MR. HENRY BERKELEY
Sir, if after the powerful way in which Mr. Grote pressed this question on the attention of the House of Commons in 1836 and 1839; and if, after the able way in which it was treated by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward), in 1842, I could hope to make any impression, I might justly be accused of presumption. Indeed, Sir, I have no such hope; but having served under Mr. Grote, and having followed the able leading of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, being sincere in my belief of the necessity of the measure, I venture once more with feeble, perhaps, but certainly with willing hand, to unfurl the banner of our cause, and, pointing to the words of Cicero emblazoned upon it as our motto, Tabella vindex tacitœ libertatis, I have full confidence that there are those present among my hon. Friends who will rush to the rescue, and supply that ability in its defence which my zeal may lack. Sir, I cannot but think that the ballot is in the category of those important questions which have finally triumphed less from the exertion of individual ability than the improvement of public opinion; and since the Reform Bill, the march of civil and religious liberty has been so rapidly progressive—and ever since 1842, when last a similar Motion was before the House, questions of so bold and decisive a character have triumphed—that the ballot appears by comparison a reform of an ordinary description. In the year 1710, a Bill brought in by Wharton, to enable electors to vote by ballot, passed the House of Commons; but being opposed in the House of Lords by Godolphin, it was thrown out. Thus, at least, we have a precedent for the adoption of the present measure; and when we reflect that but a few months have passed since the noble Lord the late advocate of an eight shillings duty on imported corn, and the right hon. Baronet the late advocate of the sliding-scale, shook hands across the table of this House and agreed that there should be no duty at all, I see no reason to despair of those two great political leaders recanting their former errors—for errors we held them to be—and, giving their united support to this measure, enable us once more to carry it through the House of Commons. Sir, it 1226 has always appeared to me, from the hearing and perusal of the debates on the ballot, that the arguments have been most remarkably on the opposite side to the majorities. When my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield last brought forward the question, I had the honour of seconding his Motion, and then my task was comparatively easy. I endeavoured to be the humble demonstrator of his excellent lecture, and to supply, explain, and point out instances to exemplify his able arguments. One insurmountable difficulty now presents itself—the impossibility of saying anything which has not been previously said, and better said. Under this impression, then, it seems to me to be my best course—and one, I hope, which may meet with the approbation of the House—to assume, at once, that our ease has been well and fully laid before the country, and instead of treating its merits theoretically, I shall rather endeavour to meet those objections which have been most recently put upon record, and which still seem to be relied on. The points insisted upon by the opponents of the measure appear to be these: they consider that secret voting would be an innovation upon the present electoral system. They deny that it would prevent bribery, while they admit it to be a remedy for intimidation. They pretend that voting by ballot does not insure secret voting. They lay stress on the unmanliness of secret voting, and on its un-English and cowardly character. They denounce the ballot box as likely to injure the due influence of property; and, lastly, they accuse secrecy in voting of having a tendency to produce lying, deceit, and immorality. With these points severally, I shall attempt to deal. Firstly, then, Sir, for innovation on our electoral system. We deny it to be so, and we assert that when the franchise became the law of the land, it was originally uncontrolled, and nobody interfered with its free exercise; but as times changed, and men grasped at political power, corruption and intimidation crept in, and forced from the poor and humble the control of their own opinions, and invested that control in the rich and powerful; therefore, when we ask for the ballot, we seek to make no innovation on the electoral system, but institute a measure for its protection and preservation—a measure strictly conservative; by granting it to the people you conserve for them a great national privilege; so at least it has been termed by Lord Chief Justice Holt:— 1227It is a great privilege," that learned authority says, "to choose such persons as are to bind a man's life and property by the laws they make—a privilege not to be deputed to another,That great privilege, then, I would conserve to the people which they now possess only in name, and the nominal possession of which is to thousands a source of evil, replete with mortification, profligacy, and disgrace. Give the people the ballot, and you convert the franchise from a mere delusion—a nominis umbra—an unreal mockery, into a substantial and important right. At present, when you tell the people that they have the right to elect their representatives, like the equivocating fiend of the poet, you "keep the promise to the ear, but break it to the hope." So much for the charge of innovation on our electoral system. Next, as to the assertion that bribery will not be prevented. That point has been insisted upon, but it appears to me to be unsupported by argument. Will any man in his senses pay for an article in the way of trade, the delivery of which is uncertain? Will any man go into a shop, and for ready money purchase a bale of goods, if there were a chance that the shopkeeper, instead of sending that bale of goods home, should sell it to some other customer? Will sums of money be invested in an uncertainty? Will a market so constituted thrive? Take Yarmouth as a specimen of such a market. We have had the picture well laid before us by the late Committee sitting on the Yarmouth Election. We saw there candidates, or their agents, at a table, with bowls full of sovereigns before them; voters, walking in at one door, and being helped from those golden reservoirs, walking out by another door, having sold their votes; and they voted, doubtlessly, for value received. Now, with the unblushing, cool, profligacy of Yarmouth electors so conspicuous, would any candidate in his senses trust a Yarmouth voter's word? Or if the ballot-box were in vogue, would any speculator negotiate with such a character for his vote, when there would be no certainty of knowing how the fellow voted; whether he voted at all, whether he voted for you, his first purchaser, or, allured by more money, voted for your opponent? I hardly think the Duke of Richmond would carry on his monetary operations in such a market; or that the colossal dealer in contraband votes, Mr. Attwood, would consider Harwich, or, Lyme Regis, sufficiently certain for his 1228 speculations. Sir, there are those who assert that small constituencies would be rented by agents, who would, under the system of the ballot, make themselves answerable for the return of the Member. My reply is, without admitting or denying the fact, that if it were so, the evil would not exist in large constituencies, especially in counties; and the good achieved in the latter, would compensate for the evil in the former: indeed to make small constituencies worse than they are is scarcely-possible; but, admitting the worst, the attention of the country and the Legislature would soon be attracted to the evil, and representation would in the end be more justly squared to the population. I come now, Sir, to the charge that the ballot does not insure secret voting. If it secure secrecy for clubs, why not for constituencies? Oh! but they say, in America it is well known how men vote. The hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Osborne) gave a complete answer to that weak argument during the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) on the subject of the franchise—namely, that the Americans had no motive for keeping their votes secret; to this I beg to add that as the Americans are not honoured with the law of primogeniture, nor yet blessed with the law of entail, so property is more diffused, and tyranny more scarce there than in England. Man cannot there, as he can here, trample upon the political rights of his fellow-man by dint of wealth and position. The Americans do not need the ballot—they have it; we most grievously require it—we have it not. Next, as to the unmanliness of secret voting, its un-English and cowardly nature. I think a reference to our clubs furnishes a direct answer to this; but the analogy between club practice and borough practice being denied, I crave permission to attempt to show their complete identity. Turn, then, to those splendid mansions—the club-houses of this metropolis. There are assembled valour, learning, birth, and wealth,—one and all seek protection from the ballot-box. Prom what do they seek protection? From ill-will, enmity, strife, nay, bloodshed, the probable results of open voting. Nobody can justly charge the members of those clubs with unmanliness. Those clubs are composed of manly Englishmen. Scores of Members of both Houses of Parliament are members of those clubs. One and all seek protection 1229 from the ballot. From whom do they seek protection? Why, from the bully, and, if I may venture to bring the character on this stage, from the Sir Lucius O'Trigger of society—a man who would consider your refusal to admit him to your society a "very pretty quarrel as; it stands;" but let me ask, since there is a bully in society, is there not a bully in politics, from whom the elector has an equal right to claim protection? An equal right! a much greater right; and why? The bully of society at least meets you on equal terms; if he endangers your life, he imperils his own; he allows you fair play and equal arms. Not so with the bully of politics. He eschews equal arms, and denies you fair play. No risk does he incur, his victim records his vote, and, with it, records his ruin. The political ruffian destroys not life, but the means of life: where is the difference?You take my house, when you do take the prop That doth sustain my house: you take my life When you do take the means whereby I live.If the victim be a tradesman, let him look to the loss of custom and credit; if a tenant, let him expect ejectment; if a servant, let him hope for nothing but dismissal. I accuse you not of unmanliness in seeking the protection of the ballot; but I retort the charge upon you when you deny it to your less powerful neighbour. I next turn to the objection that the ballot-box would destroy the due influence of properly. To meet that objection, with the permission of the House, I must quote the eloquent and convincing words of Mr. Grote, which it seems convenient to the opponents of the ballot to forget:—Gentlemen tell me that the ballot will be fatal to what they call the legitimate influence of property. Now, Sir, I deny this assertion point blank, in any defensible meaning which the words 'legitimate influence' can be made to bear—in any meaning of the words, which a patriot or a freeman can acknowledge. I assert fearlessly, that under a system of secret voting, the legitimate influence of property will be preserved unimpaired; nay, more, that it will be even exalted beyond what it is at present. There is only one species of influence which the ballot will withdraw from a rich man: it will take away the power of rewarding or punishing electors according to the manner in which they vote. Now, Sir, I would ask, and I hope the question will be plainly answered, whether it be really this power of rewarding or punishing electors which Gentlemen mean when they talk of the legitimate influence of property? Does the House intend to recognise in any one citizen of this community, Peer, or Commoner, titled, or untitled, a legitimate authority to reward or punish electors for their 1230 votes? If we do, Sir, the sooner in all consistency we repeal our statutes against bribery, the better; the sooner we drop the farce of affecting to condemn intimidation, the better. For what is this privilege of giving to an elector a reward for his vote, in plain unvarnished English, except bribing him? and what is the privilege of punishing him for his vote, except a license of intimidation? But I, Sir, deny the position entirely. I maintain that this influence which arises from the power of rewarding or punishing voters, is repudiated both by the law and the constitution. I maintain that a man is no more warranted in employing his legal powers as a landlord for the purpose of reducing or coercing his tenants' votes, than in employing his funded property to distribute among them bribes in hard cash. It is the ancient doctrine of the constitution that elections ought to be perfectly free; and the ballot can have no other effect than that of realising this strictly constitutional end.Now, Sir, there are very few hon. Members either in this House or on the hustings who dare assert that those gifted with wealth and station have a right to dictate to a freeborn man how he shall discharge a solemn duty dependent on his conscience, a duty which he owes to God and his country. Many believe in such a monstrous right—many vote against the ballot to preserve that assumed right; but few have the audacity to avow so unconstitutional a sentiment, and yet, as I shall presently prove, honesty in a few instances has been superior to policy, and the avowal has been made. Sir, one of the fashionable shifts or evasions, for I cannot call them arguments, used by the opponents of the ballot is, that the statements made from time to time as to the deplorable demoralisation caused by the present electoral system, are exaggerated. Sir, I will defy any hon. Member to come to such a conclusion who has read the evidence taken before the Committee which sat in 1835, for the pur-pose of inquiring into the state of bribery, intimidation, and corruption among the constituencies of the country. That Committee did its work admirably, and let in light and knowledge to all those who do not prefer darkness, and desire to maintain a wilful ignorance. