HC Deb 12 April 1859 vol 153 cc1652-85

said, he rose, pursuant to notice, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to cause the votes of the Parliamentary electors of Great Britain and Ireland to be taken by way of ballot. The first thing, perhaps, that would strike the House might be, that the present was not a very opportune moment for bringing it forward. The question, however, had been started on a previous night, and a partial division taken, but no arguments had been used, nor would they have been listened to at such a moment. And yet the present appeared to him to be an extremely proper time for bringing the question before the House, or rather, he should say, the country, which was so soon to be appealed to on the whole question of the franchise. Once before, and once only, had he stood in the same position as regarded this question as that in which he stood at the present moment, and that was just previous to the election of 1852, when Parliament was about to be dissolved under circumstances similar to those which were now about to send them all back to their constituents. Then humbly and feebly, but zealously, did he lay before the House the state of things which would arise in consequence of the coming dissolution. He told them that the country was about to be plunged into a Saturnalia, in which every vicious principle would be encouraged, when intimidation would stalk and drunkenness would stagger through the land, and when in consequence the electors of this country would stand before the world as a set of debased and degraded voting machines. That prophecy of his was fully realized by the election that followed. Indeed, so bad was the state of things in 1852, that even the Earl of Aberdeen admitted that the condition of our electoral system was such, as that no man could be enamoured of it, But exactly the same influences prevailed then which were threatened now. The two great factions of the State had had a dispute and a division which had terminated in favour of one of them. The objects of the assault had been Whitehall and Downing Street, and both attack and defence had exhibited extraordinary valour and perseverance, but the result must be a dissolution of Parliament, and he asked the House whether that dissolution would not place the country in exactly the position which it held in the year 1852? The result of the election of 1852 was, that the House determined upon doing something, but was equally bent upon doing nothing effectually. They appointed a Committee, unfortunately the usual scapegoat in that House, and that Committee investigated the corruption which had been made so manifest at the election. It finished with a Report; and, strange to say, that Report was acted upon by the House. But how was it acted upon? By the production of the Corrupt Practices at Elections Prevention Act, which in his opinion would have been more correctly called the Corrupt Practices Encouragement Act. Under that Act, intended to prevent, but which really encouraged corrupt practices, they were now going to the country. Let them read the statement in The Times of that morning, that already £50,000 a day had begun to be spent on electioneering. They would be told no doubt that the money would he spent honourably by the candidates; but would the people of England believe them? Such was the state of things under which he was then addressing the House, and for the twelfth time, annually and successively was he there to urge upon the House the consideration of the means by which alone they could hope to escape the giant evils of their electoral system. If they should not be able altogether to remove the stumbling block of bribery, they might at least alleviate the evils which were such a scandal and a disgrace to the electors. He must congratulate such hon. Friends of his as had always supported the ballot upon the position in which the question now stood. It had been admitted in the House and out of the House, that it was that question of reform which above all others was most sought for by the people, and most earnestly demanded. He might refer to the gratifying fact that the majority had steadily increased year by year, until at the present moment there were 238 Members who had recorded their votes in favour of the ballot during the present Parliament. In the election which was approaching, he believed that the question would be urged upon every candidate, and therefore he trusted the House would bear with him while he endeavoured to dispel certain delusions, and to correct certain fallacies which had been indulged in by those who opposed secret voting, and advocated the present system. He had before stated that the constituencies one and all cried out for the ballot, and he hoped he was not over sanguine in expressing his earnest hope that many leading statesmen in that House who had hitherto turned their back upon it would at no distant period consent to become its advocates. When this question was first handed over to him by Sir Henry Ward it was treated with a sort of sneering contempt by the press, and more particularly by that great organ of the press, The Times. That journal used to say that the ballot came in with green peas and early gooseberries, but now articles were written by the yard against the ballot, teeming with violence, and sometimes with personalities, and always remarkable for the absence of reasoning. It was clear that hon. Gentleman in that House opposed the ballot with masks on their faces, and were actuated by some latent feeling that they dared not express. But in the columns of The Times he found reasoning against the ballot which he believed in his heart was the true and just cause of the opposition to secret voting. The Times said that the natural state of things was that the landlord, farmer, superior shopkeeper, and clergymen should manage and govern those they employed. The "natural superiors" of the working classes in commercial constituencies were stated to be millowners, merchants, and ironmasters. Here was a constitutional doctrine for them! Would any hon. Gentleman in that House rise and endorse it? Not a man among them would do so; but there was not an opponent of the ballot who did not feel that this was the true cause of his opposition to the measure. If this were sound constitutional doctrine he wondered what the legislature had been doing for so many years. Parliament had created an electoral body and defined its duties. The electors were to vote freely and indifferently; they were not to be intimidated, their votes were not to be purchased, and their qualifications were duly specified. But after all these pains had been taken by the Legislature the constituencies were suddenly told that they were not able to govern themselves, and that parties must be found to govern and direct them. Surely this was the most "admirable fooling." There was nothing like it except that passage in the play of the Tempest, where the drunken Trinculo says:—"Stephano shall be King of this island, and I will be Viceroy over him." So it was with the electoral body. The electors were to be monarchs of the franchise, but the squires, parsons, and superior shopkeepers were to be viceroys over them. He was glad to see that the mask was dropped, but he should be surprised to find any man upon the hustings holding the language that the electors were slaves and ought to be slaves. A highly respectable and rev. gentleman—the hon. and rev. S. G. Osborne—had undertaken to defend open voting and decry the Ballot, and his remarks were worthy the attention of Parliament. Mr. Osborne said:— I am dealing with the Englishman of December, 1858. In the year 1960, for all I know, 'progress' may have so cleansed the Mr. Bulls of every breed that, whether stalled in a palace or a hovel, they will be found so politically pure as to scorn to influence or be influenced. When I regard the position of a cottage labourer with a vote, to be given by the ballot, I can only look upon him with the truest pity. As it is, poor Hodge has difficult steerage-way through the stream of his life. It requires all his patience, all his principle, to hold a straight furrow from to day. The landlord, said the rev. gentleman, must not be displeased by a county voter; the parson it was advisable to please; the shopkeeper, it was clear, he must not affront; with the guardians of the parish he must be on good terms; and even the relieving officer and union doctor, if put out with him, might put him out at a time when he was sorely in need of assistance. Hero was a picture of a voter under tolerably strong influences, but the rev. gentleman, with a tortuosity of mind which it was difficulty to understand, observed that if such a man had a vote, without the certainty of obliging these persons by its use, in what a position of peril he would be placed! Now, he (Mr. Berkeley) came to a directly opposite conclusion upon these facts, and would say, "Give such a man the means of voting privately, and he then may vote conscientiously and displease no one." The rev. gentleman from whom he was quoting mentioned the case of an upholsterer at a county election who, being employed by persons of different politics, said as a tradesman he could not afford to have any political bias, and that he wished he never had a vote. How many tradesmen in the metropolitan boroughs had been heard to say the same thing! But the rev. gentleman said, "I have my doubts whether the ballot would relieve that man." Well, certainly open voting would do him no good. The secret would leak out, said the rev. gentleman, through his wife, or in other ways; and no better reason