§ The House went into Committee on this Bill; Mr. Bernal in the chair.
§ Clause 1 being proposed,
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
proposed to insert in this clause the alterations of which he had given notice. He proposed this Amendment because he thought it desirable that it should be distinctly understood and expressed that it was not the intention of the Bill to annul, but to preserve, all the existing franchises which do not require occupation; and if he were to refer to subsequent clauses, he thought he could show that the language of the Bill was ambiguous in this respect. In proposing this Amendment, however, he wished to guard himself against being understood to be favourable to the rating franchise, as proposed in the Bill for counties. On the contrary, he thought that if it was necessary to augment the constituent body in Ireland, it would be better to do so by creating supplementary franchises without annulling any of the existing franchises, as was proposed in the Bill introduced by Sir James Graham, in 1844. He would only observe further, that the words he now proposed to introduce were contained in the Irish Reform Act.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he should like to ascertain the views of the Government upon 240 the clause before any sudden alteration of it was made.
§ MR. HATCHELL
observed, that in point of fact the Bill did not affect the franchise which the hon. Member for the University of Dublin sought to guard by this proviso. There was, therefore, no objection to add the proviso, if the House wished to guard against all ambiguity.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
asked what was the question before the House? Hon. Members were called upon in the midst of a buzz to decide upon the franchise of the people of Ireland; and what was the question before them? He presumed the Government understood their own Bill, and that they had no objection to explain what was proposed.
§ MR. F. MACKENZIE
said, the Amendment of the hon. Member for the University of Dublin was couched in the plainest terms, easy of comprehension.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, a dozen amendments to the Bill stood on the paper, and that it was necessary to understand each distinctly, according as it was proposed.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
stated that the Amendment might be adopted, inasmuch as the Bill did not propose to affect any franchise in Ireland, except the franchise requiring occupation.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
rose and said, that according to his reading of this Bill, it proposed to sweep away the whole existing franchise in Ireland for the purpose of reconstructing the representative system in that country. Undoubtedly the parties already registered (according to some of the clauses of the Bill) would have a primâ facie right to be registered, but their right henceforth was to be defined according to the qualification to be established by the Bill. He thought it important in the outset that the Committee should decide whether they would adopt the view put forward by the Government, namely, that the existing franchise should remain only so far as a primâ facie right to be registered was concerned; or whether they would adopt the words of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, by which he proposed to retain all existing rights, and seek to supply any deficiency which might be found existing as to the number of electors in Ireland, by engrafting on existing institutions certain new rights which were to be established by the Bill. It was obviously the intention of the Government, in the present Bill, entirely 241 to clear the ground for the purpose of reconstructing an entirely new franchise. Now, whilst he admitted that owing to the decayed state of the representation in Ire-land, it was necessary that new voters should be created, he thought it important that the Committee should decide as to the best mode by which that end and purpose could be effected. The Bill, as at present framed, almost entirely annihilated the distinction which, from the earliest period, had prevailed with respect to the borough and county qualification. From the time of Henry VI. the county qualification had been based upon property, and the borough qualification on the liability to parochial burdens, or the possession of corporate or municipal privileges. The Reform Act did not abolish that distinction, but it substituted an occupation franchise. With only a small variation, the property qualification was left untouched. The first inroad which had been made was by the Chandos clause of the Reform Act, which gave the right to vote to occupiers to the value of 50l, When that clause was proposed, the noble Lord now at the head of the Government objected to it—not on the ground of the abuse which might be expected to arise from it, but because he believed it would alter the basis upon which the Reform Act had settled the county qualification, namely, property, and not occupation. Now, the Reform Act embraced the three kingdoms, whose representation it was desired to assimilate as much as possible by that enactment. Prior to that Act, and as a part of the measure of Catholic emancipation, the 40s. freeholders were annihilated by the 10th of George IV., which provided that no persons should be entitled to vote unless possessed of a freehold of the value of 10l. above all charges. The Reform Act in England had established a right to the franchise on the part of assignees and lessees of terms, and in Ireland the same right was extended to assignees and lessees for sixty years, whether determinable or not, and if their lands were of the value of 10l., they were to be entitled to the franchise without occupation; so that a person who held an unexpired term of fourteen years at the rent of 20l., had a claim to the franchise without occupation, but was obliged to occupy, if his holding was only worth 10l., though held for twenty years. As the two countries were thus assimilated as far as possible, the proposed alteration became not merely an Irish but an Imperial 242 question. He thought it impossible to consider the proposed alteration without reference to those changes which must necessarily take place in the English constituencies, supposing that the measure, as proposed by the Government, received the sanction of Parliament. It had been erroneously supposed that this question of altering the franchise had been in agitation for fifteen years. That such an impression was incorrect, he thought he should be able to point out to the Committee. In the Reform Act for England, a new system of registration was introduced, revising barristers were appointed, and an annual registration established. At that time the Irish Members wanted the same system of annual registration to be extended to Ireland. But from a period as early as 1725, a system of registration had originated in Ireland, which had gradually developed itself until it was matured in the Bill of 1795. The certificate system was also adopted from this Act (the 35th George III.) into the Reform Bill; when the Irish Members therefore required the application of the new English representation to Ireland, Lord Althorp and Lord Stanley replied that it was an experiment, and that if it were found to succeed in England, it should be extended to Ireland. That took place in 1832. The system was tried and found to answer tolerably well for England; and, in 1835, the Government of the day introduced, through Mr. Serjeant O'Loughlen, a Bill for giving Ireland the annual registry and the power of double appeal, the only right of appeal then existing being in the case of the rejection of a party claiming to be registered. That Bill, which was purely directed to the registration, and did not touch the franchise, passed the House of Commons, but was rejected by the Lords. In 1836 a similar Bill was brought in, languished through the Session, and was dropped. In 1837, nothing was done on the subject; and in 1838, Mr. Serjeant Woulfe, on behalf of the Government, introduced a new Bill of registration, which was encountered by a rival Bill of Mr. Serjeant Jackson. Both these Bills remained to the end of the Session, and were then lost. In 1840 began that memorable struggle which followed the introduction of the Registration Bill by Lord Stanley. That Bill did not in the slightest degree attempt to disturb the existing franchise, but the Government were alarmed, and brought forward a rival measure. 243 Now, he could not forget the language held by the noble Lord at the head of the Government upon that measure of Lord Stanley's in 1840, which was intended purely and solely for the registration of voters. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said that—frequently as it had been his fortune to have to resist Motions which, he contended, had the obvious tendency of unsettling the Reform Act, and disturbing the franchise thereby given, he must declare that of all Motions calculated to unsettle that Act, this was the most formidable.But if the provisions of that Bill of Lord Stanley's were compared with those contained in the measure then under discussion, the former would be found innocent indeed, and not at all calling for the remarks which the noble Lord at the head of the Government had then thought it necessary to use with respect to them. He (Sir F. Thesiger) only referred to these expressions of the noble Lord at a former period to show how necessary he thought it was to adhere to the Reform Act. In 1841—the Bills of 1840 having struggled for a short time in that Session—a new Bill was introduced by Lord Stanley solely for the purposes of registration. But the Government at that moment was tottering to its foundation, and finding it necessary to bid for popularity, they came forward with a Bill of their own. The notice of this Bill, originally given by Lord Morpeth, was confined to registration; but within forty-eight hours of its introduction, its title was changed, and it was called a Bill to alter and amend the representation as well as the registration in Ireland. The noble Lord then proposed to create a now class of voters. Persons rated to the amount of 5l., and who held under lease for fourteen years, were to be entitled to registry. Now what had the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth said on the occasion with respect to that proposal? He said that—not only was this Bill in respect of the poor-rate test imperfect, but it would create a complete revolution in the franchise.The right hon. Baronet perceived that this proposition would annihilate that basis of property which ought to form the distinction of a county qualification, and denounced the attempt as soon as it was introduced. The Bill, however, was carried by a majority of five in that House, and was then suffered to drop. Before the next Session, a new Government came into office, and nothing was done with respect to the amendment 244 of the Irish registration until 1844. In 1844 the constituencies of Ireland had very much decreased, and the Government felt the necessity of augmenting their numbers. Accordingly, the Government of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth introduced a measure on the subject, which was perfectly consistent with the present Bill as far as they had gone, should the words proposed to be introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin be inserted; because the Bill of Earl St. Germans did not disturb the existing franchise, although it proposed to create two entirely new classes of voters. The first class resembled somewhat the class proposed by the present Bill; to every person rated to the amount of 30l. in a county the right was given, thus assimilating the franchise of Ireland to the Chandos clause. The other class were a class of freeholders. On that occasion the noble Lord at the head of the Government did not object to the 30l. rating; but he suggested the extension of the 5l. qualification to a 40s. freehold, not, however, merely for life, but in perpetuity, and in cases of leaseholds renewable for ever. This proposal was laid before the House, but carried no further. He referred to it to show what were the views of the Government of that day, with which he had the honour to be connected, and to show that he was only acting consistently with the opinions he had at that period expressed, when he now asked the insertion of the words proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. Believing, then, in those principles, and desiring to see them carried out according to the Amendment which had just been moved by his hon. Friend, he should, of course, give it his full support. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: Hear!] His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General might cheer; but perhaps his hon. and learned Friend might not be aware of the course which he (Sir F. Thesiger) intended to take, for he proposed upon this occasion to support the views which he had always maintanied. He was particularly anxious in discussing a measure which was not only vital in itself, but full of the gravest consequences, that they should proceed carefully. It was of the highest importance that they should, with a measure of such a character, advance with caution and circumspection. They had learnt last night from the noble Lord at the head of the Government that he thought it would 245 not be desirable to introduce any measure as a substitute for the Reform Act, and that he did not approve of any change having reference to the representation of the people, unless it came in the shape of a Bill supplementary to that Act. The question for the House, then, was, should they legislate so as to clear away the present franchise, for the purpose of creating a substitute for the Reform Act; or should they take existing institutions as they found them, and graft upon them such supplementary rights as the exigences of the time required? Now, as to the Bill before them, he did not hesitate to say that it annihilated all existing franchises, and proceeded to reconstruct a new franchise, which, as to counties, was based upon an entirely new principle, and which would have the effect of introducing a class of constituents that appeared to him extremely dangerous. He would therefore put this question to the House—were they to go on according to the prudent and cautious recommendations of the noble Lord delivered to them last night, or take an opposite course? He thought that the cheer which they had heard from his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General seemed to have proceeded from some opinion, that as the Government had conceded all that the Mover of the Amendment required, and agreed to insert the words which he proposed, therefore the observations made by him (Sir F. Thesiger) were wholly needless, and that he had trespassed upon the patience of the House unnecessarily. But he must be allowed to say, it was of very great importance that every one should clearly understand what was the real state of the question. If the Government made the concession which his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin had requested them to make, would they proceed at once to the first question under the Bill? would they create a new class of county constituents? and what shall be the measure of the franchise? The Government proposed to create this new class by giving the franchise to the 8l. voters, namely, those who were rated to the poor to that amount. Upon this subject he had not had any communication with his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin; but before he saw his Amendment, he had entertained an intention of making a proposition similar to that which his hon. Friend had just submitted to the House. All were agreed, at least in speaking for himself he could say that 246 he was fully convinced, of the necessity of making some considerable addition to the constituency of Ireland; and he thought that by the insertion of the words now proposed, and by which existing rights would be protected, they might approach the next question free from embarrassment, and decide what would be the proper amount of franchise, which, guarded by proper provisions, would probably raise up a free and independent class of voters. In supporting the Amendment, he had no other wish than to endeavour to give to the people of Ireland such a constituency as would be best adapted to their wants and wishes.