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith), professed to be sceptical as to the extent of the evil in 1842; and that we may not have a repetition of this evasive mode of meeting the question, I shall beg to quote, shortly, from a very clever breviate of the evidence taken in 1835, and I shall endeavour to show by certain instances that the horrible 1231 state of demoralisation proved to have existed in 1835 still exists and flourishes in 1848. All the measures you have up to the present time adopted are mere palliatives, not a radical cure for the evil. I complain that all your legislation on this subject has been addressed to the punishment of discovered bribery, not to the prevention of bribery nor to the eradication of its secret influence; and in support of this opinion, the first evidence I shall quote is, that of Alexander Edmund Cockburn. I need scarcely add, that the brilliant forensic talents of the hon. and learned Gentleman have since worthily ushered him to a seat in this House. Well, Sir, what says Mr. Cockburn in 1835? He stated then, as the result of his experience, that the public and the Legislature had no idea of the extent to which bribery at elections was carried. Being asked, whether the great difficulty in detecting bribery did not arise from the present state of the law of evidence; his reply was this—and it is a reply to all your attempts at legislation—I can conceive no case except a case of actual infatuation, in which, if bribery be tolerably well managed, conviction would be possible.Of course not, you have made the law vexatiously particular in the wrong direction; but you will find your only remedy for the evil in the uncertainty of the market which the ballot alone can achieve. I am assured that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southampton will, if present this evening, confirm the evidence which he gave thirteen years ago. The next evidence which I shall quote, is that of a number of most respectable witnesses, relative to the borough of Westminster. They all unite in their testimony, to this effect, that in the borough of Westminster great influence is not only exercised by the Government offices, but that individuals of rank and wealth exert their power in a despotic manner; and the evidence goes to show that fear and motives of self-interest operate even more influentially on the class of tradesmen who would be inaccessible to direct bribery, than upon a class of more humble and more venal voters. It is virtually a question of life and death to the voter and his family; and the superior class of tradesmen in Westminster are more liable to such influence than those of an inferior grade. A very considerable number did not vote at the election in 1835, while many more purposely avoided being on the register; the number of votes registered was 13,000, and of those only 4,500 voted. 1232 Such was the statement of witnesses whose evidence is past suspicion. Now, in 1837, in proportion to the register, still fewer men went to the poll; and, in 1841, Westminster was the scene of a remarkable contest. The House will remember that the general election in that year was one of great political excitement; and in Westminster immense exertions were made, particularly by the aristocracy, to return Captain Rous in support of Sir Robert Peel, at that time the leader of the protection party. The ladies on that occasion took a very conspicuous part; they turned out and worked harder than paid canvassers. I beg to give the House a specimen of their modus operandi. Two cases I will quote, being enabled to vouch for the accuracy of both, and selecting them from fifty others of the same description. On the day before the election, a tradesman living in the vincinity of the west end squares, had six carriages stop at his door, each, as he described it, with a coronet on the panels, from which descended parties of ladies, not to buy his goods, but to traffic with his conscience. They all canvassed him warmly for Captain Rous; there was no species of threat nor cajolery they did not employ to worry the man out of his vote. He had always voted for a Liberal: if he did so now they threatened him with loss of custom; they enumerated the strength and power of their family connexions, and alternately held out the advantage of their custom, and the disadvantage of its loss. Vote against his conscience, he would not; but they bullied him into a resolution of not voting at all. Did his neutrality save him? Far from it. I have the man's word, that four out of the six families represented by those lofty dames, entirely withdrew their custom; and he very justly estimates his loss at about 60l. per an-num. Further, I have seen the man's hooks, and they fully bear out his statement. The other instance is that of a publican; and he required protection both from aristocracy and democracy. This man was canvassed by a lady of rank, who called in her carriage at his door and sent for him; the astonished Boniface made his appearance, when the following colloquy took place:—I believe you serve my family with beer, and my servants are in the habit of using your house?The man assented.Now, you shall no longer serve me; and I 1233 will discharge any servant who shall enter your house, unless you vote for Captain Rous.The man pleaded his politics, which were liberal.Very well, you will make your choice; but if you vote for Captain Rous, I will procure for your son a place in the Custom-house.Whether by the threat or by the promise, or by a consideration of both, the man was won, and he voted for Captain Rous. So much for aristocratic tyranny; and now for the tyranny of democracy. It so happened that some dozen of stout political tailors held their Saturday night's orgies at this publican's house—tailors of the true Cuffey breed—tremendous fellows, all, to a man, for General Evans. One of these sons of the thimble went early to the poll, and there he detected the publican recording his vote for Captain Rous. On the Saturday following, they met as usual at their house of call; but it was to summon the delinquent landlord before them. They abused him in good set terms; told him he was a renegade; not only a publican, but a sinner—paid their reckoning, and marched out of his house, in the stern resolve never to enter it again, and promising to denounce him to the whole of their trade. Surely, surely, this man needed the ballot! Now, Sir, it seems to me that these are cases to point a moral, if not to adorn a tale. They prove the insufficiency of worldly wisdom. A few short months after this tyranny and oppression, this wear and tear of conscience, undertaken for the cause of protection, as it is called, Captain Rous turned short round—divorced himself from the cause of his fair supporters, and espoused that of free trade, following the steps of his great political chief. Well might these ladies exclaim with Burke, "What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!" Such was Westminster in 1841. In 1847, I can particularly speak to the state of the same borough; for it so chanced that I was chairman of a committee assembled in the west end of the town, to assist the election of the noble Lord the Member for London, and the other Liberal candidates for that city. In canvassing Westminster for the London votes, this same unvarying feature presented itself—the numbers of men who refused to vote, and the numbers who had refused to qualify to vote; and the reason continually assigned was, that they had suffered from voting according to their consciences—had grown wiser—and, having eschewed that error, would vote no 1234 more. "Give us the protection of the ballot," said they, "and we will vote readily enough; but we cannot run the chance of having our prospects blighted by asserting our political opinions." In describing the state of the franchise in Westminster, I am describing the state of all other important boroughs in England, modified according to their extent and wealth, as proved before the Committee; and without troubling the House at any great length, I assure those who are not acquainted with the evidence that such is the fact. Ipswich, Exeter, Leicester, Marylebone, Denbigh, Ripon, Bristol, and Birmingham, figured conspicuously before that Committee. In speaking of the latter city, the evidence of a Mr. Phillips was remarkable, not to say eccentric. Mr. Phillips reprobated strongly the intimidation exercised by the political unions in Birmingham, and attributed the loss of Mr. Spooner's election, in 1835, to that unconstitutional practice. Being asked whether he would not desire the protection of the ballot, he replied he was too good a Tory for that. In Ireland, which seems a land where every evil is exaggerated, corruption of all kinds appears to have flourished exceedingly. There were two magistrates of Tipperary, Messrs. Fitzgerald and Wilcox, who gave very extraordinary evidence. These gentlemen strongly reprobated the intimidation practised by the priests, while they applauded and defended intimidation by the landlords. Mr. Wilcox instanced his opinion in the following manner:—I have a tenant living under me, and I am kind to him; I do every thing I can for his benefit, and the benefit of his family. I wish the honour of being a Member of Parliament—that man refuses to gratify me; and then, I think, all ties are severed between us.And again he says—I think it is the legitimate right of the landlord to have the vote of his tenant.I have said that, occasionally, honesty, as regards the real sentiments of men, appeared to be stronger than policy—the above is a strong instance of it. But Colonel Bruen came out still stronger, as regards Carlow, and roundly asserted the right of the landlords to keep and discharge servants, or eject tenants, for not voting according to their wishes, mentioning instances in which he had himself exercised that power for the punishment of the refractory. As regards Carlow, a clergyman gave this evidence:— 1235I have often said it, and I hare heard other clergymen declare, that the electors have reason to curse the day when they were invested by a reformed Legislature with the dangerous privilege of voting in Irish counties for Members to serve in Parliament. I could give instances of farmers who are now, in consequence of their votes, reduced to the condition of day labourers, and some of them are beggars.Being asked if the majority of the people would be happy to be deprived of their franchise, he replied—No; but I say the Legislature which invested them with the right, ought to grant them protection in its exercise, and that is what they desire.Well, Sir, in 1837, the Election Committees showed no improvement in Ireland. In 1841 we found that landlords and priests vied with each other in the work of intimidation. In 1847, priestly intimidation waxed even bolder, and, crossing the Irish Channel, took its stand in our Committee-rooms. There was a strong instance of this in the Kinsale Committee-rooms, where such was the effect produced on one of the witnesses, a woman, one Bridget Keeley, by the dark and ominous glances of one Father Murphy, that the Committee took strong notice of it, and desired the counsel to keep him out of the room. Well, then, Sir, I have endeavoured to show that the state of things in 1835 has descended to 1848, and that the charge of exaggeration is but a "weak invention of the enemy;" and this brings me to the last and gravest accusation insisted upon, and recorded against the ballot, namely, that it is productive of lying, deceit, and immorality. In 1842, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Vernon Smith) said, that the "ballot" would convert "the habits of the electoral class into one continued lie." Before I say one word in refutation of such a charge, I am fairly entitled to inquire into the system by which the right hon. Gentleman would abide; and it is fairly open to me to draw the inference that from the horror he expresses of falsehood, the present system of open voting must afford a brilliant example of truth. Why, Sir, I will prove that the present electoral system is one vast be composed of a ramification of deceit and delusion. The epithet proper to that system is the coarse but expressive word "hum-bug." We begin with it in this House. Our Sessional order in reference to the interference of Peers at elections, is a glorious specimen of humbug, and an 1236 example to candidates and electors as to the course they should pursue. Why, Sir, when we put forth that Pharisaical piece of virtue denouncing the interference of Peers, we all know that an immense majority in this House is returned by the direct intervention of Peers. We know that in boroughs candidates openly canvass Peers for their interest and assistance; and as to counties nobody thinks of canvassing the tenantry of a great hereditary estate unless through the noble owner. In the boroughs the Peer deals with the conscience of the tradesman a là Stamford. In counties a mere visionary must he