§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, before the hon. Gentleman, who has charge of this Bill, proposes that we should go into Committee upon it, I wish to call the attention of the House to the very great difficulties in which this matter stands. [Mr. ROE-BUCK: Hear, hear!] The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who cheers that observation, took part in the debate on a previous stage of the Bill, and I believe he concurs in the opinion then expressed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that if we dealt with the question at all we must do so judicially, and upon principles of strict equity. My right hon. Friend pointed out that in two respects the Bill does not deal with the question in a spirit of equity. First, it includes in one mass the innocent with the guilty. And among the innocent there are, I believe, 100 who were admitted as freemen subsequently to the inquiry by the Commissioners. The other point in which it is defective and unjust as drawn is, that it disfranchises the bribed, but not the briber. As we are now sitting in a judicial character, I wish to point out all the difficulties surrounding the question, in order that we may judicially determine what is to be done with a Bill so framed. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a former occasion said justly, and I believe the sentiment received the concurrence of the House, that in these two respects the Bill ought to be rectified, if we wished to deal equitably between man and man; and he suggested that on going into Committee an instruction should be moved to the effect that the briber, as well as the bribed, should come under the operation of the Bill. He also suggested —very wisely, I think—that when you go into Committee you will have to consider whether you will disfranchise en masse the whole of the freemen, the innocent and the guilty, or make a distinction between them. My object, therefore, in rising before my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Clive) moves that we should go into Committee is to offer such suggestions as may enable us to deal with the difficulties of the question. Had he made that Motion before I rose I should not have been at liberty to move an instruction to the Committee. I mention this as an apology for intercepting his Motion. We have first to bring before us all the facts of the case, in order that we 1407 may deal fairly with it, and I believe we cannot do so unless we adopt the Motion, which I venture to propose in these words:—That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Bill that they have power to make provision therein for the disfranchisement of voters who were guilty of corrupt practices by giving money or other valuable consideration to purchase, or for the purpose of purchasing, votes.I do not wish to disguise from the House that if they do go into Committee, the question will still be surrounded with numerous difficulties, but by agreeing to this instruction you will make those difficulties less than they are now. There are, I believe, only two courses which you can properly take—that of withdrawing the Bill because it is inequitably framed, or that of agreeing to the instruction which I have suggested. By rejecting the Motion for going into Committee you would get rid of some embarrassment, but I fear that that course would lead the country to believe that you refuse to deal with these corrupt practices when they arc brought to your notice. The difficulties to be dealt with in the consideration of this Bill in Committee are these. The Bill, as it stands, will disfranchise all the freemen, amounting to between 500 and 600. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has examined the evidence, and has caused lists to be prepared of the names of those who were found by the Commissioners to be guilty of giving, and of those who were found to be guilty of receiving bribes, and the result shows that 150 of the freemen were found guilty. The Bill therefore would disfranchise some 400 who were not found guilty. I do not at all dispute the fairness of the proposition contained in the Amendments of which the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Serjeant Deasy) has given notice — namely, that such of the voters as have received certificates from the Commissioners should be exempted from the operation of the Bill, but the adoption of his Amendment would have the singular effect of letting free every voter found to be guilty with the exception of two, while it would punish by disfranchisement those who are innocent. The certificates of the Commissioners exempted the voters to whom they were given from all the penalties and disabilities to which their evidence might subject them. I need hardly dwell any longer on that part of the case, except to say that I think we should arrive with very great reluctance at any 1408 such conclusion. But if you were to proceed in Committee with this Bill as it is drawn, and without the instruction which I propose, you would not only disfranchise all the innocent and let free all who received bribes, but you would let free all the bribers also. Such legislation would be so discreditable to this House that I cannot believe the measure would ever be suffered to come out of the Committee in that shape. I may be allowed to point out the different modes in which we have dealt with subjects of this description on previous occasions. The statute under which the Commissioners proceeded is an Act of the 15th and 16th of Victoria, devised for the more effectual prevention of corrupt practices at the election of Members of Parliament; and it empowers the Crown to appoint certain Commissioners to inquire into the corruption alleged