HC Deb 08 June 1858 vol 150 cc1733-93

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to cause the Votes of Parliamentary Electors to be taken by way of Ballot. That, he said, was the twentieth anniversary of Mr. Grote's last Motion in that House in favour of vote by ballot. It was sixteen years ago since Sir Henry Ward made his Motion, which he (Mr. Berkeley) had the honour of seconding. It was exactly ten years ago since he was lucky enough to persuade the House to pass a Resolution in favour of vote by ballot. Since that time he had met with various success. He had once succeeded in bringing in a Bill, and had laid it on the table; but it was too late in the Session for it to go to a second reading, and it accordingly dropped through. The Bill which he now asked leave to bring in might, in strictness, be called a "Corrupt Practices Prevention Bill." The Attorney General had promised to consider that subject, and to bring in a Bill to amend the late Act, which had been found to work so badly; and although his (Mr. Berkeley's) Bill would be much dishonoured in being found in such company, yet he would be satisfied if the Government would allow him to bring it in, and place it side by side with the Bill of the Attorney General before a Select Committee. The present Government were bidding for liberal measures, and here was a fair proposal to them. But he knew there was no chance of their accepting it. The loss of influence which such a Bill, if passed, would cause, would lead them to keep the Bill out of the House as long as possible. He was certain that they would not consent to it until the voice of the people out of doors was so strong that they could not resist it. He founded his Bill upon the sound axiom, that they had no right to create a functionary without giving that functionary adequate protection in the discharge of the functions of his office. While so a large number of Members in that House were independent of the electors who sent them there—while the electors, who, by a strange fiction, were supposed to elect the Members, were under the control of the Members themselves whom they elected or their friends or families—while the House of Commons continued to be a sort of preparatory academy for the young scions of nobility, awaiting there until called to take their seats elsewhere, and voting in the Commons just as their fathers voted in the Lords—while boroughs and counties went by favour and not by election—while the electors were not independent voters, but mere voting machines, so long might the people of England expect that legislation emanating from so corrupt a source would be corrupt, and that the interests of the few, and not the many, would be consulted. What he would say upon this question had been much better said by an hon. Member of that House some ten years ago, while speaking to a Whig Cabinet upon reform in Parliament. He would read an extract from the speech of Mr. Bernal Osborne, then Member for Middlesex, in reply to Lord John Russell, who was the head of the Whig Ministry of the time, on a Motion made for Reform in Parliament by the late Mr. Hume. He said:— There are 274 persons connected with Peers and the aristocracy in this House, besides forty-four officers of the army, eight of the navy, exclusive of those who are officially connected with the Government, making, in the whole, 334 Members who are under the direct influence of the aristocracy. Let it not be supposed that I am attacking the individuals; I am attacking the system, not the men. I say that the power of the aristocracy has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. What is the whole foundation of the present Government in this country? Its foundation rests upon family arrangements. Nearly the whole Cabinet are related to each other by ties of birth or marriage. They form a snug family party. They so far differ from another exhibition called 'The Happy Family,' that whereas in the one case all the animals are distinct in species, in the other, whilst admitting the great knowledge and talents of individuals, you can only account for their ricketty offspring in legislation by knowing that the parents are all related. Look at the Treasury bench in this House—it is occupied by the scions or attachés of the great Whig families, chequered here and there with some statistical man of the people, just to give a popular tone to the composition. If you find the representative of a large Liberal constituency in such company, you may be sure that his former principles have become sickly, and that his present associates have treated him as Gypsies are reported to treat stolen children—disfiguring them to make them pass as their own. Whichever way you turn, whether to the colonial management or to diplomacy, it will be found that Government has been carried on for the benefit of the aristocracy. But the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) says that the Howards and Stanleys are not to be precluded from holding situations. I say that they have just as good a right, and no more than others, to hold place. We do not complain that Howards and Stanleys hold office, but we complain that Lord Tomnoddys are thrust into place, while others, who are much better fitted to occupy them, but who are not of such high birth, are excluded.—[3 Hansard, c. 166.] Far be it from him to endorse those opinions of the hon. Member. He doubted whether his hon. Friend now the Member for Dover would agree with himself as Member for Middlesex. He (Mr. Berkeley) should he ungrateful if he agreed with his hon. Friend, while he had fresh in his Memory the brilliant speech of the late Sir William Molesworth, at that time in the Cabinet, upon the subject of the ballot. He would not say that by taking office the principles of hon. Members for large constituencies became sickly; but he would say there was something soporific in the effects of office, from which all great questions of reform, and particularly the question of the ballot, had suffered from time to time. He regretted the loss of the powerful assistance of Mr. Cobden, and at a time when the names of Gibson and Bright were not upon the Rolls of Parliament, he had looked for the assistance of his hon. Friends to aid his weak advocacy of the question by their strength. He had looked in vain for support to the late law officers of the Crown, who had expressed themselves strongly for the ballot. He had read the evidence of Sir Alexander Cockburn when Mr. Cockburn, and saw how strongly he spoke in favour of the ballot. He listened in vain to hear that hon. and learned Gentleman's voice. Again, where were the dulcet notes of Bethell? those notes which discoursed such sweet music to the electors of Aylesbury, assuring them that no reform could he perfect without the ballot. Alas, he looked around, and he was obliged to say with the poet, "Cold is Cadwallo's tongue." If their friends had, according to the hon. Member for Dovor, been stolen by the Whig Gypsies and disfigured by them, there was now an end of it, for the great king of the Gypsies, even Temple, the great Gypsy king, was dethroned, and the Gypsy Whig camp was broken up, and they might now rub off their stains and disfigurement, and once again be known to and rejoiced in by their friends and constituents. It was not his intention to enter into the theoretical question of the ballot, for their arguments had never been answered. Nothing could be more practical than the mode in which the advocates of the ballot had dealt with the subject, and they had been met with guesses, with loose assertions, and baseless surmises. They had challenged, and still challenged, hon. Members to point out any country in which the ballot had failed, where the ballot was carried out in its true meaning. He did not speak of the urn and folded voting paper, of the mere box and ball, but he meant secret voting. General Perronct Thompson, in one of the many abler papers which he had written on the ballot, ridiculed anything like publicity being introduced where the ballot was concerned. It reminded him, he said, of some little girl who had no objection to play at blind man's buff provided holes were left fur her eyes. The supporters of the ballot challenged its opponent to mention any country were the institution was attended with opposite results. It secured purity of election, peace, and order, and the services of the most responsible men who could be found.


rose to order. He thought it was out of order for the hon. Member to be reading his speech, which he appeared to be doing, or something very like it.


said, he should feel much obliged to the hon. Member who had so courteously interrupted him to lend him a pair of glasses, and then he might be able to read his speech; but as it was, without holding the paper close to his eyes, he was unable to do so, and, in fact, did not do so; and he thanked the House for acknowledging it by that cheer. Attempts had been made to object to the results of American statesmanship, and to deny that they were such as he had described. The other day he had the good fortune to attend a public meeting held in honour of Mr. Nicholson, who carried the ballot in Australia, and at that meeting he bad the pleasure of hearing a working man who exemplified the benefits of secret voting in a manner which struck him extremely. He (Mr. Berkeley) had had not the advantage of seeing his speech reported, but he had himself heard the speaker address the meeting to the following effect:—"We are told," said this working man, "that we craftsmen, builders, shoemakers, and so forth, should not elect propers Members of Parliament were we allowed by the upper classes to choose for ourselves. But when we do choose for ourselves do we elect the wrong persons? Look at our clubs—our friendly and benefit societies? I have always found a disposition among my class to elect persons superior to ourselves in education and station in life." Was the ballot, he would ask, likely to change this system? Have not the Americans chosen eighteen successive and ballot-elected Presidents? And could they improve or better their choice by any other mode of election? He would venture to take any eighteen hereditary monarchs from any country in Europe, and compare them with the eighteen ballot-elected American Presidents; and even though those eighteen hereditary monarchs included the brilliant examples of Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, he thought they would suffer by the contrast. He was not opposed to hereditary monarchy—he accepted it as part of our glorious constitution—but while he accepted an hereditary monarchy, he was opposed to an hereditary Ministry, and that was one of the curses under which this country suffered. If they referred to a country unclogged with elective corruption, and compared it with America, which was exactly the reverse, they would see how far their public officers differed from ours. Let them only regard the conduct and intelligence of American Ambassadors, and compare them with similar qualities in the Ambassadors of England, where Ambassadors were selected either because they were Court favourites, or because their families possessed Parliamentary influence. In America, talent alone formed the qualification. When did an American Ambassador ever meet, an English one that the American did not have the best of it? But what has become of the other institutions of the country? Where was the inventive power of the nation? It was crushed by a spirit of favouritism engendered by an all-pervading nepotism. Take any department whatever; the army department, for instance, and compare it with the American army department, and see how it fell by the comparison. The new inventions in warfare were all borrowed from foreigners. The French taught us how to make great great guns and musquets with their Paixhan and Minie ex- amples, We knew nothing of a revolver before Colonel Colt brought it to England, during the late Russian war, after it had long before been in use in America. So well was it known, indeed, in the war in Mexico, that the Americans attributed to its use the great success of their cavalry over that of the Mexicans. The Americans said of us—"The bravery of the English displayed since at Balaklava was deserving of all admiration; but what shall we say of their war department? If these 600 devoted heroes who charged at that bloody fight had served Uncle Sam, and not John Bull, they would have been so armed as to have been enabled to fire thirty-six hundred shots at close quarters upon the dense masses of the enemy with whom they were engaged. The carnage would have been great, and retreat would have been secure." That seemed to him (Mr. H. Berkeley) to be plain sense; but if we were behindhand with our army, what should he say of our navy? We had been taking lesson after lesson from America; and so great was the contempt in which our Admiralty was held in America, that public men had not scrupled to call the Board of Admiralty a board of asses. At the present moment the Americans had armed their forces, naval and military, with the breech-loading rifle; and the fearful prospect held up was, that if we compared the practice of the American small-arm men and marines and soldiers with the practice of our own, we should find that they could fire four shots fur cur one. Our wretched system precluded our being taught by anything but disaster. It was from the Americans, too, that our Admiralty had learned the possibility of building ships on one deck as powerful as line-of-battle ships. The cause of this lack of energy and failure of our executive was very obvious. The people of England were not represented in that House, which to a great extent was under the influence of the aristocracy. The executive was not filled by men of talent, and a vast overwhelming nepotism crushed our inventive genius. If a reform of Parliament were necessary, what was the inevitable step towards that reform?