could be urged against the ballot than this feeble, wretched, exploded notion. But did hon. Members tell everything to their wives? He rather thought it would be found they did not. Did the poor man do so, and, if he did, had hon. Members so bad a notion of women of this class as to suppose that they would tell a secret when their husbands' ruin would, perhaps, be the consequence? He had found directly the reverse of this to be the case. When Mr. Onslow was a candidate for Guildford an elector urged him strongly to abide by his pledge respecting the ballot, and on being questioned, said, "I want the ballot to protect myself from my wife." "How is that?" he was asked, "Why, ever since I voted for you my wife has led me a dreadful life. She never leaves me alone; she dins we with curtain lectures; in short, I am a miserable man. For Heaven's sake, Sir, give me the ballot." Even in that case, did not the anxiety of the wife for the welfare of her children show that she would honourably keep her husband's secret? But here was a holy man who gave evidence that in 1858 coercion and "the screw" prevailed. A pamphlet had recently appeared written by the son of an honoured man, Mr. Mill. That pamphlet was, of course, paraded; it had occupied two or three yards in The Times, all in glory of Mr. Mill, who opposed the ballot. Now, Mr. Mill laid a foundation of his own, which was as rotten as possible, and upon that foundation he raised a fair structure. Thirty years ago, he said, the main evil to be guarded against was that which the ballot would remedy—coercion by landlords, employers, and customers. Mr. Mill allowed that the ballot would cure the evil, but said that that evil had now ceased, and in its place there had arisen an intense selfishness among the electors, which called for open voting to check it. He (Mr. Berkeley) should not stop to inquire where Mr. Mill found this intense selfishness existing; he met him in limine, because his foundation was rotten. Hon. Members would find to their cost that corruption of every kind was as rife in our electoral system now as ever. He had the strongest evidence in support of this assertion. Mr. Grote's Committee, which sat on the malversation of the franchise nearly thirty years ago, proved the existence of intimidation, bribery, treating to a frightful extent. Did the House remember the report of that Committee, the election petitions which flowed in 1838 after the general election in the previous year, and the proceedings of every Election Committee which had sat from that day to the present? For twelve years, in various speeches, he had laid before the House evidence which showed, on the best authority, that corruption of every kind, instead of decreasing, steadily held its own, and had probably increased. It was unnecessary to refer to the general election of 1852; but did the House remember the Nottinghamshire election, with the wretched serfs creeping into hiding-places, thrust out by the "bailiffs, and then sent to vote as their landlords wished? At the last Northamptonshire election, a little more than a year ago, Peers had been known to interfere in influencing the return of Members by using a system of coercion towards their tenantry which would have disgraced even the middle ages. If those statements were true, it was quite evident that he had succeeded in making out a case by which the argument of Mr. Mill was completely upset. It had, however, on a previous occasion, been urged by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, that if vote by ballot were introduced into this country personation and frauds of that description would creep into our representative system under the cover of secrecy, and that there would be no means of detection. He need scarcely, he was sure, reply to such a charge against the ballot, nor would he had it not been advanced by one he so highly respected. But really such an accusation was ridiculous. Under a system of secret voting, if proper securities were adopted—and he did not propose that the ballot should be established without such securities—personation would be as easily detected as under open voting. They did not want to know for whom the man voted in order to detect personation. All that they required to know was, that he did vote. If he presented himself at the polling place and described himself as so-and-so, of such a place, and desired to vote, where was the difference in the matter of detection between that and open voting; and if the man passed himself off for somebody else, and voted as somebody else, what difficulty could there be of detecting or punishing him for the fraud afterwards? He should say that the mode of proceeding would be, that at the close of the election the ballot-box would be counted, and a return would be made; and if the return were objected to, the record of the vote would be kept a certain time, to be forthcoming before an Election Committee, or other tribunal, for examination. It was very far from his intention to prevent an appeal in the event of a false election; and, of course, in providing for the appeal, there must be the necessary machinery for bringing forward evidence. A great deal of froth had been poured forth about the ballot in Australia, without one tangible objection being advanced against the mode of voting there in operation. It had been said by one of the candidates at a late election (Mr. Calthorpe) there that secrecy was not effectually preserved by the mode in which the votes were taken. Now, he (Mr. H. Berkeley) had a letter from Mr. Wilson, the proprietor of the Melbourne Argus, a paper that might be described as The Times of Australia, contradicting this statement, and adding, that be was prepared to prove before any Committee or other tribunal of inquiry, that so far from the ballot having failed in Australia, it had perfectly succeeded, and that secrecy of voting was, for all practical purposes, secured. But it was not to its efficiency on the score of secrecy only that Mr. Wilson bore testimony. The cost of elections, be added, was diminished; the peacefulness and propriety with which the proceedings were conducted were increased; the prevention of corrupt influences of all descriptions was attained under the system of vote by ballot, and he concluded by expressing his solemn conviction that not only had the experiment of its introduction proved successful in Australia, but that it might in that respect challenge comparison with any political experiment of recent times. Now, when he had last introduced the question to the notice of the House, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Marsh) had risen in his place and stated that the introduction of the ballot in Tasmania had led to the most improper and violent proceedings taking place in the Legislature of that colony. That statement had caused great indignation among the colonists, particularly when it was borne in mind that the hon. Gentleman who had made it had been himself a successful squatter; and he held in his hannd a letter from Mr. H. Downing, of Launceston, who had filled the office of mayor of that town, as well as that of returning officer at the elections, in which the justice of the statement was denied, there being, he alleged, only one man in the Legislature who could be said to give way to any unbecoming violence. Mr. Downing went on to add that even in the case of the person to whom he alluded the use of violent language was the result of temperament, and that he was a most respectable member of the community. He also bore testimony to the quiet and decorum which prevailed at the elections at which he presided. He thought that was a conclusive answer to the sneers which had been thrown out on the want of success of the ballot in our Australian colonies. Much, too, had been talked about the failure of the ballot in America; but it should be understood that the friends of the ballot here had never said that the American system met their approval. In America the voting was open if a man chose, or he could vote secretly if he pleased, and he declared, in the name of those who acted with him, that no ballot would be of use in this country which was not entirely secret. In nearly all those States, however, where open voting was originally practised, they had one by one adopted the ballot, and now there were only two States—the Slave States of Kentucky and Virginia—where the voting was open, and he had received such accounts of the horrors and terrorism exercised at an election in the latter State that would shock the House if he were to read it. He was quite aware that the present House of Commons was too hardened to give much hope of success to his Bill, that no power of reasoning or argument would affect its decision, but only an influence from without. The adoption of the ballot did not depend upon 238 earnest men in that House, but upon the constituencies of this country, who had an uphill battle to fight against overpowering influences. Those constituencies had asked respectfully—they had waited patiently—but they would before long demand with a voice of thunder, as right, that which they now claimed as a boon. It might be complained that now, at the end of a Parliament, such a Motion as he was submitting could have no particular effect; but it was precisely because they were approaching that grand national saturnalia which took place at every general election, that he brought forward this Motion and these statements. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to introduce a Bill to cause the votes of Parliamentary electors of Great Britain and Ireland to be taken by way of ballot.