to have existed in any borough, and report the result to the Queen and the Legislature. Several constituencies have been dealt with either under this general Act or under special Acts framed on the same principle. The House has declared in two instances — namely, Sudbury and St. Albans — that where the bribery has been proved "extensive and systematic," and to have pervaded the whole borough, you should disfranchise the constituency on the ground of corruption. That course is in my opinion an intelligible one. Supposing, then, you were to regard these cases as precedents, the question would arise whether the corruption in Galway was systematic and general. Now, since the greater part of the voters,—namely some 500 of the £10 householders and between 300 and 400 of the freemen—are not proved to be venal, I think it would be a startling proceeding to treat Galway like Sudbury and St. Albans, by disfranchising it altogether. In the case of the borough of Yarmouth you adopted a different rule. Certain freemen there were shown to have been guilty of bribery, and the House disfranchised the whole of that class of votes, although the greater portion of their body were not proved to be corrupt. This Bill is evidently framed upon the precedent of the borough of Yarmouth; and therefore I would ask whether the House is prepared to say, when a considerable number, though not the majority of any class of voters has been proved to be venal, that the whole of that class shall be entirely disfranchised. Remember, if you are prepared to say this with regard to the free-men you must also say it with regard to 1409 the £10 householders. Now, I am inclined to think that such a mode of proceeding would not be just; and I should be unwilling to see it followed as a precedent, for I do not believe it would be supported either by the good sense or the good feeling of the country. A third mode of proceeding was attempted, but only attempted, to be adopted, on the suggestion of the present Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, when Attorney General. Sir Alexander Cockburn then had before him the cages of Canterbury, Kingston-upon-Hull, Barnstaple, and Cambridge, and in a most able statement he recommended this House not to follow either the precedent of Sudbury and St. Albans, because the bribery was not general in the four boroughs in question; or the precedent of Yarmouth, because, with his legal knowledge and judicial mind, he must have seen that such a course would not be just, but that you should deal with those who had been found guilty, and with those only. A long debate occurred on that occasion, and I was one of those who thought such a proceeding inequitable. I think so still. When you have given an assurance of indemnity to certain voters, provided they furnish the Crown and Parliament with evidence as to the corrupt state of a borough which, except for the indemnifying clause, would criminate them-selves, you might be acting within the strict terms of the statute in proceeding to disfranchise such voters, but you would not be keeping the promise made to their feelings and their belief. So stoutly was this view maintained that although Sir Alexander Cockburn had obtained leave to introduce his Bills, he was obliged to withdraw them, and they were never afterwards persevered with. The House, then, will bear in mind the two or three precedents which it has already sot. Which of them it should follow in the present instance I hardly know. You cannot well follow that of Sudbury and St. Albans, because the bribery was not "general and systematic." You may, indeed, follow that of Yarmouth, but then you will be confounding the first principles of right and wrong by mixing up the innocent and the guilty. Should you, on the other hand, prefer the course attempted to be pursued by Sir Alexander Cockburn, you will have to consider in Committee the point on which I believe the question will ultimately turn,—namely, whether the indemnity clause extends beyond an indemnity 1410 from penal consequences inflicted by a court of law, or, in other words, whether it extends to the ex post facto legislation which Parliament may in its wisdom think fit to adopt. I have endeavoured, after much anxious deliberation, to state as clearly and succinctly as I could the difficulties which have occurred to my mind on this subject, and I am constrained to say —although perhaps it may not be deemed satisfactory that I should not have been able to arrive at a more certain and decided conclusion—that there are only two courses which I believe we can properly take. The one is to refuse to go into Committee on this Bill; the other, to adopt the instruction which I shall move pro forma, in order that we may consider the stop suggested on a former occasion. Having discussed that instruction, you should then postpone the fuller consideration of the whole case with a view to its being equitably dealt with when in Committee. Whichever of these two courses may be thought best by the House, I should like to hear the opinions of others before expressing myself more positively than I have done. Whatever we do, let us in a matter of this nature proceed judicially, without appearing in the least degree to countenance those corrupt practices which we all wish to put down with a strong hand and a firm resolution, as long as it can be done equitably. At the same time injustice will be perpetrated by your proceeding precipitately or indiscriminately; and, rely upon it, if you do injustice in your endeavours to put down a corruption you will not carry with you the support of public opinion, but in the end and by such a course you will probably defeat the laudable object which you have so much at heart.
