HC Deb 04 August 1848 vol 100 cc1154-7

On the question that the House resolve itself into a Committee,


stated, that cases of extensive treating had been clearly proved in the North Cheshire election.


, who was almost inaudible in the gallery, was understood to say that the law as it stood was intended to visit with punishment those who had treated, with the view of corruptly influencing votes; but if the treating existed without any intention of corruptly influencing votes, he did not see how, in such a case, the penalties of the law could be applied. The application of those penalties would naturally depend upon the particular circumstances of each case, for it was impossible to make a law which would apply exactly to every instance.


observed, that there was some misunderstanding as to the effect of the present law; and it was supposed that difficulties arose from its recent change. Now, such, he apprehended, was not the case. The law was not recently made more strict than it was by the old statute which had existed for 150 years. The effect of the noble Lord's alteration was, that if at any period shortly before or after the election there should he treating, with the intention of influencing voters corruptly—that in that case the treating rendered the Member liable to the loss of his scat. In that Act of the noble Lord's, the intent of treating, to render it part of the corpus delicti, must be an intent of corruptly influencing. But before that law, the more giving of refreshment was, under the old statute, an offence, without reference to the motives of the giver, and rendered him liable to the loss of his seat. Such would have been the effect of the Act passed in King William's time—an Act passed not to restrain corruption, but to diminish the expenses of elections. As to the distribution of 2s. 6d. tickets, he ventured to say, that before the enactment of the noble Lord's measure, the same question which now agitated the House would have equally arisen—namely, the question, whether it be rational to admit this moderate degree of treating, or no—a question and a difficulty which had been engendered and left unsettled by the state of the law as it existed for 150 years.


thought that the existing law had been well explained by the right hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. S. Wortley), and the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel). In the present case, by no possible interpretation of the law were the parties amenable. It was quite impossible to define the proper limits of treating. If inquiry was to be made into every case of a gentleman being hospitable to his tenants, where, pray, was such an inquiry to stop? In the present case it appeared that the treating was neither corrupt, nor given by the candidate. What was there then to complain of? He hold that it was a morbid feeling of pureism which had induced the Committee to report the matter to the House at all. The fact was, that if you refused to allow any expenses of the kind to be defrayed by Members, you would be virtually disfranchising the great masses of the poorer classes.

House in Committee.

On Clause 15 (Persons who may be implicated in corrupt practices, and who may be examined, indemnified),


opposed the clause. The Committee divided on the question that the clause stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 117; Noes 19; Majority 98.

List of the NOES.
Arkwright, G. Hodgson, W. N.
Bentinck, Lord G. Hood, Sir A.
Boldero, H. G. Hudson, G.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Lowther, hon. Col.
Christy, S. Mullings, J. R.
Du Pre, C. G. Rendlesham, Lord
Edwards, H. Sturt, H. G.
Fuller, A. E. Urquhart, D.
Hall, Col. TELLERS.
Henley, J. W. Sibthorp, Col.
Hildyard, E. C. Hobhouse, B.

Clause to stand part of the Bill; the remaining clauses were disposed of.

On the Schedule being proposed,

MR. HODGSON moved that Carlisle be omitted. He would ask, why had London been omitted? Why had Lancaster been omitted?


I proposed to insert it.


Why had Aylesbury been omitted? Why had Sligo been omitted?


I was going to propose it.


would add another borough—Athlone. It was true that many of those boroughs had returned Gentlemen who generally supported the views of Her Majesty's Government. He thought the schedule was very partially and capriciously drawn.


gave the Bill his most steady and earnest support; and in doing so, he acted in accordance with the wishes, if not of the whole, of a very large and respectable body of the constituency of Carlisle. A petition had been presented from the mayor and corporation of Carlisle, praying that this Bill might pass, and a searching inquiry take place into all the circumstances of the Carlisle election. He (Mr. P. Howard) could not forget that the liberties of a people had been oftener ruined by corruption than by tyranny.


referred to the report of the Carlisle Election Committee, showing that a large expenditure for the purpose of treating had taken place at the late election; that Mr. Hodgson had been found guilty of treating through his agents, though it was not proved that he had been cognisant of their practices.


hoped the inquiry would be extended to Carlisle and Cheltenham too. Why should the hon. Member wish to screen Carlisle, or shrink from inquiry, if there was nothing he was ashamed of?


did not object to extend the inquiry to Carlisle, if they would make it general.


defended the Bodmin constituency, whom he declared to be as pure as any in the empire. They recorded their votes unrestricted and uncontrolled; and the ballot would be of no use to them. Bodmin had undergone the ordeal of a Commission of Inquiry; and the application to it of this Bill was wholly unneecessary.


was understood to say that Great Yarmouth was originally included in the Bill, but had been withdrawn, in consequcnce of the freemen being disfranchised. He proposed to insert Sligo and Lancaster, but not Bodmin, Lewes, or Gloucester.


suggested that the Chairman should report progress, to give an opportunity of considering the cases of the boroughs now first proposed to be introduced.


hoped the Committee would first dispose of Carlisle, before reporting progress.


said, there were the same grounds for inserting Bodmin as Carlisle.


read the report in the Bodmin case, where the treating had not been traced to the sitting-Member or his agents. In the case of Carlisle, the sitting Member was declared guilty of treating by his agents.


defended his constituents from the charge of corruption.


, as a Member of the Committee in the Lancaster case, recapitulated its principal features, and said if that borough was included, it would be impossible to exclude any place.


said, that as allusion had been made to the Bodmin election, he might state that it had been proved before the Committee that one of the electors had, in his zeal for one of the candidates, issued sixteen refreshment tickets of the value of 5s. each. He (Mr. Wyld) would have no objection to Bodmin being Placed by itself in the schedule; but he certainly must protest against its being put into such bad company as that of the boroughs now included in the schedule.

House resumed.

Committee to sit again.