§ SIR G. GREY
thought that if there were no opposition to the Amendment, those hon. Members were perfectly right who held the opinion that the sooner they proceeded to dispose of that Amendment the better. The speech that the House had just hoard from the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon was one which took a wide historical range, and which took a full view of the principle of the Bill. It was a speech which might very well have been delivered on the second reading, or reserved till the third reading of the Bill; but it certainly was a speech scarcely suited to the consideration of a Bill in Committee. As to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for the University of Dublin, it was one which involved no new principle. If it had the effect, as some hon. Members supposed it would, of making a subsequent clause in the Bill more clear, then that was an additional reason in its favour. The Government admitted the words which the hon. Member proposed to insert, but they did not admit that there was any ambiguity in the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the Bill should establish more clearly than it did the connexion that ought to subsist between the possession of land and the right of voting; it should also do away with anything that might possibly occasion battling in the registration courts. Now, he wished to call the attention of the House to this, that the Bill requirted that all parties liable to poor-rates should be registered without reference to the valuation—that the valuation was afterwards to be ascertained by means of the rate-book, and it was proposed by the Bill that the last rate before a certain time should determine the right of voting; but there was a proviso at the end of the 247 clause that any person voting in right of being rated to the poor must be an occupier for twelve months; and it was further provided, that the union clerk must place such occupiers upon the list of those entitled to vote. Those lists were to go to the high constables, and by them were to be transmitted to the clerks of the peace, and so on to the revising barristers; and it appeared that the high constables were to write the words "objected to" opposite the names of those who had not been residents or occupiers for twelve months. How could the high constables be qualified to do that—how were they to know whether a man was an actual or a constructive occupier? If such a law were to come into operation, faggot votes might be created indefinitely. On the approach of an election, two persons might easily create such a relation between themselves regarding almost any tenement as might amount to occupancy, and an occupier so created might, on tendering a certain amount of rates, claim to be placed on the list of voters. But, if not assessed in respect of a distinct tenement, neither he nor any other person could tell the amount of rates due. It would be impossible to do that unless his tenement were separated from the rest of the holding. He begged the House to look for a moment at what an element of discord this would introduce into the boards of guardians; but he believed it might be prevented by following up the principle of the English Reform Act. Now, as to the time of occupation. The Bill now before them permitted no question to be raised while the register was in force as to the continuance in occupancy. Formerly, the voter must have been two years at the least in occupancy; and with reference to this Bill, he thought that it ought not to require a voter to be registered in respect merely of the last rate before a certain time, but they ought to require that he should have been rated for twelve months or two years. In his opinion, the shorter the time the greater was the facility for creating faggot votes. Amongst the other objections which he had to the clause, and to the Bill generally, was this, that it must have the effect of making the boards of guardians political, which he considered to be a very great evil indeed. He should prefer two years, but even one year would be better than no definite time.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the hon. Gentleman wished to restrict the word "occupier," by the words "tenant or owner." That would have a considerable effect on the constituency, and create great confusion and absurdity in the registration courts, which the hon. Gentleman wished to avert. If the right to vote was confined to tenants and owners only, they would have vexatious questions raised about the legal right of tenants who might have had notice to quit; and landlords wishing to deprive other people of their right to vote, could serve notice to quit that might throw serious doubt as to the legality of a man's tenancy. Then the hon. Gentleman proposed, instead of one year's occupation, to substitute two years, with a two years' rating also; the effect of which would be, that if a man was not put upon any one rate during the whole of the two years' occupancy, he would lose his franchise. The hon. Gentleman was mistaken in his fears that unqualified persons would get upon the register; because, if a person rated to the last year, and who had paid it, had not occupied for the twelve months required by the clause, his own neighbours could object, and have the name struck off. Upon these grounds he must object to the Motion of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
thought the Committee much indebted to his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for his interpretation of this clause, because it was clear that the Government wished persons who were neither tenants nor owners to have votes. ["Hear, hear!"] If his hon. and learned Friend did not mean that, if persons only made themselves occupiers, and continued themselves occupiers, they would be made voters, then why did he refuse to introduce the words, "tenant or owner," suggested by his (Sir F. Thesiger's) hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire, to remove all doubt and ambiguity? Again, he would seriously ask his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General whether he believed any man could entertain the slightest doubt of a person being a legal tenant merely because he was under a notice to quit that had not expired? But just look at the converse of this case: look at the case of a man under a notice to quit that had expired, with an election approaching, and the man knowing that if he only continued 249 de facto occupier he should be entitled to vote in the present state of this Bill—what an interest they would give to such per-sons in continuing their occupation of the land after the tenancy had expired—and what an index of what was lurking behind in the intentions of the Government was such an explanation as its organ had offered for refusing to give a clear and de finite meaning to the words of the clause. Let the Committee at least have some expression introduced to qualify the term occupier, and ensure that a man was a fair and bonâ fide occupier at the time that he registered, or that he gave his vote.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he had been entirely misunderstood by the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon. What he had stated was, not that any question could arise about the tenancy of a man whose notice to quit had not expired, but that landowners wishing to withhold the right to vote from their farmers, could serve on them notices to quit whenever they anticipated an election; and then the legality of the tenancy might be questioned. [Sir P. THESIGER expressed dissent.] The hon. and learned Gentleman doubted whether such a question could arise. Well, he would refer him to the Waterford case, where a large disfranchisement took place. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire was acceeded to, nice discussions might ensue as to the legal meaning of the word "tenant," and they would have Committees of that House deciding on such points without a knowledge of the law on the subject. As to any secret meaning lurking beneath the phraseology of the clause, he (the Attorney General) could detect nothing of the kind, and was sure the suspicion was groundless.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman if he did not moan that a de facto occupier, occupying against the will of his landlord should be entitled to vote, for the purpose of escaping any difficulty that might otherwise arise as to what was a legal tenancy?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, the Bill meant that every person occupying a farmhouse or tenement, as described, should be a voter if he were rated; and if he were asked his individual opinion, he thought the larger sense of the term "occupier" should be adopted in the clause, because he did not think the franchise should be made to depend on a contest between a landlord and his tenant.
§ MR. LAW
considered the hon. and learned Attorney General had answered the question in a most satisfactory manner to those who suspected that this Bill would create more occupiers in Ireland than would have the right to occupy. He would support the hon. Member for Oxfordshire in his Amendment to confine the franchise to "owners or tenants," and ventured to seggest that the hon. Gentleman should separate this Amendment from his other Amendments, and take the sense of the Committee upon it first.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, it had appeared in evidence before a Parliamentary Committee, that certain landed gentlemen in Ireland on some occasions had served no less than 500 notices to quit on their tenants, and that on certain estates it was the custom of the agent to serve a notice to quit on every tenant every six months. If that were a fact, it was one which was much to be deplored. In this measure they must not allow the introduction of words that could cause any dispute in Parliamentary Committees, or any quibble in Irish courts, by which the franchise in Ireland might be done away with. He thought the hon. and learned Attorney General was perfectly right in maintaining this simplicity of phraseology, because it was the object of Parliament, the object of Government, and of those who supported this Bill, that the franchise should be given to all who were in the occupation of laud in Ireland. If there were any dispute as to the right of possessing land, that dispute ought to be settled in the ordinary course of law, and certainly the landlord class in Ireland were the last class of men in the world to come before that House and say there was not legal provision for the maintenance of their rights in Ireland.
§ MR. SHEIL
would offer the Committee an illustration that came under his own notice. He was formerly Member for the county of Louth, in which there was a mountain called Carlingford. Thirty fishermen repaired to that mountain, and possessed the site for twenty years. They said they were not tenants, and the landlord said he was the owner. Now, if the words "tenant or owner" were inserted in the clause, these thirty fishermen would have no vote. [Sir F. THESIGER: They had twenty years' possession. But supposing the possession had been but nineteen years, every one of them would have lost his vote].
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he had only introduced 251 the words used in the English Reform Act, which had received judicial decisions over and over again, and wore, therefore, free from all ambiguity. But if they introduced the word "occupier," although they might think it simple, depend upon it the lawyers would find plenty of room to squabble about its meaning. As to the rating, he only wished to adopt the precedent of the English Reform Act. They ought not to refuse to use words on which certainty had been arrived at for the mere sake of letting in squatters, for it came to that, who had gone on the land and remained there without any legal tenure.
§ MR. HATCHELL
said, he would show what had rendered this measure indispensable. Under the Reform Bill the franchise was 10l. under a lease for twenty years, and therefore the franchise depended on tenure. The effect was, that the landlord refused to grant leases, and the franchise had almost expired. The object of the present Bill was to remedy that crying grievance, and therefore it was proposed to give the franchise to every person who had been an occupier twelve months. Then it was put on the other side that a tenant who was served with a notice to quit would insist on exercising the franchise when he was no longer an occupier. For example, if he were served with a notice on the 1st of November, to quit on the 1st of May, but still continued to occupy, he would have no right to go before the revising barrister and register in the ensuing summer. That might occur in some instances, but see what might happen on the other hand if these words were added. A landlord who had twenty or thirty tenants on his estate, occupying from year to year, might on the 1st of November give them notice to quit, and disfranchise the whole of them on the 1st of May following.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, if a tenant continued to occupy after the expiration of his notice he violated the law, and it was clear that unless the Amendment were adopted, a wrongful tenant overholding his occupancy would be entitled to vote, for the only questions that could be put to him were—"Are you the same person whose name appears upon the register?" and, "Have you already voted at this election?"
§ SIR F. THESIGER
Did the hon. and learned Attorney General intend to give a stronger right in counties than in boroughs? 252 When the Act came to voting in boroughs, the words used were, "tenant or owner," while in the county it was, "occupier and owner;" so that, unless the Amendment were agreed to, a person might hold a wrongful occupation in counties and vote, but he could not be a wrongful occupier in boroughs and vote. Thus the county franchise was put infinitely lower than that for the boroughs.
§ MR. SADLEIR
, from his knowledge of Irish affairs, felt compelled to oppose the Amendment, because it would be opening a wide field for litigation and fraud. The practice of serving notices to quit annually was extensively resorted to in Ireland, on account of the unsatisfactory state of the relations between landlord and tenant, which he sincerely hoped would be remedied by the Bill of the Government on that subject. There were also alternate notices to quit, running over a period of twelve months, on account of uncertainty when the tenancy commenced, and in these cases the tenancy might be called in question all the year round.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
would suppose that the person who was the wrongous occupier did vote. The House wanted to increase the number of voters in Ireland. On both sides of the House it was admitted that there were difficulties in the way of doing so in consequence of litigation. Well, what was the class of men who would vote under the supposed case of wrongful occupation? Looking at the case as legislators and as statesmen, and not as lawyers, he would ask what would be the mischief of including these individuals in the constituency created under this Bill? They must be persons who had occupied lands and tenements of the value of 8l. for twelve months, and who must have paid their rates up to the first of July. Well, suppose there were 20 cases, or 500 cases, if, they would, in which there were quarrels between landlords and tenants, and in which the latter might be said to be wrongful holders. Now, he would ask whether the House of Commons were prepared to say that these were a class of persons who were unworthy of the franchise? He believed they were not, and if they wished to uphold the representative system of Ireland, and to extend the franchise, they must brave this difficulty. One consequence of passing this Bill as it stood would be, that they would deprive the landlords of a motive for quarrelling with their tenants.