Motion made and Question proposed,—
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the BUI, that they have power to make provision therein for the Disfranchisement of Voters who were guilty of corrupt practices by giving money or other valuable consideration to purchase, or for the purpose of purchasing, votes.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, he had already adopted one of the courses suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, and had given notice in the course of the evening that he would move, as an Amendment to the Order of the Day, that the Bill be committed that day six months. It was inconsistent with the honour of the House that the measure should be suffered to proceed further. After the expression of opiniod 1411 elicited at a previous stage, he had expected that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Clive) and the noble Lord the Member for Northumberland (Lord Lovaine), who had charge of the Bill, would have abandoned it. There was nothing in the corruption which had taken place at the Galway elections that would justify so extreme a proposal as that embodied in the Bill. If the noble Lord (Lord Lovaine) was determined to punish past transactions, let him turn his attention to his own county; let him look to the borough of Liverpool, where, out of 3,600 freemen, 2,600 were on one occasion proved to have received bribes, not of the paltry amount of £1 or £2, but of the amount of from £10 to £40 or £50. 600 received sums from £10 to £20; 460 from £20 to £30; 209 from £30 to £40; and 25 from £40 to £50. He had expected that the Government would not have been disposed to countenance any proposition so unjust as that suggested by the hon. Gentleman. The occasion of this Bill was the Report of the Royal Commission, appointed to inquire into the practices alleged to have taken place in Galway. The Commission stayed there fourteen days; every facility was afforded to them, and eleven days were spent in minute inquiry; upwards of 400 witnesses were examined. What was the result of their Report? That, though at the election in 1852 corrupt practices existed, yet after the most rigid scrutiny, they were forced to admit that there were no corrupt practices at the election in 1847. The late Attorney General endeavoured to do away with the effect of that statement, by saying that in 1847 there was no contest; but it did not follow that bribery might not exist where there was no contest; money was expended as frequently to prevent a contest as to secure a seat. It was further stated, that the disfranchisement of the freemen would not materially reduce the constituency, because many of the 668 freemen were the occupiers of houses which gave them the requisite qualification, but they preferred registering themselves as freemen. That, however, was not the case, because the Returns showed that a very large number of the houses were occupied by females, by minors, by persons who did not pay the rates, and others. And the Report admitted that not more than forty could possibly register as occupiers. The qualification in Galway was purely an industrial one — practice of a trade and residence—admission by special 1412 favour was abolished by the Reform Act. Previous to the Irish Municipal Act the Mayor adjudicated on the claims of those seeking to be placed on the freeman's roll, this duty was now performed by an officer appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and after he had affirmed their claim they went before the assistant barrister to he registered, the same as the occupiers of houses. It could be proved, moreover, by reference to the Returns, that as a rule the freemen did not vote for reward, of which no proof could be stronger than the fact that Mr. Flaherty, who did not spend one halfpenny, had a larger number of freemen voting for him on one occasion than any other candidate. With all the facilities afforded to the Commissioners they could only make out a list of thirty-two persons who had in 1852 received money, and 179 in 1856. He contended, then, that considering all the circumstances of the case, it would be most unjust to disfranchise all the freemen of Galway for the offence of a few, many of whom considered that they were only being remunerated for the labour they had performed, and this, too, at a time when so many propositions were submitted to Parliament for extending the franchise. By the Act of the 15 & 16 Vict, the House pledged itself to every person who might have been engaged in any corrupt practices at elections, and made disclosures of them as a witness before a Commission, that he should be exempt from all punishment, disabilities, and incapacities; and would any one venture to say that it was no punishment to deprive a man of his vote? To say that the indemnity granted by the Commissioners only extended to protection from certain acts touching bribery would be to make the pledge of the State a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. No hon. Gentleman in that House would ride off on a quibble like that, and he trusted that the House would not collectively, because a Corporation was supposed to have no conscience, pass such an unjust Bill as the present.
