Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
This House is of opinion, that it is neither just nor politic to interfere, in the manner proposed in this Bill, with the Freehold Franchise as hitherto exercised in the Counties in England and Wales; and that no re-adjustment of the Franchise will satisfy this House or the Country, which does not provide for a greater extension of the Suffrage in Cities and Boroughs than is contemplated in the present Measure,
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that before the debate was proceeded with, he wished to correct an error into which his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had fallen last night in referring to his speech on a previous evening. His hon. 826 Friend represented him as having suggested that the House should make their Amendments in the Bill in Committee, assuming that the Government would dishonour itself by accepting those Amendments. What he had really said was, that he thought the House ought to use every effort to make the Amendments they pleased, pressing on the Government the responsibility of rejecting them, and then when the House had before it two rival Bills—the measure as introduced by the Government and as altered by the House—there would be a clear issue for an appeal to the country.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, no one could wonder at the cheers which greeted the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole) when he rose to address the House, or indeed consider the various aspects that the debate bad assumed, without feeling that the House had got into a situation of embarrassment. That position was attributable to various causes. In the first place, the main question with which they had to deal was one so complicated, and at the same time so important, that it was hardly possible to propose any measure respecting it which would not be productive of embarrassment. That embarrassment was increased by the fact that the Government which brought forward the Bill were confessedly in a minority in that House; that their scheme of Reform did not originate altogether spontaneously with them, but was rather an answer to a call made by the country. And it was the more difficult and embarrassing that this call for a measure, though loud, was anything but distinct as to the particular objects which were desired. But these which might be called the natural difficulties of the position were by no means all. Not only had the House to consider the circumstances under which the Bill was introduced, but the manner in which it was met, and the issue which was raised by the noble Lord's Resolution. That issue was a peculiarly embarrassing one. They were not now engaged in a fair stand-up fight on the second reading, nor had they the advantage of the open council of Committee; they were entering at one stage upon discussions which belonged more properly to another. Then, too, the Resolution, though it dealt only with two points, was so general in its terms respecting them, and left matters so uncertain, that no one was able to say distinctly what was the issue 827 raised, or what was the alternative which they had before them. As had been pointed out by his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Committee of Council, the Resolution of the noble Lord might be satisfied with the smallest Amendment, or include the largest change. It was an axiom in politics, that in considering a question you should look not only at the particular proposal before you, but also at the alternative presented. Political questions were both of a positive and a comparative character, and when asked to assent to a particular measure you were bound to consider the alternative as well. Now, what, he would ask, was the alternative which it was proposed to the House to accept in lieu of the Bill of the Government, should the Amendment he carried? Neither from the Resolution itself nor from the speech of the noble Lord in laying it before the House could the nature of that alternative be inferred. Hon. Members were therefore left to find out for themselves in what it consisted. It was but natural with that view to look back to the measure which had been introduced in 1854 by the noble Lord or to the scheme which had been shadowed forth out of doors by the hon. Member for Birmingham, by whom the Resolution was supported. But both those were questions upon which the noble Lord declined to commit himself; and upon both the Government were told they had no right to take issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton had told the House that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton) wandered from the point, because he introduced the questions of universal suffrage and democracy, and other matters which were not before the House; but when the House was called on to reject one measure, and was not told what other measure was proposed as an alternative, it was quite fair to discuss the merits of all possible or all probable alternatives in comparison with it. The progress of the debate, however, had presented the very peculiar feature that many hon. Members who had announced it to be their intention to vote in favour of the Resolution did not seem inclined to commit themselves to the propositions which had been made on the subject of Reform by either the noble Lord or the hon. Member for Birmingham; but had discussed the question as if they thought that the alternative of which he spoke might be found in the suggestions of his 828 right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Walpole) who had lately seceded from the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts (Mr. S. Herbert) had, for instance, spoken out very plainly in that direction a few evenings before, and it must be clear to the House that the course which had been taken by his right hon. Friends the Members for the University of Cambridge and for Oxfordshire in quitting the Treasury Bench must have seriously affected the position of the Government in dealing with the subject, the more especially as it was known that their resignation of office was connected with a principle which had given rise to so much difference of opinion—the principle of uniformity; for it could not have escaped the attention of hon. Members that no objection which had been urged against the Bill had been so loudly cheered as that in which the principle of uniformity had been denounced. Well, that being so, what, he would ask, was the proposal made in reference to the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts, and the greater number of those hon. Gentlemen by whom the Resolution was supported? It amounted, in effect, as he had before stated, to an invitation to the Government to assent to the alteration of their measure in conformity with the views entertained by their late right hon. Colleague. Now, that was a course he should contend which it would be extremely difficult for Her Majesty's Ministers to adopt without placing themselves in a false position — in a position so false as even to involve their personal honour. But he thought the matter had now gone beyond that. The point now was this:—Was it possible, after what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University on the one hand, and by the hon. Member for Birmingham on the other last night, any longer to look at the proposition of his right hon. Friend behind him as forming a basis for the solution of the question which there was any reasonable probability that the House would accept? But before he touched any further upon the proposal of his right hon. Friend he would, with the permission of the House, make a few observations on the question of uniformity or identity. The Government had been repeatedly asked what course they intended to take with respect to that question if the Bill should go into Committee, as he hoped might be the case; and whether they regarded it to be so 829 essential a feature of the Bill as to consider any alteration which might he made in it fatal to their scheme. Now, it was, he should contend, a most unfair course to pursue to endeavour to pledge the Government at the present stage of the Bill as to the particular line of conduct which they would adopt under certain conditions which had not yet arisen. The principle of identity, he was quite prepared to admit, formed a very important feature of the Bill; but he would ask the House to consider how far the principle of identity was necessarily bound up with the principle of the measure, and whether the objections which had been urged against it did not apply less to the principle itself than to the mode of its application. He thought that the objections which had been stated to the principle of identity of suffrage were mainly these:—The first objection was, that it involved the maintenance of the £10 limit in boroughs; next, that it was mixed up with the question of the so-called disfranchisement of the freeholders; then that it would lead to the establishment of electoral districts; and, lastly, that it would foster the system of manufacturing what were termed fagot voters. Now, those various objections appeared to him to divide themselves into objections against the essence of the principle and objections against the accidents by which its introduction into the Bill was accompanied, or, in other words, against the mode in which it was to be applied. The objection to the £10 limit came, he thought, within the latter category; for it was perfectly clear that they might have drawn the line at any other point than the £10 occupation suffrage. It would be quite possible to reduce the £10 occupation suffrage in Committee, if the county occupation franchise were reduced at the same time, without interfering with the principle of uniformity. Then, again, with respect to the proposal for transfering votes from the boroughs to the counties, the principle of uniformity had nothing to do with that. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given notice of an Amendment, the effect of which, if it were adopted by the House, would be to give the existing freeholders within boroughs the right of voting if they pleased for the county; and it was quite open to hon. Gentlemen opposite to move in Committee that that proposal might be so extended as that those freeholds should be for the future, as it were, earmarked, and instead of being an 830 electoral part of the borough, should be regarded as an electoral part of the county in which they were situated. Thus they would get rid of the objection taken by the noble Lord the Member for London to the mode in which this Bill proposed to deal with freeholders. Was it not possible that they should go into Committee and discuss whether that Amendment might not be adopted? It was impossible, at that stage of the measure, that the bearings could he properly discussed. It was said that the Secretary of State for India and other hon. Members had precluded the House from discussing the question of the uniformity of the franchise. He had never heard anything from the noble Lord or from any other Member of the Government which could fairly give that impression. But when they had been asked to accept that Resolution the Government had said that such a course would be unworthy of them, although they never said they would not be prepared to consider in Committee any proposal fairly made. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge would be satisfied with nothing short of a promise on the part of the Government that every part of the Bill that involved the main principle should be fairly open to consideration in Committee, and that the Government should promise to adopt whatever Amendments the Committee might introduce. As he had said before, the Government did not object to the consideration of every point in Committee; but to pledge itself beforehand to accept everything that might be recommended in Committee was, of course, impossible. In Committee, how ever, the question of the borough freeholders might fairly be met. But there was a still more important question, whether dealing with the suffrage on the principle of uniformity might not expose them to serious dangers by giving facilities for the creation of fagot votes. That point had been much brought out in the course of the debate, and it was said that if the principle of uniformity be established, it must follow that whatever was to be admitted as a qualification for the counties should be a qualification for the boroughs. If, therefore, property be admitted as the basis of qualification in counties, it must also be admitted as the qualification in boroughs. But property was a fertile source of the manufacture of fagot votes, and in this respect it would be acknowledged that the limited areas of boroughs were much 831 more dangerous than the extended areas of counties. The question, however, was not as to the principle, but as to the mode in which it was proposed to carry that principle out. The Government were aware of this, for a clause was introduced for the purpose of meeting the evil that was apprehended. It might he that this clause was insufficient. That, again, was a question for Committee; but it showed at least this, that the Government wished to guard against the danger, and if their present clause did not effect its object other remedies might be adopted. For instance, a remedy might fairly be applied against the evil by providing that the property qualification in boroughs should be confined to persons residing within them. The objection made on this score would thus be got rid of. It might be said that this would touch the principle of uniformity; but the Government did not wish to ride that principle to death. Uniformity of the franchise was not introduced by the Government as an abstract principle; they only believed they had found a practical way of dealing with the question by including a provision in the Bill reducing the county occupation franchise to £10, which is the limit of the borough occupation franchise. So far an uniformity was created; but the principle of uniformity, he apprehended, was not exhibited, like Morrison's pills, as an universal medicine; it was no divinity, to be worshipped at all hazards and at all costs any way; the Government did not pledge themselves to any adoration of it; let them go into Committee, and see if it were not possible to get rid of the objection in the way stated, or any other. [Laughter.] That observation caused a laugh; he did not understand the motive for it. What he had said did not differ in any respect from what had fallen from his right hon. Friends who had spoken on the subject. Of course he stood in a different position. He was not a Member of the Cabinet, and was not officially aware of their intentions. But he submitted whether the construction which he had put on what had been said was not the fair one. An attempt had been made—and he could understand the motives in making it—to fix the Government with some kind of absolute pledge that they would adhere to this, that, or the other provision of the Bill, and that such a pledge justified hon. Members in rejecting it. He had been very much struck with the reasons given by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) for taking the 832 course he proposed. He admitted that the Bill had some good points, but that others were so bad and obnoxious, that it ought to be rejected. Then why did he not take the ordinary course of proceeding on the second reading of a Bill? The noble Lord gave a reason why he would not directly vote against the second reading; it was that some parts of the measure being good, he did not like to vote against it lest his motives should be misunderstood. Considering the high position the noble Lord held and the respect long entertained by the country for his opinions on all subjects, and especially on the question of reform, he need scarcely have feared that any action he took on this Bill would be liable to misconstruction. But by the course he had taken he had placed many hon. Gentlemen in a similar difficulty with regard to his Resolution that he felt himself with regard to the Bill. He (Sir Stafford North-cote) knew that this difficulty was felt; it had been stated to him by many hon. Members. There were many hon. Members who did not entirely approve the measure, but who still thought it might be amended in Committee. They felt free to vote for it; but now they were called on to vote for or against the Resolution of the noble Lord; they did not like it; they wished it had not been moved; they preferred to go to the question on the second reading. But if they voted against a Resolution involving a more extensive and liberal plan of reform they felt that their motives would be liable to misconstruction, and they believed they would not be able to justify themselves to their constituents; and how much more must this difficulty press on those who occupied a less elevated position than the noble Lord? Now it had occurred to some ingenious persons to suggest an argument by which those hon. Gentlemen might justify themselves to their constituents for voting for the Resolution and against the second reading. It was to prove to them that the measure was one that could not be amended. They might be told that the Government had given notice, if any attempt were made to amend the Bill, or to touch the principle of the uniformity of the franchise, they would throw it up altogether; that any Amendment would be rejected; and that it was therefore better to put an end to the Bill by a swift process than subject it to death by slow torture in Committee. That was an effective position to take up; but in order to take up such 833 a position they were obliged to put a construction on the language of Government to which it was not liable. When, he would ask, had such language been used by any hon. Gentleman representing the Government? When had the Government stated that any principle of the Bill was not fairly open to consideration in Committee? All they had said was that they could not pledge themselves for or against any Amendment till they knew what it was. Suppose they went into Committee, and the House adopted modifications in accordance with the views of the extreme Liberals, and contrary to the opinions entertained by that side of the House, was it to be contended that the Government would be bound to accept those Amendments? His right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) astonished him. Desiring a £20 occupation franchise in counties and a £6 or £8 franchise in boroughs, the right hon. Gentleman would naturally wish to see that proposal first adopted in Committee, and then accepted by the Government. But could the House really be expected, after all that had taken place, to come to any such conclusion? The hon. Member for East Surrey (M. Locke King) had told them that with regard to the reduction of the county franchise to £10 the question was settled, and the Government had no option but to make that concersion. Certainly a Conservative Government having brought in a Bill giving a £10 occupancy franchise in counties, it was not likely that his right hon. Friend could raise the standard from £10 to £20. At the same time, if his right hon. Friend could persuade the House to agree to such a resolution in Committee, nothing had fallen from the Government to preclude them from assenting to it. They had not pledged themselves to reject any Amendment of any kind moved in Committee until they saw what the nature of that Amendment was. To ask them to adopt any proposal beforehand, without knowing what it was, was to ask them to abdicate the functions of a Government, and practically to proceed, not by Bill, but by way of Resolution. He believed he had dealt with all the principal objections to the principle of uniformity of franchise except two, one founded on the constitutional character of the distinction between the constituencies, and the other that it would lead to electoral districts. Before touching on these objections, however, let him say a word or two as to the advantages of the principle. By uniformity 834 he meant a reduction of the county occupation franchise to the same limits as that of the borough franchise, and the extension to the boroughs of a qualification founded on property. The first advantage of that system would be that it would get rid of that sort of Dutch auction between the counties and boroughs which the Solicitor General had so well described, and would also, obviate the danger of electoral districts. He did not rest on the authority of the hon. and learned Gentleman alone, but would quote the highest authority that could be adduced, that of the noble Lord the Member for London. He should quote from a speech made by the noble Lord two years ago, but in doing so he need hardly say he intended no disrespect to the noble Lord nor did he intend to taunt him with having changed his opinion. In 1857, in a discussion on the proposal of the hon. Member for East Surrey, the noble Lord made use of a conclusive argument in favour of the principle of identity of suffrage. The noble Lord supported the reduction of the county franchise to the same amount as the borough franchise, maintaining that the tenants of £10 houses in counties had generally more intelligence and more property than the tenants of the same class of houses in boroughs. At whatever point the occupancy franchise was fixed, be it £5, £6, £8, or £10, the same reasoning would equally hold good. An occupier of an £8 house in a county was quite as fit to be intrusted with the franchise as an occupier at the same rent in a town. Therefore, if any distinction was maintained between the franchises in town and county, it would always be liable to that objection. Again, what was meant by counties? They included, not merely agricultural districts, but large unrepresented towns. And there could be no doubt that the inhabitants of those largo unrepresented towns stood upon precisely the same footing, and were as much entitled to the suffrage as the corresponding class in Parliamentary boroughs. On the same occasion the noble Lord referred to this, and said—But, according to the existing arrangement, they may also say, 'Here is a town which has grown up, which, has 10,000, 12,000, or 14,000 inhabitants, but which sends no special representatives to Parliament; but there is a town, only five miles off, which has only 5,000 inhabitants, and which is made up partly by the addition of country parishes. It is very hard that that town should have Members, while that in which we reside has none? If we are not going to alter the distribution of seats in this 835 House, that grievance must remain without remedy; but if you give to the inhabitants of that town of 12,000 or 13,000 persons the right of voting for the Members for the county, their causes of complaint would be greatly diminished, and they would so far be satisfied that they had at least equal rights with their neighbours.If they gave the inhabitants of unrepresented towns the same rights as they gave those with representatives they would get rid of the distinction between them, and diminish the pressure for electoral districts. Another argument in favour of identity was based on the advantage of the introduction of the freehold qualification in boroughs. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Crossley), whose knowledge of the working classes was very great, had told them he had 1,300 workpeople in his own employ, none of whom had votes for the borough, but some of whom had votes for the county as 40s. freeholders. This could not be because these men took more interest in the county in which they did not live than they took in the borough in which they did live, but rather because under the existing law they could invest their savings in the purchase of a 40s. freehold, conferring a vote for the county, whereas no such investment conferred a vote for the borough. Why should not these working men have an opportunity by the purchase of freeholds of becoming electors in the borough they inhabited? Another advantage of identity was this: — If they looked forward to future extensions of the franchise, as doubtless they did, that extension ought to be uniform over all parts of the country. One standard in the towns and another in the counties would divide that House horizontally instead of vertically. The county Members would represent a higher and the borough Members a lower class in the social scale. The county Members ought not to be placed in such an invidious position that it might he said to them, "You represent the middle and upper classes, while the borough Members represent not only those classes but the lower classes besides." The two sections of representatives ought to stand in that House on an equally broad delegation— an important consideration, taken in connection with that feature of this Bill which consisted in the preservation, on the whole, of the existing distribution of Members. There were one or two points on which he had received official information which he felt it his duty to lay before the House. They had heard a good deal about what were 836 called the "fancy franchises," but hon. Members did not appear to remember that there was every reason to suppose that if the Bill passed, even in its present shape, it would add one-third to the existing constituencies, and would open the door for further additions. The number of electors at present was about 900,000, and he believed that this measure would increase the constituencies by about 300,000. It was generally admitted that the reduction of the county franchise to a £ 10 occupancy would in itself add something like 200,000 to the number of electors. That, according to the best information which the Government had been able to collect, was the number which would probably be added to the county constituencies. It might be said that some deduction must be made on account of the transference or disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders; but it would be open to them in Committee to take care that no such disfranchisement should take place. He believed they might safely say that 50,000 voters would be added to the lists by the savings' banks clause, and another 50,000 by the other franchises provided by the Bill. He observed that hon. Gentlemen questioned his statement as to the effect of the savings' hank clause. It was, of course, difficult to obtain any very accurate information on the subject, but he had communicated with the Controller of the National Debt Office, who was best acquainted with it, and had asked him to state what number of depositors above £60 there were in the savings' banks. The answer was, that he could not give the number above £ 60, but he could that above £ 50. In the year 1858 the number of persons having deposits of above £ 50 was 185,000; of that 185,000 a certain number must be struck off as holders of trust accounts for infants and others. They had the means of ascertaining that number approximately, because a Return was made to the House of Lords in 1852, from which all trust accounts were excluded; and according to the proportion shown by that Return it appeared that the number ought, in this account, to be reduced to 153,000. There had also, in a former year, been a Return of the number of male and female depositors, and, according to the proportions there exhibited, this 153,000 might be divided into 75,400 women, and 77,600 men. Of these 77,600, probably a considerable number enjoyed the franchise already; but he thought it was not at all improbable that his estimate of 837 of an addition of 50,000 was within the mark. This number, however, would be greatly extended if the maximum was somewhat reduced, or if other investments than those in savings' banks were allowed to give a qualification. Then as regarded lodgers. The clause in the Bill, with reference to them would add a considerable number of voters to the constituencies. In London there were as many lodgers as householders, and in the borough of Marylebone the number of the former class infinitely exceded that of the latter. There were in that borough scarcely any houses below the value of £10, and therefore the reduction of the occupation franchise below that amount would add a very small number to its constituency, while even the 8s. lodging clause would make a very large addition. He had ascertained, as the result of an inquiry at one of the largest printing offices in London, that the 8s. clause would let in all the occupiers of first and ground floors in Marylebone; and of course if the rent were reduced the occupants of other floors also would be admitted to the franchise. He was told that 7s. a week for furnished lodgings was about equivalent to a rent of £10 per annum for an unfurnished house; and the fixing the rent which should give the qualification at 8s. a week was clearly a point which might be considered and amended in Committee. It was known that many of the working classes took houses of greater value than £10 a year, and let off portions of them to fellow workmen, none of whom now possessed votes, but who would, according to this Bill, be enfranchised. It was therefore clear that, even as the Bill stood, the Savings Bank and lodger clauses would make a very considerable addition to the constituencies. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, said that this was not enough. Let them consider what was the position of the Government in bringing forward this measure. Feeling as they did the importance of settling the question, their desire had been to introduce such a measure as would pass. It was quite clear that any measure which they might propose for the extension of the suffrage would admit of expansion, but would not admit of contraction. It was quite clear they could not have receded from what they had offered, and that if they had begun by offering too much, although they might have gained a little temporary popularity and a few cheers they would altogether have failed to pass a practical measure. They had proposed 838 a measure which hon. Gentlemen opposite said fell short of that which was reasonable. If however, it contained nothing that was objectionable, they had it in their power to carry it as much further as they pleased. No one attempted to bind them not to propose any Amendment which they chose, but for the Government, before the second reading of the Bill, to pledge itself to accept anything which might be proposed would be to abdicate its functions and to throw the Bill upon the table for the House to make a measure for itself. The Government had not taken that course. They proposed to the House to go into Committee and to deal with the question in a practical manner, letting every individual give his counsel, and place upon the paper the definite proposals which he had to make. After the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City, reserving to himself the knowledge of what he would be willing to propose or to accept, and after that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, with its allusion to autumn meetings and winter agitation, which he seemed to think would be a not undesirable termination of this discussion, hon. Gentlemen opposite would incur a very grave responsibility, if, without indicating precisely, or even approximately, what they wanted, and without offering the public any fair prospect that the question could be settled, they refused to go into Committee on this Bill, on the altogether delusory and untenable ground that they would be precluded either by the forms of the House or by any supposed declaration of the Government—which was one of their own invention —from bringing this question to an immediate and practical solution. He believed that this Bill did furnish all the elements for such a settlement. It was perfectly possible that they should in Committee, without much difficulty, and without compelling the Government to throw up the Bill, remove those provisions which had been looked upon as really objectionable, and it was also possible that in Committee the House would carry it somewhat further. How much further it did not in his position become him to say. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed at that expression, and he knew what was said last night by the hon. Member for Birmingham about "professional witnesses;" but he thought that one who had recently joined the Government and was not admitted to such a position as gave him any knowledge of what might be the intentions 839 of the Cabinet might very properly form his own judgment from what passed in that House and what he heard. The judgment which he had formed was that it was perfectly possible for the scope of the Bill to be extended in Committee, but that, without abdicating their functions, the Government could not, before the second reading, pledge themselves to accept any Amendment which might be proposed. He maintained that the Bill laid down principles upon which the Government and the Conservative party might fairly take their stand, and that if it were not passed, there would be no prospect of bringing the question of Reform to a practical settlement within any definite period.
§ Several hon. MEMBERS rose at the same time to address the House.
§ MR. BENTINCK, rising to order, asked Mr. SPEAKER whether it were not the practice of the House to give precedence to a new Member?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
inquired whether, when Mr. Speaker had called upon a Member to address the House, it was regular for hon. Members to prevent his proceeding, and insist upon another Member being heard.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, when my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury rose to address the House I knew that we should have the pleasure of listening to an able and temperate speech. When he referred to the difficulties under which the House finds itself in dealing with this great and important question, I hoped that his speech would close with information which would give us some facility for extricating ourselves from those embarrassments. When he addressed himself to the distinction between matters of principle, which must be settled upon the second reading, and matters of detail, which should be considered in Committee, I hoped that before he sat down he would tell us what part of the Bill, in the judgment of those who propose it, ought to be discussed upon the present occasion, and what parts, being matters of detail and capable of amendment at a subsequent stage, the Government do not think belong to the principle of their measure. But when I listened to his able speech to its close, and endeavoured to draw a distinction between principle and details, I 840 was reminded of the description of ancient chaos, where the water was too thick to sail in and the land too liquid to walk upon; or of those regions in the Polar Sea where the navigator is baffled in his progress because the ice is not strong enough to bear him, and the water is so clogged with blocks of ice that he cannot traverse it with his vessel. If I could arrive at any conclusion from the speech of my hon. Friend it would be that the Bill contains no single proposition which can be dignified with the title of a principle; that the measure has been framed, as my hon. Friend told us more than once, not to carry into effect any sincere conviction, not to accomplish any important practical result, not to confer upon the people any great substantial benefit, but—to use his very words—in order that it might pass. If the Bill should be passed, he said the object of the Government would be achieved. But there are such things as principles, and it becomes the House of Commons to consider them carefully before they embark on the dangerous course of discussing the details of such a Bill as the present in Committee. We have now a great opportunity, if it be rightly used, for performing a very important duty. What is that duty? The measure of 1832 was not one, as the present may be, of calm and scientific alteration of our representative system adapted to the circumstances of society, but it had another character still more important impressed upon it. It was the result of a great struggle for the transfer of power from the agricultural interests, which then possessed it, to the monied, commercial, and manufacturing interests which had grown up in preceding years. That struggle ended happily, but it left behind it many reforms to be accomplished before the spirit and intentions of the Act of 1832 could be completely carried into effect. Nearly thirty years have since elapsed, and during that period great changes have taken place in the industry, the prosperity, and the education of whole classes of the community, which now require to be considered by the House of Commons. I think the present is a great opportunity for accomplishing a further reform without again involving ourselves in an angry struggle between classes; but when I listened with pleasure and admiration to the able speech of the Secretary for the Colonies I could not help feeling an apprehension that if doctrines like those which he laid down are to be accepted in 841 this House, if animated appeals are to be made to the middle classes to retain the power they have acquired, to guard jealously the outworks of their franchises, and to be careful that no one participates with them in the benefit of political privileges, the next Reform Bill may be — what I sincerely trust the present measure will not be—an angry and exasperating struggle for the transfer of power from one class to another. What is our main object in dealing with the question of reform at all? It is to diminish what is called influence in the election of Members to serve in Parliament, and to increase that power of public opinion which is the result of intelligence, education, industry, and associated wealth and numbers. Is the Bill before us one which in its present shape will accomplish, or tend to accomplish that object, or is it a measure which, if passed into law, would have exactly the opposite tendency, would increase what is called influence, and diminish what is called the power of public opinion in the return of Members to Parliament? There are three ways in which you can deal with the reform question. The first is by the redistribution of seats, transferring them from small and decayed places to large and industrious communities; the second is by an extension of the franchise in counties, and the third by an extension in boroughs. My own opinion, concurring with that of the greatest writers upon legal and constitutional subjects, is that of all the means by which you can increase the influence of public opinion in this House that is one of the most efficacious. But it is not contained in the present Bill, and the noble Lord the Secretary for India admitted this was right in theory, but at the same time he told us that we must be satisfied without it, for the power of the small boroughs on a division would be irresistible, and therefore the Bill is incapable of Amendment in that respect. We are thus driven to look the more carefully at what the Government actually do propose. Their measure provides, in the first place, for an alteration of the county franchise, and we have twice been told by the highest authority that what is called uniformity or identity of franchise between counties and boroughs is the main principle of the Bill. I confess, however, that the debate has been of such a character that I do not know at the present moment whether we are to understand uniformity of franchise to be a matter of principle or 842 a matter of detail. But, however, that may be, I say it is a principle rooted in the antiquity of the country, a principle which has never been touched from the earliest times down to the present day, a principle which you cannot alter without laying the axe at the root of our national liberties, that there shall not be uniformity of franchise, but that there shall be that variety of franchise which, giving men a voice in the councils of their country by different channels, avoids making a rude and marked separation between one man or one class and another, which gives identity of interest to persons holding different franchises, and which forms, therefore, the groundwork upon which our whole system is built. The moment you interfere with that variety of franchise you alter altogether the entire scope and tendency of your institutions. It has been disputed, that the county franchise turns on property, and the borough franchise turns on occupation; and the hon. and learned Solicitor General said that since the Reform Act of 1832 it could no longer be truly said that that distinction exists. The history of the county franchise is this: — In the earliest times to which our history extends, all freeholders of counties were invited to exercise the franchise. It was in the reign of Henry VI. that for the first time the freehold franchise was limited to 40s. At that time only freeholders were included in the franchise, because beneficial occupation in the way of leaseholds in that early period was not known, and because then copyhold was the tenure of a person of low estate. But when beneficial leaseholds grew up the franchise was extended to them as well as to copyholds, and, lastly, whether rightly or wrongly— I think rightly— by the Act of 1832, the property of a yearly tenant in his holding, if the rent amounted to £50, was regarded as entitling him to a county vote. The history of the borough franchise was wholly different. In 1624 there sat in this House a Committee, of which Mr. Hallam said that it was composed of the most eminent men ever associated together in a body of that kind; and they laid down what they called the common law right to vote in boroughs. That right, according to them, extended to all householders resident in the borough and paying the local taxes; and that is the franchise of which Mr. Hallam says the nearer you approach it the more consonant you are, not with the new theories of modern liberty so frequently 843 put forward, but with the ancient spirit of the law of Parliament. So stood the subject up to the passing of the Bill of 1832. What I contend for is, that if you proceed in a Reform Bill dealing with the county and borough franchises according to their history and original principles, you are not unsettling principles valuable for the maintenance of your institutions, but you are able to extend the franchise to something like the point indicated by the right hon. Member for Cambridge University, or to any other point, according to the feeling this House may entertain with respect to the intelligence and education of those who desire the franchise, and according to the exigencies of the times. But in either case you maintain the principles which the history and traditions of this country have brought down to the time in which we now are. I will point out what is the valuable effect of this diversity in the franchise. I will not trouble you with authority, though I believe there is no text-book on the British Constitution where variety of suffrage is not laid down as the great distinguishing principle which always guided the British Constitution. For an illustration I will take the case adopted the other night by the Solicitor General as an illustration. The hon. and learned Gentleman took the case of an animated controversy between two great cities—Liverpool and Manchester, for instance—and he said that an individual interested in Manchester wants a representative having the interest of that town at heart, and who may be relied on as a sure partisan against the local dues of Liverpool. On the other hand, a person interested in Liverpool wants a Member on whom he can rely to defend those local clues. The law gives to each of these towns exactly such representatives at the present time, but mark what it does besides. It gives to each of them, by virtue of his town property, a right, through the county franchise, to the services of other Members not interested only on the One side or the other to take an extreme view, but having a combined interest, and ready to join in the controversy as mediators and moderators, with a view to bring it to a conclusion satisfactory to both parties. That is the operation of the present mixed franchise; for the electors of Liverpool and Manchester are also, in some instances, electors for the great county in which they reside, and have the double advantage of commanding the services of both classes of representatives. I will 844 pass from this point to the consideration of what is, after all, the great distinguishing character of this House of Commons as contrasted with every other representative assembly in the world. Is it not this, that more than any other assembly, the Members of this House act as they are elected, not to serve in any narrow or exclusive sense, only for the particular electors whom it is their happiness and privilege to represent, but also, in a more extended and comprehensive spirit, to have a regard for the great and important interests of the nation at large? To what is to be ascribed this peculiarity? Is it a matter of accident? Does it arise from something peculiar in our soil and climate, or is it not more reasonable to trace it to that which I have shown to be the distinguishing characteristic of our electoral system— namely, that you have not uniformity of suffrage, but by a happy diversity each class of the community is interested in the election of the different Members. By this means you derive a community of interest, and thereby have avoided those conflicts and exasperations of rival interests which have brought to an end the power and deliberations of other similar assemblies? Let me ask you to consider the effect of this with respect to the other House of Parliament. I will not go over the argument so ably stated by others, that if you have identity of principles in one respect for your elections, you will soon have it in other respects; that is to say, that if you make electoral districts, all the electors in which have the same franchise, you will soon have a demand that these electoral districts should be equalized, and that the franchise should descend to a lower amount, until at last it becomes universal suffrage. If you import any