HC Deb 18 March 1858 vol 149 cc378-96

in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill for disfranchising the freemen of the town of Galway, said it would be in the recollection of the House that a Committee sat last Session on this subject, whose Report he had himself brought up. That Report was followed by an Address, and the Address by the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the bribery alleged to be practised at elections for the town of Galway. That Commission sat for a fortnight last autumn, and examined a large number of witnesses. The witnesses in nearly every instance spoke freely, fully, and fairly; indeed there appeared to have been a charming exhibition of candour on all sides and among all classes. Nothing was denied or even apologized for, and it seemed as if bribery was an element in which the Galwegians were accustomed to dwell, a bribe being regarded as little more than a proper remuneration to a poor man taken from his work. He did not know that it was necessary for him to detain the House by going at length into the matter, but he might state that the right of voting in Gal- way was of a very peculiar nature. The charter of Charles II. admitted all persons to the freedom who were of any trade or art or seamen connected with the town by residence, on payment of 20s.— a sum which was a much greater amount then than at present. In the reign of George I. the Galway Act was passed, which repealed the payment of 20s. as a qualification, and substituted the condition that all claiming their freedom should be Protestants. Protestantism was thus insisted upon as an element of respectability in the place of the payment of 20s. The Irish Reform Act repealed this qualification, and almost every one who exercised any trade in the town and was resident could claim the franchise. The constituency amounted to 1,091, of whom 540, or about half, were freemen. Of the other moiety, some eighty or ninety were freeholders, and the remaining 450 were occupiers of £8 or upwards. It therefore appeared that if the freemen wore corrupt, they had in effect the place entirely in their power, and the question came to be what use they had made of their powers of late years. The Commissioners did not feel themselves empowered to go further back in their inquiries than the election of 1847. There was no contested election in that year, and the Commissioners could discover no traces of corrupt practices, so that according to their instructions they could not investigate into the circumstances of any previous election, but they reported that they had ample reason to believe that bribery had extensively prevailed anterior to that time. They inquired, however, into the elections of 1852 and 1857, and on both these occasions they found that bribery had taken place, 250 freemen, or nearly one-half of their number, having accepted bribes. The freemen were formerly admitted by the Mayor, but now that duty devolved upon a person appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. That person was a very respectable man, but he had no means of examining adequately into the character and circumstances of the applicants, and had not the power of administering an oath. The consequence was, that very many persons not entitled to be considered tradesmen or artificers were admitted to freedom. He would read a short extract from the Report of the Commissioners, to show what the peculiar features were of this constituency. They said:— There is, however, no doubt, and it is one of the most unfortunate results of the system, that for a considerable period before an election a general interruption of industry and employment takes place among the freemen. The more influential convene meetings of those whom they can, or hope to influence; make out lists of voters for whom they undertake to answer; and endeavour to negotiate with the agents of the various candidates for the sale of votes That these lists often contain the names of persons who did not authorize them has been suggested; but the system is too firmly established and too openly carried on to leave any doubt on our minds that in the great majority of instances the parties named are well aware of the whole proceeding. And accordingly money is given on the faith of these lists, and to treat and entertain those represented upon them as combined together. In this way, and by this habit of acting in bodies in concert, a constant excitement is kept up, and the poorer tradesman and artizans, having no capital or property whatever, earning their subsistence by daily labour, and wholly dependent upon it, abandon their employments for the treating and other temptations held out to them, and, except by obtaining money from the candidates whom they support, have no means of repairing to themselves and their families the pecuniary loss thus occasioned. That there are among the freemen many solvent and respectable for their class in life is unquestionable; but the great majority evidently belong to a very humble class, and a considerable number of those whom we examined exhibited the appearance of poverty. Indeed, so far was this from being denied, that it was urged by several witnesses as a reason and excuse for the receipt of pecuniary assistance by the freemen. And it certainly is not improbable, as was also suggested in evidence, that it is their poverty, and a notion that mechanics and artizans may not unfairly claim some compensation for loss of time, which have induced persons of station in society in this constituency to view the distribution of money and provisions among the freemen at the time of an election, if not without scruple, certainly with very mitigated feelings of disapprobation. That opinion ought to be a sufficient reply to those gentlemen who might think it unjust to disfranchise a body of men for acts attributed to only a portion of them. At the election of 1852 there were