HC Deb 13 February 1854 vol 130 cc491-531

Sir, it is usual for those who have to bring forward a measure in this House to magnify the importance of the subject which they are about to introduce to the attention of the House, and of the measure which they propose to lay on the table. Sir, it is not my intention to take any such course on the present occasion. On the contrary, I think the importance of the measure which I am about to introduce has been already somewhat unduly magnified in public apprehension. The name of a Reform Bill recalls to persons a period of great excitement—a period when we deliberated amid the flames of Nottingham and of Bristol—when there was a collision between the two Houses of Parliament—and the measure was only ultimately passed with the reluctant, the obviously reluctant, assent of the House of Lords. Sir, I do not contemplate that the present measure will lead to any such excitement; and I trust it will not be passed amid similar difficulties. It appears to me that we may fairly and duly consider the provisions of the Reform Act with a view to supply what is deficient—to amend what is in need of correction—and to improve that which stands in need of improvement. It appears to me likewise, that at the present time we can do this, I trust with calmness, but at all events with deliberation, and that we may modify or vary the provisions of any measure which may be before the House with a view to making it as perfect an act of legislation as it is possible for us to make it. Sir, I am told, however—and the objection is a very common one—that we are now on the brink of a war, and that Mr. Pitt not only declined to proceed with measures of reform which he had previously introduced, but that he actually opposed reform, when in a position of a similar kind. Sir, if I professed myself to be bound by any master on this political question, Mr. Pitt would not be that master. But Mr. Pitt himself first introduced the subject of Parliamentary reform in 1782—in a period of war—in a period in which he himself represented the country to be in the greatest peril from the force of the combined enemies that were opposed to it. But, Sir, looking rather to those with whose principles I more cordially agree, I find that in 1793, immediately after the commencement of the war, Mr. Grey proposed to this House to consider the question of the reform of Parliament. In doing so, he made a remark which I have often had occasion to make in this House, that there is no time for the consideration of a question of reform that appears fit to those that are the opponents of reform. If everything is quiet, they will say, "Can free men be more than free—can men who are happy be more than happy?" If, on the contrary, the time be one of war and alarm, they will appeal to that state of war and alarm as a conclusive reason against considering the subject. Mr. Fox supported Mr. Grey on that occasion. They were defeated. In 1797, when the war had proceeded, and when its character could not be mistaken as that of one of the most hazardous and costly in which this country had ever been engaged, Mr. Grey renewed his Motion for reform, and was again supported in a most powerful speech by Mr. Fox. Nay, Sir, more than that, when Mr. Grey became a Member of the other House of Parliament, where it certainly is not incumbent on any one to introduce the question of the representation of the people, Earl Grey, in 1801, in bringing before the Lords the state of the nation, pointed out the defects of the representative system. In that House he declared that his principles on the subject were not changed; that he was, perhaps, less warm and sanguine than he had been, but that the effectual and gradual correction of the abuses in our representative system he thought necessary, in order to restore the country to a state of contentment. Sir, at that time the country was in the greatest danger. The sun of Wellington had not yet risen to its meridian. Earl Grey depicted in the most gloomy colours the situation of the country, stating that during the war the burdens of the country had risen from 16,000,000l. to 80,000,000l. Many men may differ from the opinions then expressed by that noble Earl; but no one will deny the courage, the perseverance, and the consistency of Charles Earl Grey. That which in the midst of war he had attempted in vain, he lived till a time of peace to accomplish. But, Sir, there are some who hold that the peculiar position of our affairs at the present time makes it eminently inexpedient to introduce the question of the state of the representation. I own I cannot see why. I can very well imagine that if we were in the state that we were in the year 1803, when we were under an apprehension of immediate invasion, when everybody was engaged in collecting together militia and volunteers, and to put his neighbours in order, that they might be able to resist a foreign enemy—I can conceive that in such a state of things neither this subject, nor the state of the University of Oxford, nor of the Ecclesiastical Courts, nor the law of settlement, could properly engage the attention of this House—that our thoughts should be entirely occupied with the consideration of the means necessary for the defence of the country, and that every other question would be for a time in abeyance. But, Sir, much as I abhor war, much as I deprecate the evils of war, I confess I do not view a war with Russia with that apprehension with which some Gentlemen seem to regard it. I cannot conceive that we should not be able to provide all the means which are necessary for carrying on that war with vigour—and, if carried on at all, it ought to be carried on with vigour—and at the same time have full time for deliberation on those of our domestic concerns which appear to us most to require consideration. Sir, I cannot but think that this apprehension of our being unable to attend, from the moment that war should be declared, to anything but the dangers of Russian armaments and Russian forces, is one of those thoughts which are described as "one part wisdom and three parts cowardice." I cannot, therefore, be affected by that.

I proceed now, therefore, to consider what it is that we should do with respect to the present state of our representation. I will first introduce what will show the House the progress which we have made since the time to which I have just referred—since 1793—towards attaining a free and fair representation of the country. In a petition presented to this House in the name of the Association of the Friends of the People, associated for the purpose of obtaining a Parliamentary Reform [Hansard, Parl. History, xxx. 788], I find several statements, which I will repeat to the House, that they may see how different was the state of the representation in those days from its state at present. The petitioners state that at that time 70 Members were returned by 35 places, where the right of voting was vested in burgage tenures, virtually with no electors whatever. There are no Members so returned at present. They state that 90 other Members were returned by 46 places, in none of which the number of electors exceeded 50. There are no Members so returned now. Besides 160 so returned, they state that 37 were returned by other places, where the number of voters did not exceed 100. There are at present no Members thus returned. Besides these 197, they state that 52 were returned by 26 places, where the number of voters did not exceed 200. I believe only one Member, at all events, is so returned at present. They state, again, that there were 20 Members for counties in Scotland returned by less than 100 electors each, and 10 returned by less than 250 electors each. There is no Member for a Scotch county so returned now. They stated further, that there were 13 districts of burghs returning a Member each with less than 100 voters each, and two with less than 125, This state of things no longer exists. And they state that in this manner were chosen 294 Members, being, in short, a majority of the entire House of Commons. Sir, instead of the places referred to at the commencement of this statement, we have now Members for the great manufacturing towns of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Birmingham, and for other places which are great seats a wealth and population. The petitioners then go on to state that in the rights of voting there were distinctions which were exceedingly perplexed and confused. Now, these rights have been mostly abolished by the Reform Bill, and in their room others have been established which are comparatively easy to be understood. The petitioners stated further that, with regard to freemen in corporate towns there were freemen resident and non-resident; and that the freedoms were of various kinds, by election by purchase, and by those rights which did not also give the right of voting for Members of Parliament. In respect to the right of voting, these distinctions have been abolished. They stated further, that religious opinion was a cause of incapacity for the franchise; that all Papists were excluded generally; and that by the operation of the test laws Protestant Dissenters were deprived of their civic franchise in thirty boroughs in which the election was confined to corporate officers alone. Now, Sir, the laws against Roman Catholics are repealed, while the repeal of the Tests Act has given relief to the Protestant Dissenters. They state that householders generally are excluded. At present 10l. householders are admitted under the Reform Act. They state that in Scotland superiority without the property gave the title to vote. That is a franchise which is also taken away by the Reform Act. The last statement of these petitioners to which I shall allude is that which has reference to the taking of polls in counties. They complained that the polls were taken in one place and lasted fifteen days. That also has been remedied. We had an instance even so lately as Saturday last, in which the poll for a county was taken in one day, and where instead of one place there were many for receiving the votes. I mention all these things to show that great improvements have taken place, from the position in which this House stood as a representative of the people in the year 1793.

I need not state, because the matters must be fresh in the recollection of the House, the important measures which have passed during the period which has elapsed since the passing of the Reform Act. There are the abolition of slavery, the opening of the trade with China, the reform of the Irish Church, the reform of corporations in England, Scotland, and Ireland, the measures which were taken for the reform of the tariff, the repeal of the corn laws, the equalisation of the sugar duties, and the repeal of the navigation laws. These are some only of the measures which have occupied Parliament during the period to which I have referred.