be, who dreams of the political conscience of a tenant at will. Don't tell me of exaggeration until you have falsified the evidence taken before the Committee in 1835, backed as it is by a long train of Election Committees since. Well, but if we really are so virtuous in this House, as we solemnly assert we are, and if we really are shocked at the interference of Peers, why do we not summon one Mr. Dodd to the bar of this House for flatly contradicting us, and bringing us into contempt? Mr. Dodd was quoted the other day by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex (Mr. Osborne); now I beg to give you a specimen of Mr. Dodd. He begins with the Peer-ridden boroughs, and introduces them to our notice in a tabular and alphabetical form: thus under the letter A, he commences with Arundel, and states, it is under the influence of the Duke of Norfolk, and so on—then B, Buckingham, the Duke of Buckingham, and so on—then C, Calne, the Marquess of Lansdowne, and so on. Well, Sir, the upshot is, that a perusal of Mr. Dodd shows that there are sixty-two boroughs in England and Wales, containing 43,199 electors, returning ninety-eight Members, all under influence of some kind or another. Of these Members there are fifty-seven returned under the direct influence of the aristocracy, five under the influence of the Government of the day. Of these sixty-two boroughs, thirty were contested in 1837; and at the next election in 1841—one of infinitely greater political excitement—only twenty-nine were contested. In 1847, only twenty-one were contested. In all, there are forty-nine Peers, and eighteen wealthy Commoners, influencing the above returns; and the gradual decrease of contests is an index to show the futility of any independent candidate presenting himself in the face of intimidation and ex- 1237 penditure until you protect the franchise with the ballot. Well, Sir, with this before our eyes, what a farce—what a solemn mockery—what an insult to the country and common sense—is our Sessional order against the interference of Peers—an order by which we, to all intents and purposes, damn our character for sincerity, and set an example to those who return us of hypocrisy and deceit; and admirably do candidates follow our example. The candidate commences his canvass by soliciting votes (having first secured his forbidden Peer), as from free and independent electors, men whom he knows to be no better than more slaves, and to compel whom to vote, he and his agents have used every costly seduction, and put every screw in force known in electioneering tactics; and when this candidate has purchased and screwed himself into a seat, he gravely turns to the bought and bullied electors, and thanks them for their free and unbiassed suffrages, by obtaining which, he assures them, he has become the proudest man in England; and when this proud man takes his seat in the House of Commons, he is sure to enact the British hon. he will oppose the ballot, and tell you that his opposition to it is founded on his love of truth, and hatred of deceit! So much for the truthfulness of your present electoral system! Well, then, Sir, one word for the want of truth charged against the ballot; and here, Sir, it would be presumptuous in me to offer one word; for if Mr. Grote's triumphant vindication of the superior truthfulness of the system of secret voting has fallen upon deaf ears, how can I hope to awaken hearing and comprehension? At all events you shall hear Mr. Grote:—The ballot, we are told, will lead to false promises and false declarations on the part of voters. How or why should it produce this effect? Does it command any voter to break his promise? Does it hold out any inducement or reward for breaking his promise? No nothing of the kind—it merely enjoins him to perform the act of voting without a witness, and thus indirectly enables him to vote either according or contrary to any previous promise, without being found out, if he be inclined to do so. Certainly the same may be said of every private and solitary act of every man's life. But why are hon. Gentlemen so very much afraid lest electors who vote by ballot should break their promises the moment they are enabled to do so with impunity? Sir, it is but too well known that the promise given by a voter is in a thousand eases extorted and compulsory—it is a promise neither consonant to his own free will nor dictated by his own conviction—a promise which he would never 1238 have made—except to one who took an ungenerous advantage of him, and who possessed the power of inflicting a penalty upon him in case of refusal. We are told by Milton, that 'ease will retract vows made in pain as violent and void.' But wherever the vow has not been made in pain, wherever ease has made the vow—ease will keep it also. This, Sir, is the whole amount of the mischief of promise-breaking; and I entreat the attention of the House to it, that none but compulsory promises are in danger of being broken, when votes are given secretly. Let me now put the question—what mischief would ensue if these compulsory promises should come to be broken? A voter ought not to make such a promise if it be at variance with his own conscience. Granted—but assuming that he has been guilty of the weakness of giving such a promise, are we to arrange our system of voting for the express purpose of compelling him to keep it? To do this would be nothing less than seeking to deprive the voter, by our own act, of the means of faithfully discharging his duty to his country—a duty prior to all engagements with third parties—a duty implied in the very possession and exercise of the franchise. Why, Sir, when the choice lies, as it does in this ease between breaking a wrongful promise, and violating the duty which the elector owes to his country, can there be a moment's hesitation which of the two we ought to enforce, and which we ought to condemn? We, who sit in this House, as the chosen guardians of public rights and franchises, we who derive our sole title to confidence and authority from assumed purity of election!—The intimidator begins by compelling a voter to promise, and are we then really to say, 'Because you have compelled the man to promise against his will, therefore you have acquired a good title to compel him to vote?' Sir, I say, that this would be no less monstrous in principle than inconsistent with our own professions; it would be to guarantee the last stage of tyranny, out of respect to the first. Depend upon it, Sir, if you wish to put down intimidation, you must hold a very different language towards the intimidator; you must show him plainly, that whatever be his power of extorting promises, he will not be allowed to retain the smallest power of extorting votes, and you will then prevent these compulsory promises from ever being demanded, when you show that they afford no security for performance. The evil of intimidation, the evil of mendacity, and the evil of promise-breaking, will all disappear at the same time, and before one and the simple remedy—a free, a secret vote.Now, Sir, although it is impossible to add to Mr. Grote's argument, I may venture to offer the House an illustration of it, by quoting a case which fell under my own observation. In the election of 1841, a severe contest took place in the city of Bristol, and party ran high. I had canvassed a populous parish in company with a party of gentlemen, most of them well experienced in election tactics. I was assured that every care had been taken to sift the promises of support made to me, before an estimate of our probable numbers at the poll was made. As we were quitting the ground, we met a party of our 1239 opponents, and no acrimonious feeling existing, I fairly, in reply to their questions, told them the successful result of the day's work. To this they good-humouredly re-plied, "Ay, but we shall alter the best part of a hundred of your promises before the night is over." These promises the House will bear in mind, were voluntary, not compulsory; they were not "vows made in pain;" and I was curious to know how many of these promises had been made "void." After the election I inquired as to the fact, and I found that, true enough, about sixty of my promises had been changed. My friends calculated (but for the correctness of that calculation of course I do not vouch) that about twenty votes had been bought, and forty intimidated. Now, if there must be a lie in the case, I ask to whom is it best that such be should be addressed? To the tyrannic intimidator, the base suborner, or to the fair and constitutional candidate to whom promises orginally were volunteered? Now, I contend, that the ballot in this case would be a complete remedy for the evil. Sir, as regards the immorality of the ballot, I need scarcely dwell on that charge, for it seems to me to be merged in the question of truth, and that I have attempted to deal with; but this much, with submission to the House, I will say, that although I have refrained from tracing the ballot to its existence among the Pagan nations, not having referred to the use of the "Tabella" among the Romans, nor to the secret voting of the Athenians, yet I may remark that the first election that ever took place under the Christian dispensation was an election by way of ballot, on the most impressive and awful occasion. The House will remember, that between the time of the death and ascension of Christ, a vacancy occurred in the number of the holy Apostles by the self-immolation of Judas Iscariot. On that occasion, about one hundred and twenty of the disciples of Christ met in solemn convocation to elect an Apostle. Barsabas and Matthias were the candidates, and Matthias was elected by a plurality of votes. Now, although I am far from attempting to deduce from this fact that the ballot was adopted by Divine command, yet I have a right to assert that the election I have referred to, took place under the warrant and seal of inspiration. At all events, I think on these orthodox grounds I have a right to challenge the vote the right hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford 1240 (Sir Robert Inglis); and whether he vote for the Motion or not, he will hardly dispute the morality of a mode of election so instituted. Sir, I shall trespass upon the indulgence of the House but little farther. I fear I must look for the opposition of the noble Lord the Member for London; but I trust that as the measure has hitherto had the support of many Members of the present Government, so it may still be deemed an open question; and I would pray the noble Lord to reflect that education, of which he is the consistent advocate, is most dangerous in a community where there are grievances to redress. It seems to me that the improvement of the political and social condition of mankind must go hand in hand, or education alone will only cause men more severely to feel their political degradation. For myself I have the strongest feeling of respect for the noble Lord, and perfectly agree with him that reform in this country, to be safe and constitutional, must be gradual. I feel deep gratitude to the noble Lord for the advances made in civil and religious liberty under his auspices; but if there be any one subject calculated to interpose between the grateful feeling of the people and the noble Lord, and to make them oblivious of his meritorious services, it is, in this progressive age, that he should attempt to apply to the Reform Bill the hateful doctrine of finality. I believe the noble Lord has disclaimed that doctrine; but it is industriously circulated that he has not. The assumption of finality for any measure, is an assertion of its perfection; and the assertion of perfection for any sublunary measure whatever, savours of arrogance and presumption. I beg distinctly to be understood that, in laying this proposition before the House, I have in no way been induced to do so from any agitation on the subject. I am aware that the persons calling themselves Chartists, consider the ballot one of the points of their Charter. I consider the ballot disgraced by their advocacy, because I have ever found them the propagandists of violence, the enemies of reason, and the opponents of all reform but that included in their own peculiar project; at the same time I am far from asserting that there are not conscientious persons to be found amongst them. Sir, I have laid this important question before the House from the respect I entertain for the trading and industrial classes of this country, whose welfare is deeply concerned in it, and who suffer severely from the pre- 1241 sent electoral system. Will the House hesitate to take off the chains which fetter those men who have lately gone through such an ordeal? and who in the hour of need, with convulsion abroad, and sedition at home, have proved by their loyal and patriotic conduct, their deep devotion to their country—winning for their order immortal honour, and shedding fresh lustre on the land of their birth? I am not asking you to create new constituents, but I implore you to do justice to those who have sent you here. Seek no longer to oppress them—seek no longer to be their taskmaster—allow them that liberty of conscience and action which in your own instance you prize beyond life; and as the best safeguard of the Throne is to be found in the affections of the people, so will the best security for the institutions of your country be found in those bonds of gratitude which you will weave round the hearts of your fellow-countrymen by this one gracious act. I trust, Sir, then, that this House will pass the Resolution which I now move—That it is expedient in the Elections for Members to serve in Parliament, that the votes of the Electors be taken by way of Ballot.
