HC Deb 06 May 1858 vol 150 cc195-215

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to assimilate the county franchise of Scotland with that of England. In seeking to carry that object into effect, he did not wish to create a new franchise, but simply to extend to the former country those electoral rights and privileges which had been enjoyed by the latter ever since the passing of the Reform Bill. A brief statement would serve to show the difference between the two countries in respect of the franchise. He found by certain returns which had been recently laid upon the Table of the House that while in Scotland not more than every thirty-four, in England every twenty persons were in some degree poli- tically represented; and that while in the case of the county electors of England four-fifths were freeholders and only one-fifth occupying tenants, in the counties in Scotland two-fifths were owners and three-fifths occupying tenants. The result of this was, that a majority of the electors in Scotland being the occupiers of other men's property, were a much less independent class than in England. The difference in the classification of electors in the two countries was due to the fact that while in England every proprietor of 40s. of free income in land enjoyed the franchise —a privilege which might be purchased by an outlay of £40 or £50, in Scotland an expenditure of five times that amount would be required in order to secure a similar privilege. Again, another source of difference between the two countries arose from the fact, that in England a freehold in a borough which did not give a vote for the borough gave one for the county; but in Scotland the soil of the borough was excluded from the county. The result of this was that the great commercial cities in Scotland possessed no influence in the county elections, and as there were thirty county as opposed to twenty-three borough Members, the Government of Scotland was practically in the hands of the aristocracy, while the whole artisan and peasant population of Scotland were disfranchised. At the passing of the Reform Bill, in 1831, a distinction was made in the two countries in this respect; the 40s. freeholders were continued in England, as were the old freehold superiorities which had existed in Scotland from the time of Charles the II.; but the practical distinction between the two classes was, that England enjoyed the advantage of a 40s. franchise at the present value of money, whereas in Scotland a 40s. freehold was the representative of the value of 400 years ago. From this it resulted that the constituencies in Scotch counties were narrowed to the landlords and their farm tenants. The question was seldom put to the different constituencies as to what candidate they would support; but a few landlords selected the candidate, and it was felt and known as a matter of fact, or rule, that the occupying tenants were never referred to for their opinion. He did not complain of hon. Gentlemen on one side of the House more than on the other, for it was notorious that this was the regular rule followed by both parties—Liberals as well as Conservatives. The occupying tenants were expected by all to follow the wishes of their landlords. The truth was the county franchise in Scotland had not really been changed by the Reform Bill, and the system was practically still to allow ten or twenty landlords to return the county Member. That this was so, was proved by the fact that although out of the 50,000 county electors in Scotland 30,000 were tenant farmers, and although that class were remarkable for their intelligence, and had engaged a capital of no less than 50 millions on the agriculture of the country, they had never shown their independence by sending to this House a single Member of their own class. Now, he was ready to admit that the present county representatives of Scotland were most respectable men, so are the Lords Lieutenant chosen by the Crown, but that, he contended, was no good reason why the body of the people should not have a voice in choosing their representatives. The Bill which he proposed to introduce, with the view conferring upon them that privilege, involved no novel principle; and he might add that he had in favour of that principle the authority of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who in the discussion upon the introduction of the Reform Bill of 1832, had expressed it to be his opinion that no alteration should be made in respect of the 40s, freeholders in counties, who constituted a class well calculated to exercise with advantage the electoral franchise, and took care to protect that franchise in the English Bill—it was only because the Scotch Reform Bill was unfortunately less under the attention of that noble Lord that the same principle was not then carried out for Scotland. It might he said that a reduced qualification would lead to a manufacture of fictitious votes; but the answer to that was, that it was as easy to fabricate fictitious £10 votes as 40s. votes. The class of persons who under a 40s. franchise would be entitled to vote for the election of county Members in Scotland would well bear a comparison with the Same class in England. Owing to the absence of small dwellings he found it stated in an agricultural work that the populations of each of 479 Of the 981 Scotch rural parishes had diminished within the present century. The evils which had arisen front the disinclination of landlords to encourage a cottage population upon their estates were so great As to amount to a positive blot upon the agricultural system of Scotland. There was an almost universal preference given to unmarried men as agricultural labourers, owing to the comparative cheapness with which lodgings could be provided for them, This had led to the erection of "bothies" as they were termed, and tile working of tint system had been shown in cases which had recently come before the Scotch law courts, which exhibited a state of things much to be deplored by every Scotchman, In 1857, in Forfarshire, a farm servant wee prosecuted for deserting Ids service, and the defence he set up was that the "bothie," which was allotted for his dwelling was in ranch a such as to render it impossible for him to remain. The magistrate deputed two medical men to visit the "bothie," and they described it as a circular house apart from the other farm buildings, with a puddle of stagnant water in front of the entrance. The diameter was 13 feet, and the unplastered walls were six feet in height. The floor was mud continually damp. The sleeping apartment for the men was above the stables, and was only 5 feet 9 inches in height. The room was 16 feet in length and 6 feet 9 inches in breadth, exclusive of the space occupied by the bedsteads, which were five in number, although only three were in use, being the sleeping accommodation for six men. The medical men added that