The first step in the measure that could constitutionally be taken, was to free the electors who were now bound hand and foot by a power which they could not resist, and that was to be done by no other means than protection at the polling booth. He (Mr. Berkeley) had lately had the honour of a visit from an Irish gentleman of an old Tory family with which he had been long acquainted, who had been some time resident in Australia, where the ballot had now become the mode of voting. He confirmed every word which Mr. Nicholson had said in public or private on the subject. He (Mr. Berkeley) had raised before them the question which he had so often asked before of every one he could meet who was acquainted with Australia: "Is there any class of persons who are opposed to the ballot in Australia at this moment?" The answer was "Yes, there is a class;" and when he asked who they were, the answer was, "The Roman Catholic priests; for the Roman Catholic priests believe that their power is much lessened by secret voting." He further asked, "Was there any other class?" and was told "No; the lower orders and ruffianly part of the community complained of the ballot, simply because they could not break the bones of Jack, Tom, or Harry, whom they suspected of voting against their friends." Here then was the answer to those who said, the priests will get to the bottom of the ballot box. You must not give us in Ireland the ballot, because the power of the priest will remain while the power of the landlord will be destroyed—what a picture of freedom of election in Ireland! At present the screw put upon the voter was both a mental and a personal screw; it was here the priest and there the landlord; so that, with the unfortunate elector between them, it was "pull devil, pull baker." People, however, who were very fond of setting class against class, were in the habit of saying—"If you have a ballot-elected Parliament, it would refuse any extension of the franchise." Now this was one of the many quirks and quibbles of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, for whom he (Mr. Berkeley) entertained a very sincere respect; but he was unable to give his argument in this instance any better designation than that it was a quibble. The class of objection which had been taken by the noble Lord in this instance, and his pertinacity in abiding by and defending the rotten institution of open voting, reminded him (Mr. Berkeley) of the lines— His oft-repeated quirk he still repeats, New-raised objection with new quibble meets, Till, sinking in the quicksand he defends, He dies disputing, and the contest ends. Indeed, the stock-in-trade of those who opposed the ballot in Australia were the quips and quiddities of the Rev. Sidney Smith, and the quirks and quibbles of the noble Lord the Member for London. Perhaps they might be met by the noble Lord's saying, "Oh! that is a remote colony, and we cannot take as an example such a remote colony as Australia." He would caution the House against sneering at the Anglo- Saxonrace in Australia. They sneered too long at their American colony, until one fine morning King George the Third awoke and found he had lost the first jewel in the British Crown. But what colony or people surpassed the loyalty of their Australian brethren? None whatever. During the Russian war, so eager were the colonists for information, that the authorities were obliged to placard the country and state the latest facts as they arrived, and when disasters fell upon this nation forth came the men of Australia and subscribed a larger amount than the whole of Scotland and Ireland together. Then, he would say, let them turn not their backs upon that colony, but look at their example and follow it. The annual discussion of this question did this—it exposed practical instances of tyranny and those malversations against the exercise of the franchise which annually occurred, and they were thus annually laid before the country and exposed to view. He would show hon. Gentlemen who pretended that these things did not take place, and who said that the aristocracy were becoming more politically pure, that they had not a leg to stand upon. First, he would ask the attention of the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), and although he had not the pleasure of that hon. Gentleman's acquaintance, he would ask him why he was so decidedly opposed to the vote by ballot? That hon. Gentleman at his election made a strong exposition to his constituents of the use of the screw, and the strong use made of that screw stood recorded by him. He had in his hand the speeches of Mr. G. W. Hunt and Mr. Vernon, delivered after the Northamptonshire election was over—they were spoken from waggons in the market-place. The hon. Member, in speaking to the crowd, said,— He had told them he would go against the ballot through thick and thin. They all knew that the candidate was at the head of the polling, according to the circumstances of each locality. At Peterborough, Mr. Vernon was at the head of the poll, and he (Mr. Hunt) knew he would be, from the reception which he met with there; and there was one other place—namely, Wellingborough, where he was in a minority, there being 261 for Hunt and 392 for Vernon; but they all knew, said the hon. Member, the sort of screw which was put upon the people who worked upon benches, and they knew also that in that neigh- bourhood there was a landed proprietor who put on the screw for the Whigs. [Cries of 'Name, name,' from the crowd.] He (Mr. Hunt) had been twice beaten with the screw at Northampton, and he knew the screw was used. [Cries of 'Yes, you do, because you put it on yourself.'] Mr. Vernon then rose and addressed the meeting at some length, but he (Mr. Berkeley) was not going to inflict it upon the House. The candidate took a political view of things, and intimated that that election had thrown more light upon the necessity for the ballot than any election before. He (Mr. Berkeley) would thank both hon. Gentlemen of North Northamptonshire. To the sitting Member (Mr. Hunt) he would return thanks for his exposition on the use of the screw—from an opponent to the ballot such evidence was worthy of attention. Mr. Vernon deserved great credit for his manly defence of protected voting, seeing that his father and two of his brothers-in-law voted against the ballot and his father-in-law had been proprietor of two rotten boroughs. Now, what would those say who pretended that the aristocracy had become more virtuous? He had shown the House some racy specimens of what took place. The House would recollect that at the comencement of every Session they passed an order to prevent Peers interfering at elections. There was a book upon the table, admirably collated by a learned Gentleman of that House, and at page 96 hon. Members would find the Sessional Order to which he alluded, in their own pompous and inflated diction:— It is a high infringement of the liberties and privileges of the Commons of the United Kingdom," said they, "for any Lord of Parliament, or other Peer or Prelate, to concern himself in the election of Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament. Now, when they insisted upon recording that Order, it put him in mind of Dogberry, when that public functionary expressed his determination to have himself recorded in a particular manner. They knew that this Sessional Order was a pharisaical pretence, for they never intended it should be acted upon; they knew that full one-third of the Members of the House were returned by Peers of Parliament, and they knew too that the Peers laughed at and ridiculed the Order, and, if he might use a common phrase, "took a sight at them." He held in his hand a letter from Lord Lilford to G. W. Hunt, Esq.—written at the time of the last election—and he (Mr. Berkeley) must say that it showed much contempt for the Orders of the House. The noble Lord said— You will also forgive me for saying that neither in principles nor position in the county do I think you sufficiently qualified to represent it in Parliament. Holding these opinions, without any personal disrespect towards you—I must request that my tenantry may not be canvassed for votes in your favour. He (Mr. Berkeley) did not know how the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire treated that communication, but he knew what he would have done himself—he would have canvassed every man and have given them a chance of freeing themselves from the tyranny under which they rested, and of going to the poll against it. But the hon. Member (Mr. Hunt) had on his part not been without a Peer's screw. By no means; for if Mr. Fitzpatrick Vernon had on his side the lofty Lilford, Mr. Hunt had on his "the bold Buccleuch." He (Mr. Berkeley) possessed a circular sent by that nobleman's steward, and addressed to his Grace's tenantry; and if the document was not so offensive and dictatorial as the other, it was equally significant, and probably equally effective. Mr. Payne said, "he would feel obliged to Mr. So-and-So if he would attend the election on Monday next. Mr. Hunt had his Grace's best wishes." Now, the hon. Member (Mr. Hunt) had not moved that proceedings should be taken against Lord Lilford. The fact was, that if Lord Lilford were seen standing at the polling booth marshalling his tenants, no notice would be taken of it, in spite of the strong order which was passed every Session. Perhaps hon. Members might say, "Why did not the hon. Member for Bristol take notice of it?" His answer to that would be, "I am taking proceedings, and I am now making a Motion and showing you the proper and constitutional way in which these voting machines may be freed from his Lordship's bonds;" and instead of passing pharisaical orders which meant nothing, they might do much—give justice to the people, and act with credit to themselves by giving the electors adequate protection in the discharge of his duty. It had been his custom to bring this subject forward annually, and not only to show up the malversation of the franchise at various elections, but to criticise the speeches of the various candidates. In doing that he had never been influenced by party spirit, and had never treated this question as a party one. Several elections had recently taken place consequent on the advent to power of Lord Derby. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) was asked a few questions; they were not very ably put, and the right hon. Gentleman had no difficulty in doing what the Americans called "generalising" the subject; however, as coming from the leader of the Tory party, perhaps he (Mr. Berkeley) could not object to the right hon. Gentleman's replies. The right hon. Gentleman said he was opposed to the measure of the ballot, among other reasons, because he thought it would diminish the influence of property. Nothing could be more true. It would do so. In that one sentence was contained the real opposition to this measure. They dreaded the loss of influence. It might do very well to address such language to a meeting of countrymen and farmers, and tell them the influence of property would be diminished; but that language would not do in that House, because he who used it would be called upon to explain its meaning. He (Mr. Berkeley) would show that the just and constitutional influence of property would not be endangered, but unconstitutional practices would be entirely destroyed. There could be no difficulty in arriving at that conclusion. From the right hon. Gentleman he would turn to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), and he thought it a remarkably liberal speech for a Tory Member. At his election the noble Lord made an assertion to the effect that the men who supported the ballot in Australia lived in the towns, while the men who opposed it were the landowners or squatters—the friends of the movement were on the spot, while the opponents were mostly 100 miles off, attending to their farms. That statement he unequivocally denied, and that on the authority of Mr. Nicholson, who had carried the ballot in Australia, and had since in this country, at a public meeting, answered Lord Naas by proving that the great majority of the rural population in the county which he represented were in favour of the ballot, and Mr. Nicholson himself represented a county containing upwards of 8,000 electors, to a man in its favour. The only other argument to which he would refer was that of a right hon. Gentleman a member of Her Majesty's Government, for whom he had, in common with every hon. Member in the House, the highest possible respect—he meant the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt). Referring to a speech addressed to the elec- tors of North Wiltshire by Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, he found that that right hon. Gentleman had opposed the ballot on rather new grounds—in consequence of the prevalence of original sin. His words were:— There is in the heart of every single one of us such an element of wickedness, and such a proneness to act contrary to whatever is good and worthy of approbation, that for the proper discharge of every trust publicity is necessary. Such was the doctrine of original sin. Every single one of us at our birth partook of the nature of the ancient and fallen Adam; and not having the fear of God before us, but being moved and instigated by the devil, had a horror of everything good, and a great love for everything bad; argal, said the right hon. Gentleman, "we must have open voting." He could not admit that this was very good logic. Why, if we were all miserable sinners, electors and non-electors, what effect could the supervision of some 30,000 non-electoral sinners have upon 1,000 electoral stamps? The worse the electoral sinners voted the more agreeable it would be to the none-electoral sinners. If the notion of the right hon. Gentleman were true, in what a state must society be! What a society of blackguards there must be at the clubs; and how many mauvaises sujets Directors of the Bank of England and the East India Company, all being elected by ballot! Why, the other day an election took place for the chaplaincy of Dulwich College, and 300 parsons were competing for the place. Lord Stanley was in the Chair, and Lord Stanley, being addicted to the old hat system of voting, took the election by mode of ballot. And here, where sinners and original sin had their own way, what was the result? Did they, instead of electing an orthodox chaplain of the Church of England, elect a Papist, or a Puseyite—which meant the same thing? No, they did nothing of the kind. What became, then, of the right hon. Gentleman's argument? Another election took place a few days ago in Belgravia, in the parish of St. George Without. It was an election for vestrymen; and Lord Ernest Bruce, General Sir William Codrington, and Phipps, were candidates. Not Phipps the warrior—the slayer of men,—not the Knight of the Bath—but a peaceful Phipps—a slayer of sheep—a knight of the cleaver. The election took place by ballot, and Lord Ernest Bruce, who never voted for the ballot, came in at the head of the poll with Phipps, and General Sir W. Codrington was rejected. Now, according to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board, Lord Ernest Bruce and Phipps were to be regarded as miserable sinners, as they were elected by original sin operating through the ballot; and General Codrington, who was rejected, must be regarded as a saint. The other part of the argument, that voting was a trust, he should not now enter on, as it had so often been discussed; but if the right hon. Gentleman insisted on that argument, let him show in what the breach of the electoral trust consisted. He thanked the House for its kindness in allowing him to dwell so long on this hackneyed subject. Still it was an important subject, and he hoped other hon. Gentlemen would express their opinions on it. The time was approaching—it could not be distant—when they were about to enter on their great profligate Saturnalia; the orgies were in preparation, and already signs of the times were evident. Shabby-genteel men were seen at odd hours lurking about the Carlton; and the Whig whippers-in were diligently looking out for a respectable gentleman to replace the highly-respected and much-lamented Mr. Coppock. "Men in the Moon" were preparing to descend upon boroughs on silver moonbeams; and the voting machines were having all their cogs and springs greased by their owners to be ready for the work. The dependent might expect to be bullied, and the venal to be bought. Intimidation would stalk and drunkenness stagger through the land. He appealed, then, from the House of Commons to the independent portion of the electors of the United Kingdom, and called upon them to put their shibboleth to those who sought to be elected. Let those who could pronounce the word be returned, and those who could not, be rejected, whether Whigs or Tories, and let that shibboleth be the ballot. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to introduce the Bill.


seconded the Motion, which he earnestly hoped would not be on this occasion, as it had been previously, ignominiously rejected by the House. The subject was now of greater importance than ever, for next year they were promised a Reform Bill, one feature of which was to be a great increase in the constituencies of counties, and therefore it behoved them to protect the electors in the exercise of the right they were about to confer on them. Surely the electors of this kingdom were not so base that they could not be trusted to act uprightly unless it were openly recorded. On the contrary, he believed that men like the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) would be elected whether the ballot was the law of the land or not. It was notorious, that under the existing system a tenant was bound to vote with his landlord in the counties, and in the towns the tradesman with his customer. With regard to the opinions entertained by the great body of the landed gentry on this subject, he thought he might fairly quote the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman in a great speech last year, said it was a just Conservative principle that the exercise of the due influence of property was salutary and beneficial; and being cheered in this sentiment, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, that it was a Conservative principle that in any system of representation the influence of property ought to be felt. The hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley) had told them what took place in North Northamptonshire. Now, it happened that he (Mr. Martin) as a freeholder of Northamptonshire, had taken considerable interest in the recent contests in that county, and it had come to his knowledge that the chairman of a South Northampton Election Committee, who had just conducted a contest to a successful issue, had openly boasted of the landlord influence which he and others similarly situated considered they had a right to exercise over the consciences of their tenants. That gentleman had said that he did not canvass his own tenants, but that, before taking a tenant, he satisfied himself as to his principles, and he added that, "if the tenant afterwards changed his mind, he thought he had a right to be down on him;" and he moreover complained that gentlemen were in the habit of dealing with radical tradesmen in towns. He (Mr. Martin) had been concerned in five county elections, and in four of these it was avowed that the landlord had a right to use his influence over his tenants, while in the fifth, although it was not openly avowed, the result was pretty much the same. At the last contested election in Buckinghamshire the landlord influence had been exerted on both sides, and advertisements were inserted in the papers, stating that all the great landowners in the county pledged themselves by all lawful means to return their respective candidates. If the House rejected the present Bill, or refused to send it before a Select Committee, they ought, to be consistent, to repeal the Act against bribery, and put the Corrupt Practices Act behind the fire. Nay, more, they should enact that every landed proprietor should have an additional vote for every £50 freeholder upon his estate. His hon. Friend—for meritorious men were always modest—had declined to tell the House whence he had derived the preamble of the Bill; but he (Mr. Martin) would supply the omission, and tell them that it was founded upon the expressed opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and Lord Chelmsford. He would not go so far in praise of the Bill as to say that bribery would be impossible under its provisions, but it would stop all open and general bribery; and as the voting papers were numbered, and were to be retained by the returning officer for a considerable length of time, every case of concealed bribery would be open to detection before a Committee of the House. One argument against the ballot was, that it was un-English; but, passing by the example of the clubs, which were scarcely analogous, he found that the House had already recognized the principle of secret voting. The ballot was in use in the election of the metropolitan vestries; and he held in his hand an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of Queen Anne, 150 years ago, enacting that the trustees of the town of Whitehaven should be elected by ballot. The late Rev. Sidney Smith had said that the ballot would make any district in which it was established an assemblage of scoundrels; and he should wish to know from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven if the ballot had produced that effect in Whitehaven. It was said, that all delegated authority should be exercised in the light of day. But the decisions of courts-martial were secret; and surely the reasons urged for the protection of electors by secrecy were quite as good as those for the secrecy of courts-martial. Again, the members of the Privy Council were protected by their oaths of secrecy; and what were they but trustees for the people and Parliament? It was therefore no fair argument against vote by ballot, to say that it was a secret mode of election. The reason of the opposition to the ballot was the same as that to the extension of the suffrage—it was feared it would lead to the subversion of all existing institutions—the Church, the Throne, and the House of Lords. His belief was, that the ballot was a Conservative measure, for he found that in Australia the rabble were murmuring against it because the popular candidate had been defeated, and the nominees of Government returned by a large majority. At all events, after the great number of years and the attention which his hon. Friend had given to the subject of the ballot, he was justified in saying to the House— —"Si quid novisti rectius istis, Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.


said, he was not going to fight over again his battle in North Northamptonshire, for he thought it better to bury election squabbles; and neither was he going to argue with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol the question of original sin. He perceived that the hon. Gentleman had sitting beside him a noble lord (Viscount Palmerston) who was the very highest authority upon that subject. But as the hon. Gentleman had challenged him to state what were his reasons for opposing the ballot he would say one word upon that question. The hon. Gentleman had referred to a speech he had delivered in Northamptonshire; but he was sorry the hon. Gentleman had not continued his reading of the passage, as he would then have found that he (Mr. Hunt) had stated he would go through thick and thin against the ballot, because he would not be a party to the establishment of a system which would send an elector into a dark room to drop a ticket into a box and come out to lie.