seconded the Motion. He said, it gave him great pleasure to follow the hon. Mover, because it removed from their side of the question the charge of being men acting in defiance of the unity which was so desirable for the country. They presented themselves as the organs of no insulated party; they felt they were inarching under their proper officers, and rejoiced in the union with those who had ancestral connexions and territorial rights to pledge, as security for not engaging in anything prejudicial to the safety of society. He would take the counsel of the hon. Mover, and not go into the windings of the question. He would attach himself to one argument which had been advanced from high authority now before them; because it fell in with the experience of his life. It had been stated in opposition to the ballot, that the exercise of the franchise was a duty. With that, he and his friends would entirely close. There was no doubt of its being both a duty and a trust; but what was the inference from this in other cases? Both the hon. Mover and himself well knew, that voting as a member of a court-martial was both a duty and a trust, and therefore—he wanted an answer to that therefore—therefore it was enacted that an officer 1242 should take an oath not to disclose the vote or opinion of any member of the court; and in the case of a medical officer, in certain cases the obligation was specifically extended to not disclosing his own. The private soldier, then, if he happened to become a voter in his native borough, was to say, "Here were my officers took care to be sheltered from any ill consequences from acting honestly, while I am to be exposed to the malevolence of any powerful man who may be disposed to injure me." The great secret for making the numerous classes follow their leaders, is to impress them with a belief in the justice and open-handed fairness of those they are to follow; and either officer or civilian who breaks this rule will end by discovering the consequence. Happily at this moment there is no wide-spread quarrel between the people and their Government. It was from this reason that the celebrated 10th of April went over as it did; and in a later instance, an attempted rebellion has passed away like a morning fog, leaving no feeling in the country so strong as the hope that England would not be placed behind France in the exhibition of moderation after resistance was at an end. There is in truth no dissatisfaction with the organic forms of our Government. The monarchical principle is not objected to; on the contrary, modern events have afforded many proofs that we were better as we are. There is no jealousy of the hereditary aristocracy; on the contrary, if they would only lead the people the right way, the people would follow them in preference. He would only urge one more point. He should like to know how much any ordinary man, as for instance any ordinary Member of that House, was to gain in the aggregate by the continuance of the intimidation desired to be prevented. There might be extraordinary men who would say, I cannot afford to see my neighbour's intimidation put down, at the expense of giving up my own. But these must be rare cases; and in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred, the balance of intimidation was a thing not worth fighting for. With these views he would earnestly second the Motion.
§ MR. W. FAGAN
vindicated his reverend friend Dr. Murphy from the animadversions passed upon his conduct by the hon. Mover in this question. He could say that considerable exaggeration had existed as to the transactions previous to Kinsale election; and the reverend Doctor had never 1243 practised any intimidation whatever to induce the voters to vote for Mr. Watson; on the contrary, he had never spoken to them regarding the election but he earnestly took the opportunity of impressing upon them the solemn duty of avoiding all bribery and corruption.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
begged to offer his humble tribute of applause for the ingenuity displayed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Berkeley) in support of his argument; but he must say at the same time that he could not depart from those great constitutional principles which had recommended to their ancestors the principle of open voting. He thought, with Grattan, that national justice could only be administered through the power of public opinion. A trust which should be exercised for the benefit of the whole community should be exercised under responsibility, and subject to the safeguard which publicity offered. Look to France for an example of the consequences of secret voting. Did that mode of voting afford a safeguard against corruption? It was not tyranny which led to the recent revolution in that country—it was the progress of corruption; and he would maintain that under the principle of open voting, the power of corruption would have been checked, owing to the appeal which could have been made to the more generous sentiments of human nature. For himself, he must say, that no man could detest more heartily than he did that system of intimidation which the hon. Gentleman had most properly held up to public reprobation; and he would assert that those persons who were guilty of such practices were the worst enemies of open voting. But although there might be some persons who acted upon such utterly unconstitutional and reprehensible principles, yet he trusted he might say that the great majority of Englishmen were not open to the accusation. As to the intimidation of tradesmen, he had reason to believe that the man who openly and steadily, and without bitterness, adhered to his opinion, seldom or ever lost a customer. He believed that persons who had displayed bitterness in upholding their opinions had suffered; but as regarded the borough (Carlisle) which he had the honour to represent, those tradesmen who openly and steadily supported their opinions were respected, and ultimately lost no customers. The hon. Gentleman concluded by expressing his opinion, that if the number of the electors 1244 was increased in the smaller boroughs, less temptation would exist to candidates to resort to unconstitutional practices. He trusted that nothing would induce the House to graft such an exotic as the ballot on the old stem of the English constitution.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
was perfectly in-different as to what might be the opinion of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) on this question, whether it was for or against the ballot. He was resolved to give a vote neither one way or the other. He had never advocated the ballot, and he hoped he never should have occasion to ask for any vote to be given to him in secrecy.
§ LORD D. STUART
could bear testimony to the accuracy of the statements made by the hon. Mover as to the intimidation used in the metropolis. He had always felt, however, some apprehension that the ballot might not operate so efficaciously as its greatest admirers seemed to think. He was afraid that the ingenious devices of those who were determined to be corrupt, would he such as to evade the operation of the ballot. But when they knew how great an amount of intimidation existed, surely it was their duty to endeavour to devise some measure by which the voter might be protected.
§ MR. URQUHART
said, that recent experience of public measures, and the character of public men, had tested the real value of past reform. If they were to go on pottering and tinkering with our institutions, raising hopes of change without effecting any practical good, but doing much harm by exciting an incessant alarm of change, the result would be that the English constitution would become a caput mortuum. With a reformed House of Commons, so called, they were neglecting the real business which it was the duty of the House to perform—the control of public men, and the reduction of needless public expenditure. The arguments he had heard for the ballot only established a conclusion which he had long ago entertained, that the House of Commons was very corrupt. The hon. Mover had adduced an argument for his scheme from the form of election adopted to fill up the place of the apostate Apostle; but that mode of election had merely been used because it was the custom of the Greek State of Judea; but the suffrage of the Greeks was not the suffrage of Englishmen, and it was not by such arguments that the opinions and prac- 1245 tice of the people of this country could be regulated. He did not shrink from saying that he was so far behindhand as to adhere to the old opinion that the ballot was an un-English custom. Argumeuts in favour of the ballot had been drawn from social practices prevailing in this country, and reference had been made to the mode of election at the Carlton and other clubs. But it was strange that a Gentleman so well-informed as the hon. Member for the West Riding should not be aware that the practice of the ballot was fast going out in those very places, and that in the Carlton it had been quite put aside. Did not the hon. Gentleman know, that in all the clubs where the ballot had been introduced, experience had shown that it could not go on; and that the fact was that some ten or twelve gentlemen banded together did as they liked, and ruled the whole club? And was there not the experience of America to warn us, where, so far from purity of election being the result of the ballot, the reverse was the fact? The hon. Member concluded by exhorting the House not to be led away, in the face of such experience as they possessed, by vague theories of reform.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I think, Sir, it is due to the hon. Gentleman who has made this Motion, and supported it, I must add, with arguments of great ability and ingenuity, before I give my vote contrary to that Motion, to state some of the grounds which induce me to take that course. I can hardly, however, pretend to advance any novelty, because it has been my fate to speak upon this subject before. I will, however, say, and I consider that I am supported in this view by the illustration advanced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Motion, that this is a proposal to make the exercise of the right of voting an act in direct contradiction to the usual policy and principles which govern this our Government and constitution. That hon. and gallant Gentleman remarked that, in the case of courts-martial, the members of the tribunal take an oath not to reveal the opinions and votes which they among themselves may give. It has, no doubt, been thought requisite for the due management of courts-martial, and for the preservation of military discipline, to introduce that rule in the proceedings of those courts. But it is a special rule, affecting those military bodies only, and is at variance with that general rule which governs our institutions; and it 1246 was introduced, as I imagine, for purposes special to the discipline of the Army and Navy of this country. I do not deny that such a provision may be right, and may be necessary for the purpose of maintaining military discipline—for the purpose of insuring military obedience—and for the purpose of insuring a due subordination to military authority. But what I say is this—I do not stand here for the purpose of introducing into the general practice of our constitution those special rules which are necessary for purposes of military discipline and subordination, but which are not necessary to preserve the open and free spirit of English institutions. And looking, therefore, to the example of that open and free spirit, I do not find that there is any instance in our political institutions in which secrecy is made the rule. In the first place, you have trials in our courts of law; and it is thought advisable, nay, it is thought necessary, for the due administration of justice, that your courts of law should be open; the witnesses appear, and they give their testimony in public; the Judge delivers his opinion in public, before the court—before the assembled people—with reporters present to take down everything he says; and if the jury do sometimes deliberate in secret, yet their votes must be publicly known, because their finding must be the unanimous verdict of twelve men. Therefore in courts of justice publicity is the rule. I can understand, indeed, that an argument might be used, running somewhat in this manner; and if you introduce your principle of secrecy into the right of voting, I do not know but such an argument would have its force and effect—that it would be better that juries should not be subject to intimidation in the discharge of their duties; that the Judge, to give full opportunity for deciding justly and impartially, should not become obnoxious to public censure; and that, therefore, trials at law should be secret. That might be an argument fairly used; but it would be an argument, as I conceive, opposed entirely to the genius and spirit of our institutions. Then, when our representatives deliberate in this place, although at one time it was thought that this House ought not to permit the presence of strangers; and although for a long period of years strangers were not admitted, and the deliberations of this House were only partially and imperfectly known; yet, as the spirit of freedom gained ground, and as our institutions became 1247 more popular, it was asserted and insisted upon, and finally obtained, that the deliberations of this and the other House of Parliament should be public. And, again, it was not until comparatively lately known, unless by private memoranda and notes that might be taken by individual Members, what were the votes of particular Members upon the subjects decided upon in this House. But an hon. Friend of mine thought it advisable to propose that the votes of every Member of this House should be known, and, to that end, should be regularly taken down by the officers of the House, and printed with the Votes; and after some struggling my hon. Friend succeeded in his attempt, so that the votes of every man, upon every subject, are now known to the whole country. So, again, in this example, it is an argument that might be used that the proceedings in this House would be more fairly and impartially conducted, and that Members would have a better opportunity of consulting their own consciences and free judgments, if they were not exposed to that public animadversion and that imputation upon motives which are the consequences of their votes being publicly known. But, notwithstanding any such argument, you have decided, and, as I believe, rightly decided, that publicity shall be the rule of your voting, and that it is far better than secrecy; that every man should be able to stand up and defend his vote—that he shall not deny any vote—but that he shall give it publicly and openly according to his opinions. Then I say that what is now proposed is at variance with the governing spirit of our constitution. The popular spirit of our institutions is that all these deeds, that the exercise of every political trust, shall be carried on in the face