HC Deb 08 July 1851 vol 118 cc353-74

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the Protection of the Parliamentary Electors of Great Britain and Ireland by taking the votes by way of Ballot. The hon. Gentleman observed that never was it so important to make an effort in this cause as at the present moment. They were upon the eve of a general election, and it would be a struggle of no common order. It was one in which the landocracy bade fair to be arrayed against popular rights, in which all that wealth and power could effect would be effected against poverty and dependence, and in which the political bully would go forth to trample upon the rights of electors, unless there were interposed between him and his victims the protecting shield of the ballot. He called upon his hon. Friends, therefore, who had hitherto supported him in this Motion, to unite with him once again in advocating this cause, and in endeavouring to persuade the First Minister of the Crown that, without protection to Parliamentary voters, no plan of reform which he might contemplate would give satisfaction to the people, or could be otherwise than a nullity. He begged to tell the noble Lord that he might extend the constituencies, but that the action of open voting would contract them; that he might increase the number of electors, but; that with it he would increase the arena of intimidation and corruption. Of what use would any Parliamentary reform be to the tenantry of great estates, or to the tradesmen of the cities throughout England, unless they were afforded protection against their landlords and their customers, and allowed to give a free and conscientious voce without fear of ruin? To introduce reform without the ballot, was to attempt to cure a superficial disease in the electoral system, while the cancer gnawing at its vitals was left unheeded. He knew no question which reflected so much ignominy upon its opponents as this question of the ballot. It was simply a proposition to give to the electors throughout the kingdom an undoubted and legal right; and its rejection by that House seemed to him to amount to a virtual condemnation of the purity of election. We, the advocates of the measure (said the hon. Gentleman), have torn the last rag of reasoning from your shoulders, and there you stand, denuded in the face of the world, an indecent picture of naked obstructiveness. He found, from the pages of Hansard, that the noble Lord considered that the present system worked well, and that he feared a change. The noble Lord had never been very explicit with regard to the change which he dreaded, but he feared a change. Now he asked him, could that system be said to work well, the terrors of which deterred a full third of the electors of this country from recording their votes, while it permitted the corruption and intimidation of the majority of those who did vote? which allowed forty-eight Peers of the realm and seventeen wealthy Members of Parliament to return to that House ninety-eight Members by direct unconstitutional interference, in spite, too, of the Sessional Orders made annually against the interference of Peers? which converted agricultural voters into a mere electoral flock of sheep? which, once in seven years, or oftener, converted this country into one vast arena of drunken confusion and corruption of all kinds? which was one great he throughout? which granted to a man in theory that which it denied him in practice? and which complimented a man upon his liberty while it rendered him a slave? Yet that was the system which the noble Lord thought worked well. But, supposing for one moment that the result was good, then a good end was achieved by means the most abominable, the most abandoned, and the most unconstitutional. That was the way in which the good end was achieved, and upon the horns of the dilemma he was willing to leave the noble Lord. Now he invited the noble Lord to tell the House why when in England a man was so admirably protected in almost all his rights, he should be denied protection in his capacity of a Parliamentary elector. Why should this invidious distinction be made? For instance, a man might buy a carriage. After he paid the purchase money, and a tax upon it, he might drive where, when, and how he pleased—he was protected in that right. The same with a horse—tax and turnpike paid, he might ride the animal where he thought fit. But a man buys a freehold, rents a house, and, paying taxes, becomes entitled to a vote. You recognise his right to this vote on two conditions: the one, that he should not barter it for money; the other, that he should not place it at the disposition of a Peer of the realm. Then, says the elector, I consent; but grant me protection from the Peer and the persecutor. Now what is the reply? It is here—embalmed in the pages of Hansard. The opponents of the measure are filled with virtuous indignation. "Protection!" say they—"why, you coward! and you are a liar too, you wish to he and to conceal it. You unmanly, un-English poltroon. Protection, indeed! why, you want to upset our glorious constitution!" Now, what makes this the more exquisitely absurd is, that all those among them who were directors of the Bank of England, all who were directors of the India House, all those of the Trinity House, all who were members of clubs in Great Britain and Ireland—and their name was legion—all of them sought the protection of secret voting—nay, so enamoured were they of it, that they could not erect a statue to the late Sir Robert Peel without the ballot; and a political club—and a great political club, too—was so in love with it that they not only elected, but expelled, their members by ballot. There had been an instance of that lately, and if they were to vote for giving protection to the voter by the ballot that night, to-morrow they would be expelled from their club by the