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said it was apparent, according to the statement of the hon. and learned Attorney General that under this Bill a tenant, who ceased to be a legal tenant, might be registered, and vote; and he asked the Committee if a voter of that kind would not be a fictitious voter?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
apprehended that if a man were in possession, and paid the rates, he was not the less a bonâ fide occupier because he had received a notice to quit.
SIR D. NORREYS
remarked that, according to the construction put on this measure, if a tenant had a notice to quit, but still overheld until the time of election, he was to be considered a bonâ fide occupier until he was put out of possession in due course of law.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
said, his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had introduced a new term. He now spoke of a bonâ fide occupier; and as he understood the explanation of his hon. Friend who had last addressed the House, he understood the Attorney General to mean by bonâ fide occupier the actual occupier. But he (Sir F. Thesiger) asked, was there no distinction to be made between the wrongful and rightful occupier? Was it to be said that any person, no matter what his title might be, if he be an occupier, is entitled to vote?
§ MR. HENLEY
The hon. Member who spoke last could not have read the Bill, because the only questions that could be put were, "Are you the person whose name appears upon the register?" and "Have you voted before at this election?"
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
said, as the hon. and learned Attorney General feared the Amendment would lead to litigation, he had better make the clause more clear, by saying occupier de facto, whether de jure or not. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had asked what harm would arise from wrongful holders voting. It was obvious that a man over-holding, might not only retain his own vote wrongfully, but prevent some one else from voting.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, the noble Lord omitted to observe that the party must have been rated, and must have been in occupation a whole year.
§ MR. W. BROWN
would not take a lawyer's view of the subject, but would take a common-sense view of it. Let them simply prove the occupation, and let that occupation be quite sufficient.
thought that by omitting the words proposed to be inserted by the Amendment, they would admit to the franchise persons who occupied de facto, though their occupation was only the occupation of servants.
§ MR. HENLEY
wished the Committee to understand that they were about to divide only upon the first part of his Amendment, which proposed to substitute the words "have occupied as owner or tenant," for the words used in the clause.
§ Question put, "That the word 'occupy' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 102: Majority 64.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Enfield, Visct.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Evans, Sir De L.|
|Alcock, T.||Evans, J.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Evans, W.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Fagan, W.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Fagan, J.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Fergus, J.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Fitz Patrick, rt. hn. J. W.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Bass, M. T.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Bellow, R. M.||Forster, M.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Fortescue, hon. J. W.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Fox, R. M.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Fox, W. J.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Bright, J.||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grattan, H.|
|Brown, W.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Busfeild, W.||Grey, R. W.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Carter, J. B.||Hallyburton, Ld. J. F. G.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Harris, R.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hastie, A.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Hastie, A.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Hatchell, J.|
|Cobden, R.||Hawes, B.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Collins, W.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Cowan, C.||Henry, A.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Heywood, J.|
|Craig, W. G.||Heyworth, L.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Drummond, H.||Howard, hon. E. G. G.|
|Duncan, G.||Jackson, W.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Keating, R.|
|Dunne, Col.||Kershaw, J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Ellice, E.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Ellis, J.||Langston, J. H.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Power, N.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Pusey, P.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Reynolds, J.|
|Littleton, hon. E. R.||Rich, H.|
|Loch, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Meagher, T.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Mahon, The O' Gorman||Sadleir, J.|
|Martin, C. W.||Salwey, Col.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Scholefield, W.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Scully, F.|
|Moffatt, G.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Monsell, W.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Moore, G. H.||Smith, J. B.|
|Morison, Sir W.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Mowatt, F.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||Stanton, W. H.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Nugent, Lord||Stuart, Lord D.|
|O'Brien, Sir T.||Sullivan, M.|
|O'Connell, M.||Tenison, E. K.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Tennent, R. J.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Thompson, Col.|
|Ord, W.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Osborne, R.||Towneley, J.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Townley, R. G.|
|Paget, Lord G.||Tufnell, H.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Parker, J.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Patten, J. W.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Pechell, Sir G. B.||Wilson, M.|
|Peel, F.||Wood, W. P.|
|Perfect, R.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Pigott, F.||Wyvill, M.|
|Pinney, W.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Power, Dr.||Howard, Lord E.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Bankes, G.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Gore, W. O.|
|Bateson, T.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Bennet, P.||Greenall, G.|
|Beresford, W.||Greene, T.|
|Best, J.||Grogan, E.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hale, R. B.|
|Brisco, M.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Broadwood, H.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Harris, hon. Capt.|
|Burghley, Lord||Heneage, G. H. W.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Herries, rt. hon. J. C.|
|Castlereagh, Visct.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Chatterton, Col.||Hildyard, R. C.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Hood, Sir A.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Jones, Capt.|
|Dod, J. W.||Ker, R.|
|Dodd, G.||Knight, F. W.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Knox, Col.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Law, hon. G. E.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Lennox, Lord A. G.|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Lewisham, Visct.||Sandars, J.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Lockhart, W.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Lowther, hon. Col.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Lowther, H.||Spooner, R.|
|Macnaghten, Sir E.||Stafford, A.|
|Mandeville, Visct.||Stuart, H.|
|Manners, Lord G.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|March, Earl of||Thompson, Ald.|
|Miles, W.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Mundy, W.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Naas, Lord||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Neeld, J.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Newdegate, G. N.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Newport, Visct.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Ossulston, Lord||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||West, F. R.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Henley, J. W.|
|Sandars, G.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
§ MR. HENLEY
then begged to move another Amendment, of which he had given notice, and which had reference to the payment of rates. The object of the Amendment was to strike out the words "the last rate," and to insert all rates made during the year. He understood that the noble Lord at the head of the Government proposed that the party who shall be rated shall occupy for a year, but that he shall be only rated for the last rate. The proviso for payment was, that he shall only pay the rate due at the preceding January; but he presumed the intention of the noble Lord was, that the party shall, as in England, be rated for the rates during the year. He was sure the noble Lord did not intend to throw dust in their eyes; and if he thought the principle which he (Mr. Henley) advocated was a just one, he would rather leave it to him to introduce the words. On the contrary, if the noble Lord did not agree with him, he should take a division on the Amendment.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
could not agree to the proposition. The insertion of these words would make the clause utter nonsense. It did not appear whether the year was to be calculated from the date of registration, or the time of voting. The object of the Amendment appeared to be to require that an occupier should be rated to the amount of 8l. during the whole year; but such was not the principle of this clause. The principle of the clause was, that the last rate made within the given time was the test of value. If a man who entered on land which was worth only 5l. a year so raised its value by a proper expenditure of money and labour as 257 to make it worth 20l., surely it would not be contended that that man had no right to a vote?
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, that the last rating was the test of value, but what his hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire proposed was that rating during the year should be required also as the test of occupation.
SIR D. NORREYS
said, that the consequence of requiring a man to be rated for an entire year, would in some cases render a person incapable of exercising the franchise, although he might have been in actual occupation for sixteen months.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that he had had opportunities of seeing the great difficulties which had arisen, and the great injustice which had been created, in consequence of requiring a person to be rated for every separate rating, and that was with him a stronger reason than any which had yet been given for desiring to sec the clause remain as it was. If there were three or four rates in the year, there was the greater chance of a person being omitted in the rate-book, either designedly, or through neglect; and there were many more obstacles interposed to the acquirement of the franchise. That, he believed, was precisely the object which hon. Gentlemen opposite had in view, and, therefore, they ought to be the more strict in guarding against any such result. In Dublin, as his hon. Friend below him could inform the House, the law had interposed a dozen almost impossible steps which the elector had to travel before he could acquire the franchise. Their object should be to simplify the franchise as much as possible. Whatever franchise was to be given, let as little difficulty and delay as possible be thrown in the way of its acquisition. It was for this reason that he preferred the clause as it stood to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, it was now perfectly clear that the object of Government was to enable a man to be registered, who, although he might occupy a tenement worth only 10s. a year, might be rated by the guardians at 8l., a few days before the day of registration. He would, therefore, propose to substitute for the words "last rating for the time being" the words "and shall be rated during the occupation hereinafter required to all rates made."
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
begged to call the attention of the Committee to the restriction 258 contained in this clause. In the first place they had the occupier, and they said that he was not to have a vote merely because he was an occupier, but they required, in addition, that he should be rated in the last rate to the support of the poor at the value of 8l. In a subsequent part of the clause they required him to occupy for a year before he could claim to be registered, and likewise that he must have paid, by the 1st of July, any rate that might have been due by him for such occupation up to a day in the January preceding. Here were three considerable restrictions; and, as the case put by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire was barely a possible, but certainly not a probable, case, or one that was likely frequently to occur, he was not disposed to accede to the Amendment, and would adhere to the clause as it stood.
§ MR. W. MILES
said, where a property qualification was the principle of this Bill, surely rates of all descriptions should be paid, to perfect a qualification to vote.
§ MR. LAW
said, it appeared to him that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not met the whole difficulty. The noble Lord had suggested that there were certain tests which, on being applied, ought to confer qualification on a voter; and the noble Lord had referred to the provision that no person should be registered in any year unless he should have been such occupier for twelve months, and should have paid all the poor-rates in respect of his premises. Now, he might not have been rated at all to the last rate—not merely not rated to the amount of 8l., but not rated at all, and not known by any person in the neighbourhood to have been the occupier. He might not have been rated, and might not have paid a shilling in respect of rate. The words were "paying all rates in respect of such premises," and not in respect of such occupation. He was not liable to pay anything to which he was not rated; therefore a single rate made to qualify a man as a voter—say for 8l. a year—might qualify a man who had escaped the notice of everybody who was subject to that rate previously.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
said, it appeared 259 to him his hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire would hardly accomplish the object he had in view by the present Amendment. It had been said on the other side of the House that there could be no change in a county valuation but from seven years to seven years, and if a person during that period had improved the value of his property he was the description of person who ought to be rated. Now, he (Sir F. Thesiger) had no apprehension whatever that such a man, if entitled only to be rated at 10s., would induce the guardians to put him down at a sum of 8l. He believed such an instance would be of extremely rare occurrence. He would therefore suggest that it would be prudent for his hon. Friend not to press his Motion.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ Same clause:—Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the blank, page 2, line 4, be filled with 'eight pounds.'"
