HC Deb 10 May 1850 vol 110 cc1322-69

Order for Third Reading read.

MR. HATCHBLL moved the Third Reading of this Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."

SIR J. B. WALSH moved that the Bill be read a third time that day six months. At the passing of the Reform Bill, in 1832, a guarantee was given that the measure would be final, and that that great settlement of a constitutional question should not be again disturbed, and a door opened for fresh changes. When the measure of the Government was laid on the table of the House, it was sufficiently apparent that it was not merely as a remedy for the old law, but an entire departure from all the principles of the Reform Bill, and that it was calculated to introduce a vastly more democratic system. Those who acted with him, therefore, felt that they must oppose the principle of the Bill. They might have done this at the second reading, but they wished to be conciliatory, and preferred the perhaps somewhat hazardous and equivocal course in permitting the Bill to pass the second reading, in the hope that in its progress through Committee the portions of the Bill which were objectionahle on account of their revolutionary tendency might be amended or expunged. One of the clauses was shown to be so objectionable that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had at one time almost made up his mind to reject it; but in a few minutes his opinions on that subject underwent a revolution, and the consequence was that the Bill came out of Committee without any essential alteration. He, and those who acted with him, were therefore bound to come forward now and take the sense of the House upon the Bill. He would now point out the state of the constituencies as intended by the Reform Bill, the state of the constituencies in their present reduced condition, and the effect which this Bill would have upon them if, unhappily, it became law. He had taken all the counties of Ireland, and placed opposite each, in one column, the number of voters in 1837, the year when they reached their culminating point; in a second column he had given the number of voters in 1849, when they were considerably reduced; and in the third column the number that would exist if the Bill before the House passed. He would call the attention of the House to a few of those counties, to show the sweeping change which this Bill would effect. In the county of Antrim the number of voters in 1837 was 4,032; in 1849, the number diminished to 1,314; but this Bill would have the effect of increasing them to 18,593, nearly seventeen times their present amount, and upwards of four times as many as the constituency created by the Reform Bill. In Limerick, the voters, in 1837, amounted to 3,280; in 1849 they were reduced to 1,096, and the Bill would increase them to 14,163, which was fourteen times greater than the present constituency, and five times greater than that of 1837. In Tipperary, the constituency in 1837 amounted to 3,135; in 1849 they were reduced to 1,157; but under the new Bill they would be increased to 18,959, exclusive of those who were voters by virtue of other qualifications not created by the measure. The aggregate number of voters in Ireland, in 1837, was 80,286; these were reduced in 1849 to 33,842; and would be augmented by the Bill to 334,771. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House would be perfectly willing to sanction a large and liberal measure to extend the constituency on the basis of the Reform Bill; but. because they thought the number of electors should be increased from 34,000 to 80,000, or even 100,000, they could not consent to a measure so sweeping as one which should at once increase the constituency to 335,000. Let him call the attention of the House to the average constituency created in Ireland by this Bill, as contrasted with the constituencies of England and Wales. The average of the constituencies in Ireland, in 1837, was 2,508; that was reduced to 1,057, but would be increased by the present Bill to 10,461, to which 1,000 might be added for existing qualifications, making altogether an average constituency of 11,500, while in England the average only amounted to 6,700; and if a few great constituencies, such as Middlesex, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and South Lancashire were omitted, the average would be reduced to 5,590. The average number of constituents in the counties in Wales was little more than 3,000, and in Scotland not more than 1,500. The effect of the Bill would therefore be to give to the Irish constituencies an amount of voters that would exceed in a vastly increased proportion the constituencies in England and Wales. To adopt such a Bill would be to lose sight of every principle of property qualification, and launching the whole country, under our present critical circumstances, on a new career of revolutionary changes. He objected to the Bill on account of the 8l. rating clause, the joint occupation clause, and in a minor degree to the compulsory registration clause. He thought the poor-rate test of qualification decidedly objectionable. The compulsory system of registration would be putting a premium on the cottier system, which had already produced so much mischief in Ireland, in consequence of the minute subdivisions of land that had sprung from it. The joint occupation clause would have a similar tendency. Families would accumulate without the means of self-support; and if the country were at all disturbed, it would be hazardous to dispossess them. It could not be denied that a large class of voters would be created by this Bill, who would not be qualified by their position or education to exercise an independent judgment in these matters. The power which the Bill would create, must, however, be exercised by some party; and by what party would it be exercised? He was aware that some hon. Friends of his, hon. Members of that House, considered that the democratic tendencies of this measure were more apparent than real, and that the influence of the landed proprietors of Ireland was more likely to be increased than destroyed by it. He believed that nothing was more difficult than to estimate the probable effects of this vast change; they altogether transcended the limits of human sagacity. He, however, believed that those changes would be at least as great as the authors of this measure contemplated. But he begged its authors to take warning from the fate of the Provisional Government of France, who owed their election to the introduction of the principle of universal suffrage. Much of the power which this measure would create, would no doubt be exercised by the landlords of Ireland; but it was also quite manifest that a large share of it would be influenced by the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland. The Government, introducing this Bill, proposed to light up again that flame of political agitation in Ireland which it was hoped had been altogether extinguished, and which the Earl of Clarendon had so eloquently and forcibly denounced as the great evil of that country, and the great obstacle to its improvement and progress. This Bill would be a new element of discord in that already distracted country. Did the Government think that it would have the effect of strengthening the influence of the Protestant and Established Church in Ireland? Did the noble Lord at the head of the Government think that it was wise to administer an additional stimulus to the agitation of repeal? He (Sir J. Walsh) had endeavoured to point out the many changes which this measure went to create in the constituency of Ireland, and to show that it was a departure from all the tests which regulated the Irish Reform Bill. He had endeavoured to show the baneful influence which it would exercise upon the social relations of that country. He had endeavoured to point out the manner in which they were about once more to excite that political agitation which, as it appeared to him, had been so prejudicial to the best interests of Ireland; and having expressed his opinion on these subjects, he must now strongly press upon the attention of the English Members of that House that this was not more an Irish than an English question. Was it possible to believe that when so large a stride was taken in the path of democracy in the sister country, when the franchise was indefinitely extended to so large and so poor a class—a class so inferior in circumstances to those who possessed the franchise in England—could it be supposed that the precedent would not be followed with regard to England? He was rather curious to know what answer the Government would make to applications made in this country for an extension of the principles of this measure to England. He thought that this above all others was the time in which a bold resistance should be offered to the further progress of democracy. On looking to the Continent, or wherever they found democracy in the ascendant, they found that as regarded its professed attempt to promote the happiness, enlightenment, prosperity, or liberty of mankind, it had proved to be a most deplorable failure. They had but to look around them and see that democracy, instead of being an angel of liberty, was but the grossest form of despotic tyranny. [Cheers.] From the ironical cheers with which he had been interrupted throughout his observations, he concluded that there were many hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches who entirely concurred in his views of the tendency of this measure, but their opinions were the most opposite as to the character of its probable effects. He maintained that this was a complete overthrow of the original Reform Bill of 1832. Those hon. Gentlemen to whom he referred would most probably observe, "So much the better." It would tend to the destruction of the Irish and English Established Churches; and in reference to that anticipation of his they would also no doubt say, "So much the better." Nay, they would probably go farther, and express their congratulations on its probable tendency entirely to alter the form of our constitution, by putting an end to its monarchical and aristocratical elements. He agreed with them as far as their calculations were concerned, but he dissented entirely from the desirableness of such vast changes. But there was another class of Members who were entirely opposed to those changes, but who, unfortunately, shrunk from acting upon their opinions and convictions, because they fancied that by opposing this measure they might bring about some political crisis. He would tell them that they had better let the crisis come. He would tell them that they stood now in a very different position from that in which they stood in the year 1832. At that time the cry for reform was irresistible, not merely because it was enforced by the majority of that House, but because it was demanded by a vast majority of the people of this country. He would tell them that that feeling was spent; that now there was "a reaction"—a word so formidable to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon. He would tell them that a House of Commons of which the Prime Minister dare not recommend the dissolution ceased to be omnipotent. They were told that if the Ministry should be defeated on this measure they would resign; and they were told that, if the Ministry did resign, there was no party to succeed to their places. They had even been threatened that if there should be a resignation of the Ministry, there was a great probability that the hon. Member for Manchester, or the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, might be called upon to form a government. Well, in reply, he would say that such apprehensions were idle. He was quite sure that the present condition of the country was such, that if either of those hon. Gentlemen did, under such circumstances, form a Ministry, it could not last for six hours. He (Sir J. Walsh) was by no means desirous of causing the present Ministry to resign; but he would not purchase the continuance of their political existence by consenting to pass such a measure as this, There could be no difficulty in such a political emergency as was dreaded by some timid people, of finding men of sufficient ability to undertake the administration of the country's affairs. There were times when boldness was the wisest policy; and it appeared to him that the present was such a time. In proposing that the Bill be read a third time that day six months, he did sanguinely hope that, whatever might be the result of his Motion, the Bill in its present shape might not become the law of the land.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


confessed that he was much surprised at the opposition which, at the eleventh hour, the hon. Baronet on the Opposition benches had thought fit to offer to the passing of this tardy measure of justice to Ireland. But if he was surprised at that opposition, he was still more surprised at the reasons which the hon. Baronet had adduced in support of the Amendment just proposed to the House. He (Mr. Roche) must confess that those reasons were amongst the best that could have been offered in support of this measure. The hon. Baronet first showed to the House how puny and miserable was the franchise granted by the Reform Bill; and it should be remembered that that franchise was obtained by the most disgusting swearing in the Registration Courts. That franchise up to the present day had not been properly defined in Ireland. In one county it was decided in one way, and in another county in another way; and there had even been conflicting decisions on the question by Committees of that House. The hon. Baronet then proceeded to show how the Irish constituency was cut down by the calamities of the last few years; and he (Mr. Roche) must add that the constituency had been still further diminished by the refusal of the Irish landlords, on political grounds, to give leases to their tenants. In fact, so diminished had the constituency of Ireland become, that many in that House and out of it had cried shame upon the Government for allowing Ireland to be so degraded in the political scale. And then the hon. Baronet proceeded to admit that something ought to be done to remedy the evil; but then he turned round, saying, "This, however, is not exactly such an extension of the franchise as I am prepared to give. I would give them something based upon the principles of the Reform Bill;" that was to say, something which should have all the drawbacks and all the vices to which he (Mr. Roche) had briefly alluded. He was surprised at this opposition proceeding from hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, who professed to be such ardent friends of the Irish people. He wished them to explain for what reason they had declined offering opposition to this measure until that the eleventh hour? The hon. Baronet had spoken in an alarming tone of this Bill being likely to extend the franchise to 300,000 people; but he had omitted to tell them that the population whom that 300,000 would represent consisted of 8,000,000. If the franchise were extended to 300,000 people, the hon. Baronet contended that they would upset the Irish Church. But that surely was a most imprudent objection to make to the measure. Hon. Gentlemen opposite then really did admit that the Irish Church stood in the way of the enfranchisement of the Irish people. Could any argument be brought forward which would have a tendency to make the Protestant Church of Ireland stink more than it stunk at present in the nostrils of the Irish people, than the very argument offered by the hon. Baronet? The hon. Baronet, he thought, was also indiscreet in this, that he had furbished up the old arguments about priestly influence in elections, which had been offered over and over again ad nauseam. He would give the hon. Baronet a recipe for that influence, and it was this—let him join with the hon. Members on the Government side of the House in giving the ballot to Ireland. However disparagingly the hon. Baronet might choose to speak of the Catholic clergy of Ireland, he would tell the hon. Baronet that he, as an Irish landlord, and as a representative of the Irish landlord party sitting on the opposite benches, owed more than he or his party was willing to admit to the Catholic priesthood of Ireland for the preservation of the property and even of the peace of Ireland. But agitation would and ought to exist in Ireland until the people had conceded to them their just rights. Virtually it was hon. Gentlemen opposite who were the agitators of Ireland. He trusted that the House would adopt the measure by a large majority, and he cordially thanked the Government for having proposed it.


