HC Deb 24 May 1849 vol 105 cc907-27

Sir, in consequence of a resolution passed last Session, I now have the honour of presenting myself to the House to ask their leave to bring in a Bill to give the electors of Great Britain and Ireland the protection of the ballot, in aid of their solemn and bounden duty to return fit and proper Members to serve in Parliament. I hope I may not be told. Sir, that the House was surprised or entrapped into passing such a resolution; the charge would be unjust! My notice stood for full three months on the votes and proceedings, the journals of this House, before I could obtain a hearing; and when delays took place over which I had no control, I addressed a letter to the editor of the Times, expressing my determination to bring on the question even if I took a Government night. Well then, hon. Members had their usual notices, and the Motion, deferred by no fault of mine, was heard on the 8th of August in a much larger House than usually meets for the transaction of business, however important, at the close of the Session—a House consisting of 171 Members, exclusive of the Speaker; and if there were Members absent, more intent upon discharging their guns at grouse than their duty to their constituents, I do not think that a resolution passed by hon. Members who prefer duty to pleasure should be disparaged on that account. As well might you disparage the acts of a quorum of a Committee, because the bulk of its members were pleased to go to the Derby or the Oaks. Sir, the important question is now before us in this position. By a solemn decision of this House you have conceded the principle, "That it is expedient in the elections of Members to serve in Parliament that the votes of the electors should be taken by way of ballot." I cannot then understand how hon. Members can now consistently with propriety refuse me permission to bring in this Bill, if they desire to uphold the dignity of the people's House, and to maintain respect for its decisions. Now, Sir, willingly would I save the time of the House, and say, I refer you to the debate of last Session, you have heard our case, and the miserable failure of anything like reply to it. You have conceded the principle—give me leave to carry that principle into detail; but to such a course I dare not confine myself, for I am told that I am to be stopped in limine—that the resolution of the House is to be sot aside, and leave refused to bring in this Bill. Well, then, hon. Members will of course do as they usually do under such circumstances; they will raise the spectres of their destroyed arguments, and parade them as existing and substantial reasons for rejecting the measure. How was my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, during the corn-law debates, compelled to kill his dead over and over again, and then to do battle with their ghosts. Well, Sir, take up Hansard, and the same future presents itself in the debates on the ballot, with this addition, that I defy the most sceptical to read those debates without the truth flashing on their minds that the arguments against the measure are mere colourable apologies on which to found a negative vote; and when we compare the vast phalanx of talent arrayed against the measure, the ability, the ingenuity, the skill in debate, of its opponents, with the feeble arguments they use, the unpleasant impression is left on our minds that hon. Members are deeply hostile to the measure, but for other causes than those which they publicly assign. Well, then. Sir, under the circumstances, I must endeavour to prepare for the threatened attack, and fortify, as I best may, the position we have already won. In exercising my discretion in doing this, I shall endeavour to merit indulgence by condensing the subject as far as I can; referring to past evidence and past arguments in favour of the ballot, merely to assert their inviolability. Sir, there is one particular argument upon which the opponents of the ballot always found their case: it has been used by the right hon. Baronets the Members for Tam-worth and Ripon, and, lastly, by the noble Lord the Member for London, who rejoiced in it last Session, and placed it in the front of his battle. Sir, the whole of the noble Lord's case depended on the assumption "that secret voting is hostile to the spirit of the institutions and constitution of this country." Now, Sir, I cannot admit this dictum—unless it be likewise conceded that intimidation is a recognised principle in our electoral system. In sad earnest, Sir, in this country, open voting and intimidation are inseparable. If open voting then be a glorious institution, intimidation must be viewed as a valuable privilege, and I invite hon. Members frankly to confess as much—it would save trouble. But, Sir, when hon. Members take for their theme the necessity of open voting to enable the people freely to discuss men and measures, to weigh the merits of those who seek their suffrages—the opinions of electors being influenced by the opinions of the non-electors who stand as it were sentry over the polling booths to watch the result, I say. Sir, that when hon. Members expatiate on such topics, carefully keeping out of sight the counterbalancing and neutralising effects of intimidation, bribery, and corruption, that it is founding argument not only on fallacy but on fiction—that it is a hollow dream, a vision of Utopia. It may apply to a fancied state of things, but to nothing real, nothing at present existing in England. While hon. Members indulge in this romantic vein, stern reality stares them in the face, and points to that vast body of unimpeachable evidence, a slight summary of which I gave to the House last Session, and which should be to Members in this debate their vade mecum, and which proves beyond the possibility of a reasonable doubt, that inseparable from open voting are intimidation, compulsion and corruption, and that in our electoral system as at present formed, intimidation, compulsion, and corruption form the rule, and not the exception. Then, where is your argument? You cannot do away with the labours of the Committee which sat in '35; you cannot get rid of the appendix to it, furnished by the reports of the Election Committees sitting from that day to this; you cannot shake off the viva voce testimony given by hon. Members on the floor of this House during the debates on this subject. As an instance, turn to the debate in '42, and let me remind you of Mr. Ward's recital of estates changing hands several times, and the tenantry changing politics with their owners—owners! I use the word advisedly—for what are tenants so degraded but political slaves? Not less worthy of attention, though more feebly urged perhaps, was the attempt I made to lay bare the recognised proceedings of agents at elections—in the use of what they familiarly and technically call the screw. I produced canvassing books used by agents employed in various counties and