great principle into the British constitution, depend upon it that principle will not be dead and inert, but will be a vital and germinating principle pervading into all parts. I want to bring this consideration to bear upon the position of the House of Lords in our constitution. At present that assembly appears not only to suffer no diminution of authority as time goes on, but I believe from a combination of various causes, from the respect for legal history and especially from the daily-increasing feeling in these modern times of the great value of that institution in our country, the respect for the House of Lords is constantly augmenting. This will continue as long as the present prin- 845 ciple of diversity exists in our constitution. But suppose that you establish the principle that the votes of the electoral body shall be exactly the same, that equality shall be the rule, and hereafter that the suffrage shall be universal, can you believe that the same amount of respect will continue to exist for the other House? Will the hereditary rights of an assembly which exercises an equal voice with the elective assembly of the people continue to be recognized and sustained? If you compare the history of this country with the history of other countries you will observe that, though liberty has been desired, equality never has by the people of this country. Equality rather than freedom is desired by other people; and my belief is that wherever there is equality you will never have freedom, and wherever there is freedom it will not exhibit itself under the aspect of equality. Holding these opinions I do not understand why we should go into Committee on the Bill. If we hold that the practical tendency of the clauses of the Bill as they stand will be to narrow the franchise of the counties, by taking away a portion of the community who are now not associated with the territorial proprietors, but furnish a rival though friendly influence,—if we believe that by enabling the land of the country to be divided into £10 tenements, another class will be added to the constituency far less independent, and rendering the counties much more impressed by nomination than by popular opinion, is it our duty to vote for the Bill? If, again, we find that the alterations to be made in the borough franchise offer facilities for that manufacture of votes which used to take place before 1832, when residence, after having been for some time repealed by Act of Parliament, was again enacted, ought we to vote for the second reading of a Bill the tendency of which is to increase influence in counties and corruption in boroughs? If we take the principle of the Bill to be what its authors have declared— namely, identity of franchise—then I say that identity of franchise is a principle wholly foreign to the British constitution, unknown in our history, dangerous to the utmost extent in its probable consequences and effects, and that on the second reading I am prepared to give a negative to that principle. If, on the contrary, I collect the principle of the Bill from the details of the clauses, and if I find that instead of extending popular election, so far as I can under- 846 stand those clauses, it will tend to diminish it, by another process of reasoning I arrive at the same conclusion, that I ought not to support the second reading of such a Bill. I am told, however, that if we reject the Bill upon the second reading, or support a Resolution which has the effect of declaring what are the principles to which we intend to give effect in Committee, we are doing what is incompatible with the honour of the Government. Well, I have no desire to do more than the simple duty of a representative in expressing my honest convictions by the vote I am going to give. I believe that the Resolution before the House points to an alteration in the county franchise, and also to the borough franchise in such a manner as to mark the principle of uniformity as a principle which it intends to censure and condemn. I do not know that the honour of the Government ought to be an irresistible reason to induce me not to vote against the second reading of the Bill, for if we are to consider the honour of the Government, the honour and independence of every Member of Parliament are also to be considered. I first heard from the noble Secretary of State for India that we were about to act inconsistently with the honour of the Government. Well, Sir, I say unfeignedly that I listened with the greatest attention, and with a desire to be convinced by the closeness of his reasoning and the force of his illustrations, to all that fell from the noble Lord; but I pay even more attention to the example of the noble Lord's conduct than to the force of his reasoning, and I observe that when a Bill, the principle of which he cannot honestly support, is proposed by the Government of which he is a Member, he docs not think it necessary to vote for the second reading of that measure. I find that, when a Bill was brought forward which the Government in its collective capacity did not think it right to support, the noble Lord considered that there was something superior to the honour of the Government, and gave effect to the sincerity and independence of his convictions by voting for the second reading. Now, with great deference, I propose to take a similar course on this occasion. Believing this to be a question of principle, and that it is only as a question of principle that we can deal with it, I intend to give my vote in favour of a Resolution which very exactly expresses the opinions I entertain. Then I am told by my hon. Friend who has just sat down, 847 that the uniformity of franchise is a principle which can be dealt with in Committee: but I really did not collect from my hon. Friend's speech that there was any proposition of principle, or any one detail, or any aggregate of propositions in detail, that could be taken to represent the principle of the Bill. So far as I know, we may go into Committee on a Bill framed to narrow freedom of representation both in counties and boroughs, and make it a measure more extensive in its increase of popular influence than anybody on either side of the House has ever ventured to suggest. But is that the mode in which the House of Commons deals with grave and important subjects? Has the House ever before heard of going into Committee upon a Bill without knowing the end or object, the scope or purpose, of the inquiry? My right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Horsman)—an experienced Member of Parliament, who has sat for twenty-three years in this House—told us that we on this side were so powerful we could do anything we liked with the Bill when we got into Committee. Now, although I can't quite compete with the right hon. Gentleman in point of experience in this House, I am old enough to know that if I vote for the second reading of a Bill which has objects opposed to those which I desire to see accomplished, if that Bill goes into Committee, and if we are there joined by hon. Gentlemen who, like my right hon. Friend, tell us at one moment that we are so powerful we can do anything we like, and the next that we are so powerless it is wonderful if we can keep our unanimity for twenty-four hours, and who say that the Resolution does not half express their dislike and abhorrence of the Bill, it is impossible to foresee the result at which the Committee will arrive. My belief is that we cannot consistently with our convictions, consistently with the usual course of proceeding in this House, and consistently with our duty, give a vote for the second reading of the Bill as it now stands. I think we are bound to take care that we have securities that there shall not be that alteration of the county franchise, or that dealing with the boroughs, which is proposed by this Bill; and, as I believe that the Resolution, if it is carried, gives us those securities, I shall vote in its favour: the responsibility of the defeat of the Bill by Resolution will rest upon those who, in the name of Reform, have brought forward a Bill that is not a measure of Reform. Sir, there is a principle—a mode of policy— 848 which has been called "Liberal" Conservatism. It is Liberal because it is Conservative, and Conservative because it is Liberal. When any exigency has arisen such a policy has dealt with that exigency, and, having satisfied claims, and removed all causes of dissatisfaction from the public mind, it has given security against extreme demands. Therefore it is both a Liberal and a Conservative policy: but there is a policy which is neither Liberal nor Conservative. That is a policy which, when a public exigency has arisen, affects to deal with that exigency, and does not deal with it, but dissatisfies the reasonable expectations of a temperate people, and thereby tends to create demands which would otherwise never have arisen— demands like those of which Mr. Burke spoke when he said, that "an early Reform Bill was an honourable arrangement with an opposing power, and a late Reform Bill was a dishonourable capitulation with a conquering enemy." It is because I desire to avoid the danger of this latter policy, because I desire to carry into effect a policy which is truly Liberal and truly Conservative, that I shall give my vote for this Resolution, trusting the result may be that we may carry a measure of Reform which will be an honour to the Parliament that passes it, and a security for the wisdom and temperance of Parliaments to come.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
It is a great misfortune for ourselves, and for the measure we are discussing, that we all seem to be mystified and at cross-purposes, scarcely any one knowing whether he is speaking upon a principle or a detail, or knowing whether there is a principle or a detail in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down asks why this Bill was introduced? Why, because it was forced upon the Government, and the Government brought in the Bill to keep themselves in office. And now, what is the Opposition on the other side? It is a triangular duel, and the question is which one of these noble Lords is to be the head of Her Majesty's Government, pledged to the consideration of this subject of Reform. There are many hon. Gentlemen in this House who take to themselves, upon all occasions, the character of being independent Members; but somehow I never see that these independent Members act in any other way than the dependent Members. I do not understand why, upon this occasion, they are obliged to range themselves on the side of one or other of these combatants, instead of 849 taking and independent line. With every word that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell)I entirely agree; but I will not vote in favour of a Resolution when the intention is that I shall do something else. When the Bill gets into Committee I shall certainly support the noble Lord; but that is not now the question. The question is, the second reading of a Reform Bill, and I cannot understand how the minds of acute men can be puzzled, as they confess they are, to find out the principle of the Bill. It seems to me that there can be but one principle involved in any Reform Bill. Such a measure should consist of three parts— first, an extension of the franchise; secondly, the disfranchisement of some places which have Members; and thirdly, the giving Members to towns which now have none. That is the whole story. Whether you extend the franchise to £10 householders or create universal suffrage; whether you disfranchise thirteen or thirty boroughs; whether you give ton or twenty Members to places before unrepresented — all these are mere questions of degree. They are points to be considered in Committee, and have nothing to do with the principle of the Bill. Many years ago, as soon as ever the last Reform Bill passed, of which I was never an idolater, I said that you cannot put any limit to the franchise. I have read all the speeches which have been made on the subject, and I cannot see where you are to stop. I do not care about the slang words from the hustings about household suffrage, rating suffrage, manhood suffrage, universal suffrage, and all the rest of it. I suppose they are all intended in some way or other to insure the identity of the voter, and that is the point to be attended to. As to the ballot, nothing shall ever induce me to support secret voting; but, I do believe that if you extend the suffrage so as to admit the working classes, as you call them, the ballot will be necessary for their own sakes —not to protect them against their masters, still less to guard against that absurd chimera of landlords driving their tenants like so many sheep to the poll—but to protect them against their unions and men of their own body. I confess I think that in itself there is nothing necessarily revolutionary in any extension of the suffrage, and I do not see much difference, except in degree, between the Government Bill and that which has been published by the hon. Member for Birmingham. One is a little shilling, the other a 850 big sixpence, that is all. One great fallacy, which has often been alluded to in debate, pervades them both. You think you secure a great thing if you can combine numbers and property. But do you combine them? Take 50,000 voters paying a certain amount of taxes per annum. Do you call that a union of property and population? You know very well that the "Upper ten thousand" will pay the whole of this taxation, while the rest will not contribute a single son. Yet, the labourers whom you enfranchise will have the whole of the political power of the country in their hands. I find no fault with the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) for this. He intends that they should have this power. But how can hon. Gentlemen, who see what his object is, do the very things which he wants them to do? As far as this debate has gone it has been the making of the hon. Member for Birmingham. He has nothing to do now but to sit still, and in five years you will all of you have swallowed his Bill. You will make a great many wry faces, perhaps; but I say, if you do not take means to prevent it, you will eat your leek. It may be bad for your digestion, but you will eat it. This equality of franchise in the boroughs and towns I look upon as a most evil measure. It is, in fact, electoral districts; it does not lead to them, but there they are; and the only difference between those which the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) would establish and those set up in the Bill is, that in the one case they would be equal, and in the other unequal in size. The hon. Member last night taunted the country Gentlemen with being afraid of the people; and pointing to Mr. Crossley and another Gentleman, he said, "These men know more of the working classes than you do." Well, I am no more afraid of one man than of another; but in point of fact, are we not all afraid of one another? When a manufacturer appoints one of his workmen as overseer does he not take security? ["No!"] But he does, though, if there is any possibility that the man may rob him. Then suppose he has got a house to let. Does he let it to any one who may come along without inquiring whether his rent is likely to be safe? What is the whole of our social system founded upon? What is the design of all our laws but to protect us from each other? I do not distrust working men more than any other men, but if one class gets power over all the property in the country, and is able to transfer taxes from its own shoulders to other people's, 851 do you suppose it will not use that power? Of course it will. So should I. So would every one of you, however shocked you now may be at the notion. Suppose half-a-dozen of you were travelling through a desert, and one only of the number had got a good camel load of provisions, do you think the remaining five would not soon get a share? Of course they would. Now to talk of transferring taxes from one class to another sounds vastly well. To ignorant benevolence it seems a great thing to make the rich only pay taxes and the poor pay nothing. But this is a fallacy shameful to those who use it. They ought to know very well that there can be no employment of labour save from the acquisition of capital, and that the thing to encourage for the benefit of the poor themselves is this very accumulation of capital. The hon. Member (Mr. Bright) said that when there was a proposal for the repeal of the Malt tax we on this (the Ministerial) side of the House would not allow it. Why, the fact was just the reverse. It was hon. Gentlemen opposite who refused to let the tax be abolished. So much for that, subject. Then he declared that the great strength and power and glory of this country lay in the intelligence of the manufacturing population, as contrasted with our Bœotian stupidity in the country. See, he said, how we beat all the other manufacturers in the world! Well, this is not true. There is not a single manufacture which is not better in foreign countries than in England. Oh, of course such a sound was never heard in Manchester or Birmingham. In spite of all your Ark-wrights, all your spinning-jennies and looms, you cannot turn out such muslin as is made by the native Hindoos. Then your linen is worse in England than in Scotland, worse in Scotland than in Ireland; but the best of all comes from Holland and Silesia. Your cloth is inferior to that of France and Belgium. Your ships are inferior to the French and American vessels. ["No."] Where do you get your ships from then? Why the best you have had were taken during the last war, and when you tried to lay down others on the same lines in this country you could not do it. In glass you were beaten at the Exhibition of 1851 by America, Venice, Spain, and Bohemia. Your swords are not equal to those made at Valenciennes. Your best printing machines, we are told by the hon. Member (Mr. Bright), all come from America. Your railways are worse con- 852 structed and worse managed than those in France, Belgium, or Switzerland. Neither your china nor your pottery is to be compared with that of Dresden, Berlin, or Sevres. Let me now speak to you of the agriculturists of this country, whom you seem to suppose you have left so far behind. We know more of the country gentlemen than you do. Let me tell you, then, what they have done for you. There are in England 20,000,000 of inhabitants; in France 35,000,000. Now, the agriculturists of England raise 18,000,000 of cattle per annum, while the French raise only 10,000,000. I do not take those figures from an English source. I am quoting from the Reforme Agricole. We raise 60,000,000 of sheep per annum; France only 32,000,000. The produce of England is at the rate of twenty hectolitres, that of France at the rate of ten hectolitres per acre. What is the result? That while each person in England consumes on an average half a two-year old ox and three sheep per annum, only one-third of an ox per head is consumed in France, and not one sheep. England is superior to any other nation in the world in this respect, and to what is that circumstance to be attributed? To the skill, the science, and the energy of the country gentlemen and the farmer. But to return to the Bill. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham last night made the most extraordinary statement—that the manufacturers were Conservatives, and that he himself was a very great Conservative; but no one seemed to agree with him. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London did not agree with him. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield did not agree with him. In fact, he had but one follower upon those benches. It is very true, as has been stated by an hon. Member, that the last Reform Bill involved a struggle for power between two parties. This Bill also is said to be a struggle for power. There is a sort of triangular duel being carried on. The hon. Member for Birmingham tells you plainly what the class is to which he will give power if you only play into his hands. The hon. Gentleman has no doubt been a visitor at the seaside, and has seen wave after wave making for the shore. First one wave rolls along, then another; but has he, let me ask him, ever seen any one reaching the end? No! One takes the place of the other, and gets beyond it. So it is in the sea of political life, and un- 853 less you take care what you do with this Bill, you may have cause to regret the consequences. For my own part, I think Her Majesty's Government displayed a great want of judgment and firmness in allowing themselves to be provoked by anybody into introducing it into this House. The noble Lord the Member for London is a great authority on this subject. It is, however, impossible for him or for a Member of any party to bring in a measure with respect to it which will not be distasteful to the other. Every man and every party must be content, therefore, to take the bitters as well as the sweets of their position. We are asked to give those who propose a scheme of this sort a fair and deliberate hearing; but you know perfectly well you will do neither the one nor the other. There was but one way of dealing with this question satisfactorily, and that was by Resolution. You might by that means succeed in ascertaining what kind of proposal the House would be likely to sanction. That would be a step in advance; but after all this discussion, I, for one, am at a loss to know what two hon. Members are of the same mind upon the question of Reform.
§ MR. DENT
said, he had listened with attention to the speeches coming from the other side of the House, and he had been surprised to find that many hon. Members who had expressed their want of concurrence in the Bill had nevertheless stated that they would vote against the Resolution. The main ground of defence of the Bill put forward by Her Majesty's Government was, that it would act as a barrier against that "ugly rush" of which some hon. Members appeared to be afraid. He believed that the Bill would he ineffectual to check any call for real Reform. Its provisions went simply to calling into existence a class of voters who would be greatly under the control of the country gentlemen, while by its insidiously disqualifying the 40s. freeholders, intended to remove a most valuable class from the representation. He was not one who would sweep away the old boroughs, but the way the Bill dealt with them was very dangerous. The use of voting papers he thought would lead to enormous corruption. The measure in all respects was most faulty. He wished to know who were the persons by whom an extension of the franchise was required? Certainly not by the Members of that House, but by the hardworking people of England, for whom it was no very easy 854 task to raise themselves up to that standard which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies would establish as the test of their fitness, for the exercise of the franchise. He regretted, therefore, that any Bill should be introduced under the guise of a Reform Bill, which was in reality but a sham, and had been stigmatized as such by the country.