could not understand the hon. Member's astonishment at the opposition which the Bill received at that side of the House. It should be remembered that when the Bill passed a second reading, no time had been allowed for the expression of a fair opinion upon that most important subject. When the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland introduced some measures last year, he had stated that the time had arrived when it was absolutely necessary to bring forward the same, and that they ought no longer to be delayed. Now he would ask the right hon. Gentleman was this the time to bring forward such a measure as that then under discussion? Let the House just consider what was the position of the country at the present moment? One would think that when a new Franchise Bill was proposed, that the country was entirely free from distress; that there would have been demands for such a Bill; that public meetings would have been held; and that the table of the House would be loaded with petitions in favour of such a proposition. No such thing, however, was the case. There was a perfect indifference in the country on the matter. No meetings had been held, no petitions signed—not a single petition had, he believed, been presented in favour of it. He opposed the present measure, because he believed it not only dangerous to Ireland, but also not less dangerous to the United Empire than to Ireland; and also because he did not believe it was a sincere measure. He believed, as had been already said by an hon. Member on a former occasion, that it was merely a getting in of the small end of the wedge in Ireland, with the view of bringing forward in the next or the succeeding Session a similar measure for England. He believed the real question was, that parties opposite were afraid of the results of a dissolution of Parliament in Ireland, where the opinions entertained of their free-trade policy were such, that in case of a general election some 40 or 50 Members pledged to a different course of policy would be returned from Ireland opposed to them. Now, with respect to the ballot, as alluded to by the hon. Member who spoke last, he would just observe, that although it might defy the temporal influence of the landlords, it could not meet the spiritual influence of the priests—an influence which had already done so much mischief in that country. And the reason why he opposed the present Bill at an 8l. franchise was, that it was an utter violation of the principle of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill of 1829, by which the franchise had been altered from 40s. to 10l. Here, then, it was proposed at once to break a national compact, entered into with every distinctness, and by which they were bound according to every principle of national faith and national honour. That such was the understanding could be clearly shown by a reference to a few documents with which he would trouble the House. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth, speaking in the year 1841 on Lord Stanley's Motion, had used the following language:— It is perfectly notorious that in bringing on the Relief Bill we had to contend with the scruples of the Sovereign under whom we were acting. We brought forward that Bill in 1829. In the preceding year, the House of Lords, by a majority of 40, had refused to enter into the consideration of it. We brought forward the measure, and it was perfectly understood that one condition of the Relief Bill was, that the constituent body of Ireland should, if possible, be made an independent constituency—that the 40s. freeholds should be abolished, and a 10l. franchise substituted. Sir, it was on the faith of that condition that the Bill was acceded to; and I have not the smallest doubt that but for it the Bill would never have passed. It was that condition which induced many to give a reluctant consent. The noble Lord will surely not deny it, because the noble Lord in 1832 refused to alter the franchise provided by the Reform Bill, on the ground that it was part of the contract entered into at the passing of the Relief Bill. Such were the noble Lord's expressions; and he knows perfectly well that the Relief Bill would not have passed if the abolition of the 40s. freeholders had not been granted. Thus it would be seen that the proposition contained in the present Bill was a direct infringement of the understood compact formerly entered into. Mr. Spring Rice (now Lord Monteagle), speaking of the effects of Committees of Inquiry into Irish matters, had given the following opinion:— But I perceive that hon. Gentlemen seem to doubt whether all this inquiry has led to any practical results. One reference will meet this objection, and meet it triumphantly. The Committee of 1824 and 1825, on the state of Ireland—that Committee which I consider we owe to my noble Friend (Lord Althorp)—it was to the evidence taken before that Committee that we owe the success of the Roman Catholic question. The evidence taken before the Committee contributed more than any other cause to remove the doubts and prejudices which had previously existed in the public mind with respect to the propriety of conceding Catholic claims. He would trouble the House also with another extract from the evidence given by Mr. A. Blake, on the subject of raising the qualification for the franchise. That gentleman was asked— Do you think that raising the qualification for the exercise of the elective franchise, if it was accompanied with the settlement of the great question you allude to, would be very unpopular with the body of Roman Catholics?—My opinion is, that it would not; it is possible that against that, as against everything else, a cry for a moment would be raised, but I do not think that any permanent feeling of discontent would be produced by it. Do you think that such an arrangement would be injurious to those fair interests which the Roman Catholics are entitled to have in the country?—My notion is, that the Roman Catholics ought not to have an interest according to their numbers but according to their property. The following also were the questions asked of, and the answers given by, the late Mr. O'Connell on the same point in the year 1825:— Do you think that raising the qualification to 10l. would be productive of great benefit to Ireland?—I think it would be productive of benefit. It is, in my humble judgment, no small benefit if you get rid of any portion of perjury, and it is the commencement of what we want so much in Ireland, a substantial yeomanry. At present, the population is too much divided between the very highest and the very lowest class. He did not know whether he would be at liberty to refer to an extract from the An nual Register of that period, to show what had been the understanding on the granting of Catholic Emancipation. He would, however, read a passage from the Annual Register of 1829:— The Bill which admitted Catholics to the Houses of Parliament and to all offices of political power and trust had been accompanied throughout its whole progress by another Bill for disfranchising the whole body of 40s. freeholders, and raising the qualification of an elector to 10l. Again— They (the Ministers) admitted that to raise the qualification would be an effectual remedy, and that Parliament was competent to apply that remedy; but they would not ask Parliament to apply it without providing a substitute in the form of unlimited emancipation for the political privilege which was to be abolished. The two measures were to support each other. To the one party it was to be said, emancipation is the only condition on which we agree to disfranchise, and to the other disfranchisement is the only condition on which we shall agree to emancipate. The general opinion of the witnesses examined had been in favour of raising the francise to 20l. He was opposed to the present measure, moreover, because it destroyed the distinctive property franchise which had been from time immemorial the franchise of this country. He was sorry the noble Lord at the head of the Government was not in his place. It was strange that the present question had never been discussed in that House since 1841, and when in the course of the debate upon it all the Members of the Ministry had voted in such different ways. There were Lord Howick, now Earl Grey, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, voting against the present head of the Government. What was the noble Lord's the First Minister of the Crown's opinion in 1841 on the question? He said— I am glad that before we proceed further with the details of the Bill, the sense of the House shall be fairly taken as to whether a profit shall be considered a distinct mark of the county franchise; and I do entreat hon. Gentlemen carefully to consider what will be the effect on the constituencies of England, and on the franchise of England, if they consent that mere occupancy in Ireland shall determine the county franchise. Such had been the noble Lord's opinion in 1841; and he had not since stated his views during the progress of the present measure. He trusted the House would excuse him while he read the opinion of Lord Morpeth also in reference to the same subject:— I know that there "re some who are for fixing the franchise purely on rating without any reference to tenure, making the right of voting entirely independent of the period of the interest which the occupier has in his holding; and I know that one or two very plausible reasons may be stated in defence of that principle. But I think it would be a novel principle in a constitutional point of view. And he would add to that the opinion of a distinguished individual now unhappily removed from the scene of his labours and professional and political triumphs—he meant the late lamented Sir William Follett:— He objected to this Bill as altering the principle of the Reform Bill by not requiring any property as a qualification for voters in counties. It was also objectionable, because it was a direct violation of the condition which accompanied the Bill for Roman Catholic relief, which imposed and required a 10l. franchise in Ireland. He had quoted thus far and at length the opinions of so many hon. Members of that House, which they had delivered in 1841, when that question was solemnly and deliberately considered. Let him say, then, one word for himself. If they adopted the principle of making the county and borough franchise the same, he cautioned them to think where they were to stop. If they went on to this length they would perhaps be obliged to advance to the establishment of the Chartist principle, and divide the whole country into electoral districts. It was necessary the House should bear in mind the influence the towns would exercise over the county constituencies. There was another consideration. They had a qualification of 8l. occupiers in counties and towns. But how were they provided with the franchise? It was a provision that they paid their poor-rates; but how could they secure an honest board of guardians to carry that out? There was another thing to which he had to call the attention of the House, namely, the valuation in Ireland. He had often put a question relative to that subject, but had never been answered. It could not be answered, because the valuation differed materially in different places. In some localities it had changed, in others it was changing. Another objection which he had to that Bill was, that it might place any one acting like himself in the capacity of the chairman of a board of guardians in an invidious position, inasmuch as it might subject him to the imputation of being influenced by political motives on decisions which he might make. He confessed he looked upon that measure with great apprehension, because the present was a time when peace ought to be established in Ireland. He agreed with the hon. Baronet who proposed the Amendment, in his approval of the policy which the Earl of Clarendon had laid down for the government of Ireland, as expressed in a letter which that noble Lord had written, and to which he would beg to call the attention of the House. In a passage in that letter the noble Earl had written— But still this country has been too long trained to a system of agitation to be at once weaned from such a course, and nothing but a continued enjoyment of that peace which the absence of all political excitement has now created, the improved habits it will generate, and the social advantages it will not fail to produce, can save the land from wasting her energies in the strife of rival factions, instead of exerting them by industry for the improvement of the country. It is to secure for Ireland this continued repose which is so vitally essential to her prosperity—to protect the country from the renewal of an agitation for objects that cannot be attained, and which, for many years, has disturbed its tranquillity—soaring away capital, destroying confidence, and rendering impossible the steady application of industry, that I desire strongly to impress on Her Majesty's Government the importance of applying to Parliament for a renewal of those powers which the 11th as 12th Vic. cap. 26, placed at the disposal of the Executive Government in Ireland. Such were the sentiments of the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. With respect to the present Bill, he (Viscount Bernard) further opposed it because it was calculated to revive the dying embers of faction and political disunion in Ireland, and because it threw another apple of discord into the arena of the contending parties in that country. He would ask them was the course the Government were now pursuing, in taking a leaf from the political book of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, a wise one, with regard to this country? Was the example of the Cape of Good Hope not a matter to be studied and considered? He thought the proposition of the Government would tend rather to retard that improvement of the social condition of the country, which was so essential to its existence, than advance it. It was desirable to encourage large capitalista from England to invest their money in that country; but they would not do so when they were told that the political privileges they enjoyed here would be swamped by the number of voters that might be about their farms. It should be borne in mind also how unfairly property was treated by the Bill.