boroughs, with their pencilled marginal notes, the deduction from which was inevitable, namely, that the art and mystery of a thorough electioneering agent is to institute an inquiry into the private lives and circumstances of the electors (an inquisition of years standing), and having discovered their liabilities and obligations, use their misfortunes as screws, wherewithal to twist from them a dishonest and unwilling vote; and thus I showed that at every election tens of thousands are intimidated, and driven to the poll under the screw of landlords, bankers, solicitors, creditors, and customers; while tens of thousands steer a medium course (not always with impunity) by refusing to vote or neglecting to register. I hope the House will not forget that last Session my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham completely corroborated me on this point, distinctly telling you that in his important borough there were upwards of 1,000 electors deterred from going to poll from dread of the consequences of giving publicity to their conscientious votes. Yet, with the collective evidence of years staring you in the face—evidence you cannot repudiate—evidence you cannot gainsay—evidence which, if it proved anything, proves the deplorably vitiated state of the electoral system; yet, in spite of these facts, hon. Members are pleased to assume that we are in a primitive state of political innocence—that landlords carry out the noble principles of Sir Roger de Coverley, and disdain to control their dependants—that their tenants are so many portraits of Farmer Ashfield—and that tradesmen are all representatives of Job Thornbury. In this poetical vein are hon. Members compelled to indulge, or their argument is worth nothing. I hope, however, that I may not be misunderstood nor misquoted. I grant that amongst the aristocracy and landocracy, men may be found with the fine qualities of the old Tory described by Addison and Steele. I admit that there are those among the agricultural classes who might well realise the portrait of Morton's independent farmer. I grant you that in the trading class there is many a specimen of the sturdy virtue of Colman's brazier. But this I assert, that the overweening lust for political sway on the part of the upper classes, has levelled and rendered nugatory the power of resistance on the part of the middling and lower classes, is a palsy on their independence, and has reduced them to the condition of political serfdom; and this in our vitiated electoral system is the rule and not the exception. Well, then, when the electors are not free agents, what becomes of the hollow theory of freedom of discussion and public opinion, and open voting as a test of both? This argument of hon. Gentlemen is a strong one for universal suffrage; because, if you attach so much importance to the opinions of the masses, why not entrust them with the franchise? But as against protected voting, the argument is not only worth nothing, but actually is an argument for the ballot—because, to give the elector fair play in our vitiated system, to secure to him that high privilege which now in bitter mockery you tell him is his right, you must protect him from, and place him beyond, the power of intimidation; then and then only will free discussion and the merits of men and measures take effect upon the mind of the electors and govern their votes. If the counties are in a miserable plight, in how much better a condition are the boroughs? You have the Reform Bill, it is true: it got rid of Old Sarum, Grampound, &c., &c.; and, lately, Sudbury was so openly profligate that you disfranchised it; but you still have left to console you as pretty a sprinkling of implicit boroughs as would delight the heart of Sir Pertinax Macsycophant himself, and there is a sufficient remnant of the old borough mongering system left to enable some to boast, with that celebrated Scotchman, that they have at their command "three implicit boroughs which return their three implicit broomsticks." When I last had the honour of addressing you on this subject, I pointed out that there were 98 Members sent to Parliament by this kind of broomstick return—that is, by the direct influence of the aristocracy over 43,199 borough electors. Now of what use would it be to tell that body of electors to consult the opinion of any but that monied oligarchy which first purchases or intimidates the voter, and then stands by the open polling booth to see the vote given? Really, Sir, when hon. Gentlemen talk of protected voting doing away with the effect of public opinion, it seems to me to be a delusion so monstrous, that, like the delirium of poor old Falstaff, it is a "mere babbling of green fields." I have thus endeavoured to meet the principal argument brandished in our faces on all occasions; but there is a sequel to it, on which I would say a few words. It is pretended, "that if you give the electors power to conceal their votes, that it will be useless; that the electors are utterly unable to keep their own counsel, and that their votes would be known." This seems to me to be preposterous, and at variance with common sense. When ruin stares a man in the face if he talk, it appears to me to be a simple but satisfactory reason why he should hold his tongue. But it is said that the British elector must talk; that it is not in his nature to keep a secret—that in his great frankness or in his cups, he would betray his votes. In short, that the British Lion must roar, although in so doing he should prove himself an ass. Now when you attribute this extreme garrulity, and this highly communicative disposition to your fellow-countrymen, I think you do them injustice. You forget that hundreds of thousands of Odd Fellows, Foresters, and Masons, keep inviolable the secrets of their charitable orders. I find, too, that you hon. Gentlemen who belong to clubs do not betray your votes by ballot, nor publish your blackballing exploits. You know very well the force of the old axiom, "garrula lingua nocet;" why deny equal sagacity to the Parliamentary elector? Will you pardon me if I put a familiar case to you for the sake of drawing from it an inference? Would any hon. Gentleman who is a member of the Carlton club, after using the esteemed ballot box and blackballing some individual—let me say some military gentleman of Celtic origin and sanguine temperament—would he be likely to descend into the street and tell the said gentleman the favour he had just bestowed upon him? Sir, I think not. Heaven forbid that I should insinuate even for an instant that any hon. Gentleman could be acquainted with the ignoble sensation of fear! Far from it; but, Sir, discretion, which is said to be the better part of valour, would prevent the disclosure. But the poor elector docs know the sensation of fear, for that which in your own case you call discretion, in his case you brand as ignoble, un-English, unmanly fear—and call it what you please, fear