§ MR. SPEAKER
reported, That the House had been at the House of Peers at the desire of the Lords Commissioners appointed under the Great Seal for opening and holding this present Parliament; and that the Lord High Chancellor, being one of the said Commissioners, made a Speech to both Houses of Parliament, of which Mr. Speaker said he had, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy, which he read to the House.
§ ADDRESS IN ANSWER TO THE SPEECH
§ MR. DODSON
Sir, in rising to propose that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in answer to the gracious Speech we have just heard read, I cannot but regret that this honourable task has not fallen into the hands of some older and more experienced Member of the House—some Member more competent to speak with weight on the various and import- 48 ant topics adverted to in that Speech. But I derive encouragement from the consideration that the topics adverted to in the Speech are of such a nature that no shortcomings of mine will be allowed to impair or interfere with the unanimity with which, I venture to hope, the Motion I am about to submit to the House will be received. As far as I am personally concerned, I venture to hope that that indulgence which the House in its kindness never fails to extend to those who, like myself, address it for the first time will not be withheld from me. Amongst the various subjects mentioned in the Speech from the throne which afford grounds for congratulation is one which, I regret to say, forms a prominent exception, and that is the position of affairs at Canton. On such an occasion as that on which I have the honour to address the House I am anxious to avoid introducing any debated or debateable matter. On the original merits of the dispute with China I shall therefore offer no observation. But I believe that while both sides of the House concur in regretting the hostilities in which we are involved, both sides also approve of the propriety of the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government in sending out, on the one hand, reinforcements of troops, and vessels of a class suited for warfare in the Chinese waters, and on the other hand, in testifying to their readiness to conclude an honourable peace and their anxiety to act in the spirit of justice by sending a plenipotentiary so eminent and so successful as a negotiator as Lord Elgin. Indeed, I trust that the policy of this country towards other nations will always be found to be in accordance with the dictates of justice, and, in the case of weaker powers, not only of justice but of mercy. But I must observe that when we have to deal with the overweening pride of a semi-civilized nation, reason and experience alike show that forbearance and concession are too often considered to be a mere sign of weakness. I trust that the people and the Government of China will learn before long to estimate properly the real strength of this country, and to appreciate the motives that actuate her conduct, and that the result of existing complications will be to place our relations with that country on an intelligible and enduring basis. We have also been engaged in hostilities with another Eastern Power—Persia, which seems to have supposed that it could brave us with impunity. This House has learned with satisfaction that a treaty of peace 49 with that Power has been signed at Paris, which, I hope, is an honourable one to that country, and will not fail to secure to England those objects for which we engaged in war. Meanwhile the results of our operations in the Persian Gulf and the advance of our troops into the interior of the country, will serve to show that there is no coast so inhospitable, no climate so formidable, and no country so inaccessible, as to be secure against the energy and valour of the British soldier; and I trust that our successes in Persia will have the effect of spreading the prestige of the British name amongst the most remote tribes of Central Asia. I venture further to hope that these successes will prevent that country from entering into relations with any other Power unfavourable to England, or from endeavouring to retain possession of a place of such growing importance as the city of Herat. I allude to Herat as a place of growing importance for increased facilities of communication, and the extension of commerce by means of that system of land carriage which has of late years enabled that mode of conveyance, in some instances, even to supersede carriage by water, are tending to restore the caravan routes of Asia to somewhat of their ancient importance. Herat is, in short, not only a centre where great commercial and great military highways meet and intersect one another, but an inland Gibraltar which commands and controls them. With respect to countries nearer home, Her Majesty gives us the gratifying assurance that peace and harmony prevail, and that friendly relations subsist between her Government and those of other European powers. The main stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, we are told, have been already fulfilled; and I may add that their I fulfilment reflects great credit on the vigour and discretion which have been displayed by Her Majesty's Government. The next subject is that of the Sound Dues, which has also, I am happy to say, been settled; whilst the storm-cloud which was gathering over Neufchatel has been dissipated. I regret, however, to learn that the negotiations; respecting the state of affairs in central America have not yet been brought to a close; but I hope I am not too sanguine in anticipating, both for the sake of the United States and of this country, that there exists no reason to apprehend a contest between two nations so intimately connected as are England and the United States of America. Such a war would, 50 indeed, be so detrimental to the interests of the two countries, and so pernicious to their prosperity, that I am scarcely using the language of exaggeration when I say that the greatest