§ The Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned debate having been read,
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that in declaring his own wish that justice should be done to Ireland, he also expressed the wishes of the majority of his constituents. It might be a question with some Gentlemen, whether or not the complaints of the people of Ireland were well founded; but if they were so, what just man would refuse to listen to them and to grant redress? On this point he begged the House to consider the state of the constituency of Ireland, as compared with that of England and Scotland. He found that the proportion of electors to the population, in England, was one in twenty; in Scotland, one in twenty-six; while in Ireland it was only one in seventy-two. He found, that in England the proportion between the representatives, and the represented was one to every 30,000 inhabitants; in Scotland, one to every 44,000; but, in regard to Ireland, there was but one representative to every 75,000. He was not disposed then further to curtail the elective franchise, or to increase the disproportion already existing between the two countries. His belief was, that the bill brought in by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, would have the effect of curtailing the franchise, and on that ground alone the people of Ireland had a fair and 942 just complaint against the measure. On the other hand, the bill which had been introduced by the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, appeared to him one that would not only give satisfaction to the people of Ireland, but it would also give satisfaction to the people of England. In his opinion it would tend to unite more closely the two countries, and increase the prosperity and happiness of Ireland, as well as of England. For his own part, he had no hesitation in saying that he was opposed to the Repeal of the Union. He would never give his consent to the Repeal of the Union under any circumstances; but at the same time he thought, that it was a matter of some importance to have it in their power to refuse unreasonable and unjust demands, by complying with those which were reasonable and just. He was ready, therefore, to do justice to Ireland, but he would never agree to the two countries being disunited. He considered it good policy to grant graciously what they could not refuse safely. It did appear to him, that the present important measure involved the question, whether Ireland should be governed by conciliation or by coercion, and whether Ireland was to be considered as a member of the imperial family, or treated as an alien and an outcast. The bill, he believed, would put an end to the system of perjury and fraud which was said to exist in Ireland; it would put an end to the endless litigation in the registry courts; and it would tend to promote a better understanding than what had hitherto existed among the different classes of society. Seeing, then, the great benefits that would arise to both countries from the pressing of the present measure, he had no hesitation in giving it his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Milnes
hoped that the House would permit him to say a few words in explanation of the vote which he intended to give on the bill then before the House. He was the more anxious to do so, in consequence of the misrepresentations to which the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, when he introduced a bill of a different nature, had been subjected, misrepresentations which every supporter of that noble Lord's bill should be prepared to bear. He felt the greatest anxiety that this great and important question should be finally settled; and he sincerely regretted that her Majesty's Government had brought forward a measure which must, as 943 they all knew, prevent that felicitous conclusion. They had heard a great deal during the debate of the difference between the detail and the principle of the bill, and a spectator or reader of the debate would have much difficulty in distinguishing the one from the other; for while one party had maintained that the alteration in the franchise was a matter of no importance whatever—that it was simply and accidentally tacked to the bill, by another party it was maintained the whole bill rested on it—and to such an extent was that inconsistency carried, that his right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh commenced his speech last night by stating that he considered the amount of the 5l. franchise as a matter of no importance and almost irrevalent to the subject, and concluded by saying that the franchise itself was the great principle of the bill. He must, however, express his belief that the common sense, both of the House and the country, regarded the amount of the franchise as the principle of the bill, and the manner of rating as one of its details. As to the matter of detail he must state to the House that supposing the Poor-law in Ireland to have become an organised system, instead of being the commencement of an experiment, he did not see but that it might be a more fair and just foundation for the franchise than any other system that could be devised. But when they heard such variations as those that had been made in the valuation of land in Ireland, and how totally inconsistent they were with one another, he could not say that he could agree even to that point of detail at the present moment. There were also inconveniences attached to that mode of rating, which he did not think could be satisfactorily got over according to the bill of the noble Lord, and in that respect he could point to the contrast between the bill of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, and the bill which the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Lucas) presented last year. Between those two bills there was this most important distinction, that while under the bill which the noble Lord had brought forward a voter might perchance not possess the interest of a single shilling in his tenantcy, which gave him the right to vote—that in fact it was in every sense the right of the landlord and not the right of the tenant—the bill for the hon; Member for Monaghan vested that right in the occupying tenant and the occupant alone. In the position which be occupied in the House, it would 944 be impertinent in him to attempt to enter into the details of the bill, but he must say a few words as to the principle of it. Now, whether he considered the admissions made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh last evening, or the contradictions of other Gentlemen who had spoken on the other side, he would appeal to the House and the country, whether the principle of the bill was not the augmentation and enlargement of the franchise in Ireland. Will you not have, and do you not intend, to have a larger constituency for Ireland than the Reform Bill gave it—that is the whole question. One point, as to the introduction of the bill. If her Majesty's Ministers had really intended to pass that bill, so that it might become law—if they really felt the danger to be so imminent and pressing, they never would have brought that bill into the House with such a provision attached to it as they knew must prevent its now passing into law. He had no objection to the Ministers of the Crown bringing forward measures which they wish to become law, although they may be aware they cannot pass them at the time, in order to accustom the public mind to consider the subject, so that eventually the measure may become law. It was in that way that Roman Catholic Emancipation had been carried. It was in that way that the Reform Bill had become law; but were they to wait in this manner whole years for the bill of the noble Lord, when they had a measure in the bill of the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire, which they were ready to bring into Committee, and submit to any alteration which the House might think fit to adopt. He wished to impress upon the House that the Government had not brought forward this measure with any intention that it, should pass into a law. It was evident they had some ulterior object in view, and as to what that might be every one must form his own opinion. One thing, however, was most remarkable throughout this debate, and that was the silence of the Gentlemen who took a radical view of political affairs. They seemed to have retired into silent self congratulation, for they saw that they had now got the Government on their own ground—on the road, he might more appropriately say the railroad of progressive reform. Before he sat down he would remark upon the conclusions that had been come to by his right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, when he mentioned the possibility that the 945 great and loyal people of Ireland should join the enemies of the British Empire. When they remembered with what scorn Ireland had received such an imputation, at a time when the penal laws were heavy on her neck, when Emancipation was only a distant hope, could they for a moment think that that great people would forfeit their allegiance to the British empire, now that the distinctions of caste and creed were done away with, and Ireland and England formed one truly British empire. It was not by these means that Ireland was to be more closely attached to England, but by a mutual understanding of mutual interests, by the extension and perfection of that system of National Education which Ireland owed to that very noble Lord they now blindly calumniated, by the oblivion of those ecclesiastical disputes which had reared since the Tithe Bill of that same noble Lord had become law, a benefit which the miserable spirit of faction kept back from her for four years, but which she now enjoyed, and above all, by the silent operation of those influences which in other times, and other circumstances, out of the discordant elements of Norman and Saxon, built up the homogeneous greatness of the English people.
§ Sir W. Somerville
said, that as the proposition then before the House was a new one, he trusted that he might be permitted briefly to state his views, and the reasons which would induce him to vote for the second reading of the bill. He had often expressed his opinion that in Ireland there never could be any sound and satisfactory system of registration until it was based upon a new footing. He could not help expressing his regret that the noble Lord who led the opposition to this bill should have stated that under no combination of circumstances would he give his assent to a rating under the Poor-law. He had hoped that however the details might be objected to, however they might think that the franchise was too low, all would be willing to support some plan for placing the elective franchise upon a sure and sound foundation. But however vast the improvement proposed, he was bound to say that it did not go to the root of the evil. The constituencies would continue to diminish from year to year. In Ireland there was a steady and rapid increase of prosperity—but there was an indisposition On the part of the landlords in that country to confer upon their tenants the means of 946 acquiring the elective franchise. That would still be in operation if the bill passed into a law, and they would find at last that the constituencies would have so dwindled, that the Legislature of this country would be compelled to adopt some plan to prevent the representation from being entirely on one side. He was very sorry to detain the House by entering into details, but he trusted the great importance of the subject would excuse him for putting the House in possession of the former and the present state of the constituency of the county of Meath. It was to be borne in mind that that county had the advantage of a near neighbourhood to the port of Drogheda, whence they had opened up to them the whole of the vast and important markets of Lancashire. In the year 1821, the population of Meath was 159,000—in 1831 it amounted to 170,000, and supposing they were to take the increase up to 1841 in the same ratio it would give a population of 193,000. Under the Reform Bill the constituency was 1,536; in January, 1841 it was no more than 1,263. Let them bear in mind, that in that period there had been a vast increase in the prosperity of the county, yet the falling off in the constituency during the eight years was no less than one-sixth—this was a serious deterioration, and was deserving of the best consideration of the House. The House was not then in possession of data, so that they must take his word for the fact; but Returns would soon be laid on the table of the House, which he doubted not would show that the constituency was not now so great as it was before the Reform Bill. It was a subject of complaint that the people were compelled to vote against their landlords. The fact was that they frequently did vote against them. If in Ireland political circumstances only were discussed upon occasions of election, that general opposition of the people to their landlords might excite some surprise. But, unfortunately, in that country those questions always took a religious turn. Incalculable mischief was caused in Ireland by the language used in that House. Conservative Gentlemen in Ireland condemned that language; but yet here it was made a trade to vilify the Catholic religion and Catholic clergy. Was it wonderful, then, that the people should say at the time of election that men were put forward as the enemies of the 947 clergy and religion, and was it wonderful that the Catholic tenantry should feel themselves, to a man, bound by their allegiance to their religion to oppose such candidates? Much mischief had also been done by the virulent language indulged in by the Conservative press of England. All the violent articles published in this country were inserted in the Irish Liberal papers, and the minds of the people became still more inflamed and exasperated against their landlords, whom they identified with the party which was so inimical to their religion. He did not go the length of expecting that the bill now under consideration would settle the question of the franchise, but it would do one thing—it would attempt to define it. He would not now stop to dispute the question of law. It was sufficient for his purpose to state that doubt existed—and that House was bound in duty to come forward and settle the doubt by defining the franchise. If it was to be defined by the solvent tenant test, let that be done; and if the mode of ascertaining the franchise by the beneficial interest was wrong, let them find out another test, but let them not leave the matter in doubt—if they did so, at their doors must lie the charge of fraud and perjury which the unfortunate people were subject to, and which they where actually led into by the state of doubt in which the matter rested. This much was clear, that whether there was to be a change in the value of the franchise or not, some change must be made. It was quite certain that the Reform Ministry in the year 1832 determined that the franchise was not to be ascertained by the solvent tenant test. A motion was made when the Irish Reform Bill was introduced to that effect, but it was rejected, and he reminded the House that when the Irish Reform Bill was before the House of Lords, Lord Ellenborough stated upon that point that they had introduced into the Bill a leasehold qualification, which is less than the freehold one as settled in 1829. Did not the Duke of Richmond say that the solvent tenant test was in effect a 20l. qualification? Did not Lord Lansdowne say that the solvent tenant test was a 20l. qualification? Yes, each of these noble Lords had said so. Did not Lord Roden divide the House of Lords on the motion for reinstating the original freehold qualification of the year 1829, and was not that motion lost? 948 The administration of justice was brought into contempt in Ireland, and the character of the Judges was daily lowered by the differences of opinion entertained by them on the question of the franchise. After having done so much to reconcile the people of Ireland to the administration of justice, after having given them confidence, that House was then undoing its own work, and losing the confidence of the people, while it allowed the administration of justice to fall into disrepute. The character of the judges of Ireland was at stake, and he called upon every well wisher of Ireland to lend his aid to stop the course of such a state of things, to remove all doubt from what ought to be the test of the franchise, and to relieve the judges from the possible imputation of being political partisans. One of the objections of the noble Lord to the bill was, to the bringing the Poor-law into operation in connection with a definition of the franchise. He did not see that the effect which the noble Lord anticipated of making the Poor-law a subject of political struggles, would arise from that arrangement. There was something, however, to which the noble Lord did not object, and which was worse in its tendency than that, and that was the making registration officers of the Judges. He was satisfied that no well-wisher of Ireland would do anything else than seek to remove any imputation being attached to the Judges. If the noble Lord thought that it was better to give the English Parliamentary registration to the people of Ireland, why did he not give the same Municipal Reform Bill to that people? Was it worth while to withhold that small boon from the people of Ireland, and thereby create great dissatisfaction in that country? The withholding of the boon involved a risk. Why, then, was it not extended to the people of Ireland? The noble Lord had stated, that exaggerated statements had been made with respect to his bill. He (Sir W. Somerville) had, both in that House and in other places, given every opposition in his power to it. Perhaps he had taken an exaggerated view of the mischiefs that would result from the bill, and if he had opposed it on any occasion in what seemed an unfair manner, he hoped the noble Lord would accept his apology. He should be very sorry to offer an unfair opposition to any measure—but he could assure the noble Lord that all the informa- 949 tion which he had been able to procure had not led him to change his opinions with regard to the incalculable mischief which would result from his bill. He solemnly protested, that it was his opinion that if that bill passed, there would not be twenty Liberal Members returned for Ireland. The property would be represented, but the bulk of the people would have no representatives. He was sure that was a state of things the noble Lord would not wish to see. The noble Lord had, in fact, stated as much, and he was bound to give every credit to that statement, but he must be allowed to judge of the effect of the noble Lord's measure by his own experience. He was not singular in his opinion. It was also the opinion of one of the most influential Conservative organs in this country. What did he find in a recent number of the Standard newspaper?The Irish registeries are improving though not rapidly, and Lord Stanley's bill would purify them altogether, and give the Conservatives at least 80 out of the 105 Members.'?This was certainly purifying them with a vengeance. His opinion was, that the Standard newspaper was below the mark. And how would the bill do this? A double appeal was quite enough to disfranchise anybody; but what he objected to was, that the freeholder would never reach the appeal courts, some parts of the counties being to his knowledge thirty miles from the assize town. Could it be expected he would go there? Could it be expected that a poor man would travel thirty miles to appear before a court of appeal, for the purpose of establishing his claim to the franchise? He believed that he would not. He recollected that when, in 1829, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had brought forward a measure for the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, and giving the appeal one way, the late Lord Farnham, a man who knew the Irish people as well as any Member of the House, said, that as regarded the poor freeholder, the appeal to the judge would be only nominal, on account of the expense that would attend it. It would cost him, he said, at least a half year's rent. He would put it to the House whether it would be fair to compel the freeholder to go thirty miles to substantiate his claim after it had before been sifted in the registration court, with an ingenuity of which many Members of that House could have no idea? It was his 950 opinion, that a provision of such a nature would have the effect of totally disfranchising the Irish constituencies; and he hoped that the noble Lord opposite, before he pressed that bill, would give it again his serious consideration. They had heard a good deal of the courage of the noble Lord, but courage was sometimes better evinced by moderation than in aggression. He would conjure the noble Lord if he had the welfare of the country at heart, as he was sure he had, to pause before he pressed a bill which was opposed to the I wishes of the entire Irish nation. He said the entire Irish nation, although he was aware that petitions had been presented from Belfast and other parts of Ireland in favour of the measure. He was aware, too, that petitions of a similar nature had been presented from Liverpool and other parts of England; but he was afraid that if the bill had not a tendency to restrict the liberties of Ireland, they would never have heard of those petitions. The noble Lord had stated that his bill would admit the independent body of electors. At the passing of the Reform Bill the noble Lord stated that the forty shilling freeholders were disfranchised, because they voted at the beck of the landlord; but now the noble Lord stated, that he refused the franchise to a number of people because they would not vote at the beck of their landlord. The noble Lord was difficult to please, and so the franchise of the Irish people was to be frittered away, and when any bill to improve the present system was introduced it met with unqualified opposition. He should cordially give his vote for the second reading of the bill before the House, and should give the bill of the noble Lord opposite his decided opposition. It had been said, those matters that were complained of in the noble Lord's bill might be altered in Committee. That would be a very good argument if the principle of the bill could be tolerated, but when the bill would go far to disfranchise the entire community, as he thought, was he not justified in offering every opposition to the bill in his power, rather than place such mighty interests in jeopardy. It was right that the House should have a sense of the magnitude of the interests now at stake. If the noble Lord's bill passed—and it was right the truth should be told—it was right the Government should know the truth, and it was right the right hon. 951 Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) should know the truth—if the noble Lord's bill passed, they must be prepared to govern Ireland by other means and with another weapon than public opinion. It was his firm belief, that if the House passed the bill of the noble Lord opposite, all attempt at conciliation in Ireland by means of public opinion would fail. He should oppose that bill, because he did not wish to see such a state of things, and because he was attached to the Union between the two countries, as long as it could be maintained beneficially for both. He had not been afraid to express that opinion—he had adhered to it through good report and through evil report, because he thought that the Union, if maintained upon a basis of equality, would tend to the advantage of both. It was his wish to see the experiment which the Government was now making successful, and to be a witness of the progressive improvement of Ireland, in conjunction with the improvement that the Union of the two countries was calculated to confer on both, and not to rest on any weapon except public opinion. Therefore it was, that, not offering any factious opposition to the bill of the noble Lord opposite, he felt bound from the first to resist it—he must, therefore, continue to give it his most strenuous opposition, and he was convinced that the best way of doing so was to support, independently of the merits of the bill itself, the bill of the noble Secretary for Ireland. He could not conceal from himself that the rejection of that bill was tantamount to the adoption of that of the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