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, he was well aware that, in moving an Amendment which would have the effect of raising the qualification of voters in counties, he would be met by the charge already made in the course of the debate, that he was actuated by an undue desire of curtailing the franchise, and of depriving his countrymen of those privileges which the Bill proposed to extend to them. He did not know that it was necessary for a Member of Parliament to reply to such charges as those. But he would say at once that he subscribed to the constitutional doctrine which he recollected having heard expressed by the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell), that it was the right of the whole population, both in England and in Ireland, to have the best kind of government and the best system of representation which it was possible for Parliament to confer; and he had recently read an opinion quoted from Mr. Fox by Sir James Graham, in one of the former discussions on this very subject, in which he (Mr. Hamilton) fully coincided, namely, that the best qualification as the basis of the representative system was that which included the largest number of independent voters, and excluded the largest number of dependent voters. It was said, that because in England the number of electors bore a larger proportion to the whole population than in Ireland, that, therefore, it was necessary to increase the Irish constituencies; but he could not admit that the franchise ought to rest upon any such 260 arithmetical calculation as that. The real question which they had to consider was, what amount or qualification of franchise was practically the best calculated to afford good government and representation to Ireland—and what was the best representative system that could be established in Ireland for the interests of the united kingdom. His hon. and learned Friend (Sir F. Thesiger) had given a very able summary of the existing laws in Ireland, with regard to the franchise and registration, which would render any statement of that kind unnecessary on his part. But he would just remark, that at the time of the Reform Bill, when all these matters were fully discussed, certain principles were laid down which he thought it would be most unwise to depart from now. New franchises were then created, and a balance struck between the county and the borough interests—property being made the basis of the one, and house occupancy the basis of the other. Three essential conditions were attached to the property franchise for counties in Ireland, namely, actual possession—a certain tenure or title—and a certain profit or beneficial interest. These, the Committee should bear in mind, were the conditions of the county franchises under the Reform Act. His hon. and learned Friend had referred to the several Bills which had since been introduced; and he (Mr. Hamilton) would also refer to them very briefly for the purpose of showing how Parliament had acted in reference to these conditions of the franchise under the Reform Bill. In 1841, Lord Morpeth introduced a Bill for altering both the franchise and the system of registration, and in introducing it he used the following words:—I do not propose to make any material alteration in the tenure under which the franchise is at present enjoyed.It would be a novel principle to fix the franchise purely upon rating without reference to tenure. And the noble Lord then proposed to annex to the qualification of a tenement rated at 8l. a tenure of not less than fourteen years. How did the House deal with this? Why, Sir James Graham said, he would resist the second reading of the third clause. If this extension he granted to Ireland, how can you resist its introduction into England and Scotland? If the 5l. or 8l. qualification is a sufficient test of respectability and independence in Ireland, why should it not be in England and Scotland? These were then the sentiments of Sir James Graham. 261 Were they not equally applicable now? He (Mr. Hamilton) could fully understand that the right hon. Members opposite, who were the strong and conscientious advocates of the most extended franchise in England, should hail this measure of Government as a great boon, for he did not see how it was possible to resist the force of the argument used by Sir James Graham in 1841; other Members of high character as statesmen used similar language. Observe this was an 8l. rating qualification, with a tenure of fourteen years, without any profit or beneficial interest. Lord Howick was not satisfied with this—he proposed an Amendment that there should be a 5l. excessive value beyond rent and charges, by comparing the poor valuation with the lease; and in proposing it he said—I view the principle of baaing the county qualification on property as not only consecrated by long practice and the usage of the constitution, but I think it also in accordance with sound sense and reason, for it is a legitimate inference that the possessors of property will, on the whole, be the class of persons most capable of exercising the franchise with independence, and having themselves some stake in the country, will be anxious to discharge honestly the duty imposed on them.These, were then, Lord Howick's sentiments; and on a division the House of Commons affirmed these sentiments, the numbers being for Lord Howick's Amendment 291, against it 270. This showed the feeling of the House of Commons in 1841 on this important subject, and how tenacious they were as to the conditions of the county qualification under the Reform Act. Now he (Mr. Hamilton) felt that if a rating qualification was to be established for counties, the only manner in which it could be reconciled with the principles of the Reform Bill would be by fixing such an amount of rating as would afford a reasonable test that the person rated possessed a stake in the country equivalent to that which the Reform Bill intended he should possess. The lowest beneficial interest at which the Reform Act conferred the franchise was 10l. above all charges. It was not very easy to lay down a principle in this case; but it was generally considered—and the assessment of the tenant's interest for the property tax in England was founded upon the supposition—that the beneficial interest of the tenant was equal to half the letting value. Schedule B in the income and property tax imposed upon the tenant in respect of his profits as occupier, one-half the tax imposed upon the owner in respect 262 of rent. Now, if this principle were true and applicable to the 8l. rating, it would follow that a person rated at 8l., would have a beneficial interest of only 4l. a year, instead of 10l., which the Reform Act required. But if the rating qualification were made 15l., which he (Mr. Hamilton) meant to propose, the beneficial interest might be supposed to be 7l. 10s.; but if the valuation for poor-law purposes was 25 per cent under the letting value, as he believed it was, a rating of 15l. on the principle of the property-tax assessment, would suppose a beneficial interest of just 10l., being the amount required under the Reform Act. He would again repeat, he had no desire, unnecessarily, to curtail the franchise. If his Amendment were adopted, he would be quite ready to consider by what means other franchises could be conferred, consistently with the principle of the Reform Bill. He wished such franchises to be established as would be considered satisfactory, and at the same time would be applicable to those who were qualified to exercise it for the public good. But he also thought it necessary that caution should be used in legislating on this subject. It was most desirable in the present state of Ireland that all party struggles and dissensions should be discouraged. He was greatly afraid that if a very low franchise were established, there would be a revival of party strife, and of those disgraceful scenes at elections which had formerly prevailed. It had been said, that the diminution in the constituency had arisen from the indisposition on the part of the landlords to give leases. He (Mr. Hamilton) believed that it arose in a still greater degree from the indisposition of the tenants to register. The fact was, the mass of the people were tired and disgusted with political agitation. But if there had been a struggle on the part of the landlords against tenure, he greatly feared that the effect of this Bill would be still more disastrous, for it would convert the struggle against tenure into one against occupancy, and revive in the very worst form the contests between landlord and tenant. Mr. Hamilton concluded by moving that the rating should be 15l.
§ MR. GRATTAN
said, that his hon. Friend reminded him of the phrase which had been applied to the Bourbons: Il n'a rien oublié, ni rien appris. He believed that his hon. Friend was a very excellent and good-hearted man, but he was very unwise in making the present proposition. 263 He (Mr. Grattan) differed so much from his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, that he really came down to the House with the intention of moving an Amendment that the qualification should be fixed at 6l. instead of 8l. At present the property of Ireland was rated very low, and those of the farmers who were now rated at 6l., were rated at a sum equivalent to 9l. in England. He cordially concurred in the desire expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that in this matter the House would deal with the people of Ireland in an honest and straightforward manner. The hon. Member for the University of Dublin, and the other hon. and learned Member who had opposed the present proposition of rating, were both exceedingly complacent gentlemen, and he believed very excellent men. He had heard the words Ingenui vultus puer applied to both of them. But there was another passage in one of Dean Swift's works—Polite Conversation—in which Miss Deborah, speaking of a certain gentleman, said—He looks as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth,But I warrant you cheese won't choke him.With respect to those hon. Members to whom be had alluded, he fully believed that although butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, yet neither the finest nor the rankest cheese would choke either of them.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
claimed permission to offer a few observations. He could not avoid expressing his surprise at the Amendment proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, because he believed that the 8l. franchise would have suited his side of the House extremely well. In the few observations which he (Mr. Reynolds) should address to the House, he hoped to be able to prove that the 8l. qualification would considerably check popular power in Ireland. Before he referred to that particular part of the subject, he begged to be permitted to express his surprise at the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon. Without intending to mislead or deceive that House or the public, he (Mr. Reynolds) certainly thought the effect of the hon. and learned Member's observations would be to produce misconception. He told the House that the object of the present Bill was to sweep away the existing franchise; and he (Mr. Reynolds) presumed the hon. and learned Member meant to say in Ireland. Now, though he (Mr. Reynolds) had not had the advantage of 264 being learned, in a professional sense, yet he hoped to prove himself more learned as regarded Parliamentary qualification in Ireland than the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon. Therefore he presumed to give that hon. and learned Gentleman a little information on the subject, which, he hoped, would prove to his entire satisfaction that he had been in error. What were the Parliamentary qualifications in Ireland? They were five in number, namely, 50l. or 20l. freeholders, 20l. rent-chargers, 10l. leaseholders with a 10l. beneficial interest, 10l. leaseholders in boroughs annually valued, and freemen, who required no property qualification at all. Now, the present Bill left the freemen untouched: they were preserved, much to his regret; the 50l. and 20l. freeholders were also left untouched. The rent-chargers were also left untouched; and who were the parties touched? Why, the 10l. leaseholders who possessed a beneficial qualification in counties, and 10l. householders in cities. Now, he wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman if he conceived himself right in asserting that the present Bill was intended to sweep away all existing qualifications? He (Mr. Reynolds) trusted he had removed from the mind of the hon. and learned Member and the House the lumber that encumbered it, and which proved likely to impede the consideration of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman had informed the House that he was the advocate of an extended franchise; and his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin more than re-echoed the sentiment, declaring that he was also the advocate of an extended franchise; and his fellow-countrymen would not debit him for an inclination contrary; and he (Mr. Reynolds) would therefore proceed to test both hon. Gentlemen. The hon. Member for the University of Dublin asserted that an 8l. qualification amounted almost to universal suffrage, and a 15l. qualification seemed in his eyes to be all perfection. Now the hon. Member for Montrose, who, he regretted to see, was not in his place, told them the other evening that an 8l. qualification, as regarded Ireland, was equal to a 30l. qualification in England; and therefore if his calculations were right, a 15l. qualification in Ireland would be equal to a 58l. 10s. qualification in England. Now, he wished to know, was the House prepared to insult the people of Ireland, by enacting that no man in that country should possess a right to vote who 265 was not rated at 15l. equal to 60l. in England? He felt certain the House would never sanction such a proposition. Already in the present week one night had been frittered away in useless contention. Between the hours of 5 and 12, that House had no loss than eight divisions, without, however, realising the truth of the old proverb, that a "house divided must fall." The present was the second night, and already they had got as far as the 12th line in the first clause of the Bill. Now, his object in addressing the House was to place before English Members—of whom he had ever heard a good character from his own countrymen, and he trusted their acts would not induce him to entertain a different opinion—the condition of the franchise in Ireland. He belonged for many years to the movement or reform party in Ireland. Now, he had often been told by some members of that party not to ask too much from English Members, or to sink the legialstive independence of Ireland, and they would be induced to grant a great deal. Now, without having made a contract or promise to sink anything, he was there as an Irish representative to test the truth of promises. What he respectfully demanded from that House in the name of his countrymen was a liberal, free, and honest Parliamentary Reform Bill for Ireland. He might be told they did not require it; but he would prove they did. He intended submitting some figures to the House, and after reading them he would ask hon. Members, were they prepared to maintain such a state of things in Ireland? He had heard that Ireland at the passing of the Union, as also at the passing of the Reform Bill, was not fairly treated in point of representation or franchise. Now, when he made these observations he did not wish to be understood as claiming more for the people of Ireland than they were entitled to, or more than was possessed by the people of England or Scotland. He did not want for Ireland a larger number of Members than she was entitled to both by revenue and population. However, as that question was not before the House, he would not dwell longer upon it. He would, as he had said, trouble the House by reading a few papers compiled from returns made to that House, and then ask the Committee if it was fair or reasonable that Gentlemen on the opposite side should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the University of Dublin. The paper was an abstract, showing the population of 266 the several counties in Ireland, and number of electors appearing on the Parliamentary roll in 1849, by which it appeared that the total population of the 32 counties in Ireland amounted to 7,435,822, and the number of voters to 33,842. The population of the boroughs amounted to 739,302, and the number of electors on the roll in 1847 was 38,168; and the number which would be entitled to vote on the proposed 8l. rating, would be 48,441. But the case did not, however, stop there, for of the 38,168 persons who were on the roll in 1847, at least one half of that number were not available at the time of the general election. The numbers on the roll, and the numbers who voted at the elections in nine contested Irish counties at the last general election, were as follows:
Showing a total of 12,800 on the roll, of which only 6,800 voted. In sixteen contested boroughs—viz., Athlone, Belfast, Clonmel, Carlow, Cork, Coleraine, Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Dungannon, Kinsale, Limerick, New Ross, Waterford, Youghal, the number of persons on the roll were 37,374, of whom 14,306 only voted. Comparing the gross population, the number of electors, and the Members returned by English, Welsh, and Scotch boroughs, with the same in Ireland, the following was the result:—
Counties. No. on the Roll. No. of Persons voting. Clare … 2,199 1,250 Kildare … 1,275 800 Kilkenny … 1,090 500 Leitrim … 1,434 600 Limerick … 1,673 1,000 Longford … 1,089 800 Mayo … 1,391 600 Meath … 1,611 900 Roscommon … 1,038 350
Now, he wished to know why the hon. Member for the University of Dublin did not contend boldly for the right of Ireland to possess as large a franchise and as many Members as England? The other night he hoard the Nestor of the reform party, the hon. Member for Montrose, lament that out of a population of sixteen millions they had only a million of voters. 267 Why, Ireland, with eight millions—half the population of England and Wales—had only' 30,000 voters; and whilst England and Wales returned 500 Members, the people of Ireland returned only 105. He had been asked by several why he troubled himself about the Franchise Bill, as Englishmen would grant nothing; and why he would not absent himself, as other Irish Members did? Unfortunately, it was too true that Irish Members did absent themselves; but he denied the assertion that it was useless to expect anything from Englishmen. He believed that many of his countrymen who begged and prayed constituencies to return them, conceived that once they were elected their duty was completed, and they were at liberty to remain away. However, though he would not act so invidiously as to mention names, he believed their constituencies examined the division lists, and would have a word to say to them on that point. The ladies, too, might address some of those Gentlemen in these terms:—"Sure, when the election was coming on, it was yourself that came coaxing our husbands, and kissing the childer, and paying ourselves fine compliments, to make us send you to the House; and now, when you may go there without trouble, you will not enter it." He had heard many of the Gentlemen assign as a reason for absence that "they had no confidence in that House, and that they could do no good by attending." Now, his reply to those Gentlemen was, "why not resign your seats to those who will attend?" He (Mr. Reynolds) had confidence in that House; and he believed the battle of Ireland, with some exceptions out of doors, was to be fought on the floor of that House; and, therefore, he conceived it to be the duty of every Irish Member to attend there. He complained of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, whose party at the passing of the Emancipation Act, insisted on the sacrifice of the 40s. freeholders as a condition of emancipation. Accordingly they were abolished, and a 10l. county qualification substituted; which, however, did not give better men to the representation. The same proceeding was resorted to at the passing of the Reform Bill, but with no better result. It was all very well for the hon. and learned Member for the Univercity of Dublin to talk of a substantial property qualification. If he were an advocate for such, why sanction the existence 268 of the freemen, rather than demand their abolition? The following was a list of six English and six Irish boroughs, each returning two Members to Parliament, with population and number of electors in the each:—
Population. No. of Electors. Members. England and Wales. 6,105,228 365,269 335 Scotch 964,958 42,318 23 7,070,286 417,587 358
ENGLISH. Boroughs. Population. Electors. Members. Andover … 4,997 243 2 Knaresborough … 5,382 228 2 Thetford … 3,844 214 2 Harwich … 3,730 268 2 Marlborough … 4,130 255 2 Richmond … 4,300 265 2 26,383 1,473 12
That list showed that the aggregate population of six Irish Parliamentary boroughs sending twelve Members was 492,872, the total number of electors being only 27,335, while the aggregate population of the six English boroughs sending the same number of Members to Parliament was 26,389, and the number of electors was 1,473. The Committee had now to decide whether the franchise should be 8l. or 15l. He should record his vote against the 15l. franchise, but he begged to give notice that if that Motion were carried, he should move an Amendment to leave out the words 15l., and say the minimum rating should be 4l.