could not say that he approved of the 8l. franchise, but there was a great difference between it and the 40s. franchise; the 40s. freeholder of past times was the occupier of a cottage with one or two acres of ground, protected, as it was called, by a lease, which perpetuated his poverty, and entailed it on his children. There were points in the present measure in which he could not concur, and he did not wish to see it carried in its present state; but as he had been overruled upon these questions, he could not concur in the doubtful and desperate policy of calling upon the House to reject it entirely. He regretted that the House had agreed to the 2nd clause, relative to joint occupancy, because he thought it would open the door to great abuses. If fairly acted upon, it was immaterial and of little effect; if otherwise dealt with, it would lead to fraud, and above all to that most prevalent evil in Ireland, the practice of subdividing holdings, which injured the agriculture of the country, and rendered the pauperism of the family, whose holding was subdivided, certain and irretrievable. The valuations for poor-law purposes were certainly not such as could be safely relied upon; they were unequal in many parts of Ireland, and they were complained of as too high for the present times and present prices in many places; but this difficulty admitted of an easy remedy, which might be surmounted by a little exertion. The townland valuations would form a sound basis for proceeding upon. The 8l. franchise would admit a class of voters who were not possessed of property; in the country districts it would admit of the occupiers of about eight acres of land—a class of persons who had felt and caused more misery than any other during the late famine in that country. They it was who had clung to their holdings, which they could not cultivate; and, being unable to do justice to the land, support themselves, or meet their engagements with their landlords, they had inflicted loss in all around and above them, and eventually filled the workhouses and the whole country with destitution, sickness, and dismay. If the object of this measure were really to carry out the intention which the Legislature had in passing the Reform Act, he considered that a 12l. rating would effect that object more fairly than the 8l. rating which was adopted in this Bill. The county which he represented, for instance (Cavan), had a constituency of 3,400, after the passing of the Reform Bill, when almost every person who was entitled to the franchise was placed on the registry. But the 8l. clause would give 9,000 electors to that county; a 10l. rating would give 6,000 electors; and a 12l. rating would give 4,500, which approximated to the number which the Reform Bill gave. A 12l. franchise would have fully met the wants of the case in all parts of Ireland, and it would have left the franchise in the hands of a more respectable and independent class of voters, which was more important than mere numbers. As, however, the House had decided by a great majority against him, he would not undertake to oppose a Bill which contained principles that he considered essential to the prosperity of Ireland. The franchise disconnected from tenure by lease was well adapted to the genius and habits of the people, and was calculated to produce favourable results. The registration under this Bill had been objected to as compulsory; but he hoped the Government would adhere to this valuable portion of the measure. The self-acting registry was the only means of preventing those practices by which the electoral body had been, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Brecon stated, stricken with paralysis. Omit it, and the people would, as they had been, be in future induced or compelled to disfranchise themselves. All moderate opinion would be eliminated, and none but the tenants of ambitious landlords on the one hand, or the tools of agitating clubs on the other, would possess the right to vote. The Bill had been denounced as revolutionary, and as threatening the existence of the Established Church; but he doubted whether such consequences were likely to ensue. Recent events had drawn more closely the interests of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and it was probable the disposition on the part of the tenants would be to give one vote to the landlord, and to reserve the other for their own choice. If such were the case, it would be, as all must admit, a happy and beneficial compromise. For a long time it had been boasted that eleven-twelfths of the surface of Ireland were in the hands of Protestant proprietors. Recent events, and the operation of the Encumbered Estates Commission—700 estates in the market—had shown by how frail a tenure a great part of these possessions had been held. Already the wealth of the Roman Catholics equalled that of the Protestants in Ireland; in intellectual endowment none pretended they were inferior; while in num- ber they preponderated threefold. Under such circumstances, no British Minister would venture to propose, and no British House of Commons would ever carry, a measure to curtail the Roman Catholic majority of their fair share and proportion of political power. Nor did the vast mass of the Protestants desire it; all they wanted was equal toleration, and the power of exercising that industry for which they were remarkable, without impediment, and under equal laws. As for the Established Church, none would go further than himself to maintain her in all her possessions and immunities. But she was never, as he believed, in less danger from external attack than at this moment. She stood strong in the truths she inculcated, strong in the renewed and increasing activity of her ministers, and strong in the sympathy and support of numerous and powerful bodies in this country: if only those who stood in her high places, and those to whom her Parliamentary interests were confided, would consult for her interest, she might be placed in a situation of safety for generations to come. Would it not be wise to withdraw her from positions that invited attack? Might not some happy middle term be devised to silence the dispute about ministers' money? It was also desirable, he thought, not to put forward a claim for a separate exclusive grant for education, elevating a mere demand for money into a principle, and perilling great stakes for paltry advantages. There were other things, but he forbore to mention them, except only that the estates in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commission appeared to be managed as no man would wish to see his friend's estate managed. But apprehensions had been expressed, and dark pictures drawn, of the paramount and undue influence of the Roman Catholic priests. No doubt they wielded formidable power; but under what circumstances and with what views? Let the House recollect that Ireland had been widowed of her natural protectors by absenteeism. The people were in the habit of recurring to their priest for advice and assistance; and, perhaps, he exercised the more influence on them, inasmuch as he was usually drawn from their own ranks, and was not very much above them in worldly circumstances. The views and interests, the fears and hopes, of the priest and his flock, were identical; and why, then, was their union considered strange, or his influence unna- tural? Precisely the same union and influence in other countries had frequently been the subject of approbation and applause by the best Protestants in England. When the peasants of La Vendée entered upon their struggle with the revolutionary Government of France, the priests took part in the contest, and their united action was the theme of universal praise. In the war in Spain, the priests and the people were again in concert; but was that union the object of censure here in England? On the contrary, all parties in this country united in their sympathy and approval. The events of the last few years—the famine and misery of Ireland—the munificence of England—had greatly changed men's minds in Ireland; every year the union was more and more closely cemented by a thousand ties. The recognition of their position in society by the Charitable Bequests Act had gratified the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The wise and righteous policy indicated by making Maynooth a national institution had drawn the Roman Catholic closer to England, and awakened feelings of deep and lasting gratitude; but reference had been made to meetings and existing agitation: why, what was passing inspired confidence, and showed the people were rather bent on material improvement, than on speculative reforms or anarchical experiments. Now, what had been the topics prominently discussed at recent meetings in Ireland? Questions affecting the poor-law, about which most concur, and all complain; tenant right, by the Presbyterians in the north, and, in a more modified shape, by Roman Catholics in other parts of Ireland. If a whisper about establishing the Roman Catholic Church had been breathed, it had taken the shape of a half-whispered suggestion that the Roman Catholic clergy should be furnished with glebes. Whatever the objects, there was not the least desire in any persons' minds of obtaining them by other than peaceful means: who feared that the Presbyterians of the north, would resort to other than constitutional means? If the effect of this Franchise Bill should be to place the tenant-right question in a clearer light, and advance its solution, by argument, by explanation, by concession on the one side and the other, he should not look upon it with disfavour; nor did he feel the least alarmed at the prospect of a Roman Catholic priest provided with a suitable residence and small farm in every parish in Ireland. Another view which inclined him I to think well of this extended franchise, was its probable future effect on the spirit, the industry, and the self-reliance of the people. The mode in which the free constitution of England had acted in strengthening the energies and raising the character of the people, was the theme of every historian and philosopher. All attributed England's successes in war, and her unexampled career in arts and commerce, to the individual energy of the people, fostered and ennobled by personal security and the habitual exercise of political rights. But these blessings had only recently fallen to the lot of Ireland. She had no centuries of recorded freedom to boast of. How could self-reliance spring up where the meanest political franchise was not conceded till within the memory of men still living—till the year 1793? How could industry flourish where the possession in fee of land—the sole means of enriching one's self in a purely agricultural country—was until seventy years ago utterly denied to the vast majority of the nation. Looking to the probable effects of time, and the wholesome influences which, under a well-regulated system, might be expected to spring up in Ireland, he was prepared to receive this measure as just, desirable, and well adapted to attain the end it had in view. He was glad to see a system of franchise adopted which was well suited to the condition and habits of the people of Ireland, and which he knew was in accordance with their general wishes. He believed, therefore, that he would best act in the spirit of the British constitution, and most effectually promote the interests of all classes in Ireland, by voting for the third reading of the Bill.