three candidates, Lord Dunkellin, Mr. Martin Blake, and Mr. O'Flaherty. Lord Dunkellin spent at that election £2,000, and Mr. Martin Blake £1,200; but both those gentlemen appeared to be ignorant of the way in which the money was spent. At the election of 1857, Mr. O'Flaherty and Lord Dunkellin were the candidates; Mr. Patrick Blake was also for a time a candidate. When the last-named gentleman went to Galway, he was told that twenty-one butchers demanded £210, and twenty-three shoemakers £115. This alarmed him and he retired, observing that the Bank of Ireland could not stand such a contest. After his retirement Lieutenant Colonel French came upon the field, there being a great desire on the part of a large portion of the constituency to have another candi- date. At this is election Lord Dunkellin spent £1,200, and Mr. O'Flaherty, so far as could be ascertained, £400, Colonel French spending but a very small sum. The whole of the money, both in 1852 and 1857, was given among freemen, of whom 250 had received bribes, and the Commissioners stated specifically that very corrupt practices prevailed in Galway. As a precedent for the disfranchisement he now proposed, he might refer to the case of Yarmouth, where the whole of the freemen were disfranchised, though fourteen cases only were proved. No Commission was issued in that ease. Mr. Ker Seymor, the Chairman of the Committee, reported the facts, and the Bill was brought in. That was a precedent more than sufficient to justify the course he now proposed, and he was sure that a perusal of the Report of the Commissioners and the evidence they had taken must satisfy every impartial person of the justice of the step. The Bill he now asked leave to introduce was founded on that Report; and all he had to do was to refer the House to the Report, and then leave them to deal with the question as they thought best. With these observations he should move for leave to bring in a Bill for the disfranchisement of the county of the town of Galway.


said, he rose to second the Motion for the introduction of the Bill, leaving the House to dispose of it as it saw fit on the second reading. He wished to say a few words in consequence of a very extraordinary petition which had been presented by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), affecting a noble relative of his (the Marquess of Clanricarde) in "another place," and for the allegations contained in which he could assure the House there was no ground whatever. Everything connected with the last election, in so far as the return of his noble Friend (Lord Dunkellin) was concerned, was carried on by him (Sir T. Burke). His noble Friend (Lord Dunkellin) was in Calcutta at the time, and his father (the Marquess of Clanricarde) asked if he would take the trouble to go down and canvass Galway in his behalf. He did so, and must say he did not find two respectable gentlemen or tradesmen opposed to him. He had no communication whatever with the Marquess of Clanricarde on the subject of expense. His Lordship wrote to his agent, saying, "Whatever money is required in the town of Galway I will see paid." [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh; but he was neither afraid nor ashamed of anything he had done throughout the whole transaction, and he challenged any one to say that this was not one of the most extraordinary cases ever brought before the House as regarded purity of election. It was, in fact, the want of spending money that had brought up this charge against them. It was brought by the freemen because they did not get the money they wanted. He would briefly state the facts of the case. The other candidates besides Lord Dunkellin were Mr. O'Flaherty and Mr. Blake. Colonel French canvassed the electors, and retired on the Friday, the nomination being on the Monday. Mr. Blake had previously withdrawn from the contest. He was ready to pledge his honour that not one farthing was spent by him on the freemen. What happened? The whole town was in an uproar. They were determined to get a candidate, but they did not know what to do. At last they discovered that Colonel French was in London; they telegraphed for him, and he arrived on the Sunday evening to his (Sir T. Burke's) utter astonishment. He had no more conception of Colonel French coming to the post than— On the Monday morning he handed Colonel French a document showing the result of the canvass, and how the constituency were likely to poll for the three candidates. On the morning after Colonel French's arrival, a number of the freemen came to him (Sir T. Burke) and said, "What will you give?" "Nothing," said he. He would not deny, although it had been used against him in the town, that he had pledged himself not to interfere with either candidate. His own relative was the whole and sole object of his solicitude; he did not care about either of the other candidates; he was determined, if he could, to place his relative at the head of the poll. There were upwards of 550 freemen, and he had a promise from every one of them but 180. What was he to do? On the eve of the election he sent a friend to Mr. O'Flaherty's committee, to say if they would poll him 100 men by ten o'clock next morning, he would give £250. What happened? Was there any petition against the return of Lord Dunkellin? No. Then the Commission was issued, and what happened? He (Sir T. Burke) was summoned to Galway to give evidence on oath before the three learned gentlemen of whom it was composed; he went, and he could assure the House that a more unpleasant hour he never spent. He told those learned gentlemen all that had been done in much the same terms as he was now doing. One word more and he had done. He hoped, for the sake of those poor people in Galway —for they did not get 2s. in the pound of this money—that the House would allow the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Clive) to bring in this Bill.


