§ ADJOURNED DEBATE.—FIFTH SIGHT.
Order read, for resuming Adjourned De-hate 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. EDWIN JAMES
said, he rose to state briefly the reasons why he should support the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. It was a very remarkable feature of this debate that not a single Member unconnected with the Treasury Bench had addressed the House who had not, to use the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, condemned, "wholesale and retail," the vital and substantial principles of the measure. The Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, was directed against the three main principles of the Bill. It asked the House to affirm that the enfranchisement contemplated by the Bill was unsatisfactory and inadequate; that the proposed disfranchisement was unjust and a violation of the ancient constitutional franchises of the country; and that the non-extension of the franchise in boroughs doomed to disappointment a large and intelligent class of the community. How had the Resolution been met? it had not been debated merely upon its merits, but the hon. and learned Solicitor General, departing from the ordinary practice of Parliament, had thought it right to impute personal motives to its author. The country had been warned by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies against Americanizing the House of Commons; but he thought that no more effectual mode of Americanizing the debates of that House could be adopted than that of introducing personal attacks into so grave and important a discussion as the present. When the hon. and learned Solicitor General rose on Friday to repel an insinuation made against him by the hon. Member for Dovor, showing that he was rather thin-skinned himself on the subject of personal attacks, he (Mr. Edwin James) certainly 917 expected that be would express some apology for an imputation of motives inconsistent with the rules of that House, and which every one who knew the position and character of the noble Lord felt to be entirely unmerited. But, to pass from that point, he wished to enter his protest against the publication of a letter written by Earl Grey to the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) on the subject of the present Bill; because he (Mr. Edwin James) thought there could be no course more inconvenient than that upon the eve of a great debate in the House of Commons, a noble Lord, not reserving the expression of his opinions for the proper place and opportunity, should address a letter to a representative of the people in that House, which not merely suggested to him how to vote, but which told him that it might be made public for the purpose of influencing the votes of others, and which almost imputed factious motives to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. That was a practice which was highly inconvenient. If the letter of Earl Grey had been written to any constituency, or any elector pending an election, it would have been an infraction of the Resolution which that House passed in 1802, declaring that no Peer should concern himself in an election; and, even as it was, he regarded it as a highly inconvenient and objectionable interference with the proceedings of the House of Commons. Lord Grey had written an Essay on Parliamentary Government, and while in his letter he suggested that the Government were the proper parties to introduce a Reform Bill, in his pamphlet he said that the only Government which could safely introduce a measure of reform, or any great constitutional change, was a strong Government, and not one existing only on the sufferance of a majority; and in the same work he quoted a speech made by Lord Derby in the House of Lords on the 8th of February, 1855, on the position of a Government existing upon a minority—existing, in fact, from the want of cohesion among the Liberal party.My Lords, I can conceive no object of higher or nobler ambition, none more worthy of the anxiety of a true patriot and lover of his country, than to stand in the high and honourable position of the Chief Minister of the Crown and leader of the councils of this great Empire, assisted and supported by colleagues combined with him by unity of sentiment and mutual and personal respect, and with the knowledge that this and the other House of Parliament would give to such a Minister the assurance that, except on most ex- 918 traordinary and unusual occasions, he would be enabled with life and energy to carry out his plans, and to mature and accomplish his objects, and practically as well as nominally control and govern the legislation and internal economy of this great country. On the other hand, to hold that high and responsible situation dependent for support from day to day upon precarious and uncertain majorities, compelled to cut down this measure, and to pare off that—to consider with regard to each measure not what was for the real welfare of the country, but what would conciliate some half-dozen men here, or obviate the objections of some half-dozen there—to regard it as a great triumph of Parliamentary skill and Ministerial strength to scramble through the Session of Parliament, and to boast of having met with few and insignificant defeats—I say this is a state of things which cannot be satisfactory to any Minister, and which cannot be of advantage to the Grown, or to the people of this country. But, my Lords, to enter on the duties of office, not with a precarious majority, but with a sure minority of the other House of Parliament—to be aware that from day to day you were liable to defeats at any moment by the combination of parties amounting to a sure majority and only waiting for the moment when it would be most convenient to introduce Motions for the attainment of such an end; to be a Minister on sufferance; to hold such a position without any security for enforcing your own views; with the fear of exposing your own friends and the country—your friends to perpetual mortification, and the country to constant disappointment—to undertake the responsibilities and the duties of office under such circumstances, and in such a state of things, would be such an intolerable and galling servitude as no man of honour or character would voluntarily expose himself to, and such as no man willingly would submit to, except from motives of the purest patriotism, and on proof of the absolute necessity of such self-sacrifice."—[3 Hansard, exxxvi. 1336.]There never, in truth, was anything so prophetic as the speech of Lord Derby in 1855 which spoke among other things of the necessity of unanimity in the Cabinet. It was a political photograph of the present state of the Government. So far from being unanimous, two Ministers had recently left the Cabinet, and the country had learned from their revelations that up to a few days before the introduction of the present Bill, there was no unanimity whatever in the Government upon its principal provisions. The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), seemed to sit like Marius, looking down upon the ruins of the Administration which he had abandoned, and wondering how, during the death-struggles of his former colleagues, they could persist in attempting to thrust their Bill upon the House and the country. No better illustration of the weakness of the Government, and their unfitness to pass a Reform Bill could be found than the surprising 919 speech of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton on Friday night. The noble Lord told the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that they would be defeated ignominiously on this Resolution, but that nevertheless they must proceed with the Bill; and he went on to say that they should carry out the Bill, not upon any definite principles of their own, but as the Committee chose to alter it; that it should still bear their name and responsibility, though it might come out of Committee utterly at variance with the Bill they had introduced; that they had accepted office "with its engagements;" that they would be defaulters if they did not go on; that they would not be allowed either to resign or to dissolve; for that if they attempted the latter they would be met constitutionally in reference to the supplies. No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give a proper reply to the noble Lord, but the scene of Friday night completely realized what Lord Derby shadowed forth in 1855; and that Government must indeed be weak which could listen to such parental advice. But it was a proof of their imbecility that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton dared to propose to put a straitwaistcoat upon Ministers, and to expose them, pinioned and helpless, to the derision of the House and the country. Again, the right hon. and learned Member for Bute (Mr. Stuart Wortley) used a rather extraordinary argument against the Resolution when he said that those who voted for it would be guilty of disrespect to the Crown, although he himself had given notice of a Resolution directed against the very same points in the Bill as those which had excited the hostility of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London; and although the consideration of Reform had been recommended in the Speech from the Throne. Neither Resolution was disrespectful to the Crown, but certainly that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was as much so as the one now before the House. What was the difference between voting to reject the Bill and voting against it by means of an Amendment? But to pass to the examination of the question immediately before the House—the merits of the Bill and the objections to which it was open. What were the two great principles on which the franchise of this country had always rested? The county franchise rested upon property and territorial right, disconnected from residence; and the borough franchise had invariably 920 been residential. This was the ruling distinction between the two. The residential franchise was the original distinctive franchise of boroughs ever since Parliament began. It was so in ancient boroughs—in the municipia, which were borrowed from Italy, introduced into this country, and formed the safeguard and bulwark of the liberties of the people against the aggressions of the aristocracy and the Crown; and the Parliamentary franchise of boroughs, adopting the same principle, had invariably rested on residence. The second portion of the Resolution was directed against the violation of that principle, the Bill introducing a non-residential suffrage into all the boroughs of the kingdom. He perfectly agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that mere population should not be the basis of the representation of this country, and that interests should be coupled with population; but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman wandered into a fallacy, because the moment there was an aggregation of numbers—when 20,000, or 30,000, or 40,000 inhabitants were collected in a town, interests were immediately created. You could not have a large population without manufacturing, commercial, and other interests arising. It was the old principle of borough representation, because the old writs went down to boroughs to summon Members when their population and trade increased, an interest being recognized as created by the aggregation and accumulation of numbers. He must say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a little infelicitous in the illustration of what was an interest when he alluded to the borough of Arundel, and said that the in terests of 900,000 English Roman Catholics were represented by the Member for that place. The 900,000 English Roman Catholics who were supposed to find a representative at Arundel had their votes elsewhere in the various towns and boroughs in England. Arundel, no doubt, was represented by a noble Lord for whom they all felt the sincerest respect; but Arundel was little else than a nomination and close borough. He regretted that there were not more Members of that persuasion representing English constituencies, and that any feeling should exist which debarred men of the highest intellect and character from having seats in that House; but when the right hon. Gentleman said that Arundel represented the 900,000 Roman Catholics of England, his 921 illustration was not happy and his statement was not accurate. He (Mr. Edwin James) would remind the House that from 1826 to 1832 Arundel was represented by a citizen "of credit and renown," Alderman Atkins—a most rabid Tory, who no doubt, believed that he would have done God service if he had burned all the Roman Catholics, and who, until the last moment of his life, had a solemn fear that the Roman Catholics intended to burn him. Therefore it was a fallacy to say that the Roman Catholic interest was represented by Arundel. Why, it might just as well be said that the small borough of Calne formerly represented the literary interest while its Member was Lord Macaulay, and embodied the military interest now because it had selected at, the suggestion of a noble Marquess, a distinguished soldier fresh from the glories of Kars. Sure he was that the voters of Calne would be very much surprised if the agent of the noble Marquess who was supposed to influence the choice of that place were to tell them that to-day they represented the military interest, and that the other day they represented the literary interest. There was a portion of the present Bill which he did not regard as matter of mere detail, but essentially one of principle. He alluded to the provision respecting voting papers. The voting papers were an essential part of any scheme which embraced a large number of non-residential voters. The introduction of the words "lands and tenements" was a cunning device to extend this class of voters; for under this definition it would not be necessary to have a house at all, for a piece of land with a cow-house or pig-sty would be sufficient, and he believed that it had been decided that a piece of wall, against which the cows rubbed themselves, was a ''tenement." The plan of voting-papers was a necessary complement to any such scheme of nonresident voters. This was not a mere matter of detail, but an essential principle of the Bill, which, so far from being a sincere Reform Bill, was nothing but a Bill of political retaliation. It was a Bill to give property more power by introducing into all the boroughs of England non-residential voters, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked of the manufacture of votes he (Mr. Edwin James) predicted that, if the Bill passed, a vote factory would be immediately constituted for the manufacture of non-resident voters. The Attorney General for Ireland said that 922 by the lodging-house and other provisions Marylebone obtained an addition of 15,000 voters. So would many other large constituencies on the one hand gain an addition of voters; but, on the other hand, there came the counterpoise, and a number of foreign voters, aided by the system of voting papers, would endeavour to return the Members for Marylebone and the Tower Hamlets. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to draw an analogy between the voting papers in the Bill and the voting papers for guardians; but there was this distinction—that all the voting for guardians was carried on locally. The voter got the paper six or seven days before the day of voting; the police brought them to the House with the names of the candidates printed on them. But in the election for Members of Parliament the name of the candidate very frequently was not known until the day of nomination, and the polling commenced on the day following. He called on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge to show any provision in the Bill to remedy this defect. The voting papers under the Bill would form a mere machine for fraud and bribery and intimidation. A person intending to bribe might go to a voter and purchase his voting paper with the candidate's name on it, and then he had got the elector's vote snugly in his pocket; whereas at present a voter who was bribed might at the last moment break his promise. The system of bribery, therefore, would be rendered more complete under the Bill. He also contended that the voting papers would encourage intimidation, for a voter with the election agent on one side and his landlord on the other, and a third gentleman interested in the borough present, would hardly dare to refuse to sign the voting paper as he was desired. That this would lead to intimidation was the opinion of the noble Lord the Secretary for India, because in 1857, on the Motion of the noble Lord, the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil), in favour of these voting papers, the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) said, "When I pass from this part of the question to the danger of intimidation, that danger would be infinitely exaggerated by carrying out the proposition of my noble Friend. What would be easier than to send an agent of a landlord or employer to the voter, who would insist upon his signing the voting paper in his presence. Even if he transmitted it through the post, it would not prevent this intimi- 923 dation." Again, only a few days since a Bill was submitted to that House relating to municipal corporations, which provided that the system of voting by paper at municipal elections should no longer be continued, because it was attended with fraud. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), assented to the repeal of that system, although at the Hustings in Wilts he defended the use of voting papers at Parliamentary elections. The system of voting-papers was not a mere matter of detail, because as soon as they had non-resident voters they would have votes fabricated and brought into boroughs to counterpoise, as it had been fairly put, the interests of the boroughs themselves as against the mere interests of property. The system of voting papers was an essential part of the present scheme. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), seemed quite enamoured of that system; but he trusted that when the right hon. Gentleman had considered the arguments against the plan he would be satisfied that voting papers were not only utterly impracticable, but that they afforded a ready machinery for fraud and intimidation. The right hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Stuart Wortley) alluding to the subject of voting papers, had said, "Take the case of Marylebone; look at the number of voters who were unpolled; why, if you had had voting papers, the retired tradesman who did not vote under the existing system would have had recourse to them and would have recorded his vote." Now, would the retired tradesman of Marylebone, or any other borough, who would not be at the trouble to step out of an omnibus on his way to the city to record his vote, take the trouble of sending for a voting paper, of calling in two householders, and—as the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had suggested, as if to make the matter more complicated—of obtaining the attendance of a magistrate to witness the filling up of his paper? Let them imagine whether a drowsy voter of Marylebone who would not take the trouble to record his vote at the poll, would take the trouble of going in a cab to find the nearest police magistrate to authenticate his signature and then of transmitting it through the Post Office? Why, the system of getting voting papers properly signed and authenticated in this manner would be infinitely more troublesome than going to 924 the poll. The other main principle of the Bill against which the Resolution of the noble Member for the City of London was directed was the great and vital question of the non-extension of the franchise. The hon. Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) selected as an example the borough of Marylebone, which he would persist in calling "Marrowbone." He (Mr. James) had no objection to that pronunciation, but it was one which grated a little harshly upon a metropolitan car. "Why," said that hon. Gentleman, "the industrial masses do not require an extension of the suffrage. Take the case of ' Marrowbone' at the last election, where, out of 21,000 electors, only 11,000 polled." [An hon. MEMBER: Ten thousand!] Well, 10,000, or 9,000 it was immaterial; but who were the voters who polled? The charge against the constituency of that borough and himself was that a rampant democracy had returned a democratic Member. Now, he had taken the trouble, as far as it was possible, to go through the polling list at the late election, and he found that the persons who exercised the franchise were the industrial classes and the small tradesmen, while the apathetic voters were what he might call the aristocracy or the moneyocracy of the borough. The apathetic class, then, was not the working class, but those who were in possession of the suffrage, and did not think it worth while to exercise it, and that argument, therefore, fell to the ground. Scarcely any hon. Member had addressed the House who had not been favourable to a considerable extension of the franchise. The two right hon. Gentlemen who had left the Government were both in favour of an extension of the franchise. Indeed almost the only speakers who wore not in favour of a large extension of the franchise were the right hon. the Attorney General for Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The latter right hon. Gentleman said, "Are you going to extend the franchise to impatient poverty and an instructed numbers? They do not want it. It will be dangerous to do so. "The right hon. Baronet forewarned them of the danger of democracy, and of giving the industrial classes equal power with the middle classes of the country; and in a speech of great eloquence, which no doubt charmed the House, the rig-lit hon. Gentleman foreshadowed the danger which would result from the extension of the franchise to what, he called "unin- 925 structed numbers," and quoted a passage from Mirabeau's correspondence with the Count de la Marck, which, with all respect for the historical knowledge of the light hon. Baronet, had no great bearing upon this question. It was perfectly true that the aristocracy of France, had they remained, might have tempered the excesses of the French Revolution and preserved the Crown. But it was not democracy that destroyed the aristocracy of France, but it was the aristocracy of Franco who destroyed themselves. The aristocracy had for many years been guilty of the wildest excesses, and when the people rose, and the mighty volcano burst forth, a sudden retribution fell upon them, and instead of standing their ground faithfully by the Crown, they fled and left the Crown exposed to the storm. After the testimony which had been eloquently borne by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the progress of education in this country since the Reform Bill of 1832, he (Mr. E. James) ventured to deny that there was any parallel between the working classes of England and the freed serfs of France, or that the French Revolution warned them of any danger to be apprehended from the extension of the franchise to the industrial classes. He thought the advice that they should not extend the franchise to" uninstructed numbers" came with somewhat ill grace from the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Colonies. How had they been treating the working classes since 1832? Had not dukes, and statesmen, and poets, and painters been lecturing to them, holding out to them the truths of science, cultivating their taste, and improving their intellect? And were they so blind as to think that while they were instructing the working classes upon these important subjects they were not teaching them their political rights, and attaching them to the exercise of political power? Why, the works of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies, which had added a new charm and lustre to the literature of the world, were now to be found in every cottage, in a cheapened form of publication. The right hon. Baronet had taught them in his England and the English that the safety of the country depended upon the political advancement of the people,—he had found them capable of understanding the mysteries of Eugene Aram, and be had put before them and bad re-peopled to their imagination the ancient cities of Greece 926 and Rome. Did the right hon. Gentleman believe, when the people had been educated in this way, that the "uninstructed numbers" were incapable of forming an opinion as to whether they should vote for a Conservative or a Liberal Member? He confessed that he thought such an argument ill became the right hon. Baronet, as he well knew that since 1832 every town had its mechanics' institute, almost every distant hamlet had its library, and not only had lecturers been hired to instruct the people in their political rights, but a struggle had been maintained among those of the highest position and attainments as to who, by lecturing to them, should cultivate their tastes or inform their judgments. "But," said the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the Colonies, "who wants reform? Nobody wants it. Some persons whispered to me ' Let us have a very moderate Reform Bill.' There is apathy on that subject; there are no petitions; the country does not care a farthing about reform." That was the sort of argument with which reform was always met. If they wore to have a political hurricane, as was the case in 1831—which Heaven forbid!—then the argument would be "Don't give way to the demands of the people now; they are in a state of too much excitement to undertake the subject;" but if the people were intelligent, patient, peace-loving, as they were at this moment, then it was said "Look at the apathy that exists about reform." He must warn the Government, however, not to mistake tranquillity for torpor, nor calmness for apathy. It was said that few petitions were presented to that House in favour of Reform. It was true that the House was not beseiged with petitions as was the case in 1832; and why? Because the state of circumstances was widely different—because the large manufacturing districts, such as Huddersfield, Leeds, Barnsley, Manchester, and Ashton, now had representatives in that House who expressed the views and wishes of the people much more intelligibly than could be done by petitions. The argument, therefore, that few petitions wore presented on the subject was destitute of force. He did not think any statesman could for a moment doubt that there was a demand for reform—not for a wild, reckless, speculative reform; but for such a fair extension of the franchise as the two right hon. Gentlemen who had left the Cabinet told them might be safely granted. There had been fore- 927 shadowings of the Government which was to succeed that now in office. He felt indebted to the House for the kind attention with which his remarks had been listened to, and would sit down with one more observation. After the ironical, the witheringly satirical lecture delivered by the noble Viscount on Friday evening—a lecture to which, had they listened, the Government must have been weak and pusillanimous indeed—the Attorney General for Ireland, prompted probably by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and with a courage which did him honour, stated that his colleagues would not adopt the offensive position which the noble Lord wished to create for them. If the Ministry, therefore, were defeated on the Resolution, as the noble Secretary for India had stated, political power would change hands. Now he cared not who was at the head of the future Government, but he was convinced that none would command the confidence of the country unless formed upon a totally different basis from that of previous Ministries. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) bore a great name; he (Mr. E. James) had never, as far as he could help it, allowed that name to be mentioned in any society where he was present, without veneration and respect, and every assemblage of freedom-loving Englishmen ought to be prepared so to regard it. But politically the noble Lord's name had been tarnished by the exclusive Whig principles of the Governments with which hitherto he had been connected, and by the bad company he had kept. Following the sporting metaphor of the noble Viscount, the noble Lord, in forming a Government, must not take the family stud-book and see what Whig was related to such and such a Whig's grandmother before selecting men as Ministers; he must not merely take into account lineage and kindred and descent, but must consider whether they were great statesmen or good debaters, or possessed thorough habits of business. Both noble Lords (Viscount Palmerston and Lord J. Russell) might profit by the example of the present Premier and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had not selected their colleagues merely because of kindred and relationship, but who had chosen a row of honourable men belonging to the same profession as himself—men who had discharged the duties of their office with the utmost courtesy to every one, and with the greatest ability. The noble Lord might take the example of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had achieved greatness in 928 the face of every difficulty, and who to his honour had said in that House—'' I am of the people, sprung from the people, and the press is my only escutcheon." Whigs, pure Whigs, like bustards in Norfolk, were fast dying out, and the noble Lord must form his next Ministry upon a wider and less exclusive basis. For example, there were men sitting around him (Mr. E. James) who represented great constituencies. Were they ever consulted upon political questions until Ministers received the usual flagellation immediately before a division? If the noble Lord in constructing a Government appealed to public opinion, and relied on the people, they in return would place a generous confidence in him, and he might then treat with contempt the heavy accusation brought against him by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman), and might rise superior alike to the petty intrigues of faction and the paltry cabals of party. Without such a reliance, the noble Lord would never regain the confidence which Her Majesty's Ministers had forfeited, nor stand for one hour at the helm which they were now compelled to abandon.