IRISH. Cork … … 80,720 3,244 2 Dublin … … 232,726 15,049 2 Galway … … 32,511 1,822 2 Limerick … … 48,391 1,246 2 Waterford … … 23,216 1,273 2 Belfast … … 75,308 4,701 2 492,872 27,335 12
§ MR. STAFFORD
expressed a doubt whether it was competent to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down to divide the Committee in the manner which he had proposed. As he understood the question now before the Committee, it was not whether the qualification should be a 15l. occupation, but whether it should be an occupation of 8l.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, that he would offer only a few observations on the subject of the hon. Gentleman's proposal before the Committee divided. He did not think that the hon. Gentleman had really laid himself open to the statement made by the hon. Member for the city of Dublin, that he wished to retain the present 269 system of the franchise in Ireland; on the contrary, the hon. Gentleman was willing to consider the question, and that he did not confine himself to the question of tenure. The case really resolved itself into a question of the number of electors there should be in Ireland. He should submit to the Committee that the 8l. annual rating would not create an excessive number of electors. Taking the 8l. a year in counties as well as boroughs, he thought the whole number must be under 300,000; and if that number was compared with the number of electors in England and Wales, they were about one in five of the population of England and Wales, and would be found to be in the proportion of one in six and a half or seven in Ireland. In arguing this question, the hon. Gentleman stated that the 8l. a year represented the beneficial interest of half that amount, of 4l. a year. If that 4l. a year was compared with the franchise in England, it would be found to be equal only to 2l. a year, and therefore the hon. Gentleman himself stated that it would be a beneficial interest of 4l. a year. There certainly was the difference of tenure. He submitted, however, that the proposal being that there should be rather a less number in proportion in Ireland than in England and Wales, and the amount of property being very fairly represented, there was no reason for saying that it was too low a franchise. But, then, there certainly came the question, on which very little argument had been addressed to the House, why the franchise should be given to persons who were merely occupiers, and why that occupation should not be joined with the tenure, as was the case in England, and which had always been considered as the proper franchise of this country. In order to arrive at a just conclusion on this question, he thought it would be quite sufficient to look back at the course of proceeding in Ireland with respect to the franchise based upon tenure. In the year 1793 the forty-shilling freehold, as enjoyed by the people of England, was granted to the people of Ireland. The consequence was that there were in some counties thousands of manufactured votes in the hands of persons of no property whatever who were driven to the poll by the agents of the landlords, in order to meet the thousand votes of some other landlord. In fact it formed the greatest caricature and most savage abuse of the representative system that could well be imagined. He remembered hearing 270 a story which was some illustration of the statement. A gentleman who was passing by a number of wretched hovels in the shape of a village in Ireland, said to the gentleman who was driving him, "How can you permit any person to inhabit these wretched hovels, and of what possible use can the people be to you?" "Oh," answered the gentleman, "all the use in the world, for they enabled me to make my brother a dean." Such was the sort of system which prevailed under the forty-shilling freeholds in Ireland. In 1829 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tarn-worth, when he proposed the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, made a statement which met with the approval of the House and which was passed into a law, disfranchising the forty-shilling freeholds, and giving a new franchise of 10l. freeholds. That Bill was afterwards amended and altered by the Act introduced by Lord Stanley. But that Act was far from getting rid of the system of perjury, of fictitious creation of votes, of giving life interests to persons of 70 or 75 years of ago, in order to give them votes at the next election. Lord Stanley then proposed another mode of amendment, and his noble Friend Lord Howick proposed again a different measure. At that time there were several Members of the House, among whom was the hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan, who stated that it would be impossible ever to get rid of the system of perjury and creating fictitious votes until the right of voting was made dependent on occupation and rating, and not upon tenure. When Lord Besborough went over to Ireland, he was directed to inquire into and report his opinion upon the subject. In his report that Nobleman stated—So long, 13 you keep up a right of voting by tenure, you will have these scones of frequent occurrence, and it would be quite impossible to counteract the evil. The franchise should rather be founded on rating and occupation, and they would thus make the register a little more than a copy of the rate book,That plan was adopted on the recommendation of Lord Besborough, the details of which he would not enter into then. The question before the Committee was whether the franchise should be reduced to a lower amount than it was fixed by that Act; and upon that point he must say that he did not think the House would give satisfaction to Ireland unless they gave the Irish people the same proportion of votes as they had given to the people of England. 271 He did not think that the amount proposed was too low, nor that it would give an excessive number of voters to Ireland.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, as it was the disposition of the Committee to go to a division, he would detain them but for a few moments, whilst he merely stated the reasons why he could not acquiesce in the Government proposal. He felt as strongly as the noble Lord could feel the importance of mating a considerable addition to the Irish franchise; but he felt there were other and graver considerations connected with this question than a mere augmentation of numbers. First of all, they had to consider how to create a constituency whose position and substance gave them an interest in maintaining the rights of property, and supporting law and order. Secondly, to take care that the constituency had such an amount of means as would make them independent of those who, if they were utterly dependent, would be likely to exercise an unjust influence over them; and, thirdly, to consider what would be the effect upon the social condition of Ireland, of the franchise which they proposed to create. There was still a further consideration which applied rather to English than to Irish Members, and that was, what would be the effect on public opinion in England if the franchise in Ireland was placed upon this basis. He admitted there was considerable distinction between the circumstances of the two countries, but then many either would not think so, or would affect that they did not think so, and would represent the injustice to England of the Irish people being put upon a more liberal and favourable footing, as regarded the franchise, than the English. There was another objection to the 8l. franchise, which he thought ought to have considerable force, namely, the weight it would throw into the hands of the inhabitants of small towns which were not boroughs, in which the occupier of an 8l. house was necessarily of the lowest class; it was to be hoped the manufacturing and commercial interests of Ireland would improve and prosper—that weight and influence, therefore, would proportionably increase. The franchise in the towns would thus be gradually augmented, whilst that of the agricultural districts would be little, if at all, altered. For no rational country gentleman residing in Ireland, anxious to maintain on a good footing the property with which he was intrusted, 272 would be desirous of increasing the number of 8l. occupants, which, even if conducive to political objects, would be, in other respects, only a source of embarrassment. He did not mean to draw any distinction of classes, for he considered the agricultural interest so intimately connected with the commercial and manufacturing, that no injury would be likely to accrue to one from the franchise of the other; but what he feared was, that when a moment of difficulty came, and one particular interest felt itself oppressed, the agriculturists, if depressed, would feel jealous of the superior influence of the towns. He felt rather surprised that so little explanation should have been given by the Government as to the reasons why this particular test of 8l. occupation was selected for the Irish franchise. On looking over the Earl of Devon's report, he found that there were cottier tenants who paid a very heavy rent—5l. or 6l. per acre—for the land they were permitted to occupy. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: They are conacre tenants.] They are persons who pay that rate for tenements which they occupy. [Mr. M. J. O'CONNELL: They must be market gardeners then.] The occupation of land in Ireland is money. It is the mode in which wages are paid. The man who pays 7l. or 8l. for a holding must be considered as a man working at the rate of wages of labour that that rent will cover for a year. He must therefore be of a very humble class. When connected with the Government of which his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth was at the head, Lord Eliot introduced a Bill in order to remedy the defects of the franchise, and make it more conformable to the English. He proposed, that as regarded occupation, the qualification should be 30l., and 5l. the freehold qualification. He admitted that what might be then a moderate rate of qualification, would now he considered a high one. But there was a great difference between the occupation of 30l. and that of 8l., and for such a change no reason had been given. In making an alteration of franchise, surely some endavour should be made to stimulate the industrial exertions of the Irish. If a higher rate than 8l. were adopted, the number of voters might be at first somewhat less; but then it would afford motives for exertion, and would give a stimulus to those who did not possess the right to vote to do their utmost to obtain the necessary qualification, and thus gradually 273 the number of really independent votes, and of useful members of society, would be increased. Having regard to the consideration of the social condition of Ireland, and the results which the adoption of this 8l. franchise would have upon it, he was not of opinion that it was an advisable course for the House to adopt, and he should give his vote against it.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, that no thing could have been more moderate than the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken; and he (Sir W. Somerville) had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman, in pursuing the course which he had announced he should do, was animated by the best intentions with regard to the interests of Ireland. He (Sir W. Somerville) begged of the House to consider for a moment the position of the case. He apprehended that there was no doubt as to the necessity of something being done. The state of the franchise in Ireland was now such that it behoved the House, if they really wished to establish a proper constituency in that country, to endeavour to remedy the existing state of things. The question was, what that remedy ought to be, and how it ought to be applied. The House would remember that by the Reform Act a 10l. franchise was conferred on Ireland; and the general opinion at the time of passing that measure was that under that franchise a very extensive constituency would be created in Ireland. That expectation had entirely failed. Instead of an extensive constituency, the number of voters had been declining ever since, and at the present moment they amounted to very little more than 30,000. The point then was, how were they to create a constituency in Ireland? He believed that it would be useless to attempt it by in any way connecting the franchise with the tenure of land, no matter whether the amount were 5l., 3l., or 2l. There was always a great indisposition to grant leases in Ireland, possibly because it conferred the Parliamentary franchise; that indisposition would not be diminished if a franchise of 5l. were adopted connected with the tenure of the land. Was the 8l. franchise so very high compared with the 10l. franchise granted by the Reform Act? He apprehended it was not. Returns laid upon the table of the House in 1843 would show that a 10l. or 8l., or even 5l. rating would not diminish the number of 10l. voters established under the Reform Act; and 274 it did not appear to him that the proposed Bill would make any excessive increase in the constituency. It was generally admitted that there must be a large increase in the constituency. The proportion of electors at the present moment to the adult male population of Ireland was very little more than three per cent; the number to be created by the Bill then before the House might, he thought, be calculated at about 267,000; that would give a proportion of about 15 per cent to the adult male population. That was not an extravagant proposal; nor an addition which ought to alarm hon. Gentlemen opposite; whilst it was some what nearer the proportion of electors in England to the adult male population. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge had said a great deal about the preponderating influence given under this Bill to the towns and boroughs which did not, under the present regulation, return Members of Parliament. He (Sir W. Somerville) thought the right hon. Gentleman had taken an extravagant view of the proportion of that class of voters. Returns had been laid on the table of the House which had been moved for by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan, which showed pretty clearly what the numbers enfranchised in those particular districts would be. In Armagh, which was, he believed, very much subdivided, the number of tenants valued at and under 8l. was, in 1849, 18,500; the total number rated to the same amount in the different houses in Armagh amounted only to 1,500. He would next take the county of Meath, which was less subdivided. He found there that the number of tenants rated at and over 8l. was upwards of 9,000, while in the different towns they amounted only to 387. He therefore thought that the right hon. Gentleman had somewhat overstated the case with regard to the number of voters to be enfranchised in the different towns under the proposed arrangement. Such being the case, he did not think there was anything objectionable in the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. It would create a constituency not over numerous as compared with the constituency of other parts of the empire; and it would establish a franchise more likely to prove beneficial to the interests of Ireland than that proposed by his hon. Friend opposite. If a higher franchise than that proposed by the Government were adopted, he thought the people of Ireland would have a just right 275 to complain, and that being the case, he hoped the House would not consent to the Motion of the hon. Member for the University of Dublin.