he must—he fears for the loss of his worldly gear, he fears for his farm, for his custom; he dreads the horrors of starvation hanging over his wife and family—and you pretend to think that this man cannot keep a secret while you can. Depend on it, Sir, that when secrecy is the price of safety, the secret will be kept with even more than clublike or masonic fidelity. But we impose no secrecy on voters: there is nothing in the Bill I propose, to prevent a voter from placarding his vote on his hat, or posting it on the walls—the power of secrecy is given to those who may need it in the discharge of a sacred and important right. That it will so protect them I confidently believe, in all fair-sized constituencies, and that the undue influence of persons high in station, rich in estate, will be set aside, while their due influence will be diminished not one jot. Sir, the observations I have had the honour to make, have been addressed hitherto to those who are utterly averse to the adoption of the ballot under any circumstances as a political reform. I now crave permission to address one word to those hon. Members who favour the ballot, but doubt its efficacy unless coupled with an extension of the suffrage. Now, I am willing to extend the suffrage, while I have not the least doubt of the efficacy of the ballot at the present moment with the electoral body as at present constituted. Reasoning of this sort must be generally conjectural; but of this one great fact there can be little doubt, namely, that the ballot cannot make matters worse; and this I am prepared to assert, that you can give me no proof of the failure of the ballot in any country in which it has been adopted, while I can furnish you with striking instances of its triumphant success. I have heard it asserted that the ballot was a failure in America—an assertion utterly groundless. At the present moment it is acting so gloriously for the protection of the dearest rights of mankind, that in the slave States, the traffickers in human flesh and blood seek to abolish it, because under its benign influence they dread the abolition of slavery. Sir, in a petition now on the table, signed by 7,128 inhabitants of the city of Bristol, they point to this startling fact, I beg to quote their argument:— That among the instances of the beneficial effects of secrecy of voting, one of the most striking is afforded by the electoral history of the United States of North America. That in these States the independent condition of the electors renders them generally indifferent to the concealment of their votes. That they are nevertheless so well aware of the protective power of the ballot that they have almost universally adopted it, and maintained it; and that it has been (as your petitioners are informed) proposed in the slaveholding States to abrogate it, with the avowed purpose of deterring the abolitionists from the honest exercise of their elective franchise. Sir, can a higher eulogium be passed on the ballot than this? Thus the ballot in America is the sacred shield held up against the spirit of godless intimidation, for the protection of those who desire to carry out the best dictates of humanity, the most glorious attributes of Christianity—and thus in America intimidation desires to abrogate the right of voting by ballot; and thus in England intimidation refuses to concede that right. So much for secret voting in America. But, Sir, if I had a doubt that the ballot would work well with the present state of the franchise in England, that doubt would be dispelled by a comparison with our electoral system and that of Belgium. The House will remember that in 1830, the Belgian constitution was framed, the qualification for voting-ranged differently at different places, from 20 florins to 100 florins, and the suffrage was then confined to 40,000 electors. In 1848 the Belgians improved their electoral system. One universal qualification of 20 florins was substituted, paid in direct taxation, or 1l. 15s. 3d., English currency. A consequent increase of the electoral body from 40,000 to 80,000 took place with vote by ballot. Such is now the electoral system of Belgium; the fears of those who foretold that the change would have too democratic a tendency, were falsified. Men of property, probity, talent, and respectability, have been elected; and there can scarcely be pointed out a member in either Chamber who can fairly be termed a demagogue. In short, Sir, the Parliament of Belgium seems occupied in conjunction with her constitutional monarch, in devising schemes for the welfare and happiness of that eminently prosperous country. Now, Sir, the fact in point which tells so forcibly for this branch of my argument is, that although the population of Belgium is more extensive in proportion to the electors than in England, yet the ballot acts in the most perfect manner; and thus I answer with a practical illustration the mere conjecture that in England the ballot would not succeed without an extension of the suffrage. I have here, Sir, an admirable pamphlet written by a conservative, and addressed to the conservatives of England. With the indulgence of the House, I would crave permission to quote a few sentences on the subject of the ballot in Belgium: the writer, Mr. Barnes, thus prefaces the subject of the ballot:— The main obstacle in Parliamentary Reform is a feeling of conservatism inherent in a prudent and cautious people, who, admiring the institutions along with which they have waxed in prosperity, are willing to bear long with the evils that may be seen to accompany these institutions, rather than to rush into the uncertain sea of extensive change. When this conservative feeling leads to the preservation and furtherance of the principles on which the national institutions are founded, then it claims for itself the appellation of a provident and sure philosophy. When it overlooks these organic principles, and clings pertinaciously to mere outward forms, it degenerates into ignorant and imperilling bigotry. The writer then declares that the great recommendation to ballot in Belgium is the English character with which it is invested, and thus proceeds to tell us some of the evils which in Belgium vanish under its influence, as thus:— Before the ballot vanish corruption and bribery, the great or rich man's power to punish or reward an elector for his vote. Treatings, ill-disguised bribery under the garb of hospitality, expenses allowed to voters, the electors' fear of voting at all, and the intimidation of electors while proceeding to the poll, and all occasions of riot and disorder during the electoral operations. Intrigues of agents, the indirect bribery of candidates, induced to spend large sums of money with particular tradespeople; to promise employment to hungry multitudes, &c.; the impudent negotiations for, and sales of seats; the so frequent coming forward of candidates wholly unknown to the electors, except by the report