§ MR. G. CLIVE
said, the House had now two courses before it, either of which they might adopt. The one was to get rid of the Bill altogether; the other, to adopt the instruction moved by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole). The speech of the right hon. Gentleman appeared to him, however, to be founded on the fallacy which had run through the entire discussion on this Bill. That fallacy was, that they could not act lest they should punish 1413 the innocent with the guilty. It was said they ought not to disfranchise the innocent because they were innocent, and they were not to punish the guilty because, although they were proved to he guilty, their offence had been condoned by the evidence they gave. It should be remembered, however, that out of about 550 freemen, the right hon. Gentleman admitted that 150 were guilty. [Mr. WALPOLE: I was wrong; I should have said 250.] Well, that was nearly one-half of the whole number; and if, under these circumstances, the House did not adopt some such Bill as that under consideration, it might as well put the Act for inquiring into corrupt practices behind the fire. Previously to the passing of the Reform Act any persons might be admitted as voters for Gal way at the will of the Mayor and Corporation; and there was a tradition, though he would not vouch for its truth, that a whole regiment of soldiers, numbering some 700 men, had carried a particular election. After the passing of the Reform Act the Corporation fell back upon the Act of 4 Geo. I. c. 15, and no precautions were taken with regard to the admission of freemen. One of the witnesses, Mr. Michael Morris, a barrister and Recorder of Gal way, stated that up to 1832 the freemen were admitted by the Corporation at pleasure, without birth or service; and that afterwards they proceeded under the Act of George I., which had not previously been enforced. Mr. Morris said—The new practice then degenerated into the system which I think was never contemplated by the Legislature, and voters are or may be admitted by their popularity; and this state of things arises, or may arise—that, as to an unpopular man who voted on the unpopular side at the last election, if it fall to the gallery to decide, they will decide against the right of admission.Then came the report in which the Commissioners stated that out of 550 electors who voted at the last election 250 had been actually bribed, and they also expressed their belief that since 1852 the grossest bribery has been practised in the borough. The Commissioners stated that, notwithstanding the difficulties of the inquiry, it had been proved that 250 of the registered freemen had given their votes, either in 1852 or 1857, for a corrupt inducement, a number which did not, however, in their opinion, by any means include all those who had been corruptly influenced. The Home Secretary wished to draw a distinction between the general body of voters and those against whom bribery had been 1414 proved; but he (Mr. dive) believed that if the freemen wore disfranchised, the more respectable portion of them would obtain the franchise in another way. When the Bill for the disfranchisement of St. Albans was before the other House of Parliament, the Earl of Derby evidently thought that no distinction could be drawn, and said that in all cases of such a description some guiltless individuals must suffer for the sins of those who had been open to corruption. Some hon. Gentlemen had seemed to suppose that the recommendations of the Committee were prompted by sinister motives, but he could assure the House that they had only sought to discharge a very disagreeable duty to the best of their ability, and that they had endeavoured to follow the precedents set in the cases of Yarmouth, Sudbury, and St. Albans. He might add, that he had received a letter from Mr. Patrick Blake, who was a candidate for Galway at the last election, denying that he had stated that "the bank of Ireland would not stand Galway," and, considering the high character of Mr. Blake, he (Mr. Clive) was sure that statement would have its full weight. He must, however, observe that Mr. Blake said over and over again that he declined to remain a candidate on account of the expense of a contest for Galway, which was saying much the same thing in other words. He was sure the House would not deal with the question in any vindictive spirit, and he would leave it in their hands.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said that, with respect to the accusation of the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon, he only took the course in the Committee which he thought best. He for one would be no party, under any circumstances, to the punishment of men who had given their evidence under the guarantee of an Act which had promised them protection from legal proceedings if they came forward and made a full disclosure of their conduct as voters at the election. He thought, however, that as the matter must either be passed over entirely, the whole town be disfranchised, or only the class of persons who were proved to be corrupt dealt with, the best course was to accept the proposition of his hon. Friend (Mr. G. Clive) on this Bill and disfranchise the freemen; and he should therefore support it.