§ MR. BEAUMONT
said, he could not pretend to the eloquence of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, and must therefore appeal to the forbearance of the House while in plain and unvarnished language he endeavoured to explain the reasons which would actuate him in the vote he was about to give. He entirely concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman that they ought not to bandy imputations of personal motives, and he therefore greatly deprecated the allusions of the Solicitor General to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell); but he would remind the hon. and learned Member that when he applied the term "imbecility" to the right hon. Member for Bucks who had led this House with ability for twelve months, he was hardly the man to take the Solicitor General to task for making personal imputations. He (Mr. Beaumont) would not in the least anticipate the defence which would be offered by his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) in respect of the letter which had been addressed to him by Earl Grey; but he was bound to say of an absent Friend who had always treated him with kindness, that the attack which had been made upon Earl Grey was quite uncalled for; and that that noble Earl i had not infringed, or in any way intended to infringe, on the rights and privileges of the House of Commons. He wished now 929 to allude to one or two personal considerations which would influence him in the vote he was about to give. During the seven years that he (Mr. Beaumont) had had the honour of a seat in that House, he believed that on no question had he ever deserted his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton; and if gratitude were not the expression of thankfulness for favours to come, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Sir William Hayter) could say that his call had always been responded to, and that he (Mr. Beaumont) had always supported his noble Friend; and if, therefore, upon this occasion he presumed to differ from both the noble Lords the Member for Tiverton and the Member for the City of London, he hoped to show that it was on no light grounds. He fully recognized the necessity of being bound by party ties; but, entertaining as he did a deep and solemn conviction, he should be unworthy of the confidence of his constituents if he hesitated to go into the lobby with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It had been said that there was throughout the country a great desire for Reform. He confessed that he could not see it. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) went indeed on a provincial tour to get up an agitation, and to persuade the country that we were to have another Parliamentary Reform contest like that of 1831 and 1832. He ventured to say, however, without fear of contradiction, that this mission had totally failed. True the hon. Gentleman got large audiences; but if the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, or the Member for London, or the noble Earl at the head of the Government, or any other man of commanding eloquence on any side, were to go down and lecture in the large towns of England, did the House think he would not have large audiences too? It must not be supposed that, because the hon. Member for Birmingham had addressed crowded meetings, his audience, as a consequence, stood pledged to adopt as their own the sentiments of the speaker. For his own part, he could not help thinking that the fact that largo numbers had assembled together to listen to the speeches of the hon. Member furnished no indication upon which reliance could be placed as to the feelings which animated the country upon the question of Reform. He should next briefly advert to the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London, which he regarded as an ingenious and 930 carefully worded trap—a trap, moreover, which did not affect the merits of the question with which it proposed to deal. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid the Bill under discussion on the table of the House, great doubt arose in the minds of some hon. Members as to how it should be met. Some were of opinion that the best course to pursue would be to propose a direct negative on the second reading; others were of opinion that it was desirable to proceed by way of Resolution. A hole—a tolerably large one, he admitted—was accordingly picked in the Bill. That portion of it which related to the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders was selected, and a Resolution condemnatory of the Government proposal upon that head had been drawn up. The idea, however, struck the framers of the Resolution that Her Majesty's Ministers might possibly give way upon the point; and it had, consequently, been deemed expedient to word the Amendment so that the Government could not possibly accept it. Such was the spirit in which the Resolution seemed to have been framed. It went on to affirm the policy of extending the borough franchise, and, thus ingeniously devised, it had been submitted to the notice of the House. The opinion, therefore, which he had formed with respect to it was that it was a trap, which did not deal rightly, straightforwardly, or sincerely with the merits of the question; and, believing that to be the case, he should vote against it. The hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) said that the introduction of the Bill was itself a sufficient invitation to discuss the measure, and that before they road it a second time they should be prepared to assent to its main principle. Now, there had been a great deal said with regard to the principle of the Bill, and it was a subject, he was free to admit, on which there might be some doubt. He could not, however, regard it otherwise than as a great been that the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King), for which he had frequently voted, should be carried into effect, and he regretted, now that there was some prospect of that being the case, his hon. Friend should seem somewhat shy with reference to the realization of his views on the subject. He might now be permitted to say a few words upon the question of the uniformity or identity of franchise. It was a point with regard 931 to which, when his hon. Friend had last year and on previous occasions moved the extension of the franchise in counties, very little had been heard. The objection which was raised to the Bill before the House upon that score, therefore, was, he could not help thinking, rather an after-thought than one founded on a decided disapproval of the principle of uniformity. But be that as it might, there was one feature in the scheme of the Government to which he was altogether opposed—he alluded to the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders. How a Conservative Ministry could be so rash as to make such a proposal he could not understand, indeed, there were several counties in which the feeling of that class of voters was extremely favourable to the Conservative party. It might in the first election or two strengthen the Conservative interest, but the effect could not last. The proposal was most impolitic and unwise, and he was glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer had consented to withdraw it. The option which the right hon. Gentleman now proposed to give to them to vote in respect of their tenure for either the county or the borough he looked upon as introducing a somewhat novel and doubtful principle into our representative system, and one to which, if once sanctioned, it would, he feared, be found rather difficult to fix a limit. They might extend the option system to all parts of the country, until they had the men of the south choosing to vote for the north, and the north for the south. There was another question—that of the voting papers—which appeared to him more a question of principle than detail. Notwithstanding the objections urged he could not help thinking that under proper limitations they might be resorted to in the case of electors residing at a certain distance from a polling place, and that under a judiciously regulated system ample security might be taken against the commission of forgeries. He wished also briefly to advert to the ballot. He had always voted against it, and it was his intention to persevere in the same course. He must, at the same time, observe, that he was not sure that if the franchise were very largely extended it might not be found expedient to introduce the ballot with the view of protecting the working classes against the operation of trade unions. That point, however, was one which it would be premature to discuss on that occasion; but, as a strong feeling in favour of the ballot seemed to 932 be springing up in the country, it might not, he thought, he unadvisable to consider whether it might not be resorted to in certain cases with advantage, by enabling any voter or any constituency who wished for secrecy to secure it in some way through the machinery of voting papers. With respect to the question of the extension of the borough franchise, he could only say that it was one upon which he wished for the present to give no pledge. It was impossible to discuss the question of reform fully and fairly upon a Resolution such as was proposed by the noble Lord; and he thought it much better that they should be allowed to go into Committee. There were many points in the Bill upon which he should desire to hear the opinions of statesmen who had made themselves masters of such subjects, such as the enfranchisement of lodgers and the so-called "fancy franchises;" and which he thought were well worth the attention of the House in Committee. For those reasons, among others, he should, with regret, but without hesitation, give his support to the Government upon this occasion.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that although the Resolution of the noble Lord referred to only two points of the Government Bill, the whole question submitted to the consideration of the House was of the most momentous nature. He should, however, have abstained from taking part in the present discussion had he not been so pointedly referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone. The future Solicitor General had done him (Lord Elcho) the honour, as the late Secretary to the Admiralty had previously done, to refer to a letter which had been addressed to him by a noble Earl (Earl Grey). He did not propose to defend that letter against the criticisms of the hon. and learned Member. The character of the noble Earl in question stood too high to need defence, and he bore a name which upon this question, at all events, ought to have some weight. If, then, bearing that name the noble Earl had felt it his duty upon this question to take, perhaps, a somewhat unusual course, and to express in writing his views upon reform, that fact only showed how deeply he felt the importance of the question, and the gravity of the error which the noble Lord opposite and his friends were committing in the course they were pursuing. He (Lord Elcho) did not pay how far he agreed with the opinions of the noble Earl, but he did maintain 933 his perfect right to express his views upon this subject; for otherwise it would come to this, that upon great subjects of importance upon which the House of Commons were engaged, the Peers of England would be the only persons excluded from expressing their opinions in any legitimate and convenient form. He would just call the attention of the House to the course taken a few days back by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Black), who thought it right, notwithstanding his knowledge, that within two days he would have an opportunity of discussing a particular question in the House, to write a letter to The Times newspaper expressing his views upon the question; and the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. E. Ellice) had written a letter to his constituents on this very subject of reform, and got it published in the newspaper. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. E. James) had also referred to a work of the noble Earl, in which he expressed an opinion that the question of reform ought not to be dealt with by any Government that might happen to be in a minority in the House of Commons. He (Lord Elcho) concurred in that opinion, and thought it was a mistake for a Conservative Government to attempt to touch that question at all. They made a mistake in taking the Government "with its engagements," and in their place he would have "paid forfeit." They made a great mistake and showed a great want of knowledge of human nature; for they should have known that, as soon as they laid the Reform Bill upon the table, the Liberal opposition would out-trump it, whatever it might be. Before proceeding to consider specifically the Resolution before the House, he would refer to the great question of the representation of the people. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), in the last of a series of conciliatory speeches which he had delivered outside the House said that "No man dared to raise his voice and say he was opposed to reform." Now, he (Lord Elcho) had no hesitation in saying that if by reform were meant organic changes in our constitution, or any very great changes, he for one could not see the necessity for them. He spoke as a practical man, and without denying the expediency of remedying any anomalies in practice, he repeated that he saw no necessity for great changes being made in the existing constitution. To justify such changes, there must be one of two things—either the legislative machine 934 must work ill, or there must he an earnest desire for the franchise on the part of the unenfranchised, which, if neglected, might be expected to lead to discontent that would be dangerous to the State. No one would maintain that there was upon the first ground any necessity for change. So far from the legislative machine working badly, the noble Lord the Member for London, in resisting Mr. Hume's Motion for the "little charter" in 1848, expressly referred to its excellent working, and said that since 1832 it had performed its functions most admirably, and advised the House to leave well alone. Now, if the machine was working well, it would be in the highest degree unwise to take it to pieces, especially when it was uncertain in what form it might be reconstructed. He agreed with an epitaph that was used as a motto to a pamphlet which most hon. Members had seen—"I was well; I would he better; and here I lie. "Then, if there was no necessity upon the first ground, was there in the country, he would ask, that earnest desire for reform which would justify them in taking the legislative machine to pieces? He denied that there was such desire. The noble Lord the Member for London in withdrawing his Bill in 1854 stated that he did so because there was so little feeling in the country for reform. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in his speech to the House had drawn a graphic picture of the preparations made in 1848 at the Bank and the British Museum as evidence that the people were discontented; but he (Lord Elcho) drew a different conclusion from that of the hon. Member. he maintained that the events of the 10th of April showed how a contented and well-governed people would rally round the constitution when it was threatened by the Physical Force Chartists and Univeral Suffragists. The constitutional demonstrations upon that occasion were not confined to any class, and, having himself served as a special constable, he could state from his personal knowledge that dukes, lords, tradesmen, and artisans joined together to preserve institutions under which they alike enjoyed the fullest freedom and, generally, prosperity. If the hon. Member for Birmingham had been present, he would have asked the hon. Gentleman whether he was satisfied with the results of his winter campaign. It was notorious that he was not, and a saying was attributed to him that he found he was "flogging a dead horse." If that were so, why did the 935 hon. Gentleman take such pains to endeavour to set class against class? Why did he make such attacks—he might say libellous attacks—upon the aristocracy of his country? In these attacks the hon. Member met with no sympathy, because the English were a free, well-governed, and truth-loving people. Although they did not see the British constitution, they felt its benefits, and they did not believe that all our laws were passed for the support of a selfish oligarchy. They did not believe that in twenty-five years one million of paupers had died, victims to the rapacity of the English aristocracy. He (Lord Elcho) did not stand up to resist any change in the electoral system. Resistance to Reform became difficult when the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), after resisting all change in 1848 because the legislative machine was working well, thought fit to come down to the House in 1851 and say that, as twenty years had elapsed since the last Reform Bill, it was time to pass another. The noble Lord then thought it necessary to guard himself against the suspicion of being actuated by personal motives. God forbid that he should impute personal motives to the noble Lord, who, no doubt, thought the step he was taking was the right course to pursue; but surely it was hardly a good ground for pulling to pieces an ancient constitution, such as ours, to say that twenty years had elapsed since a similar operation had been performed. In the life of an individual twenty years, or even seven years, might be a long time; but in the life of a nation, and in a discussion having reference to freehold properties going back to the days of William the Conqueror, and to franchises as old as the reign of Henry IV., such a period was as nothing. But when he recollected some of the remarkable events in the political life of the noble Lord—his celebrated Durham letter—his anti-corn-law letter—his resignation from the Aberdeen Administration, although God forbid that he (Lord Elcho) should impute any unfair motives to the noble Lord; but when he recollected that the noble Lord had so often astonished his colleagues in the Cabinet, who received the first intimation of the noble Lord's independence of action upon reading The Times at their breakfast table, he (Lord Elcho) confessed he was often at a loss to account for the noble Lord's political movements. Now, considering the position in which the Government were placed in re- 936 lation to the measure now under discussion and in the circumstances in which the House was now placed they had only one course to take—that was to settle this question, and to settle it without delay. And, wishing to see its rational and speedy settlement, he saw no other alternative open to him as an independent Member, unconnected with party, than to vote against the Resolution of the noble Lord, and in favour of the Bill of Her Majesty's Government. The Resolution of the noble Lord, as he had observed, referred to only two points of the measure. He agreed with the noble Lord in thinking that the Government had acted unwisely in respect to the 40s. franchise: the Resolution of the noble Lord had, however, this good effect—that it had elicited from the Government the expression of their willingness to listen to any reasonable propositions that might be made in Committee upon the Bill. After the speech of the Secretary to the Treasury the other night, and, indeed, after the answers given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself to questions that had been put to him, nobody could doubt that the Government were prepared to listen to any reasonable proposition in regard to this point. In reference to the other point of the noble Lord's Resolution—namely, that regarding the reduction of the borough franchise—he (Lord Elcho) concurred with the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton in thinking it was a grave question to consider whether it was desirable to reduce the borough franchise at all. They should be careful, in dealing with this particular question, that they did nothing calculated to lower the character of that House, or to make it approach to the condition of a vestry—say, that of St. Pancras, for example. The House of Commons had been regarded as the first assembly in the world—an assembly of free English gentlemen. As such he hoped it would long continue, so that every man who entered it might be proud of the position he occupied. But there were those in that House whose feeling was of a different nature. His attention had been called to a speech delivered during the recess by an hon. Gentleman who had travelled much and seen many men and many lands, whose—"Observation, with extensive view,Surveyed mankind from China to Peru.He alluded to the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. White), who, he regretted, was 937 not in his place. Addressing Ins constituents on the subject of reform, that hon. Gentleman had said he was always happy to do his duty by them, but that they had sent him to a place where they kept very late hours, and where he met with very bad company. Out of consideration for the hon. Gentleman's feelings they ought to take care not to make the company that he how found bad even worse. Another reason why it was not desirable to reduce the borough franchise, and which had not yet been touched upon in that House, was this—that there was going on insensibly a gradual lowering of the franchise consequent upon the gradual fall in the value of money. ["No."] If any gentleman doubted the extent to which this process had gone and was likely still to go, he would refer him to the work of M. de Chevalier, which had been edited by Mr. Cobden. This question had also been ably argued by one of the best newspapers published in Scotland—he meant The Scotsman—which said:Between 1832 and the present time the rents of houses in burghs may be estimated as having risen not less than about 30 per cent; taking it at only 25 per cent, which is certainly below the truth, the £10 franchise of 1859 is equivalent to about a £13 franchise in 1832; or, to express it otherwise, the franchise of to-day amounts, in the money and language of 1832, to a franchise of £7 10s. The Reform Act of 1832, instead of fixing the qualification of voters in all time coming, fixed a sliding scale of qualification dependent upon the value—i. e., the purchasing power of money; and, as this has for centuries been diminishing, the elective franchise is reducing itself perpetually, and coming from year to year within the reach of a lower and lower class of persons.This was an important point which ought not to be omitted from their consideration. The 40s. freeholders, when first establish- ed, were nothing like the class of persons who now come under that denomination, the difference between them being attributable to the great fall in the value of money