calamity which could befal either State next to defeat in such a war would be to be victorious in it. Her Majesty has commanded the Estimates to be laid before us, and I shall not trespass upon the time of the House by dwelling in anticipation on the measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bring forward; but I trust he may be able to realize that combination of economy with efficiency which we all so much desire, and to maintain a high state of the public service in conjunction with that immunity from oppressive taxation which has been shadowed forth in the Royal Speech. I trust that the financial measures of the Government may be in accordance with the principles of that policy which, by giving freedom to industry and to capital, has so much contributed to promote that well-being and contentment of the people on which Her Majesty has congratulated us—that well-being of the community at large to which the condition of agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and shipping bears such striking and irrefutable testimony. I am convinced this House will not shrink from that sacrifice of time and labour which the onerous task of amending the law, so prominently recommended to us in the Speech from the Throne, will require. If this House should in the Session, which has now commenced, deal successfully with those long-vexed questions, on that account alone it may lay claim to have conferred most important and most beneficial measures on all classes of the community. I trust that the House of Commons over which you, Sir, have been called on to preside will prove itself by the breadth and comprehensive character of its measures of legislation, an honourable and worthy successor of the Parliaments which have preceded it. I trust that it will, by continuing the work of reform in season, and not by making premature changes, nor yet delaying renovation till it may be necessary to have entire reconstruction—I trust that, by pursuing that true English policy, we may contribute in our time to maintain England in that proud position which she occupies amongst nations. With regard to those less ambitious and more pressing measures of practical improvement and domestic reform—if it be not too presumptuous in one so inexperienced as myself to venture 51 the observation—I hazard myself to say that this Parliament possesses peculiar advantages for enabling it to carry out such practical and useful measures; for in the returns made to the House by the different constituencies of the kingdom, I see no antagonistic array of interest against interest, of class against class—no symptom of a conflict between town and country, or between the different portions of the empire—no differences in fact but those which result from conviction and reason, and which therefore may, by the same motives, be converted into harmony and unanimity. And indeed, if I may venture to go a step further without being thought guilty of presumption in alluding to so unimportant an individual as myself, I would say it is a happy augury of the agreement which on questions of social improvement may be expected to prevail among the Members of the House to find that the Address to the Throne is moved and seconded by the representatives of two such very dissimilar constituencies as the hon. Gentleman who sits on my right hand (Mr. Buchanan) and myself—that it is moved by one who has the honour of representing a county situated in a purely agricultural quarter of England, embracing within it several towns, one of them the largest and most rapidly growing town in the south of England, towns intimately connected with agriculture, or the resorts of wealth and pleasure; and that it is seconded by one who represents one of the greatest commercial ports of the empire, and one of the busiest hives of mining and manufacturing industry. I beg leave to conclude by expressing my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the House for the kindness, forbearance, and indulgence with which they have listened, and by moving that a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to the gracious Speech which She has ordered to be addressed to both Houses. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—
§ "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey to Her Majesty the Thanks of this House for the gracious Speech which Her Majesty has commanded to be made to both Houses of Parliament:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has availed Herself of the earliest opportunity of having recourse to our advice and assistance after the Dissolution of the last Parliament; and we 52 unite with Her Majesty in trusting that there will be found sufficient time during the present Session to enable us satisfactorily to deal with various important matters, some of which had occupied the attention of Parliament in the beginning of this year:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the general aspect of affairs in Europe affords a well-grounded confidence in the continuance of Peace:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that all the main stipulations of the Treaty of Paris have been carried into execution, and to assure Her Majesty that we participate in the hope that what remains to be done in regard to those matters will be speedily accomplished:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Negotiations upon the subject of the differences which had arisen between the King of Prussia and the Swiss Confederation, in regard to the affairs of Neuchâtel, are drawing to a close, and that Her Majesty trusts that those Negotiations will be terminated by an arrangement honourable and satisfactory to all parties:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Negotiations in which She has been engaged with the Government of the United States, and with the Government of Honduras, in regard to the affairs of Central America, have not yet been brought to a close:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that a Treaty of Peace between Her Majesty and the Shah of Persia was signed at Paris, on the 4th March, by Her Majesty's Ambassador at Paris and by the Ambassador of the Shah; and to thank Her Majesty for Her gracious intimation that this Treaty shall be laid before us as soon as the ratifications thereof shall have been duly exchanged:
§ "To assure Her Majesty that we share Her regret that, at the date of the latest advices from China, the differences which had arisen between the High Commissioner at Canton and Her Majesty's Civil and 53 Naval Officers in China, still remained unadjusted, and to convey to Her Majesty our thanks for informing us that She has sent to China a Plenipotentiary fully instructed to deal with all matters of difference, who will be supported by an adequate Naval and Military force in the event of such assistance becoming necessary:
§ "To thank Her Majesty for informing us that, in conjunction with several other European Powers, She has concluded a Treaty with the King of Denmark for the redemption of the Sound Dues; and that this Treaty, together with a separate Convention between Her Majesty and the King of Denmark, completing the arrangement, will be laid before us, and also that Her Majesty will cause the measures necessary for fulfilling the engagements thereby contracted to be submitted for our consideration:
§ "Humbly to thank Her Majesty for having directed the Estimates for the present year to be laid before us, and for the assurance that they have been prepared with a careful attention to economy, and with a due regard to the efficiency of the departments of the Public Service to which they severally relate:
§ "To assure Her Majesty that we will take into our earnest consideration Measures which are to be proposed to us for the consolidation and improvement of the Law, and to thank Her Majesty for apprizing us that Bills will be submitted to us for improving the Laws relating to the Testamentary and Matrimonial Jurisdiction now exercised by the Ecclesiastical Courts, and also for checking fraudulent breaches of trust:
§ "To assure Her Majesty, that we concur in the expression of Her heartfelt gratification at witnessing the continued well-being and contentment of Her People, and the progressive development of productive industry throughout Her Dominions:
§ "Humbly to thank Her Majesty for assuring us that She confidently commits to our wisdom and care the great interests of Her Empire, and to declare that, in com- 54 mon with Her Majesty, we fervently pray that the blessing of Almighty God may be vouchsafed to our deliberations, and may lead us to conclusions conducive to the objects of Her Majesty's constant solicitude, the welfare and happiness of Her loyal and faithful People."
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, that he felt much pleasure in seconding the Address. He concurred in all the statements which had been so well expressed by the hon. Mover; and it would be superfluous upon his part to enter into the consideration of topics which had already been brought so ably before the House, were it not that it seemed desirable that those Members who represented large constituencies, and who had recently enjoyed the opportunity of observing what were the sentiments and opinions that prevailed among them, should report to the House the results of their observation. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had submitted to the country the question of "Content" or "Not content" with his Administration, and more particularly with his foreign policy. That was the issue which the constituencies had been asked to decide, and their answer had been a verdict, if not unanimous, at least pronounced by a large majority of votes, in favour of the Government of the noble Lord. Another important conclusion had at the same time been established. The recent elections had shown that neither eloquence, nor talents, nor long and valuable public services, could maintain the position and influence of statesmen who placed themselves in opposition to the general convictions of the country. It was not because the public had ceased to admire the eminent talents of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone)—it was not because they had forgotten the great services of the hon. Gentleman who had lately represented the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden), that the majority by which those gentlemen had been supported in the last Parliament had been reversed. All their talents and all their eloquence could not carry the country along with them. Unsophisticated public opinion could neither comprehend their arguments nor appreciate their policy. It was because the noble Lord at the head of the Administration had announced a policy by which the honour of England was to be maintained, 55 and by which the representatives of the nation in foreign lands were to receive the support of the Government by which they were employed—it was on that account that the constituencies had given the noble Lord such an enthusiastic support. Let them look at the question which had immediately led to the dissolution of the late Parliament. That question had been regarded out of doors as one involving large and important interests; while a general impression had prevailed that it had been discussed in Parliament in a narrow and technical spirit. The seizure of the Arrow, the legality of the licence under which that vessel had sailed, and the various details of the transactions which preceded the outbreak of hostilities at Canton, were all, no doubt, very important, and had very properly been deemed fit subjects for careful consideration and analysis; but more important still were the broad bearings of our relations with the empire of China. It was not because the people of England were anxious for a Chinese war, or for any war, that they had come so enthusiastically to the rescue of our authorities in that remote quarter of the globe; but it was because they believed it to be