said, that in seconding the Motion, he must complain of the course taken by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld) in bringing forward this subject of the ballot on the night of the division on the Government Reform Bill, which he considered unfair to the hon. Member for Bristol, and had therefore followed that hon. Member out of the House to avoid voting. He was glad to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on a late occasion, while recommending the adoption of voting papers, say that all parties were agreed that some means must be devised for doing away with the corrupt practices that took place at elections; and he hoped, that as the object of this Bill was to prevent such practices, no objection would be offered to its being brought in and laid before the House and the country. In the rural districts, in which he passed the greater part of his life, he could assure the House that intimidation on the part of the landowners was as rife as ever. He believed that if secret voting were established, and every man could vote accord- ing to his conscience without fear of the consequences, the best man would almost invariably be returned. As showing the extent to which the interference of landlords was carried, he might refer to an advertisement which had appeared in a country paper from a farmer for a farm of 2.50 acres, the ground of his requiring it being that he had received a letter from his landlord, a clergyman of Agar, in Essex, one passage in which was— I hope in a few days to fix the time for coming to Maidstone to receive the rent. I hope you are a Conservative, as I am, and that you will give your vote for Sir W. Riddell. It is my opinion that landlord and tenant should always vote on the same side, and if we proceed to arrange for a new lease of the farm that will be a stipulation. Now, he (Sir John Shelley) could scarcely suppose that any man would contend that such a demand on the part of a landlord was justifiable, or that any landlord had a right to call upon his tenant to pay a second rent, in the shape of a vote. All that was now asked, was leave to introduce the Bill, that it might be printed and laid before the public. They had now, for the first time, a practical proposition presented to the House for doing away with corrupt practices at elections, and he could scarcely suppose that any one would oppose its being introduced, so that its provisions might be seen and understood, and that the House and the country might judge how far the machinery proposed would be effectual for the purpose. The widening of the constituencies would have a great tendency to check bribery, for it was obvious that it could not be so effectually perpetuated in large constituencies as in small ones, but the only effectual remedy was the ballot. Upon the subject of voting papers, the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) two years ago, when the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil) brought in a Bill for taking votes by that system, said—"In reference to this question of voting papers proposed by the noble Lord, I think the evil will be increased in a greater degree. At present both parties run a risk of being deceived; but the proposition of the noble Lord would make them quite safe. The voter would receive his voting paper from the agent, together with a £5 note, the note would be left, and the voting paper would he taken away signed." Now, under a system of secret voting no man would be such a fool as to lay down the:£5 note, for he would have no security for the vote. The ballot, moreover, was the only way by which tradesmen could be protected against the tyranny of their customers, and operatives against that of their employers. There could be no real Reform of Parliament until, by the establishment of some system of secret voting, the corruption and intimidation practised under the existing system of open voting were done away with.


said, he hardly knew whether the hon. Gentlemen who had introduced and seconded this Motion seriously intended that there should be much discussion on the ballot at that period of the Session, when the attendance of hon. Members was so small. In fact, he should rather suppose that the two speeches just delivered, as well as those which might be delivered during this debate, might be regarded as dropped speeches, which should have been made upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Bodmin. On that occasion, greatly to the surprise of the Government, some of those who had been the most strenuous advocates for vote by ballot were decidedly averse to a discussion of it. Of course the Government know very well what was intended, and, speaking with reference to that occasion, he could only say that the Government had no such intention as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Berkeley) had attributed to them. The Government had no intention of voting contrarily to the whole current of their principles, or of giving a vote upon the question in an indirect manner. The hon. Gentleman's speech of that evening very much resembled his former addresses on the ballot. It consisted of a number of squibs and crackers rather than of serious arguments. However, he did not intend to speak of his arguments, such as they were, in a disparaging tone, for he could not offer to the House anything so entertaining as the hon. Gentleman's speech. The hon. Gentleman appeared to have addressed many of his observations to two distinguished Members of the House—namely, the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). Those two distinguished Members were the last instances of individuals who had given their constituents some reason to suppose that they were not quite insensible to the arguments in favour of the ballot. The noble Lord the Member for London had pointedly intimated that he was of opinion that something might be gained by a more mature consideration of this subject, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had coquetted with it in such a manner that he was not surprised at the hon. Gentleman's endeavours to make a convert of him. The Government were quite aware of the object of the Motion. Hon. Members were about to enter upon an electioneering campaign, and it was very useful for hon. Gentlemen on such occasions to take an opportunity of making a fresh declaration in favour of the ballot, which was favourably regarded by a very large number of their fellow-subjects. But he would be abandoning his duty if he did not assure the House that the Government were no parties to the apparent disposition to conversion to which the hon. Mover and Seconder of this Motion had alluded. The Government entertained on this subject the same opinions as they had always expressed; and it would be his duty on their part to meet the proposition by a decided negative. His hon. Friend who had seconded the Motion might really be supposed to be a new Member from the terms in which he had asked the Government to permit the hon. Member (Mr. Berkeley) to bring in his Bill. His hon. Friend said, "Surely you will allow the House to see what the proposition is." Now, the ordinary mode in which any hon. Member proposed to introduce a Bill was by making the House acquainted with the nature of it in his opening speech. He confessed he should have been extremely glad if he could have learnt from the hon. Member who annually, for the last ten or twelve years, had brought forward this subject, what the nature of his ballot specifically was, and how he proposed to put it into operation. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the ballot to-day in a manner which was utterly at variance with anything that he (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) had ever heard of with regard to vote by ballot. He had spoken of an appeal from the decision at the hustings as if he meant that it should be possible to ascertain under his plan of vote by ballot in what way a man had voted. He wished the hon. Gentleman had explained himself on that point. But if the vote could be ascertained, in what respect would such a system of ballot differ from open voting? The Government themselves contended that it would be impossible to prevent a man's vote from becoming known even under a system of ballot, and that under such a system there would be personation of voters and other corrupt practices. He would not at present enter into a full discussion of the question, but he would ask the House to consider whether, even supposing they could gain what the hon. Gentleman believed they could—namely, secret voting, they would not lose thereby much more than they would gain. He would not speak of what they might gain, for that had been discussed over and over again; but he would submit to their consideration two points with respect to which they would be losers. They would lose mutual confidence, and that which, in voting for Members of Parliament, as in every other relation of life, ought to have great weight—namely, the benefit of a man's age, experience, and judgment. Those losses, he thought, would more than counterbalance any gain which could be achieved by secret voting, even if such a thing were possible. The only instance in this country in which the ballot was resorted to was in the elections at our clubs. And why did it answer in that instance? Because the objection made to a candidate at those clubs was a personal aversion. In them the voters had nothing whatever to do with the candidate's qualifications, and therefore, in his (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt's) opinion, the vote on such an occasion was perfectly distinct from a vote at the election of a Member of Parliament. In conclusion, he held on this subject exactly the same opinions as he had always expressed. In the first place, he did not believe that secrecy would be obtained, and if it were, the promoters of the ballot had failed to show that it would conduce to the purity of elections. On these grounds he was opposed to the introduction of the measure, and he hoped that as they would, in his opinion, lose more than they could gain by secret voting, they would reject the Motion.