MR. SERJEANT DEASY
said, that it appeared to him that if the House adopted 1415 the instruction to the Committee proposed by the right hon. Gentleman it would be impossible to proceed with this Bill; for then it would be, not a measure of policy, involving a general disfranchisement, but a Bill of Pains and Penalties against individuals who were protected by a solemn guarantee. When the Act passed under which the inquiry in this case was conducted, it was considered desirable to obtain evidence in the best way possible, in order to proceed against persons guilty of corrupt practices. A clause was therefore inserted by which protection was given to those who gave information by the promise of exemption from all penalty if they got the certificate of the Commissioners under the Act. This provision held out inducements to persons in Galway to give information, and on that inducement they acted; and it was on their evidence alone, given under this guarantee, that it was proposed to disfranchise those very persons. He was by no means favourable to the freemen of Galway, on the contrary, he wished to see their franchise abolished; but he wished it done in a proper manner, and by a future Reform Bill, but not by disfranchising particular individuals. By adopting the instructions to the Committee, the House would he keeping the pledge given to the persons in question to the ear, but breaking it to the sense, and rather than that should be the case, he would prefer the third course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, that of not proceeding with the Bill.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, that of all the surprising things he had seen in that House, the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Cork was the most surprising, indeed it was so extraordinary that the only way to get rid of it would be by giving up the Bill altogether. It was a proposition to let the guilty parties go free, and to punish the innocent. Dr. Brown, who knew all about the state of things in Galway, and through whose hands the money passed, was obliged to admit in his evidence that numbers of the freemen would not accept bribes, and yet there was a proposition to disfranchise those who resisted Sir Thomas Burke and Lord Clanricarde, and the magistrates and deputy Lieutenants, and let them go free who had taken bribes. He would maintain that the Bill was unfair and unjust, because it only punished the victims and did not punish those who caused the corruption. According to some of the evidence there was to be no bribery 1416 or treating at the election, and the purses of Mr. O'Flaherty and Lord Dunkellin were to be spared; but when Colonel French came into the field, money was given to the freemen, and you had no right to turn on the wretched starving victims of bribery and say that they were to be punished. He held in his hand a petition from 340 freemen of Galway, who declared that they never had received or would receive a bribe; and would the House confound them with the guilty? All the great men of the place were guilty of bribery, and yet they were allowed to go free; and that being so, this was an unjust Bill, and ought to be got rid of. If he voted for it, it would be only on condition that the names of the magistrates and Lord Lieutenant, who had bribed the voters, were also inserted in it. Under all the circumstances he thought the best plan was to get rid of the measure and wait for the Reform Bill which they were to have early next year, and which he expected with the more confidence, inasmuch as the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) seemed the other night to stand godfather to the Ministry on this subject, and to vouch for their intentions.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, that the question before the House was one of great importance, and would, he hoped, be treated in a judicial spirit. The address of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), was inconsistent with itself, because if they agreed to the instruction he proposed, they would imply that no indemnity had been offered to the witnesses. It was therefore evident that the House had only two courses before it. They must either go into Committee on the Bill, or accept the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) and reject it altogether. He did not think they could make it an instruction to the Committee to include certain names in the Bill, for that would make it a Bill of Pains and Penalties, nor did he think that they could include in it the names of those who were not voters for Galway. If the House rejected this Bill, on the other hand, they would be placed in this position, that having passed special Acts for disfranchising particular boroughs, as the result of the reports of Commissions of inquiry, and having then passed a general Act for the purpose of procuring the disclosure of acts of bribery, they would hold that that very Act had tied their hands, and prevented 1417 them from passing any further disfranchising Acts, however extensive and systematic the bribery might be shown to be. These so called freemen were freemen of a peculiar class. They were freemen of a non-existent corporation. They were admitted without right or privilege, and merely for the purpose of being placed on the electorial list. Since 1832 they had been distinguished for their corruption. Out of 540 freemen in the borough there wore cases of bribery proved against 250, and the Commissioners reported that they had reason to believe that further cases existed. Indeed, it appeared