible of recurrence the evils complained of, he had adopted the Poor-law rating as the basis of qualification, and it then became incumbent upon him to fix some amount, which in his opinion, should give a fair equivalent, and afford a reasonable evidence of the franchise as intended to be conferred by the Reform Act. Of course any precise and unerring correspondence was out of the question, even if they were possessed of all the information that in time might be expected to come to hand. They could only avail themselves of such information as could be procured, and they found that if they had recourse, as might in the first instance have suggested itself, to a 10l. rating, in all the unions respecting which they had had access to any information, a rated value of 10l. would have had the effect of disfranchising a very considerable number of those upon all sides of politics who were perfectly and fairly entitled to be placed on the electoral roll. It was therefore clear, that a rating which should give a fair and reasonable equivalent for the franchise which he believed to have been contemplated by the Reform Act, must range below 10l. They found also, that there were many registered electors whom a rating of 5l. net value upon a poor-rate valuation would exclude from the register, and also that a rated value of 5l. generally gave possession of six or seven, and, in certain circumstances, of eight or nine acres of land. Taking into consideration the effect of the valuation, wherever it was ascertained, it seemed to have been considerably lower than the rent, which a rated inhabitant actually paid, or than the rent 849 which any solvent tenant would be willing to undertake to pay. He thought it a very fair, he would not deny that it might be called a liberal, but he did not think it an inordinate equivalent for the present franchise to take a rated value of 5l., for the franchise contemplated by the Reform Act, as carried into effect by the persons who acted under the appointment, and under the superintendence of the noble Lord opposite, when the noble Lord filled the office, which he had now the honour to hold. With respect to the gloss that had been put upon the franchise subsequently by some of the Irish judges, he would refer to the effect which it would have upon the registered constituency of Ireland, to the evidence given by the valuator of the union of Longford. It would be remembered, that according to the decision of the judges in Ireland, the present definition of the franchise required a holding for which a solvent tenant would pay 10l. in addition to the rent. Now, the valuator of the Longford union stated, as the result of his experience, that he seldom met with instances where a solvent tenant could pay 10l. more than his rent; and he further stated, that if the valuation under the Poor-law was taken as the standard of value, and the rating was to be subject to the deduction of the rent, the result would be the total destruction of that class of voters, whose qualifications arose from tenements in their own actual occupation. He owned, that he recoiled from a proposition which should have the effect, directly or indirectly, of raising the elective franchise in Ireland. In addressing the House the other evening, he quoted some comparative statement of the number of the constituencies in this country and in Ireland, and his object in doing so was perhaps misunderstood; it was certainly misrepresented. He never attempted to convey that they ought to place the qualification upon the basis of mere numbers, or to recede from the principle of the Reform Bill, but he showed, from authentic documents, a glaring disproportion between the electoral bodies in England, Scotland, and Ireland, when it appeared, that the ratio of voters in England was one in eighteen and-a-half, in Scotland, one in thirty, and in Ireland one in seventy-seven. The hon. Member for Monaghan said, he would not enter into these calculations, but he would tell that hon. Member, that if they were to have an electoral body at all answering the purposes of the British constitution, there must be some termi- 850 nation to the doctrine of utter extinction. He did think himself called upon to enter an emphatic protest against the notion of introducing or of consenting to the introduction of any measure which should tend, directly or indirectly, to raise the elective franchise in Ireland, or to pare down her contracted, and, in spite of what had been said to the contrary, he would maintain, her fast-diminishing constituency. The noble Lord had said, that the present bill would have a tendency to prevent landlords giving leases; and the noble Lord had also dwelt upon the relative duties of landlords and tenants, but his observations upon this subject, he (Viscount Morpeth) must own did not seem to him to have been conceived in the best spirit of constitutional freedom, or to be such as he should have expected from a person, who in his day, had done such distinguished service to this cause as the noble Lord. He did not object, because it was impossible to counteract the natural feelings in the human bosom; he did not object to landlords hoping or expecting that