§ MR. R. M. FOX
rose to correct an error into which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge had fallen. The land adverted to as occupied by cottier tenants, paying 7l. or 8l a year rent, was conacre land, well manured, and highly cultivated. The 10l. freeholder was not a hit more intelligent or independent than the voters created by this Bill would prove to be. No one, in fact, could be more miserably dependent than he was. The great body of the non-electors caused a species of wild control over the freeholders, who were driven hither and thither—first by the non-electors, and then by the landlord; and the only remedy was an extension of the franchise. To illustrate the deficient state of the franchise at present, he might mention that in the county of Longford the number of electors in 1846 was 7,000, whereas at that moment it did not exceed 4,000. He thanked the Government for introducing the Bill, and believed that, like the other measures which they had introduced in the present Session, it was highly estimated in Ireland.
§ MR. STAFFORD
said, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, in their very moderate speeches, argued that as no one disputed or denied the diminution in the number of the Irish voters, therefore the Committee should sanction this proposition; but neither of them met the objection raised by his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin. No one on that (the Opposition) side of the House, said that the present system of registration and franchise in Ireland was satisfactory; but the question was, whether the plan now proposed was the best that could be substituted for it. The noble Lord said, the number of voters which would be created under this Bill, was not such as would alarm the House. The answer was not as to the number but as to the quality of these new voters. The question was, whether 8l. should be inserted in the clause? Neither the noble Lord nor the right hon. Gentleman did, beyond the question of numbers, state why they selected this figure. As he had not heard a satisfactory explanation on this point, he had searched a number of documents laid before the House by the Government, which he thought might furnish him with 276 some information on the point. He found that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had brought in a Bill respecting the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland, in which he separated the tenantry into two classes. The first class was to proceed for redress or justice in one particular way; the other class was to sue in formâ pauperis. In the distinction which be drew, the limitation was not fixed at 8l., but at 10l. Thus, then, by this Bill it was intended that tenants might be allowed to vote for the election of Members of Parliament, but who would, under another measure, sue in formâ pauperis. The contrast became the more apparent when they looked into the matter. The distinction of principle was unexplained, and the measures appeared to be utterly inconsistent one with the other. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland said the present system of representation in Ireland was a lampoon; and another hon. Member said that the representation was a mockery. The inference he drew from this was, that when the Bill became the law of the land, Irish Members opposite who supported it would not like to sit for places which were equivalent to rotten boroughs, and therefore would ask the Lord Chancellor for the Chiltern Hundreds, and they would behold the sublime spectacle of a dissolution for Ireland. He asked also the hon. Member for Manchester, and those who acted with him, on what principle he could vote for the 8l. franchise for Ireland to-night, after the vote he gave last night—That every man of full ago, and not subject to any mental or legal disability, and who shall have boon the resident occupier of a house, or part of a house, as a lodger for twelve months, and should have been duly rated to the poor of that parish, shall be registered as an elector, and be entitled to vote for a representative in Parliament.He (Mr. Stafford) and his hon. Friends were going to vote for a 15l. franchise, but this was voting for a tangible object; but the hon. Member opposite who last night voted for universal suffrage, or at least its equivalent for England, were to-night going to vote for an 8l. franchise for Ireland. There was the difference between 8l. and nothing: such was the distinction they drew between English and Irish voters. If they were consistent, they should vote that the blank should not be filled up with the words "eight pounds." If they did not see their own inconsistency, they might depend upon it that an intelligent public out of doors would do so.
§ MR. SHEIL
The House is impatient for a division. I shall be rapid and concise. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, has in all probability been more engaged in reflecting on what he was going to say, than in listening to the Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Gentleman said, that the Secretary for Ireland had not stated why he had selected a rating of 8l. as the groundwork of the franchise. My right hon. Friend did most distinctly state that he considered 8l. equivalent to the rate settled by the Reform Bill. I have risen to state a single statistical fact; it strikes me to be of no ordinary importance. There are 469 English Members in this House—there are 105 Irish Members. Of the 469 English Members, 321—the vast majority—are returned by boroughs. Of the 105 Irish Members, the vast majority, 64, are returned by counties. What, is the qualification upon which English Members are returned? 10l. value. What is the qualification upon which Irish Members are returned? Not 10l. value, but 10l. beneficial interest. Is that just? Here is a discrepancy which the 10l. rating would tend to correct. Give us a constituency in numbers at least analogous to your own. We have a right to British institutions. Do not imagine that the question which I am going to put is not germane to the matter; do not imagine that it is dictated by a spirit of fanatical antipathy to the Irish Church. I am free from fanatical antipathy of any kind, I hope. On what principle do you maintain the Irish Church? Not because you are insensible of its anomalies—not because you are unaware of its incongruities. You maintain it on the principle that in both countries the same ecclesiastical institutions should exist. Apply to the State the principle which you apply to the Church, and grant us a constitutional, since you insist upon the preservation of ecclesiastical, affinity. One word more—mark the conservative concomitants of this measure. You will then sec that no such augmentation of democratic power will accrue from it as is imagined. In the first place, the expense of elections will be doubled, and a barrier will thus be opposed to what you regard as an illegitimate ambition. In the next place, the great mass of the rural occupiers of the soil will be unprotected by leases; the consequences are obvious., In the last place, the voter who now goes 278 to a county town, and who in a progress of perhaps twenty or thirty miles, is infected by the popular epidemic, will no longer be influenced by excited and exciting thousands, but will vote under the eye of his landlord, the expression of whose exceedingly intelligible physiognomy he will not be at a loss to understand. These are the conservative concomitants of this Bill. It is necessary to countervail them; and, from the checks which have been devised, I expect, as a salutary result, a just equipoise; of power.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
, wished to know, when the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire charged himself and friends with inconsistency, whether he really knew what the vote was? He (Mr. Roebuck) did not think that the vote which he was going to give to-night was at all inconsistent with the vote which he gave last night. He wished by his vote to-night to enlarge the constituency of the Irish people; he had the same object in view last night with regard to the English people. He went on both occasions as he found others would go with him. He went with the noble Lord at the head of the Government tonight as far as the noble Lord went, but he did not say that he would not go farther; so it was last night with the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose. Did the hon. Gentleman really take them for children or men of the world, when he called upon him and his friends to abstain from voting on that occasion? What they wanted to know was the substance of the matter before them. That was how they were best to enlarge the constituency of the Irish people. Her Majesty's Ministers had brought forward a Bill for the purpose, in which they said that an 8l. qualification should give a vote. Suppose that he wished to have one of 5l., or one by which every man holding a house should be a voter; then, was there any reason, according to the forms of the House, from voting for the plan of the Government? He had no hopes of being able to carry out his wishes, and therefore he would take the next best step. The hon. Gentleman said that he (Mr. Roebuck) and his friends, to be consistent, should not swell the majority of Her Majesty's Ministers. For what purpose should they oppose them? For the purpose of making a 15l. instead of an 8l. franchise. He could not help expressing his surprise at the array he saw on the Opposition benches. He heard constantly in that House a large manifestation of 279 great sympathy for the Irish people. They all knew the feelings of emotion which were expressed at the alleged grievances of the Irish people. He wished they would get rid of one grievance, by allowing the Irish people to manage their own affairs. The object of the present measure was to allow the Irish people, and not the Irish landlords, to send Members to the Commons' House of Parliament. They all knew that the Irish franchise had been cut down from the forty-shilling franchise, and they also knew why this had been done. It was by the Bill of the right hon. Member for Tamworth in 1829. The Irish landlords had manufactured votes for their own purposes, and they constructed them till the party came in and put down the power of the landlords, and, to use the expression of the right hon. Baronet, the sword which they had fabricated with so much care, had been broken short in their hand. The landlords endeavoured to cut short the encumbrance, and a compromise was to be tried. This was accepted, and the people of England and Ireland agreed to it, because they could not get a measure they desired without this great payment. This was a great sacrifice and an inroad on the constitution of the country, if there was such a thing. Hon. Gentlemen who opposed the proposition of the Government said they wanted an independent constituency; but were men paying 15l. a year for their holdings more independent than those paying 8l.? There was a very good reason why they should take a very different course in Ireland from that which they took in England with respect to the franchise. There was much greater wealth in England than in Ireland. He had never been opposed to the Chandos clause in England, for it helped to swell out the constituency. He was satisfied that 8l. a year in Ireland, paid by a tenant, was a far larger sum than 10l., 20l., or 30l. paid in England. Therefore, fearing not the charge of inconsistency, he intended to go into the lobby with the noble Lord. He trusted that the conduct of the Irish people would be such as to teach the House that they might safely go farther. He knew that they must go on by degrees, and he should expect, when the noble Lord brought forward that Reform Bill which he shadowed forth last night, and proposed the reduction of the 10l. franchise in this country, which he cordially hoped the noble Lord would live to do, that it would be accompanied by an Irish Reform Bill, 280 and he (Mr. Roebuck) would give him his cordial support if he should be present.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed his surprise at the great array of hon. Members which he saw on the Opposition side of the House on that occasion, and the great manifestation of sympathy for the people of Ireland. Now, he (Lord C. Hamilton) would mention one remarkable fact—from which the House would be able to judge what party sympathised most with the people of Ireland—that among the numerous subjects, social, commercial and political, upon which the people of Ireland had of late years sent petitions to that House, there was one upon which they had been wholly silent, and that was the increase in the number of electors. They had had petitions praying for railway grants, for the promotion of Irish fisheries, for the repeal of the Union, and a variety of other topics, but none had been presented on this subject. Certainly there had been petitions presented in allusion to the state of the representation, but what were they? They asked for more Members, but not for more electors. The Government, however, by their present measure proposed to increase the number of electors in such disproportion to the number of Members that he could not see how any hon. Gentleman from Ireland could stop short from demanding an increase of the number of Members. If they increased the number of electors to 260,000, it was impossible that they could do justice to Ireland without adding a proportionate number of Members. He believed that, under the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, a number of voters would be given more analogous to what was intended at the time of the Reform Bill, than under the plan of the Government. He could not help feeling, if they lowered the franchise and made it too easy of attainment, they would degrade it to such an extent in the eyes of the people, that more respectable persons would not avail themselves of it.
