§ Mr. S. Crawford
said, Sir, I rise to bring before the House the resolution of which I have given notice.] acknowledge the disproportion of the powers of the advocate to the importance of the cause; but, although such may be the case, I feel that I am entitled to claim the attention of the House from respect to the demands of a great body of the people whose cause I have been on this occasion called upon to advocate. I trust, then, that even those Members who may not be disposed to agree to my proposition will at least give me a patient and uninterrupted hearing; and that if the motion should be rejected by a majority of this House, which I trust may not be the case, the people will not have the additional ground of mortification and complaint, that their prayers have been treated with disrespect. My motion is, in the first place, to call the attention of the House to various petitions which have been presented, praying for the reforms specified in the resolution; but I am not enabled to quote many of these petitions, because they do not appear in any shape in the printed reports, or in the supplements to those reports; and for this reason, that the prayer with reference to these reforms was in many cases inserted at the end of Anti-Corn-law petitions, and are consequently classed in your reports under that head, and therefore no notice is taken of that portion of them. From this cause these reports afford no true indication of the amount of petitions or the number of petitioners for the reform of the representation. I shall quote an example. In the appendix to the 5th report, No. 123, we find a petition pre- 908 sented by the hon. Member for Bradford, agreed to at a public meeting in the open air, and attended by at least 10,000 persons, and signed by one of the chief constables of Bradford, as chairman, on behalf of the meeting. This petition prays first for a repeal of the Corn-laws, but secondly, prays for the various reforms stated in my resolution. Now, this petition appears in your report as simply a petition against the Corn-laws with one signature, and no notice taken of the latter prayer, the record of which would not exist if it had not happened, that this is one of the petitions selected for publication in the appendix. There are a variety of petitions containing the same prayer, of which no record exists in any form. But the petition to which I desire more particularly to draw your attention is that which I presented last week, signed by Mr. J. Sturge, as chairman of a meeting of delegates of the middle and working classes held at Birmingham on the 4th of April and the succeeding days. At this conference there were in attendance eighty - seven delegates appointed from fifty-one towns of Great Britain. Those delegates were a fair representation of these two classes, and they unanimously concurred in petitioning Parliament for the points of reform stated in the resolution, and I have the honour to appear before you this day as the messenger of their prayer. Before I proceed to the specific points of the petition, I wish first to show that the Reform Act has totally failed in remedying the abuses of the representative system. It will be said, that the people got what they then demanded, and are never to be satisfied. Truly, they did get what was then demanded; but new modes have been since found of perpetuating the abuses in other forms which that act was intended to have remedied. The objects proposed to be accomplished, as stated in the speech of the noble Lord, now the Member for Loudon, in March, 1830, were, first, to abolish nomination by individuals; second, election by close corporations; third, the expense of elections. Yet these evils have still to a great extent a practical existence. On a careful review of the list of the House of Commons, I have found that there are not less than seventy-five boroughs returning 107 Members, in which the influence of a patron is irresistibly paramount. The county Members of England and Wales, 159, and of Scotland, 35, are, with hardly any exceptions, returned 909 by the influence of the landed aristocracy; and about one-half of the Irish county representatives, amounting to thirty-two Members, are returned by a like influence; and to this may be added at least fifty Members elected by means of bribery and other undue influences. The list would stand thus:—
I shall not attempt to compute bow many are returned by bribery and other undue influences, but it may be truly affirmed, that considerably more than half the Members of the House of Commons have been returned by other means than the free votes of the people. I ask, does not this require a remedy? But if further corroboration of this statement be required, it will be found in the fact, that there are in this Parliament 144 brothers and sons of Peers, and ninety-seven Baronets and Knights and their sons. Thus, whilst nomination by individuals, and by absolutely close corporations has been abolished in name, nevertheless the practice is retained by indirect means, and Members are still elected by the influence of individuals and oligarchical combination through the means of undue and corrupt influence. And with regard to the expenses of election, which the arrangements of the Reform Bill were intended to reduce—have these expenses been really reduced? No; the very reverse has been the case. They have been increased with a view of perpetuating the evil practices which I have described. Bribery has increased to an enormous extent, polluting the sources of free election —we have late instances of this in Sudbury, Bridport, Cambridge, and St. Alban's. Thus it is manifest, that if the nation be dissatisfied with the working of the Reform Act, the complaint has not been made without just cause. But what were the practical results which were to be expected from a reformed Parliament, and a reforming Ministry? Peace, retrenchment, and further reforms were promised. Can any lover of peace say, that the two wars we are now engaged in, are wars such as are justifiable in their objects or their origin—are wars such as a Parliament really representing the people could have 910 countenanced? Can any true lover of liberty say, that they are just and necessary wars? Can any true lover of liberty say, that the measures adopted towards Canada, which excited that colony to rebellion, and now requires so large a force to keep her in subjection, were in accordance with the principles of freedom, or were justifiable acts of a Parliament professing to represent the people of England? Can any one believe, that if the voice of the people had been truly declared through the medium of their representatives any one of those wars could have occurred? Has not a lavish expenditure of the people's money been practised in such wars as these and various other ways? and have not all the further reforms been denied, the hopes of which were held out at the time the Reform Act was passed? The finality of that measure has been declared by those whom the people had before looked to as the champions of their rights. The people complained, that they were deprived of the power of giving a free vote by undue influences. The Ballot was asked for and refused. Various other motions were made, which were also rejected, among which were those for repealing the rate-paying clauses of the Reform Act, and extending the 10l. household franchise to counties, both refused; not any attempt made to improve the system of registration, or to shorten the duration of Parliaments; and with regard to Ireland, the just and reasonable proposition of Mr. O'Connell for equalisation of franchises was refused. Has class legislation ceased? Have not the taxes on the people's necessaries of life been retained, which by impeding trade reduced both the sources and wages of employment, for the interests of a class! whilst at the same time the sources of relief by the Poor-laws have been curtailed, and the people punished for not doing that which it became impossible for them to do —namely, to support themselves and families by the labour of their hands? A tax is retained for the benefit of the favoured class, whilst for the benefit of the same class relief to the unemployed is placed on such conditions as to be intolerable to the honest industrious worker to accept, and in this way to reduce the amount of the landlord's taxation. I need offer no other instances of class legislation. The people expected power from the Reform Bill, they expected practical good from that act, but they now find they have been grossly deceived. Those who framed the Reform 911 Act seem to have intended to keep the power in the hands of the aristocracy and the middle classes. The middle classes now find also that they have been deceived, and that the aristocracy can overpower them. Then, Sir, this is the cause of the union of the two classes, of which the petition I have referred to is an unerring demonstration. The right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government is himself curbed by the power of the aristocracy. I do him the justice to believe that he would have been disposed to give the people a greater measure of relief than what he has done by his Corn-bill; but he has gone as far as he thought practicable in a House of Commons wherein the power rests in the landed aristocracy. To this unfair monopoly of power in the hands of one class the working population ascribe all the evils of which they complain, and as a remedy they demand the extensive reforms specified in their petitions. It will be for the House to determine whether these claims are founded injustice or not, and to what extent they should be granted. The first and most important of the propositions to which I refer, is that which relates to the extension of the suffrage. The petition of the delegates states the broad principle,
Members elected by the influence of patrons in boroughs 107 County Members of England, Wales, and Scotland, elected by the influence of the aristocracy 194 Half of the Irish county Members 32 333That every member of society has an equal right with every other Member to have a voice in making the laws which he is called on to obey.This is the great basis of political liberty, and every man who has not the enjoyment of this right is not a freeman, but a slave. As a consequence of this great principle it results, that no man should be taxed without his own consent or that of his representatives. These great principles have been proclaimed and affirmed by various ancient statutes. Permit me here to quote from a speech of the noble Lord now Member for London, delivered on the 1st of March, 1831. The noble Lord argues in support of making the House of Commons a real representation of the people. He argues thus:—Looking at the question then, as a question of right, the ancient statutes of Edward 1st contain the germ and vital principle of our political constitution. The 25th of Edward 1st, c. 6, declares, in the name of the King, that for no business from henceforth we should take such manner of aids, tasks, nor prizes, but by the common assent of the realm, and for the common profit thereof, saving the ancient aids and prizes due and accustomed. The 34th of Edward 1st provides, no talliage or aid 912 shall be taken or levied by us or our heirs in our realm, without the good will and con-sent of Archbishops, Bishops, Earls, Barons, Knights, Burgesses, and all the freemen of the land. The validity of this statute is asserted in the petition of rights, was allowed by the judges in the case of Hampden, and is in fact the foundation of the constitution, as it has existed since the days of the Stuarts.The noble Lord then proceeded to say in conclusion of his argument—No man of common sense pretends that this assembly now represents the commonalty or people of England.This is the same assertion which I make with reference to the House of Commons as at present constituted, and which I trust I have proved by the details I have already given. The statutes I have referred to relate more particularly to the taxing power, but it is evident that if freemen cannot be taxed without their consent, they cannot be subjected to laws which may deprive them of life and liberty without a like consent; therefore any portion of the community who have not a voice in making the laws by which they are to be governed are placed in the class of slaves and not of freemen. On this principle it is contended by the petitioners, that the franchise should be extended to the adult male population of the realm—Subject only to such limitations and restrictions as naturally arise out of the right itself, as are necessary to its practical exercise, and as are equally applicable to all classes of the community.What these limitations and restrictions should be it would be for the House to consider, provided the principle were admitted. I shall not now do more than refer generally to the most important. As protection and allegiance are reciprocal, persons under conviction for crime (by a jury) should be excluded; and, for some crimes, a forfeiture of the franchise for life would be a justifiable penalty. Minors, or any description of persons under the legal control of others, should be excluded until they are free to act for themselves. Persons of unsound mind come under this class. Vagrants and confirmed paupers ought to be excluded. I cannot say that, under the existing circumstances of the country, the incidental acceptance of parochial relief should be a disqualification; but the most vitally important limitation would be that which would restrict the exercise of the franchise to those who may be fairly considered settled residents of the 913 respective voting districts. This must be effected by a proper system of registration, by which the claimant to vote would be obliged to show that he had resided in the district for a certain time previous to registration, specifying the place of his residence, with his occupation, trade, or calling. This is essentially necessary, to prevent the votes of the real residents of a district from being swamped by vagrants. The limitations I have alluded to are all required for the protection of the right itself. I shall not enter into further details; but I should agree to whatever registration regulations might appear necessary for placing the elective franchise really and truly in the hands conjointly of the property and industry of the country. The chief difference which would exist between what I propose and that which is called household suffrage is this—that I would admit persons in town renting lodgings or parts of houses, provided they were otherwise qualified. If such persons be excluded, some of the best qualified persons in different ranks would be excluded without any reasonable cause for such exclusion. I am aware, also, and ready to admit, that in order to carry out the principle, a difference may be necessary in the registration details of Ireland from those of England. It is a fact, that there are parts of Ireland wherein a pauper will put up a sod house, covered with potato stalks or rushes, will live in that house with his family part of the year, and beg during the other part; the registration regulations should be such as to exclude persons of that description. It is necessary that I now proceed to notice those objections which are commonly made to the generalising of the suffrage. I think I can show, that all the objections made to the general suffrage apply with reference to the limited suffrage now in existence. First, want of Education: I ask, are the majority of those who now hold the suffrage educated persons? Are the county voters, who now hold the franchise, men of education, and political information, equal in that respect to the numerous persons of different clashes, including the operatives and mechanics who live in lodgings in towns, and in houses not valued at 10l.? They are confessedly not. If, therefore, you desire to act upon the principle of an educational or knowledge qualification, you must strike off the greatest portion of the present constituencies. But what is the knowledge necessary for a voter? Is no man to vote for a Member of Parliament 914 but he who understands all the questions which are to be discussed in Parliament? Such a principle cannot be asserted. The knowledge required for a voter is to be able to judge whether the candidate offered to him is an honest man or the reverse; and his best guide for this is a knowledge of the man's conduct in life, and this it does not require a high order of education to attain. I believe it will be generally found, that the man who has established a character for probity and benevolence would carry with him a majority of the votes of the people if freely given, in opposition to any candidate who had not established that character. If you affirm that education and information are necessary, be consistent with your own principle and apply it equally to all classes, do not exclude the educated man because he is not the occupant of a 10l. house. The second objection I shall refer to is, that the poor man is open to corrupt influences. I do not deny the liability to this evil; but what class, from the highest to the lowest, is exempt from it? What class of the present constituency is exempt from it? Not a single one. It is rampant among both the highest and the lowest. In the former it appears in its most disgusting form; from the highest class it has its source and power. They are the deliberate authors of it; there could be no corruption except it emanated from the monied classes. Let it not be said, then, that the limitation of the franchise is a shield against corruption; it is no such thing; the best protection would be the extension of the suffrage, with the Ballot and short Parliaments, which would tend to render it impracticable by the extent of the expenditure and uncertainty in its results. A third objection is, that the placing power in the working man's hands would endanger property. I ask those who say so to show me that the working men of England have any disposition to violate the laws of property. Is there a country where every description of property is safer? Are not there various ways in which property could be violated or injured, if the disposition existed? It is a libel on the people to say so. I do not ask to place the franchise in the hands of any but the industrious members of the community, and are not industry and property intimately allied? What is the object of industry but to acquire property? and is it not, then, the interest of the working class to protect that which he is seeking to 915 obtain? And is not the working man as deeply interested — I might say more deeply—in the prosperity of the country, as the man who has his land or his money to depend upon? The employment and the wages of the worker essentially depend on that prosperity. You never will find a combination among the working classes against property, unless property arrays itself against them—do them justice, and you protect yourselves. You will also protect yourselves against another evil you complain of—namely, the power of agitators: their power exists only in injustice —you swamp it at once by doing justice to the people. I have stated what appears to me the true principle on which the suffrage should be based; because I cannot find any stopping place short of that principle on which a consistent argument can be sustained. It has been said, and I am not disposed to contend against the statement, that if a constitution works for public good, we ought not to change it for the sake of carrying out theoretic advantages; but changes are now called for, not from a desire for theoretic perfection, but because the existing state of things is considered to be productive of practical evil. I have dwelt at length on this first point prayed for in the petition, because I consider it of more transcendant importance than any other. I cannot, however, pass over the other points without a few observations, which shall be as brief as possible, hoping that other hon. Members who may follow will supply the deficiencies. The second point is the more equal distribution of electoral districts. This is a vitally essential principle of reform. It is plain that there can be no just or equal representation unless the Members returned bear a just proportion to the number of electors returning each Member. This is a principle which it is impossible to controvert, and yet our present elective system violates it in a manner the most barefaced. There is no one portion of the empire bears a just and fair proportion to any other portion, and so long as this anomaly exists it is impossible to say that the people are either fully or fairly represented, or that those who have the minor proportions must not feel a jealousy and distrust of legislation carried on by those who have the greater proportions; this is particularly felt by the people of Ireland, and by the people of Scotland, although in a somewhat less degree. The third point called for by the petitioners is 916 the ballot. This question has been so often and so ably argued in this House by an hon. Gentleman not now a member, and by other hon. Members, and a notice having been given by the hon. Member for Sheffield that he would again bring it forward, that I shall not enter into details, there may be objections to the ballot; I do not assert that it would be a certain protection against bribery; to effect that object the extension of the suffrage and short Parliaments must accompany the ballot, and the ballot must accompany them; but I do assert that if we call on our fellow-countrymen to give honest votes, we ought to give the honest voter every protection in our power. No other mode of protection has ever been suggested, and, therefore, I claim the ballot as essential to representative freedom. The fourth point claimed in the delegates' petition is, that the Scotch system should be adopted universally, which renders no other qualification necessary for Members but a true return by the majority of the electors. Now, as respects this reform, we know the practical working of it, and therefore, it does not rest upon theory. No man can say, that an unfit or infirm class of representatives are returned for Scotland. But, if you demand property qualification, be consistent. Why is the door of the House of Commons to be slammed against the people's choice, when the door of the House of Lords is thrown open without reserve to the selection of the Crown? When the Crown ennobles by Peerage, the property of the individual is not inquired into: the very reverse. If the Crown raises a meritorious public servant to the dignity of the Peerage, the House of Commons votes to him out of the public funds the means to support it. Why, then, reject with this contempt a man who may be a poor, but at the same time a meritorious servant of the people, and may be chosen by them as such? When the high offices of State are to be filled, is the Crown fettered by qualifications? Why, then, should the people be fettered? In relevance to this point, I may again quote the noble Lord now the Member for London. In a speech on the Reform question, he says—I believe that no reform can be introduced which will have the effect of preventing wealth, probity, learning, and wit, from their proper influence upon elections.The fifth point which petitioners recommend is, that Members should have a reasonable compensation for their services. 