ballot. When proposing this Motion last Session, he had ventured to make some statements upon the backsliding of certain hon. Members upon this question, and he had deeply deplored that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department should have held it necessary to withdraw his support from it, giving no better reason than that the action of public opinion had taken so beneficial an effect that the ballot was no longer needed. Upon this subject let him just call into court that illustrious witness who lately descended from the moon, and took up his station at Aylesbury. Surely some good counsel might be derived from an examination into the details which had been laid before them by that worthy. He passed by Aylesbury, however, with the brief observation, that, while the man from the moon spoke to the corruption, bribery, and treating that went on in that borough, intimidation also flourished in full force; and he did not believe that there ever was an election at which the screw was more severely put upon the electors by the land-ocracy surrounding the town, than in the election between Bethell and Ferrand. And let the House remember that Aylesbury might be regarded as a type of what towns situated in the hearts of counties would be at the next general election. One word as to the Falkirk burghs. The hon. Member for those burghs had been returned from that nest of corruption as "duly elected." He had risen in his place, he had laid his hand upon his heart, and had assured the House that he had nothing whatever to do with drenching the electors with whisky; and it would be both personal and unparliamentary if they were to doubt the hon. Gentleman's word. There could be no question, also, but that the hon. Member for St. Albans could rise in his place, and lay his hand upon his heart, and assure them that he knew nothing whatever of "Bell metal," and was entirely innocent of "Sovereign Alley." But with reference to what took place at the last St. Albans election, he would quote from the report in the Times newspaper. The report, which was dated "St. Albans, Christmas eve," contained the following passages:— The contest commenced at eight o'clock this morning—if contest it could be called—where an immense number of the constituency had long before the polling-day yielded to the blandishments and seductions of Mr. Bell's agents. The scene presented by the borough all day was anything but calculated to lead to the belief that Father Mathew's disciples were very numerous there. All business was suspended, the shops were closed, the ancient freemen came forth into the streets in the intensest state of hunger and thirst that ever fell on man with all the good things of the world around them, and a passer-by might have imagined that the crews of a shipwrecked and famished navy were making up for the privations of their rafts in the taverns and hostelries of this famous town. Towards midday the sights presented in the principal streets were absolutely disgusting. Drunken men and women were rolling and staggering about the streets, or lying in some instances in the curious places which inebriety selects. Postchaises were dashing about laden with the heaviest freights of drunken and 'independent' voters, smoking cigars and pipes, and indulging in short efforts of oratory. The Times also gave an account of the close of the poll, when it appeared that both the candidates addressed the people. He did not find in Mr. Bell's speech much matter for comment. That hon. Gentleman merely told the drunken mob that they had greatly and gloriously distinguished themselves, and he found out that the conduct of his electors was the counterpart of that of the Guards at Waterloo. Mr. Carden, on the other hand, asserted that in his defeat he had achieved a victory (Mr. Carden knew nothing of the kidnapping which his witnesses would undergo), and that he had broken down the barriers which combined fraud, personal interest, and local corruption, had raised against him. In the course of his speech Mr. Carden used these remarkable expressions:— I was told that if I would put the bribery oath to every elector I might win my seat; but I refused to do so, for I did not wish to peril the future happiness of those men who, having taken a bribe, would not scruple to swear they had never received one. If confirmation of that opinion were needed, they had it in the recorded fact, that at one period of the proceedings, when the bribery oath was read, it was received by the pure and immaculate electors of St. Albans with shouts of laughter and derision. Indeed, they seemed to think the bribery oath an exceedingly good joke. He wished to remind the House, that, by establishing a system of secret voting, they would place the suborner entirely at the mercy of the suborned. They could not prevent a man from purchasing a vote, but they could prevent him from knowing whether the vote was paid in return for the bribe. By the operation of the ballot four distinct events would be cast into the shade: firstly, whether the elector whose vote had been purchased voted as the briber expected he would do; secondly, whether the elector so bribed voted for the opponent of the person for whom his vote was purchased; thirdly, whether the elector, after his vote had been purchased, might not split his vote between two opposing candidates; and, fourthly, whether the elector voted at all. Was it likely that 5l., 10l., or 20l. notes would be thrown into such an ocean of doubt and conjecture? He thought it was contrary to common sense to entertain such an expectation. He (Mr. Berkeley) had obtained on this subject the opinions of many persons who were accustomed to conduct elections, and they all concurred in the opinion that intimidation would be completely set aside by the ballot. They also considered that the ballot would be a preventive of bribery in all populous