The hon. Baronet who had just resumed his seat, in his most excellent speech in favour of the Bill, had taken exception to what he (Mr. Fagan) considered, if not the principal, at least an essential part of the measure, namely, the amount of rating; and the hon. Baronet based his objection on the ground, that the poor-law valuation was too high. Now, though he (Mr. Fagan) was free to admit that in the present fallen condition of Ireland, after three years of famine, that valuation was for the present too high; he denied that such was the case in the ordinary and not abnormal condition of the country. He would remind the hon. Baronet that it was given in evidence last year before the Poor Law Committee of which he was chairman, that generally speaking the poor-law valuation was one-fourth below the average rents of Ireland; and the hon. Baronet could not but recollect, that the amended poor-law passed last Session, enacted that the tenant should not charge his landlord in every case more than one-half the rate he paid; and that enactment was the result of the evidence before the same Committee, namely, that the poor-law valuation was made extravagantly low in order to place the larger share of the rate on the landlord. He therefore thought that a high valuation was no just foundation on which to base an argument against the amount of the rating. In point of fact, the 8l. rating to the poor-law in Ireland was equivalent to a 20l. rating in England, and it may be considered a 20l. tenant-at-will franchise. His reason for advocating the 8l. in preference to a higher rating was mainly to protect the voter from the coercion and oppression of his landlord. The more the franchise is extended, the larger the constituency, the less danger of that coercion being exercised. If the county constituencies are to be limited as the hon. Baronet would propose, then the self-acting registration which now was one of the best provisions of the Bill, would be an evil; for surely if the elector is in danger of being persecuted for his vote, he ought to have the option of becoming a voter or not as he thought fit, and not be put without his knowledge by a self-acting registration in the way of persecution. On these grounds, amongst others, he supported a low rating; and he thought the hon. Baronet had failed in consistency with his own liberal opinions to prove that a higher rating than 8l. would be advantageous. He (Mr. Fagan) would now make a few remarks on what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Bandon. That noble Lord commenced his address by stating, that this was not the time to bring forward the present measure, on account of the existing distress in Ireland; and he concluded by repeating that it was not the time, because it would reproduce agitation when the country required peace—as if agitation was not more likely to result from the demand, rather than the granting, of political rights. Now he fully concurred with the noble Lord, that no measure should be allowed to supersede their efforts to alleviate the existing distress—to rescue the country from the slough of despond into which it was cast—and to raise the physical condition of Ireland. But while they did so, were they to allow the franchises of the people to melt away—were they to permit without an effort their political existence to terminate? But the noble Lord, in justification of this doctrine, said, that the people were indifferent to the subject—that there were no meetings, no petitions, in favour of the Bill. Now he (Mr. Fagan) denied emphatically that they were indifferent. It was contrary to the feelings, the dispositions, the character of the Irish people to be indifferent to political rights. It was true they have not petitioned, because they felt disgusted at the delay there was in the bringing forward this measure, and allowing it to be on the table of the House for three long years. There were other reasons why political apathy should hang over them now; but indifference to the extension of the franchise did not exist. The noble Lord stated that the Government pressed on the measure, because they were afraid of a dissolution, when in the present state of the franchise they were sure to be defeated in Ireland, where the people were opposed to free trade. Now if it were true that the Irish people were against free trade, then the extension of the franchise would rather make against than for the Government; and consequently if the Ministers had any such object in view, it must be that they were anxious to extend the franchise, because they were persuaded the people of Ireland were in favour of free trade, as indeed they undoubtedly were. The noble Lord, in the course of his observations, thought it becoming his station to speak of the intolerance of the priesthood of Ireland. He had, with great good taste and good feeling, been already rebuked by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan; but he (Mr. Fagan) must be permitted to express his opinion that the noble Lord, to whom he was always desirous to do justice for the zeal and talent with which he discharged his duties as an Irish representative, should make it a point on every occasion that presented itself to come down to that House, and, in his place, disparage and vilify the priesthood of the Irish people. It did not become the noble Lord, or the other landed proprietors of that House, to stigmatise a clergy to whom they were so largely indebted for the maintenance of peace and order, and the preservation of their rights of property. It was the teaching of this abused priesthood that did this, and not the laws, which would be nugatory but for the moral and religious training that the people received at the hands of the Catholic clergy. But he altogether denied the proposition that the people were led in political matters tamely by their clergy. So long as the priests coincided in political views with the people, then they could easily lead them, as was natural, from their superior station and education; but the moment, and he spoke advisedly, the priest deserted the political party of the people, that moment his political influence was gone. The noble Lord was opposed to the 8l. rating, and he took altogether a new ground of objection. He said the new Bill was a violation of the Act of Catholic Emancipation—of the national compact that was then entered into; and he attempted to prove this by an extract from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, when opposing the first Irish Reform Bill. Now, though he had every respect for the right hon. Member for Tamworth, he could not consent to admit that his dicta were proof of the existence of a binding compact. At all events the right hon. Baronet had himself long since violated it; for no one now was a more firm supporter of the principle of reform, against which he then contended; and he (Mr. Fagan) ventured to say that if the right hon. Gentleman condescended to address the House on the present measure, he would, notwithstanding that national compact, be found the warmest and most eloquent supporter of the Ministerial Bill. A national compact that would deprive emancipation of all its value by depriving them of the elective franchise! The proposition was too absurd to dwell on. The noble Lord is in favour of what he calls a tenure or property franchise. Let that House pass a law, obliging every landlord to give leases to his tenants, and he would join the noble Lord. He would prefer, then, a tenure franchise to a tenant at will one. But so long as the landlord, at his will and pleasure, has the power, by refusing a lease, to deprive his tenant of a qualification, so long will he (Mr. Fagan) object to the proposition of a tenure franchise advocated by Gentlemen opposite. He would now come to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Radnorshire, who opened the debate by moving that the Bill should be read a third time that day six months. That hon. Member commenced his observations by stating that the Irish Reform Act was a final measure—that there should be no alteration in its principle—that the only remedy could be only in its defects, and should be made on the basis of that mea- sure. He further said that though there were three separate Acts for the three kingdoms, still that they were in point of fact one measure. Now this he (Mr. Fagan) denied. The Irish Reform Act was a miserable stunted measure, scarcely worth accepting by the Irish people. It was a stain on the memory of the late Earl Grey—with the power he then possessed—with an overwhelming majority in that House, and also in the Upper House, that he did not give to Ireland a more generous measure. The system of registration alone was so tedious and difficult, that the people threw up the franchise with disgust, for they could not endure the trouble and delay which this system imposed. Then came the judge-made law as regards the beneficial interest, which still further diminished the franchise, until at last the people, fearful of being oppressed by landlords politically opposed to them, on account of the fewness of their numbers, allowed their franchise to melt away altogether. This and the refusal to make leases were the cause of this melting away, and not altogether the material circumstances referred to by the hon. Baronet. When the Bill now before the House stood for second reading, hon. Members opposite called upon the Government to postpone that stage. He then took occasion to state, amidst the jeers of these Gentlemen, that they exhibited a determination to obstruct the measure by every means. Two days after proved his statement to be true. He alluded to the eight divisions on two alternate propositions in Committee, namely, "that the Chairman should report progress," and" that the Chairman should leave the chair;" and now that night they were carrying out the same system of determined hostility. He was glad of this. They now appeared in their true colours. At the commencement of the Session, they assumed to be the friends of Ireland; they came down with a plausible proposition—to transfer 500,000l. from the shoulders of the ratepayers of that country to the Consolidated Fund; while they kept back the real object—as it would have been the inevitable result—namely, the imposition of an income tax on Ireland. Now, however, all disguise is cast aside, and they appear as persons having a hereditary claim to be the opponents of the civil and religious liberties of the Irish people. And, after all, ought they not to be content with a tenant-at-will franchise by which they as landlords must of necessity have consider- able influence? But, said the hon. Mover of the Amendment, an 8l. rating franchise will give a cottier constituency, and it will have the effect of causing a minute subdivision of the land. Now, did not the present system of consolidation that was going on meet this argument, and was it not well to have something to counteract the evil tendency of that dreadful depopulating system? Another objection to this 8l. rating franchise was, that it would accomplish what was its object—the overthrow of the Protestant Church. Now, he did not find that when the Irish people were deprived of their civil rights that the Protestant Church flourished. On the contrary, its influence diminished, and the members of its flock decreased, and he did not see how an opposite course of policy would produce a similar result. His opinion was that, in proportion as the people obtained equal rights, in such degree would they be inclined more to respect the religion of their Protestant countrymen. Of course the Church temporalities were a different consideration. To them they were opposed, and no one would pretend to say that the curtailment of these temporalities would injure the Protestant religion. Now, let him contrast the franchise in England with the franchise proposed to be given to Ireland by the present Bill. The English Reform Bill, it is said, is to be amended next Session. The franchise is to be extended. The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown has admitted that the working classes in this country had not a sufficient voice in the representation. Still, how does this defective and about-to-be-amended Franchise Act contrast with the new and final—or at least for some years final—registration measure now before the House? In the rural population of England, numbering nine millions, there are half a million of voters, and these could be easily swelled by the agency of the 40s. freehold franchise to one million; and in Ireland, under this new Bill, the rural population, numbering nearly seven millions, will have but two hundred thousand voters. This is, then, the measure the Gentlemen opposite now oppose as too sweeping—too extensive. They do it for a purpose—to encourage the other House of Parliament to reject the measure. They think they can do so now with impunity, for the Irish people are stricken down. But let them recollect that the worm will turn when trod upon, and let them not try the patience of the people too severely. At all events, let them no longer appear in the assumed garb of the friends of the Irish people.


would support the Amendment, because the measure was not in harmony with the constitution of England, and because it violated the Reform Bill of England and Scotland. In the ease of towns it was quite right that some change should be made with respect to joint occupation; but in counties, where there was an inferior class of occupiers, it was quite different. If each partner in the occupation had a share equal to 10l. a year, there might be no objection to his having a vote, for then an independent class of electors might perhaps be secured; but the second clause of the Bill would have the effect of giving three votes to partners occupying a tenement valued at 30l. a year, although the interest of two of the partners might not be more than 40s. each; while a person paying a very high rent and having 1,000l. in the funds would only have one vote. The 4th of George IV., c. 36, was passed for the direct purpose, as stated in the preamble, of removing the facility of multiplying qualifications, of a colourable nature, to vote for Members of Parliament as contrary to the spirit of the law and the constitution. The present Bill would enable persons—contrary to the spirit of the constitution—to vote for Members of Parliament, although they had no right whatever to do so beyond the mere fact of occupation. Could that be called an independent constituency? If they believed that such parties would give an independent vote—if it was thought that they would exercise a fair and independent judgment, and that the power about to be conferred upon them would be wielded for the advantage and prosperity of the country—then let the House vote for the Bill. But what was it which had always been acknowledged to be the great curse of Ireland? Was it not that everything in that country had been made primarily subvervient to political and party purposes? The influence of the priests had always been admitted to be too great over the 40s. freeholders, and on that account the 40s. franchise had been abolished in Ireland. Were they now, in defiance of past experience, to transfer by this Bill a similar description of voters into the hands of those who had the power to move the masses? The late visitation in Ireland had been regarded by many as a providential interference for the purpose of allowing Irish society to be reconstructed according to the wisdom of past experience. What was admitted on all hands to be required was a substantial class of farmers—of men who could effect improvements in agriculture. It was necessary to introduce a now and independent yeomanry into the country. Would that desirable state of things be accelerated by an enactment, the tendency of which would be to make the land subservient to political party purposes. If they were going to parcel out the land to 8l. tenants, would not that render Ireland subservient to political party purposes? With respect to the Established Church, he had no fears for that institution. It had a strong hold on the affections of the people, and there was no danger of its permanent prosperity. This clause was at direct variance with the professed policy of measures lately passed for Ireland. The clause was calculated to bring us back again to that old system from which most of the evils had sprung. How did this Bill contrast with the high constitutional spirit of the Bill brought in by Lord Stanley? Lord Staldey's Bill left the franchise as it found it, but it provided for a proper system of registration, and gave an appeal from the decision of the revising barrister. This Bill left no sufficient power of appeal. Under the old system, registration could take place four times a year; this Bill provided for one registration in the year. "Oh, but," said an hon. Gentleman, "under the old system there was such disgusting perjury! "But the hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that it was an inferior class of persons whom he now expected to set everything right. Ireland was not the place to try this experiment. The people of Ireland did not care one farthing about the franchise. ["Oh, oh!"] He would say, without fear of contradiction, that in many parts of Ireland they did not care one farthing about the franchise. What they wanted was employment and agricultural improvements. They wanted bread—not a stone of this description thrown to them for the mere purposes of party. He did not oppose the second reading of the Bill, because he thought it might be improved in Committee; and if the second clause had been omitted, and the qualification raised to 12l. or 15l., the main cause of his opposition would be removed. This was not an Irish measure, it was an Imperial measure, for they could not affect the representation of any one part of the empire without affecting the whole. He thought their great object should be to identify Ireland as much as possible with England, and, in order to do that, one unform system should be adopted for both countries. On these grounds he should support the Amendment.


Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman has condensed his logic and his emotions in a single sentence. He said, "You are giving power to those who can more the masses." It is, I think, a signal misapprehension to imagine that the natural and legitimate influence of property will be detrimentally affected by a measure by which, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan has observed, the clause commonly called the Chandos Clause will be extended to Ireland in a form far more ample and comprehensive than that in which it exists in this country. It is enough to state that a tenant-at-will, rated at 8l., will be polled in the presence of his landlord. This great change would give an undue preponderance to the landed interest, if the independent householder did not produce a counterpoise to the subservient cultivator of the soil. How monstrous would be the anomaly if their aspirations should unhappily be realised by whom it is most intently but most injudiciously desired that a minimum qualification should be adopted at once sufficiently high, yet low enough for their purposes; sufficiently high to exclude the great majority of householders of the country towns from the county constituency of Ireland, yet low enough to let in a large mass of acquiescent vassalage by an expansion of the Chandos Clause! The occupier of land rated at the pseudo-Conservative minimum, whose political independence is signified by his designation, whose suffrage and whose land are held by the same tenure, whose land is unprotected by a lease, and whose vote is unprotected by the ballot, is to be invested with the franchise, for the exercise of which the absence of all volition and almost of all thought constitutes, in the opinion of some of those who hear me, his most appropriate qualification; while, upon the other hand, a household resident in such a town as Thurles or Carrick-on-Suir, containing 12,000 people, by neither of which a representative is sent to Parliament—a respectable householder rated at 8l. for a tenement which in an English town, with the same population, would be rated at upwards of 18l.—a trader in good circumstances, well to do in the world, and with a capital in his integrity, industrious, sagacious, and intelligent, is to be deprived, or, I should rather say, stripped and spoliated of that constitutional right of which, in reference to the interests of his country, he would make an honest, a conscientious, an honourable, and undaunted use. This would be most impolitic and unjust—it would be most impolitic, because it would be most unjust—and its impolicy and its injustice would be rendered the more conspicuous by the glaring fact that in this country the 40s. freeholder is preserved, and the great majority of English Members are returned for boroughs upon a 10l. valuation, which is far less than an 8l. rate, while the majority of Irish Members—that is to say, sixty-four county Members—would be returned, were such a scheme successful, upon a qualification of double the amount. I shall be told, however, that the tenants will be torn from their landlords, and that this Bill will minister to agitation. My principal object in taking part in this discussion is to prove to those whose apprehensions are not factitious, and whose objects are not factious, that this is a mistaken fear. Mistaken fear has been the bane of Ireland. There is nothing against which Englishmen ought to be more on their guard. It was mistaken fear that dictated the present code. It was mistaken fear by which its repeal was delayed. It was mistaken fear by which that very procrastination of justice was occasioned which led to the moral insurrection at the hustings against the proprietors of the soil. There is nothing of which Englishmen ought to be so much afraid as of mistaken fear. "What," you will say, "is our fear mistaken; and, after we have seen the ties of landlord and tenant snapped asunder, have we nothing to fear?" I answer, nothing. Don't content yourselves with looking at facts; consider the forces that produced them, and whether they are spent. Don't shut your eyes to the events that are passing before you, and to the consequences with which they teem. The agitation of which Ireland for so many years presented the continuous spectacle arose from the combination of two causes, both of which have ceased to operate—from a great question and from a great man. Both are beyond the power of resuscitation. The question was the Catholic question—incomparable in its power of excitement; the man was the celebrated Irishman upon whose like, in his command of the national emotions, you will not look again. There cannot be the slightest doubt that the great electoral revolt of Ireland would never have taken place but for that vast organisation which the wrongs of Ireland enabled Mr. O'Connell to accomplish. Without the Catholic question, he never would have been able to associate the Catholic hierarchy, the Catholic priesthood, the Catholic aristocracy, the Catholic gentry, the Catholic barrister, the Catholic trader, all ranks, all professions, in that marvellous confederacy by which that sudden and simultaneous revolt was effected; and, upon the other hand, that unparalleled confederacy could never have been formed, except through the matchless influence of that extraordinary man, to whom Ireland so justly ascribes her liberation. But may not another O'Connell arise? Yes, nature may contribute the same faculties, but you will not furnish the same opportunities. Nature is unexhausted and inexhaustible, and in her boundless abundance she may contribute the same wonderful versatility, the same astonishing variety of resources, the same untiring perseverance, the same indomitable energy, the same eloquence, by which the greatest of all political miracles—the conversion of a populace into a people—was effected; but though nature may do all this, you will not furnish a second O'Connell with a second penal code; you will not supply him with the iron out of which the weapons were forged with which ascendancy was struck down. If the Catholic question had been adjusted at the Union, if the vast designs of Mr. Pitt had not been baffled, and Ireland not been put through that agony of excitement through which you saw her pass, you never would have witnessed that social disruption to which you look back with alarm; you would never have seen the Clare election; the allegiance of the tenant to the landlord would have been inviolate. Daniel O'Connell would have been a great lawyer, a great senator, and perhaps a great chief justice; but he would not have "wielded the fierce democracy," because there would not have been a fierce democracy to wield, and his natural inclinations would have led him to the maintenance of authority, which it would have been consistent with the interests of the country to which he was do-voted to sustain. I beg you to consider whether the present condition of Ireland does not bear out the views which I have presented to you. Ireland is in political repose—a wonderful subsidence of popular feeling is everywhere observable. Public assemblies, indeed, are held in different parts of the country, but they have no reference to political objects. The proportion between rents and prices furnishes the principal topic of expatiation. The solicitudes of the Catholic clergy are engaged by those institutions for whose designation they are indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford. Of the restoration of a domestic legislature little is said, and the most enthusiastic advocates for that alluring measure have begun to regard it as an object, bright indeed, but incalculably remote. Never was there less ground for apprehending a second electoral rising of the Irish people. Never was the landed interest, or if you like, I will call it the Protestant interest (for of that I know that you are thinking), more secure. The Roman Catholics of Ireland are not opposed to it, for the distinction between Protestant ascendancy and the Protestant interest is marked. Protestant ascendancy is another name for Catholic disqualification; but the Protestant interest means nothing more than the actual existence and development of that social, intellectual, and territorial power, which is as deeply rooted as it is widely spread, and which does not stand in need of an injustice to the majority of the Irish people for its sustainment. I trust that this Bill will be carried in its integrity. Never was there a period more opportune for its enactment. The concessions made to Ireland have appeared too often to be the result of an inglorious exigency, and to have been influenced by a sentiment to which Englishmen should be slow to give way; but now that Ireland, well and wisely governed, is at rest—when you are no longer pursued by the spirit of minacious molestation, this large and comprehensive measure, by which the pledge given by the Prime Minister upon his accession to office is redeemed, will emanate from your spontaneous fairness, or will be dictated by no other than that noble self-compulsion by which, from a sense of justice. Englishmen should prescribe the performance of their duty to themselves. Henceforth, that fatal saying, that dismal antithesis, into which so much reproach was compressed, that England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity, will cease to be appropriate. Divest it of the melancholy truth to which centuries have borne their calamitous attestation, tear it out of the distempered convictions of the Irish people, and in place of that withering aphorism, by which all good international feeling is dried up, substitute the high and salutary persuasion that the justice of England is proportioned to her security and her power—that it is when she has least to dread she is most magnanimous, and that her affluence, her greatness, and her glory, are but incentives to deal with lofty rectitude towards the Irish people, and to proclaim that their rights are as unquestionably coequal as their interests are beyond all doubt identified in imperial unity with her own.


acknowledged the ability and eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; but it appeared to him to refer to matters long passed away, and to have no real connexion with the subject before the House. Holding the opinions he (Viscount Jocelyn) did, he must object to the Bill, and vote for the Amendment. He had been willing to receive in a fair and liberal spirit from the noble Lord at the head of the Government any well-conceived measure for the extension of the Irish franchise, for it was impossible to doubt that the state of the franchise in Ireland required amendment; but though he agreed entirely in the principle of the Bill, he could not give it his support, because in its present form it would operate fatally to the interests of Ireland. It was impossible to apply one system of legislation to Ireland, and another to England, without doing mischief. He objected to the Bill on several grounds: first, that the basis selected for the franchise would afford no criterion of the class of persons who would enjoy the franchise. In one poor-law union, while the rate was 8l., it would in another union be 10l. Then the working of the Bill would be most objectionable, inasmuch as the registrars would be the poor-law guardians—a circumstance that would be sure to throw the apple of discord in every place. Another objection was the sum selected by the noble Lord—8l He had seen a calculation which clearly proved that the 8l. and 12l. franchises would swamp the intelligence and respectability of the population. Another objectionable point was the joint tenancy point—one of the many evils of Ireland, as reintroducing the mischief of the 40s. freeholders. He would remind the House, before he sat down, that if they passed this measure, the day might come when they would have a majority of Irish Members calling for a repeal of the Union, in which case the late Lord Althorp had admitted that the call should be acceded to; and when that day came, he believed the dismemberment of the British empire must follow.


said, he had come to a different conclusion from his noble relative who had last addressed the House with regard to this Bill. He felt that after the great discussion which it had undergone, they ought to allow it a fair trial. At the same time, he should have preferred an arrangement giving a 12l. franchise in towns, and a 6l. franchise in counties, as a better plan; but though he felt strongly on this point, he could not consent to support a Motion which would have the effect of throwing the settlement of the question over for the year. He had made some calculations founded on papers laid before the House, and he found that the number of tenements rated above 12l. was 237,600. The number of tenements between 10l. and 12l. rating was 44,400, of which he took one-third as the number rated at 12l. This would give 250,000 tenements rated at 12l. and upwards; and, deducting one-fifth for those who were not rateable, a 12l. rating would leave a constituency of 200,000; or, with the other additions included in this Bill, a total of 216,000, which was the precise number of electors in Ireland before the abolition of the forty-shilling franchise. He thought a great experiment was about to be tried, and that the door was being opened to a new Reform Bill. The hon. Member for Cork had hinted that the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown had stated his intention of briuging in a new Reform Bill for England. He Viscount Castlereagh) could heartily have wished that such a Bill had been brought in contemporaneously with the Irish Bill, as he thought it a most unfortunate step to take to attempt to try the experiment in Ireland before it had been tried in England. He trusted that the measure before the House would be properly considered in another place, although he did not think the measure should be checked at this stage in the House of Commons. If, however, a time more inopportune than another for trying the experiment in Ireland could be chosen, it was the present time. Still, he confessed that, if the Bill had the amendments inserted in it which were desirable, it would no longer be the experiment he had described it to be.


said, that while he accepted the vote of the noble Lord the Member for the county of Down, he could not accept his speech. He could not admit that the franchise and liberties of the people of Ireland could not be determined by the House without the introduction of subjects totally irrelevant to the question. If ever there eves an opportune moment for legislating in a liberal spirit for the people of Ireland, that moment had now arrived, and he tendered his thanks to the noble Lord at the head of the Government for having fulfilled the pledge he had held out to the people of that country. He had heard the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Radnorshire, with surprise; nor could be conceive how any hon. Member of that House could characterise the present measure as an attempt "to launch the country into a new cry for revolutionary changes." He believed the Bill was calculated to give constitutional privileges to the people of Ireland—that it was not at all forced upon the attention of Government or the House by agitation—that it had proceeded from a pure sense of justice, and of what was due to the constitution of this country; and as such it would be accepted by the people of Ireland, and he hoped it would bring forth good fruits, tending to a better understanding between the two countries.