§ MR. TORRENS M'CULLAGH
Hon. Gentlemen opposite are either very ill-agreed among themselves or they have, it must be admitted, rather an odd way of evincing their desire to serve the people of Ireland. The noble Lord who has just sat down would rather give additional Members than augment the constituencies, although we have been told by the hon. Gentleman who sits immediately below 281 him, that the majority of Irish Members have proved, by their support of this Bill, that we are the fictitious representatives of a rotten constituency. The noble Lord has repeated a question to which he seems to think it strange that no answer has been offered—namely, why it is, if the people at large really wish for an extended franchise, that no petitions have been of late presented to this House demanding it? I will venture to give the noble Lord an answer to this question. In two successive Sessions the people of Ireland saw this Bill introduced by the Government, and its principle assented to almost without discussion by the party opposite. They reasonably inferred that you were in earnest in your professed acquiescence in that which they wished to obtain. They may have been in error. It now appears, indeed, they were mistaken in that supposition. But is that error of inference as to your sentiments and intentions to be converted now into a taunt, or to be made a pretence for denying them any longer the rights to which they are entitled? The noble Lord the Member for Tyrone, and those who sit around him, are quite content with the existing constituency. No doubt they are, and they deprecate, I have no doubt sincerely, any essential change in the system which has sent them hero. But what will the House think of the value of their testimony on the point, when it is told that the entire number of electors for the whole province of Ulster is actually less than that of several counties, and divisions of counties, in England? Ulster consists of nine counties; it contains 3,407,530 arable acres; the valuation amounts to 2,533,281l.; and the population exceeds 2,386,000. Yet the county electors of Ulster are under 9,000, while South Devon, East Somerset, West Kent, and both the divisions of Lincolnshire, possess respectively larger constituencies. This is the system which hon. Gentlemen opposite think good enough for that Protestant part of the kingdom which they are peculiarly bound to represent. On a former stage of this Bill, we were told by the hon. Baronet the Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh), that to enfranchise so large a class as the present measure contemplates, would "drown the voice of the Protestant minority in Ireland." But do hon. Gentlemen imagine that they will induce the House or the public to believe that they are the true and faithful exponents of the feelings entertained by the 282 bulk of that Protestant minority, in whose name they affect to speak against this Bill? Let them clothe the Protestant farmers of Ulster with the elective franchise, and then we shall see what will come of an appeal to the people on a dissolution of Parliament. My firm conviction is, that if a fair and full opportunity were thus afforded of testing the opinions of the Protestant middle classes in Ireland, it would soon he seen how little identity, confidence, or sympathy exists between them and those who pursue the course adopted by the noble Lord and his friends in their efforts to obstruct the progress of this tardy measure of reparation and justice. It has been asked why an 8l. rating has been chosen as the basis of the qualification rather than any other? I cannot undertake to say what the reasons of Her Majesty's Government may have been for adopting that amount of value; but I know what its effect will be, if the clause remains unaltered. It will create in the now virtually disfranchised counties of Ireland constituencies approaching very nearly ill extent to those which exist in England. The total number of county electors under an 8l. rated franchise, may, I think, be estimated at about 200,000. The gross number of tenements in counties is much larger. But in making any reasonable computation, it is necessary to strike off, in the first place, 20 per cent for double holdings by the same individuals, and tenements in the possession of females, minors, and persons otherwise incapacitated; and, secondly, we must strike off 25 per cent on account of valuations which, according to the evidence of Mr. Griffith before the Poor Law Committee of last Session, ought to be generally reduced by that amount. Well, if this be so, then the 8l. franchise would give to the Irish counties on an average somewhat more than 6,000 electors. Now, the average number of electors in counties and divisions of counties in England, is stated to be 6,786. The right hon. Gentleman who sits for the University of Cambridge asked what difference would it make if we adopted a 15l. instead of an 8l. qualification? Simply this, that instead of 200,000 county electors, we should only have 109,000, and that the average would consequently be less than one-half that of English counties, instead of being nearly similar. I regard this measure as a Bill for the specific performance of the promise made in 1832, that the two countries should have the benefit 283 of the same liberties and privileges. I will cite but one witness as to the explicit nature of that promise; but he is one whom of all men hon. Members opposite will not be disposed to repudiate. On the second reading of the Irish Reform Bill these words were used:—If it was just that the principles of the (Reform) Bill should be applied to England, it was no less just that they should be applied to Ireland. If the Reform Bill only conferred on the people of England that which was their right, why should the same right be denied to Ireland? Could such rights be long withheld without danger? If they were withheld, would not that be a fair reason wherefore the people of Ireland should demand a repeal of the Union?By whom were these expressions uttered? By Lord Stanley. I am willing to believe that at the time he used them, that noble Lord was perfectly sincere. But is it any reason, because the means which he induced Parliament to adopt, professedly with the view of securing that object, have proved ineffectual, that we should hesitate to seek for other means for the better attainment of that end? I will enter into no nice or technical distinctions as to what were or were not the essential principles of the English Reform Bill. I take my stand on this plain and incontestable fact, that the avowed intention of the authors of that measure, and the notorious aim of those who helped to carry it, was that the people of England should have substantially the power of choosing their representatives in Parliament. In many respects that power may be, and I think it is still, imperfectly enjoyed by the English people. But that it exists, and that it is highly valued by them, nobody denies. I ask you, then, is it politic, is it wise, is it just, to refuse its concession to the Irish people. We demand no new or unprecedented share for our people in the management of their own affairs. Before 1829 the county constituencies of Ireland were in number 216,000. An 8l. rating qualification would, as I have already stated, hardly give us what we had then. Will any one contend that the mass of the population, or any class of them, are not fitter now to be entrusted with the franchise, than they were then? Twenty years ago there was not in Ireland a public school to which the children of the humbler classes could resort for elementary education. At the present moment there are schools supported by grants from this House, wherein 500,000 persons receive primary instruction. 284 Do you believe in what you annually do, when you vote large sums for this purpose? Or if you believe that popular education is a positive and potent source of national improvement, can you, with any semblance of consistency, deny that the Irish people are better qualified than they were in former days for the trust we seek to repose in them? But there is another consideration. For twenty years the people of Ireland have been by law entitled to claim the privileges and rights of religious freedom. The upper classes of the Catholics have been admitted to office and to Parliament, and the middle classes of the same persuasion have been made partakers of many of the benefits of the constitution. But part of the price which was exacted for those boons was the disfranchisement of the humbler class of the Catholic people. I ask, is twenty years of penalty and interdiction not enough? And if you believe that religious liberty be a blessing, can you doubt that a community which has partaken of it for twenty years is not better fitted for the exercise of political privileges than they were before they were suffered to partake of its enjoyment?
§ VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH
said, that he considered the amount of 8l. as proposed by the Bill was too low, while that fixed upon in the Amendment was too high. He should have preferred 10l; but as this was to be a new constitution for Ireland it was best to be on the liberal side. He confessed, for his own part, that he had great doubts as to trying this experiment of a different franchise in Ireland. He was quite sure the noble Lord would be obliged to apply this or something like it to England. By this measure the House appealed to justice to restore peace and tranquillity; but at all events, as they had not the power to carry out all that they wished, let them show an affectionate spirit to this people, and he had no doubt that if the House did their duty to them, they would receive the support of the people.
§ SIB W. VERNER
said, that all he desired to obtain was equal justice for all. Referring to the state of the constituencies in Ireland at the time of the 40s. freeholds, he observed that it was notorious that the unfortunate Roman Catholics were driven to the poll like sheep by the priests, with double-thonged whips in their hands. His property lay in three counties—Armagh, Monaghan, and Tyrone, and 285 he had been most anxious to make freeholders in all of them; but the respectable Roman Catholics would not accept the offer, because they know they would be obliged to exercise their privilege under the influence of the priests. He protested against this measure being pressed on with such haste, before the people of Ireland could become acquainted with its provisions. The Government was forcing the Bill through the House at the time the assizes were held, and thus preventing the Irish Members from going over and availing themselves of that opportunity of consulting their friends and constituents—an opportunity, also, at which the feelings and opinions of the people could have been expressed. He could not help expressing his disgust at the treatment which he and his friends had experienced.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
congratulated the House upon having discussed with so much temper the propositions of the Bill. The hon. Member for Dundalk had fixed a charge upon the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire of having described the present liberal Members for Ireland as the sham representatives of rotten constituencies. The fact stated by his hon. Friend would not bear such an interpretation. The right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Mint, in the same way, appealed with glowing eloquence to English Gentlemen to give to Ireland a constituency equivalent to their own. That was what he hoped would induce a majority to vote for the Amendment. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, in a tone of sympathy for the sufferings of Ireland, accused his (the Opposition) side of the House with illiberality. For his (Lord J. Manners') part, the charge of illiberality sat lightly upon him, coming from a Gentleman who, not long ago, when English radicalism could not coin words bitter and exasperating enough to describe Irish character, refused to Ireland assistance in her hour of need. He would ask did those passages and those transactions leave no impression upon the memory of Irish Members? This Irish question was debated under favourable circumstances, in consequence of the House having heard the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the preceding night during the discussion of the general question of increasing the franchise, and the philosophical spirit in which the noble Lord recommended the House to proceed. It would not be travelling out of the record to test the Bill 286 now before the House by the principles laid down by the noble Lord; and he (Lord J. Manners) hoped he should be able to convince the House that the great majority which followed the leadership of the noble Lord on that occasion, should, in consistency, give their votes now to the opponents of the present measure. If he had understood the noble Lord rightly, he had laid down this as a general principle, that a reform in the constituency ought to be in the shape of a supplement to the Reform Bill, and not tending to its reversal; and it could be easily shown that the Amendment of the hon. Member for the University of Dublin was in accordance with the speech of the noble Lord. By the Irish Reform Bill it was proposed to create a constituency approaching to 150,000 voters, and he found that in 1837 the actual constituency amounted to 122,000; but the proposal of the noble Lord, which the House had been told was simply to carry out the spirit of the Reform Bill, would immediately create a constituency greater than was intended to be given by that measure. He (Lord J. Manners) could not blind himself to the invincible power of the argument which had been urged in this debate, that when the proper time came, hon. Gentlemen who voted with the noble Lord would have a claim upon him with regard to England and Scotland, which he could not in consistency refuse. He wished, then, through a majority for the Amendment of his hon. Friend, to spare the noble Lord and his colleagues the charge which must otherwise be justly cast upon them; for whilst the noble Lord proposed this franchise, and declined to go with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, he was reposing greater confidence in the peasantry of Ireland than in the peasantry and mechanics of England. Genuine and unaffected as was his (Lord, J. Manners') admiration of the many and singular virtues of the people of Ireland, he could not in conscience say they were more peculiarly fitted for the exercise of the suffrage than the people of England. He could not honestly say that he thought the peasant of Lincolnshire or the artisan of Birmingham was less worthy of the franchise than the joint owner of a small property in the Bog of Allen. To restore this benefit to the constituency of Ireland to the level upon which the Reform Bill had based it, was a noble, wise, and just act, and he should heartily join with the 287 noble Lord in endeavouring to procure it; but to depart from that principle and create an entirely new constituency, was taking a step which, in the language of an eloquent journalist in Dublin, might perhaps be the only course left open for an enfeebled Ministry, but it was not a course calculated to win the confidence of impartial men, or to confer lasting benefit upon Ireland. Still less was it calculated to insure, in the minds of the people of England, that respect and regard for the representatives of Ireland, which, in his opinion. it was of imperial moment to maintain real and intact.