constituencies, though some doubt might exist as to its effect upon smaller constituencies. This was quite sufficient for him, for, intimidation once destroyed, he would be well contented to take the chance of bribery, diminished as that chance would be by secret voting. He conceived that intimidation involved the principle of bribery in its worst form. They might reward an elector for his vote, and in so doing they were not guilty of any act of tyranny, although they acted unconstitutionally; but when they intimidated an elector to give his vote, or punished him for giving it, they acted not only as tyrants but as robbers, and therefore he held that intimidation was infinitely worse than bribery. Among the evils which intimidation included he would place exclusive dealing, the withdrawal of custom, the ejectment of tenants, and those inquisitorial searches into the lives and finances of electors, the results of which were used to twist from them false votes. In order to show the effect of the present system, he would lay before the House some particulars respecting the last election at Bath. They had been told by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, that, at a contested election for that borough, at least one thousand electors abstained from voting in consequence of intimidation. Now he (Mr. Berkeley) had written to a gentleman with a view to ascertain the effect of that system of intimidation in the city of Bath, and his friend had sent him a sort of analysis of the voting. His correspondent said— It was a quiet election, no beer-houses opened; there were a few instances of direct intimidation, but they were the exception, not the rule. On the register 3,130 electors, of whom only 2,151 polled, namely, 1,110 for Scobell, and 1,041 for Sutclffle—unpolled, 879; of whom 250 quitted or dead, 100, mostly Tories, out of town, 50 ultra-Radicals who did not think Captain Scobell enough in advance, 30 Catholics who objected to his opinions on religious matters going too far. There were consequently 449 who dared not to vote, and who, upon being canvassed, replied,' We wish Captain Scobell success; we will work for him privately, but if we vote we may as well close our business.' Now if there were 449 electors in Bath deterred from voting by intimidation, how many did the House imagine were deterred from placing themselves on the register? This, then, was the electoral system which worked well! He (Mr. Berkeley) asked for the ballot as the greatest boon that could possibly be bestowed upon the agricultural constituencies. The right of tenant-farmers to vote was now a mere nullity. He thought the best plan that could be adopted under the present system on great estates, would be to allow the steward to send in a list of voters at the time of the election to the sheriff of the county, with the name of the candidate for whom they voted appended to it. These unfortunate and degraded men would then be saved from having to ride to the next market town to tell a lie. He could assure the House that he felt a deep interest for the tenant-farmers of England. It was true he had felt it to be his duty to object to them in the character of soldiers or constables, solely on the ground that they were undisciplined and disobedient, but he would do them justice in their civil capacity. There was not a better drilled or more obedient body of electors in Europe. The adjutant and the colonel had no means of compelling obedience, but it was not so with the landlord and the steward. The farmer might refuse to go out to fight, but he must not refuse to go out to vote. If he refused to go out to fight, no punishment followed; but if he refused to go out to vote, condign punishment ensued. He (Mr. Berkeley) was prepared to assert that from 1835, when evidence was taken on the subject before a Parliamentary Committee, down to 1851, the state of tyranny and slavery in which the agricultural constituencies, were held, had continued with unabated rigour. At present the farmers, galled by low prices and high rents, had begun to murmur at this sort of dispensation, and were inclined to believe that they were not truly represented in that House. The last South Nottingham election offered a striking instance of this fact. He held in his hand the Times report of the proceedings at that election. He had selected the Times report, firstly, because the reports of that paper were generally correct, and admirably written; and, secondly, because the Times had manifested a direct bias against the question he then brought forward. It could not be supposed, therefore, that the statements he was about to read were written with any bias in favour of his proposal. He found in the Times, after a statement of the result of the election, these remarks:— The result astonishes everybody. That in the most aristocratic county in England, with the landlords, almost to a man, banded together in support of their nominee, a scion of one of the largest landed proprietors in the county, he should be defeated by a plain country gentleman, a retired solicitor, with scarcely an acre of land of his own in the county, appears truly marvellous, marvellous indeed! How did the Times account for that marvel? The Times said— It can be only accounted for, by the fact of the losses of the occupiers of land for the last two years rendering them indifferent to whether they be expelled their homesteads or not. The Times, therefore, admitted that the penalty for a free and independent vote was expulsion from a homestead. The account proceeded:— Mr. Barrow has for many years presided at and taken part in their farmers' clubs and meetings. Lord Newark has never been seen by one farmer in a thousand until this contest, and during this election many who voted for him did so with extreme reluctance. In some cases farmers were actually dragged from their hiding-places in hay