§ MR. PACKE
said, he must protest against the assumption made with such arrogance by the hon. Gentlemen below the Opposition gangway, that they were the only friends of the working classes, and possessed a monopoly of the knowledge of them. He had some acquaintance with the working classes of the town of Leicester, and there did not, he believed, exist a more loyal or a more contented body of men. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham took upon himself to proclaim that he was the champion of the working classes; he boasted of having given them their bread; but on every one occasion on which the question of bettering the working classes had come on for discussion, the hon. Gentleman invariably voted against them. When his late hon. Colleague (Sir Henry Halford) introduced a measure to give a man a fair day's wages for a fair day's work, the hon. Member voted against it. It was, however, much to the honour of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Biggs), himself a manufacturer, that he had done everything to improve the working classes. When the Factory Act was introduced, for protecting young people below the age of eighteen, and women from excessive labour, the hon. Gentleman opposed it, and he acted in the same manner to the Bill for doing away with the truck system, which he opposed, not only with his vote, but his voice. These were not the acts of a real friend of the working classes. It was not pretended that the very Bill before the House did not give some advantage to the working classes— this Bill, too, was now opposed by the hon. Member. Taking the information which present circumstances afforded, he must say that he did not think the working classes valued the suffrage so highly as it was the fashion with some hon. Gentlemen to represent; certainly in the cases of those boroughs where a large portion of the voters were of that class, many of them did not take the trouble to record their votes. He found that 11,000 of the electors of Marylebone had abstained from voting at the 855 last election; and at the last election for the Tower Hamlets 10,000 persons on the Parliamentary Register gave no vote. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Fox) claimed for the working classes the right to a vote because they paid taxes, but did not the Members of the House of Lords pay taxes, and yet they were not allowed to vote for Members of Parliament? The savings' bank franchise had been sneered at, but he believed it would prove most beneficial. It was of the highest importance to inculcate habits of prudence and forethought, and in his own neighbourhood he had been in the habit of assisting, so far as his humble means extended, those persons who had shown their thrift and carefulness by placing money in a savings' bank. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had expressed himself grateful to the Government for having lowered the county franchise, but he would have much better shown his gratitude if he had also expressed his intention to vote for the Government. He could not admit that boroughs formed parts of counties, as had been stated by the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson). Their affairs were wholly distinct; their rates, their police were independent of each other, and why should they not be distinct in representation? The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) had declined to tell them what he intended to do if he succeeded in defeating the measure of the Government, but the hon. Member for Birmingham had not been so coy. He found from the Bill which the noble Lord brought in in 1852 that he did not intend totally to disfranchise any boroughs. That measure was withdrawn. By his Bill of 1854 he proposed to disfranchise nineteen boroughs entirely, and cut off one Member from thirty-three boroughs, returning two. That was the last account of what the noble Lord might be expected to do in the way of Reform. But he had on good authority a description of the Reform Bill of the hon. Member for Birmingham; it was published by the London Parliamentary Reform Committee. It remained to be seen how far the hon. Member and the noble Lord were prepared to go together. The Bill of the hon. Member proposed to disfranchise eighty boroughs entirely, and to deprive sixty-eight boroughs of one Member. Many hon. Gentlemen would have to consider how such a Bill would be approved by their constituents. He contended that there were no perilous 856 innovations in the Government Bill. His right hon. Friend proposed that £10 freeholders should vote for towns. What was there of innovation in that? It was absurd to say so. At the commencement of the debate the noble Lord the Member for London, with that fondness for precedent which he so often displayed, carried them back 400 years, to the time of Henry VI., and took to task the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the manner in which he dealt with the freeholders. But the Reform Bill of 1832, whether right or wrong he would not say, set the example of dealing with all those ancient rights of voting, and extinguished the votes of the potwallopers and a large number of the freemen. The noble Lord, also, in 1829, voted for the extinction of 200,000 40s. freeholders in Ireland. It was, therefore, strange that he should taunt his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who proposed so harmless and comparatively unimportant a provision. He would give no opinion upon the details of the measure; the proper place to do that would be in Committee, the use of which they were now in the present discussion doing away with. They were doing nothing more or less than discussing seriatim the several clauses of the Bill, which they ought not to do until Mr. Speaker left the chair. What he would affirm by voting for the second reading was an amendment in the representation of the people. He would vote against the Resolution of the noble Lord.
said, it was rather a remarkable thing that not a single hon. Member who had addressed them, except the Members of the Government, had said one word in defence of the Bill itself. There were various reasons urged against the Resolution and in favour of going into Committee; but not one word from any independent Member on either side of the House in approval of the provisions of the measure. They had had an able and conciliatory speech from the hon. Baronet the Secretary of the Treasury (Sir S. Northcote), which was in remarkable contrast with those of the Secretary for India and of the Secretary for the Colonies. The speech of the Secretary to the Treasury was, no doubt, very conciliatory and full of promises that in Committee the Government would consent to as many alterations as the Opposition side of the House might propose; but the misfortune was that the hon. Gentleman was not a Member of the Cabinet. He had, no 857 doubt, been sent forth as a pioneer by the Cabinet. But, assuming that the hon. Gentleman had given expression to the real intentions of the Cabinet, the result was this, that the Government was ready, if the House would only let them get into Committee, to change the provisions of the Bill in almost any imaginable particular— the identity of franchise they would not insist upon; the paper voting they would not pertinaciously adhere to; and as regarded freeholders, they were also willing to give way. The Government was willing to adopt any and all suggestions, come from what quarter they might. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) seemed equally desirous of getting into Committee; but he (Lord Harry Vane) owned for his own part, he did not think this exactly the way to proceed upon a great question like this, and would be glad to see some principles indicated by the Government, upon which they meant to proceed and to which they meant to adhere. The vice of the present state of things was the manner in which Reform came to be taken up by the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), said that when they joined the Cabinet they expressed their convictions that the Government must take up the question of Reform, but they had seceded from the Ministry, because they could not agree to the measure before the House. Another vice in the present state of things was that, from their antecedents, any measure which the present Government brought must be regarded with suspicion. It was impossible to forget the past. The fact was, the Government relied upon hon. Gentlemen on his (Lord Harry Vane's) side of the House agreeing generally to the Bill, because the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey had from time to time found favour with them; and, indeed, he could not understand the dissent expressed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) to the £10 franchise after what took place in 1854. He quite agreed that it was most desirable to have this question settled, and settled at once. It would seem from the observations of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) last night, as to the unseasonableness of bringing in a Reform Bill when food was cheap, when employment was general, and the country prosperous, that 858 that hon. Gentleman did not desire a settlement of this question this year; but he (Lord Harry Vane) hoped that by passing a Reform Bill this Session the hon. Gentleman would be prevented from entering on an autumn campaign on Reform. This question should be settled, not only speedily, but, as far as possible, satisfactorily, in order to save the country for many years to come from renewed discussions on Reform. He did not, however, dream of the possibility of such a thing as finality in Reform. There was no reason why the House should shrink from the prospect of an extension of the suffrage; but he confessed he did think it right to retain the difference between the town and the country. When the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) spoke last night he (Lord Harry Vane) recognized the part of the country which his opinion represented—the West Riding of Yorkshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire. In these hives of industry it was very difficult to say where the boroughs ended and the country began. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Sydney Herbert) knowing more of the wilds of Salisbury plain, was more ready to recognise that difference. Still he (Lord Harry Vane) thought it would be unwise to abolish the distinction. That distinction was recognized in our electoral system, and without showing any superstitious veneration for old associations they ought not rudely to sever it from the past. The late Earl Grey, in 1797, proposed a very exclusive scheme of Reform. He recommended that the county Members should be increased from 80 or 90 to 113, and that they should be elected by both freeholders and leaseholders. He also proposed that electoral districts should be formed on a compound ratio of area and population; but Earl Grey himself did not propose that this distinction should be removed. He (Lord Harry Vane) thought it would be the greatest misfortune for this country if a disruption should take place between the towns and boroughs; but he thought their separate character ought to be maintained, although there were many quasi towns in the midst of the country, and many counties which had a mixed urban and rural character. He thought the freeholders in towns had given a character of independence to the county constituencies which he should be sorry to see altered. He had, therefore, regretted to find that one of the principles of the Bill was to withhold from 859 freeholders in boroughs the right of suffrage in the counties; but he understood from the able speech of the Secretary to the Treasury that evening that that part of the measure would not be persevered in. He must say he thought it would be a great misfortune to draw too widely the line between the working and the middle classes. But an undue distrust of those classes seemed to have dictated the Government proposal of an identity of suffrage and their refusal to lower the franchise in boroughs below £10. He should be extremely sorry to see any measure supported and passed in that House which would have the effect of withdrawing their due preponderance of power from the middle classes. But he could not believe that any such result would be the effect of granting the suffrage to the working class; nor did be think the middle classes entertained any fear of such a consequence. In 1848 the working classes of this country had conducted themselves in the most loyal and exemplary manner in the midst of the general perturbation of the Continent; and since that period their condition, material, moral, and intellectual, had greatly improved. They were therefore fitted to receive some extension of political rights; but this Bill would accomplish that object to a very infinitessimal extent, and in a very indirect manner. The Secretary of the Treasury had given the House that night the number of persons who would be entitled to have the benefit of the elective franchise by the savings' bank deposits; but he (Lord Harry Vane) believed it was impossible to form any accurate estimate of their number. He thought this would turn out to be only an apparent concession. At any rate, it did not strike the imagination, and therefore it did not bear a satisfactory character as a measure of reform; and it was necessary to satisfy such a mass of opinion as that an elective system might be built upon a firm foundation. Some objections had been raised to the Resolution of his noble Friend; but what his noble Friend had done was, in the absence of any declaration of principle on the part of the Government, to state some clear and decisive grounds upon which a measure of reform ought to be based. It seemed to him, therefore, a fair proceeding that the noble Lord, so long connected with reform as he had been, should object to the Bill which was thus deficient of what he considered to be its essential elements. "Circumstances," said Lord 860 Plunket, "are wholly changed. Formerly reform came to our doors as a felon to be resisted; it now approaches us as a creditor; you admit its just claims, and only dispute about the time and the instalments by which it is to be paid." They ought to proceed with the Reform Bill this Session in a manner to be acceptable, and he believed that nothing could be acceptable that did not give an extension of the suffrage. The Government admitted that they came into power with a minority, and that they had no very great relish for dealing with this question. They need not, therefore, be prevented by any mere punctilio such as assigned by the noble Lord the Minister for India from accepting a declaratory Resolution like the one under discussion. If they would alter or withdraw their present measure, and bring in another more in accordance with the requirements of the case, no doubt the House would be ready to give it their best attention. He (Lord Harry Vane) could not profess that attachment to the small boroughs which had been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University. Even that right hon. Gentleman allowed that the principle of reform in this regard must be carried out to some extent, and in this respect he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire, who had said that one of the results of this Bill would be to break the neck of disfranchisement. The changing circumstances of population rendered it necessary that from time to time some towns should be disfranchised, and their Members transferred to others which had risen into importance. This disfranchisement must take place on fixed and settled principles, and should have reference either to taxation or population. He would prefer the removal of only one Member to the entire disfranchisement of a borough. The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Wilson) had drawn a distinction between nomination boroughs and upper small boroughs, but in point of fact there was no distinction between them. It did not follow that because a large proprietor lived in the neighbourhood of a small constituency it was consequently a nomination borough. He wished Government had dealt more comprehensively with the subject. He did not think it was Conservative on their part to add a largo number of voters to the county lists, and thus establish an identity of suffrage; he did not think it wise to create an immense mass of voters in one 861 place. If, by adding to the county constituency, they rendered that constituency a general and not a class constituency—a fair representation of the whole country, then he was willing to admit the counties were entitled to an increase in their numerical representation. Government, however, did not pursue that course. That was a fault. He wished the Government had given a larger measure, because he had no doubt the present Bill would only be regarded as an instalment. He should support the Resolution of the noble Lord, in the conviction that it was absolutely necessary to indicate precisely the principles they entertained on this question.
MR. STUART WORTLEY
said, that although seldom venturing to take a share in these great party struggles, he felt that, as he had, on the urgent request of many hon. Gentlemen who agreed with him, placed on the books the form of a Resolution which he proposed to move in the event of the success of the noble Lord's Amendment, some explanation of his purpose and views was due to the House. He regretted to hear from the conclusion of the speech just delivered, that he and the noble Lord were not about to vote on the same side, for in one point at least he agreed with him, that it was desirable that some settlement should be made of this great and embarrassing question. But to vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for the city would be to prevent any settlement; while to vote for the second reading of the Bill was to embrace the only opportunity which offered of effecting that settlement. In the present position the House had two alternatives—either to vote for the second reading, or by adopting the Resolution to vote in substance, though not in form, against the second reading. If the Bill were read a second time, it would be open to Amendments, and it was not for him to foretell how far modifications might be carried, but who doubted that the Amendment was intended to defeat the Bill, or that in all probability it would have that effect? He trusted, however, that they were not to understand literally the declaration of the Secretary of State of India, that if the Amendment were carried the Government would throw up the Bill, retire from office, or appeal to the country. Before taking that course he hoped the Government would hesitate and reflect on its dangers. At least it was the intention of the noble Lord's followers, by voting for the Amendment, to defeat this Bill. [Cheers.] 862 He expected that honest affirmative cheer, and he congratulated the House upon that frank avowal of the meaning of the Amendment; but the noble Lord himself had not avowed that it was his intention to defeat the Bill, or he would have moved its rejection in the ordinary way. The noble Lord said, "I dare not vote against the second reading of the Bill, lest I should be supposed to oppose all that is good in the Bill." Then, there was some good in the Bill. These two alternatives alone, therefore, were at present open to the House; but many hon. Gentlemen agreed with him that there was a third—to treat this Bill in a perfectly constitutional way, dealing with its principle now and its details in Committee. There were those who thought with him that it would be more respectful to the Crown after all that had passed ["Oh! oh!"]—for the time had not yet come when the influence of the Crown was not to be treated with derision—that, after the subject of Parliamentary Reform had been thrice recommended to the attention of Parliament in the speech of the Throne, the House should give to the subject that "calm, dispassionate, and impartial consideration" to which it had pledged itself, scarcely a month ago, in the address in answer to Her Majesty's speech, instead of making it the stalking-horse of a great party struggle. That pledge the House might redeem, at the same time stating the objections which it entertained to features of the Bill which constituted part of its principle, though by no means its whole principle. That was the object with which he had placed his Amendment on the paper. If any Resolution at all were to be passed, nothing could be more constitutional than to declare—That while this House, having, at the opening of the present Session of Parliament, in answer to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, assured Her Majesty that they would give to the great subject of the state of the laws which regulate the representation of the people in Parliament that degree of calm and impartial consideration which is proportionate to the magnitude of the interests involved in the result of their discussions, they will without delay proceed to the consideration of the measures laid before them by Her Majesty's responsible advisers; but that this House is of opinion that no settlement of this question will be acceptable to the people, or enduring in its character, which does not provide, either by modifying the present Bill in Committee or otherwise, for maintaining the constitutional distinction between the county and borough suffrages, for the preservation of the freehold franchises hitherto exercised in the counties of England and Wales, and for a more extensive right of voting therein, as well as for a re-adjustment of 863 the suffrage, and its wider extension, in cities and boroughs, than is contemplated in the present Bill.That was his Resolution, and though the forms of the House would not allow it to be put into competition with the noble Lord's Resolution at present, if the noble Lord succeeded in placing his Amendment in the position of the main question, he should feel it his duty to move this Resolution as an Amendment to it. He trusted, however, that the necessity would not arise. He should rejoice if the noble Lord's Resolution were negatived, of which he saw some signs. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite might cover their apprehensions with a smile, but the course of the debate, and, more than that, the course of conversation in the lobbies—the familiar intercommunion between men, betrayed a general impression that the adoption of this Resolution would defeat the settlement of the question, and involve great dangers. He had been rather startled to hear from the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing the Bill, confirmed to some extent by the language of the Secretary for India, that identity of the county and borough franchise was the principle of the Bill. He was not astonished at the skill of the noble Lord (the Member for the City) in saying, on that declaration, that it was evident that he was not really of that opinion, or to be consistent he must have proposed throwing out the Bill by the ordinary Amendment of proposing to read it that day six months. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might give what interpretation he pleased, but his belief was, that ninety-nine persons out of every hundred would read the Bill without ever guessing that that was its principle. There was nothing in the preamble to indicate that identity of franchise was the principle; and, so far from the first clause disclosing it, the first clause contained the enumeration of eleven franchises of different descriptions. He admitted that a particular expression made them applicable to counties and boroughs, but why were they to conclude that that word was necessary to the principle of the Bill? The principle was glaring on the fuce of it—namely, adjustment of the representation of the people, an enlargement of the franchise. Whether it was done efficiently or sufficiently, or in a manner which the House would approve, was a totally different question. He shared the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, and he be- 864 lieved of a majority of the House, in thinking that identity of franchise, instead of being a happy innovation, as represented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a bad feature; but a feature in a Bill did not constitute its principle. That being the case, what was to prevent their reading the Bill a second time and proceeding to amend it in Committee? The objection he entertained to the noble Lord's Resolution was, that it professed one thing and did another. It professed not to destroy the Bill, but it would have that effect. As was pointed out by his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, if they construed the Amendment logically it admitted the principle of the Bill, and worse, it admitted the principle of the identity of the franchise, for the noble Lord's Resolution only referred to the rights of the freeholders and the requirement of a further extension of the borough franchise. The Resolution of the noble Lord was, therefore, illogical according to his own view. The noble Lord the Member for South Durham (Lord H. Vane) said it was a remarkable thing that nobody had spoken during the debate of the merits of the Bill or of its provisions, and it was one of the inconveniences of the Amendment that their attention was diverted, and they were discussing party relations—who would next succeed to power, and in what way the Amendment would affect the Orders of the House. All these points were embarrassing, and increased the difficulties of a very difficult question. The Bill had good and bad in it. The good he would preserve, and the bad he would cut away. If there were deficiencies, as hon. Gentlemen said there were, the constitutional and Parliamentary course was to amend the Bill in Committee. The first good of the Bill in his eyes might shock the feelings of some hon. Gentlemen—namely, that from first to last it made no mention of the ballot. They had rumours in the autumn that there was to be some experiment by making the ballot voluntary. He rejoiced to find that the word did not occur in the Bill from first to last, and that there was to be no attempt to trifle with that which he considered a delusive and hateful proviso. He said hateful, because, in his conscience, he believed that if it were established it would not be established a year before it would be as unpopular in England as it was everywhere else where it had been tried. The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), the other night re- 865 marked how painful it was to go about for a month or two wearing a mask. Establish the ballot and every man in England would wear a mask. It would destroy public morality and public responsibility, and encourage every man to deceive his neighbour and himself. The whole system of the ballot was foreign to our institutions, and abhorrent to the genius of the people; but there was positive as well as negative good in the Bill. There was the extension of the county franchise. Quite apart from giving the franchise for mere land, or for a tenement without land or house, as had been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) yesterday—which he believed was a mere mistake—and setting aside the question of borough freeholders, all the copyhold franchises in the Bill of the noble Lord of 1832 were lowered from £10 to £5. Freeholds for life and leaseholds were reduced from £10 to £5. No one could deny that those were great extensions of the county franchise. He frankly avowed that he was opposed to the extension of the occupation franchise in counties from £50 to £10. He had always voted against the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey, considering it to be most dangerous, and he had found the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) voting with him. He thought £10 occupation in counties too low, without some equivalents; but could it be denied that it was a great extension of the franchise? With regard to the franchises in the Bill which more particularly applied to boroughs the lodger clause would widen the circle of representation, and bring in thousands of voters; and there were the annuitants'—which was open to further extension in Committee— the savings' bank depositors, and the personal or professional franchises, which would bring in a great many more. Looking at these provisions, it was impossible to say that there was no extension of the franchise—it was a wilful closing of their eyes, to say that they could see no enlargement in the suffrage in the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had shown, nothing could be more easy than to render the measure as efficient as they pleased. In fact, the Bill might have been drawn on purpose to invite Amendment. All that was necessary to do would be to make the first clause, by the omission of a few lines, refer to the boroughs only; and if they then put the county franchise into the sc- 866 cond clause, there would be an end to that principle, or rather feature of identity, which had been so much objected to. There were other things also in the Bill of which he greatly approved. There was, for instance, the proposal about voting papers. His belief was, that that would prove a substantial extension at least of an exercise of the suffrage, and that it would bring to the poll a very valuable class of electors who at present did not vote. As to the danger of fraud, he could easily understand that in parish elections, where there was no great public opinion, and where very little pains were taken to prevent improper practices, voting papers were liable to abuse; but if the suggestions of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole), or some others that might be made, were adopted, there would be no reason to apprehend fraud. If any proof were wanted of the necessity for some such plan he need not only refer to the return which had just been published with regard to the borough of Marylebone, where, out of 21,000! voters, only 10,000 had polled. At the present time there were many quiet men who were kept from the exercise of their privileges by the inconveniences which they dreaded, especially in times of excitement, from their attendance at the polling-booth. Having said so much about what he considered to be good points in the Bill, he had no hesitation in adverting to its blots. First and foremost, there was the transfer of borough freeholders from the counties to the towns. He must confess that at first sight he thought this proposal would afford some equivalent to the creation of the £10 class. His first view of the proposal had naturally been coloured by the medium through which he saw it, namely, the neighbourhood in which he resided. In the West Riding the whole representation had been swamped by the £10 householders of the towns and manufacturing villages. He (Mr. S. Wortley) probably knew the West Riding as well as any one, having been mixed up in three of the greatest contests that had ever taken place in the county; but he found that the Bill itself provided against the result he apprehended. the proposed division of that county would give one purely manufacturing constituency—one purely manufacturing, and one of a mixed character. Upon the whole, therefore, he was disposed to think the right of the freeholders ought to be preserved. Another great blot in the Bill was the facility which it would afford 867 to those disposed to violate the constitution, by the creation of fictitious votes. He greatly objected to any revival of the system of out-voters; but he did not think that voting papers necessarily implied such a revival. He now came to the most important of the defects of the measure—the limited extension of the franchise which it afforded to the working classes of this country. "Working classes" and "industrious classes" were very vague phrases: he flattered himself that he belonged to the working classes himself, and so did all those who obtained their livelihood by the exercise of their professional abilities or their mental powers. But he was now speaking of the better class of artisans, for whom he doubted whether they had done enough by the Bill. On the other hand, if they went down as low as a £6 occupancy, he doubted whether they would include the whole of this class. He felt satisfied that the working classes did not desire any measure that would make mere numbers paramount. He had recently presided over an educational meeting, consisting entirely of the working classes, at Sheffield. Politics were excluded by the rules, but the hon. Gentleman opposite was then going like a meteor throughout the country, and it was impossible to prevent a reference to the subject. He (Mr. S. Wortley), remarking that the time was come when it was desirable that they should be admitted to the franchise, expressed a hope that pains would be taken to include in the constitution worth rather than numbers—a sentiment which was received with an assent of acquiescence that satisfied him the working classes did not desire to see a predominance given to numbers alone. There was not one of his hearers who did not cheer him when he said that the drunkard and the spendthrift ought not to have the franchise. Such being the case, and granting that it was desirable to extend the franchise to the working classes, how was that end to be attained? It could not, he thought, be done by merely lowering the borough franchise; but there were no doubt means which might be adopted with success. As to what those means were, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had suggested none, and he both understood the meaning of his reserve and would imitate it. Still there was one plan which he would mention. The City of Coventry had a most satisfactory constituency. None had been more steady in the choice of its representatives; 868 none more honoured by the distinction which those representatives had attained. And what was it upon which the constituency of Coventry was chiefly based? Apprenticeship. A franchise based on apprenticeship, or the receipt of a certain amount of labour, or the payment of a certain amount of taxes, would place upon the list of voters a class of skilled artisans, who would be infinitely superior to mere £10 householders. He would ask the House to reflect what must be the feelings of one of these higher class artisans—one who not only knew his own trade, but who had read much and understood the constitution of his country—what must he the feelings of a man of this class, the aggregate income of whose family might perhaps be £5 a week, but who, because his employer furnished him with a cheap house, was not allowed a vote; while a few doors off was a small ignorant shopkeeper, whose window was ornamented with tallow candles and red herrings, but who, being a ten-pounder, possessed the franchise? His right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) had truly stated what the practical grievances of our representative system were; namely, that there were certain great communities who were unrepresented, and certain excellent classes of our countrymen who were not allowed the franchise. He (Mr. S. Wortley) would not stop to discuss the disfranchisement clauses of the Bill. He thought the Government had acted in that clause with extreme prudence, for no measure would have a chance of passing that House which proposed to disfranchise a large number of the smaller boroughs. It was expecting too much of men not only to destroy their own seats, and at the same time to insult their constituencies. It was only in times of extreme excitement and agitation, like those of 1832, that such a thing could be done. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sidney Herbert) said that the mode of proceeding by Resolution was inconvenient. Had the India Bill, then, been so unsuccessful? He believed there had never been a measure, either with regard to India or to any other of our dependencies, which had met with so general an acquiescence as that Bill; but, whether that was so or not, in the present case the House had no choice. They could not now expect any Government to command a majority. Neither the noble Lord nor any other statesman could in the present state of things hope to carry any great measure through the House by means of party. The time had now come 869 when the real difficulty of how the Queen's Government was to be carried on was experienced. Not that he apprehended any danger would arise out of that difficulty, for he believed that the House of Commons was able to frame good measures, and that they might with confidence depend upon its ingenuity and industry; but they must not look in any part of it to find persons to form an Administration that could command a party majority. Was there anything to prevent the Government from acceding to the proposal to amend their Bill? He was happy to think, from the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote), that there was not. At the same time he thought his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) had asked the Government a little too much. He had only a right to demand that they should accept the decision of the House on the points on which he himself entertained objections to their Bill. To ask them to give a guarantee that they would accept anything to which the House agreed, was asking them to accept the ballot, or anything else to which they might entertain ever so strong an objection, provided only a majority of the House assented to it. They had taken office as the representatives of a minority, and they must therefore not expect to carry the measure exactly in the shape they wished, but they must endeavour so to modify it as to meet the views of Parliament. His object in common with that of the noble Lord was to have a settlement of this question. But if the House adopted the Resolution of the noble Lord, what would be the consequence? He could not join with hon. Gentlemen who had attributed unworthy motives to the noble Lord; on the contrary, he deeply regretted that any such imputation had been made, more especially in regard to one of the noble Lord's character and station. They might be amused for half an hour by speeches like that of the hon. Member for Dovor. It was a repartee upon imputations made on the Ministerial side of the House, but he regretted that anything of the sort had taken place. He gave the noble Lord credit for the highest and purest motives, but he could not help asking who was to give the country a Reform Bill if the present Government could not? In what part of the House could they command a majority on any question, least of all on this? Who was to be their loader? They were apt to look to the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton. The noble Viscount had done him (Mr. S. 870 Wortley) the honour to ask him to join his Government, and he had felt both at liberty and happy to do so, but he had felt at the same time that in his new position he should not be arrayed against his ancient friends on the question of reform. He had felt assured that the noble Viscount would propose a reasonable, sensible, Conservative Bill—using the term Conservative as contrasted with Tory. He remembered the antecedents of the noble Viscount; he had first seen him standing by the side of him whom, in his (Mr. S. Wortley's) political hero-worship, he had always looked on with the utmost veneration—namely, Mr. Canning, the great champion of our constitution. In 1832 he had seen the noble Viscount taking no part in any measure of an extensive description—he was contented with the Bill, and thought that it went quite far enough. In 1854 there was some displacement in the Cabinet. The noble Viscount separated himself for a short time from his colleagues; and it was understood that that disagreement was on the question of reform, and on the subject of the Bill which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had introduced. He (Mr. S. Wortley) had felt therefore satisfied that they would have from the noble Viscount's (Viscount Palmerston's) Government no violent measure of reform. But, if he did not introduce a violent measure, what hope would he now have of finding a majority? Such being the case, he (Mr. S. Wortley) hoped the noble Viscount's vote would not be recorded in favour of the Amendment. If he saw that the Motion would be destructive of the Bill, and a postponement of the settlement of the question, he trusted that the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton would pause before he took that course. Last year a Motion of a similar kind had been made. On that occasion, unfortunately for their consistency, the hon. Gentlemen now on the Ministerial side of the House went into the same boat, not only with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton, but with the hon. Member for Birmingham and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell). The noble Viscount the hon. M ember for Tiverton then sat upon the Ministerial side of the House, and he had no difficulty in describing the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. He said,—It is idle to say that you can pass that Amendment to-day, and go back to the Bill to-morrow or on Monday. It is quite plain that if the House, after full deliberation and complete debate, shall 871 prefer the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman to the proposal that the Bill be now read a second time, but one interpretation can be put on that result.If the noble Lord carried his Resolution there would be but one interpretation put upon the result. The object of the noble Lord was to defeat the settlement of Reform upon this occasion. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: The settlement of Reform in this way.] Well, he was arguing there was no other way. ["Oh!"] He did not mean that there was no other scheme, but there was no other party who could settle the question. A very similar Motion was made when the noble Lord was a Minister. General Gascoigne's Motion on the Reform Bill of 1832 was not proposed on the second reading but on going into Committee, and, in a constitutional and Parliamentary sense, it was an instruction to that Committee. Now, what said Lord Althorp on that occasion? General Gascoyne wanted to indicate by his Resolution the particular point in the Bill to which he objected. Lord Althorp said he was quite sure the object of the Amendment which had been proposed was to destroy the Bill, and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on that occasion spoke as follows:—That was a motion of Parliamentary tactics brought forward indeed by the hon. and gallant General, but concocted by more wily advisers, by which an attempt was made to bring together all the enemies of the Bill, and to entrap such of its friends as might be dupes and gulls enough to fall into the snare.He hoped that the noble Lord would see in this passage from his own speech the condemnation of his own Motion. Had he any hope, either with or without the assistance of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) that he would be able to effect the settlement of this question? As for the hon. Member for Birmingham, what hope had he? The country heard of nothing all the autumn but the hon. Member's Bill, yet so timorous was he of exposing it to the atmosphere of the House, that not even a corner of it had crept out of his pocket. It was the little mouse which had run into his pocket, and which he took care not to let escape. No than could better explain his views, or put them in a more attractive form. He had done his best to advance his project of Reform. He had been listened to; he had been judged; and the result was that the people would not have his Bill. The hon. Gentleman was proud of the title of 872 Tribune of the People, which had been justly given to him, for he had been their active and their honest advocate. But it might be said of him, as it was said by one of the tribunes of old:—"Sed non tanti reipublicœ fuit eloquentiâ Gracchorum, ut pateretur et leges." The country admired his eloquence and courage, they respected his honesty, but they would not have his Bill. If the Government abided by the declaration of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) they must resign, and leave it either to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, or the noble Lord the Member for the City, or the hon. Member for Birmingham to form an Administration. The only other alternative was a dissolution. It was whispered in every corner that the Government had made up their minds to dissolve Parliament. No one could speak with greater freedom on that subject than the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), whose seat was safe, and he entreated the Government if they wished to settle this question on safe principles, if they venerated the constitution, which they were placed on the Treasury benches to defend; and if they venerated those institutions, so elequently described by the Secretary for the Colonies, to pause before they ventured upon such a step as a dissolution. Let hon. Members bear in mind the year 1830. The right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir Charles Wood) would remember what a revolution there was within one week in the county of York. Henry Brougham then practising at the bar, attempted to recommend at Sheffield a measure of moderate reform without being able to excite any popular feeling; but when the French revolution occurred shortly after he was carried on the people's shoulders to the hustings and triumphantly elected as the representative of the great county of York. All was quiet now; but let not matters be pressed too far. He did not distrust the working classes, but he feared what were called masses, for amongst them there wore elements of danger, Which, if once let loose, the worst men then became the most powerful, and the most dangerous demagogues—not the men of stern honest ability like the hon. Member for Birmingham, but men of baser minds and less scrupulous hands,—were made the leaders of the people. There was the danger, if they once allowed the people to be excited on this subject. Let not the Government dissolve, —let no party temptation, or the belief that a threatened borough disfranchisement 873 would add to the number of their supporters in that House, induce them to take any step that might imperil the institutions of the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has challenged my vote against the Motion of my noble Friend the Member for the city of London, on the ground of that which I stated upon the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson), in regard to the Amendment he made to the Conspiracy Bill, I am sorry that I must disappoint the expectations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because, not thinking that there is any similarity whatever between the two cases, I am going to give my cordial support to the Resolution of my noble Friend. Sir. the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton had nothing-whatever to do with the Bill, to the second reading of which it professed to be an Amendment. It was a direct vote of censure on the Government of the day; we accepted it in the sense intended, and in the performance of our public duty we thereupon, having clearly perceived that we had lost the confidence of this House, humbly tendered to Her Majesty the resignation of our offices. The present is no vote of censure on the Government. [Cries of "Oh!"] It is an Amendment strictly appertaining to the subject matter of the Bill. It brings into discussion two points which were at one time stated to be fundamental principles of the Bill, but which, at all events, are leading features of it, and the discussion of which could more conveniently be taken in the manner in which my noble Friend has brought them before the House by a preliminary Amendment than if it turned on verbal alterations in Committee on the Bill. But, Sir, long as this debate has lasted, and long as it appears, by what we see, likely to last, I cannot say that the time and attention which the House has bestowed on the subject have been entirely thrown away. We have made some progress in the course of our discussions. When this debate began we were led to think, erroneously as it now turns out, that these principles of disfranchisement of county freeholders and identity of the county and borough franchise were fundamental principles of the Bill, the alteration of which would be fatal to the measure; but I was glad to hear yesterday, in the short answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave 874 to the question put to him in the early part of the evening, and I am still more rejoiced to hear to-night, in the more ample exposition of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, that the Government consider every part of the measure to be open to consideration in Committee; that there is no part of the Bill the maintenance of which is a sine qua non with the Government; and that those provisions to which the Amendment of my noble Friend points are just as open to discussion, reconsideration and amendment in Committee as any other less important parts of the measure. If we have gained such progress in the course of the discussion, I cannot say I regret the prospect of the debate going on to Monday or Tuesday next, or to any other day of the week, for I anticipate the progress of conviction may go on pari passu, and that we shall end in all being agreed to accede to the Resolution of my noble Friend. But whether this agreement may exist or not, at all events any scruples which any hon. Members may have felt to concur in the Amendment of my noble Friend, on the plea and apprehension that the carrying of the Resolution would be fatal to the Bill, and that the question of Reform would thus be indefinitely postponed, must now be done away with, and every hon. Member is free to vote on the Resolution according to his view of its merits as regards the points to which it applies. Sir, I much regret one incident and one speech we have heard. I much regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General thought it becoming his own position or consistent with Parliamentary tactics, after having exhausted, and apparently conscious that he had done so in vain, all the arguments which his ingenuity suggested in support of the Bill, to have at last recourse to that commonplace and ordinary weapon of personal taunt against those who differed from him in opinion. I repudiate, Sir, for those in this part of the House the reproach that we are actuated in the course we are now pursuing by a desire for political aggrandizement and private advantage. Such an imputation is as unworthy of the hon. and learned Gentleman as it is undeserved by those against whom it was levelled. I should have thought that the course pursued by those whom the hon. Gentlemen opposite have, from the commencement of the period at which they accepted office, represented as the majority of the House —I should have imagined, I repeat, that 875 the course of unexampled for bearance which that majority has displayed might at least have secured them from any such taunt. [Cries of "Oh!"] Sir, I maintain that unexampled for bearance has been shown by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. It is true that when last year