§ Question put, "That the blank be filled with 'eight pounds.'"
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 144: Majority 96.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, Sir T. N.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Duncan, G.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Alcock, T.||Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Dunne, Col.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Ellice, E.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Enfield, Visct.|
|Bass, M. T.||Evans, Sir De L.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Evans, J.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Evans, W.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Ewart, W.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Fagan, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Fagan, J.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||Fergus, J.|
|Bright, J.||Fitz Patrick, rt. hn. J. W.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Fordyce, A. D.|
|Brotherton, J.||Forster, M.|
|Brown-Westhead, J. P.||Fox, R. M.|
|Brown, W.||Fox, W. J.|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Busfeild, W.||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Carter, J. B.||Grattan, H.|
|Castlereagh, Visct.||Greene, J.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Grey, R. W.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Clay, J.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Hallyburton, Lord J. F.|
|Clifford, H. M.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Cobden, R.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Coke, hon. E. K.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hastie, A.|
|Collins, W.||Hastie, A.|
|Cowan, C.||Hatchell, J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Hawes, B.|
|Currie, R.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Devercux, J. T.||Heathcoat, J.|
|D' Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Henry, A.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Douro, Marquess of||Heywood, J.|
|Duff, G. S.||Heyworth, L.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Pinney, W.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Power, Dr.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Power, N.|
|Hollond, R.||Price, Sir R.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Pusey, P.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Reynolds, J.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||Ricardo, O.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Rich, H.|
|Hume, J.||Roebuck, J.|
|Jackson, W.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Keating, R.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Koppel, hon. G. T.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Kershaw, J.||Sadleir, T.|
|Kildare, Marq. of||Salwey, Col.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.||Scholefield, W.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Langston, J. H.||Scully, F.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Lewis, G. C.||Simeon, J.|
|Littleton, hon. E. R.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Locke, J.||Smith, J. A.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Smith, J. B.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Meagher, T.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Mahon, The O'Gorman||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Martin, J.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Martin, C. W.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Martin, S.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Matheson, Col.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Sullivan, M.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Talbot, J. H.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Moffatt, G.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Monsell, W.||Tennent, R. J.|
|Moore, G. H.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Morris, D.||Thompson, Col.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Thornely, T.|
|Mowatt, F.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Mulgrave, Earl of||Towneley, J.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Townley, R. G.|
|O'Brien, Sir T.||Townshend, Capt.|
|O'Connell, M.||Vane, Lord H.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Wakley, T.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Ord, W.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Paget, Lord G.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Wilson, J.|
|Parker, J.||Wilson, M.|
|Pechell, Sir G. B.||Wood, W. P.|
|Pool, F.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Pelham, hon. D. A.||Wyvill, M.|
|Peto, S. M.||TELLERS.|
|Pigott, F.||Tufnell, H.|
|Pilkington, J.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Barrington, Visct.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Bateson, T.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Bennet, P.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bentinck, Lord H.|
|Bagge, W.||Beresford, W.|
|Bailey, J.||Best, J.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Blair, S.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Bankes, G.||Bowles, Adm.|
|Baring, hon. F.||Bremridge, R.|
|Brisco, M.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Broadley, H.||Lockhart, W.|
|Broadwood, H.||Long, W.|
|Brooke, Lord||Lopes, Sir E.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Bunbury, W. M.||Lowther, H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Macnaghten, Sir E.|
|Chatterton, Col.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Manners, Lord G.|
|Christy, S.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Cocks, T. S.||March, Earl of|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Coles, H. B.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Conolly, T.||Miles, W.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Moody, C. A.|
|Cotton, hon. W. H. S.||Morgan, O.|
|Dod, J. W.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Dodd, G.||Mundy, W.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Naas, Lord|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Neeld, J.|
|Buncombe, hon. O.||Newdegate, G. N.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Newport, Visct.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Forbes, W.||Packe, C. W.|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Prime, R.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Sandars, G.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Sandars, J.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Gore, W. O.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Smollett, A.|
|Greenall, G.||Somerset, Capt.|
|Grogan, E.||Spooner, R.|
|Guernsey, Lord||Stafford, A.|
|Gwyn, H.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Hale, R. B.||Stanley, E.|
|Hall, Col.||Stuart, H.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Stuart, J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Heald, J.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Henley, J. W.||Turner, G. J.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Hill, Lord E.||Waddington, D.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hornby, J.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Jones, Capt.||West, F. R.|
|Knight, F. W.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Knox, Col.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Law, hon. C. E.|
|Lennox, Lord A. G.||TELLERS.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Leslie, C. P.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
§ MR. WALPOLE
called attention to the fact that the clause required the payment of all rates in respect to county voters which were payable on the 1st of January, whilst, in respect to cities and towns, the 6th clause required the payment of those payable on the 5th January. He thought the 290 same day should be fixed for both, other wise there would be some confusion and difficulty.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
pointed out the injustice of compelling voters, before being entitled to be placed on the register, to pay up all arrears of taxes. In the distressed and insolvent unions, this provision would operate as a virtual disfranchisement; and he suggested that all persons should be entitled to be upon the register who had paid the last rate.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
referred to the English system, in justifying the requirement of the payment of all rates due.
§ MR. HUME
said, the land was subjected to extraordinary circumstances at the present time; and instead of requiring the payment of all arrears, the clause ought only to require the payment of rates made after the passing of the Act.
After a few words from Mr. GROGAN, the words "1st of January" were retained.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
then moved, pursuant to notice, the addition of the following words at the end of the clause:—And provided also he shall have made a claim to the high constable of the barony in which he shall have been so rated, in the form numbered in Schedule A, No. 3 (a).In making this proposition, he did not wish to gain any political advantage; he intended the effect of his Amendment to be general and impartial. To ensure the purity of a constituency, it was necessary to abstract them as much as possible from illegal influences. Those who were aware of the circumstances of Ireland for many years past, knew that voters were exposed to the most tyrannical interference with the exercise of their franchise. He wished to prevent a man from being placed, without his own consent, in the painful dilemma of incurring the hostility of one party or the other, and made the mere political tool of a landlord, agent, or priest. To give him the right of saying whether or no he would exorcise the franchise, was the object he had in view. In this country, the county voters had the right of saying whether they would appear on the county register; it was a similar right which he wished to secure for those of Ireland. There existed, it was well known, throughout Ireland, a very great disinclination to exercise the franchise which was already within their reach. He believed, if there 291 were any real inclination, the existing number of voters might be multiplied by three—indeed he had not the slightest doubt, by four. This arose from the reluctance of individuals to place themselves in a situation of embarrassment and difficulty, from which, when on the register, they had no means of escape. This was an unfortunate picture to draw of any country; but inasmuch as it did exist, and no one could deny its justice, he thought the House should deal with it as a fact. It would be the more manly and straightforward course to say that they believed in the existence of these influences, allowing no legal chicanery to stand in the way, but leaving the man himself to give free expression to his own wishes. This could be done without in any way curtailing the liberties of the people; his object was to give more liberty and freedom of action. It might be said that he was placing an impediment in the way of the exercise of a privilege; that was not his object, but to allow the individual uninfluenced to exert his own judgment whether he would exercise the privilege or not. At present you called upon the man to use his vote, whether he thought it a boon or not. Nothing made it a right less precious than the simple fact of its being almost obligatory, and exercised without any voluntary exertion on his part. This provision worked well, he believed, and the public spirit of that division of the empire would not allow it to exist if it had the effect of making any appreciable diminution in the constituencies. On these grounds he hoped the House would assent to his proposition.
§ SIR G. GREY
opposed the Amendment, as destroying the value of the qualification, the principal virtue of which was its self-acting capability. The independence of the voter would be sacrificed instead of being secured under the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
moved the addition to the clause of the following proviso:—Provided also that no person otherwise qualified shall be held to be disqualified by reason of any arrears of rates up to the 5th of July, 1819.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that he did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could agree to such a proviso, for, if adopted, it would operate as a receipt in full for the arrears in question.
§ MR. BRIGHT
asked whether the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General meant to say that there was no law 292 in Ireland for the collection of rates, except this Franchise Bill? The object of the present measure was, not to collect rates, but to define the franchise. And if, under a peculiarity of circumstances, there were several unions in the west of Ireland, where, in many of the occupations of future constituents, arrears of rates were owing, which the most industrious, intelligent, and virtuous might not be able to clear off before two or three years to come, it would be monstrous if these men were to be disqualified until these arrears had been paid up. If the crops were sold, and the increase of pauperism had added to the amount of the poor-rates, that was no reason why men such as he had described should be cut off from the exercise of those political rights which that House was willing to grant to the great body of their countrymen. He thought the proviso proposed by the hon. Member for Dublin might be allowed to pass, inasmuch as it would do no harm to the Bill, and no injury to the poor-law authorities. The poor-law authorities would go on collecting the rates as before. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government could give a feasible reason why this proviso should not be added, he would not divide the Committee, but he did not think any such reason could be given.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
hoped Government would allow the proviso to be put in. The Attorney General had made a statement which was calculated to mislead the House. He said, if they inserted the proviso, it would be a receipt in full for the payment of the rates.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, the House had decided already that the rates should be paid to a certain day, as a qualification for voting. Then the question was, as to whether or not there should be an exception made. He did not think when they were laying down a general rule, that they should state there should be exceptions. For that reason he could not agree to this Amendment.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he had been charged with wishing to mislead the House. He did no such thing. According to the Amendment, the voter would not be entitled, unless he had paid the last rate up to the 5th of January, 1850. Now, the collector would not take the last rate, unless he got the preceding ones.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, that the collector might be directed by this Bill to take the last rate. His proviso was a source of 293 merriment to the other side, but he believed that it would relieve many who were broad cloth, as they were greater defaulters to the poor-rate, in proportion, than were those who were frieze.
§ On Clause 2,
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
consented to post-pone this clause, and said he should be glad to hear the opinions of Gentlemen connected with Ireland upon it, and more especially those who had supported the Bill.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again on Monday next.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock till Monday next.