Sir, I come now to consider what it is that remains for us to do, in order to enable this House still more fully to represent the people at large. In opening that subject, I shall state that I think there are three main defects which have either belonged to the Reform Act, or have been left unremedied by that measure, and which require the serious attention of this House. The first of these is, that although there was a very large disfranchisement at that time, there are still several boroughs which hardly contain a sufficient number of electors to justify their returning Members to sit in this House. It will be recollected that in bringing forward the Reform Act, I stated that there was scarcely a sufficient number of electors in some of the smaller boroughs, but still that there might be elements for an independent election; but in mentioning that now, and as a defect, I wish to state also that while seeking to amend it, I do not concur with some of the objections that have been made on this head. I do not concur, for instance, in the opinion that there ought to be anything like an equal number of electors in every place returning Members to Parliament. My belief is, that although you might get a full and free, you could hardly get a fair representation of the people without some variety of this kind in the system of election. If any one will look back to the history of the last few years, he will see that during the contention that existed on the subject of free trade, there was much excitement and hostility between different portions of the community. Should he take up an account of a meeting on the subject in an agricultural county, he will find that great applause was given to those orators who depicted the selfish cupidity of the manufacturers, and attributed their exertions in the cause to mere personal and interested motives. On the other hand, at meetings held in the great manufacturing towns, he would find the landed aristocracy held up to odium, a monopoly of power imputed to them, and denounced as being unjust and oppressive to the people. But all this time there remained a vast number of people who listened to or believed in neither of these representations. There was a great portion of the people, including amongst them a great many of the most moderate and calm-minded men in the country, who thought, and justly thought, that the landed aristocracy were useful to the country—that they contributed to the maintenance and stability of the free institutions of the State, while they also rightly considered, on the other hand, that the country derived the greatest benefit from the labours of the manufacturing and commercial classes. Sir, I think that if you once made your representation such as that nothing but counties and large cities should be represented, you would want that mediating element, that infusion of moderation, which is derived from those Members who are not sent by either of the great classes of the people I have mentioned. I think, likewise, that it would be impossible—I will not say whether or not it would be desirable—but it would be impossible, in the present social state of this country—with our laws of primogeniture, and the great properties that exist—to attempt to prevent the influence of the great proprietors affecting the returns, whether from counties or boroughs. That is an evil which I have frankly pointed out, and which ought to be considered; but it is not with that view I propose the change which I am now about to submit to the House.

I have stated, that, at the time of the Reform Bill, I said that there was a certain number of boroughs which, although small, would still have a sufficient number of electors to enable them to make an independent election of a Member to represent them in Parliament. I find that the number of voters I then mentioned as, in my opinion, the fewest that should exist in each of these boroughs, was 300—but now there are several which fall below that number. I find, also, that there are boroughs which, although they exceed that number of 300 electors, are yet of a population that is not considerable, and, in fact, falls below 5,000. I shall propose, therefore, to deal with boroughs that are in that state. Going on to some other boroughs, which are not so small, I find there is a certain number which have less than 500 electors, and others with less than 10,000 population, although they may have more than 500 electors, and which return two Members each to this House. I shall propose to deal with these latter by taking from each one of their Members. I find that the number of boroughs, which, taking the double test of electors and population, have less than 300 electors, or, having 300 electors, have less than 5,000 population, is 19; and the number of Members they send to this House 29. The number of boroughs which would come into the next table—that is to say, naving less than 500 electors, or having 500 electors, have less than 10,000 inhabitants—is no fewer in number than 33. If, therefore, the former class of boroughs be entirely disfranchised, and there be one Member taken from each of the boroughs of the second class, there would be no less than 62 seats by which the number of Members in this House would be reduced.

I have said, also, that there were two other defects in the Reform Bill besides that to which I have alluded. The next defect I have to mention is, that I think it has tended too much to divide the country in a way in which it was not divided before; in short, into opposite camps according as the districts might be connected with land or trade. I think that since the passing of the Act we have seen—what had not occurred before—we have seen county Members too generally exclusive in respect of the interest they cared for, and Members for the great cities too exclusive also for theirs. Before I proceed to state the mode in which I propose that the 62 seats should be filled up, I will mention that I think very great advantage will be derived from a change which has been advocated in writing and in pamphlets, and which was suggested by my noble Friend Lord Grey, in a public document emanating from a Committee of the Privy Council—namely, that a representation should be given to the minority. In looking over the numbers that have voted for some of the larger counties and for some of the great cities, I find that there are sometimes 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 voters who voted for the unsuccessful candidate; while, perhaps, there are 100 or 150 more who voted for the successful candidate. Now, it appears to us, that many advantages would attend the enabling the minority to have a part in these returns. In the first place, there is apt to be a feeling of great soreness when a very considerable number of electors, such as I have mentioned, are completely shut out from a share in the representation of one place; in a county it may be the Liberal party, in a great town it may be the Conservative party; but if in either case they form a very large body, I have been told by those who have practical experience in the matter, they exhibit great irritation at their perpetual exclusion from the representation. But, in the next place, I think that the more you have your representation confined to large populations, the more ought you to take care that there should be some kind of balance, and that the large places sending Members to this House, should send those who represent the community at large. But when there is a very large body excluded, it cannot be said that the community at large is fairly represented. The remedy could only be adopted in cases where three Members represent the county or city; and where that is the case, it is obvious, that, supposing there be a decided majority of 100, or even 500, that majority would, at all events, have two Members out of three—that is to say, two to one—in any division that might take place in this House. I think, besides, that such an arrangement would have a great tendency to prevent angry contests at elections.

Having stated so much on this point, I propose now to lay before the House the manner in which the seats I have mentioned are to be filled up. It has been stated more than once in answer to Gentlemen who complained that there were places with 6,000 or 7,000 inhabitants which returned as many Members as places with 60,000 or 70,000; that if we were to reform the representation according to the number of people, that those places with 10,000 or 15,000 population must yield their claim to the great counties with 300,0000 or 400,000 inhabitants. I remember the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) maintaining that argument with great ability, in answer to a proposition made on this side of the House during the time that the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer. It appears to me that the argument is founded in fairness and justice. We shall propose, therefore, to take population generally as the rule, and, applying it in the manner I have described, we should take in the first place the West Riding of the county of York, which has nearly 800,000 inhabitants, besides the inhabitants of the towns which are represented; and, secondly, the southern division of the county of Lancaster, which has, I think, about 500,000 inhabitants. Dividing these two districts, we propose to give to these divisions each three Members. Going on in the same manner with counties and with towns, we propose to give an additional Member to each town which has more than 100,000 population. But then we shall propose that in giving their votes the electors shall vote as they do at present, only for two candidates out of three; so that when the minority exceeds two-fifths of the whole number of electors, they should be enabled to have one representative out of the three who are to be returned. The consequence of adopting this rule will be that there will be four Members added to the representation of the West Riding of York, and four to the southern division of Lancashire, making eight; and that there will be thirty-eight for the other counties, making forty-six altogether. With regard to towns having more than 100,000 inhabitants, there are nine, without including those which are metropolitan boroughs, as we have considered the latter as forming portions of one great city, and not as separate towns in themselves. There would then be eight towns—or, including the borough of Salford, which has more than 80,000 inhabitants, nine—which have more than 100,000 inhabitants, and which, at present, return representatives; and to each of these we should propose to give one additional Member. We propose to give a Member each to the following three towns, each containing above 20,000 inhabitants—Birkenhead, Staleybridge, and Burnley. We shall then propose what has been often advocated—that Kensington and Chelsea should be formed into a district, and should have the privilege of sending two Members to Parliament. There are other kinds of representation which have been often spoken of, and to which we propose to give at least some portion of the seats about to be vacated. The first which I shall mention are the Inns of Court. [Laughter.] I know there are many Gentlemen who think we have a sufficient number of lawyers in the House already, but my own persuasion is, that there would be a great benefit were we to put the representation into the position proposed, if we should also have two of the most eminent lawyers in the country returned to this House; and I believe that the Inns of Court—while, of course, lawyers will have as good a chance or perhaps better than other men in boroughs and counties—I believe that the Inns of Court would feel a pride in having two of the most eminent men of their profession to represent them in this House. I cannot but think—and I am sure the House will agree with me—that it is a very great advantage to the House that we have some of the most eminent lawyers in the country to assist us in our debates. And if we are likely at any time to be misled by legal doctrines emanating from those who have not attained so much experience, we shall find the great advantage of having men of such eminence amongst us to prevent the House being led to adopt erroneous views. We propose to give one Member to the University of London. Considering that there are two great Universities, Oxford and Cambridge, which are so much connected with the Church, I think it but fair that a University which is open to the whole country should have the power of sending a Member to this House.

And now, having stated this generally— I will state more particularly afterwards the towns and counties to which additional Members will be given—I will now advert to what I have before mentioned in this House, and which I am induced to think a defect in the Reform Act, which still remains to be corrected. When we proposed the disfranchisement of boroughs in that Bill, there was hardly any variation made from the first rough draft I drew of the projected Reform Bill, in respect of the disfranchisement of boroughs under that Act. In the first draught—the rough draft—I sketched of that Act, I proposed that fifty boroughs should be entirely disfranchised, and that fifty other boroughs should be deprived of one Member each. That proposal was somewhat varied, but in the end fifty were disfranchised, and it was provided that thirty others should send only one Member each. The measure eventually adopted varied but little from the original proposal I had made to the Committee appointed by Lord Grey to consider the plan of the Reform Bill. But with regard to the franchise to be given, we had a great deal of deliberation, and it was only after a great deal of deliberation, even after the Bill had been brought into this House, that the Government of the day could make up their minds on that subject. It was proposed first to have a 10l. rating—it was thought at one time that the qualification should be even higher—but ultimately the qualification was reduced to 10l. value. Now, I think that in taking that franchise, and abolishing, as we did, all those intricate franchises which then existed, we too much confined ourselves to one species of franchise, and did not make the franchise sufficiently various, and therefore not sufficiently comprehensive.

