HC Deb 24 March 1852 vol 120 cc52-3

Order for Second Reading read.


said, his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) had requested him to move the second reading of this Bill. He (Mr. V. Smith) understood that there was no opposition to the principle of the Bill; and any objections to details would, he hoped, be reserved until the Bill was in Committee, when his noble Friend would be present.


said, he had no objection to the Bill being read a second time on the understanding that the Government should be at liberty, in Committee, to propose such amendments as it might think advisable.


said, he had to complain of the hypocrisy of the Liberals in respect to this measure. The fact was, conscience had been known, from the days of Shakespeare downwards, as a notable coward maker; and the most corrupt party invariably was that which cried out loudest against corruption. He thought the measure was utterly indefensible as to its mode of operation. The pure paid Commissioners it appointed were to go down into the boroughs and cities from time to time to seek for corruption. He conceived the Bill was meant to encourage a class of men going about as spies in every city and borough in the kingdom. It was a cowardly dastardly measure, and full of meanness. Nobody, of course, would call that influence corruption which was used by Government in certain seaports and other places where there was a great expenditure of public money; but if an independent Member happened to go into a miserable cottage in the place he represented, and finding a man lying in sickness and want, and performed toward him those Christian duties of charity and kindness which, he thanked God, had been early impressed upon his mind, and which he had never forgotten, that, he supposed, would be made a corrupt practice, and the Member would jeopardise his seat. Indeed it was highly dangerous now-a-days to give a voter even a pinch of snuff. He knew that to oppose such a Bill as this was difficult; but he could not allow it to be read a second time without expressing his deep regret that its provisions should be such as would prevent the slightest exercise of Christian charity by a Member towards his poorer constituents. Let the Bill pass, however, and he would go on as he had ever done. He had never been guilty of any mal-practices at elections; and he wished every Member had as clean hands as he had. He feared it would take an enormous quantity of soap to purify some of them. He had never controlled or restricted in any degree the humblest labouring man in his employ; and, let the consequences be what they might, he should never forget the duties every man ought to perform in this world towards his poorer neighbours.

Bill read 2°.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.