HC Deb 01 June 1848 vol 99 cc171-7

rose to move— That Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a New Writ for the electing of two Burgesses to serve in this present Parliament for the borough of Derby, in the room of the right hon. Edward Frederick Leveson Gower, whose Election has been determined to be void. He disclaimed all party motives, and felt convinced that the House would be influenced only by considerations of right in whatever determination they might arrive at. He was as anxious for inquiry as any Member in the House; but meantime he thought the writ should be granted.


would ask how many Members who had read this petition from a town of 45,000 inhabitants, and how many who had not read it, were prepared to trifle with the privileges of 2,000 persons, representing the political power of that town? What would be the consequence of the proceedings of that House upon this subject if they withheld this writ? A. offered a bribe to B., and B. received it; C. petitioned against both, and all three were then disfranchised. That was the justice that that House was prepared to deal out. Why, supposing C. to have the average amount of common sense, he would of course be very unwilling to present a petition, enter into recognisances, and incur a large expenditure, when he knew that the result would be his own disfranchisement. Two were guilty, one was innocent, and the whole three were punished equally. Could that be called impartial justice? And yet it was the course adopted by those who considered themselves models of fairness. If the result of election petitions were to be, that all parties, whether guilty or innocent, were to be punished with disfranchisement, the natural result would be, that those who were innocent would rather allow corruption to go on, than take a step which must end in their own political destruction. Let them not, by refusing to issue this writ to a town containing a population of 45,000, establish for themselves a character for injustice and oppression. It was quite unreasonable that this writ should be suspended until the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Flint was passed. That Bill had now been before the House seven weeks, and it had still to go through Committee, to go through a third reading, and to be passed by the other House; and if double the length of time that had already elapsed had still to elapse before those forms could be complied with, he asked the House where by that time would be the present Session? Time after time, and day after day, the glaring injustice they were inflicting on the constituencies of this kingdom should be brought under the notice of the country; and time after time, and day after day, divisions should test who those Members were, who, professing purity and patriotism, were still determined to withhold from their fellow-subjects those political privileges to which they were so justly entitled.


said, the hon. Gentleman assumed that, by refusing to issue the writ, they would he acting unjustly to their fellow-subjects. The fact was just the reverse. Certain corrupt practices had extensively taken place, and therefore it was but justice to the community at large not to allow those who had been guilty of those practices to continue them. Although the necessary course to be taken might be hard upon individuals, it was but an act of justice to the great body of the community. When the first writ this Session was moved for, he stated his views with respect to this matter, namely, that where a Committee of that House had investigated charges of bribery, and had called the attention of the House to the subject, a rule ought to be laid down that no writ should be issued for any borough before an inquiry had been instituted to ascertain to what extent the corrupt practices had been carried on; in order, if possible, to apply a remedy. Such was evidently the intention of that House in the rule which declared that any corrupt practices at elections were a breach of the privileges of the House. In conformity with that rule he still objected to their issuing any writ where the report of the Committee had expressly stated that the electors had been guilty of corrupt practices. The Committee reported in this case, that a certain number of individuals had been bribed, and that it was the custom in Derby, and observed at the last election, for a certain number of electors to be placed upon committees in order to be paid for their services. It was therefore the duty of the House to suspend the writ, in order to prevent these persons being guilty of a repetition of such practices. In justice to the country at large, and to uphold the Standing Orders of that House, he should certainly take the sense of the House against the issuing of this writ.