which had since then taken place. While acquitting the noble Lord the Member for London of all personal motives, he, nevertheless, could not but regard his Resolution as a party move, taken not, indeed, with any view of individual aggrandizement, but to catch the most votes be could, for the purpose of defeating the Bill, and turning the present Government out of office. He could not look upon it in any other light, because the Resolution referred to points in the Bill which might be 938 dealt with more conveniently in Committee, because, as the right hon. Member for Stroud had shown, by the insertion or elision of a few lines, the measure might be made to correspond with the views advocated by the noble Lord. He was only saying publicly what every man said in private when he asserted that but for this Resolution the second reading of this Bill would be carried, and such Amendments afterwards made as were considered desirable. Many of those who now supported the Resolution had at first intended to vote for the Bill; and the reason they gave for this was that they could not vote against a Resolution affirming propositions which they knew to be true. He quite admitted that; but it in no way affected his argument. That was the truth, but it was not the whole truth; and he thought that instead of voting for the Resolution on account of those points they ought to decline voting on that question, but to support the second reading, and wait for the Committee on the Bill, in order to deal with it in the way they really desired. But, the object and purpose of the noble Lord's Motion were notorious, and hon. Members who were really anxious for a settlement of this question should not support it. If the question had been simply whether the second reading should take place or not, the Bill would infallibly have been carried. ["No!"] He said, "Yes." The right hon. Member for Coventry, who had also written a letter, argued against the Resolution, and in favour of the Bill; yet be was about to vote for the Resolution, saying at the same time that he would vote for the second reading afterwards. It was not his (Lord Elcho's) place to defend the Solicitor General, who had been attacked for describing this as a party Motion, made for party purposes. ["No, no!"] Well, he was charged with saying that it was framed with party purposes. Were not those who had censured that hon. and learned Gentleman themselves liable to a similar censure? Who were they? The first was his hon. Friend the late Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. B. Osborne); and when he road that hon. Gentleman's speech he was filled with astonishment at his censures upon this point, because he thought he could remember observations of his which were equally open to reproof. Since then he had refreshed his memory upon the subject, and he found that at a meeting of his constituents at Dovor, about two years 939 ago, the hon. Gentleman thus expressed himself:—The electors had, like himself, probably been much astonished at what had lately occurred. When the present Parliament met no cloud was apparent on the political horizon; but what had occurred? Probably one of the most remarkable men of this or any other day, instigated by passion—possibly by disappointment, possibly by ambition—a man who to the endowments of Ignatius Loyola added not only the tongue of a Demosthenes, but the impulses of a Red Indian, for he scalped his enemies—had organized a very serious opposition to Lord Palmerston. He referred to Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone had coalesced with that Tersatile and very able gentleman, Mr. Disraeli, for the purpose of expelling Lord Palmerston from power.His hon. Friend asked the Solicitor General how he dared to impute motives, how he dared to do this, and how he dared to do that. He would ask his hon. Friend how he dared to say that his right hon. Friend behind him was "instigated by passion, possibly by disappointment, possibly by ambition;" how he dared to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford was a Red Indian. Leaving the hon. Gentleman to the tender mercies of the Red Indian, he came to a more important person, his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton. The speech of his noble Friend from which he was about to quote also referred to the China question. He was absent from England when that subject came before the House; but had he been present he should certainly have voted with his noble Friend. No man entertained a higher opinion of the noble Lord than he did. He had the happiness to enjoy his private friendship, and as a public man he looked upon him as one of the most hon. and high-minded statesmen that we had in this country. He was a man who had been hardly dealt with, hardly dealt with by his Friends, and in the case to which he had been referring he should have voted with him, because his conviction was that at that time the noble Lord was maintaining the honour and character of England, and standing by men who had endeavoured in distant lands to do their duty to their country. But when his noble Friend censured the Solicitor General for the personality of his attacks he would refer to his election speech on the hustings. [Cries of"Oh, oh!"] If hon. Gentlemen objected to his quoting the speech, perhaps they would not entertain the same objection to his reading a passage from the noble Lord's address to his electors at 940 Tiverton, after he had dissolved Parliament. In a speech a man very often said things hastily of which in his cooler moments he repented; but in the case of an address penned in the quiet retirement of the hack garden of Cambridge House there was no excuse for haste, and what were the recorded opinions of his noble Friend as to the conduct of his political opponents upon the China question? He said:—A combination of political parties, not till this last Session united, carried a Resolution declaring the course pursued by our officers in China unjustifiable, and consequently censuring Her Majesty's Government for having approved that course. Will the British nation give their support to men who have thus endeavoured to make the humiliation of their country the stepping-stone to power?Although there might he things in the speech of the Solicitor General which had better not have been said, he maintained that it contained nothing the personality of which had not been exceeded by his hon. Friend and by the noble Lord opposite; and this showed how careful people ought to be as to what they had said themselves before they undertook to censure others. Passing now from the Resolution to the Bill, he should support its second reading, although by doing so he did not pledge himself to support the details of the measure. He looked upon the Bill as embodying a general principle of dealing with the question of reform, and should leave its details, as they ought to be left, to be settled in Committee, as had been so forcibly recommended by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies. This course, however, did not suit noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They said that the Bill was so vicious that it contained principles to which they so strongly objected, that they would not read it a second time, and would not go into Committee upon it. It was a pity that they should not be consistent in the mode in which they dealt with the Bills which came before them. On Wednesday last the House was occupied with the question of the second reading of a Scotch Bill, the object of which was [" Oh, oh!" and "Question."] He had no doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to hear of this Bill, the whole object and purport of which was—["Question!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that it would certainly he out of order for the noble Lord to refer to the details of a Question which had been decided on a previous day.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that the object of the Bill to which he was going to refer was the disestablishment of the Established Church of Scotland ["Question, question!"]; and noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite voted for its second reading, stating that they disapproved the mode in which the question was dealt with, but that they approved the general principle, and would endeavour to amend and alter the Bill in Committee. He was sorry that the Speaker had ruled that he was out of order, but he thought the House would see that his illustration was thoroughly apposite, and that noble Lords were about to do to-morrow, or on whatever day the House divided on this Question, the very reverse of what they did on Wednesday last. He did not intend to weary the House with any lengthened defence of the Bill, but he could not view its principle as being one of uniformity. That was a question for discussion in Committee; but this was a Bill for amending the representation of the people, based upon a principle which he believed to be a sound one—namely, that that representation should rest, not upon population, not upon property alone, but upon interests. He saw many excellent points in the Bill, to which he should be ready to give his assent. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton himself said on Friday night that there were many good points in the Bill, and there was nothing of which he disapproved, except the uniformity; he agreed with the Government as to the borough franchise, but doubted whether in counties it was desirable to reduce it so low as to £10. It was said that this Bill would not effect a settlement of the question. What was meant by a settlement of the question? Did the Reform Bill of 1832 itself settle the question? He meant settle it so that the question of further constitutional reform was not to be agitated in this country. Why, since 1832 there had been made in that House no less than thirty-five grave reform Motions, affecting the constitution. In 1832 there was one for the ballot and the shortening of Parliaments; and in 1837 there were no less than seven with the same objects. They might rest assured that whatever measure they might pass, 942 there would always be in that House men calling themselves an "advanced party," men in favour of progress they knew not whither, men who sought to magnify themselves by the magnitude of the questions they took up, who would bring forward motions for the further extension of the suffrage. What was the main argument of the noble Lord the Member for the City when he replied to Mr. Hume upon the occasion to which he had already referred? The noble Lord first alleged the well-working of the Parliamentary machine, but his main argument was that even the Motion of Mr. flume, which was for the "little charter," would not satisfy those who were in favour of universal suffrage. If, therefore, the present Bill could not settle the question, he wanted to know what could. Since 1832 there had been presented to Parliament for an extension of the franchise 11,033 petitions, signed by 360,986 persons; but there had been presented during the same period 1,278 petitions for universal suffrage, signed by 2,130,522 persons. This showed pretty clearly that no measure of reform which that House would pass was likely to "settle the question;" and that whatever measure might be passed now, some hon. Gentleman would in all probability rise next year and move for a further extension of the suffrage. But even universal suffrage would not satisfy every one. The hon. and gallant General the Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) objected to manhood suffrage because it did not enfranchise independent women. Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman define what he meant by an "independent woman?" Probably he applied that term to ladies with strong minds and ugly faces. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox) held the same opinion; and therefore even universal or manhood suffrage would not please all parties. But the chief objection to this Bill was that it did not enfranchise the working classes. When the Bill was introduced it was described by the noble Lord the Member for the City as unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it did not extend the franchise to "the great body of the working classes." This was a very serious question. Would the noble Lord explain what he meant by that phrase? He was sure the noble Lord would not indulge in claptrap statements or deceive the working classes by saying that "the great body" should be enfranchised; but, us he read English, the words "great body" must 943 mean the majority, and was the noble Lord prepared to enfranchise the majority of the working classes? If he was, it was to be hoped he would find few men ready to go with him. He could say, for his own part, that no man entertained a higher respect for the working classes than he did. He admired their industry and integrity; but he was not prepared to hand over the government of the country to them, because the enfranchisement of "the great body of the working classes" would be practically the disfranchisement of every other class of the community. He was not prepared to hand over the government of the country to the tyranny of trades unions, which of all tyrannies was the most grinding and intolerable—a tyranny greater than that of any despot in Europe or of any mob in America. But he was anxious to see the best educated and most intelligent of the working classes admitted to the franchise. The difficulty was how to exclude the ignorant mass. He believed the Government had done wisely, instead of simply lowering the franchise to £5 or £6, and thus opening a door which would let in Heaven knew what, in proposing the lodger and savings' bank qualifications. He held in his hand a return from the Newcastle savings' bank of the depositors of a particular class in that bank, which showed that the savings' bank clause was not such a cipher as it suited the purpose of hon. Gentlemen opposite to represent it. The number of depositors of £60 and upwards, exclusive of females, was 1,198, and of these 945 were of the artisan, or working class. [Mr. ROEBUCK: How many of them have votes already?] It was impossible to ascertain that with certainty; but the impression was, as far as could be ascertained, that the great majority were not at present voters. There was little doubt that the greater part of them had not votes in the borough, but it was possible that a few might have 40s. freeholds and vote upon them in the county. The result was that to the Newcastle constituency alone, which was at present under 600, the savings' bank clause would add 945 new electors. He had no more to say upon the subject of the Bill, but he could not sit down without referring to the probable consequences of the coming division. It seemed to him that if the Resolution were carried there wore but two alternatives for the Government—a dissolution or a resignation. A third course had, indeed, be suggested by the noble 944 Lord the Member for Tiverton and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts, who had endeavoured to build a bridge for the Government to cross by asking them to withdraw the Bill. But it appeared to him that the noble Lord and right hon. Gentleman in exercising their ingenuity to construct a bridge had only succeeded in raising three spears in the form of a yoke, through which no Government consistently with honour could pass. Might he venture to suggest to the noble Lord the Member for London a fourth course, which, at all events, would have the merit of originality? Ingenuity, as he had said, had been shown in the erection of a bridge. There was a much simpler way of proceeding—let off the water. The obstruction which they were attempting to bridge over for the Government was not a natural one; it was a muddy mill-race of their own contrivance, intended to turn the wheel of party; and therefore he said again, let off the water—withdraw the Resolution. ["No, no!"] He saw that his proposition was not received more favourably by those for whom it was made than that made by his noble Friend and the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government. He was afraid that neither Bill nor Amendment would be withdrawn. It would not suit the game of noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite to withdraw the Resolution; while it would be inconsistent with the honour of the Government to withdraw the Bill. The only alternatives, therefore, in the event of the Government being defeated, were a dissolution or a resignation. He could add nothing to the strong and eloquent terms in which the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole), and the right hon. and learned Member for Bute (Mr. Stuart Wortley), had depicted all the danger which might arise from a dissolution. Such a course could not be too strongly deprecated, having regard to the excitement which a general election would give rise to at the present moment; but if the Government felt inclined to adopt it he knew not what power the House had to prevent them. He knew not whether such a course would be regular, but he, for one, would gladly vote for an Address to the Queen, praying Her Majesty to refuse her assent to a dissolution. The other alternative, a resignation, implied the formation of a new Government. What was to be the nature of that Government? Was it to be a Government presided over by the 945 noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? If so, he should have no objection to it. He had listened with pleasure to the speech of the noble Lord on Friday night, and, having the utmost confidence in the integrity of the noble Lord, he believed that any Reform Bill which he might bring forward would be conceived in the spirit of that speech, and would be such as to give satisfaction to all moderate men. But the confidence which he had in the noble Lord was only equalled by the disgust which he saw depicted on the faces of many hon. Gentlemen opposite during the speech of Friday night. He did not see the hon. Member for Birmingham in his place, but he watched the play of his countenance while the noble Lord was speaking, and could state that his face twitched, he sat uneasy in his place, and at last was fairly driven out of the House. The speech of the noble Lord fell like a shell among the benches opposite; there had been no astonishment like it since Balaam stood up in high places, and when he was expected to curse simply gave blessings. But the noble Lord was not the first to whom the construction of a Ministry might be entrusted. The construction of a Government might fall to the lot of the noble Lord the Member for London; but he had not the same confidence in that noble Lord as in the noble Member for Tiverton, He knew not to what extent the noble Lord the Member for London might be inclined to adopt the advice of the lion, and learned Gentleman opposite, and whether he would be disposed to bring the hon. Member for Birmingham into his Cabinet, and make the hon. Member for Finsbury his Vice-President fur Education; he knew not whether the noble Lord would give to the right hon. Member for Wells the hon. Member for Walsall as a colleague. He (Lord Elcho) most certainly dreaded the formation of any Government which should be established on such a basis as that which under present circumstances, could alone form the foundation in which the noble Lord could proceed. He should look on any reform introduced by such a Government as laying a foundation for Americanizing our institutions; and he hoped that all who valued the English constitution would join together in rejecting the Resolution, which, as had been truly said, unsettled everything and settled nothing, and which deferred this question of reform, making in the meantime agitation rife throughout the land. Why 946 could they not endeavour to effect a settlement of the question by accepting the Bill of Her Majesty's Government? If hon. Gentlemen opposite could, when the interests of England and the political inheritance of their children were at stake, lay aside party feeling, he would ask them to listen to words of warning addressed to them last year by the hon. Member for Birmingham. The hon. Member said one evening, when there were few Members present, and his speech therefore did not attract much attention:—Every man who goes to your Colonies repudiates your policy, repudiates your debt, and thanks Heaven that at last he has found a country where industry can have its reward, and where men calling themselves statesmen are not using every engine of Government to deprive him of the produce of his industry, and to diminish the comforts and independence of his family.But this was the part to which he (Lord Elcho) wished more particularly to draw attention:—And you, landed proprietors of England, re- member that however many of your countrymen may emigrate your acres remain, and you will have by and by a different tone in this House after another reform in Parliament. Your succession duties will be overhauled, and will not be got rid of so easily as at present. Your property-tax, which you are assisting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to throw over, will come back in an increased proportion. Rely upon it the course which we have pursued for some years has been foolish and wicked. By casting unfair burdens upon the people you will create among them a spirit of discontent and disaffection, and when they have the power, as they shortly will have, to lay taxes upon those who have spent the money, you may depend upon it the pool will not always go to the wall, and the rich will not always escape."—[3 Hansard, cxlix. 2152.]He was not going to answer that speech. It admitted of an answer, God knew, for the legislation of that House had been of late years especially directed for the benefit of the poorer classes. What he said was that they ought to take warning from the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham who spoke openly then, but he much doubted whether the hon. Member spoke so openly in his speech the other night. Not being present at the time he asked some one what sort of speech the hon. Member had made, and it was described to him as "milk and water." He confessed that to him the most alarming feature in these discussions was the Conservatism of the hon. Member, and therefore he warned hon. Gentlemen to beware how they played a game which might lead to a coalition between the noble Lord the Member for London and the hon. Member for 947 Birmingham. He called on them, while there was time, to resist the democratic tide which was setting in, and to endeavour to hand down to posterity the noble constitution they had received from their ancestors, in which they had only a life interest, and of which Fox truly and wisely said that it combined all the efficiency of an absolute monarchy with all the liberty of a democracy, without the despotism of the one or the licence of the other.