said, he was not surprised that, considering the frequent occasions upon which this question had been brought before Parliament, the hon. Member for Bristol had thought it better to avoid giving arguments, but to make an amusing speech instead. In the latter task he had certainly succeeded. The hon. Member would excuse him (Mr. Estcourt) for so far following the example of the hon. Gentleman as to refrain from entering on that occasion into any minute and elaborate justification of the views which he entertained on the subject, and confining himself to offering to the House the general view which he had long held, and which he had avowed in the speech out of which the hon. Member had contrived to extract some materials for laughter, but which he believed contained the root and essence of the whole question. He believed that publicity at elections was required first in respect to the voter, that he might be induced to give a straightforward and honest vote by the knowledge that every one would be able to ascertain the course he took. Publicity, in the next place, was necessary for the protection of society, which was interested in knowing whether the voter had acted according to his previously known opinions. He also advocated publicity because he regarded the opposite practice in respect of public functions to be un-English, and opposed to all the habits, customs, and feelings of the people of this country. If absolute secrecy could be obtained, he might almost say he would not object to the ballot; but to obtain that secrecy it would be necessary not only to procure an infallible ballot-box, but to close the mouths of the voters. Absolute silence must be maintained, or the system of secret voting was impossible. But he believed that in practice, secrecy could not possibly be secured in the case of men who must frequently converse with friends and neighbours on public questions, unless they were to speak one way and vote another; in other words, unless they were to tell lies. The hon. Gentleman opposite, in introducing the subject, had made good fun of the words which had been attributed to him, and had drawn from them what he had termed the doctrine of original sin. Now, all he should say in reply to the observations of the hon. Gentleman upon that point was, that he believed they were all, as Members of that House, called upon to exercise their public functions so as to lay them open to the approval or disapproval of those among whom their lives were passed. The hon. Gentleman had proceeded to ask, "Tell me what you mean when you say that the elective franchise is a trust?" Now, in answer to that question he should observe, that he had never heard the point made a matter of dispute. The hon. Gentleman surely did not mean to contend that the franchise was a personal privilege; that it was a simple possession, a mere matter of property, which might be dealt with by the owner according as his own fancy might dictate, without any reference to the public interests. He, for one, should contend that it was, in the strictest sense of the word, a public trust, and that its exercise by means of which the Members of that House were elected to maintain the constitution could, with no degree of justice, be regarded in the light of a transaction in which the disposal of a mere article of commerce was involved. The hon. Gentleman had, in illustration of the views which he had submitted to the House, related an anecdote drawn from the proceedings which had taken place at a meeting in Australia, at which the question of the ballot had formed the subject of deliberation; and he (Mr. Estcourt) might, perhaps, be permitted so far to follow the example of the hon. Gentleman as to mention a circumstance which had come within his own knowledge, and which bore upon the point at issue. He had upon one occasion asked a farmer, who was a neighbour of his, what he thought of the ballot. The reply was, "The last time I gave my vote I gave it against my conscience. I could not stand out against my landlord and the parson's wife." "But let me suppose," he (Mr. Estcourt) asked, "that you had had the advantage of being able to vote by ballot, what service would it have done you when you were applied to by your landlord and the lady?" To that question no satisfactory reply could be given, and it was, he thought, quite clear that the ballot would have afforded no protection in the case of the person to whom he alluded, unless he had previously made up his mind to state in answer to the questions which had been put to him that which was not true. The only benefit of which secrecy in recording Ids vote could have been to him was, that it would have covered any delinquency of which he might, in the first instance, have been guilty, in telling a falehood with respect to his vote. But, independently of the argument that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman would not, if carried into effect, attain the object which he professed to have in view, he thought the worst practical results must arise from the adoption of the course to which the House was asked to assent. In the case of nineteen out of every twenty elections the issue was beforehand pretty well known, inasmuch as promises were constantly asked from and made by the electors, pledging them to the support of a particular candidate. Now, if a system of secret voting were established, and that in the event of a contest the candidate who happened to have the majority of promises recorded in his favour should not be returned, the consequence would be that great misunderstandings and jealousies would be created in the locality in which such an occurrence had taken place. The belief would prevail in the mind of each elector that his neighbour had played him false, and the most disagreeable feelings would, beyond all question, be engendered. One reason, then, why he could not assent to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman was that the franchise was a trust, and that, according to the habits and notions of Englishmen, as well as in conformity with the dictates of a right understanding, that trust ought to be exercised frankly and openly. It was, however, contended that, under our present system of voting, intimidation and bribery prevailed. Now, he did not wish to make any professions upon the point himself, but he might be allowed to express it as his opinion that there was not in that House a single Gentleman who did not in his heart desire that intimidation and bribery should, if possible, be prevented. By what means, he would ask, could that object be most easily accomplished? The hon. Gentleman opposite would, of course, answer, "By means of the ballot." But in that view he could not concur: he did not believe that the ballot would secure absolute secrecy; and if it did not, it was manifest that it would not lead to the attainment of that object. In his opinion—and he said it plainly—intimidation and bribery would be best prevented by an alteration in the present division of our electoral districts, so that such an increase would be made in the number of voters as would prevent bribery and intimidation. It seemed to him that there were three things required in the voter—intelligence to enable him to decide on the claims of the different candidates; property, which would afford a material guarantee that he had an interest, in the mode in which he exercised the franchise; and independence, which would constitute him a free agent. Now, in respect to that latter quality, a great improvement might, he believed, be made in our present electoral system. The existence of intimidation implied that the person who had given his vote was liable to suffer as soon as the election was over. It was said the landlord would turn him out of his home; but what was the obvious remedy for that? Why, that the elector should have a lease. His opinion was that the property qualification of the voter ought always to be accompanied with something like an independent tenure. Now, Her Majesty's Ministers had intimated it to be their intention to bring in a Reform Bill next year. Of the nature of that measure he knew no- thing; but, whatever might be its provisions, it was too much to expect that it would please the hon. Gentleman opposite. In the desire to put down intimidation and bribery at elections, however, the opinions of the hon. Gentleman and his own were completely in accordance, and he begged to assure him that that object was to be obtained not by a little crotchet such as he must designate the hon. Gentleman's proposition of the ballot, but by some substantial alteration in the nature of the electoral franchise itself. By some such means as that, and not by having recourse to an expedient which would create heartburnings in every neighbourhood, which would work ill for the public interests, and which would give a stab to the constitution by calling upon Englishmen to exercise so important a privilege in the dark, could the evils of which the hon. Gentleman complained alone be effectually obviated.


thought, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was an excellent specimen of the inconsistent arguments by which this proposition was opposed. First, it was said that the ballot would not work, and, therefore, that it would be a sham; next, that it would work, and would, in working, seriously impair the moral character of the country; that it would favour democracy; and then, again, that it was a conservative measure. Now he admitted that the ballot to some extent would have a conservative tendency. Men who were constrained to vote against their convictions, or prevented from voting at all, naturally smarted under a sense of injustice, and were driven to seek redress by violent and revolutionary means. By enabling the poorer and more dependant class of electors to vote according to their convictions you will promote contentment and tranquillity in their breasts and render them less inclined to pursue the wilder forms of democracy. At present, the intention of the Reform Bill of 1832 had not been faithfully carried out. The franchise was exposed to artificial restraints and had not free action. Now, as regarded bribery and corruption, it was said that we were becoming more virtuous year by year. But is it not rather to be feared that we are only becoming more skilful in concealing our deviations from virtue? Not long since he was present during an election at ft borough, which he must not mention, though he might premise that it was not Bath, and he was astonished to find that as the poll drew to a close, agents were offering in the public streets £10 and £20 a head for votes, like farmers at market higgling over the price of a score of sheep. Now it was towards the close of an election contest that the morality of those who had money to give away, and of those who were in want of money, began most to fail; it was then that the excitement was at its height, and competition became most keen. But with the ballot it would not be possible to know the state of the poll, and one great occasion of bribery would be entirely prevented. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) had urged the importance of publicity, in order that people might know that the voter had done his duty and taken what the right hon. Gentleman called "a straight and right course." But what did "a straight and right course" mean? Why to the Tories it meant giving a good Tory vote, and with the Whigs it meant giving a Whig vote. The question was, should the voter be allowed to vote according to his own will and pleasure, no matter for whom, or was he to vote at the dictation of landlords, or of customers, or of the mob? The advocates of the ballot contended that the voter was neither answerable to the non-electors nor to anybody else, but solely to his own conscience. He could understand the Conservative party voting against the Ballot. They acted consistently in doing so. They were of opinion that a large extension of the franchise would be dangerous to the country. A noble Lord opposite had written an article, in the "Oxford Essays," to prove that if power was granted to the poorer classes there would be danger of their combining to overtax and plunder the rich. I do not agree with the noble Lord or with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I have faith in the honesty and intelligence of the people. But at all events the conduct of Conservatives, if mistaken, was at least consistent. This could not be said with regard to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of the Liberal party who opposed the Ballot. They talked large about reform, they were fond of alluding, to the "cause for which Hampden bled on the field and Sydney died on the scaffold," and other interesting sentiments. They had no right then to shrink from the Ballot, which would free the poorer voters from external influence and restraint. He hoped that many among them, especially those who looked forward to form part of an administration formed on "a wider basis," would support the Ballot that night. He could tell the Whig party that the people out of doors would never believe they were in earliest about reform until they took up the Ballot. The Whigs had done good service in their days, but it could not be denied that they were verging on the "obsolete," and might be almost compared to those specimens of the Plesiosaurus and other antediluvian animals we see in the gardens of the Crystal Palace, useful no doubt once upon a time, but not agreeable to meet nowadays. Let the Whigs then quicken their pace, and step forward with the advanced Liberals, if they wish to recover their position as leaders of the reform party throughout the country.


rose to express his astonishment that any hon. Member could support this Motion. He had listened on this occasion, as he had often done before, to the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley) with great pleasure; his hon. Friend brought to bear on a question naturally dull a great deal of humour, and did what he could to make it agreeable to the House. He quite admitted the high talents of his hon. Friend, and he intended no discourtesy to him or to his supporters when he expressed his opinion that his speech, able and amusing as it was, contained no single argument in favour of the ballot. He had heard a great many assertions, but as to argument he had heard none. His hon. Friend never once ventured on argument, well knowing that there was one which would utterly annihilate any he could bring forward in its favour. He told them that the ballot had succeeded in America; all he (Mr. Bentinck) could say was, that if its success was to have the same effect in England, he hoped that it would never be achieved. He hoped he should never see the assembly he had the honour of addressing subject to such scenes as it was reported occurred in the Legislative Assembly of America. If they were a necessary consequence of the adoption of the ballot, the longer it was withheld the better it would be for the country. His hon. Friend seemed to wish to disparage this country—to place it in unfavourable contrast to those in which the ballot was in operation, and to press on the House that the ballot alone was that panacea which should equalize us with other countries. That was a matter with which he did not think it worth while to contend, nor was it necessary to re-open the question of original sin, which seemed to him to be one more suited to discussion in the pulpit than in the House of Commons. At all events, he did not think himself qualified to discuss it. His hon. Friend knew as well as he could tell him that the proper title of his Bill ought to be, "A Bill for Preventing the Detection of Bribery," for he would defy him or any other Member to show the House any good that could result from it; while, if the ballot were introduced, it would be impossible to detect bribery, which, for all they could do, might be carried on in the most wholesale and systematic manner. He had never yet heard any one out of the House venture to express an opinion to the contrary, and, taking the question divested of all its meretricious covering, he challenged hon. Members to prove that it would not tend to the introduction of bribery. When one class of men were disposed to take and another class to pay money, it was impossible to prevent their preconcerted arrangements. Bribery would not be confined as now to the week of the election, but would be all cut and dried, and prepared as a system, and the small boroughs would be ticketed and sold like any other article in a tradesman's shop. Candidates would pay so much if they were returned, and the agents would then know to a pound what would be required to secure the return of a Member of Parliament for a particular borough; and they would have deprived themselves from any power of inquiry, because an inquiry would be necessarily an infringement of the principle of the ballot. How, then, could hon. Members opposite, seeing that such must be the necessary consequence of the introduction of the ballot, have the face to get up and say they were the advocates of purity of election? When hon. Gentlemen made long speeches to their constituents on this subject, and held themselves up as the champions of purity, he was reminded of a young midshipman he was reading of the other day in a popular novel, who in the course of his adventures goes to sea, and on the first occasion of dining in the cabin he was asked whether he would take some flapdoodle? "Flapdoodle," replied he; "what is that?" "Why, the fact is," said his Mentor, "it is the stuff they feed fools with." When his hon. Friend went down to Bristol, and addressed his constituents as the advocate of purity of election and vote by ballot, he (Mr. Bentinck) thought his hon. Friend was administering nothing but political "flapdoodle." He (Mr. Bentinck) need not say that that was an ingredient which the hon. Gentleman never by any chance took himself. He regretted that he was not in possession of the documentary evidence to show the system which had been organized to support bribery in case the ballot should ever pass, but it was the most complete that could be well imagined; but of this he was convinced, that all honest men must condemn the ballot, unless they were prepared to hold themselves up as champions of bribery and corruption.


believed the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) in one part of his argument had misapprehended what was asked for by advocates of the ballot. "If," he said "votes were made secret you could not stop a man's mouth." The answer was that they did not want to stop a man's mouth. It might be put to any use within the law, of which a mouth was capable. All they wanted was that the vote should not be known unless the voter chose to tell it himself. What they wanted was, that a man's letter should not be openable at the Post Office, not that he should be prevented from telling the contents to anybody he liked; and they could not allow one of these to be confounded with the other. That principle being secured, any elector might go and proclaim his vote on the house-top, or with any flourish of trumpets he chose. Perhaps the friends of the ballot, as for instance the Ballot Society, had not been sufficiently explicit on this point; but if so, they must mend. Then, it had been said that if there was secrecy of voting, an elector would be deprived of his influence upon his fellows. Now the supporters of the ballot did not want to hinder him from exercising any lawful influence he could. He might harangue and shout himself hoarse—only let there be that impossibility of appealing to a man's written vote which existed in the case of a court-martial. Great expectations were entertained of the present Ministry, and in some directions they had not been disappointed. He had lately heard of a piece of wisdom displayed by the wife of a beneficed clergyman. A novel was published which was understood to bear hard upon the clergy, and it was supposed that, though it would be sure to be proposed in the subscription library, there would be a quarrel with the Church for whoever should propose it. So what did this sensible lady? She proposed it herself. This might be recommended for imitation on the benches opposite. Nothing unreasonable would be expected from them; but they might feel the national pulse. Suppose, for example, it were conceded that where four-fifths of the constituency in a particular borough petitioned for the ballot it should be allowed, would it not be easy to try the experiment and ascertain whether all the evil results expected would proceed from it?