of their long purses; the forced election of some landlord of the neighbourhood, of his witless scion or slavish nominee; and the expensive and vexatious Committees sitting on contested elections. Sir, the writer then refers to the late Committee sitting on the Dublin petition, in which at least fifty or sixty witnesses were examined; books and papers brought over which weighed upwards of two tons, and the expenses of which falling on my unlucky and persecuted Friend, the Member for Dublin, exceeded 10,000l. Now, Sir, however denuded this question may be of novelty, I think there is something new in quoting a pamphlet, written by a conservative, in favour of the ballot. But this is not the only novelty I can boast of, for since I had the honour of addressing you on this subject, a remarkably contested election has taken place between two Tory gentlemen of Hampshire—Tories of the genus protective—the one a landlord of tenants, the other a tenant of landlords; the tenant was defeated, and he thereupon loudly declared that he was beaten unfairly, and that if he had had the ballot he should have been at the head of the poll. Sir, I have pointed to Belgium as affording an example we well might imitate. I was much struck the other day in reading a speech made by an illustrious scion of the House of Saxe Cobourg, as reported in the Times—a speech attributed to his Royal Highness Prince Albert during his late visit to Lincolnshire. His Royal Highness gave great praise to the relationship existing between landlord and tenant in that part of the country which he visited, and which he said did not depend merely on a written agreement but on mutual trust and confidence; and His Royal Highness expressed a hope that in time their example would be followed throughout the kingdom. Now, Sir, I look upon the ballot as a measure whereby trust and confidence between landlord and tenant may be cemented and improved. Confide in the people, and they will put their trust in you. Sir, I believe that protected voting will have a tendency to improve the relationship between the various orders of society. It will render the rich man more attentive to the wants of the poor. It will diminish absenteeism. It will extend the use of the suffrage, now unconstitutionally cramped and curtailed by the penalties attached to open voting. I ask leave to bring in this Bill, because I believe that it will cause the privileged classes to seek to gain that political distinction by merit which they are now enabled to win by gold, or constrain by force; and because it is calculated to uproot a system of terrorism—a foul blot on the otherwise fair escutcheon of this great and free country.


seconded the Motion. He could assure the House that the trading classes were suffering persecution under the existing electoral system, and that they were compelled very often either to violate their consciences or to incur serious loss. He knew from observation and experience what these classes had to endure in the city of Westminster and in Marylebone, and in the whole of the metropolitan boroughs. He had himself held very strong opinions upon political questions from his youth upwards, and he always thought that every man of full age, whether lodger or householder, had a right to possess the franchise, and to think and act for himself. For having advocated these views in early life he had incurred serious loss; but he had persevered nevertheless, because he was unwilling that the sufferings he endured should be perpetuated to the class to which he belonged. He would state two or three cases of intimidation which had come under his own observation, and he would commence with one in which he had been personally acted upon. During one of the elections in Marylebone, where his house of business was situated, he was called upon by one of his oldest customers—who was connected with several families of high distinction, whose custom was exceedingly valuable—to ask whether it was his intention to vote for so and so? He replied not, for that he had promised the other candidate, an hon. Friend of his own. The party said, "We beg that you will not only vote, but exert your influence for the opposite candidate." He (Mr. Williams) replied that he could not conscientiously comply with the request, and that whatever was the consequence, he was determined to adhere to his original resolution. "Then," said the party, "send in your account—we shall never darken your doors again." He abided by his decision, but that loss had been a serious one to him, and at a time, too, when he could very ill afford it. Another instance of intimidation had occurred in the case of a friend of his in Regent-street—a very honourable man, whose trade was confined to the higher classes of society. He was called upon by an honourable lady in her carriage, who said, "I want your vote for such and such a party." He replied, "I promised it to another." "Oh!" said she, "what has your promise to do with it? you ought to oblige your customers." "Well," rejoined he, "I would be glad to oblige you if I could, but I am promised to the other party." "Then," said she, "if you do not vote for us, I will go to the Duchess of so and so, and Lady so and so, and the hon. Mrs. so and so, and we will, all of us, withdraw our custom." "I am very sorry for that," observed the tradesman. "Order my carriage to drive to Lady so and so's directly," said she. "Order your carriage yourself, ma'am," said he, "you have your footman at the door." He had that day presented a petition in favour of the ballot from Mr. Fowler, of the borough of Cardigan, in which he said that the consequence of his refusing to vote with his landlord, who was a clergyman, the Rev. Hector Morgan, was the receipt of a letter from his son, Thomas Morgan, a solicitor, in which he gave the petitioner notice to quit, observing—" When a tenant votes against his landlord, the good-fellowship which ought to exist between them ceases; and it is my father's wish, as well as my own, that in future no one should hold under us who will not support our Parliamentary interest." He (Mr. Williams) should have thought that a solicitor would have known better than to commit himself by such a letter. He had received several letters respecting the Cardigan election, which showed the extent to which intimidation was carried, and the necessity there was for some protection. He had himself seen the tenant farmers watched at the booth, and when asked whom they were going to vote for, they said, "Mr. so and so, I suppose." Would any Gentleman say that that was a state of things that ought to be upheld in a free country? And if tradesmen could be victimised as he had described by their system of open voting, what, he would ask, was to become of the working classes—the very sinews of the laud, as they were called? They were less able to bear up against intimidation, and, from their limited means of support, were more likely to be influenced by corruption. Many an independent fellow lost his situation for obeying the dictates of his conscience; and he would say also that he had known many an honest fellow to have swallowed the bitter pill of voting against it, rather than subject his wife and family to starvation. This picture, he was sorry to say, was the rule and not the exception in their boasted land of the free; and the only deathblow to such demoralisation he believed to be in the ballot. The ballot, at least, could not make things worse than they were; but, in his opinion, it would afford protection to the working classes in the free exercise of the elective franchise, would alter the present degrading position of the tradesman and tenant farmer, would bring many more thousand votes to the poll, and would cause those votes to be given according to the conscientious opinion of the voter, and free from the trammels of intimidation.