the whole arrangements were such as must tend to injure the health of the men. Instances such as these exhibited a deplorable state of things, which the assimilation of the Scottish county franchise to that of England would be useful to correct, as it would encourage the labouring population to erect dwellings for themselves—the next great distinction between the Scottish and English systems was that in England property situated in boroughs is capable of conferring a right to vote for the county. There was no such right in Scotland, and when he mentioned that one-fifth of the whole county constituencies of England voted in respect of property situated in boroughs, it would be seen how the absence of that right must limit the franchise in Scotland. Upon taking two Scotch counties and comparing them with one English county of nearly similar extent, and possessing nearly similar resources, the inequality was apparent. In Ayreshire and Lanarkshire the population was 310,000, and the number of electors 7,100. In north and South Staffordshire there was a population of 345,000, and the number of electors 20,738. In the English county there were 13,000 more electors than in the two Scotch counties, the population and annual value of the property being nearly the same in each—At the passing of the Reform Bill grave apprehensions were entertained with regard to the right to be given to boroughs to vote in adjoining counties, and one influential Member (Sir Edward Sugden) said, that the effect of giving freeholders and copyholders in towns the right of voting for counties would be that such towns as Birmingham would invariably carry the county election, and that the county Members would be the representatives of the political unions of Birmingham. Now, after twenty-five years experience, who were the Members for North Warwickshire?—Two hon. Gentlemen who were not at all likely to endeavour to subvert the constitution of the country, or to injure its Protestant establishments—there was another point of some importance, not only with regard to the extension of this principle to Scotland, but also with regard to the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer respecting the larger number of county voters as compared with the number of borough voters. According to the census it appeared that a gradual change was taking, place in the occupation of the people of this country. Every census since that of 1811 had shown a gradual decrease of the agricultural population as compared with other classes of the population. In 1811 the agricultural population was 35 per cent; in 1821 it was 33 per cent; in 1831 it was 28 per cent; in 1841, 22 per cent.; and in 1851 only 16 per cent. of the adult population. A fact of great gravity and well deserving the attention of Statesmen both in its causes and its consequences. The Census Commissioners said the union between town and country had become more intimate by trading and other associations than at any previous time. That seemed to him a strong ground for continuing the system which prevailed in England of drawing no marked distinction between the dwellers in the towns and the dwellers in the country. The town and country populations in Scotland were in exactly the same proportion as in England, and if that was a good reason why a mixed franchise should continue in England it was also a good reason why it should be promoted and extended in Scotland. He did not dis- guise from himself the great addition which the extension of the principle that now prevailed in England would give to the county constituencies of Scotland. It might perhaps double the constituencies in the neighbourhoods of the large towns in Scotland—that was his great argument in its favour. Bethought it would be a great advantage that so large a mass of respect, able and intelligent people should no longer be deprived of privileges which were enjoyed on this side of the Tweed. In a moral point of view also, the advantage of giving to the Scotch people an interest in the acquirement of small landed properties was very great. That system in England had been found to conduce to prudence, sobriety, and economy, and he was informed that investments in property of this kind took place in Birmingham alone to the extent of £100,000 annually. He expected that technical objections might be raised to the proposition he was then submitting to the House. It would be said, probably, that they had no similar tenure in Scotland to an English 40s. freehold. But there could be no doubt that they had the fact of property in Scotland as well as in England, though the tenure might be known under another name. The Scotch feu in its character of perpetuity was equal to the English freehold, and he did not ask the right for leaseholders any more than it was asked for them in England. He asked only for substantially a similar right to that which England already possessed; and if the want of similarity of tenure were a good reason for withholding the franchise, the same principle would disfranchise the whole property of Scotland. Having sketched the objects of his Bill, he might now refer to an event in very recent times, to show the want of sympathy between the people of Scotland and the county Members. He alluded to the disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843, when one morning 450 ministers of that Church left their manses and glebes, and relinquished stipends amounting in the aggregate to £110,000 a year, inflicting a blow on the Establishment of that country from which it could never recover. Such a circumstance could never have happened if the House of Commons had been kept in intimate knowledge and relationship with the people of Scotland through its county representatives. He appealed to the English Members to support the Motion he was about to propose. He was asking this concession for men who paid the same taxes as the people of England, and who were ready on all occasions to put their shoulders to the wheel in any exigency of their common country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford made an eloquent appeal to the House the other night on behalf of the Dacian peasants on the banks of the Danube. He (Mr. Caird) asked for a re, cognition of the rights of 2,000,00 of his countrymen north of the Tweed. Addressing himself to Scotch Members, he would ask—could they refuse to recognize in their own countrymen those qualities of prudence and that degree of education which certainly they would never say were inferior to those possessed by the same classes who enjoyed the franchise in England? He would ask them to consider how many of the country population were at this moment unenfranchised; how many men of worth in that class from which James Watt and Burns, the poet, sprang? The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to assimilate the county franchise of Scotland with that of England.