protested against the levity with which the hon. Member for Bristol had treated a subject which, if it were not one of great importance, ought not to have been pressed upon the attention of the House; but at least his hon. Friend showed his courage in appealing to the example of the United States as an instance of the good working of the ballot, after those scenes in the legislative assemblies of that country which had been reported in our journals during the last year, and which must have partly amused and partly disgusted their readers. Hon. Members must have seen a description of a scene which occurred not long ago on the floor of Congress, when a serious tumult was only appeased by a member of that body wrenching off the wig of an opponent, whose scalp probably he wished to obtain. A London journal had quoted from the Manchester paper the description of this occurrence literally reprinted from the American Report, but with the names of leading members of their own House substituted for the real actors, with how ludicrous an effect it was easy to conceive. But it was not merely those disgraceful collisions in the House which showed how little the ballot tended in America to establish liberty of action and thought, for what man in the southern states, were he candidate, or were he elector, dared publicly to speak in favour of slave emancipation? And as to their courts of law, did they not recollect the instance of that poor girl, the victim of a barbarous outrage, who was recently turned out of the court because she was supposed to have one drop of black blood in her veins? Hon. Members might say, "What has this to do with the ballot?" It had as much to do with it as those Colt's revolvers which had been discharged in their faces by the hon. Member. But the hon. Member for Bristol also appealed to what he called the "colony" of Australia. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have strange geogra- phical notions about Australia, for he (Mr Hope) had thought that there were severa colonies there, New South Wales, Victoria, South and West Australia, and Tasmania, and he conceived that if the hon. Gentleman would come forward next year with a little more of geography and a little less of the Egyptian Hall in his speech he would succeed better. He believed that the ballot only prevailed in two Australian colonies—Victoria and Tasmania; and what the effect of the ballot in Tasmania was, had been proved by circumstances which have recently appeared and which were quite as disgraceful and even more ridiculous than those which had occurred in America. We had, however, an example of the ballot nearer home, on a great scale. Faciamus experimentum in corpore vili had been the wish of the old physician, but here had been made in corpore nobilissimo; for the ballot had been tried, for weal or woe, with the 35,000,000 of the great French people. That was not the place to say whether France was more happy under its present form of Government, of which the ballot was the first, and last, and middle. Perhaps the hon. Member for Bristol had a horror of the liberty of the press; perhaps he might think that the army did not occupy a sufficiently prominent position; perhaps he thought that the course of justice in England was too independent of the Executive. Well in France they saw the army not rampant, but omnipotent; a press not gagged but extinguished, and the courts of law bound and driven by the Executive. The constituencies of France had elected by ballot a constituent assembly, a legislative assembly, a president for four years, a president for ten years, and an Emperor. This state of things might render the French nation happy and glorious, but with these facts before their eyes, it was not for hon. Members to say that the cause of the ballot was the cause of freedom, and that the opponents of the ballot were retrograde and tory—an expression which had been bandied about the House during this debate more than he had thought that old and very respectable term would again have been. He was not one of those who had a fanatical fear of the ballot in this country; he did not think it would lead to democratic ruin, but he did think it would lead to a retrograde state of things. It was in the cause of liberty, progress, and constitutional government that he (Mr. Hope) protested against the ballot. They all knew that there were elections by ballot in this country, but they were elections where the constituent body was small, where they were nearly all of one class of society, and where the person elected was one of their own body. Such were the elections to clubs in the highest ranks. Again, the workman who so much struck the hon. Member for Bristol by his intelligence, alluded to the very good elections in benefit societies. But the members of those societies were hail-fellows-well-met, and the persons were elected to manage the business of the body, and afterwards went back into the ranks. Those were homogeneous bodies, and such were the cases in which the ballot might succeed. He would go back to America. It was said by the hon. Member for Bristol that the ballot-elected Presidents showed the value of the ballot; but had the ballot led to the election of Henry Clay, had it led to that of Daniel Webster, of Calhoun, or Clayton, or Benton, as President of the United States? No; it had led to the election to that high post of the nonentity Polk and the contemptible Franklin Pierce. The results of the ballot tried by this test showed that the greatest men of America failed in attaining the highest dignity which their countrymen had to offer them; while in this country with our open voting, our most eminent statesmen seldom failed, sooner or later, except under some very adverse circumstances, to reach the summit of their legitimate ambition. There were two kinds of constituencies; one a small constituency, wealthy and highly taught, as in the republic of Plato, and that was a kind of constituency of which philosophers might dream in their closets; in this kind of constituency the ballot might be admitted. But it was one which was impossible in real life. Thus there was the opposite system, which sought the safety which came from numbers. This required open voting, If he believed that bribery and intimidation would be prevented by the ballot, he would at once become its advocate. His feeling as to intimidation was such, that in the county where he had a large tenantry there had been last year two contested elections, and yet he did not know to this day how any one of those tenants voted. If they had the ballot there would be voting by phalanx, a system which would soon be brought to strategic perfection. It was said the ballot would destroy the influence of landlords? but, what would there be to prevent landlords front breakfasting their tenants at their own houses and bringing them up to the poll in a body under the new system? Though it was very easy to denounce the landlord who turned out his tenant for an adverse vote, yet he must say that the danger of intimidation was a hundredfold greater in boroughs than in counties. If a man farmed his land well, however he voted, there was a serious question between the landlord and his pocket as to turning him out. The people with whom the risk of intimidation was the greatest were the foremen and masters of large works in boroughs. ["No, no!"] He said "yes," though he did not accuse the whole class. There were good men and there were bad men among them, and as the question was not being discussed in a party spirit, he must say that both parties—the "Conservatives," so called, and the "Liberals" were alike in the matter,—there was really nothing to choose between them. Where the screw could be put on was With the £10 householders who worked for wages. Suppose they had the ballot: the foreman would meet such a man, and would ask him, "Whom did you vote for?" The man would be in the position in which distinguished statesmen in that House frequently were—he would have three courses open to him. If he said, "I voted against you," he would be dismissed: again, silence would be taken to be more eloquent than words, and would lead to the same result. Lastly, if he told a lie, he would save his place at the expense of his conscience. With all the ballot boxes in the world they could not avoid this. If they established the ballot they would drive away that large body of electors who cared very little for abstract political rights and questions, but who ought to be educated up to them, and be made to value those privileges, and to flock to the election booths to support them. They should remember how many veils were interposed between the poor voter and that House. There were so many political questions unintelligible to them that the mere pleasure of voting would not bring the enfranchised masses to the poll under the system of the ballot. But what would bring one of that class to the poll was the importance which he acquired in his own small circle by voting and giving a reason for voting on one side or the other. They must consider what the effect would be upon that enlarged constituency to which all looked forward under some Reform Bill. By the system of open voting you would, to some extent, educate the masses up to their political franchise, and make them value it; you would teach them the a, b, c, of politics by feelings such as he had described all lying within their own circle, while the abstract grammar of public affairs, which was all that could induce men to resort to the poll under the ballot, would still be unintelligible. All that he had hitherto said was on the hypothesis that there would under the ballot be secret voting. If it were, however, a mere humbug, show, and pretence, which he believed it to be, then he would come back to the real point. Why should the time of the House of Commons be occupied by this mere doctrinaire exploitation, when there was so much practical legislation before it? Why should there be this great outcry against one of the customs which characterised that nation, which, whatever were its faults, was the light and beacon of liberty and of representative Government all over the world? The American papers and American tourists frequently dwelt on the contrast between the representatives sent up by our system and by that system of caucus under which they were nominated in that country. Here, they said, every man knows his candidate, every man shakes hands with him. In America nobody knows, nobody cares for the representative sent to Washington. He is named by a caucus in a room, and the electors vote according to its dictation. It might seem strange to fear the loss of liberty in England. But we have seen revolutions so vast and so sudden occur in this changing time that no apprehension ought reasonably to be called excessive. He thought that the first blow would be struck at our liberty in the establishment of the ballot. In opposition, therefore, to oligarchy and despotism, and in behalf of our ancient free institutions, he entered his protest against it.


By common consent this question is argued on both sides of the House as if, supposing we were to consent to the Motion now before the House, the ballot would produce a system of secret voting. The friends of this measure maintain that under the ballot intimidation would cease—that every person would give his vote according to his genuine opinions, without being influenced by the threats of any person to whose power he might be subject. On the other side of the House it is made an objection to the ballot that the political franchise is a trust, and that every trust ought to be exercised under the control of publicity. Both these arguments assume that the practical result of a system of vote by ballot would be the perfect secrecy of the vote of each man. The position which I wish to see established by those who bring forward this Motion, before they go into these abstract theoretical arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of secrecy, is that the ballot would produce a system of secrecy; because I maintain most distinctly, as being susceptible of the clearest proof, that in the United States, which is the great model for working the ballot, the ballot is not a system of secrecy. On a former occasion I showed from publications of the Ballot Society, under the patronage of the hon. Gentleman the author of this Motion, that the United States, with the exception of one State, which had recently tried a peculiar system of voting with what is called sealed envelopes, and which system was abandoned after a single year's trial, there was not One State in which voting by ballot was not practically as public a system of voting as the voting which exists in the United Kingdom. The real difference between voting by ballot in the United States and voting as it exists in England is this—that in the United States the ballot, being a piece of paper or a ticket, not a ball, this paper is put into a box without any official record being made of each vote. Therefore, there are no means of authentically proving the vote of any person after the election has taken place. There can be no scrutiny; nothing like an Election Committee; and I apprehend there cannot be any indictment for bribery. Beyond that distinction, as I understand the question, voting in the United States and voting in England are practically identical. The information which the hon. Gentleman's society laid before the public in its tracts on voting in the United States, was quite conclusive of the practical nature of voting in that country. But his society has also made public, during the last year, some additional information on the subject. The Committee have published a letter from the late Governor of Connecticut to the Ballot Society. If the House will allow me I will read a sentence from that letter, which appeared in a newspaper in November last, and which contains additional information upon voting in the State of Connecticut. This gentleman—his name is not given—says I have frequently presided at electors' meetings, and personally received the ballots, and I can assure you that it is in the power of any elector to put in a ballot, the character of which cannot be detected by the presiding officer or any one else. Any elector can, if he pleases, put in a ballot written upon clean white paper. If such a ballot is merely doubled together it is impossible to discover what it is. I have frequently known ballots doubled and twisted so that it was difficult to open them. It is true that where there are contending parties each party has its votes printed, and easy to be recognized at sight. It is also true that most of the electors put in these votes openly; and many of them with the face of the vote in plain sight, preferring to have it apparent how they vote. But there are always some who vote in absolute secrecy, and where parties are nearly equally divided the decision depends, or may depend, on these secret votes. Therefore, according to that description, the rule is open voting. There is the power of concealment, but that power is very rarely exorcised. There is another letter emanating from Mr. Samuel Upton, of Manchester, New Hampshire, United States. This letter states— The method of voting in this State is by ballot. This system is followed for almost every officer, however unimportant. He goes on to describe it as follows— These printed ballots are distributed on election day at the house of voting; sometimes by men appointed for the purpose, sometimes by boys, and sometimes they are fixed in some convenient place and selected by the voter at his pleasure. Almost every voter has determined with which party to vote before he goes to the place of voting. When there he takes the ballot of his party, or one of each party if he pleases, and if the name of any person appears upon his ballot, for whom he does not wish to vote, he erases it and inserts another. When thus prepared he hands it to the moderator, who examines it enough to see that it is but one vote, and then deposits it in the box. The instances are rare where a voter attempts to conceal his vote; he may, however, if he desires to keep it from every one but the officer receiving it. We have no law requiring secrecy. We have one against using any undue means to influence voters, as bribery or threats. Well, Sir, I say that if it is proved by overwhelming evidence that the general practice of voting in the United States, which we are told to regard as the model of secret voting ["No, no!"]—I certainly understood the hon. Gentleman to refer to the United States as having produced the greatest inventive talent, as the native country of revolvers, and as having produced eighteen elected Presidents superior to any eighteen hereditary Kings. Now, I will not enter into the comparison which he has suggested—and I refer to it only to remind the hon. Gentleman that his argument went to point out the United States as a model of secret voting. If, however, the United States are not to be taken as a model of secret voting, to what country must reference be made as a model? If they are not to be looked upon as a model,—if their example, which has so often been referred to, and which has always been regarded as a great argument in favour of secret voting, is no longer upheld, then the argument founded upon it falls to the ground. Now, I maintain that, as a matter of fact, the system of voting by ballot in the United States is not a system of secret voting. There are in this country some few instances where the law requires a system of voting by ballot, as in the case of voting by the proprietors of the East India Company, the charter of which declares that the voting for the election of Directors, or for other purposes, shall be taken by ballot. Now, the mode of voting in accordance with what I understand to be voting by ballot in this country is to write the vote upon a piece of paper, and deposit the ticket in the box. Now, I appeal to hon. Gentlemen conversant with the voting at the India House, whether those votes are in point of fact concealed, or whether they are not practically as public as votes given in Parliamentary elections? The conclusion at which I arrive is this, that when we have a population resembling in character the population of this country, and such as we find in our descendants in the United States, and where you have a system of voting by ballot for public elections, the mode of voting by ballot becomes not a secret but a public mode of voting. Can any one who has had any experience of the manner in which Parliamentary elections are conducted bring himself to believe that it would be possible to induce the greater number of the electors to conceal their sentiments, their preferences, and the manner in which they intended to vote? Now, if you wish to go upon the system of protection to every voter, if you attempt to make an election practically and really secret, how can you recognize the principle of any candidate coming before a meeting of electors, or having a committee of persons to further his election, or himself to canvass? I believe that I shall meet with a universal answer, that candidates should be at liberty to address electors, to canvass, and to avail themselves of the service of committees. But then, what becomes of your secrecy? The hon. Gentleman alluded to the case of a nobleman who prohibited a candidate from canvassing his tenants, and he added that he would have canvassed them in spite of the prohibition; so that I think I may assume that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of canvassing. Well, then, if that be so, how can he hold the doctrine that each elector should conceal his vote? If the essence of voting be that each voter should conceal his vote, with what consistency can you canvass? How can you go to a man and ask him to promise his vote on your account, if the very essence, the palladium of our electoral system is to be an inviolable silence upon the subject? It seems to me that if we recognize the system of secrecy, we must entirely change our present system of popular elections; we should have to give up the present plan of addressing electors, of canvassing, and of employing the services of election committees, and of going round a county in order to excite a popular feeling in favour of a candidate; for, if we were to act consistently upon the principle of giving protection to the voter, you can only do that by establishing a system of universal secrecy. That is a point which I wish strongly to impress upon the House. I wish also to point out that if, as a general rule, voters were to show their votes and promise to vote for a particular candidate, and give it openly, and if a small number of persons were carefully to conceal their votes they would be regarded with suspicion by those who wished to intimidate them to vote in a particular manner. A landlord might say to a tenant, "I will have you watched, and if you don't vote openly I shall assume that your vote has been given contrary to my wishes." That would be the inevitable result of a system of optional secrecy; and what I wish, therefore, to hear from some Gentleman who maintains the importance of voting by ballot is, how he can show that it would be practicable to enforce secrecy and give protection to the electors. I confess that it seems to me that hopes based upon the efficiency of this system would turn out a delusion, and that we are called upon to vote upon grounds which will not bear examination; and I shall vote against the introduction of the Bill, because I think that it would not produce the result anticipated by its supporters.


