HC Deb 19 February 1857 vol 144 cc841-61

then rose to move for leave to introduce a Bill to make the franchise in Counties in England and Wales the same as that in Boroughs, by giving the right of Voting to all occupiers of tenements of the annual value of £10. The hon. Gentleman said that in the year 1853 he had brought a similar measure under the consideration of the House; but he had been induced to withdraw it in consequence of a promise from the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that he would introduce, on behalf of the Government, a measure for effecting a general reform in our representative system. Accordingly in 1854 the noble Lord brought forward such a Bill; but the outbreak of the war prevented the House from giving it consideration, and the measure was withdrawn. Since then the question had remained in abeyance; and considering the distance from the Treasury bench of the seat which the noble Lord now occupied, he thought there was not much probability of the speedy reintroduction of that Bill. Under these circumstances he felt justified in submitting his own proposal to Parliament the first Session after the conclusion of peace. His measure had the constitutional basis that taxation and representation ought to go together. At the present moment there was a general communion of interests among the electors, and there seemed to be an end to those great questions which had hitherto separated the town from the country; and he was convinced that the true way to deal with the question of franchise was to deal with all classes alike. Let the franchise be fixed at whatever point might be deemed right, and let it be so fixed for all; but let not the inhabitants of one place be endowed with electoral rights which were refused to the inhabitants of another place. The case which he submitted to the House appeared very strong, if the unrepresented towns were compared with the represented towns. There were very large unrepresented towns, possessing valuable institutions and a considerable amount of trade and commerce, and yet the occupying tenants in those towns possessed no vote, unless they occupied a house at a rental of upwards of £50 a year; while in certain small agricultural boroughs, possessing no learned institutions, and with scarcely any trade, every inhabitant paying a rent of £10 had a vote. Then, with regard to the rural districts, a house situated in a country part, for which a rent of £20 or £40 was paid, was a very good house. The person living in it might have a very good income, and contribute a good deal both to the direct and indirect taxes. Still that person might have no vote; while another person living in a borough, in a smaller house, would be entitled to vote at elections. The consequence of this was, that in many places large bodies of the people were wholly unrepresented, and there was an entire absence of equality in the representation of different districts. Thus in the county of Bucks, of which the population was 163,700, the number of electors was 8,125, who returned no less than eleven Members, or about one to every 14,000 persons, and who represented 700 electors; but taking the county of Lancaster, and comparing it in the same way, they would find that there was only one Member to represent every 88,000 of the population, and every 2,800 electors. In East Surrey the population was 583,500, and the number of electors was 44,000, represented by seven Members, or one to about every 83,000 of the population, and to every 6,300 electors. The noble Lord the Member for London, on a former occasion, referred to the distinction which had always existed between the county and the borough franchises, but he thought he need not now reply to that objection of the noble Lord, as the noble Lord answered it himself in the suggested extension of the county franchise, which the noble Lord had submitted to the House. He hoped the House would allow him to bring in the Bill, and that it would deal with it, not considering the gain it might produce to one side or the other, but simply regarding it as a measure of justice.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make the Franchise in Counties in England and Wales the same as that in Boroughs, by giving the right of Voting to all occupiers of tenements of the annual value of ten pounds.


I hope my hon. Friend will not think I act discourteously towards him if I should not be disposed to accede to the introduction of the proposed Bill; for, independently of the objections which I should have to urge to the measure itself, I should think, from the business which the House is likely to have before it in the course of the present Session, that there is very little probability of a measure of this sort passing into law. It would, therefore, be wasting the time and distracting the attention of the House to endeavour to press forward a subject of such great magnitude, without a fair prospect of pursuing it to an end. I own I cannot agree with my hon. Friend in the principle which forms the foundation of his proposal—namely, that there should be an identity of the qualification for voting in boroughs and counties; and I concur in what has fallen from my noble Friend the Member for London, that there has always been a distinction—and I think it is expedient to maintain that distinction—between the right of voting in boroughs and in counties. The two great classes of electors represent different interests in the community, and the principles on which their rights of voting have always stood have been of a different character. But what would be the logical consequences of adopting the principle of my hon. Friend and of identifying the right of voting in counties and boroughs? Why, to sweep away all boroughs; because, if the right of voting in counties and boroughs were identical, upon what ground could you maintain the existing artificial distinctions and circumscriptions between them? It would lead by logical consequence to the subdivision of the counties into electoral districts without any definite distinction of the boroughs. I therefore object both to the principle of his Bill and to the consequences which, in my opinion, would inevitably attend it. In stating this I beg my hon. Friend to understand that I do not mean to say that there should be no extension whatever of the franchise in counties. I am quite ready to consider a proposition of a more modified kind for extending the county franchise. I think that the measure which was proposed on a former occasion by my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, by which the qualification for a county franchise would have been made to tally with that of a juryman—which I think is £20—is such as I should not be disposed to object to. My hon. Friend would not approve such a measure, because his proposal prevents him; and there are many other advocates of Parliamentary reform who would say, "You are a bit-by-bit reformer, but we are for great and comprehensive measures." Now, I confess that in matters of this sort I am not for great and comprehensive measures. There was undoubtedly a necessity for measures of that character in 1831 and 1832. They had been rendered necessary by the excitement in the public mind produced by the long continuance of abuses which required some great and sweeping remedy. The same state of things does not now exist. Our constitution has grown up gradually by the correction of evils as they happen to occur. I think that in these matters it is much safer to see one's way, and to take one step at a time. If a measure appears to be required by the condition of things, adopt it and watch its effects; but do not go beyond the point that you wish to see set right. Take time to consider the effect which the remedy you propose may produce on the general system and organisation of the country. I hope my hon. Friend will not consider that, because I cannot concur with him in the introduction of his Bill, I am one of those who set their faces altogether against any improvement in the representative franchise. My objection is to the particular measure he proposes. And as there is little likelihood that any measure of the kind would, in the present Session of Parliament and in the present state of public affairs, reach a conclusion satisfactory to the proposer—there being many measures of great importance which will have to be discussed in Parliament—I should certainly advise the House not to consent to the introduction of this Bill, which is highly objectionable in principle, and which, if not so objectionable, would probably have little chance of passing this Session.