apprehended that the question before the House was not an inquiry into the extent to which corruption had existed at the last election for the borough of Derby, and at previous elections; but, whether the evidence which had been taken by the Committee, and referred to in the special report, was sufficient to justify them in suspending the writ for an indefinite period. No one wanted to expose himself to the charge of throwing a veil over bribery and corruption; but he must say that he was prepared to meet that charge rather than agree to an indefinite suspension of the writ for a large constituency, on a large part of which not the slightest imputation existed. This case was totally distinct from that of Yarmouth. In the Yarmouth case the report stated that great corruption existed amongst the freemen, and that the corruption was amongst the freemen only. It was therefore recommended that the freemeen should be disfranchised before the writ was issued. But the Committee had made no such recommendation in the case of Derby. They only stated that a practice existed at the last election of placing freemen as members of nominal committees, and paying them for their services. The charges contained in the report of the Committee referred to only about 400 out of the 1,900 of whom the constituency consisted; and upon the remaining 1,500 not the slightest imputation had been cast. He certainly thought that further inquiry ought to be instituted, with a view to the disfranchisement of those parties who had been guilty of those corrupt practices, or to apply any other legislative remedy that might he considered expedient. If the writ were now refused, he apprehended that the same grounds would exist for refusal for the remainder of the Session, or until the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Flint, which could scarcely pass both Houses of the Legislature before the termination of this Session, had passed, and the inquiry which that Bill proposed to sanction had been carried to a conclusion. If they refused to issue this writ, they would sanction the principle laid down by the hon. Member for Montrose, that in no case where a Member was unseated for bribery, whatever the amount of evidence might be, however few the cases of bribery committed, the writ should not issue until an inquiry, sanctioned by the Legislature, had been instituted as to the extent of the bribery that had been committed. He must say, without expressing an opinion as to what course would be right for the House to take in any other case, he thought the House had already marked its sense of the conduct of the freemen of the borough of Derby, by suspending for a considerable period the issuing of the writ, and by refusing the borough the right of being represented for a considerable number of weeks. He thought it was quite right also that further inquiry should take place, but he did not see any reason, pending that inquiry, that 1,500 ten-pound householders, against whom no imputation had been cast, should be unrepresented. Without reference to what the opinion upon this subject of any other Gentleman with whom he was connected might be, he should certainly Vote for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.


said, it would be perfectly easy to retain Derby in the schedule; but what possible object would there be in the inquiry if the writ were issued? The certain consequence of issuing the writ now would be, that the very parties that the Committee had informed the House were, not only at the last election, but at preceding elections, invariably paid in one shape or another for their votes, would of course take very good care that the next election should be perfectly pure, and at the inquiry that would take place it would be proved that one election had passed over with comparative purity; and yet the object of the inquiry would be to punish those very individuals they were now to exonerate and reward, by again allowing the exercise of their political privileges. He could not see how they could now issue this writ with consistency, after the statements that were made a short time ago. The right hon. Gentleman was now willing to consent to the issue of this writ, on account of the delay that had taken place with regard to the Bill of the hon. Member for Flint. He ventured, when this case was before the House on a former occasion, namely, seven weeks ago, to call upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government to bring in that Bill himself; because such a Bill in the hands of his hon. Friend must be prosecuted without any prospect—much less certainty—of success. He firmly believed that if they now issued this writ, the Bill of his hon. Friend would linger in its present state until the end of the Session, and the result of issuing this writ would be that they must issue all the others. He could not himself see that there was much distinction to be drawn between the cases of Yarmouth and Derby. In the case of Derby, nine acts of bribery were reported, which were considered sufficient for the Committee to report. The result of the inquiry might prove that Yarmouth was grossly guilty, and Derby comparatively innocent; but as the information before the House at present stood, no distinction appeared between the two, and he felt confident that if they now issued the writ, the Bill of his hon. Friend would not be persevered in this Session; there would be no investigation into the case; and, if that were so, he must say he thought they would be trifling with the question altogether, and it would have been better if they had never stopped any of these writs. He also thought that such a course would be stamping their character with vacillation, and would lead the country to doubt the sincerity of the propositions which had been made with respect to this matter.


said that, after what he had heard from the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department, he felt that the chance of his passing the Borough Elections Bill was very remote. If the House should issue a writ to a borough which was tainted by corruption, the main argument in favour of proceeding rapidly with his Bill, would be removed. He believed that he should have made some progress with the Bill in Committee, if, when he proposed that the House should go into Committee on it, the hon. Member for Lambeth had not made a long speech which nobody wanted to hear. This was not a fortunate day to propose the issuing of a writ for Derby, for had they not heard a case as great and as important as that of Derby reported to-day? The borough of Leicester had been found so utterly corrupt, that the Chairman of the Committee, in the discharge of his duty, recommended that case to the particular attention of the House. With respect to his Bill, he believed that if Gentlemen would meet it fairly it might be decided upon in the course of next week.