said, he entirely agreed in what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the introduction of the Bill. He himself moved the appointment of the Commission, in consequence of the extraordinary circumstances proved before the Committee; and now he hardly knew which was the most extraordinary, the things reported by the Commissioners or the statement they had just listened to from the hon. Baronet opposite.


said, the course taken by the Committee on the Galway election was an extraordinary one. They were appointed to inquire into the circumstances connected with the election, and they reported that bribery had been committed not only at that, but at former elections. Subsequently a Commission of Inquiry was issued, and the proceedings of that Commission were before the House. But the Members of the Committee on the petition, not content with the investigation they there made, were now endeavouring to render their functions as it were, perpetual. He would ask the House, whether, under these circumstances, they had authority to proceed with this Bill, and if so, was it desirable to do so? The Act 15th and 16th of Victoria, chap. 57, sec. 9, expressly protected from punishment, disabilities, penal actions, and criminal prosecutions all persons who had been engaged in any corrupt practices at or connected with any election of a Member of Parliament, in respect of any evidence they might give touching such corrupt practices before any Commission appointed to inquire into them. Every person who was bribed, or supposed to be bribed, at the election in question was examined before the Commissioners at Galway, and a great number of them freed themselves from the imputation of bribery. The consequence would he, if the Bill now sought to be introduced were passed into law, that all those persons who had given evidence before the Commission in this case, under cover of the 15th and 16th of Victoria, cap. 57, would be subject to disabilities and incapacities, in as much as the Bill went to disfranchise the whole of them. Again, but a comparatively small number of the 558 freemen of Galway were proved to have been implicated in the bribery at the last election, while the gratuities given were of very small value, and in most cases did not compensate the recipient for his loss of time. He would ask was it just to disfranchise the whole for the culpability of a few? Besides, considering that there were now several Reform Bills "looming in the distance," each of which would probably attempt to deal with the class of freemen in the borough constituencies, he thought there was no necessity at this moment for such hasty legislation as this. Although he would not divide the House at this stage of the Bill, he should give it his most strenuous opposition on the second reading.


said, I venture to think, Sir, that the House will agree with me in this proposition—that the corrupter should be punished as well as the corrupted, the Briber as well as the party bribed. I believe, Sir, that the rich and powerful briber —the man who held the purse and administered the bribe—is far more guilty in the eyes of God and man, than the wretched creatures whose ignorance for whose necessities induce them to receive the bribe. Now, because this Bill does not propose to do equal justice to the briber as to the bribed, to those corrupting as to those corrupted, I hold it to be an unfair, unjust, and one-sided measure. It has been said by the hon. proposer of this Bill, the freeman of the borough "controlled and commanded the elections." I can easily understand why certain persons are so anxious to disfranchise the freemen—"cut off these freemen—these corrupt and rotten freemen —and we have the representation in our own hands." This statement of the hon. Member I regard as most significant of the object of the Bill. Two gentlemen contested the borough of Galway, one of whom disdained all party ties, and stood on independent principles. That gentleman and his party were inconvenient to the Government of the day. The other candidate had canvassed the constituency on more than one occasion, and still had his eye on the borough; but it was necessary for his success that the franchise should be left exclusively in the hands of a certain class, and therefore it would be most convenient to have this Bill carried, and these guilty freemen deprived of the franchise. Pass this Bill and what would be the re- sult?—why, there would he an additional Whig Member to back some in-coming Whig Ministry. Now, Sir, I ask, the virtuous Chairman of this inexorable Committee, where, in his Bill, is his condemnation of Dr. Browne, one of the Professors of the Queen's College in Galway, who made himself the conduit pipe of all this corruption? It positively flowed through this Professor. That gentleman was hound to neutrality by his peculiar position, and was called upon in a special degree to give a good example to those over whom he presided; but that professor undertook what is popularly termed the "dirty work" for others, without any such motive as had actuated others—viz.: the desire to bring in a relative, or to serve a friend. Not one of the wretched freemen whom these gentlemen debauched could get the stipend of corruption, unless he had the stamp of Dr. Browne's approval. The miserable devil of a starving freeman, on whose head all the indignation of this virtuous assembly is to be poured, having voted for Dr. Browne's candidates, was provided with a ticket, and then proceeded to a certain house, and put his hand in a hole in the wall; but unless his ticket bore the impress of the signet of pure Dr. Browne