MR. ELLICE (Coventry)
said, he did not intend to follow the noble Lord into the question of the policy or expediency of the proposition of a Reform Bill by the present Government. They appeared to have no option in the matter, as a reform was recommended from the Throne and brought before the House by Ministers in 1852 and 1854. Therefore, however unfortunate it might he that a question of this kind should fall into the hands of men representing a minority in that House, he acquitted the Government of any want of consideration in acting as they had done. On one point he entirely agreed with the noble Lord—namely, that it would be better to agree on a certain principle of reform, and proceed gradually with that work; for he was not of opinion that it was possible to make large organic changes every twenty years in our history without at last leaving the country no constitution at all. It was vain to say that a great and lasting settlement should now be made. A great settlement was made in 1832, but there had been thirty or forty Motions to alter it since; and let whatever settlement he made, it would not satisfy a large party in that House and a still larger party in the country. In expressing his opinion what course should be pursued after this debate was over, he Would, in the present discussion take care to avoid all party or personal topics, which only distracted attention from the important question at issue. But as a future Government had been speculated upon, and as the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke that evening (Mr. E. James) said it ought to include all those elements which were necessary to give it strength within and popularity without, he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman should be made the Attorney General of that Government if his counsel and influence could bring about such a combination. He would now proceed to a practical examination of the question before the House. A great deal more notice 948 had been given to a letter which, in the performance of his duty to his constituents he felt obliged to write, being unable to attend a meeting they had called on the subject of reform and to which they had invited his attendance, than it ever was intended to attract. He had heard a great deal since on the subject, and had listened to the debates in that House, and he did not find himself in a position to alter the opinions expressed in that letter. He thought the measure of the Government a very bad one. He thought it essentially bad for its sins of commission and its sins of omission. He understood perfectly the motives which led to the suggestion of a Bill of this description. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had always said that in the great settlement of this question by the Reform Bill of Earl Grey in 1832 injustice was done to the landed interest, and greater power was given to the democratic constituencies in this country than was prudent or equitable. That certainly was not his opinion; but presuming for the sake of argument that such a notion was founded on good sense, and that such an injustice had been committed in 1832, he could have understood the Government, if they had chosen to take such a course, disfranchising the smaller boroughs, and distributing more seats among the agricultural interest than before existed. At any rate, the only result of such a course would have been that when the measure was introduced into that House the assumed injustice would have been fully expatiated upon, arguments would have been brought pro and con., the whole question would have been thoroughly ventilated by discussion, and a rational and definite conclusion would have been arrived at. But not only did they avoid any such mode of settling the question, but they had adopted a most singular course. He could not imagine, indeed, what had induced the Government to depart from the principles upon which the Reform Act of 1832 was founded, and which it was admitted on all hands had worked with so much advantage to the country. This was the opinion, not merely of those who were parties to that measure, but of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who admitted that upon the whole their expectations with regard to the success of the Reform Act had been exceeded. The Government, proceeding upon the same principle, might have extended the franchise in counties and in boroughs, and they 949 might have transferred scats from the smaller boroughs to those largo constituencies which had considerably augmented since the last settlement of this question. But what had they done? Instead of doing this they had had recourse to an ingenious device, the veil of which was so flimsy that it was torn away in an instant. They proposed completely to overturn the system which was adopted in 1832, and to confiscate the franchises of county voters possessing freeholds in towns. They also proposed to revive the system of out-voting which was put an end to in 1832. He might state that previously to the passing of the Reform Act he had, at each of his elections, to convey to Coventry 500 of his constituents who lived in Spitalfields. The right hon. Gentleman opposite proposed that the votes should be given by means of voting papers; but, although such a system would be less expensive to candidates, he believed it would have a most corrupting influence upon the constituencies. Then came the notable device of making new and arbitrary boundaries, which were to be fixed at the discretion of an Enclosure Commission, or of some authority appointed by the Government: its object evidently was to exclude from the counties every independent element they contained. Another objectionable feature of the Bill, but with respect to which there was probably some excuse, was the proposition for establishing uniformity of the franchise, telling the great mass of the population who were asking for an extension of the franchise, that the county franchise should be reduced from £50 to £10, and that their demands should not be considered. He certainly was in favour of a £10 franchise, but that did not involve the identity of franchise proposed by the Bill of the Government. The objection which he entertained to the Bill would primâ facie have led him to say at once, "I do not require the Resolution at all; I shall condemn the Bill upon the second reading;" but there were some points in the measure which he certainly approved. In the first place it led to the hope of a settlement of this question. With the experiences of the last five years before them—with the prospect of little union and combination with the object of arriving at a better settlement of the question—he would have been very willing to accept a moderate settlement from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for they had better means of effecting such a set- 950 tlement than hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House. He had heard hon. Gentlemen below him say that this question should only be undertaken by a powerful Government; but he asked them whether they were of opinion that such a Government was possible? He did not believe it was, and he would therefore have been most happy to accept from hon. Gentlemen opposite any reasonable proposition which might have afforded a temporary respite upon this subject, until parties were so reconstituted that a more extensive and satisfactory measure might, if necessary, be proposed. The Bill did not contemplate the injustice which would have been done by the last Bill of his noble Friend (Lord John Russell) to his constituents the freemen, and he would therefore have been very glad if there had been some encouragement to go into Committee by the idea that any measure of practical Reform could result. But what encouragement, was there to do this? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid upon the table an amended proposition with respect to the objectionable principle of disfranchising the county voters in towns; but he did not give up the principle, he merely proposed to defer its application. He (Mr. Ellice) must have some means of putting upon record his strong objections to that principle, and how, therefore, could he vote against the Resolution of his noble Friend? With regard to that Resolution, he frankly admitted that he would have preferred a simple Resolution recording their candemnation of those principles in the Bill which they disapproved. He would have strongly condemned the confiscation of the freehold county votes of residents in boroughs, the attempt to revive non-resident voting, and the establishment of new boundaries for the boroughs. There, however, he would have stopped. He disagreed especially with the latter part of the noble Lord's Resolution, because he did not like these indefinite propositions emanating from high authority. Why had not the noble Lord the Member for London stated to what extent he was prepared to admit the working classes to the franchise? The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had characterized his (Mr. Ellice's) letter to his constituents as Radical in its tendency, because in it he had said he preferred household suffrage when the time arrived for giving that franchise, with residence and payment of rates. He (Mr. Ellice) said he understood house- 951 hold suffrage with residence and rating, because that was a resting place and a principle; but if they put the amount at £5 that was a mere arbitrary franchise, as that of £10 had been; and he added, that he did not know on what principle they could refuse to voters in boroughs and counties equal privileges. He could not tell, so long as the principle of the suffrage was rent, why they were to give to one man the right to vote and withhold it from another; and therefore, he had said that household suffrage in the towns and freehold suffrage in the counties, he thought, would be a resting place on which they could remain. He was prepared to vote for household suffrage, the householder being resident, and paying rates and taxes. He objected to the form of the Resolution, for they had had three or four propositions as to the suffrage, and they were not told in the Resolution what the extension of the suffrage was to be. Such a Resolution coming from the noble Lord, the House should be aware what they were about before they got into abstract principles on general subjects. The subject of the suffrage really required the deliberate attention of the House. He and his hon. Colleague were, probably, the only representatives of the working classes in that House, and certainly he had nothing to complain of in reference to the working classes. He had never seen a more independent constituency than that of Coventry, nor one which showed such singular honesty and good faith; and he would give his willing vote to enfranchise as many of them as could be proved to be in a fit position in reference to intelligence and independence. But who were the working classes to be enfranchised? Were they to be the whole of the lower population of the manufacturing towns; people who came by accident into those towns, who had only temporary interests there, and who were not educated? In old times the freehold was the franchise for the county, and for towns there was the burgage tenure, the scot and lot, and the freemen. The franchise arising from burgage tenure was no doubt grossly abused as time went on, and was abolished; but he began to think now that it would have been wise to have looked to creating a freehold franchise in some of our great boroughs. The institution of freemen had also become abused in various places, so much so as to be supposed by 952 all the world that the system was absolutely corrupt. That was true in reference to many places; but let the House consider why it was that that franchise became so objectionable. It was impossible to have a better constituency than his own, and yet there were freemen in Coventry; but then no man could become a freeman who had not served an apprenticeship for seven years to one and the same trade. There was, therefore, some security for character and good conduct. In other places, where the freedom had been abused, it had been given away as a favour, or had descended by marriage. He remembered that in some of the boroughs, when there was a serious contest going on, a ship of war was sent into the port, a number of the sailors married young ladies of the place, and so became freemen by marriage. Those franchises, however, of various descriptions, enabled them in former times, by their variety, to represent different classes of the people. They had now nothing like that; they had abandoned franchises which would have enabled them to apportion power; and they had come to this one franchise of rent. That was a very precarious franchise. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) had said that he would by no means give representation to population alone; but if they lowered the franchise to the extent proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and redistributed the seats by taking Members from small constituencies, they would, in fact, give representation wholly to population. He was not prepared, at the present moment, looking to the state of education in this country, to say that it would be safe to give the whole power to the working classes or the holders of small tenements throughout the country. He must vote for the Resolution of the noble Lord. He would not follow the speculations of his noble Friend opposite (Lord Elcho), nor of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. B. James), who talked of the possibility of forming a strong Government, which would include no one who had been in any Government before. There was, however, nothing, as they said in Scotland, like "condescending to particulars." He should like to know a little of the personnel of that Administration. He should be well pleased, if after this Resolution had been carried, the Government consented to go on with the Bill—by expunging the ob- 953 jectionable clauses and inserting others so as to make it a reasonably good Bill. He, however, was not ignorant of the difficulties of their situation, and he supposed that the carrying of this Resolution must be followed by the retirement of the Ministry or by a dissolution. He did not quite agree with his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) on that subject. he thought the Government ought to be left free to take upon themselves the responsibility of resigning their offices or of dissolving Parliament. He at least would throw no obstacle in the way of a dissolution, but he thought the county Members would cut a very awkward figure before their constituents on the hustings if they told them that they had unsuccessfully attempted to disfranchise a large portion of them, and desired to have an opportunity of making another attempt. He thought that would be a mistake on their part; but he would never refuse to any Government the exercise of a fair discretion with respect to the course they were to take in such an emergency. Then, however, after the present Ministry was disposed of, what were the chances that an Administration would be formed which would propose and carry a satisfactory Reform Bill? He confessed that he was not sanguine on this point. His noble Friend might propose a measure, and no doubt the second reading would be carried by a large majority; but not one step would he go in Committee before he would find the Liberal party all at sixes and sevens, while hon. Gentlemen opposite would oppose it in a body. There seemed to be no solution of this difficulty. In 1832 public feeling was brought to bear so strongly upon Liberal Members that none could maintain a struggle upon details, or if any one did, his constituency soon set him right; but at present be did not know where they were to find the means of uniting the Opposition side of the House upon questions of detail. He mentioned these things to justify himself in the opinion he had so strongly expressed—namely, that if they could first have set themselves right with the country by entering a protest in their journals against the objectionable provisions of the Bill, it would then have been good policy, looking to the public advantage, to proceed with the second reading. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) accused him of labouring under "hallucinations" in respect to the opinions of the working classes; but his wishes for the welfare of 954 the working classes were as sincere as those of the hon. Member, though they might have different means of accomplishing the same end. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), too, when he said that he had struggled for reform while young, and would not desert it now that he was old, would do him (Mr. Ellice) the justice to allow that he had been a zealous fellow-labourer in the same vineyard. He had long represented those workmen whose interests it was now supposed he would abandon, and he was willing to give them their due share of political power, but not more than their share; and he hoped that those who had trusted him for half a century would believe that in his conduct he was animated by the sincerest desire for their good and for the national well-being. He lamented greatly the position of this Reform question, and of the House and the country with regard to it. The prevailing excitement had already checked the national industry, and if the question could be settled now in any reasonable way, peace and quiet would be restored to the country, which would then have time to reflect upon the future. Nothing but perpetual agitation was likely to follow if it were found impossible now to pass a reasonable measure of Reform; but it was not the fault of the Opposition that a Bill had been introduced which it was impossible for them, with any regard for consistency, to support. Although he might have doubts about his noble Friend's Resolution, inasmuch as out of doors it might be looked upon as a party proceeding, he felt obliged to vote in its favour, inasmuch as the Chancellor of the Exchequer persisted in adhering to the principle of confiscating the county votes of the 40s. freeholders, though he deferred the application of that principle. He therefore threw on the Ministry the consequences of the continued agitation which was likely to be maintained throughout the country, and which would be so prejudicial to its best interests, so detrimental to the welfare of the working-classes.
§ COLONEL SMYTH
said that, having presented a petition from the City of York in favour of the second reading of the Government Bill, he was anxious to say a few words upon the subject. He felt that the question of reform was one of the most important to which the attention of Parliament could be directed; a single false step in legislation might be productive of 955 consequences the most disastrous, and he trusted that the House, well knowing the difficulties which surrounded the subject, would not hesitate calmly to discuss the proposal of the Government upon its merits, with a view to legislation in the present year. In the first place he concurred in the substance of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell); but to a certain extent it was met by the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the 40s. freeholders within boroughs; but he (Colonel Smyth) thought that the 40s. franchise should be totally undisturbed, for, whatever might be said to the contrary, county voters within boroughs would be eventually disfranchised by this Bill, and he therefore trusted that the Government would reconsider their determination on this point. With regard to the borough franchise, he did not hesitate to say that he wished to see it reduced considerably below £10, as the easiest and simplest mode of admitting many to the franchise who were now excluded, and whom the Bill before the House desired to enfranchise. A considerable portion of the constituency which he had the honour to represent was composed of ancient freemen—electors who gained their freedom and their right to vote by apprenticeship to a trade, or by birth, and who he knew exercised their franchise with as much honesty and independence as any other class of voters, thus proving that working men might be safely entrusted with the franchise. But the advantage of identity of suffrage as proposed in the Government Bill appeared to him to be wholly imaginary. Such a principle had never yet been admitted; it could not be maintained, and if acquiesced in by the House must, especially when connected with the proposal to alter the Parliamentary boundaries of boroughs, be the first step towards electoral districts. But he thought that the objects which the noble Lord contemplated in his Amendment might be obtained in Committee. His Resolution might fairly be an Instruction to the Committee, instead of an Amendment upon the second reading of the Bill. Such a course would enable those who desired to settle the question of reform in the present year to support the second reading of this Bill—the only Bill before the House—as a foundation for further legislation. It had been said, indeed, that the present Government should not have introduced a Bill for amending the laws relating to the re- 956 presentation of the people, and that such a course was not in accordance with the antecedents of the Conservative party. Such was not his opinion, for he was confident that the Minister of the day, whoever he might be, could not do otherwise than pursue the same liberal policy and follow the same course of progressive improvement which had marked the policy of recent Administrations; and when it was remembered that upon three separate occasions allusion had been made to the question of Parliamentary Reform in the Speech from the Throne, recommending the consideration of the subject to Parliament—when the subject had been admitted by all to be one upon which legislation was needed—he contended that Lord Derby's Government could not do otherwise than attempt to amend the Act of 1832, and endeavour to adapt that Act to the requirements and to the intelligence of 1859. They were told, indeed, that reform was not needed, that there was no anxiety on the subject in the country. He doubted this; but supposing it to be so, this was especially the time for legislation. But postpone or shelve this question, and you would give the nation reasonable ground to complain of being trifled with; you would encourage those who seek a pretext for agitation, and furnish an excuse to the few who desire not to amend but to destroy existing institutions. With regard to the Bill before the House, it had been carefully drawn; it extended the franchise to many who did not now possess it; it gave a vote to economy and to intellect; it preserved existing rights, and altogether contained the germ of a good measure. He confessed that he should have preferred the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole). A £20 county and a £6 borough franchise would have been a liberal extension of the suffrage, and, combined with some of the propositions in the Government Bill, would have been an acceptable measure of reform. For reasons which he was at a loss to divine this plan was rejected by the Government. He still hoped that the appeal so eloquently and so forcibly made by his right hon. Friend last week would not be disregarded, but that the Ministry would acquiesce in that which he believed would satisfy a majority in this House and in the country. Believing that this Bill might be thus improved, and that the Amendment of the noble Lord, if carried, must postpone all legislation on reform until another Session; believing, moreover, that 957 the business of the country had been ably conducted by those now at the head of affairs, and that they were prepared to carry out the reforms needed in the various departments of the State, particularly in the army and navy, he did not wish to see a change of Ministry, but desired to give the present Government an opportunity of effecting these beneficial changes; and he should therefore support the second reading of the Bill, reserving to himself liberty to vote in Committee for such alterations and Amendments as would improve the Bill, and ultimately render it a tolerably satisfactory settlement of a great political question.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
congratulated the House and the country on the fact that a Conservative Government had been induced to bring in a Reform Bill—a bad one, he must confess, they had brought in; but still, that they should have brought in one at all was, in his opinion, a matter upon which the country had a right to congratulate itself; because, by doing so, they had elicited from the Ministerial side of the House expressions in favour of Reform, such as those which were usually heard only from that (the Opposition) side of the House—showing that although the present House had not been elected precisely for the purpose of passing a Reform Bill, still that it might fairly be called a reforming House of Commons. One could hardly have expected, in a House elected as the present had been, much anxiety for the extension of the suffrage in boroughs; but still all the Members who had spoken on the Ministerial side of the House had declared themselves in favour of such extension, and had blamed Ministers for rejecting the advice of their two seceders in favour of a £6 borough franchise. That was, in his opinion, a great concession; and he inferred from it that if Her Majesty's Ministers, instead of preserving an inscrutable secrecy, had consulted their own friends, the country would have had a much better Bill offered for its acceptance than that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid on the table. Now, however, as they had brought in their Bill with all its imperfections, and that they knew what was the general opinion of the House, he did not see why they should not make it coincident with that opinion by engrafting on it the principles laid down in the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London. There seemed to be some feeling of punctilio in the minds of the Government 958 against adopting such a course, although there was ample precedent for it, and although the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had recommended them to proceed by Resolution. He (Mr. Locke) would undertake to say, that if the hon. and learned Member had been successful in his suggestion, the Resolutions he would have proposed would have been identical in principle with the Motion of the noble Lord. The first great objection to the Government Bill was the disfranchisement of freeholders in boroughs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that such disfranchisement was wrong; but then he endeavoured to remedy it by a sort of nibbling proposition, giving them votes for their lives, but still disfranchising their successors, a plan which his own supporters told him was wrong. Had he taken their advice, the right hon. Gentleman would have secured for the Government measure that consideration which he (Mr. Locke) was free to confess many of their measures, and the mode in which they had brought them in, had earned for them at the hands of the House. Many of the Government measures did Her Majesty's present Ministers great credit, and therefore he regretted that they had not proceeded in a more straightforward manner with regard to the extension of the suffrage, the more especially as they had received so much encouragement from their own side of the House to pursue such a course. There was a general perplexity abroad as to what was the real meaning of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton in the observations addressed to the House on the preceding Friday. Some of the provincial journals maintained that the speech of the noble Lord was a straightforward speech; that he meant what he said; but others declared that the noble Lord meant nothing of the kind. He (Mr. Locke) presumed that Her Majesty's Ministers took it in that light, or else the Attorney General for Ireland would not have met the noble Lord's proposition in the way he had done. The hon. and learned Gentleman had raised a genuine Irish cry of "No surrender," protesting that it was impossible the Government could consent to go into Committee on the Bill after the speech of the noble Lord. The Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London did not go far enough for him (Mr. Locke), and therefore the greater was his astonishment that the Government had not adopted it, and thus left the noble Lord the Member 959 for London without any possible ground for hostility. The opinion of the metropolitan constituencies was, that the disfranchisement of the freeholders, and the non-extension of the franchise in boroughs, would give great dissatisfaction, and so far they went with the Resolution; but a most important point they missed in it, and that was the absence of any allusion to the redistribution of seats. The metropolitan boroughs were of opinion that in any redistribution of seats their claims for extension should receive consideration. Their selection of Members had been sneered at by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts; but did not they claim the noble Lord the Member for London himself? and as for his three colleagues, nobody could assert that there was anything dangerous to our institutions in any of them. A distinction was sometimes endeavoured to be made between the City of London and the other metropolitan boroughs, but the City with 18,000 electors must certainly be classed as a metropolitan constituency. The borough which he (Mr. Locke) had the honour to represent was one of the most ancient, and had sent as many distinguished men to the House of Commons as any borough in the kingdom. In a word, the metropolitan boroughs had sent in admirals, generals, lawyers, and respectable men of all classes, to represent them, very much as had been done by other boroughs in the country. The metropolitan Members had been charged with inconsistency on every subject but that of rating, against which the right hon. Gentleman said, they were always unanimous; but it happened that upon the great point of uniformity of rating the metropolitan Members had never voted together. There was one charge which the metropolitan Members were open to, and that was political consistency, a charge which could not be brought against the right hon. Gentleman, or against that particular section of the House to which the right hon. Gentleman had belonged. Returning to the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London, he must repeat his regret of its meagreness, and especially of its omission of all allusion to the claims of the working classes. Still he must vote for it, because it embodied two principles of which he approved, and which had been substantially adopted by both sides of the House. He called upon the Government also to adopt it, as by doing so they would save the time of the House, and be enabled to 960 proceed with their Bill. the Resolution was quite harmless, and declared only that which, if they went into Committee, must be the substance of the first Amendments proposed.