917 Why should they not, if the public require an honest and faithful discharge of public duty? Is it not a laborious duty, and in every respect an expensive one to the individual? Will there not then be a natural tendency in the Member to compensate himself for his labour and expenses by other means than those of the faithful performance of his duty to his constituents and his country? The great object to attain is responsibility, and that responsibility cannot be effectually obtained, or reasonably demanded, in cases of unpaid services. The sixth and last point I have to allude to is the limitation of the duration of Parliaments. I believe all reformers will agree that the existing term which the representative is permitted to have of the trust reposed in him by his constituency ought to be shortened; it destroys that wholesome responsibility which the representative ought to be subjected to, and renders him to a certain extent careless of their approval or censure; but I do not at the same time deny, that much difference exists even among the most honest reformers as to the exact period to which the limitation ought to extend. The original practice of the constitution was three years, which was unconstitutionally extended by a Parliament voting the prolongation of its own existence, without any reference to the decision of the elective bodies of the country. Many are of opinion that the former practice should be re-established, whilst others think that elections should be annual. I will not now enter into the details of these arguments; this is one of the subjects which would be best investigated in committee. I am certain that if a Parliament was formed which really represented the nation, the voice of the people would have power to fix that duration which was most suitable to the national interests. I shall therefore content myself with affirming the position that Parliaments ought to be short, and, in my opinion, the strongest arguments lead to annual elections. I can conceive no other mode of correcting the evil operation of bribery but by the conjoint operation of an extended franchise, voting by ballot and frequent elections. None of these would effect it singly; but I think that the three combined would be a certain preventive of any extensive operation of that most deleterious system. I have now, Sir, concluded my review of the various points of reform which the petitioners desire respectfully to submit to the con- 918 sideration of the House. I acknowledge the imperfection of that review, but I trust the House will do me the justice to admit, that so many points of such vital importance could not be discussed in all their bearings, by any speaker, without trespassing in an immoderate degree on the patience of the House. But I trust I have entered sufficiently into the argument to prove the position, that under existing laws of election the people are not fully or freely represented in this House, and that further reforms are required; and if I have established that point, then the inference is plain, that it is the duty of this House to enquire into the mode of effecting the necessary amendments. This is all which is demanded of the House by the resolution. I now propose, I simply ask, for an inquiry into the evils and the remedies—I do not ask the House to commit themselves, either to my opinions or the opinions of the petitioners, till on discussion they are proved to be right; but, nevertheless, I have deemed it my duty to the petitioners, as well as to the House, fairly to recite in the resolution the points which they pray for. I do not wish to make any concealment of those points? I do not wish to appear to shrink from the advocacy of them; at the same time I do not claim the present assent of the Members who vote for the resolution to the extent of all these points; but I claim the vote of all who admit that the people are not now fully fairly, and freely represented, in order to inquire into the means by which a full, fair, and free representation can be obtained. Sir, I am fully aware that a weapon has been placed in the hands of the adversaries of reform by the injudicious proceedings which have been adopted at a former period by the out-of-door advocates of the principles which I have now brought before the House. The attempt to carry these measures by the action of violence and tumult threw back, very far indeed, the cause of reform, but I am not the organ of those who would act in that way— who would endeavour to obtain their object by such proceedings. The first resolution of the conference of delegates declares that their object is to obtain a full, fair, and free representation of the people by Christian means alone, and this declaration was cordially joined in by all the delegates of the Chartist body who attended. I am also aware that even now the cause is deeply injured by the extravagance of the demands which some of the leaders of 919 the Chartist body have induced great numbers of the people to put forward. On these demands an objection is founded, that the suffrage is claimed in order to effect changes destructive of the settlement of property and all the institutions of the country. I have been already told so; but I answer, that if the people have been induced to threaten violent or extravagant changes, if they combine against property, it is because property has arrayed itself against them. It is not the natural disposition of the people of England; it is produced by a feeling of the effects of unjust laws and extreme distress, created, as they believe, by class legislation. If this feeling extensively pervades the people, are you in a slate of security? You must treat this condition of things in one or other of two ways,—you must do the people justice, or you must prepare to sustain the refusal of that justice by the power of the sword. The people never will rest satisfied till a just share of political power is extended to them. You are now suffering the consequences of protracting justice. If the Reform Act had been progressively amended, the demands which I now lay before you would not have been heard from the united voices of the middle and working classes; but when that union fully takes place your power to refuse their demands will be of short duration. Their claims are now brought before you in the most respectful and temperate manner by the body from whom I am the messenger; they desire to be the harbingers of peace between the aristocracy and the people; they solicit your House to take their prayers into consideration, and I add my entreaties to theirs, that before it is too late you will at least manifest a desire to consider the means of doing justice to the people. It has been said, that increasing the popular rights would destroy the power of the aristocracy. I shall take leave to quote the words of Lord John Russell in the speech already alluded to—Wherever the aristocracy reside, receiving large incomes, performing important duties, relieving the poor by charity, and evincing private worth and public virtue, it is not in human nature that they should not possess a great influence upon public opinion, and have an equal weight in electing persons to serve their country in Parliament. I contend they will have as much influence as they ought to have, but if by aristocracy be meant those persons who do not live among the people, who know nothing of the people, and who care nothing for them, who seek honour without 920 merit, places without duty, and pensions without service, for such an aristocracy I have no sympathy, and I think the sooner its influence is carried away with (lie corruption on which it has thriven, the better for the country, in which it has repressed so long every wholesome and invigorating principle. The real question is, whether without some large measure of reform, legislation can be carried on with the confidence and support of the people.These are the sentiments which I wish to impress upon the House, though I have been incapable of expressing them with such force as the noble Lord has done in the passage which I have read to the House. But I would call upon the House, and upon the Government, to show at least a disposition to consider the applications of the people, if they did not feel themselves justified in conceding to them. Let them, at all events, receive the people with kindness; and let them inquire into the means by which real grievances may be redressed. That is the object which I have had in view in bringing this motion before the House. If the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London had been present, I should have called upon him to fulfil his professions, and to appear as the leader of the cause of the petitioners, and to come forward as the advocate for the extension of their rights. I regret that the noble Lord is not here to do that which the people have a right to expect from him, according to his former declarations, and which I am sure he would do. I trust that in doing what I conceive to be my duty, I have not shown any disrespect to any party or to any individual Member of the House. I wish to have the subject regarded apart from all party bias, and without the aggravation of controversy, and in a spirit consistent with the prayer of the petitions which have been presented to the House. Having now brought the subject under the notice of the House, I shall conclude by thanking lion. Gentlemen for the attention with which they have listened to my statements, and imploring them to give their serious consideration to the motion which I now submit:—Whereas various petitions have been presented to this House, stating, to the effect that under the present system of election laws the people are not duly represented; and that they are thus deprived of the acknowledged right of freemen to have a voice in the making of the laws by which they are governed, and in imposing the taxes which they are required to pay: and therefore praying, that the right of 921 voting may be extended to the adult male population of the realm, subject to no limitations or restriction, but such as may be necessary for the safe and correct practical exercise of the right itself. That votes should be taken by ballot. That election districts should be equalized, to accord with the number of electors. That no qualification should be demanded from Members, but that of being duly elected by a majority of votes. That representatives should be paid for their services at the public expense. And that elections should be annual. And, whereas, complaint having been made, as above stated, that under the present limitation of the franchise and laws of election there is not a full and free representation of the people, it is, therefore, the duty of this House to take into immediate consideration the amendment of these laws, with a view of giving to every portion of the community a full, fair, and free representation in the Commons' House of Parliament; and this House will, on an early day, resolve itself into a committee of the whole House for the purpose of considering the same.
§ Mr. Wallace
said, it was highly satisfactory to him, being one of the oldest reformers in the House, to hear the speech of the hon. Gentleman, and to find that he had brought forward a subject which was worthy the most serious attention of the House. The consideration of his subject was closely connected with the interests of the reigning family of this country. The middle and the working classes were beginning to understand that their interests were mutual; and had discovered that the Reform Bill was a failure, and that a gross deception had been played off upon the people by those who concocted that measure. Amongst those who were censurable for the inefficiency of that measure he included the right hon. Baronet opposite, who, he knew, was a party to the framing of the bill. He appeared there to advocate the rights of the people, and he asserted most solemnly, that there were rights claimed in the documents which the hon. Member had brought before the House in so mild and gentlemanlike manner, that ought to arrest the most serious consideration of the House. Let them reflect upon the good sense, and the good temper, as well as the ability with which the subject had been introduced, and let them treat it in a like manner. He believed that many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would not have supported the right hon. Baronet in his measures if they had to go before their constituents annually. He remembered the exertions of Mr. Grey and Mr. Lambton in 1792 and 922 1798 in the cause of reform, and although at that time there was not much opportunity for a Scotchman to get into Parliament, he carefully watched the events of the times, and was prepared to say, that the friends of the people in 1792 and 1798 were perfectly right; that although parts of their plans were included in the Reform Bill, the bill which Lord Grey did bring forward had practically been utterly fallacious in its effects. The Reform Bill had not done that which was expected; it had not put down bribery and corruption, for never was a Parliament returned which had spent so much money and so disgracefully as the present; never was so much venality and intimidation as at the last general election. In former days intimidation was unknown; it was a new instrument of oppression and wrong. The framers of the bill it now appeared were well aware how corruption and intimidation worked; but, being wise in their day and generation, they took care to exclude from the Reform Bill the ballot. He would ask hon. Gentlemen who represented counties, if they durst go to their constituencies and say, they had not broken their pledges and promises? And if they had not led their constituents to expect their general line of conduct would be so and so, and yet had departed from that line, did they deserve to be called independent Members of Parliament or even Gentlemen. He believed that many hon. Members had deluded their constituents, or else their constituents must have misunderstood them grossly. Would county Members who supported the right hon. Baronet's plans affecting agriculture, go to their constituents and resign their seats if their constituents were disappointed? No; he believed they would linger on to the end of their seven years. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary that the course proposed by the hon. Gentleman should be followed. He had been originally in favour of the ballot and of triennial Parliaments. But lately he had taken into his serious consideration the question of annual Parliaments. He had refused to some electors of the borough he represented, from the very first time the charter was brought out, to adhere to the charter. They had with credit to themselves refused to support him, because he would not be a charter man. He believed nothing could induce them to vote for a Tory; they would rather go to—he should not say whither—than do so. Had annual 923 Parliaments been established in lieu of septennial, the country would have been presented with a totally different measure of finance from that of the right hon. Baronet, who, in that case, would not have ventured to propose such a measure. He was prepared to vote for annual Parliaments, but if he did so, he should acquaint his constituents with the fact, and tell them, that if they disapproved of his vote he would resign his seat. Would hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who supported the Corn-bill and the tariff of the right hon. Baronet contrary to their pledges or the expectation of their constituents follow his example? No; he believed they would keep their seats. He was of opinion that the Scotch Members were as good representatives as the Gentlemen of England and Ireland. There were very few Whigs amongst them; only a stray one here and there. The people of Scotland knew what they were about; they sent either out-and-out Radicals or out-and-out Tories; they did not like half-and-half men. They said, "Let us have a man with a mind of his own and who knows what to beat." That was the reason they had sent him to Parliament. They did not want Members who never asked questions, or spoke a word except when commanded to say "Aye," or "No." Let the right hon. Baronet look at the representatives of Scotland, and he might then judge what the people were. He should support the motion most cordially.
§ Dr. Bowring
could not consent to give only a tacit concurrence to the motion of his hon. Friend, because he looked on it as one of the progressive steps of public opinion towards political perfection—one of the milestones which marked the road to reform. Those who stood up for that great principle—that there was no safety for a government which was not built upon the affections of the people, could scarcely refuse to support the motion. The mutual dependence of the various classes of society upon each other should not be disregarded. The more opulent classes with all their knowledge and rank and influence, could do but little without the multitude; and the clamour and excitement and coalitions of the multitude would accomplish little without the aid of the higher classes. It was usually supposed that the House of Commons represented the feelings and wishes of the people; but how were those 924 feelings and wishes to be known by the House unless the people were allowed to speak to it and through it? Bow was general opinion to be really and truly collected and represented except by general suffrage? The right hon. Baronet the other night appealed with much satisfaction to a petition from Manchester, signed by 14,000 persons, and attached great importance to it because it was in his favour; but why did they turn a deaf ear to the prayers of petitioning millions? In the name of those millions he would ask that some importance should be attached to their representations; and, in his opinion, the petitions of the Unrepresented were entitled to a greater share of attention than those of the represented who could speak in that House by their Representatives, and thus to a certain extent influence the course of legislation. Some portion of power was indeed possessed by that minority of which the electoral body was composed, but what power had the unrepresented — the suffering masses—those who through a pernicious course of legislation were enduring so many evils without the means of defence or relief? Could hon. Gentlemen look on the present state of society in this country and not feel that there were many elements of danger in it? On the one side were the privileged and monopolizing few, and on the other the suffering millions; the one side possessing all^ and the other little or nothing, and yet deserving much. Could hon. Gentlemen reflect upon this state of things without feeling any alarm or anxiety for the public safety? If the people had borne their grievances with so much patience and with such admirable fortitude as had been acknowledged by the right hon. Baronet himself, was not the House bound to attend to the prayers of the petitioners? What did his hon. Friend ask? Not the immediate application of those principles which he had recognized, and which if they were founded in truth must be recognized ultimately, but such a tendency towards their adoption as should give some hope to the excluded and the suffering. No doubt they would ultimately and entirely succeed, they wanted nothing to secure their complete success but their detachment from all projects of violence and ignorance, and their being presented and presented again in their naked strength and truth to the Legislature; his hon. 925 Friend demanded a larger extension of the suffrage. Were the people of this country less worthy of universal suffrage than those of Switzerland, Spain, and America? What dangers had the universality of voting produced in those countries? Had any mischief arisen out of the extension of popular rights in the United States? He knew of none. His mind was always overwhelmed with a sense of injustice when he saw a man deprived of the franchise, though, perhaps, in many respects more entitled to it than himself. He thought the exclusion of others from the enjoyment of the franchise was a violation of the great precept by which we were commanded to do to others as we would have them do to us. In that opinion he was not singular. Fie had heard the late Mr. Roscoe, once a Member of that House, say that he could not understand upon what principle universal suffrage could be denied by those who acknowledged the authority of that great precept. Should a man be denied this privilege because he was less opulent than his neighbour? That was a reason rather that the law should come to his help. If the arrangements of Providence —if conscientious dissent—if any circumstances placed him lower in the scale of wealth or influence than his neighbour, must he, therefore, be deprived of those rights arid privileges to which he was equally entitled? Moral degradation was not an exclusion; the most drunken and the most corrupt, the most slavish and the most servile, might be admitted—but property was made the ground-work, poverty the bar to representation Aptitude went for nothing. His hon. Friend had attached a very important proposition to universal suffrage—the ballot; because all reformers knew that it was necessary that the voter should be protected in the exercise of his franchise, if his franchise were really meant to be efficient not useless or dangerous—a blessing instead of a bane. The hon. Member had referred to short Parliaments. He had always been an advocate for annual Parliaments. He thought that they were more in conformity with the arrangements of nature, and with social habits. He observed that the course of the seasons were the measurements by which many of the great events of life were regulated. Multitudes of offices were conveniently made dependant upon the termination of 926 a year. He had always declared to his constituents that he would give them the advantage of annual Parliaments. It was his custom to offer at the termination of every year the trust that had been reposed in him by the electors whom he represented. Any other Member might easily follow his example. Why should not electoral bodies stipulate for the surrender of the representative trust at the end of every year? The hon. Member then referred to the gross inequality in the state of the franchise. Was it fair, he asked, that 100 persons should possess the same as was intrusted to a number ten times as great? Was such a principle to be for a single instant defended. If the constitution of this country was td be considered the result of public opinion, then it was their duty to make the House of Commons a fair and honest representation of the voice of the people. With regard to the qualification of Members, he would ask whether Scotland was not as well represented as any other portion of the United Kingdom? Was it not better represented? A man might be poor one day and possessed of wealth on the succeeding one, and yet a man because he was poor was not considered qualified to exercise the functions of a legislator. It was not talent, ability, knowledge, or character which rendered a person qualified to sit in that House, but wealth was considered to be the only legitimate test of a man's senatorial capabilities. With regard to the payment of Members, it was his belief that a large body of men, possessed of high attainments and great knowledge, were prevented from giving their services to the country in consequence of the State not considering it its duty to pay Members. He had no doubt that there were many opulent men influenced by a high and honourable ambition who would willingly devote their time and talents to their country without any regard to remuneration; but it was also undeniable that the present system operated in keeping out of Parliament men who would be able to elucidate with much valuable knowledge all those topics which usually came under the consideration of Parliament. Although he was disposed to go even further than the hon. Member, it was his intention to vote in favour of the motion which he had submitted to the House.