was anxious to vindicate his conduct in respect to this measure from a suspicion of his being actuated by a desire to connive at corruption or bribery in the borough of Derby. That which influenced him in the matter was the opinion he entertained as to the dangerous power of the House in suspending the issue of writs. He could foresee a period when that power might be used to serve the purposes of a majority, and to the suppression of a free and independent opinion on the part of the representatives of the people. It had been said that there were many constituencies among whom practices similar to those prevailing at Derby were to be found. If that were so, the House would soon have petitions from those boroughs for the suspension of the writs, if the House were to adopt the principle that was now contended for. The result would be, that a largo number of boroughs would soon be altogether unrepresented. He did not believe that the issuing of the writ in this case would at all affect the power of the House to inquire into the practices of corruption in the borough of Derby. He was, therefore, prepared to vote for the issuing of the writ.


was astonished at the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He could not understand why, when the people in every borough in the country were complaining of the corrupt practices that were carried on at the late election, the Government should come forward and throw their shield over the evildoers. The suspicion entertained by the people against the Government was not only very strong, but was becoming daily much more strong, and he would warn the Government that they must be prepared either to assist in effecting further social and political reforms, or give up the Government. It had been said that the freemen were chiefly the guilty parties at the recent elections; but he would ask whether the 10l. householders were altogether free from guilt? He would inflict punishment not only on the parties who committed the wrong, but on those who connived at it. He suspected that a large portion of the Members of that House bought their places, and were not the freely-elected Members of the people.

The House divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 153: Majority 17.