said, he had always voted in favour of this Motion, and had not heard a single observation from the noble Lord which would induce him to deviate from the course he had hitherto pursued, when the same question was before the House. As to the argument of pressure of business, no doubt at the commencement of a Session there must be a certain number of Bills introduced by the Government, and also a certain number by independent Members. In addition to this legislative business, the House has always to settle the revenue and expenditure for the ensuing year: allowing for this ordinary and necessary employment, and he must say that he had never known a Session in which there was a greater paucity of important measures—certainly there was none which could interfere with the discussion of this question. The House would perceive that the noble Lord's objection was one which, if admitted, would be equally fatal to any subsequent re-introduction. The noble Lord had said, that it was a constitutional principle that there should be a distinction as to the extent of the qualification of voters for counties and voters for boroughs. He (Mr. Headlam) should have thought, that if the constitutional principle were to be referred to as a guide to qualification in counties, and if we were to look to the past history of the country, the county franchise ought to be more liberal than that for towns, seeing that the original qualification was the possession of a 40s. freehold; but looking to the merits of the question, the real question for the House to consider was, whether there was any real objection to that class of voters to whom this Bill would apply? He recollected that when the £10 franchise was introduced into boroughs, objections of the most serious description were urged and the most frightful predictions of the consequences made. Not a single one of these predictions had been verified by the experience of twenty-five years, and he did not believe that if the franchise were extended, as now proposed, any danger would arise to the State. It must be recollected that the present law excluded the residents in many large and important towns, and he really could not conceive a measure which could be fraught with less danger than the present. Moreover, he could not help asking himself this question, whether there was still to be a Liberal party in the House of Commons. If there was to be such a party, not only in name, but in substance—that is to say, a party seeking all suitable occasions to give effect to their principles, to extend the liberties of the people, and widen the basis of the constitution—then the present Motion gave them an opportunity, when without the slightest danger to any of the institutions of the country, they might at once vindicate their principles and confer a valuable political privilege upon a class that deserved well of the State.


I have always been an advocate for the extension of the franchise. In the first place I disliked the Reform Bill, because I never could understand why it should have fixed a money qualification for voting, having done away virtually that qualification for seats in this House. In the next place, I never understood what you meant by a £10 test of political morality. Why not have made it £9 or £8? But the objections that are made to this Bill will always be made to every Bill of the like character. I want the franchise extended to the very lowest classes, that they may protect themselves against the tyranny of the classes over them, which we see exhibited continually, and of which I shall have another opportunity of speaking shortly. But let the House rest content. You will have no Reform Bill, although there may be plenty of tattle about little Bills or old Bills; but until these Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench are sitting on the other side and want to get back again, you will have no Reform Bill.


The proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) has been met by my noble Friend at the head of the Government with two objections; the first relating to the state of public business, which he says will not admit the discussion of a question of this kind; and the second to the principle of the proposition. Now, as to the first of these objections, I do not think that the Government ought to allege that there cannot be time this Session for the discussion of this Bill. There must, no doubt, be considerable discussion upon the Budget; but the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are very simple; they do not involve any complicated series of measures, and when we have decided upon one or two points, the rest of them may be said to be disposed of. As to the public measures introduced by the Government, I must say that they are of such a character as to induce me to suppose that they are not inclined to undertake measures of any great difficulty and importance. The Secretary of State for the Home Department was asked, whether the Government meant to introduce any measure with regard to church rates?—and he replied in the negative. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) yesterday introduced, on his own responsibility, a measure with respect to which he has taken great pains, and which refers to one of the most important subjects now discussed in this country—that of education; but we had no hint from the Government that it was their intention to propose any measure upon that subject, or in any way to interfere with the course of the right hon. Baronet. This very night a question was put concerning a subject which has excited, perhaps, more agitation than it ought—namely, that of agricultural statistics—but oven with regard to that, the Government are not prepared to legislate, and refrain from disturbing the placid course of public business. Therefore, so far as public business is concerned, it seems to me that we shall have ample time to discuss a measure of so simple a character as that proposed by the hon. Member for East Surrey. I then come to the question itself. The hon. Member has very truly said, that I upon former occasions made objections to his measure; but I think he did not mention that into the last Reform Bill which I laid upon the table of this House, I introduced the very proposal which he has now submitted to us. In fact I found that the objection which I made on a previous occasion, and which I think could be maintained so far as relates to our ancient constitution—namely, that the franchise in counties was a franchise by tenure, while that in boroughs was a franchise by rating—that the ground had been completely taken away by the consequence of an Amendment which was introduced into the Reform Bill by the present Duke of Buckingham, who introduced the clause known as the Chandos clause, which instituted occupancy as a qualification for county voters. I was afraid of adding to the list of dependent voters. I thought the addition most unfortunate—but it was introduced by a majority of the House against the arguments of Lord Althorp and those who were bringing forward the Bill. But I find upon inquiry that, so far from adding to the dependent voters, the occupiers of £10, £20, and £30 houses in counties consist very much of persons of independent means living in small towns which have not the right of sending Members to Parliament—men of independence and intelligence, and whose admittance therefore, instead of injuring, would improve the constituent bodies in counties. There is this, besides, to consider—and now I am going to touch some-what upon the larger question. I have myself had the honour to introduce twice of late years—in 1852 and 1854—measures which were considered as the complements of the Reform Act—which were in conformity with its spirit—but which tended to the introduction of very considerable changes beyond its original scope. I think it may be said—and there are persons who will be ready enough to assert it—that there is no great pressure in the public mind, no national urgency for the adoption of a comprehensive measure of reform. For my own part, I should think it was very imprudent in my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) if he were now to say—independently of the general opinion which he has just stated—that it was the intention of the Government to disturb the Legislature and the mind of the country by bringing in a large and comprehensive measure of reform. But then, Sir, if I admit that to be the case, I cannot repeat the argument which I adduced in opposition to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. L. King) on former occasions, when I said that the Reform Act having been enacted by public consent, it was far better that we should not deal with such a subject by driblets, but should consider the whole subject at once, and see what defects might be found and what Amendments might be required. On the contrary, whatever might have been the impropriety of introducing driblets when large measures were required, I think that, if we sincerely desire reform, the only course now to be pursued is to adopt any measure which is in itself a safe improvement whenever it may be proposed; and I cannot but admit that the measure of the hon. Gentleman is in itself such an improvement. I think that no one who is disposed to entrust the elective franchise to the occupier of £10 houses in towns can object to its enjoyment by those who occupy such houses in the country; because the occupant of a £10 house in the country is generally a person of greater intelligence and more property than is the tenant of a similar house in a borough. It frequently happens that the occupant of a £10 house in a small country town, not returning Members to Parliament, would, if he were to remove to this metropolis or to one of our great towns, find that the expenditure of £15 or £20 per annum would not place him in so good a house as that which he had left. I therefore think that this change is a safe one; and, seeing that no one is likely to propose a large measure of reform, I am, moreover, of opinion that it will tend to satisfy a large body of persons who have some reason to complain of the existing state of things. In the first place, many persons occupying houses of £10 or £20 rent in the country may fairly say that they are excluded from the franchise which their neighbours in the borough possess. But, according to the existing arrangement, they may also say, "Here is a town which has grown up, which has 10,000, 12,000, or 14,000 inhabitants, but which sends no special representatives to Parliament; but there is a town, only five miles off, which has only 5,000 inhabitants, and which is made up partly by the addition of country parishes. It is very hard that that town should have Members, while that in which we reside has none." If we are not going to alter the distribution of seats in this House, that grievance must remain without remedy; but if you give to the inhabitants of that town of 12,000 or 13,000 persons the right of voting for the Members for the county, their causes of complaint would be greatly diminished, and they would so far be satisfied that they had at least equal rights with their neighbours. I think, therefore, this measure would tend, not only to improve, but also to consolidate our institutions, and to give further stability to our representative system. Taking this view of the question, I should be prepared, not only to vote for the introduction of this Bill, but also, if it got so far, to support the Motion for its second reading. I thing the present time is far from being an unpropitious one; for, perhaps this year, perhaps the next, but certainly before two years have elapsed, we shall have a general election of Members of this House, and I think it would greatly improve the constitution of the next Parliament if some 200,000 or 300,000 men of property—men upon whom you could depend—were added to the basis upon which the representation stands. I do not know that there is anything to prevent this improvement, and I shall therefore—without discussing with the hon. Member (Mr. L. King) the defects of the measure which I formerly introduced—be satisfied to give my support to this Bill.