was not surprised that the speech of the hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House had been received with approbation. It had been delivered in a tone of extreme moderation, and was characterized by great candour and fairness, and it was gratifying to find that this important subject was likely to be debated in such a tone and spirit. The hon. Baronet would, however, excuse him for saying that he had followed a bad example. He had followed in the footsteps of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, and had made the bill of his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, the subject of debate, rather than the merits of the bill of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Baronet and the Secretary at War had assailed the 952 bill of his noble Friend, and had directed their arguments particularly to that clause which gave an appeal from the decisions of the Assistant-barristers. But there was no new principle in that clause, for although the hon. Baronet and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget the fact, yet the existing law of the land did give an appeal to the judges of assize in one way. At most this was only an extension of the principles already in operation, and an extension which, in his opinion, must be productive of advantage. Nay, more—the bill of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland itself, did profess to give a sort of appeal both ways, and it was, therefore, obnoxious to all the objections which had been made against the bill of his noble Friend by the hon. Baronet and the Secretary at War. The hon. Baronet had said that the bill of the Government defined the franchise. That, however, he must utterly deny. Instead of declaring the law defining the franchise, or removing the doubts which existed upon the subject, the bill of the Government entirely displaced the existing qualification, and substituted a new one completely at variance with the principles of the Reform Bill. The bill of his noble Friend was not, as had been said, hostile to the principle of rating under the Poor-law as a test, nor was his noble Friend himself adverse to the adoption of that test. On the contrary, his noble Friend, as well as many hon. Members on his side of the House, thought such a test desirable, in order to get rid of the swearing which was at present resorted to. What they objected to was its proposed application to land, because so to apply it was contrary to the principles of the Reform Bill. When the hon. Member for Mallow first proposed to adopt the test of rating under the Poor-law, he for one was delighted. That hon. Gentleman also applied the test rightly. He applied it to the interest which the party claiming had in the land, as he put the franchise at 8l. over and above the rent and other outgoings. He wished to remove another misapprehension under which the hon. Baronet, for whom he had the greatest respect, seemed to labour. The hon. Baronet had said, that his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, was inconsistent with himself. He said that his noble Friend had disfranchised the 40s. freeholders, because they were too dependent on their landlords, and 953 that he now refused to enfranchise the 5l. holders, because they were not likely to be under the influence of those from whom they held their land. Now, the fact was, that the very reverse was the case. His noble Friend had disfranchised the 40s. freeholders, expressly because they were too dependent on their landlords, and in the same way he now refused, and for the same reason, to enfranchise the 5l. tenants; for there could not be a doubt, that having no interest whatever in the soil, they would form a still worse constituency than the 40s. freeholders. Now, having said thus much on the misapprehensions of his hon. Friend, the Member for Drogheda, he should proceed to make a few observations on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War. He owned that he had been greatly surprised to hear the eloquent address with which that right hon. Gentleman had treated the House. He had followed his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Exeter, who had addressed the House in one of the most argumentative and conclusive speeches which he (Mr. Sergeant Jackson) had ever heard addressed either to that or to any other assembly. It was a plain, simple, unambitious speech, which rendered the whole matter in dispute clear even to the meanest capacity. And how had his hon. and learned Friend's speech been answered? He was amazed that any Gentleman, especially one of such high character and attainments as the right hon. Secretary at War, should have thought it expedient, in so important a debate as the present, to follow his hon. and learned Friend with a piece of mere empty frothy declamation. The objection which the right hon. Gentleman had taken to the bill of his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, was this:—"The appeal given by it is monstrous. Did any one ever hear of a reinvestigation being granted in a civil action, even where the verdict was obtained by fraud and perjury; and if a reinvestigation be not granted in such a case, will you give it in a matter of franchise?" Now, in reply to that objection, he would state at once, that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have been better acquainted with the law of the land than to have made an objection so utterly untenable. The right hon. Gentleman had once been in the legal profession himself, and had, of course, been eminent in it, as he must be in every pursuit to which he directed 954 his attention. But, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, he must observe, that his observations on that part of the subject betrayed the most profound ignorance of it; for if a verdict in a civil case were obtained by fraud and perjury, and if the party complaining of that verdict found out evidence, of which he was not aware at the time of the trial, demonstrating the evidence given on the trial to be a tissue of fraud and perjury, and if he made affidavit to that effect, it was the every day practice in Westminster-hall, and also in the Four Courts in Dublin, to grant a new trial, on the ground that the verdict had been obtained by surprise, by fraud, and by perjury. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had gone even still further. He had said, "Suppose it were a case in which lands were to be recovered; did any one ever hear of a reinvestigation having been granted in such a case?" Now, he must tell the right hon. Gentleman, and he spoke in the presence of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House well versed in the profession of the law, that that was the very case emphatically in which investigation and reinvestigation were granted toties quoties, even where judgment had been entered against the party. Ay, even where a dozen judgments had been entered, you might have a reinvestigation by new actions of ejectment. It was necessary, however, to turn away from such topics, and to approach the real question at issue. Let no man imagine that the House was discussing here the principle of the bill in the sense in which the principle had been stated by the supporters of her Majesty's Government. On that point the noble Member for Northumberland had fallen into a mistake, into which he had been followed by other hon. Members. The noble Lord had supposed the principle of this bill to be not what his noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, had correctly stated it to be, but to be simply this:—first, whether it should contain a definition of the elective franchise; and, secondly whether the Poor-law valuation should be taken as the standard by which to determine it. He apprehended that the noble Member for Northumberland was utterly mistaken. He had already stated, that this bill contained no definition of the elective franchise, and had given his reasons for making that statement. It merely stated that every tenant rated to the 955 poor-rate at 5l. should have the elective franchise. The real question, and the real principle involved in the bill were this:—Is occupancy to be substituted as the ground of the franchise for county electors instead of the property qualification proposed by the Reform Bill.He had said before, on the subject of taking the Poor-law valuation as the standard of value for the franchise, that that was not the question then before the House. Hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House were perfectly content to adopt such a standard, for they would then have two elements, by which they could test the elector's right to the franchise. You would find him rated to the poor-rate for a tenement—say, at 20l. Then you would have a right, and the registering barrister would enforce it, to call upon the claimant of the franchise to produce his lease; and if, upon the production of the lease he was found subject to a 10l. rent under his lease, the registering banister would say at once, "Register this man." He was saying this upon the supposition that the poor-rate valuation was made fairly, impartially, correctly. He would not say it on the precious valuation which had been recently made for some parts of Ireland. But he would say—and he had no doubt but that his noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire would say the same—that if the valuation were made fairly by a valuator upon his oath, you would have an unerring test for die registration of every claimant's right to vote out of the property for which he claimed. Let no man suppose that hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House objected to the establishment of such a test. Looking closely, as he had looked, at this bill, he must declare that it was quite a curiosity. He had some slight guess at the way in which it had been brought up to its present shape. It had all the appearance of having been originally intended for two distinct measures. There were two sets of clauses in it. The clauses from one to eighteen inclusive related to the qualification of the electors. At the nineteenth clause began the clauses regulating in detail the registration and its revision. Each of these classes of clauses began with a recital. The recital in the nineteenth clause was as follows:—And whereas an act was passed in the 956 Session of Parliament held in the second and third years of the reign of his late Majesty King William 4th, entitled 'An Act to amend the Representation of the People of Ireland,' containing certain provisions for the registration of voters for the election of Members to serve in Parliament for counties and boroughs in Ireland; and it is expedient that other provisions should be made, as hereinafter mentioned, relating to the registration of persons entitled to vote at such elections.That was an honest and fair recital; for it stated the necessity of altering the Reform Bill for Ireland, and proceeded to alter it accordingly. But the other recital in the bill was neither honest nor fair; for it stated thatDoubts and difficulties 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,and yet contained no declaratory enactment to settle those doubts and those difficulties. Any one who had been in the habit of examining documents prepared for the press must see a change in the type and in the mode of leading it in the sixth and seventh pages of this bill, which pages contained the nineteenth clause, and some of those immediately preceding it. It was quite evident from this difference in the type and in the printing, that before her Majesty's Ministers had thought of introducing this, their newfangled scheme for altering the Reform Bill, they had prepared a bill for amending the registration; and that afterwards, when they had determined to splice their new scheme upon that bill, they had altered the leading of the clauses in pages six and seven, so as to make the matter which was originally intended to form but one page, cover two pages. As to the motives of her Majesty's Government in proposing this new Reform Bill for Ireland—for such it undoubtedly was—he could only make a guess at them. He conjectured, that finding themselves reduced to a pinch by the present posture of their affairs—feeling their position compromised by the issue of so many recent elections, and pressed hard by the dread of collision among the hon. Members who formed the heterogeneous mass of their supporters, they had thought it expedient to throw out to them this lure, "We will alter the Reform Bill first in Ireland." And now they were prepared 957 to take a division on the second reading of this bill in order that they might hereafter be enabled to say, "See how we wish to carry our principle, and to make a change in the Reform Bill." But would they carry the bill further than the present stage, if they succeeded in carrying it so far? They had no notion—no man had any notion, that this measure of theirs would pass the other House of Parliament. He would venture to say, that if they carried the second reading, they would not move the bill into committee, either this week, or next week, or the week after; in short, that they would not take another step in it till after Easter. Every one knew that this experiment could not succeed. Some of their friends of the press had even told them that the measure was a mere make-believe. Even some Members in that House who were prepared to support them on the second reading had told them frankly, that they would not go along with them in the 5l. franchise. He likewise knew that some hon. Members were inclined to vote for the second reading, under a mistaken notion of what they ought to do. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had used this language to the House:—I think an annual revision of the registry desirable. I think a double appeal desirable on matters of law, both as affecting the exclusion and the admission of electors on the registry. I think the abolition of the certificate also desirable.Yes, the noble Lord admitted all these points to be excellent, after all the clamour which he and others had directed against his noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire for proposing them last year. He recollected well that his noble Friend was called "Scorpion," "destroyer of the union," "enemy of Ireland, with a heart as black as his own venom," and yet the noble Secretary for Ireland, now came down to Parliament and said, "These are all excellent things which the noble Lord has proposed, but I will not give you one of them unless you consent to give me a franchise based on a 5l. rating." "That," said the noble Secretary, "is the essential ingredient of the bill; on that is founded its only hope of success." Acting upon the same principle the right hon. Secretary at War, had also let the cat out of the bag last night. He had said, "Those are mistaken who think that the 5l. rating is a mere tack on the bill; it is the very 958 essence of it." His right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General for Ireland, had also thought fit to assist this delusion. He had told that House that it was a question for the committee; "the only question," said he, "on the 5l. rating clause is a question of amount—you see that the 'five founds' is printed in italics." But were these words printed in italics—namely, that any person "who shall be in the actual occupation of such property shall be entitled to be registered, and to vote as a Parliamentary elector for such county?" It was quite clear from the part of the clause he had just read, that it was intended to confer the franchise on the occupation of property which was rated at 5l. to the poor-rate. He contended that every Member of Parliament attached to the monarchical constitution of England as opposed to the democratical principle which was now abroad and daily gathering strength, was called upon to resist this measure to the utmost and to lend his aid in throwing it out on the second reading. He said, that the gentlemen of England were as deeply interested as those of Ireland in its failure or its success. If this measure were passed for Ireland it must be introduced also in England. Would they not be hearing every day exclamations from Englishmen "Why is Ireland to be allowed to swamp us? Why should not we have the same advantage as that which the people of Ireland derive from the possession of the 5l. franchise?" It was only necessary to look back to the discussions on the Reform Bill to see what ought to be done on the present occasion. He found the late Earl of Durham, a reformer of the first quality, rejoicing that only one-third of the voters under the Reform Bill would possess a franchise so low as 10l. He found the Marquess of Lansdowne rejoicing that in towns there would be more 15l. than 10l. householders amongst the electors. He found Earl Grey, the head of the administration of that day, describing the Reform Bill as a settling of the question of reform, and as a resting place for the constitution, in which it would not be disturbed by new revolutions. It was, therefore, passing strange to hear that her Majesty's present Government should now come forward to alter that settlement, and not only that settlement but a previous settlement, which was made respecting the 40s. freeholders in Ireland in 1829. 959 Now, if a change were to be made, a case of strong necessity ought to be made out to authorize a change so violent as that which this bill proposed. What, then, was the necessity pleaded here? It was said that the constituency of Ireland had greatly decreased. Had that proposition been made out? Had the constituency been really reduced to such an extent as to render it necessary to repeal the Reform Bill? The return on their Table proved no such thing. His noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire, on introducing the Reform Bill calculated the constituency of Ireland at that time at 52,000. At present the county constituency of Ireland was 47,987 in excess of that number. In the borough towns there was another excess of 37,300, making a gross excess of 75,287 over the calculation of the noble Lord. He had himself also taken some trouble in obtaining returns on this subject. His hon. Friend the Member for Drogheda, who resided in the county of Meath, had read a return of the numbers of the constituency for the county. He had also got a return from the county of Meath. His hon. Friend had stated, that in 1832 the constituency of Meath was 1,500, and that it was now only 1,300 odd. He had a return before him, which came from a barrister much versed in registration in different parts of Ireland. That return agreed with his hon. Friend's as to the numbers in December, 1832, but it gave him a number exceeding 1,400, as the number of voters in December, 1840. He admitted, however, that there was a falling off of eighty-four voters in the county of Meath. The returns from the Queen's county showed that the constituency in December, 1832, was 1,494; and in December, 1840, it was 1,559; the returns from Kildare, for the same period, showed an increase of from 1,121 to 1,961; the re-rurns for Wicklow showed a falling off of more than 100, being in 1838, 1,520; and in 1840, 1,416. He admitted that there were causes in operation in Ireland which tended to diminish the constituency. Amongst these was the indisposition of landlords to grant leases. But that was not the only cause, for he could state from his own knowledge that there was a still greater indisposition on the part of the tenants to accept them. The Roman Catholic tenantry of Ireland, who were desirous of engaging in honest, in- 960 dustrious, and lucrative pursuits, did not wish to be invested with the franchise, which only placed them between two fires. If, possessing it, they would chance to exercise the privilege contrary to the wishes of their priests, they were all denounced for the act, and looked upon as outcasts. If they went against their landlords they also committed an offence, for the landlords naturally looked to possess some influence, but not such as would coerce the opinions of their tenants. And here he must observe that the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, was much misunderstood in the observations which he had made upon this point. The noble Lord's observations merely implied that kindness towards the tenantry was calculated to produce such feelings on their part as would give the former a most undue influence. But unhappily in Ireland the tenant could not please both parties, and an indisposition to be placed on the registry was the consequence. The returns, however, showed no necessity for an increase of the constituency. It was true that those returns contained some duplicates, but more correct returns would shortly be laid before the House. Why should hon. Gentlemen opposite call upon those on his side of the House to admit a reduction of the constituency, and that a case was made out for the present bill, without first proving the necessity and making out the case? But, even if they did prove a diminution of the constituency, how did that make out their case, when it was shown that the diminution arose out of causes which would still continue to operate? It was the duty of those who supported this measure to show that Ireland was not fairly represented in the House of Commons before they called upon the House to unsettle the Reform Bill. The country could not stand a succession of revolutions, nor would it be wise to run the risk of a series of convulsions. The establishment of a 5l. franchise now would be attended with infinitely more ruinous consequences than those which ensued from the establishment of the old 40s. constituency. He would entreat the attention of the House to an important document from the second report on railroads, signed by Messrs. Drummond, Burgoyne, Barlowe and Griffiths. He would first premise, that the law which established the 40s. franchise was passed in 1793. Would the House believe, that 961 from 1791, which he would take for the sake of round numbers, to 1821, the population of Ireland, from 4,206,601, increased to 6,801,827; the increase for the next ten ensuing years was to 7,767,400, and the returns for 1838 gave 8,500,000. This the report ascribed to the extensive subletting by landlords for the increase of their electioneering influence by means of the 40s. franchise; but the consequences to the agricultural classes more particularly were ruinous in the extreme. Misery and destitution to an extensive amount spread through every portion of the country, particularly in the south-western districts. The beneficial effects of the change made in the constituency by doing away with the 40s. franchise was borne testimony to in the report. For some years past the proprietors of the soil had been endeavouring to do away with the small allotments altogether, and the consequence was, that a superior system of agriculture began to exhibit itself, and a state of general improvement was visible through the country from north to south. Such was the statement to be found in page thirty-four of the report. The report further said, that the safety of Ireland depended on continuing and promoting this favourable change in the agricultural district, and yet the House was now called upon to undo all it had done towards effecting that desirable alteration, and to reduce things to the old state, by which the safety of Ireland was threatened. To consent to the establishment of a 5l. franchise would undo all that had been done since the abolition of the 40s. franchise; nay, it would throw Ireland twenty years backward. He had heard no argument in favour of the proposition, except that based upon the disproportion. In answer to that he would refer to a statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin in 1837. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the destitution in Ireland exceeded any calculation made by the Poor-law Commissioners, for there were 585,000 heads of families in a state of actual destitution for a great part of the year, and these persons were at the head of a population amounting to 3,000,000, two-thirds of whom were destitute for one half the year, and the other third destitute for the whole year round. Here were 1,000,000 persons destitute throughout the whole year, and 2,000,000 in a state of destitution for a 962 part of the year—namely, from April to the coming in of the new crop. Taking the whole population at 8,500,000, and deducting the 3,000,000, there would remain only 5,500,000 who could have any claim to the franchise, and the circumstances of the two countries being compared in all other respects, was it to be wondered at that the constituency was disproportioned as respected the comparative population? But even if there were a proved necessity for an extension of the constituency, was it not equally necessary to establish some standard by which to ascertain the qualification for the increased franchise? Were they to take as a standard a rating which had been shown not only to be incorrect in the valuation, but made contrary to and in the teeth of the law of the land? Only ten reports had been made, and of those ten only five had been furnished to the House. No reports had been made as to the boroughs, though Clonmell, Bandon, and Fermoy had been visited. Why had only five out of the ten been furnished? Was it because the others would not perhaps exactly support the arguments urged in favour of the bill? By accounts which had reached him from Cork, he found that instead of an under-valuation for rating to the poor-rate the property had been valued to the highest possible amount. In St. Anne's, Shandon, a decaying and poor part of the town, the rating was higher than it had ever been known before for any local purpose. Now, take the case of the county of Clare. Immediately upon reading the speech of the noble Viscount (Viscount Morpeth) on introducing the bill, Mr. Reade, a retired barrister, now residing in the union of Scariff, in that county, had sat down and written a letter to him (Mr. Sergeant Jackson), in which, referring to the noble Viscount's assertion that his proposed alteration of the franchise according to the Poor-law valuation, would not materially increase the constituency of Ireland, that gentleman had shown, that, taking the case of Scariff as a guide, the new standard would actually increase the constituency of Clare by no fewer than 20,000 votes. So much for the assertion of the noble Viscount and of the hon. Baronet the Member for Drogheda, that the change would only give a fair right of voting in Ireland. But if Clare would have 20,000 additional voters, the larger county of Cork might be expected to have 963 100,000, or at least 40,000 added to its list. Then, with reference to the increased influence which the measure could not fail to bestow upon the Roman Catholic clergy, surely it never was intended by the Emancipation Act to invest those persons with electoral influence, yet had they not at present considerable political and electoral influence? Did they not return a great many Members to the House of Commons? Could any man deny that? The hon. Member for Cavan, in his speech last night, which had met with the approbation of both sides of the House, had said, that he would be unwilling to give the clergy of the Established Church the power which this bill would give to the Roman Catholic clergy. He said, that he had much rather see such a power placed in the hands of the clergy of the establishment, than of the Roman Catholic clergy as a body. He said as a body, for he would not seek to deprive one of them of his individual rights, but he thought, that there were very strong objections to investing with the power a body which was hostile to the establishment, which consisted of persons who had not given pledges for the security of their country, and of its institutions, who were not married men, who were in the nature of a corporation, having the interests and advancement of their order pre-eminently at heart. This was not the case of the clergy of the Established Church—they were citizens. He asked the House to say, whether the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy was not already great enough? There was another point. How were the Ministry supported in that House? Their actual majority, if every Member were in his place, would be ten or eleven, a number produced by subtracting the minority of twenty-three in which they stood, in respect to the Members for Great Britain, from the majority of thirty-four which they had upon the votes from Ireland. It was not Great Britain, then, that said who should be the Ministers of the day, and he, therefore, asked English Members, whether the power of increasing this Irish majority ought to be given by this bill? For his own part he objected to this bill in toto, he objected to it, as tending to disturb the settlement made in 1832, he objected to it as tending to disturb the settlement made in 1829. Let the House remember, 964 that the abolition of the 40s. freehold voters was made the condition precedent to the passing of the Relief Act in 1829. There was a growing spirit in this country, having for its object the repeal of that Act. It was with regret he observed it. He thought it a most imprudent idea; and he warned the House not to give persons holding these sentiments a most powerful argument by enabling them to say, that now there were good reasons why the act of 1829 should be rescinded, since, by establishing this new constituency, being, as it must be, quite as liable to the influence of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church as the 40s. freeholders ever were, the terms had been violated on which that measure was passed. He would not trespass further on the patience of the House, than to express his surprise that the right hon. Secretary at War should have held out last night something of a threat, in order to induce the House to pass this bill. He was aware that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, in one of his letters to his "dear Ray," had used some such language as—"Give me France and our 7,000,000, against England, and all our enemies." But he had thought it was impossible that any man should get up in that House, and sanction such language, still less had he expected that any allusion of the kind would have been made in his place by one of the sworn Ministers of the Crown.
§ Mr. Slaney
would not detain the House by going into the details of this measure at any length. He thanked the hon. Member for Cavan for the calm and temperate manner in which he had spoken upon this subject, and also the hon. Baronet the Member for Drogheda, for the able speech which he had made. Hon. Members of all opinions admitted that the franchise, as it at present stood, was pregnant with the deepest injury to the real interests of the people of Ireland, and that some alteration was absolutely necessary. The interpretation of the clause of the act under which the existing law was maintained, was admitted to be the subject of dispute, and of difference of opinion amongst all classes in Ireland, from the highest judicial authorities down to the poorest voter, but there did not exist any difference of opinion on the question whether or not some act ought not to be passed to set at rest the disputed 965 point. He had himself conversed in private with many hon. Members on the other side, whose opinions were decidedly in favour of that interpretation of the act which established the solvent tenant test, and they admitted that the subject was liable to great ambiguity, and that no man ought to be blamed for taking an opposite view, because such a view might fairly and honestly be taken by those who entertained that opinion. On the other hand, Members on both sides of the House were agreed as to the desirableness of the test of the qualification being one that would apply equally to all property. To this, the leading principle of the bill there was no opposition; why, then, I should they not agree to the second reading, and leave the question of the amount of the qualification, which was a question of detail, for the committee. He thought; himself that the amount of the qualification fixed in the bill was too low; but he entirely approved of the principle of a definition of the franchise, and a rating to the poor as the test of the qualification. He thought that all hon. Members who agreed in the principle, but differed as to the details, ought to vote for the bill going into committee, and there endeavour honestly to meet each other, in the hope of coming to some arrangement by mutual compromise. There were reasons why at this particular time some decision ought to be come to. Supported by a large majority, so that the question might be definitively settled, and not subjected to constant agitation and discussion, let the bill go to committee, and some compromise of the kind he referred to be agreed to; or, if not, let the sense of the House be taken on it upon the third reading, and he did not doubt that, unless some satisfactory adjustment were come to, hon. Members opposite would find sufficient support on that side of the House to prevent the bill passing in its present shape. He should vote for the second reading, and when in committee he should contend for a fair substitute for the present ambiguous franchise; at the same time, he would be prepared to maintain the principle of qualification as intended by the Reform Act.
§ Mr. Thesiger
was of opinion, that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury's endeavours to conciliate the House in favour of the principle of the noble Lord's bill would hardly be successful. Hon. Members at 966 the other side had attempted to secure a postponement of the decision upon this most important question until the bill was in committee, on the supposition, that if it contained anything objectionable, it might then be expunged or modified. Those hon. Members, however, forgot the observation with which the noble Lord had introduced the bill, in which he distinctly told them, that he never would accept a bill for the amendment of the system of registration in Ireland without a definition of the franchise. It was perfectly clear, that this was the principle of the bill. It had been distinctly avowed by the noble Secretary for Ireland, who challenged comparison with the bill of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire; and the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, had also stated, that the essence of the bill was the definition of the franchise. Could a doubt remain as to that definition having been inserted to decide this question in the present stage of the bill? Were they not even compelled to this course by the challenge of the noble Lord? He had listened in vain for anything in the shape of argument from the other side which might satisfactorily explain the reason of making this most startling and overwhelming alteration in the Irish franchise. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, rose after his hon. Friend, the Member for Exeter, had addressed to the House his most convincing speech. He had undoubtedly expected, that that right hon. Gentleman would have attempted to grapple with the arguments which had been addressed with so much calmness, but at the same time with so much force, to the House by his predecessor in the debate, and he confessed, that he felt disappointed when he found that right hon. Gentleman abandoning even the ground which had been taken by the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, and directing nine-tenths of his speech to the bill of the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire. It was only an accidental observation falling from that noble Lord which recalled him to a sense of the irrelevancy of his observations, and then the right hon. Gentleman bounded away, concluding, after a few brief observations, with a whirl of eloquence which utterly bewildered his humble faculties, and prevented the possibility of his comprehending what could be the right hon. Gentleman's ob- 967 ject. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had touched upon an objection which appeared to him to be of very great and conclusive force. With regard to the alteration of the franchise, it affected the question which was settled when the Catholic Relief Bill was introduced, and violated the pledge given at that time with regard to the franchise. Hon. Members were aware, that at the time that bill was introduced, in 1829, there existed in the constituency of Ireland 40s. freeholders, persons likely to be considerably influenced in the exercise of the elective franchise, and it was proposed at the time the measure for the relief of the Roman Catholics in Ireland was introduced, as it was apprehended, that very great danger might result from the measure if those persons were left as they were, exposed to temptations that would nullify their votes—it was determined that the measure of emancipation should be accompanied by the extinction of the 40s. freehold qualification, and many Members were at that; time induced to give a reluctant support to the measure for the relief of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, from its being accompanied by the other measure, which was to raise a constituency free from the objection. Although the bill for the extinction of the 40s. freeholders passed before that for the relief of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, yet both bills received the Royal assent the same day, April 29, and were, in fact, considered as parts of the same measure. By that act, the 10th of Geo. 4th, a 10l. freehold constituency was established, and a freeholder was required to prove, that he possessed an interest of the yearly value of 10l. over and above all rates and charges, and in the oath he was required to take he stated, that he verily believed, that a solvent tenant would pay 10l. over and above what he paid. So it continued till the Reform Bill in 1832. No one ever thought of restoring the 40s. freeholders in Ireland, except the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who in the discussions on the Reform Bill, raised his voice in favour of the 40s. freeholders, but he found no echo in the House, and no one till now had thought of violating, or of disturbing a pledge which had been unquestionably given. It remained for the noble Lord, under circumstances which had been so frequently brought under the notice of the House, to introduce this 968 most important and most startling measure. The noble Lord was violating this pledge, not by restoring the 40s. freeholders, but by introducing a constituency inferior in degree, and infinitely worse than existed at the passing of the Relief Bill. Was it fair and just to hon. Members who voted for that measure on the assurance that it was to be accompanied with the extinction of the 40s. freeholders—was it dealing fairly with them to introduce a measure of this description? It had been said that doubts existed with respect to the proper construction of freehold and leasehold interests under the Reform Act. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney) said, he had inquired frequently of Members on that side of the House, and found that no one could give him a decided opinion upon the meaning of the terms "beneficial interest." He had never entertained any doubt upon the subject, and he had conversed frequently with lawyers on the subject, and had never heard of any doubts regarding it. He must object to the course pursued by the hon. Baronet, the Member for Drogheda, in referring to the opinions of Members in this or the other House of Parliament as a guide to the interpretation of any bill, because, if that course were to be adopted, it would be easy to get opinions in favour of any construction desired. But when a bill had once passed both Houses of Parliament, and received the Royal assent, it became a subject of judicial construction, and if the Legislature had not expressed its intention so that it might not be misinterpreted, that was the fault of the Legislature, but it was no reason for inquiring into the reasons urged at the time the bill was under discussion in either House. It was a very great mistake (and his hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury had fallen into it with others) to suppose that the Conservatives were opposed to a certain test being applied for ascertaining the franchise. They had not the slightest objection whatever to the application of the poor-rate, if it were applied under certain circumstances, so as to afford a security of a real and substantial qualification. It was impossible, that with the poor-rate alone they could obtain that object. Let the House consider what the noble Lord proposed to do. His hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Exeter, had in his usual clear and lucid manner shown, 969 that from the earliest periods of our Parliamentary history there had been a distinction between the qualifications of voters for counties and for boroughs and towns, that one was based upon property, the other upon habitancy or some corporation or municipal rights. That distinction was preserved at the time of passing the Reform Bill. However opinions might differ as to the nature of the interest to entitle a person to possess a vote, all agreed, that the interest required in a county voter was different from that of a voter for a town or borough. Whether it were a beneficial interest or a solvent tenant test, still, in a county it was a property test, whereas, in boroughs and towns the right to vote was appended to the payment of corporation cesses and taxes. But under the bill of the noble Lord opposite, all these distinctions were swept away, it levelled everything, in counties and in boroughs there was no distinction, and, if the bill were examined, it would be found, that it really placed the county voter on a lower footing than a voter for a borough or town, because the qualification which the noble Lord required for a county voter—he omitted freeholders—was, that he should occupy under a lease for fourteen years any premises rated at 5l. See how illusory such a test was, substituted for property for a county voter. What was the interest he would possess under the proposed test of the noble Lord? Nothing; for a landlord might let his land on lease for fourteen years, at a nominal rent of 5l., 10l., or 20l., under a private understanding that the tenant should only pay what the land would bear, and in the lease might be a condition, that if the tenant did not pay the rent it stipulated, or perform the covenants of the lease, the landlord should have aright to enter upon the land and take possession. A lease with such conditions would have all the effect, for the purpose of this measure, of an unconditional lease, and see the situation of the tenant. If he proved refractory, if he did not vote according to the wishes of the landlord, the latter could strip him of his lease. He might go on amicably enough with his landlord, and pay the rent privately agreed upon between them, but let him oppose the wishes of his landlord, and he would be swept off. This qualification it was proposed to substitute for a beneficial interest in property in the county. But it was said, that 970 the party must be rated for 5l. Let the House consider the effect of this provision. If a lessee should consent to be rated at 5l., though his holding be not 40s. or 1s., no person could object to that rating, no person is aggrieved by a party being assessed at a higher amount than he is entitled to be assessed at; the grievance is when he is overrated, and others are underrated. Although it happened, that in the Poor-law for Ireland there was no provision for an appeal if any person was improperly put on or left off the rate, yet there was a provision in the 17th of Geo. 2nd with regard to the poor-rate in England, and no one dreamt of an objection to a rate by reason of any party being overrated. If it was easy with a favourable board of guardians for a party who had no interest in the land he occupied to have his name put on the rate—once there, as long as he chooses his name must continue there, for by the bill, if a person is put on the rate for 5l., although the board of guardians next year should, in the discharge of their duty, be satisfied, that the party was improperly placed on the rate, and should reduce the amount of his rating, still the voter would have a right to insist on paying the 5l., and it would be irrevocable during the whole time. Could anything be more illusory and absurd than to apply this as a test of real qualification? How could any one say with respect to such rating, that it afforded any security whatever against fraud and the admission of improper persons to the franchise, or that it remedied the existing evils of registration? The noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) made no distinction between counties and boroughs, but he actually placed the county voter on a lower fooling than voters in boroughs. The voter in a borough was required to do more than the county voter, as he had to pay municipal taxes, which a county voter might not be able to pay—he might have no property at all. What occasion was there for any alteration in respect to boroughs and towns? With regard to votes for counties, doubts and difficulties had been started as to the beneficial interest, but no one suggested, that there was any doubt as to votes for boroughs, yet here was a sweeping alteration, which applied to both:—"Whereas it is expedient to assimilate the mode of ascertaining the qualifications of voters in counties, towns, and boroughs." Why? "Expedient!" 971 Where was the expediency shown? Where was the ground assigned for any alteration of the franchise in Ireland? If the noble Lord meant to remove doubts and difficulties, he should have explained the meaning of the phrase "beneficial interest," which 10l. voters ought to possess, and not have made that a pretence for reducing the franchise itself. The necessity was not shown, and he did think, that the House had a right to expect, that the noble Lord, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Pigot) should have been able to explain to the House the necessity for this sweeping alteration in the franchise of Ireland. The necessary consequence of such a measure was most alarming. It was quite impossible, that a measure of this description could be introduced, reducing the franchise so low in Ireland, without exciting an expectation or a demand for the same privilege in England. Already they had been pressed with this argument by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and thousands of voices would echo the same. The mischief which the Government had done by the mere introduction of this measure could never be remedied. The promise had passed their lips, and had raised expectations which could not be gratified, it would afford a new rallying cry for Ireland, and a fresh pretext for agitation. He (Mr. Thesiger) could not think the Government, of which the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, was so distinguished a Member, could entertain any serious thoughts of carrying out this principle fully, if they did, it must be because they felt the respectable constituency of the country hostile to their measures, and were driven in their last and desperate struggle to strike this blow that they might not fall alone. He did not think that the noble Lord, from what he had said so lately as 1839 and 1840, could partake of these views, but if he now entertained different sentiments, his rapid proficiency in such studies was most alarming. If the object of the Ministers was to purchase a short and feverish existence by this sacrifice, made in the hope of prolonging their retention of office, they would find that this was only one step in an indefinite progress, in whichClaim leads to claim, and power advances power.He felt that this measure was fraught with such dangerous consequences, that he was not satisfied with giving a silent 972 vote, and he should use his humble but firm endeavours, in the future stages of this bill (if, indeed, it went to a future stage), to give it his most decided and determined opposition.