said that, although he had not had the honour to present any petition in favour of this Bill, and had had no communication with his constituents upon it, he had no hesitation in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend; and he hoped he might appeal with success to English Members to extend to their Scotch brethren the same franchise which they enjoyed themselves. He did not approve of all that had been said by those who advocated this measure, for he was ready to admit that some of the friends of the movement had acted not very judiciously. In saying this he did not allude to Dr. Begg, the originator of the movement, who, although some of his language could not be justified, had by his acts shown an earnest desire and perseverance in improving the condition of the labouring classes. But he referred to a certain number of individuals in the city which he had the honour to represent, who had been aiding in carrying on the agitation for the movement which had resulted in this Bill. Those persons who were seeking to make political capital out of the question, were in the habit of making attacks on the Scotch Members, and had accused him and some of his friends of being tied neck-and-heel to the late Lord Advocate. They had represented them as being unfriendly to this movement; and they had made statements which were utterly false; but he would treat them with that contempt which they deserved. There were only two objections urged to this Bill. One was, that the effect of it would be to swamp the counties. He had no wish to swamp the counties, and certainly the 40s. franchise had not had that effect in England. Another objection was, that it was likely to lead to the manufacture of fictitious votes. That was a matter which would require the consideration of the House. At the time of the anti-corn law agitation, he purchased a 40s. freehold in Carlisle, in order to give him a vote for East Cumberland. It was not a very profitable investment. Some time afterwards he saw his name amongst others as that of a fagot voter, and he felt somewhat ashamed of it. He did not think that the obtaining a vote under those circumstances was justifiable, for he had no connection with the county of Cumberland. He regarded with lively satisfaction the great improvement which had taken place in the condition and conduct of the lower classes. He remembered when the Luddites Were banded together to destroy machinery. There was no such feeling now, and he thought the loyalty and good conduct of the people showed that they were well deserving of the franchise. It was his opinion, however, that this extension of the county franchise should be accompanied with measures for simplifying and cheapening the transfer of land, and relaxing still more the system of entail in Scotland. He trusted the Bill of his hon. Friend would receive the support of the accommodating Government that now occupied the Treasury bench.