Motion made, and Question put— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable the Votes of Parliamentary Electors to be taken by Ballot.


said, that though he, at least, of all others, had suffered most from that species of intimidation and unconstitutional interference to which the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion had referred, so long a time had intervened, he returned to the fact without one particle of personal animosity towards the parties who had so far forgotten what was duo to themselves, to their station, and to the fair exercise of the franchise. He had in his hand extracts from numerous letters of tenant farmers, declaring that they would have recorded their votes in his favour at his last election hut for the intimidation and coercion which had been resorted to against them. One tenant farmer, in the Forest of Dean, in his letter, said he would rather he without his vote than be allowed to exercise it as at present. Another wrote, saying, "If we vote for the man we approve of, we have our bread taken from us by the lord of the manor." The reason Mr. Neels, one of these tenants, had been dismissed was, that he had not obeyed the order of his landlord; and the cause assigned for his dismissal, that the farm was worth 60l. a year more, was false. Mr. Neels stated in a letter to him (Mr. G. Berkeley) that he had been on the farm for thirty years himself and his father—and that he had not voted at the last election. The hon. Member then read other notes, one from a tenant farmer, stating that though he had been forced to leave his (Mr. G. Berkeley's) troop of yeomanry cavalry, and also vote against him, he had sent secretly his subscription towards the expenses of his election. Another—to prove the intimidation that prevailed—from an innkeeper, at Coleford, stating that his premises had been entirely destroyed by the hired bludgeon men of those who opposed him (Mr. Berkeley), and that the magistrates would allow him no compensation from the hundred. Others, showing that treating existed to a very great extent, dinner for eighty having been ordered at three houses in the town of Wickwar; and a fourth from a tenant voter, offering assistance in private, and requesting to be communicated with under a feigned name, lest through the postmaster, who was opposed to his (Mr. G. Berkeley's) interest, it might reach the Lord Lieutenant's ears. The hon. and gallant Member for Middlesex had alluded last Session to the present Ministry as being far from like the happy family, or not so thoroughly easy as the birds and beasts who were caged about the streets in that name—he could not avoid using the simile again. The family coop might extend from the chair to the bar of the House, but the parties within it were by no means at rest in their gregarious position. Look at the means resorted to by the Government to prop up a popular appearance. His right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester was an instance of it. A Member for one of the largest towns; they had selected him to grace the Treasury benches; but he (Mr. Berkeley) might liken the noble Lord at the head of the Government to Potiphar's wife; and his right hon. Friend to a political Joseph, who found himself at last forced to fly to save his political virtue. If an appeal were made to the county constituencies, it would be found that they had been so coerced at the last election, and so neglected by Her Majesty's advisers, when they sought redress, that they no longer looked to the Government as a liberal Ministry, anxious to protect the tenant farmer in his right of voting. It had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, that "the Whigs would shipwreck the State." They had already stranded that part of the vessel included in the colonies; and in his (Mr. Berkeley's) opinion, the rest of the ship was far from in a flourishing condition. He considered that shortening the duration of Parliament without the ballot would only throw greater power into the hands of landed proprietors and of the rich than they possessed at present. The question of the ballot had been placed fairly and ably before the House, and he was curious to see the effect the Treasury bench would have upon hon. Members who had voted formerly in favour of this question. A list of the division of the 21st June, 1842, showed among the supporters of the ballot the hon. Members for South Staffordshire, the Secretary to the Ordnance; for Louth County, a Lord of Treasury; for Gloucester, a Lord of the Admiralty; for Chatham, late Secretary Board of Control; for Greenwich, a Lord of the Admiralty; for North Northumberland, Home Secretary; for Evesham, in the Household; for Perth City, the Secretary at War; for Sheffield, Secretary of Treasury; for Dungarvon, the Master of Mint; for Drogheda, Chief Secretary (Ireland); for Devonport, Secretary of Treasury; for Edinburgh City, a Lord of the Treasury. He only hoped these hon. Gentlemen—or such of them as were still in the House—would he found, for the sake of consistency, of the same opinion on the present occasion. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, he understood, looked on this as an open question; but it was well known what the place-bound followers of a Ministry will do, upon a silent indication from their chief; and he looked to the result of the division that night with some amusement and curiosity. He (Mr. G. Berkeley) believed that among the votes against the Motion would be found almost all the hon. Members who had refused aid to the colonies; who had nothing to say on the subject of the salvation of Ireland; who had assisted to pass that most doubtful measure, the repeal of the navigation laws. He prayed the House, however, to make the experiment of the ballot as the only remedy against intimidation, as the only visible means offered of meeting the monstrous abuses at present staining the annals of the franchise, and as a means to save the country from a loose representation, a lax Government, and an unrelenting House of Lords.