or straw stacks, taken to the poll, and forced to vote against their wishes. In many instances the answer to the question, 'For whom do you vote?' was 'For Lord Newark, I suppose,' the unwilling tenant looking at the same time into his landlord's face for a nod of assent. Surely the House, after hearing this tale of humiliation and degradation, selected from the Times, an advocate of open voting, would permit him to apostrophise that great organ of the press, and exclaim O tempora! O mores! He would read one very short extract more from the Times, for the benefit of any hon. Members who might be sufficiently weak and deluded to believe that the Sessional Orders against the interference of Peers were ever intended to be carried out:— In the Bingham district a very clever ruse was played off, which had the effect of turning some votes for Mr. Barrow. During the previous night bills were posted in every village purporting to come from a nobleman who has been conspicuous in biassing his tenantry in favour of Lord Newark, of which the following is a copy, 'South Nottinghamshire Election: Lord Chesterfield hereby announces to his tenantry that he takes no part in this contest, and he wishes them to exercise their elective franchise whichever way they feel disposed.—Bretby, Feb. 12. He would simply put it to the House to consider—when this miserable trickery, this mere election squib, could carry the votes of some electors—what effect the ballot would have had on the election for that county. He considered that it would be much better to take the franchise away altogether from the tenant-farmers than to expose them to the degradation to which they were now subjected. He asked country gentlemen how they could reconcile it to their consciences to perpetuate a system so cruel and unconstitutional in its operation? At one time the country gentlemen eulogised these unhappy people to the skies, and described the tenant-farmers as the free, hardy, independent cultivators of the soil; while at another time those gentlemen were found driving their tenants to the poll like a herd of swine to the next market town. At one time the country gentlemen placed these tenant-farmers on horseback side by side with themselves, dressed in gaudy uniforms, their bands playing "See, the Conquering Heroes come!" while, at another time, these same gentlemen were ferretting the farmers like rats in haystacks and strawstacks, where they had crawled in their degradation, to prevent themselves from being compelled to violate their consciences and to tell a lie in the face of God, to the detriment of mankind. Oh! for the pencil of Hogarth, or the stereotype of Punch, to immortalise the discovery and dragging forth of the glorious yeomanry and independent electors from haystacks and strawstacks! for, in a future and more improved age, some pictorial monument would surely be necessary to convince people that such things could be in England in the nineteenth century. He would give the House one more instance of the working of the electoral system in an agricultural district—the county of Gloucester. It appeared that there was in that county a Mr. Handel Cossham, of Wickwar, who had been a very active partisan of the defeated candidate at the last West Gloucestershire election. He believed his hon. relative would confirm his statement that Mr. Cossham was a highly respectable man. Mr. Cossham had lately joined a total abstinence society, and at a meeting of that society, held in Bristol on the 10th of February last, which was reported in the Bristol Mercury, he made a speech remarkable for its good sense, its moral courage, and its penitential tone. Mr. Cossham said— That there were many political evils connected with strong drink. He had a great deal to do with the last West Gloucestershire election: he repented it now, and ever should. The drinking at that election was enough to corrupt all England, much more the county of Gloucester. The reason they had not better men to represent them was that the drinking custom had made elections so expensive that the best men would not come forward, while those that did took good care when they got into Parliament to make the electors repay what they had cost them. Now he (Mr. Berkeley) found that in this speech Mr. Handel Cossham was, whether consciously or unconsciously he could not tell, expressing the sentiments of old Daniel Defoe, and almost in his very words. The coincidence was most remarkable. He (Mr. Berkeley) might remind the House that in 1708 Daniel Defoe published a review, in which he lashed the electoral system of the day, and recommended the ballot. It would be seen, on reference to Hansard, that Mr. Ward quoted with considerable effect from that work when he brought the question of the ballot before the House in 1842. Now, in 1710, two years after Defoe's work was published, a Bill to give electors the protection of the ballot passed through the House of Commons, but was rejected by the House of Lords. He (Mr. Berkeley) considered the rejection of that Bill most unconstitutional, because the House of Lords encroached on the privileges of the House of Commons when they interfered in the electoral arrangements of that House. The Lords of that day, however, seemed to have been as determined as the Lords of the present day to keep a grasp on the collars of the constituencies, and they knew that if the people got the ballot they would be compelled to relax that grasp. Defoe's exertions, nevertheless, did not cease; but in 1716 he published another work, entitled Thoughts on Trade and Public Spirit, which contained fresh strictures on the corruption of the electoral system. Now, the coincidence of opinion between Daniel Defoe and Mr. Handel Cossham was remarkable; their thoughts seemed to go pari passu. For instance, Mr. Handel Cossham strongly deprecated the political evils of strong drink, and bore penitential testimony to those evils. Daniel Defoe, on his part, said— The frequent orders of the House against treating to strong drink, bribery, and corruptions in elections, have had but little effect; for most people believe they are easily evaded; but one great fault lies in the electors, which are generally of that sordid temper to sell their votes, birthrights, and country for a small sum, or, what is worse, a pot of ale. Again, Mr. Cossham believed that great expenses were incurred at elections, and that when men got into Parliament they contrived to repay themselves for their outlay. What said Daniel Defoe?