he could not get a penny of the wages of corruption. The House is called upon to visit these wretched victims of the briber's guilt with exemplary punishment, and to allow Dr. Browne, Professor in the Queen's College, and those associated with him, to escape scot free. Surely that would be one-sided justice. Feelings of delicacy, as well as other motives, preclude any allusion on my part to the conduct of the hon. Baronet below me; hut I cannot help remarking that, even were it only for his own sake, I wish that any other man had come forward and asked the House to pass sentence on the bribed of the town of Galway. The hon. Baronet has presented himself to the House as the amiable friend of the freemen of Galway; but well might those freemen exclaim, "Save us from our friends!" The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) presented a petition from the inhabitants of that borough, asking not for the disfranchisement of one class of offenders; but that equal justice should be dealt to the briber as to the bribed, the rich as to the poor, and I had the honour of presenting a second petition to the same effect. All that the people of Galway ask is, that equal justice should be done to all. The Commissioners report that some of the very magistrates were implicated in this corruption; and if hon. Members will glance over that Report before this Bill conies on for a second reading, they will find that a Mr. Perrse, a Mr. O'Flaherty, who are magistrates, a Mr. Carter, who is Deputy Clerk of the Peace, and other persons, were as guilty as Dr. Browne. And this being so, am I to be told that these rich and powerful offenders are to he absolved of their crime, and their wretched victims alone to be condemned. I contend that this Bill is not only partial in its intention, but that it also confounds the innocent with the guilty. The Report say?, and the hon. Mover repeats, that several of these freemen are solvent and respectable persons, who disdained bribery, and who never accepted, or thought of accepting a bribe; and are these innocent men to be punished while the Professor of the Queen's College and his associates in corruption are to be allowed to go scot free. There are 660 freemen in Galway, of whom 120 are of entirely new creation, having never taken part in an election; and are they to be held responsible for the acts of others? There were really but 180 guilty, while there were 480 innocent; and yet, by this Bill, it is proposed to condemn the whole, innocent and guilty alike. This, I assert, is not the justice that the House of Commons should be asked to deal. The fact is, the freemen of Ireland are not liked by a certain class of politicians, and I must confess that I am one of the number myself, because, being generally of the poorest class, they are most liable to yield to the arts of the tempter; and it was thought by some persons that the proposal now before the House would afford an admirable opportunity of inserting the sharp end of the wedge, to be driven home on a convenient occasion. It might be, and no doubt would be, a question with the House whether this particular franchise ought to be abolished or continued; but this certainly is not the time, nor is it the manner, in which the attempt should be made. This Bill was given notice of even while the late Ministry were in their places, and a Reform Bill, which the country had been promised, was ''looming in the distance." Why not have waited for the measure, which was to have been introduced after Easter? — why not wait for the Reform Bill, which we are to have next year? Surely, the authors of this penal measure need not be in such a desperate hurry to display their one sided virtue. At any rate, let them not be tolerant of bribery in broadcloth, and inexorable towards bribery in rags. Before the second reading comes on, I will arm myself with such facts as will bring shame on the concocters of this Bill, unless they include in it the names of the archbribers who are responsible before God and man for the corruption of these miserable voters, and unless they are prepared to punish the bribers as well as the bribed.


said, he thought the question raised by the gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) as to the indemnity given to corrupt voters could be easily disposed of. If these Royal Commissions were intended in certain cases to be followed by the disfranchisement of corrupt constituencies, as was undoubtedly the fact, à fortiori they might be followed by the disfranchisement of a corrupt class. The indemnity was an indemnity from criminal prosecution, and was never meant to preclude Parliament from meting out any measure of political or social justice which it might deem necessary. Allusion had been made to the disfranchisement of the freemen of Great Yarmouth. He was himself chairman of the Great Yarmouth Election Committee, which recommended the disfranchisement of the freemen of that borough, The practice of issuing Royal Commissions in these cases had not then been introduced, but it had been established before the Galway Election Committee sat, and therefore that Committee were right in suggesting its adoption in that particular instance. When he rose to move the second reading of the Bill to disfranchise the freemen of Great Yarmouth he was greeted with general cries of "Agreed!" He took the hint and cut short his speech; when the measure was passed unanimously. The corrupt freemen of Great Yarmouth did not find a friend in that House, but the men of Galway appeared to be more fortunate. A distinction, however, could not consistently be made in their favour.