said, he never rose to address the House under more painful feelings. He should be extremely sorry to make that House an arena for family quarrels; but a sense of what was due to one who was absent, and not there to defend himself, alone induced him to trespass very briefly on its attention; and when he should have concluded, he was sure the House would see how wholly at variance with the facts of the case were the statements which had been made. Allusion had been made to a tenant of the Earl of Fitzhardinge, who had been dismissed by his Lordship, not on account of any political opinion, but because, first, he refused to live in Lord Fitzhardinge's house, and had been told he should leave the farm unless he did so; and, secondly, because he had been convicted before a magistrate of lopping timber. Another accusation against Lord Fitzhardinge was, that he had coerced his tenantry with a view to their not remaining in the troop of yeomanry. He bad a letter in his pocket from the lieutenant of that troop, who was a political opponent of Lord Fitzhardinge, and to which, as contradicting his hon. Relative in the most decided manner, he had hoped he would have been spared the pain of referring. That gentleman, whose name was Ady, waited on the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and asked his advice as to what they should do, being anxious to relieve the minds of the tenants on the subject; and the Lord Lieutenant said he should be extremely sorry that a single man should quit the corps of yeomanry which the Duke of Beaufort had taken great pains to get up, because he had a quarrel with his brother. It had also been stated that Lord Fitzhardinge would turn from his estate any man who should vote for the ballot. Now, in the first speech that Lord Fitzhardinge made, after the passing of the Reform Bill, at a public dinner, he said that the greatest pleasure he ever derived from the votes of his brother was from that which he gave in favour of the ballot. He regretted extremely that he should be dragged forward to speak in defence of Lord Fitzhardinge, and had only to hope that the House would excuse him for having done so.


scarcely expected the House would have been disposed to dismiss so summarily and almost with contempt a question which had already been sanctioned by a deliberate resolution of the House. He should support the Motion, but not without regret. He regretted that a proposition of this kind for an organic change should be brought forward separately, believing, as he did, that the mode of making the representation of the people a reality instead of a name must be by a judicious combination of measures, and that to carry the ballot while there were so many constituencies with so few voters, would only be to change retail for wholesale corruption. They were clearly told by the authors of the Reform Bill that no constituency was to contain less than 300 voters. Looking to the disparity that existed between the class that now enjoyed political distinction and the class that had none, called the slave class, he was decidedly of opinion that the ballot to be useful should be connected with a large extension of the suffrage. His second reluctance to the ballot by itself was, that it was unfit for the country at present. It was said that the ballot would be a shelter for falsehood. Such ought not to be the case, and the fault rested with those who made secrecy a censure. He regarded the Bill now sought to be introduced as not only affecting the order of the democracy, but also affecting the character and social relation of the aristocracy. Corruption implied two parties; hut the guilt was not equally divided between them. To him, the corrupter and intimidator was the greater criminal of the two. Was it right that a man of family, of wealth, of station, with the honourable desire of devoting himself to the service of his country, when he looked to a seat in that House, and through it to lofty political power—was it right or fitting that such a man's first step should be upon a dirty path? Was it right or becoming, in a country like this, that corruption and intimidation should be the very first step of the man, who did not indeed "wade through slaughter to a throne," but through corruption to legislation, and who worked and won his way to a position whence he might bestow blessings on his country, but which he owed to the purchase of individual corruption and family calamities and disasters. The reports of the Committees of last Session had sufficiently shown the general system. The sums notoriously paid for seats in that House were matter of demonstration. In the great majority of cases the candidate himself knew little of the matter; but though unconscious as to the particular corruption, he could not be unconscious of the general management which took place, and of the manner in which the funds lodged at the bankers' in such cases were to be disposed of. Of this he must be aware; and he ought to make himself aware of the machinery by which this was brought to bear on the conduct of the electors. Could hon. Members realise to themselves that which went to serve the purpose of a very laudable ambition, they would shrink with some degree of hesitation. He, himself, knew a young man connected with a Member of that House, of promising talent, of pure principle, of a station which rendered it becoming that he should aspire to a scat in the Legislature, who was induced to stand one contested election; and the scenes he there witnessed of corruption, of the beating down of conscientious feeling in men's minds, and of the tampering with their principles, were such, that he could not overcome the moral disgust they occasioned, and he determined to abandon all prospect of public life as long as his existence continued. There might be an unusual tenderness of conscience in that case, but some analogous impression must be produced on all. A constant machinery was kept up in towns and counties, by the attorneys and agents and voters of the middle class, for corrupting the minds of their poorer fellow-countrymen, whose moral degradation was worked out, not only at election times, but from month