Having had, Sir, a share in framing and carrying the Irish Reform Act, and having, on various occasions, expressed a strong opinion that that great settlement ought not lightly to be disturbed by any new enactment, the House will not, perhaps, think it unnatural if I find it difficult to give a silent vote on the present occasion. But, with the permission of the House, I will confine within the narrowest limits the observations which I feel it to be my duty now to make. Sir, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin has stated that he has observed with regret that great settlements with regard to Ireland are constantly contaminated with party objects and party prejudices. Sir, in directing my attention to the consideration of this question, I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that, in all sincerity I can disclaim all party objects and feelings, and that not the slightest tincture of party or factious animosity discolours my impartial judgment on this occasion. But I have bestowed great attention and have felt some anxiety as to the course which I feel it to be my duty to take with respect to this measure. Sir, I thought it imperative on me, when the right hon. Gen- tleman the Member for Queen's County moved the omission of the second clause of the Bill, to vote for the rejection of it. I had not one word to say in answer to the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin against that clause. I think that clause unsound in principle. I think it decidedly objectionable, and that it will lead to the most vicious abuses of splitting votes, of multiplying occupiers, and making faggot votes. I think it decidedly wrong both in its principle and in its tendencies. I voted against it without hesitation; and I should be glad, before the Bill has left this House, to have an opportunity of again recording that vote. I am also bound to make the admission which was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cavan, and by the noble Lord the Member for the county of Down, that the 8l. valuation is a low valuation, that I should perhaps be better satisfied if it were cast at a somewhat higher rate; but I had only to choose between a 15l valuation and an 8l. one, and when those propositions were presented to my choice, I unhesitatingly supported the 8l. franchise. I therefore, Sir, consider this question to be one of mixed consideration and of great difficulty. But, Sir, it is my duty to look to the present condition of the constituencies in Ireland; and I find that in a great nation, consisting of eight millions of people, and where the representative principle is in force, even in those county constituencies so much admired by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, the electoral body consists of somewhere about fifty thousand. Sir, I say that this is an anomaly quite inconsistent with the safety of the State, or the security of our institutions. Sir, I have had occasion to urge on the attention of Parliament my strong conviction, that the necessity for applying a remedy to this is urgent, and I have stated in the debates to which the noble Lord the Member for Bandon referred, that the new principle which I thought was necessary, was an enlargement of the basis of the county franchise. Looking for the cause of the rapid diminution of those constituencies, I saw clearly that the nature of this franchise, based on tenancy, was the cause; and it was clear also, that any remedy, to be effectual, must be the substitution of tenancy based on occupation, and on rating. All the measures to which I was a party during the administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, with respect to the establishment of a more equal valuation, had distinct reference to this subject; I was anxious that the valuation in Ireland should be uniform, and should be based upon a sound and fixed principle; and I wished, with regard to the county valuation, that rating and occupation should be the basis of the franchise, and that the collection of the poor-rate should be connected with the qualification. Now, Sir, in this Bill, I see all the leading provisions for which I then contended, and which appeared to me to be indispensable. First of all, the county franchise is to be an occupation franchise, based upon rent; next, there is to be annual registration in the place of the former quinquennial register; and that registration is to be self-acting, and will be attended with no expense, and with little difficulty. And then follows the precaution, to which I attach importance, that not only must there have been occupation for twelve months before registration, but there must have been an actual payment of all the poor-rates due within six months at the date of registration. But before I touch further upon the question of valuation, it is necessary to consider all the peculiar circumstances affecting Ireland at this moment, in order to account for the expression in the Bill, "the whole poor-rate must be paid." Now, this is not only the ordinary collection for the maintenance of the poor in Ireland, but the collection on account of the rate in aid, which has to be in operation for three years to come. ["No, no!"] Whatever may be the limit of the rate in aid, at least one year has to be included; and there is also a measure in progress in Parliament, which has passed this House, fixing on the poor-rate the repayment to the Exchequer of this country of all the advances made to Ireland, and this is no inconsiderable addition to the poor-rate. Sir, a comparison has been drawn between the franchise in England and in Ireland. But here. Sir, we have the 40s. freehold, and also the tenant-farmer voting without a lease, even a tenant at will at 50l.; and if we compare the franchise in Ireland under this Bill with the existing franchise in Scotland, I do not think the 8l. tenure will be found extravagant. In Scotland every leaseholder is entitled to vote by what is called a "feu tenure," and is entitled to vote if the tenement be valued at 10l. at a rack rent, subject only to ordinary deductions. In Ireland the franchise is to be 8l., with all the poor rates paid. What, again, are the difficulties which this Bill removes? It is impossible, I think, to forget the angry debates which took place in this House as to the interpretation of the law, which fixes the franchise of Ireland, such as now exists—I mean the disputed point with regard to the beneficial interest. It is a point still open to the most opposite conclusions—there is no uniform decision to be found upon it, and there is no concurrence on the bench in Ireland as to the construction of the statute. Even a Committee of this House, of which the noble Lord the Member for Bath was the chairman, reported to the House of Commons that no time should be lost in legislating on this subject, and in removing a doubt which was so generally found to exist, and that until that doubt with respect to the import of the term "beneficial interest" was removed, the state of the county franchise must be held to be most uncertain. Sir, with this Bill all such difficulty will cease. Then with regard to the registration, all the evils in connection with it admitted by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, will be removed by this Bill; and upon the whole I feel bound to say, as a balance of good and evil, that considering the good this Bill will effect as contrasted with the objections to which I have adverted, I cannot hesitate in giving it my support. It is said that this Bill greatly enlarges the basis of the constituent body. Sir, I do not object to it on that ground. I must say, considering the increase of the democratic element in our institutions, that I see the greatest danger in erecting an immense superstructure upon a narrow electoral basis. Sir, if that superstructure cannot stand upon an extended electoral basis, I am sure that a narrow basis cannot long sustain it. On principle, therefore, I cannot object to this Bill as a measure of large extension. Now, Sir, allusion has been made to what has lately been witnessed elsewhere, and I think it is not good policy to neglect examples which are patent and before our eyes. Sir, if I were to mention what in my humble judgment was the immediate cause of the fall of the kingly power of Louis Philippe, it would be, that he maintained, or attempted to maintain, the semblance of representative government with a constituent body, which, as compared with the great bulk of the population, was dangerously narrow, and utterly inadequate. What, Sir, was the con- sequence? A comparatively slight tumult arose in the metropolis, and the Government was overthrown without a struggle. His power was buried in this ruin; and the consequence has been, that for the last two years the nation over which he ruled has been plunged into anarchy, confusion, and bloodshed, and property and life have been rendered insecure. But what is the return of the wave, and the reaction from that state of things which followed the establishment of universal suffrage in France? The return is a desire to base the suffrage, restricted as compared with universal suffrage, on household suffrage, on permanent residence, and on the payment of local taxation. And, Sir, I am sure that that is a safe basis on which to rest the franchise, more especially in a constitution composed of mixed forms and of balanced powers. Upon the whole, therefore, viewing all the difficulties which surround this case, I come to the conclusion that it is my duty to support the third reading of this Bill; and I will now merely repeat that I should rejoice if an opportunity were afforded me of again voting against the second clause, and that I trust that the Bill will he sent back to us with the necessary alteration made in this respect.