said, he was not one of those who would wish the liberties of the Australian colonies should be in the slightest degree interfered with. He had the most unbounded confidence in the Anglo-Saxon principle of self-government, and in the conviction that they would succeed; but having some colonial experience he wished to bear his testimony that the system of the ballot there had not succeeded, and had done rather harm than good. It was not more than three months ago, when attending a dinner at which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Colonies was present, he heard him state that in every despatch that came from the Colonies there was an account of a Ministerial crisis; but he was afraid there was a much more dangerous system working in the Australian colonies than the mere playing at Ministerial crises, because he was satisfied that they were incurring debts which would be of the greatest possible inconvenience to them hereafter, and which would end in a very different result from one of mere postponement. In the Australian colonies there existed the most perfect independence among all classes—there the labourer was under no obligation to the person who employed him, nor the tenant to the man who gave him his farm—and what, therefore, could be the cause of the introduction of the ballot into Australia? He believed it was in consequence of there being a vague impression abroad that the ballot embraced democratic principles. Now, with this he entirely disagreed. He believed the very principle of constitutional government was responsibility, and that the very source of all freedom was publicity, whether expressed through the press, or the medium of opinion public or private. He was not amongst the number of those who wished to reduce the whole electoral system of this country to the machinery of the ballot-box, or that it should become the instrument of despotism under an empire and of corruption under a monarchy, as it was in some countries not very far distant. It had been said by the hon. Member for Bristol that the ballot always ended in the choice of the most respectable men. But what had been the practical result in the Australian colonies? In the Legislatures of those colonies there had occurred some most shameful and most disgraceful scenes. He was assured, on authority which he could not doubt, that one Member in Victoria took his seat in his shirt sleeves, and the newspapers now teemed with the records of personal altercations, two or three of which—the account of scenes all of which occurred during one week—he would read to the House:— The 'scene' in the House on the 4th was of a somewhat milder character than heretofore. Mr. T. G. expressed a benevolent wish that the typhus fever would sweep away the present Ministry, for the benefit of the colony; and, impressed with the beauty and brilliancy of his idea, the hon. Gentleman warmed up as he went on, and concluded by observing—'It would indeed be a blessing if the fever were to sweep off all the Members of that House! It would be a just and well-merited curse if the whole colony were carried off by the fever!' Subsequently Mr. G. grew quite jocular over this grim subject, and was rebuked for his ill-timed mirth by the Attorney General. Two days afterwards there was another scene, in which Mr. G. again figured, and was reported to have said— Ay, you, (addressing himself to the Attorney General) may grin, Sir; your malignity may go to a great extent, and I should not care for myself; but I have got a family, and you who ought to have been the first to stand up for me, you, and your brothers, have done all in your power to vilify me. I say that the Colonial Treasurer is well paid at £500 a year, and should be thankful to the colony for it. He never had as much before in his life. He had for £200 a year condescended to write for some low blackguard newspaper. The Colonial Treasurer talked of contumacious language and his (Mr. G.'s) conduct, in one of those eloquent speeches which, no doubt, he had plenty of time to write in his office and to send over to the journals of the neighbouring colonies. There they would appear in the shape of slander and calumny of himself. The Colonial Treasurer had stated that he (Mr. G.) went round with a hat as a political mendicant. At the time when he made that statement he knew that it was as false as hell. He (Mr. G.) had received, without solicitation of any kind, a large sum of money as a reward for services rendered to the colony, and also a piece of plate bearing the name of the best man in the colony. These tokens of appreciation of his services he should hand down with pride to his children. And was he to be taunted by a miserable penny-a-liner—by one who was a partner with another in business and robbed him of his books. And then there were the words, "Hear, hear!" but no cries of "No, no!" and therefore, it must be supposed that the charge was true. The report went on:— Was such a man fit to talk of honesty? He was as well known as any other miserable adventurer. The Attorney General rose to order. Mr. G. contended that he had a right to reply to the contumacious language of the man who had tried to get into the Church. He would remind that man of what the decalogue said in reference to slander. He talked of contempt. Why, the Colonial Treasurer was too contemptible even for his contempt. The Chairman ruled Mr. G—was out of order. He had in his hand another account of a similar scene, which was not so racy, but in which the expressions were, if he might be allowed the expression, still more blackguard. However, he would not trouble the House with it. ["Read, read!"] The paragraph was headed "Scene in the Victorian Legislature," and went on to say,— In common with all well-wishers of the cause of liberty, now undergoing a trial in the Australian colonies, we deplore the necessity for calling attention to such scenes; but while they occur we deem publicity advisable. Mr. F. being called to order by Mr. M., described this "causeless interruption" as an attempt to turn him out, but asserted that although the hon. Member had said he should see him dead in a week, he would hang on longer than the hon. Member himself would. Mr. M., having denied the use of such an expression, expressed a hope that Mr. F. would live to a much greater age: Mr. F. said, "Soft sawder." Mr. M. repeated the expression of this hope. Mr. F., "Soft sawder again." Afterwards Mr. M. complained of Mr. F's desultory mode of speaking, and said that "if he thought to bully the House by this mode of colonial bullying into compliance with his notions, he was—." Mr. F.—"I appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, for protection. If there is any bully in this House it is him (pointing to Mr. M.)." Mr. M. afterwards withdrew the words; and, upon Mr. F. saying "Colonial bully, indeed!" said that he thought the words he used were, "Colonial bounce." This was the sort of thing which occurred frequently in the Victorian Legislature, which had been elected by ballot. Before he sat down, he wished to say one word with regard to the general question of the ballot. He believed that bribery, intimidation, and exclusive dealing were decreasing, that public opinion was strongly opposed to them, and that the practice of them would tend rather to injure than to promote the interests of a candidate. Under these circumstances, he did not think it would be desirable to introduce the ballot into this country. If it could be shown that intimidation, bribery, and corruption were increasing, or were not diminishing, he pledged himself to support the ballot; and he believed that, if ever it was adopted by that House, it would be the fault of those who were now its most ardent and strongest opponents.


said, he was placed in the somewhat difficult position that he and others who sat below the gangway on that side were advocating great principles which the leaders of the Liberal party did not yet think ripe for their adoption. He was advocating this question because at present neither the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton nor the noble Lord the Member for London stood up to support the introduction of this Bill. It, however, augured well for its progress that the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House (Sir G. C. Lewis), and who occupied an exceedingly delicate, not to say interesting, position in relation to the Liberal party, having made some general comments upon the ballot, sat down without saying that he was for the rest of his life opposed to it. He intimated that he was waiting for some further arguments which should permit him to entertain the question; he therefore hoped that some day they might see the future leader of the Liberal party satisfied by those arguments, as they had seen other leaders satisfied in favour of other liberal measures. It was, however, too bad of their opponents to reproach them for not discussing the question on principle, and then to indulge in noises which rendered that discussion almost impossible. [The House had now become impatient for a division.] He supported the ballot on the principle of freedom of election, for which we had been contending for the last 150 years;—we had endeavoured to secure it by many penal and preventive laws passed during that period; penalty had been heaped upon penalty, but they had entirely failed to repress the evils of bribery and intimidation. The House had arrived at the very culminating point of absurdity during this very Session, in attempting to grapple with the case of Galway. Hon. Members should recollect that the ballot was not put forward as a great principle in itself, but as a means of giving effect to great and sound principles. He did not say that the ballot would be a complete remedy for bribery and intimidation, but it would do a great deal to diminish them. First, with regard to bribery. No measure that could be devised would prevent a man from promising to pay a sum of money, if he were elected; but the question was, whether the ballot would put an end to those flagitious transactions which took place at too many elections? When the poll had arrived at a certain state, and when men understood what was the value of individual votes, it was notorious that a certain class of electors were in the habit of going from committee to committee offering their votes for sale, and cases had been known of men staggering to the poll in a state of drunkenness, letting the sovereigns fall out of their hands as they proceeded to record their purchased votes. That would be entirely avoided by the system of secret voting, because no person would know what was the state of the poll during an election, while people would not be disposed to bargain for particular votes before an election took place if they had no security that such votes would be recorded in their favour. With respect to intimidation, which was the greater evil—["Oh, oh!"] He knew that was a still more tender point with hon. Members opposite, because it was the key of their whole position. Disguise it as they might, their belief was that the ballot would put an end to intimidation. Let them address themselves to that question. The man who was intimidated might be an honest man, but he denied that the man who intimidated was worthy of the same title. Let the House, therefore, adopt the ballot as a protection to the honest voter who was prevented from voting according to his convictions. It had been said that the landlord would demand from his tenant how he voted, and the tenant would be obliged to tell a lie. But he did not believe any such questions would be asked—they were not in other cases where the ballot was in use. As to secrecy, there was nothing un-English in it, as it was practised in many of our institutions—the grand jury for instance. Did they mean to object to the introduction of a measure because it did not meet every possible objection? [Interruption.] What were they to expect from men who did not know what a measure was, and who would not have it explained to them? Instances had been quoted of the working of the ballot in America; but the ballot they proposed was totally different. Secrecy was secured by the ballot in Australia, but still there were means, if a vote were impeached, to identify it with the person who had given it, without interfering with the other unimpeached votes. This secured ultimate accountability, which he held to be an indispensable condition of the franchise. He regretted the remark which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who was to take part in framing the Reform Bill of next Session. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the franchise should depend on education, property, and independence. Education was not the test, because it assumed that the voter was to be the judge of all political questions, which was pure democracy and not representative government; nor was accumulated property the test. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that the pos- sessor of £50 in the savings bank was to have a higher claim to the franchise than the intelligent artisan who earned £50 a year by the capital he had invested in learning his trade and procuring the means with which he worked? But if the right hon. Gentleman had meant by independence the free exercise of the right of voting, he should have supported the ballot as the most effectual measure for securing it. He could assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that he came from a place where his election was not carried by any undue influence, but after a Calm consideration of political questions by men quite as intelligent as themselves. The more the question was discussed the more it would progress; and as that day they had enjoyed one of the greatest political triumphs the liberal party had obtained for several years, so, being equally confident of the morality of the ballot, he looked forward to the time—not far distant—when as great a triumph would be achieved on that question.


I will only detain the House a very few minutes, but I am anxious to state my reasons why I cannot concur in this Motion. Like the hon. Member for Norfolk, I heard the speech of the hon. Mover with pleasure, though with some disappointment, for although it contained a great deal of good humour and fun, I thought it more deficient in argument than almost any of his former speeches on the subject. The hon. Member did not explain whether his mode of taking votes by ballot should be compulsorily secret or permissively secret. If it were permissive, then it would be a trap for the timid; because, if a few persons, from fear of exposing themselves to a certain influence, gave their votes in secrecy, that influence would still equally act on them, because they would be suspected individuals. No person, whether landlord, employer, or customer, would be satisfied at the vote being given in secrecy; and the consequences, whatever they might be, would be the same whether the vote was given secretly or openly. If, on the other hand, the voter should be compelled by law to give a secret vote, that was imposing a restriction on free will and on the freedom of election totally incompatible with our national feelings and habits. But it would be in vain to attempt any such thing. You must go further, and if you compel a man to vote in secret, you must make it penal in him to tell how he has voted. You must prevent canvassing. Your object is to prevent any one knowing how a given individual has voted. Take the case of a tenant farmer or shopkeeper in a small town, or a workman employed by a great manufacturer. He will be canvassed, and he will be told by the person who exerts influence over him, that it is expected he will vote in a certain way, and a promise is asked. What is he to say? Is he to say, "I cannot tell you how I shall vote; I mean to avail myself of the permissive right the law gives am of voting secretly"—supposing the ballot is to be permissive; or, if it is to be imperative, he would say, "I mean to obey the law." Would any person who exerts influence be satisfied with such an answer? No! He would say, "It is all very well; you can if you choose let a person authorized by me know how you vote, or promise that you will give it in the manner I require." If then the person makes a promise and breaks it, you are inculcating on the electors a system of falsehood, and demoralizing the constituencies of the country, instead of attaining those beneficial objects which we are told are to be promoted. But you will not succeed in your purpose of protecting the voter. I defy you to invent any mode of voting, whether by putting a person in a secret chamber or by any other human contrivance, which will prevent a man, if he has sufficient motive to know how his dependent voted, from visiting upon the voter who breaks his promise that breach of promise. Well, I say that publicity in the exercise of all great functions is an essential principle of the British constitution; and that the electors exercise a trust. It has been said in reply, that they do not exercise a trust, but a right. I contend that the exercise of the franchise, even if you had universal suffrage, would be a trust; for an individual is invested with the power of voting, not for his own personal advantage and interest, but for the interest and advantage of the nation. If the voter had the power of voting merely for his own advantage, on what principle could you punish him for disposing of his vote? We have all heard that a man has a right to do what he likes with his own; and if the vote is given to him for his own advantage, he would have a right to sell it. The only principle on which the bribery laws are founded is that the vote is a trust for the public advantage, and no man has a right to barter it for his own private profit. I say that this, like all other important political functions, is to be exercised in per- fect day, and be open to the criticism of our friends and neighbours, and the public at large; and, without entering into the question of original sin, I am prepared to contend that there is no security for the proper exercise of political functions unless it be that security which public opinion affords. Those who contend for secrecy in the exercise of one political function ought, by equal analogy, and by process of the same reasoning, to extend that secrecy to the exercise of every other political function; and to that extent I am sure they are not disposed to go. Again, I say that if you could by any human arrangement insure that secrecy which is desired by some, but which I contend you could not accomplish, you would alter the honest, frank, and manly character of the British nation, and convert the electors into hypocrites. You would put an end to party spirit, and that is an essential element in the working of the British constitution; and you would also put an end to those public meetings where men make a frank and full declaration of their sentiments upon which a great deal of the public feeling and proper spirit of the country depends. Then we have heard of the example of the United States as an example for imitation, and my hon. Friend who made the Motion seemed to rest greatly on that example; and referring to the invention and use of revolvers, he seemed to go the length of attributing all the inventive faculties and enterprise of the Americans to the ballot. Unless he meant that, he meant nothing. Those who followed him threw aside the United States, and now forsooth take refuge in the distant colony of Australia. But never let it be forgotten that in the United States it is not a system of secret voting, but of ticket voting. The electors have to elect a number of officers at the same time, and they find it more convenient to write down at once the names of all they intend to vote for, instead of writing them separately; but it is not pretended to be a secret system; and if you were to make a law in this country that no man should tell how he is going to vote, the feeling of the country would rise against it: you would see the electors going to the poll, openly declaring how they intended to vote, and they would have papers indicating their intentions stuck in their hats. Would the "blues" and the "yellows" go mute and colourless to the poll? It is not in the nature of Englishmen to do so, and if you could accomplish such a result you would strike a fatal blow on the public spirit and national feeling of the country. Now, we arc told that these Australian colonies have effected the object desired by the friends of the ballot; but take the example of our North American colonies, neighbours of the United States, and observers of the practical working of this sytem of what is called secret voting. Have they adopted it? No. They have not seen the advantage of it, and they have persevered in establishing open voting. I say that your law would not accomplish what you pretend it would accomplish; that it would open the door to serious frauds—we know that in the United States there have been serious frauds in connection with the ballot box—there would be frauds here and I defy you to prevent them. It would not accomplish the secrecy you ask for, and if it did so it would do great injury to the public spirit and feeling of the country. Considering then that it would not afford the protection you pretend it would afford, and that it would most injuriously affect the political spirit and institutions of the country, I for one cannot change the vote which I have always given on this question, and shall therefore go into the lobby in opposition to the Motion.