— In this bad age men go to great expenses to be returned for some pitiful borough; but you must not suppose this is for public spirit, for there are few men to be found though of never so great estates that will serve without round salaries, if they have not strong inclinations to perquisites also. And this sterling old writer concluded by declaring that "the corruptions at elections are so rivetted in the nature of the people, that the only remedy is by way of balloting." He (Mr. Berkeley) begged to thank the House for the attention with which they had heard him, and would, in conclusion, make an appeal to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. That noble Lord stood pledged to further Parliamentary reform. He (Mr. Berkeley) was grateful to the noble Lord for that pledge, but he hoped the noble Lord would not turn aside from this great branch of the question. Shortly after the passing of the Reform Bill, Mr. Grote came to the conclusion that, in order to complete the electoral system, protection to the voter was necessary. He (Mr. Berkeley) did not know how many hon. Members might vote with him that night, but he did know that there were 150 Members of that House who agreed with Mr. Grote, and among them were those bearing great names, men remarkable for talent and wisdom, with whom the noble Lord was in daily communication. He (Mr. Berkeley) was proud to number among the names of those who supported the question the revered name of Romilly—one, who combined with that name high position, great talents, and great popularity. He (Mr. Berkeley) was also supported in his opinions on this subject by the Attorney General, than whom no legal gentleman was better acquainted with the present electoral system and its working than his learned Friend. He was supported, also, by the high authority of the Solicitor General, whose eloquence and sound judgment went hand in hand, and whose brilliant defence of the question could not easily be forgotten when the House came to a resolution in its favour. But, if he were strong in modern legal authority, was he not equally so in ancient legal authority? He had, on a former occasion, shown the House that Lord Chief Justice Holt considered it "a great privilege to elect those who are to bind life and property by the laws they make—a privilege not to be deputed to another." This great privilege, as he (Mr. Berkeley) had shown, however, was not deputed to, but was actually seized upon, by others. Sir W. Blackstone laid it down that the House of Commons "should be elected of the people, to make the laws for the people, and to check the tendency of laws framed by the House of Lords." He (Mr. Berkeley) had shown that this great constitutional maxim was completely set at naught by the fact that the majority of the Members of the House of Commons were the nominees of the House of Lords. He begged to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government to reconsider the question for the sake of the people of England. If the noble Lord would give a pledge that he would take the subject into his consideration, he (Mr. Berkeley) would most readily withdraw the Motion. If the noble Lord, however, declined to do so, he had only then to ask leave to bring in a Bill to give to the Parliamentary electors of Great Britain and Ireland the protection of the ballot, as the only means of enabling them to discharge a solemn duty, and of securing to them the free enjoyment of an important right, and a great privilege.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Protection of the Parliamentary Electors of Great Britain and Ireland by taking the Votes by way of Ballot.


seconded the Motion. He had had an opportunity of seeing the intimidation which was practised at elections, and he was persuaded that the voter could not be protected unless Parliament extended to him the shield of the ballot. He looked upon the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) as the natural leader of reform; and in the name of the electors of this country he called upon him to reconsider this question. He, therefore, expected that he would make the ballot a part of his promised reform. The principle of the ballot was adopted in all their clubs, in their literary and charitable institutions; and why should it not be given as a shield to the tenant-farmer and the tradesman? He admitted that it was natural for a tenant to vote for a good landlord, and that would still be done, but all landlords were not good. He knew that working men in manufactories had been coerced by both parties in a manner which was disgraceful to the country. He hoped the time had arrived when an end would be put to these things. It could not possibly mast much longer. The people would demand their rights, and whoever was the Minister he would be obliged to grant them. He belonged to the people; he knew their wants, their wishes, and their requirements, and he knew that this was one of them. His hon. Friend who made the Motion belonged to a proud aristocratic line, and therefore the more honour was due to him for appearing as the advocate of the measure. He did not believe there could be any independence in a borough where there were only 200 or 300 electors unless voting by ballot was in operation.