was not in the least degree 927 surprised at the silence of hon. Members opposite with reference to the important question then under consideration. When he saw how the present system worked in advancing the interests of the aristocracy at the expense of the people, he did not feel astonished at the indisposition manifested by the hon. Members who represented the aristocracy to meet the question which his hon. Friend had so ably brought before them that evening. Having been in Parliament during the passing of the Reform Bill, he had an opportunity of witnessing the complete failure of that measure. Not one principle upon which that bill had been based had been carried out to its proper and legitimate extent. Lord Grey had stated, when the Reform Bill was introduced, that his object, was to promote the interests of the people, and to provide for them a cheap and good government. He would ask, had those objects been attained? If we had had a good Government, good and just laws would have been enacted. Had the House passed laws extending equal justice to the rich and the poor? If the statute-book was examined they would find, that no such laws had been passed by the Parliament since the Reform Bill came into operation. Had cheap government been attained by the Reform Bill? The House would find that the expense of the Government of this country had been millions more than it was before the passing of the Reform Bill. On the 24th of June, 1831, Lord J. Russell, in proposing the Reform Bill, stated—When I propose a reform of Parliament, I do so in order that the people of this country should be really represented in this House, and that they may have a House of Commons that will deliberate on their wants and consult for their interests—that will consider their grievances and attend to their desires, and that the people shall possess, in fact, what they before only possessed in theory.He would ask any hon. Member if any of the noble Lord's propositions had been carried into effect? Why the objects, so distinctly stated in the noble Lord's speech, were all that the people required. All that every Reformer in the country wanted was a House of Commons that would "really represent the people—that would deliberate on their wants, and consult for their interests—that would consider their grievances and attend to their desires." Well, then, if the Reform Bill had turned out to 928 be so complete a failure, was it not to be wondered at that the very individuals who had promoted and encouraged the passing of that bill should, on such an occasion as the present, be absent from their seats in that House? If any party question was to be carried out, they would be found in their places ready to whip up their friends, and get them to support them; but now, when a great question concerning the interests of the people was brought forward, they were not to be seen. If the right hon. Gentlemen opposite had no intention of expressing their opinions on this question, they had, at all events, shown a deference to the complaints of the people, by attending in their seats. Now, to show that the Reform Bill must necessarily be a failure, he would read some returns of the elections of 1840, which would strongly illustrate the constitution of that House. From that return it appeared that there were five towns returning Members to that House, of which the aggregate constituency was 1,088; five returned ten Members, with a constituency of 1,496; and twenty towns returning forty Members, in which the constituency was 6,288. Thirty towns returned sixty Members, with a constituency of 12,180. Manchester returned two Members, and possessed a constituency of 12,150. There were forty towns which returned sixty-seven Members, with a constituency of 14,180; there were seventy-four towns returning 121 Members, with constituencies of 29,996. The West Riding of Yorkshire returned two Members, and possessed a constituency of 30,120. Now this was a perfect exhibition of the representation of the country. There were sixty-one Members returned by the same constituency as two Members. In another case, there were sixty-seven Members returned by a less constituency than two Members. In another case, there were 121 Members returned to that House by a less constituency than two other Members. It was proved by this exhibition that the Reform Bill had been a failure. They saw small constituencies, with vast interest and wealth, brought to bear upon them, in order to obtain seats in that House—in order to advance the interest of a particular class at the expense of the rest of the community. They had seen a vast system of corruption since the passing of the Reform Bill, but more perhaps during the last election than any preceding one. He would 929 venture to say that, in the old times of the borough mongers, when, to use the words of the late Lord Castlereagh, "bribery was as notorious as the sun at noon," there was less corruption than there existed at present. In the times of the borough-mongers, a person in want of a seat went to the patron of the borough, and offered him a certain sum of money. The same individual now went to the corrupt constituencies, who were actuated by the most base and sordid motives. He believed, that the only difference was, that a better bargain was likely to be made under the old system, as the patron of a borough was not likely to be influenced by the same degree of sordid feeling as a corrupt and debased constituency. Whatever might be the opinion of hon. Members opposite, or of those who usually sat on the front benches at his (the Opposition) side of the House, he believed that such would belie effect of the mismanagement of the affairs of the country, that more attention must soon be paid to this question than' it now received. He believed, that it would be forced on their attention by a pressure from without, which they would be unable to resist. He would like to see those questions calmly taken up and discussed, with a desire for the public interest, within the walls of that House, and he should much prefer to see them considered in that way than under a pressure from without. There was no difference of opinion amongst all classes of Reformers as to the clear necessity for great and important changes; their only difference was, as to the means of accomplishing them. He called on those most largely interested in the property of the country to be wise in time, and to consider those questions which, at no distant time, would be forced on them.
§ Mr. Ward
said, that nothing was so disagreeable as a one-sided debate. He was willing, however, to accept the silence of hon. and right hon. Members on the Ministerial benches as a tribute of acknowledgement on their parts of the importance of the question at issue. He considered it as an admission that, however impracticable it might be, in the present state of parties to expect any great change in the representative system to be carried as the result of the present debate, still the principle of the proposition was one of such importance, that it ought not to be dealt with lightly, and that, therefore, the best course was to 930 leave the whole thing untouched till all the speakers on the Opposition side had exhausted what they had to say, and then allow the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) to close the discussion, (if so it might be called) with assuring the House that whatever might be the importance attached to the subject, he really could not at the present moment entertain the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale, or conceive that it would lead to any practical result. He was willing to accept their silence on that ground. Owing to this silence on the part of Ministers, he felt himself under the necessity of following some five or six speakers on his own side. It was his intention to support the motion of his hon. Friend. On former occasions he had differed from his hon. Friend (Mr. Crawford), not in point of principle, but in point of time. The motion came before the House now in a very different position from any in which it had been before introduced, and it had been brought forward by his hon. Friend in a speech, to the moderation and temper of which every one who had yet spoken had borne witness. His hon. Friend had disclaimed any wish to pledge any one to all the points apparently involved in his motion. His desire was, to induce the House to consider those points, and to look at the present unsatisfactory state of the representation, as a proof of the necessity of ultimately working out a more complete representative system. With regard to annual Parliaments, that was a point which he was not himself at this moment convinced would be beneficial. He should prefer a longer time. He thought three years preferable to one; for he did not wish Members of Parliament to be so constantly and immediately under the control of their constituents as to render all independence of action or freedom from bias on their parts impossible, while Triennial Parliaments would secure a real, and positive responsibility. With regard to a property qualification, Scotland was a proof that it might be dispersed with safely. He had voted for the motion brought forward by Sir William Moles-worth to dispense with the qualification of English Members in the same way as the qualification of Scotch Members was dispensed with; and as to the argument that it would introduce men without any stake in the country into that House, he did not attach the slightest importance to 931 it. There was always a sufficient leaning in favour of wealth, and worldly advantages; and if there were a constituency in England over whom a peculiar influence was exercised by the talents of a comparatively obscure individual, and one who really and effectively represented the interests and feelings of that constituency, he should be delighted to see him a Member in the House of Commons, and he would not insist upon a property qualification, which a man of high connections had always the means of obtaining. Indeed, as the law now stood, he thought that a property qualification was very little better than a fraud. Then came the question as to the extent to which they were prepared to widen the franchise. While he was willing to go into the fullest consideration of the question, he was not prepared to say, that he would entirely disconnect the suffrage from the possession of some property. At present the limits of the franchise were much too confined. There was excluded from the constituency a vast mass of intelligence, worth, and sound and honest feeling. He wished to widen the basis of the representative system, that he might secure the country against those dangers which many were disposed to believe would result from its present unsatisfactory state. It was said, that great steps had already been taken in this direction by the Reform Bill of 1832, and that the people were now much more fully represented than before that period. This might be true; still a great mass of the people even under that bill, felt that they enjoyed only a virtual, and not a real representation. Now, the idea of virtual representation being a satisfactory substitute for real representation was completely exploded in 1831. How could they reconcile virtual representation with the old saws that were in every body's mouth. They talked of taxation and representation being co-extensive, and yet they taxed twenty where one only was represented. They not only would not give the people any actual part of the power of representation, but they refused them the right to inquire how those who were said virtually to represent them exercised that power. These were anomalies which required correction, and discussion alone could bring them out in bold relief before the minds of those who assumed the character of governors and legislators. Nothing might 932 immediately result from the present motion, nor from a similar motion in the next year, or in the year following; but if the question were to be brought forward and argued rationally, divested of all those nonsensical theories, which had hitherto thrown discredit upon it, and with which it in reality had no connection; if those, in short, who were the advocates of a great change in the representative system would confine themselves merely to the consideration of those moral and rational means by which their object might be effected, they would ultimately succeed. They might then with more justice urge their cause, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to resist a motion of this nature, and it would soon become the law of the land. That was his conviction. He believed it was a question of time, and time only. He believed the cause was founded in justice, and that no power could prevent it from being finally successful. It had been urged as a reason against the extension of the franchise that it would be misused. Was the use of the franchise at the present time 60 perfectly immaculate? Were those parties who had appeared before the committees of that House so disinterested, and so patriotic in the use of the franchise, that the working classes ought to be satisfied with seeing the representation exclusively confided to their hands? Need he ask these questions? Why, scenes more immoral, more dishonest, and more revolting to all just principles, had been recently revealed before election committees than had ever before been recorded. He did not care on which side these offences were found; both sides were equally guilty. The only question between them was, on which side the greatest number would be found out. He should be perfectly satisfied to vote for the disfranchisement of Sudbury; but he should think it very hard, if all the corrupt practices were to be considered as confined to his side of the House, because the late representatives of Sudbury happened to belong to the Liberal side. But he might be told, that the poorer the voter was, the more likely it was he would be influenced by bad motives in the exercise of the franchise. He would not and could not believe it. Wealth was no guarantee against corruptibility. He believed there was just as much corruption in that House as among any constituency in the kingdom. It was 933 certainly a different sort of corruption; but it was an appeal to a man's personal wishes, wants, and ambition. Personally, every Member might have his own motives and inducements for giving his vote. There was just as much corruption in a blue ribbon as in a bribery of two sovereigns. There was just as much corruption in sub serving the purposes of class-interests, as in any pecuniary influence, that could be exercised over the poorer voter. Why, the question of the Corn-laws, was altogether one of corrupt influence. The whole class-interest of agriculture was bribed by it. So, again, with respect to the sugar duties —all the West-India class were corrupted by them; as were those connected with the shipping interest by the timber duties. He could go on thus, and enumerate fifty sources of corruption, which, if properly applied, by a discriminating Minister would always have the effect of carrying certain objects, which certain parties might think it desirable for their own interests to carry, whatever might be the effect of them upon the public interest. He would admit, not only for the argument sake, but as a fact, that by the extension of the suffrage, many persons would obtain the franchise, who would yield to corrupt influences. But were there not checks to reduce this evil to its smallest amount? If the system of secret voting were established, and if the country were divided into electoral districts, on a large basis, security would be given against corruption, by the extent to which it must be carried, on the one side, and the uncertainty of the issue, on the other. That was the only security they could get. If he were asked whether he thought the poorer Classes of voters were more disposed to corruption than the higher, he should say "decidedly not." He represented a population of 100,000 persons, among whom there were only 4,000 voters. But he had always considered the opinions of those who did not possess the franchise to be quite as important as the opinions of those who did possess it; and quite as free from any corrupt influences. Men of harder heads, sounder intellect, of more honesty and better feeing, than he had found among the working classes, could not be met with in any grade of society. He would say more; there was a freshness and a soundness of mind about them, which was very different from the general character pf the old and hacknied constituency 934 of the country, They took a deeper interest in public matters, and were more open to conviction, and were always more disposed to act fairly, than those who assumed a sort of exclusive, and hereditary right to exercise the franchise. These men were, at the present moment, in a very formidable state of organisation. They had their own leaders, and possessed the means of combining their powers throughout the whole country. It was true they had mixed up with the suffrage question some very impracticable schemes. But why was this? It was because the Legislature refused to them the only safe and legitimate mode of giving expression to their opinions. This refusal forced the working classes to follow the guidance of bad and mischievous leaders. When the Reform Bill was achieved by the united exertions of the people, they naturally expected a more cordial interchange of opinions between them and the Members of the House of Commons; but in that they had been disappointed. The Members of a reformed Parliament had not shown to the people that frankness of communication and that kindness and sympathy which was expected from them. This it was which had alienated the great mass of the people from them (the House of Commons). What, then, was the remedy for all this? The remedy, according to his judgment, consisted mainly in the adoption of the principle embodied in the motion now under consideration. It would soothe the angry and dissatisfied feelings which at present pervaded the minds of the working population of the country. It would convince them that there did exist a sympathy on the part of the Legislature of the empire towards them; and that their exclusion from the pale of the constitution was not to be eternal. And what was the argument used against the adoption of this motion? It was the same that had ever been used against the adoption of every liberal principle; it was that which was always urged against every concession of popular rights, namely, that if change once began, nobody knew where it would stop. During the discussions on the question of Catholic Emancipation, Mr. Canning had to meet this argument, and to grapple with those who refused to concede anything, upon the plea, that the Catholic religion was a mere idol worship—that all Catholics were bigots—and, above all, that their 935 leaders were dangerous men—and he (Mr. Ward) recollected his using that noble and memorable figure in which he said:—If you wish to cure men of idol worship, throw open the temple of the constitution, and let them see the real divinity enshrined within.That was the system to adopt with the working classes. If they were now in bad hands, the best way to rescue them was to give them a share in the legislation of the country; let them have a fair proportion of legislative power. Without pledging himself, therefore, totally to disconnect the franchise from a property qualification, but at the same time wishing to give every man the hope and prospect of enjoying it, he should most cordially support the motion of his hon. Friend.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, it had been very far from his intention to address the House upon this question to-night: but, after what bad fallen from the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward), he felt it necessary to say a few words. A total silence on his side of the House might be considered disrespectful, if not to the House itself, at least to a large class of the people. He need hardly say, that there was no such intention of disrespect; still he felt it his duty to offer a few observations to the House. He was forcibly struck by an observation of an hon. Gentleman who had spoken in the course of the debate, who said that his anxiety was not so much for the sake of what the success of the present motion would in itself effect, as for the sake of the benefit which would result from the fact of the work of legislation going on rapidly and diurnally upon the railroad of reform, by which they were descending on the inclined plane that would finally land them upon the level of the Charter. He agreed in this view; for the real question was neither more nor less than this—should they adopt the principle of the five points in the People's Charter? The hon. Member for Sheffield had said that it was merely a question of time; he would say that it was a question of degree. When he carried himself back to the discussion of the Reform Bill in 1831, he remembered with what acclamations were received the large popular concessions that were then made by Earl Grey, and what importance was attached to the extent of those concessions, and how intense was the joy with which they were received by a grateful nation. But 936 to-night those concessions had been treated with contempt. ["No, no."] Yes! with contempt; they had been spoken of with derision, and it had been asserted, that the franchise which was given by the Reform Bill was absolutely worthless. ["No, no."] No! Why it bad been contended, that the present system of representation was not real representation, because it was not universal; that it was merely virtual representation. The hon. Member for Coventry had entered into an analysis to show the large number of Members returned by small constituencies, while the larger constituencies did not possess a greater share in the representation. All this he most frankly admitted. It never was professed at the time that the Reform Act was proposed, that the principle of representation was population, and not property. On the contrary, it was denied that numbers were to be the basis of the representative scheme; and it was as frankly avowed, that the system was to rest upon property. Therefore, there was no dissimilation in the opinion he entertained at the time the Reform Bill passed and that which he now declared, namely, that he did not desire to see the system of representation rest upon numbers to the exclusion of all consideration of property. But to be sincere, he was bound to say, that they were to-night discussing an abstract proposition, and the real practical question which this subject involved, was neither more nor less than this—what should be the form of Government under which they were henceforth to live? If this system of representation were to be established, he was satisfied that the limited monarchical form of Government, under which they now lived, would not survive a century. It could not and it ought not. If the principle of representation were based on numbers, to the exclusion of property, then the present distribution of property in this country could not be sustained, and that dormant popular principle to which effect would necessarily be given, must put down, and ought to put down both the Crown and the aristocracy. This subject was maturely considered by those eminent men with whom he had the honour of being associated when the Reform Bill was introduced. He was sorry, that what he was about to state could not be confirmed by the testimony of those who were cognizant of its 937 truth. But in the absence of those who, if they were present, could not contradict him, he might say that, admitting the dangerous extreme to which he then thought the aristocratic influence prevailed over the popular influence, the Government applied as a corrective, the utmost measures that were not inconsistent with the maintenance of the ancient institutions of the country. He felt, at that time, that they (the then Ministers) were fully justified in declaring that, as far as they were concerned, it was their ultimatum. He had seen no reason since to change his opinion; and he did think that, consistently with the safety of the monarchical Government under which they had still the happiness to live, the popular influence which was afforded by the Reform Bill through the medium of that assembly (the House of Commons) went to the full extent consistently with the maintenance of those institutions. He had never receded from the opinions which he at the time of the passing of that measure entertained, and he honestly entertained it now. To motions of this description, therefore, he was bound to give his opposition. Whatever abstract semblance of advantage or justice they might assume, he could not but look upon them as practically full of danger—danger no less than that of overthrowing the monarchical Government of this country.