§ Mr. C. Buller
said, that it was peculiarly agreeable to him to rise to address the House when it had been brought to such a calm and reflective temper as it had been by the two speeches which they had just heard. He thought, that the House was much indebted to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury in urging on the House to pause before they came to a decision, so that they might discuss the bill in a spirit of candour, and try to make out how far by mutual concessions, they could get rid of the angry elements which had been introduced into the subject. He (Mr. Buller) was inclined to lament that so much personal acrimony had been introduced into the debate, as much by Members of his own side of the House as by Gentlemen opposite, and he must confess, that he thought that the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, had been rather harshly treated by some of his (Mr. C. Buller's) Friends, for the noble Lord had certainly given ample time to the Government to bring forward a bill on the subject since the defects of the present system had been acknowledged. Not one Member on his side of the House had brought the subject forward with the view of introducing a general measure; therefore, under these circumstances the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, whom, with all respect, he (Mr. C. Buller) could not help calling the author of all the mischief, ought not to be found much fault with for bringing in a bill on the subject, but all the fault that he was guilty of was, that he brought in so very bad a bill. But the consequence of this was not so bad as had been described, because it compelled the Government to bring in a very good bill on the subject. They were not now in the very awkward position in which they were last year, when those with whom he acted were obliged to oppose the remedy proposed by the noble Lord as worse than the disease, while the Government had not proposed any remedy to this disease which they acknowledged to exist. Now, however, the noble Secretary for Ireland had introduced a measure, and he trusted, that the House would be perfectly satisfied with the superiority of the Government bill. This bill was far more complete and comprehensive in essentials than that of the noble Lord opposite; while it 973 embraced none of those objectionable charges which required to be struck out of the noble Lord's measure. The contrast of the two bills was striking. The Government measure was prudent where the noble Lord's was rash; it was bold where his was timid; it was explicit where his was obscure; it was straightforward and direct where his was indirect and tortuous; and it was liberal where his was restrictive. It was, then, for the House to decide which bill it would choose. He believed, that the noble Lord had done much good, for in exposing the evils of the registration which were peculiar to the present system, he had led to the proposing the measure now before the House. He believed, that there was no doubt, that the evils which the noble Lord had so forcibly pointed out were peculiar to the Irish system of registration, and were the result of the Irish Reform Bill; and that if the people were guilty of fraud and perjury, and personation, it was only the natural result of the Irish system of registration. He declared, that he had never seen such an inducement to personation, and fraud, and perjury, as there was held out in the Irish Reform Act. These were the evils so eloquently and forcibly pointed out by the noble Lord, and it was clear, that they grew out of the present system. What could be more striking in this respect than the system of certificates, which was much more worthy of a pawnbroker or a turnpike-gate keeper than a wise Legislator. What was the plan of requiring a certificate given to one man, but which might be produced by various persons, and which a man might get renewed whenever he wished to commit a fraud? The system of certificates produced this very result, that, fifteen persons might produce a certificate at the hustings, and poll for the same property. [Lord Stanley: Hear.] He was obliged to the noble Lord for the admission, because it showed great candour on his part, as this was an evil of his own causing by the Irish Reform Bill. [Lord Stanley: The system of certificates was established by the 10th of George the 4th.] The noble Lord need not tell him of the 10th of George 4th, for when the noble Lord brought forward his Reform Bill, he did so with the view of giving a good system of registration to Ireland. This was after the act of George 4th had given the system of certificates, and when they had had experience of its working. What on earth, then, did the noble Lord mean by saying that the system was not his. The noble Lord said, that 974 the system existed before the Irish Reform Act; but when he brought in that measure, by not altering the system of certificates, he adopted those evils of the system of registration which he perpetuated by his bill, and he made himself responsible for them. It might be said, that the noble Lord was only chargeable with not going far enough in his changes; and that was not a fault to which he was peculiarly blameable; but by so doing, he in fact adopted the system he found, and was therefore responsible for the whole. There was another evil pointed out by the noble Lord, arising from the want of an annual system of registration, so far as to enable him to remove every year from the register the names of those who had lost their qualification. The noble Lord said, that it gave rise to the commission of frauds, and invited persons to the crime of perjury, and held out inducement to dishonest persons to come forward and personate those who were on the list of voters, but who were really dead. In spite of the objections urged by the noble Lord, he did not see that an adequate remedy had been provided for this in the Government bill. The noble Lord, however, in his bill, attempted to provide a remedy, and for this purpose he proposed that there should be an annual registration of all voters, such as they found in England—a system which he thought to be a very bad one. He had never heard any sound argument why any man having the elective franchise should be put to a greater difficulty in maintaining it than he was in supporting his other rights. He did not see why a distinction should be drawn between this and other rights. It was a principle established in our courts of judicature, that a man should not be exposed to litigation for his rights over and over again. And here he must advert to an observation which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Bandon, who he thought had been betrayed into something like an absurdity, in the observation which he made in reply to his right hon. Friend, the Member for Edinburgh, on this very point. His right hon. Friend had argued, that a man was not required to litigate a right more than once. Yes, replied the hon. and learned Gentleman, he is liable to have an action brought against him, tried over and over again on a question of trespass for the purpose of ejectment. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to this as if it were an exception to the rule; but, in point of fact, the rea- 975 son why this was an exception was, that the direct cause of action did not appear on the face of the pleadings in an action of ejectment. The exception in this case had always been acknowledged to be an anomaly and a deviation from the general rule of English law, and the courts of equity in this country had often granted injunctions to prevent repeated trials for ejectment. He, therefore, said, that it was an unfair argument on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman, to deny that the law of England did not require a double trial of a right. By the adoption of this system of annual registration, they exposed the voter to an immense expense, and to the loss of a great portion of his time; and, at the same time, many persons fully entitled to be placed on the register would be deprived of the franchise, because they would not be exposed to the constant trouble of vindicating their right. He said, therefore, with perfect confidence, that they should adhere to the sound principle of the English law, and not expose a man to the risk of having a right tried over and over again. He thought that the practice of annual registration afflicted this country with some of the worst evils of annual Parliaments. Every year there was a perpetual agitation and excitement going on in the conflicts of the registration courts; and each party fought its battle there, and boasted of its gains as it gained in a contested election One of the great evils of this constant contest in the registration courts was, that it made every man get his vote through the agency of one political party or the other. He was registered as a Liberal, or a Conservative, and it appeared as if he owed his vote to the party who employed the lawyer to advocate his claim. He admitted, that if the registration were perpetual, some person might get their names placed on the register who were not entitled to have them there; but he thought, that it would be better to adopt, as a principle, that every man had a primâ facie right to have his name continued on the register, who had proved his right to have it placed there, in the first instance, except where it could be proved, that he had subsequently lost such qualification, and although some 11l. voters might be struck off the lists, and some 9l. voters might be placed on them, was this anything in comparison with the evils which must arise from constant litigation on a matter so exciting as this? The next important question was to deter- 976 mine the right to the franchise. There could be no doubt that, as long as this right was unsettled, considerable inconvenience mustarise. No one had stated a doubt as to its being unsettled at the present moment, and he must say, that both bills equally purported to provide a remedy for this mischief—the Government bill by a definition of the franchise; the noble Lord's bill, however, went to the settlement of the franchise in a roundabout manner; and, with all respect to the noble Lord, he must say, was as little creditable and straight forward a piece of legislation as could be imagined. If the noble Lord's bill passed, it would settle the franchise in a restrictive sense, just us certain as his noble Friend's would in a liberal sense. The noble Lord would give an appeal to the judge of assize in either case, whether the decision was in favour or against the claimant of the franchise. Now it was known, that the opinions of the judges varied on the subject of the franchise, and on the interpretation of the law on the subject. Some of the judges gave their decision in favour of the solvent tenant construction, while others decided in the directly opposite way. Was not the noble Lord perfectly sure that if the party opposite were to get into power, they would insist that the opinion of the minority of the judges on this point should bow to that of their brethren on the judgment seat? When you give this power to the majority of the Irish judges, was it not in point of fact saying indirectly that the solvent tenant mode of voting should be adopted. If the noble Lord thought so, he ought at once fairly to propose that this should be declared to be the law, but he should not shift the difficulty, or cast responsibility on the Irish judges, and thus throw the burden on them which we were afraid to bear ourselves. The noble Lord said that if they were to have the appeal one way, they should allow it the other, and he seemed to think that the circumstance of the minority of the judges yielding their opinion to that of the majority was only in conformity with the course of human nature. If this was the case, he must say that they were carrying a most important point in a most objectionable manner. For his own part he felt that of all questions that could come before the judges, there was no question of such vast importance, or involving such consequences, as were contained in this, viz., of leaving it to these learned persons to define the franchise. It appeared also that they were not to decide 977 this important question as individuals, but they were to decide as a body. He must protest against the adoption of this principle as involving one of the most unheard-of and dangerous doctrines ever promulgated in that House; for the acknowledgment that, the principle of the definition of the franchise should be given to the judges was, in point of fact, to say that they were the proper persons to determine as to the right to elect Members of that House. He confessed, that it was a matter of astonishment to him that the right hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Wynn), did not start from his seat, and protest against such a principle being asserted in his presence, and even more surprised he felt, that he had not heard a still more important Member than the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, who had always taken an active part in the discussions of matters involving the principle of determining the rights of voting, and who had declared his opinion on this very point, in a bill which he (Mr. C. Buller) had introduced, and had subsequently brought forward a measure of his own, which had received the sanction of the Legislature, and who had constantly repudiated the doctrine, that they should take away from that House any portion of the right of determining matters relating to the right to the elective franchise. He then asked the right hon. Baronet to explain how he could come forward and give his powerful support to a bill which went to establish the new and extraordinary principle, that that House should cease to have all control as to the determining the right of the franchise in Ireland, and should give this power to the Irish judges. If he argued against giving this power to the judges, he should only repeat, in very feeble terms, the arguments he had so often heard used by the right hon. Baronet. He would not dwell on the evils which must result from leaving it to tribunals appointed by the Crown to determine as to who should, or who should not, have the right to vote at the election of Members to serve in that House. How much greater would the evil be to leave that matter to the decision of the judges? He spoke with the utmost respect of the learned persons who presided in our courts of justice, but he could not disguise from himself the manifold evils that must arise from the adoption of such a principle. He was convinced that it was a wise principle of our ancestors to keep the judges entirely 978 free from any interference or from taking any part in election matters, and this was a principle which should now be adopted for the guidance of their present proceedings; because they must be aware of the importance of keeping the judicial bench untainted by the suspicion of political corruption. He would ask any legal person who heard him whether he recollected any political trials that had occurred which did not lead to the throwing imputations on the judges who tried them? He did not say, that at present the mischief of political bias on the part of the judges was as great as it had been in former times; but evils always must arise from directing public inquiries into the political opinions of the judges. He would ask any lawyer in Westminster-hall, whether, when any trial of a political nature was expected to come on, allusions were not made to the political opinions of the judge who was expected to preside? He repeated, that he spoke with the greatest respect of he judges of the present day; but it could not be disputed that, in past times, some of the most eminent and learned judges that had ever sat in the courts had manifested a political bias on the judgment-seat. This was a fact which, he believed, would not be disputed with respect to some of our most able and distinguished lawyers. There was no doubt that Lord Mansfield, who was a man of great learning and the most splendid talents, often manifested his political bias while presiding in his court. This, he believed, was admitted by all parties. The same imputation had been thrown out against another very learned chief-justice, namely, Lord Kenyon, and even more recently against judges in our courts. He did not say whether these charges were made justly or not, but undoubtedly the public fastened on them; he therefore contended that the Legislature would act wisely in keeping apart from them anything which was calculated to give rise to such imputations. Was any hon. Member on the other side of the House ready to assert that the only exception to this rule was Ireland—that Ireland was the only country in which political feelings were so moderate, in which the administration of justice was so honoured, that there alone you could venture to subject the judges to the suspicion of partiality, from causes from which you have always taken care to keep aloof in England? Was it not, on the contrary, notorious that nothing in Ireland had ever been kept free from political partizanship? Was it not well known that the law in Ireland had 979 never been regarded by the people of that country, as anything but a means to enable the rich man to oppress the poor? [Oh, oh!] Did hon. Gentleman who cried "Oh!" recollect Lord Redesdale? Did they remember his account of this matter? That was an account which an English lawyer gave of the administration of justice in Ireland. He might have put his proposition in a stronger way than he had intended, but it was quite certain that matters had stood as he had described, to a very great degree; and most assuredly the public feeling throughout Ireland regarded the administration of the law there in that light. Before any person ventured to say that there could be no suspicion of partiality in the judges in Ireland, let the House look to the way in which the judges there had decided upon the construction of the beneficial interest in the definition of the very franchise now in question, and it would find that the judges who had been appointed by the present Government had all decided one way, while the other judges, who were appointed by former Governments, decided the other way. No doubt they were all equally honourable men, but it would be impossible to disengage from the public mind the idea that in these and similar cases there were some political partiality, whether Conservative, Liberal, Repeater, or what not. Upon the question of the decision how strong had been the language both of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, and of the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire. From the noble Lord, indeed, strong language was to be expected; with him it was a matter of habit; but it came somewhat strange from the hon. and learned Gentleman, than whom he (Mr. Buller) had never talked with a more calm-spoken person. But what said the hon. and learned Gentleman last night, in speaking of the question in dispute, as to the change in the elective franchise in Ireland, and the introduction of the words beneficial interest? After laying down the rule that the minority of the judges should bow to the decision of the majority, he laid it down as a clear and indisputable proposition that no English Gentleman—he was quite clear that no English lawyer—would rise in his place and say that the introduction of such words created the slightest doubt in his mind. Now he could not understand that any person could read this passage of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, without drawing the obvious conclusion that the minority of the Irish judges must be, in the 980 opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, either most foolish or most dishonourable men, in reference to their decision upon this question. This was the inference which ordinary human reason must derive from the speech; and it appeared to him a most undesirable thing that any temptation should be given in that House to say such things about the Irish judges in the minority on this question for he could not see how the honesty of the minority was in any degree a matter of less importance than that of the majority. The noble Lord and the hon. and learned Gentleman disposed of the whole difficulty in the most summary manner possible. The noble Lord said, "Nobody can have a doubt about the matter," and there was an end to it. The hon. and learned Gentleman went somewhat more into detail; but he, too, said roundly, that no English Gentleman, and certainly no English lawyer, could venture to get up in his place in the House, and state a contrary opinion to what he supported; and then went on to the other point, of the duty of the minority to bow to the majority. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had altogether left out of the consideration, in thus insisting on the deference due from the minority, the authority of the House of Commons, the supreme appellate tribunal for deciding on these cases. In what way was it that the minority of the Bench in ordinary cases, bowed to the decision of the majority? In no single case did ever one judge bow to the decision of the rest of the bench merely from deference to their opinion. In every case it was for two reasons; first, because the opinion of the judges was the opinion of a constituted appellate tribunal; and, in the second place, because this tribunal was one which could enforce its authority. In all cases in which there was an appeal to the court, to the judges sitting in banco, there the judges had the power to enforce their authority; where there was an appeal to the Exchequer Chamber, there the judges had the power to enforce their authority. And in the case of reservations of points in criminal cases, though theoretically they had not a supreme appellate authority, they had it practically. But as for saying that a judge was bound by the mere opinion of other judges, where neither law nor custom gave them power to enforce their opinion, that was a monstrous proposition, such as had never been heard of England. It was said that the judges met and came to this decision; but who authorised them to do so? A volunteer 981 decision on the part of the judges was as absurd as a volunteer decision on the part of any one else. Suppose that a case arose before the judge going the circuit wherein Longford was situated; suppose that on the one hand there was an advocate relying on the authority of the view adopted by the majority of the judges; and on the other, an advocate relying upon the decision of the House of Commons' committee in the case of the Longford petition, by which of these would the judge be bound to decide in the case before him? Surely, by the authority of that supreme appellate tribunal, that authority which was now, and would be, until the law was altered, supreme in such cases, the authority of the select committee of the House of Commons. [Oh, oh!] Gentlemen might sneer at his insisting upon the authority of the decisions of the House of Commons' committees, and it was quite true that these decisions were frequently conflicting, vacillating, and liable to suspicion; but let those hon. Gentlemen proceed to correct the defects of this tribunal, instead of sneering away the authority of one of the most important constitutional tribunals of the country. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter laid great stress upon his statement, that no English lawyer would venture to get up in his place in that House, and say that the interpretation which he put upon the franchise was not clearly and indisputably the right one. Now, he did not attach much importance to the opinions which English lawyers, or any other lawyers, expressed in their place in that House; and until he found a lawyer there, by any chance, get up in his place to express an opinion contrary to the interests of his party, be that party what it might, he should have no great respect even for the highest legal authority who might deliver his opinion in that House. But he looked upon that as respectable authority which a competent person stated in a book, and committed himself too in print. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman was acquainted with Mr. Rogers's work on election law, which was by all persons regarded as the best authority on the subject, nor would the hon. and learned Gentleman refuse to Mr. Rogers the character of a gentleman, for a more upright and honourable man did not exist: Now, all that Mr. Rogers said on the subject was contained in a short passage in a note, where he quoted a decision of the Longford commit- 982 tee, to this effect: that every leaseholder or freeholder (for it was very noticeable that he made no distinction between these) was entitled to the franchise who derived in any way, from his holding a benefit or property of 10l. annually over and above rents and charges. He (Mr. Buller) had talked that morning with an English lawyer well versed on the subject; and this gentleman said, that he did not conceive any lawyer could get up from the perusal of the Irish Reform Act, without being utterly at a loss to understand the meaning of the legislation therein. This doubt was all the fault of the noble Lord opposite, who had in the Irish Reform Act deliberately left those words in the oath, which made the qualification perfectly clear, and put in others which rendered the whole matter obscure; and he had, therefore, no right to blame either the barristers or the judges. The Government was charged with a wish to violate the contract made at the time of the Reform Bill, and with entering on a revolutionary course. He had never been a supporter of the rather extravagant notions which had been put forward by some persons as to the finality of the Reform Act. He regarded the Reform Act as just as liable to blunders, as any other work of human legislation. The Irish Reform Act was perhaps rather more full of blunders than most other pieces of legislation, and he considered that such blunders should be corrected. So far, however, he adhered to the doctrine of the finality of the Reform Act, that he considered that it should not be touched upon light grounds, nor should they be constantly tampering with the distribution of the franchise, but whatever changes they might make, should be made at great intervals, in compliance with the deliberate requisition of a large portion of the people, and extending over the whole country, on the same common principle. He should on this latter ground object to the measure, were it merely a measure for extending the Irish franchise. But he would ask the advocates of finality how they would deal with the difficulties of the Irish franchise where the act would not actually work? In this case something must be done, keeping as near as possible to the amount and character of the constituency contemplated by the Reform Act. According to the inquiries which had been made, it appeared that the 5l. rating would give about the same constituency as at present—that constituency which the noble Lord opposite 983 contemplated when he introduced the Reform Act for Ireland. The noble Lord stated that the number of freeholders in Ireland at the time of the Reform Bill was 52,000, and increased by the alterations made in respect to freeholders in cities and counties of cities to 67,000. The present register would give 87,000 freeholders, which, taking the various changes which had since occurred into consideration, presented no such great difference from the noble Lord's estimate, and certainly afforded no ground for the clamour about the franchise of Ireland being altogether altered in its character, and swamped by an inroad of rabble. He had endeavoured thus far to argue the comparative merits of these two bills with as little reference to external considerations as if in fact this matter interested no one but the legislator, and as if their business were nothing but that of devising the simplest and most effective machinery for carrying out the purposes of a mere registration of voters. But if he were to leave the House under the impression that he viewed the question now before them with such calmness, he should be wanting injustice to himself, as well as to the great national interests now at stake. He was using no mere common-place of exaggeration, but speaking with perfect deliberation, and weighing well his words, when he said that he did not believe that since 1688 that House was ever called on to do any act necessarily pregnant with consequences more grave than those which he anticipated from its vote on the present occasion. He was not thinking now of the effect of a hostile vote on the existence of the present Ministry. If this bill turned them out, he felt very confident that it would bring the same, or in all probability, a more liberal Ministry into power before many months passed over our heads. We knew enough of the fortunes of great popular measures in our day, to feel confident that when once proposed by a great party like that now pledged to its support, such a bill as this would become the banner of a popular movement, that must triumph, and take no great time to ensure its success. But what he dreaded was the policy to which, in the mean time, that House would, by rejecting this bill, commit itself. Such a vote could only be the first act of a retrograde system of Government, marked by all the worst features, attended by all the most horrible risks of a counter-revolution. He had never been one of those that expected any positive good from a Conser- 984 vative Ministry. But never before this did he anticipate the madness of a retrograde policy, enforced as it must be by violence. Whatever notions of the kind might appear to be yet lingering in the heads of many of the party opposite, he knew they were repudiated, and he hoped, therefore, that they would not be acted upon by those who would have to determine the course of a Conservative Ministry. Thus much reliance, at the least, he had been used to place in the eminent prudence and the indisputable patriotism of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and in the influence which in spite of all the reproaches directed against them, their old feelings and opinions had always appeared to him to exercise on the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke. But their course on this question showed him that it was their fate, like that of most party leaders, to become but the instruments of the worst purposes of the very worst portion of their followers. For what was their present purpose? Simply and plainly that of subjecting the people of Ireland to the ancient yoke of Orange ascendancy. He was not using mere terms of abuse. The words which he employed expressed exactly his view of the real state of things. It was ridiculous to treat this as a mere question of registration. If nothing were involved in the vote of to-night but the comparative merits of two plans of registration, he doubted whether there would be a House. What filled the benches now—what would crowd that House to suffocation on a division, was the bearing which their vote must have on the distribution of political power in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen opposite came to support a bill which, by restricting the franchise, will have the effect of restoring the reign of the old ascendancy party in Ireland. They on that side came to support that which, by keeping the elective franchise in the hands of as large a number as at present possess it, would secure a representation of the feelings of the great body of the Irish people. There were but two parties in Ireland. Until the generation that had suffered, and that which had exercised, the old tyranny of ascendancy had passed away, depend upon it that there never could for any time be more than two parties in Ireland—the one, which he called the Orange or ascendancy party, seeking to restore the ancient system of exclusionj—the other, the popular or Ca- 985 tholic party, striving to keep and to enlarge the rights which it had lately won. Hon. Gentlemen opposite avowed this purpose themselves under the disguise of a thin veil of phrases Their object, as they told the House, was, to prevent "improper persons" from being returned to Parliament, and to give "property and intelligence" their due weight. Everybody knew what was meant by these few words. They meant to stigmatise as "improper persons" all those who were returned by the popular feeling against the wishes of the aristocracy; and "property and intelligence" was the fine phrase by which were described those landed proprietors, whose scandalous abuse of political power and of the rights of property had ever been the great cause of the misery and degradation of the Irish people. It was with great reluctance that he thus described a large class of persons. But Gentlemen opposite had not been very nice in the language which they had employed in speaking of the people of Ireland, and they must excuse him for imitating their plainness of speech. He was far from wishing to lessen the influence of property and education in general; and, however warm an advocate for popular power he might be, he owned that he should grieve, were the gentry of England to be deprived of that influence, which, with all their faults, they had on the whole usefully exercised. But, between the English gentry and the great body of the Irish gentry,—(he admitted many most honourable exceptions—he admitted some improvement in the tone and character of the body; but still),—between the two in general, he saw a resemblance only in the rights which they possessed, none in the mode of exercising those rights. Frankly, then, he must say, that he was opposed to any measure that would have the effect of placing more political power in the hands of the great body of the Irish gentry. Whatever power you might give them, they would use it, as they always had used power, for the purpose of oppressing and degrading the mass of their countrymen. And it was because the policy of the noble Lord opposite was avowedly directed to this purpose that he regarded it with horror. It went to re-establish that mischievous ascendancy party which Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform had enabled us to keep under for the last ten years. This, at any rate, was the view which the great body of the Irish people took of the contest now going on between the 986 two sides of this House; and on whatever grounds they might have come to this conclusion, it was hardly possible to dispute the fact that they would regard the defeat of the bill now before the House, and the success of the other bill, as tantamount to a restoration of the ascendancy which they detest. And now let him come to the practical question. What will be the consequences of such a policy if the House should think proper to enter upon it? They might reject the Government Bill; they might pass the other; and there would be no very great difficulty in the way of enforcing any law they might please to make on this subject. But what then? Did they believe that their decision would carry any moral weight with it? Did they believe that the Irish people would sit down very quietly under the loss of that political power, which they had now wielded for some years, after a hard and glorious struggle to get it? Would there be peace in Ireland until the one act were repealed and the other passed? It became them to weigh well the consequences of their decision on this occasion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think that this was a matter which a casting vote here, which the gain of two or three seats, or a balance of influenza in their favour, might settle. But he would tell them that the practicability of carrying out the policy to which a vote hostile to his noble Friend's bill would commit them, depended not on votes but on arms, and before they entered on it they should look not to returns and to division lists, but to the temper and physical force of the Irish people, and, above all, to those points of our foreign relations, which they might find to have a very close connection with the Irish franchise. He knew that in touching on this very delicate ground he subjected himself to imputations of indiscretion or bad intention—that warning was always liable to be construed as menace—that some secret wish might be supposed to be father to his professed apprehensions,—and that he might be accused of actually suggesting the machinations which he professed to dread. But he was too much in earnest to be scared by such considerations. It might be well generally to be very cautious in speaking of such topics, but it would be a silly affectation to deal in vain denials and coy whisperings about that alienation of Ireland of which all the world, friend or foe, at home or abroad, spoke openly as a notorious fact. Besides, after all, our 987 policy with respect to Ireland had unhappily accustomed us to regard the chances of resistance to the laws as a very important element of every decision which we came to respecting that country. No great improvement in the state of Ireland had ever been brought about by strictly constitutional means. The arms of the volunteers, and the perils of the American war, extorted the first concessions to the Irish nation. The elective franchise was conceded to the Irish Catholics in the first uneasiness of the war with revolutionary France. The concession of Catholic emancipation was attributable, not to any improved feeling on the part of the Imperial Legislature, but mainly to the terror occasioned by the midnight trainings and marchings of the peasantry, and the notorious disaffection of the Irish regiments. Indeed, the history of that great measure was full of warning to the Gentlemen opposite, who thought that this question was to be settled by votes at the polls, and in the divisions of the House; and who imagined that the winning two or three seats at Walsall, and other places, would enable them to re-establish an ascendancy party in Ireland. At the general election in 1826, the "No Popery" cry was raised with so much effect, that at the ensuing division on the question of emancipation, its advocates found themselves, for the first time for many years, in a minority in that House; and yet it was the same Parliament that repealed the Test and Corporation Acts, and but two years after passed the Emancipation Act by overwhelming majorities. Let them look now, as before, to such considerations; and before they committed themselves to a retrograde policy, and to direct hostility with the Irish people, let them discuss with the calmness and earnestness due to so grave a question the possible consequences of a vote which the Irish people would undoubtedly regard as indicative of a design of restoring the ancient and detested yoke of the ascendancy. Let them examine whether they were more likely than before to acquiesce in such a policy—whether their moral and physical strength was diminished since Parliament last yielded to it,—and whether external circumstances were such as to render it more safe for the House now than before to alienate their affections. Let them look to the entirely altered character of the Irish people within the last forty years. The Irish people were not now a cowering, dejected, and disunited people, as they 988 were at the close of the last century. Their condition was not now such that they could be goaded by ill usage, or lured by false hopes into unprepared and ill organised attempts at armed resistance. At that time they had none of the courage that could sustain them against reverses, no leader to give direction to their efforts. But since that period the Irish people, had become a people trained and organised by the most skilful leaders that the world had ever seen. They had become organised by the constant and skilfully applied agency of the most popular and effective priesthood in the world, and by that which organised and changed the character of a people more than any other cause whatever, namely, constant and uninterrupted success. Since the formation of the first Irish Catholic Association the career of the Irish Catholic had been one of unbroken triumph. Gain after gain they had made, and obstacle after obstacle had yielded to them. Every year of that period had marked the effacing of some odious distinction, of late their triumph had been even more signal. It had been made matter of reproach to the present Government, though he thought it their highest honour, that within the last five or six years the Irish Catholics had enjoyed power in their own country. The Catholic people had seen the Government administered by those in whom they had confidence. They saw power used, not against them, but actually for them. And it was no slight addition to their triumph that all these advantages had been proclaimed to the world by the lamentations of those who had been their oppressors. But the Irish people had even a greater triumph than this. They had seen Irish representatives—and it had been made matter of reproach that evening, of all persons in the world, by an Irishman, that the votes of Irish Members had some influence in that House,—but the Irish people had seen their representatives influencing the balance of power in England; they had seen the policy of the executive Government of this empire influenced by the adhesion of a great party to the principles of just and liberal government in Ireland. Consider how these things changed men's character, how they gave them a different spirit from what they had before. These things had taught the Irish people the advantages of union, and the sweets of power and victory, and made them very different antagonists to a Tory Government from the wretched 989 rabble whom their militia trampled down in former times. He would advert to one thing as an instance of such a remarkably altered character as made the Irish people one of the most formidable that ever a Government had to deal with. He meant the temperance movement. Now, in spite of some disposition shown by certain organs to make temperance a party question, and to hold forth drunkenness as a true Conservative doctrine, he did not believe that there was any Gentleman in the House who could feel for the honour and dignity of his fellow creatures, that did not rejoice at the effects likely to be produced by that movement. But what seemed to him far more worthy of notice and of admiration than the effects of the movement was the cause which must have preceded it. Greatly altered, indeed, must have been the moral state of the people, before they could have achieved that unanimous abandonment of drunkenness. In the last century you might as soon have prevailed upon the Irish peasant to give up the use of air as of whisky. A peasantry who could do so must be in a state of great moral susceptibility. It must be under the influence of very high feelings, and of a very powerful public opinion of its own. It must have the power of spurning the pleasures and interests of the moment for the sake of distant good, and it must be capable of deep enthusiasm, and great self-denial, for a cause of a pure and abstract nature. Such susceptibility implied a power of being directed by the advice of their leaders, and, above all, by their priesthood, of which an extraordinary development might be expected when any occasion required it. He had never known a more remarkable instance of the exercise of such influence than on a late occasion, when an emigrant ship was about to leave the port of Limerick. The quay was covered with families from the adjoining county—one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Ireland. They were about to embark for Texas, with every prospect of abundant food, high wages, and constant employment. But the hon. and learned Member for Dublin chose to denounce the scheme. The priests and the agitators took it up, and such was their influence, that those miserable people allowed the vessel to go away, renounced the prospect of food and plenty, and, at the command of these priests and agitators, returned to the cold and hunger and hopelessness which are the lot of the Irish peasant at home. If 990 a people could make these sacrifices for such an abstraction as Texian slavery, what would they not renounce at the bidding of their priests and popular leaders for a great national cause? These things should make statesmen think in England. A people who could exhibit such self-denial as this, at the command of their leaders, must be a people to whom no wise Government would give substantial cause for national resentment. Had they the hope that these things could be countervailed by any great love for the English people? Look to the popularity of repeal. It was a proof of the hatred of the great majority of the Irish people towards; this country. Because he did not suppose that they were led away by his hon. and learned Friend's extraordinary notions of general policy, or his execrable political economy, but he believed that the one word "repeal" was the one word that expressed to Irishmen the long and just resentment