of the country and in the face of day. But now you say that there shall be an exception, and that that exception shall be with regard to the constituent body of the people. The hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Motion makes no proposal for any alteration in the number of electors; he leaves the state of the representation open to the charge made by the hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Hume), that only one in seven of the adult male population has the right of voting. Therefore the hon. Mover proposes to place in the power of this proportion of the community—this one-seventh of the adult male population—the power of electing Members of Parliament uncontrolled by any knowledge of their 1248 proceedings, by any exercise whatsoever of public opinion; and completely (if the object could he effected, and I will deal with that point afterwards) in secret. So this one-seventh of the adult male population of the kingdom is to be endowed with what the constitution of Venice enjoyed, a secret and despotic power over all the affairs of the realm. Because, be it observed that the electors of this country are ultimate judges with respect to any political changes that may be made, or any political measures that may be adopted. Whatever may be the wishes of the Crown, or whatever may be the opinions of the House of Lords, such are the powers vested in this House, that if the Crown, having no resource but to dissolve Parliament, were to appeal to the great body of electors, and that great body of electors were to send representatives to this House in favour of a particular change, or of a particular measure, there is, so long as the House of Commons retains the whole power of the supplies, and holds the purse of the nation in their hands, no force in the constitution that I am aware of which can resist the will of the electors as expressed by a large and decided majority of those elected by them in Parliament. But if this power be great—if it be in fact the ultimate and supreme power of deciding upon the destinies of this country—so much the more, I think, should you be cautious as to the manner in which that power is exercised; and while you say that everything else shall be open and public—a distinguishing feature of our modern free constitution from any of the institutions of ancient republics—while you say this, so much the more should you be cautious how you make a change by which this supreme and despotic power shall be exercised in secret, without any public opinion to review it, and according to the mere will and caprice of those in whose hands it is vested. In democratic States I can understand that they may say the only thing to be done is to ascertain which is the majority, and if they choose to exercise the power of so doing in secret, then they should have that privilege. But such is not the nature of your present constitution. It is that very circumstance—imputed by the hon. Member for Montrose as a fault to your institutions—that it is only a select body, a portion of the people of this country, who possess the elective franchise, which renders that franchise a trust reposed in them which they are bound to exercise for the benefit of the whole community. 1249 How, then, can that trust be exercised in a manner most conducive to the good of that community? I say it will be exercised best if votes are given publicly—if a man is obliged to give his name, and say openly whether he votes for the one side or the other, and is obliged to stand by his act. At the same time I do not deny that there is great force in some of the objections which have been urged by the hon. Gentleman with great address. He has laid great stress upon the intimidation and corruption which occur under our present mode of voting. There are undoubtedly great defects; but at the same time it would not be for the sake of defects or on account of abuses that I would surrender a great principle—that principle being one, moreover, which I consider an essential and a vital principle in the constitution. The hon. and gallant Member says that, in a certain case at Bristol, he had a great many promises made to him, and that his opponents said they would turn 100 of the votes the other way, and that they did turn 50 of them, some by corruption, and some by intimidation. Well, no doubt that was a very great loss to the hon. and gallant Member, and it was very disgraceful to those who were concerned in the transaction. But the question is whether, supposing, in order to stop those abuses, we are determined to try this new method of voting, and sacrificing all the advantages of the present system, by a certain mechanism, contrived by some ingenious carpenter, who should make a kind of box for voting by ballot, we should thereby secure completely the benefit of purity. I do not believe that practically you would obtain that object. I believe that, by some means or other, persons would be able to turn the votes of electors, and the hon. and gallant Member would still find that those who had promised him their votes would vote against him. I do not think it follows, as is argued by the advocates of the ballot, that those men who had received a certain sum of money, and who had for that money promised their votes to somebody, would, under the system of the ballot, vote against the person from whom they had received, or expected to receive, that sum of money. I believe, as, according to the old proverb, "There is honour amongst thieves," that the same principle of honour holds amongst men who are bribed, and that if they have received 5l. or 10l. to vote a certain way, they will behave handsomely, as they term it, and 1250 will vote for that party. But, generally, my belief is, that there is no contrivance or ingenious method of taking votes by which you can change the habits of the people. This is not a theory, I believe it is a fact. I do not believe that a man who has been corrupted would say, "I am a blue," or "I am a yellow," or any other colour which is the symbol of party, or "I am a Whig" or "a strong Tory," and thus endeavour to deceive every body, to keep the favour of his landlord or his customer, and then change at the moment of voting, and give his vote in direct contradiction. I do not think that this is the English character, and that is the meaning of those persons who say that the vote by ballot is un-English." I do not think that it is part of the English character, in the midst of the excitement of an election, and the talk of the market-place—I do not think it is the English character, in the midst of all this, for a man to profess what he docs not feel, and, after making declarations of the course he intended to pursue, to vote in direct contradiction to it; and I believe that if persons took the pains to find out the vote which was given, it would always be discovered, and never could be disguised; and, therefore, there would he always some kind of intimidation, or some kind of influence, used at elections; so that I believe, that whilst you would sacrifice a good principle, by resorting to secrecy, you would not obtain the object you sought; that in spite of all this concealment and all this ambiguity, there would be some means found of attaining the same result; that there would be the same influence, the same corruption, and the same intimidation, as at present. I know that it was the opinion of Lord Spencer (who voted for the ballot, believing that, if the people wished for the ballot, they ought to have it), that the result of elections under the ballot would be the same as now. But if the result would be the same, surely this is no sufficient ground for adopting such a change in our institutions. But I think that those who advise the adoption of the ballot as a judicious change in our institutions, ought to show us some instance in some other country in which the ballot has been in use, and has proved beneficial; they ought to adduce some kind of example and precedent to guide us. Now, I am not aware of any such example in ancient history, nor any writer of good atuhority, in favour of the ballot. It is unnecessary, and would be 1251 pedantic, to cite passages, and none could be cited which has not been referred to in previous discussions. The representative system of Venice has been cited as an example; but there was a series of elections in which the choice was by ballot—five or six different elections—a body choosing 45, and 45 choosing 9, and 9 choosing 15, so that nobody should know how his vote could bear upon the ultimate election. But this was a case of extreme secrecy, and of an extreme aristocratic despotism. In the case of France, the example of the ballot is not calculated to encourage any one to adopt that system of voting. There is, again, the example of the ballot combined with universal suffrage in the United States of America; but no one who under-stands the effect of this mode of voting in the United States of America, can have any doubt that it is attended with corruption, and influence, and treating, and a most disgraceful system of combination, which places power in the hands of a few persons. I have heard of a little set of seven men controlling the votes of 40,000 or 50,000 persons; and I am aware of nothing in the example of the United States of America which should induce me to think that we should make a good change by adopting their system. An hon. Gentleman behind me referred one day to the practice of the clubs of London, and charitable and other institutions, and he referred particularly to the Carlton Club. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last has denied that the ballot is practised in the Carlton Club. But whatever the fact may be, I hold that the two examples of choosing representatives and electing members of clubs are entirely different. In a club, consisting of 200 or 300 persons, when a member is elected, the question is not whether he shall be the sole representative of the club, or whether he or another shall represent the club; but whether he be a companion with whom the club would like to associate, and with whose conversation they would be likely to be pleased; and whether or not, for these reasons, he should be chosen a member of the club. Now, in the first place, it is not a very great distinction to be chosen as one of such a society of 300 or 400 persons; and, on the other hand, it is not very agreeable to the feelings of gentlemen to vote openly on such an occasion as that against an individual, and to say they do not choose to associate with him. But the case of an election of a Member of Parliament is an 1252 entirely different case. In that case, every voter is to choose between two persons of one side of political principles, and two on the other—I assume that there are four candidates—the question is not, as in the other case, whether the voter would like to associate with them as joint members of a club, but whether they are proper persons to represent his political opinions in Parliament. It is a thing very well understood, that a voter at an election will say to a candidate who canvasses him, "You are a person for whom I have a great respect, but I have promised my vote to your opponent; you and I have always been on the best terms together, and I have no personal acquaintance with your opponent; but I know his political opinions, and they are mine, whilst yours are the reverse of mine; he will represent my sentiments on political subjects, and therefore I will give him my vote, and not you." No man would take offence at this; and therefore it is not like the case of a member of a club; it is a matter of public duty and public trust to be exercised in the great councils of the country. I hold that the cases are not at all parallel. The hon. and gallant Member has told us of an example of a sacred kind in the choice of an Apostle. I need only refer to this example in order to observe that I believe it was not a question in which a choice was made by a majority and a minority, but of two persons one was chosen by lot as being a mode of interpreting the will of Heaven. Upon the whole subject I differ from the hon. Gentleman in his proposition. His proposition is not to move for leave to bring in a Bill, and to go through the various stages of the Bill, and to establish by law a new mode of voting for Members of Parliament, but that a resolution should be passed saying that such a change is expedient. But the change can only be made by a law assented to by Parliament; and I think, therefore, that it is very inexpedient to pass such a resolution, introducing a particular mode of voting, whilst at the same time the hon. Member has not proposed any Bill, which should pass through its various stages, by which such a change is to be effected. That change must be effected by a Bill, which would have to be discussed upon its second reading, when the House would decide whether they would agree to the change. The hon. Gentleman's proposal to enter upon the journals a resolution that it is expedient that the voting for the election of Members of Par- 1253 liament should be by ballot, is not very consistent with the usage of Parliament, and can be attended with no public advantage. If the hon. Member follows his resolution up by a Bill, I should oppose that Bill, considering that the change would be injurious and not advantageous to the community. It would be a change by which we should profess to depart from that openness and publicity which forms a part of our institutions, and to adopt secrecy in the discharge of one of the most important functions of our civil polity. It would, moreover, be a change which would, I think, utterly fail in its effect, for you could not by a mere rule of law make so great a change in the open, manly, and unreserved habits of the people of this country. But I do not think the change would be merely nugatory. I think if you adopt this scheme, and find it fail, discovering that corruption still prevailed, and intimidation was rife, I think it would be said that the change had failed because it had not been accompanied by other changes, and that it would be necessary to adopt other changes as a complement to this. Then it is admitted that the change of voting by ballot would not alone be sufficient. If such is the case, I think it far better that we should have such a proposition as that of the hon. Member for Montrose, and I am not one who finds fault with the mode in which that hon. Member introduced his Motion. The hon. Member for Montrose said, let there be a change in the franchise, and let there be vote by ballot. If such be the understanding, you should have all the changes proposed at once before you. I beg Gentlemen who are about to vote in favour of this Motion to look at the changes which are now avowed; that this change is only with a view of producing other changes; but what those changes are, and what their character—whether household suffrage or universal suffrage—I do not know. Noticing this avowal, I conclude the few observations I have offered to the House by advising the House not to adopt the proposition as it stands, but to vote against it.