said, he would endeavour to take up the time of the House but for a very few minutes; but he had not heard this question discussed in the House for above three years, and during his absence he had formed rather an unfavourable opinion of the discussions that had taken place, from what he had seen of them in the newspapers. He thought hon. Members opposite had behaved ungraciously to the hon. Member for Bristol, that they seemed to treat him hardly, and to treat the question which he brought forward as if it were one not large enough for the consideration of the House of Commons; and he had observed something of the same kind that night, especially during the able speech of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. Now, he wished to say that this was not a small question; it was not one that they could hustle out at the door as if nobody cared about it, and they never had made a more fatal mistake if they came to such a conclusion regarding it. He admitted that this was rather an unpleasant question; but they had had many unpleasant questions before them in the same way, and they had lived to see them welcomed by large majorities, and the House ready to admit that its Previous conduct regarding them had been entirely wrong. If they wanted to know what sort of a question this was, let them ask any portion of the population which professed to be in favour of Parliamentary reform what they thought of the ballot. Gentlemen opposite did not see in their election canvasses so many reformers among the constituency as those on the Opposition side of the House did; but no one who had an opportunity of seeing could doubt that it was regarded as an important question with the constituencies, whether in counties or boroughs; and if they wanted to know by any sign in that House whether the question was important or not, let them ask how many Members of the House had recorded their votes in its favour? If they inquired they would find that 230 Members of that very House of Commons—elected twelve months ago to make the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton dictator—230 men who came to that House to support him, were willing to support the proposition which he had that night and on former occasions treated as if it were one only fit to be taken up by idiots and fools. He would not go to the United States or Australia for arguments on this question. He was not willing to introduce anything into this country, because he found it on the other side of the Atlantic or in the Southern Pacific Ocean—he would rather have measures considered in reference to our own condition and our own state of society. He would ask, whether there was any country in the world where there was so much colossal wealth alongside of so much deep and struggling poverty? Was it not a fact known to all of them, that the great majority of the electors in counties and boroughs, but more especially in boroughs, were persons struggling in business under the pressure of a fierce competition; and was it not clear from this that this was precisely the country of all others in which unfair influences were likely to be exercised at elections, and in which, if there were any remedy in the ballot, they were bound to consider it anxiously, and if they found it good to adopt it? The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had spoken of the necessity of party feeling to carry on the Government of this country, and of the manly feeling evoked in carrying on the party struggles which took place here. But if there were those party feelings and those great struggles, were not the passions of men roused in a corresponding degree? Let them go back for twelve years, when the subject of the corn laws was before the country. They were all excited on that great question. There was an intense feeling with regard to it when they came to the elections. Gentlemen on the opposite side thought they were going to be ruined, and those who opposed them believed they were going to save their country from a most iniquitous law. Men's feelings were roused and exasperated, and accordingly, where there was so much power in the possession of great estates and general wealth on the one hand, and so constant a struggle and competition in trade on the other, power was brought to bear on the weak and the defenceless, and in tens of thousands of cases—he might almost say—to his certain knowledge, men went up to the poll to vote against their consciences, and in the face of Heaven committed themselves to a lie as gross as ever was perpetrated. Look at the great crisis about which they were all excited the other day, when they looked forward to an election in the present week, in consequence of a vote that did not come off. If there had been a general election, Gentlemen on both sides of the House would have made wonderful efforts in the country to bring themselves back and to bring others with them; they would have had all the manly spirit evoked of which the noble Lord spoke;—and what would have been the result? He did not say that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have failed; but they would have fought the battle hard. But the harder the battle and the greater the prize, the greater the incentive to the exertion of influences, and who could doubt that bribery, corruption, and undue influence would have prevailed, and that thousands of electors who now implored the House to shelter them from the power they could not resist, would be compelled to succumb to the influences brought to bear upon them? It was not the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton who wanted the ballot. He (Mr. Bright) never advocated the ballot for the sake of noble Lords. The ballot was for the poor and defenceless. It was the shelter provided by common sense and common morality in every other constitutional country but this for those to whom the constitution had given the elective franchise. If they had never seen anything of elections in this country, any one who had honestly studied the question in his closet must have come to the conclusion to which he now endeavoured to lead them. It was indeed almost a farce to try to bring evidence before the House with regard to the facts of the case, for every man on the other side of the question was as well convinced of the facts as those on his own side. Allusion had been made to a gentleman who, while living, took great interest in elections—he meant the late Mr. Coppock, and he would say of Mr. Coppock that, though he was for years connected with elections in a way that he should be sorry to defend, and which he regretted should ever be necessary in the country of which he was a citizen, yet he had always promoted any change of the law that could possibly relieve elections from impurity and corruption; and he had heard him state that the ballot was the great weapon by which alone undue influence and corruption could be struck down in this country. He remembered that some years ago Mr. Coppock gave him a note, dated Portobello Barracks, Dublin, addressed to a Mr. Walder, a voter, by his landlord, which was in these words:— Mr. Walder, I understand you are doubtful which way to vote, and I desire you to vote for Mr. FitzGerald; if you do not you leave my farm. Now, that was to the point. No unfortunate elector could for a moment misunderstand it. Mr. Coppock also gave him one or two extracts from letters he had received from solicitors engaged in elections throughout the country. One ran in these words:— I wish to know whether I am to be retained again for Mr.—. I am offered a retainer on the other side of twenty-five guineas, which I shall accept if I do not hear from you by two o'clock. Another said,— As every vote will be of importance, I do not wish to have, or accept any retainer. In case of scrutiny it would not be desirable, and I rely upon you for payment on the usual scale as last time. You ought to send a retainer to Mr. A., his father-in-law has considerable interest, and several of his men have votes, they will go with the party for whom Mr. A. is retained. Mr. B.'s son is just admitted an attorney, you would secure his vote and his father's by a retainer. These should be done at once. I am sorry to complain to you, particularly, as it may appear that I am actuated by personal motives, which I assure you is not the case. I am only anxious for the success of our cause. Your agent Mr. C., being a stranger to this place, seems to suppose he can conduct the election without the usual professional aid. He is mistaken—there are seven solicitors here, whose services are invaluable, but they cannot be expected to act gratuitously. Your election will be lost without them, as they will all be retained against you. They will take my word, and not expect payment till after the election, so that no danger can arise, and fin the required sum—400 guineas—it is not worth losing the election. I cannot act without them, although no sum would put me against you. I as a professional man cannot vote or act without a retainer. I write to you direct, and hope you will pardon the intrusion. He had read that document with the view to ask the House just to ask themselves the reason why a solicitor's vote was worth twenty-five guineas? When his vote was down on the poll-book it amounted to no more than the vote of any other man. The truth was, that the solicitor was the man who turned the screw. He knew, as he went over the list, that A, B, C, and D, had small or large mortgages on their property; he knew that several of them were in struggling circumstances; he knew, in fact, the private affairs of a larger number of the electors than any other man in the borough, and therefore it was that his influence was so essential to the candidate. When they gave a solicitor twenty-five guineas for his vote, they did so because he knew more and could get more at the very marrow of the subject than another man; and all the machinery which lawyers set in motion, and for which they were retained, was just so much evidence of the working of that screw to which allusion bad been made by his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol. Now, he said the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton did not want the ballot. Laws were not half so necessary in this country for the rich as they were for the poor. It was for those who were defenceless that he asked for this protection. What was the state of opinion in reference to this question out of doors? The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had a strong opinion on this question, and had said some very strong things which he would hardly be able to prove; and he did not believe that he or any other man would say that he (Mr. Bright), and those who acted with him, did not represent the enormous amount of opinion of the constituencies of the United Kingdom with reference to it. Did the House think the constituencies did not know where the shoe pinched better than the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? Of course they did; and he undertook to say there was no question that could be proposed which if it were set up as a banner would attract so many suffrages to it throughout the country as the question of the ballot. They could not pass any Reform Bill without it. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Sotheron-Estcourt) had spoken that night more freely than any of his colleagues had ever done on the question of reform, and he gave them to understand that something in the way of reform was in contemplation by the Government next Session. He (Mr. Bright) did not put much faith in promises of that kind which had reference to the next Session. Sometimes Governments did not live to see another Session. But he begged to tell the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues that if they brought in a Bill which was only a pretence they would not find the Reformers throughout the country in its favour; and if they brought one in that contained some good points and promised improvement on our present condition, but did not add a clause conferring the vote by ballot, they would find that the existing constituencies would show no enthusiasm for the measure, and the great body of the people on whom they proposed to confer the franchise would repudiate the Bill as a mode of subjecting them to another species of degradation. The House would recollect that some years ago the noble Lord the Member for London brought in a Reform Bill, but it did not confer the ballot; and he (Mr. Bright) remembered, at a great meeting at Stockport, a resolution was passed by several thousands of persons, not electors, but many of whom expected to become electors by the noble Lord's Bill, declaring that the franchise would be of no use to them if the ballot were not given with it. And why? Hundreds of those men worked for one particular employer or one firm, and, although the manufacturers of Stockport and Lancashire were not a bit more disposed to use power of this kind than the landed proprietors, yet, when they came to a period of fierce excitement at an election contest, he (Mr. Bright) would not trust any honest hardworking man, if he could help it, in the hands of either landlord or manufacturer. From whom did they expect to get a measure of Parliamentary Reform? The noble Lord the Member for London, who was notoriously in favour of Reform, and was probably more sincere in his convictions on the question than any other person who had held high office, proposed to meddle with this question. He thought the noble Lord was afraid of disturbing some other things, but still he was in favour of an improvement in our representative system. When the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton got into office, he was paraded through the country as a great Reformer; he was to have carried everything before him, both abroad and at home; but the result had been that everything abroad was in confusion and at home nothing was done. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. S. Duncombe) on one occasion asked the noble Lord what sort of Bill it was he proposed to bring in—whether it was in his pocket, or at his office in Downing-street, or in Piccadilly, and whether he would lay it on the table of the House? The noble Lord, with a frankness which he (Mr. Bright) admired very much, got up and replied that he had not got any such Bill; he did not even say that the subject had been discussed at a Cabinet meeting—but he said that if he remained in office he would bring in a Bill. Well, circumstances had prevented that, and he (Mr. Bright) was not going to charge the noble Lord with having broken his promise. Now, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was in favour of a Reform Bill, and there were persons sanguine enough to believe that when it came it would be a very good Reform Bill. The House knew they were getting rid of the property qualification, and that was a great point, and there was a much more enlightened feeling on that (the Ministerial) side of the House than there used to be; they were not half so much frightened by this sort of thing as they used to be when he first knew them. The House, then, had three gentlemen who had given a promise of that kind—the noble Lord the Member for London, the noble Lord the Member for Aberdeen, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer: moreover, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) was a Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government, which promised a Reform Bill. Now, he asked all those Gentlemen for whom were they going to bring in a Reform Bill? Was it to please people who did not want any reform, or was it to please the people who returned right hon. Gentlemen opposite to that House? No, it was to please that great body whose appeals to that House ever since 1832 had not only been incessant, but continually increasing in loudness and unanimity, that they proposed to bring in a Reform Bill. It was not Members of that House who wanted a Reform Bill, but the people out of doors. Was it not a fact that every petition which came to that House in favour of Parliamentary Reform asked to have the ballot along with it? Was it not the fact that at every public meeting held in this country, or nearly so, for many years past, and crowded by hundreds of people—men who understood this question as well as they did, and thought of it ten times more than the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had ever done—was it not a fact that, with scarcely an exception, the establishment of secret voting had been the cardinal point which had been debated? Was he to be told that all that was to be disregarded? Was the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton to get up and say, as he had heard him say before, that he had already heard all the arguments bearing on this question ad nauseam? The people had not heard them ad nauseam, and were so determined to have the measure that, although their arguments had not prevailed in that House, they knew that if they rapped longer and louder the House would listen, just as they had listened to other demands. And why should there be any alarm? Some hon. Gentleman had said to-night he did not believe this was a democratic measure. He (Mr. Bright) inclined very much to that opinion himself and he had never advocated it anywhere as a democratic measure. The ballot was democratic as respected particular individuals. A trembled at the nod of B, but if the ballot were adopted A would be free. It was therefore, so far as it went, a measure of reedom. But if they were to proceed to a general election under the most approved system of secret voting he was not at all of opinion that the relative proportion of Members on each side of the House would be affected thereby. He was not one of those who advocated measures in that House or in the country solely because they were democratic; he advocated them because he believed them moral and just; and all the consideration he had been able to give, led him to the conclusion that if Parliament passed one hundred statutes to put down electoral corruption they would not lead to tranquillity at those periodical contests as much as the single Bill of two or three clauses which was now proposed. They on that (the Opposition) side of the House were in a difficulty which he would explain. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had been in the position of Prime Minister for three years, he had occupied a high position in Her Majesty's Councils for many more, and that noble Lord could not avoid showing his contempt for the opinion of the great body of those who had kept him in office during those years, especially upon this question. The noble Lord the Member for London, too, had been Prime Minister and the leader of the great Whig party, with which, somehow or other, those who were called Radicals had dovetailed; but the spoils of the warfare—if such an irreverent word could be permitted—had always fallen to the noble Lord and his immediate friends. He (Mr. Bright) did not complain of that, because they all knew that nineteen out of every twenty in that House never had the slightest prospect of holding office, and would be unworthy of their seats if they entered Parliament only with that object in view. But if they were to act together as a party—and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton insisted upon working out the constitution by means of great parties—there must be some kind of accord between them. It was preposterous to expect that men would be bound to follow noble Lords, and Right hon. Gentlemen who did not even condescend to show tolerable respect for the opinions of their followers. He had sometimes a suspicion that the noble Lord the Member for London was anxious to be consistent upon this question. Consistency was admirable, but there had been instances of inconsistency in that House which had proved of great advantage to the country. The noble Lord seemed to treat the question as one of a great and sacred principle; but was not the property qualification a still more sacred principle? He (Mr. Bright) looked upon the ballot as a matter of machinery—as a mode of taking votes—which differed in the United States, in Belgium, and in Victoria. The people of this country thought the mode adopted in the latter country a better plan than our own, and they asked that it should be adopted here. They were at liberty to ask for the change, and the noble Lord had voted for many changes. Elections used to last for eight or ten days. They then dropped to two, and now they only lasted for one day; and the change introduced by the noble Lord in his own Reform Bill was ten times more important than the ballot; and therefore no one could be charged with inconsistency if, seeing the wonderful unanimity that prevailed among the electors of the country in favour of this great experiment, he should withdraw his former opinion of the dangerous results likely to flow from this measure, and should agree to essay it. The noble Lord, of course, was at liberty to take any course he pleased; all he (Mr. Bright) could say was, that the action of the Members on his side of the House, under their ancient leaders, was impossible in the present state of things. He would ask the noble Lords the Members for Tiverton and London—for he assumed they were to be jointly or separately leaders of the party—whether it was more fitting they should try to convince themselves of what he conceived to be a reasonable proposition, or that they should ask 230 or 240 Gentlemen who, year after year, had pledged themselves to their constituents and to their own convictions upon this subject at least as firmly as the noble Lords had adhered to theirs, to forego their opinions upon this matter? He did not speak with any feeling of anger towards either of those noble Lords. His object had always been to advance by fair arguments the opinions he held, and which he desired to press upon the notice of those who did him the honour to listen to him. He next wished to say a word to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Why were they afraid of this measure? Did they not know, looking back for the last fifteen years, that they had been frightened, often without the least occasion? He had heard most fearful predictions on various subjects delivered with an earnestness which almost inspired him with awe. The hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) had delivered predictions of what would happen if the corn laws were repealed, of which if one-tenth part had been verified the country would long ere this have gone to perdition; yet now the hon. Member would not hesitate to admit that what had been done for the benefit of the industry of the country by the abolition of the corn laws had been of the greatest benefit to the agricultural interests, and especially of Somersetshire. Then, again, there was the question of the shipping interest, when most fearful prophecies were uttered as to what would be the result of the repeal of the navigation laws—prophecies which, as they all knew, bad never been verified, for the shipping interest had been more prosperous ever since, than it had ever been before. Even that very day they had passed the third reading of a Bill which he remembered, when first introduced, or a meaure similiar in its objects, excited violent fears in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite; but now no fear was expressed, and the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) had the greatest diffi- culty in getting up a case against the Bill The House was greatly relieved by having passed the measure. If the feelings of the House could be distinctly ascertained he believed it would be found that there was a unanimous desire, an almost unanimous hope, that the Bill might be dealt with in the place to which it was gone in such a manner as would prevent them from ever hearing of it again. He adopted an expression of the hon. Member for Bath—he had faith in the people of England. He did not believe in the miserable, destructive, uprooting propensities which some persons attributed to them. They were not fairly liable to such imputations. The great body of the people had behaved, under circumstances of prosperity or adversity, in a manner which entitled them to the consideration of Parliament. The people, too, looked upon that House with more confidence than formerly. They found that for many years Parliament had been gradually repealing old laws which pressed unjustly upon them,—that they had in some degree been relieved of taxation that pressed unfairly upon them,—that education had been encouraged and extended. The people of this country were as well acquainted with those facts as any Member present, and were as sensible as himself of the improved temper of the House, the improved administration of the country, and the improved conduct of Parliament towards the people. He asked the House to try the proposition now made by the hon. Member for Bristol. He and those with whom he acted were in earnest. Those whom they represented were in earnest upon it. The House must pass a Reform Bill, and they must know that no Reform Bill would be acceptable that did not involve the great principle of the ballot. He entreated them not to be misled by the right hon. Gentleman's arguments or by the fallacies of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The noble Lord could not be expected at his time of life to change his views. If he (Mr. Bright) had gone on for thirty or forty years declaring in that House that the ballot was an absurdity he would doubtless find it very difficult now to turn round and say it was a great measure of public policy to adopt it. Let the House adopt the opinion of the vast majority of those who now possessed the franchise—the almost universal opinion of the multitude to whom the next Reform Bill must give the franchise, and, for the sake of morality and tranquillity at those great contests by means of which the Government of this country was carried on, he asked the House to give an honest, fair, candid consideration, and he hoped he might add, a favourable decision upon the proposition of his hon. Friend.