to month, and from year to year. The operation was a continuous one. Many a man had been led to take his first step in guilt by having his conscientiousness broken down in being persuaded into the acceptance of a bribe. Many a family, supported by honest industry, had been led to rue the day when the tempter came to their door. It was recorded in the life of the poet Crabbe, that his father, an honest and industrious man in Suffolk, never recovered in his moral and domestic habits the effect of a warmly-contested election in that county, which led him into intemperance and debauchery, and destroyed his family peace. What was done in that case occurred in thousands and tens of thousands all over the country. However pure the aspirant to Parliamentary honours might be, he was part and parcel of a confederacy of demoralisation. There was a mission of corruption at work in the country, carrying disasters and disagreement into families, breaking down the integrity of the poorer classes—a mission more successful than many missions of a better character. While this went on, they would vainly endeavour to teach morals to the people: it would be Viopeless to think that any good would arise from ragged schools, Sunday schools, national schools, or church schools, whilst they were practically taught that bribery, corruption, and debauchery were no vices, or had a counteracting power which made them virtues. Let not the blame be laid on human nature—let not voters be called corrupt, and an apology thus set up for those higher and wealthier classes who ought to be their leaders in better and more honourable paths. He did not believe this was the case. He had had opportunities of watching the progress of corruption—of seeing the arts by which in a constituency of between 1,000 and 2,000—at first pure, or nearly so—votes were afterwards notoriously bought and sold. The people were not corrupt if they were not led into temptation. He knew that by his own experience. The borough he had the honour to represent was a place with only an industrial aristocracy; it had 60,000 inhabitants; the franchise had been conferred upon it by the Reform Bill; and from that day to this he believed no instance had been known—certainly, none had ever been proved—of a bribe being offered and accepted. In his own case he had never spent one shilling, had never asked for a vote, and was not known to an individual in the place by personal acquaintance before he received their requisition. This was the manner in which their returns had always been made; it was the manner in which other boroughs would make theirs, if the higher classes, would let them alone, or would but appeal to opinion rather than to sordid motives, to fear or apprehension, and thus call the best instead of the worst portion of their natures into active exorcise and predominance. Were the gentlemen of England content with this?—were they satisfied that the lower and poorer classes should regard them as tempters and corrupt persons, and should doubt their honesty and honest patriotism, as needs they must when it came before them in such questionable shape? Was this an honourable position for those who, with their Norman blood, had been called the aristocracy of the world? Was it one to which they could reconcile their minds, and bring their consciences into a state of complacency? He hoped this was not the case, but that they had still some sense of what was due to right and justice. The example of America, which had been appealed to, was often questioned, and it was said the voting there was very much devoid of secrecy. That was the very state it was desirable to produce. Let us have the ballot here, and in a quarter of a century there would be no care whatever about secrecy. The prejudice in the minds of the propertied class would wear out that votes belonged to them, or were subjects of legitimate purchase; this exercise of power would become untenable; the fallacy would gradually wear out; and the rich would become conscious that they had no more to do with any man's choice of a candidate than they had with his choice of a wife or a servant. The Americans themselves were the best judges whether the ballot had answered its purpose. If it had not, why was it that not a single State had exchanged it for open voting? On the other hand, it had gradually extended from one State to another; and within a few years the important States of Connecticut and Louisiana had adopted it. Without the ballot, whatever that House might represent, it would not represent the people. One great benefit of such a mode of voting would be that the candidate would feel the struggle to be, not one of influence or party, but of opinion, and would therefore apply himself to act upon opinion. Instead of going about with a train of those who had influence over the parties visited, he would endeavour to reach the principles of the voters, to act upon their minds, to give them knowledge if they were in ignorance, to dissipate their prejudices, and raise the fabric of his own political reputation on the firm basis of their intelligent support. In this way elections would become a school of moral and mental influence, instead of being a continuous source of corruption and depravity. For the sake of the consistency of the House, which had already passed that resolution—for the sake of the many thousands who could not freely exercise their rights of citizenship—for the sake of the parties who intimidated and domineered over them—and for the sake of generating a better feeling amongst these classes, he should give his hearty support to the Motion.


said, that there was, in his opinion, nothing contemptuous in the mode in which the House had listened to that debate. It had been said that the elector may be injured, but may the Member of Parliament not suffer, too, by the votes which he may give in the House? He knew not upon what principle it could be contended that the electors should vote privately while the Member was required to vote publicly. He would rest his opposition to the Motion, on the ground that the exercise of the franchise was a public duty, and ought to be performed in the face of day.