from the evidence of one person, that he had lost a list of bribed voters, including 35 names. That was the case they had to deal with; and if the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Serjeant Deasy) was good for anything, it was that their hands were tied by the Act of indemnity. Suppose that act did not exist. Could the House doubt in such a case, that if the borough was to be dealt with at all, it could only be by disfranchising the freemen as a class? No doubt, some innocent persons might be thus disqualified as freemen, yet nearly all of them would he eligible for registry as rated occupiers, although they had hitherto preferred the freeman franchise. The number of innocent freemen, therefore, who would be injured by this Bill would be very small indeed. Well, then, did the alleged statutable indemnity protect these persons? The Great Yarmouth case was relied upon as a precedent. In that case a Committee having reported that great corruption had existed amongst the freemen, a Bill was carried by a large majority disfranchising the freemen as a class, although it had been contended by Mr. Stafford that only those proved to have been bribed should be disfranchised. St. Albans and Sudbury had been disfranchised, although similar indemnities had been given in those particular cases, which were afterwards given in general terms by the Act of 1854. In a case which had occurred since that Act, the Bill for disfranchising a borough was withdrawn, not because of the general language of the Act, hut on account of certain placards distributed by the Commissioners of inquiry. If the true construction of the Act was not that the indemnity merely extended to the penal consequences of their acts as individuals, for what purposes were these Commissions issued? He believed, therefore, 1418 that no valid reason had been given why they should not proceed with the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that before he proceeded to put the question, he desired to state why it was that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department properly took precedence of that of the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon—although that hon. and gallant Member had given notice of his Motion in the early part of the evening. An instruction to a Committee was not in the nature of an Amendment, and properly preceded the question that the Speaker do leave the chair; and if the instruction upon the present occasion should either be accepted or rejected by the House, the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon would equally have an opportunity of making his Motion upon the question that the Speaker do now leave the chair. But if the other course were pursued, and the hon. and gallant Member's Motion wore rejected, there would be no opportunity afforded to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department to move his instruction to the Committee.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I regret I cannot concur in the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department has submitted to the notice of the House. I shall, upon the contrary, feel it to be my duty to support the simple Motion of my hon. Friend who has brought in the Bill. There are, I admit, some difficulties in the case with which we are called upon to deal; but, upon the whole, I cannot help thinking that the natural and proper course to pursue is to proceed with the measure to disfranchise a class of voters among whom extensive corruption has been proved to have taken place. I am of opinion that we should he setting a very bad example, and adopting a course calculated to produce a very bad effect upon the public mind, if this Bill were to be withdrawn, and no proceedings taken, notwithstanding that a Committee and a Commission have been appointed to inquire into the subject with which the measure proposes to deal. I cannot perceive the force of the argument that the disfranchisement of a class of freemen is a punishment which is precluded by the indemnity which may have been extended to them. I think that indemnity can fairly and properly be regarded only as a security against any punishment which might attach to them as a consequence of a legal prosecution founded upon the evidence which they may 1419 have given. Indeed, I am of opinion that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman tends directly to a violation of the indemnity of which so much has been said, because it aims at an individual selection on account of conduct in respect to which this evidence has been adduced, whereas the Motion of my hon. Friend, which, founded upon the suggestion of a Commission, amounts to a legislative dealing with a whole class, cannot with justice he construed as any violation of that indemnity. If, indeed, we are precluded by this promised indemnity from taking proceedings to purify a borough in which great corruption has been proved to have prevailed, all our inquiries might as well have never been instituted. You cannot get at the fact of corruption without obtaining the evidence of those who are parties to it, while you cannot procure that evidence without promising to indemnify them against the consequences of their conduct. If, then, having granted them that indemnity, you thereby preclude yourselves from taking any steps to purify the constituency, you had better forego an inquiry which can have no prospective effect. Entertaining the opinions which I do upon the subject, I cannot, I repeat, support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department.