necessary that our rights and interests in that country should be firmly maintained. Our connection with China was altogether peculiar. For 200 years Great Britain had had no representative in China except a trading Company. We had with that Empire no political relations—in fact, scarcely any recognized relations whatever. The East India Company had not perhaps been to blame for the pacific—the too pacific—policy they had adopted; they had naturally pursued the course which they believed to be best calculated to promote their own interests. But that course, it would be admitted, had been detrimental to the interests of this country. It had for a long series of years been the habit of the East India Company, while enjoying the monopoly of a lucrative trade, to submit to such treatment as the Chinese officials might think proper to compel them to submit to. It must have been by express orders from Leadenhall Street that the supercargoes of the factory at Canton had so completely abjured the spirit of Englishmen as to submit to the treatment they had experienced. That state of things had continued for nearly two hundred years; and when an occasion arose in which it became necessary for the British Government to put forth its power, and to establish with 56 the Government of China the relations which usually subsist between the representatives of civilized States, it was found that the matter was one of extreme difficulty and delicacy. It was after a series of the most vexatious and harassing negotiations or rather quarrels and embroilments which terminated in the death of Lord Napier, that we obtained the ratification of the Treaty of Nankin. By that Treaty we obtained free access for Europeans to the northern ports of China, and that access, it should be confessed, had been liberally and courteously conceded. But in the south of China, at Canton, a less satisfactory state of things arose. Under the provisions of the Treaty that city also ought to have been thrown open to Europeans; but that stipulation had been from the very first resisted, and had never since been fulfilled. So far from the hostile conduct of the Cantonese being softened, feelings of increased hostility arose, subsequent to the signing of the Treaty. No language was deemed too offensive for designating the "outside barbarians," and no acts were regarded as too savage for the gratification of their implacable animosity. Under these circumstances was it to be supposed that the representatives of Great Britain in that country could tamely stand by and witness an outrage offered to the British flag? If that outrage had been allowed to pass unnoticed it was clear that the arrogance of that peculiar people would have become more inflated than ever, and negotiation would have been all but impossible. But we came in contact with the Chinese not only in China, but also in all the neighbouring seas. That industrious and commercial race had spread themselves over the Indian Archipelago, and they were to be met with in Borneo, in Sumatra, in Java, and in Siam. They had also emigrated in great numbers to our own settlements in those seas, and had largely increased the population of Australia and California. The condition of the British in these settlements had, in consequence, become somewhat critical. At Singapore there were 70,000 Chinese and only a few hundreds Europeans. At Penang and Malacca the relative numbers of the two races were still more disproportionate. Now it should be remembered that those Chinese immigrants were in constant correspondence with their countrymen; that they took part in their political designs; that the secret societies of China had; ramifications in the colonies in which their countrymen had settled. The dan- 57 gers which might, under such circumstances, arise to a small handful of Europeans scattered over extensive regions were very serious. It was well known that within the last few years outbreaks of the Chinese settlers had taken place at Penang and Singapore; and the recent sanguinary insurrection at Sarawak showed the boldness and the combination of the Chinese race after they had left their own homes. Could any one with these facts before him say that it would be wise to pursue a vacillating and an uncertain policy amidst so many elements of peril? Let us never forget that the empire of Britain throughout Asia derives its stability from "opinion." The dominant minority are a mere handful among surrounding millions. Once break down the prestige which our arts and arms have obtained, and from the Gulf of Persia to the Yellow Sea our Empire will totter to its base. Under present circumstances, he was glad to find that the Government had sent as their representative to China, Lord Elgin—a nobleman of tried capacity and experience, and well qualified to deal with the difficulties by which he would find himself surrounded. The difficulties with which that nobleman would have to contend with were not confined to British relations with the Chinese, but were aggravated by the encroaching and insidious policy of a Power which had recently shown itself in the north-east of China, and was advancing in a manner calculated to fill us with just alarm. It was well known that Russia within the last ten years had acquired a very large territory on the Amoor River—a territory which might at some future period, be made available for purposes inimical to the commerce of this country. This was a subject well worthy of consideration. He hoped he would be allowed to take that opportunity of saying that there was another question of foreign policy which was most interesting to the people of this kingdom—he alluded to the present state of Southern Italy. He hoped it would not be considered that he was travelling too far beyond the routine prescribed for the Seconder of an Address in reply to a Royal Speech if he called the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and of the House, to those feelings which prevailed so extensively throughout the