said, he must congratulate his hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) upon the rapid fulfilment of his prophecy; for, although the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) was not sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House, he occupied a position which was evidently quite as unpalatable to himself. It was not his (Mr. Bentinck's) province to defend the Gentlemen on the Treasury bench; but when he heard the noble Lord asking those right hon. Gentlemen why they had not brought forward certain measures which he thought necessary to the welfare of the country, he felt tempted to ask the noble Lord whether he would favour the House with a list of the useful measures which he brought forward and carried during the several years that he had been at the head of the Government, and, of course, had every facility for carrying such measures if he had brought them forward? He (Mr. Bentinck) had no recollection of any such measures, and should be glad to see a list of them, after the production of which the charge made by the noble Lord would come with a much better grace. He believed that the country was thoroughly sick of the word "reform." It was quite true, as had been said by his hon. Friend (Mr. Drummond), that the word was used merely as a piece of claptrap to raise the bad passions of the ignorant, when certain Gentlemen were out of place, in order to get themselves back into place again. He did not believe that the House would for a moment entertain this measure, particularly after what had been said by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. As far as the general question went, it would be very difficult—after what had happened during the last few years—after the fact that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who when out of office was always advocating "large and comprehensive measures of reform"—had during the five or six years that he was at the head of the Government never brought forward such a measure—it would be very difficult to persuade the people of this country that there was in the perpetual agitation of this question of reform anything but a desire to obtain mere party objects. Until the country saw that some real benefit was intended by these schemes of reform all these attempts would be regarded in the light in which they deserved to be looked at, and they would not be responded to by the people generally.


I cannot now, according to the forms of the House, answer the challenge of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bentinck), but I shall be very happy at a future opportunity to state to him the measures which I did introduce.


said, that the observations of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) were most unjust towards the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell). He should have been very much surprised to hear the noble Lord state that he should take any other course than that which he had announced that he was about to pursue. In 1854 the noble Lord laid upon the table a Bill which he parted with on account of the war with great regret, and in that Bill he included the very proposition which was now made by his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey. His (Mr. Duncombe's) astonishment was that any Member of the Aberdeen Government should oppose that proposition. There was, no doubt, great apathy in the country upon the subject of reform; but why was there that apathy? Because the country knew that the House of Commons was not equal to the emergency. Let Lord Derby's Government come again into office and introduce a Bill bringing the operative classes within the pale of the constitution, and then they would have agitation in its favour to their heart's content. But as long as they rejected minor measures like this the people would not condescend even to ask them for reform. For his own part, he only wished that this proposal had gone a great deal further. When Lord Derby's Ministry was in power it was held to be of the utmost constitutional importance that the four seats vacant by disfranchisement should then be filled up; and the Government accordingly brought in a Bill giving two additional seats to Lancashire and the other two to Yorkshire. If consistency was to be the order of the day, why was it they heard nothing more from hon. Gentlemen opposite regarding that measure? Kensington, Brompton, and other outlying districts of the metropolis had no representation, either borough or county, and the man occupying a £45 house on one side of a street had no vote, while his opposite neighbour, living in a £10 house, had one, merely because he accidentally came within the Parliamentary boundary. Throughout the country the class of persons who neither resided in boroughs nor possessed a freehold, nor occupied a house of £50 a year had no votes. To redress that gross injustice and absurdity this Bill had been introduced, and he should be much surprised if the House threw out a proposition so perfectly rational.