§ LORD ADOLPHUS VANE-TEMPEST
I think, Sir, it is an instructive study, on these occasions, to look to the strong contrasts sometimes presented between the hustings speeches of hon. Members and those which they subsequently address to this House. A remarkable instance of this discrepancy has just been presented in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James). At his nomination that hon. and learned Member said that he would enter the House on an independent footing, and would give the three Reform Bills then promised a fair hearing. If Lord Derby brought forward an honest and comprehensive measure, he (Mr. E. James) would offer no factious opposition, nor would he lend himself to the machinations of a remnant of the effete Whig faction, who believed that the people were born to be governed by them, and that they were horn to govern the people. The hon. and learned Member further said, "Let all three Bills—that of Mr. Bright, that of Lord John Russell, and that of the Government—be fairly placed before the people, and let the people's representatives select which they thought best." He (Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest) now challenged the hon. and learned Member to act up to his own principle, and to give no factious opposition to the Government measure, and to vote against a Resolution the object of which was to prevent the Government Bill, and the only Bill brought forward, from being taken into consideration. It had been suggested by an able weekly journal in reference to the speech of the right hon. Member for Wilts (Mr. S. Herbert) that the question people would ask themselves hereafter would not be "Who was Premier in 1859?" but "Who wished to be Premier in 1859?" and any one who turned back to the Debates would have little difficulty in answering the question; not holding any responsible position, he might venture to say what the Solicitor General had been so much blamed for saying—but what pretty nearly everybody believed—that the object and intent of the framers of this Resolution was to turn out the present Ministers from the offices which they had filled with so much credit to themselves, and to replace them by a combination—it was not very clear yet of whom—but in 961 which the hon. Member for Birmingham, it was said, was to bear a distinguished part. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London retained, no doubt, a lively remembrance of Sydney Smith's letter to him on the ballot, when the reverend Canon cautioned him against turning to dexterity and finesse, instead of the old broad constitutional "Russell" principles, reminding the noble Lord also that there were two beautiful words in the English language, "Yes" and "No," to which the noble Lord had much better turn if he wished to secure the confidence of the English people. He (Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest) thought the advice of the witty Canon was most applicable to the noble Lord's present position, and he knew as a fact many of the noble Lord's staunchest supporters regretted that those beautiful words "Yes" and "No," were not at the present juncture to be found in the noble Lord's political vocabulary. He would humbly suggest to the noble Lord that if he objected to the measure under discussion, the direct negative was the straightforward course, and not by an indirect and misty Resolution to delay going into Committee, where it was generally admitted that the Government Bill could be made the basis of a sound and safe measure of reform. He now turned to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, whose objection to uniformity of suffrage he had heard with amazement. It was with amazement that he had heard the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton and the right hon. Member for Wilts maintain that the House had never sanctioned a £10 franchise for counties. Surely they had forgotten that this was one of the main principles of the Bill introduced by Lord Aberdeen's Government in 1854 to which they were both' consenting parties. The only clue to such inconsistency had been given in the speech of the right hon. Member for Wilts (Mr. S. Herbert), who stated that the inconvenience attending the proposition of a Reform Bill by a Conservative Government was "that it created a political necessity for a liberal Opposition to outbid them:" the Government having proposed a £10 franchise in counties, precluding outbidding in this particular, it became necessary for the Opposition to underbid them. He believed that if the Government had not included a £10 county franchise in their Bill the noble Lord would have brought forward a Resolution declaring that no Reform Bill would be satisfactory that did not provide 962 for a £10 franchise in counties. He rejoiced, however, that the Government had recognized the fact that the principle of the £10 county franchise had been twice recognized by the House and had made it part of the Bill. The noble Lord spoke in his present Resolution of the necessity of reducing the borough franchise; but the arguments against that reduction were precisely the same which were formerly advanced in the discussions for the reduction of the county franchise, namely, that it would open the door for renewed agitation, for it would be naturally a ground of complaint that the man who held a £6 house in a borough was allowed to vote, while the man who held a similar house just outside the borough boundary was excluded from electoral rights. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had told his constituents who complained that they had not the franchise, that if they chose to save the price of a pot of beer every day they could soon qualify themselves under the existing system. In order to show what the effect of lowering the borough franchise would be, he would quote from a Return which showed that in London, where there were 14,552 houses of the value of £10 and upwards, a reduction to £5 would only add 1,272 to that number. In Sheffield the present number of houses of £10 and upwards was 9,586, but a reduction of the franchise to £5 houses would add 22,566. He did not believe that a lowering of the borough franchise was the best mode of admitting the working classes to the franchise. With regard to the disfranchisement of the borough freeholders, he observed that out of the constituency, numbering 5,800, which he represented, 2,800 were of that class, and therefore he naturally felt interested in them. But it was extraordinary that the sympathy in favour of these borough freeholders should have come from the noble Lord, who was the great disfranchise of the age. Indeed, he wondered that the noble Lord was not almost afraid, when he came forward as the champion of that class, that the ghosts of the potwallopers would rise up against him. But in 1832 the noble Lord endeavoured to disfranchise these borough freemen, whom the right hon. Member for Coventry admitted to be theoretically the clement by which the working classes shared in the representation; and who was it that saved them? Why, the Conservative party, who were now said to have no sympathy with the working 963 classes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, however, intimated that he would introduce a clause to preserve the existing rights of these borough freeholders, and if he had not, he (Lord A. Vane-Tempest) would have done so when the Bill got into Committee. but the rights of these freeholders being preserved, where was the necessity for that portion of the noble Lord's Resolution? Where there was no resistance, what was the object of attack? He called upon the House to say, whether the proposal of the Government was not upon the whole fair and beneficial; namely, that in future the locality of the qualification should regulate the exercise of the franchise, and that to avoid injustice to existing interests an option should be given to the borough freeholder to elect whether he would vote for the borough or the county? It did appear that those resident in represented boroughs exercised too great an influence in county elections, for he found that out of 20,000 county electors in Lancashire, 11,000 were from represented towns; of 14,000 in Middlesex, 8,000 were from represented towns. Of 6,000 in East Sussex, 2,500 were from represented towns, and of 37,503 in the West Riding, 9,288 were from represented towns. Was it wise or beneficial that the represented towns should have so large a voice in the representation of the counties? But the amended proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a certain extent remedied this objection, and at the same time preserved existing rights. He should most cordially vote for the second reading of the Bill, because he believed it would form a basis upon which the question might he satisfactorily settled; and because he believed the public generally were not averse to it, the majority of the petitioners who had addressed the House being in favour of household, manhood, or universal suffrage, which hon. Gentlemen opposite were not prepared to propose. A great deal had been said about the want of sympathy for the working classes exhibited by the aristocracy, and the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Sturt) had gone so far as to say, that the aristocracy were afraid of those classes. He imagined that the hon. Member was, in making that statement, actuated much more by a fear of the hustings and the borough voters among his own constituency, than the aristocracy were by a fear of the working classes. He would challenge the Gentlemen on the other side who just now honoured him with a derisive 964 cheer, to an inquiry into the state of the working classes who were employed by the aristocracy, whether in agriculture or trade—for there were many of the aristocracy engaged in trade—and compare it with that of the same class in the large manufacturing towns. But the object of the hon. Member for Birmingham, who was so loud in his denunciation of the aristocracy for their alleged want of sympathy with the working classes, was to light the torch of discontent, which, after all, was no better than a farthing candle—and to agitate the country and make them believe that the aristocracy were their natural enemies, and that the Manchester School were their only friends. On that point he would take issue with the hon. Member. It was the hon. Member who opposed the Factory Act, and it was hon. Members on this side of the House, including the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works, who supported it; and before the hon. Member put forth the profession of exclusive sympathy for the working classes, he should look to the evidence taken before the Bleaching and Dyeing Committee of last Session, disclosing a state of misery among those classes employed by manufacturers far beyond anything that had ever been heard of among the same classes employed by the aristocracy, whether in agriculture or trade. At Edinburgh, the hon. Member told the working classes that the more intelligent they became, the greater their political knowledge, the more would the aristocracy dread the time when political power should be universally extended: but the illiterate and depraved classes they did not fear, because those they knew how to manage—it was the intelligent, hard-headed, instructed, thoughtful, intellectual people whom the privileged classes feared. [Mr. WHITE: Hear! hear!] The hon. Member for Plymouth cheered. Did that hon. Gentleman really believe that the privileged classes alluded to by the hon. Member for Birmingham—by whom he supposed the hon. Member for Birmingham meant simply those who had more money than himself—did he believe that the privileged classes feared the working classes? Again, what said the hon. Member in one of his speeches to the people of Birmingham? The hon. Member having now assumed the cloak of Conservatism, it was only right that the House should know what was the garb he wore in the winter. At Birmingham, he asked, was there a single Member of the House of Lords who could be said 965 honestly to sympathise with, or represent in any degree, the feelings and the wishes of the thousands of their fellow-countrymen? Such was the opinion of the Hon. Member of the House of Lords, and he (Lord Adolphus Vane-Tempest) held that that opinion was a libel upon the House of Lords; and he rejoiced that no Member of that House had condescended to answer the attack. The sympathy of the Hon. Member and his friends for the working classes was not greater than was that of the aristocracy and those whom he called the privileged classes. But the question of sympathy with the working classes was not the question in debate. He agreed with the Member for Halifax (Mr. Crossley) in his speech, that the difficulty was, that in admitting a large proportion of the working classes into the representation, there was the danger of swamping all other classes by the mere force of numbers. The best solution of this very difficult problem, he thought, was in the savings' banks, and the lodger franchises proposed by the Bill, by which he believed a fair and just proportion would be enfranchised. The hon. Member for Dovor had described these franchises as the "political millinery" of Downing Street; but the fact was, that the hon. Gentleman was jealous of anybody having a good article in the way of reform to submit to the House and the country but his own party; he believed, however, that the Government were dealing in goods in which the hon. and gallant Member's firm never chose to invest. It had been said that this debate must end in resignation or a dissolution. He hoped the Government would not take the course of dissolving Parliament whatever might be the result of the division, which, as the right hon. Member for Cambridge had shown, would be as inconvenient as it was unnecessary; neither would they, he hoped, resign. The country did not wish them to resign; nor, as he believed, did the great majority of the House of Commons wish them to resign. He had nothing to do with the Government himself, but on all sides he heard favourable contrasts drawn between the present and the late Government. It must be remembered that the present Government was called to office not by their own act, but by the weakness and dissensions of that rope of sand which hon. Gentlemen opposite were trying again to weave. Upon all sides he heard praises of the Government for their industry, their attention to 966 the wants of the country, and their uniform courtesy independent of party and political considerations. In all these points it was admitted that they offered a contrast very much to the disadvantage of their predecessors. The noble Lord who moved the Resolution said that the presence of Lord Malmesbury at the Foreign Office was not necessary to guarantee the peace of Europe. The Attorney General for Ireland had well answered that it was not the Minister, but the policy which constituted the guarantee. At all events, since the present Government had been in office they had had no Bills brought into the House of Commons at the dictation of a foreign Government, nor had they seen British subjects rotting in a Neapolitan dungeon, and the Foreign Office contenting itself with telling them that it would keep its eye upon them. He hoped the Government would neither dissolve, nor resign, and he was quite sure that they would not take the course which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) tauntingly advised them the other night to follow, and which he knew that, as men of honour, it was impossible for them to adopt. There was, however, a course which they might take without any derogation of character—that was to withdraw the Bill altogether if it was accompanied by these insulting Resolutions, and appeal to the country as soon as the necessary Votes could be taken, not upon a Resolution factiously devised to catch votes, but upon their Bill, which was just, wise, and moderate, and on their whole administration of affairs, domestic and foreign, since they were called to office. He believed that if the Government challenged the opinion either of the House or the country they would receive a verdict which would be favourable to their administration, and adverse to the factious motives that found expression in the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he could not agree with an hon. Friend who declared that the Resolution before the House was a basis upon which it was impossible to found a discussion of reform. He believed that the discussion which had so long occupied the House, and that seemed likely to go on for the next week or two, was one which would prove an excellent basis for any future discussion of Parliamentary reform. Speeches had been made and opinions had been expressed which would, upon the whole, be satisfactory to 967 the people, and would show that the House had begun the discussion of this great question in a just and honourable spirit. Preceding speakers had thrown their speeches into regular divisions, almost like sermons; they said by turns a little about the Bill, the Resolution, the dissolution, and the resignation, and he did not know that he could do better than follow this orthodox example. He could not think it factious or unjust to regard this question in connection with the existing state of parties. It was all very well to say that on ordinary questions in which the Executive was concerned all the House had to consider was whether the measure before it was effective for the purpose and properly arranged. But in this great question of Parliamentary Reform there were involved moral considerations connected with the antecedents of individuals, and certainly connected with those of parties. A Reform Bill, for example, proposed by a Government in the position of the present Administration came before the House with certain disadvantages that would not attach to a measure coming from a party whose traditions and political habits were closely connected with the subject of reform. If the Government had waited until some Reform Bill had been proposed upon that (the Opposition) side, upon the premisses of which all parties were agreed, they might have enjoyed a position of neutrality for a considerable period. That was one course open to them. Another course was to have brought forward the £10 occupier franchise for counties as a single measure, the House having already pronounced a decided opinion in its favour. The Government had, however, preferred to come before the House with a complete and formal measure of their own, and he would ask whether it was discreet for a Ministry in such a position to come forward with so complicated a Bill? Their measure, however, having come before the House, he thought they could not have done less than accept it as the basis of future action if it had not omitted an important principle with reference to the franchise of boroughs. His own feelings on this point were so distinct that he thought the Resolution of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), so far from being a "dodge" or a trick, in the latter part of it at least was nothing less than a truism—so much so that there seemed to him to be only two courses, either to vote for the principle of the Resolution now, or to do so when the House went into Committee. He felt pre- 968 cluded from taking the latter course by the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing forward the measure did not leave any possible opening for an alteration in Committee which would not be dissonant to and nullify the principle of the Bill. It was hardly possible that the Government could have lighted on their present proposal except by accident. If the proposition of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) had been carried out, and the borough franchise had remained as it was, the state of things would have been the same as that proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the difference was that in the one case the state of things was arrived at accidentally, while in the other it was adopted as a novel principle, the main principle of the Bill, and was insisted on as a settlement on which in future the constitution was to rest. He did not think that this was a sufficient resting-place. He did not believe in any resting-place or in finality of any sort in a question of this kind. He did not regard the British constitution as merely a state machine, which was to go on in a series of formulas for a certain time, and which, if it lost a spring or a wheel, was merely to be patched up, and then to go on as before. He could not regard the British constitution in that light, but he considered it to be the exponent of the mind of the British people, and connected with all the progress and intellectual advancement of the country. Having acted on this principle all his life, he could not agree to any measure which did not take this question into consideration, and inquire whether between the period of the first Reform Bill and the present time the mass of the people were not only deserving of a larger share of political power, but also whether they had not shown such a desire to have it as to authorize the giving it to them. It was true that the agitation for reform was not so great as the hon. Member for Birmingham wished them to believe. He rather thought that hon. Gentleman had lent some of his own enthusiasm to his view of the question, and that the people were not so desirous of it as the hon. Gentleman thought. He (Mr. M. Milnes) doubted if the alteration in the franchise which the hon. Gentleman wished would make that House more peaceful, more economical, or more attentive to the interest of the country than it was now. But he did think that if an extension of the franchise to the working classes was denied now, that denial would be accompanied with consider- 969 able danger to the country, for it was almost the single point on which the mass of the people were united in connection with a reform in the representation. Allusion had been made to other countries, and though such comparisons were necessarily not accurate, yet it was worth considering that in a neighbouring country a dynasty which was accepted by the people, and a popular and powerful ministry, was overthrown in consequence of the narrowing of the political power of the people, and when a street riot took place, and the dynasty fled, and the Ministry was exiled, the people stood silently by he did not say that any such calamity was likely to occur here; but, arguing from the analogy of human nature, it was not to be doubted that if the Government, in proposing a change in the franchise, excluded that part of the people who were interested in the borough franchise, it could only be the beginning of an agitation, without settling anything. There were other parts of the question of Parliamentary Reform which the people regarded in an inferior degree. It was natural that while the distribution of seats might be very important to Gentlemen in that House, it should be of comparatively little importance to the people at large. If you increased the smaller boroughs they would become important constituencies; but as to the other questions of the disposal of seats, and the addition of Members, he did not think that the country took much interest in them. In the West Riding of Yorkshire, instead of being gratified at any proposals to increase its representatives, it had always expressed itself satisfied with its representation by two Members only, and had enunciated no desire for a larger number, or any gratitude to the Government for any attempt to increase that number. Believing the extension of the franchise to be the main question of any measure of reform, he was bound to vote for the Resolution, and he did so without making any critcism on the measure of the Government, for in his opinion the Resolution enunciated no more than a truism. If this question could have been mooted in Committee he would have voted for the second reading of the Bill; and if the Government would withdraw the Bill, and introduce another containing that principle, he would give it every support that he could. He had no fear of a dissolution of Parliament, and he thought that the Government had a right to appeal to the country on a question like this.