country, of abhorrence and detestation of the disgraceful scenes which were taking place in certain portions of the Italian Peninsula. He felt no apprehension of 58 want of firmness on the part of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in discountenancing such proceedings; for the noble Earl had too frequently exhibited his truly British spirit to leave any room for doubting that he had upon all occasions protested in the most decided manner against those abuses of power which were at present to be witnessed in the south of Italy and in the Roman States. But—and he was sure he should carry with him the sense of the House—he wished on that occasion, in the name of peace and humanity, to record his protest against the misgovernment of Naples. They were at the commencement of a new Parliament; and they might regard that occasion as an epoch in constitutional history, as a landmark by which to measure social and political progress of the country. There were many persons who looked to the assembling of a new House of Commons as the auspicious era for inaugurating many important reforms. He trusted that their expectations, in so far as they were just and reasonable, would not be disappointed. There was one subject at least, which must soon occupy the attention of the Government, and that was the extension of the franchise. He was not one of those who supposed that an increase in the number of electors would necessarily secure the return of a better House of Commons. If the question were to be argued on the mere ground of expediency, he did not know that a case could be made out in favour of electoral reform. But the question was not one of expediency; it was a question involving the rights of the poor, which were as valid as the rights of the rich, to political privileges within the limits of the constitution. On that ground it ought to be discussed; and he might add, that if those rights were moderately and at the same time firmly expressed, it would be necessary for the Government, not only to entertain, but to endeavour to dispose of the question. If, however, a lowering of the franchise should be found necessary, it should most assuredly be accompanied with a measure for the establishment of a system of general education. It would be in the highest degree objectionable that the franchise should be extended to uneducated voters, and upon that narrow ground, if there were no other, he would advocate a great educational measure; and he thought that, considering the many able men on both sides of the House who had devoted their attention to that subject, such a measure 59 might before long be adopted. The Royal Speech expressed the congratulations of Her Majesty on the prosperity of our commercial condition. He fully participated in the feeling which dictated those congratulations; but he might be allowed to say that there were at present to be perceived in this country symptoms well calculated to inspire uneasiness, if not anxiety. One of those symptoms was the excessive dearness of money. It was impossible that the industrious portions of the community could prosper under a state of things which extinguished profits and ate up the vitals of trade. It was said, and he perfectly agreed in the opinion—that the present state of things was not anomalous, and that it might be deduced from obvious causes. But, however that might be, he believed that if the evil should continue to operate as severely as it did at present it must be productive of ruinous consequences. Under these circumstances, he was very happy to find that the Banking Committee was about to be re-appointed, and he trusted that that Committee would not assemble with any foregone conclusion. He hoped that they would examine all parties; that they would be liberal in admitting evidence, and that they would allow no monopolist influence to prevent a searching inquiry, which alone could produce wise and impartial legislation. Those were some of the questions which must occupy the attention of the new Parliament, and it was only becoming in the House that they should assure Her Majesty, in reply to Her gracious Speech, that they were prepared to devote their time and best attention, and to exhibit all their zeal and energy, in legislating for the welfare of the country. He begged leave to second the Address.
§ The Motion for the Address was then read, and Question proposed by Mr. SPEAKER.
§ GENERAL THOMPSON
said, he could not appear without shame before his friends and constituents if he did not enter a protest against what they had heard that evening in reference to the Chinese question. He felt it his duty to state that those who coincided in opinion with the late Parliament, or at least with a majority of that body, did not intend to let that question pass without bringing it to the utmost extent of their ability before another inquest of the country. Their constituents, in, great numbers, believed that that conflict had arisen entirely from 60 the voluntary act of an official. They were grieved to see that the Government appeared disposed to set up the principle that anything that an official might do should be allowed to pass without remark. His constituents were working men, and they wanted to know whether war was to be an instrument at the disposal of every official abroad, for the purpose of drawing away their hard earnings, in order to make fortunes for officers of the Crown in foreign countries? For into that the question resolved itself. They said further, that they regarded the proceedings in China as opposed to the national honour and dignity. They believed, that by "civilization" was meant smuggling, and the doing of things piratical in themselves, and contrary to the law of nations. It would ill become him upon that occasion to take upon himself the office of advocating that great cause; and he only wished to state that there prevailed upon the subject a feeling throughout this country which would not be quieted without further examination.