List of the AYES.
Adderley, C. B. Brooke, Lord
Anstey, T. C. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Arkwright, G. Buller, C.
Bailey, J. Carew, W. H. P.
Baillie, H. J. Chaplin, W. J.
Baldock, E. H. Childers, J. W.
Bankes, G. Christy, S.
Baring, H. B. Clive, H. B.
Barrington, Visct. Cobbold, J. C.
Barron, Sir H. W. Coke, hon. E. K.
Bellew, R. M. Conolly, Col.
Benbow, J. Cotton, hon. W. H. S.
Bentinck, Lord G. Dalrymple, Capt.
Beresford, W. Davies, D. A. S.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Denison, J. E.
Blandford, Marq. of Dick, Q.
Boldero, H. G. Dod, J. W.
Boiling, W. Dodd, G.
Bourke, R. S. Dunne, F. P.
Bowles, Adm. Du Pre, C. G.
Boyd, J. Euston, Earl of
Bramston, T. W. Forbes, W.
Bremridge, R. Fuller, A. E.
Galway, Visct. O'Connor, F.
Godson, R. Oswald, A.
Goring, C. Palmerston, Visct.
Goulburn, right hon. H. Patten, J. W.
Grace, O. D. J. Reid, Col.
Greene, T. Rendlesham, Lord
Grenfell, C. W. Rice, E. R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Rich, H.
Hall, Col. Robinson, G. R.
Hamilton, Lord C. Rufford, F.
Harris, hon. Capt. Russell, Lord J.
Hay, Lord J. Russell, F. C. H.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Rutherfurd, A.
Hildyard, R. C. Sandars, G.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Seahain, Visct.
Hodgson, W. N. Seymer, H. K.
Hope, Sir J. Shelburne, Earl of
Houldsworth, T. Sibthorp, Col.
Hudson, G. Slaney, R. A.
Ingestre, Visct. Smith, M. T.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Smyth, J. G.
Jocelyn, Visct. Somerset, Capt.
Johnstone, Sir J. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Keppel, hon. G. T. Spooner, R.
Kerrison, Sir E. Stanley, E.
Knox, Col. Stuart, J.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Sturt, H. G.
Lascelles, hon. E. Tenison, E. K.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Thompson, Ald.
Lewis, G. C. Thornhill, G.
Lowther, hon. Col. Tollemache, hon. J. F.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Townshend, Capt.
Mackenzie, W. F. Trollope, Sir J.
Mackinnon, W. A. Urquhart, D.
Mahon, Visct. Verner, Sir. W.
Maitland, T. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Masterman, J. Waddington, D.
Melgund, Visct. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Miles, W. Watkins, Col.
Mulgrare, Earl of Willoughby, Sir H.
Mullings, J. R. Wilson, J.
Neeld, J. Wodehouse, E.
Neeld, J. Wynn, Sir W. W.
Newdegate, C. N.
Newport, Visct. TELLERS.
Noel. hon. G. J. Colvile, C. R.
O'Connell, M. J. Stafford, A.
List of the NOES.
Abdy, T. N. Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.
Adair, R. A. S. Clifford, H. M.
Aglionby, H. A. Cobden, R.
Anderson, A. Cockburn, A. J. E.
Armstrong, R. B. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Baines, M. T. Crawford, W. S.
Barkly, H. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Barnard, E. G. Devereux, J. T.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.
Bernal, R. Divett, E.
Birch, Sir T. B. Duncan, G.
Blackstone, W. S. Duncombe, hon. A.
Blake, M. J. Duncuft, J.
Bowring, Dr. Dundas, Adm.
Brotherton, J. Egerton, W. T.
Brown, W. Ellice, E.
Bunbury, E. H. Elliot, hon. J. E.
Busfeild, W. Estcourt, J. B. B.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Evans, Sir De L.
Callaghan, D. Evans, J.
Charteris, hon. F. Evans, W.
Clay, J. Ewart, W.
Clay, Sir W. Fagan, W.
Clements, hon. C. F. Fellowes, E.
Fergus J. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Ferguson, Col. Muntz, G. F.
Foley, J. H. H. Norreys, Lord
Fortescue, hon. J. W. Nugent, Sir P.
Fox, W. J. O'Brien, J.
Frewen, C. H. O'Flaherty, A.
Gaskell, J. M. Packe, C. W.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Pattison, J.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Glyn, G. C. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Perfect, R.
Grattan, H. Pigott, F.
Greenall, G. Pilkington, J.
Grenfell, C. P. Plowden, W. H. C.
Guest, Sir J. Powlett, Lord W.
Gwyn, H. Rawdon, Col.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Ricardo, O.
Hastie, A. Richards, R.
Hastie, A. Roche, E. B.
Hayter, W. G. Romilly, Sir J.
Heald, J. Salwey, Col.
Heneage, E. Scholefield, W.
Henry, A. Sheridan, R. B.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Simeon, J.
Heywood, J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Hill, Lord M. Stanton, W. H.
Hood, Sir A. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Strickland, Sir G.
Howard, P. H. Stuart, Lord D.
Jackson, W. Sullivan, M.
Keogh, W. Sutton, J. H. M.
Kershaw, J. Talbot, J. H.
King, hon. P. J. L. Talfourd, Serj.
Langston, J. H. Tancred, H. W.
Lemon, Sir C. Thicknesse, R. A.
Lincoln, Earl of Thompson, Col.
Lindsay, hon. Col. Thornely, T.
Loch. J. Trelawny, J. S.
Lushington, C. Turner, E.
Macnaghten, Sir E. Tynte, Col.
M'Cullagh, W. T. Villiers, hon. C.
Magan, W. H. Vivian, J. H.
Mangles, R. D. Wawn, J. T.
Marshall, J. G. Westhead, J. P.
Marshall, W. Whitmore, T. C.
Martin, J. Williams, J.
Matheson, Col. Williamson, Sir H.
Milner, W. M. E. Wood, W. P.
Mitchell, T. A. Wrightson, W. B.
Moffatt, G. Wyvill, M.
Molesworth, Sir W. Young, Sir J.
Monsell, W. TELLERS.
Morgan, H. K. G. Hume, J.
Morris, D. Hanmer, Sir J.