MR. WHITE SIDE
said, he trusted the House would recollect the circumstances that had occurred when the Bill came on for a first reading. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), addressing the Government, asked if they were about to punish the men who took the bribes, and let the bribers go free. The House seemed to think that it would be unjust to adopt such a course, and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) had consequently brought forward his Resolution in order to effect the punishment of those who gave the money as well as those who took it. In the noble Lord's (Viscount Palmerston) anxiety to purify the borough of Galway, he would disfranchise the whole of the freemen, the effect of which might perhaps be to confer political influence on the men who gave the bribes. Having been called on by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) to examine the lists, that they might discriminate as well as they could between the guilty and the innocent, he went through them, and he found that though a great number of the freemen, 200 out of 660, had received bribe?, the remainder, although strongly 1420 tempted, had the extraordinary virtue to refuse the bribes. While admitting the force of the argument that the Act, under which these proceedings were taken, was passed in order that they might receive evidence on which to legislate, he could not understand the principle on which they were to disfranchise a whole town and were yet to be precluded from disfranchising a few individuals. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) and the Government were anxious to discriminate between the innocent and the guilty, and he regretted that in the schedule now before the House there were, amongst the bribers, not to be found two names which he thought it would be the duty of the House to deal with on a future and perhaps more fitting occasion.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
remarked that there was an old saying to the effect that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, but that it seemed the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton desired to eat those different birds with different sauces. Upon the one side, in the case of Galway, were the bribed—the poor, the many, and the unfortunate. They were to be punished wholesale under the operation of the Bill which the noble Lord had announced it to be his intention to support. Upon the other side there were a set of men by whom those poor people had been bribed. In their behalf, a sense of justice came over the noble Lord, and he was ready to come forward and to say, "Do you not recollect we have given those men indemnity?" That indemnity ought to be extended to the poor bribed; but, exclaimed the noble Lord, "We punish them wholesale; and to punish wholesale is no punishment at all." He should wish to know what was the meaning of a principle such as that? Why, it was as plain as the sun at noon day, when there was no cloud. The fact was that the poor, the many, and the unfortunate were to be disfranchised for the purpose of placing the borough in the hands of the bribers. Now, to take that course would be to commit an act of injustice, not only against the parties concerned, but against the county itself. By a solemn Act the Legislature had given these parties indemnity, not simply from punishment, but from disability, and he should like to know what was the meaning of the word "disability" if it was not to take away 1421 from a man the right of voting for a representative in Parliament. The proper way to deal with the subject was to treat it as a whole, and not piecemeal. It had been suggested facetiously that the House should wait for the Bill of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, but what was meant facetiously might really be very true. The right course was to prevent, not to punish. They ought to wait for a Reform Bill, and not, under the pretence of purity, to commit an act of signal injustice. He was quite convinced that if the House were to pass this Bill it would be committing an injustice under the guise of purity—under the pretence of sanctity they would be thorough-going sinners. They had promised indemnity by Act of Parliament, and persuaded the poor people of Galway to give evidence—they had given them a certificate against consequences, and now those people were to be told that this Bill did not punish, therefore an injustice might be perpetrated by it.
§ MR. COLLINS
observed, that he wished to remind the House that when St. Albans was disfranchised Mr. Bell was permitted to remain a Member of Parliament.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn. Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 152; Noes 121: Majority 31.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, he should take the sense of the House on the Amendment of which he had given notice, and would therefore move as an Amendment, that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day six months.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that, although he had voted against the instruction proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he thought it would be a bad example not to go on with the Bill, and, therefore, he could not support the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: — Ayes, 226; Noes, 51: Majority 175.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.1422
§ House in Committee.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he hoped that at that hour (one o'clock) the Committee would think it right to adjourn the further consideration of the Bill to some future day. He moved that the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again on Friday.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
suggested, that it was desirable to consider whether the House ought not to call witnesses to the bar before proceeding further with the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the Bill before the Committee proposed to disfranchise the freemen of Galway as a class, but, as the House had just agreed that it should be an instruction to the Committee to distinguish the innocent from the guilty, it would be desirable that the Committee should have the names before them of those whom it was proposed to disfranchise.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, the Attorney General for Ireland had instituted an examination into the case, and had prepared a schedule of the bribers and the bribed. He (Mr. Walpole) should like to make a further distinction—namely, a distinction between those of the bribed voters who had received certificates from the Commissioners, and those who had not; and it was with that view that he asked to have the Committee postponed.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, there was one gentleman who had acted for a party who had not gone to the poll. He hoped that that gentleman would not be included in the disfranchisement.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he saw no reason why those who had given bribes should not be placed in the same category as the unfortunate persons who had taken them.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he wished to ask the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair as to the course that he proposed to take. He wanted to raise the question as to whether they were to take the evidence in the blue book as sufficient, or whether they were to have the witnesses examined at the bar of the House. He wished to know whether it was proper for him to make that Motion to the House?
§ MR. FRENCH
said, he hoped the Members of the late Government would not try to upset the decision of the House by a side wind.
§ House resumed; Committee report progress; to sit again on Friday.