We propose, in the first place, that there shall be several franchises, which shall be common to both the counties and to the towns, and that a person possessing any one of those qualifications shall vote in the place in which he resides, and exercise his right there, whether he be resident in a county or in a city or town returning Members to Parliament. One of those qualifications which we propose to establish is 100l. a-year salary arising from any employment, whether public or private; but, to confer the franchise, we propose as a condition that such salary shall be annual—that is, that it shall be paid yearly, half-yearly or quarterly—so as not to include persons who receive weekly wages. This change we consider will bring in a very intelligent body of men, who, not being at present householders, do not come in under any existing franchises. The next new franchise we propose to establish is an income of 10l. a year derived from dividends arising either from the funds, Bank stock, or East India stock. We propose, also to make payment of taxes to a certain amount a qualification; the franchise we adopt in this respect is no higher than that we proposed two years ago, namely, the payment of 40s. either to the assessed taxes, the income tax, or license-duty within the year. This will be some compensation to those who will this year be for the first time brought within the operation of the income tax, while on the other hand, when they lose the right to the vote, they will at the same time have the satisfaction of getting rid of the tax. We likewise propose that graduates of any University in the United Kingdom shall have the right of voting. This of course will bring in a large number of men of education and intelligence, men in every way qualified to exercise the right to the advantage of the country. Further, we propose that every person having a deposit to the amount of 50l. in a savings bank, in the place where he resides, such deposit being of not less than three years' standing, shall be entitled to vote. We fix the period of three years, because we think there would otherwise be considerable danger of the creation, under a franchise of this description, of fictitious votes; but when we get a bonâ fide holder of such a sum as 50l. in a savings bank, the House, I think, will agree that we have a person who has given such a proof of prudence and forethought as will justify his being entrusted with the exercise of the elective franchise. These are the franchises which we propose shall be common to both counties and boroughs.

I now come to those which exclusively belong either to counties, or to cities and boroughs. With regard to the counties, it will be recollected that at the time of the introduction of the Reform Bill, the Government did not propose to depart in principle from the general provisions of the constitution, but intended that while occupation should give the right of voting in cities and boroughs, tenure should give the right in counties. To the 40s. free-hold franchise was added the copyholders and others who had similar property; but, to except as regarded leaseholders of twenty- one years, it was not at first proposed to alter the nature of the right of voting for counties. However, in the course of the progress of that Bill through Parliament, an Amendment was proposed and carried, by which all 50l. occupiers in counties obtained the right of voting. Now, I am far from making any objection to that class of county voters—the 50l. occupiers; but, it will be at once obvious that the introduction of this new qualification entirely changed the character and nature of the county franchise as it had previously existed, and tended certainly to diminish to a certain extent the power of that which I have always considered one of the best and most independent class of voters, namely, the freeholders of 40s. and upwards. And when this new principle was once introduced, Motions were brought forward at various times, supported by reason and argument, for extending the occupation franchise to occupiers of a less amount. And I believe—seeing that we do not propose to add materially to the number of towns sending Members to Parliament; indeed we only propose to establish three new boroughs—I believe it would be a great advantage if those who live in those towns which have not the right of sending Members to Parliament should, by the possession of the county vote, feel that they had a voice in the representation of the country. We propose, therefore, adopting a proposition that has more than once been made in this House, that 10l. occupiers should have the right of voting for counties and boroughs. Now in respect to that right, whether in counties or boroughs, we propose as a check upon an abuse which has prevailed to some extent, namely, that under the words "or any building or land occupied therewith," persons have frequently run up sheds of perhaps 2s. 6d. a year in value, making up the remaining part of the necessary qualfication by land, and in this way a species of voters have been introduced upon the register not contemplated by the Reform Act, and to whom the Legislature never intended to give the franchise—we propose, as a check upon votes of this description, that in counties, except with respect to a dwelling house in which the voter resides—which may be of any value providing the voter lives in it—in all other cases for the purpose of conferring the vote the building must be of the value of at least 5l. a year. Thus, suppose there be a house and land, upon the occupation of which the claim to the franchise is based, if the house be rated at 1l. or 2l. a year to the poor-rate, it will be sufficient, provided the voter resides in it; but if the vote is made out of any other building, as a cattle shed, or some erection built for the purpose of obtaining the vote, in that case we provide, as a check against the manufacture of such votes as I have described, that the building shall be of the annual value of 5l. This, then, is the franchise we propose to give in the counties for the future; and the House will see that it has a very considerable bearing on the question of the increase of the number of Members which I have stated we propose to give to the counties. As I have said, out of the whole number, we propose that forty-six of the new Members should be given to the counties; but as these counties will hereafter include all the 10l. householders not embraced within the limits of the Parliamentary boroughs, it is obvious that the county representation will have less of a special character than heretofore. And I must say that I think it is desirable it should be so; because it does seem to me that all those endeavours which we have at various times witnessed to run down the agricultural interest on the one hand, or the manufacturing interest on the other, are totally foolish and absurd, and that there can be no better system of representation than that which takes into consideration all the great interests of the country, and regarding them all as contributing to the glory and prosperity of the nation.

I come now, Sir, to the question of the franchise for the boroughs. It certainly appears to me, that in fixing the 10l. franchise for cities and boroughs as absolutely as we did in the year 1831, we did not make a sufficient prevision for the admission of the working classes within the pale of our representative system. It was not, however, intended, as has been supposed, that the middle classes should be exclusively the electors in these cities or boroughs; but still it was supposed, and that result has taken place, that the middle classes would have the greater portion of the power in their hands, and in point of fact would have the greatest share of influence upon the future conduct of the legislation and government of the country. Now, Sir, in regard to that denial of the right to the working classes at that time, and the consequences which have followed it, I am fully prepared to maintain the opinions I then expressed. I say now as I said then, that I think it most desirable that the middle classes should have a great influence in the making of the laws by which the country is governed; but seeing the high character the working classes of this country generally maintain, seeing the skill and intelligence for which they are so remarkable, and seeing too how much the wealth of the country depends on their exertions and their industry—I think the time has come when we ought to endeavour to make the door wider than it now is, for their admission to representative rights. I must here be permitted to state to the House the view that Mr. Fox took of the right of voting for Members of Parliament. In the year 1797, Mr. Fox said— I have always deprecated universal suffrage, not so much on account of the confusion to which it would lead, as because I think we should in reality lose the very object we desire to obtain; because I think it would in its nature embarrass and prevent the deliberate voice of the country from being heard. I do not think that you augment the deliberative body of the people by counting all the heads, but that, in truth, you confer on individuals by this means the power of drawing forth numbers who, without deliberation, would act implicitly upon their will. My opinion is, that the best plan of representation is that which shall bring into activity the greatest number of independent voters, and that that is defective which would bring forth those whose situation and condition take from them the power of deliberation."—Hansard's Parl. History, xxxiii., 726. Now, Sir, I think the principle here stated by Mr. Fox, is a sound principle upon which we can proceed. The only difficulty is in the application of it. For myself I do not shrink from saying, that I think the extension of the franchise as I proposed it two years ago to 5l, householders, was not too large an extension; but at the same time I know that that proposition has been productive of very great objections. It was generally considered in this House and elsewhere that it carried the franchise down too low, and that, under a 5l. household qualification we should not secure that intelligence and independence in the electoral body which we ought to have. Yielding to some extent, at least, to that opinion, we turned our attention, in the first place, to the municipal franchise. It appeared to us that there are two objections to the adoption of the municipal franchise. The one is, that it would make the municipal election always the precursor of the Parliamentary election, and the consequence would be that the municipal boroughs would be exposed to continued excitement and agitation. The other objection is, that according to an Act passed two or three years ago, all persons owning property under a certain value might, if they chose to do so, compound for the payment of their rates; and in their cases, the rates being paid solely by the landlord, and not by the tenant, there would be a difficulty in arriving at the value. I, however, propose to take the limit laid down in that Act. It must be acknowledged that the fact of a man living in a house is, to a certain degree, a proof of independence. Leaving out, therefore, those who have not a certain degree of independence—or, at least, those who, not having given sufficient proof of it by continued occupation to entitle them to vote—that is, leaving out all those living in houses rated under 6l. a year, and taking in all who are rated above 6l. a year, provided they shall have fulfilled the municipal term of residence—that is, shall have resided in the house so rated not less than two and a half years previous to the name being placed on the register—which would make a residential occupation of about two years and ten months before they could exercise the right of voting;—by this means I think we should obtain an extensive representation of the country, which will include within its limits a large number of working men—those who are most remarkable for steadiness of conduct—those who are most remarkable for the skill which they bring to bear in the exercise of their trades, and who, consequently, are enabled to inhabit dwellings of a better character than those which are occupied by the great mass of their fellow workmen. There is one change, however, that we propose to make both with regard to those new franchises which I have described, and with regard to the existing franchise, that is, the 10l. occupation franchise in towns and cities, which I should here mention. The House is aware that according to the old doctrine of representation, wherever the right is known in a borough, every person paying scot and lot had the right to vote, and that right, extending down to the very lowest class of householders, was accompanied by no other check than the payment of what, in the ancient laws, came under the general definition of "scot and lot," which in modern times has merged into the poor-rate, payment of which is always insisted upon before the voter can exercise his right. We placed this check upon the voter in the Reform Bill, as we did others, for the purpose of ascertaining his solvency and sufficiency. Now, considering that in the case of the occupation franchise in counties, the person who exercises the right must be the bonâ fide occupier of a house of 10l. a year in rated value, and that in towns he must occupy a house of the rate and value of not less than 6l. a year, and must also reside in such house a considerable time before he can be entitled to vote, it appears to us that you have in this way a sufficient test of solvency, and that it is no longer necessary to keep in force those checks of the payments of rates and taxes which it has been hitherto considered necessary to impose before the party was permitted to exercise the franchise.