Sir, I would remind the hon. Member for Finsbury and the House generally that, on other occasions, when this proposition has been brought forward I have not felt it necessary to obtrude myself on your attention. And first, I must express my regret that the hon. Members for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) and West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) should thus early in this discussion have thought it expedient to import into the debate the imputation of factious motives and personal objects, totally unworthy of any Member of this House. Sir, the place where I sit in this House is my own choice, and I, for one, am quite content to remain where I am. The hon. Member for West Norfolk says that the noble Lord the Member for London did not, when formerly in office, introduce important measures advantageous to the country. The hon. Member has not long held a seat in this House, but I have sat here with my noble Friend for more than thirty years; and I have not forgotten that to him is due the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—that to him is in some measure due the Reform Bill of 1832—that to him also is mainly due the introduction of the Poor Law into Ireland—that we owe to him likewise the commutation of tithes in England to fixed payments—indeed, I should weary the House were I to go through the entire catalogue of what the noble Lord has achieved with an ability, a zeal, a fortitude, and a constancy which redound to his infinite honour. Sir, if I could have reconciled it with my sense of duty to give a silent vote, I might well have rested the vote that I intend to give upon the speech of my noble Friend. But, having on all former occasions abstained from voting on this precise proposition, I think it right briefly to state why I shall on this occasion give to it my support. Will the House bear with me for a short time while I explain what has influenced my conduct up to the present moment with respect to measures of reform? Having in 1832, when the measure of that year was introduced, announced a strong opinion that that Bill should be viewed as a final settlement of this question, I for a very long period resisted further change on the ground of finality. But it has been my fortune to live long enough to ascertain that that ground is wholly untenable. Finality, applied to the work of man, is a solecism in terms. The juxtaposition of the words "human" and "for ever" at once shows how absurd that doctrine must sooner or later be found. Then, again, I certainly was of opinion that it was expedient, if another change was to be introduced, that it should be what has now become almost a byword—a large and comprehensive measure. Partly, however, from the apathy of the country on this subject—which I admit—and still more from the extreme difficulty, considering the extent of the previous alteration, of bringing forward another scheme which shall effect great changes without danger to the State—a measure of a comprehensive character has not yet been successful, and is not, in my judgment, likely soon to be so. I think, therefore, that neither of these grounds is any longer tenable. But I cannot forget that one of the measures upon which the Government of Lord Aberdeen was based was a measure of reform enlarging the franchise. It was so declared on the construction of that Ministry; and in the Speech from the Throne in 1854 such a measure was recommended in order to give additional stability to the institutions of the country. A Bill having that object was accordingly framed with great care by the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen. It was introduced by my noble Friend the Member for London on behalf of that Cabinet; and it was withdrawn on account of the pressure of war, and of the peculiar circumstances consequent upon that critical state of affairs. Now, in that measure was included, among many other provisions, the precise proposition of the hon. Member for East Surrey. I admit that the measure contained other provisions which might be held to counterbalance the particular effect of the Bill now sought to be introduced; but if there were countervailing provisions as bearing on the county franchise, it must not be forgotten that the scheme of 1854 also lowered the franchise of the towns and cities, and reduced it from a franchise of a £10 rating occupation to a £6 qualification, with a residence of two years and a half. There were other provisions to which I will very briefly refer—namely, the provision giving effect to a limited extent to the votes of the minority; together with the creation of several new franchises. My noble Friend has truly stated that while the county franchise rested upon tenure there would have been grave objections to the introduction of a measure like this. But the Chandos clause in the Reform Act introduced for the first time, as bearing on the county franchise, the condition of occupation. And though the circumstances of Ireland are, I admit, peculiar, yet day by day the necessity of assimilating, in all their great principles, the laws of the United Kingdom is becoming more and more apparent. Well, with regard to the Irish counties, in 1850 the Legislature deliberately fixed their representation, not on a basis of tenure in the main, but on occupation, placing the right of voting at a county election in Ireland upon an occupation tenure of £12. Now, I should have the greatest objection to this Bill if I believed it would introduce into the counties of England any right of voting subject, from its nature, to undue influence in a greater proportion than now exists, I quite agree with the principle which I think my noble Friend has cited from Mr. Fox more than once—viz., that that is the best system of electing members in a representative government which includes the largest number of independent voters, and excludes those who, from the circumstances of their position, are incapable of the independent exercise of the franchise. The test, then, which I apply to this proposition is—"Will it introduce into the counties men of independent station who are now shut out, or will it extend the suffrage to those who are incapable of independent deliberation?" I am bound to say my firm conviction is, that it will enlarge the franchise in a manner that is perfectly safe. My noble Friend now at the head of the Government apprehends that if this proposition were adopted there would be a danger of uniform electoral districts, and that only one right of voting would prevail in the country. If I entertained any such belief I should come to the same conclusion as my noble Friend, and vote against the Bill. But there will always remain the broad distinction between the counties and the boroughs of England, that while voting in the boroughs is confined to occupation, limited by a £10 rent, in the counties, on the other hand, even if this measure were passed, the prevailing franchise would be based on tenure as low as that of the 40s. freeholder, together with the various leasehold and other tenures now unknown in the cities and boroughs. Then, Sir, I ask myself this question—if the doctrine of finality can no longer be maintained—if a large and comprehensive measure be no longer possible—if, considering the increasing population, the growing wealth, and the growing intelligence of the country, every extension of the franchise cannot be resisted—if, therefore, you are driven by the force of circumstances to the necessity of what is called, and often derisively called, "bit-by-bit" reform—if you must consent, as I believe you must, to take reform in fragments—what measure, I ask, will be the safest, and, at the same time, the largest in its scope and operation? Looking at the question in this light, I am decidedly of opinion that this is a portion of the scheme of 1854 which may be most safely introduced, and therefore, I will cordially vote for it. I believe the effect of this measure in the English counties will be to give the right of voting to many persons who have it not now, but who are entitled to it by their position and respectability, and by their personal merit. For instance, to begin with, I should say that it would give a vote to many of the working clergy, as they are termed, who are now excluded—curates, and those who have not obtained the rectorial position, but who are still most useful members of the Church of England. Again, Dissenting Ministers would to a great extent be admitted. Half-pay officers also, of both services, retired tradesmen, and clerks, either from the public offices or from large mercantile firms, who have retired to their native villages or towns on superannuations or on pensions, will be admitted to the franchise. Then, again, the principal country shopkeepers will acquire the right, which they do not now possess. If we are not to have a recasting of the whole scheme of our representation, the immense towns, such as Barnsley, Rotherham, and Doncaster, which have sprung up, and which do not now send Members to Parliament, will virtually obtain representation under the operation of the present measure. I will go one step further. The farmers of England are rising rapidly, by their amended circumstances, in which I greatly rejoice, to a position of increased intelligence and great trustworthiness. I know no reason why small farmers—farmers with holdings below £50—should not in England, as is the case now in Ireland, have a share in the representation. I should be led too far if I were to pursue this interesting subject, but I have said enough to justify myself in giving a vote now, for the first time, in favour of this Motion. I have a great respect for the hon. Gentleman who sits below me (Mr. Drummond) and also for the hon. Member for West Norfolk, and, though I may be exposed to their taunts for the vote which I give, on account of my position in this House, still I feel that my motives are pure, and my conscience does not strike me with the slightest twinge of remorse for the course which I am pursuing. For the reasons, therefore, which I have shortly stated, I cannot refuse to give my vote in favour of this Motion. Let me point out to the hon. Member for East Surrey, before I sit down, that it will be necessary in the progress of the Bill through the House to insert some guard in it against the abuse of making faggot-votes, of which a measure such as this may easily now be made the instrument. With reference to this part of the subject, I would recommend him to look at the Bill introduced by my noble Friend the Member for London in 1854, in which ample provision is made with regard to joint tenancies, and also to prevent lands joined to hovels or houses of no worth conferring the franchise. The tenure of land under the provisions of that Bill must be coupled with the occupancy of a house of the annual value of £5. With some such precautions and safeguards, I am satisfied that this will prove a very salutary measure, and I shall therefore give my vote in favour of its introduction.