said, he was anxious to state the grounds why he thought that the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Dartmouth, as far as he could comprehend it, ought not to be adopted by the House. If the Resolution originally placed on the paper had remained there, he should have had no difficulty in giving it a decided negative; but his hon. Friend had, at the last hour, altered his plan, and his Motion now took the ambiguous shape of a proposal to assimilate the county franchise of Scotland with that of England. But even after listening to the speech of his hon. Friend, he still felt some curiosity to know in what way this assimilation was to be accomplished by the Bill of his hon. Friend, whose speech savoured more of agricultural statistics than of electoral law or questions relating to the franchise. As far as he could understand it, his object appeared to be to introduce into Scotland the 40s. freehold franchise with all its incidents, characteristics, and defects. Now, in the first place, that was impossible, and any equivalent for that franchise would not deserve the name of a reform. Let him explain the difference between the tenure of land in the two countries. The freehold tenure in both countries was originally the same. The freeholder was a vassal of the Crown, bound to give attendance on his Lord, and bound, therefore, to give his attendance in Parliament. Before the reign of Edward I. the superior vassal was entitled to give all his property to sub-holders, and that was the law in Scotland to this day; but these sub-vassals never were freeholders. In Edward I.'s reign a statute was passed, which enabled the superior vassals in England to alienate the fee, and in that way the small freeholders became a large body. The franchise, however, by a statute of Henry VII. was limited to freeholders, whose holding was of the annual value of 40s. The great mass of property in Scotland was held by the sub-feuars, and the consequence was, that it was impossible to introduce the 40s. franchise in Scotland, It was a great mistake to suppose that the Reform Bill created the 40s. franchise in England. The Reform Bill found this franchise in existence, and left it as it found it. The Reform Bill created a £10 copyhold and a leasehold franchise for England and for Scotland, and it was a mistake to suppose that the two countries were dealt with differently in that respect. In the days of rotten boroughs, the spark of liberty in England was formerly kept alive by the 40s. franchise, and as it was a relic of ancient times and had done good service in its day, Parliament preserved it intact. Scotland, moreover, did not possess the freehold tenure which would give this franchise. To whom, then, did his hon. Friend propose to give it? From the proposed Bill, it was impossible to say who were to be enfranchised. Did the hon. Gentleman mean to enfranchise leaseholders or life-renters, or those who held burgage in the boroughs? The House had not been told; but, if they were not to be enfranchised, he should like to have the hon. Member's reason why any species of property was to be excepted. He had some curiosity to discover who the people were who would be benefited by this mea- sure. It had been said that the whole artisans of Scotland were unrepresented, but one little fact which his hon. Friend had not mentioned was, that the majority of the county Members of England sat upon the Ministerial side of the House, and the majority of the Scotch county Members upon the Opposition benches. Having heard that the rights of Scotland were trampled under foot in that House, he tried to discover who those were who were so injured and oppressed. The result of his inquiries convinced him that there was no great class of the community who would be reached by this franchise, and that the enfranchisement of the 40s. proprietors in Scotch counties would give a body who were not greatly to be wished for on one hand or trembled at on the other. He had made an analysis of the county of Edinburgh, and he found that there were 4,520 tenements of between £2 and £10 value. It would be, however, a great mistake to suppose that these tenements represented the same number of possible constituents. After deducting the number of those persons who were on, or entitled to be on, the electoral roll, there remained only 290 tenements which were capable of giving the franchise, and from this number must be again deducted the tenements of those who were in their minority or absent from the country. So that in the large metropolitan county of Edinburgh the 40s. franchise would carry with it comparatively no extension of the suffrage at all. But his hon. Friend said he was going to introduce a borough vote. Now, four or five of the smaller boroughs of Scotland were grouped to elect Members, which was not the case in England. But the material distinction was that, while in England the owner of property must reside within a boroughs to have a vote, in Scotland he had a vote if he resided within seven miles. The result was, that in Scotland there was a large ownership franchise enjoyed by those who did not reside within the boroughs. In the boroughs of Scotland there were no small tenements, or, at all events, a very inconsiderable number capable of giving this franchise. In the city of Edinburgh there were £1,500 tenements valued at £2 and less, and they belonged to twenty-nine individuals. In Leith there were 355, and the number of fortunate proprietors was two. Between £2 and £12 in value the number of tenements in the city of Edinburgh was 22,000, and the number of proprietors 1,000, the great mass being the property of persons already possessing the franchise. The owners of tenements above £12 in value would really be the persons who would be enfranchised. The number of such tenements in Edinburgh was 13,000, belonging to 7,000 persons; and if the law of England were introduced, the result would be to import from the town constituency into the county constituency of Edinburgh 4,000 voters, or four times as many as the existing county constituency. [Hear, hear!] Hon. Gentlemen cheered that statement, but he did not think that such a result would be advantageous. The interest connected with the counties was different from that of the towns, and he thought the measure would be undesirable even if it merely rested upon the fact that such an extension of the franchise would upset the electoral balance, and make it a mere money question, in which the largest purse would insure the creation of the greatest number of votes. A contest would immediately spring up between county and borough. The agricultural interest would not submit quietly to he overridden by votes imported in that way from the towns. As had always been the case, they would eventually succeed in the struggle; the purity of the franchise would not only be endangered but destroyed, and, instead of liberal opinions being promoted, a feeling opposed to them would probably be engendered. The £10 franchise in Scotland had been the cause of fictitious votes to an extent which would now sound incredible; but those votes were now dying out, principally because £10 was rather a high figure. He could scarcely conceive the possibility of such a crude, ill-digested measure passing; but if it were to become law, the system of creating votes—he would not call them fictitious votes—would instantly commence, and he believed no greater calamity could fall upon the system of representation in Scotland. His hon. Friend seemed to think-that this franchise would encourage the working classes to invest in £2 purchases, but it was impossible to suppose that the artisans alone would purchase houses of £2 value, and he did not hesitate to say that acquiring votes in that way, whether by societies or individuals, was not in the true spirit of representative government. The franchise was given to persons because they had an interest in the locality in which they voted, and people who lived in London or elsewhere had no right to go to Edinburgh, and, simply because they had £40 or £50, seek to stifle the independent voices of those who had a real interest in the locality. If the hon. Gentleman really wanted to increase the popular element in the constituencies, he recommended him to turn from a property franchise to an occupation franchise, whereby he would be sure that the right man obtained the privilege. Although he should like to see this Bill, if a division took place he must vote against leave being given for its introduction.