in reply, said, he could assure the House that he would not detain them a minute. He would say nothing in answer to the arguments which had been adduced against his Motion; he would content himself with leaving it to hon. Members to say how far it was respectful in the Government to let the question go to a vote with one Member of the Government speaking upon it.

The House divided:—Ayes 85; Noes 136: Majority 51.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Bass, M. T.
Adair, R. A. S. Berkeley, hon. Capt.
Aglionby, H. A. Berkeley, hon. G. F.
Alcock, T. Bernal, R.
Armstrong, R. B. Boyle, hon. Col.
Brotherton, J. O'Connell, J.
Brown, H. O'Connor, F.
Busfeild, W. O'Flaherty, A.
Callaghan, D. Osborne, R.
Clay, J. Pearson, C.
Clay, Sir W. Pigott, F.
Cobden, R. Pilkington, J.
Cockburn, A. J. E. Power, Dr.
Collins, W. Power, N.
Crawford, W. S. Pryse, P.
Dalrymple, Capt. Raphael, A.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Rawdon, Col.
Devereux, J. T. Ricardo, O.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T. Robartes, T. J. A.
Duncan, G. Roebuck, J. A.
Dundas, Adm. Salwey, Col.
Evans, Sir De L. Scholefield, W.
Ewart, W. Sidney, Ald.
Ferguson, Col. Smith, J. A.
Fox, W. J. Smith, J. B.
Freestun, Col. Stuart, Lord D.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Stuart, Lord J.
Grenfell, C. P. Talfourd, Serj.
Harris, R. Tancred, H. W.
Henry, A. Thicknesse, R. A.
Heywood, J. Thompson, Col.
Hill, Lord M. Thornely, T.
Hodges, T. L. Villiers, hon. C.
Keppel, hon. G. T. Vivian, J. H.
Kershaw, J. Walmsley, Sir J.
King, hon. P. J. L. Wawn, J. T.
Langston, J. H. Westhead, J. P.
Lushington, C. Willcox, B. M.
M'Cullagh, W. T. Willyams, H.
Milner, W. M. E. Wood, W. P.
Mitchell, T. A. Wyvill, M.
Morris, D. TELLERS.
Muntz, G. F. Berkeley, H.
Nugent, Lord Williams, J.
List of the Noes.
Acland, Sir T. D. Cobbold, J. C.
Anson, Visct. Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Codrington, Sir W.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Bailey, j. Jun. Coles, H. B.
Baillie, H. J. Colvile, C. R.
Bankes, G. Crowder, R. B.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Cubitt, W.
Baring, T. Deedes, W.
Harrington, Visct. Denison, J. E.
Bateson, T. Dodd, G.
Beckett, W. Drax, J. S. W.
Bentinck, Lord H. Dundas, G.
Birch, Sir T. B. Dunne, F. P.
Blackall, S. W. East, Sir J. B.
Blair, S. Edwards, H.
Boldero, H. G. Euston, Earl of
Bramston, T. W. Foley, J. H. H.
Brand, T. French, F.
Bremridge, R. Frewen, C. H.
Brooke, Lord Galway, Visct.
Buck, L. W. Gaskell, J. M.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Goddard, A. L.
Burke, Sir T. J. Gordon, Adm.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Goring, C.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Grace, O. D. J.
Carter, J. B. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Granby, Marq. of
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Greenall, G.
Cavendish, W. G. Greene, T.
Chaplin, W. J. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Gwyn, H. Mundy, W.
Haggitt, F. R. Neeld, J.
Harcourt, G. G. Newdegate, C. N.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Newport, Visct.
Heald, J. Noel, hon. G. J.
Heathcote, G. J. Oswald, A.
Henley, J. W. Owen, Sir J.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Palmerston, Visct.
Hervey, Lord A. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Hill, Lord E. Peel, F.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Plumptre, J. P.
Hope, Sir J. Portal, M.
Howard, Lord E. Powlett, Lord W.
Howard, hon. E. G. G. Price, Sir R.
Hughes, W. B. Repton, G. W. J.
Jocelyn, Visct. Richards, R.
Jones, Capt. Russell, Lord J.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Russell, F. C. H.
Lacy, H. C. Rutherfurd, A.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Scott, hon. F.
Lemon, Sir C. Smyth, J. G.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Somerset, Capt.
Lewis, rt. hn. Sir T. F. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Lewis, G. C. Stafford, A.
Lewisham, Visct. Stanton, W. H.
Lincoln, Earl of Stuart, H.
Lindsay, hon. Col. Sutton, J. H. M.
Littleton, hon. E. R. Townley, R. G.
Lockhart, W. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Lopes, Sir R. Vane, Lord H.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Verner, Sir W.
Mackinnon, W. A. Williamson, Sir. H
Magan, W. H. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Maitland, T. Wortlcy, rt. hon. J. S.
Maxwell, hon. J. P. Wynn, rt. hon. C. W. W.
Morison, Sir W. TELLERS.
Mostyn, hon. E. M. L. Cowper, hon. W. F.
Mulgrave, Earl of Verney, Sir H.