I confess I have heard with some surprise the right hon. Baronet prophesy, that if this motion should be carried, it would be the destruction of the peerage, and the annihilation of regal power in this country. I am surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet use such words, because I am old enough to recollect that he was charged as one of those reforming Ministers of whom he has spoken with having attempted to realise this very prophecy. It was during the discussion of the Reform Bill declared, that if that measure were carried, the peerage was gone and the Crown destroyed. The right hon. Baronet then very properly repudiated the prophecy, and derided the prophet; he has now, however, thought it right to assume a directly opposite character; and, without presuming to speak of him with derision or disrespect, I treat with the same repudiation and indifference the prophecies which he has now himself put forth. The hope held out to the people of England—and I use that word 938 as expressive of the inhabitants of the three countries—when the Reform Bill was passed, was, that we should have a popular representation. It was the very foundation of the measure of the noble Lord, now the Member for London (Lord John Russell). We then thought it was a great boon, because we were led to believe that we should have a popular representation. For although it would not be universal, nor anything equivalent to it, still it would be so extensive as to give to the Members of this House a station, a power, and a responsibility, that would enable them to represent efficiently the British people. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on that memorable occasion began his speech by referring to the statute of the 25th of Edward 1st, for the principle that no British subject should be taxed without his own consent, it being the statute of "De Tallagio non Concedendo;"the very first words of which declared that, without the consent of the archbishops, bishops, barons, knights, burgesses, and other freemen of England, no aid should be levied for the support of the Crown. It was, during the discussion of the Reform Bill, conceded the principle of taxation was not so acted on; and that it was desirable to bring the constitution of the House as nearly to that principle of taxation as possible. Upon that ground, we thought the Reform Bill a great concession; upon that ground it was supported by the Radicals of the House, as well as the mere Whig Reformers. Upon that ground I myself, as a mere humble individual, avow that I supported it, and the reason why I seek further reform is that we have been deceived. The people have been disappointed. The Reform Bill has not given the people an influence in this House which represents particular classes only; that being so, the principle of reform has not been obtained, and, therefore, we are entitled to say, that it has not yielded that benefit which we had a right to demand. Now, let us see how we stand with regard to facts. Is there any dispute as to this fact—that the people of England are divided into two classes? First, the master class, who have votes for representatives, and a voice, therefore, in this House in the making and enactment of laws; and, secondly, the slave class, who have no votes, no voice, no share, no influence in legislation, but are bound to obey laws made by others, 939 When one class makes the laws with which another has nothing to do but to obey, that other class is a slave class. Nobody can deny that such is the present situation of the people; nobody can deny that the master class is relatively small, and the slave class positively numerous. In the most favoured part of England, not more than twenty in every hundred have the right of voting for representatives: eighty per cent, have no franchise. In my country the disproportion is eyen greater. The population of the county of Tipperary is more than 480,000, and the number of electors not more than about 2,000. Ought that inequality to continue? Is that the constitution? When you find that your Reform Act avowedly falls so infinitely short of the reasonable hopes of the people as regards the suffrage, what is to be done? Is the defect to remain without a remedy? Will you remedy it, or will you leave the remedy to others? That is the question. I want to know what is the real ground of the preference you give to the master class over the slave-class? What grounds of reason or common sense can you assign for it When the statute De Tallagio Concedendo was passed, it ended with "freemen,"and why? Because there was then a class which was not consulted— the slave-class, admitted slaves, slaves who were property. Now, under the pretence that there are no slaves, you are, in truth, continuing the slave-class of the period to which I have referred. The Tight hon. Baronet tells us that when the Reform Act was passed, not population, but property, was considered. What property have freemen, let me ask? What property have those who acquire the franchise by servitude? You give the suffrage to the 10/. householder—what property has he? He may be liable to pay a rent of 50l., or of 500l., but because he occupies a house of 10l. a year, you give him the right to vote. Again, you give it to the man who pays 50l. a year rent in a county. He has no tenure, and 50l. may be double the value of his holding—what property has he? You allow the franchise to a particular kind of copyhold, and refuse it to another. What rule or system is there in this? You have introduced uncertain and fantastical restrictions, and what do we do? We call upon you to abolish them. Consider every man who pays taxes, whether directly or indirectly, entitled to vote 940 for his representative, and let me tell you that there is no man, however poor, that you do not take property from. If you take property from him, I say that be has a right to his share in the constitution: he has a right to it by the principle of representation: he has a right to it by reason of his common humanity, for nature and nature's God have stamped you with no superiority. Nature has given you no additional claims. You dare not, in these days, assert the doctrine of your preeminence and aristocracy under the feudal system in your words, and you are not to be permitted to assert it practically in your deeds. But you have gone a ludicrous length upon this subject, and have arrived at ludicrous results. You receive two members from the county of Tipperary, the population of which is 482,908, and the number of voters 2,468: you give the same number of members to Thetford, which has a population of 3,462, and a constituency of only 152 voters. There is an inequality still more glaring. At Harwich, there are 4,297 inhabitants and 181 voters; while the West Riding of Yorkshire, with a population of 1,159,124, and a constituency of 30,122, returns only the same number of members. Thus, by your test of property, you give to; 30,000 electors no more representation than you give to 181 electors. Is this state of things to last? Can it last? You insist also that Parliament shall continue for seven years. By what right? The title to the Crown (and there cannot be a better title in the world) is mixed up with the duration of Parliaments. The same transaction which gave the Crown to one family and took it from another, gave the people triennial Parliaments. How have they lost them? By the exercise of power in opposition to justice: by the grossest violation of constitutional right. The triennial right of the Revolution has been wrested from the people; and why was it wrested?—because the people were unrepresented. The motion before the House hints at annual Parliaments: I prefer triennial, and that term was fixed at the Revolution. I prefer it, from a conviction that annual elections would be taken as matters too much of course; there would be more difficulty in removing an objectionable man if Parliaments were annual. It is found by experience that people will not take the trouble to remove a man when the choice is annual; 941 but when it is to endure for three years they will think seriously of it, and exercise more care and caution. I, therefore, guard myself against any supposed concurrence in a proposition which my judgment does not approve. I am decidedly for triennial Parliaments; but you refuse even the consideration of the question. There is another point of importance connected with this subject — it is the ballot. Has it been denied since this Parliament met, that at the last election there prevailed more disgraceful and profligate bribery than at any previous election in the history of the House of Commons? I accuse both parties, and both parties have all along been accused. If the Morning Chronicle charged one side to-day, it was because the Times had charged the other side yesterday. I have heard it admitted in this House. I do not mean to misquote, but I think the right hon. Baronet attributed it to the larger constituencies: at all events, it was not denied, and we may take it to have been equal. There is not the smallest doubt that bribery was never so great nor so barefaced, and it has already begun to appear even through the dull medium of committees. What is bribery? The most unprincipled crime that can be committed; it is aggravated by all the horrors of perjury; it familiarizes the public mind with the basest iniquity, and demoralizes it from one end of the country to another. You are religious; you boast of your religions principles, and at the last election much was said of the difference between one sort of Christian and another. You are loud in professions of your pure Christianity, but where is the reality? You object to the ballot, and say that it will increase bribery in small constituencies. I am not of that opinion. I think bribery will be made exceedingly difficult; it will be a criminal conspiracy, and gentlemen will not like to become the objects of indictment, when it is next to impossible to escape detection. At all events, this objection only applies to small constituencies; and I have the testimony of the right hon. Baronet, that at the last election it prevailed in large as well as in small constituencies. [Sir J. Graham: No.] If I mistake the right hon. Baronet, I concede the point at once; but without that evidence, the fact is undoubted, and has been repeatedly avowed. Then all I ask is, that you will take this step in 942 favour of morality; give the ballot to large constituencies. Prove the sincerity of your religious principles by doing what you can to improve the morals the lower orders. I do not mean to detain the House at any length on the question of the qualification of Members. There was no qualification in the Irish Parliament before the Union; there is no qualification in Scotland at the present day. Members for the Universities require no qualification; the sons of Peers need no qualification. This is a question which deserves inquiry. Shall qualification, or shall it not, continue? I am an advocate for peaceable reform—for tranquil progression—for the gradual adoption of the principles of public liberty. I know that these subjects have formerly been taken up with violence out of doors. I know that what is called the charter has given rise to a great deal of misapprehension; but what has become of the violence of the chartists? Even now it has passed away, and men are taking the lead who are utterly incapable of involving themselves in any species of violence. I have already trespassed too long on the attention of the House, and all I want to show is, that we have a case for inquiry, and to put that case as distinctly as I can. I cannot endure the thought of excluding such a multitude of people from their right of being represented. I am entitled to say, that you cannot produce the well working of the present system in its favour. Before the passing of the Reform Act we were told, that although it was true that just principles were violated, the system worked well. Worked well! How had it worked well? Let history answer; our wars, our debt, our enormous amount of taxation. These burdens were brought upon the country by well working of the old system. The Reform Act has been tried, and it has mitigated few of our evils. At this moment the refusal to allow the people to participate in the representation is alleged as the cause of the overwhelming distress which every hon. Member has admitted. Distress and misery prevail in all parts of the kingdom. The people are deprived of their inherent right to vote for representatives, and all we ask is a committee to inquire and to bring the facts distinctly before the House. When those facts have been ascertained, let the House 1 decide whether it is preferable to con- 943 tinue the system as it is, or to remedy its abuses.
§ Mr. Wakley:
I cannot but feel sorry that we do not still see the right lion. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) on this side of the House. On such a question I almost expected to find him among us again. There is plenty of room for him on these benches, for his former Colleagues, I regret to say, are not here. I hardly think this a fair course. If men entertain political principles, the least we can expect of them is that they should attend in their places to support them. What are we to infer from their absence—from the absence of those who brought in and supported the Reform Act? We are placed by it in a considerable difficulty, because we are unacquainted with our own strength. Are they or are they not favourable to the proposed change? I conclude from their absence that they are not; then we must fight the battle by ourselves, and I advise hon. Gentlemen who now sit on the back benches to come forward and occupy the deserted seats. Whatever they may do, I hope that the present First Minister of the Crown will favour the House by informing it whether we may expect anything from him. We have not yet heard much from the other side, and I am sorry for it, because they are likely to hear more of this question by and by. Such discussions can scarcely be too often repeated: instead of making this a Sessional motion, we ought to make it a monthly one; and it is a suggestion I shall offer to those out of doors who are now endeavouring to agitate the public mind on the question. It cannot be too frequently brought before the House in this innocent and harmless way. Is it not curious to observe the present state of the House? Here is a subject that occupies and agitates the minds of millions: they are looking forward with intense anxiety to the issue of this debate, and yet we see here little better than empty benches. Hon. Members do not seem to be at all aware of what is passing in society on this subject, and it is but too plain and palpable that they do not represent the people. Considering what is the theory of the constitution, it is really painful to reflect what is the practice of Parliament. In theory we hold that every man is represented, and what is the practice? Is the conduct of the House in accordance with public opinion? To this question a universal negative must be 944 given. Our proceedings are adverse to the feelings and wishes of the people. If our measures were founded in justice, would the people so often approach this House with petitions and complaints? The people think our course of legislation oppressive and injurious, and those here who sympathise with the people demand a change. How long is the present state of thing's to continue? It is admitted that the Reform Act has been a failure; it was expected that after it was passed, popular opinion and sentiment would be reflected here. It is not reflected, and I maintain that an alteration is necessary, and that no good can be effected for the people until they are fully and fairly represented here. The motion of my hon. Friend has been so prudently and carefully framed, that any Member who wishes for any degree of improvement in the present system cannot be justified in resisting it; and if a committee be appointed, we can there discuss and decide any objections that may be urged. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry gave a sort of tabular view of the state of the representation: the hon. and learned Member for Cork did the same, and let me ask, is the House prepared to justify that state? Can it justify the preposterous disproportion, that a borough, like Harwich, should be able to neutralize and set at nought the West Riding of Yorkshire, with its million of inhabitants? What then is to be the issue? How long will this House persist in opposing the just demands of the nation? You condemn violence, and when people out of doors make intemperate speeches, you say we ought to resist, because English gentlemen ought not to yield upon intimidation. Now everybody is peaceable; the gentleman who has got up the present agitation is a Member of the Society of Friends, and one of the least violent of human beings. He reprobates upon principle all contention and outrage; yet now you treat the people as if they had manifested every species of violence, and threatened even the House itself. So that when the people are violent, you answer them "No," and when they are peaceable, you answer them "No," also. "No, no," is the reply to every claim for improvement, even where you yourselves cannot deny the existence of abuse. My belief is, that the result will be, that you will not yield until you are afraid; you 945 must be frightened into concession after all, that is my persuasion you will do nothing until you apprehend the consequences of refusal. But ought legislation to proceed under the impression of fear! The people assert that they are oppressed by class-legislation; that you look to your own interests and not to theirs; that you are deaf to their appeals regardless of their miseries; that you only, regard your own property and hare no respect for their feelings. Therefore they require a change, and you tell them "you shall not have it." I say that it is only a question of time—that the people sooner or later will have it, and 1 say so from what I know and have seen of the people. You fancy that you are contending against ignorance—nay, that the people are indifferent, and are only roused by agitators. I assure you that you are deceived, and that you are sleeping on a volcano. The people are not ignorant, are not indifferent, and they trace their grievances to your class-legislation. What has happened here within the last twenty-four hours?—and a fact of this kind is worth all history. I maintain, on the authority of every constitutional writer since the revolution of 16S8, that a man from whose pocket you take money, and who is not represented, is a slave, and nothing but a slave. Now, what is the case to which I allude. A question is brought before us involving the presumed rights of one rich man, and the declared rights of 500 poor ones with respect to a certain enclosure. The rich man says, "Give me an officer and your authority to dispossess these 500 intruders—to raise their buildings and to turn them out into the highway desolate and destitute." What is your determination? By 111 to 30 you decide in favour of the one rich man, and against the 500 poor ones. You determine that you will not even look at the evidence in the case. This is only a specimen to show that this House does not represent the people. This is not doing justice: this is not securing respect for the Legislature; and what answer can be made to such a charge? I am not aware of any, or if any, it must be most inconclusive and unsatisfactory—I do not wish to enter into all the points embraced by the motion, but I may state that I am for a wide extension of the suffrage: I am for the ballot—I am for electoral districts. I am also for shortening the duration of Parlia- 946 ment, though I doubt whether annual Parliaments will work as well as triennal Parliaments. That, however, is a question for future consideration and decision. But we are told by the right hon. Baronet, what surely no man can believe, that we shall endanger the monarchy by extending the suffrage. What! endanger the monarchy by giving contentment to the people? I thought that the best security for the monarchy was the happiness of the nation; but it seems that that is a mere idle fancy—a foolish notion. According to the right hon. Baronet the best security for the monarchy is the discontent of the people. What a libel upon monarchy? If you want to make the people love the monarchy, show them that it is the source of equal justice, and let me add, that there is no security for the rich man like having the people duly and fairly represented here. If poor men were allowed to send their representatives, those representatives might convince them of the difficulties of legislation, and might show them the impossibility of rendering all classes prosperous and happy. But you do not allow them the means of information; you keep them ignorant, and then make their ignorance an excuse for exclusion. Thus you rouse a feeling against the House and endanger all our institutions. Let not hon. Members "lay the flattering unction to their souls" that the people will long consent to be taxed without being represented, and upon this point let me quote the words of Lord Camden, on the 22d of January, 1776, on a motion respecting the Stamp Repeal Act.My position is this (said his Lordship), and I will repeat and maintain it to my last hour, that taxation and representation are inseparable. This position is founded upon the law of nature—it is more—it is in itself an eternal law of nature; for whatever is a man's own is absolutely his own, and no one has a right to take it from him without his consent. Whoever attempts to do it commits an injury, whoever does do it commits a robbery.Can that language be disputed? If it be admitted, and who can deny it, how can this House refuse to consent to this motion for a committee? Millions are unrepresented in this assembly: they ask for a voice here: a voice they must have, and a voice that will be heard. What is your answer? That they shall have no voice. How long will you be able to say so, with the people claiming to be heard, supported 947 by Lord Camden, who declares that taxation and representation most go hand in hand, and that to attempt to deprive a man of his property without his consent is an injury, and to do it a robbery.