said, he thought that the number of public meetings which had been held of late in various parts of Scotland, and the number of petitions which had been sent to that House on the subject, indicated an amount of dissatisfaction with the county franchise on the part of the people of Scotland, which did call upon the House to take the matter into their serious consideration. At the same time he was not sure that the hon. Member (Mr. Caird) had hit the real grievance. It struck him (Mr. Baxter) that the real grievance of the people of Scotland was, that the Members for boroughs were not so numerous as in either England or Ireland. The English borough Members represented an average population of 29,000 persons, but those of Scotland represented 44,000. Again, to bring up the proportion of county voters, to those of England, Scotland ought to have 83,000 county electors instead of 40,000, and he believed that the people of Scotland attributed this fact to the absence of the 40s. franchise. The complaints heard from all parts of Scotland were worthy the attention of the House; but though the representation for Scotch counties did require alteration they could not shut their eyes to the fact that the question had not yet been sufficiently matured. In the present state of feeling in that country, the hon. Member for Dartmouth could not expect to pass his Bill through the House, and he would suggest to him the propriety of withdrawing the Bill and moving the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the whole subject.


said, that he was not unwilling to see an extension of the county franchise in Scotland, for he considered that such a measure might be carried into effect with safety to the Conservative interests in those counties. He could not support this measure, however, because he thought it would have a direct tendency to encourage the creation of fic- titious votes. During the debate upon the disfranchisement of the Irish 40s. freeholders, a friend of his, Mr. Brownlow, stated that an Irish gentleman, who, like all Irish gentlemen, possessed every virtue except that of residing in his own country, was required by the Government to discharge the duty of high sheriff of the county in which his property was situated. He endeavoured to evade the appointment, but without success; whereupon he exclaimed, "By heavens, if I am obliged by the Government to go to Ireland, I'll become a Member of Parliament to vex them, and I'll make them regret it to the last day of their lives!" He divided his estate into 2,600 divisions, upon each of which a man could only live in a state of beggary, and came to Parliament without asking a vote from a single independent elector in the county. During the same debate the late Lord Dunfermline, who was universally respected as a lawyer of sound constitutional views, and a most liberal man, and whom every hon. Member of that House must regret, said that the 40s. franchise was a system which must ruin the independence of general elections, and would ultimately exclude persons of the middle classes from all real share in them. He believed that a similar result would follow the introduction of that system into Scotland. The hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. Caird) had pointed to the fact that such men as the poets Hogg and Burns did not enjoy the franchise; but he would remind him that that privilege had been possessed by another poet, who wrote a song about a certain celebrated freebooter, recommending the good man to "Steek the awm'ry and lock the kist," because "DonaldCaird's oot agen." He did not know whether Sir Walter Scott had the hon. Gentleman in his mind when he wrote that song; but he thought that he must have had some vision of his endeavouring first to force the Scotch system of agricultural statistics down the throats of the English, and then to extend the English franchise to Scotland.


said, he wished to clear away a little of the legal mystification which the right hon. and learned Member for Leith (Mr. Moncreiff) had thrown over the question. The learned Gentleman had talked about the Statute of Quia emptores; but he might just as well have talked about the Statute of Limitations, or the Statute of Frauds; for it had really nothing whatever to do with the question. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said there were no freeholds in Scotland; and in a technical sense that might be true. The old Scotch franchise depended upon tenure. Those who held in capite of the Crown, the greater and the lesser barons, sat together in one chamber; and there could be no doubt that the process of sub-infeudation had had a tendency to diminish that franchise. Practically speaking, however, the freehold franchise in Scotland was a question not of interest but of tenure, and there could be nothing unreasonable in recognizing that distinction in their legislation. The hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the Bill would give the franchise in Scotland to persons who had the same real interest in the land which was possessed by voters in this country, and it appeared to him (Mr. Bowyer) that that was a perfectly fair proposal.