Sir, I hope the House—as I have not as yet presumed to give an opinion upon this measure—will not think it intrusive if for a few moments I express my opinion. I do so, not only with great hesitation from a consciousness of the difficulty of the subject itself, but from having to follow the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon—a speech which is one of a rather perplexing character. The right hon. Baronet disapproves of the most important portions of the Bill in favour of which he is going to vote. He recalls to our recollection, with something of Parliamentary pride, that he recorded his vote against its 2nd clause. The right hon. Gentleman absolutely disapproves of the clause which has fixed the suffrage at an 8l. rating; but I believe that he voted in favour of it in Committee. [Sir J. GRAHAM assented.] I find that I was correct, and that the right hon. Gentleman had recorded his vote in favour of this rating of which he disapproved. What opportunity he now expects to express his opinion by his vote against the 2nd clause, it is difficult to ascertain, considering that the Bill is now only waiting for a third reading. One can hardly believe that any very successful occasion will offer itself now to any hon. Gentleman in this House to express his opinion in the manner sought for by the right hon. Gentleman. Nor has the right hon. Gentleman, although he disapproves of the most important clauses of this Bill, vindicated the vote he is going to give by a frank avowal that he approves of the principle of the measure. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman has candidly admitted that he is going to vote, as far as the principle is concerned, with mixed feelings and with mixed considerations. As far as I can draw an inference from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that which he most approves of in this Bill is, that the suffrage is, in future, to be exercised in Ireland without any reference to tenure. I understood the hon. Baronet, between whom and himself there seems much political sympathy, in a previous part of the debate, to tell us that a franchise in Ireland, unconnected with tenure, was, with him, the great political desideratum. A franchise connected with tenure, he told us, was not suited to the genius of the Irish people. Now, Sir, I have more confidence in the genius of the Irish people than the Member for Cavan. What is most remarkable in this discussion is, that hon. Gentlemen should rise and tell us that there is one point upon which all parties and all sides are agreed, and that is, the impossibility that in Ireland the political franchise can be connected with proprietorial tenure. In my mind that is announcing the degradation of Ireland—that is telling us that Ireland is in a state which is inferior to the countries with which it is politically connected; and if you persist in that position, you announce that you believe the condition of Ireland is irreclaimable. Sir, it is because I entirely disapprove of that principle—it is because I entirely disbelieve the principle as one emanating from the real state and social condition of Ireland, that I cannot accept it as the basis of legislation. What do you mean by saying that the franchise in Ireland cannot be exercised with tenure? Do you mean to say that all the tests and all the qualifications which you have carefully established and cherished in England are not to be recognised in that country? Sir, I should say that if it is laid down to us that Ireland is not in a state to exercise or enjoy a political franchise unless it is disconnected with tenure, you bring before the consideration of statesmen a country the condition of which de- mands immediate attention, and they ought at once to apply their minds to the application of some means to remove the causes which have produced such a state of things. If that were placed before me, I should say it is not my duty, in the first place, to create a factitious and artificial constituency; I must rather endeavour to put an end to that sad and terrible condition of things, which has rendered it impossible for the people to accumulate property and obtain the political qualification which is enjoyed in Great Britain; I should rather feel that the first duty of a Minister is to pass laws which should develop the industry of such a country; that if there were laws existing which tended to prevent the development of the industry and the accumulation of wealth in that country, as I believe, for example, the present state of the poor-law does, I say that it should be the business of a Government to direct their minds to such a subject, to reform and to remodel it; and that they should take every necessary step to stimulate the enterprise, spirit, and energy of such a people in such a condition, and allow them to put themselves in a position which, under ordinary circumstances, and in the other kingdoms of Her Majesty, has generally preceded the acquisition of the suffrage. Now, Sir, I have not heard from Her Majesty's Ministers that this view of the question has particularly impressed itself on their attention. We had the question of the fisheries brought before the House the other day. I did not hear from the Chief Secretary that Her Majesty's Ministers—although they opposed the measure then under consideration—I did not hear that Her Majesty's Ministers intended to introduce any measure on the subject. And so it is, Sir, upon all questions connected with the material development of Ireland. Now, Sir, I should have supposed that if Her Majesty's Government had given their serious attention to the reform of the poor-law—if they had brought forward measures for the development of the industry of the country—if, above all, they had brought forward a question which they do not seem inclined to bring forward—if they had attempted to settle in a statesmanlike and temperate manner the long-controverted relation between landlord and tenant—I cannot help thinking that the result of such legislation would be to qualify bonâ fide electors for Ireland much more rapidly than this attempt to create facti- tious suffrages. But, Sir, we may be asked, "Can you defend the present state of the electoral franchise in Ireland?" Is it for me, or those with whom I have the honour to act, to defend it? The present state of the electoral franchise in Ireland was created by the Reform Act; and if we discard from our minds all the glowing and fervent sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Mint, what is the question before us? It is a public acknowledgment that the Reform Act for Ireland has failed. But why has it failed? Is there any one who really believes that the owner of land in Ireland is the sole or oven the principal cause of the failure? There is hardly one man even in the thinnest House would have the courage to rise up and maintain such a thesis. The electoral body in Ireland—why has it so fearfully diminished? The diminution can be traced to causes sufficiently patent to account for so melancholy a result. The main causes are unprecedented political agitation and unparalleled famine. That the relation between landlord and tenant—relations which we call upon the Government to come forward and legislate upon, but which they neglect to do—that these relations have a tendency to diminish the electoral body, I have no wish or interest to dispute or deny. But to pretend that the relations between landlord and tenant are the only or principal cause of this diminution of the electoral body, is a position too futile to require any further notice. The fact does remain—that an electoral body, never too considerable, is very much diminished. And here let me remind hon. Gentlemen who seem so unnecessarily to create party discussions, that as far as our interests are concerned, it is not the interest of any Gentleman on this side of the House, if the results are to guide us, to support the present results of the established franchise in Ireland. A majority, and no inconsiderable majority, of Irish Members always vote against the measures and the principles which we generally support and always profess; and, therefore, in any remarks we may make on the existing system, we may have credit for a spirit of fairness and impartiality. Nor am I one of those who would attempt to justify any opposition to this measure on the mere abstract fact that it will much increase the constituency of Ireland. It is said that it will make the constituency of Ireland amount to 300,000 or 350,000. Let the electors of Ireland be 700,000 if their suffrages are the natural and genuine result of property, intelligence, and honesty. But, instead of 300,000, if the result of this change were a much more limited number—were they, indeed, but a moiety of the sum which has been accepted as the probable result of this proceeding—I should equally object to your law if I found that the end was to be obtained by a mere artificial effort to produce a constituency. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, who disapproves of the principal clauses of this Bill, supports it from mixed considerations, mainly, of course, and very properly, in his view of the case, because he considers it of great importance that there should be a constituency of no wean amount in Ireland. But I ask you to consider well—when you are approaching this difficult question—I ask you to consider whether you are taking a course which will lead to the result which I well believe that all of us desire. Assuming that we all desire a bonâ fide, a considerable, and loyal constituency in Ireland—a constituency equal to the occasion, able to select men capable of representing their interests and qualified to sit in this House—a constituency, on the whole, well affected to the institutions of the country—I ask you whether the course you are taking is one calculated to attain that result? The constituency, anticipated under the Reform Act, has diminished from political and material causes—it has diminished to an extent of which not one Member of the House, as an abstract circumstance, will approve or vindicate. But remember this, that the very causes which have produced this diminution—that the very moral and material causes that have occasioned this result, are also causes that have disinclined the people to any hasty adoption of an electoral system which would be framed for the mere purposes of a party, and not to satisfy the wants and requirements of the national will. Now, Sir, I am not inclined on the present occasion to give any reasons to show this to be a party measure. I do not say that the Government on this occasion have brought forward a measure mainly, or, if not mainly, indirectly, to support their policy and their party. It is quite unnecessary to diverge into the discussion of any such consideration. All that I wish to do is to remind the House of the circumstances which in my mind show that, even in the opinion of the Government, this is a crude and ill-digested scheme—a scheme which does not aim to settle the question in a manner generally satisfactory for any length of time, but which emanates from men who have hastily adopted uncertain conclusions, and even at this moment, in the very heat of debate, have given more than one evidence that, at this very instant, they are contemplating still further changes. Sir, I take the clause which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon has adverted to—and it is only because he has adverted to the clause that, at this late hour, I call the attention of the House to it—but I will take the 2nd clause, against which he prided himself upon having voted. In my mind it is a very injudicious clause. I voted against it most sincerely, because I thought it an injudicious and impolitic clause—a clause which would not have been prepared by men well acquainted with the circumstances with which they were dealing—an unstates-manlike clause—a clause which, in my opinion, ought not to receive the sanction of Parliament. I would say more—I would say a clause which ought not to receive the sanction and approval of the House of Commons; because I am not one of the school who would vote for a Bill of which I disapproved, to throw the responsibility of rejecting it upon another body. But if this is my opinion, and the opinion of many hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on the present occasion and during preceding discussions, what is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government on this important clause? Why, no less a person than the First Minister of the Crown, when the clause was brought under discussion, almost anticipated our objections to it, and threw it as it were into the centre of the House—into the arena of our Parliamentary discussions, and said he cared not to be responsible for it. Sir, this clause, which is perhaps the most objectionable clause of the Bill—a clause of which we particularly disapprove—is a clause that now becomes of considerable importance—that occupies a great place in legislation. If it is to be sent with the approval of the Ministry and the sanction of this House to another place to be dealt with, we are throwing upon another place the responsibility of rejecting legislation which we ourselves confess, and which is acknowledged by the highest authority to be most crude and ill-digested. I ask, is that the manner to treat another place? Is that the spirit in which we should support the institutions of the country? It is not decorous, I think, in the Minister, but it is still less decorous in those who, disapproving of such a clause, have registered their vote against it, yet still vote for the third reading of the Bill of which it forms so prominent a part. Take also the clause in which the amount of the franchise is defined. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon tells us that in voting for this Bill he votes in unison with those opinions which he has always professed—at least of late years—and in accordance with those projects of legislation which he has himself prepared and supported. Why, Sir, it is not long ago—it was only in the year 1844, that the right hon. Gentleman himself brought forward a measure on this very subject. And what was his qualification in the Bill of 1844? It was a 30l. franchise, established, if I recollect right, on the same basis of rating. But what is the answer of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, if we object to their supporting the 8l. qualification, when a short time ago, as the result of their matured counsels, of their deep reflection, of their elaborate research, of all the advantages which official information imparted, they proposed a 30l. franchise? Why, the answer of the right hon. Gentleman will probably be that the circumstances of Ireland are changed—Ireland is impoverished—Ireland is not so wealthy as she was. But my reply is—Is Ireland always to be impoverished? In this ago of progress, which we have dinned into our ears every night and on every occasion, is there to be no progress in Ireland? I have more confidence in the future for Ireland than these great statesmen. I will not give my sanction to a great constitutional law that is to announce to the united kingdom that Ireland is always to be a pauper. Well, then, under these circumstances, accounting, as I will presume to account—not by the mere unsatisfactory statement of the relations between landlord and tenant, but by the great moral and material causes that have seldom occurred in the history of nations, and probably never can he repeated in the history of Ireland—namely, unparalleled political agitation, and a famine which, as the noble Lord once rightly said, was a famine of the middle ages—accounting for the state of Ireland by these causes, I want to know, is there in Ireland at this moment such a feverish desire for the settlement of this question, that it will justify the Govern- ment in bringing forward a measure which they themselves acknowledge they have not well considered? Now, Sir, my opinion is, that while we should frankly acknowledge our wish that Ireland should be placed in the enjoyment of political privileges inferior to none of the kingdoms of Her Majesty, we should also have the moral courage at the same time to announce that we are resolved that these political privileges shall be real ones. And inasmuch as, according to the genius of our constitution—for as we have been reminded of the genius of Ireland, I may presume to appeal to the genius of our constitution—inasmuch as the enjoyment and the exercise of the suffrage have been on the whole in this country connected with the possession of property, we should declare—although of course in the adjustment of such an important settlement, we must, in many instances, where it is wise and circumspect, modify the application of that principle—that of that principle we are determined never to lose sight. But in the present instance we depart from it; we do lose sight of it, we substantially reject it, we announce that the enjoyment and exercise of the suffrage in Ireland shall not be connected with property; and in doing that we destroy the principle which has made the enjoyment and exercise of the suffrage in England most valuable. Let the privilege be as wide as the merits of the community deserve; but let the community obtain it by industry, by intelligence, by the possession and exercise of all those qualities which make useful and honest citizens. These have, through the good sense of the people of England, hitherto been our guiding principles in the adjustment of the suffrage. For my part I believe that the people of Ireland are equally capable to achieve the same results and to exercise the same rights as the people of England. But I oppose a law the essence of which is not to give credit to the people of Ireland for these qualities, the object of which is to announce that they are different from the people of England, and to tell them that the genius of Ireland is incapable of making the exertions and enjoying the honours of Englishmen.


Sir, I will not detain the House long on this occasion, because I really do not think, even if I were capable of addressing the House at any length, that this Bill requires on its third reading much explanation of its merits. The question is simple. Here is a grievance, and we propose to remedy it. I will not go into details relating to the small number of electors in the various counties of Ireland; but I will say, speaking generally, that if you look at the number of electors for counties in England, in Scotland, and in Wales, you will find that they vary from twenty-five per cent, which is the lowest, to thirty-two per cent, which is the highest point, being about twenty-nine per cent for Great Britain as the average number of electors for counties. But when we come to Ireland, we find, not twenty-five per cent, not twenty per cent, not even ten per cent; but we find the average is two per cent, as electors for the counties, of the adult male population of Ireland. I ask the House, then, is not that a grievance—a grievance which, when brought before the House by a Bill proposed to remedy it, is fitting for the House to entertain? But we are told that we deviate altogether from the franchise by tenure, which has always been the franchise in our English counties. If I could understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite meant to maintain such a franchise as that which exists in England—if I could understand them to maintain that the 40s. freehold franchise ought to be restored in Ireland, and that that was the franchise they are prepared to defend, then I could also understand them to say, "We propose a franchise which shall put Ireland upon a footing of perfect equality with England: we think you are proceeding upon a wrong principle, and we prefer for Ireland an arrangement which shall not only be English in principle, but one similar in its details." But they propose no such remedy. Do they then propose to simplify the franchise which now exists—to make the 10l. franchise more simple? By no means. They do not even propose that scheme. Therefore I lay it down as a first proposition, that, the grievance being clear and palpable of the great inferiority of Ireland as regards England and Scotland, they do not propose as a remedy a similar franchise to that of England or Scotland. But what is the sort of language that is held by the hon. and learned Member for the university of Dublin, and by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last? They tell you that there are other remedies—another kind of law: that there are the laws affecting the relation between landlord and tenant, and other matters, to which the Legislature ought to attend, and not to the extension of the franchise, which is now called for. Such is the language always held in despotic countries, where they say that nothing can be so mischievous as political rights—such as freedom of the press, the exercise of the right of voting, and constant agitation on political questions; and in the same way the hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us that we should take care of Ireland in a paternal way by attending to her material interests—that we should look after her fisheries—and provide for every material interest of the people; but that the political franchise was a source of disorder, a source of revolution, and from that they admonish us we must carefully abstain. But in England we have learned something totally different from that. We have learned that if men have the right of voting—the right of sending Members to this House—if they are conscious that in regard to the great interests of their country they are properly represented—and if they know that those they send to Parliament have the power to control the expenditure of the revenue, to advise the Crown, and to take part in all legislation affecting the persons and property of the people, then they know that by these rights they are raised, and in these rights are raised, in dignity; and, so far from this rendering them less able to become wealthy, that very freedom, and the exercise of those very rights, render them still more competent to pursue the paths of industry. When there was a discussion in this House sixty-six years ago on this subject, and Mr. Pitt came down as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and told the House of a flourishing state of the revenue, and of the prosperity of the material interests of the country, and when he had finished the details he had given in his own masterly manner, he said to them, "This you owe to the free constitution of England." Mr. Fox congratulated the House on the statement which had just been made, and he, too, said, "You owe this to your free constitution." Therefore, it was the opinion of those two great men, that the possession of the franchise led to wealth, or led to the acquisition of property. But hon. Gentlemen opposite tell us that we should not concern ourselves about the franchise; but that our business was in managing the affairs of Ireland: we ought to attend to their material interests and wants, and regulate their fisheries, abandoning all care for the franchise and those political privileges which, in the opinion of those statesmen he had just named, led to the promotion of those very material interests. It may cause surprise that those who hold this doctrine have discovered only two or three things in the Bill wherewith to find fault. The measure proposes, and, I think, rightly proposes, instead of restoring a franchise which led to such dreadful scenes in former times as the vassals being driven to the poll by the great landlords, and then, on the other hand, being compelled by the force of religious influence and agitation to turn round and vote against those same landlords—that, instead of reviving the 40s. freehold franchise, which led to every kind of evil when in existence—that a franchise should be given that is simple in its nature, and that persons having a vote shall not be entitled only by the rate-book to exercise that privilege. I say it will be an immense advantage to extend the franchise, and to substitute instead of that system which had been found to lead to abuses, a cheap and easy mode of registration. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn said that this was far too extensive a change, and that if the qualification was put at 12l. we should have had an intelligent set of men; but if we fix 8l. all the intelligence will be swamped. I certainly do not think that the noble Lord can either give proof that all the persons rated at 12l. are persons of intelligence, or that the persons rated at 8l. have no intelligence at all. The fact of paying the rate showed that the persons were solvent, and we have likewise taken persons who in their number—whatever may be said of the magnitude of that number—do not come up in proportion to either England or Scotland. The noble Lord, and others with him, say that there is one clause with respect to joint tenants which they consider mischievous. I hold that to be a clause of immaterial detail, and I do not think there will be many joint tenants to come under its operation; and you cannot compare it to splitting the land into 40s. freeholds, because the tenement must be of the value of 16l. at least. Taking the analogy of the Reform Bill for England, you would put in this clause. But if hon. Gentlemen who are connected with the rural economy of Ireland will tell me that the clause will be injurious, I will omit it. Then, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire said that we are legislating after effects of a dreadful famine within the last few years, and told us to wait and see what the permanent effects are. But the hon. Gentleman does not seem to know what every Gentleman connected with Ireland knows very well, that this diminution of electors has been progressive, and that it began long before the famine. The number of electors for Cork, which, before 1841, was 5,738, had fallen to 3,795 in 1841, and in 1849 it was 3,656. In Tipperary the number, which was 4,143 before 1841, was diminished in 1841 to 2,463, and was now 1,157. The diminution, then, was not owing to the famine, but was one which had been going on from year to year owing to the nature of the franchise. The hon. Gentleman has one great reason against the adoption of this Bill, which in my opinion is a strong reason in its behalf, and in favour of the course we are now taking. The hon. Gentleman says that no feverish anxiety has been displayed in any quarter for the Bill—that there has been no agitation for it. But what would have been said of us for proposing this measure if there had been excitement and agitation? Why, it would have been said that we were yielding to terror, and conceding to the demands of demagogues. But I say, as my right hon. Friend the Master of the Mint told the House, that I think this time is a most fortunate and auspicious one to increase the franchise—a time when we can say we grant a well-founded claim uninfluenced by any political agitation. The measure itself proposes to place the people of Ireland, with respect to their representation, in a position in point of fact as good as that of the people of England and Scotland; and it is founded upon the principle that they should not be treated as inferior to the people of England and Scotland; but that they have a right, when England and Scotland possesses a certain franchise, to be placed in a position, in that respect, equivalent to both those countries. But that right they do not at present enjoy; and so much the more does it become justice—so much the more does it become wisdom to unite the people of Ireland with the people of Great Britain in showing, by equal treatment of both, and giving them equal franchise, you have full confidence in the manner in which they will use that equality and that franchise; and that they may have all the freedom that exists in any other part of the united kingdom.