their tenants would vote according to their own predilections, but he did object to their harbouring any feelings of resentment against those who did not so comply with their desires. Did not the noble Lord wish to bring the electoral franchise of Ireland to this pass, that the electors, whatever injustice or wrongs they might experience at the hands of their landlords, should merely reflect and reecho the sentiments of whatever might be the dominant party in that country? The noble Lord had said, that, when matters came to this point, he should be ready to give his consideration to the case; and he was glad to find that, in spite of the noble Lord's horror at the sacrilegious hand with which they had approached the sacred ark of reform, there were circumstances under which they might expect the noble Lord to co-operate with them in revising and remodelling that enactment. But the noble Lord said, that such circumstances of necessity did not exist at the present moment, that the landlords of Ireland did not withhold leases to any such extent as to diminish considerably the number of electors; that the constituency was not dwindled down to such an extent as would render interference necessary. The document upon which the noble Lord relied for this view of the case was a return laid on the Table of the House in the course of the present Session, being a state- 851 ment of the number of electors in Ireland, and the noble Lord had said, that the constituent body of Ireland was materially increased during the last year; that it had been formerly 50,000, and at a later period 80,000, and that now it amounted to 99,000 persons. But the noble Lord, in making this estimate of the general result, had overlooked a very material fact which he might have taken into his calculation if he had consulted the different headings of this return. The noble Lord overlooked the fact, that this return represented the electoral body of Ireland, as it stood before the expiration of the registration of 1832, and that since the date of that return every one who was registered in 1832, and who had not since renewed his franchise, no longer formed part of the constituency of Ireland. Before the noble Lord founded arguments upon facts of this kind, it behoved him to be convinced of their accuracy, and of their applicability to the actual state of things. But, as he had already stated, the statements upon which the noble Lord relied, and which had been quoted by the hon. Member for Monaghan, were taken from that column in the return giving the total number of voters in Ireland at the date of the return, namely, the 25th of February, 1840, at which time, as he had already observed, the registration of 1832 was still in force; however, at the moment he now addressed the House, the franchise of all the voters on that registry, unless subsequently renewed, had expired. It would not be long before the House would have ample practical illustration of the altered state of things at the present moment; on the 1st of February the numbers were made up of all those who were now entitled to vote in Ireland. Now, from information with which he had been furnished, it appeared, for instance, that in Cork, where the elective constituency on the last return was 5,738, it had now dwindled to 3,795; and, in Tipperary county, the constituency had fallen from 4,143 to 2,463. With respect to two other counties, he had returns of a similar character; though not from quite so authentic a source, from which it appeared, that in Queen's County, the constituency bad fallen from 2,536 to 1,689; and in Roscommon, from 2,192 to 1,059. Stress had been laid by the noble Lord upon the manner in which it was proposed to deal with the town franchise. He would admit that the same ambiguities of construction did. not prevail as to the qualifications for 852 voting in cities as in counties; and, therefore, that there was so far a less imperative call for a remodelling of the system in the one case than the other. But, at the name time, most copious and abundant evidence would be found in the evidence of the Fictitious Votes Committee, to prove, that disputes about many points connected with value, equally involved the franchise in great towns as in counties. In ascertaining the franchises of towns, there was the same evidence to go upon, namely, the oath of the voter, and the conflicting testimony of adverse witnesses. The proportionate scale of expence, and living in this country and Ireland, would of itself tend to reduce the discrepancy which the present proposal would at first sight appear to introduce in the respective amounts of the qualification for the two countries, and he thought that as they would now have the means of ascertaining and fixing the franchise upon the same uniform principle, it would be better to apply it to the towns as well as to the counties. Now the grounds upon which he would earnestly hope the House would sanction his measure instead of the noble Lord's were these; his bill would remove doubt; it would put an end to all disputes; it would meet and remove all the evils and abuses which were now most complained of; it would exclude all controversy, and counteract all