There is also another change we propose to introduce in the end of the Bill, which it is necessary I should explain—that is, with regard to the register of electors. Hitherto, in the trial of controverted elections, the register has been submitted to the Election Committees of the House of Commons for examination as to the right of the parties to vote; and various decisions have been come to upon the question of striking names off the register. We propose that, in future, the register of electors, as revised by the barrister, shall be final as to the voter's right; and that no question shall be allowed to be raised upon it. I should, perhaps, explain somewhat more clearly than I have done, that the 10l. franchise that now exists—which is a franchise, as the House is aware, of 10l. rated value—we preserve exactly as it is, with the exception of these two changes—that when the franchise is claimed in respect of buildings and dwelling-houses of the joint value of 10l., with regard to buildings which are not dwelling-houses, they must be of the rated value of 5l. a year; and with this other change, that the payment of rates and taxes shall be no longer considered necessary. This will, therefore, be one franchise, which in effect will be the present franchise with the relaxations I have mentioned; and we propose to add to this the other franchise I have mentioned as to the 6l. occupation. Thus a person having resided in a 10l. house for a year would come in as he does at present, and be placed upon the register by the overseer; and in the other case the franchise will depend upon the occupation of a house of 6l. a year rated value, and residence for two and a half years. Any person fulfilling that condition can compel the overseer to put his name upon the register.

There is likewise another change of very considerable importance which we have to propose. Amongst the numerous complaints of bribery and corruption which have come up from certain boroughs in the kingdom, it has over and over again been represented that one class of the voters, namely, the freemen, were deeply implicated in these improper transactions. We inserted in the last Reform Bill a clause in reference to that class of voters, and I shall now propose to insert a similar one in the present Bill, namely, that after the expiration of existing interests, freemen shall cease to have the right of voting, and that in future no person who shall take up his freedom by birth, service, or otherwise, shall thereby acquire that right. But as we take away the right to vote from these persons who now possess it, it is the more incumbent upon us to add some new right of voting to the 10l. franchise in towns, which now exists, as otherwise the Bill I propose would be a measure, so far as the cities and towns are concerned, not of extension, but of diminution of the elective franchise: it is this which has influenced us in our proposition to add the new right of voting founded on the 6l. municipal rating. There is also another change, not necessarily connected with this Bill, but connected with our general scheme of representation, and bearing upon the alterations we propose to make in it. It is our intention to propose an alteration in regard to the provisions of the Statute of Anne, which obliges every Member of the House of Commons who accepts any office under the Crown, to vacate his seat and go to a fresh election. The spirit of this Act was unknown in our Constitution from the period of the Revolution down to the 6 Anne. It first arose out of a dispute involving a great principle on which the Whig and Tory parties of that day took entirely different views, that principle being whether or not the House of Commons should be a body entirely independent of the Crown, or whether it should be a body which should contain within it persons who were Ministers of the Crown, and who, sitting in the House of Commons, and having influence there, should, as it were, as Members for the Crown, control the Parliamentary Government of the country. The Whigs maintained that the Ministers should have seats in the House; while the Tories contended that it would tend to the indepen- dence of the House Commons if all placeman should be excluded from the House. It being impossible to reconcile these conflicting views, as a sort of measure of expediency, in order, of possible, to satisfy all, it was provided that whenever a Member of the House of Commons should take office directly from the Crown he should thereby vacate his seat, but should be eligible for re-election. Now, so long as the House of Commons was unreformed, and so long as there were always a number of convenient boroughs, called Treasury boroughs, connected with the Ministry, and, to a certain extent, in their hands, no inconvenience was felt from the operation of this Act. Mr. Canning, when he was appointed Secretary of State, and was compelled to vacate his seat for Liverpool, took refuge in one of those boroughs—the borough of Harwich—because the latter was an easier seat, and would cause him less trouble than must attend the representation of a large town like Liverpool. In that way there was always some borough or other to be found for any person who was appointed to the Ministry, and who thereby endangered his return for the constituency he previously represented. But when the introduction of the system of popular representation was introduced into all our elections, there arose difficulties when Members were appointed to Government offices, which are hardly, I think, compensated by the advantage of having new elections—because the theory being that a person ought to go before his constituents on his being appointed a servant of the Crown, in order that they may decide whether or not they will be represented by a Member who is a servant of the Crown, or whether they require a Member who is wholly independent of the Government—in point of fact, that question hardly ever arises. But the question which does arise is, what are the particular politics of the Member at the moment—what are the particular questions which will be most embarrassing to a man vacating his seat, and seeking to obtain an immediate return, and is he or is he not likely to obtain his return; and the consequence is that often the Crown is embarrassed in its choice, and is compelled to take a person who is known to be in a position to secure his re-election, though he may not be so well suited to the vacant office, instead of one who may be better qualified, but whose re-election is not so certain. I am of opinion that that is an inconvenience for which there is at present no equivalent benefit. If the responsible Ministers of the Crown are to appear in this House, and be answerable for the conduct of affairs, they ought to be enabled to advise the Crown to give any office that may be vacant, if to a Member of Parliament, to such Member who in their judgment is most fitted to perform its duties. It is obvious that many questions may arise in reference to the conduct of a Member quite as important as that of taking office, but upon which he is not required to ask the consent of his constituents. For instance, he may totally change his course of politics—and though he may, if he thinks it advisable to do so, go before his constituents, whether he does so or not is entirely a matter for his own breast. For these reasons we think the operation of the Statute in question is not generally beneficial, while it is very often inconvenient. We propose, therefore, to repeal that provision altogether, and—as in the reign of William III.—to allow of the acceptance of office under the Crown without vacating the seat in Parliament.