Question put.

The House divided:—Aves 254; Noes 186: Majority 68.

List of the AYES.
Abdy, Sir T. N. Dundas, rt. hon. Sir T.
Adair, H. E. Ebrington, Visct.
Adair, R. A. S. Ellis, J.
Aglionby, H. A. Elliot, hon. J. E.
Alcock, T. Evans, J.
Anderson, A. Evans, W.
Anson, hon. Col. Fagan, W.
Anstey, T. C. Fergus, J.
Armstrong, Sir A. FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W.
Armstrong, R. B. Foley, J. H. H.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Fordyce, A. D.
Forster, M.
Bagshaw, J. Fortescue, C.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Fortescue, hon. J. W.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Fox, R. M.
Bass, M. T. Freestun, Col.
Berkeley, Adm. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Glyn, G. C.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Grace, O. D. J.
Bernal, R. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Birch, Sir T. B. Granger, T. C.
Blackall, S. W. Grattan, H.
Blake, M. J. Greene, J.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Greene, T.
Boyd, J. Grenfell, C. P.
Boyle, hon. Col. Grenfell, C. W.
Brand, T. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Bright, J. Grey, R. W.
Brocklehurst, J. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Brockman, E. D. Grosvenor, Earl
Brotherton, J. Guest, Sir J.
Browne, R. D. Hall, Sir B.
Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W. Hallyburton, Lord J. F.
Burke, Sir T. J. Harris, R.
Butler, P. S. Hastie, A.
Cardwell, E. Hastie, A.
Carter, J. B. Hatchell, J.
Caulfield, J. M. Hawes, B.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Headlam, T. E.
Cavendish, W. G. Heathcoat, J.
Childers, J. W. Heneage, E.
Cholmeley, Sir M. Henry, A.
Clay, J. Heywood, J.
Clay, Sir W. Heyworth, L.
Clifford, H. M. Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.
Cobden, R. Hobhouse, T. B.
Cockburn, A. J. E. Hodges, T. L.
Coke, hon. E. K. Hogg, Sir J. W.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Hollond, R.
Collins, W. Howard, Lord E.
Corbally, M. E. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Hughes, W. B.
Craig, Sir W. G. Hume, J.
Crawford, W. S. Hutchins, E. J.
Crowder, R. B. Hutt, W.
Currie, H. Jervis, Sir J.
Dalrymple, Capt. Keating, R.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Keogh, W.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Kershaw, J.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Kildare, Marq. of
Denison, J. E. King, hon. P. J. L.
Devereux, J. T. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Divett, E. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Lawless, hon. C.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Lewis, G. C.
Duff, G. S. Littleton, hon. E. R.
Duff, J. Loch, J.
Duncan, Visct. M'Cullagh, W. T.
Duncan, G. M'Gregor, J.
Dundas, Adm. M'Taggart, Sir J.
Meagher, T. Russell, Lord J.
Mahon, The O'Gorman Russell, hon. E. S.
Mangles, R. D. Russell, F. C. H.
Marshall, J. G. Rutherfurd, A.
Marshall, W. Salwey, Col.
Martin, J. Scholefield, W.
Martin, S. Scrope, G. P.
Matheson, J. Scully, F.
Matheson, Col. Seymour, Lord
Maule, rt. hon. F. Shafto, R. D.
Melgund, Visct. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Milner, W. M. E. Slaney, R. A.
Mitchell, T. A. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Moffatt, G. Smith, J. A.
Monsell, W. Smith, M. T.
Moore, G. H. Smith, J. B.
Morgan, H. K. G. Smythe, hon. G.
Morris, D. Somers, J. P.
Mostyn, hon. E. M. L. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Mowatt, F. Spearman, H. J.
Mulgrave, Earl of Staunton, Sir G. T.
Norreys, Lord Strickland, Sir G.
Norreys, Sir D. J. Stuart, Lord D.
O'Brien, Sir L. Stuart, Lord J.
O'Brien, Sir T. Sullivan, M.
O'Connoll, M. Talbot, C. R. M.
O'Connell, M. J. Talbot, J. H.
O'Connor, F. Tancred, H. W.
O'Flaherty, A. Tenison, E. K.
Ord, W. Thickuesse, R. A.
Osborne, R. Thompson, Col.
Paget, Lord A. Thornely, T.
Paget, Lord C. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Paget, Lord G. Towneley, J.
Palmerston, Visct. Townley, R. G.
Parker, J. Traill, G.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Trelawny, J. S.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Tufnell, H.
Peel, F. Vane, Lord H.
Pelham, hon. D. A. Verney, Sir H.
Perfect, R. Villiers, hon. C.
Peto, S. M. Wall, C. B.
Pilkington, J. Walmsley, Sir J.
Plowden, W. H. C. Watkins, Col. L.
Power, Dr. Wawn, J. T.
Price, Sir R. Westhead, J. P. B.
Pusey, P. Williams, J.
Raphael, A. Willyams, H.
Rawdon, Col. Williamson, Sir H.
Reynolds, J. Wilson, J.
Ricardo, O. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Rice, E. R. Wood, W. P.
Rich, H. Wyld, J.
Robartes, T. J. A. Wyvill, M.
Roche, E. B. Young, Sir J.
Romilly, Col. TELLERS.
Romilly, Sir J. Hill, Lord M.
Rumbold, C. E. Bellew, R. M.
List of the NOES.
Alexander, N. Barrington, Visct.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Bateson, T.
Archdall, Capt. M. Bennet, P.
Arkwright, G. Bentinck, Lord H.
Bagge, W. Bernard, Visct.
Bagot, hon. W. Best, J.
Bailey, J. Blackstone, W. S.
Baldock, E. H. Blair, S.
Baldwin, C. B. Blandford, Marq. of
Bankes, G. Boldero, H. G.
Baring, T. Booth, Sir R. G.
Baring, hon. F. Bramston, T. W.
Bemridge, R. Hope, A.
Brisco, M. Hotham, Lord
Broadley, H. Hudson, G.
Broadwood, H. Jocelyn, Visct.
Brooke, Lord Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Jones, Capt.
Bruen, Col. Kerrison, Sir E.
Buck, L. W. Knightley, Sir E.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Knox, Col.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Lascelles, hon. E.
Cabbell, B. B. Lennox, Lord A. G.
Carew, W. H. P. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Chatterton, Col. Leslie, C. P.
Chichester, Lord J. L. Lewisham, Visct.
Christopher, R. A. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Christy, S. Lockhart, W.
Clive, H. B. Long, W.
Cobbold, J. C. Lowther, hon. Col.
Cocks, T. S. Lowther, H.
Codrington, Sir W. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Cole, hon. H. A. Macnaghten, Sir E.
Coles, H. B. Mandeville, Visct.
Colvile, C. R. Manners, Lord C. S.
Compton, H. C. Manners, Lord G.
Conolly, T. Manners, Lord J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. March, Earl of
Cotton, hon. W. H. S. Maunsell, T. P.
Damer, hon. Col. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Davies, D. A. S. Meux, Sir H.
Disraeli, B. Miles, P. W. S.
Dod, J. W. Miles, W.
Dodd, G. Milton, Visct.
Drummond, H. H. Morgan, O.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Mullings, J. R.
Duncombe, hon. A. Mundy, W.
Duncombe, hon. O. Naas, Lord
Duncuft, J. Napier, J.
Dundas, G. Neeld, J.
Du Pre, C. G. Neeld, J.
East, Sir J. B. Newdegate, C. N.
Edwards, H. Newport, Visct.
Egerton, Sir P. Newry and Morne, Visc.
Egerton, W. T. Noel, hon. G. J.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Ossulston, Lord
Farnham, E. B. Oswald, A.
Farrar, J. Packe, C. W.
Fellowes, E. Palmer, R.
Filmer, Sir E. Pennant, hon. Col.
Forbes, W. Pigot, Sir R.
Forester, hon. G. C. W. Plumptre, J. P.
Fox, S. W. L. Portal, M.
Frewen, C. H. Powlett, Lord W.
Galway, Visct. Prime, R.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E. Rendlesham, Lord
Goddard, A. L. Repton, G. W. J.
Gooch, E. S. Richards, R.
Gordon, Adm. Rufford, F.
Gore, W. R. O. Rushout, Capt.
Granby, Marq. of Sibthorp, Col.
Grogan, E. Smollett, A.
Gwyn, H. Somerset, Capt.
Hale, R. B. Stafford, A.
Hall, Col. Stanford, J. F.
Halsey, T. P. Stanley, E.
Hamilton, G. A. Stanley, hon. E. H.
Hamilton, J. H. Stuart, H.
Hamilton, Lord C. Stuart, J.
Harris, hon. Capt. Sturt, H. G.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Taylor, T. E.
Hildyard, R. C. Thesiger, Sir F.
Hill, Lord E. Thompson, Ald.
Hodgson, W. N. Thornhill, G.
Hood, Sir A. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Trevor, hon. G. C. Walpole, S. H.
Trollope, Sir J. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Turner, G. J. Wegg-Prosser, F. R.
Tyrell, Sir J. T. Willoughby, Sir H.
Verner, Sir W. Worcester, Marq. of
Vesey, hon. T. Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.
Villiers, hon. F. W. C.
Vyse, R. H. R. H. TELLERS.
Waddington, D. Mackenzie, W. F.
Waddington, H. S. Beresford, W.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 3°.

Amendments made. Bill passed.

The House at One o'clock, till Monday next.