Sir, during the last eight years I have on many occasions been an attentive listener to the discussions which have taken place here upon this important subject, but never myself have ventured to address the House in reference to it; nor would I now attempt to do so if my attention had not been directed to it among various other topics contained in the addresses which hon. Gentlemen are now placing before their constituents. In some of those addresses there are, in my humble apprehension, several great errors and fallacies with respect to secret voting. Some of these fallacies have noble authors; but, in all the addresses which have been published, there is no greater fallacy than that brought forward again and again by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and which is also adopted by my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton. One of the fallacies is, that secret voting is contrary to the constitution—in other words, that it is a matter of constitutional law that the voting for Members of Parliament should be open. Now, I have been solicitous to find whence that proposition is derived, and I am still at a loss to know to what authorities the noble Lords can refer in support of it. I know but two authorities which at all touch upon the subject. The first is an Act of Parliament as early as the 3rd of Edward I., chap. 5, which contains this language: —"And because elections ought to be free, the King commandeth upon great forfeiture that no man by force of arms, nor by malice or menacing, shall disturb any to make free election." That was followed by another statute, the 7th of Henry IV., chap. 15, the language of which is continued to the present day—"And there, in the full county pleno comitatu, they shall proceed to the election freely and indifferently." Now, I wish the House to remark that both the obligation and the right of the elector are defined in those words. His right is that he should be allowed to vote freely, and the obligation which rests on him is that he should give that vote indifferently. That is the sum total of the law of the question, except that it has by particular enactments attached penalties to the abuse of the franchise when the vote is not given indifferently, but its arm is too weak, and not long enough to protect the elector in his right to give his vote freely. We have a great variety of legislation intended to throw a shield round the elector, but it is inadequate to preserve to him his right of voting freely—that is, without restraint and without compulsion, free from threat and intimidation, regardless of any personal consequences. If the law, then, is insufficient by direct enactment to carry out the obligation which it owes the elector, of enabling him to vote freely and indifferently, it is incumbent on us, the House of Commons, to consider whether there is not a mode by which the declaration of the law that he should so vote can be carried out. That declaration has never been adequately carried out, and you are now called on to give effect to the constitutional principle that there should be perfect freedom of election. What, then, becomes of the constitutional argu- ment? My noble Friend the Member for Tiverton has told us very frequently and in positive terms that secret voting is contrary to the constitution. That assertion I meet with a direct negative. I say that both the law and the constitution of the country require freedom of election, but as yet no positive enactment had been able to secure it. It is then our duty to give effect to the constitution, and the only mode in which we can give it that effect is by establishing a system of secret voting. That, Sir, disposes of one of the topics which the candidates for seats in the new Parliament have discussed in their electioneering addresses with the greatest complacency, just as if they understood the subject. Another fallacy which I have again and again heard put forward as an argument is, that the franchise is a trust, and that the party who possesses it has thereby imposed upon him a public duty to perform, and those who confer that trust and are interested in its performance, have a right to know how he discharges his duty. That is the substance of the argument, which I believe has not in its origin the authority of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, although no authority can on such a subject be greater than his—I believe it rests on the authority of no less a person than the late Sir Robert Peel. Now, Sir, there is no more fruitful source of error than for a person to make use of legal terms in what are called false analogies. It is true, if a man uses a legal term, applying it in legal relation to a given subject, and if he means to say that that subject falls within such legal relationship, he uses the word appropriately, and therefore if we say that the elector is a trustee, and if we understand for whom it is he holds the trust, we may be able to comprehend the legal allusion; but, if we use the terms trust and trustee by way of comparison or analogy only, we create a most fruitful source of error. Lord Mansfield has put reasoners on their guard against this kind of argument; for he was wont to say that no description of argument is so likely to mislead as false analogies. I will ask the House to be good enough to tell me for whom the elector is a trustee? A trustee in law implies three things—a person in whom the trust is confided; an individual for whose benefit it is created; and a legal obligation to perform it. If you say the elector is a trustee, I ask for whom he is a trustee? I suppose the answer will be that he is a trustee for the non-electors, A trustee for the non-electors! That is, I think, a singular fallacy. It amounts to this, that the voter has himself no beneficial interest in the franchise, but is constitutionally vested in the cestuis qui trustent, the non-electors; so that, after all, the non-electors are the legal possessors of the franchise. Supposing that, say in 1810, I was an elector —one of the trustees for the non-electors —and, in the midst of a "No Popery" cry, the whole corona of the non-electors standing round the hustings I went in and voted for Catholic Emancipation, is it not probable that the non-electors would have regarded it as a gross breach of trust and that I should have had my head broken by them, and be carried home on a shutter? I might have a right to say to the noble Lord, when he would speak to me of the trust that I held, that I intended to give a vote on enlarged views, and that he himself might live to see those views realized —nay, to be one of the most active in bringing about that state of things for voting for which I suffered so much punishment at the hands of my cestuis qui trustent. Should it be said that I—who exercise the franchise with enlightened views, looking beyond the present time, and having greater political sagacity and foreknowledge than the men who are the cestuis qui trustent of that franchise—am responsible to them, instead of to an enlightened posterity, for the manner in which I exercise it. If, at the time I have mentioned, I were to say, "Deal with them," I should have been tarred and feathered; and, to be duly cursed, be placed in the Communication Service. That, Sir, is the practical application of the argument of those who declare that the franchise is a trust which we hold for the non-electors, for it concedes to them the right to call us to account for the exercise of it. There is a third argument brought forward, and it is the last which I shall here notice. It is said that the ballot is cowardly, and we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary, that it is un-English, alien to the country, at variance with the constitution, and tends to degrade a man. But tell me which degrades a man most—to intimidate him, or, what is worse, to make him a slave in his own estimation, or to allow him to vote in secret? And is not that the condition of the present body of electors? Adopting a phrase which was employed by the late President of the Board of Trade upon a recent me- morable occasion, it has been said that under the ballot, electors would go about with "masks on their faces." But that, Sir, is the present condition of the law, because you are unable to protect the electors in the exercise of their right, and so the tenant is, in voting with his landlord, compelled to put on the mask. He is not a voter—he is no more than a man hearing a message which he is bound to deliver, or a servant with a command put upon him which he is bound to execute, so that he goes to the poll internally cursing him who forces him there. Tell me, then, does anything more dishonour, can anything more degrade, the character of a man than making him that species of slave? If that is the case at present, will any one contend that to emancipate the voter from that thraldom, and to relieve the candidate from the possibility of exercising over him that control—because under the ballot it will be useless—would not tend to vindicate the character of the elector, and to raise him in his own self-respect? I will not say that the opposition to the ballot has its origin in tyranny, or in a desire to exercise undue control over men; but I would observe that a great deal of the objection to the ballot arises from the fact that those country gentlemen brought up with old feudal notions cannot induce their minds to throw them aside. The origin of influencing tenant voters is nothing in the world more than one of those old feudal customs which still hold their ground in the esteem of every English gentleman that has tenants. In fact, several hon. Gentlemen with whom I the other day conversed on the subject said to me, this feeling of feudalism involuntarily impresses the minds of English gentlemen, and they become imbued with it without being in any way conscious of the operation. I hope, then, that in the spirit of the constitution we shall unite in carrying out this Act, which declares that it is our duty to secure to the elector the right of voting freely, as it declares the elector's duty to do so indifferently. I hope you will remedy all the imperfections of the law, by adopting that which is the only effective means of carrying out the spirit of the constitution, and I here assert that the ballot is a remedy in perfect consonance with the spirit of the law and principles of the constitution.


