HC Deb 06 July 1842 vol 64 cc1009-13

On the Order of the Day for further proceeding with the third reading of the Sudbury Disfranchisement Bill,

Mr. Blackstone

expressed his regret that he was obliged by a sense of duty to interfere with the progress of the adjourned debate which stood for that evening, while he stated his objections to this bill. As there was no probability, considering the period of the Session at which they had arrived, that the bill could become law in the present Session, he could have wished that the hon. Gentleman had consented to abandon the measure for the present, and to take the course which was adopted in the Southampton case—that of submitting the circumstances connected with the Sudbury election to a searching and rigorous inquiry. In the case of Southampton, it was proved that 5,000l. had been spent in a way that led to the conclusion that bribery had been extensively practised; but it was not, therefore, proposed that Southampton should be disfranchised. Instead of taking that step, the case was made the subject of solemn and serious inquiry. In the instance of Sudbury, not more than eight or ten cases of actual bribery were established; and that, surely, was not a sufficient ground of disfranchisement. He had no doubt that bribery had taken place; he had no desire to conceal or to palliate the fact; and, therefore, a good primâ facie case was made out for further investigation; but certainly such a case was not substantiated as warranted the immediate disfranchisement of the borough. That many of the electors were corrupt he believed; but it did not appear that a majority of the constituency were corrupt, and that had been held the only just ground for disfranchisement. In the cases of Cricklade and other boroughs, where it was proved that bribery had been practised to a very considerable extent; as a majority of the constituencies did not appear to have been corrupt, the House did not proceed to the extreme punishment of disfranchisement. He therefore should propose, admitting that a certain degree of corruption prevailed in the borough, not that it should be disfranchised, but that the right of voting should be extended to the hundred of Babergh, in the county of Suffolk. The population of that hundred amounted to 24,069, and he believed that if they ex-tended the borough, as he desired, they would secure an addition to the present constituency of at least 1,000 voters. The evidence was not sufficiently strong to enable him to strike more voters off the register than the eight individuals distinctly proved to have been bribed, and the three who were clearly established to have been bribers. He regretted that this was the case, because probably there were many more voters implicated, and it would have been the wish of the House to punish all the guilty persons. Being unable to do that, however, their next object ought to be to join with him in shielding the innocent from receiving the punishment due to the guilty, and in this point of view, even if 200 of the electors were corrupt, they ought to consider how hardly this bill would bear upon the 400 against whom nothing was proved. But, even if these reasons were insufficient to induce the House to adopt his amendment, there were other strong objections to the bill, which should cause them to reject it. In the first place, there was no instance on record in which a total disfranchisement bill was passed which embodied no provision for the transferring of the right of representation to some other constituency. If they adopted this measure, they would be absolutely lessening the number of Members in that House; and when they recollected that the relative number of representatives for England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, had been adjusted at the time of the passing of the Reform Act, he did think they ought to pause before they took a step so opposed to precedent. Now, if they adopted his amendment, this weighty objection would be overruled, and there was strong argument for its adoption in the fact that in no case in which the franchise had been extended had there been any allegations of bribery subsequent to such extension. Shoreham and East Retford were now supposed to be tolerably free from corrupt practices, neither were the class of boroughs under schedule B in the Reform Act liable to that imputation, except in an isolated case or two. Again, the class to whom he desired to extend the privilege of voting was a class generally admitted to be free from corruption. Let Gentlemen opposite, who delighted in calumniating the British farmer, say what they pleased, they at any rate could not say that they were guilty of corrupt practices. It was to agriculturists that he proposed to extend the right of voting, and their experience afforded every ground to believe that that right would be purely exercised. In favour of the extension of the franchise he might quote several opinions, but he would content himself with remarking that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had on a former occasion expressed a strong opinion in favour of extension in preference to disfranchisement, and had cited Lord Chatham and Mr. Pitt to the same effect. Nothing doubting that the right hon. Baronet adhered to his former opinion, he confidently anticipated the support of her i Majesty's Government on this occasion, and knowing that the House were anxious to go to other matters, he would no longer detain them than to move his amendment and clause, which were In line 14, after the words 'passing of this act,' to insert 'be held and considered as comprising within its limits the hundred of, Babergh, in the county of Suffolk, and the hamlet of Ballingdon-cum-Brundon, in the county of Essex, and that the right of voting for any burgess or burgesses to serve in Parliament for the said borough of Sudbury be hereafter vested in those persons residing within the said hundred of Babergh, and the said hamlet of Ballingdon-cum-Brundon, having the qualification required as electors for cities and boroughs under the act 2 William 4th, cap. 45.' And be it further enacted, that from and after the passing of this act, the following persons whose names are hereinafter inserted be disqualified from voting at all future elections for the borough of Sudbury, viz.; John Francis Sykes Gooday, William Warner, Thomas Goody, James Bell Johnson, Francis Making, James Brown, Thomas Brown, Charles King, Richard Steel, William Jol-laday, Thomas Shelley, and Joseph Wheeler, jun. Clause brought up, and read a first time.