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to reply to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract; but if I delay any longer to address you I shall be in danger of not being able to perform that duty. I have waited long and anxiously before I could make up my mind to address the House; and in troublous times it is often no less difficult to know what it is one's duty to do than to perform that duty when we have made up our minds. I certainly did wish not to have seen the day arrive when it would be necessary for this House to reconsider the fundamental principles on which our constitution is based. I took part—a humble part, but a sincere one—both in the preparation and the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing this Bill to the House, used an expression which grated on my ears. He said the statesmen who took part in the Reform of 1832 appeared to him to have treated the subject in many respects "empirically." I can hardly think the right hon. Gentleman used that word in its more invidious sense, or wished to convey that the authors of that Bill were empirics. If it were necessary to defend the authors of that measure, I should refer him to the noble Earl now at the head of the Government of which he is a member, without whose aid we should have experienced great difficulty in carrying the measure of 1832, and I should have to mention such names as those of Lord Grey, Lord Althorp, Lord Melbourne, and Lord Durham. I confidently believe that the memory of these great men will be justified from any such reproach by the verdict of history. But there is another meaning to the word empirical which I am rather disposed to think the right hon. Gentleman intended to attach to it—he probably meant to say, that the measure of 1832 was an experimental measure. The right hon. Gentleman treated it as an experimental measure. I should certainly wish to call to the attention of the House, after an experience of twenty-seven years, that the change effected by that measure was immense. I will call to the recollection of the House that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London in speaking of it described it to us as "a bloodless revolution"—happily, bloodless, but still a revolution. It undoubtedly transferred the centre of power in this country from the aristocracy to the middle classes, and intentionally so trans- 971 ferred it; and, if it be regarded as an experimental measure, I am satisfied that the country, together with myself, entertains the opinion that that great experiment has been largely successful. It was the object of the framers of that measure so to blend the influence of property and of number; that all collision with the Throne and with the aristocracy, who by its provisions were deprived of a large share of power, might be avoided; and the proportions of power then adjusted have been so successful that since that time the country has enjoyed better legislation, greater prosperity, more internal peace, and has been exposed to less civil discord, than at any other period of equal duration since our Parliamentary history commenced. Viewing it then, as an experiment, I think I may safely assume that on the whole it has proved successful. For one, I would gladly have adhered, at least during my life, to that settlement as a final one. Its authors, at the time of passing it, certainly did hold out to the country, and to the Sovereign whose assent it received, an assurance that, because it was large, and because it was comprehensive, hopes might justly be entertained that it would be a final settlement. I clung to that sentiment for a very long period myself; but I subsequently found, from circumstances upon which it is needless now to dwell, that finality, as a position, was no longer tenable; and from that period it became my duty from time to time to consider what alterations or amendments of that measure might safely he proposed and supported. Now, the first care of reformers, as it appears to me, ought to be to prevent the necessity of further reformation. I was struck by an observation which fell from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, in the able speech which he made in defence of the measure of the Government, clearly showing that at the very time he advocated this Bill he violated the great canon of reform to which I have alluded—namely, that your first care when you reform ought to be to avoid the necessity of further reformation. The House will remember that that noble Lord, in using the term "identity of suffrage," said that that principle would afford an easy mode of hereafter altering, or rather of disfranchising, the smaller boroughs, which disfranchisement, he said, was in his judgment inevitable. By the favour of the Gentlemen who sit around me I occupy this place (the second bench below the 972 gangway on the Ministerial side), though in many respects differing in opinion from them; but they will permit me to recall to their recollection how great, practically, has been the change which has taken place in reference to reform within the last month. Lord Derby, the head of the present Government, received the confidence of the Conservative party when in 1852 he became Prime Minister, upon the assurance that his special mission was to stem the tide of democracy, and to raise a barrier against its dangerous encroachments. Well, what has occurred within the last month? I, in the year 1857, voted with my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) for the reduction of the occupation franchise in counties from £50 to £10. I then took the liberty of assigning the reasons which appeared to me sufficient to justify that proposal, and I stated why I thought it might safely be conceded. Gentlemen on this side of the House offered a strenuous opposition to that reduction. I do not think there was a Gentleman sitting on this side who supported it, and they urged the gravest objections against it. Now, Lord Derby's Government has proposed that change—the reduction from £50 to £10—deliberately and advisedly; and, as a counterpoise to what might be apprehended as the democratic tendency of that change, the Bill brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a countervailing disfranchisement of the borough, freeholders, with the view of diminishing what, in the opinion of Gentlemen who sit around me, was its danger. Well, without a division, without any more than an expression of opinion from different parts of the House, one-half at least of that counterpoise has been withdrawn; and the measure, I must say, appears to me to be framed upon an entire misconception of that which, when properly understood, is truly Conservative in its character. Now, what are the real dangers of a Republican or an extreme democratic change in this country? What are the great landmarks of Republican institutions? I say distinctly that they are manhood or universal suffrage, equal electoral districts, and vote by ballot. A President of the United States, in his inaugural address, distinctly stated, "that the Republic rested upon the ballot-box." I do not intend now to argue that question; but I believe I have not misstated what are the true dangers to be apprehended by those who 973 fear republican change. Now, observe what are the principles of this measure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said emphatically, and it is not to be denied, that identity of suffrage is the key-stone, the leading principle of this measure; and it has been so argued by the noble Lord the Minister for India. You have, then, identity of suffrage; you have electoral districts, not now equal, but for a time unequal; and it is proposed to have voting papers. I contend that these three propositions, which are the principal outlines of this measure, all have a direct tendency to that which is most to be apprehended by the opponents of republicanism. This identity of suffrage once established at £10, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire said, one single turn of the hand in a rash moment and that suffrage will be reduced from £10 either to household or manhood suffrage. Again, your electoral districts are now unequal. By all sound logic and consequential reasoning, from the moment your suffrage is identical your electoral districts ought to be equal, and there is a process shadowed out under the Boundary Commission contemplated by this Bill, and which is to be issued simultaneously with the reduction of the suffrage, that will constitute your unequal districts into equal ones. There remains, then, only the ballot; and, if the House will permit me, before I sit down I will glance at the question as to voting papers. I think, if the conversion of unequal electoral districts into equal ones will be found an easy operation, that the conversion of voting papers enclosed in envelopes into the ballot will be easier still. I turn now to another branch of the subject, and I should beg to give an opinion, that the danger of Reform is infinitely increased if you proceed upon abstract principles, and, according to logical inferences, from general principles of change. I should say that this Bill was conceived with, I will not say too much sagacity, but with the avowed intention of obtaining from every quarter of the House that support which might effect the object which has been declared to be the primary one—namely, the object of passing it. It appears to me too clever by half, and that a much simpler measure would have been much safer and much more effectual. There is a work which appears to me worthy of the greatest attention, when we are discussing a question of this kind. It is a work of solemn warning. I refer to the work of M. 974 de Tocqueville upon the Ancien Régime, and on the causes which immediately led to the French Revolution. The passage of which I have attempted a translation, and which, with the permission of the House, I will read, refers to this point of framing Reforms with great astuteness upon general principles, and according to the symmetry which logic dictates. he says—When the history of our Revolution is studied it in apparent that it was conducted precisely on the same principles which have dictated so many abstract dissertations on the science of Government. The same fondness for general theories, for complete systems of legislation, for exact symmetry of law; the same contempt for existing institutions, the same reliance on theory, the same taste for what may be deemed original, ingenious, and new in establishments; the same desire at once to remodel the whole Constitution according to the rules of logic and on an uniform plan, instead of endeavouring piecemeal to amend it. Frightful spectacle! That which is an excellence in a writer is often a great defect in a statesman, and the same things which have frequently led to the production of beautiful romances may lead to the issue of great revolutions.I have said that a simpler measure, one less complicated, and one less intended to be novel, would have had a much greater chance of success. I have quoted M. do Tocqueville: there is a saying of Oliver Cromwell addressed to Bernard, a lawyer, which has also some bearing upon this subject. He said, "I understand that you have lately been vastly wary in your conduct; be not too confident of this. Subtlety may deceive you, integrity never will." A noble sentiment, and one which ought to be written over the door of every Cabinet. I shall follow the advice not to use subtlety by at once avowing the share which I had in this Resolution. My noble Friend the Member for London did me the honour of conferring with me after this Bill had been laid upon the table. An hon. Gentleman upon the Treasury Bench cheers. Is it unnatural, is it dishonourable, that I and the noble Lord who are the only surviving Members of that Committee which framed the Reform Bill of 1832 should confer when a measure was produced purporting to amend and alter it? When the noble Lord asked me what ray impression of this measure was, I told him at once that I was quite prepared to vote against the second reading of the Bill. That is my view now, and I stated it more unequivocally to the noble Lord; but I said that there were two or three capital objections to it which I thought might be included in a Resolu- 975 tion. The Solicitor General has said that it is unprecedented in the history of Parliament to adopt a Resolution accompanied by reasons. When I first came into Parliament the opportunity constantly occurred, when the Order of the Day was read for the second reading, of moving any Resolution upon any subject even not germane to the Bill about to be discussed. That power was abused, and to expedite business in this House, the power of moving a Resolution upon the Order of the Day was renounced; but to say that upon the Motion for the second reading of a Bill it is unparliamentary or unprecedented to move a Resolution, germane to the matter of the second reading, is a doctrine entirely new. Even when the Resolution may not be altogether germane to the second reading, there are precedents for the use of that particular mode of attacking a measure. If, however, there were no precedent I think the time has arrived when in a deliberative assembly like this you are not to be driven into a corner and bound to say "aye" or "no." I think it must be open to you to point out to the House and the country the particular leading reasons which induce you to object to the measure even before the second reading. What the French term "négatif motive" does not exist here, and I think the time has arrived when it is absolutely necessary that such a power should exist and should be used. The Resolution of the noble Lord appears to me not essentially and in effect to vary from the course that was pursued with respect to the India Bill last year. It varies in this particular—that the Government then, as now, produced a Bill which did not meet with general approbation; the India Bill they voluntarily withdrew, and upon its withdrawal Resolutions were passed which were the foundation of their second measure. On this occasion, though I do not think the draught of their first Reform Bill is much more fortunate in conciliating the acceptance and goodwill of the House than was the first draught of the India Bill, they refuse to withdraw their measure, and under these circumstances the Resolution is moved, certainly for the purpose of defeating the Bill in its present shape; but now as then it affords to the Government an opportunity of withdrawing it and introducing another measure more conformable to the opinion of the House. I fully concede what was stated by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, that in matters of this kind it is for 976 the Government to consider and determine what is consistent with their own honour and with their position; and the decision as to whether they shall withdraw this Bill and substitute for it another more in conformity with the wish and opinion of the House and the country must rest with them. But it rests with the House steadily to perform its duty and to point out to the Government, at this preliminary stage of the second reading, what are their opinions, and what is their wish in respect to the measure as it now stands. Even at this moment, whatever may be the difficulties created and increased by this prolonged discussion, I do not think that I ever saw in this House greater unanimity, extending to both sides, than is exhibited against the principle of this Bill; nor, well considering all the elements of which this House is composed, more disposition, now, in this Parliament, immediately, in this Session, to pass a Bill, which would command the sympathy and support of the country. My belief is, that at this moment a Bill taking the common point of departure, the £10 franchise lowering to a considerable extent the borough franchise, prohibiting the payment of travelling expenses, multiplying polling-places, disfranchising, within moderate limits, the smaller boroughs, and enfranchising with strict impartiality the larger counties and larger cities, would command the support of a decided majority of this House. But I pass on to consider this Bill as it now stands. It proposes to deal with the imperfections of the Reform Bill of 1832. As it appears to me, those imperfections, so far from being remedied, are aggravated by this measure. I acknowledge that one one of the great imperfections in the Reform Bill was the £10 franchise in cities and boroughs. That was a bandage not sufficiently elastic; and it did not expand with the increasing intelligence of the people and their growing fitness for an extension of the suffrage. How is that met by the present Bill? I will not at the present moment deal with what are termed the "fancy franchises"—I use that term for brevity, and not for the purpose of discountenancing or disparaging them, because I think that some of them are capable of defence, and would be very salutary improvements; but I say that with that single exception, which, after all that has been said, cannot in my opinion be largely operative, there is no alteration made in the city and borough franchise 977 except by the objectionable addition of the borough freeholders consequent upon their disfranchisement in their respective counties. The other great imperfection in the Reform Bill, and the one which exposed it to more obloquy than any other provision, is the fixing of the boundaries of boroughs by a Royal Commission. That very imperfection is about to be repeated, exposed to all the obloquy which fell upon the former operation, attended by the gravest suspicion, and, as I think, not unattended by well-founded objections. However, with respect to the transfer of the borough freeholders from counties to boroughs, it is true that Lord Althorp at first entertained the very proposal to which this Bill seeks to give effect. I am a witness, and it could be confirmed, were it necessary, by the noble Lord the Member for London, that a similar proposal was made by Lord Harrowby, and Lord Althorp to Earl Grey; and it was made with the view of increasing, or rather of upholding the territorial influence in the counties. It was discussed fully with Earl Grey, and referred to the Cabinet; but it was decided that, rather than entertain it, the passing of the Bill itself by the House of Lords must be risked, and that on no account must the concession be made. Why? Because we thought we made a very doubtful concession when we admitted the £50 occupancy clause in counties. And the Solicitor General dwells on that concession now. He says we departed from our principle when we conceded the Chandos clause that brought in the £50 occupiers. He presses us with it now. He says we may just as well go further—the principle has been violated, and we may as well concede more, in disregard of the ancient franchise in the counties. But I draw exactly the opposite inference. I say, if we once made that departue from the principle, and found the inconvenience of a departure from prescription, let us, at all events, with respect to the boroughs, stand on the sound and ancient principle, on the prescriptive right which the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) proved to demonstration has existed for 400 years; let us maintain the prescriptive distinction between counties and boroughs, the franchise in one resting on property and possession, in the other on residence and occupancy. Now, I believe Lord Althorp's view was sound when he changed his opinion with respect to this transfer in consequence of the adoption of 978 the Chandos clause. This old borough constituency is the salt that gives a popular savour to the county constituency. Where the borough franchise exists in a large proportion it has a marked influence on the county choice of Members. What is now proposed to do appears to me unjust in the extreme. Every Gentleman knows what happens in his own neighbourhood, or the borough which he represents. A shopkeeper or merchant in the town having considerable interest in his locality, with a laudable ambition to extend his influence, buys a freehold in the county; perhaps he may have recently purchased it, with all its rights, at its full value. Now, what is it you propose to do? Without notice, you propose to depreciate the value of his purchase; you tell him he must exercise an option, and vote either for the borough or the county; but his double vote will be taken from him, and he, or his heirs, will virtually be disfranchised. I wish we could be told what will be the effect of this measure in the counties in which four boroughs were disfranchised for proved corruption, and which by Act of Parliament were thrown into those adjacent hundreds. When those Acts were passed—deliberately—for the purpose of admitting the double vote, no provision was made that the freeholders whose security was called in as a purifying element in those boroughs should forfeit their rights in the counties. What will be the effect of this Bill, for instance, in the Hundred of Bassetlaw? These votes will be transferred to the borough of East Retford, a transfer which the noble Lord the Secretary for India states will increase the value of each vote. But what will happen in the division of the county you, Sir, so worthily represent. If I mistake not there are 1,400 or 1,500 borough freeholds included in the Hundred of Bassetlaw; if they are thrown into the county the borough of East Retford will lapse into corruption; if they are exercised the other way then the county constituency will change its character altogether and the power and influence of the great landed proprietors will be increased; and this is true not only with regard to East Retford, but with regard to Shoreham, Aylesbury and Ipswich, and the arrangements which it was thought so necessary to make by special provision will be altogether set aside.
I will now advert to some admissions of great importance made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his opening speech. 979 He admits that in cities and boroughs there has been a great increase of population; he admits an increase of wealth; he admits an increase of intelligence. The natural consequence, it might be supposed, is that, this increase having taken place since 1832, there must have been also an increase in the number of the voters in cities and boroughs. But the fact is otherwise; the number is gradually diminishing. The right hon. Gentleman said he wished "to reform according to the genius of the existing constituencies." Now, this difference between the county and city franchise has never been described more forcibly, clearly, and explicitly than by the noble Lord now at the head of the present Government in his speech in 1854. The passage was quoted the other night by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, and it has appeared in juxtaposition with a passage from the recent speech of the Secretary for India. It may be an old prejudice or predilection, but it appears to me that the argument of the father outweighs that of the son. This is no matter of theory. I have already said that the prescription of the borough freeholders is of the most ancient date; and in the midst of all our changes—even in the very great change of 1832—that prescription was carefully preserved. The immediate object and the operation of that Bill was the transfer of power to the middle classes; but I consider it a most dangerous doctrine to hold that the classes below them do not take a deep and real interest in this question. The working classes may appear indifferent to it; but there can be no more dangerous error than to suppose they have not this question at heart. Speaking, then, in the strongest Conservative sense, I hold it infinitely more safe to make timely concessions to reasonable demands than to stand on extreme rights and make no concession at all. I have already quoted De Tocqueville with reference to some of the menacing scenes which preceded the French Revolution; I will read another passage from him, because it is directly to the point. He says,—When the poor and the rich have hardly any interests in common, no common grievances, no common occupations, that darkness, which hides the feelings of one from the other, becomes inscrutable, and the two may live for ever side by side without fathoming each other. It is curious to see in what strange security those who occupied the upper and the middle stories of the social edifice lived together up to the last moment when the Revolution broke out, and to hear their ingenious 980 disquisitions on the virtues of the common people, their gentleness, their attachment, their innocent amusements, up to the moment when 1793 was at their door—a sad spectacle, ridiculous and terrible!Far be it from me to use a passage like that in the spirit of intimidation. I use it with a very different feeling. I wish the House not to disregard that historical experience, not to forget that solemn warning. I do not believe that the fair demand for the admission of a portion of the working classes to the electoral franchise can any longer be refused with safety. The concession of a lower county franchise makes a resistance to a lower franchise in the towns ten times more difficult. The hon. and learned Solicitor General says that this is a kind of Dutch auction; that lowering the franchise for the counties will render it necessary, ere long, to lower it for the cities also. I come to precisely the opposite conclusion. Stand upon the ancient difference between the two. If you establish one common level with a view to prevent the lowering the franchise in towns, there will be a rush to lower both, and that rush will be ten times more dangerous from the force that will be applied, inasmuch as the proposed level is an innovation, and inequality the ancient prescription and usage. I say, therefore, that justice and safety both point to a lowering of the city and borough franchise. The Solicitor General has told us that the Resolution has two objects. He says, in the first place that it indicates a fear to give a direct negative to the second reading of the Bill. I have already stated that, as far as I am concerned, I could not hesitate to vote against the Motion for the second reading, because I think the principles and details of the Bill both objectionable. But then he says, addressing those who support the Resolution, "You talk in general terms of lowering the franchise; what would you do?" Upon that point I speak only for myself. I agree very much with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. E. Ellice) in thinking that if you do lower the franchise in cities and boroughs you should do so effectually, upon some principle known to the constitution of the country, on which a stand may be made against ulterior changes. I say distinctly, in conformity with what has been urged by the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Card-well) that the ancient borough franchise does rest upon rating and residence; and I am decidedly of opinion that the municipal franchise as originally framed by my 981 noble Friend the Member for the City, with three years' residence and two and a half years' uninterrupted payment of rates, was a good franchise for Parliamentary elections, but since then a most important change—I think an ill-advised one—has taken place as regards rating. It would afford you the best security that could be found for the character of the voter, his permanent residence, his stake in the place in which he lives, and his fitness to exercise political privileges. I may allude incidentally to the statement we have heard in the course of the debate, that the bulk of the taxes are paid by the "Upper Ten Thousand." I repudiate that doctrine altogether. It is only necessary to mention six articles; they shall be sugar, tea, coffee, malt, tobacco, and spirits. These six articles pretty nearly cover the interest of the National Debt, and the duties upon them are paid chiefly by the working classes. On the ground of taxation, therefore, they are entitled to the franchise; on the ground of ancient usage they are entitled to it; and on the ground of their admitted character and conduct, such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer allows to exist on their part—on the ground of their growing wealth, their growing intelligence, and their increasing numbers—they have a fair claim to a larger share of the national representation. In short, let me regard this question in what light I may, I come back to the conclusion that a considerable increase of the working classes in the election of Members of Parliament for cities and boroughs is most expedient, most just, and most necessary. The Secretary for the Colonies put this question in a very pointed manner. He said, "This Bill is emphatically a Bill for the middle class. The cause is theirs." I believe that in this passage the right hon. Gentleman told us the object for which the Bill was framed. It is hoped that the middle classes will be selfish, will pertinaciously refuse any extension of the franchise to classes below them which should, pro tanto, be a diminution of their own power, and, on a false calculation, will consequently give their cordial support to the present Bill. The right hon. Baronet went on to say, "Has the time come when it is safe to accept the counter principle that political power should begin to descend to the working class?" So challenged, I do not hesitate for a moment to say that the time has come when political power should begin to descend to the working class.