Sir, my hon. and learned Friend has entered so deeply into the arguments which have been from time to time brought forward on this subject, that I cannot leave altogether unnoticed the speech which he has just addressed to the House. My hon. and learned Friend began by stating that publicity cannot be a part of the constitution, because he finds that by two ancient statutes it is provided that no one shall disturb electors by force of arms or otherwise in making free elections, and that electors shall vote freely and indifferently. That, no doubt, is the spirit of the ancient statutes—that no doubt is the spirit of the constitution; but those who framed those ancient statutes, although they must have been perfectly aware that it was in their power to enact secret voting, never seem to have considered that it was necessary for them to do more than to declare that such should be the principle, leaving it to the Executive Government or others to put in action the law against any who attempted by force of arms or otherwise to disturb the electors in the exercise of their rights. They never enacted that secrecy should be had recourse to. Nay, more, although in 1780, and from that year till 1785, there were a considerable body of people, including some of the best persons in the kingdom—among them Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt—who were great friends of Parliamentary Reform, the only notice which we find of secret voting is in a memorandum among Mr. Wyvill's papers, very strongly against the practice; so that, until of late years, that proposition which my hon. and learned Friend seems to think is part of the constitution, was never even suggested. I presume, therefore, that secrecy at all events, is no part of our constitution. But the argument which I think was used by my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton and myself, with regard to the constitution, was rather different from that which my hon. and learned Friend stated. It was the second argument which he noticed— namely, that publicity is the usual rule and practice, I will not say of the constitution, but of this free Government; and that is a proposition which I think neither my hon. and learned Friend nor anybody else has ever shaken. It may be desirable to make an anomaly—it may be desirable to make an exception to our other practice; but we know perfectly well, that with regard to all other matters persons who are charged with any duty have to perform that duty in public; have to state what it is they have done, and their reasons for doing it. If a First Lord of the Admiralty for example, treats with any of the junior Lords and says that which is thought exceptional, the matter is brought before this House, a statement is made in accusation, another statement is made in defence, and on the next morning the whole public of the three kingdoms will be enabled to judge which was right and which was wrong; whether the First Lord of the Admiralty has exercised the great duties entrusted to him with a due regard to the public service, or whether he has injured the public welfare. No one would think of saying, "The First Lord of the Admiralty is a high executive officer charged with great powers of State, and he must not be questioned as to what he says or does to those who are associated with him." No man would be able to stand up for five minutes and maintain such a doctrine. The First Lord of the Admiralty, like everybody else, is obliged to state what he considers to be sufficient reasons for his conduct. So with regard to our whole Government:—people may deliberate, Cabinets may deliberate; but when a Cabinet has made up its mind, the Members come and state in Parliament what has been deter-mind on, and the whole public or the realm judges of their act, whether it is calculated to be beneficial or injurious to the public welfare. In the same way our whole system of the administration of justice is carried on. Whether it be the Lord Chancellor, or the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, or any other high judicial functionary, he states what in his opinion is the law, and what justice requires in any case that comes before him. Be it a trial of some person accused of libel; be it a trial of a man accused of high treason—in either case the whole proceedings are public to the world—everybody knows the arguments that have been used;—first by the officers of the Crown, next by the counsel for the defence, next by the Judge sitting on the bench, and lastly, what is the decision of the jury; and, although the jury do not state the reasons on which their decision is founded, every one has the assurance that it is the verdict of them all. So that in our whole system of government, publicity appears to be an inherent quality. I do not say that it may not be right that elections should be altogether free from that obligation of publicity. I am not arguing at this moment that it may not be necessary that they should be so. What I am arguing is, that at all events it would be a contravention of all your customary prac- tice, and would not be in conformity with anything with which we are acquainted in the usual mode of carrying on either affairs of State, affairs of justice, or political affairs in this country. But now comes the question whether publicity is of use in this matter of giving votes for Members of Parliament. I do not think that it has ever been thoroughly weighed what would be the consequence, supposing you could have complete secrecy. People speak of the influence exercised by landlords over tenants, and say that it is very wrong that landlords should exercise that influence. I quite agree in that opinion, and I quite agree also that it is very wrong that customers should exercise their influence over tradesmen. But there are other influences which may be at work, and which I believe would be at work if you could ensure perfect secrecy; and I come here to that question which my hon. and learned Friend has argued so acutely, and with that ingenuity which he always has at command—namely, whether or no it is a trust. I do not say that this trust of the elector is in perfect analogy with an ordinary trust in the eye of the law, or that there is any particular class of persons that can be compared to the cestuis qui trustent to which my hon. and learned Friend alludes; but I contend that the whole community, whether electors or non-electors, have a deep interest in knowing how the votes are given which elect those who are to dispose of the welfare of the State. I remember that in 1832, when I was speaking on this subject, I said that we did not intend to deal with it in the Reform Bill, but that I hoped when it was under consideration those who voted for it would remember that, while it might prevent bad influence over the good, it would also prevent good influence over the bad. I am of that opinion still. I can conceive a constituency where the numbers on each side are pretty equally balanced —say 200 on each side—and there may be twenty votes which would decide the balance either way. There may be a man who has influence with those twenty votes, who has them pretty much at his command, who has spoken loudly upon the Committee on one side, who has protested his attachment to it, has written placards and made himself very conspicuous. But a day or two before the election he finds that he can get so good a bargain on the other side, either by accepting Government patronage for himself and his friends, or some other advantage, or even in the course and gross form of money, that he determines that he and his nineteen voters shall go the other way, in behalf of which he has not spoken and in favour of which he has not declared himself. When the election comes on, there is great surprise to find that the side which expected 220 votes has only 200, and the other side has 220. By the secret mode of voting, as I understand it—though there is now said to be some new contrivance by which every man's vote may be known if necessary—nobody would know who the persons were that had declared on one side and voted on the other, whereas by public voting you could mark such persons at once, and generally speaking, especially if they had received some advantage by it, they would be held up to reprobation. That is the advantage of publicity. As to the modification in my opinion, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary alluded, I confess I have modified my opinion this far — that I do not think if this mode of voting were adopted that it would lead to those injurious consequences which I formerly anticipated. I will explain why I think so. I used to argue that it would introduce so much deception and concealment, so much desire to pretend to that which a man was not, as to have an injurious influence on the character of the English people. After further reflection and experience I do not believe that such injurious consequences would ensue. I believe the character of the English people is such — and the experience we have of America and our Colonies confirms that view—so great is the warmth and eagerness about elections, that almost every man makes his opinions known beyond the power of anybody or any mode of voting to conceal them. I cannot conceive that that should take place which Sidney Smith in his pamphlet says is necessary,—that a man must go to the wrong parties, dine at the wrong houses, make the wrong speeches, give the wrong toasts, and sing the wrong songs. I do not believe either farmers or tradesmen would go through such a course of hypocrisy. A man who rode to the election on his horse, and who talked all the way of his attachment to Sir Thomas, what a good Member he had been, how much he had done for the county, and protested that he should give him a plumper, would scarcely be likely to go to the polling booth, and secretly put in a vote against him. I believe that such is the character of the English people that a mode of secret voting would make very little difference in this respect. At the same time, publicity is the rule of English society and of the English political system. No doubt there are a certain number of persons at every election who are ill-used — who are told that they must vote for their landlords when they do not wish. That is a great hardship, but I believe it is much less frequent than it used to be. I do not believe, with the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury, that there is a sort of feudal spirit which makes a landlord say, "I expect all my tenants to vote with me, or I will deprive them of their farms if they do not." I believe there is a general concurrence—the opinions of the landlord are generally those of the tenant, and those of the tenant the opinions of the landlord; they vote together harmoniously and with great agreement of opinion. No doubt there are cases of hardship, and especially at general elections, but, in comparing this evil with the advantages which we enjoy from publicity, I cannot but bring into the scale all that has been done for freedom in the course of our history by men coming boldly forward and stating what they were for and what they were against. Men from the very earliest times have exposed themselves in this way to be imprisoned and to suffer hardships such as those which have been inflicted of late years on the subjects of the King of Naples. In late times men have exposed themselves to be tried for high treason for professing attachment to the principles of the French Revolution, and in later times still men have voluntarily undergone great disadvantages for the sake of expressing their opinions freely. Our freedom depends in a great degree upon that feeling of independence, upon that determination to do and say what a man thinks is right which is shown in his contempt of trial and sufferings. Nobody has proposed secrecy in anything else but voting, but in the case of voting it is said there ought to be this anomaly. I do not think it would have any great effect, but it would in some degree weaken that self-assertion, that habit of declaring their opinions, which I think belongs to the character of the English people. Look at France—there they have had the ballot under all forms of Government. So far from favouring freedom, the power of secret voting there, as it appears to me, has made the voters timid, has made them inclined to favour the Government of the day—the Government which had the superior force, instead of each man standing manfully forward and asserting his opinions boldly. These views will incline me to oppose this Motion; but if at any time hereafter it should be carried I shall not believe that any very great public injury will flow from it, because I think that in this country declaration of opinion is so much our habit, and our public liberties are so well established, that no mechanical contrivance of this sort can seriously injure them. I have never heard of any example of a country where the ballot did good, and I am afraid that in this country the balance of advantages would be against it.