MR. E. ELLICE (St. Andrews)

observed that there was something ambiguous in the expression of a 40s. freehold in Scotland; and it would be more honest to describe the Bill as an attempt to reduce the existing £10 franchise to one of £2. Looking at the practical difficulty of carrying out any reform now-a-days, when that House, apathetic as it was, was nevertheless in advance of the country on this subject, he thought it would be deceiving the people to say that there was the slightest chance of passing a Bill like the present. While opposed to reducing the franchise in Scotland all at once from £10 to £2, he yet believed that the possession of a moderate amount of property would insure a very good county constituency in the country. He was not afraid of the danger of the manufacture of fictitious votes, thinking, if that House were in earnest, and insisted on the conditions of occupancy and residence, that that evil would be prevented. Arguing this question as a borough representative, he asked, was the borough franchise in Scotland to be made the same as in England, for the principle of assimilation went that length? Though as strongly opposed as any one to a £2 franchise, yet as there was a very respectable body in Scotland set in motion by a rev. gentleman who had been alluded to, who were in favour of what was ambiguously called the 40s. franchise, he regretted that the right hon. and learned Member for Leith (Mr. Moncreiff) had thought it necessary to oppose the introduction of this measure. It would be only courteous to its advocates to allow them to "table" their proposition. He was prepared to support an extension of the county franchise, and if the Bill were brought in it would be perfectly open to him or any other hon. Member to fix that franchise at any other limit than the one now proposed.


said, he would hardly have deemed it necessary to trouble the House at that stage of the debate with any observations, had it not been for what had fallen from the hon. Member who spoke last, and also from the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). Both of those hon. Gentlemen were opposed to the principle of the Bill as it had been explained by its author, and yet they desired that leave should be given to introduce the measure. It was not easy to understand the reason for that apparently inconsistent conduct, and some very excellent reasons might be assigned why the House should not adopt the course recommended by those hon. Gentlemen. This Bill was the result of an entire misconception existing in the minds of certain persons in Scotland; and while the present discussion might be instrumental in removing that misconception, on the other hand the consent of the House to the introduction of the measure would have the effect of increasing and perpetuating it. The delusion under which the persons who had promoted this movement seemed to labour was, in supposing that it was possible to accomplish what might properly be called an assimilation between the franchise of England and of Scotland. The right hon. and learned Member for Leith (Mr. Moncreiff) had demonstrated that this was an impossibility, and his argument was nut founded on technicalities, but on substance. He (the Lord Advocate) agreed with the hon. and learned Member, for two very plain reasons. The hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) had said the difference of the freehold franchise in the two countries was this—that in Scotland it depended on tenure, but in England on interest in the land. The hon. Gentleman would have been much nearer the truth if he had reversed that proposition, because the freehold franchise in Scotland depended almost entirely on interest, and not upon the mere technical character of the right; whereas in England the freehold franchise depended so entirely on tenure that, without it, it could not exist. He thought the Reform Act did fair justice to Scotland at the time in the matter of the franchise, and assimilated Scotland to England in that matter, so far as it was possible. That Act introduced the £10 franchise into England, giving votes to all proprietors of land to that amount, including freeholders, leaseholders, and copyholders. The same franchise was given to Scotland, and included freeholders, feuars, and long leaseholders to that amount. So far there was a similarity. But in England there was a franchise which the Act did not create, a franchise unknown to Scotland—namely, a freehold tenure to the extent of a forty shilling income. No such franchise existed in Scotland, and the Act could not have created such a franchise there, for the attempt would have resulted in something very different in character and interest; and he was quite certain that, if no such franchise had existed in England, that Act would never have created it. It was entirely unknown in Scotland, and to attempt now to extend this old franchise over a new field of representation was certainly a strange application of the principle of equality. But the difficulty did not end there. The hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. Caird) said that four-fifths of the voters in the English counties were freeholders, and one-fifth occupying tenants. By freeholders the hon. Gentleman must have meant freeholders, copyholders, and leaseholders; and consequently that his proposal, so far as it was applicable to Scotland, must include freeholders, feuars, and long leaseholders, and that these should be entitled to the franchise, if their holdings were of the yearly value of 40s. Was that a similarity? Was it not a great dissimilarity? Was it not introducing into Scotland, for the first time, a franchise which was not to be found either in England or Ireland? Yet the Bill was entitled "A Bill to assimilate the County Franchise of Scotland to that of England," so that in terms the Bill was a contradiction to its title. The hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr.Ellis) described it truly as a modification of the franchise from £l0 to £2, and like that hon. Member he (the Lord Advocate) was opposed to such a proposition. The Bill would lead to the creation of votes, he did not say fictitious votes, but of real votes. The voter under this Bill would undoubtedly be the real proprietor. It would lead to the creation of estates in order to give votes, and the effect of that would be, as had been described by the hon. and learned Member for Leith, that the person with the longest purse would be at the top of the poll. He need not point out the power which would be vested in a few individuals to create the franchise for the boroughs; for, by spending a small sum of money in conveyancing, a man would be able to overpower the legitimate voters.