of the nation against their English oppressors. He said it with sorrow, because he always felt sorrow that justice should be against his own country. But he must confess, he very much feared, if he were an Irishman himself, that his passions would get so far the mastery over his reason as to make him join in the feeling. It must be confessed—there was no use in denying it—that the English Government had oppressed Ireland, not only more than it had been oppressed by any other government, but he would venture to say, more than any country had been, by any Government in Europe, unless they went to Turkey and its conduct to Greece. It was true, and this was a sufficient answer to the sweeping denunciations of his learned Friend, that the feelings of the English people had been improved of late years, as was proved by the fact, that for the last six years the Government had been kept in power on the ground of adhesion to the principles of liberal Government in Ireland. But, on the other hand, it was very natural that national resentment of long standing, caused by grievous provocation, should outlast the cause which had given it birth. And whatever justice had been done to Ireland, enough of exclusion and injustice remained to keep up irritation and the sense of former oppression. When he looked at the language and conduct of the powerful minority opposite—a minority which boasted itself to be a majority of English Members—when he looked at the language of some of the 991 leaders, and of their most widely circulated press, he could not wonder at the Irish feeling irritation against England—or at their attributing to that party a settled design of rooting out the religion of the people, and destroying their national existence. What was that language? The terms by which they described the whole people was sometimes that of "aliens," and sometimes that of "savages." Their representatives were stigmatised as "perjurers." Their religion was described as a grovelling and mischievous idolatry, and the priesthood whom they loved and venerated more than any people in the world loved and venerated their priests, were declared to be "surpliced ruffians." When they saw a great party using such language—a party which had never willingly granted anything to the people of Ireland, but had always supported every measure of coercion and disfranchisement, when they saw such a party gaining at elections, and forcing its way into office with every manifestation of animosity to the Irish people, he, as an Englishman, must regret, but he could not complain, that the Irish showed no relaxation of their ancient hostility. What was to be the result of that hostility if an ascendency policy was to be forced upon them? He did not anticipate an Irish insurrection—certainly not so long as the hon. and learned Member for Dublin lived; because he had found out the great secret of resistance to a Government. He had taught the people that the insurrection which was to be effective in coercing a government was that which never broke out, but was always to be apprehended. They had now been accustomed to this kind of permanent insurrection in Ireland, and they had found that, for many years, it entailed on the Government all the precautions, all the harassing anxieties, and all the expense of civil war, without giving any pretext for that revenge which might crush and terrify rebels. Now what would be the consequence of an ascendancy policy? It would be that the whole good of the last six years would be utterly undone, and that we should see the re-establishment of all the ancient disorder, and insecurity, and terror in Ireland. They would again have the sympathy of the whole population arrayed on the side of crime and the criminal; they would have to keep the peace of Ireland with double the present garrison. They would have every mode of expressing public opinion, 992 petition, public meeting, brought to bear, and turned into an instrument of agitation, and they must have recourse to coercion bills, and to the suppression of every expression of public opinion. Now let him ask—though he hardly knew how to touch the topic, whether the present state of our foreign relations was not such as to suggest great caution and conciliation in dealing with our own people? He saw with horror the intimation of a rupture that had appeared. He could not shut his eyes to the fact that there was a more inimical feeling in France against this country than there had been since 1815. There was growing up rapidly in the United States of America a feeling similar to that which led to the last war. He had as great a horror of war as any one; but the warmest advocate of peace must admit, that a war was a more probable contingency now than at any period within the last twenty years. This was a time rather to conciliate than to exasperate the Irish. We might want their cordial support ere long. He did not suppose the contingency of an invasion, which seemed to alarm hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did not think it possible; but if it were, he trusted, that a better feeling would be found amongst the Irish now than in former times. But he had said, that in the event of a war, we should want the cordial support of the Irish people, and it should be recollected, that on the south of Ireland we depended for a great portion of our soldiers and sailors. It was not wise to excite the ill-feelings of a population, whose aid might be of so much consequence in the hour of need. He would not advert to this topic if he thought the danger unavoidable. Under such circumstances it would be the duty of every man to help to meet the danger in the best way possible, but it was also right, while there was time, to point out how the danger might be avoided. He did not think, that before any hostile force the country need quail in a good cause. Its united energies might well meet the opposition of any foreign power. But it was not wrong to dwell on the advantages of union, or to tell them that this was a time for settling and not widening domestic differences; that it was not a time for the miserable policy of adding Ireland to the list of foreign and hostile nations. There was one thing that consoled him under these apprehensions, and that was, that the Tories possessed the one redeeming quality of great pusillanimity. The dangers which, in the hey-day of passion and exultation, they 993 overlooked, they would see sharply enough when their interest required it. They would pursue their odious policy as of old, so long as the irritation of the people did not break out into absolute convulsion; but when real danger arose; when disturbance assumed a serious form; when Chartism in England required the garrison of Ireland to put it down, or foreign war required the exertion of the national force abroad—that instant the frail fabric of this wretched policy would crumble into dust, and the extent and rapidity of their concession would prove the folly of the course they were now attempting. And, attempting for what? For what, said the hon. Gentleman, is it that you are encountering these certain evils, these fearful risks, and this ultimate humiliation? You cannot deny, that the course you are taking occasions the utmost irritation among the mass of the Irish people. The results of such irritation may very possibly be less serious than I consider them likely to be; but they must be mischievous; and what object have you in view for which it is worth while encountering any mischief or any risk? Is all this crisis forced on in order to turn out the present Ministry? You could hardly have brought your great strength to bear on them in a manner so calculated to annoy, not them, but their successors. Is it for the wretched gain of some dozen of Irish seats, which it is supposed, that a juggling system of registration may transfer from the people to a handful of petty Orange squires? Ten times the number of seats that could be so gained, could not compensate a Government for the weakness attendant on constant collision with the feelings of Catholic Ireland. There is really no necessity for any collision between the Irish people and its government. The last six years have shown with how little that people will be satisfied, and how easily it may be ruled. Had the course of common prudence been long ago adopted with regard to them; had the Government of England treated the Irish with the justice and wisdom which it has shown in its policy towards the Hindoos; had we respected their religion; had we conciliated the people by conciliating its leaders; had we conciliated their leaders in the way in which all popular leaders may be conciliated, [Cheers.] excepting those disinterested Gentlemen opposite, who cheer, and who never care for what I am going to mention; that is by the powers, and honours, and emoluments of office; above all, had we attached their 994 priests to us, as every wise Government attaches to itself the priests of whatever may be the faith of any large portion of its subjects, by pay and respect, the people Ireland would by this time have been perhaps only too easily managed by the Government. Why have we deviated thus far? Why are we called upon to deviate yet more widely from this sound, simple policy? I ask again, for what? For what object, that common sense does not laugh to scorn, and common justice does not repudiate with horror?
§ Sir J Graham
If I considered this House to be a mere theatre of display—an arena for dialectics, or for the trial of rhetorical skill—I would gladly have contented myself with giving a silent vote on this occasion, and confided the dissection of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to some more able hands. When the hon. and learned Member first rose I doubted whether it was consistent with my duty to follow him. The hon. Gentleman commenced his speech with a legal argument, and boasted of the candour he was about to display, and the calmness with which he meant to apply himself to the discussion of the question before the House; but whilst that was his strain, I confess I somewhat marvelled at some of the topics which he introduced. I, at first, attached some weight to the hon. and learned Member's legal opinion, but my respect for that was diminished when, with the candour of which he boasted, he declared that no lawyer could be found who would express an opinion against the party with which he acted. The hon. and learned Gentleman also gave a specimen, not only of his candour but of his knowledge, which, I own greatly surprised me, when he ascribed to my noble Friend the Member for North Lancashire all the evils of the certificate system in Ireland, although, as every one knows, the source of those evils dates from the period of the 35th of Geo. 3d. The hon. and learned Gentleman likewise censured my noble Friend for introducing, or, at all events, continuing the present system of registration in Ireland, and when my noble Friend demurred to this accusation, the hon. and learned Member had the candour to suggest, that possibly my noble Friend had, in this matter, erred from an oversight. So far from it being the result of an oversight, the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary for the Colonies, will bear me out in stating, that at the time of the introduction of the Reform Bill, both my 995 noble Friend and Lord Althorpe repeatedly and distinctly stated that they designedly left the system of registration in Ireland as they found it, until they ascertained by experience the result of the new system of registration in England. The hon. and learned Gentleman next attempted to fix upon my noble Friend] an immutable preference for the appellate jurisdiction of the judges in Ireland in the case of the franchise, but the House cannot forget that my noble Friend has expressed his willingness to consider in committee any suggestion for a more impartial, learned, and trustworthy tribunal, if any such can be pointed out. Then the candour of the hon. and learned Gentleman induced him to refer to the possibility of judges being tainted with political feelings, and disregarding all more recent examples—and such must assuredly have been in his contemplation—he thought fit to assail the memory of one of the most upright judges that ever adorned the English bench. [hear, hear!] The hon. and learned Gentleman did not think it beneath him to assail the memory of Lord Mansfield. In the next place the hon. and learned Member referred to the old election committees of this House as the supreme appellate tribunal and the most trustworthy, and set up the decision of the Longford Committee as conclusive on the question of beneficial interest. [Hear, from Sir G. Strickland.] I see that the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire nods assent to that eulogium on the old election committees. I would like to know whether it is as Member for the West Riding or as Chairman of the Hull committee that the hon. Bart, rejoices in the eulogium on the memory of those tribunals which, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, have ceased to disgrace the Legislature of this country. It is probable that I should not have followed the hon. and learned Member into these topics, had it not been for the exciting nature of the latter portion of his speech. I agree with the hon. and learned Member in thinking that this is a question of great importance. I think the hon. and learned Member said, that on no occasion had a question of greater importance or more pregnant with consequences, been debated in that House since the revolution of 1688. He stated, that amongst the circumstances by which we are surrounded, it was impossible to contemplate coming events without great 996 anxiety; but for my part I do not envy the patriotism which dictated the latter portion of the hon. Member's speech. I doubt whether at any period upon the Corn Exchange of Dublin a greater inducement has been held out to Irish feelings of dissatisfaction or excitement by the most turbulent English Radical. I noticed a marked similarity between the speech of the hon. Member, and the speech of the right hon. the Secretary at War, on the preceding night, with reference to some of the topics which have been used. The right hon. Secretary at War attacked this side of the House and the bill of my noble Friend: both he and the hon. and learned Member deemed it expedient to shift their ground; and they accordingly spoke, not as if the question before the House were the second reading of the bill of the noble Secretary for Ireland, but as if the question under discussion had been the bill of my noble Friend. The Secretary at War, who is no less a great orator than an experienced critic, designated the legislative effort of my noble Friend, not once but again and again as a childish one. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman rejoices in the strength of a giant, and he may, therefore, consider such an effort to improve the system of registration in Ireland as puny and childish, but his colleague, the noble Lord, the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, discovered even last year, that it was a troublesome child. The noble Lord, last year, endeavoured to smother it almost at its birth, and this year he has tried to change it at nurse. If the right hon. Secretary at War will make just such another speech as he delivered last night in some future debate, and give my noble Friend an opportunity of instantly replying to it, he will discover that this child can hit somewhat harder than he expects, and will also discover that his speeches contain within them something more than glittering conceits and impotent puerilities. I cannot help thinking, that the attack of the right hon. Gentleman on the measure of my noble Friend had been prepared for the second reading of that bill, and that it went off at half-cock last night. It appeared as if he had primed and loaded for the bill of my noble Friend, but that he was unable to restrain his fire, and that he had fallen under the delusion of believing the bill before us to be the bill of my noble Friend. The right hon. Gentleman had professed that he would not go into details—or, to use his own expression, touch upon 997 the machinery of my noble Friend's bill; and yet, with a marvellous oversight, the greater part of his speech consisted of attacks upon details. In doing so, it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman had not read the details of the bill, upon which he was commenting. I may refer to one or two points. First, the right hon. Gentleman gave us a dissertation upon the torture of annual registration, and yet we find that that "torture" had been originally proposed by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. My noble Friend, however, has remedied the defects of the original plan, by giving a power to amend oaths in cases of vexatious objection. This is a provision of great importance, and ought not to be overlooked by those who object to this part of my noble Friend's measure. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, illustrated the hardship which would result from the bill of my noble Friend, by instancing the case of his own vote at Cambridge, and he said, "if I were called on annually to go to Cambridge to defend my vote, I would forego the privilege of voting altogether in consequence of such vexatious opposition." Now, to that, I answer, that the bill of my noble Friend does not require any such attendance on the part of the voter when once upon the register; it does not require him personally to appear; it allows him to employ a third person to appear for him in case of an objection being raised against his vote. I will now, however, pass from these matters of detail. I do not mean to imitate the example of the right hon. Gentleman, but will rather follow that which has been set me by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and deal with the great features of the case. The right hon. Secretary at War stated, that the rule laid down in the bill introduced by the Government, with respect to the franchise was the very essence or vital principle of the measure, and he further said, that the bill was framed in the spirit in which the legislation of the country ought henceforth to be conducted. Now, considering the vast importance which has been attached to this vital principle of the bill, I must call the attention of the House to the very late introduction of it into the bill. Throughout the whole of the last Session the Government kept the question of franchise separate from the question of registration, and on the first day of the present Session, a period at which the intentions of my noble Friend were not known with re- 998 spect to his bill, the Secretary of the Treasury gave notice, on behalf of his noble Friend, the Secretary for Ireland, that he would introduce a bill "to amend the system of registration of voters in Ireland." My noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, afterwards obtained leave to bring in his bill, and it was not until then, not until her Majesty's Ministers had seen the course which my noble Friend intended to pursue, that they made up their minds, and introduced that which it now appears was the great vital principle of the bill. It is evident that that which is now declared to be the vital principle of the bill was an after thought. It is not unworthy of observation, that no sooner had the right hon. Secretary at War announced what he considered to be the vital principle of the measure, than feeling the inconvenience of pledging the Government to open questions of any fixed principle whatever, he remarked that it was quite open to the committee to alter the 5l. qualification, and the lease for fourteen years. I will now proceed to state, as shortly as I can, the strong objections which I feel to this measure; and they are so strongly felt by me, that there is no consideration such as has been suggested by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, in the hope of conciliating both sides of the House, which could induce me to agree to it; and I perfectly accord with my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, in saying, that if I stood alone, I would resist the second reading of this bill. It appears to me to be framed for the sole purpose of adding numbers to the Irish constituency, without regard to the principle of qualification. It has been stated very clearly by my hon. Friend, the Member for Woodstock, that there has been always recognised in the law of England a marked and decided difference between the principle of qualification in counties and in boroughs. The principle of the franchise in counties has always been, that a fixed interest or estate in land, yielding profit, was the qualification for counties. The principle constituting the qualification in boroughs has been occupation with residence, and with the payment of rates. Now, this bill appears to me to be entirely subversive of the principle of qualification in counties; and I cannot but see, that under the provision of a 5l. valuation without payment of rates, and without any profit whatever, the whole principle hitherto recognized as the exclusive qualification for counties is at once overthrown. 