§ MR. COBDEN
reminded the noble Lord that when Mr. Hume brought forward his Motion, he was censured for including so many changes in it. The noble Lord now found fault with the ballot because it was calculated to give to one-seventh of the people the power of the Venetian oligarchy; but were those who wished to extend the suffrage beyond the seventh of the population 1254 to be answered by that argument? He viewed the question of the ballot with less interest than he did twelve years ago. Had it been adopted at that time it would have done much to put an end to that corruption in the boroughs and subserviency in the counties which they had now to deplore; but it was now too late to remedy the evil, excepting by an infusion of new blood into the constituency. He believed the ballot was the best mode of taking votes in this or any country; and he should vote for the question by itself as he had done when it was proposed in connexion with others, because he believed a large portion of the electors were favourable to it. The question must be on its last legs when no better answer could be advanced against it than that which they had heard from the noble Lord. The noble Lord began by saying that secret voting was contrary to the open and free constitution of the country. It was true the mode of election was open; but would the noble Lord tell him it was free? The noble Lord had referred to the practice in the courts, and had quoted the case of the jury giving their verdict in open court; but that was an unfortunate analogy, for though the jury must be unanimous when it convicted, it was not necessary that it should be so when it did not, nor were the votes of each juror published. Then, as to the grand jury, which was the first tribunal, that was altogether a secret tribunal. In Scotland, too, when the verdict depended on the majority, there was no publicity of the votes of the jurors. He denied that the judge who tried, or the witnesses who gave evidence, ever incurred obloquy, as the noble Lord had inferred, on account of the judgment and evidence given in a court of law; but no class of voters was free from the obloquy which open voting brought on the electors. Still less was the noble Lord happy in the analogy he had drawn from the proceedings of that House. The Members of that House were sent there to perform, by delegation, certain duties for their constituents, and they were held responsible for their acts; or why were they subject to periodical election? And how were the constituencies to form a judgment upon them if they did not know what they had done? But were the electors responsible to non-electors? If they were, then the non-electors must be competent to judge of the way in which the trust was exercised; and this was an argument for extending the franchise to them. But the 1255 fact was they were responsible not to the non-electors, but to the Marquesses of Exeter and the patrons of the boroughs. The noble Lord appeared to forget the theory of the constitution he lauded so much. The theory was, that every freeman and householder should be entitled to vote. The noble Lord argued that with the ballot we could not maintain our institutions, and then he went on to show that the ballot would effect but little change. Then where was the great objection? It came back to this, that the effect would not be merely negative, but that it would create a demand for the extension of the suffrage. The hon. Gentleman referred to the case of the East India Company, where the election of the Directors who governed 100,000,000 of men was taken by the ballot. With regard to foreign countries, the ballot was adopted in almost all Continental countries where the representative system of government prevailed; but he would not admit the analogy of countries fifty years behind our own in habits of self-government. If an analogy was to be drawn, he would take the New England States, and he would ask what had been the result of the ballot there? In every one of those States it had been adopted, and was in full force. He denied that corruption prevailed at the elections in the United States. There was but little chance of corruption in a country where universal suffrage was the rule—wages were high, land cheap, fortunes were nearly equal, and the emoluments of the Government low. The hon. Gentleman referred to the cases of Carlisle and Stafford as showing the necessity for the ballot in this country; and, referring to the speech of Mr. Urquhart, said he had at all events redeemed the pledge he said he had given to his constituents, that he would be in Parliament unlike all other Members. So honestly had the hon. Gentleman carried out his promise of agreeing with nobody, that he ought to be elected free of expense the next time he offered himself as a candidate. But it was not so much for the boroughs as the counties that he wished to see the ballot in operation. It was a question of vital importance to the county constituencies, for he believed if they possessed the ballot they would send some of the best representatives that the country could afford to that House. How many contests for counties had there been at the last election? That was a good test of the independence of the county voters; for if they found in coun- 1256 ties with 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 nominal electors on the list that there was no con-test in nine-tenths of them, they might make up their minds that the election was settled by six or seven gentlemen sitting at a comfortable fireside. Indeed, Lord Stanley, with that frankness which distinguished his character, told them that the election was a question of acres, and that they had only to find out the politics of the great proprietors to ascertain the person to be elected. If county Members would only tell the House what they knew from their own experience of county elections, what tales would they not hear! In 1835, the noble Lord at the head of the Government stated that when he was a candidate for Devonshire, some of his own committee, who had promised him their votes, were obliged to vote against him. He had seen at the election for Lancashire in 1837 persons in the Ormskirk district coming up to vote with blue ribbons, who at the previous election marched up in yellow colours. In 1841 the colour was probably changed again, if the property had changed hands in the interim. The farmers were marched up like so many cattle decked for the shambles. He wanted to see the farmer class in this country men of more character, dignity, and self-respect than they ever could be under so degrading a practice. It was for the sake of the counties, therefore, in particular, that he wished to see the ballot carried into effect. He did not believe that the ballot could be carried alone now; but he found in the arguments adduced against it additional reasons for the changes proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. He was glad that the hon. Member for Bristol had brought the subject of the ballot before the House, because it answered the cavils brought against the Motion of his hon. Friend. The decision of the House, if adverse to the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol, would add one to that catalogue of decisions during this Session, which showed the want of harmony between the legislation of that House and the opinions of the great body of the people; and would tend, amongst other things which they now witnessed, to bring about that change in the representation which the noble Lord so much deprecated, but which he thought would be for the interest of the country, and absolutely necessary to enable them to get out of that dead lock in legislation to which the present system had brought them.
§ MR. HENLEY
had heard a good many speeches from the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and never had heard one which more surprised him than the address just delivered. The hon. Member's course had lately been somewhat eccentric, and lacked the steadiness which formerly belonged to his character. The hon. Gentleman seemed altogether to forget the principles of the constitution, though he had been reminded of them by the noble Lord, who remembered them much better. He thought it was for the hon. Gentleman and his Friends to show the advantages that were to accrue to the country from the use of the ballot, so opposed as it was to the constitution and habits of the people of this country; but the hon. Gentleman had not done that, and had passed very lightly over the continent of Europe. The statements, however, which the hon. Member previously made, were to the effect, that there would be no disturbances, trouble, or discontent in the countries of the Continent. [Mr. COBDEN: I said nothing of the kind.] The hon. Gentleman at least mentioned France. He had told the House that the ballot was to be found in every constitutional country of the world; but he had not explained the advantages to be derived from that institution. In Russia, perhaps, he would say that it had been productive of the best effects; and if hereafter we should have the benefits of a very liberal Government, England might probably suffer under a tyranny as severe as any that prevailed in Russia. The hon. Member went to America, and though he said he was not a republican, yet he enlarged upon the great advantages to be derived from a republican form of government. The hon. Member did not attempt to show the House any one single advantage which America derived from the use of the ballot. The noble Lord said that there was a good deal of corruption in America, and the hon. Gentleman denied that statement; but it was for the House to decide which party was likely to be the better informed on that matter. The hon. Member, referring to the small salaries of the President and other official persons in the United States, did not say, but wished it to be inferred, that where this was the case there could not be much bribery; but the hon. Member might have recollected, what had certainly been publicly stated—how truly he could not say—that there was more chaffering of offices, and more sweeping away of all public officers, down to the very doorkeepers, in 1258 America, on every change of government, than in any other country; and that had an effect in influencing men's minds as well as bribery. It was not because there might be some allegations of a few cases of intimidation that the country should be called on to make a great change in its constitution, unless the advocates of the change could demonstrate that great public benefit would be the result. The hon. Member said, that it was not at all for the boroughs but for the counties that he wanted this change. It was most natural, on the one hand, that the hon. Member should make this attack on the county constituencies; and on the other, most barefaced, because a public society with which the hon. Member was supposed to be intimately connected, if he was not its founder, had been occupied for many years in creating what in common parlance were called faggot votes—that was, votes made for a special political purpose. He (Mr. Henley) supposed that a good hold was kept upon all these votes; and therefore it was rather strange that the hon. Member should get up and assail with sweeping and degrading charges the whole of the county constituencies. Men who were base enough to coerce and bribe, would, if the ballot were established, not be found wanting in the means of discovering how parties might have voted; and thus they would still retain the power of coercing the voters. The ballot, so far from giving security to any person, would only spread corruption wider without affording the means of discovering it, and would deprive the House of instituting any scrutiny into corrupt proceedings at elections.