believed that with a Reform Bill looming at no great distance it would be unwise to pass this measure. Without justifying the venality which formerly prevailed among the freemen of this country, it had yet to be proved that, under present legislation, and with the higher tone of morality that now pervaded elections, this class were peculiarly corrupt, and worthy of being specially selected for vengeance under a new Reform Act. They had in the last Session complaisantly refused, in accordance with the then Prime Minister, to entertain the small Reform Bills brought forward by Lord Ebury and by the hon. Member for Finsbury. If, on comparatively slight evidence, they passed this small Reform Bill, they would establish a precedent which they had no right to establish for the disfranchisement of a class of voters who ought not to be condemned wholesale without trial, and who, if Parliament was to be placed on a more popular basis, must be comprised in any measure which brought the masses within the electoral pale, involving, as the freeman's suffrage did, the principle of industrial suffrage. Those who had been proved guilty of having received bribes should be disfranchised, but the innocent should not be confounded with the guilty. If the Galway freemen were to be put on the black list the same fate should be extended to the gentlemen who so kindly took the £500 of which the hon. Baronet had spoken. The House ought to find out who Dr. Browne's friends were, and strike them off the roll for attending the learned Professor's "lecture."


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the real difficulty of the Bill. He thought that there was a great deal of weight in the objection which had been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French), and that this proceeding must be looked upon as a prosecution against which all the persons who had given evidence before the Commission were indemnified by the Act of Parliament. The words of the statute appeared to him to be broad enough to cover every kind of penalty; and, as he understood it, they could not proceed to disfranchise these men without being guilty of a violation of the good faith of the House. But if he were wrong in his construction of the statute, then it must be held not to apply to any proceedings in Parliament, and he called upon them, if they resolved to punish the poor voters, not to exempt the greater delinquents. This was not a matter which could be disposed of by an hon. Member, who had been guilty of grave misdemeanours, getting up and laughingly confessing his offences. There was no occasion for such a confession, as it had already been made before the Commission, and its repetition there tended to cast discredit upon that House. It was no light matter that a Gentleman of edu- cation and station, a magistrate and a person holding a high position in the county, should have incited others to commit criminal acts of corruption, and should have paid them £100 or £150 for doing that which would render them liable to prosecution and imprisonment. Was it to he supposed that because he made light of what he had done, and excited the laughter of that House, therefore he was to be passed over, and that while penalties were to be imposed upon the victims of his offences, no notice was to be taken of his own misconduct? If the Hill before the House was to be proceeded with at all, it ought not to be permitted to reach another stage unless the names of all those gentlemen who had been guilty of corruption were inserted in it and proportionate penalties imposed upon them. Was it to be tolerated that a noble Lord should sit in that House by the votes of men who wore punished for giving them? Was it possible to proceed with the Bill without putting into it the name of that noble Lord, and declaring that he should no longer sit in an assembly which it was determined he had only been able to enter by poor people being induced to commit crime? These subjects could not be dealt with in a merely conventional manner, and that House would lose much in public estimation if they punished the poor and left rich delinquents to enjoy the fruits of the crimes of which they had procured the commission. Nor did it seem possible to proceed with the Bill without some reference to the conduct of another noble Lord in respect to this election. It was true that that noble Lord was not himself guilty of criminal acts, but he must have been aware that an election for Galway could not fairly cost an unlimited sum, and must have known from previous proceedings that elections for that town were carried by money spent for corrupt purposes. The course he appeared to have pursued was to give an unlimited credit to a relative of his in Galway and to desire him to carry the election by means of that credit. Remembering the evidence upon which persons had been convicted of conspiracies, he thought that in this case, where one man had found the money for the commission of a crime and another had committed it, such a charge might have been substantiated to the