999 As relates to boroughs, there is not a shadow of a case for the introduction of so great a change. I can conceive, with respect to counties, that there might be some difference from the former qualification; but with respect to cities and boroughs no such excuse has been offered. But if we admit this diminution of the amount of the franchise in the cities and boroughs by one half in Ireland, I ask (and in this I agree with the hon. Member for Kilkenny,) upon what principle can her Majesty's Government resist this extension of the franchise to England and Scotland? The occupation of a 10l. house is taken as the test of the station and respectability of the party occupying it; and, if the noble Lord and his colleagues say, that in Ireland the occupation of a 5l. house is a sufficient test of the respectability, of the property, of the independence, and of the station of its occupier, it will be for them to show—and I cannot conceive by what argument they will prove it—that a 5l. elector in England or Scotland, was less trustworthy or less obedient to the law than a 5l. occupier of a house in a borough in Ireland. But I conceive that the object of the Irish Reform Bill with respect to the counties was to add to the freeholders possessing franchises under the act of 1829, by providing that leaseholders possessing a profit equal in amount to a freeholder should have a vote. The object of that measure was to extend the basis of the franchise as fixed in 1829; but it broke through no principle which the act of 1829 had established: it did not make property subservient to numbers, and did not degrade the station of the electors. I confess that I have always been of opinion that the real principle of an elective system is, as stated in the clearest and most forcible manner by the highest constitutional authority, Mr. Fox, "that that was the best system of registration which admitted the largest number of independent electors, and excluded the largest number of those who from their circumstances were necessarily dependent." It was on that principle that the act of 1829 and the Reform Act were passed. I strongly contend for the solvent tenant test, and agree with the hon. Member for Halifax, that words cannot be found more clear and distinct than those which establish that test as it now stands. I do not think that any definition of the franchise is necessary. I agree in the opinion that it is much to be lamented 1000 that some of the judges in Ireland did not take the interpretation of the law from the majority of their brethren. At the same time, I acknowledge that if the unwillingness of landlords to grant leases should diminish the constituency to any great extent, I would consider that a very serious evil. But that fact must be proved; the extent of the evil must be shown, and the cause of it must be made manifest: and, for one, I am of opinion that no remedy could be entertained which should not place the right of voting on a principle which should give to the State a security as to the perfect independence and respectability of the voter. In the course of this debate reference has been made to the small number of voters in the county of Mayo. It so happens, that when the Reform Act was under discussion, Mr. Dominick Browne in moving that an additional representative should be given to the county, made some statements which merit the consideration of the House on the present occasion, as they have a direct bearing on the arguments chiefly employed by the opponents of my noble Friend's bill. Mr. Dominick Browne stated, that under the 40s. franchise the number of electors amounted to 25,000, and that with that numerous constituency four landed proprietors in the county, had the absolute power of nominating both the Members. But he went on to state, that when inconsequence of the act of 1829, the number of electors was reduced to 700, the constituency was independent, and no combination of landlords could influence the election. I adduce this as a proof that the independence of a constituency is not necessarily proportionate to its numbers. As an instance of the state of the population of the county of Mayo, I may remind the House, that my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, has stated from official documents, that out of 350,000 inhabitants of that county, 225,000 had in 1831 either applied for, or received charitable relief. No answer has been as yet made to the statement of my noble Friend near me, with respect to the comparative numbers of landholders in Great Britain and Ireland. There are, in Great Britain, 34,250,000 statute acres, and in Ireland, 14,500,000 statute acres; in Ireland there are 659,000 holders to occupy that number of acres, and in Great Britain there are 355,800 holders; in Great Britain 187,000 landholders, or more than half the number employed labourers, and paid them 1001 wages, while in Ireland only 95,000, or less than one-fifth of the whole, found employment for the remaining 564,000, and employed no extraneous labour. That shows the proportion between both countries of comparative independence, and it should not be forgotten, when we wanted to estimate the real proportion which the constituency ought to bear to the Members. The vice of the noble Viscount's bill is the introduction of numbers without regard to property, and this has been purloined from the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. I ask the Government whether they believe they have the slightest chance of passing this bill? The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney) has observed, that, in his opinion, the vindication of the measure before the House was the probability of its passing into law, and that it would be greatly to the interest of the Conservatives, that the bill should pass into law. My belief is, that if there was any such probability, and it could be proved to the satisfaction of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, that would be one reason among many others why he would not wish it to pass into law. Apart from any other reasons, I ask the noble Lord whether there is, in the present state of parties, the slightest prospect of this measure passing into a law? If there is not, what is the inevitable consequence? It has been put by my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire, and I will put it again—whether, in the present state of the House and of parties, her Majesty's Ministers are not playing over again the game of the appropriation clause. A settlement had been tendered on that occasion by which the burden of tithes would be at once removed from the Catholic occupier to the Protestant landlord, with a diminution of 25 per cent., but the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies attached to that a condition which he knew it was impossible for Parliament to agree to. So it was exactly now. After fighting this registration question as long as possible, and feeling that they could no longer, in the face of the British public, vindicate the perjury and fraud that existed under the present system—feeling that they dared no longer openly defend them—what course do they take? They attach to the remedy of these avowed evils a condition which they know they cannot fulfil, and no longer defending fraud and perjury, which have been proved and acknowledged to exist, they now pur- 1002 sue a course which must inevitably perpetuate that fraud and perjury. I contend, that the adoption of this measure would inevitably lead to the extension of its principle to England and Scotland. It should be recollected, that an extension of the suffrage in England has been constantly refused to that party in the House which usually supports Government, but which is at the same time pledged to extreme opinions. Now, I say, the Government is yielding this extension in the most dangerous quarter, and at a most dangerous moment, at the suggestion not of English radicals, but of Irish repealers. If I had not objected to the principle of the bill, I should still have found it impossible to acquiesce in any such concession, on account of the rapid progress which has been recently made by the Government in dangerous concessions of this description. Will the House allow me shortly to trace what that progress has been? In 1839, her Majesty's Ministers having come to the conclusion that they no longer possessed sufficiently the confidence of the House to carry on her Majesty's service with advantage, resigned office. They returned to place under circumstances upon which I will not dwell. Within a week after their return to office an hon. Member, a supporter of the Government, the Member for Preston (Sir H. Fleetwood), made a motion to the effect that a 10l. occupation franchise should be extended to the counties of England, one-half higher than that now proposed for Ireland. The hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Warburton) made on that occasion a most pathetic appeal to the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies; he complained of the noble Lord's resistance to the measure, and reminded him that his supporters would have to go before their constituents in a short time, and that if the noble Lord persevered in his objection to the proposed measure, it would be the most unfortunate day for them that had ever occurred. That hon. Member went on to say, that they must have some popular topic for the hustings, some popular ground for continuing their support to the Ministry; and that unless the noble Lord gave way on his part, he must not longer reckon on their support. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) stated his opinions more explicitly. He expressed a hope that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, might be induced to give way, and he told the noble Lord that two-thirds of the party which he attempted to lead 1003 went beyond the narrow line which he had laid down, that it was impossible to keep the party together upon the principles professed by the noble Lord, and that it was therefore incumbent on him to give way. So the Session ended. I thought at the time that it was probable some such concession as that sought would be before long proposed by her Majesty's Ministers after the pressing appeals made from such quarters; but my suspicion was converted into certainty when I read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay). When the right hon. Gentleman was elected, he announced distinctly to his constituents that he was a decided advocate for the extension of the 10l. occupation franchise to the counties of England and Scotland, and the right hon. Gentleman was admitted into the Cabinet avowing those opinions. Immediately after the commencement of the next Session the ballot was made an open question. A member of the Cabinet, before he took his seat, having declared in favour of the 10l. occupation franchise, and the ballot being made an open question, we have arrived in the course of eighteen months in this rapid progress of concession to a tender of 5l. franchise for the counties of Ireland. I ask to whom is this concession made? Why, distinctly to the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and to him alone. The merit of this measure rests entirely with that hon. Gentleman. The hon. and learned Member originally proposed it in 1832, when the Irish Reform Act was introduced, and he has pressed it from time to time. It has been occasionally resisted with more or less of firmness, and I must say, that I have the most evil forebodings as to the use to which the concession will be applied. What can be more plain than the assertion of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin that this is not an end, that it is, in fact, only one of the means to far other ends. The hon. and learned Gentleman has frankly avowed this, and there can be no misapprehension on the subject. That avowal has been recorded in the most authentic shape. I ask the House to pause and deliberate whether they are prepared, with such objects avowed, to make concessions of this description? The first object avowed by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin is, that there should be the same franchise for England and for Ireland, and, not satisfied with that, he 1004 demands a large extension of both. This second object is an alteration of the proportion of the representatives of the three kingdoms, and grounding his demand upon the amount of population, he requires that the representatives of Ireland should be 175 in number. The hon. and learned Gentleman's third demand, without which he says there can be no peace in Ireland, and as far as he is concerned there shall be no peace, is the confiscation of the property of the Protestant church, twenty-five per cent.,—be it recollected, having been already taken away—to public uses, in which Catholics shall participate with Protestants. These are the hon. and learned Gentleman's avowed objects. But are there any other objects not so openly avowed, but yet not very indistinctly shadowed forth? Has not the hon. and learned Gentleman talked of a separation between the two countries in a manner not to be misunderstood? Has he not spoken of Hanover, and Belgium, and Switzerland, as being all independent countries, with a population infinitely less than that of Ireland? But it is vain for me to attempt to repeat the secret purposes which the hon. and learned Member has in view, and therefore I will read to the House, with its permission, a much shorter and clearer exposition of those intentions than any I can myself offer. The words which I am about to read were uttered by the noble Lord the Secretory for the Colonies, and they thus describe the intentions of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin.All that has lately passed in Ireland shows that the objects in view are neither more nor less than an attempt made under the name of a Repeal of the Union, and separate Parliaments, to disunite the two countries, to confiscate the property of all Englishmen who had property there, to overturn the united Parliament, and to establish in the place of King, Lords, and Commons, some Parliament of which the hon. and learned Member for Dublin should be the leader and chief, and in which no doubt he would play a conspicuous part, but in which it would be impossible to go on for a single year without involving the two countries in a war which must tend to the destruction of one or the other, which must lead to the degradation of both, and to that loss of power and dominion which this country has hitherto possessed.This was at that time the noble Lord's exposition of the designs and objects of the Repealers. [Mr. Hume: At what time?] In 1832. Can the hon. Member for Kilkenny suppose that the date makes any 1005 difference? Is there anything since in the principles professed, or the conduct pursued by the hon. and learned Member which makes any difference with respect to these observations? I ask the hon. Member for Kilkenny to point out any change in the language or conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin to give reason to suppose that these terms are not at present applicable. The hon. and learned Member for Liskeard made one observation, which appeared to me one of great point; namely, that with respect to parties, the nominal heads are often only the real instruments of their followers. Now, I beg to say, that it is not the Government that directs the movement in Ireland; they have lost all control over it; it is entirely in the hands of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. That hon. and learned Gentleman demands the present concession as a means leading to an end which I consider most dangerous, and I am atonished that her Majesty's Ministers have calmly, and I must say recklessly, submitted to it. But if my astonishment is great at a concession of this nature, my surprise is greater at the accusation made by the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, against my noble Friend, the Member for North Lancashire. The noble Secretary said, that the present state of the repeal question in Ireland is to be imputed to my noble Friend. I beg to ask, what has been the conduct of her Majesty's Government with respect to repeal? Have they exerted the legitimate authority of Government to put it down? I am not talking of violent means; but, I repeat, have they used the legitimate means they possessed? It is true, that Lord Ebrington has recently declared his intention of not countenancing by his patronage any person who is favourable to the agitation of the repeal question; but I ask, what has been the conduct of the advisers of her Majesty upon the subject of the distribution of their patronage?—that instrument by means of which, according to the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, all popular leaders are to be conciliated. This seems to be the recipe which the Government have employed for putting down the repeal agitation in Ireland. In 1834 the hon. and learned Member for Dublin brought forward a motion in this House for the repeal of the union. On that occasion thirty-eight Members voted in the minority with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin? I will now read to the 1006 House from the division-list the names of some of those Gentlemen, in order to show how large a proportion of them have been conciliated by the means that have been described by the hon. Member for Liskeard. The first on the list is Mr. Fitzsimon, a near relative of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who has been made clerk of the Hanaper in Ireland. [Viscount Morpeth,] Mention the date of the appointment.] The date I am sure the noble Lord can himself supply. The next on the list is the name of Mr. Kennedy, at that time Member for Tiverton, to whom the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs is under deep obligations, and this Gentleman has been appointed slave-commissioner at the Havannah. The next is Mr. Lynch, appointed a Master in Chancery. Then came Mr. M. O'Connell, appointed clerk in the Registry-office; and Mr. O'Dwyer, appointed Filacer of the Exchequer. There is another Gentleman, upon whom the dignity of Baronet has been conferred, I mean Sir David Roche; and there is another appointment which I believe is still in abeyance, I mean the appointment of Mr. Fitzsimon as police magistrate; but perhaps the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, will furnish the House with-the date of this appointment. These Gentlemen all voted in 1834 for repeal, together with a right hon. Gentleman who acted as teller on the occasion, and who is now Vice-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Sheil). Then last, but by no means least, in my estimation, comes the author of the motion—the hon. and learned Member for Dublin himself. I have the hon. and learned Member's authority for stating that one of the highest judicial appointments in Ireland, whether criminal or civil, was offered to him. The hon. and learned Member announced this fact last year, and I was so struck with the words he used that I took them down at the time. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the office of Chief Baron in Ireland had been offered to him by her Majesty's present advisers, and that he had refused it for this reason, that he dared not trust himself; and the hon. and learned Gentleman further said, and I thought it was honourable to him, that he would not run the risk of accepting the office, lest the name of justice should be polluted in his person. This was undoubtedly a most gratifying compliment to the Government that made the offer. I am bound to say, that in turbulent times flattery is by no means 1007 confined to courts; the public also in such times have their parasites, their panders, and their slaves. I had thought, that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had discarded all meretricious arts, and I read with infinite satisfaction the noble Lord's address to his constituents at Stroud, in which he declared that he would not again evoke the charm of revolutionary enthusiasm; and that, to use the language of the noble Lord himself, "he was not prepared to lift the anchors of the monarchy when the signs of storms were black in the horizon." I rejoiced in those sentiments. I think there are times when courage is prudence, when compromise is crime, and when silence is dishonour; and I hope, therefore, before the debate closes, that we shall know distinctly from the noble Lord what are his present intentions. Is the noble Lord weary of the Reform Act? Is the noble Lord's principle now to enlarge constituencies, and to make property prostrate before numbers? Hon. Members have no doubt read the correspondence that had taken place between Lord Fitzwilliam and Mr. Marshall, respecting a meeting that was held at Leeds. Now, when I remember who Mr. Marshall is, and the numbers and object of the meeting at which he presided, and the resolutions which were passed there, I think it would not be altogether unreasonable or out of place if I were to ask the noble Lord, whether he, too, considers the Reform Act to have been a failure; whether he, too, charges it to the Reform Act as a crime, that it does not give bread and clothing to the people? Is the noble Lord also one of those who say that the movement, the rapid movement of the democratic principle, must either be conciliated or must burst and overflow its bound, and in its headlong course sweep away the monarchy and the constitution? I think we are entitled to know from the noble Lord what are his intentions in respect to these views and these demands? If it is the noble Lord's intention to make further concessions to the democratic principle, let him frankly say so; let him avow the principles upon which he intends to act; and let him be prepared to risk the existence of his Government upon the issue. I warn the noble Lord of the danger of procrastination in a matter like this; I earnestly call upon him to appeal without delay to the people upon his future views of policy, lest he should one day discover that he has survived in office the honour of his admi- 1008 nistration, and has been content to govern by the favour of the Crown, after he had ceased to command the confidence of the people. For my part, I am most anxious to consolidate constitutional reform, and therefore I am resolved to resist this wild democratic movement. I will cling to the measure of Lord Grey, as the best safeguard both for the liberties of the people and the permanency of the monarchy. In 1832 I supported that measure, because I thought that it would be sufficient to satisfy all reasonable demands, and remove for ever all just causes of complaint; and, at the same time, that I supported that measure as the best security against that restless spirit of innovation, which, under pretence of remedying acknowledged abuses, in secret aims at nothing less than the overthrow of all our institutions, even of the Throne itself. I am determined to stand by the Reform Act. Let its provisions be improved, where necessary. Yes, I am perfectly prepared to assist in any attempt to remedy the defects which are found to exist in it—as, for instance, with respect to the machinery of registration; but I am resolved, at the same time, to guard the franchise as it stands; and, above all things, to resist such alterations as those at present proposed, which I am convinced, if permitted to proceed, must end in universal suffrage, and which would overthrow our noblest institutions, and degrade this mighty nation to the level of a turbulent democracy. I will conclude by professing my creed in a few lines that are worthy of their great author:—When ancient fabrics nod and threat to fall,To patch their flaws and buttress up the wall,Thus far is duty: but here fix the mark;For all beyond it is to touch the ark.To change foundations, cast the frame anew,Is work for rebels who base ends pursue.