in explanation, denied that he had said that the noble Lord the Member for London had not brought in any Reform Bill in 1854, or that he had not brought in any measure while he was in office. What he had said was, that during the years that the noble Lord had not only been in office but was at the head of the Government, and when he had ample opportunity of bringing forward a great measure on this subject, and with the certainty of carrying it, he had never brought in any such measure; and that that fact, coupled with the support which both the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet now gave to this Bill, tended to throw great doubts on the motives of reformers, and was likely to lead the country to suspect that they were acting from party and personal motives.


appealed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, whether, after the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for London and the right hon. Member for Carlisle, he would still persevere in his opposition to the introduction of the Bill. As to time and the state of business, if the noble Lord would consent to allow the Bill to be brought in, he would undertake to make the best possible use of the time which remained of the Session. With regard to the amount at which the franchise should be fixed, that would be a matter to be discussed in Committee. If the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) persisted in opposing the measure he would place himself in this position—that while professing to lead the Liberal party, he would, if he were to divide against this Bill, be separating himself from his own supporters, and would be converting himself into the leader of the opposite side of the House.


Before the House goes to a division, I wish to say a few words in explanation of the vote which I am about to give. I have given the deepest consideration to this subject, and I have satisfied myself of the course which I ought to take. I see two distinct grounds for refusing to vote for the introduction of this Bill. One, which I derive from the state of parties in this House, and the position of the Government; and the other from the nature of the measure itself, and the peculiar manner in which it has been brought before the House. With regard to the latter, it is quite true, as my right hon. Friend has stated, that this proposition is identical with that contained in the Bill of 1854, which my noble Friend the Member for London brought forward as leader of the House of Commons, I being his colleague, and giving my entire adherence to it. It must be recollected, however, that that measure was brought forward not only by the leader of the Government in this House, but that that leader was the noble Lord, who, of all men, is best entitled by his authority on this subject to introduce such a measure; and that it was brought forward with all the weight and authority of the Government. Neither was it an isolated proposition, as this is now; but it was coupled with many other propositions which tended, in a great degree, to neutralise it—not to neutralise it in the way of diminishing its efficiency, but to extend its value as a portion of a great measure of reform. I believe it is admitted now, even by the promoters of the original Reform Bill, that the great error of that Bill was the uniformity of its franchise. I admit, that in dealing with a question of that kind, it is a very difficult thing altogether to avoid this error, but it ought to be avoided as much as possible. Society is not uniform, and an uniform franchise will never fairly and completely represent the variety of classes into which society is divided. But the present Bill proposes to give an uniform franchise to counties and boroughs. Did our Bill of 1854 do anything like that? On the contrary, when we proposed to lower the county franchise to £10, we proposed to bring the borough franchise down to £6. If you do make the franchise uniform, what is the logical deduction? If £10 is to be the only franchise, how can you defend the existence of boroughs at all? If 50,000 men, because they live closely packed together in a certain area, and under certain conditions of life, are to send two Members to Parliament, on what ground are 500,000 men, because they live scattered widely apart, to be represented by no greater number of Members than the 50,000? An uniform franchise involves you in endless logical difficulties. Again, in the Bill of 1854, various other franchises were introduced—the right of voting was given to University graduates, to all persons with an income of £10 from the funds, to persons with a deposit of £50 in the savings-banks, to those who paid 40s. assessed taxes or income tax, or 40s. for licences. I mention these facts to show, that a question of this sort is by no means to be regarded in the same light when it is presented as an isolated proposition, as when it forms part of a large scheme. With respect to the state of parties and the position of the Government—to speak plainly of what is visible to all of us—I must say, that I think the Government exercise a wise discretion in the present state of affairs, and looking to the degree of strength which they possess, in not bringing forward questions which it may be difficult to carry through successfully. When I see the Government in a state of great difficulty with regard to that which is infinitely more pressing than this question—I mean the financial arrangements of the year—I am greatly averse from adding another to the number of their embarrassments. They have decided to oppose this Bill, and I confess their decision has weighed considerably with me. I do not wish to put them into greater difficulties than they are at present, for I am afraid, that by accumulating difficulties upon them we may weaken their hands for the settlement of that grave question at present pending, to a favourable terminanation, of which no Gentleman here, I am sure, can yet see his way clearly. Guarding myself, therefore, completely as to the opinions which I entertain on the question of reform, and without abating one jot of the confidence which I place in the people of this country, or of my belief that their growing intelligence and the independence which their increasing prosperity gives them must entitle them, sooner or later, at the hands of one Government or another, to an extension of the franchise, but objecting to this measure in its present shape, and upon the other grounds which I have mentioned, I shall feel it my duty to vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey.