those mischiefs for which legislation had been expressly invoked for Ireland; and would effect all this without incurring any of those embarrassments and drawbacks, which so often had been complained of in the system of registration for England. But there were some other points in which he must say he thought this measure was superior to the noble Lord's. He thought that it was much better that the voter should have facilities for establishing his claim before the same tribunals to which he had been accustomed to resort; and that he should have the opportunity of doing so once in a quarter. He thought the annual revision should be confined to new matter. He thought it better also, that the province of the appellate jurisdiction should be limited to matters of law, and should not include matters of fact which had been already ascertained and lastly, he thought that the judges of the land ought not to constitute an appellate jurisdiction of this kind. These points, however, had been already discussed, and if this bill were allowed to go into committee, they could all be considered in detail. He hoped that the 853 House, in passing its deliberate verdict upon these two rival measures now before them, would be so far guided by the spirit of the Reform Act of 1832 as to weigh deliberately the general features of the two measures in connection with the principle of that great enactment. He begged the House to consider these facts. The bill of the noble Lord would involve all voters, good and bad, all claims fair and fraudulent in the same series of obstructions, delays, appeals, and costs; subject them all alike to restrictions of every description, which would have a manifest tendency to impair a great and important public right, and must inevitably in the end pinch and pare down the elective franchise of the Irish people within wholly inadequate bounds;—and that whilst it did all this, it left all these points of dispute, all these prolific sources of discontent, all these mischiefs which had been so loudly and so justly complained of, wholly untouched, uncared for, and unredressed. On the other hand the bill which he (Viscount Morpeth) proposed, whilst it removed all that train of doubts and disputes which at present existed, and put in their stead clearness, plainness, and simplicity, went upon the principle of giving instead of denying facilities for the exercise of a great and beneficial public right, and did not shrink, if at the same time it comprised as a collateral means, some possible future enlargement to a popular franchise, which had been too cooped up and confined, and in some approach to equality in the condition of those who had at least always been called our fellow citizens, and fellow subjects. He was very far from wishing now, or on any other occasion, to use any language or to suggest any view which might be supposed to trench upon threat or intimidation. He would not, therefore, make any reference to existing circumstances, or to the times and scenes amidst which they were living; for sure he was, that the leaders on the benches opposite were imbued with a deep sense of the gravity of the subject, and the responsibility under which they laboured in having to adopt almost any mode for dealing with it, it would be enough for him now to hope and believe that the measure which he had introduced to the House, the principle of which commended itself to the deliberate judgments of himself and his colleagues, and the details of which were based, on the most accurate statements of facts which he could procure—was such 854 a measure us was suited to the present circumstances of the people of Ireland, and as would, if adopted, both on its own account, and as an evidence of the kind, and conciliatory feeling of the Parliament of this country, prove eminently auspicious to the future happiness of Ireland. It could not be denied, however the subject might be dealt with by the hon. Member for Coleraine, that great auxiety and agitation existed in Ireland at the present moment. He did not mean to say, that the people of Ireland were justified in entertaining such dark bodings and impressions of the views of the opposite party in regard to their interests; but, at the same time, truth compelled him to say, that there did exist in that country at the present moment a great feeling of soreness, of apprehension and of disquietude. He thought there were some words of old classical wisdom apposite to the circumstances. Hœc Provincia, si ad belli utilitatem, si ad pads dignitatem, retinere vultis, non modo a calamitatc sed a metu calamitatis est defendenda. He did not wish to talk of danger, or of a repeal of the union, for he knew what a concurrence of parties there would be to resist such extremities; but he thought a happier opportunity now presented itself for replacing feelings of amity for those of animosity and alienation which were but too fast growing up, for restoring confidence and for riveting the union with links more durable than law, more firm than force could make them, an opportunity, such as statesmen would do well to ponder, and patriots would not be easily tempted to despise.
§ Debate adjourned.—House adjourned.