On the question that the clause be read a second time,

Mr. Redington

said, he should offer very few observations to the House on the amendment before them. He was astonished when an hon. Member charged him, and the committee generally, with being hostile to the borough of Sudbury, and he was the more astonished when he considered the quarter from which the charge now came, for if he recollected right, that hon. Member had himself not long back proposed to the House to disfranchise every freeman in that borough. The Sudbury freemen were in number 407; but now that the ardour of the hon. Gentleman had cooled, he only proposed to disfranchise eight of that number. The hon. Gentleman had quoted the right hon. Baronet as an authority in favour of extension of the franchise. He could quote the opinion of a right hon. Gentleman whose authority was much respected in that House, and who, upon the Grampound case, had expressed his conviction that the infection would remain, let them extend the franchise as they might. The hon. Member had also said that this bill was without a precedent. He begged leave to inform him that, with the exception of the substitution of "Sudbury" for "Stafford" it was an exact copy of the bill previously introduced for the disfranchisement of the last-named borough, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham, now one of the Secretaries of the Treasury. But the hon. Member further objected that only eight persons had been proved to have been bribed. When he said that, however, he should have added that only eight had been proved to have been bribed by name; for the fact was, that 200 persons were proved to have received bribes, but unfortunately the committee were unable to get at the names of any of them, except those distinctly mentioned. With regard to the proposition to add the adjoining hundreds to the borough, he would merely ask why the corruption of Sudbury should confer a favour or benefit on the adjacent districts? But then the hon. Gentleman urged the peculiar purity of the inhabitants of those districts. Now, although he was no very great Reformer, if he looked abroad he would find plenty of freemen in different English counties whom it would be desirable to enfranchise, and who were, perhaps, quite as pure and immaculate as those inhabitants of Babergh whose peculiar virtue it was thus proposed to reward. For his own part, if those persons were so very pure, he should think he was doing them a much greater favour if he kept them free from the corruption of Sudbury, instead of plunging them into its very vortex. He should, therefore, decidedly object to the amendment, and he hoped the House, having already so generally sanctioned the bill, would not adopt any motion which would have the effect of impeding its progress.

The House divided;—Ayes 53; Noes 134; Majority 81.

List of the AYES.
Arkwright, G. Hodgson, F.
Bailey, J. Hughes, W. B.
Bailey, J. jun. Hussey, T.
Baillie, H. J. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Baldwin, B. Jackson, J. D.
Beresford, Major Ker, D. S.
Boldero, H. G Knightley, Sir C.
Borthwick, P. Litton, E.
Broadley, H. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Broadwood, H. Mackenzie, T.
Brownrigg, J. S. Mackinnon, W. A.
Buckley, E. Manners, Lord C. S.
Cochrane, A. Manners, Lord J.
Codrington, C. W. Mundy, F, M.
D'Israeli, B. Northland, Visct.
Duffield, T. Pakington, J. S.
Dugdale, W. S. Palmer, G.
Escott, B. Repton, G. W. J.
Farnham, E. B. Round, C. G.
Ferrand, W. B. Sheppard, T.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Stuart, H.
Forbes, W, Taylor, J. A.
Fuller, A. E. Vere, Sir C. B.
Goring, C. Waddington, H. S.
Grimsditch, T. Wodehouse, E.
Grogan, E. TELLERS.
Halford, H. Blackstone, W. S.
Henley, J. W. Rushbrooke, Col.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, C. B. Hawes, B.
Aldam, W. Heathcoat, J.
Antrobus, E. Hervey, Lord A.
Baird, W. Hodgson, R.
Bannerman, A. Hope, hon. C.
Baring, hon. W. B. Howard, hn. C. W. G.
Baring, H. B. Howick, Visct.
Barnard, E. G. Hume, J.
Barneby, J. Humphrey, Ald.
Berkeley, hon. C. Hutt, W
Berkeley, hon. Capt. James, W.
Bernard, Visct. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Brotherton, J. Knight, H. G.
Browne, hon. W. Lambton, H.
Bryan, G. Langston, J. H.
Butler, hon. Col. Langston, W. G.
Byng, G. Layard, Capt.
Campbell, A. Leader, J. T.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Lockhart, W.
Chapman, A. Lowther, J. H.
Chapman, B. Macnamara, Major
Childers, J. W. Mainwaring, T.
Clerk, Sir G. Miles, P. W. S.
Clive, E. B. Morgan, O.
Cobden, R. Muntz, G. F.
Colborne, hn. W. N. R. Murphy, F. S.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Napier, Sir C.
Compton, H. C. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Craig, W. G. O'Brien, J.
Crawford, W. S. O'Connell, J.
Cripps, W. O'Conor, Don
Denison, E. B. Ogle, S. C. II.
Dickinson, F. H. Ord, W.
Divett, E. Parker, J.
Douglas, Sir H. Pechell, Capt.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Douglas, J. D. S. Philips, M.
Duncan, G. Plumridge, Capt.
Easthope, Sir J. Praed, W. T.
Eastnor, Visct. Protheroe, E.
Ebrington, Visct. Ricardo, J. L.
Egerton, W. T Roebuck, J. A.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Russell, Lord J.
Eliot, Lord Seale, Sir J. H.
Elphinstone, H. Seymour, Lord
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Fitzroy, Capt. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Flower, Sir J. Smyth, Sir H.
Forster, M. Somerset, Lord G.
Fox, C. R. Stanley, Lord
Gaskell, J. Milnes Stansfield, W. R. C.
Gibson, T. M. Stewart, P. M.
Gill, T. Strutt, E.
Gordon, Lord F. Thoruely, T.
Goulburn, rt. hn. H. Towneley, J.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Tufnell, H.
Greenall, P. Vernon, G. H.
Greene, T. Wakley, T.
Grey, rt. hn. Sir G. Wall, C. B.
Hall, Sir B. Wallace, R.
Hamilton, Lord C. Ward, H. G.
Hampden, R. Wilbraham, hon. R. B.
Harcourt, G. G. Williams, W.
Hardy, J. Wilshere, W.
Hastie, A. Wood, C.
Worsley, Lord
Wrightson, W. B. TELLERS.
Yorke, H. R. Redington, T. N.
Young, J. Hill, Lord M.

Bill passed.

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