§ LORD ROBERT GROSVENOR
said, that as the question on which the late Parliament had pronounced its decision just before its dissolution was more in the nature of a judgment upon past transactions at Canton than the expression of an opinion as to our future policy, he had hoped that the Chinese quarrel would have been left in abeyance on the occasion of moving an Address in reply to Her Majesty's Speech to the new Parliament. In the few remarks he was about to address to the House he did not mean to touch in any way upon that topic. Although at the commencement of many previous Parliamentary Sessions our foreign relations had presented a more cheering aspect, he was gratified to find that there was no serious reason for apprehending a termination of the peace which now reigned in Europe. The Mover and the Seconder of the Address, and more especially the Mover, had addressed the House in speeches characterized by considerable ability; but he thought the hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Address had travelled a little out of the record. Both those hon. Members had, however, naturally confined their attention mainly to points referred to in the Speech of Her Majesty, to which they were only moving a reply. If that were not the first occasion on which a new Parliament had assembled, he should not have attempted to address any remarks 61 that evening to the House, and he did not mean to disturb, by anything he should say, the unanimity with which he hoped the Address would be received. He rose principally for the purpose of stating that as they all came fresh from their constituents, after having talked over with them the affairs of the country, they ought, as he considered, to take the earliest opportunity of making known what was the policy which those constituents wished the House should carry into effect. He did not pretend to be the organ of any section in that House, or to speak for anybody except himself; but as he had returned from a longer interview with his constituents than any other Member, perhaps, in the House, inasmuch as he had addressed, during a period of nearly three weeks, public meetings in various parts of the metropolis, and of the county of Middlesex, he hoped it would not be altogether unbecoming upon his part to lay before the House a brief outline of the measures which his constituents were anxious to see passed into law. One of the subjects in which they felt the strongest interest was that of a reform of Parliament, or, to adopt the hustings' phrase, he should rather say an extension of the suffrage. He entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Address, that a case of expediency could hardly be made out as an argument for such a change. He believed that, as Mr. Cobden had once said, there was very little doubt that the House of Commons, as at present elected, substantially reflected the public opinion of the country. But that was not the whole of the case with which the House had to deal. The hon. Gentleman, the Seconder of the Address, had said that they would have to direct their attention to the propriety of extending the suffrage to the poorer classes. There was, however, a further point for their consideration. It was not altogether a question of giving the franchise to the poorer classes, as many persons who were not poor did not possess the suffrage, and that was one of the evils that the public desired to see remedied. The great Reform Bill of Lord Grey—or he should, perhaps, rather say of his noble Friend the Member for London (Lord J. Russell)—was certainly a very great step in advance; but he thought that an experience of its working during a period of nearly a quarter of a century showed that that measure contained defects and anomalies 62 which were at present susceptible of a remedy. The forty shilling franchise was certainly very low, but under the existing system of land tenure and the working of society there were considerable numbers of persons who did not enjoy the franchise, although they were, perhaps, better qualified for properly exercising the right of voting than many persons on whom that right had been conferred. There was another important consideration involved in this question. They all disliked to have a perpetual succession of reform bills, and that unsettlement of the public mind so prejudicial to the good working of Government to which the introduction of a constant series of such measures would necessarily lead. He believed it would be a very good thing if the noble Lord at the head of the Government—(whom his constituents desired him to support, and whom both he and they desired to see long occupying the place he now filled)—at once announced that he was prepared to bring in a measure of a more elastic and self-acting character than the Reform Bill under which the House was at present elected. At the same time he did not think that the whole power in that case should be given to mere numbers. He did not know whether his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley) meant to bring forward in the course of that Session his usual Motion for the establishment of vote by ballot; that was a measure at once simple and compendious, and might be treated on its own merits; but he (Lord Robert Grosvenor) should deprecate any attempt to deal in a piece-meal fashion with the question of Reform, and he hoped that the Government would, at the commencement of the next Session, introduce a Bill for its settlement in a large and comprehensive spirit. For himself, he thought that man would be no true friend to reform who, during the present Session of Parliament, should seek to introduce a measure of that kind. Passing from this point, there was one subject, with regard to the practices—he would not exactly say the corrupt practices, but practices highly inexpedient at elections—to which he would shortly call the attention of the House. He had had the good fortune and the honour during the last Parliament to induce it to take two steps out of the four recommended by the Committees of 1834–35. One was the limitation of the county polling to one 63 day, and the other the entire prohibition of treating at elections. He had shown himself, he hoped, not altogether an unsafe guide upon this subject, and it was his anxious desire to induce the House to take the two remaining steps—namely, to prohibit the conveyance of the voters to the place of polling by candidates, and to do away with the absurd anomaly of making the candidates pay the expenses of the hustings. He did not wish at the present moment to enter into any argument upon these topics, but desired merely to inform the House, while candidates were still smarting under the expenses of the election, that it was his intention at the earliest possible period to introduce a Bill upon that subject. There was another point upon which his constituents were most