said, he had heard with the greatest satisfaction the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had placed this Motion before the House. To him (Mr. Hume) that speech appeared unanswerable, and he could not understand how any man professing a desire to give freedom and practical reform to the people could hesitate for a moment to give his support to a Motion for vote by ballot, seeing that it was intended to afford protection to the constitution, by giving a constitutional defence to the people in exercising their right to elect Members to that House. He was sorry that there should be apparently any difference of opinion on that subject. He unfortunately lost the opportunity he had of bringing forward his Motion on Parliamentary reform on a previous occasion, and therefore he was obliged to give notice that he would bring it on as an Amendment to the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. H. Berkeley). But he had since considered that their object was the same, and though he believed that the country required more than was proposed by his hon. Friend, he should be sorry to interfere with any proposition by which that House was to be made the constitutional organ to represent the wishes and feelings of the people at large. He asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government to act when he had the power, in the way in which he wished to act when he had not the power. It was by that means that they proved the sincerity of men. At times when the hopes of reformers were low, when the chances of their success were but small, still the noble Lord's voice was heard assisting the cause. What then were the noble Lord's sentiments? In 1832, as soon as he had the power, the noble Lord came forward as the organ of the then Liberal Government, and announced the Reform Bill, which was subsequently passed. He (Mr. Hume) asked no more from the noble Lord than the fulfilment of the sentiments which he then expressed. The noble Lord declared that the time for the nomination of Members of Parliament had gone by—that the people of England would no longer permit Peers of the realm to nominate Members of the House of Commons, who ought only to be elected by the people. Then the noble Lord, in bringing forward a measure for the extension of the suffrage, declared that there ought to be no constituency with a less number than 300, and that he hoped to see in some boroughs double that number. Those who opposed the Reform Bill in that day often reproached its promoters with reaping little or no advantage from it; but the benefits which that Bill had con- ferred on this country, he (Mr. Hume) was unable to estimate. No man could tell what might have been the consequences if the old system had been persisted in, and if the people of England, let loose, had acted as the people of other countries had done. But there were two points reserved by the noble Lord in that introductory speech—namely, the ballot and triennial Parliaments. On that occasion the noble Lord said these were points of great importance, but he was anxious to see the trial which would be made of the reforms he proposed; if it should be found they were incomplete, then would be the time to bring forward the questions of the ballot and triennial Parliaments. He (Mr. Hume) would tell the noble Lord that the advantages they had contemplated from the passing of the Reform Act had not been produced, and the time was come when he ought to propose that very reform of the ballot which he held back until a trial was made of the Reform Act. But he (Mr. Hume) was not satisfied with that single reform. He considered there were other and more important reforms necessary, the most important of which was the extension of the franchise. Believing as he did, on the authority of our best and most constitutional lawyers—Blackstone and others—that every man in this country who paid taxes, and performed the duties required of him, as an Englishman, by the State, ought to have a voice in the election of representatives to that House, he had ever been the humble advocate of an extension of the suffrage, though he was not bound or wedded to any particular mode of extending it. He had put down first in his Motion extension of the suffrage, and protection to all persons in the exercise of that suffrage. He then took the second point which the noble Lord reserved, namely, the duration of Parliaments, which he had often heard the noble Lord say it might be desirable to limit to four years. That would certainly be better than seven years; but in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion three years would be preferable to four years. It was to him (Mr. Hume) a matter of economy. The House might be surprised when he said that on economical principles there ought to be a reform in the representation. He was old enough to recollect the struggle that was made before the French war to obtain a reform in Parliament; and he told those who then resisted reform that they desired that war in order to crush the principles of reform, and sought to prevent the spread of those principles by banishing the persons who advocated them. And what had been the result? In 1792 and 1793, when there was the same demand for reform in this country that there was now, what was the state of our charges, and what was the amount of the debt? The amount of the debt was then about 240,000,000l., and the annual charge 9,250,000l. They went to war in order to crush reform principles; they failed in their object, for since then a greater degree of reform had been obtained than was ever contemplated by the reformers of 1792. On the termination of the war there was an addition to the debt of 600,000,000l., leaving an annual charge of 21,000,000l. on the country. That was the result of the efforts of the landed proprietors who obstructed the progress of reform. He had no hesitation in saying he looked to a reform in the constitution of that House as a means of lessening taxation and checking extravagance in the public expenditure. The House of Commons might be said to be the taxing organ of this country, and unless it was a perfect machine, and acted on sound principles, they could not effect those changes which he was anxious to see carried