I will now state to the House the various places which, according to the proposal I have to make, if the House will give me leave to bring in the Bill, will lose the power of sending Members to Parliament, and the counties and towns which will gain those Members. Before doing so, I would remind the House that I have already stated that there are boroughs returning 29 Members which I propose to totally disfranchise, and 33 to be placed in Schedule B, only to return one Member, making altogether 62 seats; to these are to be added 4 for seats at present vacant, making in all 66. I will now state the places to which we propose giving 63 of these vacated seats—the remaining 3 will be given, by a measure which I will not now now stop to describe, to Scotland. The following is the list of boroughs having less than 300 electors, or a population of 5,000, which will be disfranchised:—Andover, returning 2 Members; Arundel, 1; Ashburton, 1; Calne, 1; Dartmouth, 1; Evesham, 2; Harwich, 2; Honiton, 2; Knaresborough, 2; Lyme Regis, 1; Marlborough, 2; Midhurst, 1; Northallerton, 1; Reigate, 1; Richmond (Yorkshire), 2; Thetford, 2; Totness, 2; Wells, 2; Wilton, 1:—total, 19 boroughs returning 29 Members. The following boroughs having less than 500 electors, or less than 10,000 population, now returning two Members, which will lose one seat each, are:—Bodmin, Bridgnorth, Bridport, Buckingham, Chichester, Chippenham, Cirencester, Cockermouth, Devizes, Dorchester, Guildford, Hertford, Huntingdon, Leominster, Lewes, Ludlow, Lymington, Lichfield, Maldon, Malton, Marlow (Great), Newport (Isle of Wight), Peterborough, Poole, Ripon, Stamford, Tamworth, Tavistock, Tewkesbury, Tiverton, Weymouth, Windsor, Wycombe (Chipping)—Total, 33 Members. The counties and divisions of counties containing a population of more than 100,000, and at present returning two Members, and to which an additional number will be given—there are, as the House is well aware, some counties returning three Members each at present: Bedford; Cheshire, southern division; Cheshire, northern; Cornwall, western; Cornwall, eastern; Derby, northern; Derby, southern; Devon, southern; Devon, northern; Durham, northern; Durham, southern; Essex, southern; Essex, northern; Gloucester, western; Hampshire, northern; Kent, western; Kent, eastern; Lincoln, Parts of Lindsey; Lincoln, Parts of Kesteven and Holland; Middlesex; Monmouth; Norfolk, western; Norfolk, eastern; Stafford, northern; Stafford, southern; Somerset, western; Somerset, eastern; Salop, northern; Suffolk, eastern; Suffolk, western; Surrey, eastern; Sussex, eastern; Warwick, northern; Worcester, eastern; York, East Riding; York, North. Wales: Glamorgan. One additional Member to each of these will make 38 Members. I have mentioned already, with regard to the West Riding of Yorkshire and South Lancashire, that they will each be divided into two parts; and the division has been made in such a manner, that there will be in each case nearly an equal population in each of the divisions; and when it is stated that there is nearly 800,000 in one, and 500,000 in the other, the House will agree that it will be fair to divide them in this way. [An Hon. MEMBER: Does the noble Lord propose to give three Members to each division of the West Riding?] Three to each division of the West Riding, and three to each division of South Lancashire. The list of boroughs having a population of more than 100,000 at present returning two Members, but which hereafter are to return three, the following are included: Birmingham, Bristol (city), Bradford (Yorkshire), Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester (city), Sheffield, Wolverhampton; Salford, to return in future two Members—Total, 9 Members. The unrepresented towns containing more than 20,000, which are to return one Member each, are Birkenhead, Burnley, and Staley bridge;—total, 3 Members. The divisions of the West Riding of Yorkshire and South Lancashire into two each, each such subdivision to return three Members, will appropriate eight more of the vacant sects. The new borough of Chelsea and Kensington will take two more; the Inns of Court, two; the London University, one; and all these together, with the three seats reserved for Scotland, make up the total number of 66. It may be convenient to the House if I give a summary of the manner in which we propose disposing of the 66 vacant seats. It is thus:—

Counties, and divisions of counties. 38
West Riding 4
South Lancashire 4
Three new boroughs, one each 3
One new borough 2
Nine boroughs, one each additional 9
Inns of Court 2
London University 1
Scotland 3
Total 66
I believe, Sir, I have now gone through all the general features of the measure which I propose to introduce; and having stated to the House, though I hope not at too great length, in such a manner that Members of the House will fully understand what it is we propose, I do not mean to enter into any further general considerations connected with the subject. My belief is, that the measure will tend to correct inequalities which sooner or later must be amended, and that, in adding to the number of persons privileged to send Members to this House, you will give a wider basis to the representation, and you thereby contribute to the strength and security of your institutions, and cause the people greater confidence in them. With these words, Sir, I will not do more at present than move for leave to bring in the Bills, namely, Parliamentary Representation and Vacating of Seats.


said, he was induced to rise thus early because the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had thought fit to present that night a petition from Liverpool imputing corrupt practices to the freemen of that place. He (Mr. Liddell) rejoiced that he had done so; because, without any violation of the rules of the House, he was enabled to meet the charge at the earliest possible moment. He trusted the hon. Member for Manchester would take the first opportunity of making some specific Motion upon the requirements of that petition. He would tell the hon. Member that he (Mr. Liddell) was prepared to fight the battle of the freemen of Liverpool, to vindicate their character, and maintain their rights. He trusted that the House would not be misled by the appearance of a bulky petition with 3,000 signatures, when he reminded them that the population of Liverpool consisted of 500,000, with a constituency of about 17,000 electors on the register. There would, of course, therefore, be no difficulty in getting that number of names to such a petition. He rejoiced that the noble Lord did not propose a Bill of disfranchisement against any of the existing freemen, though he might see reason to object to the future disfranchisement of that class of voters. Passing from that subject, he desired to make some observations upon the speech which the noble Lord had just delivered. The noble Lord commenced his speech with referring to the proceedings of Mr. Grey, and the Reform party in the latter end of the last century, and in doing so, to a great extent, he cut away the ground from his own feet in proposing such a change as that to which the House had just listened. The proposals of Mr. Grey were made in reference to an unreformed Parliament, and it seemed to him that the noble Lord, in going through the long series of objections that were stated by the petition of the Friends of the People to the Parliament as it was then constituted, and then stating that every one of these had since been removed by the Reform Bill of 1832, had in reality demolished the main argument for again disturbing, or threatening to disturb the peace of society by a new Reform Bill. The noble Lord mentioned with great admiration and applause the name of Charles Earl Grey; in which he (Mr. Liddell entirely concurred, but when the House considered that the proposed measure was calculated to excite angry and acrimonious discussions at a time when the country was about to be plunged into a long and costly war, the name of Henry Earl Grey might be referred to with at least equal confidence. If on the first night of the Session he felt himself justified in asking the noble Lord to postpone the consideration of this exciting question, at a period when all Europe was about to be engaged in a general war, his opinion had been greatly strengthened and confirmed by what had since occurred in both Houses of Parliament, and in that portion of the public press to which they were accustomed to look as the organs of the existing Administration. It was not his desire, or that of the Gentlemen with whom he acted, to add to the difficulties which the Government were prepared to plunge the country into, by appeals of an exciting nature upon the present occasion. He adhered to the opinion he stated to the House on the first night of the Session, and could only express the hope that the Bill would not reach its second reading, but would be postponed in deference to the safety and welfare of the country. He still hoped that the discussion of such exciting questions as must necessarily arise upon a new Reform Bill might be avoided by the prudence of the Government. The noble Lord began his statement by saying that nineteen boroughs, which returned twenty-nine Members, were to be totally disfranchised. Was it possible that the noble Lord could carry out a measure of disfranchisement to that extent without occasioning much painful discussion, as well among his friends as his opponents? Again, was it possible that he could proceed to the prospective disfranchisement of the free-men, without giving occasion to a vast amount of acrimonious discussion. Yet the noble Lord, in bringing forward this measure of reform, had, with his eyes open, risked such discussions at a time when the energies of the country should be combined for one object. As regarded the present House of Commons, the noble Lord might confidently expect to meet with the support of all parties in upholding the honour of the Crown and the interests of the country; but he would remind the noble Lord that if he carried his Bill, it would involve almost the necessity of a dissolution of Parliament in the course of the summer or autumn. Who could tell what changes and vicissitudes might take place in the prosecution of a protracted war? Who could tell what changes might take place in public opinion, or who could predict with any confidence the temper the people of England might be in at the very moment when the noble Lord should come forward with a proposal to dissolve the present Parliament? He had heard, indeed, that in another place it had been stated that the hope of preserving peace had not yet been abandoned. He thought that hope was shared in by very few persons in this country; and in whatever bosom it might have found a refuge, it must be a hope very nearly akin to despair. He remembered certain lines of that poet who sang the "pleasures" and the fallacies of hope, which well described, in his opinion, the condition of the noble Earl who held the first place in Her Majesty's Councils, and he would recommend them to the attention of the noble Lord:— When Murder bared his arm, and rampant War, Yoked the red dragons of her iron car; When Peace and Mercy, banished from the plain, Sprung on the viewless winds to Heaven again, All, all forsook the friendless guilty mind, But Hope, the charmer, lingered still behind! Now, when he found that the Minister of Russia had actually left our shores; when orders had been sent for the recall of the British mission at St. Petersburg; when larger bodies of troops were on the eve of departure for the seat of war in the East; when the French and English combined fleets were riding on the waters of the Euxine; when preparations on a most extensive kind were going on for the formation of a fleet to the Baltic;—he should be glad to know where that last remnant of hope was to be found which still appeared not quite extinct in the breast of the Prime Minister, and, perhaps, of the noble Lord opposite. He did not think there was any foundation for it whatever; and as he believed that this country was about to be involved in a war which was likely to be more protracted in its duration and more serious in its consequences than the noble Lord seemed to anticipate, he conjured him once more to consider whether the present was not a juncture at which such a measure ought not to be pressed upon Parliament. He had no doubt that many of the provisions of the proposed Bill were worthy of serious consideration; and when the time came for discussing the question of Parliamentary reform, he might feel it to be for the advantage of the country that the propositions of the noble Lord should be fully heard; but he would not now enter into that subject, because it was the duty of every well-wisher of the country to avoid exciting anything like acrimonious debates at the present moment. Before he sat down, however, there was one point to which he wished to allude, upon which he thought Parliament and the country had a right to some explanation: he meant the resignation of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Viscount Palmerston), at a time when public affairs were in a very critical state. The House would recollect that when the Cabinet was supposed to be engaged in discussions upon the Reform Bill, the retirement of the noble Lord the Home Secretary was made known to the country. He begged to assure the noble Lord that, as no man upon the Treasury bench possessed more the confidence of the country than the noble Lord, so no man in that House was prepared to speak of him with more respect than he was; but he thought that the noble Lord owed it to his own character, and to the satisfaction of the House and the country, now that the question of Parliamentary reform was brought fairly under their notice, to give some explanation of that retirement which, at a very critical moment of our domestic history, left this country for twelve days without a Home Secretary. He hoped that the noble Lord would not think that he asked this question from any impertinent curiosity. He hoped the noble Lord knew that he was of sufficient importance, and filled sufficient space in the estimation of his countrymen, to render anything that he did in a public matter the subject of remark, and deserving such an explanation as the circumstance might seem to demand. Upon that account he wished to ask the noble Lord if he would condescend to inform the House what were the circumstances in connexion with the Reform Bill which had led him to abandon the helm which he guided with so much vigour, and to leave the country at a most critical period twelve days without a Secretary of State for the Home Department? With respect to the scheme before the House, many objections could be raised to it, and, perhaps, some points deserved consideration; but as he would have other opportunities of examining the details of the measure, he would not trouble the House at present with any further observations. All he had to say in conclusion was, that he hoped the Bill would be discussed with calmness and dignity.