Mr. R. Yorke
said, that danger to the monarchy was much more likely to arise out of a refusal to consider the claims of the unrepresented, than out of the consent of the House to inquire temperately by means of a committee into the justice of the case. The late election had come most opportunely to their assistance in the present discussion. Fifty or sixty seats were sought to be obtained in consequence of charges of bribery and corruption most disgusting to the individuals and to the moral state of the country. Even last week some circumstances had transpired which required especial notice. An election committee had sat upon the Sudbury election, and they had unanimously reported not only that the last election was bad, and the conduct pursued infamous, but that the place itself was wholly unworthy of being represented, and they therefore unanimously recommended that it should be disfranchised. That was what took place under the present system. Then, there was even now a committee sitting to try the return for the borough of Ipswich, and what were the circumstances reported that very day? Two individuals bad been committed to Newgate for perjury, and three who had voted were admitted and acknowledged knaves, rogues, and vagabonds. That also was the present system. Was that system perfect? With reference to the different parts of the present motion, he was against the payment of Members; he would assent to the no property qualification; he had grave doubts whether annual Parliaments would have a beneficial effect, but he would do every thing to secure the people from that universal distress which followed the honest exercise of the franchise under the present system. That system was imperfect, and did no good to the masses. Seeing the motion could be productive of no harm, he would give it his cordial support.
§ Mr. Protheroe
said, the object of the Reform Act was to put an end to the corrupt boroughs, and to those places in which the constituency was small, and he must say that the Reform Act had accomplished those objects. It put an end to out voters, and bad given the franchise to large towns. He should be ungrateful 948 to the very authors of his political existence if he did not praise in the highest terms the 10l. constituency. He knew how to distinguish the 10l. voters from the old electors left by the Reform Act; and he must say, that of all the constituencies he had ever known, the one he represented stood pre-eminent for purity and integrity. The chief omission in the Reform Act was, that it did not correct the corruption of the old electoral body. The proprietors of the boroughs had surrendered their privileges; but the electors of Sudbury and of other corrupt boroughs had not surrendered their claims to the privilege of 5l. and 10l. notes. When they complained, therefore, of the want of integrity in that House, he thought it would be as well if they spoke plainly, and complained of the state of the electoral body of this country. He would ask if any Member went down to any of the old boroughs or cities with an intention of paying no more than the legal expenses, whether he would have the least chance of success? The great evil which existed was the corruption of the electors themselves. The Reform Act retained the freemen in boroughs, and although, from their general character, their extinction would do good, yet there was a portion of that body—those who acquired the franchise by apprenticeship—which was worthy of continuance. It seemed to him desirable in any new reform to associate with present right, derived from property, some industrial right. He was not one who thought that the right of voting should be given to every adult in the kingdom. Indeed, the only one of the propositions mooted by the hon. Member, to which he would give his assent, was the ballot. He was not aware that it was desirable to equalize the electoral districts, without remodelling the whole state of the country; and as to the non-qualification of Members, he had no objection, for he was satisfied that scarcely any Member would be returned without possessing a qualification. As to the payment of Members by the people, there was that aristocratic feeling in the country which would cause the return of Members who would disdain to receive the pay. With regard to annual Parliaments, he thought they would cause great confusion, and a destruction of the real representation of the people. To annual Parliaments 949 he was decidedly opposed. With these objections to the hon. Gentleman's motion, and taking it only as an indication of an opinion in favour of a further reform, he would give it his hearty support.
(Weymouth) said, that as he intended to support the present motion, he thought it necessary to guard himself against any misrepresentation. Of all things he abhorred and detested, he above all abhorred and detested any unjust mode of obtaining a temporary popularity; and he would be the last man who would support the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale, or of any other hon. Member, merely to catch the fleeting straws of a passing popularity. With some hon. Gentlemen whom he could not call his political enemies, but who were his political opponents, it might be unpopular to declare that the present state of the representation of this country was anything but a perfect system. He was sure, however, that no hon. Gentleman whom he was now addressing, if he conversed with him in private, would declare that the present system was perfect, or anything approaching to perfection. He did not wish to accuse any one of general inconsistency, but his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham), along with many others who supported the Reform Bill and the general measures incidental to that bill, could not have thought that at the time they were advocating the hill they were pledged to the doctrine of finality. He at that time, in the situation he had the honour of filling (Chairman of committees), had little to do with those discussions, but he was free to confess that he had never looked upon it as a final measure, or as founded on any principle which had a tendency, or was conducive to, finality. How could it be final? How could it be presumed in a country like Great Britain that in any legislation, they had approached to something like terrestrial perfection, from which they could neither advance or recede? His right hon. Friend would allow him also to say, that in his opinion the bill had failed to fulfil the designs of its promoters. He believed that the constituencies had never been steeped in greater corruption, or wallowed in more degrading mire, than since the passing of the Reform Bill. He knew that the balance of parties had been small; he was aware that great temptations had been given thereby 950 to the practice of corruption, and that great inducements were held out to the people; where the balance was small, the interest was large, and each party had to resort to means which were unworthy of any party. That was the real truth. He did not believe that the people of England were alive to the situation in which they were placed; he did not believe that they were completely alive to their political rights. He thought, indeed, that the Parliament was somewhat before the people. He was afraid that until they had a greater spread of education among the great body of the people, they would not be deeply sensible of their political rights, and of the importance of their due exercise. He was afraid that a great part of the electoral body were ignorant of the importance of those rights, and that when called upon to exercise them, they did not act according to their consciences, in the mode which was just and beneficial to all classes. This was plain language; but it was the plain language of truth. And when the hon. Member for Rochdale brought forward a motion to declare that a further reform was necessary, was he, professing these opinions, to walk out of the House, or avoid voting, because he did not go the whole length of the Charter? He was not prepared to declare that parliaments should be annual; he was not prepared to extend the franchise to the whole male population; but at the same time he was not prepared to say that the present system was so perfect that it was not accessible to any improvement, or that they were running so smoothly along the macadamized road of accomplished legislation, that all was proceeding with ease and safety; or that, if they attempted to make it more perfect, they would endanger the safety of the monarchy. There was something aristocratic in the feelings of the people of this country; there was an aristocracy in St. Giles's, as well as in St. James's, and he was sure that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester need not entertain any fear that an improvement in the franchise would endanger the monarchy or the aristocracy of this kingdom. Although he was not prepared to go the length of the hon. Member for Rochdale, or to open the door to the advocates of the Charter, he would ask the right hon. Baronet (Sit R. Peel) himself, in all candour and fairness, whether, he believed that the present sys- 951 tem was not capable of the least improvement? He was sure that the right hon. Baronet would not advocate the immorality, the bribery, and the perjury of the present system, or all the crimes to which the bribery and perjury gave rise. He could not shut his eyes to the fact. No man could shut his eyes to the fact. No one who went to a popular election could do otherwise than lament the scenes which passed. How were they to avoid these scenes How were they to procure an efficient representation? Were they to go on quietly on all fours with the present system? Were they to sit quietly under the evils arising from it? Were they to take the Reform Bill as a final measure, and not go one step further? Others might close their eyes to the evils of the present system. He could not close his eyes. He knew the disadvantages and dangers. Every one impartially appealed to, must confess them. He was not one who would take a leap in the dark; but considering the present state of things he was willing to support any safe and practicable measure. When the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) said that the Reform Bill took property as a test of representation, and not numerical power, he must say that the argument had been used, but he conceived that his noble Friend who introduced that measure was not prepared to say that numerical power was not also to form a test of representation. He must say also that it was not impossible to blend the two principles together. The question of blending property and numerical power would force itself upon the attention of Parliament, and he would ask whether it would not be better to grant the consideration of it now with good will, rather than wait for the use of threats, when true grace would be no. longer acknowledged, and when the concession would be attributed neither to grace or political sagacity. All he wished in the few observations he addressed to the House was to guard himself against misrepresentation. He was neither a leveller, or an inconsiderate reformer; but he had reflected seriously on the many circumstances which would grow out of the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale, and he thought it better not to absent himself from the House. These were his sentiments, and he supported the motion, neither courting popularity on the one hand, or disgraceful evasion and. delusion on the other.
§ Sir John Easthope
wished to explain the vote he was about to give, because most of the hon. Members on that (he Opposition) side of the House, who had already spoken, had signified their intention of supporting the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale, but each had at the same time stated that he differed in some particulars from the motion as it was presented to the House. He thought it fair to deal with the question in a plain and straightforward way. He did not agree in, and he could not vote for, the charter. He therefore did not wish to be misunderstood, or to avoid a declaration of his opinion. He would upon every occasion support the ballot; he was quite prepared to give protection in the exercise of the franchise: he was willing also to vote for dispensing with all other qualification than the free choice of the constituent body, but he did feel a decided objection to the adoption of universal suffrage and to annual Parliaments. With regard to the payment of- Members, he did not feel any strong hostility to that proposition, but he was sure it would be a long time before such a measure was forced upon them. The present system was very widely opposed to such a plan; and the system thus opposed to it was in its most objectionable parts strongly supported by many who clamoured the most loudly for the charter. In reference to the division of the country into electoral districts, if there were a distinct proposition before the House to submit that question to a select committee, with the view of inquiring how far any practical plan could be devised, he would vote for such an inquiry; but he was not prepared to support a general and indefinite plan proposed without any inquiry. In its present form he could not assent to the present motion: for he would ask whether a committee of the whole House, even for the purpose of inquiry and to procure evidence, was a mode by which the House could obtain any information for its guidance in practical legislation? He looked upon the motion as nothing but the charter insidiously enunciated. He felt that the subject was of so grave and so important a character, that be wished to deal with it in the plainest manner. He could not take any step to advance propositions which he was determined to resist, although the resolution might embrace points in which he agreed. He did 953 not think it respectful to his constituents, or just to the public, to support that from which he mainly differed, because mixed up with propositions in which he agreed. When his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) brought forward his motion for the ballot, he would give it a cordial support, but he could not vote for propositions from which he dissented, nor in favour of a committee of the whole House, which was known to every Member of the House to be a form which could not afford useful information or the slightest prospect of any practical result. Therefore it was that he felt bound not to give his vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale.
§ Sir Charles Napier,
as the representative of the great metropolitan borough of Marylebone, and as having promised to support an extension of the suffrage and the vote by ballot, would support the present motion. And indeed he had received a mandate from several of his constituents to come down to the House and vote for it. It was not his intention to support annual Parliaments or universal suffrage, but he should certainly give his support to the hon. Member for Rochdale's motion for a committee. With regard to the no property qualification, he would vote for it, although he thought that in practice it would be comparatively useless. As to payment of Members, if his constituents would give him a well-furnished house in Portman-square, and keep him one or two clerks to attend to his papers, he would be very much obliged to them; but he did not see why the country should give houses to representatives when the constituencies did not think proper to provide them. Looking at the position of parties in that House, he thought there was some need of an improved representation. The right hon. Baronet, like an excellent tactician, had fought those on the Opposition side of the House, and with the Members on his own side had carried the Income-tax; but, now he had the tariff to carry, he would use the Opposition to fight the other side. And although he had opposed the right hon. Baronet on the Corn-laws and the Income-tax, yet if the Income-tax were qualified in committee, he would give it his support; and he would, for his part, vote for every item of the tariff. They had a further proof of the state of the representation, the other night, when 954 the committee reported that Sudbury ought to be disfranchised. He hoped that it would be disfranchised, and that the House would even go further, and punish the people who gave the bribes, as well as those who received them, or the borough itself.