said, he was in a great measure indebted to the people of Glasgow for the honour of a seat in that House as the representative of Lanarkshire, and he could not, therefore, be suspected of entertaining against them any unfair bias. But he did not wish to see the franchise in the Scotch counties so altered that the inhabitants of the great towns would completely swamp the agricultural constituencies. That, however, would, in his opinion, be the result of the Bill, and thus the present distribution of power, between the two great interests of the country, which operated, as he believed, for their mutual benefit, would be overturned. Besides, he did not think there was, after all, much practical difference between the elective privileges of Englishmen and Scotchmen. A person who had a small property might make a very good voter; but if he had to borrow money to acquire the right he was more dependent than one without property at all. On the other hand, he did not think that the introduction of the Bill could be opposed by those hon. Gentlemen who were desirous of seeing the franchise reduced below the existing limits, and he should therefore support the Motion, reserving to himself the right of proposing any alteration which he might think desirable as to the limit to which the franchise should be restricted.


said, he should vote in favour of the Bill in the event of a division, as he thought an opportunity should be given for discussing the principle of the Bill. This was a step towards a reform of the electoral franchise. The people of Scotland felt it a grievance that they had not the same electoral rights as the people of England. It was said there was no freeholders in Scotland—they were all feuars. But every one knew that in England wealthy men on both sides of politics were purchasing estates, and partitioning them out to create votes; and why should not they do the same in Scotland?


said, that he was obliged to defer to the opinion which had been expressed by the two learned Lords who had addressed the House as to the details of the proposed Bill, but at the same time it was clear that the great majority of the Scotch Members were of opinion that some change should be made in the existing system, and therefore he felt bound to support the hon. Member without saying whether the present time was the best for the purpose, or whether the Bill was the most fitting mode of carrying out the proposed object. In his view it was a proposal to extend the franchise, and that was a step in the right direction, and he did not see why 40s. freeholders in Scotland should not be placed upon the same footing as regarded the franchise as those in England. The people of Scotland were as good and loyal subjects as those of any other part of the empire; and if the Scotch Members were of opinion that an extension of the franchise was required, he thought it was the duty of the English Members to support the Bill.


said, that the hon. Member opposite appeared to think that because the 40s. freehold existed in England the people of Scotland ought to possess the same. If that principle were to be admitted they should go further, and extend it to Ireland [Hear, hear!] That observation seemed to meet with a response from some hon. Members. Now he did not know whether those hon. Gentlemen recollected the history of the 40s. franchise in Ireland. It by no means followed that because a certain system answered in England it would answer equally well in Scotland and Ireland. There was a fallacy in such an argument. When the question of Catholic Emancipation was being carried great discussions arose in that House as to the 40s. franchise then existing in Ireland, What was the effect of such a franchise? He (the Attorney General) had seen an election in the sister country carried by the 40s. freeholders, who were a shoeless, shirtless, unfortunate class of men, who were first made use of by their landlords for their own individual purposes, and next by the priests of the country. Those 40s. freeholders represented neither the intelligence, the industry, nor the independence of the country. After they had been used for the worst political purposes, what happened? Why, Parliament destroyed them at once in their thousands; and in the Emancipation Bill it was provided that that franchise should be abolished, in order to create a counterpoise to the political influence that was then granted. And now hon. Members opposite set themselves up as the advocates of a 40s. franchise in Scotland; and as champions of equal rights, they would of course have the principle extended to Ireland. But the hon. Members for Ireland had asked for no such thing. Now, of all the blunders ever committed by a legislative assembly, the vote of the Irish Parliament creating the 40s. franchise was one of the greatest. Why, it covered the country with paupers, and created numberless small farmers, which it was the general policy of late years to annihilate. He humbly submitted that the proposition to create a 40s. franchise in Scotland was impolitic, unwise, and injudicious. Did those hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine that a class of 40s. freeholders in Scotland or Ireland could form an independent body of men, qualified to return representatives to Parliament? Then if they said so they ought to go a little further, and establish at once the principle of universal suffrage. Their experience of the results of universal suffrage in neighbouring countries ought to be sufficient to warn them from advocating the adoption of any such system in this kingdom. He, therefore, thought that the attempt to re-open the question now was a movement in the wrong direction, and he would consequently vote with his right hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Moncrieff.)