out, both in their legislation and their expenditure. He would not read the proceedings at a meeting of the "Friends of the People," in that day, in which an ancestor of the noble Lord, and the Duke of Richmond, and Colonel Sharman, the father of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, took part; but he might state that the object of the reformers of that period was to remove from the House of Commons all the influences which prevented beneficial changes in the constitution, and which upheld a system of class interests in that House. He said, the noble Lord ought to profit by the example of the history of that day. He (Mr. Hume) would ask if it could be reasonably expected that peace and contentment should reign in this country, if the Legislature persisted in denying to six out of every seven males in the country the right of a voice in the election of representatives? With regard to the share which the people had in the representation, every other country in Europe, Russia excepted, stood superior to England; and was such a state of things to be tolerated by the artisans of this country? He therefore counselled the noble Lord at this time, when employment gave wages, and wages gave contentment, that this was the moment for him to come forward and grant an extension of the suffrage, and the protection of the vote by ballot. He (Mr. Hume) was anxious that something should be done. New circumstances had taken place since he had last proposed this question. The policy of the Government had been altered, and the noble Lord himself had declared that every colony connected with this country was entitled to British institutions—meaning thereby responsible government—and that the people should elect those who governed them. Another event had occurred which he regarded with great satisfaction. They had had a representation in Ireland on the principle of property and assessment. Was it possible, under these circumstances, that the people of England would remain contented with the existing system? He held in his hand a paper taken from the Parliamentary records, which showed that in Calne, in Reigate, and in other boroughs, there were only from 150 to 250 electors. He therefore asked the noble Lord to redeem the pledge which he gave. In five of the metropolitan boroughs there were 89,000 electors, who elected twenty-four Members; whilst in twelve other boroughs—namely, Andover, Knaresborough, Tavistock, Thetford, Evesham, Marlborough, Lymington, and five others, with a body of electors numbering only 3,509—the same number of Members were returned as in those five metropolitan boroughs. The inequality was so great that he was satisfied it could find no advocate in this country. Unless the ballot was to be included in the noble Lord's scheme of reform next year, it would not give satisfaction. It would not give that protection to the voter which his (Mr. Hume's) hon. Friend (Mr. H. Berkeley) had shown was so important, even with a limited constituency. He could not help asking why were the benches opposite so empty? It was because the hon. Members who usually occupied them were regardless of the interests of the people. He hoped that would be borne in mind by the people of England, if they were to have a general election next Session, which seemed probable. He thought it was more than likely that the electors would take into their consideration this important fact, that, few as the electors were, if they would but act honestly, they might send a very different order of representatives to that House—men taken from the middle classes who would attend to their inter- ests, and be the means, in an economical point of view, of bringing about a great reduction in the public expenditure. He (Mr. Hume) was anxious that the division should simply be on the ballot. Some of his friends had told him that his Amendment was too extensive in its scope. He was desirous of taking from every man the pretence of not coming to a decided vote. Notwithstanding, therefore, the terms of his Amendment, he should not press it, but content himself with simply supporting the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. H. Berkeley). It was his earnest desire to see the reform party set up, and again acting with the energy and principle which formerly characterised them. The noble Lord had allowed that powerful reform party to linger on from year to year, until it was almost inanimate. It was in the power of the noble Lord, by a satisfactory and well-timed measure of reform, to reanimate and reunite that party. If he availed himself of the opportunity which now presented itself of doing that, he would be backed by the people, and success would attend any reasonable and proper measure of reform which the noble Lord might introduce.


said, he could assure the House that he had had no intention of addressing them that evening, but having had the honour of presenting a petition from the city which he had the honour to represent, which was numerously signed, and which bore on this subject, he could not remain silent. He knew that there could be little novelty in connexion with that topic. Perhaps he himself was the greatest novelty, being the last person who had entered the House. He had declined to canvass the three thousand electors of Bath, considering the office of canvassing not merely unnecessary but degrading. He took the more open course of meeting his constituents in their several wards. He had, therefore, had full opportunity, both personally and from those gentlemen who had learned the views of the electors, to know the fact that great intimidation was used, that threats had been held out to tradesmen, that various means, shakes of the head in some instances, sending for bills in others, were not very usual, but were not unusual means of intimidation resorted to in the city of Bath during the contest. He might be asked whether he was in favour of vote by ballot. He would say if a better plan could be produced for protecting voters, let it supplant the ballot; but as they never had heard of a better plan, and as the ballot had been established in different countries, it must be assumed that the ballot was the only practicable plan. It was no new thing for him to be a friend of the