§ Mr. Villiers
said, he should have been willing to have recorded a silent vote in favour of the very moderate motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, would other hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, have allowed him to do so; but they had refused to allow the hon. Member to explain his own motion as expressed in his own language, and have imputed intentions, and placed constructions on it, that imposes upon others the necessity of explaining their views in the vote that they gave. He intended to do on this occasion what he had done on every other since he had had a seat—namely, to vote for an inquiry into a grievance alleged by the people to exist, and the existence of which, indeed, was not disputed by any body. What was the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale? He asked them to consider a grievous evil of which the great body of the people complained, and that the House did not deny; but hon. Gentlemen had chosen to say that he meant more, or, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester had done, not denying to the full all that was said to result from the manner in which the representation was constituted in this country—not denying that it was a grievance that ought to be remedied—but saying, "grievous as it was, there was something much more so, that would of necessity spring out of the remedy proposed, of placing the representation on a wider basis,—namely, that it would destroy the aristocracy and the monarchy, and that all that take a step in applying this remedy to the evils which are admitted, will be parties to such a revolution." Now, whether this statement was true or not, he begged to say, that it was too late in the day for the right hon. Gentleman to talk of that. This was what the right hon. Baronet was told himself, this was what was told him and his Colleagues, when they were attempting to reform the old Parliament, and this is language which the right hon. Baronet and his noble Friend who sits by him disregarded, and are now precluded from using. It might be well, perhaps, for the right hon. Baronet the Member for 955 Tamworth to use such language now, for it was the same as he had used it before; but his right hon. Colleagues were warned of what they were about when they laid their hands on the old constitution, and presumed to construct one of their own invention. They disregarded what was said at that time, which was, that the old House of Commons, imperfect as it was when referred to any principle, yet had endured for a vast time, and rested then as did the other branches of the constitution, on prescription; and that, if they disturbed that, and sought to reform it on any principle, that they must abide by the result of their experiment, and that the people would judge it by the mode in which their principle had been earned out; that they would be open to claims for further change if the evils they sought to remove remained, and open to the charge of injustice or inconsistency if they recognised a principle that they did not apply. The argument of hon. Gentlemen opposed to the Reform Bill was, that it was dangerous to the constitution; that, however deficient in theory, it had altogether worked well in practice; and that it was not wise to enter into any experiment for its improvement. There was something intelligible in that, whether it was true or not. But "no," said the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) and the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) opposite, "we say that the constitution works ill, the representation is not the representation of the people, bad laws are passed, and the popular interests of the community at large are overlooked in consequence; upon that ground we will reform the constitution, and we will make representation co-equal with taxation."[Sir J. Graham: "No !"] Why, that was the ground on which the Reform Bill was recommended by many persons who spoke for it. The principle of the Reform Bill was, that taxation and representation should go together, according as it was said to the old principle of the constitution, and authorities for this doctrine were constantly quoted. The right hon. Baronet and his Conservative friends might, with some consistency, resist change now as they did before, opposed as they were to all reform; but no man who was a party to that Reform Bill, or who came into public life as a reformer, and who found the old constitution of this House abandoned, and a new one, after trial, generally said to have 956 failed, had a right to reproach a Member who moved, or Members who supported him, in moving for an enquiry into the grounds on which it was so considered to have failed, with the view, if possible, to devise a remedy for the evils that were proved. No; the promoters of the Reform Bill had no pretext for binding men to their experiments if they fail. They had thrown away that ground of prescription which many men, from experience of human institutions, were willing to occupy. They had disregarded the warnings which timid and conservative; men had offered them, that if their expectations of their panacea were found to fail, they could not resist a further experiment upon their own principle, and that motions would be made to that effect; and they have no reason to complain of men who, following them, and finding a principle in the mouths of the people such as they had recognised and professed to apply to the old constitution — namely, that men who were taxed were entitled to be represented; and seeing that it was not acted on but in the most limited degree, and further seeing every evil pointed out in the last system in full force under the present. They had, he said, no right to quarrel with men who, in the spirit of the hon. Member's motion, thought that an inquiry or consideration should be given to the case, and determine whether any remedy, or the remedy which the people imagined would remove the evil, should be applied. He could, as he said, understand the Conservative party refusing all reform, and indeed, notwithstanding all that had been said against his noble Friend, the Member for London, he could understand his not hastily giving up the hope that the bill which he introduced would be found, at least for the present, an efficient cure for the evils for which it was proposed. He trusted, that his noble Friend, though not there to answer for himself, was not less open to conviction than other men; and when he saw, after ten years experience, that evils did exist, without a hope of their removal, that he would not refuse to attend to evidence which might be offered for accomplishing that object. He was one, then, that had to consider this motion in the absence of all those arguments that were used against reform before, with a general admission of the enormous evils incident to the present electoral system, and with a prevailing feeling, among those who had not the franchise, that their feelings, in- 957 terests, and opinions were misrepresented in that House; and he was not to be told, that he was not to take the subject into his consideration, because it might lead to consequences which he would not approve. That was reasoning to which he could not yield, he could not do so consistently with the avowal of being a Reformer, or could he refuse to do what was right, because somebody thought that some evil might result from it. But they were told, the remedy proposed was to extend the suffrage, and that was objectionable, as the people were wholly unfit to exercise their judgment on political subjects. If they were so, however, why were they always appealing to the people's judgment? And why were they proud on the other side when they had it in their favour? And why are they taunting them on that side with not having it? Why, the other night, forsooth, a Member professed in this House to bring a message to the right hon. Baronet from the working classes; and the right hon. Baronet seemed pleased with it, and those around him cheered it, as if it was conclusive in favour of the Income-tax. Night after night they heard the sentiments of the working classes quoted by Members on both sides of the House; in fact, it was a dispute sometimes which had the working class with them. What, then, was this but professing at least to think it was no unreasonable thing for the working men to give their opinion on political subjects? It seemed, then, that they were told at one time that they ought to be represented, because they were taxed, and at another, that they ought to be consulted because their opinion was worth having; and yet if an hon. Member proposed to take the claim that they make to be represented, and to exercise a legitimate influence in this House into consideration (for that was all), it was, forsooth, to upset the monarchy, and destroy the constitution. That was the argument of the right hon. Member for Dorchester; and then, said his hon. Friend, the Member for Leicester, "You must not vote for inquiry, because the persons calling for it ask for the five points of the Charter." Why, if he were to admit reasoning of this kind, he should be the most inconsistent being in the world, seeing that this was the argument that has been used over and over again against himself when he had moved for inquiry into the Corn-law, People who wished to maintain the Corn-law had said, "Oh, I can't rote for 958 inquiry, because the mover would do away with all Corn-laws if he could."But was this an argument used by anybody who wished to deal fairly with the question j and was it not the case that everybody who desired to see any improvement in the law, voted for the committee to consider the existing state of the law. And why should not the same thing be done here? For himself, he would give no opinion upon the particular remedies mentioned in the petitions, they were subjects for separate discussion and consideration; and he should now only vote for recognising the evils connected with the representation, for considering the remedy proposed; and he could not conceive that any intelligible ground could be assigned by any person in this free country, where people at least were allowed to consider their grievances, for doing otherwise, or refusing the reasonable proposal of the hon. Member for Rochdale.
§ Sir Robert Peel
The hon. Gentleman stated, and no doubt truly, that a petition signed by a numerous body of men, couched to moderate and respectful language, has been presented to this House, and I should be most unwilling, however decidedly opposed I may be to the prayer of that petition, to take any course which should argue a disregard or indifference towards that petition. I am happy, also, to give credit to the hon. Gentleman, from my observation of his conduct, for the integrity and purity of his motives, and as be has made an address to the House in language which has been justly described as temperate and moderate, I should be sorry to treat with disregard a motion made individually by him, and, therefore, I shall proceed, rather than content myself with a silent vote upon this occasion, to state very shortly the grounds on which I must offer my most decided opposition to this motion. And if I do not speak at any great length, it is because I have beard the warning speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, who says, that we may expect a renewal of the discussion upon this subject every month. The present motion is a peculiar one; it calls upon the House to go into committee for the purpose of considering the various questions of the vote by ballot, of annual Parliaments, of extension of the suffrage, of the equalization of election districts, of no property qualification, and of payment of Members, and the hon. Member who has last spoken, says, let us enter into the consideration of all these matters. I want to know, whe- 959 ther the hon. Member will go into a committee for a bill, or, as the hon. Baronet, the Member for Leicester, suggested, for the purpose of taking evidence, and maturely considering all these various subjects. If the latter is the object which is sought to be attained, considering the position of the measures already before this House—of the question of the Income-tax —of the tariff; and if the inquiry is to be conducted at the Bar of this House—I say, that that is a sufficient reason for my giving my decided opposition to the motion. I, of course, cannot account for the absence of the noble Lord, the Member for the city of London, on this occasion. I do recollect a prophecy which I made some ten years ago, when I ventured to predict, that the time would shortly arrive when the most decided opponents of the Reform Bill would be found among the foremost ranks of those who would be its warmest supporters, and that it would be my fate, at no very distant period, I will not say, to defend the Reform Bill, but to resist any attempt which might be made for any alteration in it; and I think, that the course of this debate has fully realised the opinion which I then expressed. With respect to the doctrine of that noble Lord, although I do not generally concur in his views, one of the wisest observations which I recollect to have heard him make was, that when he declared, that we cannot afford a revolution once in every ten years, and that he was determined to resist these continued efforts to supersede that change which was effected in our constitution by the Reform Act. The grounds on which I am called upon to assent to this motion, are those of prophecy, of a compliance with the wishes of the people, and of argument. With regard to that part of the subject which relates to prophecy, I must be permitted to make a remark. When the Reform Bill was under discussion, it was said to be universally satisfactory, and the demand was that it should pass unaltered, that we should have "the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill"—it was to be a sort of second-rate charter of the liberties of the people; and it was represented, that from that time, the working classes were to be satisfied with the good government which was to arise under the new system of Parliamentary representation, I can recollect all these predictions with respect to that last and final reform, and at least I am justified in not placing too great confidence in the 960 predictions which I now hear, that this is to be the real opportunity upon which a decisive and final change is to be made. I do not think, that the Reform Bill is chargeable with those difficulties and evils sought to be imputed to it, but of this I am certain, and my opinion is strengthened by this night's debate, that if the majority of you had your own way, ten years hence this new measure would be again and equally changed. And I will prove it to you. It is clear, that the majority of those hon. Members who will vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale, are advocates for half of his propositions; it is clear, that if that majority could prevail, this would be the measure which would be the result—there would be some extension of the suffrage—there would be triennial Parliaments—and the proposal for the payment of Members would be rejected. £An hon. Member: Vote by ballot.] Yes, you shall have the full benefit of that measure; for I believe, that you are unanimous upon that point. Now, first as to an extension of the suffrage. The hon. Member for Sheffield, who is the leader of the Opposition for the night, says, "I am for an extension of the suffrage, but still it must be connected with property." He, therefore, is against a general extension of the suffrage. But, then, there is the right hon. and learned Member for Cork, who says, that there is the master-class and the slave-class in this country, and that the slave-class consists of those who are taxed, but are not represented. He says more— he says, that every man who has been subjected to direct or indirect taxation, and who has not a right to vote for the return of a Member of Parliament, is in the condition of a slave, and that if you take his property without his consent, you are guilty of spoliation and robbery. The principle, therefore, which the hon. and learned Member has laid down, is, that you shall make representation co-equal with taxation, and that is the only principle which I have heard announced in the course of this debate. The other questions are questions of degree, but the only principle which I have heard laid down to-night, and for which I have a guarantee, is this—that representation should be co-equal with taxation— and not only with direct taxation, but with indirect taxation also. But how does this apply? It is to be observed, first, that there was no reservation made with respect to the female sex. The principles 961 of nature must apply, and it is said that the laws of nature and the dictates of providence declare to you, that no person who is not represented shall be taxed. If any distinction should be drawn, the reservation should have been made and it should have been said distinctly, that you were speaking of the male population only. But taking the female sex as an exception, it was quite clear, that taking the broad principle laid down, it must be taken to apply to every male adult of the age of eighteen, no matter what his education; there is not a man who is not subject to taxation, directly or indirectly, and if you subject a male person at the age of eighteen to the militia laws, and at that age make him bear the burdens of the state, it is to be presumed that the laws of nature, and the dictates of Providence say, that you shall further give him the franchise. Nothing appears to me to be more in conformity with the laws of nature than this proposition, and, therefore, every man above the age of eighteen, be he a beggar or not. ["No, no."] Oh! I beg your pardon, beggars are subject to indirect taxation, as well as every other consumer of the articles of subsistence. I dare say you have many qualifications of your principle when you come to look into it, but I am speaking of the great principles which you lay down, and which are grounded upon the laws of nature—of that principle which is laid down by Lord Camden, that it is spoliation and robbery to take anything from a man against his own consent. If that is true, why should there be any delegation at all—how can you defend your system of representation at all? What is that system of representation? Is it not merely a conventional arrangement which gives you the power of making proper arrangements for the conduct of the business of the State? Is not that conventional arrangement for your own advantage when it entitles you to tell a man "I discredit your opinion, but I give you a representative to express your views and opinions?" "Yes, but," says he, "he votes against my views, and I have put my opinion on record by voting against him; and, in spite of my position, you make me pay without my taking any part in the determination of the taxes to be imposed." But you draw a distinction between the master and the slave. But I ask you on what principle it is that you draw that distinction, and what is your hope that the new law which you propose will have any longer 962 continuance than that which you have already in existence, and which you propose to change? And, I say, that I doubt very much whether the bill which you are about to pass.—["Cheers from the Opposition."] I am glad to see that you are already convinced that no such measure could pass as you propose, and that, in the honesty of your nature, you despair of passing your proposition into a law. [Mr. Ward: It was the possibility of the proposition being adopted as you suggested which was cheered.] But that is the first point with regard to your new representative system, and I will say no more upon that subject; but I will come to the second question of the expediency of establishing triennial parliaments. More shabby arguments in favour of any proposition than have been advanced upon this subject I never heard in the whole course of my life. Says the hon. and learned Member for Cork, "I am in favour of triennial parliaments, because, I recollect the circumstances out of which the Septennial Act arose." Why, a worse argument I never heard. It is an argument resting entirely on an historical event connected with a previous circumstance, not having any reference to the matter under discussion. And what says the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bow-ring? He says that triennial Parliaments are contrary to the course of nature; because, he says, the earth makes its revolution round the sun in the course of the year—his words were, I think, "the great planetary system makes a revolution round the great luminary," and there was something of bathos in what followed; "and," said he, "the merchant also settles his accounts annually, and, therefore, on this double ground, astronomical and mercantile, the annual revolution of the Copernican system, and the practice of discreet merchants, there is conclusive reason why Parliaments should be annual only." I must say, that I think he has much the best of the argument; for there is something in the law of nature in favour of it; but when it comes to an agitation in favour of triennial Parliaments, I think that these new astronomical principles of his will not succeed in shaking the opinion of the House. Then I come to the payment of Members, and the proposition which has this for his object has been unanimously scouted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, while to my mind it is the most practicable of them all. What says the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone? He says, 963 "If my constituents provided me with a well-furnished house in Portmansquare, and with a couple of clerks to keep my papers in order, I should be very glad to accept it, but it would be monstrous for me to burden the country by accepting such a provision from it." But a poor man would say, "I want not only to be represented, but I Want also to be in the House of Commons amongst the landowners and others who sit in that House, and to assert my opinions; I do not want such men as are there to vote for me, as representing my views, for they cannot entertain or express my opinions. Enable my fellow-workmen to elect me, so that I may advocate their sentiments and those whose interests are immediately connected with my own. You tell me that virtual representation is an absurdity; well, then, enable me to take my place in the House of Commons. But I cannot do so if you subject me to the expense of living in London. If you tell me that I must give up my shuttle, or my spade, and that I must come to London, you oppose a bar to the fulfilment of your object, and therefore what I ask is, not that Members may be paid—not that men of affluence and Wealth shall receive payment—but that those who cannot afford to give up their daily avocation for the purpose of representing the feelings and wishes of their fellow countrymen, who have a community of interest with them, may receive a moderate and remunerative compensation, such as shall enable them to discharge the trust imposed upon them." I confess that this appears to me to be of all the ingredients of this motion—though I do not agree with any one of them—that which is the least objectionable, nay the most ornamental; but I ask you whether, in ten years hence, if it be my fate to be then in Parliament, it is not extremely likely that I should have much more difficulty in defending the new law which you now propose, supposing it should be adopted, than I now have in maintaining that inviolate which ten years ago was carried? And I want to show that so far as argument and annual reason go, your proposition is without any foundation whatever. I have shown not that the predictions of what would be the result of the Reform Bill have been falsified, but that my anticipations have proved correct; and that, so far as your reasons go, a most unstable foundation is afforded for your new system of representation. I have shown you the inexpediency of making a 964 distinction between what was called the master and slave classes—of adopting annual or triennial Parliaments, and that if you reject the proposition for payment of Members from your plans, you exclude from Parliament those who would be its chief ornaments, and who would best represent the feelings of the people. It is upon these grounds that I oppose the motion. But if you say that you make this proposition in favour of the expressed wishes of the people, I say that it is opposed to those wishes. What are those wishes as they have been expressed? YOB allege in this motion that the people represent that,—Under the present System of election laws, they are not duly represented; and that they are thus deprived of the acknowledged right of freemen to have a voice in making of the laws by Which they are governed, and in in posing the taxes which they are required to pay, and therefore praying, that the right of voting may be extended to the adult male population of the realm, subject to no limitations or restrictions, but such as may be necessary for the safe and correct practical exercise of the right itself; that votes shall be taken by ballot; that election districts should be equalised to accord with the number of votes.Now if I were to divide this country, and also Scotland and Ireland, into districts, taking them according to the number of electors therein, and to give to each district a right to return a Member of this House, that would be creating nothing but a great number of pure nominations. I should say that the result of any such division would be most probably to increase that corruption which you Say has increased in proportion as yon have enlarged the franchise, and to give an increased influence to landed property rather than to any other body. The motion then goes on to intimate the desire of the people,—That no qualification should be demanded from members but that of being duly elected by a majority of votes; that representatives should be paid for their services at the public that elections should be annual.These are the wishes of the people of this country; and the hon. Member for Coventry says that the expediency of theft adoption of these changes is agreed trpon?—that the difficulty is as to the means by which they are to be carried out. [Mr. W. Williams: I said that the necessity of a change was agreed upoh.7 No 5 I beg your pardon. You said that, as to the 965 measures to be asked for, you were agreed, and therefore I say that the object of hon. Members is not to carry out the intentions of the people j for, while they put those wishes in the foreground, yet you will not permit that more than half of the measures which they desire should be accorded to them. Therefore I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Leicester, that it would be a mere delusion to go into this committee, and that nothing but disapprobation would arise if you put forward this as your motion, and yet afterwards "curtailed it of its fair proportions" by one half of the propositions advanced in it. On these grounds, therefore, not believing that the representative system is surrounded by all those faults which I have heard imputed to it j believing, at the same time, that it is not free from defects—alarmed by your statements now that the measure of reform has produced more of evil than existed previously, I certainly do hear with anxiety and distrust the new proposition which you make. If you ask me what I believe would be most likely to give satisfaction to the people of this country, I should say that it would be to ameliorate their condition, which you will do if you support the Income-tax and tariff. They participate with you in feeling that the national honour should be sustained, and that the national faith should be maintained. They will recognise on your part a sympathy with them, if you will place on the affluent the burden, under existing circumstances, of supplying the means of supporting public credit; and if you will at the same time adopt, as I am very confident you will ultimately adopt, those measures which I have proposed— to which I have alluded—to which I feel sure that I shall secure the assent of my lion. Friends behind me. It is not from an expectation of conciliating the support of my hon, Friends that I make that observation, I beg to assure the hon. Member; or because I intend to vary from the main principles which I have already laid down, but from a confident hope that I shall be able to show, not that I shall not reduce the price of the articles of subsistence, but the reduction of those prices will; be for the interest of all classes. And I do firmly believe, that if, without greater delay than is absolutely necessary for the consideration of this subject, you will look with favour to the propositions which I have made, I have a confident satisfaction that you will give conclusive evidence to 966 the great mass of the people of this country that you are desirous of promoting their comforts and their interests, which will do more to dispense with the necessity of a motion of this kind for disturbing the constitution of the country and altering the representative system, than if by the unanimous support of this House the hon. Gentleman was entitled to carry this proposition according to his own opinion; and in my opinion, the satisfaction which would result from such a course would be infinitely greater than any which could proceed from the legislative adoption of such a measure as that which is suggested. If you complain of the absence of the noble Lord, the Leader of your party, let me advise you, that you, as if you were convinced that on the whole my financial and commercial propositions are wise ones, to-morrow night return the compliment by staying away from the discussion of his proposals upon that subject. That is to say, if, on the whole, like the hon. and eloquent Member for Northampton (Mr. R. Currie), you think that in the present state of this country there are measures which there is good reason for passing, you will listen to them with favour; and then I ask you to stay away, or at all events, not to lend yourselves to any party combinations in opposition to them.