satisfaction of a jury, and the parties to the offence convicted and punished. It might be inferred that the noble Lord must have had some knowledge of the object for which it was necessary to place funds at the disposal of his relative, and must have understood that the election was to be compassed by bribery. Would it be possible for that House, remembering the Standing Order that no Peer should interfere in the election of Members of Parliament, to proceed with this Bill without asking leave of the other House that the noble Lord should appear at the bar and be examined touching his proceedings at this election? Because it was somewhat grievous that while all Her Majesty's other subjects, including the hon. Baronet (Sir T. Burke), paid a certain respect to Commissions such as this, the conduct of the noble Lord in question was rather different. The Report said: — It has already been mentioned that Sir Thomas Burke represented Lord Dunkellin, who was in India, during this election. This he did at the request of Lord Clanricarde, Lord Dunkellin's father, who had requested him to ascertain the feelings of the constituency, and it he found them favourable, to put forward Lord Dunkellin as a candidate. Lord Clanricarde having given this authority to Sir Thomas Burke, appears to have taken no part in the conduct of the election, and the subsequent proceedings which took place were, so far as we could ascertain, directed by Sir Thomas Burke. The outlay was supplied during or after the election by the land agent of the estates of Lord Clanricarde. At the time when the Commission was opened Lord Clunricarde was on the Continent; he, however, arrived in Dublin, as we afterwards learned, on the 14th of October, the clay on which we had finally closed the examination of witnesses. The Commission was issued on an Address from both Houses, and the Marquess of Clanricarde must have known that it was about to sit. He knew that his agent had supplied funds and how his son had been returned, and yet when the Commission sat, the Marquess of Clanricarde was on the Continent, and when the Commission had concluded its labours the Marquess of Clanricarde returned. [Sir T. BURKE: Read the next paragraph.] He was going to do so. The Report went on: — And on the 17th of October addressed to us a letter intimating his readiness to attend for examination, if we required it. As, however, nothing appeared before us to show that Lord Clanricarde knew anything of the details of the election, and as Sir Thomas Burke, who was well acquainted with them, had given his evidence in the most candid manner, we did not feel it necessary to reassemble and reopen the Commission in the town of Galway, where alone we had jurisdiction, for the mere purpose of examining this nobleman. He could quite understand that; but still it was not the less striking that the Marquess of Clanricarde did not appear upon the stage until the Commissioners had closed their labours and left Galway. They might have gone back to Galway, reopened their proceedings, and examined the noble Lord; but he wondered whether it ever occurred to anybody that when their labours were closed the Commission was at an end and could not be reopened. Still the question remained and it was one on which the House must, before it could proceed with this Bill, be informed what was the Marquess of Clanricarde's knowledge of the purpose to which his money was to be applied. That information the noble Lord alone could afford, and he hoped that he might be able fully to exculpate himself from any suspicion that the credit which he gave was to be employed for corrupt purposes. At any rate there were other persons of high rank who were implicated in this affair, and if this Bill was to be proceeded with, it ought to be gone on with not in the spirit in which it had been introduced, but for the purpose of doing equal justice to all; to punish all who had either given or received bribes, but not to disenfranchise those who had had no share in the offences which had been committed.


said, it was right that before proceeding further the House should understand the meaning of the indemnity clause in the Corrupt Practices Act. If there were no indemnity clause in the Act, each witness, as he was called to give evidence, could refuse to answer any question which might be put to him on the ground that he might expose himself to penalties or prosecution for bribery; and the object of the indemnity was to render the evidence of each witness available by protecting him from past consequences; but the Legislature never intended that, while it could issue a Commission to inquire into the circumstances attending an election, it should not have the power of preventing parties proved to have accepted bribes from again selling their votes. The question, indeed, was already settled, for the cases of Sudbury and St. Albans were provided for by special Acts of Parliament, and each of these Acts contained the very indemnity clause now under consideration. Passing by that point, he thought that the hon. Member