remarked that he did not believe that Scotch proprietors would, if this Bill were passed, subdivide their estates in the manner apprehended by the Attorney General for Ireland, to create fictitious votes.


said, that the fact of this measure being proposed by a Member for an English borough was primâ facie evidence that there was no great demand for the change in Scotland. This was confirmed by the observations which had fallen from the Scotch Members which, in his opinion, showed that the feeling in Scotland was rather adverse than in favour of the Bill. A party had, however, taken up the question, and tried to urge it at the last election. He was asked at the hustings whether he would support the 40s. freehold franchise. He answered in the negative, and in justification told his hearers what took place in England with a 40s. franchise. But, before creating a freehold franchise, they must first get their freeholders; for there was no such class at present. Still, he would not resist the introduction of the Bill, but would allow the question to be fully discussed, prepared to abandon any erroneous opinion he might have formed. The real way to assimilate the franchise of England and Scotland was to extend the franchise of occupancy; and he should move an Amendment in the Bill to that effect.


said, as the Scotch Members generally spoke against the principle of the Bill he thought it would be absurd to allow the introduction of the measure.


submitted that, inasmuch as every Scotch Member who had taken part in this discussion had argued against the Bill, the House ought not to grant leave for its introduction. The present and the late Lord Advocate had clearly shown that the Bill would prove a delusion and that it could not effect what it professed—namely, assimilate the law of Scotland to that of England on this subject. Why, then, should the House, for mere courtesy's sake, waste its time and the money of the public about it? [Oh!"] The cost of very printing, merely this Bill might not be very much, but the House should remember what a multitude of Bills were introduced and printed in the course of a Session, of the passing of which there was no probability. As the representative of a county constituency he protested against the Bill, because it would swamp the county constituencies.


said, that although he did not approve the Bill, he hoped the House would permit its introduction. Its author said that it would assimilate the franchise of Scotland to that of England, but that would not be a boon, but in some respects a great calamity to Scotland. Still it was desirable that the amount of qualification should be lowered in the Scotch counties; for there was no more desirable franchise than that which rested upon property. If the Bill were allowed to go into Committee some useful Amendments might be introduced; at all events the discussion would he of advantage.


said that, notwithstanding the efforts in Scotland to obtain the assent of the population to the principle of time Bill, only sixteen petitions, with 2,920 signatures, had been presented in its favour up to the 28th ult. The House would stultify itself by admitting a Bill against which almost every Scotch Member had protested. If the feelings of the people of Scotland were to be gathered from their representatives and from the petitions which they had forwarded to Parliament, it was evident that they cared nothing about this Bill, and his own opinion was that, instead of extending the 40s. franchise to Scotland, it would be necessary before long to alter it in England if the practice of parcelling out land for the express purpose of conferring votes continued to be carried out to the extent that had recently prevailed. He regarded this as an attempt to get in the thin end of the wedge, with a view to the adoption of universal suffrage.


, in reply, said that hon. Members representing the counties of Scotland had spoken against this measure, which was, in fact, an appeal from those who were unenfranchised. Last year he presented a petition from Edinburgh, which was signed by 10,000 persons, and between 13,000 and 14,000 other persons had sent petitions in favour of the Bill. The practical question they had to consider was this, that while in England a 40s. freehold gave a man the franchise, in Scotland a freehold must be of the value of £10 per annum, or five times the English amount to give the same right. Now, if the arguments of the hon. Members who opposed the Bill were good for anything, they went this length—that the House ought to pass a measure to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders of England. With respect to the objection that had been taken to the word "assimilate" in his Motion he stated that the definition of that word, according to Johnson, was "to bring to a likeness or resemblance." It clearly expressed, therefore, his object, which was to bring the Scotch county franchise to a resemblance with that of England, his desire being to increase the basis of representation in the county constituencies of Scotland.

Motion made and Question put,— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to assimilate the County Franchise of Scotland with that of England.

The House divided: Ayes 84; Noes 103: Majority 19.