ballot. Some twelve or fifteen years ago he had had considerable experience at an election, and had then means of closer observation, perhaps, than recently, because he had canvassed some of the constituency in the case to which he referred. It was no unusual thing for him to find a person telling him in a whisper, "I wish to give my vote to the Liberal side, but I dare not. Say nothing of it, Sir." When he reverted to incidents which had occurred within the last two or three weeks, he could not, as an honest man, as a faithful representative, abstain from declaring in that House, on the first occasion on which he had addressed it, the sense he entertained of the justice, expediency, and absolute necessity of sheltering men in the exercise of that right which the constitution conferred on them. It was worse than trifling with the population of this country to put into the hands of constituencies the power of electing representatives without giving them the means of using it independently. The petition to which he had alluded directed the attention of the House to a hardship which the constituency he represented now felt, respectfully stating that— The electors of Bath had lately proceeded to elect a Member for the city; that in the exercise of that right, and in the discharge of that duty, the petitioners found very many electors intimidated from giving votes by threats of ruin to their families. They properly told the House that it was a duty they had to perform—that they were trustees, as it were, for those who had not votes; for there were persons who must work the constitution out of doors, and who sent persons to that House to work the constitution within doors. If he might venture to add his voice to those which had been addressed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, whose speeches he had so often read and admired out of doors, he would entreat the noble Lord to give reform in time. What was given, should be given freely, and it would be found to possess treble the value which would attach to it if it were begged for, and, at last, obtained almost by force. That very day he had received a letter from one of his constituents, which contained these words:— I have been discharged by my employer for voting for you. I have been obliged to pawn some of my things to maintain my family; and all the remedy, or rather no remedy, I can get from my employer is this, 'Go to the gentleman whom you voted for.' That was but one instance among many; and when such cases could be accumulated, as they had been by the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion, it was time they set about doing their duty, and securing to those to whom they looked to elect proper representatives proper means of doing so. The petitioners went on to remark that the public declaration of voting created painful divisions in families and in society. The fact had been glanced at in the debate, that all private clubs used the ballot; and the object was evidently to prevent clamour, malice, and the display of angry passions. The means were excellent for attaining the end in view; and when the ballot was found to be good for the protection of those who had only the indulgence of bad feelings to guard against, how much more fit was it to be applied in a case where it would afford still further protection—protection to men who, without it, must either suffer ruin, or sacrifice their principles. He therefore joined his humble voice to the solicitations of others, in urging on those who had the remedy for the existing evil in their own hands, that when they were before the country next year with a new Reform Bill, they would take care to make it a liberal measure; for if it were a little measure the people would not be satisfied; and when they got that little they would try to get more.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 50: Majority 37.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Evans, W.
Adair, R. A. S. Ewart, W.
Armstrong, R. B. Fergus, J.
Bass, M. T. Ferguson, Col.
Berkeley, C. L. G Fox, W. J.
Bernal, R. Geach, C.
Blake, M. J. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Blewitt, R. J. Granger, T. C.
Brown, H. Grenfell, C. P.
Clay, J. Hall, Sir B.
Cobden, R. Harris, R.
Cockburn, Sir A. J. E. Hastie, A.
Collins, W. Henry, A.
Crawford, W. S. Heyworth, L.
Crawford, R. W. Hobhouse, T. B.
Currie, R. Hodges, T. L.
Dawes, E. Hume, J.
D'Eyncourt, rt.hn. C. T. Johnstone, J.
Duncan, Visct. Kershaw, J.
Duncan, G. Langston, J. H.
Evans, Sir De L. Lushington, C.
Evans, J. M'Cullagh, W. T.
M'Taggart, Sir J. Scrope, G. P.
Meagher, T. Scully, F.
Milner, W. M. E. Smith, J. B.
Moffatt, G. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Morris, D. Strickland, Sir G.
Muntz, G. F. Stuart, Lord D.
O'Brien, J. Stuart, Lord J.
O'Connell, J. Thompson, Col.
O'Connor, F. Thompson, G.
O'Ferrall, rt. hon. R. M. Trelawny, J. S.
O'Flaherty, A. Villiers, hon. C.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Wakley, T.
Perfect, R. Walmsley, Sir J.
Pigott, F. Wawn, J. T.
Pilkington, J. Willcox, B. M.
Power, Dr. Williams, J.
Ricardo, O. Williams, W.
Rice, E. R. Willyams, H.
Robartes, T. J. A. Wilson, M.
Roche, E. B. Wood, Sir W. P.
Salwey, Col. TELLERS.
Scholefield, W. Berkeley, H.
Scobell, Capt. Ellis, J.
List of the NOES.
Armstrong, Sir A. Heald, J.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Heathcote, Sir G. J.
Baird, J. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Langton, W. H. P. G.
Barrow, W. H. Lewis, G. C.
Bell, J. Lockhart, A. E.
Blackstone, W. S. Lopes, Sir R.
Boyd, J. Matheson, Col.
Bremridge, R. Moody, C. A.
Broadley, H. Newdegate, C. N.
Brockman, E. D. Prime, R.
Campbell, hon. W. Richards, R.
Carter, J. B. Russell, Lord J.
Cayley, E. S. Sandars, G.
Craig, Sir W. G. Seymour, H. D.
Crowder, R. B. Seymour, Lord
Currie, H. Smollett, A.
Denison, E. Townley, R. G.
Denison, J. E. Vane, Lord H.
Dundas, G. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Evelyn, W. J. Willoughby, Sir H.
French, F. Wilson, J.
Frewen, C. H. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Gwyn, H.
Halford, Sir H. TELLERS.
Hallewell, E. G. Hayter, W. G.
Hatchell, rt. hon. J. Grey, R. W.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Berkeley, Mr. J. Ellis, and Mr. Hume.