anxious. As the Address had been moved by one hon. Member representing a county, and seconded by another returned for a mercantile town, perhaps the House would like to hear the opinion of what might be termed an amphibious Member in this respect. He was such a one, being the representative of both. That subject was church rates. It was one upon which the constituency of the county which he had the honour of representing, and indeed the whole country, had shown itself extremely anxious; and without the slightest disparagement to the hon. Gentleman who now represented the Tower Hamlets, he (Lord R. Grosvenor) deeply regretted the absence of Sir William Clay, who had so long given his mind to this question, and who had so perseveringly and so ably brought it under the attention of the House. In his opinion, there was only one way of settling the question, and that was for Her Majesty's Government to bring forward a Bill upon it. Should they decline to do so, he was himself prepared to propose a measure to the House; but he hoped the noble Viscount at the head of the Government would think that on a matter so deeply affecting the interests of the Established Church the Bill should proceed from the Treasury Bench, and not be left in the hands of any private Member. He should not trespass further on the House with regard to the question, than to say it was absolutely necessary that something should be soon done. Another point to which it was necessary to call the attention of the House was, that position in which the House stood with respect to its membership. They were not a complete House at that moment. Some of their Members were amputated; they 64 must do something for the purpose of restoring the lost Members. He trusted the noble Viscount would introduce a measure for restoring the paralyzed limb of the metropolis; and with respect to the disfranchised boroughs, it would be his (Lord R. Grosvenor's) duty to make a claim, and a very strong one, on the part of that large portion of the constituency he had the honour of representing, residing in Chelsea, Kensington, and Hammersmith, and who were not possessed of a vote for the county of Middlesex, to the vacant seats. The population of those districts was very large and important, and had a strong claim to representation in that House. He mentioned this subject, not only because it was one in which his constituents were peculiarly interested, but because it was at the same time one of Imperial concern. Another important subject—one, indeed, in which the metropolis was vitally interested—was the equalization of the poor rates within the metropolitan districts. That was a question which peculiarly affected the metropolitan districts, but though in a great measure local, it was deserving of serious consideration. He was quite aware that there were upon that question various opinions, but he thought it one of paramount importance. Having had occasion to make addresses upon these topics to his constituents, he could not sit still and refrain from expressing frankly and fairly in that House their desire. After thanking the House for their patient attention, he said it was not his intention to propose any Amendment to the Address. He quite rejoiced at the manner in which it was drawn up, which was such that he thought no Member would withhold his assent from it. This was the more desirable because it was an occasion upon which the House was brought into contact with their much-reverenced and much-loved Sovereign, and, therefore, the Address should, if possible, be so framed that they should all be able to agree to it.
§ MR. W. EWART
regretted that no allusion was made in the Speech from the Throne to the question of a Minister of Justice. That subject was brought forward in the last Parliament by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Napier), and, on his Motion, an Address was agreed to by the House. In the Speech from the Throne reference was made to many law reforms, but he could not see how those reforms were to be accomplished unless they were 65 to have a source or fountain from which they might be derived. The foundation of all law reform was, in his opinion, the establishment of a Ministry of Justice. The question of Parliamentary Reform had been justly alluded to by the noble Lord behind him, who, coming fresh from his constituents, had conveyed to the House an echo of their opinions. He did not wish to press this question on the Government prematurely, but thought the best course for Her Majesty's Ministers to pursue would be, to obtain such returns, and lay them before the House, as would enable Parliament and the country to form an intelligent opinion upon any measure which might be proposed in a future Session. The returns he alluded to would be such as to contrast the effect of the extension of the suffrage on an educational basis with its extension on a property or other qualification. When those documents were laid before them, they would be able to found a new Reform Bill upon a safe and secure basis, and he hoped to hear from the Government that such a proposition was not alien to that line of policy which they had prescribed for themselves.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, there seems to be so little disposition upon the part of the House to go into any detailed argument upon the Address, or to enter upon a discussion of the various matters to which the Speech refers, that I shall not take upon myself to do that which other Members do not seem disposed to do, and which the House, therefore, will not expect from me. There are, however, one or two points which have been touched upon with respect to which I feel it necessary to say a few words on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I will allude first of all to the topic referred to by my hon. Friend behind me. There was an Address moved and agreed to last Session with regard to the establishment of a Department of Justice. That Address was moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin. We stated at the time that that was a subject full of difficulty in regard to the mode in which the proposition should be carried into execution, and the hon. and learned Gentleman I am sure fully concurred in that view. I can only say on that point, therefore, that we have under consideration the best means of accomplishing the object which the hon. and learned Gentleman and the House had in view, and I trust that 66 we shall be able to propose to the House some arrangement which will sufficiently carry out the purposes which that Address had in contemplation. I quite concur with my noble Friend who spoke just now (Lord R. Grosvenor), that, considering the shortness of the period during which Parliament can in this present Session sit—considering, also, the great importance of the many practical measures of improvement which are