asked whether the same principle which had been laid down as regarded England, disfranchising boroughs with less than 300 electors, was to be applied to Scotland?


wished to know, with regard to Ireland, not only whether the boroughs having less than 300 electors were to be disfranchised, but also whether the counties in Ireland having more than 100,000 inhabitants were to have additional Members?


said, he could not allow this Bill to be introduced without saying that he thought it rather hard that all the freemen in the country should be included in one general condemnation for corruption. It would be very ungrateful in him to join in that imputation which had been cast upon his constituents, seeing that he had represented those truly independent, honest, and incorruptible men of the borough of Coventry for nearly forty years in that House, and he defied the noble Lord or anybody who joined in that general imputation, to say that on any one occasion, at all events within the last half century, any complaint had been made of the corruption of the freemen who formed part of his constituents. This he would say, that during that long time, having been engaged in numerous elections, not always of the most quiet description, and contested with considerable feeling and excitement, he had never known an occasion in which freemen voting either for him or against him had received one shilling. He should be unworthy to represent those poor men in that House if he did not bear that testimony to their purity. In old times, it was true, there was great corruption among the freemen at Coventry, because there was great corruption in the corporation. There were large charities, and a distribution of these charities among the freemen certainly caused great corruption. The corporation had the whole civic force, and the elections were conducted on principles not calculated to preserve the peace. That had entirely ceased; and he now heard with equal surprise and regret these independent men included in the general condemnation for corruption. There was one good argument for this franchise of the freemen being supported. The noble Lord wished to give the elective franchise to the most meritorious and best informed of the working classes. Now, the process by which the freeman in Coventry gained his vote was, by serving seven years to one and the same master in that city, and if his conduct was not good during that period—and his master testified to it—he could not obtain his freedom. What better proof could they have of the fitness and the qualification of that workman? If they intended to give the elective franchise to the workman, what better proof of his fitness could they have than his having faithfully served one master during the whole of that time? And, he must say, this did not appear to him the precise and particular time at which they should take away the few franchises left to the working men of this country. The working men of this country were now unfortunately engaged in a great struggle for the maintenance of the value of their labour. If they were obliged to maintain against them principles which were in themselves unanswerable, and in opposition to which these poor people were banded very much against their own interest, surely it must be most unwise to take away from them their right to a share of the representation in that House, and of the chance of their opinion being brought before the Government and the country. These considerations should, at all events, have some weight before they destroyed this class of voters. After what had been said by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Liddell), against whom charges of corruption had been made in that House, he could not sit there and allow those whom he had so long represented, and who had so honestly exercised their franchise, to be condemned without giving his testimony to their equal fitness to exercise the franchise to any other constituency.


said, he should be equally guilty of ingratitude if he did not get up and bear his testimony to what had been stated by his right hon. colleague. He had had a great deal to do with the constituencies of this country, and knew very well the degree of intelligence that was to be found in boroughs and counties, from practical communion with a great number of the electors, and he did say most sincerely that the freemen formed a class of voters of greater aggregate intelligence than he had found in any other class of voters. Few men better understood political principles, or were more determined to carry those principles out without any corruption whatever. He said, with his right hon. colleague, that such men ought not to be disfranchised. The present generation ought not to be disfranchised, for where could they find such a set of men if these were taken away? He could say truly, from his experience of the borough of Coventry, that the class of voters were as independent, as intelligent, and as incorruptible as any other constituency whatever.


hoped the freemen of Lincoln and the freemen generally would treat with the same contempt that he did the unjust, unnecessary, and unworthy observations of the noble Lord. He wished Her Majesty's Ministers were as honest, and upright, and straightforward as the freemen were, and then they would have a Treasury bench more pure, more to be relied upon, and better deserving the confidence of the House. He had known these freemen for many years, he entertained the highest opinion of them, and he would not condescend to say more in their defence. Objecting as he did to the Bill almost altogether, he would not trespass on the House more, than by again repeating that he hoped the freemen of England would treat the unworthy observations, and the unworthy stigma which the noble Lord had cast upon them with contempt.


did not wish now to raise any discussion upon the point, but he wished to ask a question of the noble Lord. The three hon. Gentlemen who had preceded him, had complained of disfranchisement as regarded their constituents, but he had to complain of a want of enfranchisement as far as regarded the metropolis. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might laugh, and he had no doubt it was a cause of great satisfaction to them that additional representatives were not to be returned by the metropolitan boroughs, because they generally returned those who were opposed to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. The noble Lord proposed to give an additional Member to the borough of Salford, and he took—so far as he understood—100,000 inhabitants as the point above which he would give a third Member. He asked his noble Friend, therefore, on what principle it was that he made such a distinction between the metropolis and the rest of the country?


asked if the noble Lord had formed any estimate of the number of electors each constituency would have under this Bill?


said, the proposal of the noble Lord as to the representation of minorities was a whimsical one, to say the least of it. He would ask was the noble Lord prepared to apply the principle to the proceedings of that House? For instance, that out of every three measures, the majority should carry two, and the minority one? There was another point with regard to which he suspended his opinion, coming from such a constitutional authority as the noble Lord—that relating to Members not vacating their seats on accepting office. The noble Lord said that that was a Tory measure. It was brought forward under Godolphin's Ministry as a compromise. A measure had been proposed to prevent Ministers sitting in the House, and as a compromise, Lord Godolphin brought forward a measure to provide that any person who accepted office vacated his seat; and Mr. Hallam had described that as being a most valuable and serviceable provision. The noble Lord said that by this provision the Crown was restricted in its choice. But the noble Lord should recollect that it was part of a system; and the question was whether the disadvantages were not counterbalanced by the advantages.


complained that the Bill did not deal with the property qualification of Members. In 1852, the noble Lord brought in a Bill repealing the property qualification altogether. He (Mr. Tufnell) had himself brought that measure forward in the last Session, and if he had not expected that it would have been dealt with in this Bill, he should have brought it forward again. It was known that this qualification was absolutely useless. They had granted constitutions to the colonies, and in every one of them had declared that every person who was qualified to be an elector, should also be qualified to be a representative. He hoped the same confidence would be shown in the people of this country; but as the noble Lord had omitted it, he could only say that he should take the earliest opportunity of himself introducing a measure to the House having that object.


said, one great object he had always had in view in promoting reform, was to bring within the pale of the constitution that great and valuable body, who had been very much neglected, the higher class of artisans. The noble Lord on a former occasion expressed exactly the opinion he (Mr. Hume) had always entertained, that the working class of this country had shown themselves so quiet and intelligent, that he admitted they ought to have the franchise. The present measure, however, so far as he saw, gave no opportunity for accomplishing that. He did not know how they were to be admitted under a 6l. franchise, and a residence of two years and a half. Such a provision would not admit more than one in 20. If it had been a 5l. franchise, and a residence of one year, many would have been admitted; but looking at the great change of employment, and the consequent necessity of the working classes having to go from place to place, the noble Lord would see that requiring a residence of two years and six months would exclude a great many of them. The franchise was to be extended to the literary man and the man in high rank, but he saw no provision made for the masses of the people. At present the working men were nearly all excluded. He had seen a list of one thousand workmen at one of the largest manufactories, and there were only three voters among them. He was very much pleased, however, to see the extension there was, and that the noble Lord persevered in bringing forward the measure at the present time. He very much approved of Schedule A. The existence of the constituencies in Schedule A had been the reproach of this country. He thought also that Schedule B might be considered valuable. He should also have much preferred that the noble Lord should have brought down the suffrage to one universal standard—namely, the municipal suffrage. He asked the noble Lord whether any estimate had been formed of the number of electors there would be under the new franchise. At the present moment there were in round numbers 900,000, and he wished to know whether they would be increased or lessened? He hoped the House would not agree to the proposition to give a representative to the minority, because all our institutions were grounded on the principle of a majority, and he should be very sorry to see any innovation on that principle. He wished also to ask how it was that while the borough of Salford was to have another Member, the borough of the Tower Hamlets, with a population of more than 400,000, was only to have two Members.