§ Mr. Muntz
said, that having voted with the right hon. Baronet the other evening, he supposed that the right hon. Baronet would not wish him to stay away to-morrow night. He had been one of those who had taken an active part in endeavouring to obtain reform in Parliament, and he thought that the right hon. Baronet could not complain of the exertions which he, in company with others, had asked for the whole bill. He appealed to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester, and also to the right hon. Baronet who had last spoken, whether they had had the whole bill? whether the right hon. Baronet had intended that they should have a bonâ fide household suffrage or a 50Z. tenant at will suffrage. He contended that we had not had the whole bill, and that if we had, the state of the country and the position of our representative system would have been entirely different from what it now was. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that they might do much to show their sympathies with the people. But why did the people complain? Because they had a bad representative system —because the 967 Reform Bill had not been properly carried out. He had felt it his duty to say these few words, and he would only now state his reasons for supporting this motion. He did not entirely agree with all the statements made in the proposition, but he did not object to payment of Members, and this upon the principle, that every man was worthy of his hire; and that, he believed, it rarely happened, that any man who undertook to do a thing without payment afforded satisfaction to his employers. With regard to annual Parliaments, he was at variance with his hon. Friends near him, and he thought three years was a duration which was quite short enough. Neither was he prepared to go the length of adopting the principle of universal suffrage. But he viewed this as a subject entitled to very serious consideration, and declared his belief, that a very considerable extension of the elective franchise was demanded, and would be advantageous both to the people and to the aristocracy. One word more to the right hon. Baronet. It was said, that coming events cast their shadows before; and there were no men more interested in watching those shadows than those who had the conduct of the Government of a great country. He thought, that the debate of this evening might be looked upon as the shadow of some event of future occurrence, and he hoped, that the right hon. Baronet would give the most serious consideration to the feelings of the people at large, in connection with the subject which had now been discussed.
§ Mr. Turner
said, that he should support the motion, although he was opposed to annual Parliaments, which he was satisfied were destructive to the real interests of the country. The state of excitement in which the boroughs throughout the kingdom were during the municipal elections was a sufficient evidence of this.
said, although he did not go the whole length of the motion, yet he should cordially give his vote for it, on account of the last seven lines. He would not detain the House, and he had not another word to say.
§ Mr. Cobden
said, that before the House came to a division it would be well, that they should understand what the motion really was, because the right hon. Baronet had managed so dexterously to mystify its real character, as to leave the very simple question for consideration involved in considerable obscurity. The House was not 968 called upon to go to a vote upon the various points of Vote by Ballot, Universal Suffrage, and the other points contained in the terms of the motion; but the question was, whether the people had been for years petitioning this House for the charter in vain, and whether they should now go into the consideration of the questions involved in the motion, without giving any pledge to maintain any one point involved in it. The difference between the right hon. Baronet and Gentlemen on this side of the House was simply this: Gentlemen on his side of the House might differ from many points of the charter, but they were willing to consider the whole of it, and to investigate the whole question, but the right hon. Baronet declined to go into the consideration of the subject, and would not condescend to enter upon the examination of the matter. Was not this the answer which he gave to the hon. Member for Rochdale? The right hon. Baronet praised the hon. Member's candour and honesty of intention in bringing forward the motion, but on what ground did he reject it? The right hon. Baronet said, that if one portion of the motion of the hon. Member was acceded to, it would give an increased power to the landlords, and he added, that if another portion of it was adopted, that it would destroy the monarchy. Now, these principles appeared to him to be as opposite to the results that would follow as the poles. But in continuing to exclude the people from all share in the representation, would they be satisfied with the special pleading of the right hon. Baronet? Did any of the party opposite be leave that they would be able to satisfy the people under their present difficulties by resorting to such arguments? The Reform Bill had now been passed ten years, but had it improved the condition of the people in any one respect? Was the physical, moral, or intellectual condition of the people better now than it was ten years ago? In point of fact, was not the intellectual condition of the people and their education a scandal to Europe? Was there not more physical suffering in this country than in the whole of Europe together? and were they to be reconciled! to the continuance of their sufferings by the imposition of an Income-tax? Did the right hon. Baronet and his supporters really believe, that the people of this country were to be deluded by such assertions? They had heard a great deal in that House lately of various class interests—they had 969 heard of the landed interest—the West-Indian interest—the timber interest, and other interests; but they had never heard one word said with respect to the labouring interest. He should vote for the motion of his hon. Friend, because he was anxious that the labourers should have a full and fair share in the representation; for, by the adoption of this principle, he thought that they would be enabled to ensure to them a better mode of living than they now enjoyed. He believed, that an improved means of subsistence could be supplied in a better manner than by the proposed tariff. If the law was put upon a proper footing, hundreds of thousands of quarters of corn would not be locked up in the warehouses of this country. He believed, that the middle classes were as much interested in carrying out this proposition as the labouring classes. The middle classes could not fight the aristocracy single-handed. The aristocracy had been playing on the feelings of the labouring classes, and had exerted themselves to prevent their joining the middle classes. The aristocracy had trampled on one class, and had plundered another. The policy which had been pursued was too apparent to be misunderstood in the House. The right hon. Baronet had intimated also, that the adoption of this proposition would be attended with danger to the aristocracy and the monarchy. The monarchy had been brought prominently forward in that discussion. Why had this been done? There was no feeling against the monarchy in this country; but he readily allowed, that there was an intense feeling of hatred existing against the aristocracy. If there was not an intense feeling of hatred existing against the aristocracy, why did you say, that it would be dangerous to give this power to the people? He could speak of the feelings of the inhabitants of the borough from which he came, and from a pretty large experience of the labouring classes. He repeated, that he firmly and conscientiously believed that the people of Stockport entertained the most intense hatred to the system under which they were governed. The people of that place saw numerous closed mills and factories, and they endured in consequence great privations, and they imputed all their evils to the system of legislation in this country. Why did the right hon. Gentleman say, that the adoption of the motion would be dangerous to the monarchy? It was too bad on the 970 part of any one to say so, and it was extremely bad on the part of any Minister of the Crown, for it was notorious, that her Majesty was more popular than any Monarch that ever sat on the Throne of this realm. Why, he asked, mention the Sovereign at all in these debates; and, above all, as an excuse for not conceding political rights to a large mass of her subjects? He begged to remind hon. Gentlemen that this movement in favour of a great extension of the franchise was not supported merely by persons of desperate fortunes, for it had amongst its advocates some men of the highest station and intelligence and worth in the country. When such persons supported it, where, he would ask, was there any danger in considering this motion? There was, above all, one amongst them who, after having vindicated suffering humanity in other climes, and the result of whose services many of the party opposite claimed the merit of for themselves, had prominently stood forward as its advocate. [Cries of "Name."] He would, then, name the individual to whom he alluded—it was Joseph Sturge. He called upon several Gentlemen opposite to be consistent, and to unite with the individual whom he had just named to improve the condition of their countrymen, as they had united with him to give freedom to the Africans in the West Indies.
§ Mr. Roebuck
could not allow the motion to go to a division without shortly stating the reasons which would influence him in the course which he felt it to be his duty to follow. When he looked to the political institutions of the country, he saw that a rough method had been adopted of working out the constitution. The object appeared to be to get a certain amount of intelligence in the body who were to choose the members of that House. The means by which this was to be effected was by the payment of a certain amount of money for the house which they occupied. If a man was a 10l. householder he was found sufficiently intelligent and virtuous, by the constitution of this country, to have a vote in the choice of the representatives of the country. This, then, was the rough method by which they attempted to gain the end sought. He would ask Gentlemen opposite, as experienced, and sagacious, and clever men, whether, in the common affairs of life they thought that this would be the best 971 mode of getting the most intelligent and able persons for any duties which they might wish to have performed? He would ask whether, in the ordinary transactions of life, they would ask whether a man was a 10l. householder, or whether he was a freeholder by inheritance or purchase, or whether he held a 50l. holding from his landlord before they engaged with him for any purpose? Not at all. They would adjust their object by other means, and would look to qualifications of quite a different nature from those which be had just alluded to. He would ask this other question: whether there were not other means by which you could learn the degree of intelligence, virtue, and probity professed by an individual to qualify him to take part in the choice of the representatives, and thus exercise a control over the business of the Government. Gentlemen opposite would altogether exclude the labouring classes from the representative system. ["No, no. "] Well, then, they would almost altogether exclude him from a share in it. He would not say altogether, because he hated exaggeration, but at any rate they would exclude a large portion of the labouring classes from taking part in the election of representatives. He would ask the right hon. Baronet, who was a man of large experience in the business of legislation—he would ask him, whether there were not men as virtuous and as worthy, and of as large and perspicuous minds amongst the labouring classes as amongst the other class in the community? The right hon. Baronet nodded assent; then, he would ask, why did the constitution exclude them from having any share in the election of Members of this House? Then, he would ask, whether it was not a subject worthy of inquiry, whether the labouring classes—which it was admitted contained so many worthy and virtuous men—should not have a share in the re presentation? All that was asked by the motion was whether you would not consider whether the means did not exist of introducing these worthy individuals within the pale of the constitution. In the answer of the right hon. Baronet, he confessed that he did not see much to admire either in its tone or manner. He obviously did not consider it as a party motion which could shake the Tory party, but the language with which the right hon. Gentleman treated the question would go to the hearts of the people. The motion was 972 merely for inquiry into the political system existing in this country, and made no allusion to the physical condition of the people. He would ask then the House and the country what they thought of the tone of speech adopted by the right hon. Baronet, and at the ridicule and mockery which he bad thrown on the subject? It was not an occasion to excite laughter. As he had just told the right hon. Baronet, his power was not at stake on this question, but there was a trial going on which deeply involved the feelings of a large body of men. Was he so strongly bound by the chains of party that he could not consider the motion? He believed that the right hon. Baronet was ashamed of the party spirit under which he was often obliged to act, and that he would, if hon. Gentlemen allowed him, go into an inquiry. He feared, however, that the right hon. Gentleman wanted the spirit which the importance of the subject required to get rid of his party ties. It was supposed that the great interest in danger was the monopoly of political representation which was possessed by the aristocracy and the landed power. The question was, whether any danger to property would arise from conceding all that was alluded to in the pre sent motion. Some of the party opposite might assume that there would arise some danger to property; but he contended that this was an extravagant and ground less assumption, coming from those who had the monopoly of power in their hands. The labouring classes only begged the House to inquire into the political situation in which they were placed. If the House rejected the motion, they would long recollect with painful feelings; the bad jokes of the right hon, Baronet as to the revolution of the planets, and the grounds on which he had opposed this motion. He said that it was presumptuous arrogance on the part of Gentlemen opposite to assume to themselves a superiority over the labouring classes. He begged them to recollect that they did not possess the whole intelligence of the country, but that the labouring classes possessed as much intelligence and wisdom as those opposite. Therefore, under these circumstances, was it right to shut put inquiry, and to declare that the labouring classes, which were so virtuous and worthy, should be without hope? He called upon those who held the reins of power at the command of the agricultural despots of England to sanc- 973 tion the motion, if they wished to insure the peace and happiness of this empire.