indicated in the Speech from the Throne, and which will be proposed to the House, it would be highly inexpedient that this House should enter into the discussion of so large and sweeping a question as a change in the representation of the people in Parliament; because such a discussion could not lead to any conclusive result in the present Session of Parliament, while it is obvious that discussions begun in one Session, and which are to be concluded by measures in the next, could only unsettle the minds of men, and lead to anticipations which would embarrass those who might in a future Session have to propose measures for the consideration of Parliament. But, Sir, on the other hand, Her Majesty's Government admit that it will be their duty, during the period which will intervene between the conclusion of the present Session and the beginning of the next, to take this subject into their fullest and most deliberate consideration. It would be very unsuitable for me, at a moment when the Government have not had the opportunity of giving to that matter the consideration which is due to it, to say anything in regard to the details of measures that might be proposed in a future Session, which would imply anticipatory conclusions, and which, by fixing the Government upon one point or another, might lead afterwards to disappointment if the result did not correspond with the expectations raised, and which, at all events, would embarrass the free consideration and decision of the Government during the period to which I have alluded. But it will be the duty of the Government—in the ensuing recess—to give to that matter their most anxious and most serious consideration, and I hope, indeed I am confident, that at the beginning of the next Session we shall be able to propose to Parliament some measure which will, we think, be well calculated to meet the just expectations of the country, correct those defects which exist in the present 67 system of representation, and extend the franchise to classes of persons now unmeritedly excluded from that privilege. More than that I trust the House will not expect me to say. If this House has confidence in Her Majesty's Government, they ought so far to exercise their forbearance as not to endeavour in this Session to press Her Majesty's Ministers to declare themselves on particular points in reference to representative reform; but if it has not sufficient confidence in the Government as to be willing to wait till next Session on a matter that requires so much and such grave deliberation, they had better at once say so and place the administration of the affairs of the country in other hands. I am, Sir, glad in being able to congratulate the House on the prospect of the continuance of peace which the present condition of affairs in Europe holds out as mentioned in the Speech of Her Majesty's Commissioners. I trust that the animosities engendered by the great conflict in which a part of Europe was engaged for two years will give way to the more peaceful relations and intercourse which have succeeded that war, and that the great Powers who were engaged in that contest, feeling that their permanent interests are identified with the maintenance of good relations with each other, will cast into oblivion all those sentiments of hostility which the conflict for a time may have created, and permit them to be replaced by feelings of good-will and friendship. I trust, too, that all the great Powers of Europe will discover that freedom of commercial intercourse and a development of the national resources form not only the best system of policy for the interests of their particular countries, but also create a link of union with other countries which otherwise might occupy an adverse position. The more a country advances in material wealth and prosperity, and the more its Government developes its internal resources, the more, on the one hand, will it increase its means of defence should defence ever become necessary; and, on the other hand, the greater will be the interests which will be bound up in the maintenance of peace and the existence of which will dissuade Governments from entering into or prosecuting unjust wars. There is one question which my hon. Friend touched upon which we know is regarded as a great question; I mean the question of church rates. Well, Sir, that also is a subject which the House 68 is well aware is full of practical difficulty. That subject is now under the consideration of the Government, and I hope we shall be able to propose some measure on it which will alleviate the difficulties which have hitherto presented themselves. I cannot promise definitively to propose a measure until we have made up our minds upon the subject; but that matter is under the consideration of the Government, who anxiously desire to frame such a measure as shall be satisfactory to the different classes of the people of this country.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I congratulate the House that we have now a distinct pledge from the noble Lord that he intends next year to bring forward a measure of Parliamentary reform. There is no mistake as to his intentions. The noble Lord tells us that in the present state of the representation there are great anomalies—that various classes are not now represented in this House who deserve to be represented, and that it will be the duty of Her Majesty's Government during the recess to frame such a measure as will confer the representation upon these classes. Accepting from the noble Lord, that statement with the interpretation I have put upon it, I can only say I am not one of those who might be inclined to interrupt the course of business in the present Session. Having a clear and distinct statement from the noble Lord that it is his intention to deal with the question of Parliamentary reform, I shall not interfere with his efforts by throwing any obstacle in his way. Such being the interpretation which I have placed upon the words of the noble Lord, I thought it only right to state to this House, plain, simple, straightforward and intelligible, the pledges which the noble Lord had given to the House, and which the House would not forget.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee appointed "to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. DODSON, Mr. BUCHANAN, Viscount PALMERSTON, The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Sir GEORGE GREY, Mr. SECRETARY LABOUCHERE, Sir CHARLES WOOD, Mr. VERNON SMITH, Mr. BAINES, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Sir BENJAMIN HALL, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND, The LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. LOWE, Mr. BOUVERIE, Mr. HAYTER, and Mr. FITZROY, or any Five of them:"—
§ To withdraw immediately.
§ Lord Commissioners' Speech referred.
§ The House adjourned at ten minutes past Six o'clock.