for Hereford had brought forward this question in a most proper manner. He had abstained from entering into any party, personal, or political questions; and he (Mr. FitzGerald) thought the House ought not to compromise its honour and dignity by entering into such topics. But if an argument were wanted to induce the House to agree to the present Bill, it would be found in the speeches of the hon. Members for Roscommon (Colonel French) and the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). This was not a Bill for the punishment of individuals. [Cries of "Oh!"] Well, was he to be told that they were punishing people by preventing them from selling their votes. The hon. Members to whom he had referred had described in glowing language a scene of corruption which, if the House had any regard for its own dignity and wished to stand well with the country, it would use its utmost efforts to put an end to. Such a case as that of Galway had never been brought under its consideration. There were 540 freemen upon the roll at the time of the last election, and the Commissioners stated, in their Report, that 250 cases of personal bribery had been proved to their satisfaction, but that they had not been able to reach the whole. Before the election a person named Hyland appeared in Galway. Nobody knew who he was or where he came from, and after the election he disappeared in the same mysterious manner; all that was known of his business in Galway being that it was to bribe. It was a remarkable fact, too, that there was no bribery except among the freemen, of whom about one-half had been proved by the clearest evidence to have sold their votes. There were only fourteen cases of proved bribery in Great Yarmouth, but, in addition, the Committee reported that they were led by circumstances to believe that extensive and systematic bribery prevailed among the freemen. The whole body of the freemen of Great Yarmouth were disfranchised. It further appeared, in the case of Galway, that such of the freemen as were respectable—if, indeed, there were any not subject to monetary influences—would come upon the roll as householders, although the household franchise was not so acceptable to them on account of its being coupled with the obligation of paying poor rates. He believed it was a fact that, as stated by some of the witnesses, nine-tenths of the freemen had been bribed, either at the election of 1857 or at that of 1852. The Commissioners, according to the hon. Member for Roscommon, had discovered that there was no bribery at the general election in 1847, when there was no contest, but they also stated that ample materials came before them to induce them to believe that pre- vious to 1847, and at one election in that year, though prior to the general election, there was gross bribery. What were the freemen of Galway? Any mechanic or artisan, provided he resided within the borough, could claim to be admitted upon the roll without the payment of a single farthing. In four days preceding the election in 1S41 no fewer than 491 persons were admitted as freemen; on the 15th of March, previous to the election of 1847, 322 were entered, and his hon. and gallant Friend had told them that 128 had been added since. He had no doubt that if a general election were expected to take place next year, a great number of additional freemen would be admitted to the roll. The person who admitted them was a Mr. Lynch, a gentleman of respectability, who was appointed under the Reform Act, but a gentleman with no responsibility or power of examining witnesses. When an applicant appeared before him and stated that he was an artisan and resided in the borough, he was put upon the roll as a matter of course. It was a curious fact, that the freemen of Galway were never satisfied unless there was a contest. In 1857, when the third candidate had retired, saying "that the Bank of Ireland could not stand Galway," they applied to Sir Thomas Redington, and subsequently to another gentleman. Disappointed in both quarters, a telegraphic despatch was pent to London, and in due course Colonel French made his appearance in the field. The freemen voted for him, but they sold their second votes to one of the other candidates; in other words, they voted for one candidate without payment in order to induce him to stand, but sold their second votes to the highest bidder, the payment being made by ticket through a hole in a wall. It was worthy of notice that, while there were only 551 registered householders in the town, there were 945 householders who might be registered. The remainder adopted the freemen's roll in order to avoid paying their taxes regularly. Under these circumstances, seeing that 250 cases of personal bribery had been proved, that, according to the Commissioners, there was every reason to believe that extensive and systematized bribery prevailed among the whole body of freemen, and that the few who were pure would come upon the roll as householders, he trusted the House would vindicate its own honour and character by passing the present Bill.