said, he was sorry to trespass on the attention of the House, but he must express his perfect astonishment at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert). The right hon. Gentleman said he opposed the Motion on two grounds. The first was that it tended to uniformity. The right hon. Gentleman supported the Bill of the noble Lord in 1854; but he said, although that Bill contained this precise measure, it contained something else which took away uniformity. What did it contain? It lowered the borough franchise. Therefore, if the proposition of the hon. Member for East Surrey had also been to lower the borough franchise, the uniformity would have been done away, and the right hon. Gentleman would have supported it. The anomalies of our representation were so numerous that anybody who chose to dwell upon them might make a case against any system of franchise; but the fact remained that there was a body of men of intelligence, probity, and wealth in this country who were not represented. The hon. Member for East Surrey proposed to give them the franchise. They were an instructed race; they were a race endued with probity; and they possessed wealth. He wanted to know whether those three qualifications in constituents would endanger the character of the House? But the right hon. Gentleman had another reason. He objected to weaken the Administration. The House might anticipate that the right hon. Gentleman would to-morrow vote with the Government and against the Motion of his right hon. Colleague the Member for the University of Oxford. If the Government were wrong, then he said to the right hon. Gentleman "Vote against them." If they were right, "Vote with them." Were they right on the present proposition? At all events, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman did not prove the Government to be right, because he said distinctly he had such faith in the intelligence and probity of his fellow-countrymen that some Government or other, some day or other, must give them some such extension of the franchise. They might suppose that if the right hon. Gentleman were a Member of that Government he would support another Reform Bill, as he supported the Reform Bill of 1854. The right hon. Gentleman seemed determined to falsify the statement of the hon. Member for West Norfolk, that Gentlemen out of office voted for measures which they did not propose when in office; for he wished to postpone this measure until he should be in office;—he wished to show that he did not vote for clap-trap Motions—that he was determined to vote for the non-enfranchisement of the people of England because it would really render the franchise equal to all, and because it would weaken the Government.

Question put—

The House divided:—Ayes 179; Noes 192: Majority 13.