§ MR. MUNTZ
agreed that if voting by ballot should not be really secret voting, a great deal of mischief would be the result; but he was satisfied that it could be made secret, and that it would produce much benefit. The noble Lord said that the supporters of the ballot were bound to show where it had worked well. Now, he (Mr. Muntz) was prepared to say that it worked well in the Netherlands, to the satisfaction of all classes and interests. What cause was there to prevent that which was well done in the Netherlands from being well done in this country? The ballot was said to be un-English. What was meant by that? He was as open and as English as any man in his dealings; but still he should not think it necessary to publish all his transactions in the market-place. It was not reasonable or wise to expose the 1259 whole truth at all times. It was said, too, that the ballot was against the spirit of the constitution. What was meant by that? The constitution was really the laws of the country as they existed for the time being; but the constitution was altered every week and every day by that House. He protested, then, against the constitution being made the peg on which to hang objections against all improvements that might be proposed. He could state that in Birmingham, out of 7,000 electors there were 1,000 who now declined to exercise the franchise, on the ground that their pecuniary interests had suffered in consequence of the votes they had given on former occasions. In his opinion every elector should have an opportunity of voting without any other person knowing how he had voted; and he would therefore give his support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol.
MR. PAGE WOOD
considered this to be one of the most important Motions that had been submitted to the House during the present Session. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had said that the principle of the constitution had always been open voting; and he had observed that if the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol were adopted, a new principle would be introduced. Before the passing of the Reform Bill, it was of very little consequence what the principle of voting was; but since the adoption of that measure, by which Parliament declared that they would place confidence in the mass of the people, it was only right that they should protect the people in the exercise of their privileges. He thought the House would feel, on looking to the events which had lately occurred in Europe, that they could no longer delay a decision upon this question, "Are you disposed to trust the people, or are you not disposed to trust them?" He could scarcely believe that the statement of the advantages of an open style of voting had been seriously made. Were the drunken voters who walked noisily to the poll with music and flags the real constituency of England? No; the real constituency of England consisted of those electors who had been trained to self-government in vestries and municipal corporations, and who exercised their privileges quietly and deliberately; and these were the persons whom he wished to protect in the free expression of their opinions. He alluded to the middle classes—take, for instance, the shop-keepers of towns. He represented a city 1260 (Oxford) where the influence exercised upon those classes had been most grievously felt; and it was notorious that a similar influence had been largely exercised in the town in which the sister university was situated. He had regretted to hear the noble Lord, in speaking of the evil influences of secret voting, ask whether they were to trust this great and irresponsible power to the will and caprice of electors who voted in secret? He (Mr. Wood) considered that the term "caprice" was one which ought not to be applied to those to whom Parliament had entrusted the franchise. The absence of responsibility in the electors had been referred to; but to whom were they to be responsible? It had been said they were responsible to the non-electors. This argument could be proved to be fallacious by a simple dilemma. Were those non-electors capable of forming and expressing an opinion or not? He presumed the House considered that they were not, because they were excluded from voting. What, then, was the sort of influence they were to exercise? It would be only the influence of democracy in its most brutal form, and from such influence the voter would be protected by the ballot; but if the non-electors were persons the weight of whose opinions ought to be brought to bear upon the electors, surely they were persons who ought themselves at once to be called forth as an additional body of electors. The real influences which were now brought to bear upon the electors were, first, the influence of bribery and corruption; and, next, the influence of intimidation, which affected not only shop-keepers, but also a large and numerous class of tenantry. He held in his hand the report of the Committee which had been appointed to inquire into the case of the borough of Stamford; and although that Committee stated that none of the charges relating to the Marquess of Exeter's direct interference at the time of the last election had been proved, and that no facts had been proved beyond the ejectment of tenants in 1830 and 1847, yet he was glad to find that the Committee had come to the conclusion that, looking at the fact of one-third of the constituency being tenants of the Marquess of Exeter, and to the fact that fourteen ejectments had been served upon tenants in 1830, and sixteen in 1847, an undue influence had thereby been made to operate upon the constituency. But if there was this influence upon the whole constituency, what 1261 must have been the influence over that one-third? The question, after all, came to this, whether the constituency were to be trusted? He would say, trust the people of England; be straightforward with them; put your whole case before them; have no reserve; and you have nothing to fear in regard to the overthrow of Government. What an instance we had of their rallying round the cause of order on the 10th of April! In France, the Assembly elected by ballot even upon a universal suffrage, was favourable to the restoration of order. Where the people were free, it was of no use attempting to govern them except by persuading them that you were in the right, and honest in desiring their welfare. Let the noble Lord throw himself upon the whole people of England in the same gallant and hearty manner in which he threw himself upon the constituency of London.
§ MR. NAPIER
agreed that the true way to deal with the people of England was to be frank with them, and fair and above-board; they were a generous, open, manly, independent people, and therefore worthy of being entrusted with an open franchise to be openly exercised. But their virtues were derived from their conduct being always public. They were frank because they had open voting. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) had alluded to America; he (Mr. Napier) had found that hon. Member a bad prophet, a bad historian, and apparently his allusions to the present time were bad also. He had in his band a pamphlet in which it was stated that "Old John Randolph, the American orator," being asked one day whether the ballot prevailed in Virginia, answered, that he scarcely believed they had such a fool as to propose it; that it would make a nation scoundrels if it did not find them so. The English constitution knew no such thing as an English man discharging a public trust or duty in a secret manner known only to himself. In the case of juries, which had been alluded to, each man knew his fellow's mind, and the world knew the opinion of all. Could it be pretended that there were no public duties that we were bound to discharge under the constitution, which it might be inconvenient and injurious to our private interest to discharge? Why not, at this rate, shut up all the avenues by which the proceedings of the House became public? Why not have vote by ballot in the House? It might save a man from the frown of the Minister. But in that House men acted 1262 under the influence—the genial influence—of public opinion; and when the hon. and learned Member would have the noble Lord throw himself upon the people, he but meant that he should harmonise his proceedings with sound public opinion. The vote by ballot was inconsistent with the British constitution.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
would trouble the House with only one or two remarks, in consequence of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin; who seemed to think, as well as his Friends around him, that he had answered and disposed of the very able and impressive speech just delivered by the hon. Member for the city of Oxford (Mr. Wood). He (Mr. Villiers) could not allow that impression to go forth. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) said, that when the Member for Oxford described the people of this country as frank, spirited, and independent, that he had put himself out of court, as this character, according to his (Mr. Napier's) judgment, had been formed under the institutions and mode of acting directly opposed to the spirit and purpose of the proposition before the House. Now he (Mr. Villiers) agreed entirely in those qualities which had been ascribed to the people of this country. He agreed that they were spirited and independent; but that had shown themselves so, by precisely doing before what they were now-doing, in calling upon this House to pass this measure, or some equally effective for its object. It was just because the people of this country, when they became conscious of some great evil or abuse, that they neither tamely submitted to it, nor helplessly believed it to be incurable, that they had earned the character the hon. Gentleman had given them. They were now fully aware of the extent to which bribery and intimidation were carried on at the elections, and that no remedy had been devised for the evil; they will now not endure it longer; and they do, as they have ever done before, insist upon the known and proved abuse being abated. They believe, moreover, that this is the remedy, and that it is effective in other cases where men would otherwise abuse the power which open voting confers upon them. Now, then, for what the hon. and learned Member considers, no doubt, were his conclusive replies to the arguments opposed to him. His (Mr. Villiers) hon. Friend the Member for the West 1263 Riding, had alluded to those States in America, where the ballot was in force—where slavery did not exist—and where those lived who represented our people in race and habit more than in other States; and showed that it answered well, that the people were at least satisfied with it, that nobody had ever thought of abolishing it; and the hon. Member thinks he gives a sufficient reply to that example, by quoting Mr. Randolph's opinion against the ballot, who was speaking of his own State, namely, Virginia, where slavery had always existed, and where the slaveholders constituted an oligarchy, and were extremely tenacious of their power; in fact, showing that wherever a system that was unjust, immoral, or inhuman, was to be maintained, there the rich people felt the inconvenience of the ballot, and wanted more complete control over the will and the vote of those under and about them by open voting. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman, by a singular confusion, objects to the unfairness of any reference to the jury system, and contends that the circum-stances are by no means similar; but the hon. Gentleman was not aware that no friend of the ballot had referred to the jury system, where people do not decide matters by ballot, but that the noble Lord the Member for London had mentioned it as one of those instances where men acted well without this protection of the ballot; and my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding himself complained of the reference, contending that it was not a parallel case; and this really was the sum of the hon. and learned Member's speech, which seems to have pleased his friends so much; and he (Mr. Villiers) thought that something rather more satisfactory in the way of argument was required to shake the excellent speech of the Member for Oxford. The fact was, nobody denied that the tendency, if not the effect entirely, of the ballot was to stop bribery, intimidation, and the expense at elections—nobody avowed that these evils ought to continue, and all professed their eagerness, and many were actually propounding measures of another kind, at this moment, to stop them. The argument, then, founded on the incompetency of the voters to judge of public questions, or decide on the fittest candidates, was not in place here; for that was an argument for leaving things as they were, and not attempting to check by any means those corrupt influences which prevented the exercise of an honest or un- 1264 biased judgment. But when they were told not to adopt the ballot, because it would make the constitution more democratic, that was assuming that the ballot, as a mechanical contrivance, would succeed in enabling the voter to exercise his privilege as he thought best. But if the fallacy of this objection was obvious, then it was attempted to resist the ballot on the totally opposite ground, namely, that it would not be quite successful; and it was then admitted that open voting was an evil, that serious evils followed if a man's vote was known; but that the ballot was not the way to protect him. Then this objection was supported by showing that by some ingenious device, or some system of social torture, the truth would be screwed out of a voter, and thereby an approximation would be made to that objectionable system that exists at present, and that, if a man's vote was once known, he would be exposed to all the evils which tyranny or coercion could inflict upon him. Now, he (Mr. Villiers) could not help thinking that the best way, after all, of resisting the ballot, would be the candid one, and fairly to state that of course it would be more effective for its purpose than any other scheme known; but that at present, as the hon. Member for the city of Oxford, said, Gentlemen opposed to it were afraid of the unbiassed judgment of the electors. Now, he did not deny that opinions had been broached out of doors of late, that might give a colour of reason to this objection, and people might think that it was important to leave to property all the influence of whatever kind which it could obtain; but he firmly believed that wild doctrines, such as he referred to, were only honestly or dishonestly entertained by a very small number of people, and that if they appeared to prevail among large numbers assembled together, it was owing to men being under the influence of fear, or from sympathy with those around them, and that if left to their independent judgment, they would not approve of or act upon them. However, he (Mr. Villiers) knew well that people of property were supposed to be much more conservative than people who were without property. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen who laughed, however, ought to be ready to show, that the real advantage that follow from that would not equally attend the system that was proposed, as the present one. His hon. Friend the Mover, had applied himself to this point, in order to show that property, always respected 1265 in this country, always exercising its influence upon men's minds, would have all that was valuable in that influence, under the ballot; and he had quoted an eloquent passage from one of Mr. Grote's speeches on this subject, to show that the natural and legitimate influence of property would not be affected by the change; and, on the contrary, would then be no longer confounded with the corrupt and improper use of it which occurred at present. There would doubtless be this material difference, that whereas a candidate now, however ignorant, corrupt, or unprincipled himself, can if he have only property enough feel pretty sure of his return to Parliament; he (Mr. Villiers) verily believed, that under the ballot, though the man of property would be preferred, yet that without character, and without some previous reputation, he would never feel sure of success; and probably these latter qualifications in the candidate, would, in general, be insisted upon; and he (Mr. Villiers), for one, could not see the great mischief of that. In fact, he believed that one of the greatest changes effected by the ballot would be that upon the candidate, and thereby upon the Member of this House; and he knew no more important consideration: at present, when a man entered the field as a candidate, he know-that the votes were to be given openly, and if he had property or great territorial influence, or any of the accidents of fortune in his favour, that he could pretty surely rely upon becoming a Member of this House. Now, he (Mr. Villiers) did not hesitate to say that if the electors were known to give their votes freely, and without immediate hope or fear from so giving them, that this would not be the case. A candidate would feel this before he presented himself to a constituency, and would be under the necessity of being able to point to his previous character or reputation to insure his election. And this would not only strike a man when he felt the desire at the moment to be returned, but would operate upon him early in life, at least upon those who were born to station and wealth. A seat in the Legislature is generally desired by persons of influence in this country; and it would be felt to be amongst the conditions of obtaining that position that a candidate must deserve the esteem of his fellow-citizens. Now, he did not hesitate to say, that under the present system that was not the impression which prevailed; but that if a 1266 man inherited property, or acquired property himself, that one of its advantages, in his mind, was, that whenever he chose it, he could, in some way owing to that circumstance, get into Parliament; and he said that this arose from an impression that there was always some constituency, independently of other circumstances, to be bought or coerced into giving a man of fortune a seat. Now, he asked, if a man thought that the Legislature was more respectably or usefully composed from this circumstance; or whether it would not be for the advantage of the aggregate body, if intellect and character were allowed to enter more into the consideration of those who had to choose the Members, than it had at present? He firmly believed that there was no prepossession in the minds of men for a bad man, and against a good man, nor in such a country as this was there any difficulty in discovering what a man who put himself forward was; he believed, therefore, that if men acted as they liked, in the great majority of cases they would prefer the good man to the bad one; and that it would be therefore perfectly safe to rest it on no higher ground than doing what they preferred, to leave to a community like theirs the free and unbiassed choice of their representatives. They must remember, also, that though the argument is generally against coercion from above, and by men of wealth and station, yet there was another influence to which the hon. Mover had already referred, and that came from below: there was such a thing as terror from actual violence, or indeed tyranny very like that which is used now by greater people, in coercing tradesmen to vote as their customers directed. This was not an influence loss likely to be manifested in future than it had been, but perhaps the contrary: the lesson had been taught—he believed it would be extensively acted upon. There was another advantage resulting from making candidates more dependent upon the good opinion of the people, and that was that it gave people of wealth the greatest possible inducement to educate the people; and there was a great want of some influence of that kind. The people were much neglected, and, in many respects, in a degraded state; and there was a great want of something to excite the upper and wealthy classes to make greater efforts for the education and instruction of those who were lower than themselves in the social scale. It was right that the wealthy classes should feel there was some danger if they did not 1267 apply themselves to the instruction of their poorer brethren; and they would not feel this danger as they ought to do unless the ballot were adopted. At all events it must be admitted that what occurs now in the choice of Members was degrading to Parliament; and further, that those practices that had been so often pointed to as so pernicious and objectionable, never were carried to a greater extent than they were at the last election; and he asked if it was right that the House should separate without one effort being made to check or prevent them. He believed that this House could not leave the evil untouched in the present day, without losing its weight and authority in the country—than which he knew no greater evil; and when he considered how the system threw the Legislature into the hands of the extremely rich, or those who made everything depend upon rousing and exciting the passions and prejudices of the people, he could not but regard it as extremely unsafe. The present expense of obtaining and maintaining a seat, consequent upon open voting, was such that no man of limited means could really aspire to a seat, unless the circumstances were very peculiar. He had not overlooked the old arguments in favour of the present system, which he knew were plausible enough: such as, that under the present system the majority of the House were men of property, and that under no system can the country be so safely governed, as when the people of property are dominant; and, after all, that the ballot, if it did not produce evil, could only promise them a result of which they were already at present assured of. But, he contended, that the men of property obtained their seats, now, under a system that demoralised the people, and that shook altogether the confidence of the people in the morality or superior character of persons who pretended to legislate for the country. There was an inconsistency in men who had spent their thousands in corrupting or debauching sections of the community, coming to this House and pretending great solicitude for the religion and morals of the people. It was not trusted, and people smiled when the piety, or honesty, or benevolence of this House was in question. It was well known that the way in which a man spends his 3,000l. or 5,000l. in getting into this House was in corrupting and demoralising so many families in a constituency: by asking some—for a bribe—to break faith with somebody; or threatening others with ruin if they voted 1268 as their conscience directed them. It was known, moreover, that by degrees, and after many contests, a borough became criminal in its general character where these practices prevail; and he had heard it observed, that at the assizes the worst characters usually came from some of the borough towns; and he knew that the morals of some places that used to send Members to that House, had been greatly improved since they had been disfranchised. He said, then, that they were paying too high a price for men of property alone to sit in that House, if that was to be attained only by vice and crime; and he believed that under the ballot Members as conservative, and higher in the important qualifications for legislators, would be returned. He was not there to contend that the ballot was a perfect system; and he was ready to admit that he wished they could dispense with it, and that any means equally effectual could be devised; but as he knew of no other so likely to succeed in checking the vices and evils of the present system, and believing that they ought not, after the disclosures of this year, to part without proposing some change, he cordially gave his vote for the Resolution of his hon. Friend.
MR. H. BERKELEY
replied. The noble Lord had objected that this was not a Bill, but a resolution. Now, he (Mr. H. Berkeley) only wished to obtain the assent of the noble Lord to a resolution; for, if he could do that, he had no doubt that a Bill would soon follow. He had observed the working of the ballot in America, and he must confess he had never known of any thing like intimidation, or had heard of any thing like a bribe in that country.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 81: Majority 5.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Duncan, G.|
|Anderson, A.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Evans, Sir De L.|
|Berkeley, hon. C. F.||Fagan, W.|
|Bernal, R.||Fox, W. J.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Greene, J.|
|Bright, J.||Grenfell, C. W.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Hastie, A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Brown, W.||Henry, A.|
|Clay, J.||Heywood, J.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Cobden, R.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Collins, W.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Hume, J.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Divett, E.||Kershaw, J.|
|Locke, J.||Rice, E. R.|
|Lushington, C.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Salwey, Col.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Smith, J. A.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Smith, J. B.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Morris, D.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Mowatt, F.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Thompson, G.|
|Nugent, Lord||Thornely, T.|
|O'Brien, T.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Tynte, Col.|
|Osborne, R.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Wakley, T.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Ward, H. G.|
|Pearson, C.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Peto, S. M.||Williams, J.|
|Pigott, F.||Wilson, M.|
|Pilkington, J.||Wood, W. P.|
|Reynolds, J.||Berkeley, hon. H. F.|
|Ricardo, O.||Thompson, Col.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Heald, J.|
|Arkwright, G.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Ashley, Lord||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Hood, Sir A.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Hotham, Lord|
|Bourke, R. S.||Howard, P. H.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Howard, Sir R.|
|Broadley, H.||Jones, Capt.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Lacy, H C.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Carew, W. P. H.||Legh, G. C.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Lockhart, W.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Coles, H. B.||Masterman, J.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Moody, C. A.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Morgan, O.|
|Cubitt, W.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Denison, J. E.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Dodd, G.||Palmer, R.|
|Duncuft, J.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Patten, J. W.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Price, Sir R.|
|Edwards, H.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Russell, Lord J.|
|FitzGerald, W. R. S.||Sandars, G.|
|FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Floyer, J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Forbes, W.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Somerset, Capt.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Stuart, H. G.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Urquhart, D.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Grey, R. W.||TELLERS.>|
|Hall, Col.||Henley, J. W.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Napier, J.|
§ Adjourned at Twelve o'clock.