982 I would be sorry to weary the House with a discussion of details, but I have the strongest objection to the proposition of voting papers. I have already glanced at that point, and I daresay in a sense which will not be acceptable to hon. Gentlemen below the gangway on the other side, because I have always been opposed to the ballot. I retain my objections to it; but I should not deal candidly with the House if I did not state that in the constituency which I represent no object of reform in my memory has made such rapid progress as the demand for secret voting—I go further, and say that throughout the country I lament it; I think it will end in disappointment; I am not a convert to it, but I do believe that generally throughout the country the desire for the ballot has made greater progress than the demand for any other change. I would wish it otherwise, because, as I have said, I am not a convert to the ballot, and have always voted decidedly against it; but, regarded in that light, I must say that the proposed system of voting papers appears to me the closest approximation to it. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) has described, and I think I can describe, what will be the effect. Who will be the witnesses? There will be two. One must be a householder, but the other will, I think, invariably be either the landlord's agent, or the candidate's agent, or the attorney's clerk, or the banker's clerk. These are the persons who possess local influence. If the landlord is weary of bringing his tenants together on the morning of an election, or attending them to the polling booths, his instruction will obviously be to his agent, "Mind that all my tenants get voting papers; take care that all is right in point of form; above all, go round and see that the papers are signed." If his influence be not sufficient he will call in the aid of the banker's clerk, probably a householder, who knows well the value of a small cash-credit to country shopkeepers and others, and who will soon explain to them how desirable it is that they should sign the voting papers. Or if that pressure be not enough the influence of the attorney will be brought into play,—the strongest screw, perhaps, of all. What will then be (he position of the unhappy voter? He is at his own table in his own house, no person to assist him, no refuge from the importunity—nothing but consent is possible. If bribery is intended, what so sure and secret a 983 mode of accomplishing it? If intimidation, where can it he used with greater effect than in a man's own house? I am persuaded that this system of voting papers will so increase both intimidation and bribery that after the first general election the demand for absolute secrecy, which now is spreading, will become universal. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone referred to a scene which took place in this House a few days ago. I was present on that occasion, when we had a discussion upon this very question of voting papers in connection with municipal elections, and I think I have the words which were used by the hon. Member who introduced the Municipal Elections Bill with regard to his experience as to voting papers. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Cross) said, "It was found that, under the system of voting papers, electors who were unable to write were often fraudulently induced to vote for the wrong candidates. This practice had been going on for a long time, and in consequence of the representations made to him on the subject, he proposed by this clause that voting papers should no longer be used." Thus ten days have not elapsed since this House by common consent, without discussion, struck voting papers, as utterly indefensible, out of a Bill relating to municipal elections; and now we have the proposal made in the Bill of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) has great experience in this matter with regard to the election of Poor Law Guardians. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone pointed out the great difference between the two cases. There is no great excitement with respect to the election of guardians in ordinary circumstances; but am I greatly deceived if my right hon. Friend would not tell the House that, in his large experience at the head of the Poor Law Board, even with regard to the election of guardians, when there was much local excitement, these voting papers were found to lead to great abuses, and that at least they ought not on any account to be extended. I have gone, perhaps, too far into questions of detail, but they are important, and I wish to show how wide are my objections to this Bill—so wide that I could not hesitate to give a direct negative to the second reading. I object altogether to the lodger franchise which is now proposed. I say that lodgers are a class of persons belonging to a floating population; they have so settled ha- 984 bits; no fixed residence, no payment of taxes, and no abiding interest in the place they inhabit. On all these grounds the provision in the Bill is an innovation, and is not coupled with residence or payment of rates and taxes, which I consider essential. If the amount of rent should drop from the 8s. a week mentioned in the Bill to 4s., I think you might as well come to universal suffrage. I also have very great doubt about others of these new franchises. It may be unnecessary jealousy, but why should certificated schoolmasters have votes? In the discussions on the question of education I ventured to predict that the Government of the day would have very extensive influence arising from the arrangements in respect to that matter; but I never expected to see a proposition so soon marie, that no schoolmasters other than certificated should have the vote. Then with respect to the pensioners the words are significant. They are—"who shall no longer be permanently employed." You might imagine that occasional employment might be dealt out to them on the eve of an election, and that the pensioners, together with the schoolmasters, would be under the control of the Government. I shall not now argue the question of the savings' banks franchise, and the amount of £60. I think that in the Bill which the noble Lord the Member for London and I introduced the amount was placed at £50. But the more I reflect on this suffrage the less expedient and just I think it. Suppose it were necessary for the qualification of a peer or commoner to vote in either House that he should have a balance of £5,000 at his banker's, how many peers or commoners would have a vote.
I shall now conclude, for I have said enough, and more than enough. I think Gibbon tells us that when a man proposed a change in the fundamental laws of Rome he stood forth in the assembly of the people with a cord round his neck. If his proposition were rejected the innovator was instantly strangled. I hope that my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will not imagine that I am advocating that such sharp justice should be done to them. I understand that they rather contemplate strangling us than we shall be allowed to strangle them. I agree very much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry. If the Government do not think it consistent with their honour to take this Resolution and proceed with the Bill, and if they desire to appeal to the country, ad- 985 vising the Sovereign to exercise Her Prerogative for that purpose, I shall be found most unwilling to take any factious course which might impede them in doing so. But I say this, that a day of heavy reckoning will come in the next Parliament, and within my memory no such responsibility was ever incurred by any executive Government. These considerations are theirs; our consideration is fearlessly and undeviatingly to do our duty in this House. I should have thought that the carrying of the Resolution would have been regarded as a milder course than the rejection of the Bill on the second reading; but if a sense of honour and duty should lead the Government to consider the adoption of the Resolution as equal to the rejection of their measure, and they should act accordingly, they must abide the consequences. I have not, and I am sure they will admit it, taken any factious course in opposition to them. I have not desired their overthrow, and I do not now desire it; but if they think fit to meet their fate they must encounter all the danger as well as all the difficulties. Our course, however, is plain. We must do our duty, while we remain here the representatives of the people of this country, to that noble people whom we represent. We should be ready at all times to give an account of the manner in which we have acted; and for my part, I cannot hesitate both to support this Resolution, and, if necessary, to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, the House has listened to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle with the attention which they always give to whatever falls from his lips in this House; and I am bound to admit that the right hon. Gentleman has on this occasion addressed the House in calm and temperate language, to which it is impossible for the Government or the supporters of this Bill to make objection, I think, however, I am not misrepresenting the argument of the right hon. Gentleman when I say that the objection which he has brought against the Bill is grounded throughout on the identity of franchise. He has touched upon the borough freeholders, and he has touched upon it also with reference to the lowering, or to the not lowering, of the occupation franchise in the boroughs. Before I sit down I will advert to this part of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman; but, Sir, at 986 the outset, I must express my regret at what fell from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the course which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London has taken in reference to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says that because the noble Lord the Member for the City of London objects to the subject-matter of the Bill therefore it is a regular and proper course for the noble Lord to move the Resolution now before the House. But I think the right hon. Gentleman said nothing in the course of his speech which tended to show in the slightest degree why it was not competent to him, or to the noble Lord, or to any Member of this House sharing his feelings, to take objection to those parts of the Bill of which they disapprove when the Bill shall go into Committee. Now, on the part of the Government I complain of the course which the noble Lord has taken. I admit the great weight which is due to the opinions of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle on any question connected with the practice of this House; but, Sir, I have taken some pains to ascertain from the highest authority how far the course of the noble Lord is consistent with the usual practice of the House; and I have no hesitation in saying, upon far higher authority than my own, that the course the noble Lord has taken is unparliamentary and irregular, and a course of which we have the greatest reason to complain. At the commencement of this Session this House voted an Address to Her Majesty, in which we pledged ourselves calmly and impartially to consider this great question of Parliamentary Reform. The noble Lord has invited us to disregard that promise. We have asked the noble Lord to meet us fairly on the question of Parliamentary Reform, and discuss and consider our Bill. And what has practically been the answer of the noble Lord? "No, we will not even entertain your Bill. We will not allow the Bill to be discussed on the second reading. We meet you with a preliminary Resolution. It is not my object to discuss your Bill. My object is to embarrass Her Majesty's Government—[Interruption.]—My object is to embarrass Her Majesty's Government and, if I can, to overthrow the Administration." I was sorry to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge, and the right hon. Member for South Wilts give their adhesion to this course. What was the argument of the right hon. Gentle- 987 men? As far as I followed that argument, it was this: that there were parts of the Bill which they sanctioned, and there were parts of the Bill of which they disapproved; and therefore they ought to condemn by a preliminary Resolution those parts of the Bill to which they objected. If this line is justified by the rules of the House there can be hardly a measure of importance brought before Parliament with respect to which it would not be equally competent to hon. Members to take the same course; for it hardly ever happens that any Bill of importance is so drawn but that some parts of it may be acceptable and some parts objectionable. I think, then, the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge and the right hon. Member for South Wilts should first entertain the Bill, should first discuss the Bill on the second reading, not pick out at the commencement objectionable portions, and therefore condemn the whole Bill. But allow me to say that if this course is open to my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts it is not open to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London by the speech which he made. But I submit to the House that the speech of that noble Lord, and his Motion did not agree the one with the other. If the Motion of the noble Lord is justified on the ground urged by those right hon. Gentlemen, then the speech of the noble Lord ought to have been altogether different from what it was. On the other hand, if the noble Lord felt bound to condemn the Bill, in the wholesale manner which the words used in his speech would indicate, he was not justified in moving such a Resolution as this. The language used by the noble Lord in his speech to this House was that the Bill was incongruous, dangerous, and injurious. One hon. Gentleman on the noble Lord's side of the House announced to us that the Bill had been condemned on every hustings in the country. It is rather unlucky for that hon. Gentleman's argument that five elections have taken place since this Bill was introduced, and at every one of the five elections, a Member favourable to the views of the Government has been returned. The meaning of the hon. Gentleman was, I suppose, that the Bill was condemned by the country. If that be true, and if the statement of the noble Lord be well founded, that the Bill is incongruous, injurious, and dangerous, then, in conformity with the 988 practice of the House of Commons, there was but one course open to the noble Lord and that was to meet the Bill with a negative and reject it altogether. I am at liberty to consider why it is the noble Lord has not taken this course, but has adopted the irregular one of a preliminary Resolution. In the first place, I dispute the accuracy of the statement that this Bill has been condemned by the country. The hon. Member for Birmingham was one of the Gentlemen, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson) an other, who made that statement. The hon. Member for Birmingham said that every town and village throughout the country had met spontaneously to condemn this measure. Now, I mean no offence—I speak rather in a complimentary sense—when I say that that hon. Member is rather a bad judge of how far the towns and villages of England have pronounced; because, in consequence of his great reputation as an orator and his extreme views as a politician, whenever the hon. Gentleman presents himself to address an assemblage of his countrymen, whether upon this or any other subject, he is sure to have a very considerable audience. I have no doubt the hon. Member addressed a very large meeting in Birmingham. I should be astonished if I did not hear that the great hall of that town was crowded by his constituents. But what has taken place elsewhere? What has been the expressal of opinions at these meetings? What have been the demands made at these meetings? What was the case at the meeting in the City of London?—though perhaps from the absence of the noble Lord from the meeting it must not be regarded as a very strong demonstration against the Bill now before us. But as an illustration of what the feeling of the country really is, will the House allow me to mention what occurred at Worcester, a city with which I have some connection, and a city in which one of the spontaneous meetings spoken of by the hon. Member for Birmingham was held. I hold in my hand an extract from a newspaper, not a Conservative, but one which rather leans to those views entertained by the hon. Member for Birmingham. It contains an account of a meeting held in Worcester, and says, "Shortly after the appointed hour there was a large attendance, but at no time did it exceed 700 in number, and there was an entire lack of enthusiasm throughout." Only two resolutions were adopted at the meeting, putting aside those 989 of a merely formal or complimentary description. The first resolution was condemnatory of the Bill, and the second, with your permission, I will read to the House. It is in these terms:—That no scheme of reform will be entirely satisfactory to this meeting which does not abbreviate the duration of Parliaments, make some provision for the more equal distribution of seats by disfranchising many small boroughs and the removal of one Member from many places now returning two, extend the franchise to all duly registered occupiers of the whole or part of any house rated to the relief of the poor, also to £10 rentals in counties; and afford protection to the voter by means of the ballot.The declaration of the citizens of Worcester, therefore—or of that portion of them who attended this meeting—was in favour of the more equal distribution of seats, of electoral districts, of household suffrage, and of vote by ballot. Worcester is a city of 30,000 inhabitants, and this account informs us that there was an attendance at this meeting of only 700 persons. From facts such as these, Sir, I must assume that the course adopted by the noble Lord is the result of a conviction on his part that if he met this Bill by a direct negative he would not have succeeded. I believe that the noble Lord feels that the Bill is a safe and moderate Bill. If it were otherwise the party on this side of the House would not have proposed it; but at the same time that it is a safe and moderate Bill, it is a Bill making large and liberal concessions; and granting, notwithstanding what has fallen from the hon. Gentlemen opposite, a very great and considerable extension of the franchise. What have we heard from the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. B. James) this evening? Why, that this Bill would add 15,000 to the constituency of that borough.
MR. EDWIN JAMES
begged to observe that in the portion of his speech referred to by the right hon. Baronet he was repeating the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland that the lodger clause would add 15,000 electors to the constituency of Marylebone.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
The hon. and learned Gentleman certainly used the expression; but neither the hon. and learned Gentleman nor any other hon. Member will deny that this Bill would be a large concession to, and confer a great extension of the franchise on, the borough of Marylebone and other boroughs. It is, therefore, my opinion that the noble Lord, 990 being perfectly aware that the House would not reject the second reading of the Bill, thought the only way in which he could obtain a party triumph was by such Resolution as this. But, Sir, I think the course taken by the noble Lord and those who act with him is as ungenerous as it is irregular. The House cannot forget the manner in which the present Government accepted office last year when we were in an avowed minority in this House. The noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Palmerston) boasted on Friday evening of the forbearance which we had received from our opponents. The noble Lord is not the first Gentleman opposite who has held that language. Other hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House have stated that Her Majesty's Government had received from them no ungrudging support. Now, Sir, in reply to what has fallen from the noble Viscount on this subject, I beg to say that I think we have no thing for which to thank him or those who act with him in this respect. We have not forgotten the scene which was witnessed in the House last year, and which was known as "the Cardwell Plot." I am sorry to connect with the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford a scene of such discomfiture and ridicule; but, remembering what passed then, and seeing what is passing now, I confess I think the noble Viscount's claim for forbearance surpasses in what I may call "coolness" anything that over fell from the lips even of the noble Viscount. At the same time I am ready to admit there is a section of the Liberal party from whom we have received different treatment. Last year, avowing and acknowledging that we were in a minority, we appealed for a fair trial from all parties in the House, and I am ready to admit, that from a large section of the Liberal party we have received a fair trial, and I will add, a generous consideration. Whatever may be the feeling of the hon. Members who compose that portion of the Liberal party in respect to this Bill, it would be ungrateful and un can did to deny that from a large number of hon. Gentlemen not agreeing with us in politics and not ranging themselves under the same banner with us, we have received a consideration and a treatment in this House widely different from those which have been shown us by those of whom I have just spoken. It was under these circumstances that we felt it to be our duty to deal with this 991 question of Reform. A noble Lord who has taken part in the debate has given it as his opinion that we ought not to have touched this question. I cannot agree in that opinion. That we made a mistake I admit; but that mistake was as to the manner in which we should be met by the opposite side of the House. I contend that we have honourably fulfilled our duty in bringing forward this measure. Looking at the history of this question for the last eight years, we could not do otherwise than bring in a Reform Bill. We could not but recollect that all the three Governments that immediately preceded us had dealt with the question. We could not forget that they had counselled the Sovereign to recommend, in successive speeches from the Throne, a measure of Reform to the consideration of the House of Commons. I will not now dwell on the causes which led to the failure of the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for London in 1852, or to those which led to the failure of the Bill which he brought forward in the name of Lord Aberdeen's Government in 1854; but I must observe, that I think full justice has not been done to us in this House in regard to the line which we have followed in reference to this subject, as compared with the course taken by the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton. That noble Lord, when at the head of the late Administration, volunteered a promise and an engagement on the subject of reform to a greater extent than we did last year. I admit that we stated it to be our intention to consider the question. But the noble Lord went further. He pledged himself to bring forward a measure last Session. That Session commenced, and a Reform Bill was announced in the Speech from the Throne. However, notwithstanding all this, no Bill was introduced. The noble Lord was not attacked night after night, as we have been this Session, to know when his Bill would be introduced. When the month of February came to a close, a change of Government had taken place, and no Reform Bill had been introduced. An hon. Gentleman opposite, (Mr. T. Duncombe) prompted by what I think was at least a pardonable curiosity, wished to know from the noble Lord what the features of his Reform Bill were. The noble Lord, in reply to a question from that hon. Member, confessed that notwithstanding the pledges and promises he had given in the month of February, no Re- 992 form Bill had been prepared by his Government. The noble Lord, seeming to feel that this was for him an unpleasant part of the question, told us in his speech on Friday night that the reason why that pledge had not been redeemed was, that the attention of his Government had been diverted from Reform by the state of affairs in India. Perhaps that was the reason. I do not mean to say it was not; but I do say that we have redeemed the pledge we gave; we have introduced a Reform Bill, and the noble Lord, for some reason or other, did not. We now propose a second reading of our measure by the House of Commons, and we are the first Government that has done so since the time when the subject of Reform was revived. And how are we met by the noble Lord the Member for London? Not by a consideration of our Bill—not by a fulfilment of the pledge we gave to the Queen—but by a Resolution which, if it means anything, means that the consideration of this Bill is to be altogether set aside. ["No, no!"] I say yes. He refuses to entertain this Bill unless saddled with the condition that we accede to a preliminary Resolution which he knows it is impossible for us to accept. We are told on the opposite side of the House to accept this Resolution and go on with the Bill. The last time we heard that language, was on Friday night from the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, and I am sorry to say, that that opinion was expressed by him in—(I can speak of it in no other terms)—a tone of arrogance—["Oh! oh! and loud cheers"]—a tone of arrogance altogether unusual between Gentlemen who sit opposite each other in this House. And in that tone the noble Lord presumed to tell us that we were to take a course which he must know perfectly well no Gentleman would condescend to take—which he must have known equally well, that had such advice been offered to him in such a tone, he would have rejected and spurned it with indignation. Then the noble Viscount went on to say, what I confess I heard with the greatest astonishment and disapprobation. I refer to what he said, as to the possibility of a dissolution of Parliament. And I do not construe that part of his speech in any other way than as an attack on the prerogative of the Crown. The language of the noble Viscount was, "You shall not dissolve Parliament. We, the House of Commons, will prevent you. You cannot dissolve 993 without the concurrence of the House of Commons, and that concurrence you will not have." I say, that that was language such as I did not expect to hear from a statesman of such long experience and standing. It was language which I can only consider as being wanting in due respect to the Crown; it was language that betrayed an utter disregard of one of the most acknowledged prerogatives which the Crown enjoys. And for what pretence and for what reason did the noble Lord hold this language? I beg to say in reply, that the Government have never threatened Parliament with a dissolution—["Oh! oh!"]