It is not likely, Sir, that I, who so much dislike the first Reform Bill, should look upon the present with very favourable eyes. That measure was hailed as a revolutionary measure by every man in the country who liked revolutions, and it was repelled by every man who disliked revolutions—both of them alike calling it honestly by that name. Sir, I find no fault with the noble Lord for pursuing the course on which he then entered. But, Sir, I confess I am again somewhat perplexed—as I was last year—to know how to interpret our common language, when I hear such a policy characterised by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as Conservative progress. Sir, it is progress undoubtedly—progress in that revolutionary policy which the noble Lord himself so characterised 21 years ago, and which I still think entitled to that character. Now, Sir, not to call names without stating clearly what I mean, I mean this: that you are now trying—as you were then trying—to sever property from power. And, no matter by what means you do it, or what words you use, that severance is Socialism. Whether it be wise in the noble Lord to bring in such a Bill at this time, I care not; perhaps it is immaterial. I do not think it matters much whether we are to discuss it in a state of war or peace, in this point of view—for the measure itself contains within it that which sooner or later must be destructive. It is of no use in the world speaking of it in other language. There is no reason in the world for stopping where you propose to do now. Sir, this measure is incense offered to that party whom, for a quarter of a century, the noble Lord has idolised—a party who honestly declare, without any disguise, that their intention and their hope is to establish shortly democracy in this country.


, without professing to measure himself with the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond), ventured to express his opinion that the admission to political power of the activity and intelligence of the working classes was a most eminently Conservative measure. When he saw what those men had done in every department of industry, he felt convinced, if the franchise were withheld, they would take some short and perhaps dangerous way of obtaining it. With reference to the observations of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), he would remind him of the provision which supplied, to a certain extent, the defect pointed out—he alluded to that provision by which those who had 50l. in a savings bank were to become entitled to the franchise. He trusted that principle would be extended not merely to those who had money in savings banks, but to those who had effected assurances in any shape, which was quite as good a test of the working man's character and ability. The noble Lord had not yet alluded to Ireland. Although it was true the public mind was preoccupied with grave matters, it would cause great disappointment and dissatisfaction in Ireland if the same Session which saw the application of sound and rational views of reform to England, was allowed to pass without a settlement of the same question in Ireland; and if any unforeseen obstacles should prevent the introduction of the Bill with regard to Ireland, he hoped the whole question would be postponed.


Several hon. Members have asked me, as well as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, with respect to the measures for Scotland and Ireland. All I can say is, though I will not attempt to explain those measures, the same principles will be applied generally to Ireland and Scotland; and whilst the number of Members for Ireland will be the same, the number for Scotland will be three more than at present. With regard to any other provisions, I must beg leave to decline answering any questions with respect to them at present; the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Lord Advocate for Scotland, will at the proper time submit the measures for those two countries to the consideration of the House. The hon. Member for Marylebone has asked me why there is not a greater addition to the number of metropolitan Members. There is to be a new borough created of Chelsea and Kensington, which will return two Members; and really I think that a sufficient addition to the number of metropolitan Members. When we consider how much the metropolis is like one town, and the advantage the Members have of always being here with their constituents—when we consider that those Members, like my hon. Friend, have frequent communication with their constituents—and perhaps after seeing some hundreds of them in the morning, come here at night to express their views—I think the metropolis—except of course that part which I have the honour to represent myself—is sufficiently represented. The hon. Member for Coventry objects to the proposal for the future disfranchisement of the freemen. I can only say, not denying anything he says with respect to the freemen of Coventry, to whose good conduct he bears testimony, that complaints of the conduct of the freemen generally have been made; and when inquiries have been instituted, the general opinion with respect to the freemen has been, that they are a class more particularly liable to the charge of bribery and corruption than any other. We do not propose to take away the votes of the present holders, but to prevent such a class of voters being perpetuated. I do not wish to enter into the details of the measure—I would rather the House should seriously consider those details when the Bill is before them; I am aware that with every explanation I shall give, they cannot form such an adequate conception of its provisions as they will really obtain by a careful study of the Bill itself. I only hope the House will give it their impartial consideration, and I am sure they will see—for it is sufficiently apparent—it has not been drawn with reference to party views, but with a view solely to obtaining the best general representation of the country. The hon. Member for West Surrey says the whole of this plan, as that of the Bill of 1831, is intended to advance democracy. I differ entirely from the hon. Gentleman in this particular. I remember very well the predictions of 1831—the King was to quit his throne—the House of Lords was to be abolished—every sort of calamity was to fall upon us. For my own part, if I have not been a very inaccurate observer of events, I think the populace during the time of the reformed Parliament have become more attached to the institutions of the country, more decided in their affection to the Throne, than they were in those times. One thing I remember very well: that in the year 1819—at the close of the year—the Minister came down here with six Bills, which he introduced into this House. One was to prevent public meetings; another was to gag the press; another was aimed against another popular right; and all were, as Lord Castlereagh described them, measures of strong coercion to repress the feelings of disaffection which generally prevailed. Let us not forget the words of my noble Friend the Home Secretary (Viscount Palmerston), that there are more than one kind of revolutionists—there are those who seek directly, by tumult and violence, to institute a different form of government, and others who, by opposing all well-considered and useful reforms, impede all moderate progress, and thus produce the necessity of those violent changes which they profess to dislike. Sir, my belief is, that this measure is what my noble Friend at the head of the Government characterised as liberal and conservative. I think it both liberal and conservative, and that it comes under the description which he gave of those measures which Ministers would undertake.


The noble Lord has omitted to answer the question I put to him.


With respect to the hon. Gentleman's question, I have not ventured on any figures, as it is difficult to say how many of a certain class now have votes, and therefore to ascertain what additional number of voters will be created. All I can say is, we have endeavoured to introduce classes well fitted to exercise the franchise, such as those who have 50l. in a savings bank; and the greater the number of voters from those classes the better.


inquired whether the two years and a half residence was to be in the same house or in the same borough?


In the same borough, but not necessarily in the same house.


thought the measure ought to be judged of as a whole; and he believed that as a whole it would become, with some amendment, a most excellent measure. What the noble Lord had now to do was to convince the country that the Government was in earnest, and that they were determined to pass a Bill that should improve the representation of the people. Let the noble Lord on no account listen to hon. Gentlemen opposite, or to those other evil counsellors with whom he was doubtless beset, and postpone the discussion of the measure until the question of war or peace had been settled, or, in case of war, until peace had again been restored. If they were to wait till the termination of the expected war, who could say when such a struggle as that with which Europe was threatened would be concluded? Hon. Gentlemen said, "war to the knife," but the country would think well of the Bill when they heard that. For what did hon. Gentlemen opposite do, or rather mean to do, with reference to the Bill of 1852—a Bill which no one on that side of the House thought worth discussing? Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) denounced it on the hustings. He said, and said truly, that it could do no good, and that it was adding littleness to littleness, and corruption to corruption. The present measure was much better. In the first place, the Government had given them an honest Schedule A, and also a very fair Schedule B, for they found in them several Whig boroughs. There was Calne, for instance, the borough which was the subject of so much dispute in 1831 and 1832. So also there was Lord Zetland's borough—there was no need mincing the matter, for everybody knew what nomination was—Richmond, in Yorkshire. There was Arundel, too. The disfranchisement of these Whig boroughs was a good step, and all the noble Lord had now to do was not to listen to any proposal to postpone the measure. Let him fight it out in the House, and let him trust the rest to the people. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would probably do what they did in 1852. He had in his hand a list of above a hundred hon. Gentlemen who met at Lord Derby's when they had only the little Reform Bill of 1852 before them. He would not read the names, for the House might easily guess who would be present on such an occasion. There was for instance, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), who by some accident got into office the year before last. But the report of the meeting proceeded thus:—"At a meeting held at Lord Derby's house yesterday, the policy to be pursued by the Protectionists with respect to the Reform Bill was discussed, and it was unanimously—'unanimously'—determined to oppose the second reading of the Bill." That was just what they would do now, and now they had got an impending war thrown in to assist them. Therefore, he again warned the noble Lord not to listen to them, for they would oppose any Reform Bill, whether it was only a little one, or one of larger dimensions. How far the present measure would be popular, would depend upon how far it opened the door—as the noble Lord called it—to the industrious classes. The two and a half years, he thought, was objectionable, for it might be extended to three and a half; because the term might be completed just after the time for registration, and then a man would have to wait till the next year. This was not the time to go into details; but he thought the noble Lord's explanation respecting the metropolitan boroughs was not quite satisfactory. Those boroughs were very large, and being close at hand their Members had more to do; and that was a reason, he should have thought, why there should be more of them. In conclusion, the noble Lord must depend upon the support of the country, and the exertions of his own Government, to give effect to a measure of justice to the working classes which, he thought, had been too long delayed.