public indignation was raised by a certain despatch addressed by the Government to the Governor General of India, we did think our public duty required us to call on Parliament to mark its sense of that transaction. Hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine that that Motion was withdrawn in consequence of the apprehension excited by their representations of an approaching dissolution of Parliament, and their fancied success on that occasion seems to have led them to think that that threat might be repeated toties quoties in circumstances of embarrassment; but the grounds on which the Members of this House were disinclined to that Motion were these,—that they saw that the Minister personally or officially responsible for that despatch had resigned his office, and there was a disposition to accept that resignation as an atonement on the part of the Government. Now, Sir, I am not going to imitate the example of the Solicitor General, and reproach the Government of the day with having abandoned their own former principles, and discarded their former opinions by proposing a measure of reform. I hold that they did their duty in proposing that measure. They took the Government, if I may speak in language which the noble Earl at the head of the Administration will understand— they took the Government with its engagements. Those engagements they were bound to fulfil or else pay forfeit. One of those engagements had reference to the Government of India. They had wanted, while we were in office, to postpone the change of government from the Company to the Crown; but when they took office they felt that the public expectation was fixed upon that change, and that to a certain degree the honour of the Crown was committed to its being effected, and they did carry on the measure which we began. They spoilt it, no doubt; but nevertheless they did fulfil that engagement, and the Government of India was transferred from the Company to the Crown. It was too late in the Session at that time to enter on the great question of Parliamentary Reform. The preceding Government had equally been prevented in the early part of the Session from entering on that sub- 876 ject by the pressure of the Indian question. It was, therefore, perfectly right and natural that they should postpone the question of Parliamentary Reform until the present Session. But when the time came for the consideration of the measure what, let me ask, was the manner in which they should have applied their minds to the subject? They are a Conservative party; they are not opposed to progressive improvement; but their improvements and changes ought, according to their own principles, to be made upon the established principles of the British constitution. They would, I presume, improve to amend, and would not alter to destroy. When they came to look at the state of our representation under the Act of 1832 they ought to have considered what were the points arising out of the operation of that Act which required or admitted of improvement. Undoubtedly, the experience we have had since that time must naturally have led them to propose certain changes in that Act. There are, I am willing to admit, imperfections in the settlement of 32. In the first place, it excluded from the franchise a certain amount of property and intelligence and a comparatively high class of the community, who, though perfectly well qualified in every respect for the exercise of the franchise, nevertheless did not possess that technical qualification of occupying a £10 house. That imperfection I am ready to admit that their Bill is calculated to remedy. I do not join in the sort of taunt which is raised against what are called their "fancy franchises." I believe some of those franchises will admit within the pale of the constitution a class of men well calculated by their position and their intelligence to exercise the suffrage. Another point on which I think they would naturally have found the arrangement of 1832 defective was, that the occupation franchise in the counties was placed too high. They would naturally have put into their Bill a provision for lowering that county franchise, whatever amount they might have thought fit to propose. Some might have been disposed, as I myself should have been and as I have often stated in this House, to agree to a reduction of it to some such limit as that suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge. Others might have preferred the amount proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey. At the same time I must concur with my right hon. 877 Friend the Member for South Wilts (Mr. Sidney Herbert) in saying that the £10 franchise for counties has never yet been actually affirmed by this House. Those who quote the last Bill, which was read a second time, must have the goodness to remember that I voted for the second reading of that Bill distinctly on the ground that it did not propose to identify the franchise in counties and boroughs, and because it simply proposed to amend the law relating to the county franchise, leaving the limit to be settled in Committee. Well, then, I say it was natural that their measure should contain a proposal for lowering the county franchise. Again, with respect to the borough franchise, I confess myself that I, at one time, entertained a strong opinion that the £10 franchise ought to be maintained, but on further consideration and inquiry I am of opinion that it would be desirable to lower that amount for the purpose of admitting to the franchise the better, the more instructed, and the more respectable class of working men. This Bill no doubt contains arrangements which, independently of any lowering of the £10 qualification, would have a tendency to admit some of that class. I do not join with those who think the franchise founded on a deposit in the savings' bank would be a nullity. The other arrangements about lodgers and so forth, I apprehend, would not have any considerable effect in admitting that class of the community. My opinion is that some diminution ought to be made in the amount of the £10 fixed for a town franchise. I feel quite as much as many do that you ought not, by admitting a large numerical majority of the least instructed part of the community, to swamp the better class of voters and overwhelm the fair influence of property and intelligence. I am ready to admit that it is not only ignorance that ought to be excluded from governing intelligence; but those who have no property ought not to be the persons to direct the legislation applicable to those who have property; subject to those conditions, I am convinced a reduction might be made, and I think ought to be made, in the amount of the borough occupancy franchise. Well, then, there is another point to which the attention of the Government would naturally have been directed,—that is to say, the question whether some transference of seats ought not be made from some of the smaller constituencies to places which have either grown up to be important towns since 1832, 878 or to constituencies which, by their immense numbers, have become too large for a single representation. This Bill contains provisions for that purpose, and I am not one of those who would be disposed to quarrel with the limited extent of change they propose. I am of opinion that great misapprehension prevails with regard to the smaller constituencies. The large towns are a field where men who live in those communities and have acquired wealth, character, and standing therein, are naturally the choice of constituencies to whom they are best known. The counties, on the other hand, are a field where Gentlemen connected with landed property and agricultural pursuits naturally expect to find seats in this House. But there is a large amount of intelligence, knowledge, and capacity for legislation in a class of men belonging to neither the one nor the other of these; and the smaller boroughs, whatever may be the objections urged against them, enable many men of that description most useful in the deliberations of this House, and many young men of promise, to gain admission to the Legislature. If this House consisted, on the one hand, of men connected with manufactures and commerce, or men who by peculiar circumstances had acquired great public reputation and character—as, for instance, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) who has no connection with that town, but, from the position he holds as a public man, and on the other hand of men connected in counties with the landed and agricultural interests, and there were no means by which other men could find their way into Parliament, and no opportunities by which young men of great ability and promise, but not as yet of established reputations could gain admission there, I should consider such a state of things as a public misfortune. Well, now, if the Government, turning their minds to the manner in which the Act of '32 has worked, and discovering with regard to it those different imperfections and faults, had addressed themselves to the application of a remedy for those particular defects, my opinion is that if this measure had been framed in a reasonable manner, and sufficiently liberal to secure the concurrence of those who are attached to the constitution, but who wish to sec it improved, the "following" which they have behind them, combined with the support they would have received from the independent portion 879 of the House, would have enabled them to carry a measure to settle for a certain period of time—for finality is out of the question—and in a manner satisfactory to the community, the question which now engages and agitates this House and the country. I am of opinion that, although there is a desire for certain changes, the state of the country is utterly different from what it was in 1831 or 1832. At that time there were blots in our representative system to which no man could shut his eyes. We had places with scarcely a habitation for a voter in them returning Members to Parliament, while the greater part of our large communities had no share in the legislation of this House, because they were utterly unrepresented. It was said by Lord Dudley, I think, that our ancestors had indeed their Gatton and Old Sarum and boroughs of that kind; but they had not cities larger than the London of their day totally unrepresented and without any means of making their voice heard and their wishes felt in the deliberations of Parliament. The only way in which those great communities could be represented was by taking Members from a large proportion of the smaller constituencies. But at present the number of great communities that require representation or of counties that require additional Members is comparatively small, and it does not follow because there was a large disfranchisement in 1832 that there should therefore be a demand for a large disfranchisement now. If, then, the Government had contented themselves with a measure of that sort, I think I am justified in saying that they would have had no great difficulty in passing it, while they would have gained credit for themselves, and would have given satisfaction to the country. But they bethought themselves of inserting in their Bill arrangements totally inconsistent with the long-established principles of the constitution. They determined upon committing a great act of injustice by disfranchising some 110,000 of the county freeholders who happen to reside in unrepresented boroughs. Well, by some mistake—for mistakes will happen in the best regulated families—they say that a provision intended to exempt from the operation of that enactment all existing freeholders happened to be forgotten, and was not inserted in the Bill, although it has since been laid upon the table of the House. Their Bill also identifies the town with the county franchise, thus, as has been stated by all who 880 have spoken on this and by many who have spoken on the other side of the House, destroying an ancient and established principle of our constitution which provides a difference, and a marked difference, between these two franchises. Well, Sir, that arrangement, it has been said, but unjustly, erroneously said, will lead to electoral districts. I acquit the Government of that accusation. The Motion of my son. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) to reduce the county franchise to £10 would have led to the assimilation and identification of the town and county franchise. But he still left untouched in the counties the 40s. freeholders, — a very numerous body; he did not transfer them to the boroughs; and therefore, if his Bill had passed, there would still have remained a great distinction between the town and county franchise, though it would have led to their assimilation. The Bill of the Government, however, does not lead to the establishment of electoral districts. It actually establishes them, because it not only extends the borough £10 franchise to the counties, but it transfers the 40s. freeholders to the boroughs, with all the other peculiar and less considerable county franchises; and it so completely identifies the borough and county franchises that, in fact, it establishes electoral districts, although unequal ones. I should almost have supposed that that portion of the Government arrangements had been suggested by the hon. Member for Birmingham; and if we are to determine who are embarked in "the same boat," I should say that the hon. Gentleman is rowing with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Secretary for India much more than with my noble Friend the Member for the City of London. Sir, when this Bill came before us the first impulse of every man who read it must, I presume, have been to alter and amend it in Committee; but when he looked further, and found that there were interwoven with its provisions principles so completely subversive of the fundamental arrangements of our representative system— principles so unjust, and to which it was so impassible for the House to accede—the next impression upon the mind of every man who was not bound by party ties to support the Government was that the measure ought to be thrown out upon the second reading. Well, that was my own impression, but my noble Friend suggested a Resolution pointing to the particular mat- 881 ters which were especially open to objection, and when ray noble Friend did me the favour to show it to me, I said at once, "I think your Resolution is excellent; I think it is well adapted to its aim; and I am perfectly ready to give it my cordial support." Why, it was the only method of at once bringing under discussion those two points, which, if left in the Bill, would have led to its rejection, whereas, if they were taken out of the Bill, the House might agree to go into Committee and modify its other objectionable features. It was far better, and the result has shown that it was better, to discuss these two points, taking them separately and deliberately rather than plunge into the chaos of a Committee, where the discussion would have turned not so much upon principles as upon wording, and where we should have been lost in the confusion of a desultory discussion upon details. I say, therefore, that I think the Motion of my noble Friend was exactly the course which, under the circumstances, it was most expedient to pursue; and so far from its being a vote of censure upon the Government, or one which, if carried, necessarily implies the rejection of the Bill, I think the Government ought to thank my noble Friend for having made that Motion, because, if carried—and I have no doubt whatever that carried it will be—it relieves them from a difficulty which otherwise would probably have entailed the total failure of their measure. That being the case, I shall very shortly state my views. I am not going to follow those who have gone into elaborate dissertations upon the British constitution, or who have enlarged upon the abstract principles involved in many of these details. There are, indeed, other provisions in the Bill which I think the House will not adopt. There are provisions, for example, which admit the fabrication of fagot votes, restore non-resident voters, and establish a system of voting papers—a system susceptible, I think, of the greatest possible abuse; but I am not going to argue them now. They will be discussed if the House should go into Committee; and, as the right hot). Baronet the Colonial Secretary told us, "Prove your case," and it will be a question for the Committee, I say, in regard to the two points comprised in the Resolution, that we have proved our case; and that being so, when the House has affirmed those two principles by adopting the Resolution, the rest will then become a question for 882 Committee. Two days ago I should have repeated more emphatically than to-night that which fell from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) as to the consequences likely to flow from the affirmation of this Resolution. There is no doubt it will be carried, and then what is the Government to do—what course will they pursue? We are told various things. Some persons say the Ministry will resign. Sir, I believe no such thing. I think it will be a dereliction of duty on their part if they do resign. I do not want them to resign. I say to them, as I think Voltaire said of some Minister who had incurred his displeasure—" If the Eternal wishes to punish him let him not annihilate him by his thunderbolt, but condemn him to keep his place." I repeat that they took the Government with its engagements. They undertook a measure of Reform, and they will be flinching from their duty to the Crown and the country if, in consequence of such a vote as that proposed by my noble Friend, they fling up their places and throw upon others the difficulty of dealing with this subject. They have advantages which no other Government would enjoy in settling the question. It is their duty to settle it, and therefore I say—not meaning, I assure them, any uncivil taunt—I do not believe they will resign; I have too good an opinion of their common sense to think they will shrink from the performance of the task which they have deliberately undertaken. But then it is said they may dissolve. Well, I have no greater faith in their dissolving than in their resignation. I am of this opinion, because to dissolve Parliament at the present moment implies more than the single will of the Government. The concurrence of this House is necessary to its own dissolution. The state of public business is such that before the Government dissolve it would be indispensable to take other Votes in Supply, to pass the Appropriation Act, a Ways and Means Act, and to make provision for certain Exchequer Bonds which fall due in May. Now, all these operations require the concurrence of this House, and are the Government, I should like to know, sure of obtaining that concurrence? In ordinary cases I am quite ready to admit, when a question arises out of the contests of two political parties—when that question is one, for instance, relating to our foreign relations—a question of peace or war, or one of general policy, with respect to which the Government and the majority of the 883 House of Commons may disagree—it would be a perfectly constitutional course for them to pursue to appeal to the country, and it would be right that the majority by whom their conduct happened to have been censured should afford them every facility for making that appeal. That, however, is not the present case. Is it right, I ask, that the Government should throw the British constitution to be scrambled for and discussed upon every hustings throughout the country? Is that the course which a Conservative Administration thinks it its duty to pursue? I do not believe, Sir, they would act so if they could, and I believe they could not if they would. I cannot come to the conclusion that this House might not, if the Government announced it to be their intention to dissolve, be wiser than they, and feel a stronger sense of the duty which both the Ministry and Parliament owe to the country and to the constitution. I entertain no doubt that the threat of dissolution which has for the last few days been so much bandied about in private conversation all over the town by Members of the Government, high and low, is nothing more than an attempt to renew that which was done last year; and is a vain threat resorted to simply with the view of influencing the votes of hon. Members on this occasion. Well, then, there is a third course which they may take. They may abandon their Bill; but I do not think they will do anything of the kind. I do not suspect that they have so great a want of a due sense of the duties which they are called upon to perform as to abandon thus a measure which they have deliberately undertaken to propose to Parliament on the important subject of reform. My conviction—I will not say is— but has all along been, that if this House were to affirm by a large majority the two principles contained in the Resolution of my noble Friend, the Government would still feel bound to go on with their Bill, and in taking that course I, for one, should not ask them to enter into any engagement that they would adapt the Bill to the Resolutions. I do not think it would be necessary to call upon them to make any such declaration, because the same power which would carry the Resolutions would compel them to suit their measure to the views which had been affirmed by a majority. It would, therefore, be childish to exact from them any pledge on the subject. Our security for the adaptation of the Bill to the principles embraced in the 884 Resolutions lies in the majority by which those Resolutions will be passed, and I feel satisfied Her Majesty's Ministers would not—I will not say so far degrade themselves—but so entirely shrink from the performance of their duty as to withdraw this Bill because the two provisions of it against which the Amendment of my noble Friend is aimed may happen to have been rejected by a vote of this House. If such, then, was my opinion at the commencement of this discussion, it is evident that all doubt upon the question must have been removed by the very candid and ample explanation which has been furnished by the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury this evening; because he has stated that every part of the Government proposal is open to revision and alteration, according to the decision of the House in Committee. After that statement, coupled with the declaration which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, it is, I think, perfectly clear that the Government cannot recede from their position, and I therefore hold them bound to conform to the decision of the House by the Motion under our notice. I entreat those hon. Gentlemen who may entertain a doubt as to the expediency of voting for this Resolution upon the ground that the result of its success would be to throw out the Bill, and that as a consequence a good opportunity for the settlement of this great question may be lost, to discharge all such apprehensions from their minds, inasmuch as the Government now stand pledged by the declarations which they have made in this House to accept the decision at which a majority may arrive, and to alter their measure in accordance with the Resolution. If they do not take that course of their own free will they will be forced to adopt it. As to all the other objectionable portions of the Bill we have also the assurance from themselves that we have only to "prove our case," and that those clauses may be amended in Committee. "Prove your case," in short they have said, and there will be no difficulty in the matter. It is not, as I have said, my intention to go into abstract questions. I am desirous of addressing the few observations I have still to make distinctly to the course of our proceeding on this occasion. The Resolution of my noble Friend draws the attention of the House pointedly to two provisions in this Bill, to which I am sure the great majority of hon. Members could never give 885 their assent. If that Resolution had not been moved the Bill would undoubtedly have been rejected, and the opportunity for settling this great question would have gone by. I quite concur with some hon. Gentlemen who spoke upon the other side, and especially with my right hon. Friend who spoke last, that we ought to look with great concern at the prospect of that agitation which might be got up during the ensuing autumn and winter if this question were postponed, and if the constitutional arrangements of the country should be set up to be discussed at public meetings in every county and borough in the kingdom. There is, I presume, not a single hon. Gentleman in this House, who has taken any interest in this subject, who has not been inundated with plans of Parliamentry Reform. There is scarcely a day that some correspondence or another, either in the shape of a written letter or a printed pamphlet, does not reach one containing the author's views in reference to the best mode of arriving at a satisfactory adjustment of the question, and if this measure is not now carried, and the question is hung up for public discussion for the next twelve months, I am sure it is scarcely necessary to remind the House that great public inconvenience is likely to be the result. I, therefore, Sir, beg to repeat my conviction, founded upon what has taken place during the progress of this debate, that if the Resolution of my noble Friend be passed by an adequate majority expressive of the decided opinion of Parliament, there is no doubt a measure will be framed by the Government and passed in accordance with the principles laid down in that Resolution.