My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aylesbury has so pointedly alluded to me in his speech that I am sure the House will pardon me for making a few remarks on the Motion before us. There is one maxim laid down by my hon. and learned Friend in which I entirely agree, and I venture to say that of the justice of his maxim his own speech furnishes a most remarkable illustration. My hon. and learned Friend told us that there is no more fruitful source of error than the misuse and the misapplication of legal terms. I never heard a speech which was a better illustration of that maxim. I never heard a greater tissue of refined fallacies in my life. He began by quoting a statute which was directed, from the very words which he read, against preventing electors by force of arms from going freely to the poll; and he applied that to the case of a law which should prevent voters being influenced by motives in giving their votes. Why, Sir, everybody must see from the very words that that statute is applicable to a totally different state of things from that against which the ballot is levelled. My hon. and learned Friend went into a long and ingenious argument, founding himself entirely upon the circumscribed technicalities of the Court of Chancery as to the meaning of the word "trust" and he was pleased to say that I and my noble Friend the Member for the City were quite wrong in saying some time ago that the electoral franchise was a trust held by the electors for the rest of the community. And my hon. and learned Friend says the term trust refers only to beneficiary interests. He contends that because the Court of Chancery apply one particular meaning to the word "trust," there could only be one meaning to it,—the Chancery mean- ing; and consequently our meaning was logically incorrect, and I and my noble Friend were logically wrong, and knew nothing of the meaning of the words we were using. But I still venture to submit that the words "trust" and "trustee" have a larger meaning than that which my hon. and learned Friend and the Court of Chancery apply to them, and that a person may hold his vote in trust as trustee for the whole nation, even though that definition may not come within the meaning of the technicalities upon which the argument of my hon. and learned Friend was founded. I therefore dispose entirely of the speech of my hon. and learned Friend. I again avow the opinions which I have always expressed—and indeed they are more against the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol upon his statement made this evening, than before—because on former occasions as far as one could understand the argument, this measure of secret voting was not to be absolutely imperative. But now we are told that it is to be absolutely a gagging Bill— that it is to be compulsory, and that no man is to tell, I will not say another man, but even his wife, what vote he has been giving. We all recollect the words of the Roman poet describing the most miserable condition of man—et intus Palleat infelix quod proxima, nesciat uxor. My hon. Friend is for putting the whole electors of England, Ireland, and Scotland into that wretched condition. They are to be protected against the inquisitive inquiries even of their wives, and are to keep the secret in the inmost recesses of their hearts. This is a sort of tyranny to which the people of this country will never submit. You may pass what law you please, but you cannot overbear the natural tendencies, feelings, and spirit of the nation. The British nation will disobey such a law. They will rebel against it. They will not submit to a coercion which I say is perfectly unjust, and with all deference to my hon. and learned Friend, contrary to the principle and spirit of the British constitution. How will you enforce it? A law which merely says you shall vote secretly is of no value unless there is a penalty on its violation. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol impose fine and imprisonment on any man who tells for whom he voted? He must do that or his enactment would be perfectly nugatory. As my noble Friend the Member for the City of London has said, every yeoman who goes to the county poll or every tradesman who goes to vote for his borough will be boasting of his party feelings, and expressing approbation of one candidate and condemnation of the politics of another. Such is the nature and character of Englishmen that you can never compel men to be silent on such a subject. They may be made to put pieces of paper into the ballot-box, but they will scorn to keep their political sentiments secret, and will incur the fine and imprisonment which my hon. Friend must impose if the Act is to be operative at all. I say then that if this secret voting is compulsory it will be a tyranny to which the people of this country will not submit; and, moreover, it will be totally nugatory. You must make a general election to be like a Quakers' meeting. No man must utter what his opinions are—there must be no converse, no mutual confidence. There must be no canvassing, no committees, no friends urging the merits of this candidate against the demerits of the other. The whole must be a dumb proceeding. No man must give utterance to his political feelings, however deeply they may engross his mind — no man must confess his partialities or his prejudices—all must be done in silent sadness—no human being must be aware of what another is going to do. Is it not ridiculous to suppose that such a process can by Act of Parliament be carried into effect? I say again, Sir, it is absolutely absurd. I, moreover, say it is trifling with Parliament and the country to propose a law which from its very nature would be entirely inoperative, and, which, if operative, would be repugnant to every feeling which animates the British heart. We are told that it is to be an Act for purity of election; but I say, if operative, it would be a demoralizing law. Instead of an Act for purity of election, it would be an Act for the encouragement of fraud, of falsehood, and of corruption. I say it would be an encouragement of fraud, because, make what machinery you may, I defy you to make any machinery which will not be liable to immense frauds in giving votes. Wherever vote by ballot has existed frauds to an enormous extent have prevailed—in America, in France, and in Australia. We know that it has been so in America. The American case has been the ground upon which hitherto all the champions of the ballot have stood as the battle-field; but that is now given up. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol says he never did take America as his ground; but I say that the original arguments in favour of the ballot were founded on the example of America. In America we know that, so far from the ballot being secret voting, it is merely ticket voting. The man goes up with a ticket in his hat; and the only reason, as I am informed, why he votes by ticket instead of vivâ voce is, that the vote is for several offices at the same time — the Governor of the State, the Treasurer, the judicial officer, and others —and it is more convenient that all those votes should he on one paper, instead of a number of votes being given separately. I say fraud would exist to a great extent, because you may depend upon it you could not, by any means you could invent, prevent contrivances, by which an undue number are given to one candidate and a number taken unduly from another. As to falsehood, can any one pretend that it would not be a source of falsehood to a great extent? Assuming that there are now landlords and masters manufacturers who want to sway those who hold farms of them, or are employed by them, will these people be cheated by your Bill? What will they do? They will go to a tenant or workman when an election is coming on for a county or borough and say, "My friend, such a candidate is a very good man and I hope you will vote for him." The tenant or workman may say, "Things are altered now. We vote secretly. I can't promise." The reply will be, "I beg you will promise. I know you are a man of your word and will do what you promise, and I insist on your giving me a promise." The same coercion which it is now asserted is used — though I believe much less than is alleged — to make a man go openly to the poll will be used for the purpose of extorting from him a promise to give a secret vote in the sense which his employer or landlord wishes. Suppose the man refuses and says, "I will make no promise," is it not plain that the same penalty which it is said attaches to a man voting against his landlord or employer now will be inflicted then? Suppose the man gives his promise and breaks it. I say a man is deeply degraded who makes a promise, knowing he will not fulfil it, and if he votes as he promises, and that promise is extorted from him, he is in the same condition as if he votes openly under coercion without any promise at all. You do not relieve him from the difficulty the least in the world by enabling or compelling him to vote secretly, instead of going openly to the poll. Therefore, I say, that the measure would he demoralizing to a greater degree than any of the abuses which are now alleged to exist, and which, I believe, are diminishing from the effects of publicity every time there is a general election. But I will say with all deference to my hon. and learned Friend, that secret voting would be at variance—I will not say with the constitution, because, that is perhaps a legal and technical expression, but with the spirit of the constitution, and with the spirit of the practices upon which our liberties rest. I say that publicity is an essential element in the British constitution—that, whatever political functions are exercised by any man for the good of the country, it is essential to the welfare of the nation that those political functions should be exercised subject to the responsibility which rests upon him as a Member of the State, and that if you begin by withdrawing political functions from publicity in their exercise, you aim a fatal blow against that which I maintain to be the foundation of our liberties. It is a play upon words to say that electors do not hold their votes in trust for the benefit of the nation at large. I say that if you had universal suffrage in the widest sense of the word— if every man, woman, and child, who could speak possessed the right to vote, every such individual would hold his vote in trust for the benefit of the whole nation, and that the votes, even universal in the strictest sense of the word, ought to be public, in order that the country might know how each individual has performed his duty towards the country. We know that in one of the Greek Republics there was a law which said that when civil questions arose no man should be permitted to be neutral; that every one should declare which side he took; and I say the principle applies as well to the British constitution as to that of the Greek republic. Depend upon it that the man who shrinks from making known his opinions upon public affairs takes a course which does not accord with the trust reposed in him as a good citizen, and does not contribute to that healthful spirit of freedom which exhibits itself in the boldness and fearlessness with which men express their sentiments on political differences and with regard to Political men. I think a measure which tends