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had commenced his observations by stating that in the course of his absence from the House during the last three years—an absence which everybody who set a value upon ability, honesty, and independence must regret—there had been some unwillingness exhibited to discuss the question under consideration. Now, if the hon. Member had during the period to which he had referred been present at their deliberations, he would have been aware that the reasons why the discussion upon the subject of the ballot had not been so long as upon previous occasions, were to be found in the circumstance that those who supported the views of the hon. Gentleman were indisposed to prolong the debate, in order that a division might take place; and, in the fact that the arguments upon the question had been so completely exhausted, that the House was more or less disinclined to listen to their repetition. The hon. Gentleman had, however, favoured them that evening with a speech of great power and ability; and in answer to that speech he (Mr. Walpole) desired, with the permission of the House, to make a few remarks. The hon. Gentleman, departing to some extent from the view which appeared to be adopted by the hon. Member for Bristol—who had assured them that the word "ballot" was to be shibboleth of the party which was opposed to that to which he (Mr. Walpole) had the honour to belong at the next general election—had stated that the question under discussion was one rather of machinery than of principle. Now, in that opinion he concurred with the hon. Member for Birmingham, and he thought the point at issue was more intimately connected with the mode in which votes ought to be taken than with the principles upon which the Government of the country ought to be administered. He was happy to find that in dealing with the question certain considerations presented themselves with respect to which no difference of opinion could prevail. They were all, for instance, unanimous in arriving at the conclusion that it was extremely desirable our elections should be free from intimidating and corrupting in- flucnces, and that the electors should be in a position to exercise an independent choice. It was as to the mode in which that independence was to be rendered most complete that he differed so widely from the sentiments which the hon. Gentleman entertained, It was, he should contend, extremely expedient, in order to secure that object, that We should be enabled, whenever those contaminating and corrupting influences of which the hon. Member complained were at work, to detect their existence in order that the offenders might be punished, and to expose them, that they might the more effectually be controlled. To adopt any other course in dealing with these offences than that would, he felt assured, be to fail in throwing that protection around the weak as against the strong which the hon. Member desired to afford. He would, under these circumstances, appeal to the hon. Gentleman to say whether we were not by means of the laws which had been passed, as well as by the operation of those which might in future be enacted, likely to be in a better position to prevent those undue influences which all parties were so anxious to put down than we could possibly be, if we were to have recourse to that system of secret voting which it was sought to establish. That was the fair way of testing the question. He had heard hon. Gentlemen state in the course of that discussion that the influences to which he referred were greatly upon the increase; but he should. wish those hon. Members to bear in mind that almost every page of our history tended to prove that, owing to the action of our laws, backed by public opinion, and the greater responsibility under which votes were recorded, both corruption and intimidation at elections had greatly diminished, and diminished because of the detection, exposure, and punishment to which, under a system of open voting, they would always be subjected, because it could be brought home to the parties so corrupting and intimidating. There was a period in our history when the House of Commons itself was exposed to the corrupting influence of foreign potentates. That state of things had happily ceased to exist. To what, he would ask, was its cessation to be ascribed? To the circumstance that the House had interfered and passed laws providing for the punishment of those Members who might be found to be implicated in those disgraceful transactions, and because public opinion had set its face steadily against them. It was also recorded in our history that subsequent to the Revolution of 1688 the corruption of electors had proceeded to such an extent that a society had been formed to induce voters to come to the poll, they having signed blank papers pledging them to vote for any candidate whom they might be required to support. Could it be justly said that since that time bribery and intimidation had undergone no diminution? Why, law after law had been enacted for the attainment of that end, the last of those measures being that of the noble Lord the Member for London, by which we were enabled to bring home the offences in question to the guilty parties by a simple alteration in our statutes. Now, from these facts he could draw but one conclusion, and that was, that in order to prevent, as far as possible, the recurrence of corrupting influences at elections, we must have open to us the means of detection and of punishment, as well as the countenance of public opinion. If he were right in laying down that principle, then what, he would, ask, became of the argument of the hon. Member for Birmingham to the effect that the weak could not be protected unless the votes at elections were taken in secret? He could not help thinking that the hon. Member, in advocating that course, was too keenly alive to the evils which he saw around him, while he left completely out of sight those which would be likely to flow from the adoption of the system which he sought to introduce. One result of the adoption of that system would be that, instead of having the vote of an elector freely canvassed by his neighbours, and the offence of intimidation clearly known if it should have taken place, we should have intimidation created by suspicion, which would be attended with still worse consequences than that which was now and then openly practised in defiance of public opinion. There would, in addition, be the difficulty, if the views of the hon. Gentleman were carried into effect, of detecting, exposing, and punishing those offences of which he complained. The hon. Gentleman himself must, for instance, recollect, almost better than any one else, that when he had felt it to be his duty to bring a charge against a Peer (Earl Fitzwilliam) for the offence of interfering at the election for Peterborough, he had moved in that House that a Committee be appointed to inquire into the whole of the circumstances connected with the election for Peterborough; and he would ask the hon. Gentleman whether any good result could be expected to flow from that Motion if there were no means of discovering whether the alleged offence had been committed? It was by means of the knowledge which the neighbourhood possessed of how votes were given that intimidation could be traced and corruption followed up to its source and punished, and not by any secret contrivance like the ballot. These were the main arguments which had always convinced him that this question of the ballot, which was made the shuttlecock of the party calling themselves Liberal, was, in point of fact, not a question which the Government side of the House had any reason to fear, but that it was a question of machinery by means of which the vote was to be taken, as he believed, in a more disadvantageous way than at present. Great as would be the evil of having this secret system of voting and acting upon suspicion instead of knowledge—great as would be the evil of not being able, as they now were by law, to detect, expose, and bring to punishment acts of intimidation when committed, those evils were but as dust in the balance compared with the sacrifice of that greatest of all principles, by which representative government must be carried on—namely, the principle of public responsibility with reference to all matters of public concern, bringing to bear upon that responsibility so exercised the control of public opinion. Whatever they did—disguise the question as they might—unless they took care that a man was responsible, whatever his situation, for the conduct he followed in respect of public affairs, they would only establish an arbitrary and irresponsible power, which could not end in good to the country. They must be freed, by means of public opinion, from all power of doing wrong in secret and in the dark; their conduct must be brought to the broad face of open day; and morality, independence, and virtue would be better encouraged in that way than in any other. If they once established this secret system of voting, he dreaded, still more than losing that control of public opinion which it was so desirable to keep up, the great danger of all those mean and base passions—deceit, treachery, and distrust—being set to work, which would be tenfold more injurious when directed to securing representation by the choice of the people. These were the grounds—not on which he feared that their power would be diminished by the ballot—but on which he believed that it would introduce a system which, in point of morality, would be disadvantageous to the country, which would not subject men to that responsibility which everybody in this country ought to be subjected to, and which would only end, as every thing must end where the control of public opinion was not thoroughly operative, in bringing men to do acts which they must condemn without being able to punish. Such a system would discourage morality instead of encouraging it, aad would be detrimental to the free exercise of the franchise throughout the country, controlled as it ought to be by public opinion bringing approval when they acted right, and censure and punishment when they acted wrong. For these reasons he could not consent to the introduction of this Bill. He saw no good to arise from the discussion of the question. If they could not agree on the principle, the mere machinery by which it was to be carried out was of small consequence. Whatever alterations they might introduce into the representation they ought to keep in their minds, above all things, that the franchise, trust, or right, whichever they might call it, should always be exercised in open day, and subject to the control of that public opinion, which, perhaps, after all, was the best and only security for the good conduct of the elector.