I entirely concur, Sir, in the sentiments which were expressed by the noble Lord the Member for London on the first evening of this debate as to the gravity and importance of the subject under discussion. In a like spirit was the question of Parliamentary Reform approached by the great men of other times. Nothing can be more ungrateful than to dwell on the vices of the political system under which we live, and to point out its abuses rather than to enumerate its advantages. We are taught by that philosopher, who was called Divine, that we should deal with our country as with our parents—with entreaty and persuasion, and not with bitter contestations, and I, for one, freely admit that we ought never to enter upon the discussion of the princi- 886 ples of this vast subject without feeling sentiments of reverence towards the Constitution of this country for the blessings which it confers. Two classes of statesmen have discussed the great question of Parliamentary Reform. They were men almost equal in eloquence, in patriotism, and in genius. They approached the question from opposite points of view. The one class said, improve your Constitution; the other, preserve it. The one contended for the removal of its anomalies and the correction of its abuses. The other said, "Better maintain as it is a system which should not be lightly deranged, lest, owing to rash alterations, greater mischiefs might be produced." Both pointed to results in justification of their principles. The one pointed to unnecessary wars, oppressive taxation, a corrupt Administration, and said, "The existence of these evils justifies the demand which we make for Parliamentary Reform." The other class pointed to the practical administration of justice, to the increased wealth, and to the many blessings possessed by the great bulk of the people. What this latter class of statesmen in effect said I say—the truth exceeds the aspiration of the patriot, or anything which the fancy of the poet can depict. Chatham and Flood, Pitt and Fox failed each of them to carry a measure of Parliamentary Reform, and why? Because the mind of the nation was not with them: Europe was convulsed by revolution. The question of Parliamentary Reform was subsequently agitated, and Lord Althorp carried what he called his final measure. Now, if we can for one moment glance at what the principles were upon which the discussion of the question was based by those famous statesmen, undazzled by the splendour of their eloquence, we can, I think, discover the true spirit in which it ought now to be dealt with. They said, the chief reason for a measure of Parliamentary Reform should be an overpowering national necessity for it. They said it should be introduced when there was an undue exercise of the influence of the Crown, when the House of Commons was corrupt, when there was a want of sympathy between the representatives and the represented, and when there was a want of control on the part of the Legislature over the conduct of the Executive. Now, Sir, the undue influence of the Crown is gone, corruption in the Legislature no longer exists, the control of the Legisla- 887 ture over the Executive is perfect, a consul could not be appointed in Japan, and escape the discerning eye of Parliament, Then, what remains? What is the only principle upon which this question can now be fairly and properly discussed? Is it not whether it may not be expedient to infuse new blood into the body politic, whether it would not be advantageous to extend the area of representation, and to give to all who deserve it the right of being represented if they fairly and reasonably ask for it? I maintain that is the only issue—ought to be the only issue before us. If that be so, how does the question, vast as it is, narrow itself as we discuss it! The Sovereign of these realms has, as was observed, been rightly advised in calling the attention of Parliament to this great subject. Two Ministries, —I do not say actuated by any but good motives, —have endeavoured to adjust this question and have failed. The present Ministry have produced a Bill, and how has the Bill been described? It is vicious, it is beneficial. It is aristocratic, it is democratic. It is Conservative, and it is revolutionary. I am tempted to apply the principle of Archbishop Whately's "historic doubts" when he questioned the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte because of the contradictory characters given of him by persons of opposite views. How is this difference to be accounted for? I think the right hon. Member for Wilts (Mr. Sidney Herbert) has given us the proper cue for understanding it. He said, looking at the Opposition—for it was right to look difficulties in the face—that no two men on those benches were agreed with each other. He portrayed the Opposition graphically, and I presume truly, as so divided that it was impossible to find among them any agreement upon any given question. If that be so, is it wonderful that a Bill, even had it been drawn by the wise men of Greece, should have been so received? Is it not a necessary result of the condition of the House that this Bill should be received by men who differ upon every subject with some difference of opinion? But I ask is it not the duty of every right-minded man, instead of endeavouring to magnify those difficulties, to try and reconcile those conflicting opinions for the general benefit. The right hon. Gentleman told us what our duty was. He said, "Here is a Bill which is very unsatisfactory to me; that Bill admits what I never can agree to." The opinion of the 888 right hon. Gentleman is entitled to the very highest respect. He is the foremost man attacking this Bill, and I propose to deal with him first. He says:—"You want to make the franchise uniform; you are going to reduce the county franchise from £50 to £10, and that I never can consent to." Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has assented to it himself. He drew, or was a party to drawing, a Bill containing that identical provision, and yet he now tells the country Gentlemen on this side, "If you had only trusted me, and those who think with me, we would have given you a different measure. We would have produced a Bill giving a £20 franchise in counties, and perhaps an £8 or £6 franchise in boroughs." I want to know from him whether he thinks he is justified in attacking the Bill simply because it reduces the county franchise to £10, when, according to the honest and impartial testimony of the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), it is a measure which is capable of amendment and improvement hereafter,—a good Bill, although perhaps not carrying out all the views of the right hon. Gentleman, and the most objectionable clause being identical with one in the Bill introduced by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member. The right hon. Gentleman directs the Government to withdraw the Bill, and he gives us a reason. He says, "Withdraw the Bill, produce another, and I promise you"— what?—"increased support." May I ask what is the extent of the following of the right hon. Gentleman? I understood that the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs had become smaller and smaller by degrees; but I want to know what is the authority which warrants him in promising success to a Bill which shall not contain a principle that was embodied in a Bill to which he was a party four years ago. What argument he can use now he might have used then. So much for the right hon. Gentleman's arguments. It is, however, necessary to remember that he reads the Resolution as aimed against uniformity of franchise in counties and boroughs. Be that so. But I must now come to the author of the Resolution, and see what he means. Perhaps, however, I am in error in considering the noble Lord, the Member for London, the inventor. For, according to the right hon. Member for Stroud, it seems a dark, mysterious necromancer had something to do with it. The magician imposed upon the innocence of 889 the noble Lord the Member for London, and took advantage of the simplicity of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. Overcome by the wiles of the necromancer, they assembled round the cauldron, and having muttered their incantations, there bubbled forth this muddy Resolution. The charm wound up, They whispered—When shall we three meet again?When the hurly-burly's done—When the battle's lost and won.But I want to know what the Resolution means; and if you, Sir, had not said that you would put the Resolution, I should most respectfully have asked for an explanation of its inscrutable bearing upon this question. Every Gentleman may talk about it, but it is only a preliminary Resolution proposed to be adopted before debate, without discussion and without argument. The noble Lord opposite tells us he is the hero of reform, and it may be he is right. He says it was your duty to bring in a Reform Bill." He should have added, "I feel it my duty to defeat it." "It was your duty to commit yourselves by adopting a principle twice confirmed by the House of Commons, and I will endeavour with the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, to defeat you by a subtle resolution before there can be any consideration of your Bill." An hon. Gentleman has given notice of a Motion of want of confidence in the Government. Let not the hon. Gentleman think that I object to that Motion. That is a thing intelligible, and it is direct. It is made in the spirit of an English gentleman. But this crotchety Resolution, I say, is intended to create controversy and avoid a discussion upon the Bill before us. If the Bill cannot be changed the Government can. Both the noble Lords the Member for London and the Member for Tiverton condemn the Bill for what it contains. The Resolution is aimed at the measure because it is silent upon a particular subject. I could understand a man proposing an Amendment to supply a defect in a Bill upon a particular subject, but to condemn a measure by abstract resolution for what it does not contain, is worthy of the eminent capacity of the noble Lord and of the Parliamentary logic by which that Resolution has been supported. Such is the statesmanship of the nineteenth century! The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton says there are two great principles he never could support asserted by the Bill, and condemned by the Resolution. Why, he never can 890 have read the Bill: the Resolution he did read carefully, and approved it. Now, what is the Resolution? What does it aim at? Observe the gloss put upon it by the right hon. Member for Wilts; according to him the first Resolution is aimed at the principle of uniformity of the franchise. Very good; but nobody has urged that very principle more distinctly than the noble mover of the Resolution; nobody has more distinctly expressed views directly opposite to the interpretation of the Member for Wilts. I can, with perfect safety, cite declarations by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), from which I can prove three things—first, that the noble Lord is an enemy of any large measure of Parliamentary Reform; secondly, that he approves a uniformity of the franchise; and, thirdly, that from his own expressed opinion this Bill must be a great blessing to the country. I will go for these conclusions to the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King), whose principles and arguments now receive rather a rough and unkind reception from his former friends. The noble Lord's (Lord J. Russell's) Resolution is aimed at the identity of the franchise in boroughs and counties; when the hon. Member for East Surrey brought forward his Motion the last time he made a convert—a rare thing to be made by a speech—of the noble Lord. I cannot object to what he said; he was giving counsel to the noble Member for Tiverton—and, when they do agree, their unanimity is wonderful. The noble Lord said, "For my part, I should think it imprudent "— the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is not likely to be imprudent in the way of reform—" I should think it very imprudent if it was the intention of the Government to disturb the Legislation and the public mind of the country by bringing in a large and comprehensive measure of reform." Now, in this sentence we have the true opinion of the noble Lord on the question of reform. If that is the case you will have no "comprehensive measure" from him. I need not repeat the argument of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Locke King) on that former occasion; but the House approved his Motion and his measure, and it reduced the county franchise precisely as it is proposed to reduce it in this Bill. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) continued to say:—"If we sincerely desire a Reform, the only course to be pursued is to adopt any measure that will effect a safe improvement whenever it is proposed. I 891 cannot but admit that the measure of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Locke King) is in itself such an improvement." And the noble Lord was not contented only with stating his opinion; he gave also his reason for it. He thought the proposal of the hon. Member (Mr. Locke King) an improvement; because, he said, generally a man holding a £10 house in the county was a man of more property and greater intelligence than the tenant of a house of the same value in a borough. The noble Lord further said:—"He therefore thought the change safe; and, as no one was likely to propose a large measure of Reform, he was of opinion the measure would tend to satisfy many persons who had some reason to complain of the existing state of things. He thought the measure would tend, not only to improve and consolidate their institutions, but to add to the stability of the representative system." But I may be told this does not affect the reduction of the borough franchise. Yes; but how does the argument stand on that point? The Motion of the Member for East Surrey left the borough franchise as it stood. If, therefore, it is unconstitutional and mischievous (I defy any three magicians to get the noble Lord out of this dilemma), and, contrary to sound policy, to reduce the county franchise and leave that of the boroughs untouched. This is precisely what the hon. Member for East Surrey proposed to do, and that scheme the noble Lord approved. But I do not say that that is the meaning which the noble Lord himself attaches to his Resolution, though the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire both affirm that they understood it to condemn a uniformity of franchise. I believe that the noble Lord intended this part of his Resolution to aim at what the Bill proposes to do with the 40s. freeholders in towns. I am willing to put that interpretation upon the Resolution as more suitable to the consistency of the noble Lord. And since that question has been brought up I would appeal to the common sense of hon. Gentlemen in this House what they think of this question of the freeholders? What the noble Lord says of the position of the £10 tenants in the country as compared with the £10 tenants living in towns is just as applicable to the case of the freeholders living in towns as compared with those in the country. Their position is different— their habits are different—their modes of 892 thought are different; and, therefore, I submit that there could be no argument used more emphatic than that which the noble Lord himself has used on the question. But the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton says he will not go into the abstract question. It is very good in the noble Lord to say so; but I ask the House, are we seeking to go into abstract discussion? What are we seeking for, but for an opportunity to discuss the provisions of the Bill. I contend that reason, principle, and precedent are all with us. The ancient principle of the constitution was, that every man should vote in his own locality. Any man who will look into the statutes of Henry VI. will see that it was so then, and in fact the law was not changed till the time of George II. As for this uniformity of franchise which the noble Lord now argues against, has he forgotten that his own Reform Bill of 1832 cut down every variety of franchise throughout England? The noble Lord then distinctly declared that is was necessary to remove every variety of franchise, and to have one uniform franchise, uniting what he called the respectability of the country with the property of the country. That was the noble Lords' argument when he abolished the potwallopers and other kindred franchises throughout the country; and now the noble Lord stands up in this House and says it is unfortunate that there is not a variety of franchises. Why, the noble Lord was himself the author of that uniformity he deplores. In the last Irish Reform Act there is a clause which expressly forbids every man who has property in the city from voting for the county. I therefore say, that in point of antiquity, principle, and common sense, there is nothing unreasonable in requiring a man to vote in the locality where his property is situated. What injury is thereby done him. I am amazed at the attempts that have been made to delude the House upon this subject, as if it were a case of disfranchisement. Every man who has a vote now will retain it for the term of his natural life; and every freeholder will be entitled at all times to his vote, and if he be a freeholder and an occupant he will be entitled to vote for both borough and county as long as he lives. But it is said to be unreasonable that when he dies the franchise of his heirs should be taken away. And this comes from the supporter of a Minister who disfranchised 250,000 freeholders in Ireland. That was the strongest measure that was ever carried 893 by the British Parliament, but it was carried with respect to Ireland, on the principle I suppose, experimentum fiat vili corpore. The rights of these men were taken away though they had committed no crime, except that of voting according to their consciences. They were taken away by a British Minister supported by the noble Lord, and now the noble Lord stands up in this House and says it is unconstitutional—not to destroy, for that we don't propose—but to regulate and transfer the votes of these 40s. freeholders. And now for the duty of the noble Lord. We have got a lecture upon our duty to-night from the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and we had one on a former night from one who always commands the respect and attention of this House by the ability, the calmness, and the moderation with which he always states his views—I mean the hon. and gallant Member for Dovor. The hon. Member says it is presumption to inquire into the motives with which this Motion has been brought forward. Why who supposes that any man of common sense would get up in this House and not address himself to the question of motives? I intend to do it directly, but first let me say a word to the noble Lord. The noble Lord is a lover of Parliamentary Reform. He has upheld the principle of this Bill, and will the House believe it, he has said it would add 390,000 to the county constituency of England. That is his own computation. He upholds it, approves it, and votes for it; yet when a measure is brought in of which this is the fundamental provision, he catches at another clause in the Bill, and makes it the foundation of this muddy Resolution and the ground of objection to the whole Bill. The noble Lord is the parent of Reform. He has Bills of all sorts, shapes, sizes, dates and dimensions. Did you observe the zeal of the noble Lord on the bankrupt law? Oh! the Government must not carry their Bankrupt Bill, but he would first bring in his, and place it side by side with theirs. Through zeal for the public the noble Lord could show how well he could prepare a useful Bill upon a matter connected with the business of life, lay it on the table side by side with the Government Bill, and take the sense of the House of Commons upon it. But upon the question of Parliamentary Reform the parent of Reform has produced no Bill, nor has he acted with equal zeal and candour in the public service. Nay, more, I will defy any man to tell me from 894 his speech what are his opinions upon the subject, or what he means to give to those earnest and enthusiastic Reformers whom he expects to support him on this occasion; though we can all very well guess what the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, who appears to-night in the new character of a Parliamentary Reformer, may do if he be installed in office. We know what he did before, and no doubt he will be prepared to do the same again. The noble Lord the Member for London has spoken of the Earl of Derby as a second edition of Oliver Cromwell, and he says that no Parliament ever sat except in the time of Oliver Cromwell which was not elected by the 40s. freeholders. Now, if the noble Lord refers to history, he will find that that Parliament was a well chosen Parliament, according to the opinion of Hume, of Clarendon, and of the Whig historian Hallam, and that it has also the eulogium of that still more distinguished Whig, Lord Macaulay, for doing the very thing to which the noble Lord objects, excluding from the right to elect Members of Parliament persons not