—I challenge contradiction to that statement. We are not responsible for what is said out of doors. We have not presumed to threaten Parliament in any way whatever. All that we have said is this—and certainly I am prepared to repeat it, and the noble Viscount can make any exception to it he pleases—that in the event of any defeat in this House which should make it impossible for us to think it consistent with our own honour or consistent with the principles of the constitution that we could proceed with the public business, it will be our duty, as it has always been the duty of every Government under such circumstances, to tender to the Crown such advice as we think most consistent with our position and the welfare of the Crown and the country. That is the language we should hold—it is constitutional and becoming; but we never threatened Parliament with a dissolution, or that we would give such advice to the Crown; we never said a word that would justify the noble Viscount, apart from the unconstitutional nature of his language, in addressing us in the terms he did. Irrespective and apart from this, I say that the noble Viscount and the noble Lord also, must know that it is absolutely out of the question for is to accept the advice that he was so good as to tender us. The hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Beaumont) who may be in the secret of what is going on, told us that it was never intended that we should accept this Resolution—that this Resolution never was drawn for our acceptance but for our rejection. I am sorry, moreover, to say, that I accept the language of the Attorney General for Ireland in speaking of this Resolution—that it is an offensive Resolution. It was drawn with a view to stopping discussion on this Bill. There were two courses open to the Opposition. They might have met 994 us in a fair and patriotic spirit. They might have said, and in my humble judgment they ought to have said, "You have undertaken a difficult last, you have approached a most difficult question, you have undertaken to legislate on a subject which every man who loves his country feels that he ought to promote and desires to see promptly settled; we do not like your Bill; there are parts of it to which we object; we will accept what is good, but reject what is bad, and then throw upon you the responsibility of the course you have taken." This would have been a fair and a manly course, and one in which we ought to have been met; but there was yet another course, and that course was to take the course of party—and I am afraid I do not exaggerate when I say the course of faction. You in effect say, "We do not want to settle this question, or to approach the full and fair discussion of it; we see a Government approaching a difficult task; we will avail ourselves now, as before, of the perplexity of their position, and endeavour to make party triumph over the public cause and principle." Then there was another course open to the opposite side to take, and which the noble Lord adopted. It cannot be disguised both by the course adopted by the noble Lord and the noble Viscount, and the extrarordinary course taken by other Members on the other side of the House, that there is an attempt to place us in a difficulty on this question. There has been a systematic attempt by Gentlemen opposite and carried further by the noble Viscount than by any one else, to place us on the horns of a dilemma, either to make us avow that we stand permanently on some part of the Bill that Gentlemen opposite do not like, or to make it appear that we are yielding under pressure, and conceding everything by degrees. But we do not intend the noble Viscount to place us, as he seemed to think he could on Friday night, in such a dilemma, and I beg to tell him and the House, in the name of the Government, that they have before them their choice. They may accede to the second reading of the Bill, or they may pass the Resolution; but if they pass the Resolution they will not have the Bill. And hon. Gentlemen, whatever their opinions may be, will probably think it will be better to do this. We do not want any more of this attempt to entrap. There has been a great deal too much of that already—more than is consistent with the position or with a sense of 995 fairness on the part of Gentlemen opposite. We have to think—as the noble Lord the Secretary for India well said on a former evening—we have to think and do what in this matter is consistent with our own self-respect. We do not sit here to do the bidding of the noble Viscount. This is what the Government wish to be understood; and, Sir, in the face of a hostile Resolution, we say nothing but that we resist it. You talk to us about the identity of the franchise and the rights of the freeholder. Well, when we come into Committee we will consider it. Do not think we will now allow you to fetter us by a preliminary promise inconsistent with the practice of the House and inconsistent with fair play, or to extort from us conditions and understandings with reference to propositions that we never yet made and with regard to terms to which it is impossible we should accede. Had you met us in a fair spirit, we would have met you in the same; but we have been met with a hostile Resolution, and so long as that Resolution is before us we can say nothing but that it is not consistent with our duty to entertain that Resolution, and until it is disposed of we can say no more. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has frankly stated this evening what will be the course taken by the Government if the House goes into Committee. And here I must confess I was surprised at my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge trying as he did, in a manner which I think he will hereafter be sorry for, to entangle us into previous promises in regard to that part of the Bill to which he happens to object. In effect, he seems to wish us to give up our Bill, and to adopt one of his own—at all events, he was anxious to have a previous understanding before he votes for the second reading. My right hon. Friend was anxious to have a previous understanding in this matter of identity. Now, nobody is more conversant with the forms of the House than my right hon. Friend, and let me ask him what there is to prevent him, when we get into Committee, from moving that the county franchise shall be raised above £10. And there is nothing to prevent my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire moving that the borough franchise be lowered to the household suffrage, and which seems to be his plan. It will be competent for the House to do this, and according to the decision come to by the House, it will be for us to determine what course we may think it our duty to take. I confess, that 996 considering the mode in which the Government have been met on this subject—considering the nature of the opposition it has experienced, together with the tone of the Resolution moved by the noble Lord, I am rather surprised to hear the tone of the censure adopted by the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, by the hon. Member for Dovor, and other Members with reference to the language held by the learned Solicitor General. I am the last man desirous to speak at all disrespectfully of the noble Lord—to whom, through the course of a long life, I have been generally opposed on public questions, although there have been some public questions on which I have had the good fortune to agree with him. For the private virtues of the noble Lord nobody entertains a more sincere respect than I do; but it has also frequently been my fortune to be obliged to find fault with him, and perhaps never more so than on the present occasion. At all events, the opinions I entertain I have a perfect right to express, and the noble Lord, I think, would be the last man who would attempt to shelter himself from public observation, or to pretend for a moment that the conduct of public men is not open to public comment in this House. I think I should be wanting in duty if I did not condemn the course the noble Lord has taken on this occasion, and I do not shrink from stating my belief that it is unwise, and that the Friends of the noble Lord have no right to complain if we speak boldly and plainly on this matter. I confess my opinion is that we want a little more of this plain-speaking in this House. My belief is that the conduct of our public men would be improved, and that the conduct of our public affairs would be improved, if there were a little more of this candour and this truth in dealing with these great national questions. So far from joining in censure of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, I thank him for the language that he used. Not less do I thank the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), who made a speech, the ability and eloquence of which was admitted on all sides, but the ability and eloquence of which speech were amongst its smallest merits. We have heard other able and eloquent speeches in this debate, but I have seldom listened to a speech distinguished by a tone of higher honour or more unswerving truth. That speech, that distinguished speech, I tell the right hon. Gentleman, has struck the country. While he spoke of 997 the priceless honour and reputation of our public men I fully concurred; but I cannot concur with him in another point, for my belief is that the character of our public men is not so high as it ought to be. I do not believe that the public entertain that confidence in our public men which they ought to entertain. They see too much intrigue going on in this House; they see too much scrambling for place; and, Sir, I believe it to be the opinion of the public at this moment, with reference to the conduct of our public men during the last few years, that there has—whatever may have been their motives, into which I will not enter—that there has been too much tendency to think of themselves and their own advancement, and a too little tendency to think of what ought to be the paramount motive, the welfare of the country. The right hon. Gentleman went on to make a rather remarkable confession respecting an important passage in our Parliamentary history which all must remember; and I confess that not the least instructive portion of the incidents that have attended the introduction of this measure has been the remarkable confessions it has drawn forth from several very eminent public men. We have heard a good deal of Earl Grey's letter to a noble Lord (Lord Elcho.) I am not going to criticise the contents of that letter, and far less shall I presume to comment upon the character or the conduct of that noble Earl. But, at all events, never having had any political connection with Earl Grey, I am more free than many hon. Gentlemen opposite to state my opinion of his great ability and high personal honour and character. I am not going to discuss the question whether the course that he took in writing such a letter with regard to this measure was or not one of a strictly constitutional character; but my object in referring to that letter is to remind the House of the confession the noble Earl made, that he had never ceased to regret the part which, against his own judgment, he was induced to take in supporting the Appropriation Clause moved by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) in the year 1835. What was the character of that Motion? It was a party move. I think no one can dispute that that was a party move; at any rate, whatever may have been its object, its effect was to turn out the existing Government and to put the noble Lord in its place. Again, what was the language of the hon. Member for Stroud? He said 998 He had never ceased to regard with shame and self-reproach the part that he took when he joined in the expulsion of Sir Robert Peel from office in 1846. What was that but a party move? And, again, I say, whatever its object, its effect was to expel the existing Government and to establish the noble Lord in its place. And now we have before us a precisely similar movement; we have now before us a Resolution very similar in its nature to that made with regard to the Appropriation Clause move. How, therefore, can the noble Lord, or his friends either, complain of the imputation that is now thrown upon him that now, as in 1846 and 1835, he availed himself of the political incidents of the day in order, if possible, to eject the existing Administration? Before I refer to other topics I wish to advert to what fell from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) in the course of a former evening, with regard to my own political connection with the borough of Droitwich. I think I ought to apologise to the House for occupying its attention with a matter so purely personal and so little likely to afford matter of general interest, but I am induced to do so in consequence of the hon. Member having directly appealed to me for a reply to those remarks, because he said that as I had yet to address the House I should have an opportunity of answering him. It did not appear to me that what he said called for any particular explanation; but he said he had discovered that in the borough of Droitwich there were a great number of county as well as town voters, and therefore he said that I did not represent the town at all—that, in fact, there were no town electors.
§ MR. BRIGHT
rose to explain. He did not mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman did not represent the town voters: what he meant to say was, that the great bulk of the constituency in question was what might be called a rural or agricultural voting, and that therefore they returned the Members.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
The hon. Member certainly left the impression on my mind that he thought I did not represent the town at all. But, however, it is not the first occasion upon which the hon. Gentleman has gone out of his way to make an allusion to my connection with Droitwich. The last time he did so he went a little further, and said I did not represent anybody, for he said I returned myself. Now, to my mind there is a great 999 deal of difference between the hon. Gentleman's two statements; but I am not sure, Sir, that he thinks them so different. I believe he thinks that representing farmers and country gentlemen is the same as representing nobody at all. I may say, merely in justice to my constituents and myself, firstly, that I do represent the town; and secondly, that a more independent class of electors I do not believe exists in England. Out of 400 voters there are not more than twenty over whom I could pretend, if so disposed, to exercise any sort of influence. There are men of all parties amongst them, and gentlemen, proprietors of large estates, who are strongly opposed to me in politics. I have sat in this house as the representative of Droitwich for twenty-two years, and have never had to contest an election, solely in consequence of the good and kindly feeling entertained towards me by my neighbours; and I have, therefore, as good reason to be proud of my seat for that borough as the hon. Member for Birmingham, or any other Gentleman in this House, has to be proud of the seat that he occupies. I will now pass to the remarks made by the same hon. Gentleman on a former occasion upon the subject of this Bill. Adverting to our proposal with regard to the transfer of the freehold franchise; he stated that our object was to get rid of the town element in counties. I quite admit that the hon. Gentleman is very seldom unfair in his remarks, never, I am sure, intentionally so; but I must say that this statement was one of a most unfair description. First let me tell the hon. Member that the promoters of this Bill have no object whatever, in a sinister sense, in bringing it forward. Our only object has been to offer to Parliament a just and fair compromise of the difficulties surrounding this long-vexed question. When the hon. Member says our object is to get rid of the town element in counties because we propose that the borough freeholders should vote for their borough, he must forget, I think, the proposal we make for adding a £10 qualification to the county franchise. Surely he cannot deny that in every county in England we should thus he adding a larger number than we take away. The same observation applies to the remark of the noble Lord opposite, who said we regarded the borough voters as the Liberal element in the counties; but the fact is we are acting on the very principle which the noble Lord has on former occasions 1000 himself enunciated; by the £10 franchise we are adding a very large Liberal element, and in making that proposal we have only followed out the principle advocated by the noble Lord himself, that it is not consistent with our constitution that the counties should be overwhelmed by the towns. I am sure he must admit the £10 occupation voters will be a liberal element, amply compensating for the withdrawal of the borough element. The noble Lord also raised another point—and perhaps there is no point in this Bill more open to discussion—which he said would flood the town with outvoters; and he also objected to the system of voting papers; but, surely, he will not contend that what he said was an argument in favour of the Resolution or against the second reading of the Bill—it is eminently a point for consideration in Committee. I do not mean to say on the part of the Government that we now pledge ourselves either to the adoption or the rejection of this principle; but the fact that the Bill requires a residence on the part of the freeholder transferred to the borough would at once do away with the whole of the noble Lord's argument. The noble Lord, then, in a declamatory tone, condemned what he called the disfranchisement of the freeholders. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle has this evening used the same language; several other hon. Members have also denounced what they call "this disfranchisement." I must protest against such an expression. I say that the Use of this word is not justified by fact, for I contend that there is no disfranchisement, except prospectively, and then to the very limited extent only of where the double vote exists; then I admit you get rid of one of the votes, and the number of cases in which that will occur is very small. But that term "disfranchisement" has been constantly applied to the transfer of the county freeholders to the boroughs, I contend that when you transfer the votes from the counties to the boroughs it may be wise or unwise, it may be popular or unpopular, but in no sense are you justified in applying the word "disfranchisement" as a proper description of the operation, for in no sense is it a disfranchisement. Then I come to the strong objection raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle to what he calls the principle of "identity of franchise," and which he founds partly on this so-called "disfranchisement," and partly on the fact that we do not propose to 1001 lower the borough franchise as compared with the borough franchise which was of a different nature. But the right hon. Gentleman this evening said that the county franchise had long been a franchise of property and possession. What were the propositions contained in the Bill of 1854 on the back of which were the names of Lord John Russell and Sir James Graham. The Bill of the noble Lord contained five franchises which were common to both boroughs and counties: and what is more it was proposed that they should be exercised by the voters wherever they should reside, whether in counties or boroughs. What happened last year when the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) proposed to lower the county franchise to £10, and, so far as an occupation franchise is concerned, to make it identical with that of boroughs? The noble Lord voted for that, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle voted for it. What remains? There are seven franchises in this Bill, and there remains nothing but the freehold franchise in question between us. We propose to throw the freeholders into the boroughs, and this, it is maintained, is fatal to the Bill. The objection is based exclusively on these borough freeholders, and the distinction which the noble Lord has adverted to, and which my right hon. Friend has adverted to, is a large constitutional objection that we have made one of the franchises common to counties and boroughs alike. Does that franchise stand in a distinctive position? I maintain that after the House passed the Bill of 1832, that distinction was lost. The noble Lord in 1854 admitted that the adoption of a £50 franchise for counties had entirely altered the county constituency, and done away with that constitutional distinction. What else did you do by the Act of 1832? You proposed that all £10 householders in boroughs should do exactly what we propose that other £10 householders should do. In 1832 you introduced an occupation franchise, and in 1854 you proposed five different sorts of franchises, all of which were common to counties and boroughs. In 832 you transferred the freeholders in boroughs to a large extent; and therefore your argument falls to the ground on this occasion, for the proposal we are now making is nothing more than the extension to another class of freeholders of the very same legislation which you adopted in 1832. It may be prudent or imprudent, but to meet the matter in the way in which 1002 you have endeavoured to do is inconsistent with your own legislation. I cannot refrain from noticing what fell from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Carlisle, in reference to voting papers. He says that this question of voting papers is one of great difficulty in practice. It may be so, but I think that if it can be made safe in practice it will be one of the most valuable of our proposals. It will enable thousands of electors to vote who are now precluded from doing so by different causes. One of the most remarkable facts attending elections of late years is the small proportion of the electors who exercise the franchise, as compared with the number who possess the right to vote. In the election for Marylebone the other day, out of 21,000 electors only 10,000 voted. I believe that, in a very large degree, this arises from a disinclination on the part of the most competent persons to vote, on account of the turmoil and disturbance and on some occasions danger, of a contested election. If we could only succeed in enabling those persons to record their votes without encountering these things, I think we should confer one of the greatest possible boons. I do not see the danger which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle anticipates in reference to the ballot. He says, if we adopt these voting papers, we shall let in the ballot; but he did not tell us why. I think it would have puzzled him to tell us why these voting papers would lead to the ballot. There is in the adoption of this system no reason why secrecy should prevail; there may be, I admit, some doubt how far we can prevent the system from being attended with abuse; but the question is not one of principle, and may be satisfactorily disposed of in Committee. I was very sorry to hear from the right hon. Baronet, and I think he is the first speaker in this debate who has expressed an opinion opposed to our proposal of a larger franchise. He says, "If you lower the lodger franchise from 8s. to 4s., you might as well go to universal suffrage." Why should we not lower it from 8s. to 4s.? I can, however, see no more danger of lowering it from 8s. to 4s. than of lowering the county franchise from £10 to £1, if this Bill should pass into law. It is a question of prudence and discretion. I contend that if this proposal to give a lodger franchise is abandoned, you will lose the boldest and most liberal proposal which has yet been made; and I believe, at the same time, the safest and most Con- 1003 servative. It will give the franchise to a large class who did not now exercise it; and I believe that that lodger franchise will be the nearest approach which is politic and feasible to an educational franchise, and I, for one, have no hesitation in saying that I very much wish we could see an educational franchise adopted. Not long ago I had a conversation with a gentleman whose honesty and straightforwardness I admire, and for whom I entertain a most sincere respect and regard. I admire his talent, and I respect his virtues—the gentleman I allude to is Mr. Joseph Sturge, of Birmingham. In the course of the conversation Mr. Sturge told me he should be very glad to compromise the question of the franchise for an educational franchise. I said, "Mr. Sturge, I did not think that you and I were agreed so much in principle; but there is a practical difficulty—what is your test? "He replied, "I should be content that a man should write his name." I argued that many persons might be able to write their name who might be able to write nothing else, and that, therefore, it would be absurd to proceed on that principle. There is the greatest possible difficulty in an educational franchise, but I believe that if you adopt the lodger franchise you will make the nearest approach you can to an educational suffrage; you will give the vote to an educated class, a most competent class, who in town and country have not now the privilege of voting. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle expressing an objection to this franchise, for I believe that it is one of the best of our proposals; and I hope that when any Reform Bill passes this will be one of the franchises. I feel that I must not longer detain the House. I have endeavoured to meet the arguments of my right lion, Friend against us, and I cannot but hope that the Resolution of the noble Lord—which I think a most unfair mode of meeting this Bill—I do hope that his attempt will be defeated. I am prepared to abide the issue of this division. I do hope that the House will deal fairly with tin's proposal, that they will go into Committee, that they will meet it in a fair spirit, and reject the Resolution of the noble Lord, the proposal of that Resolution I can only attribute to the fact that the noble Lord does not dare to meet our Bill fairly and boldly. Thus, however, must the issue remain; thus must the issue be decided; but let not the House, 1004 let not the country fail to understand that we cannot meet the matter on the proper ground. That issue will not be the question—whether we shall pass this Bill, or whether we shall agree to the factious Resolution of the noble Lord. The question is whether the House of Commons will fairly grapple with this difficult subject; whether we shall go, in a fair spirit, into Committee, and whether the House will accept what is good in this Bill and amend what is bad; whether we shall arrive at a settlement of this question on principles safe, moderate and temperate, or fling it abroad to await a settlement hereafter by other parties in a spirit not of safe Conservative reform, but of wild democratic innovation.