§ Mr. Sheil
The right hon. Gentleman, who has just closed a speech, remarkable for the number and the bitterness of the personal allusions with which it was replete, rose to speak after my hon. Friend, the Member for Liskeard had pronounced a speech distinguished by pre-eminent ability, and containing a vast mass of various but most appropriate matter. The right hon. Gentleman, who has just sat down scarcely glanced at that speech, although it afforded to the right hon. Gentleman much matter, most deserving of his attention—he turned once to the speech delivered last night, by the Secretary at War, which had been, no doubt, the subject of his nocturnal meditation. Upon that speech he has animad- 1009 verted with the acrimony by which conversion is proverbially distinguished. He should not have spoken of the Secretary at War as he has done; he should not (his moral sense should have forbidden it) have spoken thus, of a man who was his colleague, during the eventful agitation of the Reform Bill, who rendered himself conspicuous when the right hon. Gentleman "shrunk from his duty," and upon one occasion only, departed from his judicious taciturnity, when he "swamped his argument, and capsised his metaphor," in a fantastic and puerile description of the swamping of the Royal George. How rash a man is the right hon. Baronet! How utterly he seems to forget, in assailing his former friends and associates, how vulnerable he is himself. He has ventured to talk of an address to the people of Stroud, by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. I too remember a speech made at Stroud, by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in which matter was contained, that nearly touched the right hon. Baronet. He should keep clear of reference to Stroud. It was at Stroud, that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, stated, that the right hon. Baronet had been one of a committee of five, to whom the task of framing the plan of reform had been committed, and that the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, had produced a plan, of which the Ballot constituted a part. Yes, the right hon. Baronet, who now denounces the adventurous spirit of innovation, was an advocate of the Ballot. How ill his present political professions accord with those doings of the right hon. Baronet, to which he is sufficiently indiscreet to provoke a reference. The right hon. Baronet has called me a repealer; at all events, I am not a "a recreant Whig." The man who indulges in these personal attacks, in discussing a question which has nothing whatever to do with them, had the temerity to denounce Sir James Scarlett, as "a recreant Whig." He understands, no man better, the force of that most poignant phrase, "recreant Whig;" let him, with those words ringing in his ears, call me "repealer," when and where he shall deem it meet. I pass from the right hon. Baronet, to matter of more befitting observation, the measure before the House. To leave the franchise undefined, not only to leave it undefined, but to involve it in perplexities still more embarrassing and pernicious than those with which it is now en- 1010 compassed—to impede the acquisition of the franchise by means of obstacles which no ordinary claimant can reasonably be expected to surmount; by an annual revision grounded on matter antecedent to the registry, to molest the voter into a relinquishment of the privilege, which he had been sufficiently unfortunate to attain, and by expedients as unworthy as their purpose is discreditable, to narrow the already limited constituency into dimensions still more contracted, than those to which it has been already reduced—these appear to the supporters of the bill, introduced by the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, to be purposes consistent with the true spirit of the Reform Bill; while, on the other hand, to rescue the franchise from the ambiguities with which it is enveloped; to remove all doubt and difficulty upon a subject on which the judges are acknowledged to differ; to try the franchise by a test independent of the claimant's oath, and thus to take away all inducements to prevaricate; to facilitate the acquisition of the franchise by the legitimate claimant, by the establishment of some unvarying standard of his right, and to protect that right against any undue and vexatious endeavours to divest him of its enjoyment—by these means, by these just and honourable means to create a constituency which not only to the numbers, but to the growing wealth, and to the moral and social improvement of the Irish people shall be in some degree proportionate,—these appear to the advocates of the measures, and to the policy of the noble Lord opposite, to be purposes at variance with the genius of the Reform Bill. I do not think so; I regard the bill of my noble Friend as calculated to give effect to the principle on which the Reform Bill was founded, as calculated to defend and fortify the Reform Bill against any future and exceedingly probable attempt which may be made against it by the noble Lord. I regard it as? means of allaying the ferment which at present unhappily prevails in Ireland, as a means of recovering the attachment and the confidence of the country by doing what the Member for Salford, the representative of a great English constituency, has had the boldness to declare to be required by justice to Ireland. What is justice to Ireland? Your notions of it appear to me to depend far less upon the common principles of equity, than upon those events which affect the rights of one country in the exact measure in which they affect the 1011 rights and the interests of the other. Take as an example what befel when the elective franchise was first conceded to the Catholics of Ireland. In 1792 their petition was contumaciously flung out of the first House of Commons. Six months elapsed. Victory after victory had been won by France, her fleets were upon the high seas—justice to Ireland was seen in a new light, and Mr. Pitt, who was not so bold a man as the Member for Pembroke, but was too brave a man not to shrink from the horrors of civil warfare, saw that the conciliation of three millions (we were then but three millions) was necessary for the safety of the country, and conceded the elective franchise. It deserves to be remembered that the present Duke of Wellington, who was at that time a Member of the Irish House of Commons, strongly enforced the necessity of yielding to the requisition of his Catholic fellow-citizens. Thirty-six years afterwards the impressions of his early youth were revived. So long as the elective franchise was held by the Catholic tenant in trust for the Protestant landlord, so long as that state of fortunate subserviency prevailed, of which the noble Lord on Monday last gave a description so graphic, not unaccompanied by the desire for its restoration, so long against the exercise of the elective franchise, no complaint was made; but when the people awakened to a sense of their rights and of their degradation, when the inspiring influence of that association, which the noble Lord seems to be at pains to revive, pervaded all classes of the vast community, from whose wrongs its existence was derived;—when the elections of Waterford, and of Louth, and of Clare, had given evidence, that with the augmenting numbers, the moral energies of Ireland had expanded—then and not till then, against the elective franchise as an implement of liberty, a clamour was raised; in 1829 the qualification was raised, and if I may so say, Ireland was manumitted with a blow. The solvent tenant test was established; against that test, no man remonstrated with more strenuousness than a young patrician, the representative of a great Whig family, who stood up in the House of Commons as an advocate of the popular rights, and who was in some sort their hereditary champion. In three years after, an opportunity was afforded him of carrying his large and liberal views into effect—to him, who had made himself so conspicuous in the agitation of that eventful period, the Irish Reform Bill was 1012 appropriately confided—he availed himself of the occasion which was afforded him of making a most signal improvement in the franchise, and acting on the principles which he had professed in 1829, he struck out the "solvent tenant test." Having, however, abandoned the standard of reform, and united himself with the men by whom Gatton and old Sarum had been to the last defended, having leagued himself with that Irish party which he had denounced, whose petitions he now presents, and in whose passions he participates; this conspicuous convert, as if to make a reparation for the deep wounds which he had inflicted upon Toryism, undertakes the task of sweeping away the constituencies of Ireland, and with this view, empowers every landlord to drag his refractory dependent once a year before the assistant barrister, in order that by annually ripping up his title, he may worry him into the abandonment of the franchise, and although there is not a man in this House who does not feel, that to compel the claimant to travel some ten, or twenty, or even thirty miles upon a miserable pilgrimage before the judge of assize, is a most monstrous hardship, although those very judges of assize are at variance with each other, although the elective franchise is every day becoming more involved in legal ambiguity and judicial doubt, although the Chief Baron may decide at Waterford in a manner diametrically opposite to a chief justice at Cork; although the spirit of contention has ascended the bench of justice, and even into the judicial conclave, faction has found its way, yet, despite of all this, the noble Lord, without defining the franchise, presses a new scheme of registration on, involves the question at issue in still greater doubt, and rendering the acquisition of the franchise more difficult, turns all this confusion to account, and shows himself reckless of every consequence, provided the purposes, the bad and factious purposes, of obstruction are secured. And of his purposes, who that heard him on Monday night can entertain a doubt? By whom indeed can a doubt be entertained, who heard him lay down the rules by which the political relations of landlord and of tenant ought to be regulated, who heard him ostentatiously proclaim himself the advocate of a wretched, miserable dependence, who heard him proclaim what the most inveterate Tory would have hesitated to utter? It is as well, however, that the people of England 1013 should know what manner of man has become the standard bearer of Toryism. It is as well that he should have disclosed a sentiment, which beyond every thing else will prove to the people of this country the necessity of arresting the audacious spirit of oligarchical intimidation, and of providing the voter with a shield, by which, against a system of avowed and open terrorism, some protection for the consciences and the liberties of Englishmen may be provided. By these declarations the noble Lord has done good service, for he will put England on her guard, as by his bill he has been the involuntary promoter of the measure brought forward by my noble Friend. If the noble Lord had not committed an aggression upon the Irish franchise, if he had not aimed at it a blow, not the less mortal because it is an insidious one, if while he affects to do little more than change the machinery of the Reform Bill, he did not so change its working, as utterly to counteract its intent; if he had not endeavoured to establish in Ireland some twenty close counties, over which a kind of Tory gentlemen should exercise the privileges of nomination; if he be not engaged in these courses, so formidable a reaction would not have been produced, and the friends of the popular rights would not have been alive to the necessity of strenuously repelling him, of not only forcing him to raise the siege, but of securing the Reform Bill against every future attempt to assail or to undermine it. The noble Lord has thus unwittingly contributed to a measure, which he endeavours to injure, by saying that in point of machinery, it bears analogy to his own. He must, however, have relied on the simplicity of the Gentlemen who surrounded him. The noble Lord grants an annual revision upon matter antecedent to registry, and an appeal to the judge of assize on questions of fact; the bill of my noble Friend grants a revision on matter subsequent to registry, and an appeal only on matters of law, which do not require the claimants presence. But I pass to the rate. You who insisted on the rate being employed as a test of the municipal franchise, before the Poor-law was passed, cry out against the rate being employed as the test of the Parliamentary franchise, when the Poor-law is in active operation, although it is obvious, that by the rate, perjury will be put down. But the valuation is uncertain; not surely so uncertain as the present franchise, which, 1014 to perjury, which, to factious contentions, which, to judicial factions opens the door. Some of the judges have announced, that they will not abide by the decision of the majority. At this determination the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, who has arrived at a far more absolute certainty with regard to the franchise of the people, than he exhibited with reference to the privileges of the House of Commons, is indignant. The violation of a rule of practice excites the emotions of the learned Gentleman; annihilate the franchise, and his composure is undisturbed; but infringe a judicial usage, and all his resentments are aroused. "Shake (exclaimed Lord Chatham, in reply to a mellifluous pleader, who, with professional suavity, was endeavouring to induce their representatives to sacrifice the liberties of the people), Shake," exclaimed Lord Chatham, "the whole constitution to the centre, and the lawyer will sit tranquil in his cabinet, but touch a single cobweb in Westminster-hall, and every startled spider will crawl out in its defence." But does the hon. and learned Gentleman conceive, that by his criticism on the Irish judges, those learned functionaries will be terrified into the sacrifice of their opinions? and if no such hope is entertained, wherefore is it, that no remedy is applied to an evil of whose existence, and of whose enormity no doubt can be entertained? Why does not the noble Lord define the franchise? Instead of doing so, he denounces the Government for proposing what is no more than an equivalent for the franchise of 1832, according to its fair and just definition? Whose definition shall I take? Sir Michael O'Loghlin's. The noble Lord culled out of Sir Michael O'Loghlin's bill every thing that would serve his turn, but he took care to put the antidote, the definition of the franchise, aside. Will you pass Sir Michael O'Loghlin's bill as it stands? No. What right then have you, of mere fragments of that bill to make a disingenuous use? Sir Michael O'Loghlin's definition corresponds with the enlarged view of the noble Lord in 1829, and 1832; and of this franchise the 5l. rate is no more than the equivalent. But it will create a pauper constituency, indeed, sweep away the freemen, whose privileges you have preserved for generations of Protestant pauperism yet unborn, and then talk about a poor constituency. The 5l. rate will give to Ireland a constituency, commensurate not merely with the numbers, but the wealth, and the intelligence, of an industrious, a rapidly progressive, a 1015 moral, sober, and educated people. Did the noble Lord, when in despite of the denunciations of his present auxiliaries when despite the howl from Caithness to Exeter, he established the education commission, forget that knowledge is identified with power, or did he imagine that to the acquisition of the mere elements of letters, the acute and ardent mind of Ireland would be confined? The people of Ireland are not unworthy of that privilege, whose noble etymology is derived from freedom. They are as well acquainted with their rights as the inhabitants of this country. They know the story of Irish suffering and of British wrong, they know the means by which their enfranchisement was achieved, and that to those means they can again resort, if unhappily there shall be need; they know, how soon after Catholic emancipation had been wrung from you, the Tory party relapsed into their former habitudes; they know that to deprive them of the benefit of British constitution, when the English Municipal Bill was carried, a most unworthy attempt was made; they know that to the prejudices of Englishmen national and religious, the strongest stimulants were applied—they know that they were designated as aliens by the man to whom you mean that the conscience of your sovereign should be confided, they know that again and again, for the basest purposes of faction, the infamous no-Popery cry was raised; they know the bad expedients which were adopted with the concurrence of men, who ought to have shrunk from such an enterprise, to drive their representatives from the House of Commons; they know the history of the Spottiswood gang, and of that history, in the measure of the noble Lord, they see the appropriate and consistent postcript; they know the measure of the noble Lord, and they know himself, and it is as well that the acquaintance should be reciprocal, and that he should know that never with impunity shall he do them wrong. Mark the consequences which have already followed from the measure of the noble Lord. A year ago the country was profoundly tranquil, there was no political agitation, there were no gatherings of the people, the public mind was in a state of quiescence;—the fatal bill of the noble Lord is produced, and the whole country is thrown into confusion. It was easy to foresee what would happen. With what impressiveness my hon. Friend, the Member for Drogheda, who has so deep a con- 1016 cern in the peace of his country, implored the Member for Tamworth to arrest his perilous auxiliary in his career. But I am astonished that he does not himself recoil from the enterprise into which he has been so recklessly hurried. Does he, who but a few days ago, asked the Secretary for Foreign Affairs a question so momentous, does he, who to our foreign relations does not appear to be wholly indifferent, think this is the time, that this is the befitting time, to fill the hearts of millions with feelings of deep, of rancorous, perilous discontent? While France is arming you are disfranchising—while France calls forth her legions you are cutting constituencies down—while round the circuit of her vast capital, fortresses are raised by France, you are levelling the great moral bulwarks from which the best security is derived. Is there not cause to apprehend that deprived of that security, and conscious of the diminution of her power, England may be compelled to recede from the glorious position to which she has been raised, by a lofty-minded statesman? But for the relinquishment of her interests, and the deterioration of her dignity, and in the inglorious gratification of putting Ireland down, an ignominious compensation will, I suppose, be found. If foreign cabinets cannot be baffled, Irish agitation will at all events be crushed. Popish multitudes will at all events be put to flight, the victories of faction, the verdicts of marshalled juries will be won, and amidst the acclamations of exulting orange-men from the precincts of Dublin Castle, their ensanguined banner will be unfurled.
§ The debate was again adjourned.