possessed of sufficient substance, introducing personal property as a qualification for the franchise, which this Bill does, and giving to the principal towns of England, such as Leeds, Manchester, and Halifax, the right to send Members to Parliament, upon which principle too this Bill is founded. Does not Lord Macaulay say that the principle of Mr. Pitt's great measure rested on the principle of that very scheme of the great Protector — not that I admire Cromwell, because he was a usurper and a tyrant—but Mr. Pitt was not a Whig, though he advocated that reform twice or thrice over; and I should like to know from the noble Lord and those who are pleased to cast upon us the desire to support every abuse and reject every remedy and reform, whether, according to the true principle of Conservative policy, Gentlemen, sitting on this side of the House are not as well entitled to bring in a measure of Parliamentary Reform, and to carry it too, as the noble Lord himself, provided it be just, expedient, and useful? What are the grounds upon which this Bill is not to be considered? Why, the noble Lord has admitted that the adoption of the principle of the Bill would add 390,000 to the existing constituencies; but then a computation has been made of what may occur hereafter; and it is said that there may be a reduction in the borough freehold franchise of from 45,000 to 50,000. At which 895 side, however, lies the balance? Why, clearly in favour of the public. I have received a letter from a gentleman, resident in the great metropolitan district of Marylebone, in which it is most distinctly stated, that if the lodger franchise is made £15, two-thirds of the artisans of that district will have votes. The noble Lord can ascertain for himself whether it is true or false. I, of course, cannot speak positively upon the subject; but if this be the fact, how can any man argue that this Bill does not deserve consideration? Moreover, I contend that the admission of the principle of personal property is wise and just; and that, too, is asserted by this Bill. It must admit, it cannot fail to admit, many thousands. Therefore, the benefit lies on the side of the public. But it is asked, "What do you do for the working classes?" The noble Lord would admit a few well-conducted, capable, worthy men — and very few they would be, I have no doubt. Another noble Lord who sits opposite (Lord Bury) would admit them en masse, as I understood him to say. He said, "We must remove the ban from the working classes." The hon. Member for Oldham described the working classes as serfs, and called upon the House to admit them at once. Whilst the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax said more cautiously that he would admit them to a certain extent. Now, I conceive that what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Crossley) said, is deserving of most consideration; first, because I believe him to be a friend of the working classes; secondly, because he did not speak unkindly towards Her Majesty's Government; and thirdly, because what he said was reasonable in itself. What he said was, that he would be satisfied to admit a fair proportion of the working classes. Now, my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies has been taunted with having said that he would exclude the working classes. But he has done nothing of the sort. All he said was, "Do not inflame expectation that you do not mean to satisfy. Do not raise hopes that will be disappointed. Do not lead these honest men to believe that they are to get votes in the mass, when you know that no such measure can be carried." He never said or attempted to say that he nailed the colours of "Resistance" and "No Surrender" to the mast, and would yield nothing to the working classes. Sir, I say that that was an unjust mode of argument; for the Bill is lying upon the table, and proves of itself that the inclina- 896 tion is to admit the working classes. Aye, and we know that it will have the effect of admitting them in large numbers [" No, no," from the Opposition.] I say "yes, yes." I say that a rent of £15 a year in London must admit the great bulk of the skilled artisans who have not houses of their own. And that I assert according to the best of our information. But you have never yet produced the Bill that admitted any: on the contrary, you call upon the House to refuse even the discussion of the clauses which must admit a fair proportion of them to the possession of the franchise; to refuse to the Government the opportunity of asking the House to consider, to amend, to improve, and if the House in its wisdom think fit to pass the clauses which relate to savings' banks and to lodging occupation, and other clauses in favour of the working classes. I submit to the House, therefore, that on that portion of the question justice and equity are clearly with the Government, and as clearly against those who, affecting to be the friends of the working classes, prevent the discussion and stifle the investigation of the very principles by which they ought to be admitted. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University, from whom it gives me deep pain on any subject to differ, has, I understand, given an opinion that a reduction of the franchise from£20 to£10 in counties would be equally dangerous and unconstitutional; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford City (Mr. Cardwell) has stated to-night that if it were carried it would be fatal to freedom in this country. No more freedom in England, said the right hon. Gentleman, if the £10 vote for the county be agreed to. Uniformity in the franchise for borough and counties will be fatal to liberty. Variety of suffrage is essential for the maintenance of freedom. Now, really is there any sense in that? If the right hon. Gentleman becomes, on such a principle as that, a leader in this House, and can so argue and convince the understanding of reasonable men, of course I cannot gainsay it? But what does it mean? Dangerous to freedom! Upon what principle? How can the fact that a man lives in a county and pays £10 a year rent, shake the pillars of the constitution? The right hon. Gentleman proved it by nothing. Let the right hon. Gentleman read the parliamentary debates upon the old Reform Bill, and from the arguments of the hereditary Whigs themselves, to whom he has 897 lately attached himself, he will find that they abolished every variety of franchise in towns, and that there was nothing which they so much insisted upon as uniformity of franchise; and I cannot comprehend how an individual, by stepping from one side of the street to the other, being on one side in the county and on the other in the borough, could shake and endanger the British constitution, if he be allowed to vote on one side as well as the other. Perhaps he will give us an essay on that subject, which, being more elaborately composed, will be more easily comprehended by our understanding. I ask the House whether they believe that if the Government had introduced a Bill framed upon the principle of a £20 franchise for the counties, it would not have been attacked by noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite? The principle of a £10 county franchise had been twice affirmed by the House of Commons, and I ask you whether it is likely that any measure in which it was not embodied could now have any chance of being carried? The noble Lord the Member for London complained, in the course of his speech, that three distinguished persons, two of whom have seats in this House, had expressed themselves very unequivocally against his Resolution. Now, I must say that the very fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, whose attachment to the cause of reform is not doubtful, proclaimed his condemnation of that Resolution, ought to convince the noble Lord of its true character. And again, the fact that a noble Earl (Earl Grey, we believe), who possesses hereditary claims to the respect of Reformers, had expressed his unequivocal disapprobation of the Resolution, ought not to have brought down upon him the censure of the noble Lord. The right hon. Member for Stroud made a speech which hon. Gentlemen on his own side have much carped at. It was, indeed, open to one objection; it was, every word of it, strictly and literally true [Cheers and a laugh]. The hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster laughs. He has a right to do so; although it might be as well if he would favour us with his thoughts in articulate language. The right hon. Member for Stroud gave us his opinions on this question with a courage, a fairness, and an honesty with, after the memory of this debate shall have faded, will always redound to his credit as a public man. He said,—and I defy any man to contradict him—that, comparing this Bill with the 898 two unsuccessful Bills introduced by the noble Lord the Member for London, they equally deserved to have been met with an adverse preliminary resolution as the one before the House. Who denies, he asked, that the Bill may be amended? Almost the only practical question between us is, as to what is to be done with the future generations of borough freeholders, because all existing rights are to be preserved; the present double votes will be left untouched. I admit that the Government's proposal is, that votes shall hereafter be given according to the locality of the elector. That is a fair subject for argument, and on whichever side the balance of proof may lie, let it receive a calm and candid consideration. But the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, however amicably intended, was not calculated to soothe those who sit on this side of the House. I think I can give a plain and emphatic answer to his artful suggestion that the Resolution is not designed to affect either the Ministry or their Bill. "That," said he, with all his characteristic bland-ness, "is the last thing in the minds of those who approve this Resolution. Do you take back your Bill. I had some thoughts of opposing the second reading, but I am now in favour of a preliminary Resolution. I know you will amend your Bill and hold your places." I answer that the Government will never take back the Bill with this offensive Resolution. Observe the style of the noble Lord's address —partly patronizing, partly compassionate, and in his wonted manner blending some pleasant things with his blame. He knows by experience what it is to have a critical Resolution impending over the head of a Ministry, and understands what is likely to happen in the event of its being carried. Wishing to stand before the House and the country wrapped in the mantle of disinterested candour, he tells us the Resolution means nothing, was never intended to do us the slightest injury; that it cannot and ought not to affect this Bill, which should be proceeded with after it has passed precisely as it would have been before it. This is the advice he gives to a body of English gentlemen, who answer him that the decision on the Resolution will decide the fate of the Bill. The noble Lord is convinced the Resolution will be carried by a majority. Who gave him authority to speak for the House of Commons? Is he quite sure that he has yet recovered its confidence? He taunts us with our being 899 in a minority, and reminds us how merciful he has been to us—how we have always existed on sufferance, and ought to be thankful for his grace and favour. Sir, we owe the noble Lord nothing. Even with his great majority his Ministry had not the wisdom and ability to preserve his power; and when he flings it in the teeth of the minority, that they are possessed of office without power, he was, perhaps, not aware that he pronounced the severest though indirect censure upon the respectable but antiquated Cabinet of which he was the chief. One could hardly preserve the gravity suitable to the subject when the noble Lord told us that a pressure of business and a hurry of affairs had prevented him from bringing in a Reform Bill. He thinks we have not learned his true character before this time. He appeals to the enthusiastic Reformers, "Did I not intend to produce a Bill?" That was to be found in nubibus, if there—it rested only in the imagination of the noble Lord, like every other measure of a practical nature, for his Ministry did not leave a shred of paper behind them. Then he turns round to his successors and tells them they have done their best for Parliamentary Reform, but that they should take back their Bill that they might make it a respectable measure. Yet he couples his advice with this offensive Resolution, with the intention of spoiling this very Bill; for it is impossible that any Ministry could accept such a Resolution as a compliment and sit down to amend the Bill as it dictates. But the Resolution is vague and indefinite; it pledges the noble Lord to nothing, and when he accedes to power, and is called on by the honest Radicals who have supported him to redeem his pledge, he will be able to answer that he made none, for this Resolution was framed purposely to prevent him from standing committed. It says nothing about the ballot, nothing definitely about Parliamentary Reform. The personal experience of the noble Viscount offers the best argument against the necessity of any organic change. The present Parliament gave the noble Lord a majority, and almost as soon as it assembled it asserted its independence by voting him out of office when he had failed in upholding the national honour. When Mr. Pitt, in the presence of Lord North, argued in favour of Parliamentary Reform, that distinguished Gentleman answered: "I was the creature of Parliament in my rise; when I fell I was its victim. I 900 came among you without connections; it is here I was first known; you raised me up, and you pulled me down. My history shows the potent influence of the public voice." Did not this prove the power of public opinion over the Legislature and the Ministry, and show that a due effect could be given to it without the necessity of any great organic change? This House of Commons may require to be invigorated by the votes of a greater number of electors, but my conscientious opinion is, that its very conduct in respect to the Minister who has just spoken is the strongest, clearest, and most decisive proof that there is no necessity for any larger measure of Parliamentary Reform than that which has been proposed by the present Ministry. The noble Lord touched upon another point which I cannot pass by in silence. He said he had read in public prints, and had heard it stated, that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was necessary to the community, that he had always had a very respectable opinion of that respectable nobleman, but that he did not believe that anybody could be the dupe of such a delusion. Now, I agree with the noble Lord that England is independent of any particular Minister. I admit that Lord Malmesbury's presence in or absence from the Foreign Office could not decide the fate or fortunes of this empire; but, with deference to the noble Lord, it is a very different question what the policy of the Foreign Office is. There is not a Gentleman who sits on those benches, there is not a man of capital, or enterprise, or industry, there is not an honest artisan who is not interested in that question. The noble Lord who sits there (pointing to Lord Palmerston) is a distinguished Statesman. I impute no unworthy motive to him; but does any man doubt that he has been the author of all the present confusion in Europe. Since the noble Lord the Member for the City made that rather sneering observation about Lord Malmesbury and the Foreign Office, I have revived my recollections upon the subject of Italy. Who is the cause of the confusion which exists there? The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. ["No, no!" and cheers.] I mean this: when in the year 184S the Austrian Government offered to the noble Lord, and the British Minister urged him to accept the offer of the independence of Lombardy—[Sir J. SHELLEY: No, no!] The independence of Lombardy—I repeat it—when Lord Ponsonby 901 urged upon the noble Lord to accept the most magnificent offer that ever was made by a great military Power, namely, the independence of Lombardy, and a separate administration for Venice under the control of the Austrian Government, the noble Lord, I believe acting for the best—I do not impute to him anything but a total want of judgment — rejected that offer. When that noble person advised the noble Lord to take what he could get, and besought him to accept the great offer which he conceived would be productive of eminent advantage to the country, the noble Lord declined to do so, and I cannot help thinking that in the despatch of Lord Ponsonby there are a few words which may be instructive to us with reference to this question of Reform. They are these:—I have reason to know that others as well as the late Ministers arcs prepared to approve of a peace based upon the line of the Adige being-adopted. Your Lordship has disapproved of the terms, but I believe that the terms of which you approve are unattainable, and will continue to be so until the Austrians shall be defeated. I have several times impressed upon your Lordship that such is the fact, and I now take the liberty to bring the matter again under your notice, that I may know how to act, Your Lordship has yet time to produce some good.The noble Lord refused that offer, the sword was drawn, Radetzki changed the fortunes of the war, and when the noble Lord wrote his next despatch, and said that he was willing to accept the terms which had been proposed, the Austrian Minister said, "You speak too late, blood has been shed, and you cannot expect after victory what you might have got in the hour of defeat." I cannot think that the noble Lord the Member for the City was wise in touching upon foreign affairs or foreign policy, and treating it as he did as a matter of small amount, of no consequence what policy was to be pursued at the Foreign Office; after your incomprehensible policy in reference to Naples, after your incomprehensible policy in reference to Belgium, to say suddenly to the House of Commons, "Change the Ministry; change the foreign policy of the country; introduce at a most critical time—at a most critical moment of a most critical negotiation, a new Minister "—and do it, why? I put it to the noble Lord himself, to his better and sounder judgment—because you have made no provision for the posterity of the 40s. freeholders. True, there is upon the table an Amendment saving the rights 902 of existing freeholders, it is only a question of the right of their children and grandchildren; but in order to assert that principle the noble Lord is ready to be the parent of any amount of political confusion that may occur in Europe. I have, I hope, answered the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton directly and explicitly. He cannot say that he misunderstands the answer which I have given him. In reply to the advice which he has tendered to the Ministry, to accept tills Resolution and take back the Bill, the Ministry answer, they will not accept the Resolution and take back the Bill. Therefore there can be no mistake upon that subject. The argument has been partially opened upon the subject of this great debate. The House of Commons has before it the issue which has been raised. I believe that there always is to be found in this House an impartial jury. We have found that to be the case on many great occasions ever since this Ministry came into office. If the Ministry has misconducted itself, then the Motion of the hon. Member for Beaumaris (Mr. O. Stanley) is a manly one. With that Motion, of course, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton has nothing to do, though it accidentally happens that it is brought forward by the relative of a fate Cabinet Minister. That is a manly Motion, its object is to impeach the conduct of the Ministry while they have been in office. You will be the judges whether that impeachment is well founded. I have no doubt that when that Motion is made the decision upon it will be one consistent with the character of the House of Commons, and worthy of men who have since the hour of their election maintained the independence of this senate, and asserted upon more than one occasion against the very Minister who chose them that which it was their duty to assert, the interest of their country. The noble Lord says that he has no doubt what the result of this debate will be. I cannot presume to imitate his language. It is for you to say where the truth of this question lies, and to give that, decision upon it which the interests of your country imperatively demand.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Perhaps, Sir, before the debate closes, I may be allowed to say one word with respect to the communication which the Minister of Austria made with regard to Lombardy at the time referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside). The mission of M. Ovellard was not for the 903 purpose of erecting Lombardy into an independent kingdom, but into a separate State under the protection of the Austrian Empire, and ruled by an Austrian Archduke.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.
§ House adjourned at One o'clock till Monday next.