to withdraw political feel- ings from their public expression—which makes men go, I will repeat it, in a cowardly way, sneaking up to the poll to put a ticket into a box, hardly daring to allow to be seen which way the hand turns for fear of the vote being detected—is inconsistent with what we are accustomed to consider English, and inconsistent with the principles of our constitution. I think that such a Bill will be a delusion if those who propose it imagine they are advocating purity of election and improvement of the constitution. As to bribery, no man will tell me that the ballot will be a remedy against bribery. Why the election agent in any borough or county in which parties are nearly balanced will come to the candidate and say, "I have the promise of a certain number of votes," say tens or hundreds, as the case may be; "their terms are so and so; if they are granted you will be elected, but you will not be elected unless certain considerations are agreed upon between you and them." Well, those terms will be agreed upon, and the candidate will be returned. Why, Sir, it is much more difficult to detect bribery committed in that manner by secret voting, than at an open election, when every voter goes publicly to the poll; when his vote is known and the influences can be ascertained that led him to vote in that particular direction. Sir, I contend that this is not a measure deserving of the support and approval of Parliament; and I was glad to find that in one of the fullest Houses we have had for a great length of time, and in which this question was put to the vote, certainly without debate, but when every man was called upon to vote according to his opinion, an immense majority voted against this measure. And although my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol and one or two other friends of this Motion withdrew, yet their absence was counterbalanced by the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, who, I take for granted, would all have voted against the Motion and, therefore the balance of seceders from the division between the two parties was about equal. If this measure is carried — if electors are to be screened against any possible inconvenience occurring from the votes they give for Members of Parliament—on what possible principle and analogy, to use the phrase of my hon. and learned Friend, could you refuse to extend the same "protection" to Members of this House? We stand to the country in a similar position to that of our electors. The Members of this House are just as liable to sustain personal inconvenience from their votes as are the electors at the hustings. There are many Members, for instance, who have spent a great deal of money upon their canvass, and who will sustain greater pecuniary loss by the manner in which their votes may be resented by their electors than the tradesmen of the town they represent can suffer from the vote they give. Every principle, therefore, that leads to the application for secret voting for electors would go fully to prove that the ballot ought to be the mode of voting of Members of this House. But I think such a charge would be a great misfortune. I should deprecate it exceedingly. I say that this measure, instead of being one of progress, is a measure of retrogression. Of late years everything has tended more and more to publicity in regard to all the transactions of life. Sir, the proceedings of this House used to be secret to a certain degree. Of late years we have more and more laid open to the public everything that is done within these walls. First, our debates and then our divisions were made public. I remember the time when no authentic list of our divisions was published. It was a great improvement which we adopt-ed on the Motion of Mr. Hume in order that the country might know how every man voted on every question. Well, publicity is the rule through the whole of our proceedings. And now, forsooth, the advocates of popular rights and principles come upon us and ask us to establish the principle of secret voting. I am surprised that those who are the advocates of popular rights and liberties should advocate such a system. Why, Sir, take the operation of the Bill as regards the unfortunate electors who are to be the objects of its protection. It is said that now, when a tradesman votes against the wishes of his chief customers, or the tenant against his landlord, he is liable, the tradesman to lose the customer, or the tenant to lose his farm. But what would be the state of the case if the principle of secret voting were rigidly carried out? Why this,—that no man would employ a tradesman whose political opinions were not known to be in accordance with his own. No man would take a tenant who was not known to be of his own way of thinking in politics. An instance has been mentioned of a tenant who lost his vote for his political opinions, and a wish has been expressed that some good Liberal landlord would give him a farm. But it appears to be forgotten that this could in all probability only be done by a landlord turning out some other tenant whose political opinions differed from his own, and this would be the process carried on extensively under the ballot system. The secret vote would only substitute for one mode of coercion another more odious, and which could be practised in a manner more likely to escape public notice. A gentleman would select tradesmen of his own opinions, and would employ no one else. He would say to a tradesman, "I know you, and that your political opinions are right; I will employ you and I will not employ the other man, who will vote against us." So of the tenant to whom he would let a farm. The landlord would say, "Are you a Whig, or Conservative, or Radical?" as the case may be; "if you are not of my opinion go elsewhere for a farm." We should thus have the most odious inquisitions established in the relations between the customer and the tradesman, the landlord and the tenant. I say, therefore, I retain my opinion that if this measure could be enforced, it would be tyrannical, unjust, and inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the British constitution. But I am sure that it would never work, and that it would prove a nullity. My hon. Friend the Member for Westminster says that we can amend the details and machinery in Committee. But my objection is not as to the details but as to the principle of the measure, and I am glad to find that Her Majesty's Government have determined to oppose the introduction of this Bill.


said, he had listened with the greater satisfaction to the very able speech of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, since it came from a leader a large number of whose followers were supposed to entertain views upon this question which differed from his own. He had also listened with satisfaction to the language which had been employed upon that occasion by the noble Lord the Member for London, because the paragraph in the noble Lord's address to the electors of the City which related to the Ballot had created in his (Mr. A. Mills's) mind considerable doubt as to the course which he meant to pursue upon that subject. That (doubt had, however, been entirely removed by the clear and decisive speech which they had heard from the noble Lord that evening. With respect to the main question, after the subject had been debated and discussed for twenty-four years, during which time there had been not less than sixteen debates and divisions, it was not so much a matter for debate as for division. The noble Lord, however, had stated—that in that opinion he (Mr. A. Mills) entirely concurred—that the publicity given to all the proceedings at our elections offered a most important guarantee for the maintenance of our national liberties. The United States of America, France, our own Australian colonies, and other countries had tried the experiment of vote by ballot, and it had not by any means been found to be one of a successful character. But it was said that the ballot would prevent corrupt practices at elections, and Parliament was asked to try the experiment. It had been tried. About two years ago the late Member for Lambeth was a candidate for the representation of Reigate. There was a sort of Liberal sweepstakes and it was determined to test the merits of the various candidates by the ballot. On this particular occasion Sir Henry Rawlinson obtained the majority, whereupon Mr. Wilkinson wrote a letter to The Times expressing his regret that he had not been chosen by the electors of Reigate, and asserting that irregular agencies had been used in this mode of his own selection. He (Mr. A. Mills) believed that they could not have the ballot at elections without extending it to the divisions in that House. He had upon one occasion stated to an hon. Member his surprise at the vote he had given on the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire for the cessation of the Maynooth grant; and the reply he had received from that gentleman was, that he could not help the course he had taken, as he represented a Scotch constituency. There could be no doubt that a pressure was put upon Members of that House by their constituents; but he believed that they were all strongly indisposed to adopt in their proceedings the system of secret voting. He thought the ballot was nothing more nor less than a plausible imposture, and he believed the people of England would not at any price have it at Parliamentary elections.


said, he could not allow the observations of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton with respect to the late division to pass without a word of reply. He denied that the vote the other night could be taken as a test of the opinion of that House. The question then under consideration was the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for the City, and a large proportion of the Liberal Members did not deem it expedient to encumber that Resolution with a question upon which their party was to a certain extent divided. They therefore declined to take any part in the division. He thought the ballot suffered from being brought forward as an isolated question. It ought to form a necessary part of a Reform Bill, along with a large extension of the franchise, and the disfranchisement of the smaller rotten boroughs. The case of Reigate could not be adduced as a fair trial of the ballot, and he had no hesitation in saying that if it were tried in a large constituency, under the authority of an Act of the Legislature, the result would be highly satisfactory. The Government had determined to meet the present Motion with a direct negative; but he would remind them that their leader in former years was in favour of the ballot, Some years ago the right hon. Gentleman. in an address to the electors of Marylebone, said— With this conviction I am desirous of completing the machinery of the constitution by two measures which will invest the people with a power which was once their birthright, and with a security which I hope their children will inherit. These measures are triennial Parliaments and election by ballot; and unless these measures be conceded I cannot comprehend how the conduct of the Government can ever be in harmony with the feeling of the people. How did the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that statement with the vote which he was now about to give against the Ballot?