could not allow the debate to close without expressing his gratitude to the noble Lord the Member for London for his proposal to give the London University the right of being represented in the House of Commons. The noble Lord might be assured that they were never so safe as when they gave power to mind, and that the representation of the country could not be better advanced than by conferring the franchise upon the educated portion of the community; and, on behalf of the University of London, he begged to thank the noble Lord for the privilege he proposed to confer upon it.


observed that in the county of Lancaster the admission of the 10l. householders would about double the number of electors, and at the same time it would, of course, double the expense of elections, as twice the number of electors would have to be brought to the poll upon each occasion.


Sir, I must confess that I feel some disappointment, which will also be entertained by the great operative constituencies of this kingdom, that this Bill falls short of the one formerly introduced by the noble Lord in one important particular, inasmuch as it contains no provision for the abolition of the property qualification for Members to serve in Parliament;—and in the remarks which I am about to make on this subject, I will not weary the House by a recapitulation of those reasons which naturally suggest themselves why a constituency should be most unfettered in the choice of its representatives; neither will I dwell upon the fact, fraught though it be with conviction, that Scotland, in nowise affected by this law, returns to this House representatives in property, in talents, and in integrity, inferior to none. But I will rise at once to the summit of the argument and endeavour to demonstrate not only that this law has ever been systematically evaded, but that to its systematic evasion this House, at the most brilliant periods of its history, has been indebted for its most illustrious ornaments. Addison, the author of a literature, the mainstay of a great political party, redeemed from absolute necessity by the emoluments of office. Sheridan conspicuously, where all was radiant, yet kept in perpetual penury by follies which were but as moths in the sunbeams of his genius. Curran, the spirit of his age, possessing an intellect which proclaimed its more than earthly origin, but denied by a too frugal providence the meanest gifts of worldly affiance; and Shed, the brilliant author of Evadne, whose early life was subject to all the vicissitudes of a capricious fortune, but on whose accents I have known this House to linger with an admiration so breathless that every word bore the operation of a spell, and every pe- riod of an enchantment. These men, whose words (whether uttered in defence of a nation's freedom or with the vivid denunciation of a brilliant eloquence, scorching corruptions which no fires save those of Phlegethon can ever utterly consume) are still revered as a nation's oracles. These men, I say, on their first advent to this House, never could have had bonâ fide property qualifications.

Sir, averse at all times to aught that may savour of personality, I congratulate myself that the recollections of the past furnish me with sufficient illustrations for my argument, to preclude the necessity of reference to modern instances; but I shall not exceed the boundaries of Parliamentary usage or the time of debate when I put it to the House whether there are not men on both sides of that table who have served the country with utility to the public and honour to themselves, who on the door and threshold of their Parliamentary career, when perchance their hopes were at the highest, and their aspirations at the brightest, were utterly without bonâ fide property qualifications.

But, Sir, it may not be uninstructive for the House to pause for a few short moments, and consider the position of the three parties more immediately affected by this law, the unseated but elected representative; the candidate discarded at the poll, but successful by usurpation; and the constituency cheated of its privileges and defrauded of its franchise. With respect to the first, I will not offend the taste of the House by dilating upon the humiliation of a sensitive mind wrung by a personal indignity which none but the most lost and sordid could inflict; neither can we derive any satisfaction from the consideration of one whose path to the House is strewn with dishonour, and whose only title to a seat among us is a sufficient patrimony; but to the constituency we may most usefully direct our attention. Prior to the election the pretensions of both candidates may have been equal; of the extent of their fortunes, all but the venal must be profoundly ignorant; at length they proceed to the contest, and perhaps they select their man as the uncompromising advocate of civil and religious liberty, or in his varied acquirements they discern the material of future statesmanship; perchance his claims are of a less exalted character—aptitude for public business or strong sympathy with local interests. At length the election is declared void; and through the instrumentality of one of those wretched agents (who, like other vermin, are generated in commingled heat and corruption) they find themselves deprived of the representative of their choice, and have foisted on them one whose person they loathe, detest, and abhor; whose manners perchance are the graces of a stable yard, and whose highest talents are the vulgar, cunning, and low-lived astuteness of a pert and pettyfogging pleadership. Perchance there are some present who may deem that I have delineated character with somewhat too much severity. I trust that I can make due allowances for errors of judgment; but between the meaner vices of sordid minds and the infamy of debased ones, I will not stop to discriminate.

Sir, I am well aware that it may be urged upon this as upon a recent occasion that our system is not yet ripe for important reforms, and that in favour of the abolition of this law no agitation prevails. The representatives of operative constituencies know well enough the groundlessness of such assertion; but, Sir, I again reprobate that shortsighted policy which promulgates the notion that nothing will be yielded to inherent justice, but all to the violence of agitation. I believe that the publication of such opinions will be found destructive both to Government and the safety and stability of that property, the rights of which you are so accustomed to overestimate. I feel satisfied that if you succeed in infecting the public mind with a doctrine so pernicious, you will destroy the best feelings of that populace which has now become the people of England, and convert them from the industrial authors of a nation's wealth into a blazing mass of hot and revolutionary embers. Under convictions of this nature, and the default of the noble Lord, I shall take an early opportunity of moving the House for leave to introduce a Bill on this subject.


said, that had the Bill been entirely confined to England, he should not have risen to make even a single observation. There was, however, one provision in it which affected Ireland and Scotland as much as England, and which was quite sufficient, in his judgment, to alarm the constituencies of the United Kingdom. The provision to which he alluded, and to which he would invite for a single moment the attention of the House, because he believed it to be fraught with danger, was that which proposed to repeal the enact- ment of the Statute of Anne, which compelled every Member of that House, on accepting Government office, immediately to vacate his seat, and to go again to his constituents for re-election. In his own country an instance had occurred in which sixty Members of Parliament, whose elections had been secured by great sacrifices on the part of the constituent body, had assembled in a room in Dublin, and had made a solemn and sacred declaration, in the face of the country, in favour of the adoption of a certain line of policy. Whether that policy was right, or whether it was mischievous, was a question which he would not now discuss—at any rate, it was a policy which had the sanction of the great mass of the Irish people. Since that time certain of those Members of Parliament had been received into the Government, and had been obliged, in consequence, to go before their respective constituencies, and to stand or fall by their verdict. He need not say that those Members were successful; but suppose this Bill were passed, and the salutary provision which had so long existed were altogether done away with, what check would they have upon corruption? If 100 Members of Parliament were to pledge themselves to a certain policy, and the wholesome check which the present law provided were abolished, every man of easy virtue would sell himself to the Government, to do the Government work, and would abandon his constituents. There was no man holding even the lowest situation in a gentleman's family, whose state of servitude was more degrading or complete than that of the Member of that House who accepted a subordinate situation in the Government. He must think with the Government; act with the Government; vote with the Government. The mind of the Government must he impressed on his mind, which for that purpose must become a mere tabula rasa, and receive new impressions from the Government alone. There could be no two characters more distinct than the man who pledged himself before his constituents to adopt an independent policy, and the man who turned round and pledged himself to the Government. If a man now made a compact with the Government, he had to go again to his constituents, who were to say whether they would re-elect him or not; let that check be removed, and there was not a political adventurer who would not take advantage of it. He thought, there- fore, that the noble Lord's proposal would be fraught with great danger to all parts of the United Kingdom.

Bills ordered to be brought in by Lord John Russell and Sir James Graham.