List of the AYES.
Acton, J. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Adair, Col. Greenall, G.
Agnew, Sir A. Greene, J.
Alcock, T. Gregson, S.
Anderson, Sir J. Grenfell, C. W.
Bagwell, J. Greville, Col. F.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Gurney, J. H.
Barnes, T. Hadfield, G.
Bass, M. T. Hankey, T.
Baxter, W. E. Harcourt, G. G.
Bell, J. Hastie, Alex.
Bellew, T. A. Hastie, Arch.
Biddulph, R. M. Headlam, T. E.
Biggs, J. Heyworth, L.
Black, A. Higgins, Col. O.
Bland, L. H. Hindley, C.
Bowyer, G. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Boyle, hon. W. G. Hughes, H. G.
Brown, W. Hutchins, E. J.
Butler, C. S. Hutt, W.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Ingham, R.
Challis, Mr. Ald. Johnstone, J.
Cheetham, J. Jones, D.
Clay, J. Keating, R.
Clay, Sir W. Keating, H. S.
Clive, G. Kennedy, T.
Cobden, R. Kershaw, J.
Codrington, Gen. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Cogan, W. H. F. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Collier, R. P. Kirk, W.
Colvile, C. R. Laing, S.
Cowan, C. Langston, J. H.
Crook, J. Langton, H. G.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Langworthy, E. R.
Deasy, R. Laslett, W.
De Vere, S. E. Layard, A. H.
Devereux, J. T. Lindsay, W. S.
Dillwyn, L. L. Locke, J.
Drummond, H. MacEvoy, E.
Duff, G. S. Mackie, J.
Duncan, G. M'Cann, J.
Duncombe, T. Mc Taggart, Sir J.
Dundas, F. Maguire, J. F.
Dunne, M. Marjoribanks, D. C.
Ellice, E. Meagher, T.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Miall, E.
Evans, Sir De L. Millighan, R.
Ewart, W. Milnes, R. M.
Ewart, J. C. Milton, Visct.
Fagan, W. Michell, W.
Feilden, Major Mitchell, T. A.
Ferguson, J. Moffatt, G.
FitzGerald, Sir J. Moore, G. H.
Forster, C. Morris, D.
Forster, J. Mowatt, F.
Fox, W. J. Murrough, J. P.
Freestun, Col. Napier, Sir C.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. North, F.
Glyn, G. C. O'Brien, P.
Goderich, Visct. O'Brien, Sir T.
Gordon, hon. A. O'Brien, J.
Gower, hon. F. L. O'Connell, Capt. D.
Grace, O. D. J. Oliveira, B.
Otway, A. J. Sheridan, R. B.
Paget, C. Smith, J. B.
Paxton, Sir J. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Steel, J.
Pellatt, A. Strickland, Sir G.
Perry, Sir T. E. Sullivan, M.
Phillimore, J. G. Swift, R.
Pigott, F. Tancred, H. W.
Pilkington, J. Thompson, G.
Pinney, Col. Thornely, T.
Ponsonby, hon. A. G. J. Thornhill, W. P.
Price, W. P. Tite, W.
Ramsden, Sir J. W. Tottenham, C.
Raynham, Visct. Vernon, G. E. H.
Ricardo, O. Walmsley, Sir J.
Ricardo, S. Warner, E.
Rice, E. R. Weguelin, T. M.
Ridley, G. Wells, W.
Roebuck, J. A. Whitbread, S.
Russell, Lord J. Wickham, H. W.
Russell, F. C. H. Wilkinson, W. A.
Scholefield, W. Willcox, B. M 'G.
Scobell, Capt. Williams, W.
Scrope, G. P. Williams, Sir W. F.
Scully, F. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Seymour, W. D. TELLERS.
Shafto, R. D. King, P. J. L.
Shelley Sir J. V. Grosvenor, Lord R.
List of the NOES.
Alexander, J. Conolly, T.
Annesley, Earl of Coote, Sir C. H.
Archdall, Capt. M. Corry, rt. hon. H. L.
Atherton, W. Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.
Baillie, H. J. Craufurd, E. H. J.
Baird, J. Cubitt, Mr. Ald.
Baldock, E. H. Dalkieth, Earl of
Ball, E. Davies, J. L.
Ball, J. Davison, R.
Baring, T. Deedes, W.
Bective, Earl of Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Bennet, P. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Dunne, Col.
Bignold, Sir S. East, Sir J. B.
Blackburn, P. Egerton, E. C.
Blandford, Marq. of Emlyn, Visct.
Boldero, Col. Estcourt, T. H. S.
Bouverie, rt. hn. E. P. Evelyn, W. J.
Bramley-Moore, J. Farrer, J.
Bramston, T. W. Fergusson, Sir J.
Bruce, Lord E. Fitzgerald, W. R. S.
Buck, Col. FitzRoy, rt. hon. H.
Buckley, Gen. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W.
Bunbury, W. B. M 'C. Floyer, J.
Burghley, Lord Forester, rt. hon. Col.
Burrowes, R. Forster, Sir G.
Butt, G. M. Fuller, A. E.
Cabbell, B. B. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Campbell, Sir A. I. Gaskell, J. M.
Carnac, Sir J. R. George, J.
Castlerosse, Visct. Gilpin, Col.
Cayley, E. S. Gladstone, rt. hon. W.
Cecil, Lord R. Graham, Lord M. W.
Chambers, T. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Chelsea, Visct. Grogan, E.
Cholmondeley, Lord H. Gwyn, H.
Christy, S. Haddo, Lord
Cochrane, A. D. B. Hale, R. B.
Cocks, T. S. Halford, Sir H.
Cole, hon. H. A. Hamilton, Lord C.
Coles, H. B. Hamilton, G. A.
Compton, H. C. Hamilton, rt. hn. R. C. N.
Hanbury, hon. C. S. B. Packe, C. W.
Hand cock. hon. Capt. H. Paget, Lord A.
Hardy, G. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Heathcote, Sir W. Palmer, R.
Heneage, G. F. Palmerston, Visct.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Patten, Col. W.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Peacocke, G. M. W.
Herbert, Sir T. Peel, Sir R.
Herbert, hon. P. E. Peel, F.
Hildyard, R. C. Philipps, J. H.
Holford, R. S. Phillimore, R. J.
Horsfall, T. B. Pritchard, J.
Horsman, rt. hon. E. Pugh, D.
Hughes, W. B. Repton, G. W. J.
Hume, W. F. Robertson, P. F.
Jermyn, Earl Russell, F. W.
Johnstone, J. J. H. Rust, J.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Sandon, Visct.
Kendall, N. Shirley, E. P.
Kennard, R. W. Sibthorp, Major
Kerrison, Sir E. C. Smijth, Sir W.
King, J. K. Smith, M. T.
Knatchbull, W. F. Smith, W. M.
Knight, F. W. Somerset, Col.
Knightley, R. Spooner, R.
Knox, hon. W. S. Stafford, A.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Stanhope, J. B.
Langton, W. G. Stanley, Lord
Lennox, Lord A. F. Stracey, Sir H. J.
Lewis, rt. hn. Sir G. C. Stuart, Capt.
Liddel, hon. H. G. Sturt, C. N.
Lindsay, hon. Col. Sturt, H. G.
Lockhart, A. E. Taylor, Col.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Tempest, Lord A. V.
Luce, T. Tollemache, J.
Lushington, C. M. Tyler, Sir G.
MacGregor, Jas. Vance, J.
Malins, R. Verner, Sir W.
Manners, Lord G. Waddington, D.
Matheson, Alex. Waddington, H. S.
Miles, W. Walcott, Adm.
Milner, Sir W. M. E. Walter, J.
Moncreiff, rt. hon. J. Warren, S.
Montgomery, Sir G. Watkins, Col. L.
Mowbray, J. R. Whiteside, J.
Mullings, J. R. Whitmore, H.
Mundy, W. Wigram, L. T.
Naas, Lord Wilson, J.
Napier, rt. hon. J. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Newdegate, C. N. Wortley, rt. hn. J. S.
Newport, Visct. Wyndham, W.
Nisbet, R. P. Wynne, W. W. E.
Noel, hon. G. J.
North, Col. TELLERS.
Northcote, Sir S. H. Hayter, W. G.
Oakes, J. H. P. Mulgrave, Earl of