Sir, it is with great reluctance that I ask the attention of the House even for a few minutes. But the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has alluded so much to me in connection with this question that I venture to ask the House to attend to the very few observations which I have to make. I have addressed the House very frequently upon this subject. I have stated my reasons respecting it, and with regard to the question of principle, which I have often argued, I have nothing more to say; I may therefore pass by that part of the question, though I consider it a most important one. I would say this, however, in regard to the practical alteration which is proposed: I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham that this would be a change in the machinery of our representation. But I consider it would be a change for the worse. The hon. Gentleman in his very able speech did that which I have often heard done before—he dwelt very strongly upon the evils of the present system, he recounted the intimidation practised, he called upon you to have compassion upon the poor voters; but when he came to the remedy he almost took it for granted. That seemed to him to require no proof—there was no necessity for detail—it was at once assumed that the ballot would cure all the moral and political evils which had been pictured as of such gigantic magnitude. Now, I doubt that statement altogether. I cannot but think that the evils of party, of political passion, and of animosities upon particular questions which interest the public, would exist as much as ever under the ballot. I cannot believe that by saying a man should have the power of giving, or should be compelled to give, his vote in secret all these political and moral evils should at once cease, and Pulveris exigui jactu compressa quiescunt. I cannot believe that this small means would produce so wonderful a result. Suppose you allowed secrecy to be permissive. In that case, the men who were on the look out to coerce electors would hunt them down without end, in order to find out, if possible, which way they voted; and if the landlord was oppressive, he would turn out his tenant, or if the customer were overbearing, he would withdraw his custom from the tradesman, just as before. Then, again, I believe the compulsory method would fail, because it is contrary to the habits and general feelings—I may say, to the natural candour and truth—of the people of England. Your method therefore would fail, and that is my objection to it. It may be said, and often has been said, "Well, you may suppose it would fail, but why don't you try it?" Now, I object to try a thing which I believe would be rather mischievous in its effects than otherwise. I know that when one method had failed men would say, "You have tried the permissive—now try the compulsory system;" and if that failed too they would cry, "Let us punish people for making known their votes; let us endeavour to get rid of that inconvenient publicity, which attends English elections." I believe, likewise, that the prediction of the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck)—namely, that with regard to small boroughs men would offer £1,000 or £2,000 if they were elected—without asking which way it was distributed—would be verified; and that much more corruption would exist in such places than at present. But I cannot help thinking there is something very strange in the fact that those who are such strong advocates of the ballot have not been able to show us some completely satisfactory example of a country in which it is established, the inhabitants of which are more free, have more liberty of discussion and more liberty of choice than the people of England, and in which the corruption and intimidation complained of here do not exist. No such instance has ever been pointed out; but after the ballot has been established in many countries of Europe, and nominally in the United States, we find hon. Gentlemen exhibiting excessive delight and rapture because in the colony of Victoria it is supposed to have succeeded. [Mr. H. BERKELEY: And in Tasmania as well."] I cannot help thinking that if this contrivance, which has been adopted in other countries, had really been successful there, and had produced freedom without the intimidation and corruption which, I believe, are almost inseparable from a free Government—if that had happened either in Europe or America, we should not have had Victoria and Tasmania held up as such splendid examples for our imitation. Let us wait a little and hear what are the fruits of the system before we think of adopting it. We have examples before our eyes. In France there exists an assembly, elected by universal suffrage and by ballot. We have a Congress and different State Legislatures elected by universal suffrage and by ballot in America; and, without entering into a discussion of events, which have take place among our neighbours across the Channel, or among our near relations and cousins on the other side of the Atlantic, I only say that I am not willing to change our imperfect liberties in England for anything which can be introduced to my notice as existing elsewhere. It seems to me that with all our imperfections we are better off than they are. Like some great river which we see running through the land, it may be called by many an impure stream, it may be contaminated by many a foul junction, yet it pours onward a vast stream, carrying with it fertility, admired for its beauty, and giving happiness and prosperity to the country through which it passes; and that seems to me to be the nature of our free government. You cannot discuss its details, without being shocked almost every day by some instance of undue interference with freedom of election, or with some other blot upon our institutions; but yet, upon the whole, I do not know anything which has lasted so well and so long, and which really has within it so much of the spirit of freedom. The hon. Baronet talked of the examples of Hampden and Sydney as something that we might forget. But I cannot forget that those who established our liberties did not require secrecy, and did not refuse ship-money by any secret action. Those men came forward in the face of day, and said, "We wish to resist tyranny, and we will resist it openly, and they upheld their principles at whatever peril." If the hon. Member for Birmingham will listen to me for a few minutes, I will answer the appeal which he has made to me. When I introduced a Reform Bill a few years ago I said there were certain points, especially this of the ballot, on which I did not intend to touch, and that, though many arguments had been brought forward in its favour, the House ought to remember that while secret voting might prevent bad influence over the good, it would also have the effect of preventing good influence over the bad. Since that time I have had many opportunities of meditation and discussion upon the question; and last year, at the request of some of my constituents, I reconsidered the question and looked at it in every light, but I came to a conclusion in respect to it as unfavourable as ever. The hon. Member says, the great majority of those who belong to the Liberal party are in favour of the ballot. I have never shown any intolerance on this point. It is well known that I was earnest, in conjunction with Lord Aberdeen, in recommending Sir William Molesworth, who was an eager friend of the ballot, for a seat in the Cabinet. Ever since the Reform Bill it had been difficult for a party to form an Administration or to act together as a party without having what are styled "open questions;" the Catholic question was made an open question, and on that question the safety of the nation may be said to have depended. This very day we have seen a distinguished member of an administration which, speaking generally, looks upon the abolition of the church rates as injurious to the Established Church, voting in favour of a measure for that purpose. The noble Earl at the head of the Government is quite right to permit that diversity of opinion. You can neither act together as a party nor form an Administration, if upon some of these questions you have not tolerance with one another's opinions. I certainly have seen a Ministry continue far too long to make an open question of a subject of vital importance to the safety of the country; but this is not a question of that sort. It merely relates to the machinery of voting, and if men cannot act together because they do not think alike on such a question, there must be more intolerance among public men than I had an idea of. For my own part, I am persuaded that changes of opinion among men who have been for a long time Members of Parliament and who have had every opportunity for consideration, when there is no change of circumstances, ought to be as rare as possible. Sir Robert Peel changed his opinion on two great questions—on one of which the safety of the country at one time, and on the other the prosperity of the country very much depended—and though his justification was complete, yet I cannot but think that some public mischief was done by his example. If any of the members of an administration see fit to change their opinions as to any of the great questions on which they ought all to act together, by all means let them resign, for it would not be fur the public advantage that they should remain and vote in opposition to their conscientious convictions. This, however, is not one of the great questions of principle on which you can say that the working of the constitution depends. I do not think that any one is justified in saying that there is anything like unanimity of opinion in the country on this matter. I have had occasion to argue against the ballot before great public meetings, and I have always found that though there were many in favour of it, there were also a great number disposed to agree with me. It is the opinion of a great number of people, that unless the franchise were made almost universal, it would be wrong to relieve those who have votes from the influence of that general public opinion under which they now discharge their functions. For these reasons, Sir, I shall give my vote, as I have given it on previous occasions, in opposition to the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol.

Motion made and Question put— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to cause the Votes of Parliamentary Elections to be taken by way of ballot.

The House divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 294: Majority 97.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Ayrton, A. S.
Alcock, T. Barnard, T.
Anderson, Sir J. Bass, M. T.
Atherton, W. Baxter, W. E.
Beale, S. Greville, Col. F.
Berkeley, F. W. F. Hadfield, G.
Bethell, Sir R. Hall, rt. hon. Sir B.
Biddulph, R. M. Hamilton, Captain
Biggs, J. Hanbury, R.
Black, A. Hankey, T.
Blake, J. Hanmer, Sir J.
Bland, L. H. Hardcastle, J. A.
Bonham-Carter, J. Harris, J. D.
Bouverie, Rt. Hn. E. P. Hatehell, J.
Bowyer, G. Headlam, T. E.
Brady, J. Henchy, D. O'Connor
Bright, J. Hodgson, K. D.
Brocklehurst, J. Holland, E.
Buchanan, W. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Bury, Visct. Hutt, W.
Butler, C. S. Ingham, R.
Buxton, C. Ingram, H.
Byng, Hon. G. Jackson, W.
Caird, J. Kershaw, J.
Calcutt, F. M. King, hon. P. J. L.
Campbell, R. J. R. Kinglake, A. W.
Cheetham, J. Kinglake, J. A.
Clay, J. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Clifford, C. C. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Clifford, Col. Kirk, W.
Clive, G. Langston, J. H.
Cobbett, J. M. Langton, H. G.
Cogan, W. H. F. Laslett, W.
Collier, R. P. Lindsay, W. S.
Coningham, W. Locke, Joseph
Conyngham, Lord F. Locke, John
Copeland, W. T. Macarthy, A.
Corbally, M. E. M'Cann, J.
Cowan, C. MacEvoy, E.
Cox, W. M'Mahon, P.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Magan, W. H.
Crawford, R. W. Maguire, J. F.
Crook, J. Mangles, C. E.
Crossley, F. Marshall, W.
Dalglish, R. Massey, W. N.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Mellor, J.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Mills, T.
Deasy, R. Moffatt, G.
Denison, hon. W. H. F. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Dent, J. D. Morris, D.
De Vere, S. E. Napier, Sir C.
Dillwyn, L. L. Nicoll, D.
Duff, M. E. G. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Duke, Sir J. Norris, J. T.
Duncan, Visct. O'Brien, P.
Dunne, M. O'Connell, Capt. D.
Ellice, E. O'Donoghoe, The
Elton, Sir A. H. Ogilvy, Sir J.
Evans, Sir De L. Osborne, R.
Ewart, W. Paget, C.
Ewart, J. C. Paget, Lord A.
Ewing, H. E. C. Paget, Lord C.
Fagan, W. Paxton, Sir J.
Fenwick, H. Pease, H.
Ferguson, Col. Pechell, Sir G. B.
FitzGerald, rt. he. J. D. Perry, Sir T. E.
Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W. Philips, R. N.
Forster, C. Pigott, F.
Fox, W. J. Pilkington, J.
Freestun, Col. Power, N.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Pryse, E. L.
Gilpin, C. Ramsden, Sir J. W.
Glyn, G. C. Rawlinson, Sir H. C.
Goderich, Viscount Rebow, J. G.
Greene, J. Ricardo, J. L.
Gregson, S. Ricardo, O.
Grenfell, C. W. Ridley G.
Robartes, T. J. A. Tite, W.
Roebuck, J. A. Tollemache, hon F. J.
Roupell, W. Townsend, J.
Russell, A. Trelawny, Sir J. S.
Salisbury, E. G. Trueman, C.
Schneider, H. W. Turner, J. A,
Scholefield, W. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Scrope, G. P. Vivian, H. H.
Shafto, R. D. Vivian, hon. J. C. W.
Shelley, Sir J. V. Waldron, L.
Sheridan, R. B. Watkins, Col. L.
Smith, J. A. Westhead, J. P. B.
Smith, J. B. Whitbread, S.
Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W. White, J.
Stanley, hon. W. O. Willcox, B. M'Ghie
Stapleton, J. Williams, W.
Stuart, Lord J. Wood, W.
Stuart, Col. Woods, H.
Sullivan, M. Wyld, J.
Sykes, Col. W. H.
Talbot, C. R. M. TELLERS.
Tancred, H. W. Berkeley, H.
Thompson, Gen. Martin, P. W.
Thornely, T.
List of the NOES.
Adams, W. H. Cartwright, Col.
Adderley, rt hon. C. B. Cavendish, hon. W.
Akroyd, E. Cavendish, hon. G.
Alexander, J. Cayley, E. S.
Annesley, hon. H. Charlesworth, J. C. D.
Arbuthnott, hon. Gen, Child, S.
Archdall, Capt. M Churchill, Lord A. S.
Ashley, Lord Clive, hon. R. W.
Bailey, C. Close, M. C.
Baillie, H. J. Cobbold, J. C.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Codrington, Sir W.
Ball, E. Codrington, G.
Baring, A. H. Colbrooke, Sir T. E.
Baring, H. B. Collins, T.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Colvile, C. R.
Baring, T. G. Conolly, T.
Bernard, T. T. Cooper, E. J.
Bernard, hon. Colonel Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.
Barrow, W. H. Coote, Sir C. H.
Bathurst, A. A. Corry, rt. hon, H. L.
Beach, W. W. B. Cross, R. A.
Bective, Earl of Carzon, Visct.
Beecroft, G. S. Dalkeith, Earl of
Bennet, P. Damar, L. D.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Deedes, W.
Beresford, rt. hon. W. Denison, E.
Blackburn, P. Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Blakemore, T. W. B. Dobbs, W. C.
Boldero, Col. Dod, J. W.
Booth, Sir R. G. Du Cane, C.
Botfield, B. Duff, Maj. L. D. G.
Bouverie, hon. P. P. Duncombe, hon. A.
Bovill, W. Duncombe, hon. Col.
Bramley-Moore, J. Dunkellin, Lord
Bridges, Sir B. W. Dunlop, A. M.
Brown, J. Du Pre, C. G.
Browne, Lord J. T. Dutton, hon. R. H.
Bruce, Major C. East, Sir J. B.
Bruen, H. Edwards, H
Buller, Sir J. Y. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Buller, J. W. Egerton, W. T.
Burghley, Lord Egerton, E. C.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Eliott, hon. J. E.
Cairns, Sir H. M'C. Elmley, Visct.
Calcraft, J. H. Elphinstone, Sir J.
Carden, Sir R. W. Emlyn, Visct.
Carnac, Sir J. R. Ennis, J.
Estcourt, rt. hn. T. H. S. Kendall, N.
Euston, Earl of Kerrison, Sir E. C.
Farquhar, Sir M. King, J. K.
Fellowes, E. King, E. B.
Ferguson, Sir R. Knatchbull, W. F.
Finlay, A. S. Knight, F. W.
FitzGerald, W. R. S. Knightley, R.
Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W. Knox, Col.
Foley, J. H. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Langton, W. G.
Forde, Col. Lefroy, A.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Legh, G. C.
Forster, Sir G. Lennox, Lord A. F.
Foster, W. O. Lennox, Lord H. G.
Fortescue, hon. F. D. Leslie, C. P.
Franklyn, G. W. Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.
Fraser, Sir W. A. Liddell, hon. H. G.
French, Col. Lockhart, A. E.
Gallwey, Sir W. P. Lopes, Sir M.
Galway, Viscount Lovaine, Lord
Gard, R. S. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Garnett, W. J. Lowther, hon. Col.
Gaskell, J. M. Lowther, Capt.
Gilpin, Col. Lygon, hon. F.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. Macartney, G.
Goddard, A. L. Macaulay, K.
Gore, W. R. O. Mackie, J.
Greaves, E. M'Clintock, J.
Greenall, G. Mainwaring, T.
Greenwood, J. Malins, R.
Gregory, W. H. Manners, Lord J.
Gray, Capt. March, Earl of
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. March, M. H.
Griffith, C. D. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Grogan, E. Melgund, Visct.
Gurdon, B. Miles, W.
Haddo, Lord Miller, T. J.
Hall, Gen. Miller, S. B.
Hamilton, Lord C. Mills, A.
Hamilton, G. A. Montgomery, Sir G.
Hamilton, J. H. Moody, C. A.
Handley, J. Morgan, O.
Harcourt, G. G. Mowbray, rt. hon J. R.
Hardy, G. Naas, Lord
Hartington, Marq. of Neeld, J.
Hassard, M. Newark, Visct.
Hayes, Sir E. Newdegate, C. N.
Heathcote, Sir W. Newport, Visct.
Heathcote, hon. G. H. Nisbet, R. P.
Heneage, G. F. Noel, Hon. G. J.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. North, Col.
Henniker, Lord Ossulston, Lord
Herbert, rt. hon. H. A. Packe, C. W.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Pakenham, Col.
Hill, Lord E. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Hill, hon. R. C. Palk, L.
Hodgson, W. N. Palmer, R.
Holford, R. S. Palmer, R. W.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Palmerston, Visct.
Hopwood, J. T. Patten, Col. W.
Horsfall, T. B. Paull, H.
Hotham, Lord Pennant, hon. Col..
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Pevensey, Visct.
Hudson, G. Philipps, J. H.
Hunt, G. W. Powell, F. S.
Inglis, J. Pritchard, J.
Jermyn, Earl Proby, hon. G. L.
Jervoise, Sir J. C. Pugh, D.
Johnstone, hon. H. B. Pugh, D.
Johnstone, J. J. H. Puller, C. W. G.
Johnstone, Sir J. Ramsay, Sir A.
Jolliffe, H. H. Robertson, P. F.
Kelly, Sir F. Rolt, J.
Russell, Lord J. Vansittart, G. H.
Russell, H. Vansittart, W.
Rust, J. Verner, Sir W.
Sclater-Booth, G. Verney, Sir H.
Scott, hon. F. Waddington, H. S.
Scott, Major Walcott, Adm.
Shirley, E. P. Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Sibthorp, Major Walsh, Sir J.
Slaney, R. A. Warren, S.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Welby, W. E.
Smyth, Col. White, H.
Smollett, A. Whiteside, rt hon. J.
Somerset, Col. Whitmore, H.
Spooner, R. Williams, Col.
Stafford, Marq. of Willoughby, J. P.
Stanhope, J. B. Willson, A.
Steel, J. Wise, J. A.
Stirling, W. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Steuart, A. Woodd, B. T.
Stewart, Sir M. R. S. Wortley, Major S.
Sturt, H. G. Wyndham, Gen.
Sturt, N. Wyndham, H.
Tempest, Lord A. V. Wynn, Col.
Thornhill, W. P. Wynne, W. W. E.
Tollemache, J. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Tomline, G.
Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J. TELLERS.
Vance, J. Jolliffe, Sir W.
Vane, Lord H. Taylor, Col.