said, that the question brought before the House was one of very considerable importance to its character. For that reason, if for no other, he should strongly advise the House to agree to the introduction of this measure. What the House might do with the Hill in its future stage must, he thought, turn on some very grave and very serious questions, for in doing justice in such matters as this, they should not strike the low without at the same time striking the high. They might depend on it that any legislation which proceeded on the contrary principle to that which equal justice required would neither reflect credit on the House nor give satisfaction to the country. The hon. and learned Gentleman, who had just sat down, had stated very properly that the House should not view the question as a question of party, and be found a paragraph in the Report of the Commission which would enable them to discuss the particular Motion before the House in a manner entirely free from party considerations. The Commissioners stated: — The only mutter which occurs to us as important to mention in connection with the constituency is the fact that the great mass of the electors are of Liberal polities; that the candidates since the Reform Bill (with, as we are informed, but one exception) have been of similar opinions; and that the contests are generally not those of rival political parties, but of individuals belonging to different sections of the Liberal party. Therefore the House had to deal with a matter affected by no party considerations, and they were simply called on to say whether, in furtherance of the endeavours which the House had made to put down bribery and corrupt practices at elections, they could not now, entirely independent of party considerations, take some course which would be effectual for the purpose and satisfactory to the country. Now, the doubts which he had in respect to the Bill, and which he thought it fair to state, while he strongly advised the House to agree to its introduction, were simply the following: It was proposed to disfranchise, first of all, the innocent with the guilty. There was on the face of the Report a distinct intimation that it was unquestionable that there were among the freemen many solvent and respectable men for their class in life. If that were so, it certainly became the House to consider whether it would in one indiscriminate censure strike those who were not guilty while striking those who were. According to the statement of the gallant Colonel opposite, 120 freemen had been put upon the roll since the time of the last election; and it would, therefore, be a most extraordinary kind of legislation if the House were to disfranchise those against whom not a tittle of evidence could by possibility be adduced. Again, they would have to consider on the second reading of the Bill whether they ought not to bear in mind the statement of the Commissioners contained in Schedules A and C, by which it appeared that the lists of persons there, who in 1852 and 1857 were guilty of corrupt practices by giving money or other valuable consideration to purchase, or for the purpose of purchasing votes, were not nearly so long as the lists of persons in Schedules B and D. It would become a grave question to consider whether they could deal with one class of cases without dealing with the other also, and he hoped that the hon. Baronet who had spoken in the course of the debate would forgive him for pointing his attention to the answer he made to question 1,421, which revealed a state of things which the hon. Baronet in his calmer moments must regret. He thought that the hon. Baronet would see that when that evidence was brought to the notice of the House it was impossible to be passed by in silence. The passage he referred to was that in which the hon. Baronet stated what took place on the Sunday when Colonel French had come down. The hon. Baronet stated:— On Sunday evening, when I went to Lord Dunkellin's committee room with his staff, Colonel French having arrived in town by the four o'clock train, I totted up the lists and saw that to make the election perfectly secure to Lord Dunkellin, we should bribe to some extent, and we wanted 200 freemen. That, however, was entirely of ray own doing, without saying a word to anybody. I considered how I could get them; they were offered to me in every direction, and I was told I could get ten or twenty in various ways, so I handed to Mr. Persse £250. To get them?— No, I understood I got 100 split votes for £250, and the same thing to Colonel French's party, for which it was arranged that I was to got 100 of their votes. I drew 100 from each and thought I had got myself secure. That passage appearing in the evidence which was laid before the House for its guidance, and upon the confession of a Member, made it impossible for the House not to have some explanation of such a matter when proceeding with a Bill disfranchising others. One observation he should wish to make on the Act of Parliament under which the Commissioners were directed to proceed in their inquiry. It was "An Act to provide for the more effectual inquiry into the existence of corrupt practices at elections for Members to serve in Parliament," and it stated the course of proceeding the Commissioners were to adopt, and what they were to in- quire into. It exonerated the witnesses and exempted them from all penalties, and the evidence was reported, but it purposely avoided stating in what way the House were to deal with the matter. The whole matter was in fact before them quite unprejudiced by anything that had occurred, and the House might deal with it in various ways. They might deal with it as they dealt with the cases of Sudbury and St. Albans, and disfranchise the borough, on the ground that the bribery and corruption were systematic and general, or as it dealt, as he had always thought, not very fairly, in the case of Great Yarmouth, by disfranchising not the borough but a particular class of voters. Now, he would put this case: suppose it were made manifest that a great number of £10 householders in a borough had been treated or bribed, would anybody say that the whole of the £10 householders in that borough should be disfranchised? But the consideration must come home to the good feeling and good sense of all persons in that House that if they could not disfranchise that class of voters on whom the Reform Bill conferred the right of voting, on what principle of justice could they disfranchise another class, who were allowed to retain the right, because a portion had been guilty of bribery? This was a very grave question. He did not wish to preclude all proper discussion of it, but he wished to point out that the matter was not so easily solved as might at first appear; and when they came to the second reading, and, still more, in Committee, they ought to reserve to themselves the fullest power to deal with all the cases, bearing in mind that whenever they dealt with them the first principles of justice and equity must be observed.

Leave given: Bill for the Disfranchisement of the Freemen of the County of the Town of Galway ordered to be brought in by Mr. GEORGE CLIVE and Lord LOVAINE.

Bill presented and read 1°.