Although I think that the tone and violence of the hon. and learned Gentleman will be almost a sufficient answer in the sight of the House and the country to the speech which he has just delivered, a speech certainly not very remarkable for the number of its arguments, however it may be for the number of its repetitions, and although I doubt not that my right hon. Friend is quite prepared to take the responsibility, and also that he will be proud of having the undivided credit of his able and eloquent and convincing speech; yet, standing in somewhat a different situation from my right hon. Friend, as having been one of those who were parties to the introduction of the Reform Bill, little as I thought of addressing the House this night, and nothing, I can assure you, was further from my intention, I cannot reconcile it to myself to avoid taking a portion of the responsibility of the decision which we are about to come to by giving a silent vote on the question now before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman tells you, that by the vote you are about to give you mean to declare that all the intelligence, all the virtue, all the good feeling of the country is center in the higher and middle classes of the community of this empire. We assert no such thing. We deny not to the humblest man in this country in any station of life the credit of fulfilling the duties of that station with honesty, virtue, and intelligence. We claim for ourselves no exclusive merit, and we deny to others none of those attributes to which they may deem themselves entitled. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman tells me, as I have heard stated by hon. Members on his side of the House, that those who supported the Reform Bill laid it down as their doctrine that every person who directly or indirectly contributed to the taxes of this empire had an inherent right, not merely to the enjoyment of the rights of citizens, or the protection of the law, but an inherent right to the exercise of the privilege of returning Members to vote in the Legislative Assembly of this country, then I venture to say that I wish I could only appeal to some of those (referring to the absence from the House of the ex-Ministers) who were with me parties to that bill. I wish upon this occasion I could but see, besides 974 my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) who cordially united with me in that mea sure, a Member of the Cabinet of Lord Grey who brought forward the Reform Bill, that I might ask him whether any such doctrine was broached by the advocates of that measure? I say it never was. Their doctrine was, that the right of voting for Members of Parliament was not an in herent right, but a privilege to be granted to such a class of the community as from their intelligence, station, and education, might be capable of exercising that privilege wisely and usefully, and for the benefit of the whole nation. The question agitated at the time of the Reform Bill was, whether it was wise or safe to break down existing institutions for the purpose of extending the sphere and enlarging the limits, not of that right, but of that privilege? and it was the opinion of the Government of Earl Grey that the time was come when it was safe and right to enlarge the limits, and extend the sphere—nay, more, that the time was come when it would have been unsafe not to enlarge the limits and extend the sphere of that privilege; but at no time was the question argued as an inherent right. It was a question of a great political measure—a question of high political expediency—a question of how far with reference to the existing institutions of the country the political franchise might safely be extended to the bulk of the community. And the doctrine we laid down, and which we do not shrink from defending, was, that as far as that franchise could be extended with safety to the existing institutions of the country, so far it was right, and so far it was the duty of the Ministers of the Crown to extend it. But, having laid down that doctrine, the Government of Earl Grey most anxiously and carefully considered how far in their judgment it was safe and wise to extend it. I have heard hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House say, that no change has been effected by the Reform Act. Was it thought or contended at the time that no change would be effected? On the contrary, did not the extent of the change which it proposed create considerable alarm in the minds of many wise and prudent men? Was not the extent of the change hailed with satisfaction by a large body of the people, and was it not received as a measure of concession to public feeling? I ask any man practically to 975 tell me, did it not affect to a large extent the influence of the Commons of this country and the affairs of this country? What! the bill which introduced into this House representatives of Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds—ay, and for Bath? [Mr. Roebuck: "No."] The hon. Gentleman says "No," but surely he will not contend that it did not obtain a representative in this House for the people of Bath? If he does, he contradicts all the arguments which were used at the time in favour of popular representation, and against that system by which ten or twelve individuals were enabled to elect a member for that city. By the Reform Bill these great towns have been admitted to a large participation in the legislative power of the country; the small and corrupt boroughs which were held in the hands of individuals, and which could be made a matter of bargain and sale, have been excluded from the representation; and to say that such a measure has exercised no influence upon the Legislature, or enlarged the power of the commonalty of this country, a measure which, on account of its extensive alterations, was at the time regarded by many as amounting to a revolution in the political history of the country, is asserting what I am convinced the country does not feel, and is not prepared to believe. I join with Lord John Russell, I join with Lord Grey's Government, I join with the Government of that day, which is not the Government of this day. I coincide with those parties in opinion, that it was expedient and wise to make the measure large at once, and I did join in making it ample and extensive, because I looked upon it as a measure on which we were to stand or fall. And although I do not advocate the finality of any measure as affecting successive generations, yet I do say, that there are in this country fourteen Gentlemen who are bound to regard the bill as an ample concession to the spirit of the time, as admitting the democratic principle to a sufficient extent, and those fourteen are the Gentlemen who composed the Cabinet of Earl Grey, and under whose sanction the Reform Act was submitted to the Parliament. Of those fourteen I am not ashamed to own that I was one, and I do not hestitate to say, that being one of them I do not and cannot approve of a motion of this sort, which, after a crude and indigested fashion, 976 is submitted to our consideration, and which cannot have the effect of settling and establishing a system on a permanent and sure foundation, but which must rather tend to unsettle men's minds, to prejudice the security of existing arrangements, and which tells the people in so many words, that nothing is settled, nothing fixed, and that no arrangement, however well digested, is to be considered as final. But the hon. Member tells you that his motion is only a motion for inquiry. This is certainly very convenient; but what said the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Falmouth? That hon. Member told you, in a short speech, "I consent to the present motion for the sake of the last seven lines of the resolution." Well, but the last seven lines only tell you, that a complaint having been made of the limitation of the franchise, and of there not being a full and free representation of the people, it is therefore the duty of the House to take the subject into consideration. By agreeing, then, only to the last seven lines, the hon. Member excluded all the substance of the motion, and thus intimates his disagreement to its several important parts. He excludes the extension of the suffrage, he excludes the vote by ballot, he excludes the abolition of Members' qualification, he excludes the payment of representatives, he excludes the subject of annual Parliaments. All these points the hon. Member studiously excludes from his consideration when he says, "I will vote for inquiry on account of the last seven lines of the resolution, and on no other ground." But vote for inquiry! What inquiry? Is it to be an inquiry at the bar of the House? Will you summon any evidence? Will you adduce any new facts? Will you appoint a select committee of inquiry, or shall the inquiry be conducted by a committee of the whole House? What sort of an inquiry is it to be? The fact is, that the hon. Member desires no inquiry at all. He brings forward this motion not to settle the question but to unsettle it, for he must well know that he cannot bring any body of men together in this House who can agree upon any settlement in accordance with his peculiar views. If the hon. Member thinks he can settle the question, why does he not bring in a bill at once? Why does not the hon. Member for Falmouth bring in a bill to meet his views? Why 977 do not hon. Members opposite embody their separate views in separate bills and let us have them before us for decision? I believe, quot homines, tot sententice, is very well illustrated by their conduct. But then the hon. Member for Stockport asks if we throw any slur upon the labouring classes? I answer, No; we do nothing of the kind. But then he says, in the ordinary concerns of life, if you required a man to fulfil particular duties, would you ask him if he was a 10l. householder? To this I reply, "No," again. And why? Why, because with regard to such a man I should inquire not as to his competency as an elector, but as to his character, his station, his intelligence, his probable capacity to fulfil the particular duties of the trust I required him to hold. But, supposing I admit you to be right, how will you apply your principle? You tell us that you would take character and intelligence as your test; that you would inquire as to the character the position, the intelligence of each individual before you entitled him to vote. Why, who is to be the judge? Yes, and then you come down to this House and talk of the inquisitorial nature of the Income-tax—as to the inquiries to be put concerning a man's property and receipts. I know not who your grand inquisitors are to be, but this I think you cannot but admit—that a process of inquiry so inquisitorial, and likely to prove so absurd, as that you would institute, is a process that would be found, in the end, to be entirely impracticable. But then says the hon. Member for Bath, you apply a rough justice to the case. Yes, we do apply a rough justice. We do not say that there are not many non-electors highly virtuous—it is quite true there are many; we do not say they are not possessed of intelligence—it is true, that some are highly educated; but this we do say, that a man of a certain station is more likely to possess that intelligence, and that in applying the rough justice, and giving the electoral power to the higher and the middling classes down to a certain point (an arbitrary point, as I freely acknowledge), you are giving the power to those who by situation possess— not more intelligence, more virtue, or more sense, but superior means, superior leisure, superior advantages to improve that sense, and to acquire for themselves the power of judging of the wants and requirements of the native population. But then, says 978 the hon. Member for Stockport, your legislation is the cause of all the evils which afflict the nation, and my constituents are driven to that belief by their wants and requirements. ["Mr. Cobden, I beg pardon. ['Order.'] I will explain presently.] That will be quite the Parliamentary course. I am sure 1 shall be glad to be corrected if I have fallen into any error, but I thought I heard the hon. Member say, that the electors of Stockport were induced to complain of the existing state of the representation by the extent of their distress, and further, that they attributed that distress to the Legislature and the operation of our legislation. All I wish to say upon this is, that I think it very possible that, under such distressing circumstances, the electors of Stockport are not qualified to be the most impartial judges; that, under the pressure of their distress, they may possibly look to measures as means of affording them relief, which measures it might be very unwise and very impolitic to adopt. And I draw this conclusion, that persons subject to such distress may be led to adopt conclusions concerning events which men of more education, placed in circumstances in which they can judge more impartially, are enabled to see in a truer light, and concerning which they can also form opinions more for the benefit of the community at large. I shall not enter further into the various questions which have been raised in the course of the debate. If any person thinks it necessary that further reform in the representation of the country is required, let him tell openly and honestly what reform he would have, and what is the proposition which he would lay before the House. You are acting under a full responsibility to the public at large, as well as to the constituency whom you represent. Beware, then, lest in such vague motions as these —whilst you are apparently attempting to extend the suffrage, you do not materially diminish the influence of the constituency. Whatever proposition is to be made to the House, let it be presented broadly and distinctly before it, so as that it may be fully and fairly heard, and a correct judgment be formed of it as a whole; but do not agitate the country by a general and loose motion for a committee to consider a question already settled, and to which, as so settled, I, for one, am resolved steadily to adhere. Do not unsettle what 979 has been already done, by vague motions, which can be productive of no effect, or of which the only result will be to introduce new elements of discord at a time when the march of Government, the course of events, the position of society, and the influence of the constituency, all in their several relations, are fixed, certain, and steady,
thought he had guarded his vote by stating, that it was not his intention of going the whole length of the motion, and confining it to the last seven lines relative to inquiry. He was taunted with not having brought in a bill.
did not state that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had supported the whole motion. On the contrary, he founded his argument on the fact of the hon. and gallant Gentleman having professed his support of the motion to be founded on the last seven lines; and he merely meant to show how much those who supported the motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale differed from that hon. Gentleman's conclusions.
§ Mr. Cobden
explained: What he had said was, that the majority of the people entertained an intense hatred of that House as at present constituted, and attributed all their sufferings to its legislation. He had said nothing whatever about the reasons.
§ Sir T. Wilde
said, he wished to explain the grounds on which he should give his vote. He did not feel that he could support the present motion, and the reason was, he did not think it was calculated to do any practical good. It was undoubtedly popular to appeal to the House to enter into inquiry; but when the House resolved itself into a committee, it was generally with the view of receiving evidence and making a report. It was to come to a resolution on a particular proposition, and the House seldom went into committee until the Member who asked for the committee had pointed distinctly to the question he meant to submit to them. It would be idle for the House to go into committee on a great variety of propositions, when at last they must come to a distinct vote on a single proposition, and therefore it was fit that the nature of that proposition should be distinctly announced. As he understood the object of the present motion, it was to take an opinion on what was called the charter. Unless the object 980 of the previous matter was to point the attention of the House to the points in the reform of our representation which constituted the charter, he did not know why it was there at all. Now, however the representation might admit of alteration and amendment, he did not think the country needed any further inquiry on the subject of the charter. Having himself formed an opinion on the subject, he did not think the House could occupy their time usefully in any inquiry on the subject. Considering, therefore, that this motion distinctly pointed to the subjects that constituted the charter, and bearing in mind that there were subjects before the House of great importance to the country, and in which it was expedient there should be as little delay as possible, he should consider the time occupied in this inquiry would be wasted time, and lead to no practical result. If any hon. Member wished a reform in the state of our representation, the proper mode of procedure would be to state to the House the reform he proposed, in order that the House might adopt or reject it as it might meet with concurrence. His hon. and learned Friend had truly said, that no man more disliked making exaggerated statements than himself, and he was sure that he bad not heard the whole of the speech of the right hon. Baronet, or he would never impute to the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) anything like disrespect for the working classes. The speech of the right hon. Baronet was as perfectly free from it as it was possible for a speech to be. The right hon. Baronet began by stating that whatever opinions he might entertain of the proposition before the House, the last thing that he could contemplate would be to treat with slight or contempt the working classes. He thought, therefore, that his hon. and learned Friend must have fallen into the mistake from that pleasant but not less efficacious mode in which the right hon. Baronet contrasted the different Members on that side of the House with whom the labouring classes had nothing to do, and have thought that, because the right hon. Baronet rendered his pleasantries musical as well as effective, he applied them to the labouring classes with whom they bad no connection. He was sure he had only acted in accordance with the wishes of his hon. and learned Friend in preventing him from doing injustice, and he would only add, that he should vote against the motion.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he was exceedingly obliged to the hon. and learned Member (Sir T. Wilde) for the just construction he had put upon his language, and he thought he ought at once to state that the hon. and learned Member for Bath had completely misrepresented the tenor of his arguments. What he had said was, that he could not reconcile it to his mind to give a silent vote upon such a question as that mooted by the hon. Member for Rochdale. He must say, that it was very hard if an hon. Gentleman used an absurd argument he was to be debarred from pointing out its absurdity to the House, upon the plea that in doing so, he was guilty of disrespect to the working classes.
§ Mr. Wallace
rose to order. The speech which the right hon. Baronet was making was not an explanation, but was to all intents and purposes a second speech. He appealed to the Chair.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that he had only one observation to make, and that was respecting the sense of the unfairness of the interruption he had experienced. Surely, if the hon. and learned Member for Bath had made some observations on a speech of his, of which he had heard by his own admission only a very small part, he was entitled to an opportunity for setting himself right in the eyes of the House, with respect to his own arguments, which had been misrepresented; and he considered that so far from having, according to the hon. and learned Member's statement, showed any disrespect for the labouring classes, by his statements and arguments in reply to the hon. Member for Rochdale, he had, on the contrary, showed the highest respect for the working people, by coming down to that House, and sitting there since five o'clock listening, notwithstanding his other occupations, to the speech,
§ Mr. Roebuck
observed, that the right hon. Baronet was making a second speech. Sir R. Peel sat down.
§ Mr. Blewitt
There is an old saying, that "fair words butter no parsnips,"and I think, that notwithstanding what the hon. and learned Gentleman below me has said; that no other interpretation but disrespect to the working classes can be put upon what fell from the right hon. Baronet. It was a derisive speech, and not 982 what the right hon. Baronet ought to make. The right hon Baronet—[Interruption."] I shall certainly move the adjournment of this debate. I really do not see why I should not have a hearing, I have as much right to speak on the question as any Member in the House. The question is said to be a Chartist question. The House recollects certain proceedings at Monmouth. I have always been an advocate for popular rights, and have done my duty to a large body of constituents, who sought me out. [Interruption.] It's all very well to say "go on." I wish to say a few words, to show why I am entitled to speak on this question. The House will recollect an outrage which took place in Monmouth. Having, as I said, always represented popular opinions in the House —having served here five years, and not troubled the House much, I think I have a right to be heard. [Repeated Interruption.] I really do not think this is fair treatment—it is now only twenty minutes to twelveߞI have said that I only wish to occupy the attention of the House for a few minutes, and I do not think you are treating me fairly. I have no alternative but to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 226:—Majority 159
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Granger, T. C.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Bernal, R.||Johnston, A.|
|Blake, M.||Leader, J. T.|
|Blake, M. J.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Blake, Sir V.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Blewitt, R. J,||Napier, Sir C.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Brien, C.|
|Bridgeman, H.||O'Brien, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Connell, D.|
|Browne, R. D.||O'Connell, M.|
|Busfeild, W.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Cobden, R.||O'Connell, J.|
|Collins, W.||Paget, Lord W.|
|Currie, R.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Plumridge, Capt,|
|Duncombe, T.||Powell, C.|
|Ellice, E.||Protheroe, E.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Rennie, G.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Roche, Sir D;|
|Ewart, W.||Roche, E. B.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Fielden, J.||Rundle, J.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Scholefield, J.|
|Scott, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Smith, B.||Walker, R.|
|Somers, J. P.||Ward, H. G.|
|Somerville, Sir W. M.||Williams, W.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||Wood, B.|
|Tancred, H. W.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Turner, E.||Crawford, S.|
|Villiers, hon. C.||Wallace, R.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Denison, E. B.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Dick, Q.|
|Ackers, J.||Dickinson, F. II.|
|Adare, Visct.||D'Israeli, B.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Dodd, D.|
|Alford, Visct.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Allix, J. P.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Antrobus, E.||Douglas, J. D. S.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Dowdeswell, W.|
|Arkwright, G.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Astell, W.||Du Pre, C. G.|
|Attwood, M.||East, J. B.|
|Bailey, J.||Easthope, Sir J.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Eaton, R. J.|
|Baldwin, B.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Egerton, Sir P.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Eliot, Lord|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Evans, W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Farnham, E. B.|
|Beresford, Major||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Feilden, W.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Ferrand, W. B.|
|Blakemore, R.||Fitzroy, Capt.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Fleming, J. W.|
|Borthwick, P.||Follet, Sir W. W.|
|Botfield, B.||Forbes, W.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Broadley, H,||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Broadwood, H.||Gladstone, rt.hn.W E,|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Gordon, hn. Capt.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Gore, M.|
|Brownrigg, J. S.||Goring, C.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Granby, Marquess of|
|Buck, L. W.||Greene, T.|
|Buckley, E.||Gregory, W, H.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Campbell, A.||Grimston, Visct.|
|Cardwell, E.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Chapman, A.||Hale, R. B.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Halford, H.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Cholmondeley,hn.H.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Christmas, W.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hardinge,rt.hn.Sir H.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Copeland, Mr. Aid.||Henley, J. W.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Courtenay, Visct.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Craig, W. G.||Hillsborough, Earl of|
|Cripps, W,||Hinde, J. H.|
|Darby, G.||Hodgson, F.|
|Dawnay, hon, W. H.||Hodgson, R.|
|Hogg, J. W.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Peel, J.|
|Hornby, J.||Pemberton, T.|
|Howard, P. II.||Planta, rt. hon. J.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Inglis, Sir R.H.||Polhill, F.|
|Irton, S.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Jackson, J. D.||Praed, W. T.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Pringle, A.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Pusey, P.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Ramsay, W. R.|
|Johnson, W. G.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Reade, W. M.|
|Johnstone, II.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Richards, R,|
|Jones, Capt.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Kemble, H.||Rose rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Kirk, P.||Round,C. G.|
|Knight, H. G.||Round, J.|
|Knight, F. W.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Russell, C.|
|Lawson, A.||Sanderson, R.|
|Legh, G. C.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Lindsay, H. H.||Sheppard, T.|
|Lockhart, W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Lowther, J.H.||Smollett, A.|
|Lyall, G.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Lygon, hon. General||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Stanley, Lord|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Stewart, J.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Stuart, H.|
|Maclean, D.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|M'Geachy, F. A.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Thesiger, F.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Tollemache, J.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Martin, C. W.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Martyn, C. C.||Verner, Col.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Masterman, J.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Vyvyian, Sir R. R.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Miles, W.||Welby,G. E.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Mordaunt, Sir J.||Wilbraham, hn. R. B.|
|Morgan, O.||Wilde, Sir T.|
|Morgan, C.||Williams, T. P.|
|Mundy, E. M.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Neville, R.||Worsley, Lord|
|Newry, Visct.||Wortley, hn. J. S.|
|Nicholl, rt. hn. J.||Young, J.|
|Norreys, Lord||Young, Sir W.|
|O'Brien, A. S.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||TELLERS.|
|Pakington, J. S.||Baring, H.|
|Patten, J. W.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
§ House adjourned.