replied: He had been astonished, he said, by the speeches of the two leaders of the Liberal party. That party had for some time been looking in vain for a little unanimity on the part of the noble Lords, but now they had it with a vengeance. The noble Lords, so long at variance, now took their stand side by side on the ballot-box, like the two Kings of Brentford smelling at one rose. It was, perhaps, a happy thing for the party that their two great leaders were found to agree upon any one subject, but he was sorry to say that while they agreed between themselves they disagreed from the great mass of their followers upon a vital and important question. The speeches of the noble Lords contained more flagrant and audacious rubbish than he had ever listened to before in the whole course of his life. That of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was worse than anything he had uttered even in his most jaunty moments. The noble Lord had talked of his putting a man in gaol, not allowing him to speak to his wife, and Heaven knew what besides. He never said anything of the sort, but he had no doubt that what he did say was applicable to the noble Lord as well as to other people,—namely, that he did not always tell everything to his own wife. Again, the noble Lord in his light offhand manner had spoken of an elector going to the polling booth with a manly English front, while under the system of the ballot he would be obliged to record his vote in a sneaking fashion. How would the noble Lord himself feel if he were liable to be turned out of house and homo for the manner in which he gave his vote? The noble Lord under such circumstances would be very glad to take shelter in the constitutional refuge of the ballot. The other noble Lord—leader No. 2, as he might call him—the Member for the City, had repeated that eternal remark of the franchise being a trust. Well, supposing it was a trust, everybody knew what the conditions of the trust were—that a man should vote fairly and honestly according to his conscience. If, therefore, an elector could not give his vote openly without exposing himself to undue and sinister influences, let him do it in secret, and what harm could follow? Such was all the answer that he thought it necessary to give to that sort of rubbish. But the noble Lord, forgetting his history, had said that the ballot was never heard of until 1780. Why, was not the noble Lord aware that a Bill establishing the ballot passed through the House of Commons in 1710, and was thrown out in the House of Lords, like many a good measure before and since? The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had charged him with having walked out of the House on a former occasion in order to avoid a division on the ballot, and had stated that his absence and that of some of his Friends was balanced by the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and somebody else on the other side. A modest statement to make, truly! Why, the noble Lord knew as well as he did himself that there were 140 Members who did not vote upon that occasion because it was not an opportune moment. Yet the noble Lord broke away thus in his light, airy, jaunty manner; his speech was cheered by hon. Gentlemen on the other side who disliked the ballot, and at the conclusion of his performance he sat down a perfect hero in his own estimation.

Motion made, and Question put— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to cause the Votes of the Parliamentary Electors of Great Britain and Ireland to be taken by way of Ballot.

The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 102: Majority 3.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Kershaw, J.
Alcock, T. King, hon. P. J. L.
Atherton, W. Langston, J. H.
Ayrton, A. S. Langton, H. G.
Barnard, T. Locke, John
Bazley, T. M'Mahon, Patrick.
Berkeley, F. W. F. Marshall, W.
Bethell, Sir R. Mellor, J.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Moffatt, G.
Brady, J. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Brocklehurst, J. Monson, hon. W. J.
Bury, Visct. Morris, D.
Butler, C. S. Napier, Sir C.
Byng, hon. G. Nicoll, D.
Calcutt, F. M. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Cheetham, J. Ogilvy, Sir J.
Clifford, Col. Onslow, G.
Clive, G. Osborne, R.
Coningham, W. Paget, C.
Copeland, W. T. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Cox, W. Perry, Sir T. E.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Philips, R. N.
Crawford, R. W. Pigott, F.
Crook, J. Price, W. P.
Dalglish, R. Ramsden, Sir J. W.
De Vere, S. E. Ricardo, O.
Dillwyn, L. L. Roebuck, J. A.
Duke, Sir J. Rothschild, Baron L, de
Ellice, E. Rothschild, Baron M. de
Elton, Sir A. H. Roupell, W.
Esmonde, J. Salomons, Ald.
Evans, Sir De L. Samuelson, B.
Ewart, W. Schneider, H. W.
Ewing, H. E. C. Scholefield, W.
Ferguson, Col. Smith, J. B.
Foley, H. W. Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. M.
Forster, C.
Fox, W. J. Stuart, Col.
Freestun, Col. Sullivan, M.
Gilpin, C. Thompson, Gen.
Greene, J. Thornely, T.
Gregson, S. Tollemache, hn. F. J.
Grenfell, C. W. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Greville, Col. F. Vivian, H. H.
Hadfield, G. Westhead, J. P. B.
Hall, rt. hon. Sir B. Whitbread, S.
Hankey, T. Williams, W.
Hutt, W. Young, A. W.
Ingham, R.
Jackson, W. TELLERS.
James, E. J. Berkeley, H.
Keating, Sir H. S. Shelley, Sir J.
List of the NOES.
Adderley, rt. hon. C. B. Baillie, C.
Akroyd, E. Baillie, H. C.
Bailey, C. Ball, E.
Baring, A. H. King, E. B.
Baring, T. Knight, F. W.
Beach, W. W. B. Langton, W. G.
Beaumont, W. B. Lefroy, A.
Beecroft, G. S. Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.
Blackburn, P. Liddell, hon. H. G.
Bramley-Moore, J. Lisburne, Earl of
Bridges, Sir B. W. Lovaine, Lord
Buller, J. W. Lyall, G.
Burghley, Lord Lygon, hon. F.
Cairns, Sir Hugh M'C. Manners, Lord J.
Cavendish, hon. W. March, Earl of
Christy, S. Miles, W.
Churchill, Lord A. S. Mills, A.
Clinton, Lord R. Morgan, O.
Codrington, Gen. Morgan, Major
Cole, hon. H. A. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Newark, Visct.
Cubitt, Mr. Ald. Newdegate, C. N.
Davey, R. Newport, Visct.
Davison, R. North, Col.
Deedes, W. Northcote, Sir S. H.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Packe, C. W.
Duncombe, hon. A. Pakington, rt, hn. Sir J.
Duncombe, hon. Col. Palke, L.
Dundas, F. Palmerston, Visct.
Du Pre, C. G. Patten, Col. W.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Peel, rt. hon. Gen.
Elmley, Visct. Pevensey, Visct.
Estcourt, rt. hn. T. H. S. Puller, C. W. G.
Farquhar, Sir M. Repton, G. W. J.
Ferguson, Sir R. Russell, Lord J.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Saint Aubyn, J.
Gard, R. S. Scott, Major.
Gaskell, J. M. Somerset, Col.
Glyn, Geo. G. Spooner, R.
Grogan, E. Stewart, Sir M. R. S.
Hamilton, Lord C. Sturt, H. G.
Harcourt, G. G. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Hardy, G. Vansittart, W.
Hayes, Sir K. Verner, Sir W.
Henley, rt. hon. J. W. Walcott, Admiral.
Holdford, R. S. Whiteside, rt. hn. J.
Hopwood, J. T. Whitmore, H.
Hotham, Lord Wynn, Col.
Hudson, G. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Hume, W. W. F.
Jervis, Capt. TELLERS.
Kekewich, S. T. Jolliffe, Sir W.
Ker, R. Taylor, Col.

House adjourned at Ten o'clock